de Principiis - Origen - Book IV


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Translated by the Rev. Frederick Crombie, D.D.

Text edited by Rev. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson and first published by T&T Clark in Edinburgh in 1867. Additional introductionary material and notes provided for the American edition by A. Cleveland Coxe, 1886.

From the Latin.

24. This descent of the holy fathers into Egypt will appear as granted to this world by the providence of God for the illumination of others, and for the instruction of the human race, that so by this means the souls of others might be assisted in the work of enlightenment. For to them was first granted the privilege of converse with God, because theirs is the only race which is said to see God; this being the meaning, by interpretation, of the word "Israel." [2696] And now it follows that, agreeably to this view, ought the statement to be accepted and explained that Egypt was scourged with ten plagues, to allow the people of God to depart, or the account of what was done with the people in the wilderness, or of the building of the tabernacle by means of contributions from all the people, or of the wearing of the priestly robes, or of the vessels of the public service, because, as it is written, they truly contain within them the "shadow and form of heavenly things." For Paul openly says of them, that "they serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things." [2697] There are, moreover, contained in this same law the precepts and institutions, according to which men are to live in the holy land. Threatenings also are held out as impending over those who shall transgress the law; different kinds of purifications are moreover prescribed for those who required purification, as being persons who were liable to frequent pollution, that by means of these they may arrive at last at that one purification after which no further pollution is permitted. The very people are numbered, though not all; for the souls of children are not yet old enough to be numbered according to the divine command: nor are those souls who cannot become the head of another, but are themselves subordinated to others as to a head, who are called "women," who certainly are not included in that numbering which is enjoined by God; but they alone are numbered who are called "men," by which it might be shown that the women could not be counted separately, [2698] but were included in those called men. Those, however, especially belong to the sacred number, who are prepared to go forth to the battles of the Israelites, and are able to fight against those public and private enemies [2699] whom the Father subjects to the Son, who sits on His right hand that He may destroy all principality and power, and by means of these bands of His soldiery, who, being engaged in a warfare for God, do not entangle themselves in secular business, He may overturn the Kingdom of His adversary; by whom the shields of faith are borne, and the weapons of wisdom brandished; among whom also the helmet of hope and salvation gleams forth, and the breastplate of brightness fortifies the breast that is filled with God. Such soldiers appear to me to be indicated, and to be prepared for wars of this kind, in those persons who in the sacred books are ordered by God's command to be numbered. But of these, by far the more perfect and distinguished are shown to be those of whom the very hairs of the head are said to be numbered. Such, indeed, as were punished for their sins, whose bodies fell in the wilderness, appear to possess a resemblance to those who had made indeed no little progress, but who could not at all, for various reasons, attain to the end of perfection; because they are reported either to have murmured, or to have worshipped idols, or to have committed fornication, or to have done some evil work which the mind ought not even to conceive. I do not consider the following even to be without some mystical meaning, [2700] viz., that certain (of the Israelites), possessing many flocks and animals, take possession by anticipation of a country adapted for pasture and the feeding of cattle, which was the very first that the right hand of the Hebrews had secured in war. [2701] For, making a request of Moses to receive this region, they are divided off by the waters of the Jordan, and set apart from any possession in the holy land. And this Jordan, according to the form of heavenly things, may appear to water and irrigate thirsty souls, and the senses that are adjacent to it. [2702] In connection with which, even this statement does not appear superfluous, that Moses indeed hears from God what is described in the book of Leviticus, while in Deuteronomy it is the people that are the auditors of Moses, and who learn from him what they could not hear from God. For as Deuteronomy is called, as it were, the second law, which to some will appear to convey this signification, that when the first law which was given through Moses had come to an end, so a second legislation seems to have been enacted, which was specially transmitted by Moses to his successor Joshua, who is certainly believed to embody a type [2703] of our Saviour, by whose second law'that is, the precepts of the Gospel'all things are brought to perfection.

