Here is an interesting interview by Protestant Christian & Scientist Jonathan Sarfati Dr Jonathan D. Sarfati, B.Sc. (Hons.), Ph.D., F.M., with church history scholar Dr Benno Zuiddam about the Early Church Fathers and their beliefs about the first book of the Bible; Genesis and creation. Worth a read.
The article states that most church fathers treated Genesis as straightforward history. A small minority treated Genesis as allegory. But this was mostly in addition to—not instead of—history. This suggests that modern long-age ideas didn’t come from the text, but were imposed on it because of ‘science’.
Benno Zuiddam is research professor (extraordinary associate) for New Testament Studies, Greek and Church History at the faculty of Theology at North West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa. He has earned doctorates in the fields of the Classics and Theology. Benno also serves with Greenwich School of Theology (UK) as tutor for Ph.D. projects. He has published in about 10 different peer-reviewed classical and theological journals, and also authored an in-depth study on the authority of the Scriptures in the early Church.
In some churches and theological seminaries, a plain reading of Genesis is ridiculed as ‘simplistic’, and something that ‘no educated Bible scholar would believe.’ However, such claims would have to amuse academic theologian Professor Benno Zuiddam, with two earned doctorates.
Benno’s studies led him to the early Church writings. In contrast to theological liberals, in the first century, “people believed that God spoke in a direct way.” When Benno received the academic rank of associate professor in 2008, he had just completed a Ph.D. in classical Greek, studying the pagan historian Plutarch, a contemporary of the apostles. He believed that the gods spoke directly through mouthpieces called oracles. “In the Bible, the same Greek word that’s used of speaking an oracle is applied to the Holy Scriptures. It is very clear that Apostolic Christianity and the early Church considered the Bible to be the actual word of God. But in many parts of the Church today, there is a departure from this historic Christianity.”
Before this, Dr Zuiddam had already earned a doctorate in theology, specializing in the early post-apostolic period. His studies proved that wherever the books of our present Bible were available to the Church, they were received as the voice of God—centuries before church councils officially recognized the New Testament canon. It is clear that these books had already been functioning as Scripture from a very early stage. He explains:
“I discovered that these early Church fathers embraced the Scriptures for the same reason as this teenage boy did: they were the voice of God. When God speaks, you do not question, but you receive.”
How important is Genesis to Christianity?
Dr Zuiddam explains that Genesis “is the account of the beginning, not only of this world, but also of God’s relationship with mankind. It teaches us about an intrinsically good God and a beautiful creation that was messed up by Adam’s sin. It tells about a loving God who didn’t give up on His creation, who singled out the families of Noah and later on Abraham, when the world at large was not interested in serving Him.”
Benno also pointed out that how Christians take Genesis is often an indicator of how seriously they take the rest of Scripture. Not coincidentally, the enemies of the Gospel, both overt atheists from outside the Church and theological liberals from within, often aim their guns at Genesis.