Nicene and Post Nicene-Fathers, Vol. I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Confessions: Chapter XXVIII
Chapter XXVIII.—The Words, “In the Beginning,” And, “The Heaven and the Earth,” Are Differently Understood.
38. But others, to whom these words are no longer a nest, but shady fruit-bowers, see the fruits concealed in them, fly around rejoicing, and chirpingly search and pluck them. For they see when they read or hear these words, O God, that all times past and future are surmounted by Thy eternal and stable abiding, and still that there is no temporal creature which Thou hast not made. And by Thy will, because it is that which Thou art, Thou hast made all things, not by any changed will, nor by a will which before was not,—not out of Thyself, in Thine own likeness, the form of all things, but out of nothing, a formless unlikeness which should be formed by Thy likeness (having recourse to Thee the One, after their settled capacity, according as it has been given to each thing in his kind), and might all be made very good; whether they remain around Thee, or, being by degrees removed in time and place, make or undergo beautiful variations. These things they see, and rejoice in the light of Thy truth, in the little degree they here may.
39. Again, another of these directs his attention to that which is said, “In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth,” and beholdeth Wisdom,—the Beginning, 1158 because It also speaketh unto us. 1159 Another likewise directs his attention to the same words, and by “beginning” understands the commencement of things created; and receives it thus,—In the beginning He made, as if it were said, He at first made. And among those who understand “In the beginning” to mean, that “in Thy Wisdom Thou hast created heaven and earth,” one believes the matter out of which the heaven and earth were to be created to be there called “heaven and earth;” another, that they are natures already formed and distinct; another, one formed nature, and that a spiritual, under the name of heaven, the other formless, of corporeal matter, under the name of earth. But they who under the name of “heaven and earth” understand matter as yet formless, out of which were to be formed heaven and earth, do not themselves understand it in one manner; but one, that matter out of which the intelligible and the sensible creature were to be completed; another, that only out of which this sensible corporeal mass was to come, holding in its vast bosom these visible and prepared natures. Nor are they who believe that the creatures already set in order and arranged are in this place called heaven and earth of one accord; but the one, both the invisible and visible; the other, the visible only, in which we admire the luminous heaven and darksome earth, and the things that are therein.
See p. 166, note 2.187:1159
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