Did Vatican II change the Church's interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis?
Question: I had a former theology teacher at my parish’s school tell me that Vatican II changed the Church’s teachings on Adam and Eve and that the first few chapters of Genesis are to be considered as myths. Is that true?
Answer: No, it is not. Below are nine teachings of the Church regarding the first three chapters of Genesis. These teachings can be found in a document which was issued by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and confirmed by Pope St. Pius X in 1909. These teachings have been the constant teachings of the Church throughout the centuries, and the Pontifical Biblical Commission expounded them in 1909 as a response to the errors of the Modernists that had developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Modernists were, among other things, denying the reality of Adam and Eve.
Now, you might say, “John, this was before Vatican II, the question is: didn’t Vatican II change all of this?” No, it did not. We can find every single one of these nine teachings of Pope St. Pius X, as expounded by the 1909 Pontifical Biblical Commission, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) that was published in 1994.
So, here they are, the nine teachings of the Church regarding chapters 1-3 of Genesis, as expounded in the 1909 document from the Pontifical Biblical Commission, followed each time by the paragraphs of the 1994 Catechism that carry the corresponding teachings:
1. The creation of all things out of nothing by God at the beginning of time…and including time; CCC #’s 296-299
2. The special creation of man; CCC #’s 355-359
3. The creation of woman from man [Eve was created from Adam’s rib — well, the Church doesn’t say that it absolutely happened in exactly that way, but it does teach that woman was created from man in some manner]; CCC #371
4. That all of humanity is descended from an original pair of human beings— Adam and Eve; CCC #’s 54-55, 359-360, 375, 390-392, 402-405, 407, 416-417
5. That Adam and Eve were created in an original state of holiness, justice, and immortality; CCC #’s 374-379, 384, 398, 415-416
6. That a Divine Command was laid upon man to prove his obedience to God “Thou shalt not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” – again, exactly what that means, we don’t know. Was it really a tree with fruit that they weren’t supposed to eat? Probably not, but we don’t really know. But we do know that there was some command from God, laid upon man, to prove his obedience.]; CCC #’s 396-397, 399
7. The transgression of that Divine Command at the instigation of Satan; CCC #’s 379, 390-392, 394-395, 397-398, 413-415
8. The loss of the state of holiness, justice, and immortality of our 1st parents, because of their disobedience — Adam and Eve were kicked out of Paradise; CCC #’s 379, 390, 399-400, 410
9. The promise of a future Redeemer, a Savior — Gen 3:15, the protoevangelium, the first “good news”; CCC #’s 410-411
I doubt anyone will contend that the Catechism is pre-Vatican II. So, if the teachings of the 1909 Pontifical Biblical Commission on Adam and Eve are also found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, then it is obvious that Vatican II did not change the Church’s teachings in regard to Adam and Eve.
John Martignoniis a nationally-known Catholic apologist and Bible scholar. He is the Founder and President of the Bible Christian Society, where you can find lots of free apologetics materials — CD’s, mp3 downloads, e-newsletters, and more, and host of EWTN’s “Open Line” airing on Mondays at 3 p.m. EST. He is also Director of the Office of the New Evangelization in the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama.