Given that the primary purpose of the Bible is not to teach science, how much should we take account of what we read in Genesis 1-2 in our thinking about the origins of humans and the whole cosmos? Here’s what a great theologian of the early church wrote about the different approaches adopted in his day.
On this subject there are three main views. According to the first, some wish to understand paradise only in a material way. According to the second, others wish to take it only in a spiritual way. According to the third, others understand it both ways, taking some things materially and others spiritually. If I may briefly mention my own, I prefer the third. Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430 AD)
The dominant view for the church up to the end of 17th century was a literal reading of Genesis 1 & 2. Others would call it a flat, naïve or superficial reading. But taking these early chapters of Genesis as a straightforward account of what happened, then in six 24 hours God created the heavens and the earth. For those that know the God of the Bible the issue is not how He could have created everything in 6 days but why He took so long!
Augustine argues against creation in six days and thinks it all appeared instantaneously - in a moment. Some would say that those who believe that the Bible is God’s inspired authoritative word should be committed to the ‘creation in six 24 hour days’ view. For though the term ‘day’ can be used metaphorically or generally for a long period of time, in Genesis the phrase ‘evening and morning’ clearly points to a 24 hour period. Also the narrative of Genesis runs seamlessly from the creation of the world to Adam and Eve and then through their family to Abraham and beyond. As we do not doubt that events associated with Abraham are to be read literally shouldn’t we also read the accounts of Adam and Eve in the same way? The NT writers seem to implicitly accept the historicity of these accounts. (Luke 3:38; Rom 5:14, 1 Cor 15:22, 45; 1 Tim 2:13-14)