Bertram Coghill Alan Windle.

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pendious manner.

(x.) " And He said : Let us make man to our image
and likeness " (Gen. i. 26). Last of all man appears, and
last of all. he is described as appearing. Much consideration
will be given to the time and manner of his appearance
in later chapters : here we need only advert to the fact
that he is found in the place where science tells us that he
should be found.

And now, having considered the account in Genesis, we
may pause to consider whether on general lines and apart
from the question of Revelation, there is not a remarkable
similarity and agreement between the Scriptural narrative
and the findings of science. Romanes once wrote, 1 " The
order in which the flora and fauna are said, by the Mosaic
account, to have appeared upon the earth corresponds with
that which the theory of Evolution requires and the evidence
of geology proves." This statement cannot be gainsaid,
and we may usefully bear in mind that " the points of
agreement between Genesis and science are far too many
and far too unlikely to be due to accident. They are far
too many ; for the chances against even eight events being
put down in their correct order by guesswork is 40,319
to 1. And they are far too unlikely ; for what could have

1 " Nature," nth August, 1881.


induced an ignorant man to say that light came before
the sun, or that the earth once existed without any dry
land ? "!

On this matter Dr. Pope {op cit., pp. 196, 7) says : " Primi-
tive nations must necessarily have attempted to give some
explanation, however unsatisfactory, of their own existence.
It is hardly to be supposed that different nations would
have lit upon the same metaphorical way of expressing their
ideas on this subject. 2 And it seems perfectly legitimate
to argue that the universal witness of the world, especially
as concretised in the records which we have been examining,
bears witness to a primitive revelation on the subject of
the origins of mankind and the world in general. At the
same time this revelation, while coming from God to man,
must necessarily have been expressed in language suitable
to man's comprehension, and he, in handing down to
his sons the revelation received in the beginning, must
needs have expressed things which, save in the case of
Adam himself, were beyond his power to understand, and
indeed altogether beyond his experience, in terms, too,
which were often little better than metaphors, and which
as such were only to a small extent capable of giving ex-
pression to man's ideas on the subject ; it is in this sense
that we can speak of the stories in Genesis as myths or
legends, and in no other. In doing so we do not cease to
remember their divine origin ; we look rather at the halting
way in which, from the necessities of the case, they must
have been expressed. . . . What, then, are the relations
between these Assyrian and pre-Semitic accounts and the
Biblical narrative ? It must be remembered that the
Assyrians, Babylonians, and Hebrews, were, all alike,
Semites ; further, that the parent of the Hebrew race, viz.
Abraham, had come out of Chaldea, and that at the Exile
the Hebrews had returned thither. The advanced Ration-
alistic School would argue that since the Pentateuch, ac-
cording to their ideas, is only to be referred in its present
form to the period succeeding the Exile, i.e. to about

1 Turton, op. cit., p. 163.

' He has just been discussing the Assyrian and the Babylonian accounts
of creation and showing their relationship to that of Genesis.


400 b.c, we must see in the account of the Creation pre-
served in Genesis nothing more than a myth derived from
Babylonia during the time of the Captivity. Others, how-
ever, would hold that the Hebrews derived it from Chaldea,
in the period preceding the departure of Thare from Ur of
the Chaldees, and that they preserved the original story in
its monotheistic form, free from the accretions we now find
in the Chaldean tablets. It is, however, a striking fact
that the Bible represents to us Thare and Abraham as
believers in the One True God, and it would seem as though,
from the days of Noe, God had preserved for Himself a
portion of the human race untainted by the prevailing
idolatry. He had revealed Himself to Adam and again to
Noe ; yet it is implied all through this early period of the
history, that in spite of the defection of the vast majority
of mankind, there was always a chosen seed which did not
stand in need of new revelation of what had once been
declared, though it did at all times call for drastic purifica-
tion from the errors which had inevitably crept in through
contact with the unbelievers in whose midst they lived. It
would seem, then, more in accordance with the facts to
suppose that all along the course of the history the true
account of God's dealings with man and of His formation
of the world and of the human race had been preserved
undiluted and was handed down from century to century.
Indeed, when we come to reflect upon it, a purification of
the Chaldean account of the Creation or of the Flood would
have involved an almost radical change of the accounts "


