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Hexameron

Hexameron

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The term Hexameron refers either to the genre of theological treatise that describes God's work on the six days of creation or to the six days of creation themselves. Most often these theological works take the form of commentaries on Genesis 1. As a genre, hexameral literature was popular in the early church and medieval periods. The word derives its name from the Greek roots hexa-, meaning "six", and (h)emer(a), meaning "day".

Using the Genesis account as a template, the days of creation are claimed as follows:
  1. Light
  2. The firmament of Heaven
    Heaven
    Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

  3. Separation of water and land, created plant life;
  4. Sun, moon, and stars
  5. Marine life and birds
  6. Land animals, and man and woman.
  7. The seventh day is reserved for rest (Sabbath), and so is not counted.


Based on this framework, Christian and Jewish authors have written treatises that cover a wide variety of topics, including cosmology, science, theology, theological anthropology, and God's nature.

Saint Basil
Basil of Caesarea
Basil of Caesarea, also called Saint Basil the Great, was the bishop of Caesarea Mazaca in Cappadocia, Asia Minor . He was an influential 4th century Christian theologian...

 wrote an early and influential series of homilies around 370 AD which figure as the earliest extant Hexameron. Basil originally performed the work as a series of sermons, and later collected them into a written work which was influential among early church leaders.

Among the Latin Fathers, Ambrose and Augustine wrote some of the earliest extant hexameral literature. Ambrose's Hexameron is heavily influenced by Basil's work of the same name. In contrast, Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

 wrote several works that serve as commentaries on the Genesis narrative, including The Confessions
Confessions (St. Augustine)
Confessions is the name of an autobiographical work, consisting of 13 books, by St. Augustine of Hippo, written between AD 397 and AD 398. Modern English translations of it are sometimes published under the title The Confessions of St...

and The Literal Meaning of Genesis (written around 391). One of the more influential elements of Augustine's writings is his argument that God created the world all at once. At the same time, this instantaneous creation included a progression of events. Thus, creation happened over six days and in one single event.

Following these figures, medieval writers such as Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, O.P. , also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican priest of the Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis, or Doctor Universalis...

, Bonaventure
Bonaventure
Saint Bonaventure, O.F.M., , born John of Fidanza , was an Italian medieval scholastic theologian and philosopher. The seventh Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, he was also a Cardinal Bishop of Albano. He was canonized on 14 April 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV and declared a Doctor of the...

, and Robert Grosseteste
Robert Grosseteste
Robert Grosseteste or Grossetete was an English statesman, scholastic philosopher, theologian and Bishop of Lincoln. He was born of humble parents at Stradbroke in Suffolk. A.C...

  wrote hexameral literature.

Hexameral literature


Hexameral literature is the medieval Christian literature based on the creation myth found in the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis. It was commentary or elaboration, sometimes taking on encyclopedic scope, regarding the cosmological and theological implications of the world or universe created in six days.

It was didactic in nature. The approach continued in an important literary role until the seventeenth century.

Terminology


The Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

recognizes a difference between ‘hexaemeric’, pertaining to a ‘hexaemeron’ or six-day creation (or commentary thereon); and ‘hexameral’, meaning simply in six parts. This distinction is often slurred.

Not every ‘Hexameron’ or ‘Hexaemeron’ is actually part of the genre, since Genesis commentaries can have various themes. Hexameral historical theories, of six or seven eras, date back at least to the City of God of Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

.

History


This literary genre was founded by the Hexaemeron of Basil of Caesarea
Basil of Caesarea
Basil of Caesarea, also called Saint Basil the Great, was the bishop of Caesarea Mazaca in Cappadocia, Asia Minor . He was an influential 4th century Christian theologian...

; though it has been said that Philo
Philo
Philo , known also as Philo of Alexandria , Philo Judaeus, Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, Yedidia, "Philon", and Philo the Jew, was a Hellenistic Jewish Biblical philosopher born in Alexandria....

 started it.

Examples include:
  • Ambrose
    Ambrose
    Aurelius Ambrosius, better known in English as Saint Ambrose , was a bishop of Milan who became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century. He was one of the four original doctors of the Church.-Political career:Ambrose was born into a Roman Christian family between about...

    , Hexaemeron, in Latin and the most influential
  • Augustine of Hippo, De Genesi ad litteram, 401-415, influenced by Plato
    Plato
    Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

     and Greek biology
  • The Venerable Bede, In Genesim.
  • Anastasius Sinaita
    Anastasius Sinaita
    Saint Anastasius Sinaïta or Anastasius of Sinai, also called Anastasios of Sinai, was a prolific and important seventh century Greek ecclesiastical writer, priest, monk, and abbot of Saint Catherine's Monastery at Mt. Sinai....

    , Hexaemeron
  • Henry of Langenstein
    Henry of Langenstein
    Henry of Langenstein, also known as Henry of Hesse the Elder was a German Scholastic philosopher, theologian and mathematician.-Biography:...

     (1385), Lecturae super Genesim


It extended into early modern times with the Sepmaines of Du Bartas, and Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost is an epic poem in blank verse by the 17th-century English poet John Milton. It was originally published in 1667 in ten books, with a total of over ten thousand individual lines of verse...

by John Milton
John Milton
John Milton was an English poet, polemicist, a scholarly man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell...

. According to Alban Forcione the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century saw ‘hexameral theatre’, and in particular the visionary holism represented by the De la creación del mundo (1615) of Alonso de Acevedo. There is a cusp between Du Bartas, very influential in his time, and Milton: Milton's different approach marks the effective literary end of the genre.

See also

  • Allegorical interpretations of Genesis
    Allegorical interpretations of Genesis
    An allegorical interpretation of Genesis is a reading of the biblical Book of Genesis that treats elements of the narrative as symbols or types. For example, Genesis 3 introduces a talking serpent, which many Christians understand to be Satan in disguise. This symbolism is accepted even by...

  • Framework interpretation (Genesis)
    Framework interpretation (Genesis)
    The framework interpretation is an interpretation of the first chapter of the Book of Genesis which holds that the seven-day creation account found therein is not a literal or scientific description of the origins of the universe; rather, it is an ancient religious text which outlines a...

  • Genesis creation narrative
  • Numerology
    Numerology
    Numerology is any study of the purported mystical relationship between a count or measurement and life. It has many systems and traditions and beliefs...

     for the implications of the number 6 in other mysticism.
  • Six Ages of the World
    Six Ages of the World
    The Six Ages of the World is a Christian historical periodization first written about by Saint Augustine circa 400 AD. It is based upon Christian religious events, from the creation of Adam to the events of Revelation...


External links