Confessions

The Confessions of St. Augustine; Book 12: Chapters 19-21

CHAPTER XIX—HE ENUMERATES THE THINGS CONCERNING WHICH ALL AGREE.

For true it is, O Lord, that Thou madest heaven and earth; and it is true too, that the Beginning is Thy Wisdom, in Which Thou createst all: and true again, that this visible world hath for its greater part the heaven and the earth, which briefly comprise all made and created natures. And true too, that whatsoever is mutable, gives us to understand a certain want of form, whereby it receiveth a form, or is changed, or turned. It is true, that that is subject to no times, which so cleaveth to the unchangeable Form, as though subject to change, never to be changed. It is true, that that formlessness which is almost nothing, cannot be subject to the alteration of times. It is true, that that whereof a thing is made, may by a certain mode of speech, be called by the name of the thing made of it; whence that formlessness, whereof heaven and earth were made, might be called heaven and earth. It is true, that of things having form, there is not any nearer to having no form, than the earth and the deep. It is true, that not only every created and formed thing, but whatsoever is capable of being created and formed, Thou madest, of Whom are all things. It is true, that whatsoever is formed out of that which had no form, was unformed before it was formed.

 

CHAPTER XX—OF THE WORDS, “IN THE BEGINNING,” VARIOUSLY UNDERSTOOD.

Out of these truths, of which they doubt not whose inward eye Thou hast enabled to see such things, and who unshakenly believe Thy servant Moses to have spoken in the Spirit of truth; -of all these then, he taketh one, who saith, In the Beginning God made the heaven and the earth; that is, “in His Word coeternal with Himself, God made the intelligible and the sensible, or the spiritual and the corporeal creature.” He another, that saith, In the Beginning God made heaven and earth; that is, “in His Word coeternal with Himself, did God make the universal bulk of this corporeal world, together with all those apparent and known creatures, which it containeth.” He another, that saith, In the Beginning God made heaven and earth; that is, “in His Word coeternal with Himself, did God make the formless matter of creatures spiritual and corporeal.” He another, that saith, In the Beginning God created heaven and earth; that is, “in His Word coeternal with Himself, did God create the formless matter of the creature corporeal, wherein heaven and earth lay as yet confused, which, being now distinguished and formed, we at this day see in the bulk of this world.” He another, who saith, In the Beginning God made heaven and earth; that is, “in the very beginning of creating and working, did God make that formless matter, confusedly containing in itself both heaven and earth; out of which, being formed, do they now stand out, and are apparent, with all that is in them.”

 

CHAPTER XXI—OF THE EXPLANATION OF THE WORDS, “THE EARTH WAS INVISIBLE.”

And with regard to the understanding of the words following, out of all those truths, he chooses one to himself, who saith, But the earth was invisible, and without form, and darkness was upon the deep; that is, “that corporeal thing that God made, was as yet a formless matter of corporeal things, without order, without light. “ Another he who says, The earth was invisible and without form, and darkness was upon the deep; that is, “this all, which is called heaven and earth, was still a formless and darksome matter, of which the corporeal heaven and the corporeal earth were to be made, with all things in them, which are known to our corporeal senses.” Another he who says, The earth was invisible and without form, and darkness was upon the deep; that is, “this all, which is called heaven and earth, was still a formless and a darksome matter; out of which was to be made, both that intelligible heaven, otherwhere called the Heaven of heavens, and the earth, that is, the whole corporeal nature, under which name is comprised this corporeal heaven also; in a word, out of which every visible and invisible creature was to be created.” Another he who says, The earth was invisible and without form, and darkness was upon the deep, “the Scripture did not call that formlessness by the name of heaven and earth; but that formlessness, saith he, already was, which he called the earth invisible without form, and darkness upon the deep; of which he had before said, that God had made heaven and earth, namely, the spiritual and corporeal creature.” Another he who says, The earth was invisible and without form, and darkness was upon the deep; that is, “there already was a certain formless matter, of which the Scripture said before, that God made heaven and earth; namely, the whole corporeal bulk of the world, divided into two great parts, upper and lower, with all the common and known creatures in them.”

Saint Augustine Bishop of Hippo, The Confessions of St. Augustine

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