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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III:
Doctrinal Treatises of St. Augustin: Chapter 8

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 8.—How the Apostle Says that God is Now Seen by Us Through a Glass.

14. I know that wisdom is an incorporeal substance, and that it is the light by which those things are seen that are not seen by carnal eyes; and yet a man so great and so spiritual [as Paul] says, “We see now through a glass, in an enigma, but then face to face.” 961 If we ask what and of what sort is this “glass,” this assuredly occurs to our minds, that in a glass nothing is discerned but an image. We have endeavored, then, so to do; in order that we might see in some way or other by this image which we are, Him by whom we are made, as by a glass. And this is intimated also in the words of the same apostle: “But we with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 962 “Beholding as in a glass,” 963 he has said, i.e. seeing by means of a glass, not looking from a watch-tower: an ambiguity that does not exist in the Greek language, whence the apostolic epistles have been rendered into Latin. For in Greek, a glass, 964 in which the images of things are visible, is wholly distinct in the sound of the word also from a watch-tower, 965 from the height of which we command a more distant view. And it is quite plain that the apostle, in using the word “speculantes” in respect to the glory of the Lord, meant it to come from “speculum,” not from “specula.” But where he says, “We are transformed into the same image,” he assuredly means to speak of the image of God; and by calling it “the same,” he means that very image which we see in the glass, because that same image is also the glory of the Lord; as he says elsewhere, “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God,” 966 —a text already discussed in the twelfth book. He means, then, by “We are transformed,” that we are changed from one form to another, and that we pass from a form that is obscure to a form p. 207 that is bright: since the obscure form, too, is the image of God; and if an image, then assuredly also “glory,” in which we are created as men, being better than the other animals. For it is said of human nature in itself, “The man ought not to cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God.” And this nature, being the most excellent among things created, is transformed from a form that is defaced into a form that is beautiful, when it is justified by its own Creator from ungodliness. Since even in ungodliness itself, the more the faultiness is to be condemned, the more certainly is the nature to be praised. And therefore he has added, “from glory to glory:” from the glory of creation to the glory of justification. Although these words, “from glory to glory,” may be understood also in other ways;—from the glory of faith to the glory of sight, from the glory whereby we are sons of God to the glory whereby we shall be like Him, because “we shall see Him as He is.” 967 But in that he has added “as from the Spirit of the Lord,” he declares that the blessing of so desirable a transformation is conferred upon us by the grace of God.



1 Cor. 13.121 Cor. xiii. 12


2 Cor. 3.182 Cor. iii. 18








1 Cor. 11.71 Cor. xi. 7


1 John 3.21 John iii. 2

Next: Chapter 9

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