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The Opening of Genesis.

Preliminaries I: The Mode of the Narrative (Exegetical Principles I)

(c) 2013 Bart A. Mazzetti

N.B. As we learn from Plato, central to any investigation of a narrative is the difference between what is said and the way in which it is said.1 So, too, with the Creation story in Genesis: we must consider both its subject matter and the mode of the narrative; the former comprising the truth it conveys; the latter, its manner of conveying it. Now as I shall go on to argue here and in other papers in this series I have called The Opening of Genesis, I take this truth to consist primarily in the first principles of things, first those which belong to the Creator,2 then those of His Creation. In the present work, I shall treat principally of the way in which the Mosaic account of the Work of the Six Days, or Hexaemeron, conveys this truth.

Cf. Rep. III (392 c-d) (tr. Allan Bloom): So, then, let that be the end of what has to do with speeches. After this, I suppose, style must be considered, and then well have made a complete consideration of what must be said and how it must be said. 2 Such are the Trinity of Persons in Almighty God, the mystery of Christs Incarnation, and the like: and these are distinct articles of faith (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol., IIa-IIae, q. 1, art. 6, ad 1, tr. English Dominican Fathers)



I. DECREES OF THE PONTIFICAL BIBLICAL COMMISSION. 1. On regarding certain books or parts of books of Holy Scripture as not historical. Cf. Official Catholic Teachings: Bible Interpretation, tr. James J. Megivern:
II Concerning the Narratives in the Historical Books Which Have Only the Appearance of Being Historical The Biblical Commission answers the following question: Whether we may admit as a principle of sound exegesis the opinion which holds that those books of Holy Scripture which are regarded as historical, either wholly or in part, sometimes narrate what is not history properly so-called and objectively true, but only have the appearance of history and are intended to convey a meaning different from the strictly literal or historical sense of the words. Answer: In the negative; excepting always the casenot to be easily or rashly admitted, and then only on the supposition that it is not opposed to the teaching of the Church and subject to her decisionthat it can be proved by solid arguments that the sacred writer did not intend to give a true and strict history, but proposed rather to set forth, under the guise and form of history, a parable or an allegory or some meaning distinct from the strictly literal or historical signification of the words. June 23, 1905.

2. On evaluating the literal historical sense with respect to what it reports regarding the foundations of the Christian religion. Cf. Henry Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma. Trans. Roy Deferrari (London: B. Herder Book Co., 1954):
30 June 1909, On the Historical Character of the First Three Chapters of Genesis. Question 3. Whether, in particular, the literal historical sense ( sensus litteralis historicus) may be called in question (vocari in dubium possit), where it is a question of facts narrated in these chapters (ubi agitur de factis in eisdem capitibus enarratis) which involve the foundations of the Christian religion (quae christianae religionis fundamenta attingunt ), as are, among others, the creation of all things by God at the beginning of time; the special [or, particular] creation of man; the formation of the first woman from the first man ( formatio primae mulieris ex prio homine); the unity of the human race; the original happiness of our first parents in a state of justice, integrity and immortality; the precept given by God to man in order to test his obedience; the transgression of the divine precept under the persuasion of the devil in the guise of a serpent; the fall of our first parents from the aforesaid primaeval state of innocence; and the promise of a future Saviour? Response: In the negative.

3. That it was not the intention of the sacred author to teach in a scientific manner the innermost constitution of visible things as well as the complete order of creation. Cf. Ibid:
30 June 1909, On the Historical Character of the First Three Chapters of Genesis. Question 7. Whether, since it was not the intention of the sacred author, when writing the first chapter of Genesis, to teach in a scientific manner the innermost nature of visible things as well as the complete order of creation but rather to furnish his people with a popular account, such as the common parlance of that age allowed, one, namely, adapted to the senses and to the mental preparation of the persons, we are strictly and always bound, when interpreting these chapters, to seek for scientific exactitude of expression. Answer: In the negative.

Cf. Msgr. John F. McCarthy, A Neo-Patristic Return to the First Day of Creation: 3
In 1935 Rudolph Bandas published his Biblical Questions 5 to provide answers to questions often raised by teachers of Bible history. He was reflecting Catholic exegetical tradition as he wrote: The historical character of Genesis is a consequence of its inspiration. For the sacred writer meant to write history, and inspiration, therefore, guarantees the historical character of what he wrote. 6 As he came to the question of Genesis and Science, he expressed a viewpoint that was becoming more and more common among Catholic theologians and exegetes as he said: The Mosaic account of the origin of the world is a popular narrative and not a technical, scientific textbook. The purpose of the sacred writer was not to teach the physical sciences but the truths necessary for salvation. The Bible is a book of religion, not a textbook of science. Its main purpose is, in the language of Cardinal Baronius, to teach us how to go to heaven and not how the heavens go.7

5. R. Bandas, Biblical Questions, vol. 1, The Old Testament (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1935), Preface. 6. Ibid., p. 40. 7. Ibid., p. 50.

N.B. Regarding the complete order of creation: the order in question may be either temporal or natural; whereas creation may mean (a) the process of creating or (b) the result of the process. Again, one must distinguish between the scientific manner proper to modern experimental science, and the manner which belongs to the philosophical disciplines. Likewise, the complete order of creation means one thing in the purview of astrophysics and cosmology, and something else in sacred or natural theology. 4. That certain narratives in the first chapters of Genesis relate in simple and figurative language, adapted to the understanding of a less developed people, the fundamental truths presupposed for the economy of salvation, as well as a popular description of the origin of the human race and of the Chosen People and therefore do contain history.

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Cf. Letter of the Pontifical Biblical Commission to Cardinal Suhard (tr. ed. James J. Megivern, Official Catholic Teachings: Bible Interpretation, pp. 351-352):
Letter of the Pontifical Biblical Commission to Cardinal Suhard Concerning the Time of Documents of the Pentateuch and Concerning the Literary Form of the First Eleven Chapters of Genesis January 16, 1948 2. ...To declare a priori that their narratives contain no history in the modern sense of the term would easily convey the idea that they contain no history whatever, whereas they relate in simple and figurative language, adapted to the understanding of a less developed people, the fundamental truths presupposed for the economy of salvation, as well as a popular description of the origin of the human race and of the Chosen People.

Cf. Encyclical Letter of His Holiness Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis (Concerning False Opinions), August 12, 1950:
38. Just as in the biological and anthropological sciences, so also in the historical sciences there are those who boldly transgress the limits and safeguards established by the Church. In a particular way must be deplored a certain too free interpretation of the historical books of the Old Testament. Those who favor this system, in order to defend their cause, wrongly refer to the Letter which was sent not long ago to the Archbishop of Paris by the Pontifical Commission on Biblical Studies. (January 16, 1948: A.A.S., vol. XL, pp. 45-48.) This Letter, in fact, clearly points out that the first eleven chapters of Genesis, although properly speaking not conforming to the historical method used by the best Greek and Latin writers or by competent authors of our time, do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense, which however must be further studied and determined by exegetes; the same chapters, (the Letter points out), in simple and metaphorical language adapted to the mentality of a people but little cultured, both state the principal truths which are fundamental for our salvation, and also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and the chosen people. If, however, the ancient sacred writers have taken anything from popular narrations (and this may be conceded), it must never be forgotten that they did so with the help of divine inspiration, through which they were rendered immune from any error in selecting and evaluating those documents. 39. Therefore, whatever of the popular narrations have been inserted into the Sacred Scriptures must in no way be considered on a par with myths or other such things, which are more the product of an extravagant imagination than of the striving for truth and simplicity which in the Sacred Books, also of the Old Testament, is so apparent that our ancient sacred writers must be admitted to be clearly superior to the ancient profane writers.

Note how the Holy Father allows for the recognition of correspondences between the profane and the sacred traditions regarding the first principles of things (prescinding from any theory of which way the influence originally flowed). In the exposition to follow, we shall have frequent recourse to such points of agreement. 5. That the literal and obvious sense may be departed from only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires.

Cf. Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus (1893):

The opinion of the Fathers is also of very great weight when they treat of these matters [sc. the interpretation of Sacred Scripture] in their capacity of doctors, unofficially; not only because they excel in their knowledge of revealed doctrine and in their acquaintance with many things which are useful in understanding the apostolic Books, but because they are men of eminent sanctity and of ardent zeal for the truth, on whom God has bestowed a more ample measure of His light. Wherefore the expositor should make it his duty to follow their foot-steps with all reverence, and to use their labours with intelligent appreciation. But he must not on that account consider that it is forbidden when just cause exists, to push inquiry and exposition beyond what the Fathers have done; provided he carefully observes the rule so wisely laid down by St. Augustinenot to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires; a rule to which it is the more necessary to adhere strictly in these times, when the thirst for novelty and unrestrained freedom of thought make the danger of error most real and proximate. 3

Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical letter, Providentissimus Deus, November 18, 1893, nos. 14-15. Translation of the Vatican website Last accessed September 11, 2004.

N.B. For an equivalent expression of this rule from a medieval Jewish Sage, cf. Louis Jacobs, Jewish Biblical Exegesis (New York: Behrman House, 1973), pp. 13-14:
Chapter 4: Twelfth Century: Ibn Ezra. How should the Bible be interpreted? The third method is the way of darkness and obscurity. This is the method of those who invent mysterious interpretations for all the passages in Scripture. It is their belief that the Torah and the precepts are riddles. I shall not spend much time refuting this thoroughly confused method. The words of the Torah are never less than straightforward. In one thing only are these people right. This is that every precept of the Torah, whether great or small, must be measured in the balance of the heart into which God has implanted some of his wisdom. Therefore if there appears something in the Torah which seems to contradict reason or to refute the evidence of the senses then here one should seek for the solution in a figurative expression. For reason is the foundation of everything. The Torah was not given to men who cannot reason and mans reason is the angel which mediates between him and his God. It follows that wherever we find something in the Torah that is not contrary to reason we must understand it in accordance with its plain meaning and accept it as saying what it seems to say, believing that this is its true meaning. We should not grope about as the blind in the dark grope for the wall. Why should we understand as mysteries things which are perfectly clear as they stand? Even though there are instances where a verse has two meanings, both of which are clear, one referring to the body and the other to the mind, such as circumcision of the flesh and uncircumcised heart, and even though the narrative of the tree of knowledge, for instance, can only be understood in the figurative sense, yet in these instances the figurative meaning is evident on the surface. It may be that the meaning [13-14] is not too evident but will become clear when the wise man opens his eyes to see more deeply into the text. For even certain organs of a mans body have more than one function such as the nostrils, the tongue and the two legs. (emphasis added)

For a positive formulation of the foregoing decree of the Biblical Commission, cf. A. J. Maas, Hexaemeron, The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York, 1910): 7

III. MEANING OF THE HEXAEMERON <...> The legitimate character of this method of proceeding will become clear in the light of the aforesaid decree of 30 June, 1909, issued by the Biblical Commission. After safeguarding the literal, historical sense of the first three chapters of Genesis in as far as they bear on the facts touching the foundations of the Christian religion e.g., the creation of all things by God at the beginning of time, the special creation of man, the formation of the first woman from the first man, the unity of the human race the commission lays down several special principles as to the interpretation of the first part of Genesis: <...> (2) When the expressions themselves manifestly appear to be used improperly, either metaphorically or anthropomorphically, and when either reason prohibits our holding the proper sense, or necessity compels us to set it aside, it is lawful to depart from the proper sense of the words and phrases in the above-mentioned chapters.

For fundamental rules of interpretation laid down by St. Thomas, cf. Quaestiones Disputatae de Potentia Dei. On the Power of God by Thomas Aquinas, translated by the English Dominican Fathers (Westminster, MD, 1952), q. 4, art. 1, c.:
Q. IV: ARTICLE I Did the Creation of Formless Matter Precede in Duration the Creation of Things? [Sum. Th. I, Q. lxvi, A. i; QQ lxvii, lxix] I answer that as Augustine says (Conf. xii) this question admits of a twofold discussion, one regards the true answer to the question itself, the other regards the sense of the text in which Moses inspired by God tells the story of the worlds beginning. As to the first discussion two things are to be avoided: one is the making of false statements especially such as are contrary to revealed truth, the other is the assertion that what we think to be true is an article of faith, for as Augustine says ( Confess. x), when a man thinks his false opinions to be the teaching of godliness, and dares obstinately to dogmatise about matters of which he is ignorant, he becomes a stumbling block to others. The reason why he says that such an one is a stumbling block is because the faith is made ridiculous to the unbeliever when a simple-minded believer asserts as an article of faith that which is demonstrably false, as again Augustine says in his commentary ( Gen. ad lit. i). As regards the other discussion two things also are to be avoided. One is to give to the words of Scripture an interpretation manifestly false: since falsehood cannot underlie the divine Scriptures which we have received from the Holy Spirit, as neither can there be error in the faith that is taught by the Scriptures. The other is not to force such an interpretation on Scripture as to exclude any other interpretations that are actually or possibly true: since it, is part of the dignity of Holy Writ that under the one literal sense many others are contained. It is thus that the sacred text not only adapts itself to mans various intelligence, so that each one marvels to find his thoughts expressed in the words of Holy Writ; but also is all the more easily defended against unbelievers in that when one finds his own interpretation of Scripture to be false he can fall back upon some other. Hence it is not inconceivable that Moses and the other authors of the Holy Books were given to know the various truths that men would discover in the text, and that they expressed them under one literary style, so that each truth is the sense intended by the author.

And then even if commentators adapt certain truths to the sacred text that were not understood by the author, without doubt the Holy Spirit understood them, since he is the principal author of Holy Scripture. Consequently every truth that can be adapted to the sacred text without prejudice to the literal sense, is the sense of Holy Scripture. Having laid down these principles we must observe that commentators have given to the opening chapter of Genesis various explanations, none of which is contrary to revealed truth: and as far as concerns the question in point they may be divided into two groups in respect of their twofold interpretation of the formless state of matter indicated at the beginning of Genesis by the words, The earth was void and empty. Some understood these words to mean that matter was formless in the sense that it actually had no form but that all forms were in it potentially. Now matter of this kind cannot exist in nature unless it receive formation from some form: since whatever exists in nature exists actually, and actual existence comes to a thing from its form which is its act, so that nature does not contain a thing without a form. Moreover, since nothing can be included in a genus that is not contained specifically in some division of the genus, matter cannot be a being unless it be determined to some specific mode of being, and this cannot be without a form. Consequently if formless matter be understood in this sense it could not possibly precede its formation in point of duration, but only by priority of nature, inasmuch as that from which something is made naturally precedes that which is made from it, even as night was created first. This was the view taken by Augustine. Others took the view that the formless state of matter does not denote absence of all form in matter, but the absence of natural finish and comeliness: in which sense it is quite possible that matter was in a formless state before it was formed. This would seem in keeping with the wise ordering of its Maker who in producing things out of nothing did not at once bring them from nothingness to the ultimate perfection of their nature, but at first gave them a kind of imperfect being, and afterwards perfected them: thus showing not only that they received their being from God so as to refute those who assert that matter is uncreated; but also that they derive their perfection from him, so as to refute those who ascribe the formation of this lower world to other causes. Such was the view of Basil the Great, Gregory and others who followed them. Since, however, neither opinion is in conflict with revealed truth, and since both are compatible with the context, while admitting that neither may be held, we must now deal with the arguments advanced on both sides. (emphasis added)

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In II Sent., dist. 12, q. 1, art. 2, c. (tr. John F. McCarthy):
For certain things are per se the substance of the Faith, as that God is three and one, and other things of this kind, in which no one is authorized to think otherwise. Thus the Apostle says in Galatians 1 that if an angel of God preached diversely from what he had taught, let him be anathema. But certain things (pertain to the faith) only incidentally ( per accidens), inasmuch, that is, as they are handed down in Scripture, which faith supposes to have been promulgated under the dictation of the Holy Spirit. And these things can without danger remain unknown by those who are not held to be knowledgeable about the Scriptures, for example, many items of history. In these things even the Fathers have thought differently and have explained the Scriptures in different ways. So, therefore, with regard to the beginning of the world, there is something which pertains to the substance of the Faith, namely, that the world was created to begin with. And this all the Fathers agree in saying. But how and in what order it was made does not pertain to the Faith except per accidens, inasmuch as it is presented in Scripture, the truth of which the Fathers retained in their varying explanations as they arrived at different conclusions.

For Augustine maintains that at the very beginning of creation certain things were separated out by species in their own proper nature, such as the elements, the celestial bodies, and the spiritual substances, while other things were distinguished in seminal reasons only, such as animals, plants, and men, and that all of these latter things were later produced in their own natures in the activity by which after those six days God governs nature created beforehand. Concerning this activity in Jn 5:17 it is stated: My Father works even until now, and I work. (For Augustine) in the distinguishing of things the focus is not on an order of time, but of nature and of teaching. Of nature, just as sound precedes song by nature but not in time, thus things that are prior in nature are recorded earlier, as the earth is mentioned before the animals and water before the fish, and so with the other things. And of teaching, [there is an] order, as is evident in the teaching of geometry, for although the parts of a figure make up the figure without any order of time, nevertheless, geometry teaches that the construction is made by extending line after line. And this was the example of Plato, as it is said at the beginning of the De caelo et mundo. Thus also Moses, in instructing an unlettered people regarding the creation of the world, divided into parts the things that were made at the same time. Ambrose, on the other hand, and other Fathers claim that an order of time was observed in the cutting out of things, and this position is both more common and seemingly more in keeping with the surface of the literal sense ( littera). But the former opinion (that of Augustine) is more reasonable and defends Sacred Scripture more from the derision of non-believers, a factor which Augustine, in his Letter of Genesis (bk. I, ch. 19) teaches us is to be kept well in mind, so that the Scriptures may be expounded in such a way that they not be mocked by nonbelievers. This opinion pleases me more. Nevertheless, replies in support of both positions will be given to all of the objections. (emphasis added)

Cf. Hugh Pope, O.P., S.S.D., S.T.M., The Catholic Students Aids to the Bible. Introduction to the Bible. The Divine Library of Sacred Scriptures (New York, 1913):4
Nothing can be more instructive than the way in which St. Thomas faces these complicated questions of exegesis. When he is treating of the Creation he distinguishes two things: the substance of what belongs to faith, viz. that the world began to be created, and the mode and order of this creation. This latter, he says, only belongs accidentally to faith, i.e., inasmuch as it is told in Holy Scripture, and of this the Fathers have given various interprettations, for example, St. Augustine, who in four different places and at four different times examines the first three chapters of Genesis and was never satisfied with any of his explanations. St. Thomas points out that some of the Fathers maintain that the various phases of the creation indicate different periods of time, but that St. Augustine thinks that Moses, since he had to instruct an uneducated people in the story of the worlds creation, divided up events which really took place all together. St. Thomas allows that the former opinion is the more common, but he says that of St. Augustine is more reasonable and less liable to expose Holy Scripture to the contempt of unbelievers. Here we have very broad principles of exegesis, yet they are established on a solid basis and no one can contemn them as rash.

On the need for accommodating divine truth to human understanding, cf. The Confessions of Saint Augustine translated by Edward B. Pusey, D.D. (1838), Bk. 12, ch. 23:
For they say, Though these things be true, yet did not Moses intend those two, when, by revelation of the Spirit, he said, In the beginning God created heaven and earth . He did not under the name of heaven, signify that spiritual or intellectual creature which always beholds the face of God; nor under the name of earth, that formless matter. What then?

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That man of God, say they, meant as we say, this declared he by those words. What? By the name of heaven and earth would he first signify, say they, universally and compendiously, all this visible world; so as afterwards by the enumeration of the several days, to arrange in detail, and, as it were, piece by piece, all those things, which it pleased the Holy Ghost thus to enounce. For such were that rude and carnal people to which he spake, that he thought them fit to be entrusted with the knowledge of such works of God only as were visible. They agree, however, that under the words earth invisible and without form, and that darksome deep (out of which it is subsequently shown, that all these visible things which we all know, were made and arranged during those days) may, not incongruously, be understood of this formless first matter. (emphasis added)

6. That in Scriptures divine things are presented to us in the manner which is in common use among men. Cf. Pope Pius XII, Divino Afflante Spirito (September 30, 1943), nn. 37-38:
37. Nevertheless no one, who has a correct idea of Biblical inspiration, will be surprised to find, even in the Sacred Writers, as in other ancient authors, certain fixed ways of expounding and narrating, certain definite idioms, especially of a kind peculiar to the Semitic tongues, so-called approximations, and certain hyperbolical modes of expression, indeed, at times, even paradoxical, which help to impress the ideas more deeply on the mind. For of the modes of expression which, among ancient peoples, and especially those of the East, human language used to express its thought, none is excluded from the Sacred Books, provided the way of speaking adopted in no wise contradicts the holiness and truth of God, as with his customary wisdom, the Angelic Doctor already observed in these words: In Scriptures divine things are presented to us in the manner which is in common use among men.[30] For as the substantial word of God became like to men in all things, except sin, [31] so the Words of God, expressed in human language, are made like to human speech in every respect, except error . In this consists that condescension of the God of providence, which St. John Chrysostom extolled with highest praise and repeatedly declared to be found in the Sacred Books.[32] 38. Hence the Catholic commentator, in order to comply with the present needs of Biblical studies, in explaining the Sacred Scriptures and in demonstrating and proving its immunity from all error, should also make a prudent use of this means, determine, that is, to what extent the manner of expression or the literary mode adopted by the Sacred Writer may lead to a correct and genuine interpretation; and let him be convinced that this part of his office cannot be neglected without serious detriment to Catholic exegesis. Not infrequently to mention only one instance when some persons reproachfully charge the Sacred Writers with some historical error or inaccuracy in the recording of facts , on closer examination it turns out to be nothing else than those customary modes of expression and narration peculiar to the ancients, which used to be employed in the mutual dealings of social life and which in fact were sanctioned by common usage. 30. Comment. ad Hebr. cap. 1, lectio 4. 31. Hebr. 4:15. 32. Cf. v. gr. In Gen. 1, 4 (PG 53, col. 34-35); In Gen. II, 21 (ib. col. 121); In Gen. III, 8 (emphasis added)

To the foregoing compare the teaching of the Second Vatican Council: In Dei verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Revelation, the Council Fathers taught that, 11

Those who search out the intention of the sacred writers must, among other things, have regard for literary forms. For truth is proposed and expressed in a variety of ways, depending on whether a text is history of one kind or another or whether its form is that of prophecy, poetry, or some other type of speech. The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express and actually expressed in particular circumstances as he used contemporary literary forms in accordance with the situation of his own time and culture.8

Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei verbum, November 18, 1965: AAS 58 (1966) 817-830, no. 12. All English citations from the texts of Vatican II are taken from Walter M. Abbott, S.J., ed. The Documents of Vatican II (New York, 1966).

7. Supplement: On the literal sense and the right way to translate:

THE PONTIFICAL BIBLICAL COMMISSION THE INTERPRETATION OF THE BIBLE IN THE CHURCH B. The Meaning of Inspired Scripture 1. The Literal Sense It is not only legitimate, it is also absolutely necessary to seek to define the precise meaning of texts as produced by their authorswhat is called the literal meaning. St. Thomas Aquinas had already affirmed the fundamental importance of this sense (S. Th. I, q. 1,a. 10, ad 1). The literal sense is not to be confused with the literalist sense to which fundamentalists are attached. It is not sufficient to translate a text word for word in order to obtain its literal sense. One must understand the text according to the literary conventions of the time. When a text is metaphorical, its literal sense is not that which flows immediately from a word-to-word translation (e.g. Let your loins be girt: Lk. 12:35), but that which corresponds to the metaphorical use of these terms (Be ready for action). When it is a question of a story, the literal sense does not necessarily imply belief that the facts recounted actually took place, for a story need not belong to the genre of history but be instead a work of imaginative fiction.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, De Rationibus Fidei Contra Saracenos (Reasons for the Faith Against Muslim Objections). Translated by Joseph Kennedy, O.P., Part One, Prologue:5
It is, therefore, the task of the good translator, when translating material dealing with the Catholic faith, to preserve the meaning, but to adapt the mode of expression so that it is in harmony with the idiom of the language into which he is translating. For obviously, when anything spoken in a literary fashion in Latin is explained in common parlance, the explanation will be inept if it is simply word for word. All the more so, when anything expressed in one language is translated merely word for word into another, it will be no surprise if perplexity concerning the meaning of the original sometimes occurs.

Now just as one must respect the idiom of the language into which one is translating something, so the sacred author respects the capacity of the hearer to understand what exists principally as the science of God and the blessed, and therefore as transcending the capacity of ordinary minds.

