Did God really create the earth in seven days?

The story of creation in the Book of Genesis is one of the most well known to Christians and non-Christians alike, but it’s also widely misunderstood. How could God have created the earth in seven days when science claims otherwise? Father Richard Simon, host of Father Simon SaysTM on Relevant Radio®, explains:

“You have to look at the first chapters of Genesis from God’s point of view. The first chapters of Genesis are literally true from God’s point of view,” says Fr. Simon. “There’s no doubt that creation happened, but it’s about the meaning of creation and the most important word in the story is seven. Because the word seven means, in Hebrew, to swear. They wouldn’t say, ‘I swear to tell the truth.’ They would say, ‘I seven ya, I’m telling the truth!’ It’s a vocabulary-poor language. The very fact of existence is all about God’s love for humanity. Now the different ages and epics, these are squeezed into this concept of seven. The story is about the meaning of the creation.”

Why don’t we take the creation story literally? “Human beings are a unique creation of God. It’s poetic. To St. Ambrose and St. Augustine—that early, like 300 AD—they would talk about if you can, you take it as a literal thing and if it can’t be taken literally, you take it in its allegorical meaning. They conceded that there was poetry in the scriptures.”

Fr. Simon explained that these books took a different perspective than we do today. “Remember that ancient histories weren’t so much concerned with the details and facts as they were with the meaning and morality of it. Which we have a different concept and for us to make them conform to our approach to literature and history is unfair.”

The Church is not opposed to science, as some might wrongly assume. “So the Catholic Church has no problem with the universe being 14 billion years old. The fact is a Catholic monsignor was the one who came up with the Big Bang. He’s the one who realized that creation seems to have started in an infinitely small point that exploded out—that there was a moment of creation which can be scientifically verifiable.”

“This is not a problem because for God there is no time. ‘A thousand years is like a moment in his sight,’ the Bible says. And when we want to use the Book of Genesis as if it were a science text, we’re misusing it. It’s about the meaning of the creation, not the fact of the creation.”

Listen to the whole podcast, including Father Simon’s discussion of the story of Noah and the great flood.

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.