IN the foregoing chapter we have sought to indicate
the striking concordance which exists, even chrono-
logically, between the Biblical sketch of the creation of
the world, considered as a statement for the people,
and the teachings of the most modern science as to
its origin. But since it is unhappily most true that a
widespread ignorance as to the true attitude of the Church
on such matters prevails, it becomes of the first importance
to emphasise the fact that the propositions laid down in
the foregoing chapter are by no means the only view set
forth by Catholic authorities on this difficult question. 1
That the ignorance just alluded to exists, and exists even in
places where it should not, and where it would scarcely
be suspected to exist, is exemplified by the fact that Renan,
who ought to have known better, wrote : 2 "To deny that
several portions of Genesis have a mythic character, obliges
me to explain as real, accounts such as that of the terrestrial
paradise, the forbidden fruit, Noah's ark. Now one is not
a Catholic if on a single one of these points one departs
from the traditional thesis." On which Mgr. Vigouroux
remarks, 3 " M. Renan is more exacting than the Church,
for it is false to assert that a person ceases to be a Catholic
if on a single one of these points he departs from the tradi-
tional thesis. For example, it is not of faith that we must
understand in its literal sense all that which is contained

1 It is only fair to say that for the opinions set forth in this chapter I
am indebted to the kind assistance of the friends whose names have been
mentioned in my preface.

2 In his " Souvenirs d'enfance," p. 293.

3 " Melanges Bibliques : La Cosmogonie Mosaique," 1889, ed. 2,
p. 517, n. 2.



in the first chapter of Genesis, whatever may be the
universal opinion of theologians. Some commentators,
among others Cardinal Cajetan, interpreted allegorically
the beginning of Genesis, and the Church has not
condemned them but has continued to regard them as

There has always been a great diversity in the Church
as to the interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis,
over a dozen methods having at one time or another been
suggested by different Catholic theologians without any
disapproval from the Church. From the very start there
was a strong exegetical school which refused to take the
account of creation with chronological strictness. The
Jewish commentators Aristobulus and Philo, the Christian
Fathers Theophilus and Justin, and most of the Alexandrian
Fathers upheld a simultaneous creation and interpreted
the six days as an allegorical description of the order and
development of the universe. In other words, these Fathers
explained Genesis in accordance with the then current
philosophical and scientific views. Later on the Syrian
School of exegesis arose in opposition to the excesses of
Origenian allegorism ; these exegetes, less deeply versed
in the natural sciences, took a more literal view of Genesis.
But neither interpretation has been canonised, and at the
present day many different views prevail. For instance,
there are Catholics who hold that the " seven days " are
merely an arrangement of the creation for purposes of
liturgical recitation. 1 There are many Catholics (notably
Hummelauer, Hoberg, Schopfer) who interpret the " days "
as stages of a vision. According to this view, Moses had a
vision of God's creative power, a series of dissolving views
in which the pictures succeeded one another, so that dark-
ness closed in on one, and then the next brightened up
before the seer's gaze.

This form of allegorical or ideal explanation is, indeed,
perhaps the most common at the present day. It starts
from the suggestions of St. Augustine and abandons all
effort at the periodistic harmonising, since, according to
such views, the Scriptural account is not to be deemed at

1 Bishop Clifford, " Dublin Review," April, 1881.


all a chronological account of successive events, even in
the roughest outline.

