Living Tradition
Editor: Msgr. John F. McCarthy, J.C.D., S.T.D.Distributed several times a year to interested members.
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No. 97 Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study Program January 2002


by Brian W. Harrison, O.S., M.A., S.T.D.
Associate Professor of Theology,
Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico


The purpose of this essay is to defend a doctrinal thesis which is quite simple, very clear, very classical, but now very unpopular — not to say outrightly scorned and derided. I will argue that the formation by God of the first woman, Eve, from the side of the sleeping, adult Adam had, by the year 1880, been proposed infallibly by the universal and ordinary magisterium of the Catholic Church as literally and historically true; so that this must forever remain a doctrine to be held definitively (at least) by all the faithful. I would express the thesis in Latin as follows:

Definitive tenendum est mulierem primam vere et historice formatam esse a Deo e latere primi viri dormientis.

Some explanation of several terms I have just used will be in order at this point. First, by including the words "sleeping, adult" (vir — in both classical and ecclesiastical Latin — nearly always means an adult human being), my intention is to exclude as unorthodox not only the usual naturalistic evolutionary assumptions about female human origins, but also a certain ‘concordist’ hypothesis which has at times been suggested over the last sixty years as a possible way of reconciling the traditional understanding of the origin of woman with evolution. I refer to the hypothesis that Adam and Eve were mutant twins, conceived in the womb of a hominid creature. According to this fanciful scenario, the original human female could thus be said to have ‘split off’, as it were, from an originally single male human zygote which had evolved from hominid forebears. This would be like the normal process in which monozygotic (identical) twins are formed, except that in this case a miracle would have been necessary in order for the second twin to be of the opposite gender; for, as scientists are agreed, this cannot happen in the course of nature.

Secondly, I have chosen to speak of Adam's "side" (latus in Latin), rather than his "rib" (costa in Latin), simply because the former term, which has often been used in the theological literature, is more general and comprehensive. The Hebrew noun used in Gen. 2: 21-22 (tselaj) is apparently a little obscure and can, it seems, mean either "rib" or "side". Since the former could be understood, if necessary, to be included in the latter expression, but not the latter in the former, it seems better to use "side" in an attempt to express what we are required to hold as Catholics.

When I say that the doctrine, as enunciated, is "to be held definitively", I am referring to the second category of doctrines enumerated in the new (1989) Profession of Faith and in the 1998 Apostolic Letter of John Paul II, Ad Tuendam Fidem, together with the accompanying "Doctrinal Note" from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (especially its article 8). These are doctrines which have been infallibly proposed by the ordinary or extraordinary magisterium as being at least inseparably linked to the revealed deposit, but which have not — or at least, not yet — been proposed by the Church as themselves revealed, and so to be believed "with divine and Catholic faith". Using a more traditional theological note, I would suggest that the thesis I am defending is "proximate to faith" (proxima fidei), that is, one which has been generally understood by the Fathers, Doctors and approved theologians as the true meaning of something revealed in Sacred Scripture and/or Sacred Tradition, but which has not so far been proclaimed unequivocally as revealed by the Church's teaching authority. (I have included the words "at least" in parenthesis in my opening paragraph, in order not to rule out the possibility that the doctrine in question might one day be elevated by a Pope or Council to a truth of divine and Catholic faith, obstinate dissent from which would then become heresy.)

Having clarified these terms, I will now proceed to defend the thesis by considering the accepted theological sources — Scripture, Tradition, Magisterium — as well as arguing that the doctrine is not contrary to reason, that is, to any legitimate conclusion of the human sciences. I will then address the question of how binding this teaching had become by the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries. Finally, I will respond to objections to my thesis based on an appeal to certain more recent magisterial interventions.

I. Scripture as Witness

I. 1 The fundamental text that interests us is of course the well-known passage of Genesis which reads:

So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The Lord God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man. When he brought her to the man, the man said: "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman’, for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken."1

Nevertheless, while this is undoubtedly the key biblical text, I will not embark on any detailed exegetical study of it, precisely because the whole issue before us revolves around the question of what precise literary genre we are faced with in this passage. The conventional theological and biblical wisdom of recent decades maintains that we have here some kind of imaginative, metaphorical, parabolic, or even quasi-mythical account of the origin of woman. But since this reading of Genesis contradicts, as we shall see, a Judaeo-Christian consensus of several thousand years, it would seem well-nigh impossible to demonstrate conclusively that the new ‘parabolic/metaphoric’ reading of the passage was true. Indeed, the currently fashionable concept of a ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’ would in this case seem quite applicable, in view of the obvious fact that the general rise in popularity of this parabolic/metaphorical reading among Christians over the last century has coincided precisely with the general rise in their acceptance of evolution as the supposedly ‘scientific’ and ‘rational’ answer to the question of human origins. Why do I say that this coincidence should make us suspicious of the new reading of Genesis? Simply because the discernment of literary genres — another autonomous human science — clearly ought to be based on literary criteria, not on biological or palaeontological criteria! Data from such external physical sciences ought to be seen as quite alien and irrelevant to the task of literary science in discerning what was meant by an ancient author in a given piece of writing. Unlike the cosmos, literature (whether written or orally transmitted) is the creation of men; and it is created precisely in order to be understood by other men. Hence (aside from Rosetta-Stone-type situations where translation is a problem), there is no reason why we should expect literature to contain profound secrets which cannot be unlocked by other men without laborious research requiring thousands of years of effort. If Gen. 2: 21-23 were really just intended as symbolic or metaphorical in character, why was this never discovered long before the advent of Darwin? Why did neither the classical Jewish commentators — undoubted experts on literary genres coming from their own culture and language — nor the Church’s Fathers, Doctors, Bishops and Popes — assisted collectively by the light of the Holy Spirit — never discern this truth about the Genesis passage? Why, indeed, did they consciously decide against giving it any such figurative or symbolic interpretation? Sceptics, atheists, and ultra-liberal theists can often see the point I am making more clearly than many believers. They will maintain that, since there is no serious literary or linguistic reason to suspect a parabolic/symbolic intention on the part of the ancient author, those believers who postulate such an intention, in an attempt to reconcile the divine inspiration of Genesis with the perceived need to read it through Darwinian-tinted spectacles, are merely resorting to a self-deceptive ploy. That is, they are shielding themselves from the unpleasant, but more rational, conclusion that the evolutionary account of human origins, if correct, will render the integral truth (and, therefore, the divine authorship) of Genesis untenable — a fact which will in turn debunk the whole of historic Christianity (Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox), which has committed itself irrevocably to the divine inspiration of the entire Bible as a dogma of faith.

