Crucial to interpreting The Bible correctly is our understanding of genre. Many people abandon the Bible, because they can’t reconcile Genesis with evolutionary theory. But if we can get rid of two major hangups first, Genesis becomes more-easily interpretable to the modern ear.
- Genre. The first few chapters of Genesis are a kind of theological poetry or myth-drama. ‘Myth’ here is used in the technical sense, not the popular one. As in any legal document, I have to define my terms here to prevent misunderstandings.
Myth: popular meaning = a fantasy story which is unrelated to truth or fact.
Myth: technical meaning = supernatural or fantasy-like stories that explain reality and natural truths.
(for more on this, read Peter Kreeft’s chapter on The Bible: Myth or History? in his Handbook of Catholic Apologetics, where he gives six definitons of myth.)
So when looking at today’s first reading, ask yourself, “What theological truths is this trying to teach me?”
- Reconciling Evolution and Scripture. By the grace of God, the Catholic church has never been against evolutionary theory, but has only placed limits on its scope. From Dr Edward Feser:
On the subject of human origins, both the Magisterium and Thomist philosophers have acknowledged that an evolutionary explanation of the origin of the human body is consistent with non-negotiable theological and philosophical principles. However, since the intellect can be shown on purely philosophical grounds to be immaterial, it is impossible in principle for the intellect to have arisen through evolution. And since the intellect is the chief power of the human soul, it is therefore impossible in principle for the human soul to have arisen through evolution. Indeed, given its nature the human soul has to be specially created and infused into the body by God — not only in the case of the first human being but with every human being. Hence the Magisterium and Thomist philosophers have held that special divine action was necessary at the beginning of the human race in order for the human soul, and thus a true human being, to have come into existence even given the supposition that the matter into which the soul was infused had arisen via evolutionary processes from non-human ancestors.
I would highly recommend this two-part outline of the Church’s approach to human origins by Dr Feser.
Part 1: Knowing an Ape from Adam
Part 2: Monogenism or Polygenism?: The Question of Human Origins
Having got these points out of the way, we can now turn to today’s readings and focus on what God is trying to tell us – for which I will refer you to some great commentaries on the beauty of sexuality, love and responsibility, love and children. Enjoy!
Bishop Robert Barron: Sexuality, Love and Marriage
Michael Barber: The Two Shall Become One Flesh
John Bergsma: God loves Marriage and Children
Edward Sri: Theology of the Body from Eden to Today
Word format: Year B 26th Sunday 2015
Pdf format: Year B 26th Sunday 2015