On the prudence and openness in interpreting sacred Scripture, when biblical passages deal with our knowledge of nature

  • Book excerpt
  • 750 words
  • Level: high school and above

An excerpt on the book of Genesis, from Augustine of Hippo’s The Literal Meaning of Genesis. This excerpt has been selected by the Interdisciplinary Encyclopedia of Religion and Science (Inters.org), which is edited by the Advanced School for Interdisciplinary Research, operating at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, and directed by Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti. From Inters.org:

These passages from St. Augustine’s De Genesi ad litteram suggest how theologians should behave when different interpretations of sacred Scripture are possible in matter of our knowledge of nature. Prudence is recommended to avoid presenting specific readings, susceptible of further deepening, as if they were absolute and unquestionable. In so doing we keep away from the risk that scholars who are experts in natural knowledge deride Christians for their ingenuousness, and then underestimate the value of the whole Scripture. Galileo Galilei quoted these passages from Augustine in his famous Letter to Madame Christine of Lorraine (1615), he wrote to show that Bible should not be interpreted always in a literal and apodictic way, in order to back a specific cosmological system against another.

Click here for Augustine’s commentary, from Inters.org.

Click here for Augustine’s commentary, from a preview from Google Books of Augustine’s The Literal Meaning of Genesis.