Another form of explanation is that the Scriptural account
is an allegorical drama in six acts in which the religious
duty of worship of One God who has created the world and
gratitude for the magnificent bounty of that creation are

By others again it is conceived as an Epic or grand moral
narrative, presenting picturesquely facts and events grouped
in categories convenient for the ethical purpose of its author.
Thus the story of the Victorian Era might be given as
" The Days of Victoria " in six cantos or chapters. These
might each narrate in detail the events of successive decades
of that prolonged reign. Or the separate sections might
be allotted to groups of kindred facts, as Foreign Wars,
Constitutional Changes, Social Development, Progress of
the Nation in Wealth, Art, Literature and the like. Or
successive chapters might describe features of her domestic
life, her public life, her relations with British Statesmen,
with Foreign Monarchs, her tastes and habits and so on.
Any of these or other methods might be followed according
to the purpose of the author and the work might be truthful,
logical, and historical, although the chronological presenta-
tion of the subject matter would vary indefinitely.

The work must be understood according to the object of
the writer.

It is not intended here to argue for or against any or all
of the methods of interpretation set forth in this and the
preceding chapters. The diversity of views is emphasised
to guard against any undue dogmatism or any attempt at
a premature " reconciliation " of Genesis and Science. Our
present geological notions are as different as can be from the
Neoplatonism of the early Fathers, or from the cosmogony
of the mediaeval Schoolmen. Yet Genesis has been " re-
conciled " with each of these systems. It is certainly a
laudable effort to show that the Mosaic account tallies with
the chronological development of the earth as we now
conceive it. Yet I wish to make it clear that in commencing
— as one must commence somewhere — by discussing that
method of apologetic I by no manner of means desire to


press it too far. There are many warnings against such
a policy. " It has seemed to me," writes Cardinal Newman,
in his " Apologia," " to be very undignified for a Catholic to
commit himself to the work of chasing what might turn
out to be phantoms, and, in behalf of some special objec-
tions, to be ingenious in devising a theory, which, before
it was completed might have to give place to some
theory newer still, from the fact that those former objec-
tions had already come to nought under the uprising of

This is the opinion of a theologian, to which it may be
well to add that of an eminent man of science. Bishop
Ellicott wrote in 1876 to Clerk Maxwell (who, be it remem-
bered, was the originator of the electro-magnetic theory of
light), to consult him concerning the apparent creation of
light before the sun. This was his reply, 1 " I should be very
sorry if an interpretation founded on a most conjectural
scientific hypothesis were to get fastened to the text in
Genesis, even if, by so doing, it got rid of the old statement
of the commentators which has long ceased to be intelligible.
The rate of change of scientific hypotheses is naturally
much more rapid than that of Biblical interpretations, so
that if an interpretation is founded on such an hypothesis,
it may help to keep the hypothesis above ground long after
it ought to be buried and forgotten."

In the light of these remarks it is well not to build too
exclusively on the interpretation of Yom (day) as a geological
period. There are many difficulties in such a view, not
the least being the appearance of plants before the sun.
And, even if this exegesis be correct, we must never forget
the plain meaning of a text written for a primitive people.
The author of Genesis wished to enumerate God's. creative
activity in some orderly framework, and the week naturally
presented itself as a ready-made and sacred standard of
enumeration. We have already seen that it is not neces-
sary to regard the scheme of sub-division as chronological.

Perhaps an even simpler and more likely scheme is sug-
gested by Genesis ii. 1 : " So the heavens and the earth
were finished and all the furniture of them." The funda-

1 " Life of Clerk Maxwell," p. 394.


mental idea of the word tsebhaam (which St. Jerome should
have translated not by ornatus but by excrcitus as elsewhere)
is motion or movement. According to this the six days are
occupied with : —

(i.) Regional preparation.

(ii.) The corresponding moving or living inhabitants (" all
their armies.")

Then the scheme of days would stand thus : —

i. General preparation — light.

2. Expanse (for stars) and air (for birds).

3. Land and plants (for animals) and sea
(for fish).

'4. Stars.

5. Birds and Fish.

6. Animals and Man.


Inhabitants. -

The ancients considered light as independent of material
radiators. This is why light is described before the stars ;
this also explains how Job (xxxviii. 19) could ask in what
hidden place light dwelt.