Whatever may be said about a ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’, it remains true that any consideration of the direct or intrinsic arguments for or against a parabolic/metaphorical reading of our Genesis passage will inevitably produce uncertain results. For, by the very nature of the case, the issue will involve trying to weigh uncertain and undemonstrable hypotheses of greater or lesser probability. Therefore, in this section on Scripture, I shall bypass such controversies entirely, assuming as given the inconclusive nature of any direct historical/literary analysis of the Genesis passage itself, and appealing instead to an indirect approach which involves a different biblical text, and a different hermeneutical principle — that of the ‘analogy of faith’ — in order to resolve the issue.

I. 2 The ‘analogy of faith’ is a classical Catholic principle employed as a hermeneutical tool for the correct interpretation of Scripture. The idea is that, since we know by faith that God's Word cannot contradict itself, passages which are obscure or uncertain in meaning can sometimes be clarified by a comparison (‘analogy’) with others which treat of the same doctrine more clearly. Thus, Scripture itself is used to interpret Scripture.

In the case before us, the typically modern uncertainty as to whether the Genesis text before us is to be understood as belonging to the genre of history or non-history can be resolved by taking note of the clear affirmation by St. Paul in the New Testament that "man did not come from woman, but woman from man" (I Cor. 11: 8). The Greek text reads: "ou gar estin aner ek gunaikos, alla gune ex andros" (the last three words meaning, literally, "woman . . . is out of (or, from) man"). The Apostle repeats this in verse 12: "As woman came from man, so man is born of woman" (Greek: "he gune ek tou andros" — "the woman [is] out of (or, from) the man").

Now, there should really be no need for any lengthy discussion about the exegesis of these texts, as Paul's intended meaning is quite transparent. There can be not the slightest question of this passage of I Corinthians being written in any kind of symbolic, imaginative, allegorical or other ‘creative’ literary genre. Teaching within the cultural context of that time, the Apostle is insisting here, in straightforward, prosaic language, that women, but not men, should have their heads covered in worship, as a sign of their subordination to masculine authority (cf. vv. 7, 9-10). And as evidence for this relationship, Paul cites the way that God brought woman into existence: she is "from man", and not vice versa. It is quite evident that the Apostle uses these few words as a summary of Genesis 2: 21-22, and that he understands and affirms them as literal history (along with all other ancient Jewish and Christian commentators). Not only do the words themselves in their context bear this obvious meaning, but it would be patently anachronistic to suggest otherwise, since Paul was writing eighteen hundred years before evolutionary preoccupations began to sow doubts in believers’ minds about the literary genre of the Genesis text. Thus, we have here a divinely inspired witness to the historicity of the Genesis account of Eve's formation. As Vatican II reminds us, confirming the age-old faith of the Church, "all that is affirmed by the inspired authors or hagiographers must be held as affirmed by the Holy Spirit" (Dei Verbum #11). Here, the inspired author Paul indubitably affirms, twice, that in historical truth woman came from man. Ergo, the Holy Spirit, who cannot err, also affirms this.2

Some curious sophistries are employed by certain Catholics in order to evade the clear force of this argument from I Corinthians and the teaching of Vatican II on biblical inspiration. I have seen it affirmed, for instance, that Paul is here "simply repeating" the Genesis text, the implication being that he thus prescinds altogether from the question of its interpretation and its literary genre. But what the Apostle is doing, clearly, is not "simply repeating" the Genesis text, but summarizing it and reaffirming it as recording something that really happened.

Again, some try to argue that in fact Paul does not really assert, affirm or teach here that "woman is from man", claiming that his only "real" teaching or assertion in this passage is that to which his reference to Genesis is subordinated, namely, that women should cover their heads in worship. But this implausible hermeneutical ploy runs up against a papal censure found in one of the carefully selected references in footnote 5 to Dei Verbum #11 — references which must be taken into account in order to understand correctly this crucial passage on biblical inerrancy. I am referring to that passage from Leo XIII's foundational biblical encyclical, Providentissimus Deus, which is referenced in the footnote as Enchiridion Biblicum (EB) 124. The main content of this passage is Pope Leo's censure of "the false opinion that when it is a question of the truth of statements [made by the inspired writers], one should not so much inquire into what things God has said, but rather, give greater weight to why He has said them".3 Once this papally-proscribed shift of emphasis is allowed free rein, almost any Scriptural passage whose truth the reader finds problematical can be readily ‘saved’ from the charge of error by gratuitously ‘demoting’ or ‘downgrading’ it, so to speak, from the status of a true affirmation on the part of God and his inspired author! Exegetes enamored of this kind of hermeneutical sleight-of-hand have been using it for over a century now in order to undermine the essential Scriptural basis for belief in Jesus’ miraculous conception. What (they ask) is the true purpose of Matthew and Luke in saying that Mary was a virgin in giving birth to Our Lord? Well (we are told), such miraculous ‘language’ is simply their ‘literary’ or ‘culturally-conditioned’ way of expressing the higher, more fundamental, Christological truth that Jesus has a totally unique relationship with the Father. And that truth (the modernist exegete concludes) is the only teaching that the evangelists ‘truly intend to affirm’ in these texts.4Another similar hermeneutical manoeuvre is to draw a spurious distinction between what the human author affirms and the message that God intends to communicate by his words — as though the two might at times be disparate. The devotee of this approach will conveniently be able to find pretty much whatever he wants to find as the Holy Spirit's supposed message in any given passage of Scripture. He reads it through, mentally sifting the text with a view to discerning, in an a priori fashion, what he feels is its essential ‘salvific’ or ‘theological’ content. This is then dubbed the only ‘real’ divine message communicated to us by the Holy Spirit in this text, so that anything left over can be politely laid aside as ‘merely human’, ‘non-salvific’ and therefore possibly not free of error. Thus, in the case of I Corinthians 11 before us, we will be told that the only truth that God wants to communicate to us here is something like the intimate reciprocity or interdependence of man and woman (and perhaps, if the interpreter is not strongly feminist, the headship of men over women). Once again, Paul’s ‘inconvenient’ statement that woman actually did come from man is thus excluded from the supposed divine or ‘salvific’ message of this passage. But Vatican Council II also rules out this approach. First, in DV #11, it teaches a necessary identity of content between the divine and human message in stating that "all that the sacred writers affirm must be held as affirmed by the Holy Spirit". Then, in article 12, Dei Verbum teaches the same thing in a different way: it tells us that the only means of discovering what God teaches in a given passage is to determine first what the human authors teach therein; for that will ipso facto be the divine teaching. As the Flannery translation puts it:

Seeing that, in sacred Scripture, God speaks through men in human fashion, it follows that the interpreter of sacred Scriptures, if he is to ascertain what God has wished to communicate to us, should carefully search out the meaning which the sacred writers really had in mind, that meaning which God had thought well to manifest through the medium of their words.5

I will rest my case from Scripture by summarizing it as follows: a sound exegesis of St. Paul's statements in I Corinthians 11 (backed up implicitly by Acts 17: 26), and a sound exegesis of pertinent magisterial teaching on Scriptural inspiration and interpretation, leave room for only one possible conclusion: St. Paul, and therefore the Holy Spirit, both affirm here that woman did indeed come from man; and this settles the prior question about the literary genre of Gen. 2: 21-22 in favor of its literal historicity.

