patient of a variety of approaches to the text, including typology and allegory. Since figures, metaphors and anthropomorphisms are thoroughly interwoven with straightforward historical description, sophisticated navigation is necessary to do justice to the 'thickness' of the narrative. Beginning with Genesis 1.1, Augustine suggests that heaven may well indicate spiritual beings in a state of perfection when they are created, and earth bodily matter awaiting completion and perfection.
The earth, says Holy Scripture, was invisible and formless, and darkness was over the abyss [Genesis 1.2]. These words seem to indicate the formless state of bodily substance. Or does the second statement imply the formless state of both substances, so that bodily substance is referred to in the words, The earth was invisible and formless, but spiritual substance in the words, Darkness was over the abyss? In this interpretation we should understand 'dark abyss' as a metaphor meaning that life which is formless unless it is turned toward its creator.52
When the text says that God created, it demonstrably signifies the whole Trinity, for the Father inaugurates the work, speaking creation into being through his co-eternal Son (Logos), with the Spirit stirring above the water.53 Let there be light (Genesis 1.3) comes not from a corporeal voice, but indicates an intelligible utterance through the Logos in which light is conceived, while the subsequent phrase and there was light signals the actual conversion and illumination of the formless intellectual creation in relation to the Logos, its exemplar.54 In this manner Augustine expounds the Genesis cosmogony as a complex event embracing both the pre-temporal divine causation (conditio) and the spatiotemporal production and administration (administratio) of the world.
In the Greek tradition too, this theological-literal sense, or 'deductive' reading as Frances Young calls it,55 dominated the Trinitarian and Christological controversies. Athanasius and Gregory of Nyssa both confuted the ostensibly naive literalism of Arian hermeneutics by pointing to the true theological objective (skopos) of sensitive scriptural texts, intuited through the church's insight (theoria). One such text was Proverbs 8.22 - The Lord created me the beginning of his works - which Arians understood to be the Son of God, qua Wisdom, confessing that he was a created being. Athanasius and Gregory pointed to the intrinsically enigmatic nature of proverbial language and to the evidence of other scriptures declaring the Son begotten of the Father, in which
52 Augustine, De Genesi ad litteram 1.1.2-3 (CSEL 281: 4-5); trans. ACW 41: 20.
53 Ibid., 1.2.6; 1.5.10-1.7.13; cf.3.19.29 (CSEL 281: 6-7; 9-11; 84-6).
55 Young, Biblical interpretation, 40.
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