Fr. Seraphim (Rose’s) Teaching On the Creation of Man in Genesis     

Fr. Seraphim (Rose’s) Interest in Studying Genesis, and His Interpretive Method

Author's introduction:

This article is a chapter taken from the thesis that I wrote for the Masters of Divinity program at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary under the guidance of Dr. Christopher Veniamin, a spiritual child of the great St. Sophrony of Essex, A Patristic Perspective On a Crucified Mind: Fr. Seraphim (Rose) and the Doctrine of Creation. The thesis is an examination of Fr. Seraphim’s teachings on the Church’s interpretation of the book of Genesis, most of which was presented posthumously in Genesis, Creation, and Early Man, with supplementary research. Though it has been more than 40 years since Fr. Seraphim presented his material, it remains as relevant and as true as ever. Though possessed of a brilliant mind, Fr. Seraphim chose to crucify that mind to the mind of Christ in the Church, thus his teaching is simply that of the Church, harmoniously taught by the saints for 2,000 years. This present article is the sixth chapter of my thesis.—Jesse Dominick


While God cares benevolently for all of creation, it is certain that man has a unique role as the king and crown of creation. This is evident from the fact that man alone is made according to the image of God and with God’s own “hands” and “breath,” and that the Logos Himself became incarnate as man. And this is why all of creation awaits the “manifestation of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:18–23). Thus, the most important question regarding Genesis, as Fr. Seraphim states, is the nature of man. Fr. Seraphim draws the classic distinction between the “image” and the “likeness” of God and quotes St. Basil teaching that the image is given to man at his creation and cannot be lost, but the likeness is to be attained by the movement of our free will towards seeking perfection in God.[1] He notes that Fathers have pointed to different aspects of the image of God in man, including his dominion over the lower creation, his reason, and his freedom, and he quotes St. Gregory of Nyssa giving a concise explanation of what it means to be made in the image of God:

He creates man for no other reason than that He is good; and being such, and having this as His reason for entering upon the creation of our nature, He would not exhibit the power of His goodness in an imperfect form, giving our nature some one of the things at His disposal, and grudging it a share in another: but the perfect form of goodness is here to be seen by His both bringing man into being from nothing, and fully supplying him with all good gifts: but since the list of individual good gifts is a long one, it is out of the question to apprehend it numerically. The language of Scripture therefore expresses it concisely by a comprehensive phrase, in saying that man was made “in the image of God”: for this is the same as to say that He made human nature participant in all good; for if the Deity is the fulness of good, and this is His image, then the image finds its resemblance to the Archetype in being filled with all good.[2]

St. Gregory continues, “Thus there is in us the principle of all excellence, all virtue and wisdom, and every higher thing that we conceive: but pre-eminent among all is the fact that we are free from necessity, and not in bondage to any natural power.”[3] But can the evolutionary understanding of man be reconciled to this Patristic understanding? In responding to this same query, St. Justin Popović illuminates the great importance of this question. He writes vigorously: “The New Testament anthropology stands and falls with the Old Testament anthropology. The entire Gospel of the Old Testament: man - the icon of God; the entire Gospel of the New Testament: the God-man—the icon of man. Heavenly, divine, immortal, everlasting, and unchangeably human is the icon of God in man: godlikeness.”[4]

As the entirety of the Scriptures speak to Christians of Christ and thus are intricately linked, it cannot simply be assumed that to introduce a new Creation narrative unknown to the Fathers will have no detrimental impact on the Church’s New Testament vision and theology. The matter must be seriously examined, as Fr. Seraphim does. Science can only interpret the past through remains left behind by corruption and death, and so, as we have seen, it has no ability to investigate the prelapsarian world which knew only life. For scientists, death, the great aberration, is the great source of information, whereas the Saints are granted knowledge, wisdom, and vision by He Who is Life. St. John of Kronstadt, writing in the aftermath of Darwin, made this same observation, chastising those scientists who have forsaken the prophetic vision of Moses:

The Holy Scriptures speak more truly and more clearly of the world than the world itself or the arrangement of the earthly strata; the scriptures of nature within it, being dead and voiceless, cannot express anything definite. "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?" [Job 38:4] Were you with God when He created the universe? "Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being His counseller, hath taught Him?" [Isaiah 40:13] And yet you geologists boast that you have understood the mind of the Lord, in the arrangement of strata, and maintained it in spite of Holy Writ! You believe more in the dead letters of the earthly strata, in the soulless earth, than in the Divinely-inspired words of the great prophet Moses, who saw God.[5]

Thus, looking to lifeless remains to unravel the past, when scientists place man into the evolutionary line, it is modern, fallen man and not man as he originally existed, because as we have seen, science can know nothing of Adam and his original, pristine nature. But is man’s nature as initially created by God the same as it is now, or did the fall into sin disfigure his nature? Fr. Seraphim’s commentary, drawing widely again upon Patristics, demonstrates that man’s original condition of nature and his fallen condition of nature are in fact radically different.

