Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Doctrinal Treatises of St. Augustin: Chapter 10
Chapter 10—Whether God the Trinity Indiscriminately Appeared to the Fathers, or Any One Person of the Trinity. The Appearing of God to Adam. Of the Same Appearance. The Vision to Abraham.
17. And first, in that which is written in Genesis, viz., that God spake with man whom He had formed out of the dust; if we set apart the figurative meaning, and treat it so as to place faith in the narrative even in the letter, it should appear that God then spake with man in the appearance of a man. This is not indeed expressly laid down in the book, but the general tenor of its reading sounds in this sense, especially in that which is written, that Adam heard the voice of the Lord God, walking in the garden in the cool of the evening, and hid himself among the trees of the garden; and when God said, “Adam, where art thou?” 267 replied, “I heard Thy voice, and I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself from Thy face.” For I do not see how such a walking and conversation of God can be understood literally, except He appeared as a man. For it can neither be said that a voice only of God was framed, when God is said to have walked, or that He who was walking in a place was not visible; while Adam, too, says that he hid himself from the face of God. Who then was He? Whether the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit? Whether altogether indiscriminately did God the Trinity Himself speak to man in the form of man? The context, indeed, itself of the Scripture nowhere, it should seem, indicates a change from person to person; but He seems still to speak to the first man, who said, “Let there be light,” and, “Let there be a firmament,” and so on through each of those days; whom we usually take to be God the Father, making by a word whatever He willed to make. For He made all things by His word, which Word we know, by the right rule of faith, to be His only Son. If, therefore, God the Father spake to the first man, and Himself was walking in the garden in the cool of the evening, and if it was from His face that the sinner hid himself amongst the trees of the garden, why are we not to go on to understand that it was He also who appeared to Abraham and to Moses, and to whom He would, and how He would, through the changeable and visible creature, subjected to Himself, while He Himself remains in Himself and in His own substance, in which He is unchangeable and invisible? But, possibly, it might be that the Scripture passed over in a hidden way from person to person, and while it had related that the Father said “Let there be light,” and the rest which it mentioned Him to have done by the Word, went on to indicate the Son as speaking to the first man; not unfolding this openly, but intimating it to be understood by those who could understand it.
18. Let him, then, who has the strength whereby he can penetrate this secret with his minds eye, so that to him it appears clearly, either that the Father also is able, or that only the Son and Holy Spirit are able, to appear to human eyes through a visible creature; let him, I say, proceed to examine these things if he can, or even to express and handle them in words; but the thing itself, so far as concerns this testimony of Scripture, where God spake with man, is, in my judgment, not discoverable, because it does not evidently appear even whether Adam usually saw God with the eyes of his body; especially as it is a great question what manner of eyes it was that were opened when they tasted the forbidden fruit; 268 for before they had tasted, these eyes were closed. Yet I would not rashly assert, even if that scripture implies Paradise to have been a material place, that God could not have walked there in any way except in some bodily form. For it might be said, that only words were framed for the man to hear, without seeing any form. Neither, because it is written, “Adam hid himself from the face of God,” does it follow forthwith that he usually saw His face. For what if he himself indeed could not see, but feared to be himself seen by Him whose voice he had heard, and had felt His presence as he walked? For Cain, too, said to God, “From Thy face I will hide myself;” 269 yet we are not therefore compelled to admit that he was wont to behold the face of God with his bodily eyes in any visible form, although he had heard the voice of God questioning and speaking with him of his sin. But what p. 46 manner of speech it was that God then uttered to the outward ears of men, especially in speaking to the first man, it is both difficult to discover, and we have not undertaken to say in this discourse. But if words alone and sounds were wrought, by which to bring about some sensible presence of God to those first men, I do not know why I should not there understand the person of God the Father, seeing that His person is manifested also in that voice, when Jesus appeared in glory on the mount before the three disciples; 270 and in that when the dove descended upon Him at His baptism; 271 and in that where He cried to the Father concerning His own glorification and it was answered Him, “I have both glorified, and will glorify again.” 272 Not that the voice could be wrought without the work of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (since the Trinity works indivisibly), but that such a voice was wrought as to manifest the person of the Father only; just as the Trinity wrought that human form from the Virgin Mary, yet it is the person of the Son alone; for the invisible Trinity wrought the visible person of the Son alone. Neither does anything forbid us, not only to understand those words spoken to Adam as spoken by the Trinity, but also to take them as manifesting the person of that Trinity. For we are compelled to understand of the Father only, that which is said, “This is my beloved Son.” 273 For Jesus can neither be believed nor understood to be the Son of the Holy Spirit, or even His own Son. And where the voice uttered, “I have both glorified, and will glorify again,” we confess it was only the person of the Father; since it is the answer to that word of the Lord, in which He had said, “Father, glorify thy Son,” which He could not say except to God the Father only, and not also to the Holy Spirit, whose Son He was not. But here, where it is written, “And the Lord God said to Adam,” no reason can be given why the Trinity itself should not be understood.
19. Likewise, also, in that which is written, “Now the Lord had said unto Abraham, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and thy fathers house,” it is not clear whether a voice alone came to the ears of Abraham, or whether anything also appeared to his eyes. But a little while after, it is somewhat more clearly said, “And the Lord appeared unto Abraham, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land.” 274 But neither there is it expressly said in what form God appeared to him, or whether the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit appeared to him. Unless, perhaps, they think that it was the Son who appeared to Abraham, because it is not written, God appeared to him, but “the Lord appeared to him.” For the Son seems to be called the Lord as though the name was appropriated to Him; as e.g. the apostle says, “For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him.” 275 But since it is found that God the Father also is called Lord in many places,—for instance, “The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten Thee;” 276 and again, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at my right hand;” 277 since also the Holy Spirit is found to be called Lord, as where the apostle says, “Now the Lord is that Spirit;” and then, lest any one should think the Son to be signified, and to be called the Spirit on account of His incorporeal substance, has gone on to say, “And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty;” 278 and no one ever doubted the Spirit of the Lord to be the Holy Spirit: therefore, neither here does it appear plainly whether it was any person of the Trinity that appeared to Abraham, or God Himself the Trinity, of which one God it is said, “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and Him only shall thou serve.” 279 But under the oak at Mamre he saw three men, whom he invited, and hospitably received, and ministered to them as they feasted. Yet Scripture at the beginning of that narrative does not say, three men appeared to him, but, “The Lord appeared to him.” And then, setting forth in due order after what manner the Lord appeared to him, it has added the account of the three men, whom Abraham invites to his hospitality in the plural number, and afterwards speaks to them in the singular number as one; and as one He promises him a son by Sara, viz. the one whom the Scripture calls Lord, as in the beginning of the same narrative, “The Lord,” it says, “appeared to Abraham.” He invites them then, and washes their feet, and leads them forth at their departure, as though they were men; but he speaks as with the Lord God, whether when a son is promised to him, or when the destruction is shown to him that was impending over Sodom. 280
Gen. 3.8-10Gen. iii. 8-1045:268
Gen. 3.7Gen. iii. 745:269
Gen. 4.14Gen. iv. 1446:270
John 12.28John xii. 2846:273
Gen. 12:1, 7Gen. 12:1, 746:275
1 Cor. 8:5, 61 Cor. 8:5, 646:276
Ps. 2.7Ps. ii. 746:277
Ps. 110.1Ps. cx. 146:278
2 Cor. 3.172 Cor. iii. 1746:279
Deut. 6.13Deut. vi. 1346:280
Next: Chapter 11
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