1. The subject of the second part: The origins and ends of the two cities
THE City of God of which we are treating is vouched for by those Scriptures whose supremacy over every product of human genius does not depend on the chance impulses of the minds of men, but is manifestly due to the guiding power of God’s supreme providence, and exercises sovereign authority over the literature of all mankind. Now in this Scripture we find these words, ‘Glorious things have been said of you, City of God’, and in another psalm, ‘The Lord is great, and to be highly praised in the City of our God, in his holy mountain, spreading joy over the whole earth.’ And soon afterwards in the same psalm, ‘As we have heard, so have we seen, in the City of the Lord of Powers, in the City of our God: God has founded that City for eternity.’ Again, in yet another psalm, ‘The swift stream of the river brings gladness to the City of God: the Most High has sanctified his tabernacle; God in her midst will not be shaken.’1
From such testimonies as these – and it would take too long to quote them all – we have learnt that there is a City of God: and we have longed to become citizens of that City, with a love inspired by its founder. But the citizens of the earthly city prefer their own gods to the founder of this Holy City, not knowing that he is the God of gods; not, that is, the God of the false gods, the impious and arrogant gods who are deprived of his changeless light which is shed upon all alike, and are therefore reduced to a poverty-stricken kind of power, and engage in a kind of scramble for their lost dominions and claim divine honours from their deluded subjects. He is the God of the good and holy gods,2 who would rather have themselves in subjection to the one God than have many subjects for themselves. Their delight is to worship God rather than to be worshipped instead of God.
But we have already replied to the enemies of this Holy City, in the first ten books, to the best of our ability, with the assistance of our Lord and King. And now, knowing what is expected of me, and not forgetting my obligation, I will approach my task, relying always on the help of the same Lord and King. My task is to discuss, to the best of my power, the rise, the development and the destined ends of the two cities, the earthly and the heavenly, the cities which we find, as I have said, interwoven, as it were, in this present transitory world, and mingled with one another. And first I shall explain how the beginnings of those two cities arose from the difference between two classes of angels.
2. Of the knowledge of God, attainable only through the one Mediator
It is a great achievement, and no everyday matter, that man in his speculation should go beyond the created universe, having examined it, both in its material and immaterial aspects, and found it mutable, and arrive at the immutable being of God; and then should learn from him that everything which exists, apart from God himself, is the creation of God, and of him alone. For when God speaks to man in this way, he does not need the medium of any material created thing. He does not make sounds audible to bodily ears; nor does he use the kind of ‘spiritual’ intermediary which takes on a bodily shape, as happens in dreams or similar phenomena – for in such cases he speaks as it were to bodily ears, because he speaks, we may say, through the medium of a body, and, in a way, over a distance of physical space; indeed such visions have much in common with physical bothes. But when God speaks in the way we are talking of, he speaks by the direct impact of the truth, to anyone who is capable of hearing with the mind instead of with the ears of the body. He speaks to the highest of man’s constituent elements, the element to which only God himself is superior. For man is rightly understood – or, if this passes understanding, is believed – to be made ‘in the image of God’. And his nearness to God who is above him is certainly found in that part of man in which he rises superior to the lower parts of his nature, which he shares with the brute creation. And yet the mind of man, the natural seat of his reason and understanding, is itself weakened by long-standing faults which darken it. It is too weak to cleave to that changeless light and to enjoy it; it is too weak even to endure that light. It must first be renewed and healed day after day so as to become capable of such felicity. And so the mind had to be trained and purified by faith; and in order to give man’s mind greater confidence in its journey towards the truth along the way of faith, God the Son of God, who is himself the Truth, took manhood without abandoning his godhead, and thus established and founded this faith, so that man might have a path to man’s God through the man who was God. For this is ‘the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.’3 As man he is our Mediator; as man he is our way. For there is hope to attain a journey’s end when there is a path which stretches between the traveller and his goal. But if there is no path, or if a man does not know which way to go, there is little use in knowing the destination. As it is, there is one road, and one only, well secured against all possibility of going astray; and this road is provided by one who is himself both God and man. As God, he is the goal; as man, he is the way.
3. The authority of the canonical Scriptures
This Mediator spoke in former times through the prophets and later through his own mouth, and after that through the apostles, telling man all that he decided was enough for man. He also instituted the Scriptures, those which we call canonical. These are the writings of outstanding authority in which we put our trust concerning those things which we need to know for our good, and yet are incapable of discovering by ourselves. Now we ourselves are our own witnesses for the knowledge of things which are within reach of our senses, whether interior or exterior – hence they are said to be ‘present’, because, as we say, they are ‘before our senses’ (prae sensibus), as things accessible to sight are ‘before our eyes’. And so we clearly need other witnesses for things which are out of reach of our senses, since we cannot base our knowledge on our own evidence; and we trust the witnesses of those who, we believe, have, or have had, those things within reach of their senses. Thus, in the case of visible things which we ourselves have not seen, we believe those who have seen them, and similarly with respect to things related to the various senses. There are other matters which are perceived by the mind and the reason: and such perception is rightly described as a kind of sense; and that is why the term sententia denotes a mental process. Hence, in respect of invisible things which are out of reach of our own interior perception, we ought likewise to put our trust in witnesses who have learnt of those things, when they have been once presented to them in that immaterial light, or who behold them continually so displayed.
4. The creation of the world; not outside of time, yet not the result of any change in God’s design
Of all visible things the greatest is the world; of all invisible things the greatest is God. But the existence of the world is a matter of observation: the existence of God is a matter of belief. For the belief that God made the world we can have no more trustworthy witness than God himself. Where do we hear this witness? Nowhere, up to the present time, more clearly than in the holy Scriptures, where his prophet said: ‘In the beginning God made heaven and earth.’ Are we to suppose that the prophet was there, when God made them? No: but the Wisdom of God was there, and it was through that Wisdom that all things were made; and that Wisdom ‘passes also into holy souls and makes them friends of God and prophets’,4 and tells them, inwardly and soundlessly, the story of God’s works. The angels of God also speak to them, the angels who ‘always see the face of the Father’,5 and announce his will to those who are fit to know it. One such was the prophet who said and wrote, ‘In the beginning God made heaven and earth.’ He was so suitable a witness to produce belief in God that by inspiration of the same Spirit of God, through whom he learnt these truths revealed to him, he foretold even our faith, which was then so far off in the future.6
But why did the eternal God decide to make heaven and earth at that particular time, and not before?7 If the motive for this question is to make it appear that the world is eternal without beginning, and therefore not the creation of God, then the questioners are far away from the truth, and affected by the deadly madness of impiety. For, leaving aside the utterances of the prophets, we have the evidence of the world itself in all its ordered change and movement and in all the beauty it presents to our sight, a world which bears a kind of silent testimony to the fact of its creation, and proclaims that its maker could have been none other than God, the ineffably and invisibly great, the ineffably and invisibly beautiful.
There are some who admit that the world is created by God, but refuse to allow it a beginning in time, only allowing it a beginning in the sense of its being created, so that creation becomes an eternal process. There is force in this contention, in that such people conceive themselves to be defending God against the notion of a kind of random, fortuitous act; to prevent the supposition that the idea of creating the world suddenly came into his mind, as an idea which had never before occurred to him, that he happened to take a new decision, whereas in fact he is utterly insusceptible of change. But I cannot see how their reasoning will stand up in application to other things, and especially if applied to the soul. If they maintain that the soul is coeternal with God, how can it experience a change to unhappiness, to a condition from which it has been exempt for all eternity? This is something they will never be able to explain. For if they say there has been a perpetual alternation of the soul between misery and felicity, then they are forced to say that this alternation will continue for ever. And this leads them to this absurdity, that the soul is said to be happy, which is obviously impossible if it foresees its coming misery and degradation, while if it does not foresee this, but thinks that it will always enjoy happiness, its felicity is based on a mistake; and you could not have a more nonsensical proposition than that. If, on the other hand, they suppose that the soul has always alternated between felicity and misery throughout the infinity of past ages, but from now onwards, after its liberation, it will not return to a state of misery, they still lose the argument. They are saying that the soul was never truly happy in the past, but then begins to enjoy a kind of novel and genuine felicity, which is to admit that the soul has a new experience, something which had never before happened to it in all its eternity; and this new experience is something of remarkable importance! If they are going to deny that the production of this novelty has no part in God’s eternal plan, they will be saying at the same time that God is not the author of felicity, which is intolerable blasphemy. While if they say that even God himself decided on an alteration in his design, to give the soul felicity for all future eternity, how are they to show him to be exempt from the mutability which they also refuse to ascribe to God?8
If then they admit that the soul is created in time, and yet will never perish in the time to come (just as number has beginning but no end) and that therefore when it has been freed from the miseries which it has once experienced, it will never thereafter be unhappy, they will agree without demur that this happens without altering the immutability of the God’s design. In the same way let them believe that the world could have been created in time, and yet that would not mean that in the act of creation God made any change in his eternal purpose and design.
5. We are not to think about infinite time before the world, any more than about infinite space outside it. As there was no time before it, so there is no space outside it
These philosophers agree that the world was created by God, but they go on to ask us how we reply to questions about the date of creation. So let us now find out what they themselves would reply to questions about the position of the creation. For the question, ‘Why at this time and not previously?’ is on the same footing as, ‘Why in this place rather than that?’ For if they imagine that there were infinite stretches of time before the world existed, an infinity in which they cannot conceive of God’s being inactive, they will, on the same showing, imagine infinite stretches of space; and if anyone says that the Omnipotent could have been inoperative anywhere in that infinity, it will follow that they are compelled to share the Epicurean fantasy of innumerable worlds.9 The only difference would be that while Epicurus asserts that these worlds come into being and then disintegrate through the fortuitous movements of atoms, the Platonists will say that they are created by the action of God. This infinite number of worlds must follow, if they refuse to allow God to be inactive throughout the boundless immensity of space which stretches everywhere around the world, and if they hold that nothing can cause the destruction of those worlds, which is what they believe about this world of ours.