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N.B. What, then, is the literal or most obvious sense? It must always be remembered that the literal sense is what the author intended to be understood by his words, as in the case of metaphor, as St. Thomas Aquinas explains (for which, see further below). 8. Supplement: Rules for the Catholic Interpreter. On the Study of Holy Scripture: Providentissimus Deus Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII - November 18, 1893 To Our Venerable Brethren, all Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, and Bishops of the Catholic world in Grace and Communion with the Apostolic See.
18 <> b. NATURAL SCIENCES. ...There can never, indeed, be any real discrepancy between the theologian and the physicist, as long as each confines himself within his own lines, and both are careful, as St. Augustine warns us, not to make rash assertions, or to assert what is not known as known.40 If dissension should arise between them, here is the rule also laid down by St. Augustine for the theologian: Whatever they can really demonstrate to be true of physical nature we must show to be capable of reconciliation with our Scriptures; and whatever they assert in their treatises, which is contrary to these Scriptures of ours, that is to Catholic faith, we must either prove it as well as we can to be entirely false, or at all events we must, without the smallest hesitation, believe it to be so.41 To understand how just is the rule here formulated we must remember, first, that the sacred writers, or to speak more accurately, the Holy Spirit who spoke by them, did not intend to teach men these things (that is to say, the essential nature of the things of the visible universe), things in no way profitable unto salvation. 42 Hence they did not seek to penetrate the secrets of nature, but rather described and dealt with things in more or less figurative language, or in terms which were commonly used at the time, and which in many instances were daily used at this day, even by the most eminent men of science. Ordinary speech primarily and properly describes what comes under the senses; and somewhat in the same way the sacred writersas the Angelic Doctor also reminds uswent by what sensibly appeared,43 or put down what God, speaking to men, signified, in the way men could understand and were accustomed to. The unshrinking defence of the Holy Scripture, however, does not require that we should equally uphold all the opinions which each of the Fathers or the more recent interpreters have put forth in explaining it; for it may be that, in commenting on passages where physical matters occur, they have sometimes expressed the ideas of their own times, and thus made statements which in these days have been abandoned as incorrect. Hence, in their interpretations, we must carefully note what they lay down as belonging to faith, or as intimately connected with faithwhat they are unanimous in. For in those things which do not come under the obligation of faith, the saints were at liberty to hold divergent opinions, just as we ourselves are,44 according to the saying of St. Thomas. And in another place he says most admirably:


When philosophers are agreed upon a point, and it is not contrary to our faith, it is safer, in my opinion, neither to lay down such a point as a dogma of faith, even though it is perhaps so presented by the philosophers, nor to reject it as against faith, lest we thus give to the wise of this world an occasion of despising our faith. 45 The Catholic interpreter, although he should show that those facts of natural science which investigators affirm to be now quite certain are not contrary to the Scripture rightly explained, must, nevertheless, always bear in mind, that much which has been held and proved as certain has afterwards been called in question and rejected. And if writers on physics travel outside the boundaries of their own branch, and carry their erroneous teaching into the domain of philosophy, let them be handed over to philosophers for refutation. FOOTNOTES
40 41

IN GEN. OP. IMPERF. ix, 30. DE GEN. AD LITT., i, 21, 41. 42 St. Augustine, Ibid. 9, 20. 43 SUMMA THEOL. p. i, q. lxxx, a. 1, ad 3. 44 IN SENT. ii, Dist. q. i, a. 3. 45 OPUSC. X. (emphasis added)

Cf. also Pius XII, Divino afflante Spiritu, n. 3, where the foregoing passage is cited. For the proper approach to understanding the six days of creation, cf. Robert J. Schneider, What the Bible Teaches About Creation, excerpted above:
Because of this pattern [evident in the six days of creation], many evangelical biblical scholars have been drawn to some version of a framework hypothesis: the six days are to be seen not as a chronological account of the steps of creation but as a framework in which the various categories of creaturethe word refers to both inanimate and living thingsare laid out in a logical order that in itself declares that creation in the beginning involves the bringing of order out of chaos. (emphasis added)

To take the account in literalist fashion is exactly the same as supposing that when Scripture says that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Lord, that that means that God has a literal right hand, and hence a body. Hence, we may understand with respect to Six Day Creationists and the like that it is a question not of the literal sense of Genesis 1, but of what was long thought to be the literal sense. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, The Catechism of St. Thomas Aquinas . The Apostles Creed. The Catechetical Instructions of St. Thomas Aquinas . Translated with a Commentary by Rev. Joseph B. Collins, S.S., D.D., Ph.D. Introduction by Rev. Rudolph G. Bandas, Ph.D., S.T.D. et M. (Baltimore, 1939), pp. 39; 40-41, The Sixth Article:
The Catechism of St. Thomas Aquinas THE SIXTH ARTICLE: He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. Besides the resurrection of Christ, we must also believe in His ascension; for He ascended into heaven on the fortieth day. Hence, the Creed says: He ascended into heaven.


Concerning this we ought to observe three things, viz., that it was sublime, reasonable, and beneficial. THE SUBLIMITY OF THE ASCENSION It was certainly sublime that Christ ascended into heaven. This is expounded in three ways. Firstly, He ascended above the physical heaven: He . . . ascended above all the heavens.[1] Secondly, He ascended above all the spiritual heavens, i.e., spiritual natures: Raising [Jesus] up from the dead and setting Him on His right hand in the heavenly places. Above all principality and power and virtue and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come. And He hath subjected all things under His feet.[2] Thirdly, He ascended up to the very throne of the Father: Lo, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven. And He came even to the Ancient of days.[3] And the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God.[4] Now, it is not to be taken in the literal sense, but figuratively, that Christ is at the right hand of God. Inasmuch as Christ is God, He is said to sit at the right hand of the Father, that is, in equality with the Father; and as Christ is man, He sits at the right hand of the Father, that is, in a more preferable place.[5] The devil once feigned to do this: I will ascend above the height of the clouds. I will be like the Most High.[6] But Christ alone succeeded in this, and so it is said: He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father. The Lord said to my Lord: Sit Thou at My right hand.[7] ENDNOTES 1. Eph., iv. 10. 2. Ibid., i. 20-22 3. Dan., vii. 13. 4. Mark, xvi. 19. 5. In these words we observe a figure of speech, that is, the changing of a word from its literal to a figurative meaning, something which is not infrequent in the Scriptures: for when accommodating its language to human ideas, it attributes human affections and human members to God, who is pure spirit and can admit of nothing corporeal. For, just as among men, he who sits at the right hand is considered to occupy the most honored place: so, transferring the idea to heavenly things to express the glory which Christ as Man enjoys above all others, we say that He sits at the right hand of His Eternal Father. Now, this does not mean actual position and figure of body, but declares the fixed and permanent possession of royal and supreme power and glory which Christ received from the Father (Roman Catechism, Sixth Article, 3). 6. Isa., xiv. 13-14. [40-41] 7. Ps. cix. 1. (emphasis added)

9. According to John Paul II and certain contemporary commentators. Cf. Catholic Answers. Bible on science:6
As for what I believe the Bible teaches about science, I agree with Pope John Paul II, Fr. Stanley Jaki, and Robert Schadewald (a skeptic):

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Cosmogony and cosmology have always aroused great interest among peoples and religions. The Bible itself speaks to us of the origin of the universe and its make-up, not in order to provide us with a scientific treatise, but in order to state the correct relationships of man with God and with the universe. Sacred Scripture wishes simply to declare that the world was created by God, and in order to teach this truth it expresses itself in the terms of the cosmology in use at the time of the writer. The Sacred Book likewise wishes to tell men that the world was not created as the seat of the gods, as was taught by other cosmogonies and cosmologies, but was rather created for the service of man and the glory of God. Any other teaching about the origin and make-up of the universe is alien to the intentions of the Bible, which does not wish to teach how heaven was made but how one goes to heaven. (Pope John Paul II, 10/3/1981 to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Cosmology and Fundamental Physics) The important parts to notice here, according to John Paul II: (1) the Bible is not a scientific treatise; (2) the main point of Genesis 1 is that God is our Creator; (3) the Scripture uses the cosmology in use at the time of the writer (not a modern cosmology); (4) the Bible wishes to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how the heavens were made; (5) any other teaching about the origin and nature of the universe is alien to the intentions of the original biblical authors. The ancient Hebrews, like their older and more powerful neighbors, the Babylonians and the Egyptians, were flat-earthers. The Hebrew cosmology is never actually spelled out in the Bible but, even without knowledge of the Babylonian system upon which it is patterned, it can be read between the lines of the Old Testament. The Genesis creation story itself suggests the relative size and importance of the earth and the celestial bodies by specifying their order of creation. The earth was created on the first day, and it was without form and void (Gen 1:2). On the second day a vault the firmament of the King James Bible was created to divide the waters, some being above and some below the vault (Gen 1:6-8). Not until the fourth day were the sun, moon, and stars created, and they were placed in, not above, the vault (Gen 1:14-17). The sizes of these bodies are not specified, but they had to be small, as Joshua later commanded the sun to stand still in Gibeon and the moon in the Vale of Aijalon (Josh 10:12). The Bible repeatedly speaks of the ends of the earth. Sometimes the word in Hebrew is ephes, which means end, extreme limits, nothingness. Other times it is qatsah or qetsev, which means, again, end, extremity. Deuteronomy 13:7, for instance, uses the expression from one end of the earth to the other end. The same expression, or a reference to the end of the earth, occurs in Deuteronomy 28:49, 64; 33:17; 1 Samuel 2:10; Psalm 19:4; 22:27; 46:9; 48:10; 59:13; 65:5; 67:7; 98:3; 135:7; Proverbs 17:24; 30:4; Job 28:24; 37:3; Isaiah 5:26; 24:16; 40:28; 41:5; 42:10; 45:22; 48:20; 49:6; 52:10; 62:11; Jeremiah 10:13; 16:19; 25:33; Micah 5:4. Moreover, not only does the Bible indicate that the earth is flat and has ends, but it also teaches that the earth is square and has corners. Isaiah 11:12 says that God will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. Ezekiel 7:2 says that the end is coming on the four corners of the earth. See also Revelation 7:1; 20:8, etc. <Cf. Robert Schadewald:> Other passages complete the picture. God sits enthroned on the vaulted roof of earth, whose inhabitants are like grasshoppers (Isa 40:21-22; cf. 45:12; 48:13). He also walks to and fro


on the vault of heaven (Job 22:12-14), which vault is hard as a mirror of cast metal (Job 37:18; cf. 9:8). The roof of the sky has windows that God can open to let the waters above fall to the surface as rain. The Bible clearly speaks of the windows of heaven (Gen 7:10f; 8:2; 2 Kings 7:2, 19; Isa 24:18f; Jer 51:15f; Mal 3:10); the doors in heaven that are shut up (1 Kings 8:35; 2 Chron 6:26; 7:13; Psalm 78:23; Rev 4:1; 11:6; 19:11); heaven has gates (Gen 28:17; Lev 26:19) and stories of stairs (Amos 9:6). A study of these passages will indicate that rain and food come through heavens windows, etc. (Of course this is probably symbolic or phenomological language as most modern biblical scholars and exegetes would conclude, and such language is not meant to be taken literally). The topography of the earth isnt specified, but Daniel saw a tree of great height at the center of the earth....reaching with its top to the sky and visible to the earths farthest bounds or to the end of the whole earth (Dan 4:10-11). Such visibility would not be possible on a spherical earth, but might be expected if the earth were flat. Here is Fr. Stanley Jaki, O.S.B., a distinguished Hungarian physicist and Benedictine theologian, on the flat and fixed earth of the Bible: If asked about his physical surroundings or about the physical world at large, the typical Israelite would have given a reply very irritating to the modern mind. It is irritating to say the least to hear that the earth is a flat disk, the sky an inverted hard bowl, and that the two form a vast tent-like structure. Of course, other inhabitants of the ancient Near-East would have given similar answers....To be sure, much the same would have been done by a typical ancient Egyptian and Babylonian....The hardness of the sky, but especially the immobility of the earth, had to appear all the more a divinely ordained physical fact as, according to the Bible, a mere man, Joshua, could be authorized by God to stop the sun and the moon in their tracks and, apparently, for a whole day.... Obviously, to modern eyes dazzled by space rockets cruising along world lines set by Einsteins four-dimensional cosmology nothing could seem more jarring than the Bibles physical world, which is little more than a glorified tent. To that tent the Bible assigns the sky as its cover and the earth as its floor, though hardly in a consistent way. In Genesis 1 the sky is a firmament, that is, a hard metal bowl, whereas in Psalm 104 and Isaiah 45:24 it is more like a canvas that can be stretched out....Herein lies one of the non-trivially unscientific aspects of the world as described in the Bible....Well before the advent of modern science, and indeed of heliocentrism, the contrast between that biblical world-tent and the world of Aristotelian-Ptolemaic geocentrism had to appear enormous. (Stanley Jaki, Bible and Science, pages 19-25).... Phil P[orvaznik]

In sum: Inasmuch as the sacred author set out to furnish his people with a popular account, such as the common parlance of that age allowed, one, namely, adapted to the senses and to the mental preparation of the persons,7 it follows that the Holy Scriptures are written in such a way as to make use of popular and common ways of understanding with respect to what sensibly appeared (Summa Theol. Ia, q. 80, art. 1, ad 3, apud Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, n. 18, sec. b.).

The Pontifical Biblical Commission. 30 June 1909, On the Historical Character of the First Three Chapters of Genesis. Question 7.


In this regard, consider what Mortimer Adler has to say in the following passage: Cf. The Great Ideas: A Syntopicon of Great Books of the Western World (Chicago, 1952), Vol. I, Chapter V, Astronomy (Introduction):
Whether or not it was the traumatic blow to the human ego which Freud conjectures, there can be little doubt that the shift from Ptolemy to Copernicus involved a real shock to the imagination. The Ptolemaic system conforms to the look of the world , which is indeed the reason why it is still the one used in practical courses in navigation. Here again Kepler defends Copernicus by explaining why our uncultivated eyesight cannot be other than deceived and why it should learn from reason to understand that things are really different from the way they appear. (emphasis added)

Cf. Johannes Kepler, Epitome of Copernican Astronomy IV and V, translated by Charles Glenn Wallis, Great Books of the Western World, Volume 16, p. 853:
On the Principal Parts of the World I thought the principal parts of the world are reckoned to be the heavens and the earth? Of course, our uncultivated eyesight from the Earth cannot show us any other more notable parts . . . since we tread upon the one with our feet and are roofed over by the other, and since both parts seem to be commingled and cemented together in the common limbo of the horizon like a globe in which the stars, clouds, birds, man, and the various kinds of terrestrial animals are enclosed. (emphasis added)

On heaven as meaning what we see when we look up, and earth when we look down, cf. John Gills Exposition of the Entire Bible (1748), on Genesis 1 (ed. London, 1809) Edited, revised, and updated by Larry Pierce, 19941995 for The Word CD-ROM, on Genesis 1:1:
<> Ver. 1. The h prefixed to both words is, as Aben Ezra observes, expressive of notification or demonstration, as pointing at those heavens, and this earth; and shows that things visible are here spoken of, whatever is above us, or below us to be seen: for in the Arabic language, as he also observes, the word for heaven, comes from one which signifies high or above {a}; as that for earth from one that signifies low and beneath, or under {b}. Now it was the matter or substance of these that was first created; for the word ta set before them signifies substance, as both Aben Ezra and {c} Kimchi affirm. Maimonides {d} observes, that this particle, according to their wise men, is the same as with; and then the sense is, God created with the heavens whatsoever are in the heavens, and with the earth whatsoever are in the earth; that is, the substance of all things in them; or all things in them were seminally together: for so he illustrates it by an husband-man sowing seeds of divers kinds in the earth, at one and the same time; some of which come up after one day, and some after two days, and some after three days, though all sown together.
{b} quicquid humile, inferum et depressum ib. col. 70. Hottinger. Smegma Orient. c. 5. p. 70. & Thesaur. Philolog. l. 1. c. 2. p. 234. {c} Sepher Shorash. rad. ta. {d} Moreh Nevochim, par. 2. c. 30. p. 275, 276. {e} Ut supra. (Sepher Shorash.) rad. arb (emphasis added)


II. ON THE FRAMEWORK OF THE MOSAIC NARRATIVE. 1. That the concerns of the Mosaic narrative are not those of the scientist, but that it is nevertheless consistent with science: On the thematic concerns of the Hexaemeron, cf. Dinosaur Religion and Religion as Dinosaur: The Encounter of Science and Faith in Genesis 1 by Carl Schultz, Ph.D. Integrative Studies Lecture, March 26, 1998:8
It seems most unlikely that Genesis 1 has waited in obscurity all of these many years for modern science to provide its meaning. Our contemporary preoccupations could hardly have been the preoccupations of ancient Israel. 17 The ancient text must have said something and meant something to those who first received it. We must keep in mind that Gods word to us was first of all his word to them. 18 It was conditioned by the language, time, and culture in which it was written more correctly, by the oral history it had before being reduced to writing. The issue then was not evolution but polytheism, divinization of nature, the eternity of matter, the threat of chaos, location of human life in a cosmic order and the ordering of human experience relative to a meaningful world. We must first attempt to understand what was said to them back then and there (necessitating exegesis) and then proceed to hear that same text in the here and now (necessitating hermeneutics). Our modern western preoccupation with science understood and applied either by the secular mind or the fundamentalistic mind must not be substituted for the mindset of ancient Israel. 17. Hyers, op. cit., p. 3. [= Conrad Hyers, The Meaning of Creation (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1984)] 18. Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How To Read the Bible for All Its Worth . (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993), pp. 18-19. (emphasis added)

Cf. Steven M. Barr, Retelling the Story of Science, First Things. March 2003 (excerpt):
We begin with the issue of supernaturalism in religion and its supposedly superstitious character. I think we would all agree that most forms of belief in the supernatural are superstitious. However, we must remind ourselves of a vital historical fact, which is that many of these forms of supernaturalism were attacked, and at least partially overthrown, by biblical relsigion long before the advent of modern science. The Book of Genesis was itself in large part intended, scholars tell us, as a polemic against pagan superstition. For example, whereas the sun and moon were the objects of worship in pagan religion, the Book of Genesis taught that they were nothing but lamps set in the heavens to give light to day and night: not gods, but mere things, creatures of the one true God. Nor were animals and the forces of nature to be bowed down to by man as in pagan religion; rather man, as a rational being made in the image of God, was to exercise dominion over them. It is true that the Bible is overwhelmingly supernatural in its outlook and literary atmosphere. However, what is critically important is that the Bibles supernaturalism is concentrated in a God who is outside of Nature, and radically distinguished from the world He has made. Therefore the world of nature is no longer seen as populated by capricious supernatural beings, by fates and furies, dryads and naiads, gods of war or goddesses of sex and fertility. The natural world has been disenchanted. But whereas many give credit to science for this, the distinction belongs in the first instance to the monotheism of the Bible, which by depersonalizing and desacralizing the natural world helped clear the ground for the eventual emergence of modern science.

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The Bible taught, then, that whatever reverence it is proper to have for the sun, or the forces of nature, or living things is due not to any divinity or spirituality that they possess, but to the fact that they are the masterworks of God. The universe thus came to be seen as a great work of engineering. We observe this in the Book of Proverbs, where the divine Wisdom is portrayed as a master craftsman directing the work of creation. And according to the rabbis of old the divine craftsman worked from a plan that was none other than the Torah itself. As they put it, the Holy One, blessed be He, consulted the Torah when He created the world. The Torah, then, was not merely a Law written in a perishable book, or part of a covenant with the people of Israel. It was an eternal Law in the mind of God which He imposed on the cosmos itself. The Lord says through the prophet Jeremiah: When I have no covenant with day and night, and have given no laws to heaven and earth, then too will I reject the descendants of Jacob and of my servant David. Psalm 148 tells of the sun, the moon, the stars, and the heavens obeying a divinely given law, that will not pass away. This emphasis on the lawfulness of the cosmos is found also in the earliest Christian writings. Minucius Felix in the second century wrote: If upon entering some home you saw that everything there was well-tended, neat, and decorative, you would believe that some master was in charge of it, and that he was himself much superior to those good things. So too in the home of this world, when you see providence, order, and law in the heavens and on earth, believe that there is a Lord and Author of the universe, more beautiful than the stars themselves and the various parts of the whole world. Note that these ancient texts do not point to supernatural phenomena or to the miraculous as evidence of Gods existence. Neither did St. Paul in the first chapter of Romans, where he discusses the grounds of belief in God. Nor did St. Thomas Aquinas in his famous five-fold proof. Belief in God is not founded upon supernatural manifestations but on the natural order, on the orderliness of things. The role of the miraculous in Judaism and Christianity is quite limited; it is to show Gods favor to His people and testify to the authenticity of the oracles of divine revelation, not to ground belief in the Creator. (emphasis added)

For an opposed reading, cf. T. H. Huxley, Mr. Gladstone and Genesis (1886). Preface and Table of Contents to Volume IV, Science and Hebrew Tradition: Collected Essays IV:
Note on the Proper Sense of the Mosaic Narrative of the Creation <...> Having taken a good deal of trouble to show what Genesis i.-ii. 4 does not mean, in the preceding pages, perhaps it may be well that I should briefly give my opinion as to what it does mean. I conceive that the unknown author of this part of the Hexateuchal compilation believed, and meant his readers to believe, that his words, as they understood them that is to say, in their ordinary natural senseconveyed the actual historical truth. When he says that such and such things happened, I believe him to mean that they actually occurred and not that he imagined or dreamed them; when he says day, I believe he uses the word in the popular sense; when he says made or created, I believe he means that they came into being by a process analogous to that which the people whom he addressed called making or creating; and I think that, unless we forget our present knowledge of nature, and, putting ourselves back into the position of a Phnician or a Chaldan philosopher, start from his conception of the world, we shall fail to grasp the meaning of the Hebrew writer. (emphasis added)


For a detailed account of the alternative view, cf. Robert J. Schneider, What the Bible Teaches About Creation:9
Major themes of the first creation narrative: I shall take the position, common among most Christian scholars, including many evangelicals, that Genesis 1 is not a straightforward, historical and scientific account of how God created, the view espoused by young-earth creationists. Rather, this magnificent hymn-like passage is a theological proclamation, a manifesto, a statement of faith about both the creation and the Creator. Disagreements among Christians over the interpretation of Genesis 1 often fall into an either/or argument: either it is history, people argue, or metaphor (or poetry); those who think it is not an account of what actually happened call it just a story. I should like to sidestep this rather misleading dichotomy. First, what is historical about Genesis 1 is the context in which it was framed, and it needs to be understood within that context. Second, the word metaphor does not do justice to this powerful and majestic proclamation. I agree with the widely accepted view that Genesis 1 is a narrative that combines the rhythms and repetitions of a worship text with a theological declaration. This revelatory narrative challenges and rejects the theologies of Israels polytheistic neighbors, both the Canaanites among whom they lived as a free people and the Babylonians among whom they lived as exiles. It is anti-mythological, in that it rejects the mythological truth claims of its neighbors creation stories; but it proclaims theological rather than chronological truths. As I shall argue below, in agreement with the great majority of biblical scholars, including evangelicals, Genesis 1 is a theological hymn of praise to the God of creation and a celebration of creation. It might seem redundant to those of you who are Christians if I should summarize the content of Genesis 1, but there is a pattern in this creation narrative that is often not recognized, and it is worthwhile to point it out. The account begins with that part of the creation that is other than the heavens, here spoken of as the earth but including the Deep, in a state of utter chaos (Wenham I, 15-16), translated in the KJV as without form and void (Heb. tohuwabohu). Many scholars have noted a pattern to the six days: in the first three bohu, i.e., formlessness, is given form: (1) light emerges from darkness, (2) the waters are separated to form the lower and upper seas-the latter supported by the firmament, and (3) land emerges from the lower sea and is adorned with plant life. In the latter three days tohu, i.e., the state of being empty, is filled: (4) the sun, moon, and stars fill the firmament, (5) fish and other sea creatures fill the lower sea and birds the sky, and (6) wild and domestic beasts, other land creatures, and human beings fill the earth (Hyers 67-71). The seventh day of rest hallows and validates the commandment of a Sabbath rest (Exod. 20:11) by weaving it into the very structure of creation. Because of this pattern, many evangelical biblical scholars have been drawn to some version of a framework hypothesis: the six days are to be seen not as a chronological account of the steps of creation but as a framework in which the various categories of creaturethe word refers to both inanimate and living thingsare laid out in a logical order that in itself declares that creation in the beginning involves the bringing of order out of chaos . The utter chaos, the formless and empty undifferentiated mass of the beginning of creation, is a problem God moves immediately to solve, and the solution is to differentiate matter through separation and to fill it with both inanimate and animate creatures. Seen in the light of this hypothesis, Genesis 1 provides a theological declaration of Gods creativity rather than a scientific description of events (Hyers, ibid; Wenham I, 39-40) . (emphasis added)

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In sum: That the Hexaemeron, or Work of the Six Days, is not a straightforward, historical and scientific account of how God created the universe. That reading the Hexateuchal account in this way leads to the conclusion that it is full of errors.