II. Tradition as Witness

II. 1 It is well-known that the unanimous consensus of those many Fathers of the Church who commented on the account of Eve's formation from Adam's side testifies that this passage is to be understood as literal history, and as part of the doctrine of faith concerning Creation. The only ancient ecclesiastical writer to give a symbolic or allegorical reading to the Genesis account was Origen,6 who of course is notorious for his excessive penchant for such free departures from the literal sense of a great many biblical texts. In any case, Origen, not being a saint, is not strictly to be considered among the Fathers, especially when their consensus is being considered to establish the certainty of a given Catholic doctrine from Scripture.

It is sometimes alleged that St. Augustine was at least uncertain as to whether the account of Adam's rib being formed into Eve was factual, or perhaps indicated a dream or vision on the part of Adam. However, if Augustine ever did express such uncertainty (and commentators disagree on this), this was only in one of his earlier works.7 He later confessed that in the work in question, written shortly after his conversion, he had offered figurative explanations for passages in Genesis which, after "more diligent reflection and consideration", he realised were meant to be understood literally.8 Certainly, in all his mature works, Augustine expounds Gen. 2: 21-23 quite literally.9

Lest it be suggested that the consensus of the Fathers on biblical interpretation regarding matters of faith can no longer be considered decisive, it is worthwhile noting that as recently as 1970, Pope Paul VI made this telling observation when blessing a new Institute of Patrology at the Augustinianum in Rome on 4 May 1970: "We can understand, then, how important the study of the Fathers is for a deeper understanding of Holy Scripture, and how decisive for the Church is their agreement on how it is to be interpreted."10 Several years later, Pope Paul was if anything more emphatic in a letter of 10 May 1975 to Cardinal Michele Pellegrino of Turin, commemorating the centenary of the death of Jacques-Paul Migne, editor of the monumental edition of the entire corpus of the Latin and Greek Fathers. Here the Pope insists that Vatican Council II itself upholds this ancient dogmatic criterion:

In fact the Church, in her function as "pillar and foundation of the truth," has always referred herself back to the teaching of the Fathers, considering their consensus as a rule of interpretation for Holy Scripture. Saint Augustine had already formulated and applied this rule in his own time. Vincent of Lérins, in turn, had expounded it at length in his Commonitorium Primum. It was taken up again and solemnly proclaimed by the Council of Trent and by the First Vatican Council. The recent Second Vatican Council has shown itself if anything even more insistent on this point.11

II. 2 Later Catholic tradition, up till the turn of the twentieth century, was almost as unanimous as the Fathers had been in upholding the literal reading of Gen. 2: 21-23. The only significant theologian in the sixteen-and-a-half centuries between Origen and Joseph-Marie Lagrange who questioned the literal reading of Eve's formation was Cardinal Thomas Cajetan (16th century), whose rather superficial and idiosyncratic reason for rejecting the literal reading never sounded persuasive to other theologians. Significantly, his doubts had nothing at all to do with the literary style or linguistic characteristics of the Genesis passage — that is, with the criteria which modern exegetes and theologians appeal to in order to justify a symbolic/parabolical reading. Cajetan's position was based not on the text's form, but on its matter: he had a kind of moral scruple to the effect that a literal reading of this passage would call in question the goodness of God's creation. But this was an objection which St. Thomas Aquinas had already anticipated and satisfactorily answered three centuries earlier, in his classic four-point treatise on the historical formation of Eve from Adam's side.12 Not until the very end of the nineteenth century, under the increasing pressure of the Zeitgeist to accommodate this and other texts to the Darwinian world-view, did a few Catholic scholars such as Lagrange, Hummelauer, Hoberg and Schöpfer begin to resurrect Cajetan's conclusion, if not his argumentation, as a supposedly respectable Catholic precedent for giving a non-literal reading of the passage on the first woman’s creation;13 but this tendency was promptly (if only temporarily) repressed by the anti-modernist program initiated a few years later by Pope St. Pius X.

If one prescinds from these late nineteenth- and subsequent twentieth-century Catholic authors, it is evident that the isolated figures of Origen and Cajetan before the modern period scarcely make a dint in the solid wall of almost bimillennial patristic and theological consensus on this point. It is fully reasonable, therefore, to conclude that a literal reading of Gen. 2: 21-23 is the clear witness and verdict of Sacred Tradition.

III. The Ecclesiastical Magisterium as Witness

I shall now seek to demonstrate that the explicit witness of the Church's teaching authority until the latter part of the twentieth century supports that of Scripture and Tradition.

III. 1 The earliest known papal affirmation of Eve's historical formation from Adam's side is that of Pope Pelagius I. His epistle of 3 February 557 to King Childebert I contains a profession of faith ("Fides Pelagii papæ") which was shortly afterwards repeated in the epistle Vas electionis addressed to the whole Church.14 In reference to the Last Judgment, the profession of faith includes the following affirmation:

I confess ... that all men from Adam onward who have been born and have died up to the end of the world will then rise again and stand "before the judgment-seat of Christ," together with Adam himself and his wife, who were not born of other parents, but were created: one from the earth and the other from the side of the man (... ).15

This ancient profession of faith is not found in versions of Denzinger earlier than that of 1965 (Denzinger-Schönmetzer), and seems to have fallen into oblivion. It was apparently unknown to many or most theologians of the last century, judging by the failure to cite it of so many16 who opposed evolution and so would have welcomed this document as a weapon in their armoury. Nevertheless, it is clear that Vas Electionis has high authority. This is the Successor of Peter addressing a formal profession of faith to the universal Church; and while its degree of solemnity or decisiveness in formulation perhaps does not quite warrant its qualification as an ex cathedra definition, it would certainly be roughly comparable in authority to a modern equivalent such as Paul VI's 1968 Credo of the People of God (which Pope Paul himself considered the most weighty document of his entire pontificate17). And in what Pope Pelagius affirms about how our first parents came into being, the accent on historicity is evident, since the context is an overview of the entire panorama of cosmic history, from Creation till the Last Judgment.