For we are now disputing with those who agree with us in believing that God is an immaterial being, the creator of all things other than himself. It would not be worth while to admit other pagans to this discussion on matters of religion, for this reason in particular; that among those who consider that the honours of worship should be paid to many gods, those Platonist philosophers excel all others in reputation and authority, just because they are nearer to the truth than the rest, even though they are a long way from it.
Now those thinkers have a right conception of God in that they do not confine his being to any place, nor set bounds to it, nor extend it spatially: they acknowledge that God’s being is everywhere entire, in his immaterial presence. Are they going to say that his being is absent from those immense tracts of space outside the world? That he is enclosed in this one space in which the world is situated, so tiny a space, compared with that infinity? I do not suppose that they will go in for such nonsense as this.
They say that this one world, for all its material vastness, is finite and bounded by its own space, and that it was created by the action of God. If they have an answer about the infinite spaces outside this world, if they can answer the question why God ‘ceases from his work’ in that infinity, then they can answer their own question about the infinity of time before the world, and why God was inactive then. It does not follow that it was by mere chance rather than by divine reason that God has established this world where it is and not elsewhere, since this space could be chosen among the infinite spaces available everywhere, with no differences of eligibility, even though the divine reason which determined the choice is beyond human comprehension. In the same way it does not follow that we conceive of anything fortuitous in God’s action in creating the world at that particular time rather than earlier, since the previous ages had passed without any difference which might make one time preferable to another.
Now if they assert that it is idle for men’s imagination to conceive of infinite tracts of space, since there is no space beyond this world, then the reply is: it is idle for men to imagine previous ages of God’s inactivity, since there is no time before the world began.
6. The beginning of the world and the beginning of time are the same
If we are right in finding the distinction between eternity and time in the fact that without motion and change there is no time, while in eternity there is no change, who can fail to see that there would have been no time, if there had been no creation to bring in movement and change, and that time depends on this motion and change, and is measured by the longer or shorter intervals by which things that cannot happen simultaneously succeed one another? Since God, in whose eternity there is no change at all, is the creator and director of time, I cannot see how it can be said that he created the world after a lapse of ages, unless it is asserted that there was some creation before this world existed, whose movements would make possible the course of time.
The Bible says (and the Bible never lies): ‘In the beginning God made heaven and earth.’ It must be inferred that God had created nothing before that; ‘in the beginning’ must refer to whatever he made before all his other works. Thus there can be no doubt that the world was not created in time but with time. An event in time happens after one time and before another, after the past and before the future. But at the time of creation there could have been no past, because there was nothing created to provide the change and movement which is the condition of time.
The world was in fact made with time, if at the time of its creation change and motion came into existence. This is clearly the situation in the order of the first six or seven days, in which morning and evening are named, until God’s creation was finished on the sixth day, and on the seventh day God’s rest is emphasized as something conveying a mystic meaning. What kind of days these are is difficult or even impossible for us to imagine, to say nothing of describing them.
7. Of the nature of the days when there was ‘morning and evening’ before the creation of the sun
In our experience, of course, the days with which we are familiar only have an evening because the sun sets, and a morning because the sun rises; whereas those first three days passed without the sun, which was made, we are told, on the fourth day. The narrative does indeed tell us that light was created by God, and that God separated that light from the darkness, and gave to the light the name of ‘day’, and to the darkness the name of ‘night’. But what kind of light that was, and with what alternating movement the distinction was made, and what was the nature of this evening and this morning; these are questions beyond the scope of our sensible experience. We cannot understand what happened as it is presented to us; and yet we must believe it without hesitation.
For either there was some material light, whether in the upper regions of the universe, far removed from our sight, or in the regions from which the sun later derived its light; or else the word ‘light’ here means the Holy City which consists of the holy angels and the blessed spirits, the City of which the Apostle speaks, ‘Jerusalem which is above, our mother, eternal in the heavens.’10 He certainly says in another place, ‘You are all the sons of light, sons of day: you do not belong to night and darkness.’11 But this latter interpretation depends on our being able to discover some appropriate meaning for ‘the evening and the morning’ of this day.
Now the knowledge of the creature is a kind of twilight, compared with the knowledge of the Creator; and then comes the daylight and the morning, when that knowledge is linked with the praise and love of the Creator; and it never declines into night, so long as the Creator is not deprived of his creature’s love. And in fact Scripture never interposes the word ‘night’, in the enumeration of those days one after another. Scripture never says, ‘Night came’; but, ‘Evening came and morning came; one day.’ Similarly on the second day and on all the rest. The creature’s knowledge, left to itself, is, we might say, in faded colours, compared with the knowledge that comes when it is known in the Wisdom of God, in that art, as it were, by which it was created. For that reason it can more appropriately be described as evening than as night. And yet that evening turns again to morning, as I have said, when it is turned to the praise and love of the Creator.
When the created light so acts in coming to the knowledge of itself, there is one day; when it comes to the knowledge of the firmament called heaven, between the lower and upper waters, there is the second day; when it comes to the knowledge of the earth and sea, and of all growing things, whose roots stretch into the ground, there is the third day; when to the knowledge of the luminaries, the greater and the lesser, and of all the stars, there is the fourth day; when to the knowledge of all the living things that come from the waters, creatures that swim and those that fly, there is the fifth day; when to knowledge of all land animals and of man himself, there is the sixth day.
8. How God’s rest on the seventh day is to be understood
When ‘God rested on the seventh day from all his works, and sanctified that day’, this is not to be understood in any childish way, as if God had toiled at his work, seeing that ‘he spoke and they were made’12 by a word which was intelligible and eternal, not vocal and temporal. No, the ‘rest of God’ means the rest of those who find their rest in him, just as ‘the joy of a house’ means the joy of those who rejoice in that house – even if it is not the house itself but something else which is responsible for the joy. How much more appropriate it would be if in fact the house itself were to make the inhabitants glad by reason of its beauty. In that case the house would be called joyful not by the figure of speech in which the container stands for the contents (as in ‘the theatre applauds’, when it is the audience that applauds, or ‘the pastures are lowing’, when it is the cattle that are calling) but by the figure in which the efficient cause stands for the effect – as in ‘a glad letter’, meaning a letter which makes the readers glad.
And so it is most appropriate that when God is said, on the authority of the prophetic narrative, to have ‘rested’, what is meant is the rest of those who find their rest in him, and to whom he gives rest. The prophecy promises this to men also, for it speaks to men, and was in fact written for men’s benefit. It promises them that they also, after the good works which God performs in them and through them, will have eternal rest in him, if they have already in some measure drawn near to him already in this life, through faith. For this promise is prefigured also by the Sabbath cessation from work in God’s ancient people, in obedience to the instructions of the Law. But I think that I must discuss this more fully in its own place.13
9. The scriptural evidence about angels
I have undertaken to treat of the origin of the Holy City, and I have decided that I must first deal with the subject of the holy angels. They form the greater part of that City, and the more blessed part, in that they have never been on pilgrimage in a strange land; and I shall be at pains to explain, with God’s aid, the information given on this subject in the inspired testimonies of Scripture, as far as shall seem sufficient. When the sacred writings tell of the making of the world, there is no explicit statement about whether the angels were created, or in what order they were created. But if they were not passed over in the narrative, they were referred to either under the name of ‘heaven’, when it is said that ‘in the beginning God created heaven and earth’, or, more probably, under the name of the ‘light’, about which I have been speaking.
I do not think that the angels were passed over, for this reason: that the Scripture says that God rested on the seventh day from all the works that he had done, while the whole book starts with the statement, ‘In the beginning God made heaven and earth.’ He began with heaven and earth, and the earth itself, which he made first, was, according to the next statement in Scripture, ‘invisible and disordered’ and, because light had not yet been created, ‘darkness was over the abyss’, that is, over a kind of confused and indistinct mass of land and water – since there must needs be darkness where light does not exist; then all things were set in order by God’s creative act, all the things which, in the narrative, were completed in the course of the six days. How, then, could the angels have been passed over, as though they were not among those works, from which God rested on the seventh day?
Now although the fact that angels are a work of God is not passed over in this narrative, it is not explicitly stated: but in other places the holy Scripture testifies to the fact with the utmost clarity. For the hymn of the three men in the furnace starts with the words, ‘Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord’;14 and in the enumeration of his works the angels are included. And in one of the psalms there are these verses:
Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him in the heights. Praise him, all his angels: praise him, all his powers. Praise him, sun and moon: praise him, all stars and light. Praise him heaven of heavens; and the waters which are above the heavens, let them praise the Lord. For he spoke, and things were made: he gave the command, and they were created.15
Will anyone now venture to suppose that the angels were created after all those things which were enumerated in the six days? However, if anyone is silly enough for this, he is refuted by another passage in Scripture, of equal authority, where God says, ‘When the stars were made, all my angels praised me with a loud voice.’16 That shows that angels already existed when the stars were made. Now the stars were created on the fourth day. Are we then to say that the angels were made on the third day? Most certainly not. For it is quite plain what was made on that day; the land was separated from the waters, and each of the two elements took on its characteristic and distinct appearance; and the dry land produced all that has its roots in it. On the second day, then? No, indeed. For then the firmament was made between the upper and lower waters, and was called ‘heaven’; this is the firmament in which the stars were made on the fourth day. The obvious conclusion is that if the angels are among the works of God of those days, they are that light which received the name of ‘day’. And the unity of that day is underlined by its not being called ‘the first day’, but ‘one day’. Thus the second day, and the third, and the rest are not different days; the same ‘one day’ was repeated to complete the number of six or seven, to represent the seven stages of knowledge, the six stages comprehending the created works, and the seventh stage embracing God’s rest.