For a contemporary Catholic statement of this view, cf. Reading Genesis with Cardinal Ratzinger By Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austriaco:10
How is a Catholic supposed to read the first chapter of Genesis that details the six days of creation? In a lecture entitled, Restoration of Traditional Catholic Theology on Origins, given at the First International Catholic Symposium on Creation held in Rome on October 24-25, 2002, Father Victor Warkulwiz, M.S.S., a priest with a doctorate in physics, argued that the Catholic Church needs to return to a traditional Catholic theology on origins, a theology that is based on the literal and obvious sense of Genesis 1-11. 1 He is not alone in saying this. In recent years, Catholics of a more traditionalist bent have begun to embrace a special creationism the belief that God created the different kinds of living things by divine fiat less than 10,000 years ago that, in years past, was associated more with fundamentalist Protestants.2 Catholic creationists often claim that Catholics who seek to be faithful to the Catholic tradition need to interpret the six-day creation account of Genesis in its literal and obvious sense as most of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church had done. Thus, they argue that the first chapter of Genesis is an accurate historical narrative, a precise description, of an event that took place over a six-day period several thousand years ago. To justify this approach, Catholic creationists cite Pope Leo XIII, who in Providentissimus Deus, his 1893 encyclical on the study of sacred scripture, taught the following: The opinion of the Fathers is also of very great weight when they treat of these matters [the interpretation of Sacred Scripture] in their capacity of doctors, unofficially; not only because they excel in their knowledge of revealed doctrine and in their acquaintance with many things which are useful in understanding the apostolic Books, but because they are men of eminent sanctity and of ardent zeal for the truth, on whom God has bestowed a more ample measure of His light. Wherefore the expositor should make it his duty to follow their footsteps with all reverence, and to use their labours with intelligent appreciation. But he must not on that account consider that it is forbidden when just cause exists, to push inquiry and exposition beyond what the Fathers have done; provided he carefully observes the rule so wisely laid down by St. Augustinenot to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires; a rule to which it is the more necessary to adhere strictly in these times, when the thirst for novelty and unrestrained freedom of thought make the danger of error most real and proximate.3 Though Catholic creationists admit that Leo XIII permitted Catholics to move beyond the literal and obvious sense of Sacred Scripture what modern biblical scholars would call a literalist reading of the text 4 they respond by asserting that contemporary Catholic exegetes have failed to show that their non-literalist reading of Genesis is justified either by reason or by necessity as specified by Leo XIII.


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In this essay, I respond to the Catholic creationist movement by arguing that contemporary exegetes have sufficient reason to move beyond a literalist reading of the Genesis text. I will begin by summarizing the three hermeneutical principles employed by then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, in his nonliteralist interpretation of the six-day account of Genesis, traditionally called the Hexaemeron. I will then show that his method is faithful both to the teaching of the Catholic Church most recently articulated in Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation of the Second Vatican Council, and to the teaching of his predecessor, Leo XIII, in Providentissimus Deus. Thus, I propose that Cardinal Ratzingers approach to reading Genesis, as a particularly noteworthy example of the hermeneutical method endorsed by Vatican II, should be paradigmatic for the contemporary Catholic exegete seeking to be faithful to the Catholic tradition. First principle: The distinction between form and content During the Lenten season of 1981, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, gave four homilies on creation in the Liebfrauenkirche, the cathedral church of Munich in Germany.5 In his first homily, entitled God the Creator, he discusses the principles that govern his reading of Genesis. He begins by recalling the opening words of the Sacred Scriptures that highlight the creative action of God in the beginning. However, he goes on to ask the question that lies at the heart of the creationist debate: Are these words true? Do they count for anything? In order to answer these questions, he suggests three criteria for interpreting the Genesis text: the distinction between form and content in the creation narrative, the unity of the Bible, and the hermeneutical importance of Christology. First, he proposes that the exegete must distinguish between the form of portrayal and the content that is portrayed. 6 He must keep in mind that the Bible is, first and foremost, a religious book and not a natural science textbook. Thus, Cardinal Ratzinger concludes that Genesis does not and cannot provide a scientific explanation of how the world arose. Rather, it is a book that seeks to describe things in such a way that the reader is able to grasp profound religious realities. It uses images to communicate religious truth, images that were chosen from what was understandable at the time the text was written, images which surrounded the people who lived then, which they used in speaking and in thinking, and thanks to which they were able to understand the greater realities.7 In other words, the Catholic exegete is called to respect the text as it is. He is called to read Genesis as its human author wished it to be read, not as a scientific treatise, but as a religious narrative that communicates profound truths about the Creator. Cardinal Ratzingers first criterion for exegesis echoes the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. In Dei verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Revelation, the Council Fathers taught that, Those who search out the intention of the sacred writers must, among other things, have regard for literary forms. For truth is proposed and expressed in a variety of ways, depending on whether a text is history of one kind or another or whether its form is that of prophecy, poetry, or some other type of speech. The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express and actually expressed in particular circumstances as he used contemporary literary forms in accordance with the situation of his own time and culture.8 Moreover, though Cardinal Ratzinger does not provide a theological justification for this criterion, the Second Vatican Council did. According to the Council, we need to respect the form of the text because God speaks in sacred Scripture through men in human fashion. 9 Thus, the exegete in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should


carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words. 10 In other words, the Catholic exegete should respect the form of the Sacred Scriptures because in doing so, he respects the action of God who authored the sacred text without violating the freedom, identity, and idiosyncrasies of the human authors who wrote in different forms. Second principle: The unity of the Holy Bible Cardinal Ratzingers first criterion raises an important question: But how does one grasp the particular form of the sacred text? For instance, how do we know that the human author of the six-day creation account did not mean to write a bona fide historical narrative or a scientific treatise? He certainly could have. In his Lenten homily from 1981, Cardinal Ratzinger brings up the same question asking, Is the distinction between the image and what is intended to be expressed only an evasion, because we can no longer rely on the text even though we still want to make something of it, or are there criteria from the Bible itself that attest to this distinction?11 In response, he proposes a second criterion for sound Catholic exegesis the exegete should interpret a text from within the context of the unity of the Bible. Applying this criterion to the interpretation of the six-day creation account, we discover that the creation accounts in the Old Testament the Hexaemeron is only one of several found in Genesis and in Psalms are clearly movement[s] to clarify the faith12 and are not scientific or historical narratives. For instance, Ratzinger notes that a study of the origins of the creation texts in the Wisdom literature especially reveal that they were written to respond to the Hellenistic civilization confronted by the Israelites.13 Thus, it is not surprising that the human authors of these accounts did not use the image of the six days to assert their faith in the one Creator God. This image would not have been appropriate for their time and would not have been understood by their Greek contemporaries. In contrast, a study of the origins of the Hexaemeron, the six-day account of creation, found in the first chapter of Genesis reveals that it was written to respond to the seemingly victorious Babylonian civilization confronted by the Israelites several centuries before their encounter with the Greeks. Here, the human author of the sacred text used images familiar to their pagan contemporaries to refute the Enuma Elish, the Babylonian creation account that claimed that the world was created when Marduk, the god of light, killed the primordial dragon.14 Thus, as Cardinal Ratzinger points out, it is not surprising that nearly every word of the first creation account addresses a particular confusion of the Babylonian age. For instance, when the Sacred Scriptures affirm that in the beginning, the earth was without form and void (cf. Gen. 1:2), the sacred text refutes the existence of a primordial dragon. When they refer to the sun and the moon as lamps that God has hung in the sky for the measurement of time (cf. Gen. 1:14), the text refutes the divinity of these two great celestial bodies believed to be Babylonian gods. These verses, and they are only two of many examples, illustrate the intent of the human author of the Hexaemeron. He wanted to dismantle a pagan myth that was commonplace in Babylon and assert the supremacy of the one Creator God. Cardinal Ratzinger concludes: Thus, we can see how the Bible itself constantly readapts its images to a continually developing way of thinking, how it changes time and again in order to bear witness, time and again, to the one thing that has come to it, in truth, from Gods Word, which is the message of his creating act. In the Bible itself the images are free and they correct themselves ongoingly. In this way they show, by means of a gradual and interactive process, that they are only images, which reveal something deeper and greater. 15 In sum, a comparative study of the different creation accounts scattered throughout the Sacred Scriptures reveal that they were not and are not historical or scientific narratives.


They were theological arguments that used different images to communicate the same truth the truth about the Creator and his Creation. Again, Cardinal Ratzingers second criterion is not a novel invention. It echoes the teachings of Vatican II, which taught: Since holy Scripture must be read and interpreted according to the same Spirit by whom it was written, no less serious attention must be given to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture, if the meaning of the sacred texts is to be correctly brought to light.16 Third Principle: Christ as the Interpretative key of the Holy Bible Finally, the second criterion raises another important question: Why should the Sacred Scriptures be treated as a unity? What is the source of this unity? In response, Cardinal Ratzinger provides his third and final criterion for interpreting the sacred text: We are to read the Sacred Scriptures with Him in whom all things have been fulfilled and in whom all of its validity and truth are revealed.17 It is Christ who unifies the Bible. The entire Bible is about him. Thus, Genesis has to be read in the context of its fulfillment in Christ. Therefore, the Holy Father asserts that the first creation account cannot be read without reference to the conclusive and normative scriptural account of creation which begins: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made (John 1:1;3, Revised Standard Version). For Cardinal Ratzinger, it is Christ who sanctions readings of the sacred text that move beyond a strict literalist reading because it is Christ who wishes to communicate profound theological truths that penetrate the human heart and soul: Christ frees us from the slavery of the letter, and precisely thus does he give back to us, renewed, the truth of the images.18 Again, the Holy Fathers third criterion can be found in the Vatican II documents: God, the inspirer and author of both testaments, wisely arranged that the New Testament be hidden in the Old and the Old be made manifest in the New. For, though Christ established the New Covenant in His blood, still the books of the Old Testament with all their parts, caught up into the proclamation of the gospel, acquire and show forth their full meaning in the New Testament and in turn shed light on it and explain it. 19 The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: Different as the books which comprise it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of Gods plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover (no. 112). All of Sacred Scripture has to be interpreted in light of Christ. In sum, the Hexaemeron is true. However, it is true not because it communicates historical or scientific truth but because it communicates theological truth, the truth that the world was created by a God who is love. Reading Genesis with Cardinal Ratzingers three hermeneutical principles justifies this assertion and provides reasons for moving beyond a literalist reading of the sacred text. It is a reading of sacred scripture that is faithful both to faith and to reason. Finally, how do we reconcile Cardinal Ratzingers interpretation of the six-day account of creation with Leo XIIIs teaching discussed above? Recall that in Providentissimus Deus, Leo XIII taught that Catholic exegetes are not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires. Catholic creationists have argued that this criterion has not been satisfied natural science has not provided reasons for moving beyond the literal and obvious sense of the Hexaemeron. They argue that a literalist reading of the six-day creation account should only be abandoned when science has definitively disproved the narrative explicitly described in the Hexaemeron. Their argument, however, fails to recognize that Pope Leo XIII did not limit his statement to scientific reasons. A Catholic exegete has to interpret the sacred text in a manner that coheres not only with truths discovered by the natural sciences but also with truths uncovered by other fields of genuine human inquiry. In other words, interpreting the sacred


text is a work of both faith and reason. As Cardinal Ratzinger has convincingly argued, in the case of the Hexaemeron, we have to depart from a reading that is limited to the literalist sense because studies of ancient texts and ancient cultures and not natural science have given us good and necessary reasons for doing so. Sticking to a literalist reading of Genesis would do violence to the original meaning of the human author and thus to the truth God wanted to manifest through his words. As Vatican II emphasized, like God, we too are called to respect the human author. Since he did not write a scientific or historical treatise in the Hexaemeron, we should not read it as one. NOTES 1 Victor P. Warkulwiz, M.S.S., Restoration of Traditional Catholic Theology on Origins, in Proceedings of the International Catholic Symposium on Creation, October 24-25, 2002. (Woodstock, VA: Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation, 2003), 17-35, p. 17 2 Dermott J. Mullen, Fundamentalists Inside the Catholic Church: A Growing Phenomenon, New Oxford Review 70 (2003): 31-41. For a response to Mullens article from Catholics who claim to be creationists, see Hugh Owen and Robert Bennett, Are Catholic Defenders of Special Creation Fundamentalists? at Last accessed September 1, 2004. 3 Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical letter, Providentissimus Deus, November 18, 1893, nos. 14-15. Translation of the Vatican website Last accessed September 11, 2004. 4 Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church , March 14, 1994, Section F: Fundamentalist Interpretation. 5 Joseph Ratzinger, In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, Trans. Boniface Ramsey, O.P. (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995). 6 Ibid., pp. 4-5. 7 Ibid., p. 5. 8 Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei verbum, November 18, 1965: AAS 58 (1966) 817-830, no. 12. All English citations from the texts of Vatican II are taken from Walter M. Abbott, S.J., ed. The Documents of Vatican II (New York: Guild Press, 1966). 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid. 11 Ratzinger, In the Beginning, p. 8. 12 Ibid., p. 14. 13 Ibid., pp. 14-15. 14 For an interesting essay on the relationship between the Hexaemeron and the Enuma Elish written for a popular audience, see Victor Hurowitz, The Genesis of Genesis: Is the Creation Story Babylonian? Bible Review 21 (2005): 37-48; 52-53. 15 Ratzinger, In the Beginning, p. 15. 16Dei verbum, no. 12. 17 Ratzinger, In the Beginning, p. 16. 18 Ibid., p. 16. 19Dei verbum, no. 16. (emphasis added) Reverend Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austriaco, O.P., received his Ph.D. in biology from M.I.T. in 1996 and his S.T.L. from the Dominican House of Studies in 2005. He currently serves as an assistant professor of biology and adjunct professor of theology at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island. His work previously appeared in the December 2003 issue of HPR.


2. An overview of Genesis 1-2 incorporating many of the foregoing observations. Cf. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: Genesis. Commentary, Notes, & Study Questions. Scott Hahn and Curtis Minch and with Study Questions by Dennis Walters (San Francisco, 2010). Note on 1:12:4, pp. 17-18:
1:12:4 The first creation account affirms a cosmic event at the beginning of history. It offers neither a literal nor a scientific description of how the world was made; rather, it asserts theological truths about God and creation in a symbolic way (CCC 337). The account should not be interpreted as a revealed timetable about the actual historical sequence of creation, nor should the authors prescientific view of the cosmos be mistaken for divinely inspired teaching about the physical constitution of the natural world. Its main teachings include the following. (1) The entire universe owes its existence to God as creator and Lord. (2) Each and every part of creation is good in the eyes of God. ( 3) God established a hierarchy among created things, as seen in the ascending movement of the account from inanimate things to animate creatures to the human race as the crown of the material world. ( 4) Creation shows forth the power of God, who speaks the universe into existence, the wisdom of God, who arranges all things into a symphony of natural beauty and harmony, and the goodness of God, who bestows life and blessing gratuitously. ( 5) The creation story exhibits an apologetic interest in countering the mythological world views of the ancient Near East. According to the pagan myths, a pantheon of deities existed in the beginning; the gods were embodied in nature and had human-like needs and imperfections; the world was born out of a struggle between the gods; and man was created only to be exploited by the gods. In contrast, Genesis teaches that only one God exists, that he stands outside of time, that he is altogether distinct from the natural world, and that he blessed mankind, making man the bearer of his image. In addition to these considerations, the seven-day structure of the account is best viewed as a literary device for communicating the following points. ( 6) Six days of work followed by one day of rest underscores the obligation of man to lay aside his labor and honor the Creator every seventh day (Ex 20-8-11). ( 7) The founding of the world in seven days parallels the building of the Tabernacle according to seven commands (Ex 40:16-33) and the dedication of the Temple in seven days (1 Kings 8:65) after seven years of construction (1 Kings 6:38). Also, the description of God resting on the seventh day (2:2-3) has links with ancient concepts of a tem- [17-18] ple, which is considered a place of divine rest (2 Chron 6:41); Ps 132:14; Sir 24:11; Is 66:1) The creation week in Genesis thus reflects the belief that the world is a cosmic sanctuary (see topical essay: Theology of the Temple at 2 Chron 5). (8) Seven days of divine speech hint that God established a covenant with creation. Not only does the Hebrew for seven share a common root with the verb for swearing a covenant oath (see 21:27-32), but in later Jewish tradition, God is said to have founded the world through his oath ( 1 Enoch 69, 15-27; Sifre Deuteronomy 330) (on creation, see CCC 282-87, 337-44).

Cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Part One. The Profession Of Faith. Section Two. The Profession Of The Christian Faith. Chapter One. I Believe In God The Father, n. 337.
Article I I Believe In God The Father Almighty, Creator Of Heaven And Earth Paragraph 5. Heaven and Earth <>


II. THE VISIBLE WORLD 337 God himself created the visible world in all its richness, diversity and order. Scripture presents the work of the Creator symbolically as a succession of six days of divine work, concluded by the rest of the seventh day. 204 On the subject of creation, the sacred text teaches the truths revealed by God for our salvation, 205 permitting us to recognize the inner nature, the value and the ordering of the whole of creation to the praise of God.206 204 Gen 1:l-2:4. 205 Cf. DV 11. 206 LG 36 2. (emphasis added)

3. Miscellaneous considerations. Cf. Augustine of Hippo, The Literal Meaning of Genesis. Translated and annotated by John Hammond Taylor, S.J. Vol. I, Books 1-6. Ancient Christian Writers. The Works of the Fathers in Translation. No. 41 (New York, 1982), Bk. 1, ch. 29, n.39, pp 42-43:
39. Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a dis- [42-43] graceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.67

1 Tim. 1.7.

12. Supplement. On common conceptions of the understanding as starting-points of thought. Cf. Charles De Koninck, Three Sources of Philosophy (Reprinted from the Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association , The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, 1964, pp. 13-17): 28

Discussing the fact that we first say all of threeof only two we say bothSt. Thomas observes that we follow this way of speaking because conceptions that are commonly held by all proceed from an inclination of nature that is prior to any deliberate and constructive endeavour to learn. This constructive endeavour gives rise to proper conceptions propriae conceptiones uniuscujusqueand a way of speaking appropriate to these. 1 Other examples of common conceptions would be those gathered under the word one, for instance; or being, or same. What we call movement, or place, or time are conceptions narrower in scope but still common. Ordinary language holds a vast number of such conceptions, and reveals distinctions not always easily accounted for. As Heisenberg observes, we do not speak of a piece of water, at least not in the same sense in which we speak of a piece of bread. Paul Valery wrote: Every man knows a prodigious amount of things, of which he does not know that he knows them. This search alone exhausts philosophy. Valerys remark may be an exaggeration, yet it is an instructive one. Proper conceptions can become hopelessly out of touch with the common ones which should engender them, and the gulf between the former and the latter can even become infinite, inasmuch as [13-14]

In I de Coelo, lect. 2.

the possibilities of defining something badly or inadequately are as countless as the ways of missing a target. And I take as examples the distance between motion, infinity, place and time as we first know and name them on the one hand, and on the other, the definitions we compose to bring home to us more distinctly what these things are. Whereas the definiendum is a common conception, the definition, expressing more distinctly what the thing is, is a proper conception whose value must depend upon what is already vaguely known. Conceptions are called common not only because they are commonly held by all but also because of an intrinsic commonness that explains why they are proportionately vague or confused. The things we are most certain of, whether expressed by word or proposition, are less exactly known in direct proportion to our greater and greater certitude. As was suggested above, there is a direct proportion between the [14-15] inescapable certitude of the things most commonly yet most vaguely known and the difficulty of defining or describing them. Yet, if we did not have such preexistent knowledge, we would ask no question about anything, nor would we communicate with one another except by sniffs and grunts. The reason for the difficulty of reflection upon our common conceptions is that, while most known to us, they are least knowable in themselves, just as what is most knowable in itself is least knowable to usexcept in mathematics. For instance, as St. Thomas explains, this name act, which is posited to signify actuality and completeness, namely form, and the like, such as the act of any sort of operation whatever, is derived, as to the origin of the term, chiefly from motion. Since words are signs of intelligible conceptions, we first impose names upon the things we first know, even though these be posterior in the order of nature. Now among all other acts, the one that is most known and apparent to us is motion, as known to us sensibly. Hence it is upon this act the name act was first imposed, and from motion it was extended to other things. As we move away from first and common conceptions and from such earlier meanings of words, we become more engaged, as we should, in proper conceptions and expressions appropriate to them. But the crucial point is that our proper conceptions, no matter how good and true, should never be divorced from, and then substituted for, the common ones.

In II Meta., lect. 3. [N.B. The correct reference is to Book IX, lect. 3, n. 1605.]


Yet it is precisely our common conceptions that are sometimes called trivial, on the foolish assumption that what all in fact agree upon can be of no importance and must be irrelevant to the high pursuits of philosophy. It is true that if we shut ourselves rigidly within notions or propositions quae communiter cadunt in conceptione cujuslibet intellectus we shall never begin to philosophize. But philosophy nevertheless depends upon knowledge that is prior to and independent of philosophy. Should we attempt to cut ourselves loose from the common conceptions, drifting away from our moorings, we shall soon find ourselves trapped in verbiage and, in the inescapable terms of common conceptions, forever arguing against their relevancemuch as the person holding that all statements are false, or that all is contingent, cannot escape the implication that this statement likewise must be false, or that not all things are contingent, since at least the statement that all things are contingent is held to be necessary by the one who makes it. The distinction between common and proper conceptions allows us to define what a philosophical system is and, accordingly, how to construct one. As Spinoza and Hegel understood it, a philosophical system is one that starts from proper conceptions as if they could be substituted for common ones. This approach has the apparent advantage of a freedom to which we may never lay claim so long as we must insist on the priority of common conceptions. But, after committing ourselves to the wrong sort of beginning, we can indulge in endless acrobatics within our heads, regardless of awkward fact. Definitions now become arbitrary. We choose our definitions and follow through by assuming the reality of the definita we have posited by defining. Now, once something second is taken as first, we can fabricate as many philosophical systems as we please. If, for instance, we substituted Aristotles definition of motion for what the definition defines and then forgot all about the definiendum, we would at once have materials for a system. [16-17] In other words, when a name that stands for a common conception is thereafter used for its elaborated definition as if the definition henceforth became its first and sole meaning, we are on the way to a system, and the first and final term of resolution would be to that name, divorced from what we really know before inquiry. We would in fact have as many irreducible systems as there are languages, and within each language there would be as many systems as there are diverse meanings of the words referred to in that way. Meanwhile, we maintain the common conceptions as the first inescapable source of philosophy for the reason that in hujusmodi principiis stat omnium demonstrationum resolutio.1 In Boethii de Hebdomadibus, lect. 1. [= In principles of this sort the resolution of every demonstration comes to a stand. (tr. B.A.M.)].

Cf. Charles De Koninck, The Unity and Diversity of Natural Science, Footnote 14:
By natural language Prof. Heisenberg does not mean a language that is natural to us as our organs of speech are natural, as if nature provided us with a language the way that she produces feet and brain. Unless we call the grunts and groans of man or beast language, this term refers to artifacts that signify by convention. Using ordinary language we should always be able to refer its words back to common knowledge of things first known, a knowledge which may lead us to further knowledge of things, requiring either new impositions upon words already in use, or even, simply, a new word . An example of a new imposition would be the word soul, which first meant breeze or breath; an instance of a new word is Godno matter what its etymological originfor God can be known only at the term of a discourse, and once known we impose the name as entirely proper to Him. I do not mean that in doing so we spell out a new word. The point is that in virtue of the imposition the name now has a single meaning incommunicable to anything else, except by metaphor. (emphasis added)


Cf. Charles De Koninck, The Hollow Universe, Ch. III. The Lifeless World Biology
Of all our normal language it is true that, whether its words be used as metaphors, given new meanings, or meanings long worn out and now revived, they still imply reference to something already known, something that may be quite certain, no matter how fuzzy at the edges.1

All analogical terms are examples of what is meant. Take, for instance, the Greek logos, several of whose meanings are retained in our word reason. Prescinding here from the historical order of its various impositions, logos first stands for the conventionally meaningful sounds or written signs produced by man for the purpose of communication: words, phrases, and speech, as distinguished from the thought they are intended to convey. Then it can mean the thought itself which the sounds are aimed to express. It was further imposed to mean what the thought names, and, again, the definition or what it is that the name signifies. It may also mean proposition, argument, discussion, discourse, or treatise. Finally it has other abstract meanings such as notion, e.g. the notion of circle; or the reason or ground for something, as in Xanthippe threw a pail of water on Socrates for the reason that he came home too late, or the flat triangle has its three angles equal to two right angles for the reason that its exterior angle is equal to the opposite interior angles. The same word was again extended to mean the power of reason, the faculty; then, too, the exercise of this power, as in judgement, opinion, justification, explanation. It can also mean proportion, rule, and hypothesis. But the first imposition remains throughout important, inasmuch as the plain, unqualified, unanalysed meaning of word is more known to us, while all the other meanings of logos are somehow related to this first one.


