Genesis 2 :  But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat. For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death.
There are two Catholic exegesis of this one, and they do not contradict, though they do not say the same either. Rather they are complementary.
The most important one, since concerned directly with salvation matter, is that the same day that Adam ate of the fruit - literally same 24 hour period, even same hour - he died spiritually from grace.
He had enjoyed the life of grace without effort, he died from it by sinning, and he was to regain it by penance. But that day, he died.
Committing a mortal sin and retaining the life of grace are not compatible.
For this we have for instance St Gregory the Great.
The less important one is this, that he died physically within the same 1000 years.
Psalm 89 :  For a thousand years in thy sight are as yesterday, which is past. And as a watch in the night,
This is paraphrased in NT, probably already Jewish tradition, as:
II Peter 3 :  But of this one thing be not ignorant, my beloved, that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
So, there is in fact one application for this principle in Genesis, namely in Genesis 2:17. Adam died within one thousand years:
Genesis 5 :  And all the time that Adam lived came to nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.
And we can be sure Eve did not survive him for more than seventy years, and most probably not even that long. Genesis 2:17 is correctly fulfilled by the fact that Adam and Eve died the same millennium in which they ate of the fruit that was forbidden to them.
Here is a quote from Justin Martyr about it:
"For as Adam was told that in the day he ate of the tree he would die, we know that he did not complete a thousand years [Gen. 5:5]. We have perceived, moreover, that the expression ‘The day of the Lord is a thousand years’ [Ps. 90:4] is connected with this subject" (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 81 [A.D. 155]).
It's source is this page on Catholic Answers:
Creation and Genesis*
It would behasty to conclude from this, as they do, that this applies to the days of creation as well, but it remains that it applies to Genesis 2:17.
As I quoted the page, where it quotes Church Father St Justin (and it quotes St Irenaeus in exactly the same sense) I will now quote an introductory passage which is not a Patristic quote and refute it, dividing into parts:
- The writings of the Fathers, who were much closer than we are in time and culture to the original audience of Genesis, show that this was not the case. There was wide variation of opinion on how long creation took.
- There were two opinions : a creation that took six ordinary days confirmed by the seventh day of rest, and a creation that was timeless, and therefore one instant. The latter was the view of Origen (it seems) and at least partly of St Augustine.
The latter however first gives the one week explanation, and after explaining the one moment one, he adds that the one week one is OK, if someone thinks the one moment one is too complicated.
- Some said only a few days; others argued for a much longer, indefinite period.
- No one actually did argue for a much longer period. Where Clement says "indefinite" he also says
That, then, we may be taught that the world was originated and not suppose that God made it in time
Note, he doesn't say : "That, then, we may be taught that the world was originated and not suppose that God made it in
He says indefinite and dateless, but if this were to be taken as "a much longer period", that certainly would involve a creation in time.
"Not in time" does not mean in a long time, it can only mean, precisely as St Augustine later takes it to mean in a single instant. A long time can not be same thing as or compatible with "not in time". Or same thing as or compatible with "x did not happen in time" or "God did not do x in time".
- Those who took the latter view appealed to the fact "that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Pet. 3:8; cf. Ps. 90:4), that light was created on the first day, but the sun was not created till the fourth day (Gen. 1:3, 16), and that Adam was told he would die the same "day" as he ate of the tree, yet he lived to be 930 years old (Gen. 2:17, 5:5).
- I further divide into two parts, one with first and last, one with middle.
- III a
- Those who took the latter view appealed to the fact "that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Pet. 3:8; cf. Ps. 90:4), ... and that Adam was told he would die the same "day" as he ate of the tree, yet he lived to be 930 years old (Gen. 2:17, 5:5).
- As seen, this applies to Genesis 2:17 as such, but neither St Justin nor St Irenaeus are quoted as applying it also to the days of Creation, nor do we have any other reason to suppose they did so.
- III b
- ... that light was created on the first day, but the sun was not created till the fourth day (Gen. 1:3, 16), ...