For when God said, ‘Let there be light’, and light was created, then, if we are right in interpreting this as including the creation of the angels, they immediately become partakers of the eternal light, which is the unchanging Wisdom of God, the agent of God’s whole creation; and this Wisdom we call the only begotten Son of God. Thus the angels, illuminated by that light by which they were created, themselves became light, and are called ‘day’, by participation in the changeless light and day, which is the Word of God, through whom they themselves and all other things were made. This is ‘the true light, which illuminates every man as he comes into this world’;17 and this light illuminates every pure angel, so that he is not light in himself, but in God. If an angel turns away from God he becomes impure: and such are all those who are called ‘impure spirits’. They are no longer ‘light in the Lord’;18 they have become in themselves darkness, deprived of participation in the eternal light. For evil is not a positive substance: the loss of good has been given the name of ‘evil’.19
10. In the Trinity quality and substance are the same
There is then one sole Good, which is simple, and therefore unchangeable; and that is God. By this Good all good things were created; but they are not simple, and for that reason they are changeable. They are, I say, created, that is to say, they are made, not begotten. For what is begotten by the simple Good is itself equally simple, identical in nature with its begetter: and these two, the begetter and the begotten, we call the Father and the Son; and these two, with their Spirit, are one God; and this Spirit is called, in holy Scripture, the ‘Holy Spirit’ of the Father and the Son, ‘Holy’ being used with special significance, as a kind of proper name. Now the Spirit is other than the Father and the Son, since he is not the Father or the Son; but I said ‘other’, not ‘another thing’, because this Good also is equally simple, equally changeless, and co-eternal. This Trinity is one God; the fact that it is a Trinity does not mean that it is not simple. For when we speak of this Good as being by nature simple, we do not mean that it consists solely of the Father, or solely of the Son, or solely of the Holy Spirit, or that there is really only a nominal Trinity, without subsistent Persons; that is the notion of the Sabellian heretics.20 What is meant by ‘simple’ is that its being is identical with its attributes, apart from the relation in which each person is said to stand to each other. For the Father of course has the Son; and yet he himself is not the Son; and the Son has the Father; and yet he himself is not the Father. But when each is regarded in himself, not in relation to the other, his being is identical with his attributes. Thus each in himself is said to be living, because he has life; and at the same time he himself is life.
The reason why a nature is called simple is that it cannot lose any attribute it possesses, that there is no difference between what it is and what it has, as there is, for example, between a vessel and the liquid it contains, a body and its colour, the atmosphere and its light or heat, the soul and its wisdom. None of these is what it contains; the vessel is not the liquid, nor the body the colour, nor the atmosphere the light or heat; nor is the soul the same as its wisdom. Hence things of this sort may be deprived of what they have, and adopt other qualities and different attributes; the full vessel may be emptied of its liquid, the body lose its colour, the atmosphere become dark or cold, the soul become stupid. And even if a body is incorruptible, such a body as is promised to the saints at the resurrection, still, although this quality of incorruptibility is something which cannot be lost, the body is not identical with this incorruptibility, since the corporal substance remains. For this quality is entire in all the different parts of the body; it does not differ in intensity from one part to another, no part is more incorruptible than any other; although some parts of the body are bigger than others, they are not more incorruptible. Thus the body, which is not in each of its parts the entire body, is different from its incorruptibility, which is everywhere entire, because each part of the incorruptible body is equally incorruptible, in spite of inequality in other respects. For example, a finger is smaller than the whole hand: but that does not mean that the hand is more incorruptible than a finger; hand and finger may be unequal, but their incorruptibility is the same.
It follows that although incorruptibility is a quality inseparable from an incorruptible body, the substance in virtue of which it is called a body is other than the quality from which it derives the epithet incorruptible. And so even in this case, being and attribute are not the same. Further, the soul itself, even though it may be always wise – as it will be, when it is set free for all eternity – will be wise through participation in the changeless Wisdom, which is other than itself. For even if the atmosphere were never bereft of the light which is shed on it, there would still be the difference between its being and the light by which it is illuminated. (Now I do not mean by this to give the impression that the soul is air,21 as has been the notion of some thinkers, who could not conceive of an immaterial substance. But there is a certain similarity between the two, in spite of a great disparity, which makes it quite appropriate to speak of the illumination of the immaterial soul by the immaterial light of the simple Wisdom of God, in terms of the illumination of the material atmosphere by the material light. For the darkness of the atmosphere is due to loss of light – for when we talk of the darkness of any locality in the material world we are in fact referring to atmosphere deprived of light – and so we naturally speak of the ‘darkening’ of the soul when it is deprived of the light of Wisdom.)
Accordingly, the epithet ‘simple’ applies to things which are in the fullest and truest sense divine, because in them there is no difference between substance and quality, and their divinity, wisdom and blessedness is not acquired by participation in that of others. On the other hand, it is said in the holy Scriptures that the Spirit of Wisdom is ‘multiple’,22 in that it has many qualities in itself; but the Spirit’s being is identical with its qualities, and all those qualities are one Person. For there are not many wisdoms, but one Wisdom, the storehouse, we may say, of things intelligible, of the riches which are infinite and yet confined to that Wisdom. And in that storehouse are contained all the invisible and unchanging causes of things visible and changing, which were created by the operation of Wisdom. Now God created nothing in ignorance, in fact the same could be truly said of any human craftsman. Then it is evident that if God created knowingly, he created things which he already knew. This suggests a thought which is surprising, but true; that this world could not be known to us, if it did not exist, whereas it could not have existed, if it had not been known to God.
11. Did the apostate spirits share the bliss of the holy angels at the beginning?
If this is so, the spirits whom we call angels can never have been darkness during any period in the past; as soon as they were created, they were made light. Yet they were not created merely to exist and live in any sort of way; they were given illumination so as to live in wisdom and bliss. But there were some angels who turned away from this illumination, and so did not attain to the excellence of a life of wisdom and bliss, which must of necessity be eternal, and certainly assured of its eternity. These angels have a life of reason, though not of wisdom, and they cannot lose this, even if they wish. Who can say with certainty how far they were partakers of that Wisdom, before their fall? How can we say that they were on an equality with those angels who truly enjoy the fullness of bliss, because they are thoroughly assured of the eternity of their blessedness? How can we say this, when if they had had an equal share in that Wisdom those fallen spirits would have continued in that eternity, equally blessed, because equally assured of bliss? For life, however long it may last, cannot truly be called eternal, if it is going to have an end. It is called life because of the fact of living, but the epithet ‘eternal’ is given by reason of its having no end. For this reason, although it is not true that everything eternal is necessarily blessed (for the fire of punishment is said to be eternal), nevertheless, if life cannot be truly and completely blessed unless it is eternal, then the life of those spirits was not of this kind, since it was destined to come to an end, and therefore could not be eternal. And so their life could not be truly blessed, whether they knew that it must end, or in their ignorance imagined otherwise. In neither case could they enjoy felicity because fear would prevent it, if they knew their end, while if they did not know it, bliss would not be compatible with error. And if their ignorance meant that they placed no trust in deception and uncertainties, but hovered uncertainly between the expectation of an end to their good and the hope of its eternity, without reaching a firm conviction, that situation would preclude the full enjoyment of bliss which we believe to be the lot of the holy angels. For we do not confine the word ‘beatitude’ within such narrow limits of connotation as to ascribe it only to God, although he is so truly blessed that no greater beatitude is possible. In comparison with the beatitude of God, what is the quality or extent of the bliss of the angels, though they reach the summit of the felicity which is possible to angels?
12. The blessedness of the just (before their reward) compared with the primal happiness before the Fall
It is not only the angels, among the rational or intellectual creation, that are to be called blessed, or so we suppose. For no one, surely, would be bold enough to deny that the first human beings were happy in paradise, before their sin, although they had no certainty how long their bliss would last, or whether it would continue for ever – as it would have continued, if they had not sinned. Even today we need not be ashamed to call those people happy whom we see living a life of righteousness and piety, with the hope of future immortality, without guilt to work havoc in their conscience, as they receive the ready forgiveness of God for the offences that arise from human frailty. Now although such people are assured of a reward for perseverance, they are not found to be certain of their perseverance. Can any man be sure that he will persevere to the end in the practice of righteousness, making progress in it? No one can, unless he is assured by some revelation from him who, according to his just but secret decision, instructs only a few, but deceives no one.
And so the first man was more blessed in paradise than any righteous man in this state of mortal frailty, as far as concerns the enjoyment of present good. But as for the hope of the future, any man in the extreme of bodily suffering is happier than the first-created. For it has been revealed to man with the certainty of truth – it is no mere opinion – that, free from all distresses, he will share with the angels the endless enjoyment of God Most High, whereas that first man, in all that bliss of paradise, had no certainty about his future.
