Fr.Seraphim Rose
Genesis, Creation and Early Man
Part I. An Orthodox Patristic Commentary of Genesis

Why Study the book of Genesis?

Why should we study such a book as Genesis? Why shouldn't we just be concerned to save our souls, instead of thinking about these things, like what is the world going to be like at the end, or what was it like at the beginning? We might get into trouble - Carl Sagan might come and fight with us. Isn't it safer to just occupy ourselves with saying our prayers, and not think about these great subjects? Why think about these remote things when we have to think about our salvation?

I've heard phrases like these. In answer to them, we can say, first of all, that there is a direct relation between how you behave and how you believe about mans origin. Fr. George Calciu, in his public addresses to young people living under communism in Romania, said: "You have been told that you descend from the apes, that you are a beast which must be trained." That can be a very powerful thing:

"Science proves we're just animals, and therefore, let's go out and blow up a church."

Secondly, the book of Genesis is apart of the Scriptures, and God gave us the Scriptures for our salvation. We're supposed to know the meaning of the Scriptures through all the commentaries of the Holy Fathers. The Fathers talked about the book of Genesis in church; all their commentaries were actually sermons given in church, because the book of Genesis is read in church on all weekdays during Great Lent. The great Fathers who did this were St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great, and St. Ambrose of Milan. Their sermons were taken down in shorthand by people who were in church listening to them, so that others could read them. Thus, the reading of these texts was considered a part of the everyday life of people who went to church. We have somewhat lost this idea nowadays. Therefore, the account of Genesis or the Apocalypse has become a very mysterious realm somehow. We are so scared of these subjects - but the Fathers were talking about them.

Finally (this is the big point): our Christianity is a religion which tells us about what we are going to be doing in eternal life. It is to prepare us for something eternal, not this world. If we think only about this world, our horizon is very limited, and we don't know what is after death, where we came from, where we're going, what is the purpose of life. When we talk about the beginning of things, or the end of things, we find out what our whole life is about.