The Fathers of the Church on the Six Days of Creation
The Ecumenical Councils of Trent and Vatican I defined that when all of the Fathers of the Church agree on any interpretation of Scripture that pertains to a doctrine of faith or morals, that interpretation is definitive and must be believed. The quotations cited below demonstrate that the Fathers of the Church were unanimous in teaching the fiat creation of all things by God; the creation of the entire material universe in six natural days or an instant; and the radical distinction between the work of creation and the natural order of providence, which only began after the work of creation was finished. In light of the solemn teaching of Trent and Vatican I, these quotations suffice to demonstrate that theistic evolution—the evolution by God of all of the different kinds of corporeal creatures over great ages of time by the same kinds of material processes occurring today—is impossible to reconcile with the unanimous teaching of the Fathers. St. Ambrose
In notable fashion has Scripture spoken of a “day,” not the “first day.” Because a second, then a third day, and finally the remaining days were to follow . . . But Scripture established a law that twenty-four hours, including both day and night, should be given the name of day only . . . (Hexameron, X, 37)St. Archelaus
Moses, that illustrious servant of God, committed to those who wished to have the right vision, an emblematic law, and also a real law. Thus, to take an example, after God had made the world, and all things that are in it, in the space of six days, He rested on the seventh day from all His works; by which statement I do not mean to affirm that He rested because He was fatigued, but that He did so as having brought to its perfection every creature which He had resolved to introduce. And yet in the sequel it, the new law, says: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” Does that mean, then, that He is still making heaven, or sun, or man, or animals, or trees, or any such thing? Nay; but the meaning is, that when these visible objects were perfectly finished, He rested from that kind of work; while, however, He still continues to work at objects invisible with an inward mode of action, and saves men. In like manner, then, the legislator desires also that every individual amongst us should be devoted unceasingly to this kind of work, even as God Himself is; and he enjoins us consequently to rest continuously from secular things, and to engage in no worldly sort of work whatsoever; and this is called our Sabbath (Disputation with Heresiarch Manes, XXXI).St. Athanasius
And all the visible creation was made in six days:— in the first, the light which He called day; in the second the firmament; in the third, gathering together the waters, He bared the dry land, and brought out the various fruits that are in it; and in the fourth, He made the sun and the moon and all the host of the stars; and on the fifth, He created the race of living things in the sea, and of birds in the air; and on the sixth, He made the quadrupeds on the earth, and at length man (Against the Arians, Discourse II, 19).St. Augustine
In the creation God finished His works in six days, and rested on the seventh. The history of the world contains six periods marked by the dealings of God with men. The first period is from Adam to Noah; the second, from Noah to Abraham; the third, from Abraham to David; the fourth, from David to the captivity in Babylon; the fifth, from the captivity to the advent of lowliness of our Lord Jesus Christ; the sixth is now in progress, and will end in the coming of the exalted Saviour to judgment. What answers to the seventh day is the rest of the saints,—not in this life, but in another, where the rich man saw Lazarus at rest while he was tormented in hell; where there is no evening, because there is no decay. On the sixth day, in Genesis, man is formed after the image of God; in the sixth period of the world there is the clear discovery of our transformation in the renewing of our mind, according to the image of Him who created us, as the apostle says. As a wife was made for Adam from his side while he slept, the Church becomes the property of her dying Saviour, by the sacrament of the blood which flowed from His side after His death. The woman made out of her husband’s side is called Eve, or Life, and the mother of living beings; and the Lord says in the Gospel: "Except a man eat my flesh and drink my blood, he has no life in him." The whole narrative of Genesis, in the most minute details, is a prophecy of Christ and of the Church with reference either to the good Christians or to the bad. (Against Faustus, XII, 8 ).