- Or for that matter, that sun, moon and stars were created fourth day, but plants a day earlier.
The two quotes given about 4th day are by a) Theophilus who says:
"On the fourth day the luminaries came into existence. Since God has foreknowledge, he understood the nonsense of the foolish philosophers who were going to say that the things produced on earth come from the stars, so that they might set God aside. In order therefore that the truth might be demonstrated, plants and seeds came into existence before the stars. For what comes into existence later cannot cause what is prior to it" (To Autolycus 2:15 [A.D. 181]).
So, no contradiction to one week creation, and by b) Origen who says:
And with regard to the creation of the light upon the first day . . . and of the [great] lights and stars upon the fourth . . . we have treated to the best of our ability in our notes upon Genesis, as well as in the foregoing pages, when we found fault with those who, taking the words in their apparent signification, said that the time of six days was occupied in the creation of the world" (ibid., 6:60).
Where we do get a contradiction to the one week creation, but no contradiction to the one moment creation.
We know from St Augustine that at least he thought Origen was a proponent of the latter, and at least in books 5 and 6 of De Genesi ad Literam, St Augustine follows suit.
- Catholics are at liberty to believe that creation took a few days or a much longer period,
- As per Church Fathers more like that creation took a few days and no time at all.
- Skipping some
- references to non-patristic and I presume apostatic material. Yes, I consider Humani Generis, at least as usually received, to be an incitation to Apostasy. The allocution to UNO scientists next year (1951, Nov.22) even more so. The so called "Catechism of the Catholic Church" is even post-Vatican II and in its beginning is anti-scholastic, so as to say the five ways of St Thomas are not scientific proofs.
- The following quotations from the Fathers show how widely divergent early Christian views were.
- Actually, the divergence between Fathers is only between the two options of six literal days or one moment.
But some quotes are thrown in "for good measure", which seem to indicate sth about thousands of years. The two which apply this to Genesis 2:17 we have already dealt with, but there is also the idea that the days of creation (literally one week) prefigure six thousand years of history after creation (literally six thousand years) because of this correspondence.
One of them literally contradicts the idea old agers would have us believe:
"All the years from the creation of the world [to Theophilus’ day] amount to a total of 5,698 years and the odd months and days. . . . [I]f even a chronological error has been committed by us, for example, of 50 or 100 or even 200 years, yet [there have] not [been] the thousands and tens of thousands, as Plato and Apollonius and other mendacious authors have hitherto written. And perhaps our knowledge of the whole number of the years is not quite accurate, because the odd months and days are not set down in the sacred books" (ibid., 3:28–29).
In other words, Theophilus of Antioch is actually calling Plato and Apollonius liars for being old earthers (though much more moderate ones than the Evolutionists and Old Earth Creationists are).
So, I presume that a few readers of this tract on Creation and Genesis first got an impression that Church Fathers allowed long ages in creation week, by the introductory paragraphs, then confirmed the impression by a prejudiced reading of following quotes, then were confronted with the proposal that this or that quote does not mean so at all, then got the impression that Church Fathers really didn't express themselves very clearly, and one must rely on expertise and a kind of monitoring of "present magisterium" by Holy Spirit at every little step to understand that the Church Fathers said sth which ... in reality they did not say. Sadly, such lack of reading skills is not in my fifteen years as a creationist debater a very uncommon thing, especially if the correct and obvios meaning for some reason is unwelcome to the reader.
So, answering questions in title : yes, the physical death of Adam occurred same millennium as his eating the forbidden fruit, and, no, there are no long age implications for creation week itself, neither logically, nor Biblically, nor Patristically.
Hans Georg Lundahl
Vigil of St Andrew, Apostle
* Nihil obstat by Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004, Imprimatur by +Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004. The fact they could give a nihil obstat or imprimatur to such slush argues that these safeguards (since back in early days of printing) are of no meaning in the Novus Ordo establishment, meaning it is not the Catholic Church.