Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Philosophical Works.: A contemplation of the Divine utterance which said--“Let us make man after our image and likeness”; wherein is examined what is the definition of the image, and how the passible and mortal is like to the Blessed and Impassible, and how in the image there are male and female, seeing these are not in the prototype.
XVI. A contemplation of the Divine utterance which said—“Let us make man after our image and likeness”; wherein is examined what is the definition of the image, and how the passible and mortal is like to the Blessed and Impassible, and how in the image there are male and female, seeing these are not in the prototype 1648 .
1. Let us now resume our consideration of the Divine word, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness 1649 .” How mean and how unworthy of the majesty of man are the fancies of some heathen writers, who magnify humanity, as they supposed, by their comparison of it to this world! for they say that man is a little world, composed of the same elements with the universe. Those who bestow on human nature such praise as this by a high-sounding name, forget that they are dignifying man with the attributes of the gnat and the mouse: for they too are composed of these four elements,—because assuredly about the animated nature of every existing thing we behold a part, greater or less, of those elements without which it is not natural that any sensitive being should exist. What great thing is there, then, in mans being accounted a representation and likeness of the world,—of the heaven that passes away, of the earth that changes, of all things that they contain, which pass away with the departure of that which compasses them round?
2. In what then does the greatness of man consist, according to the doctrine of the Church? Not in his likeness to the created world, but in his being in the image of the nature of the Creator.
3. What therefore, you will perhaps say, is the definition of the image? How is the incorporeal likened to body? how is the temporal like the eternal? that which is mutable by change like to the immutable? that which is subject to passion and corruption to the impassible and incorruptible? that which constantly dwells with evil, and grows up with it, to that which is absolutely free from evil? there is a great difference between that which is conceived in the archetype, and a thing which has been made in its image: for the image is properly so called if it keeps its resemblance to the prototype; but if the imitation be perverted from its subject, the thing is something else, and no longer an image of the subject.
4. How then is man, this mortal, passible, shortlived being, the image of that nature which is immortal, pure, and everlasting? The true answer to this question, indeed, perhaps only the very Truth knows: but this is what we, tracing out the truth so far as we are capable by conjectures and inferences, apprehend concerning the matter. Neither does the word of God lie when it says that man was made in the image of God, nor is the pitiable suffering of mans nature like to the blessedness of the impassible Life: for if any one were to compare our nature with God, one of two things must needs be allowed in order that the definition of the likeness may be apprehended in both cases in the same terms,—either that the Deity is passible, or that humanity is impassible: but if neither the Deity is passible nor our nature free from passion, what other account remains whereby we may say that the word of God speaks truly, which says that man was made in the image of God?
5. We must, then, take up once more the Holy Scripture itself, if we may perhaps find some guidance in the question by means of what is written. After saying, “Let us make man in our image,” and for what purposes it was said “Let us make him,” it adds this saying:—“and God created man; in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them 1650 .” We have already said in what precedes, that this saying was uttered for the destruction of heretical impiety, in order that being instructed that the Only-begotten God made man in the image of God, we should in no wise distinguish the Godhead of the Father and the Son, since Holy Scripture gives to each equally the name of God,—to Him Who made man, and to Him in Whose image he was made.
p. 405 6. However, let us pass by our argument upon this point: let us turn our inquiry to the question before us,—how it is that while the Deity is in bliss, and humanity is in misery, the latter is yet in Scripture called “like” the former?
7. We must, then, examine the words carefully: for we find, if we do so, that that which was made “in the image” is one thing, and that which is now manifested in wretchedness is another. “God created man,” it says; “in the image of God created He him 1651 .” There is an end of the creation of that which was made “in the image”: then it makes a resumption of the account of creation, and says, “male and female created He them.” I presume that every one knows that this is a departure from the Prototype: for “in Christ Jesus,” as the apostle says, “there is neither male nor female 1652 .” Yet the phrase declares that man is thus divided.
8. Thus the creation of our nature is in a sense twofold: one made like to God, one divided according to this distinction: for something like this the passage darkly conveys by its arrangement, where it first says, “God created man, in the image of God created He him 1653 ,” and then, adding to what has been said, “male and female created He them 1654 ,”—a thing which is alien from our conceptions of God.
9. I think that by these words Holy Scripture conveys to us a great and lofty doctrine; and the doctrine is this. While two natures—the Divine and incorporeal nature, and the irrational life of brutes—are separated from each other as extremes, human nature is the mean between them: for in the compound nature of man we may behold a part of each of the natures I have mentioned,—of the Divine, the rational and intelligent element, which does not admit the distinction of male and female; of the irrational, our bodily form and structure, divided into male and female: for each of these elements is certainly to be found in all that partakes of human life. That the intellectual element, however, precedes the other, we learn as from one who gives in order an account of the making of man; and we learn also that his community and kindred with the irrational is for man a provision for reproduction. For he says first that “God created man in the image of God” (showing by these words, as the Apostle says, that in such a being there is no male or female): then he adds the peculiar attributes of human nature, “male and female created He them 1655 .”
10. What, then, do we learn from this? Let no one, I pray, be indignant if I bring from far an argument to bear upon the present subject. God is in His own nature all that which our mind can conceive of good;—rather, transcending all good that we can conceive or comprehend. He creates man for no other reason than that He is good; and being such, and having this as His reason for entering upon the creation of our nature, He would not exhibit the power of His goodness in an imperfect form, giving our nature some one of the things at His disposal, and grudging it a share in another: but the perfect form of goodness is here to be seen by His both bringing man into being from nothing, and fully supplying him with all good gifts: but since the list of individual good gifts is a long one, it is out of the question to apprehend it numerically. The language of Scripture therefore expresses it concisely by a comprehensive phrase, in saying that man was made “in the image of God”: for this is the same as to say that He made human nature participant in all good; for if the Deity is the fulness of good, and this is His image, then the image finds its resemblance to the Archetype in being filled with all good.