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25. We have to see, however, whether this deeper meaning may not perhaps be indicated, viz., that as in Deuteronomy the legislation is made known with greater clearness and distinctness than in those books which were first written, so also by that advent of the Saviour which He accomplished in His state of humiliation, when He assumed the form of a servant, that more celebrated and renowned second advent in the glory of His Father may not be pointed out, and in it the types of Deuteronomy may be fulfilled, when in the kingdom of heaven all the saints shall live according to the laws of the everlasting Gospel; and as in His coming now He fulfilled that law which has a shadow of good things to come, so also by that (future) glorious advent will be fulfilled and brought to perfection the shadows of the present advent. For thus spake the prophet regarding it: "The breath of our countenance, Christ the Lord, to whom we said, that under Thy shadow we shall live among the nations; " [2704] at the time, viz., when He will more worthily transfer all the saints from a temporal to an everlasting Gospel, according to the designation, employed by John in the Apocalypse, of "an everlasting Gospel." [2705]

26. But let it be sufficient for us in all these matters to adapt our understanding to the rule of religion, and so to think of the words of the Holy Spirit as not to deem the language the ornate composition of feeble human eloquence, but to hold, according to the scriptural statement, that" all the glory of the King is within," [2706] and that the treasure of divine meaning is enclosed within the flail vessel of the common letter. And if any curious reader were still to ask an explanation of individual points, let him come and hear, along with ourselves, how the Apostle Paul, seeking to penetrate by help of the Holy Spirit, who searches even the "deep things" of God, into the depths of divine wisdom and knowledge, and yet, unable to reach the end, so to speak, and to come to a thorough knowledge, exclaims in despair and amazement, "Oh the depth of the riches of the knowledge and wisdom of God!" [2707] Now, that it was from despair of attaining a perfect understanding that he uttered this exclamation, listen to his own words: "How unsearchable are God's judgments! and His ways, how past finding out! " [2708] For he did not say that God's judgments were difficult to discover, but that they were altogether inscrutable; nor that it was (simply) difficult to trace out His ways, but that they were altogether past finding out. For however far a man may advance in his investigations, and how great soever the progress that he may make by unremitting study, assisted even by the grace of God, and with his mind enlightened, he will not be able to attain to the end of those things which are the object of his inquiries. Nor can any created mind deem it possible in any way to attain a full comprehension (of things); but after having discovered certain of the objects of its research, it sees again others which have still to be sought out. And even if it should succeed in mastering these, it will see again many others succeeding them which must form the subject of investigation. And on this account, therefore, Solomon, the wisest of men, beholding by his wisdom the nature of things, says, "I said, I will become wise; and wisdom herself was made far from me, far further than it was; and a profound depth, who shall find? " [2709] Isaiah also, knowing that the beginnings of things could not be discovered by a mortal nature, and not even by those natures which, although more divine than human, were nevertheless themselves created or formed; knowing then, that by none of these could either the beginning or the end be discovered, says, "Tell the former things which have been, and we know that ye are gods; or announce what are the last things, and then we shall see that ye are gods." [2710] For my Hebrew teacher also used thus to teach, that as the beginning or end of all things could be comprehended by no one, save only our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, so under the form of a vision Isaiah spake of two seraphim alone, who with two wings cover the countenance of God, and with two His feet, and with two do fly, calling to each other alternately, and saying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of Sabaoth; the whole earth is full of Thy glory." [2711] That the seraphim alone have both their wings over the face of God, and over His feet, we venture to declare as meaning that neither the hosts of holy angels, nor the "holy seats," nor the "dominions," nor the "principalities," nor the "powers," can fully understand the beginning of all things, and the limits of the universe. But we are to understand that those "saints" whom the Spirit has enrolled, and the "virtues," approach very closely to those very beginnings, and attain to a height which the others cannot reach; and yet whatever it be that these "virtues" have learned through revelation from the Son of God and from the Holy Spirit'and they will certainly be able to learn very much, and those of higher rank much more than those of a lower'nevertheless it is impossible for them to comprehend all things, according to the statement, "The most part of the works of God are hid." [2712] And therefore also it is to be desired that every one, according to his strength, should ever stretch out to those things that are before, "forgetting the things that are behind," both to better works and to a clearer apprehension and understanding, through Jesus Christ our Saviour, to whom be glory for ever!