The plants are described on the third day and no blessing
was given to them such as was given to fish and animals.
To antiquity the life of plants did not seem at all compar-
able with that of animals ; generation too seemed very
mysterious, but it appeared much less surprising that
plants should produce seeds. 1

When we thus examine the account of Genesis in its
pristine historical setting, its true beauty and truth stand
out quite independently of any preoccupation with con-
temporary science.

The details are those of any primitive people with a naive
outlook upon nature ; for instance, the firmament (raqia)
was conceived as a solid support for the upper reservoir
of waters. 2 But, as we have already stated, the real lesson
of Genesis was religious ; it teaches a pure and uncom-
promising monotheism. The sun and moon are not deities
(as with the Babylonians and others) but simply lights
(meoroth). The primitive void and waste was not caused by

1 Compare St. Thomas, " Summa Theol.," i., q. 69. a2, ad. 1.

2 Compare Exodus xxiv. 10 ; Job xxxvii. 18 ; Psalm cxlviii. 4.


demons ; chaos (iehom) is itself God's creature, unlike the
Babylonian Tiamat which was a dragon.

" In the beginning God created heaven and earth."
"Many," says St. Augustine, 1 " dispute much about those
things which with greater prudence the sacred authors
omitted. . . . The Spirit of God who spoke through them
did not wish to teach men those things which were of
no avail for salvation." This advice is still opportune
to-day, and so is that contained in the following passage
by the same Father : 2 "In things that are obscure and re-
mote from sight if we read anything even in Scripture which
with safety to our Faith can bear different meanings, let
us not by precipitate assertion so throw ourselves into any
one interpretation as to be ruined in case a fuller investiga-
tion of the truth should overthrow our view. This would
be to fight, not for the meaning of Holy Scripture, but for
our own meaning, so that we wish to impose our own mean-
ing on Scripture when we ought to wish to make the meaning
of the Scripture our own." This part of the subject may
be concluded by the following extract from the writings of
a modern theologian : —

' All that the Church asserts is the unity of the
human race, all descended from one ancestor, all born
in original sin through the transgression of that ancestor,
and all in need of the redemption of our common Saviour.
Of course, the Church also asserts whatever is meant
and asserted by the narrative of Genesis. But the
Church has afforded us no authoritative interpretation
of that most obscure narrative. No theologian will under-
take to say who were the inhabitants of the city that Cain
built (Gen. iv. 17). . . . The Church, I say, is silent on the
subject ; and from my own private searching of the Scrip-
tures, I do not gather anything to settle the question
whether the primitive races of mankind, as races, were
savages or not. Thus we are referred back from the Bible
record to anthropology." 3

1 " De Genesi ad literam," ii., 9, 20. * Ibid., i., 18, 37.

Joseph Rickaby, s.j., " Political and Moral Essays," pp. 177 seq.



WE have now to take a long step in advance and —
leaving aside for the time being all considerations
as to the nature and origin of life and the development
and origin of species — must, for reasons already given,
turn to the consideration of what kind of an individual
early man, as shown to us by scientific observations, actually
was. As he existed ages before history came into being, it
must, to many people, seem difficult, if not impossible to
know anything about him of any certain and definite char-
acter ; but this is far from being the case.

Even to very remote ages — almost if indeed not quite the
remotest in which it is known that man has existed — science
has penetrated and has unveiled some at least of the mys-
teries which hang around human existence at that period.
There are two classes of relics of early man on which we
have to rely in forming an opinion of the kind of person
that he was. We have, in the first place a certain number
of actual remains of the human beings themselves, that is
their skeletons either entire or in part. Of the very earliest
men we may perhaps have no remains at all, and in any
case what seem to be the earliest in our possession so far,
are, as will later on be shown, sometimes problematical in
character and difficult of explanation. Then, as we come
to later though still very remote ages, the number of speci-
mens increases, so that we can speak with considerable
certainty as to the appearance of the former owners of the
skeletons and even divide them, with some approach to
accuracy, into distinct races. Much more will have to be
said under this heading at a later point in this discussion ;
for the present we may leave the bodily relics of prehistoric



man and turn to the second class of relics, viz. his imple-
ments, which have afforded so much valuable information.