Evolution is understood to occur not within individuals but within populations.[6] Thus, many theistic evolutionists do not believe in the historicity of Adam and Eve as literally the first human beings, but rather interpret them as symbols for the first human population. Others propose that once the evolutionary forerunners of human beings attained the proper physical state, God called out two of them to receive souls, who became the first humans, Adam and Eve. Fr. Seraphim mentions such ideas in his talks,[7] which had been expressed to him in a letter by Dr. Alexander Kalomiros, who wrote: “Adam is the evolved beast who receives in its innermost being the divine breath … then the evolved beast became a logical creature, being transformed from the inside, and in its depths, not anatomically but spiritually, by the grace of the Holy Spirit” (emphasis in original).[8] Dr. Alexander draws his sole Patristic support for his view from a passage of A Conversation of St. Seraphim of Sarov with N. A. Motovilov in which St. Seraphim seemingly teaches that man was a beast like unto other beasts, later becoming a human at the inbreathing of the Holy Spirit. However, in his reply letter, Fr. Seraphim goes to great lengths to demonstrate that St. Seraphim is in fact in harmony with the other Fathers who teach that Adam’s body and soul were created simultaneously, as aforementioned (and which will be addressed further on).[9] As always, Fr. Seraphim prostrated his mind before that of the Church and sought for the Spirit-breathed harmony of the Fathers, rather than seeking the apparent “contradictions” which fuel academic studies, or passages that could be perverted to fit his own theories.

Dr. Kalomiros twice introduces a dualism into the constitution of man. The claim that Adam’s body predates his soul means it thus has its own particular existence apart from the soul and thus divides the integral unity of the hypostasis of man; and the claim that Adam is an evolved beast who received the breath of God necessitates that there would have thus been other animals, from which Adam was taken, that are physically identical to human beings but lacking the spiritual nature of man. Dr. Kalomiros writes: “I would not be surprised if Adam’s body had been in all aspects the body of an ape.”[10] This logically leads to the strange conclusions that either the irrational beasts possessing the same physical body as Adam are half-humans, or that the human body is not truly “human,” as it is possessed also by irrational beasts, and so humanity is found only in the spiritual nature of man. This is little different from the erroneous philosophical notion of the anathematized Alexandrian theologian Origen (184–254) that pre-existent human souls fell into bodies which are not truly part of the human constitution—a belief which compelled the Fathers to write strongly on the simultaneous creation of the human body and soul.

In the case of Vladimir De Beer, a doctoral student dealing with Creationism and evolutionism from an Orthodox perspective,[11] humanity seems to be defined solely by the physical body. Seeking to harmonize the Scriptures with the “scientific evidence” that mankind has existed for 200,000 years, he draws a divide between the two Creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2, and sees Genesis 1 as a description of the descent of homo sapiens from hominid ancestors, and Genesis 2 as the granting of a “God-consciousness” to Adam and Eve.[12] This granting of a spiritual nature does not even separate Adam and Eve from the irrational beasts, for he says “By the time of Adam and Eve, the human species had been living on Earth for approximately two thousand centuries”—so the irrational beasts, and Adam and Eve who possess the spiritual awareness of God are of the same human species in his system.[13] For him, the granting of a spiritual nature perhaps brings man into a new mode of existence, but De Beer continues to classify Adam and Eve with the beasts from which they were called. And this “God-consciousness” is spread not only through the offspring of Adam and Eve but also by a “spiritual diffusion” to other parts of the world, already inhabited by human beings.[14] De Beer offers neither Patristic nor scientific support for this hypothesis, for it is not a true harmonization of the two, but is a sacrifice of both Orthodox theology and evolutionism for the sake of an amalgamation that is in the end no more scientifically viable and verifiable than Fr. Seraphim’s Patristic presentation, for if man is truly a product of evolution, then so also is his rationality and tendency towards spirituality.

Precisely what De Beer is attempting to explain by the action of God, evolutionary scientists attempt to explain through purely naturalistic reasonings—that belief in a higher power is evolutionarily advantageous because it leads to behavior modification, social cooperation, and so on.[15] The introduction of God at this point in the evolutionary chain offers nothing that materialism does not also claim to offer. Fr. James Coucouzis (1911-2005), the future Abp. Iakovos, primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America (1959-1996), takes note of this. He states that while Spiritualists reject the body as merely an image or prison of the spirit, “Materialists, on the other hand, try to attribute the spiritualistic qualities in man to the gray matter which is sheltered under our skull,” and thus he concludes: “Needless to say, the Greek Orthodox Church pays little attention to the existing findings and theories of Charles Darwin, which claim that man is not the creation of God, but the final process of a series of metamorphoses and changes, developments and evolutions of the primitive cell of life.”[16] And Fr. Seraphim concludes: “If man ‘evolves’ solely according to the laws of nature, then his rational nature, his soul, the image of God, differs not qualitatively but only quantitatively from the beasts; he is then a creature only of the earth, and there is no room for the Patristic view that he is partly of earth and partly of heaven.”[17] Additionally, St. Nektarios says of Philosphie Zoologique, the 1809 work of the French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, that it degrades man by placing him among the beasts and describing his superior mental capacities as a mere difference of degree.[18]