III. ON KNOWING THE INNERMOST CONSTITUTION OF A THING IN RELATION TO THE USE OF METAPHOR AND THE SYMBOLIC MODE OF COMMUNICATING TRUTH: A SUMMARY. 1. That we come to the quod quid est of a thing through its properties and accidents. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Qu. Disp. de Veritate, q. 1, art. 10, c. (tr. B.A.M.):
A thing produces an awareness of itself in the soul by means of the things belonging to it which outwardly appear, seeing that our knowledge takes its rise from sense, the per se objects of which are sensible qualities; and so it is said in the first book of the De Anima that accidents play a great role in knowing the quod quid est.

2. That we come to a knowledge of the quod quid est by composing and dividing. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol. Ia, q. 85, art. 5, c. (tr. B.A.M.):
I reply that it must be said that the human intellect necessarily has to understand by composing and dividing. For, since the human intellect goes out from ability into act, it has a certain likeness to things that can be generated, which do not possess their perfection all at once, but acquire it successively. And likewise the human intellect does not take a perfect knowledge of the thing all at once in its first apprehension; but it first apprehends something of it, for instance, the whatness of the thing itself, which is the first and proper object of the intellect; and thereafter it understands the properties and accidents and habitudes standing around the essence of the thing. And in this respect, it necessarily has to compose or divide one apprehension with another; And from one composition or division it proceeds to another, which is to reason.11

3. But we can know a thing in two ways. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In Lib. Boetii de Trin., I, q. 1, art. 2, c. 1 (tr. B.A.M.):
It must be said that something is known in two ways. In one way, through its own form, as the eye sees a stone through the species of the stone. In another way, through the form of another thing similar to itself, as a cause is known through the likeness of its effect and a man through the form of his own image.

N.B. For more on the likeness of an image, see further below. 4. On what makes one thing appear to be most similar to another. According to St. Thomas Aquinas (cf. In III Sent., dist. 2, q. 1, art. 1a, obj. 3), that appears to be most similar to another in which the properties of the other are most representted. And in the Quaestiones Disputate de Veritate (q. 10, art. 7, ad 10), he says that the rational creature is more like God than the irrational according to the properties inhering in it. And in many places he explains that these properties come under the likeness of an image through the sharing of the same form in some way.

N.B. The apparent disagreement between the foregoing passages may be reconciled by recognizing that the first refers to knowing the what it is as the term of investigation and hence perfectly, whereas the second speaks of the quod quid est as its starting point, and so imperfectly. See my separate discussion.


5. The rationale of proprie loquendo. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Qu. Disp. de Veritate, qu. 17, art. 1, c. (tr. B.A.M.):
That name alone can be attributed to something properly in whose signification all the things said of that thing agree.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Qu. Disp. de Veritate, qu. 4, art. 2, c. (tr. B.A.M.):
But if something of those things which belong to the notion of the name be taken away, there will no longer be a proper taking.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Qu. Disp. de Veritate, qu. 1, art. 1, c. (tr. B.A.M.):
And so when truth is said per prius et posterius [sc. according to a before and after] of many things, it is necessary that it be said per prius of that in which the complete notion of truth is found.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Qu. disp. de Veritate, q. 1, art. 2, c. (tr. B.A.M.):
It must be said that in those things that are said per prius et posterius of many things it is not necessary that that first receive the predication of the common that is the cause of the others, but that in which the complete notion of that common is first [found]; as healthy is said per prius of animal, in which the perfect notion of health is first found, while medicine is called healthy as bringing about health. And so, since truth is said per prius et posterius of many things, it is necessary that that of which it is said per prius be that in which the complete notion of truth is first found.

6. What is necessary for something to be named properly and the rationale establishing improper speech. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In II Sent., dist. 9, q. 1, art. 4, c. (tr. B.A.M.):
For some name to be said of something properly, two things are required, namely, that it have what is signified by the name perfectly according to complete act, and that it be its last perfection....

Hence, what is signified by a name can either be had perfectly according to complete act or not, and it can either be its last perfection or not, both of which must be the case for something to be said properly; otherwise, the taking is improper. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In I Sent., dist. 15, qu. 4, art. 1, ad 3 (tr. B.A.M.):
It must be said that when something is not shared according to its own perfect act but according to some mode it is not properly said to be had, as animals that have any mode of prudence are not said to have prudence because they do not have the act of reason which properly is the act of prudence, namely, choice itself. Whence they have something similar to prudence, rather than prudence.

N.B. And from this it follows that an animal is called prudent improperly, (sc. by a proportional metaphor). 33

6. The two ways in which something can be signified. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Qu. Quod., 7, q. 6, art. 3, c. (tr. B.A.M.):
To signify something, a man can employ either certain sounds of voice or certain feigned likenesses.

7. The purpose of poetic fictions. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Qu. Quod., 7, q. 6, art. 3, ad 2 (tr. B.A.M.):
Poetic fictions are not ordered to something else except for the purpose of signifying.

8. The two ways in which a word outwardly pronounced is the sign of something. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In IV Sent., dist. 15, q. 4, art. 1a, ad 4 (tr. B.A.M.):
A word outwardly pronounced is the sign of something in two ways. In one way immediately, namely, of that for which it has been principally instituted for signifying, as the name fire signifies a certain element. In another way through a middle, when, namely, the very thing that is first signified is taken as the sign of another thing, as fire signifies charity by reason of an aptitude for signifying charity it has from a certain likeness.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol., Ia, q. 1, art. 10, ad 3 (tr. B.A.M.):
For by vocal sounds something is signified properly and something figuratively. Nor is the literal sense the figure itself, but that which is figured. For when Scripture names the arm of God the literal sense is not that a bodily member of this sort belongs to God, but what is signified by this member, namely, operative power.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Super ad Galatas, c. 4, lect. 7 (tr. B.A.M.):

But something is signified by the literal sense in two ways, namely, according to proper speech, as when I say, the man smiles, or according to a likeness or metaphor, as when I say, the meadow smiles [pratum ridet]. And we use both ways in Sacred Scripture, as when we say, according to the first way, that Jesus ascends, and when, according to the second way, we say that He sits at the right hand of the Father.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In III Sent., dist. 38, q. 1, art. 3, ad 4 (tr. B.A.M.):
It must be said that the words that are written in Sacred Scripture are either the words in which Scripture is published, or they are the words of anyone recounted as speaking in Scripture. If in the first way, no lie comes about in them thereby since in figurative expressions the sense of the words is not what they produce at first glance, but what the one bringing them forward intends to produce under such a manner of speaking, as someone who says that a meadow smiles intends to signify the flowering of the meadow under a certain likeness of the thing.

9. The genus of feigning. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Qu. Disp. de Malo, q. 8, art. 3, obj. 10 (tr. B.A.M.): 34

Feigning pertains to reason; for to feign is to represent, which belongs solely to reason, as the Philosopher says in his Poetria.12

10. The definition of feigning and its division. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In IV Sent., dist. 4, q. 3, art. 2b, ad 1 (tr. B.A.M.):
It must be said that there is feigning properly when someone shows something by word or deed that is not in the thing in truth. But this happens in two ways. In one way, when from this intention something is said or done so that something other than the truth the thing has is shown. In another way, when something is shown that does not have the truth of the thing in word or deed, even if it not be said or done on account of this.

11. When our feigning is no lie but some figure of the truth. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol., IIa-IIae, q. 111, art. 1. ad 1 (tr. English Dominican Fathers, rev. B.A.M.):
As Augustine says in his book of Questions on the Gospels, not everything we feign is a lie. But when our feigning is referred to some signification, it is no lie but some figure of the truth. Otherwise, all the things that are said figuratively by wise and saintly men, or even by the Lord Himself, are to be reputed lies, since, according to the customary understanding, the truth does not consist in such sayings. Now just as things said are feigned without lying, so also are things done in order to signify something else.

12. The feigning produced by figurative expressions. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol., IIa-IIae, q. 111, art. 1. ad 1 (tr. B.A.M.):
And he gives the example of figurative expressions: in them a certain thing is feigned, not that it be asserted to exist in this way, but we propose it as the figure of another thing that we wish to assert.

13. The two ways in which figure can be taken as a sign of something else. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In III Sent., dist. 16, q. 2, art. 1, ad 1 (tr. B.A.M.):
And because the figure of anything is put down as its sign, as is clear in the case of images which principally result according to a representation of the figure, 13 from this the name of figure has been carried over so that it is put down for any sign instituted for signifying something according to a likening to something else.

N.B. By Aristotles Poetria St. Thomas means the presentation of the Philosophers Poetics as it is found in Averroes Determinatio in Aristotelis Poetria , the Latin translation of the Commentators work by Herman-nus Alemannus, published in 1256. 13 Cf. In VII Physic., lect. 5, n. 5 (tr. B.A.M.): One must consider that among all qualities, the figure more than anything else follows on and reveals the species of things. And because of this it happens that an image, which is the expressed representation of a thing, is more looked to with respect to its figure than to its color or some other thing. And because art is the imitator of nature, and the work of art is a certain image of a natural thing, the forms of artifacts are figures or something close to them.


14. Metaphors are to be taken from things manifest to sense, that is, from images formed of sensible things. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In I Sent., dist. 34, art. 2, ad 3 (tr. B.A.M.):
Names expressing the very perfections of the divine goodness taken according to the determinate mode of participating in them cannot be said of God properly or even metaphorically because metaphors are to be taken from those things which are manifest according to sense.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In I Sent., dist. 34, q. 3, art. 1, obj. 1 (tr. B.A.M.):
Metaphorical expressions are taken from images formed of sensible things.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Qu. Quod., 7, q. 6, art. 2, ad 1 (tr. B.A.M.):

Certain things [such as a lion or a goat] by which Christ and His members are designated in Sacred Scripture are certain imaginary likenesses whose only purpose in being shown is that those persons be signified.

15. The rationale of metaphorical expressions: the carrying over of a name according to some likeness. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Qu. Disp. de Veritate, qu. 10, art. 7, ad 10 (tr. B.A.M.):
Metaphorical expressions are looked to according to certain likenesses because, according to the Philosopher (cf. Top. VI. 6, 140a 11), all things being carried over are carried over according to some likeness.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol., Ia, q. 1, art. 9, sed contra (tr. B.A.M.):
But to hand on something under a likeness [sc. a similitude] is metaphorical.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In II Sent., d. 8, qu. 1, art. 3, ad 1 (tr. B.A.M.):

Just as in metaphorical expressions there is no falsity because they are not brought forward to signify the things on which the names are imposed, but rather those things in which the likenesses of the aforesaid things are found; so also in the appearances of angels there is no feigning, since those figures are not shown to signify the natural being of that thing, but the properties of an angel.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In I Meta., lect. 3, n. 12 (tr. B.A.M.):

But poets lie, not only in this [sc. that there is envy in the divine], but in many other things, as the common proverb runs.

16. The definition and division of likeness. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In IV Met., lect. 4, n. 573 (tr. B.A.M.):
Now anything that takes on the appearance of something else must resemble it in some way.


Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol. Ia q. 4, art. 3, c. (tr. B.A.M.):

Furthermore, things are called like which agree in form.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol. Ia, q. 93, art. 9, c. (tr. English Dominican Fathers):
Likeness is a kind of unity, for oneness in quality causes likeness, as the Philosopher says.... For we say that an image is like or unlike what it represents according as the representation is perfect or imperfect.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol. Ia, q. 35, art. 1, c. (tr. B.A.M.):
I reply that it must be said that likeness belongs to the notion of an image. Nevertheless, not any likeness whatsoever suffices for the notion of an image, but rather a likeness in the species of a thing, or at least in some sign of the species. But a sign of the species in bodily things would seem to be shape most of all, for we observe that with respect to animals diverse according to species, they are of diverse shapes but not of diverse colors. Whence, if the color of something were painted on a wall, it would not be called an image unless the shape were depicted. But neither does a likeness in species suffice by itself, nor shape, but the notion of origin is required for an image, since, as Augustine says, one egg is not the image of another, since it is not an expression of it. So for something truly to be an image, requires that it proceed from another similar to it in species or at least in a sign of the species.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol. Ia, q. 93, art 6, c. (tr. B.A.M.):
For an image represents according to a likeness in species, as we have said. But a trace represents by way of an effect, which represents the cause in such a way as not to attain to a likeness of species; for impressions that are left by the motion of an animal are called traces; and likewise smoke is called a trace of fire; and the desolation of the earth, the trace of a hostile army.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Qu. Disp. de Ver., q. 2, art. 11, ad 2 (tr. B.A.M.):
To the second it must be said that the Philosopher in the first book of the Topics 9 (cf. ch. 17, 108a 7-8, 14), lays down a twofold mode of likeness: There is one found in different genera; and this is looked to according to a proportion or a proportionality, as when one thing stands to another as another thing stands to another, as he says in the same place. Another mode is found in things belonging to the same genus, as when the same thing exists in different things. Now a likeness does not require a comparison according to a determinate habitude said in the first mode, but only in the second; hence it is not necessary that the first mode of likeness be removed from God with respect to the creature.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In I Sent., d 34, q. 3, art. 1, ad 2 (tr. B.A.M.):

To the second it must be said that likeness is twofold: for there is a certain kind through a sharing of the same form, and there is no such likeness of the bodily to the divine, as the objection proves. There is also a certain kind by a likeness of proportionality, which consists in the same relation of proportions, as when it is said, as eight is to four, so is six to three; and as the consul is to the city, so is the pilot to the ship. And the transport from bodily things to the divine is made according to such a likeness: as if God were called a fire


because, just as fire stands to this, that it make what is liquefied flow through its own heat, so God through his own goodness pours perfections into every creature, or something of the sort.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In I Peri Herm., lect. 3, n. 4 (tr. B.A.M.):

But one must say that the conceptions of the understanding are likenesses of things and therefore the things that are in the understanding can be considered and named in two ways: in one way, according to themselves, and in another way, according to the nature of the things of which they are the likenesses. In this way an image of Hercules in and of itself is called and is bronze, but as it is a likeness of Hercules is named man.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol. Ia, q. 4, art. 3, c. (tr. B.A.M.):
I reply that it must be said that, since a likeness is looked to according to an agreement or communication in form, likeness is manifold, according to the many ways of communication in form. For certain things are called like which communicate in the same form according to the same notion and according to the same mode, and these things are not only called like but equal in their likeness, just as two things equally white are called alike in whiteness. And this is the most perfect likeness. In another way things are called like which communicate in form according to the same notion, and not according to the same mode, but according to more or less, as the less white is said to be like the more white. And this is an imperfect likeness. In a third way things are called like which communicate in the same form but not according to the same notion, as is clear in non-univocal agents. For, since every agent makes something similar to itself inasmuch as it is an agent, but it makes each thing according to its own form, a likeness to the form of the agent must be in the effect. If, then, the agent is contained in the same species with its effect, there will be a likeness in form between the maker and the thing made according to the same notion of the species, just as man generates man. But if the agent is not contained in the same species, there will [still] be a likeness, but not according to the same notion of the species, just as the things generated by the power of the sun approach to some likeness to the sun, but not such that they receive the form of the sun according to a likeness in species, but according to a likeness in genus. If, then, there be any agents which are not contained in a genus, their effects would even more remotely approach to a likeness of the form of the agent, yet not such that they share in a likeness to the form of the agent according to the same notion of the species, but according to some sort of analogy, just as being itself is common to everything. And in this way the things that are from God are likened to Him inasmuch as they are beings, as to the first and universal principal of their whole being.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Compendium Theologiae I, c. 43 (tr. B.A.M.):

Now certain things that proceed from other things are found not to follow after the perfect species of those things from which they proceed. In one way, as in equivocal generations: for a sun is not generated from the sun, but a certain animal. In another way, what proceeds from something differs from it because of a lack of purity, when, that is, from what is simple and pure in itself by an application to exterior matter something is produced falling short of the first species: as a house in matter comes from a house in the mind of an artisan; and color comes from light received in a limited body; and a mixed thing comes from fire joined to the other elements; and a shadow comes from a ray [of light] by the opposition of an opaque body.


In a third way what proceeds from something does not follow after its species because of a lack of truththat is to say, it does not truly receive its nature, but only a certain likeness of it, like an image in a mirror or sculpture, or even the likeness of a thing in the intellect or sense. For the image of a man is not called a true man, but a likeness; nor is a stone [truly in] the soul, as the Philosopher says, but a species of the stone.

17. A likeness assumed in metaphor does not manifest the nature of a thing. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In II Meteor., lect. 5, n. 4 (tr. B.A.M.).
Still, something said in this way [sc. by metaphor] does not suffice for knowing the nature of a thing, since a natural thing is not manifested by a likeness assumed in a metaphor.

18. A process of arguing founded on a likeness leads to the fallacy of the consequent. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Qu. Quod., 7, qu. 6, art. 1, ad 4 (tr. B.A.M.):
Because one thing is the likeness of many things, when the sense of an utterance is founded on a likeness one cannot proceed determinately to something belonging to the other things like it, but there is the fallacy of the consequent. For example, because of a certain likeness the lion signifies both Christ and the Devil, for which reason from the mere fact that something is said about a lion in Sacred Scripture a process to neither can be made by arguing.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In II Post. Anal., lect. 26, n. 8 (tr. B.A.M.):
As one ought not to dispute by metaphors, so also one must not define by metaphors; for example, if we were to say that man is an upside down tree. Nor in definitions must we assume anything said metaphorically. For, since definitions are the principal and most efficacious means in disputations, if definitions were to be given by metaphors it would follow that one must dispute from metaphors. And this ought not to be done since a metaphor is taken according to something like, but it is not necessary that what is like in one respect is like in every respect.

Cf. also St. Thomas Aquinas, In I Sent., dist. 3, q. 3, art. 2, ad 4 (tr. B.A.M.):
To the fourth it must be said that in one thing diverse properties can be considered. And so it is not unfitting that from the same thing according to its own diverse properties a substitution be made to some contrary, as God is called a lion by reason of his generosity and courage, or something of the sort, and the devil is called a lion because of his cruelty. It also sometimes happens, as Dionysius says in his Letter to Titus, that the same name is transferred in order to signify the thing participating, as well as the participation and the principle of the participation, as if a man possessed of charity were called fire, and the charity itself, and God infusing charity: and it is to be explained according to all this different ways.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In III Sent., dist. 11, qu. 1, art. 4, ex. (tr. B.A.M.):
But from tropic expressions there is no correct process of argumentation. The reason for this is that they are not true simply, but only in a certain respect. And this is why Dionysius says in his Letter to Titus that symbolic theology does not use arguments.


19. In what the fallacy of the consequent consists. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, De Fallacis ad Quosdam Nobiles Artistas (On Fallacies: For the Benefit of Some Gentlemen Students for an Arts Degree), c. 16 (tr. B.A.M.):
A consequent, as it is taken here, is what follows on the antecedent in a conditional proposition, as when it is said, If Socrates is a man, he is an animal. Socrates is an animal is the consequent, but Socrates is a man is the antecedent. Therefore, the fallacy of the consequent is a deception arising from the fact that the consequent is judged to be the same in every way with the antecedent. For from this someone happens to believe that if the consequent follows on the antecedent, in the same way conversely the antecedent follows on the consequent. From this it is clear that the fallacy of the consequent consists in two consequences, one of which is true and the other false, as if one were to say, If someone runs, he moves. But Socrates moves, therefore he runs. For this consequence, If Socrates runs, he moves, which is given first, is true; but this one, to which it proceeds: If he moves, therefore he runs, is false.

For an application of the foregoing teaching, cf. St. Albert the Great, In Epistolis B. Dionysii Areopagitae Epist. VII, S. 2 (tr. B.A.M.):
Then leaving aside what he said before, he censures the poets, passing to Apollophanes in particular.14 And he says he does not care to speak for the sake of reproving the opinion of the many, that is, of the idolaters among the people who remain in the sayings of the poets and serve the creature, bestowing on it the worship owed to the Creator because of a liking they have for material things, and <because of> the passions of vices which do not prohibit the worship of idols, but rather permit and command it. For poets are not philosophers except in a certain respect: for the end of the poet is to persuade or dissuade someone from those things which come before the judgment of reason by inducing terror or even the abhorrence of certain things from certain mythical [or fabulous] things, which inspire either terror or abhorrence, and after which one is restored to reason: just as if someone were to wish to persuade someone not to eat honey, and were to call honey choler that someone vomited.15 And from the fact that before one discerns through reason that what is said is false, so much abhorrence is generated suddenly that even after the judgment of reason he would abominate it. But, on the part of those things that can be proven in the judgment of reason, the cultivation of idols had a mode of persuasion no different than the fictions of the poets when they used to say one turning is in the sun and another in the stars. And so he says that idolaters remain in the sayings of the poets because they are wont to be detained in those things which come before the judgment of reason and not come to the judgment of reason.

20. A metaphorical expression taken according to its proper meaning constitutes the third species of amphibole. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, De Fallacis, c. 7 (tr. B.A.M.:)


Cf. Dionysius the Areopagite, Letter Seven, To Polycarp, a hierarch: I am not talking here of the beliefs of the hoi polloi who in their materialistic and impassioned way cling to the stories of the poets and who serve the creature rather than the creator ( Pseudo-Dionysius, the Areopagite. The Complete Works . Trans. Colm Luibheid. Classics of Western Spirituality. New York, 1987, p. 267). 15 Cf. Soph. Ref., V.4 (167b 5-7) where Aristotle gives the following as an example of the fallacy of the consequent: For men often take gall for honey because a yellow color accompanies honey.


The third species of amphibole is when one speech principally signifies one thing and another metaphorically or by way of a substitution, just as this speech, a shore is plowed, principally signifies the breaking up of the shore, but by way of a substitution, the loss of ones work. And a paralogism is formed in this way: whenever a shore is plowed, earth is broken up. But when an obstinate man is taught, a shore is plowed: therefore, when an obstinate man is taught, earth is broken up. It does not follow by reason of the aforesaid multiplicity.16

21. The rationale for distinguishing the kinds of likeness. Things are called like which agree in form (cf. Summa Theol. Ia q. 4, art. 3, c.). But this agreement can be considered according to something included in what a thing is or in something outside the essence. If within the essence, there can be a likeness in genus or species; if outside, in a property or accident. 1. Things that are alike in genus: a) those admitting a transport because of a diversity of supposition b) those not admitting a transport 2. a) Things that are alike in species b) Things that are alike in a sign of the species (shape or something near to it) 3. Things that are alike in accidents other than shape 22. The two kinds of likeness (or likening). (1) Likeness through sharing the same form [= specific or generic form] (2) Likeness through the same relation of proportions [= accidental form; cf. the way in which a cause is known through the likeness of its effect] The likeness constituting an image comes under the first kind, as does the likeness attended to in the first three kinds of metaphor; the likeness constituting a proportional or analogous metaphor comes under the second. The division of likeness into two kinds: (1) that which is through sharing the same form, and (2) that which is through the same relation of proportions (i.e. through a likeness of relation [or of relations]). (1) is divided into (a) a likeness in form or species, (b) a likeness in genus, and (c) a likeness according to some form of analogy. 23. The definition of representation. Representation means the manifestation of something to a knowing power through a likeness of that thing. But there are two forms of likeness, one in species or in some sign of the species, and another in genus or in something surpassing a genus and so giving rise to a likeness of proportions. There are, then, two forms of representation. Where one has a likeness in species or in a sign of the species, there is the representation of an image.

That is, by reason of the many things signified by a speech the same in every way.