God was pleased to produce the human race from the one individual whom He created, than if He had originated it in several men. For as to the other animals, He created some solitary, and naturally seeking lonely places—as the eagles, kites, lions, wolves, and such like; others gregarious, which herd together, and prefer to live in company—as pigeons, starlings, stags, and little fallow deer, and the like: but neither class did He cause to be propagated from individuals, but called into being several at once. Man, on the other hand, whose nature was to be a mean between the angelic and bestial, He created in such sort, that if he remained in subjection to His Creator as his rightful Lord, and piously kept His commandments, he should pass into the company of the angels, and obtain, without the intervention of death, a blessed and endless immortality; but if he offended the Lord his God by a proud and disobedient use of his free will, he should become subject to death, and live as the beasts do—the slave of appetite, and doomed to eternal punishment after death. And therefore God created only one single man, not, certainly, that he might be a solitary, bereft of all society, but that by this means the unity of society and the bond of concord might be more effectually commended to him, men being bound together not only by similarity of nature, but by family affection. And indeed He did not even create the woman that was to be given him as his wife, as he created the man, but created her out of the man, that the whole human race might derive from one man (City of God, XII, 21).
[ I ]t is blasphemy to believe or to say (even before it can be understood) that any other than God is creator of any nature, be it never so small and mortal. And as for the angels, whom those Platonists prefer to call gods, although they do, so far as they are permitted and commissioned, aid in the production of the things around us, yet not on that account are we to call them creators, any more than we call gardeners the creators of fruits and trees (City of God, XII, 24).St. Basil the Great
[ U ]nder the form of history the law is laid down for what is to follow. And the evening and the morning were one day. Why does Scripture say "one day the first day"? Before speaking to us of the second, the third, and the fourth days, would it not have been more natural to call that one the first which began the series? If it therefore says "one day," it is from a wish to determine the measure of day and night, and to combine the time that they contain. Now twenty-four hours fill up the space of one day--we mean of a day and of a night; and if, at the time of the solstices, they have not both an equal length, the time marked by Scripture does not the less circumscribe their duration. It is as though it said: twenty-four hours measure the space of a day, or that, in reality a day is the time that the heavens starting from one point take to return there. Thus, every time that, in the revolution of the sun, evening and morning occupy the world, their periodical succession never exceeds the space of one day (Hexameron, Homily II). Bede the Venerable
In the first age when the world was created, and on the first day of this age, God made the light, and called it day. On the second He poised the firmament of heaven in the midst of the waters; for the waters themselves and the land, together with the upper heaven, and the virtues which were there placed to celebrate their Maker, had already been created before the beginning of these six days.190 On the third day, the waters, which before covered everything, were gathered into their place, and the dry land was made to appear. On the fourth day He placed the stars in the firmament; and this day, as far as we can conjecture by the Equinox, is now called the 21st of March. On the fifth day He made those animals that swim and fly. On the sixth day He made the land animals and the man Adam, from whose side, while he slept, He produced Eve, the Mother of all living; and that day, as it seems probable to me, is now called the 23rd of March. Wherefore it is justly thought, if no more profitable conjecture can be made, that Christ was crucified on the same 23rd of March, as has been written by the holy Theophilus, in the disputation that he held about Easter, with many other bishops, not only of Palestine, but of other countries also. For thus it would seem fitting, that on the same day, not only of the week, but of the month, the Second Adam, to redeem the human race, should die that He might rise again, and by the heavenly sacraments that He might provide out of His own side, sanctify to Himself, His bride, the Church; for on this same day He had Himself created the first Adam, the parent of the human race, and taking a rib out of his side formed a woman, to assist in propagating the human race (Venerable Bede, Chronicle of the Six Ages of the World, “The First Age”)St. Clement of Alexandria