III. 2 Passing to the mediaeval period, we find that the Ecumenical Council of Vienne in 1312 published another solemn profession of faith, directed against errors which had been propagated by the Franciscan Peter Olivi (or Olieu). This document, the Constitution Fidei catholicae, takes up and canonizes the classical Patristic theme that the formation of Eve from Adam's side, far from being some kind of strange, incomprehensible and perhaps salvifically insignificant prodigy, was a profound and beautiful foreshadowing of the very heart of the work of our Redemption: the mystical foundation of the Church, the immaculate Spouse of Christ, in the water and blood — symbols of the principal sacraments — which flowed from the Saviour's side as he ‘slept’ in death on the Cross. The relevant text reads as follows:

[We confess] ... that after [Jesus’] spirit was already rendered up, his side suffered perforation by a lance, so that through the ensuing flow of water and blood, the one and only, immaculate, virgin holy Mother Church, the Spouse of Christ, might be formed, just as from the side of the first man, cast into sleep, Eve was formed for him unto marriage. This happened so that the reality manifested in our last Adam, that is, Christ, might correspond to a certain prefiguring of that reality constituted by the first and ancient Adam, who, according to the Apostle, "is a type of the one who was to come" [cf. Rom. 5: 14].18

Again, historicity is clearly affirmed here with the past tense "was formed" (formata est). Moreover, the historical reality of the water and blood flowing from the Second Adam's side would scarcely have been "prefigured" appropriately by a merely mythical or imaginary formation of Eve from the First Adam's side.

III. 3 As we move closer to modern times, we find that magisterial affirmations of Eve's formation from Adam are in conscious opposition to the rival explanations of human origins being offered by evolutionists. However, just before Darwin’s great controversy broke upon the world an interesting witness to the teaching of Bishops in communion with Peter's successor appeared in the United States. (Since we are considering in this essay the witness of the Church's ordinary and universal magisterium, it is not inappropriate to include some evidence of episcopal, as well as papal teaching, in accordance with what Lumen Gentium #25 teaches about their authority, even when dispersed throughout the world.) This was a Bible dictionary by Fr. B. O'Reilly, first published in the 1850s or early 1860s, which continued to enjoy great popularity for decades afterwards.19 A list of 23 American and English bishops and archbishops who gave their express approval to this work, including Cardinal Wiseman of Westminster and Cardinal McCloskey of New York, is found immediately after the title page in the facsimile edition. In regard to our first parents, this book offers ‘thumbnail biographies’ of "Adam"20 and "Eve" which no more hint at any doubt or uncertainty regarding historicity than do the entries for the New Testament historical figures, including Our Lord himself. The dictionary entry that interests us here reads, in its entirety, as follows:

EVE, the first woman, made out of a rib of Adam (Gen. ii. 21); induced by the serpent to eat the forbidden fruit (iii. 6); persuades Adam to eat thereof (6); her sentence (16); God makes her a garment of skins (21); mother of Cain (iv. 1); of Abel (2); of Seth (25) and of daughters (v. 4).21

Moreover, O'Reilly's summary of the Book of Genesis positively exults in the blessed certainty which it gives, precisely as a cosmogony — a true historical account of our origins:

Of all books ever written, this fivefold book of Moses is the only one that enlightens us with infallible certainty on the origin of all things in this universe, visible and invisible;on the creation of mankind and their destinies; on their duties, during this life, toward their Almighty Creator and toward each other, and on the rewards and punishments of the eternal life hereafter... . Before the coming of Christ the whole pagan world was plunged in darkness impenetrable concerning the origin of man and the world, and the sublime destinies appointed in Christ for Adam and his posterity in the very beginning. Christian teaching dispelled this midnight darkness and revealed to all believers both the secret of man's origin and the incomprehensible glory of his supernatural destinies... . So, in these first verses and pages of Genesis — the Book of Origins — we are treading on abysses of revealed truth — of truth which explains to us both the world beneath and around us, and that unmeasured world which extends on all sides above and beyond our little globe, ... 22

In short, we have here a book expressly approved by dozens of Catholic bishops which has no hesitation in asserting that the Genesis revelation gives us the kind of "infallible certainty" about "the creation of mankind" and "the secret of man's origin" which "dispelled the midnight darkness" which reigned within paganism in regard to such matters. Such sweeping, even ‘triumphalistic’, language makes obvious the fact that O'Reilly has in mind historical "infallib[ility]" here, and not merely (as modern conventional wisdom supposes) the kind of obscurely metaphorical ‘revelation’ which relinquishes to ‘pagan’ erudition itself — in the form of secular evolutionary science — the task of telling us ‘the real facts’ about our origins.

III. 4 A still more telling witness than the foregoing illustration is the draft schema prepared by bishops and theologians of Vatican Council I for the proposed Constitution De doctrina catholica. More than a decade after The Origin of Species appeared, these conciliar Fathers and periti consciously defied its implications in the second draft of this schema with the following solemn affirmation:

This, our Holy Mother the Church believes and teaches: When God was about to make man according to his image and likeness in order that he might rule over the whole earth, He breathed into the body formed from the slime of the earth the breath of life, that is, a soul produced from nothing... . And blessing the first man and Eve his wife who was formed by divine power from his side, God said: "Increase and multiply, and fill the earth" (Gen. 1: 28).23

It is noteworthy that while the words "the breath of life" are explained as being a symbol or metaphor (for the soul), no similar explanation is offered for the expression "from his side." Yet again, it is manifest that the historicity of this act of "divine power" is being affirmed.

This draft statement was never promulgated by Vatican I; but it is a highly relevant piece of evidence as to the extent to which the directly supernatural origin of the first woman's body had hitherto been taught by the Successors of the Apostles in union with Peter. After all, those preparing doctrinal statements for an Ecumenical Council are, obviously, drawn from among those regarded by the Holy See as the most learned bishops and the most erudite and trustworthy theologians available. If they are not in a position to know what the ordinary magisterium of the Church has been up till their own time, who ever would be? Moreover, it is worthwhile recalling that the non-promulgation of this draft schema had nothing to do with any expressed dissatisfaction with it on the part of the conciliar Fathers. The problem was simply that proceedings were cut short because of the political crisis of 1870, before the discussion of this schema could be completed. There is no evidence in the Acta of Vatican I that any of the conciliar Fathers raised any objections to the passage we have cited above. The initial discussion indicated a favourable response to the doctrine, if not always to the precise wording, of the first draft as a whole.24 Then, significantly, the bishops deputed to discuss and revise the first draft actually proceeded to make the second draft more explicitly anti-Darwinian by adding the words we have emphasised in citing it above: "formed by divine power from his side" (e costa eius divinitus formata). The initial draft, in speaking of Eve, had mentioned that she was the "mother of all living"25 but was silent about the mode of her formation.