As Fr. Seraphim demonstrates, none of these theories—that Adam is merely symbolic of all humanity or that Adam and Eve are the first humans called out from a population of lower beasts, or that they are simply the first humans to receive a “God-consciousness”—are compatible with Patristic Orthodoxy. St. Nikolai Velimirović writes precisely of those who take pleasure “in shamelessly calling monkeys their ancestors,” that they engage in “the drowning of anthropology in zoology.”[19] The Tradition of the Church is quite consistent that Adam and Eve were literal people, that they were the only human beings until they had children, and that they were created uniquely from the rest of creation, and thus were not merely descendants of lower creatures. M. C. (now Bishop Irenei) Steenberg argues in his aforementioned article that for St. Irenaeus, in contrast to the allegorizing whims of the Gnostics, for Adam and Eve to have any symbolic value, such as some evolutionists would ascribe to them, they must be literal, historical persons whom we read of in an historical narrative.[20] Many other Fathers who write of the Creation accounts, with their strict adherence to the historicity of Genesis, attest to the same.[21] In writing of Adam and Eve the Fathers are not offering apologetics for their literal existence, but rather seem to take it for granted and simply speak of Adam and Eve as actual people, as any Christian would have believed. That even Origen, well known for his extravagant allegorization of Genesis which led to his anathematization, understood Adam and Eve to be literal people strongly suggests that their historical existence was never questioned and thus never needed to be addressed apologetically. In the Preface to his De Principiis, Origen writes of Apostolic doctrine: “First, that there is one God, who created and arranged all things, and who, when nothing existed, called all things into being—God from the first creation and foundation of the world—the God of all just men, of Adam, Abel, Seth, Enos, Enoch, Noe [Noah], Sere [Serug], Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the twelve patriarchs, Moses, and the prophets.”[22]

Hand-painted icon of Fr. Seraphim. Photo: Hand-painted icon of Fr. Seraphim. Photo:     

On this question the liturgical life of the Church is decisive. In response to a writing from Fr. Anthony Kosturos[23] in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese’s Orthodox Observer (Feb. 6, 1974) in which he proclaims that the dawn of human history—whether it consists in a literal first couple or multiple clusters of people—is a mystery, Fr. Seraphim asks: “And what of the Orthodox theology of Adam the first-created man? What of the Orthodox feast devoted to Adam and the other Forefathers?”[24] As Fr. Damascene notes in a footnote, Adam, as well as Eve and many of their descendants, are commemorated as Saints on the Feast of the Holy Forefathers of the Old Testament, celebrated on the Sunday that falls between December 11 and 17, on which the Church sings: “Adam the first let us revere, who was honored by the hand of the Creator and was the forefather of all” (Canon, Canticle 1). They are also remembered on the following Sunday (Dec. 18-24), and their son, the Righteous Abel, is also commemorated on March 20. Their names are also included in the Church’s Synaxaria on these dates.[25] St. Irenaeus even teaches in his Against Heresies 1.28 that the idea that Adam and Eve are not among the Saints is actually the teaching of heretical Gnostics (and so how much more problematic is the teaching that they never truly existed?). As Fr. Damascene also notes, Cheese-Fare (Forgiveness Sunday) is dedicated to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise on which the Church’s hymnography continually refers to the man Adam, as it does throughout the liturgical year. Additionally, Fr. Seraphim asks, “What of those who have Adam for their patron Saint?” and Adam and Eve and their descendants also appear in iconography with halos, as Saints—many examples of which are printed in both editions of Genesis, Creation, and Early Man.[26]

The number of the angels has been fixed from the moment of their creation in eternity, and so when 1/3 of the angels rebelled against God not all angels fell because they are not descendent one of another,[27] but when Adam fell all of human nature fell with him, because all of human nature originated in him and it is from him that we all receive our nature as his descendants. St. Ambrose notes that God created Eve “from the rib of Adam himself… For God willed to settle one nature upon mankind, and starting from the origin of this creature, he snatched away the possibility of numerous and disparate natures.”[28] Similarly, St. Augustine writes that of our first parent God “was pleased to create alone, that all men might be derived from one, and that they might thus be admonished to preserve unity among their whole multitude.”[29] In his appendix “Created in Incorruption,” Fr. Damascene quotes St. Cyril of Alexandria: “Hence all were made sinners, not as co-transgressors with Adam (for they did not yet exist then), but because they were of his nature, which had fallen under the law of sin,” and St. Gregory Palamas: “The same ancestral curse and condemnation poured out on all of us from our single forefather, as if it had sprung from the root of the human race and was the common lot of our nature.” And St. Maximus the Confessor writes: “All those born of Adam are ‘conceived in iniquities,’ thus coming under the forefather’s sentence.”[30] Scripture itself interprets Genesis in the same way. In the book of Tobit it reads: “You it was who created Adam, you who created Eve his wife to be his help and support; and from these two the human race was born” (8:6).