Where one has a likeness in genus, or in something surpassing a genus founding a proportional likeness, there is the representation of a track or trace. 24. The two kinds of figuration. The likeness of figuration is found to take two principal forms, namely, figurative expression (figurate locutio) and symbolic or accommodated representation. 17 The former is a trope or manner of speaking ( tropus seu modus loquendi) consisting in the transfer of the name of one thing to something else on the basis of some agreement perceived between them so that something other than the proper meaning of the name is understood. The latter consists in the accommodation of the sensible figure or imaginary likeness of something (a fiction) to some truth separately apprehended in order to represent it; that is, symbolic or accommodated representation institutes such figures as signs of a deeper meaning, as we shall go on to explain further below. If we follow the treatment of St. Thomas Aquinas, we must say that the symbolic or accommodated representation itself has three forms: the first is fabula, or fable in the sense of myth (muthos), the second is the invented example, a common mode of persuasion coming under rhetoric (Cf. Aristotle, Rhet. II. 20); and the third is poetry ( poetica or poiesis), understanding the term widely, as did the Angelic Doctor, who had no direct acquaintance with the Poetics.18 With respect to the first kind, as Charles De Koninck explains, the fables of the ancients are a mixture of poetry and dialectic. The invented example, on the other hand, intends to sway men to some course of action and takes two forms: the parable, which represents deeds that have not happened, but which are possible, and the fable, which represents deeds that have not happened and are impossible. The third form is poetry understood as a representation in word or deed of the actions of men, whether having been done in the past or invented, as St. Thomas conceived it. 25. On imitation and figuration. Both forms of likening, namely, imitation and figuration, involve a sort of exemplification, but of this there are two distinct types: to give an example can mean to give a part of a whole, or it can mean to produce an argument from example in four terms. The first type is itself divided into two since there are two kinds of part/whole relation: the composing part of the integral whole, and the particular example of a universal whole. An instance of the former is a piece of cheese which is a part of the whole wheel, which in English we call a sample, coming under the figure synecdoche; of the second, the locutio exemplaris, which we shall explain further below. From the foregoing account, one sees that the type of example characteristic of figurative naming differs genere from the type proper to symbolic representation.

According to St. Thomas teaching, one thing is accommodated to another when it is made to stand in place of that other in order to signify some truth; the accommodation being made by reason according to this or that agreement it attends to between them (e.g. a similarity, a contrariety, a relation of whole to part or vice versa, etc.). See below on symbolism. 18 That is, he did not know Aristotles treatment of the various forms of the poetic art as imitations of an action using the appropriate means and manner. See my Supplement below.


Nevertheless, this difference can be overlooked in light of what they have in common, and this is what St. Thomas does. 26. On the argument by example in four terms. Cf. Michael A. Augros, Logic Notes: The Logic of the Third Act:
AN ARGUMENT BY EXAMPLE IN 4 TERMS is an argument based on a likeness. The strict logical analysis of this kind of argument is an argument showing that the first term belongs to the middle term through a likeness to the third term. The first part of the argumentis called the Pro-syllogism. It proves that the first termbelongs to the middle termthrough a likeness to the minor term[the fourth term being the likeness term].

An example of the argument by example reduced to logical form taken from Msgr. Maurice Dionne via Michael A. Augros, based on Aristotles instance of an example from Prior Analytics ii. 24 (68b 38 69a 19):19 DA DB BA BA CB CA A B C D war vs. Phocians war vs. Phocians war between neighbors war between neighbors war vs. Athenians war vs. Athenians the most universal term, bad the middle term, war between neighbors the minor term, war vs. Athenians the simile, war vs. Phocians bad between neighbors bad bad between neighbors bad

Therefore the example, in logical terms, is defined as primum de medio per simile tertio. That is, in the first part of the argument (called the pro-syllogism), we show that B is A, that the first and most universal term, A, belongs to the middle, B, through D (which is a likeness to the third term, C).


Note that Msgr. Dionnes example, although based on Aristotles, differs from it insofar as Aristotles minor term is Athenians against the Thebans, but Dionnes is war against the Athenians.


27. On the foregoing species and the exemplum or locutio exemplaris. Cf. Msgr. Maurice Dionne, Notes by Michael Augros on Initiation a La Logique:
P 202. EXAMPLES (their necessity and utility). The whole world, as if naturally, forms examples. But not everyone can analyze them. P 203. Not all examples are sensible (nor are all signs sensible; that is just the first meaning of the word). P 205. An instrument of knowledge by a likeness is not a good definition of example, because it is too general; it can also be said of metaphor, and a metaphor is not an example. Rather, an example is An instrument of knowledge starting from a likeness. The example goes from part to part, but syllogism goes from whole to part. Induction goes from part to whole. E.g. Aristotle makes known the ability of first matter by another ability, namely that found in artificial things. [Note the difference between an example and a less universal proposition: in some ways the example is poorly named, since in English, when we ask for examples, we are usually asking for species of a genus, or individuals or a species, or less universal propositions.] P 212. A general danger in using likenesses: to make use of likenesses too tenuous and to neglect very profound differences. P 216. The word example signifies other things besides the instrument in 4 terms we have been speaking about. E.g. in VIII Metaphysics, n 1317, St. Thomas says that lest someone think white man is two things, Habeat unum nomen quod causa exempli sit vestis. E.g. in II De Anima, n 219, St. Thomas says Aristotles explanation of the living is per modum exempli, quam per modum definitionis. P 218. La locution exemplaire. The exemplum. E.g. Aristotle compares first matter in its desire for form, to the female desiring the male or the ugly desiring the beautiful (Physics I.9 192a22). One must distinguish this instrument from the metaphor. P 219. In I Phys. n 138 (Lectio 15). St. Thomas answers Avicennas accusation that Aristotle is using figurative speech. <> 3) EXEMPLUM. This does not mean an example. Nor is it a metaphor. Aristotle uses an exemplum when he compares prime matter to a woman in the Physics (as St. Thomas explains in the commentary). Or, again, when Aristotle says that rhetoric is to dialectic as the antistrophe is to the strophe, he is saying that rhetoric is like the antistrophe (counterpart is the best we can do to translate this into English, but in Greek the word has a connection to the chorus). This is not a metaphor or a simile but a locutio exemplaris. Actually, Aristotles way of saying it in the Rhetoric is antistrophos, which is an adjective, and so it is not really an exemplum. On a une locution exemplaire et non une mtaphore parce quon garde le sens tout fait propre et premier du mot antistrophe.


Also, as De Koninck says in his Metaphysics and the Interpretation of Words, Aristotle calls God the everlasting animal, because life is in the definition of animal, and it is most known to us in animals. This is also an exemplum. 4) EXAMPLE. This means here giving a singular under the universal, not the argument called example. (emphasis added)

Cf. Notes by Michael Augros on LE SUJET DE LA LOGIQUE:

P119 [2] Prime matter and the naturalis. St. Thomas answers Avicennas objection to Aristotles comparison of matter to the ugly or to a woman (namely that it is metaphorical), saying about Aristotles speech Nec etiam utitur hic figurata locutione, sed exemplari (In I Physic. Lect. 15, n 138). P120 A locution exemplaire is like an abbreviated example in 4 terms. Likewise, a metaphor is an abbreviated EIKON (or comparison). In a similar way, the first phrase of Aristotles Rhetoric can be put into the form of an exemplum or locutio exemplaris. If we replace antistrophos (an adjective) with antistrophe (a noun), we have a locution exemplaire. The antistrophe corresponds to the strophe in a chorus. The phrase becomes Rhetoric is the antistrophe of dialectic. P121 How do we know matter? Per analogiam. But analogia does not refer only the analogous word. Here, it simply means by comparison.

I say: exemplification in the meaning under discussion consists in giving an individual under a universal or a species under a genus. E.g. Aristotle compares first matter in its desire for form, to the female desiring the male or the ugly desiring the beautiful ( Physics I.9 192a22). In this way, v.g., a father stands to his family as God stands to the creatures which are His offspring. In the exemplum the likeness term shares in the notion of the thing to which it is compared: i.e. in the example of the desire of the female for the male, the likeness term female shares in the notion of matter, the term which is likened to it. In this regard, cf. the remark by Charles De Koninck referenced above: Aristotle calls God the everlasting animal, because life is in the definition of animal, and it is most known to us in animals. In the metaphor or figure the likeness term does not share in the notion of that to which it is likened. It follows from this that in the case of the metaphor the likeness pertains to something outside the notion, namely, to certain accidents of the things likened to one another: Achilles is likened to a lion by virtue of his courage, or his ferocity in battle, which are outside his essence. 28. The comparison of metaphor and exemplum. 45

When one thing is likened to another, the likeness must be either in the essence or outside the essence, and consequently, the likeness term must be predicated of that other either because its notion shares in something belonging to the essence of that other, or because it shares in something outside the essence. When the likeness is founded in the essence of the likeness term; that is, when the likeness belongs to the notion of the name given to the thing, one has a locutio exemplaris, or exemplum. To take an instance: In the Metaphysics Aristotle calls God the everlasting animal. Now, since an animal is defined as a sensitive living thing, life is in its defi-nition. And since God, as the source of this perfection, necessarily possesses it in an eminently superior way, life will be said of God and animal according to a proportion. Hence, when, on the basis of this likeness (which follows a proportion in their very notions), God is called the everlasting animal, one has an exemplum. But when the poet calls Achilles a lion in battle, one has a metaphor because in this case the warrior is likened to the beast only in virtue of something belonging to him as an accident; for instance, the fierceness of his onset in battle. Further elucidation of St. Thomas mind on this matter may be found in the Summa Theologiae, Ia, q. 13, art. 9, c. where he teaches that a name is said of something metaphorically when the notion signified by it, rather than being communicable to the thing of which it is said properly, or according to the whole signification of the name, is communicable to it only by a likeness, or according to something of those things which are included in the signification of the name. Consequently, such a likeness must lie outside the notions according to which they are defined, although included within their signification, as do the daring and courage whereby a man (such as Christ or Achilles) resembles something belonging to the lion (and so included in its signification, although the lion is not defined by these) and in virtue of which he may receive that name, as St. Thomas also explains in the same place. 29. Supplement: On representation. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas on the way in which a thing can represent itself: In I Sent., dist. 15, q. 4, art. 1, ra. 1 (tr. B.A.M.):
To the first it must be said that the notion of mission does not require that there be actual knowledge of the Person Himself there, but only habitual, inasmuch as in a gift that has been bestowed, which is a habit, the property of a divine Person is represented as in a likeness; and in this way that is said to be sent which is known to be from another by way of representation, just as something is said to manifest itself or to produce knowledge of itself inasmuch as it represents itself in its own likeness.

Cf. also the following: St. Thomas Aquinas, Qu. Disp. de Veritate, qu. 1, art. 10, c. (tr. B.A.M.):
A thing produces an awareness of itself in the soul by means of the things belonging to it which outwardly appear, seeing that our knowledge takes its rise from sense, the per se objects of which are sensible qualities; and so it is said in the first book of the De Anima that accidents play a great role in knowing the quod quid est.

But we can know a thing in two ways: either through its own form or through the form of something similar to it: Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In Lib. Boetii de Trin., I, qu. 1, art. 2, c. 1: 46

It must be said that something is known in two ways. In one way, through its own form, as the eye sees a stone through the species of the stone. In another way, through the form of another thing similar to itself, as a cause is known through the likeness of its effect and a man through the form of his own image.

Note that in one way a thing represents itself by its own form. But in this place, St. Thomas speaks of a thing representing itself by its likeness, which is another kind of representation. Hence, implicit in this text is a division of repraesentatio into that which represents itself by its own form, and that which represents itself by its likeness. A thing may also represent something other than itself by its likeness. But this latter species will be diversified according to the different ways one thing can be like anotheri.e. as noted above, one thing can be like another through sharing in the same form, or through the same relation of proportions, etc. Whatever takes on the appearance of something must resemble it in some way ( In V Meta.), but this resemblance can happen in two ways: in one way, by a sharing in the same form; in another way, by having the same relation of proportions. The first kind constitutes the likeness of an image and is itself divided into two, one kind being a likeness in species, the other, in a sign of the species, the latter kind constituting a work of imitation. The second kind constitutes the likeness of a figure and is also divided into two kinds: one is through signs appearing to the sense of sight; the other through vocal sounds manifest to the sense of hearing. In each case the sensible signs are like the things they signify only according to a proportion. Cf. also the following very important text: St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol. IIa-IIe, q. 111, art. 3, ad 1 (tr. B.A.M.):
To the first therefore it must be said that a hypocrite dissembling some virtue assumes it as an end not indeed with respect to existence, as if wishing to possess it, but with respect to appearance, as if wishing to seem to possess it. For this reason it does not involve an opposition to that virtue, but rather it is opposed to truth, inasmuch as one wishes to deceive men about that virtue. Now he does not assume the work of that virtue as something intended in and of itself, but instrumentally, as a sign of that virtue. Whence from this it is not directly opposed to that virtue.

Now he does not assume the work of that virtue as something intended in and of itself, but instrumentally, as a sign of that virtue. So, too, in the representation of figureation one does not confect an imaginary likeness of something as if it were intended in and of itself (i.e. as if it were its per se end), but instrumentally, as a sign ordered to some truth as its meaning. Here one finds the difference between an imitation and a figure. In the former case, its notion is completed through being the likeness of another in a sign of its species; but in the latter, such a likeness is instrumental to the end of signifying something else, inasmuch as it is produced in order to convey to the mind some separately apprehended truth. (That is to say, the image is produced, not for its own sake, but as something ordered to some truth as its sign, and so as something that has itself instrumentally to that truth.) Hence the notion of figuration is completed only in that relation of signification. 30. On repraesentatio, imitatio and figuratio.


Although one finds that St. Thomas uses the word repraesentatio where Aristotle has mimesis, it must be recognized that the former is not a translation of the latter; rather repraesentatio is a genus of both imitatio and figuratio. Nor is repraesentatio even the proximate genus of these two species, since a thing can represent itself as well as something other than itself. Moreover, among the latter there are representations which are perceptible to the senses and those which are not, and it is the former which the species at issue here come under. But the proper name for this relation is signification, for a sign is defined as anything which, beyond the impression it makes on the senses, causes something other than itself to come into knowledge. representation of oneself of something other than oneself (sc. by a likeness) representation of oneself by ones own form by a likeness of ones own form representation of something other than oneself perceptible to the senses not perceptible to the senses sense perceptible representation of something other than oneself for the purpose of signification (in order to signify some truth; i.e. to convey some meaning) not for the purpose of signification (e.g. fools gold; the hypocrite; the liar) sense perceptible representation of something other than oneself for the purpose of signifying something true in the manner of an image, where the likeness is in the species or in a sign of the species (= imitation) in the manner of a figure, where the likeness is according to the same relation of proportions (= figuration) 31. St. Thomas on poetica and imago. In his account of poetria or poetica does St. Thomas anywhere use the notion of imago to define representatio? That is, does he understand representation to consist essentially in imitation, or in figuration or metaphora? Consider his remark on the meaning of fingere: To feign is to represent, which belongs only to reason, as the Philosopher says in sua Poetria (Q. D. De Malo, q. 8, art. 3, obj. 10). This verb properly refers to fictitious story-making, which Aristotle lays down as the essence of the poetic art. But does St. Thomas understand it to mean this? Also consider his account of fictio: it can be said of the imitative performance of the actor (cf. hypocrites). Further, its meaning does not seem to be restricted to figurate locutio. But note that in his Proem to the Posterior Analytics St. Thomas example (i.e. the representation of some food under the likeness of something disgusting, etc.) is an instance of metaphor and not of imitation. (I give this text further below.) 48

On the other hand, in the account he gives there of the work of the poetic art St. Thomas does not explicitly include the note, accommodated to a truth; nor does he define it (restrictively) in terms of metaphor or allegory; i.e. he does not say, one thing is said and another is understood. In this regard consider the following remark from the Quaestiones Quodlibetales (VII, q. 6, art. 3, obj. 2): It belongs to the poetic art to designnate the truth of things by certain feigned likenesses. It appears that this statement can be understood in either of the two senses of likening described above; that is, it can be taken to refer to (1) an imitation in Aristotles sense of feigning or fictitious story-making, or to mean (2) figurative speech, where the likening occurs by metaphorical naming. There is a similar ambiguity in St. Thomas remarks in two other important texts: (1) in the Summa (Ia, q. 9, ad 1), his explanation for why it is proper to the poet to use metaphors: propter representationem, on account of a representation; and (2) in the Proem, his example of generating disgust in a man by representing some food to him under the likeness of something disgusting. The first could be taken to mean that metaphor is at the service of representatio, where representation means fiction or imitation. On the other hand, the example from the Proem suggests that representatio means metaphorical naming. Perhaps in saying that it belongs to the poetic art to designate the truth of things by certain feigned likenesses, St. Thomas speaks in terms of a ratio communis to both kinds of likening, fiction and metaphor. N.B. When examining the texts of St. Thomas, one must be careful to distinguish between his use of examples of the likeness of appearance and the likeness of an imitation. He uses the former in the In II Sent d. 8, q. 1, art. 3, ad 1. text on the apparitionibus angelorum; but the second in the SCG III.29.3 text on the homo pictus. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In II Sent., dist. 8. q. 1, art. 3, ad 1 (tr. B.A.M.): DS8QU1 AR3- RA1
ad primum ergo dicendum, quod sicut in locutionibus metaphoricis non est falsitas, eo quod non proferuntur ad significandum res quibus nomina sunt imposita, sed magis illa in quibus dictarum rerum similitudines inveniuntur; ita etiam in apparitionibus angelorum non est fictio, quia figurae illae non ostenduntur ad significandum esse naturale illius rei, sed proprietates angeli. To the first, therefore, it must be said that, just as in metaphorical expressions there is no falsity because they are not brought forward to signify the things on which the names are imposed, but rather those things in which the likenesses of the aforesaid things are found,20 so also in the appearances of angels there is no feigning, since those figures are not shown to signify the natural being of that thing, but the properties of an angel.


Cf. In III Sent., dist. 6, q. 1, art. 3, c.: I reply that it must be said that in any name there are two things to consider: namely, that from which a name is imposed, which is called the quality of the name, and that upon which it is imposed, which is called the substance of the name. And a name, properly speaking, is said to signify the form or quality from which the name is imposed, but it is said to suppose for that upon which it is imposed. respondeo dicendum, quod in quolibet nomine est duo considerare: scilicet id a quo imponitur nomen, quod dicitur qualitas nominis; et id cui imponitur, quod dicitur substantia nominis: et nomen, proprie loquendo, dicitur significare formam sive qualitatem, a qua imponitur nomen; dicitur vero supponere pro eo cui imponitur.


Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentes III, cap. 29, n. 3 (tr. B.A.M.):
LB3 CP29 N.3 potest autem aliquis dicere scripturae quidem sacrae veritatem non deesse, dum id quod apparuit, refert ac si factum fuisset: quia rerum similitudines aequivoce ac figurate ipsarum rerum nominibus nuncupantur, sicut homo pictus aequivoce dicitur homo; et ipsa sacra scriptura consuevit hoc modo loquendi uti, ut est illud i cor. 10,4, petra autem erat christus. plurima autem corporalia in scripturis de deo inveniuntur dici propter similitudinem solam: sicut quod nominatur agnus vel leo, vel aliquid huiusmodi. LB3 CP29 N.4 sed licet rerum similitudines aequivoce rerum sibi nomina interdum assumant, non tamen competit sacrae scripturae ut narrationem unius facti totam sub tali aequivocatione proponat, ita quod ex aliis scripturae locis manifesta veritas haberi non possit: quia ex hoc non eruditio hominum, sed magis deceptio sequeretur; cum tamen apostolus dicat, rom. 15,4, quod quaecumque scripta sunt, ad nostram doctrinam scripta sunt; et ii tim. 3,16, omnis scriptura divinitus inspirata utilis est ad docendum et erudiendum. Esset praeterea tota evangelica narratio poetica et fabularis, si rerum similitudines apparentes quasi res ipsas narraret: cum tamen dicatur ii petr. 1,16: non enim indoctas fabulas secuti notam fecimus vobis domini nostri iesu christi virtutem. But, although the likenesses of things may at times take to themselves the names of things equivocally, still, it is not suitable to Sacred Scripture that it propose the narration of one deed wholly under such an equivocation, so that from other places in Scripture the manifest truth could not be had. For from this would follow, not the instruction of men, but rather their deception, whereas the Apostle says in Romans (15:4): Whatever things have been written, have been written for our instruction; and in II Timothy (3:16): All Scripture inspired of God is profitable for teaching and instructing. Furthermore, the whole Gospel narration would be poetic and fictitious [sc. in the manner of fable] if the apparent likenesses of things were narrated as the things themselves; whereas it is said in II Peter (1:16): For not by following untaught fables have we made known to you the power of our Lord, Jesus Christ. But someone might say that truth is certainly not lacking to Sacred Scripture when it reports that which appeared as though it had been done, because the likenesses of things are equivocally and figuratively named by the names of the things themselves, just as a man in a painting is called a man equivocally; and Sacred Scripture itself is accustomed to use this manner of speaking, as in I Corinthians (10:4): And the rock was Christ. But many bodily things are found to be said of God in Scripture by reason of a likeness only, as He is named lamb, or lion, or something of the sort.


