Nicene and Post Nicene-Fathers, Vol. I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Confessions: Chapter XX
Chapter XX.—Of the Words, “In the Beginning,” Variously Understood.
29. From all these truths, of which they doubt not whose inner eye Thou hast granted to see such things, and who immoveably believe Moses, Thy servant, to have spoken in the spirit of truth; from all these, then, he taketh one who saith, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,”—that is, “In His Word, co-eternal with Himself, God made the intelligible and the sensible, or the spiritual and corporeal creature.” He taketh another, who saith, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,”—that is, “In His Word, co-eternal with Himself, God made the universal mass of this corporeal world, with all those manifest and known natures which it containeth.” He, another, who saith, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” that is, “In His Word, co-eternal with Himself, God made the formless matter of the spiritual 1139 and corporeal creature.” He, another, who saith, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,”—that is, “In His Word, co-eternal with Himself, God made the formless matter of the corporeal creature, wherein heaven and earth lay as yet confused, which being now distinguished and formed, we, at this day, see in the mass of this world.” He, another, who saith, “In the beginning God created heaven and earth,”—that is, “In the very beginning of creating and working, God made that formless matter confusedly containing heaven and earth, out of which, being formed, they now stand out, and are manifest, with all the things that are in them.”
Augustin, in his letter to Jerome (Ep. clxvi. 4) on “The origin of the human soul,” says: “The soul, whether it be termed material or immaterial, has a certain nature of its own, created from a substance superior to the elements of this world.” And in his De Gen. ad Lit. vii. 10, he speaks of the soul being formed from a certain “spiritual matter,” even as flesh was formed from the earth. It should be observed that at one time Augustin held to the theory that the souls of infants were created by God out of nothing at each fresh birth, and only rejected this view for that of its being generated by the parents with the body under the pressure of the Pelagian controversy. The first doctrine was generally held by the Schoolmen; and William of Conches maintained this belief on the authority of Augustin,—apparently being unaware of any modification in his opinion: “Cum Augustino,” he says (Victor Cousin, Ouvrages ined. dAbelard, p. 673), “credo et sentio quotidie novas animas nom ex traduce non ex aliqua substantia, sed ex nihilo, solo jussu creatoris creari.” Those who held the first-named belief were called Creatiani; those who held the second, Truduciani. It may be noted as to the word “Traduciani,” that Tertullian, in his De Anima, chaps. 24–27, etc., frequently uses the word tradux in this connection. Augustin, in his Retractations, ii. 45, refers to his letter to Jerome, and urges that if so obscure a matter is to be discussed at all, that solution only should be received: “Quæ contraria non sit apertissimis rebus quas de originati peccato fides catholica novit in parvulis, nisi regenerentur in Christo, sine dubitatione damnandis.” On Tertullians views, see Bishop Kays, p. 178, etc.
Next: Chapter XXI
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