III. 5 We come now to what is perhaps the most weighty of all magisterial interventions for the direct, supernatural formation of the first woman. Like Pope Pelagius’ sixth-century profession of faith, it seems to have fallen into oblivion, and is never cited, even by those theologians who would certainly have been most happy to enlist it in their cause if they knew about it. But in this case the eclipse is more surprising, since the papal intervention in question is not only highly authoritative, but much more recent, dating, in fact, from ten years after Vatican Council I. I refer to a forgotten passage in Leo XIII 's Encyclical Arcanum Divinae Sapientiae of February 10, 1880. I can only ascribe the almost universal ignorance of this passage among Catholic scholars writing on creation and evolution to the fact that it occurs within an encyclical whose general theme is Christian marriage — a topic which theologians invariably associate with sacramental and/or moral theology, but not with the theology of creation. After many years of reading Catholic and other Christian works on science and creation dating from the late nineteenth century onward, I had never once seen Leo XIII cited or even referred to on this question, until I "rediscovered" his teaching quite by chance in 1998, whilst leafing through a pamphlet edition of Arcanum in search of material on marriage.26

Pope Leo himself, however, clearly judged that the origin of woman was indeed to be considered part of the Church’s doctrine concerning marriage — particularly, no doubt, in view of the ancient typological reading of Eve's formation from her spouse's side which we saw enshrined in the teaching of the Council of Vienne in relation to the Church as "Spouse of Christ". Writing shortly after Huxley and Darwin, in the 1870s, had more explicitly applied evolutionary theory to human origins, Leo wrote as follows to the world's Catholic bishops:

What is the true origin of marriage? That, Venerable Brethren, is a matter of common knowledge. For although the revilers of the Christian faith shrink from acknowledging the Church’s permanent doctrine on this matter, and persist in their long-standing efforts to erase the history of all nations and all ages, they have nonetheless been unable to extinguish, or even to weaken, the strength and light of the truth. We call to mind facts well-known to all and doubtful to no-one: after He formed man from the slime of the earth on the sixth day of creation, and breathed into his face the breath of life, God willed to give him a female companion, whom He drew forth wondrously from the man's side as he slept. In bringing this about, God, in his supreme Providence, willed that this spousal couple should be the natural origin of all men: in other words, that from this pair the human race should be propagated and preserved in every age by a succession of procreative acts which would never be interrupted. And so that this union of man and woman might correspond more aptly to the most wise counsels of God, it has manifested from that time onward, deeply impressed or engraved, as it were, within itself, two preeminent and most noble properties: unity and perpetuity.27

Let us analyze this passage. Pope Leo is clearly proposing here, as one of a series of truths which are "well-known to all, and doubtful to no one" (nota omnibus et nemini dubia), and which are part of "the Church's permanent doctrine" (perpetuam ... doctrinam Ecclesiae), the formation of Eve from the side of Adam, understood as a sleeping adult male (viri ... dormientis). The normal way of referring in Latin (both classical and ecclesiastical) to a male human being who could be of any age, even an infant or fetus, is to use words such as mas (pl. mares), masculus, or masculinus.28 Moreover, the fact that Leo XIII mentions also the fact that the vir was "sleeping" (dormientis) during Eve's creation reinforces the point that he had an adult in mind. Who ever speaks (or even thinks) of a tiny embryo in the womb as being either "asleep" or "awake"? The Hebrew text, understood literally, must of course be understood to refer to an adult by the word "ish" for "man", especially since the play on words represented by the Hebrew word for "woman" ("ishshah" and "isha", = "taken from her man") requires "ish" to mean "husband". Nevertheless, it is pertinent to insist that the Latin translation vir, used by Leo XIII, must also be understood as meaning an adult male,29 precisely because this demonstrates that the Pope, in this authentic magisterial interpretation of Genesis, is teaching that the literal sense of the Hebrew text is in this case the true sense. Thus, the hypothesis that Eve "came from" Adam by means of monozygotic fission in the womb of a hominid brute is incompatible with this papal teaching.

Furthermore, the fact that the Pontiff is proposing the formation of Eve from (adult) Adam's side as a historical truth, and not merely as some kind of metaphor or parable, is evident from the literary and historical context. For not only would the immediately succeeding sentence, confirming the ‘monogenistic’ origin of the human race from this one couple, be quite meaningless unless intended to be understood historically, but the opening words of the paragraph globally characterize the whole series of doctrinal points to be enunciated in it — including, therefore, that regarding Eve’s formation — as constituting collectively the "true origin" (vera origo) of marriage. And its "true origin" must obviously mean, according to the Pope's mind and intention, the way it began really and historically, especially when it is recalled that he is here reiterating this "true origin" in deliberate opposition to the accounts of human origins being propagated by those he calls "revilers of the Christian faith" (fidei christianae vituperatores). For these Darwinian innovators were of course claiming to give "the real history" of human origins in contrast to the "myths" of Genesis.

III. 6 We come now to the final magisterial intervention to be considered in this part of our study, namely, the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s Responsum of June 30, 1909, on the interpretation of Genesis, chapters 1 to 3. The main point of this document that interests us is the third question addressed by the Commission:

Whether, in particular, the literal historical sense (sensus litteralis historicus) may be called in question (vocari in dubium possit), where it is a question of facts narrated in these chapters (ubi agitur de factis in eisdem capitibus enarratis) which involve the foundations of the Christian religion (quae christianae religionis fundamenta attingunt), as are, among others, the creation of all things by God at the beginning of time; the special [or, particular] creation of man; the formation of the first woman from the first man (formatio primae mulieris ex primo homine); the unity of the human race; the original happiness of our first parents in a state of justice, integrity and immortality; the precept given by God to man in order to test his obedience; the transgression of the divine precept under the persuasion of the devil in the guise of a serpent; the fall of our first parents from the aforesaid primaeval state of innocence; and the promise of a future Saviour?

Response: In the negative (Negative).30

It was precisely as a result of taking the six Latin words emphasised above in isolation, as if the PBC intended them to be a sufficient statement of orthodoxy, that some theologians developed the undoubtedly ‘creative’, but sadly ill-founded, hypothesis that Adam and Eve may have been mutant twin embryos.31 For homo, in itself, can mean a human being of any age, and the PBC formula does not directly specify any details as to how this "formatio ... ex primo homine" took place. But in fact, the Commission's decision does exclude the said hypothesis quite clearly, although indirectly, by virtue of the opening lines of the question which it answers in the negative. The PBC does not say here that Catholics are forbidden to call into question "the formation of the first woman from the first man". Rather, it says they are forbidden to call in question "the literal, historical sense" of the Genesis text which narrates that "formation". And since nobody could possibly claim that "the literal, historical sense" of Genesis 2: 21-22, where Adam plainly appears as a sleeping adult, is compatible with a scenario of tiny pre-born mutants undergoing monozygotic fission, that scenario is certainly ruled out. A fortiori, of course, any purely ‘symbolic’ or metaphorical kind of "formatio ... ex primo homine" is ruled out by this PBC "Response".