For the creation of the world was concluded in six days . . . For the creations on the different days followed in a most important succession; so that all things brought into existence might have honor from priority, created together in thought, but not being of equal worth. Nor was the creation of each signified by the voice, inasmuch as the creative work is said to have made them at once. For something must needs have been named first. Wherefore those things were announced first, from which came those that were second, all things being originated together from one essence by one power (emphasis added) (Stromata, Book VI, Ch. 16).St. Cyril of Jerusalem
If then you seek the cause of Christ's coming, go back to the first book of the Scriptures. In six days God made the world: but the world was for man. The sun however resplendent with bright beams, yet was made to give light to man, yea, and all living creatures were formed to serve us: herbs and trees were created for our enjoyment. All the works of creation were good, but none of these was an image of God, save man only. The sun was formed by a mere command, but man by God's hands: Let us make man after our image, and after our likeness. Genesis 1:26 A wooden image of an earthly king is held in honour; how much more a rational image of God? (Catechetical Lectures, XII, 5)St. Epiphanius
For at the beginning Adam was brought to life on the sixth day, after being formed from earth and infused with (God’s breath) (Panarion, I:1).St. Ephraim the Syrian
No one should think that the Creation of Six Days is an allegory; it is likewise impermissible to say that what seems, according to the account, to have been created in six days, was created in a single instant, and likewise that certain names presented in this account either signify nothing, or signify something else. On the contrary, we must know that just as the heaven and the earth which were created in the beginning are actually the heaven and earth and not something else understood under the names of heaven and earth, so also everything else that is spoken of as being created and brought into order after the creation of heaven and earth is not empty names, but the very essence of the created natures corresponds to the force of these names (Commentary on the Hexameron).St. Gregory the Great
Again, we must enquire how God created all things at once, when Moses describes them as created separately with the varying change of six days. But we learn this the more readily, if we enquire minutely into the actual cases themselves of their beginnings. For the substance of things was indeed created at once, but the form was not fashioned at once: and that which existed at the same time in the substance of matter, appeared not at the same time by the figure of its shape. For when heaven and earth are described as made at the same time, it is pointed out that things spiritual and things corporeal, whatever arises from heaven, and whatever is produced from earth, were created all of them together. For the sun, the moon, and the stars, are said to have been created in the heaven on the fourth day: but that which on the fourth day came forth in appearance, existed on the first day in the substance of heaven by the creation. The earth is said to have been created on the first day, and the trees and all the green things of the earth are described as being made on the third. But that which on the third day put itself forth in appearance, was doubtless created on the first day in the substance of the earth, from which it sprung196 (Moralia, Book XXXII, 12, XVI).St. Gregory of Nyssa
As we learn in the cosmogony of Moses, there ran the measure of time, meted out in a certain order and arrangement by stated days and nights, for each of the things that came into being . . . (Against Eunomius, Book IX, Section III).St. Gregory Nazianzen
I will only say this of [St. Basil] . . .Whenever I handle his Hexameron, and take its words on my lips, I am brought into the presence of the Creator, and understand the words of creation, and admire the Creator more than before, using my teacher as my only means of sight (Oration 43, “Funeral Oration on St. Basil the Great”).St. Hilary of Poitiers
Adam, the first parent of the human race, was formed from the earth, which was made out of nothing, and after time, that is to say, after the heaven and earth, and the day and the sun, moon and stars, and he had no first beginning in being born, and began to be when he once had not been200 (On the Trinity, XII, 16).St. Hippolytus of Rome
GEN. 1. 5. And it was evening, and it was morning, one day.
HIPPOLYTUS. He did not say "night and day," but "one day," with reference to the name of the light. He did not say the "first day;" for if he had said the "first" day, he would also have had to say that the "second" day was made. But it was right to speak not of the "first day," but of "one day," in order that by saying "one," he might show that it returns on its orbit and, while it remains one, makes up the week.
GEN. 1. 6. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the water.
