"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1
"For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy." Exodus 20:11
Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth
Chapter 2: A Brief Overview of the Exegesis of Genesis 1-11: Luther to Lyell.
Written by David W. Hall, M. Div.; Ph.D.
The Protestant Reformers
From Calvin to Ussher
Continental Reformed Theologians (1590-1690)
British Puritan Exegetes
Summary on Westminster Assembly
Wesley and Early 19th Century Commentaries
There are Christian scholars who have made statements about the history of creation in the church which is not accurate. "One of the many examples is Walter Kaiser, who states that the 'day-age view has been the majority view of the church since the fourth century.'" (p. 53). According to Hall, this is manifestly untrue. He states further, "To say that most Bible interpreters from Luther to Lyell held beliefs compatible with a 14-billion-year-old cosmos constitutes revisionist history to an embarrassing extreme" (p. 55). Contents.
"Martin Luther's [1483-1546] view is so explicit as to largely go uncontested. Numerous citations could be assembled, showing that he clearly and firmly held to literal days, no death or natural evil before the Fall, and a global Flood." .... Robert Letham confirms that Luther 'without ambiguity adopts the interprestation that the days of creation are of twnety-four hours duration, at the same tia arguing that the earth is only six thousand years old.'" (p. 55)
"Just prior to Calvin, we can find the testimony of Anglican bishop Hugh Latimer (1485-1555), who expressed what he believed was the representative view held by the Christian world of his time. His comments take for granted a literal view of Genesis 1." (p. 55)
"Howard Van Till, among others, has claimed that John Calvin (1509-1564) held ideas that were quite compatible with the discoveries of modern science. Upon scrutiny, however, that is as equally untrue as the distorted handling of the patristic literature by old-earth advocates. Calvin had a consistent view of creation, affirming, for exammple, that 'God, by speaking, was Creator of the universe.'" (p. 56)
According to Hall, speaking about Calvin,
He consciously rejects Augustine's view, and shows that in his mind Genesis is not simply a literary framework for teaching theology, but records the "works" of God on those days. Furthermore, elsewhere in the commentary he affirms (1) that light was created before the sun and the moon, (2) that the gathering of the waters on day 2 was a miracle, (3) that He created the stars on the fourth day, (4) that Adam was made literally from the dust of the earth, (5) that the Flood was global, and (6) that the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 were strict chronologies (with no gaps). Thus we conclude that Calvin represents a consistent view on this subject, and it stand in strong contrast to modern attempts to fiy millions of years into the Genesis account. (pp. 58-59).
Again, according to Hall,
Calvin's lieutenant, Theodore Beza (1519-1605), stated his views clearly and succinctly as well. He affirmed that Hebrews 11:3 taught creation ex nihilo.
Hall continued, "After consulting the writings of the early Protestant leaders, Calvin, Beza, and Luther, we can summarize their views as follows: (p. 59)
Hall begins this section as follows:
During the century after Calvin's death (1564), various Reformed t heologians addressed questions that aqre often presented today as if they are insuperable barriers to embracing the traditional interpretation of Genesis 1-11. This apparent insuperability is most likely attributable to contemporary theolgians being unacquainted with how well our exegetical forefathers already dealth with objections that became more pertinent after modern scientific revolutions. The following questions to be examined underscore alleged difficulties which, many feel, necessitate exegetical revision: (p. 59)
Wolfgang Musculus (1497-1563), praised by John Calvin, "consistently interpreted the days [of Genesis 1] as natural days." (p. 61)
Updated February 28, 2023