So far we have seen an impressive accumulation of patristic, theological and magisterial testimony to the literal, historical formation of Eve's body from the side of sleeping, adult Adam. It is now time to assess the degree of binding force which this doctrine had acquired by the time these documents were promulgated. But first, a brief word regarding the reasonableness of this doctrine, in the light of what is known from the human, secular sciences.


IV. Reason's Nihil Obstat

Scientists in recent years have been publishing an increasing body of literature presenting discoveries and arguments which radically undermine the credibility of the long geological time-scale and of macro-evolution in any shape or form. I will not trespass here on their territory, which lies outside out of my own modest field of competence, and will merely offer the following methodological thoughts.

Even if we supposed, for the sake of argument, that convincing proof did exist that evolution was, in general terms, the law by which organisms have originated and developed to their present state over the ages, this would by no means, in itself, constitute proof — or even any measurable probability — that the human species in particular originated in that way. In the absence of a priori incredulity about the possibility of miracles — which is a mistaken philosophical position, not a genuinely scientific one — such general evidence for evolution would indicate, at the most, that in the absence of any other reliable evidence to the contrary, one should presume that human origins occurred according to the general evolutionary law of nature. For it is obvious that no direct examination of the first members of the species homo sapiens will ever be possible to scientists. (Even that arch-champion of evolution among Roman Catholics, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, conceded "that science cannot scrutinize the activities of a unique pair of humans at some distant point in time".32) Even supposing that palaeontologists one day had the astonishingly good fortune to find some fragmentary mortal remains of these very first members of our species, there would surely be no way for those remains ever to be certainly identified as such. Much less could scientists ever determine positively, even supposing (per impossibile) that some such fragments could be proven to come from the first human female, that this woman had not been formed miraculously from someone else's side. No conceivable DNA tests, genetic information, molecular analysis, or anything else of that sort could, even in principle, justify this kind of flat negation of supernatural causality, for the simple reason that a special intervention of divine omnipotence is, by its very nature, quite capable of duplicating any conceivable state of affairs that is normally brought about by natural causes and is open to empirical observation and interpretation by science.

To recapitulate: no natural science, per se, could ever reasonably postulate more than a presumption of the first woman's evolutionary origin, in the absence of other serious reasons for thinking that she originated otherwise. But of course, a divine revelation on this point would constitute such a reason — indeed, the most serious of all possible reasons! A perfect analogy and precedent to illumine this question regarding the origin of the first Adam and Eve is at hand in the case of what Catholic faith teaches about the Second Adam and his origin from the Second Eve. In the absence of any serious reason for thinking otherwise, we would naturally be led to presume, on the basis of scientifically known laws of nature, that Jesus, like all the rest of us, was conceived by male-female intercourse. But in fact, revelation prevails against this presumption by assuring us that the case of Our Lord’s sonship of Mary was unique and supernatural. Indeed, given the frequently manifested harmony and symmetry in God’s providential designs between Creation and Redemption, Old and New Covenants, Nature and Grace, this very revealed fact of Jesus’ miraculous origin, at that moment when human nature was elevated to the incomparable splendour of union with the Word, suggests to the devout and reflective Christian mind a certain a priori likelihood that God might well have adorned with another miracle (or miracles) that prior and primordial moment when animal nature first became united with spirit, thereby resulting in the first bodily creatures made in God's image and likeness — foreshadowing the Incarnation itself. Therefore, the rational theological step at this point is to investigate Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium on their own merits — that is, without allowing any question-begging evolutionist biases to prejudice our interpretation and evaluation of these sources — in order to determine whether revelation does in fact testify to the occurrence of some such miracle(s) at the origin of the human race.

That, of course, is what I am attempting to do in this essay, observing, indeed, a basic procedural norm in the faith-reason relationship which Vatican II recalled in treating of the inerrancy of Scripture. The Council cites Leo XIII in Providentissimus as recalling the age-old wisdom of Augustine:

But if some dispute should arise [between faith and science], the same Doctor sums up the rule to be followed by the theologian: If they have been able to demonstrate some truth of natural science with solid proofs, let us show that it is not contrary to our Scriptures; but if they maintain anything in any of their treatises which is contrary to Scripture (that is, to the Catholic faith), let us believe without hesitation that it is completely false, and if possible find a way of refuting it.33

Now let us to turn to assess the degree of binding force of the doctrinal sources we have surveyed so far.

(To be continued in the next issue)


1. Gen. 2: 21-23, New American Bible translation.

2. It is probable that Paul implicitly confirmed his repeated assertion to the Corinthians in his speech to the Athenians, which includes the proclamation, in a statement clearly intended as historical, that "God has made the whole human race from one" (Acts 17: 26). The meaning would clearly be "from one man", reflecting the Apostle’s understanding that the first woman, as much as the rest of the human race, came physically from Adam. However some textual variants have "from one blood", which would be less conclusive in this respect. A similar textual uncertainty weakens the force of Sirach 17: 5, which many classical writers, including Aquinas (ST, Ia, Q. 92, a. 2, sed contra), cite as further biblical proof of Eve’s formation from Adam. This verse, which begins, "And [God] created from him [i.e., from the first man] a helpmate similar to him", is absent in some important manuscripts.

3. "Nec enim toleranda est eorum ratio, qui ex istis difficultatibus sese expediunt, id nimirum dare non dubitantes, inspirationem divinam ad res fidei morumque, nihil præterea, pertinere, eo quod falso arbitrentur, de veritate sententiarum cum agitur, non adeo exquirendum quænam dixerit Deus, ut non magis perpendatur, quam ob causam ea dixerit" (DS 3291 [EB 124], emphasis added for the lines given in English above).

4. One could almost imagine finding the following entry in a certain type of modern catechism:
Q. When is an affirmation not an affirmation?
A. When it's subordinate to a higher or more fundamental affirmation.