11. Thus there is in us the principle of all excellence, all virtue and wisdom, and every higher thing that we conceive: but pre-eminent among all is the fact that we are free from necessity, and not in bondage to any natural power, but have decision in our own power as we please; for virtue is a voluntary thing, subject to no dominion: that which is the result of compulsion and force cannot be virtue.
12. Now as the image bears in all points the semblance of the archetypal excellence, if it had not a difference in some respect, being absolutely without divergence it would no longer be a likeness, but will in that case manifestly be absolutely identical with the Prototype. What difference then do we discern between the Divine and that which has been made like to the Divine? We find it in the fact that the former is uncreate, while the latter has its being from creation: and this distinction of property brings with it a train of other properties; for it is very certainly acknowledged that the uncreated nature is also immutable, and always remains the same, while the created nature cannot exist without change; for its very passage from nonexistence to existence is a certain motion and change of the non-existent transmuted by the Divine purpose into being.
13. As the Gospel calls the stamp upon the coin “the image of Cæsar 1656 ,” whereby we learn that in that which was fashioned to resemble Cæsar there was resemblance as to outward look, but difference as to material, so also in the present saying, when we consider the attrip. 406 butes contemplated both in the Divine and human nature, in which the likeness consists, to be in the place of the features, we find in what underlies them the difference which we behold in the uncreated and in the created nature.
14. Now as the former always remains the same, while that which came into being by creation had the beginning of its existence from change, and has a kindred connection with the like mutation, for this reason He Who, as the prophetical writing says, “knoweth all things before they be 1657 ,” following out, or rather perceiving beforehand by His power of foreknowledge what, in a state of independence and freedom, is the tendency of the motion of mans will,—as He saw, I say, what would be, He devised for His image the distinction of male and female, which has no reference to the Divine Archetype, but, as we have said, is an approximation to the less rational nature.
15. The cause, indeed, of this device, only those can know who were eye-witnesses of the truth and ministers of the Word; but we, imagining the truth, as far as we can, by means of conjectures and similitudes, do not set forth that which occurs to our mind authoritatively, but will place it in the form of a theoretical speculation before our kindly hearers.
16. What is it then which we understand concerning these matters? In saying that “God created man” the text indicates, by the indefinite character of the term, all mankind; for was not Adam here named together with the creation, as the history tells us in what follows 1658 ? yet the name given to the man created is not the particular, but the general name: thus we are led by the employment of the general name of our nature to some such view as this—that in the Divine foreknowledge and power all humanity is included in the first creation; for it is fitting for God not to regard any of the things made by Him as indeterminate, but that each existing thing should have some limit and measure prescribed by the wisdom of its Maker.
17. Now just as any particular man is limited by his bodily dimensions, and the peculiar size which is conjoined with the superficies of his body is the measure of his separate existence, so I think that the entire plenitude of humanity was included by the God of all, by His power of foreknowledge, as it were in one body, and that this is what the text teaches us which says, “God created man, in the image of God created He him.” For the image is not in part of our nature, nor is the grace in any one of the things found in that nature, but this power extends equally to all the race: and a sign of this is that mind is implanted alike in all: for all have the power of understanding and deliberating, and of all else whereby the Divine nature finds its image in that which was made according to it: the man that was manifested at the first creation of the world, and he that shall be after the consummation of all, are alike: they equally bear in themselves the Divine image 1659 .
18. For this reason the whole race was spoken of as one man, namely, that to Gods power nothing is either past or future, but even that which we expect is comprehended, equally with what is at present existing, by the all-sustaining energy. Our whole nature, then, extending from the first to the last, is, so to say, one image of Him Who is; but the distinction of kind in male and female was added to His work last, as I suppose, for the reason which follows 1660 .
Otherwise chap. xvii. The title in the Bodleian ms. of the Latin Version is:—“That the excellence of man does not consist in the fact that, according to philosophers, he is made after the image of the world, but in the fact that he is made in the image of God, and how he is made in the image of God.”404:1649
Gen. i. 26.404:1650
Gen. i. 27.405:1651
Gen. i. 27.405:1652
Cf. Gal. iii. 28405:1653
Gen. i. 27.405:1654
Gen. i. 27.405:1655
Gen. i. 27.405:1656
Cf. S. Matt. 22:20, 21.406:1657
The punctuation followed by Forbes here does not seem to give a good sense, and also places S. Gregory in the position of formally stating that one passage of Genesis contradicts another. By substituting an interrogation after ἡ ἱστορία φησίν, the sense given is this:—we know from a later statement in Genesis that the name Adam was given “in the day that they were created” (Gen. v. 2), but here the name given is general, not particular. There must be a reason for this, and the reason is, that the race of man, and not the individual, is that spoken of as “created in the image of God.” With this view that all humanity is included in the first creation may be compared a passage near the end of the De Animâ, where the first man is compared to a full ear of corn, afterwards “divided into a multitude of bare grain.”406:1659
With this passage, again, may be compared the teaching of the De Animâ on the subject of the Resurrection.406:1660
The explanation of the reason, however, is deferred; see xvii. 4.
Next: What we must answer to those who raise the question--“If procreation is after sin, how would souls have come into being if the first of mankind had remained sinless”.
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