As Fr. Seraphim states, “The idea of the ‘evolution’ of man from a lower animal cannot be harmonized with the Patristic and Scriptural view of man’s creation, but requires a sharp break with it.”[31] Some early Fathers even directly denied the idea that man arose from animals. The father of Latin Christianity, Tertullian (c. 160—c. 225), writes of the twisted arguments of the philosopher Laberius who conjectured, following Pythagoras, that man arose from a mule,[32] and St. Hippolytus of Rome, in his Refutation of All Heresies 1.5, notes that the philosopher Anaximander believed that man was once similar to a fish.[33] In our own times, Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos writes that “In the Church we speak of man’s evolution, not from ape to man, but from man to God. And this ‘ecclesiastical theory’ of evolution which the Church has, gives an understanding of life and satisfies all of man's inner and existential anxieties.”[34] In general, the Patristic conviction that each kind reproduces only after its own kind necessarily precludes the possibility of lower beasts giving way to human beings. Clement of Alexandria writes: “But nobility is itself exhibited in choosing and practising what is best. For what benefit to Adam was such a nobility as he had? No mortal was his father; for he himself was father of men that are born,”[35] thus, Adam has no ancestor, whether man or animal. Of attempts at a theistic evolutionary theory on the origin of man, Fr. Seraphim thus writes that they “[present] no consistent Christian outlook, mixing scientific speculations with ‘revealed’ knowledge in a most haphazard way.”[36] As always, it is to the Fathers that we must look to properly understand man’s origins; therefore it is to the Fathers that Fr. Seraphim points us.

That man was created uniquely is essential to Orthodox anthropology, for only man is created according to the image and likeness of God. This is indicated by the consultation between the Persons of the Trinity, and the fact that God made man with His very own “hands” and “breath.” Of course, if man is simply an evolutionary descendent of a lower beast, then his creation is in fact not unique, and cannot even be said to be its own particular instance of creation, thus removing from man’s origins any indication of his exalted status within creation. Fr. Seraphim writes: “In the Patristic-Scriptural view, the entire Six Days of Creation is a series of Divine acts; in the uniformitarian scientific view, the origins of things … are nothing but natural processes. These two views are as opposed as any two views can be, and any mixture of the two must be purely arbitrary and fanciful.”[37] He quotes St. Basil, commenting on this “deliberation” of God: “Recognize the dignity that belongs to you. He did not cause your origin by a commandment, but there was a consultation in God in order to know how to introduce into life this living being worthy of honor.”[38] St. John Chrysostom teaches the same in his Eight Homilies on Genesis: “There was counsel, deliberation, and communication, not because God has need of counsel—may this not be!—but in order by the very means of expression to show us the dignity of what is created.”[39] Regarding God’s creating of man from the dust with His own “hands,” Theodoret of Cyrus states that this indicates God’s care for mankind above the rest of creation, [40] and St. Basil again writes: “If the verse had simply said that God created, you could have believed that He created [man] as He did the beasts, the wild animals, the plants, the grass. This is why, to avoid your placing him in the class of wild animals, the Divine word has made known the particular art which God has used for you: God took of the ‘dust from the earth’” (emphasis added).[41]

Later Scriptures also understand man to have been literally formed from the dust. In the book of Job, God explains to Job that he cannot know all His ways and asks of him: “Or didst thou take clay of the ground, and form a living creature, and set it with the power of speech upon the earth?” (38:14 LXX). In contrast, the well-known and well-respected evolutionist database Talk Origins Archive places modern man, homo sapiens sapiens, within the Hominidae family which is part of the ape “superfamily,” and “which consists of all species on our side of the last common ancestor of humans and living apes,” and includes twenty other species.[42]

Furthermore, as with the rest of creation, and as has been already noted, the creation of man in his entirety was simultaneous, and thus his fashioning from the dust of the earth and the inbreathing of his soul occurred instantaneously and simultaneously. In the Patristic conception, man’s material nature was not prepared through a laborious process of evolution, but rather was formed immediately by the all-powerful creative act of God. On this point Fr. Seraphim comments that the account of man’s creation is interpreted by the Fathers not chronologically but rather ontologically—the entirety of man came into existence instantaneously.[43] Thus we see that Fr. Seraphim does not adopt or teach a hermeneutic of strict and absolute literalism, but rather advocates following the Fathers into whatever depths they may plunge. He quotes St. John Damascene who writes: “From the earth He formed his body and by His own inbreathing gave him a rational and understanding soul, which last we say is the divine image … The body and the soul were formed at the same time—not one before and the other afterwards, as the ravings of Origen would have it,”[44] by which he refers to the philosopher-theologian’s aforementioned theory of pre-existent souls which, when they cooled in their ardor in contemplating the Logos, fell into material bodies.[45]

St. Gregory of Nyssa ridicules the idea that man is both antecedent and posterior to himself and the god who would create in such a manner:

Nor again are we in our doctrine to begin by making up man like a clay figure, and to say that the soul came into being for the sake of this; for surely in that case the intellectual nature would be shown to be less precious than the clay figure. But as man is one, the being consisting of soul and body, we are to suppose that the beginning of his existence is one, common to both parts, so that he should not be found to be antecedent and posterior to himself, as if the bodily elements were first in point of time, and the other were a later addition … For as our nature is conceived as twofold, according to the apostolic teaching, made up of the visible man and the hidden man, if the one came first and the other supervened, the power of Him that made us will be shown to be in some way imperfect, as not being completely sufficient for the whole task at once, but dividing the work, and busying itself with each of the halves in turn (emphasis added).[46]

St. Maximus the Confessor devotes considerable space to this question in his Ambiguum 7, and emphasizing the unity of man’s hypostasis he concludes:

