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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IX:
John of Damascus: Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.: Concerning what is affirmed about God as though He had body.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XI.—Concerning what is affirmed about God as though He had body.

Since we find many terms used symbolically in the Scriptures concerning God which are more applicable to that which has body, we should recognise that it is quite impossible for us men clothed about with this dense covering of flesh to understand or speak of the divine and lofty and immaterial energies of the Godhead, except by the use of images and types and symbols derived from our own life 1596 . So then all the statements concerning God, that imply body, are symbols, but have a higher meaning: for the Deity is simple and formless. Hence by God’s eyes and eyelids and sight we are to understand His power of overseeing all things and His knowledge, that nothing can escape: for in the case of us this sense makes our knowledge more complete and more full of certainty. By God’s ears and hearing is meant His readiness to be propitiated and to receive our petitions: for it is this sense that renders us also kind to suppliants, inclining our ear to them more graciously. God’s mouth and speech are His means of indicating His will; for it is by the mouth and speech that we make clear the thoughts that are in the heart: God’s food and drink are our concurrence to His will, for we, too, satisfy the necessities of our natural appetite through the sense of taste. And God’s sense of smell is His appreciation of our thoughts of and good will towards Him, for it is through this sense that we appreciate sweet fragrance. And God’s countenance is the demonstration and manifestation of Himself through His works, for our manifestation is through the countenance. And God’s hands mean the effectual nature of His energy, for it is with our own hands that we accomplish our most useful and valuable work. And His right hand is His aid in prosperity, for it is the right hand that we also use when making anything of beautiful shape or of great value, or where much strength is required. His handling is His power of accurate discrimination and exaction, even in the minutest and most secret details, for those whom we have handled cannot conceal from us aught within themselves. His feet and walk are His advent and presence, either for the purpose of bringing succour to the needy, or vengeance against enemies, or to perform any other action, for it is by using our feet that we come to arrive at any place. His oath is the unchangeableness of His counsel, for it is by oath that we confirm our compacts with one another. His anger and fury are His hatred of and aversion to all wickedness, for we, too, hate that which is contrary to our mind and become enraged thereat 1597 . His forgetfulness and sleep and slumbering are His delay in taking vengeance on His enemies and the postponement of the accustomed help to His own. And to put it shortly, all the statements made about God that imply body have some hidden meaning and teach us what is above us by means of something familiar to ourselves, with the exception of any statement concerning the bodily sojourn of the God-Word. For He for our safety took upon Himself the whole nature of man 1598 , the thinking spirit, the body, and all the properties of human nature, even the natural and blameless passions.



Dionys., De div. nom., c. 1; De Cæl. Hier., c. 15.


Greg. Naz., Orat. 37.


Text, πάντα τὸν ἄνθρωπον: variant, ἅπαντα.

Next: Concerning the Same.

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