27. Let every one, then, who cares for truth, be little concerned about words and language, seeing that in every nation there prevails a different usage of speech; but let him rather direct his attention to the meaning conveyed by the words, than to the nature of the words that convey the meaning, especially in matters of such importance and difficulty: as, e.g., when it is an object of investigation whether there is any "substance" in which neither colour, nor form, nor touch, nor magnitude is to be understood as existing visible to the mind alone, which any one names as he pleases; for the Greeks call such "incorporeal," while holy Scripture declares it to be "invisible," for Paul calls Christ the "image of the invisible God," and says again, that by Christ were created all things "visible and invisible." And by this it is declared that there are, among created things, certain "substances" that are, according to their peculiar nature, invisible. But although these are not themselves "corporeal," they nevertheless make use of bodies, while they are themselves better than any bodily substances. But that "substance" of the Trinity which is the beginning and cause of all things, "from which are all things, and through which are all things, and in which are all things," cannot be believed to be either a body or in a body, but is altogether incorporeal. And now let it suffice to have spoken briefly on these points (although in a digression, caused by the nature of the subject), in order to show that there are certain things, the meaning of which cannot be unfolded at all by any words of human language, but which are made known more through simple apprehension than by any properties of words. And under this rule must be brought also the understanding of the sacred Scripture, in order that its statements may be judged not according to the worthlessness of the letter, but according to the divinity of the Holy Spirit, by whose inspiration they were caused to be written.

Summary (of Doctrine) Regarding the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and the Other Topics Discussed in the Preceding Pages.

28. It is now time, after the rapid consideration which to the best of our ability we have given to the topics discussed, to recapitulate, by way of summing up what we have said in different places, the individual points, and first of all to restate our conclusions regarding the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Seeing God the Father is invisible and inseparable from the Son, the Son is not generated from Him by "prolation," as some suppose. For if the Son be a "prolation" of the Father (the term "prolation" being used to signify such a generation as that of animals or men usually is), then, of necessity, both He who "prolated" and He who was "prolated" are corporeal. For we do not say, as the heretics suppose, that some part of the substance of God was converted into the Son, or that the Son was procreated by the Father out of things non-existent, [2713] i.e., beyond His own substance, so that there once was a time when He did not exist; but, putting away all corporeal conceptions, we say that the Word and Wisdom was begotten out of the invisible and incorporeal without any corporeal feeling, as if it were an act of the will proceeding from the understanding. Nor, seeing He is called the Son of (His) love, will it appear absurd if in this way He be called the Son of (His) will. Nay, John also indicates that "God is Light," [2714] and Paul also declares that the Son is the splendour of everlasting light. [2715] As light, accordingly, could never exist without splendour, so neither can the Son be understood to exist without the Father; for He is called the "express image of His person," [2716] and the Word and Wisdom. How, then, can it be asserted that there once was a time when He was not the Son? For that is nothing else than to say that there was once a time when He was not the Truth, nor the Wisdom, nor the Life, although in all these He is judged to be the perfect essence of God the Father; for these things cannot be severed from Him, or even be separated from His essence. And although these qualities are said to be many in understanding, [2717] yet in their nature and essence they are one, and in them is the fulness of divinity. Now this expression which we employ'"that there never was a time when He did not exist"'is to be understood with an allowance. For these very words "when" or "never" have a meaning that relates to time, whereas the statements made regarding Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are to be understood as transcending all time, all ages, and all eternity. For it is the Trinity alone which exceeds the comprehension not only of temporal but even of eternal intelligence; while other things which are not included in it [2718] are to be measured by times and ages. This Son of God, then, in respect of the Word being God, which was in the beginning with God, no one will logically suppose to be contained in any place; nor yet in respect of His being "Wisdom," or "Truth," or the "Life," or "Righteousness," or "Sanctification," or "Redemption: "for all these properties do not require space to be able to act or to operate, but each one of them is to be understood as meaning those individuals who participate in His virtue and working.

29. Now, if any one were to say that, through those who are partakers of the "Word" of God, or of His "Wisdom," or His "Truth," or His "Life," the Word and Wisdom itself appeared to be contained in a place, we should have to say to him in answer, that there is no doubt that Christ, in respect of being the "Word" or "Wisdom," or all other things, was in Paul, and that he therefore said, "Do you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me? " [2719] and again, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." [2720] Seeing, then, He was in Paul, who will doubt that He was in a similar manner in Peter and in John, and in each one of the saints; and not only in those who are upon the earth, but in those also who are in heaven? For it is absurd to say that Christ was in Peter and in Paul, but not in Michael the archangel, nor in Gabriel. And from this it is distinctly shown that the divinity of the Son of God was not shut up in some place; otherwise it would have been in it only, and not in another. But since, in conformity with the majesty of its incorporeal nature, it is confined to no place; so, again, it cannot be understood to be wanting in any. But this is understood to be the sole difference, that although He is in different individuals as we have said'as Peter, or Paul, or Michael, or Gabriel'He is not in a similar way in all beings whatever. For He is more fully and clearly, and, so to speak, more openly in archangels than in other holy men. [2721] And this is evident from the statement, that when all Who are saints have arrived at the summit of perfection, they are said to be made like, or equal to, the angels, agreeably to the declaration in the Gospels. [2722] Whence it is clear that Christ is in each individual in as great a degree as the amount of his deserts allows. [2723]

