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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 21

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 21.—Of God’s Eternal and Unchangeable Knowledge and Will, Whereby All He Has Made Pleased Him in the Eternal Design as Well as in the Actual Result.

For what else is to be understood by that invariable refrain, “And God saw that it was good,” than the approval of the work in its design, which is the wisdom of God?  For certainly God did not in the actual achievement of the work first learn that it was good, but, on the contrary, nothing would have been made had it not been first known by Him.  While, therefore, He sees that that is good which, had He not seen it before it was made, would never have been made, it is plain that He is not discovering, but teaching that it is good.  Plato, indeed, was bold enough to say that, when the universe was completed, God was, as it were, elated with joy. 492   And Plato was not so foolish as to mean by this that God was rendered more blessed by the novelty of His creation; but he wished thus to indicate that the work now completed met with its Maker’s approval, as it had while yet in design.  It is not as if the knowledge of God were of various kinds, knowing in different ways things which as yet are not, things which are, and things which have been.  For not in our fashion does He look forward to what is future, nor at what is present, nor back upon what is past; but in a manner quite different and far and profoundly remote from our way of thinking.  For He does not pass from this to that by transition of thought, but beholds all things with absolute unchangeableness; so that of those things which emerge in time, the future, indeed, are not yet, and the present are now, and the past no longer are; but all of these are by Him comprehended in His stable and eternal presence.  Neither does He see in one fashion by the eye, in another by the mind, for He is not composed of mind and body; nor does His present knowledge differ from that which it ever was or shall be, for those variations of time, past, present, and future, though they alter our knowledge, do not affect His, “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” 493   Neither is there any growth from thought to thought in the conceptions of Him in whose spiritual vision all things which He knows are at once embraced.  For as without any movement that time can measure, He Himself moves all temporal things, so He knows all times with a knowledge that time cannot measure.  And therefore He saw that what He had made was good, when He saw that it was good to make it.  And when He saw it made, He had not on that account a twofold nor any way increased knowledge of it; as if He had less knowledge before He made what He saw.  For certainly He would not be the perfect worker He is, unless His knowledge were so perfect as to receive no addition from His finished works.  Wherefore, if the only object had been to inform us who made the light, it had been enough to say, “God made the light;” and if further information regarding the means by which it was made had been intended, it would have sufficed to say, “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light,” that we might know not only that God had made the world, but also that He had made it by the word.  But because it was right that three leading truths regarding the creature be intimated to us, viz., who made it, by what means, and why, it is written, “God said, Let there be light, and there was light.  And God saw the light that it was good.”  If, then, we ask who made it, it was “God.”  If, by what means, He said “Let it be,” and it was.  If we ask, why He made it, “it was good.”  Neither is there any author more excellent than God, nor any skill more efficacious than the word of God, nor any cause better than that good might be created by the good God.  This also Plato has assigned as the most sufficient reason for the creation of the world, that good works might be made by a good God; 494 whether he read this passage, or, perhaps, was informed of these things by those who had read them, or, by his quick-sighted genius, penetrated to things spiritual and invisible through the things that are created, or was instructed regarding them by those who had discerned them.



The reference is to the Timæus, p. 37 C., where he says, “When the parent Creator perceived this created image of the eternal Gods in life and motion, He was delighted, and in His joy considered how He might make it still liker its model.”


Jas. 1.17.


The passage referred to is in the Timæus p. 29 D.:  “Let us say what was the cause of the Creator’s forming this universe.  He was good; and in the good no envy is ever generated about anything whatever.  Therefore, being free from envy, He desired that all things should, as much as possible, resemble Himself.”

Next: Chapter 22

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