Early Views on Young Earth Creationism

Many modern Young Earth Creationist believe their current view to be one held by early Christians continuously until present times. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Some of the earliest recorded writings from after the birth of Christianity show us otherwise:

“And on the sixth day God finished his work which he had made.” It would be a sign of great simplicity to think that the world was created in six days, or indeed at all in time; because all time is only the space of days and nights, and these things the motion of the sun as he passes over the earth and under the earth does necessarily make. But the sun is a portion of heaven, so that one must confess that time is a thing posterior to the world. Therefore it would be correctly said that the world was not created in time, but that time had its existence in consequence of the world. For it is the motion of the heaven that has displayed the nature of time.

When, therefore, Moses says, “God completed his works on the sixth day,” we must understand that he is speaking not of a number of days, but that he takes six as a perfect number.” -Philo (c. 20 BC – c. 50 AD) from the Works of Philo book 2


“What man of intelligence, I ask, will consider it a reasonable statement that the first and the second and the third day, in which there are said to be both morning and evening, existed without sun and moon and stars, while the first day was even without a heaven? And who could be found so silly as to believe that God, after the manner of a farmer, ‘planted trees in a paradise East of Eden’? … And … when God is said to ‘walk in the paradise in the evening, … I do not think anyone will doubt that these are figurative expressions which indicate certain mysteries through semblance of history.” -Origen (c. 184 – 254 AD)


“Whether you call it a ‘day’ or whether you call it ‘eternity’, you express the same idea.” – Basil of Caesarea (c. 329 – 379 AD) in Hexaemeron


“Of what fashion these days were, it is either very hard or almost impossible to think, much more to speak. As for ordinary days, we see that they have no morning or evening but as the sun sets and rises. But the first three days had no sun, for that was made on the fourth day.” – St Augustine (c. 354-430 AD)


If we go back to the earliest Christian teachers we will find a substantial focus on metaphorical and spiritual meanings of the Bible, more than maybe a modern Christian might expect. Roger Forster and Paul Marston write in “Reason and Faith” (Monarch, 1989):

In [the Church Fathers] there was, compared with today, a much greater emphasis on allegorical meaning of scripture. Thus, for example, Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8 led many of them to take an allegorical interpretation of the ‘days’ in Genesis 1 to mean millenia. This view is expressed, for example, by Barnabas, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Methodius, Lactantius, Theophilus and John of Damascus.

In the first half of the nineteenth century geologists like the evangelical Christian Cambridge Professor Adam Sedgwick developed the geological column much as it is today. He was a believer in the global flood and died a believer in a global flood. They knew the earth was very old, though none of them believed in evolution. By 1855 there was no serious theologian or scientist in Europe or America who believed the world made in six literal days six thousand years ago. Darwin published his book on evolution The Origin of Species in 1859. Darwin had supporters amongst all the major groups of Christians including evangelicals, and none of the famous figures who opposed him believed that the earth was a recent creation made in six days. Such ideas developed only in 20th century America.

Currently, science indicates an Earth some 4.6bn years old, but some people think the Genesis account of six “days” requires a geologically young Earth of 6,000-10,000 years. But that is not so. The historian, Professor David Livingstone, summarized a 19th-century perspective, when he wrote in Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders in 1987 that, “by and large, Christian geologists had both encountered and accommodated the issue of the age of the Earth long before the appearance of Darwin’s theory”.



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