30. Having, then, briefly restated these points regarding the nature of the Trinity, it follows that we notice shortly this statement also, that "by the Son" are said to be created "all things that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him; and He is before all, and all things consist by Him, who is the Head." [2724] In conformity with which John also in his Gospel says: "All things were created by Him; and without Him was not anything made." [2725] And David, intimating that the mystery of the entire Trinity was (concerned) in the creation of all things, says: "By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the Spirit of His mouth." [2726] After these points we shall appropriately remind (the reader) of the bodily advent and incarnation of the only-begotten Son of God, with respect to whom we are not to suppose that all the majesty of His divinity is confined within the limits of His slender body, so that all the "word" of God, and His "wisdom," and "essential truth," and "life," was either rent asunder from the Father, or restrained and confined within the narrowness of His bodily person, and is not to be considered to have operated anywhere besides; but the cautious acknowledgment of a religious man ought to be between the two, so that it ought neither to be believed that anything of divinity was wanting in Christ, nor that any separation at all was made from the essence of the Father, which is everywhere. For some such meaning seems to be indicated by John the Baptist, when he said to the multitude in the bodily absence of Jesus, "There standeth one among you whom ye know not: He it is who cometh after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose." [2727] For it certainly could not be said of Him, who was absent, so far as His bodily presence is concerned, that He was standing in the midst of those among whom the Son of God was not bodily present.

31. Let no one, however, suppose that by this we affirm that some portion of the divinity of the Son of God was in Christ, and that the remaining portion was elsewhere or everywhere, which may be the opinion of those who are ignorant of the nature of an incorporeal and invisible essence. For it is impossible to speak of the parts of an incorporeal being, or to make any division of them; but He is in all things, and through all things, and above all things, in the manner in which we have spoken above, i.e., in the manner in which He is understood to be either "wisdom," or the "word," or the "life," or the "truth," by which method of understanding all confinement of a local kind is undoubtedly excluded. The Son of God, then, desiring for the salvation of the human race to appear unto men, and to sojourn among them, assumed not only a human body, as some suppose, but also a soul resembling our souls indeed in nature, but in will and power [2728] resembling Himself, and such as might unfailingly accomplish all the desires and arrangements of the "word" and "wisdom." Now, that He had a soul, [2729] is most clearly shown by the Saviour in the Gospels, when He said, "No man taketh my life from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again." [2730] And again, "My soul is sorrowful even unto death." [2731] And again, "Now is my soul troubled." [2732] For the "Word" of God is not to be understood to be a "sorrowful and troubled" soul, because with the authority of divinity He says, "I have power to lay down my life." Nor yet do we assert that the Son of God was in that soul as he was in the soul of Paul or Peter and the other saints, in whom Christ is believed to speak as He does in Paul. But regarding all these we are to hold, as Scripture declares, "No one is clean from filthiness, not even if his life lasted but a single day." [2733] But this soul which was in Jesus, before it knew the evil, selected the good; and because He loved righteousness, and hated iniquity, therefore God "anointed Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows." [2734] He is anointed, then, with the oil of gladness when He is united to the "word" of God in a stainless union, and by this means alone of all souls was incapable of sin, because it was capable of (receiving) well and fully the Son of God; and therefore also it is one with Him, and is named by His titles, and is called Jesus Christ, by whom all things are said to be made. Of which soul, seeing it had received into itself the whole wisdom of God, and the truth, and the life, I think that the apostle also said this: "Our life is hidden with Christ in God; but when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory." [2735] For what other Christ can be here understood, who is said to be hidden in God, and who is afterwards to appear, except Him who is related to have been anointed with the oil of gladness, i.e., to have been filled with God essentially, [2736] in whom he is now said to be hidden? For on this account is Christ proposed as an example to all believers, because as He always, even before he knew evil at all, selected the good, and loved righteousness, and hated iniquity, and therefore God anointed Him with the oil of gladness; so also ought each one, after a lapse or sin, to cleanse himself from his stains, making Him his example, and, taking Him as the guide of his journey, enter upon the steep way of virtue, that so perchance by this means, as far as possible we may, by imitating Him, be made partakers of the divine nature. according to the words of Scripture: "He that saith that he believeth in Christ, ought so to walk, as He also walked." [2737]

