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Do Catholic geologists still take seriously (as literal chronology) Eccles 1:4 "the earth abideth forever" which Saint Thomas Aquinas cites inter alia in his discussion of God and eternity in Summa Theologica?

Accordingly, however, as some receive immutability from Him, they share in His eternity. Thus some receive immutability from God in the way of never ceasing to exist; in that sense it is said of the earth, "it standeth for ever" (Eccles. 1:4).

(Summa Theologica, First Part, Question 10, Article 3)

That is, does Catholic doctrine dictate that Catholic geologists must believe that the Earth is eternal and has existed forever?

(This doctrinal question arose among comments to a different question that was put on hold as off-topic.)

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  • First: Are you asking whether Catholicism officially holds that the physical Earth is eternal? (I believe so, but it could use clarification.) Second: Are you speaking of this reference? If so you should quote and cite it. Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 21:25
  • I have added the reference as you suggest. I don't know whether there is an official answer to the question. Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 22:07
  • Neither do I but one might be able to put something together. Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 22:14
  • I edited the question to be a bit clearer, since some people have voted to close as "unclear". Please edit again or revert if you feel I've misinterpreted the question. Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 16:06
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    The question seems to insert a meaning to the word "Standeth" that was not intended by the original author. The Catholic Church does not in any way suggest that the earth has existed forever,and niether does Solemon. This seems to be a confusion dealing more with Hermeneutics then doctrine.
    – Marc
    Commented Apr 11, 2015 at 12:48

1 Answer 1

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Unpacking erroneous reasoning and conclusion.

How does

Eccl: 1:4 A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains for ever.

together with

St. Thomas: Thus some receive immutability from God in the way of never ceasing to exist; in that sense it is said of the earth, "it standeth for ever" (Eccles. 1:4).

mean

the Earth is eternal and has existed forever.

The very St. Thomas quote that the OP presents indicate just the contrary.

as some receive immutability from Him, they share in His eternity. Thus some receive immutability from God in the way of never ceasing to exist[.]

My reading of this is that it is not that the "some" (earth being an example) that St. Thomas speaks about are eternal and have existed forever, but that [with their creation] they have received immutability from God in the way of never ceasing to exist[.]

Thus those "some" (according to Catholic teaching e.g. the Angels and our souls) have a beginning and no end and not that they are eternal and have existed forever.

It is Catholic belief consistent with Scripture [Cf. Gn 1:1] that everything apart from God has been created by God and had a beginning. Cf. the Creed.

The Apostles Creed I believe in God,the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

The Nicene Creed We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen.


The Catholic Church has always taught that the earth had a beginning and the God was its creator. The theory of an an ageless, steady-state Universe is of science.


What is the Church's relationship with science?

The Church's business is the salvation of souls and teaching faith and morals. What the Church does as regards the sciences is make a judgment as to whether a science or its methodology or its conclusions are in accordance with or contrary to faith and morals, and it to this judgment that her children must adhere (vs. dictate what the believe) if they care for the salvation of their souls.

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