Biologos posted a three part reflection on Pre-Modern readings of Genesis 1 that are worth a closer look. And no matter what your particular way of reading this portion of Scripture, let’s pay attention to what edifies the Church and whether our reading contributes to that.
From Part I of the series:
Key theologians of the early church (such as Origen and Augustine, as we’ve discussed) read Scripture with multiple senses and meanings—with a literal sense and multiple spiritual senses. However, not all fully agreed with this methodology. Though most all would certainly hold to multiple senses of Scripture, some readers insisted upon a more profound attention to the literal sense, and the use of the literal sense to help restrain or hold in check the possible spiritual readings. Such 3rd- and 4th-century Church fathers, as St. Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, and Theodore of Mopsuestia insisted upon a much more restrained literal reading of Genesis 1.6
Yet even those who insist upon a more literal—or more historical—interpretation of Genesis 1 still contended that the primary purpose of any reading was to edify the Church, which entails setting forth the key theological teachings of Genesis 1, rather than focus on the material specifics. Again, such teachings include that the world is created, that God create the world out of nothing, and that the creation account demonstrates the great order and harmony of creation as a testimony of the God’s glory, beauty, and goodness.7