32. The difference between imitation and figuration according to Aristotle and St. Thomas. According to the teaching of both Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, there are two ways in which one thing can be likened to another, imitation and figuration. As an instance of the former, one may observe the work of the painter or sculptor which produces an image of something, such as a portrait of Socrates or his statue; of the latter, the utterance of a speaker producing a figurative expression, such as a metaphor or simile expressing the likeness of Socrates to some other thing. The former proceeds by taking materials such as canvas and paint or marble and shape and conforming them to the visible appearance of something, such as the look of Socrates; the latter, by taking as its subject a man like Socrates and assimilating him to something else in virtue of some agreement other than in the notion of the species, as when one likens Socrates effect on the Athenians to that of an annoying pest by calling him a gadfly, inasmuch as there is a likeness of proportions between his power to annoy and that of the insect. As may be readily seen, the two ways of likening differ according to the subjects they take and the objects to which they liken them inasmuch as, in the first case, one likens some other thing to Socrates, but in the second, one likens Socrates to some other thing. Again, one may apprehend the difference between the two forms by considering that the likeness of an image gives rise to equivocal naming, whereas the likeness of a figure constitutes by itself the form of naming called figurative or improper. To take an instance of each: when the names Socrates or man are said of a portrait or statue one has a case of equivocation, inasmuch as these names are said of both man and image according to a before and after in their meanings. But when a thing is named according to a likeness in the manner explained above, as when one name meaning one thing is made to suppose or stand in a statement for something else according to some proportional likeness attended to between them, one has the likeness of figuration. To the extent, therefore, that one grasps the difference between equivocal and figurative naming, one sees something of the distinction between the two forms of likening. To be sure, in some cases these forms may be found together, as in those works of the poetic art which use words as a means of imitation, like the dialogues of Plato, in which Socrates as represented in word and deed is spoken of now by metaphor, now by some other figure. But insofar as the representation of Socrates as doing and saying is considered as the likeness of some original from which it proceeds and which it expresses in virtue of an agreement in form, it comes under the likeness of imitation. But insofar as it is considered as something named metaphorically according to a proportional similarity (or even as something which in itself is made to speak in metaphors), it comes under the likeness of figuration. Consequently, the distinction between the two forms holds good inasmuch as one never finds an instance of likening that is both imitative and figurative at the same time and in the same respect. Now inasmuch as a perfect knowledge of anything can be had only by knowing it through its causes, reducing it to the principles in which and from which it is seen to arise, to know the two forms of likening in a scientific manner one must consider them in their ultimate causes. But it is evident from a consideration of these forms of likening that each consists in its own way of representing one thing by another; but the ways of representing one thing by another differ according to the several ways in which one thing can share in, or not share in, the form of another; but differences in the sharing of a form come about through the several ways in which one thing can proceed from another as from its cause. 51

Hence, taking these in reverse order, our inquiry must proceed modo compositivo by considering in how many ways things may proceed from their first and highest cause, and so may share in or not share in the same form, and thereby be alike or unlike. We must then consider the two forms of representation arising from these several ways of being alike, and, in the last place, arrive at the two forms of likening they properly constitute. 33. The light under which St. Thomas considers poetica. St. Thomas always considers poetica, or the poetic art and its works, whether in words or in deeds, as a form of representation in which certain sounds of voice, especially those that are figurative, or certain feigned likenesses are employed to signify something. That is to say, for St. Thomas this art consists exclusively or properly in the accommodation of certain figurative expressions or poetic fictions (or both) to certain truths which they thereby express or signify. What about the two texts from St. Thomas proemia to logic which treat the poetic art? What do they say and how do they bear on a correct understanding of his view? In the proem to the Peri Hermeneias he says that, in common with rhetoric, the speeches belonging to the poetic art bring about assent to what they affirm, not only from the properties of the thing, but also from the dispositions of the hearer. And in his proem to the Posterior Analytics he describes the kind of assent proper to its instrument: sometimes a mere estimation inclines (reason) to one side of a contradiction, the way in which there comes to be disgust in a man for some food when it is represented to him under the likeness of something disgusting. And to this poetics is ordered, because it belongs to the poet to lead to something virtuous. If this is so, if the poet uses a representation to attain his end, why then does St. Thomas in the earlier proem speak of the properties of a thing? Consider the following passage from the Sentences commentary: Those things appear to be most alike in which the properties of the thing are most represented. From this statement it is evident that the properties of a thing can be represented. Now let us consider the question we raised above: What do these texts reveal about St. Thomas understanding of poetica? The first thing to notice is that in the second text, the example he gives is not a case of the likeness of an image, but rather of the likeness of a figure. Nothing could be more revealing than this choice. To be sure, this case involves the likeness of an image since any figure can be produced only when an image of the subject in question has been first produced, in his example, some food is likened to something disgusting, so an image of disgusting food is produced; but it is not a representation for that reason, but rather, for the reason that it provides the basis for the figurative comparison: one must say of a plate of spaghetti something like, Are you going to eat that dish of worms? Rather than take the case of some disgusting food which is then accurately represented in an image, St. Thomas adduces some food that is not disgusting and which is consequently represented as being so by a figurative description. Applied to the poetic art, we realize that St. Thomas has in mind the actors who come on stage to impersonate Priam and Hector and the like, but who are not them; that is to say, just as some food which is not disgusting is represented as such through a likeness, so, too, men who are not Priam and Hector (but Roscius and whoever) make themselves appear to be (or to appear as) such persons. 52

34. Certain definitions relevant to the foregoing considerations. TO REPRESENT. To manifest oneself, or to produce knowledge of oneself (St. Thomas, In I Sent., dist. 15, q. 4, art. 1, ad 1). METAPHORA (METAPHOR). The figure of speech in which a name imposed to signify one thing is carried over to another thing according to a likeness attended to between them, the likeness being one of proportionality (common doctrine). Cf. the following from The Free Dictionary:
synecdoche n. A figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole (as hand for sailor), the whole for a part (as the law for police officer), the specific for the general (as cutthroat for assassin), the general for the specific (as thief for pickpocket), or the material for the thing made from it (as steel for sword). [Middle English synodoches, from Medieval Latin synodoche, alteration of Latin synecdoch , from Greeksunekdokh , from sunekdekhesthai, to take on a share of : sun-, syn- + ekdekhesthai, to understand (ek-,out of; see eghs in Indo-European roots + dekhesthai, to take; see dek- in Indo-European roots).] metonymy n. pl. metonymies A figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated, as in the use of Washington for the United States government or of the sword for military power. [Late Latin met nymia, from men- in Indo-European roots.] Greek met numi : meta-, meta- + onuma, name; see n -

met onym ic (m t -n m k), met onym ical adj. met onym ically adv. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved. metonymy [mtnm] n pl -mies (Linguistics / Grammar) the substitution of a word referring to an attribute for the thing that is meant, as for example the use of the crown to refer to a monarch Compare synecdoche [from Late Latin from Greek: a changing of name, from meta- (indicating change) + onoma name] metonymical [mtnmkl], metonymic adj metonymically adv Collins English Dictionary Complete and Unabridged HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003


metonymy (mtn mi) n. a figure of speech in which the name of one object or concept is used for that of another to which it is related, as scepter for sovereignty, or the bottle for strong drink. [154050; < Late Latin metnymia < Greek metnyma change of name; see met-, -onym, -y3] metonymic (mt nm k) met`onymical, adj. met`onymically, adv. Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. metonymy a rhetorical or stylistic device in which one thing is named or referred to by the name of another, related thing; for example, the use of White House in referring to the presidential administration. metonym, n. metonymous, metonymie, metonymical, adj. See also: Names a rhetorical or stylistic device in which one thing is named or referred to by the name of another, related thing; for example, the use of White House for the presidential administration. metonym, n. metonymous, metonymic, metonymical, adj. See also: Rhetoric and Rhetorical Devices -Ologies & -Isms. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


35. On the use of symbolism by in Sacred Scripture. Cf. Dionysius the Areopagite, Ep. IX, To Titus, Pseudo-Dionysius, The Complete Works, tr. Colm Luibheid, pp. 283-4:
[1105D] But there is a further point to understand. Theological tradition has a dual aspect, the ineffable and mysterious on the one hand, the open and the more evident on the other. The one resorts to symbolism and involves initiation. The other is philosophic and employs the method of demonstration. (Further, the inexpressible is bound up with what can be articulated.) The one uses persuasion and imposes the truthfulness of what is asserted. The other acts and, by means of a mystery which cannot be taught, it puts souls firmly in the presence of God. This is why the sacred initiators of our tradition, together with those of the tradition of the Law, resorted freely to symbolism appropriate to God, [1108A] regarding the sacraments of the most holy mysteries. Indeed we see the blessed angels using riddles to introduce the divine mysteries.1 Jesus himself speaks of God by means of parables, and passes on to us the mystery of his divine activity by using the symbolism of a table. It was right not only that the Holy of Holies should be kept free from the contamination of the mob, but also that human life which is undivided but also divided should receive in an appropriate way the enlightenment of divine knowledge.2 And so [283-284] the impassive element of the soul is attuned to the simple and interior visions of those images which have the shape of the divine. On the other hand the passionate element of the soul, as befits its nature, honors and rises up toward the most divine realities by way of the carefully combined elements of the representations. These symbolic veils are akin [1108B] [to that part of the soul], as seen by the example of those who, having been taught the things of God in a way which is clear and unveiled, go on then to picture in themselves some image guiding them to a conception of the theological teaching which they have listened to. 2. As Paul said and as true reason has said, the ordered arrangement of the whole visible realm makes known the invisible things of God. 3 By the same token, scripture writers in their consideration of a theme look at it sometimes in a social and legal perspective and sometimes purely and without any mixture of anything else. They look at it sometimes at the human and intermediate level, sometimes in a transcendent mode and in the context of perfection. Sometimes they rely on the laws governing visible things, sometimes on rules which govern invisible things, and all things depending on what suits the sacred writings, minds, and souls. Whether one looks at the question in its entirety or in individual detail theirs is not a discourse totally in the bare historical domain but one which has to do with life-giving perfection. Zec 3:4. The double rationale for biblical and liturgical symbols, namely, secrecy and accommodation, is more fully stated in EH 1 377Q 1-5. See also CH 2 140 AB 7-18, 145 A 8-10, and above 1105C 3645. 3 Rom 1:20.

N.B. For the rationale underlying the wise mans symbolic employment of such an analogy, cf. Kevin J. Regalbuto, Comparative Religion and Scholasticism:21
Mythology, Rites and Symbols


( [11/30/08])


...Traditionally, symbolism has always been the adequate means for conveying sacred truths or spiritual realities. Therefore, the whole character of mythology is symbolic. Even beliefs and doctrines, which clarify and elaborate beliefs, are symbolic, since they accord with religious narrative and with the symbolic character of mythology. (In English the words symbol, meaning an authoritative summary of faith or doctrine, and creed are sometimes used interchangeably.)22 Moreover, since symbolism arises from superposing analogies, it is susceptible of multiple interpretation, and symbols have different meanings in different contexts. In any case, their interpretation is traditional, and largely doctrinal. Symbolism in relation to Religious Doctrine Just as analogy arises from superposing contexts, symbolism arises from superposing analogies. Traditionally, the symbolism of correspondences was based on the superposing of two inverse analogies, namely, man as little universe and universe as large man (or macanthropic, in the neologism coined by Mircea Eliade). In Macrobius we read that the physical philosophers said that the world is a great man, and man a little world (Commentarii in somnium Scipionis, II, xii, 11: physici mundum magnum hominem, et hominem brevem mundum esse dixerunt ). In the background of mythology, but just as symbolic, is ancient cosmology. Moreover, traditional cosmology comprised both physics and metaphysics, and metaphysics, epistemology and ontology. (The word kosmos means ordered universe. It is the discourse on the cosmos that makes it an intelligible universe, kosmos noetikos.) The related words cosmogony and cosmography refer to the origin and representation of the universe respectively as an ordered whole. It is worth repeating that since cosmology is expressed in mythology it is just as symbolic. It represents the framework in which religious narrative (or mythology, in the technical sense) takes place. In mythology any `map of the world (or cosmos), expressed symbolically, must be situated in a spiritual context. That is why it is mythological and symbolic, and that is why ancient cosmology is in fact inseparable from mythology and symbolism under a cultural or conventional interpretation. (emphasis added)

Cf. Jean-Louis and Monique Tassoul, A Concise History of Solar and Stellar Physics. From Chapter 1: The Age of Myths and Speculations:23
1.1 ANCIENT EGYPT AND THE MIDDLE EAST For thousands of years men have looked up into the star-filled night sky and have wondered about the nature of the fixed stars as opposed to that of the five planets wandering among the constellations of the zodiac. The daily course of the sun, its brilliance and heat, and the passing of the seasons are among the central problems that have concerned every human society. Undoubtedly, the appearance of a comet or a shooting star, the passing phenomena of clouds and rain and lightning, the Milky Way, the changing phases of the moon and the eclipsesall of these must have caused quite a sense of wonder and been the source of endless discussions. Faced with this confusing multiplicity of brute facts, beyond their physical power to control, our ancestors sought to master these unrelated phenomena symbolically by picturing the universe in terms of objects familiar to them so as to make clear the unfamiliar and the unexplained. The cosmologies that these men set up thus inevitably reflect the physical and intellectual environment in which they lived. (emphasis added)

22 23

For the meaning of symbol, see my separate discussion below. ( [12/30/06])


Cf. Arnold M. Katz, Emergence of Scientific Explanations of Nature in Ancient Greece. The Only Scientific Discovery? (Circulation. 1995; 92:637-645.):
The discovery of natural science by the early Greek philosophers did not represent a revolutionary change in our view of the world, but instead emerged through an evolutionary process in which a remarkable school of presocratic philosophers, building on the highly developed but practically oriented technology and mathematics of Babylon and Egypt, sought to understand nature by modifying an older paradigm, that of mythology. Of these early philosophers, F.M. Cornford observes: . . . there is a real continuity between the earliest rational speculation and the religious representation that lay behind it; and this is no matter of superficial analogies. . . . Religion expresses itself in poetical symbols and in terms of mythical personalities; philosophy prefers the language of dry abstraction, and speaks of substance, cause, matter, and so forth. But the outward difference only disguises an inward and substantial affinity between these two successive products of the same consciousness. The modes of thought that attain to clear definition and explicit statement in philosophy were already implicit in the unreasoned intuitions of mythology.10 The transition from myth to science, therefore, represented not so much the appearance of a new rational approach to the understanding of nature as the discarding of mythical personifications of natural phenomena. The shift in perspective from mythology to science that occurred 2600 years ago in Greece was localized and limited. D.C. Lindberg says of the appearance of Greek philosophy: This was not, as some have portrayed it, the replacement of mythology by philosophy; for Greek mythology did not disappear but continued to flourish for centuries. Rather, it was the appearance of new, philosophical modes of thought alongside, or sometimes mingled with, mythology. 11 In fact, belief in the gods and in magic continued to be dominant in Western culture long after the Greek world had ceased to exist as a political and social entity.

Cornford F. M. From Religion to Philosophy: A Study of the Origins of Western Speculation. New York, NY: Harper & Bros Publishers; 1957:v. 11 Lindberg D. C. The Beginnings of Western Science. Chicago, Ill: University of Chicago Press; 1992:25. (emphasis added)

For suggestive accounts of the mindset giving rise to the symbolic representation of the world, cf. the following: Cf. Archibald Geikie, Elementary Lessons in Physical Geography (1886), pp. 2-3:
Introduction 4. This variety [observable on the face of the earth] is everywhere associated with life and movement. Consider, for instance, the unvarying succession of day and night; the orderly march of the seasons; the constant or fitful blowing of the winds; the [2-3] regular circling of the ocean tides; the ceaseless flow of rivers; the manifold growth and activity of plant and animal life! Surely it was no strange thought when men in old times pictured this world as a living being.24 And even though we cannot look on the earth as a living thing in

Cf. Platos conception of the World Soul in the Timaeus and its difference from the Mosaic analogy.


the sense in which a plant or animal is so called, yet in view of all that multitudinous movement which is ever in progress upon its surface, and on which, indeed, we know that our own existence depends, there is evidently another sense in which we may speak of the life of the Earth. (emphasis added)

Cf. Lee Irons, Framework Interpretation: An Exegetical Summary (The Upper Register):25
The biblical writers live in a world whose every creature is alive to the presence of its Creator and rejoices at his manifestations. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork (Ps. 19:1). At the coming of the Lord, the morning stars sing together (Job 38:7), the mountains skip like rams (Ps. 114:4), and the trees of the field clap their hands (Isa. 56:12). These and many other passages may show us how differently the ancient Israelites and we ourselves experience the creation. So many of us today are so little connected with the natural world.... But the biblical writers and their fellow Israelites did not have these distractions and barriers. They lived in intimate relationship with the landscape that surrounded and sustained them. They were attuned to the changes of the seasons, the flights of birds, the fury of storms, the silence of the heavens and of the desert wastes, the bleating of lambs and goats, the hot, dry desert wind, stretching the dust out like a curtain, the breezes blowing through the cedars that adorned the hills and high places. They looked up at the night sky and saw the parade of stars that moved across its great dome. They were aware of the expanse of the heavens and of the deserts that stretched from horizon to horizon, and some may have viewed the magnificent vista of the Jordan Valley from the heights of Mt. Zion with awe, as I once did . This creation seemed small enough that they could feel its intimacy, could feel close to the God whose throne was heaven and footstool earth. This is the God who spoke to them in a burning bush and in the sound of a still, small voice, who accompanied them in cloud and fire, who made prophets his friends and kings his sons. It is no wonder these inspired writers proclaimed a God whose relationship to the world was so awesome and yet so intimate. (emphasis added)

On light and darkness in religious symbolism, cf. Jonathan Duncan, The Religions of Profane Antiquity; their Mythology, Fables, Hieroglyphics, and Doctrines. Founded on Astronomical Principles (London, 1839) p. 186:
Light has always formed one of the primary objects of heathen adoration. The glorious spectacle of animated nature would lose all its interest if man were deprived of vision, and light extinguished; for that which is unseen and unknown becomes, for all practical purposes, as valueless as if it were non-existent. Light is a source of positive happiness; without it, man could barely exist; and since all religious opinion is based on the ideas of pleasure and pain, and the corresponding sensations of hope and fear, it is not to be wondered if the heathen reverenced light. Darkness, on the contrary, by replunging nature, as it were, into a state of nothingness, and depriving man of the pleasurable emotions conveyed through the organ of sight, was ever held in abhorrence, as a source of misery and fear.


( [12/13/06]) [This article was originally published in Ordained Servant 9:1 (January, 2000) 7-11. Ordained Servant is a publication of the Committee on Christian Education of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.]


N.B. The following has been excerpted from my paper, Excursus on Myth: A Series of Notes:


Note 21. The meaning of the word symbol. Cf. Charles Sanders Peirce, What is a Sign? (written 1894):26
6. Symbols. The word symbol has so many meanings that it would be an injury to the language to add a new one. I do not think that the signification I attach to it, that of a conventional sign, or one depending upon habit (acquired or inborn), is so much a new meaning as a return to the original meaning. Etymologically, it should mean a thing thrown together, just as is a thing thrown into something, a bolt, and is a thing thrown besides, collateral security, and is a thing thrown underneath, an antenuptial gift. It is usually said that in the word symbol, the throwing together is to be understood in the sense of to conjecture; but were that the case, we ought to find that sometimes, at least, it meant a conjecture, a meaning for which literature may be searched in vain. But the Greeks used throw together ( ) very frequently to signify the making of a contract or convention. Now, we do find symbol () early and often used to mean a convention or contract. Aristotle calls a noun a symbol, that is, a conventional sign. 4 In Greek,5 a watch-fire is a symbol, that is, a signal agreed upon; a standard or ensign is a symbol, a watch-word is a symbol, a badge is a symbol; a church creed is called a symbol, because it serves as a badge or shibboleth; a theatre-ticket is called a symbol; any ticket or check entitling one to receive anything is a symbol. Moreover, any expression of sentiment was called a symbol. Such were the principal meanings of the word in the original language. The reader will judge whether they suffice to establish my claim that I am not seriously wrenching the word in employing it as I propose to do. Any ordinary word, as give, bird, marriage, is an example of a symbol. It is applicable to whatever may be found to realise the idea connected with the word; it does not, in itself, identify those things. It does not show us a bird, nor enact before our eyes a giving or a marriage, but supposes that we are able to imagine those things, and have associated the word with them. <...> 8. A symbol, as we have seen, cannot indicate any particular thing; it denotes a kind of thing. Not only that, but it is itself a kind and not a single thing. You can write down the word star; but that does not make you the creator of the word, nor if you erase it have you destroyed the word. The word lives in the minds of those who use it. Even if they are all asleep, it exists in their memory. So we may admit, if there be reason to do so, that generals are mere words without at all saying, as Ockham supposed, 6 that they are really individuals. Symbols grow. They come into being by development out of other signs, particularly from likenesses or from mixed signs partaking of the nature of likenesses and symbols. We think only in signs. These mental signs are of mixed nature; the symbol-parts of them are called concepts. If a man makes a new symbol, it is by thoughts involving concepts. So it is only out of symbols that a new symbol can grow. Omne symbolum de symbolo.7 A symbol, once in being, spreads among the peoples. In use and in experience, its meaning grows. Such words as force, law, wealth, marriage, bear for us very different meanings from those they bore to our barbarous ancestors. The symbol may, with Emersons sphynx, 8 say to man, Of thine eye I am eyebeam.

( [2/17/07])


4. De interpretatione, II.16a.12. 5. Peirce wrote in Greek rather than in Greece because he is working through the list of alternative translations provided by Liddell and Scotts Greek-English Lexicon under the entry. 6. Cf. William of Ockhams Summa totius logicae, part i, ch. 14. 7. Every symbol follows from a symbol. 8. Peirce often quotes this verse from the fourteenth stanza of Emersons poem The Sphinx (Dial, Jan. 1841). (emphasis added)

In sum, that the word symbol itself comes from the Greek for thrown together. Cf. Michael A. Augros, Democritus and the Problem of Number, p. 7:
That a name signifies what is one per se is what distinguishes it from another kind of artificial sign, the symbol. Symbol is also used as a generic word for the two species name and symbol, but when symbol is used to mean the species of artificial sign distinguished from name, it differs from it as signifying things without any attention to whether or not they are one per se. As Charles De Koninck notes on page 10 of The Hollow Universe, St. Thomas, in speaking of symbols of faith which are collections of propositions of the faith gathered not according to intrinsic order, but according to circumstantial needs of the time, says symbolum importat quamdam collectionem. The word symbol itself comes from the Greek for thrown together. Hence a symbol differs from a name in that a name is an artificial sign given to things as a result of their being grasped as somehow one per se, whereas a symbol is an artificial sign given to things without their being so grasped. Hence it is possible to give a symbol to a heap or list or jumble or random pile of things which have no per se unity at all, whereas it is impossible to give a proper name to such a mess. It is also possible, of course, to give a symbol to something which is one per se, e.g. Let this circle be called A, but A is only a symbol so long as it is used to designate the thing without any attendance to the per se unity it has.

Cf. Michael A. Augros, ibid., p. 7:

...[S]ince science is of the necessary, and what is one by accident (e.g. what is one by being said of or by belonging to one thing, or by being in one place, or in general what is one not through itself but through happening to be with the unity of some other thing) is not one of necessity, neither can there be a science of it, or a definition, or even a name. For example, although rational animal is composed of two names, the one thing named by these is, as such, a single thing, since something undetermined in animal is further determined by rational. Hence, man, as such, has unity in and of itself. One of the terms in mans definition is perfective of the other and they are found together of necessity; it is impossible to find a complete rational nature which is not also an animal, since to be rational is to be a certain kind of animal, it is a determinate way of being an animal. Therefore man is not a mere symbol, but a name, and the thing so named admits of a real definition (according to genus and differences, or according to causes), and there can be science about that thing. But the case is different with something like opinionated, fashionable, overpaid, nazi. No two of the things just mentioned belong together of necessity, although all four of them may happen to belong to some one person, Hilary. There is no necessary union between opinionated and fashionable; these can be found separately, and being opinionated is not a determinate way of being fashionable any more than fashionable determines a way of being opinionated. They are not found together by reason of anything in themselves, although they might happen to be together in some third thing, such as Hilary.


Cf. Michael A. Augros, Spring 1993 Scrapbook (Scrapboo. 1), The Art of Naming, n. 6:
A name is an artificial sign of a thing which is one of itself, whereas a symbol is an artificial sign of things which are one through something other than themselves. In the Metaphysics, Aristotle says things like white, vagrant, thrice-married plumber are one through something other than themselves, in this case the man to whom all these things happen to belong. Any sign for such a collection or heap of things which are one because they are all in one subject, or all in one place, or all on one list in somebodys mind, is a symbol (as distinguished from a name). What, then, of signs we all would call names, such as musician and negro? A musician is a musical man, and a negro is a black man. These have no more unity of their own, it seems, than white man. But musician does not differ logically from musical, which really names music, as in the art (in the genus of habit, and ultimately of quality), though the ending is changed, since music names the quality in the mode of a substance, in the mode of something absolute, so that it must be renamed musical to be predicable of a substance. One cannot say Socrates is music, but Socrates is musical or Socrates is a musician which do not differ logically from Socrates has the art of music. Likewise with negro, which names a racial quality that can be found only in man, and which is an inseparable accident from any in whom it is found.

Cf. Michael Augros, Philosophical and Theological Scrapbook (Scrapboo.5), Logic, n. 10]:
Symbol. SYMBOL. Symbol means a certain collection, Summa II-II Q1 A9, end C.

Cf. Herbert Thurston, Apostles Creed, The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. add (New York, 1913):
About the same date (c. 400) Rufinus (Migne, P.L., XXI, 337) gives a detailed account of the composition of the Creed, which account he professes to have received from earlier ages (tradunt majores nostri). Although he does not explicitly assign each article to the authorship of a separate Apostle, he states that it was the joint work of all, and implies that the deliberation took place on the day of Pentecost. Moreover, he declares that they for many just reasons decided that this rule of faith should be called the Symbol, which Greek word he explains to mean both indicium, i.e. a token or password by which Christians might recognize each other, and collatio, that is to say an offering made up of separate contributions. (emphasis added)

Cf. also Albert G. Mackey, M.D., The Symbolism of Freemasonry Illustrating and Explaining Its Science and Philosophy, its Legends, Myths, and Symbols (New York, 1882), p. 12:
According to the derivation of the word from the Greek, to symbolize signifies to compare one thing with another. Hence a symbol is the expression of an idea that has been derived from the comparison or contrast of some object with a moral conception or attribute.