No one, of course, would ever think for a moment of playing this preposterous hermeneutical game with any piece of merely human literature; for in the case of any work other than the Bible, no one feels obligated to pay even lip-service to its "inerrancy". Could we imagine any historian replying to an unfavorable review of one of his books along the following lines? "This is unfair! This reviewer has employed a blatantly fundamentalist approach in interpreting my book! Those historically inexact details he highlights aren’t ‘errors’, for crying out loud! I don’t really affirm any of them! They’re all just mentioned in passing! My only true purpose and intention in those passages is to affirm the broad sweep or outline of events in that historical period, and to present an overall thesis regarding their root causes."

5. The original text of the last 25 words in the above English translation is "... quid hagiographi reapse significare intenderint et eorum verbis manifestare Deo placuerit." In the Abbott version of the Council documents, this sentence is incorrectly translated as though it had another "quid" between "et" and "eorum": the Council is made to say that interpreters should carefully investigate "what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words" (W. M. Abbott [ed.], The Documents of Vatican II [London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1967] p. 120). This of course favors the false distinction criticized in our main text above.

6. Cf. Contra Celsum, 1, IV, ch. 38, in Migne, PG, vol. VIII, n. 530, p.631.

7. Cf. De Gen. contra Manich., II, 12, 17.

8. Cf. De Gen. ad Litteram, VIII, 2.

9. Cf. De Gen. ad Litteram, IX, 15-16; De Civitate Dei, XII, 21, 23, 27; In Joannem, Tract. IX, 10; In Psalm. 56, 11. For this research into St. Augustine’s position I am indebted to G. Van Noort, De Deo Creatore, 2nd. edn. (Amsterdam: Van Langenhuysen, 1912), pp. 116-117, note 2.

10. "Si comprende allora quanto sia importante lo studio dei Padri per una più profonda intelligenza della Sacra Scrittura, e come sia decisivo per la Chiesa il loro accordo sull’interpretazione della medesima" (AAS 62 [1970], p. 425).

11. AAS 67 (1975), pp. 470-471. Paul VI then goes on to quote a number of passages from various Council documents stressing the perennial importance of Patristic studies.

12. Cajetan objected that if Adam began with an extra rib, he would have been a ‘monster’ — something which God would never create; but if, on the other hand, Adam was created with the normal number of ribs, then, argued Cajetan, he was left mutilated by God after the creation of Eve — something equally unjust and absurd before sin merited any kind of penalty (cf. Cajetan’s Commentarii, Vol. I, p. 22). But the ‘Angelic Doctor’ had already answered that objection to the satisfaction of all other classical theologians. Aquinas argued that Adam was indeed created with one more rib than a perfectly formed man needs for his own individual well-being. But this did not make the first man a "monster" with a superfluous body part. Rather, the extra rib was given to him uniquely, for the sake of the species; for, in view of his own headship of the race, the first woman too was to be formed from his own substance. St. Thomas sees this as analogous with a man’s semen, which is not given for the sake of his own bodily life, but for continuing the life of the species. Its release and loss from the individual for procreative purposes is no ‘mutilation’; and so, reasons Thomas, neither would the loss of Adam’s rib for the sake of the new species have constituted any kind of penalty or mutilation. (Cf. ST, Ia, Q. 92, a. 3, ad. 2 & 3.)

13. Cf. Van Noort, loc. cit.

14. "... ad universum populum Dei " (note prior to DS 444). According to the editorial note introducing the earlier epistle addressed only to the king (DS 441-443), it was in the subsequent (universal) epistle that "Fides [the Pope’s profession of faith], seems to have appeared for the first time in its entirety, that is, with a repetition of the text presented below (... in hac altera ep. primum Fides qua tota exstitisse videtur, repetito scl. textu infra posito)" That "text presented below" includes the statement about Adam and Eve cited in note 15 below.

15. "Omnes enim homines ab Adam usque ad consummationem sæculi natos et mortuos cum ipso Adam eiusque uxore, qui non ex aliis parentibus nati sunt, sed alter de terra, alter [altera] autem de costa viri creati sunt, tunc resurrecturos esse confiteor et adstare ante tribunal Christi (...)"(DS 443, emphasis added).

16. In fact, none of those many theologians this writer has consulted refers to Pope Pelagius’ intervention.

17. The text of this Sollemnis Professio Fidei is to be found in AAS 60 (1968), pp. 436-445. The Index to this volume of AAS, on p. 833, ranks this document ahead of both the Decretal Letters and Encyclical Letter (Humanae Vitae) published in the same year. Moreover, the Pope implicitly confirmed this evaluation of its importance ten years later, in the last public homily before his death. Reviewing the major acts of his pontificate, he recalled how he had constantly sought to hand on the authentic and orthodox faith, and mentioned a number of leading Encyclicals and Apostolic Exhortations. But then he added: "But above all We do not wish to forget our Profession of Faith — the Credo of the People of God — which, just ten years ago, on 30 June 1968, We solemnly pronounced in the name of the whole Church and as a commitment of the whole Church. This was in order to recall, reaffirm, and re-emphasize the main points of the Church’s own faith, as they have been proclaimed by the most important Ecumenical Councils, at a moment when facile experimentations in doctrine seemed to be shaking the faith of both priests and laity, thus calling for a return to the sources". (Homily for Feast of SS. Peter and Paul, 29 June 1978, AAS 70 [1978], p. 396, present writer’s translation).

18. "... emisso iam spiritu perforari lancea sustinuit latus suum, ut exinde profluentibus undis aquae et sanguinis formaretur unica et immaculata ac virgo sancta mater Ecclesia, coniux Christi, sicut de latere primi hominis soporati Eva sibi in coniugium est formata, ut sic certae figurae primi et veteris Adae, qui secundum Apostolum ‘est forma futuri’ [cf. Rom. 5: 14], in nostro novissimo Adam, id est Christo, veritas responderet" (DS 901, = D 480, emphasis added).

19. An Illustrated and Comprehensive Catholic Bible Dictionary and Comprehensive History of the Books of the Holy Catholic Bible. (Boston: E.W. Sawyer, 1881 edn., reproduced in facsimile edition by Catholic Treasures [Monrovia, California: 1991]). The book was originally published, it seems, in the 1850s or early 1860s (Wiseman, named among the endorsing prelates as Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, held that position from 1850 to 1865).

20. Cf. ibid., p. 6.

21. Ibid., p. 45.

22. Ibid., pp. 3-4, second part of book, emphasis added. (The page numbering for the "Comprehensive History" of the biblical books begins again from 1 after p. 128, where the dictionary section, with entries in alphabetical order, finishes.)

