Early church leaders

Origen (~185 – 255 AD)

“Who with any understanding would suppose that the first, second, and third day, along with the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars, or that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to think that God, just like a farmer, literally planted a paradise in Eden, somewhere in the east, and placed a tree of life in it that was both visible and tangible, and that if one actually sank their teeth in and ate its fruit, that they would obtain life?”

“Again, who would think that one was a partaker of good and evil by munching on what was taken from the other tree? And as far as God walking in the paradise in the evening, and Adam hiding himself under a tree, I do not think that anyone doubts that these things are to be taken figuratively, and that they indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally.”

Bouteneff on Origen:

“Already by Origen’s day, Christians versed in cosmology were faced with a choice: either suspend their belief in nature as they observed it, or suspend their insistence on the literal or scientific interpretation of Genesis 1-3. Origen seemed to opt for the latter, yet his understanding of Scripture had never been wedded to a scientific interpretation in the first place, so he never felt forced to suspend anything.”

Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD)

“In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find passages in Holy Scripture that can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search of truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it. That would be to battle not for the teaching of Holy Scripture but for our own, wishing its teaching to conform to ours, whereas we ought to wish ours to conform to that of Sacred Scripture.”

“Some works belonged to the invisible days in which he created all things simultaneously, and others belong to the days in which he daily fashions whatever evolves in the course of time from what I call the primordial wrappers.”

“In regards to things about the earth, the sky, other elements of this world, the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, the definite eclipses of the sun and moon, the passage of years and seasons, the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, it should not be surprising that such things can be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. Therefore, it is an utterly disgraceful and ruinous thing—and something that should be greatly avoided—if [a non-Christian] hears a Christian speaking like an idiot on these matters and trying to make them accord with Christian writings. When that happens, [the non-Christian] will say that he can’t keep from laughing when he sees how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some singular meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation.”

“With the scriptures it is a matter of treating about the faith. For that reason…if anyone, not understanding the mode of divine eloquence, should find something about these matters [the physical universe] in our books, or hear of the same from those books, of such a kind that it seems to be at variance with the perceptions of his own rational faculties, let him believe that these other things are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the scriptures. In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation.”

Gregory of Nyssa (~335-395 AD)

“What is the nature of things? The Creator of the elements did not endow them with constancy or permanence. That is, all things are subject to change. This change is unceasing among the elements and by necessity they pass into other things, undergo alteration, and change again.”

“The creation of man is related as coming last, as of one who took up into himself every single form of life, both that of plants and that which is seen in brutes. His nourishment and growth he derives from vegetable life; for even in vegetables such processes are to be seen when aliment is being drawn in by their roots and given off in fruit and leaves. His sentient organization he derives from the brute creation. But his faculty of thought and reason is incommunicable, and a peculiar gift in our nature.”

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

“All things were not distinguished and adorned together, not from a want of power on God’s part, as requiring time in which to work, but that due order might be observed in the instituting of the world.”

(He didn’t believe God created in just the first six days)