13. Did the angels, in their original bliss, know their future, their fall or perseverance?
Anyone can now easily gather that the blessedness which the intellectual being desires with unswerving resolution is the product of two causes working in conjunction, the untroubled enjoyment of the changeless Good, which is God, together with the certainty of remaining in him for eternity, a certainty that admits of no doubt or hesitation, no mistake or disappointment. Such, we devoutly believe, is the felicity enjoyed by the angels of light. But by the same reasoning we conclude that the offending angels, who were deprived of that light by their own wickedness, did not have this bliss, even before their fall. We must certainly believe that they had some bliss, if they had any life before their sin, even though that bliss was not endowed with foreknowledge. Now it may be intolerable to believe that when the angels were created, some were created without being given foreknowledge of their perseverance or fall, while others were given full and genuine assurance of the eternity of their bliss; and perhaps in fact all were created at the beginning with equal felicity, and remained in that state until those angels who are now evil fell, by their own choice, from that light of goodness. But without any shadow of doubt it would be much more intolerable to suppose that the holy angels are now uncertain of their bliss, and that they themselves are left in ignorance about their future, while we have been able to know about it from the holy Scriptures. Every Catholic Christian knows that no new Devil will ever come in the future from the ranks of the good angels, just as he knows that the Devil will never return to the fellowship of the good angels. He who is Truth has promised in the Gospel that his faithful saints will be ‘equal to the angels of God’.23 They also have the promise that they will ‘go into life eternal’.24 But, if we are assured that we will never fall from that immortal felicity, then we shall be in a better state than the angels, not merely equal to them, if the angels have not the same assurance. But the truth cannot possibly deceive, and therefore we shall be equal to the angels. It must then follow that the good angels are themselves assured of their eternal felicity. The other angels had not that assurance, since their bliss was destined to have an end, and there was no eternity of bliss for them to be assured of. It remains that either the angels were unequal, or, if they were equal, the good angels received the certainty of eternal felicity after the ruin of the others.
Now perhaps someone will quote what the Lord says in the Gospel about the Devil: ‘He was a murderer from the beginning and did not stand fast in the truth’;25 and he will suggest that this is to be interpreted as meaning not merely that the Devil was a murderer from the beginning of the human race, from the time of the creation of man, whom the Devil could deceive and bring to death, but that even from the beginning of his own creation the Devil did not stand fast in the truth, and for that reason he never enjoyed felicity with the holy angels, because he refused to be subject to his creator, and in his arrogance supposed that he wielded power as his own private possession and rejoiced in that power. And thus he was both deceived and deceiving, because no one can escape the power of the Omnipotent. He has refused to accept reality and in his arrogant pride presumes to counterfeit an unreality. And so this is the meaning of the saying of blessed John, ‘the Devil sins from the beginning.’26 That is, from the moment of his creation the Devil refused righteousness, which can only be possessed by a will that is reverently subjected to God.
To assent to this suggestion is not to fall in with the heresy of the Manichees,27 or any similar baneful teaching: the notion that the Devil has evil as the essential principle of his being, that his nature derives from some hostile First Principle. Such people are so far gone in folly that they do not listen to what the Lord has said, although they agree with us in recognizing the authority of the words of the Gospel. The Lord did not say, ‘the Devil was by nature unconnected with the truth,’ but, ‘he did not stand fast in the truth’. He meant us to understand that the Devil has fallen from the truth. If he had stood fast in the truth he would clearly have shared in the truth with the holy angels, would have shared their felicity, and would have continued in that state.
14. The meaning of the text: ‘The Devil did not stand fast in the truth, because there is no truth in him’
As if in answer to a question from us, the Lord added an indication of the reason why the Devil did not ‘hold fast to the truth’. He says, ‘because there is no truth in him’. Now there would be truth in him, if he had stood fast to it. But the expression is unusual in form. It says, on the surface, ‘He did not hold fast to the truth, because there is no truth in him.’ Which seems to be saying that the absence of truth in him was the cause of his failure to stand fast, whereas the fact is that his failure to stand fast is the cause of the absence of truth. We find the same way of speaking in one of the psalms, ‘I cried out because you, Lord, have listened to me’;28 where it seems that the psalmist should have said, ‘You have listened to me, Lord, because I cried out.’, In saying ‘I cried out’ he appears to be answering the question, ‘Why did you cry out?’ But, in fact, the verse shows the affecting character of his cry by its effect in winning the attention of God. It is tantamount to saying, ‘I prove that I cried out by the fact that you listened to me.’
15. The meaning of the text: ‘The Devil sins from the beginning’
As for John’s statement about the Devil, that ‘he is a sinner from the beginning’, the Manichees do not realize that if the Devil is a sinner by nature, there can really be no question of sin in his case. But what are they to make of the witness of the prophets; either what Isaiah says when he denotes the Devil in the figurative person of the Babylonian emperor, ‘What a fall was that, when Lucifer fell, who rose in the early morning!’29 or the passage in Ezekiel, ‘You have been among the delights of God’s paradise: you have been decked with every kind of precious stone’?30 The inference is that the Devil was once without sin. In fact this is made more explicit when he is told, a little later, ‘You behaved faultlessly in your time.’ If this is the most natural interpretation of those passages, we are bound to take the saying, ‘He did not stand fast in the truth’, as meaning that he was in the truth, but did not continue in it. ‘The Devil sins from the beginning’ will then mean, not that we are to think that he sinned from the first moment of his creation, but from the first beginning of sin, because sin first came into existence as a result of the Devil’s pride.
Then there is the passage in the Book of Job, when the Devil is under discussion, ‘This is the beginning of the Lord’s handiwork, and he made him to be mocked by angels’31 (which seems to be echoed by the psalm, ‘This is the dragon, whom you fashioned for him to mock at’32). This is not to be taken as implying that we should imagine that he was created at the start as a fit object for angelic mockery, but that he was consigned to this punishment after his sin. To start with, then, the Devil is the Lord’s handiwork. For there is nothing in nature, even among the last and least of the little creatures, which is not brought into being by him, from whom comes all form, all shape, all order; and without those definitions nothing can be found in nature or imagined in the mind. How much more must the angelic creation derive from him; for the angels take precedence, in natural worth, over all the works of God.
16. The distinctions among created things; and their different ranking by the scales of utility and logic
Now among those things which exist in any mode of being, and are distinct from God who made them, living things are ranked above inanimate objects; those which have the power of reproduction, or even the urge towards it, are superior to those who lack that impulse. Among living things, the sentient rank above the insensitive, and animals above trees. Among the sentient, the intelligent take precedence over the unthinking – men over cattle. Among the intelligent, immortal beings are higher than mortals, angels being higher than men.
This is the scale according to the order of nature; but there is another gradation which employs utility as the criterion of value. On this other scale we would put some inanimate things above some creatures of sense – so much so that if we had the power, we should be ready to remove these creatures from the world of nature, whether in ignorance of the place they occupy in it, or, though knowing that, still subordinating them to our own convenience. For instance, would not anyone prefer to have food in his house, rather than mice, or money rather than fleas? There is nothing surprising in this; for we find the same criterion operating in the value we place on human beings, for all the undoubted worth of a human creature. A higher price is often paid for a horse than for a slave, for a jewel than for a maidservant.
Thus there is a very wide difference between a rational consideration, in its free judgement, and the constraint of need, or the attraction of desire. Rational consideration decides on the position of each thing in the scale of importance, on its own merits, whereas need only thinks of its own interests. Reason looks for the truth as it is revealed to enlightened intelligence; desire has an eye for what allures by the promise of sensual enjoyment.
Now in establishing the order of rational beings, such weight is attached to the qualities of freedom and love, that although angels are superior to men in the order of nature, good men rank above the evil angels according to the criterion of righteousness.
17. Wickedness is not natural, sin being due to an act of will, not to nature as created
Thus the text, ‘This is the beginning of God’s handiwork’33 refers, on the correct interpretation, to the nature of the Devil, not to his wickedness. There can be no doubt that the fault of wickedness supervenes upon a faultless natural state. Evil is contrary to nature; in fact it can only do harm to nature; and it would not be a fault to withdraw from God were it not that it is more natural to adhere to him. It is that fact which makes the withdrawal a fault. That is why the choice of evil is an impressive proof that the nature is good.
But God, who is supremely good in his creation of natures that are good, is also completely just in his employment of evil choices in his design, so that whereas such evil choices make a wrong use of good natures, God turns evil choices to good use. Thus when the Devil, who was good as God created him, became bad by his own choice, God caused him to be cast down to a lower station and to become a derision to the angels of God; and this means that the Devil’s temptations prove to be for the benefit of God’s saints, though the Devil longs to injure them thereby. Now God, when he created the Devil, was without doubt well aware of his future wickedness, and had foreseen the good that he himself would bring out of that evil. That is why the psalm says, ‘This is the dragon which you fashioned for him to mock at.’34 In the very creation of the Devil, though by God’s goodness he was made in a state of good, God had already, in virtue of his foreknowledge, laid plans for making good use of him even in his evil state; and this is the message of the passage in the psalm.
18. The beauty of the universe, made richer by God’s providence, through the opposition of contraries
For God would never have created a man, let alone an angel, in the foreknowledge of his future evil state, if he had not known at the same time how he would put such creatures to good use, and thus enrich the course of the world history by the kind of antithesis which gives beauty to a poem. ‘Antithesis’ provides the most attractive figures in literary composition: the Latin equivalent is ‘opposition’, or, more accurately, ‘contra-position’. The Apostle Paul makes elegant use of antithesis in developing a passage in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians,
By means of the arms of righteousness on right hand and left; through glory and ignominy, through infamy and high renown; as deceivers and yet truthful; as unknown and well-known; as dying, and here we are, alive; as punished, and yet not put to death; as full of grief, but always joyful; as in poverty, and yet enriching many others; as having nothing, while possessing everything.35
The opposition of such contraries gives an added beauty to speech; and in the same way there is beauty in the composition of the world’s history arising from the antithesis of contraries – a kind of eloquence in events, instead of in words. This point is made very clearly in the book Ecclesiasticus, ‘Good confronts evil, life confronts death: so the sinner confronts the devout. And in this way you should observe all the works of the Most High; two by two; one confronting the other.’36
19. The meaning of the text; ‘God made a division between light and darkness’
There is something to be gained from the obscurity of the inspired discourses of Scripture. The differing interpretations produce many truths and bring them to the light of knowledge; and the meaning of an obscure passage may be established either by the plain evidence of the facts, or by other passages of less difficulty. Sometimes the variety of suggestions leads to the discovery of the meaning of the writer; sometimes this meaning remains obscure, but the discussion of the difficulties is the occasion for the statement of some other truths. Although this is true, I do not think it would be out of harmony with the ways of God’s working to suggest that, assuming the creation of the first light to refer to the creation of the angels,37 the distinction between the holy and the unclean angels is described in the passage, ‘And God divided the light from the darkness: and God called the light “Day”; and he called the darkness “Night”.’38 It was certainly only God who could have made the distinction; for he alone could foresee that some angels would fall, before that fall happened, and that they would be deprived of the light of truth and would remain in the darkness of their pride.