23. "Hæc credit et prædicat Sancta Mater Ecclesia: Facturus Deus hominem ad imaginem et similitudinem suam, ut praeesset universæ terræ, corpori de limo terræ formato inspiravit spiraculum vitæ, animam scilicet de nihilo productam... . Primo autem homini et Hevæ uxori, e costa eius divinitus formatæ, benedicens ait: Multiplicamini et replete terram (Gen. 1, 28)" ("Schema reformatus constitutionis de doctrina catholica", ch 2, emphasis added). This text can be found in Acta et Decreta Sacrorum Conciliorum Recentiorum: Collectio Lacensis, Vol. VII, (Freiburg: Herder, 1890) cc. 554-555.

24. "Having carefully considered everything, the deputed Fathers are of the view that the doctrine in the proposed schema should be retained, while the form in which it is expressed can be changed (Omnibus perpensis Patribus deputatis visum est, ut doctrina in schemate proposita retineretur, ratio vero eam proponendi immutaretur)" (Collectio Lacensis, op. cit., c. 78).

25. "... Adam, ... cum uxore sua Heva matre cunctorum viventium" (ibid., c. 515).

26. Cf. B.W. Harrison, "Did the Human Body Evolve Naturally? A Forgotten Papal Declaration", Living Tradition 73-74, January/March 1998, pp.`1-20. (The article can also be found online at the Roman Theological Forum website: A slightly abbreviated version of the article was published as "A Forgotten Papal Declaration on Human Origins," The Latin Mass, Summer 1999, pp. 106-117. Apart from these publications of my own, and others quoting them, I have since found only one fleeting mention of the Arcanum passage in other published works on creation: referring to St. Augustine’s view that the formation of Eve from Adam’s side was "a sacred symbol, a magnum mysterium, of something which was to be realized in the order of Redemption," Fr. E. C. Messenger (Evolution and Theology (New York: Macmillan, 1932) simply remarks — without any footnote references or actual citation from Arcanum — that this point "is clear in tradition from St. Paul down to the Encyclical Arcanum of Leo XIII" (p. 264). Messenger strongly defended the evolution of Adam, but recognized that it would be unorthodox to extend such a theory to the origin of Eve.

27. §5 begins as follows: "Constat inter omnes, Venerabiles Fratres, quae vera sit matrimonii origo. — Quamvis enim fidei christianæ vituperatores perpetuam hac de re doctrinam Ecclesiæ fugiant agnoscere, et memoriam omnium gentium, omnium sæculorum delere iamdiu contendant, vim tamen lucemque veritatis nec extinguere nec debilitare potuerunt. Nota omnibus et nemini dubia commemoramus; posteaquam sexto creationis die formavit Deus hominem de limo terræ, et inspiravit in faciem eius spiraculum vitæ, sociam illi voluit adiungere, quam de latere viri ipsius dormientis mirabiliter eduxit. Qua in re hoc voluit providentissimus Deus, ut illud par coniugum esset cunctorum hominum naturale principium, ex quo scilicet propagari humanum genus, et, numquam intermissis procreationibus conservari in omne tempus oporteret. Atque illa viri et mulieris coniunctio, quo sapientissimis Dei consiliis responderet aptius, vel ex eo tempore duas potissimum, easque in primis nobiles, quasi alte impressas et insculptas præ se tulit proprietates, nimirum unitatem et perpetuitatem" (Acta Sanctæ Sedis 12 [1879-1880], p. 386, emphasis added). The above English translation is that of the present writer.

28. Those words can also refer to male animals, but the context makes it clear when they refer to humans. Cf., for example: the reference to Gen. 17: 23 in the following footnote (some infants would probably have been among the mares whom Abraham circumcised); the Vulgate version of I Kings 11: 15: "cum ... occidisset omne masculinum in Idumea" ("... had killed every male in Idumea"); and of Exodus 1: 16-17, where the infant Hebrew boys ordered to be killed by Pharaoh are referred to as masculus and mares.

29. Cf. under vir in Lewis & Short’s standard Latin Dictionary. Even though vir is initially defined here as meaning "a male person, a man", the many examples given to show the different usages of this word in classical Latin indicate that it practically always means an adult "male person". At the very end of their lengthy treatment (subdivision ‘G’), Lewis & Short quote a couple of rare poetic usages of the plural (viri) in which the word means the same as homines, that is, human beings in general, prescinding from sex. This seems to be the case in one unusual expression found in the Latin Vulgate, where we read in Gen. 17: 23 that Abraham circumcised cunctos mares ex omnibus viris domus suæ, literally, "all the males among the men of his house." Since there could be no females among "the men" of his house, the expression would be tautological unless viris here means "people" in general. Apart from this, my computer-assisted search of the Vulgate text does not unearth any instance in which vir would clearly be meant broadly enough to include a male infant or embryo as well as an adult. It has been drawn to my attention that John Paul II, in Mulieris Dignitatem #7, arguably uses vir in the more comprehensive sense; but this example is far from clear-cut. What the Holy Father says here is: "Homo — sive vir sive mulier — unica est creaturarum mundi visibilis, quam Deus Creator ‘propter seipsam voluit’" ("Man — whether man or woman — is the only being among the creatures of the visible world that God the Creator ‘has willed for its own sake’"). It is clear, indeed, that the Pope is talking about human beings of any age; but the principal subject of the main verb here is "Homo", which of course very frequently means "man" in the broader sense. The Pope adds "sive vir sive mulier" merely as a parenthetical after-thought, just to clarify that he does not mean "Homo" in the narrower, exclusively masculine sense.

30. DS 3514 (= D 2123), emphasis added.

31. As far as the present writer can discover, the first Catholic who suggested that Adam and Eve may have been twins was J. Paquier, in his book La Création et l’Evolution, la Révélation et la Science (Paris: Gabalda, 1932), p. 132. Paquier is cited to this effect by J. Gross ("The Problem of Origins in Recent Theology") in the post-war sequel to Messenger’s Evolution and Theology. Cf. E.C. Messenger (ed.), Theology and Evolution (London & Glasgow: Sands & Co., 1950), p. 144.

32. Teilhard (The Phenomenon of Man, tr. B. Wall (New York: Harper & Bros., 1959, p. 185, note) is paraphrased in these words by D. Bonnette in Origin of the Human Species (Amsterdam & Atlanta, Rodopi, 2001, p. 114).

33. "Sin tamen dissenserint, quemadmodum se gerat theologus, summatim est regula ab eodem oblata: Quidquid, inquit, ipsi de natura rerum veracibus documentis demonstrare potuerint, ostendamus nostris Litteris non esse contrarium; quidquid autem de quibuslibet suis voluminibus his nostris Litteris, idest catholicæ fidei, contrarium protulerint, aut aliqua etiam facultate ostendamus, aut nulla dubitatione credamus esse falsissimum” (EB 121, referenced in note 5 to Dei Verbum #11).

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