It is most probable that the earliest implements utilised
by prehistoric man, being mere natural fragments of rock,
of wood, of horn, or of shell, are, even if they have persisted
to the present day, wholly undistinguishable from similar
objects which have never been utilised by man. Even the
first implements on which he exercised his ingenuity must,
one may surmise, so closely have resembled natural objects
as to be almost unrecognisable as the work of man's hands.
And indeed we shall see that great disputes have raged
around the case of certain stones claimed by some as the
works of man's hands and denied that position by other
and no less competent authorities.

At last, however, we do arrive at implements which all
persons competent to form an opinion agree to be the work
of man's hands, and at that moment the science of Prehis-
toric Archaeology comes into being. We may now consider
briefly its method and its limitations. The first question
that any intelligent enquirer would ask about the imple-
ments of which we have been speaking is this : How do
you know that they are the work of man's hands ? When
the palaeolithic implements discovered at Abbeville in
France, about the middle of the last century, by Boucher
des Perthes, were first made known to the scientific world,
this was exactly the question that was asked, and it may
be added that it was answered in the negative by many
authorities. Gradually, however, scientific opinion came
round to the view of the discoverer of these objects, as to
the nature of which no one now has any doubts. A very
similar series of events occurred in connection with the so-
called Eoliths but with a different result, since, as will
shortly be detailed, the general drift of scientific opinion is
opposed to the acceptance of these objects as artefacts. 1
The reply to the question asked above is that a very great
number of the relics of prehistoric man could not by any
possible means have come into existence by the processes
of nature, nor could any sane person mistake them for

1 This term may be compendiously employed in place of the longer
expression — " the work of man's hands."



anything but what they are, the works of man. Such, for
example, is the case with all the bronze implements, with
prehistoric pottery, with a host of other things.

But, of course, it is with the earlier implements that the
difficulty arises, and that for the obvious reason that they
more or less closely resemble purely natural objects, so that
the first and most important question that has to be an-
swered in connection with any doubtful implement is this :
Could it have been produced by the ordinary forces of
nature such as water, ice, lightning, and so forth ? If the
reply to this is in the affirmative, then, though the object
may be an artefact, we cannot feel sure that it is so. If the
answer is in the negative and it seems quite certain that no
process or combination of processes of nature could possibly
have shaped the object, then, by a process of elimination,
it must have been made by man. There is another means
of study and identification of the nature and purpose of
the implements we are discussing and one very important
to understand. Prehistoric Man was a savage, a primitive
being, like the savages of to-day or of yesterday ; his needs
were identical with those of the latter-day savage, and, his
mind working on precisely similar lines, he met these needs
as the modern savage met them before civilisation came
across him and led him to alter his methods. Hence the
implements of the earliest kinds which come under our
study are quite similar to and in some cases absolutely
identical with those which primitive races are now making
and using, or were making and using up to a very recent

Therein lies the reply to the second question which one
may expect to have propounded by the same intelligent
enquirer : You call these things adzes, borers, arrow-heads,
scrapers, and so on : how do you know what they are ?
The reply is that all these things, and many others, are
identical with objects now made and used for the purposes
indicated by their names, by savage tribes.

Let us take one very obvious instance, that of the stone
arrow-head. Even a person who had never heard of pre-
historic men would, if shown one of these objects picked up,
let us say, on the Wiltshire Downs, have no kind of doubt


what it was. It would be instantly recognised as an arrow-
head, and a person of the ignorance postulated would
confine his wonder respecting the object to the selection
of such a material as stone when metal was presumably to
be had.

But let us suppose that it was not so impossible to mis-
take the purpose of the stone arrow-head ; even then there
could be no difficulty, for it is strikingly like the same
object as manufactured in historic times, and to our quite

Online LibraryBertram Coghill Alan WindleThe church and science → online text (page 18 of 38)