Soul and body came into being at the same moment and their essential difference from each other in no way whatsoever impairs the logoi that inhere naturally and essentially in them. For that reason it is inconceivable to speak of the soul and body except in relation to each other. It is only as they come together to form a particular person that they exist. If either existed before the other, it would have to be understood as the soul or the body of the one to which the other belongs. The relation between them is immutable.[47]

For St. Basil of Poiana Marului (1692-1767), the spiritual father of St. Paisius Velichkovsky, this doctrine is a necessity for practicing noetic prayer. He argues that if anyone desires to control his senses and develop in prayer, he must believe that in the creation of the body and soul “there was no distinction in time, but they were both created together with an intelligent purpose, even though Origen held a different opinion about this.” And he continues: “Likewise then, the guarding of our physical senses and the reconciliation of our conscience with God are accomplished together in an intelligent manner through mental attentiveness.”[48] The evolutionary scheme in which man’s body necessarily predates his soul falls into these Origenistic “ravings,” and implies the notion, mentioned before, that God is not powerful enough to create man all at once, and undermines the anthropological foundation for noetic prayer by which man may see Christ. Speaking of the creation of man and the awe-inspiring power of God, His Grace Bishop Michael Dahulich (OCA NY-NJ) (1950- ) demonstrates that the interconnectedness of all Orthodox theology, and the dangerous implications of denying any aspect of the Church’s Divine teachings: “The creation of man appears as revealing the wonders of God, in the same way as the Covenant with Abraham and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those who deny one nearly deny the other.”[49]

As may be expected, the Fathers also understood the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib (Gen. 2:21-22) quite literally, as they did Adam’s creation from the dust. Fr. Seraphim sees this passage as a “touchstone of our interpretation of the whole book”—if the reader is able to understand this passage “as it is written,” as did the Fathers, then the rest of the Creation-Fall account will be easy to accept as well. But, as Fr. Seraphim notes, our modern minds want to rebel against the simple interpretation of this and other passages. That the first woman actually came from the rib of the first man is obviously incongruous with the theory of evolution which depicts man as developing slowly over time and being birthed from non-human female beasts, as Fr. Seraphim argues,[50] but 1 Timothy 2:13 reads: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” Fr. Seraphim quotes St. Ephraim the Syrian commenting on the miraculous and instantaneous creation of Eve: “in the twinkling of an eye the rib was taken out, and likewise in an instant flesh took its place, and the bared bone took on the full appearance and all the beauty of a woman—then God brought and presented her to Adam.”[51] As Fr. Seraphim writes, this took place on the sixth day of Creation. The Venerable Bede sees in her creation a beautiful foreshadowing of the Church:

In regard to the fact that the woman was made from the side of the man, we can suppose that it was proper for it to be done in this way for the sake of commending the strength of that union. But the fact that it happened to the man while he was sleeping, that after the bone was removed flesh was filled up in its place, was done for the sake of a deeper mystery. For it was signified that the sacraments of salvation were to come out from the side of Christ on the cross by the death of the sleeping one, namely the blood and water, from which his bride, the Church, would be founded. For if so great a sacrament were not to be prefigured in the creation of the woman, what need was there for Adam to have slept, so that God might take his rib from which to make the woman, who could do the same thing to him while he was both awake and not suffering?[52]

It should be noted that, drawing on certain passages from St. Gregory of Nyssa, it is precisely in the creation of man that Dr. Kalomiros, and others, see evolution in the Scriptures. In a letter to Fr. Seraphim he quoted from St. Gregory’s On the Creation of Man (earlier cited as On the Making of Man): “It is for this reason that man was created last after the plants and the animals, because nature is following a path which leads gradually to perfection;” “Thus, it is as if by steps that nature is making its ascent in life properties, from the least to the perfect;” and, “If then the Scripture says that man was created last after all the other living creatures, there is in that nothing else but the philosophy of the soul by the lawgiver, who sees, by a certain necessary order sequence the perfect in the last” (emphasis in Kalomiros).[53] Then he asks: “What is all this if not evolution?” and declares that the first chapter of Genesis describes Creation according to modern evolutionary theories, only with fewer words.[54] However, as we have seen there were several early predecessors to Darwin, such as Anaximander and Aristotle, and if Genesis and the Fathers were truly teaching evolution then they could have drawn upon the works of these philosophers to illustrate their points; but as we have seen, the Fathers in fact spoke against primitive forms of evolution.