As for the day and night with which we are so familiar, the light and darkness of this world, God commanded that they should be distinguished by the visible lights of our everyday experience. ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven, to give light on the earth, and to divide the day and the night.’ And a little later, ‘And God made two great lights, the larger light to shine to rule the day, the smaller to shine to rule the night. He also made the stars. And God placed those in the firmament of the sky to give light on the earth and to be in charge of day and night, and to divide light from darkness.39
Between that light (which is the holy fellowship of the angels, shining with the intelligible illumination of truth) and the contrasted darkness (which stands for the depraved minds of the evil angels who have rejected the light of righteousness) God could make the division; for the evil, though in the future, could not be hidden from him. He knew it with certainty, though it was an evil arising not from nature but from choice.
20. The significance of the statement after that division: ‘And God saw that the light was good’
Now we must not omit to point out that the statement, ‘God said: “Let there be light”; and light was created’, is immediately followed by, ‘And God saw that the light was good.’ This is not said after he had separated the light from the darkness, calling the light ‘Day’ and the darkness ‘Night’ For in that case it might have seemed that he gave a testimony of approval to the darkness as well as the light. But where darkness is blameless, that darkness which is distinguished by the lights of heaven from the light which is seen by our bodily eyes, then the phrase, ‘God saw that it was good’, follows the division, instead of preceding it. ‘God set them in the firmament of the sky, to shine on the earth, to be in charge of day and night, and to separate light and darkness. And God saw that it was good.’ Both the light and the darkness were here approved, because both were sinless. In contrast, when God said, “Let there be light”, and light was created’, then ‘God saw that the light was good.’ After that follows the passage, ‘God divided the light from the darkness: and God called the light “Day”, and the darkness “Night”.’ But this is not followed by, ‘And God saw that it was good.’ The omission was designed to avoid the attachment of the epithet ‘good’ to both, because one of them was evil, not by nature, but through its own fault. Therefore it was only the light which won the Creator’s approval, whereas the darkness of the angels, although it had been a fitting part of the divine plan, was not a fit enough subject for the divine approbation.
21. The eternal and unchanging knowledge and will of God in his creation
‘God saw that it was good.’ This statement, applied to all his works, can only signify the approval of work done with the true artist’s skill, which here is the Wisdom of God. It is not that God discovered that it was good, after it had been made. Far from it. Not one of those works would have been done, if he had not known it beforehand. It could not have come into being if he had not seen it already; and so when he ‘sees that it is good’ he is not discovering that fact, but communicating it. Plato indeed is bold enough to go further, and to say that God was actually delighted when the whole scheme of things was finished, and rejoiced in the created world.40 He was not such a fool as to suppose that God’s happiness was increased by the novelty of his own creation.41 What he wanted to express was the fact that the finished work met with the artist’s approval, as he had before approved it as something for his art to make. It is not that God’s knowledge varies in any way, that the future, the present, and the past affect that knowledge in three different ways. It is not with God as it is with us. He does not look ahead to the future, look directly at the present, look back to the past. He sees in some other manner, utterly remote from anything we experience or could imagine. He does not see things by turning his attention from one thing to another. He sees all without any kind of change. Things which happen under the condition of time are in the future, not yet in being, or in the present, already existing, or in the past, no longer in being. But God comprehends all these in a stable and eternal present. And with him there is no difference between seeing with the eyes and ‘seeing’ with the mind, for he does not consist of mind and body. Nor is there any difference between his present, past, and future knowledge. His knowledge is not like ours, which has three tenses: present, past, and future. God’s knowledge has no change or variation. ‘With him there is no alteration, or shadow of movement.’42
Nor does his attention pass from one thought to another; all things which he knows are present at the same time to his incorporeal vision. He knows events in time without any temporal acts of knowledge, just as he moves events in time, without any temporal motions in himself. And so he saw that what he had made was good when he saw that it was good that he should make it. In seeing it when he made it he did not duplicate his knowledge, nor did he increase his knowledge in any way; that would imply that his knowledge was less before he made something for him to see. In fact God could not have produced works in such perfection, without having such perfect knowledge that no addition could be made to it as a result of those works.
For this reason, if we were merely being asked, ‘Who made the light?’ it would be enough to answer, ‘God.’ If the question were not just who made the light, but also how he made it, it would be enough to quote the statement, ‘And God said: “Let there be light”: and light was created.’ And thus we know not only that God created the light, but also that he created it through the Word. But there are three things above all which we need to know about a created thing, three things which we should be told: who made it, how he made it, and why he made it. That is why the Scripture says, ‘God said: “Let there be light”: and light was created. And God saw that the light was good.’ So the answer to our question ‘Who?’ is ‘God.’ To the question ‘How?’ the answer is, ‘He said: “Let it be”; and it was created.’ And to ‘Why?’ we get the reply, ‘It was good.’ There can be no better author than God, no more effective skill than his word, no better cause than that a good product should be created by God, who is good. This was given by Plato as the most valid reason for the creation of the world – that good works should be effected by a good God.43 Plato may have read this passage of Scripture or have learnt of it from those who had read it; or it may be that with the intuition of genius he observed ‘the invisible realities of God’ presented to the mind by means of his creation,44 or learned about them from those who had thus observed them.
22. The apparent evil in the universe
Thus we find a valid and appropriate explanation of creation in the goodness of God leading to the creation of good. When carefully considered and devoutly meditated it is an explanation which gives a final answer to all queries about the origin of the world. And yet there are heretics who fail to see this, because there are so many things which do not suit the inadequacy and frailty of our mortal flesh, which has already come under deserved punishment, many things which cause distress, like fire, cold, wild animals, and so on. They do not observe the value of those things in their own sphere and in their own nature, their position in the splendour of the providential order and the contribution they make by their own special beauty to the whole material scheme, as to a universal commonwealth. They even fail to see how much those same things contribute to our benefit, if we make wise and appropriate use of them. Even poisons, which are disastrous when improperly used, are turned into wholesome medicines by their proper application. By contrast, things which give pleasure, like food and drink, and even light itself, are experienced as harmful when used without restraint and in improper ways.
Divine providence thus warns us not to indulge in silly complaints about the state of affairs, but to take pains to inquire what useful purposes are served by things. And when we fail to find the answer, either through deficiency of insight or of staying power, we should believe that the purpose is hidden from us, as it was in many cases where we had great difficulty in discovering it. There is a useful purpose in the obscurity of the purpose; it may serve to exercise our humility or to undermine our pride. There is no such entity in nature as ‘evil’; ‘evil’ is merely a name for the privation of good.45 There is a scale of value stretching from earthly to heavenly realities, from the visible to the invisible; and the inequality between these goods makes possible the existence of them all.
Now God is the great artificer in the great things; but that does not mean that he is an inferior artist in the small. For those small things are not to be measured by their size, which is next to nothing, but by the wisdom of their artificer. Take the case of a man’s visible appearance. An eyebrow is virtually nothing compared with the whole body; but shave it off and what an immense loss to his beauty! For beauty does not depend on mere size, but on the symmetry and proportion of the component parts.
It is surely little cause for wonder that those who imagine that there is some evil in nature, which is derived and produced from a supposed ‘adverse first cause’ of its own, refuse to accept that the reason for the creation of the universe was God’s good purpose to create good. They believe instead that God was compelled to the creation of the vast structure of this universe by the utter necessity of repelling the evil which fought against him, that he had to mingle the nature of his creating, which was good, with the evil, which is to be suppressed and overcome, and that this good nature was thus so foully polluted, so savagely taken captive and oppressed that it was only with the greatest toil that he can cleanse it and set it free. And even then he cannot rescue all of it, and the part which cannot be purified from that defilement is to serve as the prison to enclose the Enemy after his overthrow.
This was the silly talk, or rather the delirious raving, of the Manicheans. They would not have babbled like this if they had believed in the truth, that the nature of God is unchangeable and completely incorruptible, and that nothing can do it harm; and if they had held, according to sound Christian teaching, that the soul, which could change for the worse through free choice, and could be corrupted by sin, is not a part of God, nor of the same nature as God, but is created by him, and is far inferior to its creator.
23. The mistake of Origen
What is much more remarkable is that there are some who agree with us that there is one ‘First Principle’ of all things, and that God must be the creator of all things outside himself; and yet they refuse to accept the good and simple belief in the good and simple reason for the making of the world, namely that God in his goodness created good things, and that all things which do not belong to God’s own being, though inferior to God, are nevertheless good, and the creation of God’s goodness. They allege that souls are not indeed parts of God, but were created by him, and that these souls sinned in withdrawing from God. Then by various stages, in proportion to their various sins, they came down to the earth and incurred the penalty of imprisonment in various bodies. Hence this world came into being; and the reason for the world’s creation was to restrain evil, not to establish good.
Hence arises the just reproach against Origen; for this is the notion he set out in his book entitled Peri Archôn, Concerning First Principles.46 I cannot express my astonishment that so learned and experienced a theologian should have failed to notice in the first place that such a theory is contrary to the meaning of the highly authoritative passage of Scripture, where, after each of God’s works, is added, ‘And God saw that it was good’, and after the completion of the whole series we have, ‘And God saw all that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.’ The meaning of this is that there is only one cause for the creation of the world – the purpose of God’s goodness in the creation of good.