This "word," then, and this "wisdom," by the imitation of which we are said to be either wise or rational (beings), becomes "all things to all men, that it may gain all; "and because it is made weak, it is therefore said of it, "Though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God." [2738] Finally, to the Corinthians who were weak, Paul declares that he "knew nothing, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." [2739]

32. Some, indeed, would have the following language of the apostle applied to the soul itself, as soon as it had assumed flesh from Mary, [2740] viz., "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but divested Himself (of His glory) [2741] taking upon Himself the form of a servant; " [2742] since He undoubtedly restored it to the form of God by means of better examples and training, and recalled it to that fulness of which He had divested Himself.

As now by participation in the Son of God one is adopted as a son, [2743] and by participating in that wisdom which is in God is rendered wise, so also by participation in the Holy Spirit is a man rendered holy and spiritual. For it is one and the same thing to have a share in the Holy Spirit, which is (the Spirit) of the Father and the Son, since the nature of the Trinity is one and incorporeal. And what we have said regarding the participation of the soul is to be understood of angels and heavenly powers in a similar way as of souls, because every rational creature needs a participation in the Trinity.

Respecting also the plan of this visible world'seeing one of the most important questions usually raised is as to the manner of its existence'we have spoken to the best of our ability in the preceding pages, for the sake of those who are accustomed to seek the grounds of their belief in our religion, and also for those who stir against us heretical questions, and who are accustomed to bandy about [2744] the word "matter," which they have not yet been able to understand; of which subject I now deem it necessary briefly to remind (the reader).

33. And, in the first place, it is to be noted that we have nowhere found in the canonical Scriptures, [2745] up to the present time, the word "matter" used for that substance which is said to underlie bodies. For in the expression of Isaiah, "And he shall devour u " i.e., matter, "like hay," [2746] when speaking of those who were appointed to undergo their punishments, the word "matter" was used instead of "sins." And if this word "matter" should happen to occur in any other passage, it will never be found, in my opinion, to have the signification of which we are now in quest, unless perhaps in the book which is called the Wisdom of Solomon, a work which is certainly not esteemed authoritative by all. [2747] In that book, however, we find written as follows: "For thy almighty hand, that made the world out of shapeless matter, wanted not means to send among them a multitude of bears and fierce lions." [2748] Very many, indeed, are of opinion that the matter of which things are made is itself signified in the language used by Moses in the beginning of Genesis: "In the beginning God made heaven and earth; and the earth was invisible, and not arranged: " [2749] for by the words "invisible and not arranged" Moses would seem to mean nothing else than shapeless matter. But if this be truly matter, it is clear then that the original elements of bodies [2750] are not incapable of change. For those who posited "atoms"'either those particles which are incapable of subdivision, or those which are subdivided into equal parts'or any one element, as the principles of bodily things, could not posit the word "matter" in the proper sense of the term among the first principles of things. For if they will have it that matter underlies every body'a substance convertible or changeable, or divisible in all its parts'they will not, as is proper, assert that it exists without qualities. And with them we agree, for we altogether deny that matter ought to be spoken of as "unbegotten" or "uncreated," agreeably to our former statements, when we pointed out that from water, and earth, and air or heat, different kinds of fruits were produced by different kinds of trees; or when we showed that fire, and air, and water, and earth were alternately converted into each other, and that one element was resolved into another by a kind of mutual consanguinity; and also when we proved that from the food either of men or animals the substance of the flesh was derived, or that the moisture of the natural seed was converted into solid flesh and bones;'all which go to prove that the substance of the body is changeable, and may pass from one quality into all others.