Fr. Seraphim pointed to such passages in his public lectures to demonstrate how the Fathers can be misused to “prove” a point. To see Darwinian evolution in such passages is to read a great deal into them. That God created in an ordered sequence does not necessitate that man is thus descendant of lower creations, and neither the Scriptures nor St. Gregory says any such thing. St. Gregory’s “ascent by steps” does not concern the history of man, but rather his nature, which partakes in the nutritive and sentient aspects shared by all earthborn creatures.[55] Furthermore, as we have seen, St. Gregory taught that man’s body and soul were created simultaneously, he opposed the notion of one nature running through all things, and he also explicitly taught that Adam was created uniquely, as did so many other Fathers. In his reply to Dr. Kalomiros, Fr. Seraphim quotes him: “The first man, and the man born from him, received their being in a different way; the latter by copulation, the former from the molding of Christ Himself” (emphasis in Fr. Seraphim), and also teaching that Abel came into existence by generation, but Adam without generation.[56] Thus, Fr. Seraphim demonstrated the importance of reading the Fathers in context and seeking for the harmony between them, and not deriving doctrine from a few select passages, and not approaching the Fathers with any scientific bias already in mind. Fr. Seraphim quotes St. Gregory Palamas stating a crucial principle to remember: “If one of the Fathers says the same thing as do those from without, the concordance is only verbal, the thought being quite different. The former, in fact, have, according to Paul, ‘the mind of Christ’ (1 Cor. 2:16), while the latter expresses at best a human reasoning,” and he writes that from secular wisdom: “we absolutely forbid to expect any precision whatever in the knowledge of Divine things; for it is not possible to draw from it any certain teaching on the subject of God. For ‘God hath made it foolish.’”[57]

Jesse Dominick


[1] On the Origin of Man 1.16-17, Sc 160.207-11 [PPS 30, pp. 43-45], as found in GCEM, p. 200.

[2] On the Making of Man 16.10, NPNF 2, vol. 5, p. 405, as found in GCEM, pp. 199-200.

[3] On the Making of Man 16.11, NPNF 2, vol. 5, p. 405.

While the Fathers as a whole attribute the image of God to the spiritual nature of man, as God is incorporeal, it is nevertheless necessarily bound up with the physical nature of man, for being created according to the image of God and being called to attain the likeness of God makes man naturally a vessel of grace, and the soul mediates this grace to the body which is also called to be transfigured, and this is why the Church preserves and venerates the relics of the Saints.

[4] Na Bogocovecanskom putu (On the Divine-Human Path), pp. 215-216, as found in GCEM, pp. 810-811; also found online as “St. Justin Popovich: Orthodoxy and the Theory of Evolution: The God-man Evolution” at the blog Mystagogy.

[5] My Life in Christ, pp. 41-42.

[6] See Q and A #3 at the online “TalkOrigins Archive” page “Frequently Asked Questions.”

[7] GCEM, p. 219.

[8] “God’s Breath in Ape’s Body,” pp. 14, 15.

[9] “Genesis as Primary Vision: Fr. Seraphim Rose’s Response to Dr. Kalomiros,” pp. 54-60. Also in GCEM, pp. 479-489; cf. pp. 215, 624-626, 628.

The Scriptures themselves seemingly teach that the man’s body was created before his soul, but this is in fact not the teaching of the great Saints of the Church.

[10] “God’s Breath in Ape’s Body,” p. 16.

[11] De Beer received his MA from the University of South Africa, with a dissertation concerning the ontology of John Scottus Eriugena. His status as a doctoral student is current as of May 25, 2010, as provided at the bottom of his article “Genesis, Creation and Evolution” on the website

[12] In his “The Origins of the World and Mankind: An Attempt to Reconcile the Biblical Account with Scientific Discoveries,” Bishop Alexander (Mileant) of Buenos Aires (ROCOR) (1938-2005) draws upon the Hebrew Scriptures to make the same argument. He notes that Gen. 1:27 states that God created (bara) man, meaning to create from nothing, while Gen. 2:7 states that God formed (asa) man, meaning to form from pre-existing materials. Identifying Adam as one of a larger population, he concludes that the Scriptures speak of “First, the making of his physical human-like form, and then the endowment of a soul to one of them, who became the historical Adam[.]” This work is available online at his site.

It should be noted that the distinction between the “creation” and “formation” of man is legitimate, and is spoken of by St. Basil the Great, but the conclusion drawn from it by Bishop Alexander, with no Patristic support—that Adam was called out from a population of beasts—is illegitimate. St. Basil writes: “God created the inward man, and fashioned the outward man. Fashioning is suited to the clay, and creation to that which is in the image. Thus, the flesh was fashioned, but the soul was created” (On the Origin of Man 2.3, SC 160.233 [PPS 30, p. 50], as found in GCEM, p. 213). But whereas Bishop Alexander sees man’s formation from the dust as an evolutionary process indistinct from the formation of lower beasts, it is precisely this miraculous formation from the dust, by the “hands” of God, that makes man unique in the teaching of St. Basil. Elsewhere in the same work he writes: “Above, the text says that God created; here it says how God created. If the verse had simply said that God created, you could have believed that He created [man] as He did the beasts, the wild animals, the plants, the grass. This is why, to avoid your placing him in the class of wild animals, the Divine word has made known the particular art which God has used for you: God took of the “dust from the earth” (2.4, SC 260.233 [PPS 30, p. 51], as found in GCEM, p. 212). Furthermore, St. Basil’s conviction that each creative act of God is accomplished instantaneously, seen throughout his Hexaemeron indicates that he also understands the creation of man, body and soul, to be simultaneous, as is taught by other Fathers.

