Monday, February 9, 2015

Basil the Great on the Vanity of Reading Genesis as Science

In the passage below from Basil the Great's Hexaemeron (Homily 9), we see that Genesis avoids presenting vain scientific theories in order to focus on that which edifies and perfects the soul. To read Genesis either as a literal historical scientific account, or even infusing allegory into the text, is a vain attempt at reading this text outside of the divine intention behind its inspiration. In fact, the entire Bible is a theological book that primarily aims at the perfecting of our souls.

Those who have written about the nature of the universe have discussed at length the shape of the earth. If it be spherical or cylindrical, if it resemble a disc and is equally rounded in all parts, or if it has the forth of a winnowing basket and is hollow in the middle; all these conjectures have been suggested by cosmographers, each one upsetting that of his predecessor.

It will not lead me to give less importance to the creation of the universe, that the servant of God, Moses, is silent as to shapes; he has not said that the earth is a hundred and eighty thousand furlongs in circumference; he has not measured into what extent of air its shadow projects itself while the sun revolves around it, nor stated how this shadow, casting itself upon the moon, produces eclipses. He has passed over in silence, as useless, all that is unimportant for us.

Shall I then prefer foolish wisdom to the oracles of the Holy Spirit? Shall I not rather exalt Him who, not wishing to fill our minds with these vanities, has regulated all the economy of Scripture in view of the edification and the making perfect of our souls?