HIPP. On the first day God made what He made out of nothing. But on the other days He did not make out of nothing, but out of what He had made on the first day, by moulding it according to His pleasure (Fragments of a Commentary on Genesis).St. Irenaeus
Scripture says: “And God rested upon the seventh day from all His works”… And in six days created things were completed; it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end in the six thousandth year… (Against Heresies, V, 28, 3).St. Isidore of Seville
God created everything in six days. On the first day he fashioned light; on the second, the firmament of heaven; on the third, the land and the sea; on the fourth, the stars; on the fifth, the fish and the birds; on the sixth, the animals and the beasts of burden and finally the first man, Adam, in his image (Chronicon, First Age of the World).St. Jerome
When God formed man out of slime, and through the grace of His own inspiration gave him a soul, had that soul previously existed and subsisted which was afterwards bestowed by the inspiration of God, and where was it? or did it gain its capacity both to exist and to live from the power of God, on the sixth day, when the body was formed out of the slime? (To Pammachius, Against John of Jerusalem, XVIII).St. John Chrysostom
The Divine Scripture indicates here that God rested from His works; but in the Gospel Christ says: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). In comparing these utterances, is there not a contradiction to be found in them? May it not be so; in the words of Divine Scripture there is no contradiction whatsoever. When the Scripture here says: “God rested from all his works,” it thereby instructs us that on the Seventh Day He ceased to create and to bring out of nonexistence into existence; but when Christ says: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work,” it thereby indicates to us His uninterrupted Providence, and it calls “work” the preservation of what exists, the giving to it of continuance (of existence) and the governance of it at all times. Otherwise, how could the universe exist, if a higher hand did not govern and order everything visible and the human race? (emphasis added) (Homilies on Genesis, X, 7).St. John of Damascus
In the beginning, then, that is to say on the first day, God created light, the ornament and glory of the whole visible creation. For take away light and all things remain in undistinguishable darkness, incapable of displaying their native beauty. And God called the light day, but the darkness He called night. Further, darkness is not any essence, but an accident: for it is simply absence of light. The air, indeed, has not light in its essence. It was, then, this very absence of light from the air that God called darkness: and it is not the essence of air that is darkness, but the absence of light which clearly is rather an accident than an essence. And, indeed, it was not night, but day, that was first named, so that day is first and after that comes night. Night, therefore, follows day. And from the beginning of day till the next day is one complete period of day and night. For the Scripture says, And the evening and the morning were one day.
When, therefore, in the first three days the light was poured forth and reduced at the divine command, both day and night came to pass. But on the fourth day God created the great luminary, that is, the sun, to have rule and authority over the day: for it is by it that day is made: for it is day when the sun is above the earth, and the duration of a day is the course of the sun over the earth from its rising till its setting. And He also created the lesser luminaries, that is, the moon and the stars, to have rule and authority over the night, and to give light by night. For it is night when the sun is under the earth, and the duration of night is the course of the sun under the earth from its rising till its setting. The moon, then, and the stars were set to lighten the night: not that they are in the daytime under the earth, for even by day stars are in the heaven over the earth but the sun conceals both the stars and the moon by the greater brilliance of its light and prevents them from being seen. (Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book II, Chapter VII).Julius Africanus
The period, then, to the advent of the Lord from Adam and the creation is 5531 years, from which epoch to the 250th Olympiad there are 192 years, as has been shown above (Fragment XVIII).St. Justin Martyr
Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead (Apology, LXVII).Lactantius
God completed the world and this admirable work of nature in the space of six days, as is contained in the secrets of Holy Scripture, and consecrated the seventh day, on which He had rested from His works. But this is the Sabbath day, which in the language of the Hebrews received its name from the number, whence the seventh is the legitimate and complete number (Divine Institutes, Book VII, 16).St. Leo the Great
But what is the sun or what is the moon but elements of visible creation and material light: one of which is of greater brightness and the other of lesser light? For as it is now day time and now night time, so the Creator has constituted various kinds of luminaries, although even before they were made there had been days without the sun and nights without the moon. But these were fashioned to serve in making man, that he who is an animal endowed with reason might be sure of the distinction of the months, the recurrence of the year, and the variety of the seasons, since through the unequal length of the various periods, and the clear indications given by the changes in its risings, the sun closes the year and the moon renews the months. For on the fourth day, as we read, God said: Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven, and let them shine upon the earth, and let them divide between day and night, and let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be in the firmament of heaven that they may shine upon earth (Sermon XXVII, 5).St. Methodius of Olympus