[13] In his The Six Dawns 10, Dr. Kalomiros goes this far as well. He writes: “When we add up the years of Adam’s life and of his descendants, we find that Adam must have lived very recently, that is, about five thousand, five hundred years before Christ. It is a very late period in human history. Outside of Paradise, therefore, there existed not only other people, but many other people. Why, then, do we call Adam the ‘first-made’ man? What does first-made mean? There were two Adams, the first and the second. The first one begot us unto corruptibility. The second one begot us unto incorruptibility. Neither was the first one chronologically first, however, nor was the second one chronologically last. Each of them was preceded and followed by many people.” For him, human history existed before Adam, and Adam is our forefather only symbolically, in the sense of being the first to sin. For this he offers no Patristic support.

[14] “Genesis, Creation, and Evolution,”

[15] See, for instance, Alix Spiegel’s article, “Is Believing In God Evolutionarily Advantageous?” found online at the NPR website. Spiegel writes: “In the history of the world, every culture in every location at every point in time has developed some supernatural belief system. And when a human behavior is so universal, scientists often argue that it must be an evolutionary adaptation along the lines of standing upright. That is, something so helpful that the people who had it thrived, and the people who didn't slowly died out until we were all left with the trait.”

[16] Dean James A. Coucouzis as a Model of Priesthood: Archbishop Iakovos' Ministry at the Annunciation Cathedral of New England (1942-1954), pp. 460-461, as found online at the blog Mystagogy as “Archbishop Iakovos on Spiritualism, Materialism and Darwinism.”

[17] GCEM, p. 219.

[18] Sketch Concerning Man, pp. 87-88, as found in Constantine Cavarnos' Biological Evolutionism, pp. 28-29.

[19] Through the Prison Windowm pp. 39-40, as found in St. Justin Popovich, The Orthodox Church and Ecumenism, p. 162.

[20] See his “Children in Paradise: Adam and Eve as ‘Infants in Irenaeus of Lyons,” particularly the section “Iconic and Symbolic Value Through Factual History” on pp 9-10, where he concludes: “There is symbolism to be had in the histories, but the symbolism is lost if the history did not in actuality take place as history.”

[21] Many canonical and Patristic quotes referring to Adam and Eve are available at this author’s Old Believing blog at the post “Adam and Eve were literally the first people and were created uniquely from all other creatures and subsequent people.”

[22] “What the Allegorist Origen Taught About Adam and Eve,” found online at the Mystagogy blog. This article examines several passages wherein Origen mentions Adam and Eve and shows that he routinely speaks of them as literal people.

[23] Fr. Anthony, born in 1925, served the Holy Trinity parish in San Francisco from 1955 until his repose in 2004. See his entry at by Jim Lucas.

[24] His response to Fr. Anthony is on pp. 564-566, in a section of GCEM entitled “Christian Evolutionism” which is not from the New Valaam Theological Academy talks, but is a composite drawn from an Orthodox Survival Course lecture in 1975, a chapter on “Christian Evolutionism” written in cooperation with Alexey Young, and Fr. Seraphim’s notes on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), the French Jesuit, paleontologist and geologist, who took part in the discoveries of Peking Man and Piltdown Man.

[25] See The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church vol. 2: Novermber, December, by Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra, p. 469. Fr. Makarios, speaking of them as literal people, notes that although Adam and Eve caused the fall of the cosmos God did not withhold His mercy from them.

[26] See also the article “Was Adam an actual or a symbolic figure, according to the Fathers of the Church?” from the Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries website.

[27] And furthermore, St. John Damascene writes: “Whether they are equals in essence or differ from one another we know not. God, their Creator, Who knoweth all things, alone knoweth,” Exact Exposition 2.3, NPNF 2, vol. 9, p. 19b.

[28] Paradise 10.48, FC vol. 42, p. 327.

[29] City of God 12.27, NPNF 1, vol. 2, p. 244.

[30] St. Cyril, Commentary on Romans 5:18-19, as found in GCEM, p. 713; St. Gregory, Homily 5.1, as found in GCEM, p. 725; St. Maximus, Questions and Answers 3, PG 788B, in “The Mystery of Marriage in a Dogmatic Light” by Bishop ARTEMY (Rantosavlievich) in Divine Ascent: A Journal of Orthodox Faith vol. 1, nos. 3-4.

See also Tertullian, A Treatise on the Soul 40; the Hieromartyr St. Cyprian of Carthage (c. 200-258), Epistle to Fidus (68) chapter 5; St. Pacian of Barcelona (c. 310-391), whose holiness is eulogized by St. Jerome, Discourse on Baptism, Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church 17 (1842) pp. 378-384, found online at the site “Early Church Fathers—Additional Texts;” Theodoret of Cyrus, Questions on Genesis 43, Library of Early Christianity 1, p. 93; Venerable Bede, On Genesis, p. 92; Form of a Last Will and Testament, included by St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite (c. 1749-1809) in the book of ecclesiastical canons, The Rudder.

[31] GCEM p. 219.

[32] Apology 48 pp. 52-53.

[33] Professor Ioan Vladuca (1970- ), a Romanian Orthodox biomathematician, professor of Apologetics at the University of Bucharest between 1997 and 2005, and monastic novice (as of June 2012), who is a well known speaker on many topics, including evolution, has written of several pre-Darwinian “evolutionists.” His work “About Evolutionism” can be read online at the Romanian Orthodox website “Orthodox Advices.” He also wrote an article specifically on Fr. Seraphim, defending him against the accusations of Abp. Lazar Puhalo and Dr. Alexander Kalomiros. This work, “In Defense of the Venerable Fr. Seraphim” is available online. The word in the original Romanian translated as “venerable”—“cuviosulu” is the equivalent of the Russian “prepodobny” and the Greek “osios.” See pages 70-71 above.