Cf. ibid., pp. 62-64:

There is no science so ancient as that of symbolism, 38 and no mode of instruction has ever been so general as was the symbolic in former ages. The first learning in the world, says the great antiquary, Dr. Stukely, consisted chiefly of symbols. The wisdom of the Chaldeans, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Jews, of Zoroaster, Sanchoniathon, Pherecydes,


Syrus, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, of all the ancients that is come to our hand, is symbolic. And the learned Faber remarks, that allegory and personification were peculiarly agreeable to the genius of antiquity, and the simplicity of truth was continually sacrificed at the shrine of poetical decoration. In fact, mans earliest instruction was by symbols. 39 The objective character of a symbol is best calculated to be grasped by the infant mind, whether the infancy of that mind be considered nationally or individually. And hence, in the first ages of the world, in its infancy, all propositions, theological, political, or scientific, were expressed in the form of symbols. Thus the first religions were eminently symbolical, because, as that great philosophical historian, Grote, has remarked, At a time when language was yet in its infancy, visible symbols were the most vivid means of acting upon the minds of ignorant hearers. Again: children receive their elementary teaching in symbols. A was an Archer; what is this but symbolism? The archer becomes to the infant mind the symbol of the letter A, just as, in after life, the letter becomes, to the more advanced mind, the symbol of [62-63] a certain sound of the human voice.40 The first lesson received by a child in acquiring his alphabet is thus conveyed by symbolism. Even in the very formation of language, the medium of communication between man and man, and which must hence have been an elementary step in the progress of human improvement, it was found necessary to have recourse to symbols, for words are only and truly certain arbitrary symbols by which and through which we give an utterance to our ideas. The construction of language was, therefore, one of the first products of the science of symbolism. We must constantly bear in mind this fact, of the primary existence and predominance of symbolism in the earliest times. 41 when we are investigating the nature of the ancient religions, with which the history of Freemasonry is so intimately connected. The older the religion, the more the symbolism abounds. Modern religions may convey their dogmas in abstract propositions; ancient religions always conveyed them in symbols. Thus there is more symbolism in the Egyptian religion than in the Jewish, more in the Jewish than in the Christian, more in the Christian than in the Mohammedan, and, lastly, more in the Roman than in the Protestant. But symbolism is not only the most ancient and general, but it is also the most practically useful, of sciences. We have already seen how actively it operates in the early stages of life and of society. We have seen how the first ideas of men and of nations are impressed upon their minds by means of symbols. It was thus that the ancient peoples were almost wholly educated. In the simpler stages of society, says one writer on this subject, mankind can be instructed in the abstract knowledge of truths only by symbols and parables. Hence we find most heathen religions becoming mythic, or explaining their mysteries by allegories, or instructive incidents. Nay, God himself, knowing the nature of the creatures formed by him, has condescended, in the earlier revelations that he made of himself, to teach by symbols; and the greatest of all teachers instructed the multitudes by parables. 42 The great exemplar of the ancient [63-64] philosophy and the grand archetype of modern philosophy were alike distinguished by their possessing this faculty in a high degree, and have told us that man was best instructed by similitudes.43

Was not all the knowledge Of the Egyptians writ in mystic symbols? Speak not the Scriptures oft in parables? Are not the choicest fables of the poets, That were the fountains and first springs of wisdom, Wrapped in perplexed allegories? BEN JONSON, Alchemist , act ii. sc. i.



The distinguished German mythologist Mller defines a symbol to be an eternal, visible sign, with which a spiritual feeling, emotion, or idea is connected. I am not aware of a more comprehensive, and at the same time distinctive, definition. 40 And it may be added, that the word becomes a symbol of an idea; and hence, Harris, in his Hermes, defines language to be a system of articulate voices, the symbols of our ideas, but of those principally which are general or universal. Hermes , book iii. ch. 3. 41 Symbols, says Mller, are evidently coeval with the human race; they result from the union of the soul with the body in man; nature has implanted the feeling for them in the human heart. Introduction to a Scientific System of Mythology , p. 196, Leitchs translation.R.W. Mackay says, The earliest instruments of education were symbols, the most universal symbols of the multitudinously present Deity, being earth or heaven, or some selected object, such as the sun or moon, a tree or a stone, familiarly seen in either of them. Progress of the Intellect , vol. i p. 134. 42 Between the allegory, or parable, and the symbol, there is, as I have said, no essential difference. The Greek verb Greek: paraball, whence comes the word parable , and the verb Greek: symball in the same language, which is the root of the word symbol , both have the synonymous meaning to compare. A parable is only a spoken symbol. The definition of a parable given by Adam Clarke is equally applicable to a symbol, viz.: A comparison or similitude, in which one thing is compared with another, especially spiritual things with natural, by which means these spiritual things are better understood, and make a deeper impression on the attentive mind. 43 North British Review, August, 1851. Faber passes a similar encomium. Hence the language of symbolism, being so purely a language of ideas, is, in one respect, more perfect than any ordinary language can be: it possesses the variegated elegance of synonymes without any of the obscurity which arises from the use of ambiguous terms. On the Prophecies , ii. p. 63. (emphasis added)

Symbol, therefore, having been first understood as a token or indication of a contract, then as a name for a collection or heap, has come to name a species of representation whereby two or more things are thrown together as the result of a deliberate act of comparison; such an act having grasped an essential likeness between the sign and its signified; the former being something grasped by the senses; the latter, by the mind.


Note 22. Symbolism versus allegory: C. S. Lewis and S. T. Coleridge. Cf. C. S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition (Oxford, 1936, rpt. New York, 1958), ch. ii, p. 44:
This fundamental equivalence between the immaterial and the material may be used by the mind in two ways. On the one hand you can start with an immaterial fact, such as the passions which you actually experience, and can then invent visibilia to express them. If you are hesitating between an angry retort and a soft answer, you can express your state of mind by inventing a person called Ira with a torch and letting her contend with another invented person called Patientia. This is allegory. But there is another way of using the equivalence, which is almost the opposite of allegory, and which I would call sacramentalism or symbolism. If our passions, being immaterial, can be copied by material inventions, then it is possible that our material world in its turn is the copy of an invisible world. As the god Amor and his figurative garden are to the actual passions of men, so perhaps we ourselves and our real world are to something else. The attempt to read that something else through its sensible imitations, to see the archtype in the copy, is what I mean by symbolism or sacramentalism. (emphasis added)

With respect to C. S. Lewiss statement regarding the attempt to read that [symbolic] something else through its sensible imitations, compare the following from Dr. Jeffrey Bond:
Simply put, to read symbolically is to attempt to view the invisible world through the visible, to see the inner meaning, the soul, as it were, as manifested in the literal text or body. Homer must be read symbolically because, as I hope to show, he presents us with a universe subject to superhuman authority, where the material world is shaped by and infused with the transcendent principles of order and generation which underlie all things. (Political Authority in Homers Odyssey: The Symbolism of the Loom and the Mast, University of Chicago Masters Thesis)

For a suggestive account of what a symbol is in contradistinction to allegory, cf. Extracts from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Statesmans Manual (December 1816). Cited out of John Spencer Hill, Imagination in Coleridge (London, 1978):
Extract 35-A (On symbol and allegory) Eheu! paupertina philosophia in paupertinam religionem ducit: 8 A hunger-bitten and idea-less philosophy naturally produces a starveling and comfortless religion. It is among the miseries of the present age that it recognizes no medium between Literal and Metaphorical. Faith is either to be buried in the dead letter, or its name and honors usurped by a counterfeit product of the mechanical understanding, which in the blindness of self-complacency confounds SYMBOLS with ALLEGORIES.9 Now an allegory is but a translation of abstract notions into a picture-language which is itself nothing but an abstraction from objects of the senses; the principle being more worthless even than its phantom proxy, both alike unsubstantial, and the former shapeless to boot. On the other hand, a Symbol (ho estin aei tautgorikon)10 is characterized by a translucence of the Special in the Individual or of the General in the Especial or of the Universal in the General. Above all by the translucence of the Eternal through and in the Temporal. It always partakes of the Reality it renders intelligible ; and while it enunciates the whole, abides itself [152] as a living part in that Unity, of which it is the representative. 11 The other are but empty echoes which the fancy arbitrarily associates with apparitions of matter, less


beautiful but not less shadowy than the sloping orchard or hill-side pasture-field seen in the transparent lake below. Alas! for the flocks that are to be led forth to such pastures! It shall be even as when the hungry dreameth, and behold! he eateth; but he waketh and his soul is empty: or as when the thirsty dreameth, and behold he drinketh; but he awaketh and is faint!12 (CC vi 28-31) 8. Eheu! paupertina philosophia, etc.: Alas! an impoverished philosophy leads toward an impoverished religion. STCs own free translation follows the Latin sentence. 9. In a note to the ninth of the Aphorisms on Spiritual Religion in Aids to Reflection, STC writes: Must not of necessity the FIRST MAN [Adam] be a SYMBOL of Mankind, in the fullest force of the word, Symbol, rightly defined that is, a sign included in the idea, which it represents; an actual part chosen to represent the whole, as a lip with a chin prominent is a symbol of a man; or a lower form or species used as the representative of a higher in the same kind: thus Magnetism is the Symbol of Vegetation, and of the vegetative and reproductive powers in animals; the Instinct of the ant-tribe, or the bee, is a symbol of the human understanding. And this definition of the word is of great practical importance, inasmuch as the symbolical is hereby distinguished toto genere [in every aspect] from the allegoric and metaphorical (AR 173). Cf. also Extract 40-A; and CN iii 4183 and 4498. 10. ho estin aei tautgorikon: which is always tautegorical. Whalley (1974) translates: which is always self-declarative (16); for another version, see CC vi 30, n 3. The word tautegorical is STCs coinage; OED uses as a definition STCs own explanation in Aids to Reflection: The base of Symbols and symbolical expressions; the nature of which is always tautegorical, that is, expressing the same subject but with a difference, in contra-distinction from metaphors and similitudes, that are always allegorical, that is expressing a different subject but with a resemblance (AR 136). 11. On STCs organicism the relation of parts to a whole see Extract 13-A, n 2, and Extract 28, n.2. [remainder of note omitted] 12. Isaiah 29:8 (variatim). (emphasis added)

Cf. David Vallins, The Feeling of Knowledge: Insight and Delusion in Coleridge, ELH 64.1 (1997) 157-187:
I. Mystics and Visionaries The view that knowledge depends on sensation or emotion was among Coleridges most deeply held opinions. Probably his most famous statement of this view occurs in a letter of 1803 to Robert Southey, where having argued against Hartley that association depends in a much greater degree on resembling states of Feeling, than on Trains of Idea, Coleridge writes that a metaphysical Solution, that does not instantly tell for something in the Heart, is grievously to be suspected as apocry[p]hal ( CL, 2:961). Long before this famous rejection of Hartleian materialism, however, the idea that truth must be proved upon our pulses (in Keatss equally famous phrase), or that it is discovered at least partly by nonrational means, was already prominent in Coleridges writing. 8 The searcher after truth must love and be beloved, he wrote in the Conciones ad Populum of 1795, for general Benevolence is a necessary motive to constancy of pursuit ( LPR, 46). As Harding observes, the principle expressed in this statement developed into a belief in the interdependence of feeling and intellect which colored almost every opinion Coleridge offered. 9 Whether he is describing the necessity of hope to the creative power of genius, or illustrating the dependence of ideas . . . on states of bodily or mental Feeling, a sense of the vital role of feeling as a source or condition of knowledge is evident in a vast number of his statements. 10


8. The Letters of John Keats, 1814-1821 , ed. H. E. Rollins, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1958), 1:279. 9. Anthony Harding, Coleridge and the Idea of Love (London: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1974), 33. 10. For a discussion of hope, see, for example, LL, 1:137 (Hope [is] the Master Element of a Commanding Genius), and CL, 3:150, where Coleridge describes the impossibility of working without a quickening and throb in the pulse of Hope. For commentary on ideas and feeling, see CN, 2:2638: The dependence of ideas <consequently of Memory, &c> on states of bodily or mental Feeling . . . strongly exemplified in the first moments of awaking from a Dream. (emphasis added)

N.B. In my view, Coleridges remark embodies the final cause of the mode of myth produced by the natural mystic: the symbols which most effectively convey truth are those which instantly tell for something in the Heart. Note 23. A philosophical explanation of the meaning of symbol. The reader may agree with me that Coleridges account of symbol, while his definition is sound, is confusing inasmuch he fails to distinguish synecdoche from symbolism, which only partially coincide. Perhaps its true nature may gathered by considering the rationale explaining Aristotles speaking of matter as a mother, as made evident by the following considerations: Cf. Aristotle, Physics, I. 9 (191b36192a 33) (tr. Hardie & Gaye):
Others,18 indeed, have apprehended the nature in question, but not adequately. In the first place they allow that a thing may come to be without qualification from not being, accepting on this point the statement19
18 19

The Platonists. That if a thing does not come to be from being, it must come to be from not-being.

of Parmenides. Secondly, they think that if the substratum is one [192a] numerically, it must have also only a single potentialitywhich is a very different thing. Now we distinguish matter and privation, and hold that one of these, namely the matter, is not-being only in virtue of an attribute which it has, while the privation in its own nature is not-being; and that the matter is nearly, in a sense is, substance, while the [5] privation in no sense is. They, on the other hand, identify their Great and Small alike with not being, and that whether they are taken together as one or separately. Their triad is therefore of quite a different kind from ours. For they got so far as to see that there must be some [10] underlying nature, but they make it onefor even if one philosopher 20 makes a dyad of it, which he calls Great and Small, the effect is the same, for he overlooked the other nature. 21 For the one which persists is a joint cause, with the form, of what comes to bea mother, as it were.22 But the negative part of the contrariety may often seem, [15] if you concentrate your attention on it as an evil agent, not to exist at all. For admitting with them that there is something divine, good, and desirable [= form], we hold that there are two other principles, the one contrary to it [= privation], the other such as of its own nature to desire and yearn for it [= matter]. But the consequence of their view is that the contrary desires its own extinction. Yet the form cannot desire itself, for it is not [20] defective; nor can the contrary desire it, for contraries are mutually destructive. The truth is that what desires the form is matter, as the female desires the male and the ugly the beautifulonly the ugly or the female not per se but per accidens.


The matter comes to be and ceases to be in one sense, while in [25] another it does not. As that which contains the privation, it ceases to be in its own nature, for what ceases to bethe privationis contained within it. But as potentiality it does not cease to be in its own nature, but is necessarily outside the sphere of becoming and ceasing to be. For if it came to be, something must have existed as a primary substratum from which it should come and which should persist in it; but this is its own special nature, so that it will be before coming to be. [30] (For my definition of matter is just thisthe primary substratum of each thing, from which it comes to be without qualification, and which persists in the result.) And if it ceases to be it will pass into that at the last, so it will have ceased to be before ceasing to be.
20 21

Plato. The privation. 22 Cf. Tim. 30 D, 51 A. (emphasis added)

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Aristotles Physics. Books I-II translated by Richard J. Blackwell, Richard J. Spath & W. Edmund Thirlkel (New Haven, 1963), Book I, lect. 15, nn. 134-138:
LECTURE 15 (191 b 35-192 b 5) MATTER IS DISTINGUISHED FROM PRIVATION. MATTER IS NEITHER GENERABLE NOR CORRUPTIBLE PER SE 134. Next where he says, For the one which persists ... (192 a 13), he proves that his opinion is true. Concerning this he makes two points. First he states his position, i.e., that it is necessary to distinguish privation from matter. Secondly, where he says, The matter comes to be ... (192 a 25),1 he shows how matter is corrupted or generated. He treats the first point in two ways, first by explanation, and secondly by reducing [the opposite opinion] to the impossible, where he says, ...the other such ... (192 a 18). 135. He says, therefore, first that this nature which is the subject, i.e., matter, together with form is a cause of the things which come to be according to nature after the manner of a mother. For just as a mother is a cause of generation by receiving, so also is matter . But if one takes the other part of the contrariety, namely, the privation, we can imagine, by stretching our understanding, that it does not pertain to the constitution of the thing, but rather to some sort of evil for the thing. For privation is altogether non-being, since it is nothing other than the negation of a form in a subject, and is outside the whole being. Thus the argument of Parmenides that whatever is other than being is non-being, has a place in regard to privation, but not in regard to matter, as the Platonists said. He shows that privation would pertain to evil as follows. Form is something divine and very good and desirable. It is divine because every form is a certain participation in the likeness of the divine being, which is pure act. For each thing, insofar as it is in act, has form. Form is very good because act is the perfection of potency and is its good; and it follows as a consequence of this that form is desirable, because every thing desires its own perfection. Privation, on the other hand, is opposed to form, since it is nothing other than the removal of form. Hence, since that which is opposed to the good and removes it is evil, it is clear that privation pertains to evil. Whence it follows that privation is not the same as matter, which is the cause of a thing as a mother. 136. Next where he says, the other such... (192 a 18), he proves the same thing by an argument which reduces [the opposite position] to the impossible.


Since form is a sort of good and is desirable, matter, which is other than privation and other than form, naturally seeks and desires form according to its nature. But for those who do not distinguish matter from privation, this involves the absurdity that a contrary seeks its own corruption, which is absurd. That this is so he shows as follows. If matter seeks form, it does not seek a form insofar as it is under this form. For in this latter case the matter does not stand in need of being through this form. (Every appetite exists because of a need, for an appetite is a desire for what is not possessed.) In like manner matter does not seek form insofar as it is under the contrary or privation, for one of the contraries is corruptive of the other, and thus something would seek its own corruption. It is clear, therefore, that matter, which seeks form, is other in nature [ratio] from both form and privation. For if matter seeks form according to its proper nature, as was said, and if it is held that matter and privation are the same in nature [ratio], it follows that privation seeks form, and thus seeks its own corruption, which is impossible. Hence it is also impossible that matter and privation be the same in nature [ratio]. Nevertheless, matter is a this, i.e., something having privation. Hence, if the feminine [female] seeks the masculine [male] , and if the base seeks the good, this is not because baseness itself seeks the good, which is its contrary; rather it seeks it accidentally, because that in which baseness happens to be seeks to be good. And likewise femininity does not seek masculinity; rather that in which the feminine [female] happens to be seeks the masculine [male]. And in like manner, privation does not seek to be form; rather that in which privation happens to be, namely, matter, seeks to be form. 137. But Avicenna opposes this position of the Philosopher in three ways. First, matter has neither animal appetite (as is obvious in itself) nor natural appetite, whereby it would seek form. For matter does not have any form or power inclining it to anything, as for example, the heavy naturally seeks the lowest place insofar as it is inclined by its heaviness to such a place. Secondly, he objects that, if matter seeks form, this is so because it lacks every form, or because it seeks to possess many forms at once, both which are impossible, or because it dislikes the form which it has and seeks to have another form, and this also is meaningless. Hence it seems that we must say that matter in no way seeks form. His third objection is as follows. To say that matter seeks form as the feminine seeks the masculine is to speak figuratively, i.e., as a poet, not as a philosopher. 138. But it is easy to resolve objections of this sort. For we must note that everything which seeks something either knows that which it seeks and orders itself to it, or else it tends toward it by the ordination and direction of someone who knows, as the arrow tends toward a determinate mark by the direction and ordination of the archer. Therefore, natural appetite is nothing but the ordination of things to their end in accordance with their proper natures. However a being in act is not only ordered to its end by an active power, but also by its matter insofar as it is potency. For form is the end of matter. Therefore for matter to seek form is nothing other than matter being ordered to form as potency to act. And because matter still remains in potency to another form while it is under some form, there is always in it an appetite for form. This is not because of a dislike for the form which it has, nor because it seeks to be the contrary at the same time, but because it is in potency to other forms while it has some form in act.


Nor does he use a figure of speech here; rather, he uses an example [exemplum]. For it was said above [L13 #118] that primary matter is knowable by way of proportion, insofar as it is related to substantial forms as sensible matters are related to accidental forms. And thus in order to explain primary matter, it is necessary to use an example taken from sensible substances. Therefore, just as he used the example of unshaped bronze and the example of the non-musical man to explain matter, so now to explain matter he uses the example of the appetite of the woman for the man and the example of appetite of the base for the good. For this happens to these things insofar as they have something which is of the nature [ratio] of matter. However, it must be noted that Aristotle is here arguing against Plato, who used such metaphorical expressions, likening matter to a mother and the feminine, and form to the masculine. And so Aristotle uses Platos own metaphors against him. (emphasis added)

Cf. Quaestiones Disputatae de Potentia Dei. On the Power of God by Thomas Aquinas, translated by the English Dominican Fathers (1952), q. 4, art. 1, obj. 2 on the other side; ad 2:
2. Again, that which is not cannot exercise an operation. Now formless matter exercises an operation, since it is appetent of a form ( Phys. iii). Therefore matter can be without a form, and thus it is not unreasonable to suppose that formless matter preceded the formation of things in point of duration. <> We must now deal with the arguments on the other side which support Augustines view. <> 2. Appetence of form is not an act of matter but a certain relationship in matter in respect of a form, in so far as matter has the form potentially, as the Commentator states ( Phys. i, 81).

The comparison of matter with a mother in sum: According to St. Thomas Aquinas, matter seeks form according to its proper nature (In I Physic., lect. 15, n. 136). Likewise, the appetite of the woman for the man and of the base for the goodhappens to these things insofar as they have something which is of the nature [ratio] of matter (ibid., n. 135): for appetence of form is not an act of matter but a certain relationship in matter in respect of a form, in so far as matter has the form potentially (De pot., q. 4, art. 1, ad 2 on the other side). In accordance with these considerations, he explains that, just as a mother is a cause of generation by receiving, so also is matter: for this nature which is the subject, i.e., matter, together with form is a cause of the things which come to be according to nature after the manner of a mother. (In I Physic., lect. 15, n. 135) For, as Aristotle states (cf. GA, I. 2, 716a 6-7), the female principle is first and foremost an origin and cause of generation as containing the material of it, whereas the male principle contains the efficient, or moving, cause. Hence, in what is required for the generation of offspring, some things belong to the father, some things belong to the mother: to give the nature and species to the offspring belong to the father, and to conceive and bring forth belong to the mother as patient and recipient. (SCG IV, c. 11, n. 19) Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Book of Job (tr. Brian Mullady) ( 19962009 Western Dominican Province), Chap. I, Lesson 4, on 1:21: 70

The Fourth Lecture: Jobs Submission 20 Then Job arose and rent his robe; he shaved his head and he fell on the ground and worshipped. 21 He said: Naked I came from my mothers womb, and naked I shall return there; The Lord gave; the Lord has taken away. As God pleased, so it has been done. Blessed be the name of the Lord! In all these things, Job did not sin with his lips, nor did he say anything foolish against God. Job revealed the state of his mind not only by deeds, but also by words. For he rationally demonstrated that although he suffered sadness, he did not have to yield to sadness. First, he demonstrated from the condition of nature so the text said, He said: Naked I came forth from my mothers womb, namely, from the earth which is the common mother of everything, and naked shall I return there, i.e., to the earth. Sirach speaks in the same vein saying, Great hardship has been created for man, and a heavy yoke lies on the sons of Adam from the day they come forth from their mothers womb until the day they return to their burial in the mother of them all. (40:1) (emphasis added)

In sum, just as a mother or female principle and father or male principle stand to the genesis of a living thing (the paradigm being that of a human being), so, too, do matter and the passive principle stand to form and the active principle in the genesis of all things. Accordingly, inasmuch as a mother possesses a material principle capable of taking on a certain form, she stands to it exactly as matter stands to form. To speak of matter as a mother, then, is to use an exemplum. A mother is thus an example of first matter, and therefore makes a fitting stand-in or symbol of this principle. But matter, just as form, and all similar things, are the first principles of things which, as we have shown elsewhere, myth conveys by symbolic means for the purpose of leading to something virtuous. A myth, then, comes into this consideration in the following way: Just as a mother may be reduced to the material principle and that which the father contributes to generation to the formal, in that respect they come under the nature and notion of these principles. Now the storyteller, as with the artist in general, by virtue of his peculiar gifts, is able to intuit such relationshipsthe cosmic pattern spoken of by G.K. Chesterton below; 27 the infinite perfections of God of Pius XIIwithout, however, grasping them by abstract thought. Rather, he perceives them concretely, so to speak, embodying them in his chosen medium; the underlying principles being the so-called transcendental truths to which Chesterton refers. Now stories told about such things may fall short of the truth insofar as their authors fail properly to grasp the invisible things of God, even His eternal power and Godhead, which things are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made (Rom 1:20). In this regard, we recall St. Thomas teaching on the two ways in which a fable or myth may hit the mark or be at fault:
So there are two things in a fable, namely, that it contain a true sense, and that it represent something useful. Again, that it be suitable to that truth. If, then, a fable be proposed which cannot represent a truth, it is pointless [or inane, inanis]; but what does not properly represent is foolish [or silly, ineptae], like the fables of the Talmud. (Commentary on St. Pauls First Letter to Timothy (Super I ad Thim.), cp. 4, lect. 2, tr. B.A.M.)

When a storyteller succeeds in these two respects, one then has true myth. [end of excerpt]

For this and the following references, see the following excerpts from my paper on Myth.