34. Nevertheless we must not forget that a substance never exists without a quality, and that it is by an act of the understanding alone that this (substance) which underlies bodies, and which is capable of quality, is discovered to be matter. Some indeed, in their desire to investigate these subjects more profoundly, have ventured to assert that bodily nature [2751] is nothing else than qualities. For if hardness and softness, heat and cold, moisture and aridity, be qualities; and if, when these or other (qualities) of this sort be cut away, nothing else is understood to remain, then all things will appear to be "qualities." And therefore also those persons who make these assertions have endeavoured to maintain, that since all who say that matter was uncreated will admit that qualities were created by God, it may be in this way shown that even according to them matter was not uncreated; since qualities constitute everything, and these are declared by all without contradiction to have been made by God. Those, again, who would make out that qualities are superimposed from without upon a certain underlying matter, make use of illustrations of this kind: e.g., Paul undoubtedly is either silent, or speaks, or watches, or sleeps, or maintains a certain attitude of body; for he is either in a sitting, or standing, or recumbent position. For these are "accidents" belonging to men, without which they are almost never found. And yet our conception of man does not lay down any of these things as a definition of him; but we so understand and regard him by their means, that we do not at all take into account the reason of his (particular) condition either in watching, or in sleeping, or in speaking, or in keeping silence, or in any other action that must necessarily happen to men. [2752] If any one, then, can regard Paul as being without all these things which are capable of happening, he will in the same way also be able to understand this underlying (substance) without qualities. When, then, our mind puts away all qualities from its conception, and gazes, so to speak, upon the underlying element alone, and keeps its attention closely upon it, without any reference to the softness or hardness, or heat or cold, or humidity or aridity of the substance, then by means of this somewhat simulated process of thought [2753] it will appear to behold matter clear from qualities of every kind.

35. But some one will perhaps inquire whether we can obtain out of Scripture any grounds for such an understanding of the subject. Now I think some such view is indicated in the Psalms, when the prophet says, "Mine eyes have seen thine imperfection; " [2754] by which the mind of the prophet, examining with keener glance the first principles of things, and separating in thought and imagination only between matter and its qualities, perceived the imperfection of God, which certainly is understood to be perfected by the addition of qualities. Enoch also, in his book, speaks as follows: "I have walked on even to imperfection; " [2755] which expression I consider may be understood in a similar manner, viz., that the mind of the prophet proceeded in its scrutiny and investigation of all visible things, until it arrived at that first beginning in which it beheld imperfect matter (existing) without "qualities." For it is written in the same book of Enoch, "I beheld the whole of matter; " [2756] which is so understood as if he had said: "I have clearly seen all the divisions of matter which are broken up from one into each individual species either of men, or animals, or of the sky, or of the sun, or of all other things in this world." After these points, now, we proved to the best of our power in the preceding pages that all things which exist were made by God, and that there was nothing which was not made, save the nature of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and that God, who is by nature good, desiring to have those upon whom He might confer benefits, and who might rejoice in receiving His benefits, created creatures worthy (of this), i.e., who were capable of receiving Him in a worthy manner, who, He says, are also begotten by Him as his sons. He made all things, moreover, by number and measure. For there is nothing before God without either limit or measure. For by His power He comprehends: all things, and He Himself is comprehended by the strength of no created thing, because that nature is known to itself alone. For the Father alone knoweth the Son, and the Son alone knoweth the Father, and the Holy Spirit alone searcheth even the deep things of God. All created things, therefore, i.e., either the number of rational beings or the measure of bodily matter, are distinguished by Him as being within a certain number or measurement; since, as it was necessary for an intellectual nature to employ bodies, and this nature is shown to be changeable and convertible by the very condition of its being created (for what did not exist, but began to exist, is said by this very circumstance to be of mutable nature), it can have neither goodness nor wickedness as an essential, but only as an accidental attribute of its being. Seeing, then, as we have said, that rational nature was mutable and changeable, so that it made use of a different bodily covering of this or that sort of quality, according to its merits, it was necessary, as God foreknew there would be diversities in souls or spiritual powers, that He should create also a bodily nature the qualities of which might be changed at the will of the Creator into all that was required. And this bodily nature must last as long as those things which require it is a covering: for there will be always rational natures which need a bodily covering; and there will therefore always be a bodily nature whose coverings must necessarily be used by rational creatures, unless some one be able to demonstrate by arguments that a rational nature can live without a body. But how difficult'nay, how almost impossible'this is for our understanding, we have shown in the preceding pages, in our discussion of the individual topics.