If no one had sinned in the world, the world would have been furnished and fitted only with things naturally good. And the fact that sin has happened does not mean that the whole universe is full of sin, since by far the greater number of celestial beings preserve the order of their nature; and the evil will that refused to keep to the order of its nature did not for that reason escape the laws of God who orders all things well. A picture may be beautiful when it has touches of black in appropriate places; in the same way the whole universe is beautiful, if one could see it as a whole, even with its sinners, though their ugliness is disgusting when they are viewed in themselves.
Again, Origen (and all who think with him) should have seen that if there were truth in the idea that the purpose of the world’s creation was that souls should be enclosed in bodies, as in prisons, in accordance with their just deserts, the minor offenders receiving higher and lighter bodies, the greater sinners lower and heavier, then the demons, as the worst characters, ought to have the lowest and heaviest bodies, earthly bodies, that is. Whereas in fact such bodies are the lot of men, even of good men. But as it is, so that we may realize that the worth of a soul is not to be measured by the quality of its body, the worst of the demons has been given a body of air, while man has a body of clay, and man, though evil, is guilty of wickedness far less serious than the Devil’s; and besides, he had that body even before he sinned. But could there be a more stupid assertion than that this sun of ours was not created by God the artificer, as the sole sun of a single universe to be a source of beauty and also of health for bodily creatures, but that the sun was created because a single soul had sinned in such a way as to deserve to be shut up in such a body? According to this theory, if the same sin, or its equivalent, had been committed not by one soul, but by two, or even by ten or a hundred souls, would the universe have as many as a hundred suns? That this did not happen was not due to the miraculous providence of the Maker in his concern for the health and beauty of his corporal creation; it merely chanced that only one soul advanced so far in sin as to deserve a body of this kind!
It is quite clear where restraint should rightly be applied: not on those souls about which these people talk such nonsense, but on their own, seeing that their notions stray so far from the truth.
As I suggested above, there are three questions to be asked in respect of any created being: ‘Who made it?’, ‘How?’, and ‘Why?’ I put forward the answers: ‘God’, ‘Through his word’, ‘Because it is good.’ Now whether this formula is to be regarded as a mystical revelation of the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, or whether there is anything which prevents this interpretation of the passage in Scripture, is a question meriting extended discussion; and we are not to be forced to unravel every question in a single volume.
24. The divine Trinity in creation
We believe, hold, and faithfully proclaim that the Father has begotten the Word, that is, the Wisdom by which all things have been made, his only-begotten Son, one begotten of one, eternal of eternal, Supreme Good of Supreme Good. And we believe that the Holy Spirit is at the same time the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, himself consubstantial and co-eternal with both, and that this totality is a Trinity in respect of the distinctive character of the persons, and is also one God in respect of the inseparable divinity, just as it is one Omnipotent in respect of the inseparable omnipotence; but with this provision, that when the question is asked about each individual the reply is that each is God and Omnipotent, whereas when the question is about all at the same time they are not three Gods or three Omnipotents, but one God omnipotent. Such is the inseparable unity in persons; and this is how that Unity wills to be proclaimed.
As for the question whether the Holy Spirit of the good Father and the good Son can rightly be called the goodness of both, as being common to both, I should not dare to hazard a rash judgement about that. I should however be more ready to risk the statement that he is the holiness of them both, not as a mere quality, but being himself a subsistent being – a substance – and the third person in the Trinity. What lends probability to this suggestion is the fact that although the Father is spirit, and the Son is spirit, and Father and Son are both holy, it remains true that holiness is the distinguishing attribute of the Spirit, which suggests that he is the holiness of both, in substantial and consubstantial form. Now if the divine goodness is identical with the divine holiness, it is evidently not a rash presumption but a reasonable inference to find a hint of the Trinity in the description of God’s creative works, expressed somewhat enigmatically, so as to exercise our speculations. This hint we may find when we ask the questions, Who? How? and Why?
It was, of course, the Father of the Word who said, ‘Let it be made.’ And since creation was effected by his speaking, there can be no doubt that it was done by means of the Word. And the statement, ‘God saw that it was good’ makes it quite plain that God did not create under stress of any compulsion, or because he lacked something for his own needs; his only motive was goodness; he created because his creation was good. And the assertion of the goodness of the created work follows the act of creation in order to emphasize that the work corresponded with the goodness which was the reason for its creation.
Now if this goodness is rightly interpreted as the Holy Spirit, then the whole united Trinity is revealed to us in its works. Hence comes the origin, the enlightenment, and the felicity of the Holy City constituted by the holy angels on high. If we ask whence it arises, God founded it; if whence comes its wisdom, it receives light from God; if whence comes its bliss, it rejoices in God. It receives its mode of being by subsisting in God, its enlightenment by beholding him, its joy from cleaving to him. It exists; it sees; it loves. It is strong with God’s eternity; it shines with God’s truth; it rejoices in God’s goodness.
25. The tripartite division of philosophy
As far as I can understand, it was on this account that philosophers decided on a tripartite division of philosophical division, or rather it was for this reason that they were able to see that philosophy was in fact threefold, for they did not establish this division but found it already there. One part is called physics, the second logic, the third ethics. The names now in common use among Latin authors are natural, rational, and moral philosophy, and I have briefly touched on these in the eighth book. Not that it follows that these philosophers had any idea of a trinity in the nature of God in these three divisions, although Plato is said to have been the first to discover and to give currency to this division,47 and in his view God alone was the author of all nature, the giver of all reason, the inspirer of the love which is the condition of a good and happy life.
There are many different opinions about the nature of the universe, about principles for establishing truth, and about the Ultimate Good to which all our actions are to be referred. Yet all philosophical speculation falls under those three main heads of discussion. And so, although in each subject there is a wide variety of opinions entertained by individual thinkers, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind on three points: that there is some cause underlying nature, some form of knowledge, some supreme principle of life. There are also three things looked for in any artist: natural ability, training, and the use to which he puts them. Those are needed for any real achievement; and his ability is judged by his talent, his training by his knowledge, his use of them by the enjoyment of the fruits of his labours.
I am well aware that ‘fruit’ and ‘enjoyment’ are properly used with reference to one who enjoys, and ‘use’ with reference to a user, the difference clearly being that we are said to enjoy something which gives us pleasure in itself, without reference to anything else, whereas we ‘use’ something when we seek it for some other purpose. Hence we should use temporal things, rather than enjoy them, so that we may be fit to enjoy eternal blessings, unlike the wicked, who want to enjoy money, but to make use of God, not spending money for God, but worshipping God for money. In spite of this distinction, the accepted conventions of language allow us to ‘make use’ of ‘fruits’ and to ‘enjoy’ the ‘use’ of things; for ‘fruits’ are also properly the ‘fruits of the earth’, and we all ‘make use’ of them in this temporal life.
It was this common meaning of ‘use’ that I had in mind when I remarked that we should look for three things in assessing a man’s value: nature, training, and use. Those three elements are the basis of the threefold division devised by philosophers for the attainment of happiness in life: natural science, which is concerned with nature; rational science (or logic), concerned with training; moral science, concerned with use. Now if our nature derived from ourselves we should clearly have produced our own wisdom; we should not be at pains to acquire it by training, which means learning it from some other source. And our love would start from ourselves and be related to ourselves; and thus we should not need any other good to enjoy. But as it is, our nature has God as its author; and so without doubt we must have him as our teacher, if we are to attain true wisdom; and for our happiness we require him as the bestower of the delight in our hearts which only he can give.
26. The partial image of the Trinity in human nature
We do indeed recognize in ourselves an image of God, that is of the Supreme Trinity. It is not an adequate image, but a very distant parallel. It is not co-eternal and, in brief, it is not of the same substance as God. For all that, there is nothing in the whole of God’s creation so near to him in nature; but the image now needs to be refashioned and brought to perfection, so to become close to him in resemblance. We resemble the divine Trinity in that we exist; we know that we exist, and we are glad of this existence and this knowledge. In those three things there is no plausible deception to trouble us. For we do not apprehend those truths by the bodily senses by which we are in contact with the world outside us – perceiving colour by sight, sound by hearing, odour by the sense of smell, flavours by the taste, hardness and softness by touch. We can also summon up in thought the immaterial images which closely resemble those material things apprehended by sense; we retain them in our memory; and through those images we are aroused to desire the things they represent. But the certainty that I exist, that I know it, and that I am glad of it, is independent of any imaginary and deceptive fantasies.
In respect of those truths I have no fear of the arguments of the Academics.48 They say, ‘Suppose you are mistaken?’ I reply, ‘If I am mistaken, I exist.’ A non-existent being cannot be mistaken; therefore I must exist, if I am mistaken.49 Then since my being mistaken proves that I exist, how can I be mistaken in thinking that I exist, seeing that my mistake establishes my existence? Since therefore I must exist in order to be mistaken, then even if I am mistaken, there can be no doubt that I am not mistaken in my knowledge that I exist. It follows that I am not mistaken in knowing that I know. For just as I know that I exist, I also know that I know. And when I am glad of those two facts, I can add the fact of that gladness to the things I know, as a fact of equal worth. For I am not mistaken about the fact of my gladness, since I am not mistaken about the things which I love. Even if they were illusory, it would still be a fact that I love the illusions. For how could I be rightly blamed and forbidden to love illusions, if it were an illusion that I loved them? But since in fact their truth is established, who can doubt that, when they are loved, that love is an established truth? Moreover, it is as certain that no one would wish himself not to exist as it is that no one would wish himself not to be happy. For existence is a necessary condition for happiness.
