Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Doctrinal Treatises of St. Augustin: Chapter 11
Chapter 11.—The Likeness of the Divine Word, Such as It Is, is to Be Sought, Not in Our Own Outer and Sensible Word, But in the Inner and Mental One. There is the Greatest Possible Unlikeness Between Our Word and Knowledge and the Divine Word and Knowledge.
20. Accordingly, the word that sounds outwardly is the sign of the word that gives light inwardly; which latter has the greater claim to be called a word. For that which is uttered with the mouth of the flesh, is the articulate sound of a word; and is itself also called a word, on account of that to make which outwardly apparent it is itself assumed. For our word is so made in some way into an articulate sound of the body, by assuming that articulate sound by which it may be manifested to mens senses, as the Word of God was made flesh, by assuming that flesh in which itself also might be manifested to mens senses. And as our word becomes an articulate sound, yet is not changed into one; so the Word of God became flesh, but far be it from us to say He was changed into flesh. For both that word of ours became an articulate sound, and that other Word became flesh, by assuming it, not by consuming itself so as to be changed into it. And therefore whoever desires to arrive at any likeness, be it of what sort it may, of the Word of God, however in many respects unlike, must not regard the word of ours that sounds in the ears, either when it is uttered in an articulate sound or when it is silently thought. For the words of all tongues that are uttered in sound are also silently thought, and the mind runs over verses while the bodily mouth is silent. And not only the numbers of syllables, but the tunes also of songs, since they are corporeal, and pertain to that sense of the body which is called hearing, are at hand by certain incorporeal images appropriate to them, to those who think of them, and who silently revolve all these things. But we must pass by this, in order to arrive at that word of man, by the likeness of which, be it of what sort it may, the Word of God may be somehow seen as in an enigma. Not that word which was spoken to this or that prophet, and of which it is said, “Now the word of God grew and multiplied;” 978 and again, “Faith then cometh by hearing, and hearing p. 210 by the word of Christ;” 979 and again, “When ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men but, as it is in truth, the word of God” 980 (and there are countless other like sayings in the Scriptures respecting the word of God, which is disseminated in the sounds of many and diverse languages through the hearts and mouths of men; and which is therefore called the word of God, because the doctrine that is delivered is not human, but divine);—but we are now seeking to see, in whatsoever way we can, by means of this likeness, that Word of God of which it is said, “The Word was God;” of which it is said, “All things were made by Him;” of which it is said, “The Word became flesh;” of which it is said “The Word of God on high is the fountain of wisdom.” 981 We must go on, then, to that word of man, to the word of the rational animal, to the word of that image of God, that is not born of God, but made by God; which is neither utterable in sound nor capable of being thought under the likeness of sound such as must needs be with the word of any tongue; but which precedes all the signs by which it is signified, and is begotten from the knowledge that continues in the mind, when that same knowledge is spoken inwardly according as it really is. For the sight of thinking is exceedingly like the sight of knowledge. For when it is uttered by sound, or by any bodily sign, it is not uttered according as it really is, but as it can be seen or heard by the body. When, therefore, that is in the word which is in the knowledge, then there is a true word, and truth, such as is looked for from man; such that what is in the knowledge is also in the word, and what is not in the knowledge is also not in the word. Here may be recognized, “Yea, yea; nay, nay.” 982 And so this likeness of the image that is made, approaches as nearly as is possible to that likeness of the image that is born, by which God the Son is declared to be in all things like in substance to the Father. We must notice in this enigma also another likeness of the word of God; viz. that, as it is said of that Word, “All things were made by Him,” where God is declared to have made the universe by His only-begotten Son, so there are no works of man that are not first spoken in his heart: whence it is written, “A word is the beginning of every work.” 983 But here also, it is when the word is true, that then it is the beginning of a good work. And a word is true when it is begotten from the knowledge of working good works, so that there too may be preserved the “yea yea, nay nay;” in order that whatever is in that knowledge by which we are to live, may be also in the word by which we are to work, and whatever is not in the one may not be in the other. Otherwise such a word will be a lie, not truth; and what comes thence will be a sin, and not a good work. There is yet this other likeness of the Word of God in this likeness of our word, that there can be a word of ours with no work following it, but there cannot be any work unless a word precedes; just as the Word of God could have existed though no creature existed, but no creature could exist unless by that Word by which all things are made. And therefore not God the Father, not the Holy Spirit, not the Trinity itself, but the Son only, which is the Word of God, was made flesh; although the Trinity was the maker: in order that we might live rightly through our word following and imitating His example, i.e. by having no lie in either the thought or the work of our word. But this perfection of this image is one to be at some time hereafter. In order to attain this it is that the good master teaches us by Christian faith, and by pious doctrine, that “with face unveiled” from the veil of the law, which is the shadow of things to come, “beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord,” i.e. gazing at it through a glass, “we may be transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord;” 984 as we explained above.
21. When, therefore, this image shall have been renewed to perfection by this transformation, then we shall be like God, because we shall see Him, not through a glass, but “as He is;” 985 which the Apostle Paul expresses by “face to face.” 986 But now, who can explain how great is the unlikeness also, in this glass, in this enigma, in this likeness such as it is? Yet I will touch upon some points, as I can, by which to indicate it.
Acts 6.7Acts vi. 7210:979
Rom. 10.17Rom. x. 17210:980
1 Thess. 2.131 Thess. ii. 13210:981
Ecclus. 1.5Ecclus. i. 5210:982
Ecclus. 37.20Ecclus. xxxvii. 20210:984
2 Cor. 3.172 Cor. iii. 17210:985
1 John 3.41 John iii. 4210:986
1 Cor. 13.121 Cor. xiii. 12
Next: Chapter 12
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