From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Hexameron)
Representation of the six days of creation.

The term Hexaemeron (Greek: Ἡ Ἑξαήμερος Δημιουργία Hē Hexaēmeros Dēmiourgia) can be used in one of two senses. In one sense, it refers to the Genesis creation narrative: corresponding to the creation of the light (day 1); the sky (day 2); the earth, seas, and vegetation (day 3); the sun and moon (day 4); animals of the air and sea (day 5); and land animals and humans (day 6). God then rests from his work on the seventh day of creation, the Sabbath.[1]

In a second sense, the Genesis creation narrative inspired a didactic[2] genre of Jewish and Christian literature known as the Hexaemeral literature. This literature was dedicated to the composition of commentaries, homilies, and treatises concerned with the exegesis of the biblical creation narrative through ancient and medieval times. The first Christian example of this genre was the Hexaemeron of Basil of Caesarea, and many other works went on to be written from authors including Augustine of Hippo, Jacob of Serugh, Jacob of Edessa, Bonaventure, and so on. These treatises would become popular and often cover a wide variety of topics, including cosmology, science, theology, theological anthropology, and God's nature.[3]

Although the Church Fathers wrote many Hexaemeron and a diversity of opinions existed on a broad range of subjects, they were united in their belief in God's primacy as the Creator; the occurrence of creation through the act of the divine Word (Christ) and the Spirit; on the created and not eternal nature of the world, God's creation of both the spiritual and material realms (including the human body and soul); and the continuing providential care over the creation by God. The Church Fathers primarily focused on the first two chapters of Genesis, as well as a few essential statements in the New Testament (John 1:1–4; 1 Corinthians 8:6).[4]


The word derives its name from the Greek roots hexa-, meaning "six", and hemer-, meaning "day". The word hexaemeric refers to that which pertains to a hexaemeron, and this is to be distinguished from hexaemeral, that which occurs in six parts.[citation needed]


Classical antiquity[edit]

The first extant witness was Philo of Alexandria's De opificio mundi, though he was not the founder of the genre: an earlier work in the genre that Philo had known of had been composed by Aristobulus of Alexandria. Though other such works from the Jewish tradition are thought to have existed from this era, none have survived or were known to later Christian exegetes.[5]

Late antiquity[edit]

Saint Basil wrote his own Hexaemeron across nine homilies on the basis of a three-day lecture series he delivered in 378. This text figures as the earliest extant Christian Hexaemeron. It was widely influential, being translated into multiple languages and resulting in the composition of many other Hexaemeron among his own contemporaries, including his brother Gregory of Nyssa and Ambrose.[6]

Among the Latin Fathers, Ambrose and Augustine of Hippo wrote some of the earliest extant hexaemeral literature. Ambrose's Hexaemeron is heavily influenced by Basil's work of the same name. In contrast, Augustine wrote several works that serve as commentaries on the Genesis narrative, including the final section of The Confessions and The Literal Meaning of Genesis (published in 416).[7]

Early modern period[edit]

The genre extended into early modern times with the Sepmaines of Du Bartas, and Paradise Lost by John Milton. According to Alban Forcione[8] 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. The approach continued in an important literary role until the seventeenth century.

List of Hexaemeron[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Sarna 1966, p. 1–2.
  2. ^ Christopher Kendrick, Milton: A Study in Ideology and Form (1986), p. 125.
  3. ^ Katsos 2023, p. 15–16.
  4. ^ De Beer 2015.
  5. ^ Matusova 2010, p. 1–2.
  6. ^ Kochańczyk-Bonińska 2016.
  7. ^ St. Augustine on Genesis, translated with notes by Edmund Hill, O. P., New City Press, 2002. Technically, Augustine wrote three commentaries on Genesis: On Genesis: A Refutation of the Manichees (c.388/389); An Unfinished Literal Commentary on Genesis (393-395); and The Literal Meaning of Genesis (begun c. 400, published 416). See Hill, pp. 13-15, 165 for more information on the dating of and relationship between these books.
  8. ^ Cervantes’ Night-Errantry: The Deliverance of the Imagination, in Jeremy Robbins, Edwin Williamson, E. C. Riley (editors), Cervantes: Essays in Memory of E. C. Riley, p. 43.
  9. ^ DeMarco 2014.
  10. ^ Glacken, p. 174.
  11. ^ Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Works of St. Augustine of Hippo" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  12. ^ Glacken, p. 196.
  13. ^ "Jacob of Serugh's "Hexaemeron"". www.peeters-leuven.be. Archived from the original on 2018-05-29. Retrieved 2019-09-14.
  14. ^ Dekker, Simeon (2021). "Parenthetical verbs as elements of diatribe in John the Exarch's Hexaemeron". Die Welt der Slaven (in German). 66 (2): 238–267. doi:10.13173/WS.66.2.238.
  15. ^ Smalley, B. (1953). "A Commentary on the Hexaemeron by Henry of Ghent". Recherches de théologie ancienne et médiévale. 20: 60–101. ISSN 0034-1266.
  16. ^ Nicholas H. Steneck (1976), Science and creation in the Middle Ages. Henry of Langenstein (d. 1397) on Genesis


Further reading[edit]

  • Dellie, Eudoxie. "Bibliographie secondaire sélective sur les Hexaéméra et les thématiques rattachées," Almagest (2020). Link.
  • Allert, Craig. Early Christian Readings of Genesis One: Patristic Exegesis and Literal Interpretation, InterVarsity Press, 2018.
  • Bouteneff, Peter. Beginnings: Ancient Christian Readings of the Biblical Creation Narratives, Baker Academic, 2008.
  • Corcoran, Mary Irma. Milton's Paradise with Reference to the Hexameral Background, 1945.
  • Freibergs, Gunar. "The Medieval Latin Hexameron from Bede to Grosseteste," Ph.D. dissertation (unpublished), University of Southern California, 1981.
  • Goroncy, Jason (ed). T&T Clark Handbook of the Doctrine of Creation, Bloomsbury, 2024.
  • Grant, E. Science and Religion, 400 BC-AD 1550: From Aristotle to Copernicus. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.
  • Kuehn, C. and J. Baggarly, eds. and trans. Anastasius of Sinai: Hexaemeron (OCA 278). Rome: Pontificio Istituto Orientale, 2007.
  • Louth, Andrews. "The Six Days of Creation According to the Greek Fathers" in Reading Genesis after Darwin, Oxford University Press, 2019.
  • Rasmussen, Adam. Genesis and Cosmology: Basil and Origen on Genesis 1 and Cosmogony, Brill, 2019.
  • Robbins, Frank Egleston. The Hexaemeral Literature: A Study of the Greek and Latin Commentaries on Genesis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1912.
  • Rudolph, Conrad, "In the Beginning: Theories and Images of Creation in Northern Europe in the Twelfth Century," Art History 22 (1999) 3-55
  • Williams, Arnold. The Common Expositor: An Account of the Commentaries on Genesis, 1527-1633, The University of North Carolina Press, 1948.
  • Young, Frances. God's Presence: A Contemporary Recapitulation of Early Christianity, Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 44–91.

External links[edit]