36. It will not, I consider, be opposed to the nature of our undertaking, if we restate with all possible brevity our opinions on the immortality of rational natures. Every one who participates in anything, is unquestionably of one essence and nature with him who is partaker of the same thing. For example, as all eyes participate in the light, so accordingly all eyes which partake of the light are of one nature; but although every eye partakes of the light, yet, inasmuch as one sees more dearly, and another more obscurely, every eye does not equally share in the light. And again, all hearing receives voice or sound, and therefore all hearing is of one nature; but each one hears more rapidly or more slowly, according as the quality of his hearing is clear and sound. Let us pass now from these sensuous illustrations to the consideration of intellectual things. Every mind which partakes of intellectual light ought undoubtedly to be of one nature with every mind which partakes in a similar manner of intellectual light. If the heavenly virtues, then, partake of intellectual light, i.e., of divine nature, because they participate in wisdom and holiness, and if human souls, have partaken of the same light and wisdom, and thus are mutually of one nature and of one essence,'then, since the heavenly virtues are incorruptible and immortal, the essence of the human soul will also be immortal and incorruptible. And not only so, but because the nature of Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, whose intellectual light alone all created things have a share, is incorruptible and eternal, it is altogether consistent and necessary that every substance which partakes of that eternal nature should last for ever, and be incorruptible and eternal, so that the eternity of divine goodness may be understood also in this respect, that they who obtain its benefits are also eternal. But as, in the instances referred to, a diversity in the participation of the light was observed, when the glance of the beholder was described as being duller or more acute, so also a diversity is to be noted in the participation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, varying with the degree of zeal or capacity of mind. If such were not the case, [2757] we have to consider whether it would not seem to be an act of impiety to say that the mind which is capable of (receiving) God should admit of a destruction of its essence; [2758] as if the very fact that it is able to feel and understand God could not suffice for its perpetual existence, especially since, if even through neglect the mind fall away from a pure and complete reception of God, it nevertheless contains within it certain seeds of restoration and renewal to a better understanding, seeing the "inner," which is also called the "rational" man, is renewed after "the image and likeness of God, who created him." And therefore the prophet says, "All the ends of the earth shall remember, and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee." [2759]

37. If any one, indeed, venture to ascribe essential corruption to Him who was made after the image and likeness of God, then, in my opinion, this impious charge extends even to the Son of God Himself, for He is called in Scripture the image of God. [2760] Or he who holds this opinion would certainly impugn the authority of Scripture, which says that man was made in the image of God; and in him are manifestly to be discovered traces of the divine image, not by any appearance of the bodily frame, which is corruptible, but by mental wisdom, by justice, moderation, virtue, wisdom, discipline; in fine, by the whole band of virtues, which are innate in the essence of God, and which may enter into man by diligence and imitation of God; as the Lord also intimates in the Gospel, when He says, "Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful; " [2761] and, "Be ye perfect, even as your Father also is perfect." [2762] From which it is clearly shown that all these virtues are perpetually in God, and that they can never approach to or depart from Him, whereas by men they are acquired only slowly, and one by one. And hence also by these means they seem to have a kind of relationship with God; and since God knows all things, and none of things intellectual in themselves can elude His notice [2763] (for God the Father alone, and His only-begotten Son, and the Holy Spirit, not only possess a knowledge of those things which they have created, but also of themselves), a rational understanding also, advancing from small things to great, and from things visible to things invisible, may attain to a more perfect knowledge. For it is placed in the body, and advances from sensible things themselves, which are corporeal, to things that are intellectual. But lest our statement that things intellectual are not cognisable by the senses should appear unbecoming, we shall employ the instance of Solomon, who says, "You will find also a divine sense; " [2764] by which he shows that those things which are intellectual are to be sought out not by means of a bodily sense, but by a certain other which he calls "divine." And with this sense must we look on each of those rational beings which we have enumerated above; and with this sense are to be understood those words which we speak, and those statements to be weighed which we commit to writing. For the divine nature knows even those thoughts which we revolve within us in silence. And on those matters of which we have spoken, or on the others which follow from them, according to the rule above laid down, are our opinions to be formed.