For it is a dangerous thing wholly to despise the literal meaning, as has been said, and especially of Genesis, where the unchangeable decrees of God for the constitution of the universe are set forth (Banquet of the Ten Virgins, III)
For they remembered that in six days God formed the creation, and those things which were made in paradise; and how man, receiving a command not to touch the tree of knowledge, ran aground, the author of evil having led him astray (Genesis 3:3) (Banquet of the Ten Virgins, VII, V).St. Peter of Alexandria
The things which pertain to the divinity and humanity of the Second Man from heaven, in what has been written above, according to the blessed apostle, we have explained; and now we have thought it necessary to explain the things which pertain to the first man, who is of earth and earthy, being about, namely, to demonstrate this, that he was created at the same time one and the same, although sometimes he is separately designated as the man external and internal. For if, according to the Word of salvation, He who made what is without, made also that which is within, He certainly, by one operation, and at the same time, made both, on that day, indeed, on which God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; Gen. 1:26 whence it is manifest that man was not formed by a conjunction of the body with a certain pre-existent type. For if the earth, at the bidding of the Creator, brought forth the other animals endowed with life, much rather did the dust which God took from the earth receive a vital energy from the will and operation of God. (Fragment 6: Of the Soul and the Body).St. Peter Chrysologus
He who made man without generation from pure clay made man again and was born from a pure body. The hand that assumed clay to make our flesh deigned to assume a body for our salvation. That the Creator is in his creature and God is in the flesh brings dignity to man without dishonor to him who made him. Why then, man, are you so worthless in your own eyes and yet so precious to God? Why render yourself such dishonor when you are honored by him? Why do you ask how you were created and do not seek to know why you were made? Was not this entire visible universe made for your dwelling? It was for you that the light dispelled the overshadowing gloom; for your sake was the night regulated and the day measured, and for you were the heavens embellished with the varying brilliance of the sun, the moon and the stars. The earth was adorned with flowers, groves and fruit; and the constant marvelous variety of lovely living things was created in the air, the fields, and the seas for you, and let sad solitude destroy the joy of God’s new creation (Sermo 148: PL 52, 596-59.Theodoret of Cyrus
Orth.—Do we say that the divine Word is Creator of the Universe?
Eran.— So we have learned to believe from the divine Scriptures.
Orth.— And how many days after the creation of heaven and earth are we told that Adam was formed?
Eran.— On the sixth day (Dialogue of Eranistes and Orthodoxus, II).Theophilus of Antioch
Of this six days' work no man can give a worthy explanation and description of all its parts, not though he had ten thousand tongues and ten thousand mouths; nay, though he were to live ten thousand years, sojourning in this life, not even so could he utter anything worthy of these things, on account of the exceeding greatness and riches of the wisdom of God which there is in the six days' work above narrated. Many writers indeed have imitated [the narration], and essayed to give an explanation of these things; yet, though they thence derived some suggestions, both concerning the creation of the world and the nature of man, they have emitted no slightest spark of truth. And the utterances of the philosophers, and writers, and poets have an appearance of trustworthiness, on account of the beauty of their diction; but their discourse is proved to be foolish and idle, because the multitude of their nonsensical frivolities is very great; and not a stray morsel of truth is found in them. For even if any truth seems to have been uttered by them, it has a mixture of error. And as a deleterious drug, when mixed with honey or wine, or some other thing, makes the whole [mixture] hurtful and profitless; so also eloquence is in their case found to be labour in vain; yea, rather an injurious thing to those who credit it. Moreover, [they spoke] concerning the seventh day, which all men acknowledge; but the most know not that what among the Hebrews is called the Sabbath, is translated into Greek the Seventh (ἑβδομάς), a name which is adopted by every nation, although they know not the reason of the appellation. And as for what the poet Hesiod says of Erebus being produced from chaos, as well as the earth and love which lords it over his [Hesiod's] gods and men, his dictum is shown to be idle and frigid, and quite foreign to the truth. For it is not meet that God be conquered by pleasure; since even men of temperance abstain from all base pleasure and wicked lust (To Autolycus, II, 11-12).