27. Existence, knowledge, and the love of both
Mere existence is desirable in virtue of a kind of natural property. So much so that even those who are wretched are for this very reason unwilling to the; and even when they are aware of their misery they do not wish to be removed from this world. Instead of this, they want their wretchedness taken away. This is true even of those who appear utterly wretched to themselves and who clearly are so, and of those whom the wise account wretched because of their folly, and also of those whose poverty and beggary makes them wretched in the judgement of men who regard themselves as happy. If those wretches were offered immortality, on the condition that their misery would be undying, with the alternative that if they refused to live for ever in the same misery they would cease to have any existence at all, and would perish utterly, then they would certainly be overjoyed to choose perpetual misery in preference to complete annihilation.
This reaction is the most uncontrovertible evidence for the fact we are examining. For why should men fear to the, and prefer to live in such distress than to end it by dying? The only reason is the obvious natural revulsion from annihilation. And that is the reason why men, although they know that they are destined to the, long for this mercy to be granted them, as a great boon, the mercy, that is, of an extension of life in this pitiable state, and the deferment of their death. This shows without any shadow of doubt that they would grasp at the offer of immortality, with the greatest delight, even an immortality which would offer no end to their beggarly condition.
Why, even the irrational animals, from the immense dragons down to the tiniest worms, who are not endowed with the capacity to think on those matters, show that they wish to exist and to avoid extinction. They show this by taking every possible action to escape destruction. And then there are the trees and shrubs. They have no perception to enable them to avoid danger by any immediately visible movement; but they send up one shoot into the air to form their crown, and to safeguard this they fix another shoot into the earth to form their root, so that they may draw their nourishment thereby, and thus in some way preserve their existence. Even material objects which are not only bereft of sense-perception, but lack even reproductive life, shoot up aloft or sink down to the depths or hang suspended in between, so as to secure their existence in the situation to which they are by nature adapted.
Furthermore, the strength of man’s love of knowledge and of human nature’s dislike of being deceived can be realized from the fact that anyone would rather keep his wits and be sorrowful than lose his reason and be joyful. This great and marvellous power of the mind belongs to no mortal being but man. Some other creatures may have much sharper vision than we have for seeing in the light of the sun; but they cannot attain to that immaterial light which casts as it were its rays upon our minds, to enable us to come to a right judgement about all these other creatures. For this we can do, in proportion as we receive this light.
Nevertheless, although there is no kind of real knowledge in the senses of irrational creatures, there is at least something parallel to knowledge, whereas all other material things are called ‘sensible’, not because they have senses, but because they are perceived by the senses. In the case of trees and plants there is something like sensitivity in their powers of taking nutriment and of reproduction. Yet these and all other material things have their causes hidden in nature; but they offer their forms to the perception of our senses, those forms which give loveliness to the structure of this visible world. It almost seems as if they long to be known, just because they cannot know themselves. We apprehend them by our bodily senses, but it is not by our bodily senses that we form a judgement on them. For we have another sense, far more important than any bodily sense, the sense of the inner man, by which we apprehend what is just and what is unjust, the just by means of the ‘idea’ which is presented to the intellect, the unjust by the absence of it. The working of this sense has nothing to do with the mechanism of eye, ear, smell, taste or touch. It is through this sense that I am assured of my existence; and through this I love both existence and knowledge, and am sure that I love them.
28. Whether we should approximate more nearly to the image of the divine Trinity by loving our love of our existence and our knowledge
Now we have said enough, to satisfy the apparent demands of this present work, on the subject of existence and knowledge, and how much we love them in ourselves, and how far some resemblance to them, though with great difference, is found in the lower creation. But we have not dealt with the question whether the love with which they are loved is itself the object of love. The answer is Yes; and the proof is that in all cases where love is rightly bestowed, that love is itself loved even more. For we are justified in calling a man good not because he merely knows what is good, but because he loves the Good. Therefore why should we not feel in ourselves that we love that love with which we love what is good? There is indeed a love which is given to what should not be loved, and that love is hated in himself by one who loves the love which is given to a proper object of love. For these can both exist in the same man; and it is good for man that what makes for right living should increase in him, and what makes for evil should the away until he is made perfectly sound, and all his life is changed into good. If we were mere beasts, we should love the life of sensuality and all that relates to it; this would be our sufficient good, and when this was satisfied, we should seek nothing further. If we were trees, we should not indeed be able to love anything with any sensual emotion; yet we would seem to have a kind of desire for increased fertility and more abundant fruitfulness. If we were stones, waves, wind or flame, or anything of that kind, lacking sense and life, we would still show something like a desire for our own place and order. For the specific gravity of a body is, in a manner, its love, whether a body tends downwards by reason of its heaviness or strives upwards because of its lightness. A material body is borne along by its weight in a particular direction, as a soul is by its love.50
Now we are human beings, created in our Creator’s image, whose eternity is true, whose truth is eternal, whose love is eternal and true, who is a Trinity of eternity, truth and love, without confusion or separation; and the constituents of the world which are inferior to us could not exist at all, could not have shape or form, could not aspire to any ordered pattern, or keep that pattern, had they not been created by him who supremely exists, and who is supremely wise and supremely Good. Therefore let us run over all these things which he created in such wonderful stability, to collect the scattered traces of his being, more distinct in some places than in others. And let us gaze at his image in ourselves, and, ‘returning to ourselves’, like the younger son in the Gospel story,51 let us rise up and go back to him from whom we have departed in our sinning. There our existence will have no death, our knowledge no error, our love no obstacle. Yet in our present state, although we are sure in our grasp of those three realities, although we do not believe in them on the witness of others, but are conscious of them ourselves as present in our experience, and discern them unerringly with our inner gaze, we still cannot know by ourselves how long they will last, or whether they will last for ever, or what will be their final destination if they are well directed, and if they are wrongly employed. Hence we search for other witnesses or we have them already to hand. This is not the place for detailed discussion about the credibility of this testimony, and why we should have no doubt of it; that will come on a later occasion.
But now we will proceed, to the best of our power and with the help of God, with the discussion we have started in this present book. We are speaking of the City of God which is not on pilgrimage in this mortal life, but is eternally immortal in heaven, consisting of the holy angels who cleave to God, who have never deserted nor ever will desert him. And we have already described how God at the beginning made a division between these holy angels and those who were made darkness by deserting the eternal light.
29. The angel’s knowledge of the Trinity
These holy angels, to be sure, do not learn about God by spoken words, but by the actual presence of the unchanging Truth, that is by his only-begotten Word, by the Father himself, and by his Holy Spirit. They know that this is the inseparable Trinity, and that the three Persons in it are substantial beings, and yet are not three Gods. They know this with more certainty than we know ourselves. And they have better knowledge of the created world there, in God’s wisdom, in the art by which it was made, than in the created world itself, and consequently in that wisdom they know themselves better than in themselves, although they have that knowledge in themselves as well. For they were made, and they are different from their Creator; and therefore they know themselves in him by a daylight knowledge; and in themselves, as we said,52 by a kind of twilight recognition. For there is a wide difference between knowing something in the cause of its creation, and knowing it as it is in itself. Compare, for example, the conception of a straight line, or any figure as truly apprehended by the mind, with the representation of it drawn in the dust; or the concept of justice in its changeless truth, and its manifestation in the soul of a just man. The same applies to the whole of creation; the firmament between the upper and lower waters, which we call the sky; the gathering of the waters on earth below; the uncovering of the dry land, and the establishment of plants and trees; the setting up of sun, moon, and stars; the creation of the living creatures from the waters, the flying things, the fishes, and the swimming beasts; of things that walk and creep on the earth; and of man himself, excelling all the rest of the creatures on earth. These are all known by the angels in the word53 of God, where they have the causes and reasons for their creation, fixed and unchanging; and they are known there in a different fashion than in themselves. In the word they are known by a clearer perception than in themselves – the difference between the knowledge of the art and the knowledge of the works of that art. Yet when all these works are referred to the praise and worship of the Creator, then there is the light as of morning sunshine in the minds of those who contemplate them.
30. The perfection of the number six
The works of Creation are described as being completed in six days, the same formula for a day being repeated six times. The reason for this is that six is the number of perfection. It is not that God was constrained by the intervals of time, as if he could not have created all things simultaneously, and have made them afterwards conform to temporal succession by appropriate movements. No, the reason was that the completion or perfection of the works is expressed by the number six. For six is the first number which is the sum of its parts, that is of its fractions, the sixth, the third and the half; for one, two and three added together make six. By ’parts’ of a number, in this sense, we mean what may be called its quotients, half, third, fourth and so on as fractions with different denominators. For example, four is a part of nine, being contained in it, but it is not a part in the sense of a fraction; but one is, being a ninth, and so is three, being a third. But these two parts, one and three, are far from making the total of nine. Again, four is a part of ten, but it cannot be called a fraction of it. But one is a fraction, a tenth; and two is a fifth, and five a half. But these three parts, the tenth, the fifth and the half, that is one, two, and five, do not make ten if added, together, but eight. On the other hand, the sum of the fractions of twelve exceeds that number, being the twelfth the sixth, the fourth, the third and the half – one, two, three, four and six, making, a total of sixteen. This point seemed worthy of a brief mention to show the perfection of the number six, as the first number, as I have said, which is made up by the sum of its parts, and in this number God brought his works to complete perfection. Hence the theory of number is not to be lightly regarded, since it is made quite clear, in many passages of the holy Scriptures, how highly it is to be valued. It was not for nothing that it was said in praise of God, ‘You have ordered all things in measure, number and weight.’54
31. The seventh day, of completeness and rest
The number seven is also perfect, for a different reason; and it was on the seventh day, that is on the seventh repetition of the same day’s pattern, that the rest of God is emphasized, and in this rest we hear the first mention of ‘sanctification’. Thus God did not wish to sanctify that day by the performance of any of his works, but by his rest, which has no evening. For that rest is no created thing, to make itself known in two different ways, in the Word of God, the ‘daylight knowledge’ as we may call it, and in itself, the ‘twilight knowledge’.55
There is a great deal that could be said about the perfection of the number seven; but this book is prolix enough already, and I am afraid of seeming to seize an occasion for showing off my trifles of knowledge, for idle effect rather than for any advantage to the reader. And so I must be careful to observe moderation and show proper seriousness, or I may be judged to neglect ‘measure and weight’ in indulging in talk about ‘number’. Suffice it to point out that three is the first odd whole number, and four the first whole even number, and seven is made up of these two. That is why seven often stands for an unlimited number, as in, ‘The righteous will fall seven times, and rise again,’56 which means, ‘However many times he falls, he will not perish’ – which is to be understood as referring not to the falls of wickedness, but to tribulations, which lead to humility. Similarly, ‘Seven times a day I will praise you’, expresses the same thought as, ‘His praise is always on my lips.’57 And there are many other passages of the kind in the Scriptures of divine authority, in which the number seven is habitually used, as I have said, to indicate any conceivable number of anything.