[2696] Cf. Gen. xxxii. 28-30. [2697] Heb. viii. 5. [2698] Extrinsecus. [2699] Hostes inimicosque. [2700] Ne illud quidem sacramento aliquo vacuum puto. [2701] Quem primum omnium Israelitici belli dextra defenderat. [2702] Rigare et inundare animas sitientes, et sensus adjacentes sibi. [2703] Formam. [2704] Lam. iv. 20. [2705] Cf. Rev. xiv. 6. [2706] Omnis gloria regis intrinsecus est. Heb., Sept., and Vulgate all read, "daughter of the king." Probably the omission of "filiae" in the text may be due to an error of the copyists. [Cf. Ps. xlv. 13.] [2707] Rom. xi. 33. [2708] Rom. xi. 33. [2709] [Eccles. vii. 23, 24.] The Septuagint reads: ; the Vulgate translates this literally. [2710] Cf. Isa. xli. 22, 23. [2711] Isa. vi. 3. [2712] Cf. Ecclus. xvi. 21. [2713] Ex nullis substantibus. [2714] 1 John i. 5. [2715] Cf. Heb. i. 3. [2716] Cf. Heb. i. 3. [2717] Quae quidem quamvis intellectu multa esse dicantur. [2718] Quae sunt extra Trinitatem. [2719] Cf. 2 Cor. xiii. 3. [2720] Gal. ii. 20. [2721] Quam in aliis sanctis viris. "Aliis" is found in the mss., but is wanting in many editions. [2722] Cf. Matt. xxii. 30 and Luke xx. 36. [2723] Unde constat in singulis quibusque tantum effici Christum, quantum ratio indulserit meritorum. [2724] Cf. Col. i. 16-18. [2725] John i. 3. [2726] Ps. xxxiii. 6. [2727] Cf. John i. 26, 27. [2728] Proposito vero et virtute similem sibi. [2729] Animam. [2730] John x. 18. [2731] Matt. xxvi. 38. [2732] John xii. 27. [2733] Cf. Job xv. 14. [2734] Ps. xlv. 7. [2735] Cf. Col. iii. 3, 4. [2736] Substantialiter. [2737] Cf. 1 John ii. 6. [2738] 2 Cor. xiii. 4. [2739] 1 Cor. ii. 2. [2740] De Maria corpus assumsit. [2741] Semet ipsum exinanivit. [2742] Phil. ii. 6, 7. [2743] In filium adoptatur. [2744] Ventilare. [2745] In Scripturis canonicis. [2746] Isa. x. 17, kai phagetai ōsei chorton tēn ulēn, Sept. The Vulgate follows the Masoretic text. [2747] [Elucidation VI]. [2748] Wisd. xi. 17. [2749] Gen. i. 2, "invisibilis et incomposita;" "inanis et vacua," Vulg. [2750] Initia corporum. [2751] Naturam corpoream. [2752] Nec tamen sensus noster manifeste de eo aliquid horum definit, sed ita eum per haec intelligimus, vel consideramus, ut non omnino rationem status ejus comprehendamus, vel in eo, quod vigilat, vel in eo, quod dormit, aut in quo loquitur, vel tacet, et si qua alia sunt, quae accidere necesse est hominibus. [2753] Tunc simulata quodammodo cogitatione. [2754] Ps. cxxxix. 16, to akatergaston mou eidosan oi ophthalmoi sou, Sept.; "Imperfectum meum viderunt oculi tui," Vulg. (same as in the text.) "Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect," Auth. Vers. Cf. Gesenius and Fürst, s.v., [2755] Ambulavi usque ad imperfectum; cf. Book of Enoch, chap. xvii. [2756] Universas materias perspexi: cf. Book of Enoch, chap. xvii. [On this apocryphal book, see the learned remarks of Dr. Pusey in his reply to Canon Farrar, What is of Faith as to Everlasting Punishment; pp. 52-59. London, 1881.] [2757] Alioquin. [2758] Substantialem interitum. [2759] Ps. xxii. 27. [2760] Cf. Col. i. 15 and 2 Cor. iv. 4. [2761] Luke vi. 36. [2762] Matt. v. 48. [2763] Nihil eum rerum intellectualium ex se lateat. [2764] Cf. Prov. ii. 5, epignōsin Theou eurēseis (Sept.), Scientiam Dei invenies (Vulg.).
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