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Pentateuch (Biblical Commission)



Pentateuch.—Some decisions of the Biblical Commission (q.v.) in regard to the chief subject of this article, viz., Genesis, are as follows: The various exegetical Systems which exclude the literal and historical sense of the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis are not based on a solid foundation. It should not be taught that these three chapters do not contain true narrations of facts, but only fables derived from the mythologies and cosmogonies of earlier peoples, purged of their polytheistic errors and accommodated to monotheism; or allegories and symbols, with no objective reality, set forth in the guise of history to inculcate religious and philosophical truths; or, finally, legends partly historical and partly fictitious put together for instruction and edification. In particular, doubt should not be cast on the literal and historical sense of passages which touch on the foundations of the Christian religion, as, for instance, the creation of the universe by God at the beginning of time; the special creation of man; the formation of the first woman from the first man; the unity of the human race; the original happiness, integrity, and immortality of our first parents in the state of justice; the precept given by God to man to try his obedience; the transgression of the Divine precept, at the suggestion of the Devil, under the form of a serpent; the fall of our first parents from their original state of justice; the promise of a future Redeemer.

In explaining such passages in these chapters as the Fathers and Doctors interpreted differently, one may follow and defend the opinion which meets his approval. Not every word or phrase in these chapters is always necessarily to be taken in its literal sense so that it may never have another, as when it is manifestly used metaphorically or anthropomorphically. The literal and historical meaning of some passages in these chapters presupposed, an allegorical and prophetical meaning may wisely and usefully be employed. As in writing the first chapter of Genesis the purpose of the sacred author was not to expound in a scientific manner the constitution of the universe or the complete order of creation, but rather to give to the people popular information in the ordinary language of the day, adapted to the intelligence of all, the strict propriety of scientific language is not always to be looked for in their terminology. The expression six days and their division may be taken in the ordinary sense of a natural day, or for a certain period of time, and exegetes may dispute about this question.

Acta Apostolicæ Sedis (15 July, 1908); Rome (17 July, 1909).








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