For this reason the Holy Spirit is often referred to by this same number; and the Lord says of the Spirit, ‘He will teach you all the truth.’58 Here is God’s rest, in which we rest in God. In this whole, in this complete perfection, is rest, whereas in the part is labour. Therefore we labour, as long as we ‘know in part; but when perfection is reached, what is partial will vanish.’59 Hence it is that even our probing of the Scriptures is laborious.
But the holy angels, for whose society and fellowship we sigh as we travel on this laborious pilgrimage, enjoy an ease of knowledge and a felicity of rest which correspond to their eternity and permanence. And they help us, we may be sure, without difficulty, since their motions are spiritual, pure and free, and therefore unlaborious.
32. The notion that angels were created before the world
Now someone may oppose this with the assertion that the passage in Scripture, ‘ “Let there be light”; and light was created’ does not refer to the holy angels. He may be inclined to suppose, or he may even lay it down that it was some kind of material light that was then first created, and that the angels were created not only before the firmament between the two waters which is called the sky, but even before the event described in the words, ‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth.’ This interpretation would take ‘in the beginning’ as meaning not that this was the start of creation (since the angels were already created) but that he made all things ‘in his Wisdom’. For this Wisdom is the same as his Word, who is called ‘the beginning’ in Scripture; for instance, the Word himself in the Gospel replied to the Jews who asked who he was by saying that he was ‘the beginning’.60 I would not attempt to refute this position, especially because I am delighted with the idea that the Trinity is emphasized even in the very first chapter of the sacred book of Genesis. For first we have the statement: ‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth’, by which it can be understood that the Father created ‘in the Son’, an interpretation which is supported by one of the psalms, where we read, ‘How glorified are your works, Lord: you have made all things in Wisdom.’61 Then shortly afterwards we find a most appropriate mention of the Holy Spirit. For there is the description of the condition of the earth as first created by God, or rather of the mass of raw material for the future construction of the universe, material to which the writer gives the name of ‘heaven and earth’. This is described in the words which follow: ‘But the earth was invisible and unformed, and darkness was over the abyss.’ Then, to complete the mention of the Trinity, the writer goes on immediately: ‘And the Spirit of God soared above the water.’
Each reader may take it as he likes. The matter is so profound that it may give rise to many interpretations which are not in conflict with the Rule of Faith, to exercise the minds of readers, provided that no one has any uncertainty about the fact that the holy angels are established in the realms on high, not co-eternal with God, but still assured and certain of their eternal and true felicity. Our Lord teaches us that his little ones belong to the fellowship of these angels when he says, ‘They will be on the same footing, as the angels of God.’62 He goes further than that, when he shows us the contemplation enjoyed by the angels, in saying, ‘Take care not to despise one of these little children: for I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father, who is in heaven.’63
33. The two different companies of angels, appropriately called ‘Light’ and ‘Darkness’
We know that some angels sinned and were thrust into the lowest parts of this world, which is a kind of prison for them, where they are confined until the condemnation which is to come in the day of judgement. We know this on the authority of the apostle Peter, who makes the fact plain in these words, ‘God did not spare the angels who sinned. He thrust them into the prison of the darkness below, and handed them over to be kept for punishment at the judgement.’64 Can anyone doubt that God separated these angels from the others in his foreknowledge and by his creative act?. Who could deny that the good angels are rightly called ‘Light’? Even we men, while still living in faith, still hoping for equality with the angels, not yet attaining it, even we are already called ‘Light’ by the Apostle. ‘You were’, he says ‘Darkness in the past; but now, in the Lord, you are light.’65
And that ‘Darkness’ is a most apt name for those apostates will readily be appreciated by all those who realize or believe that the rebellious angels are worse than unbelieving men. It may be that a different kind of light is to be taken as the meaning in the passage of Genesis, where we read, ‘God said: “Let there be light”; and light was created’; and another sort of darkness is meant in the passage, ‘God divided the light from the darkness.’ But for the reasons stated, we think that the two companies of angels are also meant by the terms ‘Light’ and ‘Darkness’. One of these companies enjoys God, the other swells with pride; to one is said, ‘Adore him, all you angels of his’;66 while the chief of the other company says, ‘I will give you all these things, if you bow down and worship me.’67 The one company burns with holy love of God; the other smoulders with the foul desire for its own exaltation; and since ‘God resists the proud, while he gives his favour to the humble’,68 the one dwells in the heaven of heavens, the other is cast down in confusion to inhabit this air, the lowest region of the sky. The one enjoys tranquillity in the bright radiance of devotion; the other rages in the dark shadows of desire. The one brings merciful aid, or just punishment, in obedience to God’s bidding; the other seethes with the lust to subdue and to injure, at the behest of its own arrogance. The one serves the good purposes of God, striving to give full effect to the desire to help; the other is restrained by God’s power, to prevent their fulfilling the desire to harm. The good angels hold the others in derision,69 because by their persecutions they unwillingly benefit the faithful; the evil angels envy the good, as they gather the pilgrims into their fellowship.
These are the two societies of angels, contrasted and opposed; the one good by nature and rightly directed by choice, the other good by nature but perverted by choice. This contrast is plainly indicated by unmistakable evidence in other parts of Scripture; and we think that those two companies are meant by ‘Light’ and ‘Darkness’ in this book of Genesis. It may indeed be that the writer here had something else in mind; but even so the discussion of this obscure passage is not unprofitable. For even if it is impossible to make sure of the meaning of the author of the book, we have at least not departed from the Rule of Faith, which is well enough known to the faithful by reason of other passages which convey the same authority of Scripture.
For even if it is the material works of God that are described here, they have undoubtedly a considerable parallel to spiritual realities, for the Apostle uses the same comparison when he says, ‘You are all sons of light, and sons of the day; we do not belong to night and darkness.’70 But if this comparison was in fact in the mind of the writer of Genesis, then our inquiry has reached a more satisfying conclusion. For the result is that we may believe that this man of God, inspired with such supernatural wisdom, or rather the Holy Spirit working through him, did not leave out the angels in describing the works of God as being all brought to completion on the sixth day. Whether ‘in the beginning’ means that this was the first act of creation, or (which is more appropriate) that creation was effected through the only-begotten Word,71 we know that ‘in the beginning God created heaven and earth’; and ‘heaven and earth’ means the whole of creation, spiritual and material. This, at least, is the more probable interpretation; but ‘heaven and earth’ may mean the two chief divisions of the physical universe, which together comprise all created things. On this latter interpretation the author gives the whole picture to begin with; and after that he describes the sequence of the component parts according to the mystic number of days.
34. Another suggestion, which connects the angels with the ‘waters’
There have been those, however, who thought that in some way the two communities of angels were referred to under the name of ‘waters’ and that the words, ‘Let a firmament be made between the waters’ are to be taken as meaning by the upper waters the angels, and by the lower waters perhaps the actual waters of the visible world, or else the multitude of evil angels, or even the nations of mankind. If this is right, there is no evidence in this passage for the creation of angels, only for their separation. While there are some who say, with perverse and senseless blasphemy, that God did not create the waters; on the ground that the Scripture nowhere says, ‘God said: “Let waters be made”.’ With equal foolishness they could say the same about the earth; for we are not told that ‘God said: “Let earth be made”.’ But, they reply, it says, ‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth.’ Well then, water is to be understood as included, for the word ‘earth’ covers both; for, as the psalm says, ‘To him belongs the sea, and it was he who made it; and his hands fashioned the dry land.’72
But those who want ‘the waters above the heavens’ to be taken as meaning the angels, are influenced by the question of the specific gravity of the elements. They think it impossible that water should be established in the upper regions of the universe, because it is by nature a fluid and heavy substance. According to this line of reasoning these men, if they could make a human being, would not put pituita (what the Greeks call phlegma) into the head, since this phlegm takes the place of water in the elements of the body. For the head is in fact the seat of the phlegm; appropriately, according to the creative work of God, but absurdly, according to the theory of these thinkers. So much so that if we had been ignorant of this fact, and it had been recorded in the book of Genesis that God has placed this fluid, cold, and consequently heavy moisture in the uppermost part of man’s body, those element-weighers would utterly have refused to believe it; and if they had submitted to Scriptural authority, they would have decided that some other meaning would have to be given to the passage.
But the thorough scrutiny and discussion of all the points raised by the narrative of creation in the inspired book would entail a long digression from the subject of this present work. And so it seems to me that we have sufficiently examined these two diverse and opposed communities of angels, in which we find something like the beginnings of the two communities of mankind. My purpose is now to describe these two latter communities; and so now at last I bring this book to a close.