[34] The Twelve Feasts of the Lord: An Introduction to the Twelve Feasts and Orthodox Christology, pp. 171-172.

[35] Stromata 2.19, ANF vol. 2, p. 369.

[36] GCEM, p. 219.

[37] Ibid.

[38] On the Origin of Man 1.3, as found in GCEM, p. 195.

[39] 2.1-2, as found in GCEM p. 197.

[40] Theodoret of Cyrus quoted in Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow and Kolomena, Pravoslavno-dogmaticheskoye bogosloviye (Orthodox Dogmatic Theology), vol. pp. 430-443, as found in GCEM, p. 212.

See also St. Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus 2.18.

[41] On the Origin of Man 2.4, SC 260.233 [PPS 30, p. 51], as found in GCEM, p. 212.

[42] From the article “Hominid Species.”

[43] GCEM, p. 218.

[44] On the Orthodox Faith 2.12, FC 37, p. 235, as found in GCEM, p. 218.

[45] The person of Origen was anathematized by the Church in Canon 11 of the 5th Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in 553. This particular teaching was also anathematized in the first of the fifteen anathemas against Origen, and in the first of nine anathemas against Origen written by St. Justinian the Emperor (483-565).

[46] On the Making of Man 29.1-2; as found in GCEM, pp. 218-219.

[47] As found in On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ, pp. 73-74.

[48] Introduction to the Book of the Blessed Hesychios, as found in Elder Basil of Poiana Marului: Spiritual Father of St. Paisy Velichkovsky, pp. 76-77.

See also St. Peter of Alexandria, Fragment VIOn the Soul and Body, ANF vol. 6, p. 283.

[49] SCR 5301: Israel’s Origins (Fall 2010), St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, class handouts, p. 104.

[50] GCEM, p. 240.

[51] Commentary on Genesis 2, Tvoreniya 6, p. 315 [FC 91, p. 105 (2.12.1)], as found in GCEM, p. 245.

On the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib, Fr. Seraphim also quotes on pages 240-245 a passage of St. Ambrose already quoted in this work, Paradise 10.48, FC vol. 42, p. 327 (see p. 87 and n. 280 above) as well as St. Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386), Catechetical Lectures 12.29, NPNF 2, vol. 7 p. 80; and St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis 15.2-3, Tvoreniya 4, pp. 121-122 [FC 74, pp. 198, 200 (15.6-7, 11)], and On the Creation of the World 5.8, Tvoreniya 6, p. 796 [trans. Robert C. Hill, p. 71]; and on p. 486 he quotes St. Seraphim of Sarov, Conversation on the Aim of the Christian Life 5, p. 26 in Little Russian Philokalia vol. 1, pp. 82-82 (5th ed., p. 90). In a footnote on p. 245, Fr. Damascene also points to other passages from St. John Chrysostom and St. Ephraim the Syrian, as well as St. John Damascene, On the Orthodox Faith 4.24, FC 37, p. 394. See also pages 281n, 303n, 410, 431n, 432, 432-433n, 436, 443-445, 446n, 486, 489, 643, 672-673.

[52] On Genesis, p. 122.

See also St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho 84; Tertullian, A Treatise On the Soul 43; St. Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion 1.2; St. Augustine, City of God 12.27; St. Gregory the Theologian, Oration 31.11: Fifth Theological Oration; St. Gregory the bishop of Tours (c. 538-593/4), History of the Franks 1.1; St. Sophronios (c. 560-638), the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Synodical Letter 2.4.3: Profession of Creation, found online as “St. Sophronius on Creation” at Classical Christianity. St. Photius the Great (c. 810- c. 893), the Patriarch of Constantinople, Homily 9: On the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God 5 pp. 167-168, as found in GCEM p. 433; St. Symeon the New Theologian, Ethical Discourses 1.1; St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite, Interpretation of Canon 17 of the Council of Gangra, found in The Rudder, p. 529; Patriarch Pavle of Serbia (1914-2009), Clarifying Some Questions About Our Faith, vol. 1 [in Serbian], p. 16, as found in GCEM, p. 30.

[53] All translations were made from the Greek by Dr. Kalomiros, but the corresponding passages can be found in On the Creation of Man Chapter H’ P.G. 33 145C, 148B-C, and 148 B’. These quotes are as found in “God’s Breath in Ape’s Body,” p. 12.

[54] Ibid.

[55] GCEM, pp. 142-144.

[56] Against Eunomius 1.34, NPNF 2, vol. 5, p. 81; Answer to Eunomius’ Second Book, NPNF 2, vol. 5, p. 299, both as found in GCEM p. 430.

See also the footnote on GCEM p. 144.

[57] In Defense of the Holy Hesychasts (The Triads) [French translation], 1.1.11, p. 34, and 1.1.12, p. 36; as found in GCEM, pp. 466-467.

See also
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