Now it is not my contention that the Hexaemeron is mythical in the slightest degree, but rather that it employs a similar means of communication. As I argue expressly in The Paradigm of Genesis, the correct interpretation of the text demands that the names heaven, earth, water, firmament, sun, moon, the stars and the like be taken properly, but in a popular, rather than a scientific sense. Thus heaven names what we see when we look up at the sky, and earth what we see lying under our feet; but so conceiving the world around us leads to a certain outmoded model of the universe, inasmuch as one is going by what sensibly appeared. Such a procedure is justified, however, when it is further recognized that the sacred author is not asserting things to stand thus (for he is not doing science), but rather he has accommodated his account of these things to the truths he wishes to convey, such as that all things other than God were created by Him in the beginning of time and the like (on which matter see further below). Supplement: Additional excerpts from Excursus on Myth: A Series of Notes. Note 26. That myths are not allegories, but rather imaginative intuitions of transcendental truths (= the symbolic representation of truths by the natural mystic): n. 1. G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (1925), Part I, On the Man Called Christ, ch. 5, Man and Mythologies:
It is often said that pagan mythology was a personification of the powers of nature. The phrase is true in a sense, but it is very unsatisfactory because it implies that the forces are abstractions and the personification is artificial. Myths are not allegories. Natural powers are not in this case abstractions. It is not as if there were a God of Gravitation. There may be a genius of the waterfall; but not of mere falling, even less than of mere water. The impersonation is not of something impersonal. The point is that the personality perfects the water with significance. Father Christmas is not an allegory of snow and holly; he is not merely the stuff called snow afterwards artificially given a human form, like a snow man. He is something that gives a new meaning to the white world and the evergreens, so that snow itself seems to be warm rather than cold. The test therefore is purely imaginative. But imaginative does not mean imaginary. It does not follow that it is all what the moderns call subjective, when they mean false. Every true artist does feel, consciously or unconsciously, that he is touching transcendental truths; that his images are shadows of things seen through the veil. In other words, the natural mystic does know that there is something there; something behind the clouds or within the trees; but he believes that the pursuit of beauty is the way to find it; that imagination is a sort of incantation that can call it up. (emphasis added)

n. 2. On the artists perception of beauty at issue here, cf. G. K. Chesterton, Commentary on The Way of the Cross (1935):
It is necessary [therefore] to note first that any commentary [on a work of art] may be a matter of controversy; for there is now a general controversy about whether there should be any commentary at all. For some, any suggestion of spiritual significance in a picture is somehow entangled with the idea of treating it as a mere anecdote; or, what is often worse, as a mere allegory. But if we ask ourselves what such beauty [in a work of art] is, or why it is beautiful, we soon find that we have not (as we fondly hoped) escaped from thinking or the world of ideas. That our pleasure is animal or accidental, or even a sight that pleases the eye as a taste may please the tongue, is inconsistent with the intensity and implicit infinity of the feeling itself. We may despair of prose and take refuge in verse, as did the poet who wrote:


What are the names for Beauty? Who shall praise Gods pledge He can fulfil His creatures eyes? Or what strong words of what creative phrase Determine Beautys title in the skies? But most of us have an instant inward conviction that it is a title in the skies; that <it> is a reality, though not expressed in reason or speech; that it is the unfolding of transcendental truth. It may be disputed how far every artist, including some of the greatest artists of the past, knew exactly what he meant; in the rather narrow sense of wanting to translate it into words. It may often be disputed, and that somewhat violently, by the artist himself, whether the critic has even approximately translated it into words. But even then it is always possible that the critic has seen another part of the same cosmic pattern; if once we admit that beauty is real, in being part of the cosmic design. (emphasis added)

n. 3. Cf. G. K. Chesterton, op. cit.:

Now we do not comprehend this process in ourselves, far less in our most remote fellowcreatures. And the danger of these things being classified is that they may seem to be comprehended. A really fine work of folklore, like The Golden Bough, will leave too many readers with the idea, for instance, that this or that story of a giants or wizards heart in a casket or a cave only means some stupid and static superstition called the external soul. But we do not know what these things mean, simply because we do not know what we ourselves mean when we are moved by them. Suppose somebody in a story says Pluck this flower and a princess will die in a castle beyond the sea, we do not know why something stirs in the subconsciousness, or why what is impossible seems almost inevitable. Suppose we read And in the hour when the king extinguished the candle his ships were wrecked far away on the coast of Hebrides. We do not know why the imagination has accepted that image before the reason can reject it; or why such correspondences seem really to correspond to something in the soul. Very deep things in our nature, some dim sense of the dependence of great things upon small, some dark suggestion that the things nearest to us stretch far beyond our power, some sacramental feeling of the magic in material substances, and many more emotions past finding out, are in an idea like that of the external soul. They have the sort of sincerity that they always had; the sincerity of art as a symbol that expresses very real spiritualities under the surface of life. <.> Behind all these things is the fact that beauty and terror are very real things and related to a real spiritual world; and to touch them at all, even in doubt or fancy, is to stir the deep things of the soul. (emphasis added)

n. 4. George Roche, The Curious Faiths of Anti-Heroism, from A World Without Heroes: The Modern Tragedy [Taken from Imprimis, the monthly journal of Hillsdale College. December 1987, Vol. 16, No. 12.]:
What we learn from myths is not that there are giants with one eye, or that the cow jumped over the moon, or even that the Bastille held only seven old men. We learn that men are poets and mystics moved by the mysteries of life and the divine powers of nature. We learn that we who are human yearn to share in the mysteries about us, yearn to add meaning to mystery by personalizing it, yearn to finish the tales. Always our myths bespeak our wonder that Nature is, precisely, unnatural, a thing touched somehow by divinity. Should the story tell us, said Chesterton, that when we pluck a certain flower a princess in a castle across the sea will die, a thing impossible seems almost inevitable; our imagination accepts it before cold reason can say nay. Scientific literalism may sneer that this defies the laws of Nature, but cannot explain why our heart leaps and our blood pounds. In truth, the Nature we are part of is larger and far more beautiful than is seen by the anti-hero literalist. Pity the sad soul


who must regard a tale in scientific terms, for this is the only way it can be completely misunderstood. Adds Chesterton, . . . he who has no sympathy with myths has no sympathy with men. The one thing we can say about myths is that they are not lies. Myths are mens stories, a common heritage of all peoples. They have always beenuntil the rise of the antiheroa reflection of something very deep in our nature, and a common source, in symbolic language, of the transcendent truths that bind us in human society. Who, except in a truly natural, wonderless world, would say that a tale is nonsense and that dreams cannot come true? But if we inhabited such a world, men themselves would have been wonderless things, unable ever to spin myths. And here we see what this odd dispute about mythology is really about. Mythology has always had religious overtones, reflecting the quest of mans soul for its rightful home. This the anti-hero must ruthlessly suppress. There is no scrap of room in his lonely cosmos for anything unnatural or divine. No hint of the miraculous or even the imaginative may intrude. But the anti-heros scientific literalism gives us a world far too prosaic for our spirit, our imagination, our humannessand we hate it. We are forever unhappy in it. It gives us nothing but earthbound appetites when we long to soar above ourselves. All our great myth-makers know better than this, and give us wings for starlit skies.

n. 5. Stratford Caldecott, Was Chesterton a Theologian? From The Chesterton Review, November 1999:
Against the liberal theologians and so-called free-thinkers he asserted that it is the dogmas of Christianity the dogma of free will, for example that set us free, and the refusal to believe them that closes all the doors of the cosmic prison on us with a clang of eternal iron. He loved words and dogmas not for their own sake, but for the sake of the one Truth, the one Word, the one Reality that shines at the heart of all words and gives them their strength as it gives them their direction. That one Truth, spoken in the language of the body and the language of history and incarnate in the man Jesus, speaks itself in many other fragmentary ways. In fact everything (in its deepest reality) is a word, or a letter in a word, that refers to him. We see this intensively in Holy Scripture: in the pattern of types and antitypes, of prophecies and fulfilments, that the Church Fathers loved to dwell upon. For them as for Chesterton, the symbolism of Scripture merely crowned a symbolic character present in reality itself. This comes out in many places, but particularly in William Blake (1910), where Chesterton speaks of Blakes realism: a rooted spirituality which is the only enduring sanity of mankind. In this Blakean realism, the things we see about us are real because they are symbols; they are real to the extent they contain within them that which makes them what they are - the monkeyhood of the monkey, the lambness of the lamb, even the motor-ishness of the motor car . Similarly at the human level, The personal is not a mere figure for the impersonal; rather the impersonal is a clumsy term for something more personal than common personality. God is not a symbol of goodness. Goodness is a symbol of God. Thus God for Blake was not more and more vague and diaphanous as one came near to Him. God was more and more solid as one came near. When one was far off one might fancy Him to be impersonal. When one came into personal relation one knew that He was a person. God is the most concrete of all realities; not the most abstract. And so, despite the inconsistencies and even heresies he notes in Blake (which he sees as a betrayal of the poetry), Chesterton enlists him on the side of orthodox Christianity. Realist mysticism suits Christianity down to the ground: all it needs to become sacramental is for God to become incarnate at its very centre. Chesterton writes that the truest religion is the most materialistic. An incarnational or sacramental quality runs right through Christianity like a kind of watermark (at least in its Catholic and Orthodox traditions). Only through the incarnation of God does the material substance of the world become more than the illusion it must be for all other religions and philosophies because, of course, for them it is doomed to come to an end. That is


how Chesterton saw things, and it means that he has seized on the one point that really makes Christianity unique and unassimilable. (emphasis added)

Note 27. On seeing another part of the same cosmic pattern : Artists as the interpreters of the infinite perfections of God: n. 1. Joseph Conrad, Preface to The Nigger of the Narcissus (1897):
A work that aspires, however humbly, to the condition of art should carry its justification in every line. And art itself may be defined as a single-minded attempt to render the highest kind of justice to the visible universe, by bringing to light the truth, manifold and one, underlying its every aspect. It is an attempt to find in its forms, in its colors, in its light, in its life, in its shadows, in the aspects of matter and in the facts of life, what of each is fundamental, what is enduring and essentialtheir one illuminating and convincing qualitythe very truth of their existence. The artist, then, like the thinker or the scientist, seeks the truth and makes his appeal.

n. 2. Pope Pius XII, The Function of Art, An address by His Holiness to a group of Italian artists received in audience on April 8, 1952
4. It is needless to explain to youwho feel it within yourselves, often as a noble tor-ment one of the essential characteristics of art, which consists in a certain intrinsic affinity of art with religion, which in certain ways renders artists interpreters of the infinite perfections of God, and particularly of the beauty and harmony of Gods creation. 5. The function of all art lies in fact in breaking through the narrow and tortuous enclosure of the finite, in which man is immersed while living here below, and in providing a window to the infinite for his hungry soul. 6. Thus it follows that any effortand it would be a vain one, indeedaimed at denying or suppressing any relation between art and religion must impair art itself. Whatever artistic beauty one may wish to grasp in the world, in nature and in man, in order to express it in sound, in color, or in plays for the masses, such beauty cannot prescind from God. Whatever exists is bound to Him by an essential relationship. Hence, there is not, neither in life nor in artbe it intended as an expression of the subject or as an interpretation of the objectthe exclusively human, the exclusively natural or immanent. 7. The greater the clarity with which art mirrors the infinite, the divine, the greater will be its possibility for success in striving toward its ideal and true, artistic accomplishment. Thus, the more an artist lives religion, the better prepared he will be to speak the language of art, to understand its harmonies, to communicate its emotions.

In sum: 1. The infinite perfections of God are visible in the beauty and harmony of His creation, and artists are interpreters of these things. 2. Living here below man is immersed in the narrow and tortuous enclosure of the finite. The function of art lies in breaking through this finitude and providing a window to the infinite for the artists hungry soul. 3. Whatever exists is bound to God by an essential relationship. Hence the artistic beauty to be grasped in the world, in nature, and in manbeauty grasped in order to be expressed in the media of sound and color, or in dramatic workscannot prescind from Him. 75

IV. ON THE USE OF SIMILITUDES IN SACRED SCRIPTURE. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Qu. Disp. de Ver., q. 10. art. 7, ad 19 (tr. B.A.M.):
To the tenth it must be said that certain irrational creatures can, by some likeness, be more likened to God than even the rational, with respect to an efficacy for causing: as is clear in a ray of the sun, by which all things in lower things are caused and renewed . And in this way it befits the divine goodness which causes everything, as Dionysius says. Still, according to the properties inhering in it the rational creature is more like God than any of the irrational. Nevertheless, that metaphorical expressions are more often carried over from irrational creatures to God happens by reason of their unlikeness; since, as Dionysius says in chapter II of the Celestial Hierarchy, those things that are in lowlier creatures, are therefore more often carried over to the divine so that every occasion for erring be taken away. For a transport made from nobler creatures could lead to a judgement that those things said metaphorically were to be understood according to their proper meaning, that no one can believe about the lowlier creatures themselves. (emphasis added)

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol. Ia, q. 1, art. 9 (tr. Alfred J. Freddoso):
Should Sacred Scripture make use of metaphors? It seems that Sacred Scripture should not make use of metaphors: Objection 1: That which is proper to the lowest doctrine does not seem to be suitable for the science of sacred doctrine, which, as already noted, holds the highest place among the other sciences. But to proceed by means of various similitudes and representations is proper to poetics, which is the lowest among all doctrines. Therefore, using similitudes of this sort is not appropriate for the science of sacred doctrine. Objection 2: Sacred doctrine seems to be ordered to the manifestation of truth; thus it is that according to Ecclesiasticus 24:31 (They that explain me shall have life everlasting), a reward is promised to those who make the truth manifest. But the truth is obscured by similitudes of the sort in question. Therefore, it is inappropriate for sacred doctrine to teach divine things by means of similitudes drawn from corporeal things. Objection 3: Creatures are more sublime to the extent that they are more similar to God. So if any creatures are to be likened to God, the similes should be drawn especially from the more sublime creatures and not from the lowliest. Yet this latter sort of simile is often found in Sacred Scripture. But contrary to this: Osee 12:10 says, I have multiplied visions, and I have used similitudes by the ministry of the prophets. But to teach something by means of a similitude is metaphorical. Therefore, making use of metaphors is pertinent to sacred doctrine. I respond: It is appropriate for Sacred Scripture to teach about divine and spiritual things by means of similitudes drawn from corporeal things. For God provides for all things in a way that is suitable to their nature. But it is natural for man to approach intelligible things through sensible things, since all our cognition takes its origin from the senses. Hence, it is appropriate for Sacred Scripture to teach us spiritual things by way of metaphors drawn from corporeal things. Dionysius makes this point in De caelesti hierarchia, chap. 1: It is impossible for us to be enlightened by the divine light unless it is covered by a variety of sacred veils. In addition, since Sacred Scripture is proposed generally to everyone (as


Romans 1:14 puts it, To the wise and to the unwise I am a debtor), it is appropriate for spiritual things to be proposed by means of similitudes drawn from corporeal things, in order that Scripture might be grasped even by those who are so untutored as to be incapable of grasping what is intelligible in itself. Reply to objection 1: A poet uses metaphors for the sake of representation itself, since representation is naturally delightful to man 28. But, as noted above, sacred doctrine uses metaphors out of necessity and because of their usefulness. Reply to objection 2: As Dionysius says, the light of divine revelation is not destroyed by the sensible figures in which it is veiled. Rather, it remains in its truth, so that it does not allow the minds to which the revelation is made to persist in the similitudes, but instead raises them to the cognition of intelligible thingsand through these minds to which the revelation has been made others are also instructed about those intelligible things. This is why things that in one passage of Scripture are related by means of metaphors are expounded more explicitly in other passages. Indeed, the very obscurity of the figures is useful for exercising more diligent minds, and it is also useful for countering the ridicule of unbelievers of which Matthew 7:6 speaks (Give not that which is holy to dogs). Reply to objection 3: As Dionysius teaches in De caelesti hierarchia, chap. 2, it is more fitting for divine things to be transmitted in the Scriptures with figures of speech drawn from lower bodies than with figures of speech drawn from more noble bodiesand this for three reasons. First, in this way the mind is rendered more free from error. For it is obvious that the figures in question are not being predicated properly of divine things, whereas there could be some doubt about this if divine things were described by figures drawn from more noble bodies especially in the eyes of those who did not know how to conceive of anything more noble than bodies. Second, this mode of expression is more appropriate for the cognition that we have of God in this life. For as far as God is concerned, what He is not is clearer to us than what He is. And so similitudes drawn from things that are further removed from God produce in us the more accurate impression that God is beyond what we say or think about Him. Third, this mode of expression is better at hiding divine things from those who are unworthy of them.

Cf. also St. Thomas Aquinas, In I Sent., dist. 32, q. 3, art. 1 (tr. B.A.M.):
Whether something should be said of God by way of transference. One proceeds to the first as follows. obj. 1. It seems that nothing ought to be said of God by way of transference. For, as Boethius says, in divine things one must be busied in an intellectual manner, and not be led to images. But transumptive expressions of this sort are taken from images formed of sensible things. Therefore, they are not to be used in divine things.


On this matter, see my separate treatment of metaphor.


obj. 2. Further, according to the Philosopher, everything being carried over is carried over according to some likeness.29 But according to Boethius, likeness is the same quality of different things. Therefore, since qualities of bodily things are not found in the divine, it seems that no likeness or metaphor can be taken from sensible things, so that something be said of God by way of transference. obj. 3. Again, every doctrineand principally Sacred Scriptureexists for the manifestation of truth. But metaphors of this sort, or symbolic expressions, are, as it were, a certain veiling of the truth, as Dionysius says. Therefore, they are not to be used in theology. obj. 4. Further, according to the Philosopher, knowledge comes about through the assimilation of the intellect to the thing known. But our intellect, since it is incorporeal and immaterial, has a greater likeness to divine things than to the bodily, which are material. Therefore, it relates more to knowing the divine than bodily things of this sort. And so it seems that the divine ought not to be manifested to us by a likeness of bodily things. s.c. But against this is what Dionysius says: Neither is it possible otherwise for the divine ray to shine in us except it be veiled about by an interchange of likenesses . But the divine ray is the truth of divine things. Therefore, the truth of the divine must be proposed to us under the likenesses of bodily things. c. I reply that it must be said that it is most fitting for the divine to be indicated to us by bodily likenesses, a fact for which four reasons can be assigned: First and principally by reason of the loftiness of the matter, which exceeds the capacity of our understanding. And so we cannot take hold of the truth of divine things according to its own mode, and so it must be proposed to us according to our mode. But it is connatural to us to come to intelligible things from the sensible, and to the prior from the posterior. And so intelligible things are proposed to us under the figure of sensible things so that from the things we know the soul might rise up to the unknown. The second reason is this: since there is a twofold knowing part in us, namely, an intellective and a sensitive, divine wisdom provides that both parts, insofar as possible, be led to divine things. And so figures of bodily things that the sensitive part can take hold of have been employed, because it could not of itself attain to the intellectual things of the divine. The third reason is that, with respect to God, we more truly know what He is not than what He is. And so Dionysius says that in divine things affirmations are loosely put together, but negations are true. And seeing that, with respect to all the things we say about God, it must be understood that they are not found in creatures in the same way in which they belong to Him, but by way of some mode of imitation and likeness; this sort of preeminence of God was expressly shown through the things to be removed from Him which are more manifest. But these things are bodily; and so it was fitting that divine things be signified by bodily species so that that the human soul, being inured to these things, would learn to attribute to Him none of those things it predicates of God except by way of a certain likeness, insofar as the creature imitates the Creator. The fourth reason is for the sake of hiding divine truth: because the deep things of Faith should be hidden from unbelievers, lest they mock them, and from simple men, lest they take occasion to err. And all these causes are assigned by Dionysius at the beginning of the Celestial Hierarchy, and in the Epistle to Titus.

Cf. Aristotle, Top. VI. 6 (140a 11): For all those carrying over [sc. a name, metapherontes] carry it over [metapherousin] according to some likeness [or resemblance, homoioteta].


ad 1. To the first, therefore, it must be said that there are two things to consider in knowledge of intellectual things, namely, the starting-point of speculation, and the term. The starting-point is from sensibles, but the term is in intelligibles, insofar as in natural knowledge of species taken from sense we acquire universal intentions through the light of the agent intellect. And so it must be said that, with respect to the term of speculation, the starting-point must rise up to the divine from certain sensible species. ad 2. To the second it must be said that likeness is twofold: for there is a certain kind through a sharing of the same form, and there is no such likeness of the bodily to the divine, as the objection proves. There is also a certain kind by a likeness of proportionality, which consists in the same relation of proportions, as when it is said, as eight is to four, so is six to three; and as the consul is to the city, so is the pilot to the ship. And the transport from bodily things to the divine is made according to such a likeness: as if God were called a fire because, just as fire stands to this, that it make what is liquefied flow through its own heat, so God through his own goodness pours perfections into every creature, or something of the sort. ad 3. To the third it must be said that the manifestation of the truth is to be made according to a proportion to the recipient, and because certain men impede the manifestation of the truth rather than bring it forth, either when they quarrel from impiety, or fall short from simplicitytherefore, the truth of the divine should be hidden, as is said in Matthew [7:6]: Do not give what is holy to dogs. ad 4. To the fourth it must be said that there is a certain assimilation according to a fittingness in nature; and in this way there is a greater assimilation of our intellect to the divine than to sensibles; but this is not the case in those things required for knowledge. There is also a certain assimilation through the informing required for knowledge, just as sight is assimilated to color, by whose species the pupil is informed. But this informing cannot come about in the intellect following the road of nature, except by a species abstracted from sense, because, as the Philosopher says, as color stands to sight, so stands the phantasm to the understanding; and so it remains that in this way the intellect can be assimilated more to sensibles than to the divine.

Cf. also St. Thomas Aquinas, In I Sent., dist. q. 1, art. 5, obj. 3, ad 3 (tr. B.A.M.):
obj. 3. Further, there ought not be one mode of sciences that have the greatest difference. But the poetic, which contains the least amount of truth, to the highest degree differs from this science, which is the most true. Therefore, since that [science] proceeds by metaphorical expressions, the mode of this science ought not to be such. ad 3. Poetic science30 is about things which, because of a defect of truth, cannot be grasped by reason. So it is that reason must be seduced, as it were, by certain likenesses. Theology, however, is about those things which are above reason, and so the symbolic mode is common to both, since neither is proportioned to reason.

Cf. also St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol., Ia-IIae, qu. 101, art. 2, ad 2 (tr. B.A.M.):
Just as poetic things cannot be grasped by reason because of a defect of truth that is in them, so, too, human reason cannot perfectly grasp divine things because of their exceeding truth. And so on both sides there is need of representation by sensible figures.

That is, the knowledge one gets from works of the poetic art.


For an additional text31 on what it means for a doctrine to have a defect of truth, cf. also St. Thomas Aquinas, In I Post. Anal., lect. 6, nn. 4-6 (tr. B.A.M.):
There is one process of reason leading to necessity in which there can be no defect of truth. And by a process of reason of this sort the certitude of science is acquired. But there is another process of reason in which truth is concluded for the most part, yet not having necessity. But there is a third process of reason in which reason falls short of the truth because of a defect in some principle that was to be observed in the reasoning. Now the part of logic to which the first process is reserved is called the judicative part, from the fact that judgement is made with the certitude of science. And because a certain judgement of effects cannot be had except by resolving to first principles, this part, therefore, is called Analytic, i.e. resolving. But the certitude of judgement which is had through resolution comes either from the very form of the syllogism alone, and to this the book of the Prior Analytics is ordered, which is about the syllogism simply; or this comes from the matter, because per se and necessary propositions are taken, and to this the book of the Posterior Analytics is ordered, which is about the demonstrative syllogism. But to the second process of reason, which is called inventive, is reserved the other part of logic. For discovery is not always had with certitude. For this reason judgement is required about these things which have been discovered, that certitude be had. Now just as in natural things, in those which act for the most part a certain gradation is noticed (since, to the extent that a power is stronger, to that extent it more rarely falls short of its effect), so that in the process of reason which is not in every way with certitude a certain gradation is found insofar as a certitude more or less perfect is approached. For through a process of this sort sometimes even if science does not result, it nevertheless produces belief or opinion because of the probability of the propositions from which it proceeds, since reason wholly inclines to one part of a contradiction although with fear of the other, and to this topics, or dialectic, is ordered. For the dialectical syllogism consists in probable things, which Aristotle treats in the book of the Topics. But sometimes belief or opinion does not come about completely, but a certain suspicion because it is not wholly inclined to one part of a contradiction, although it be more inclined to this [part] than that. And rhetoric is ordered to this. 32 But sometimes by a merely fanciful supposition it inclines to some 33 part of a contradiction because of some representation, the way in which there comes to be disgust in a man for some food if it be represented to him under the likeness of something disgusting. And poetics is ordered to this; for it belongs to the poet to lead to something virtuous through some suitable representation. Now all these things pertain to rational philosophy: for to lead from one thing into another belongs to reason. But the part of logic called sophistic observes the third process of reason, about which Aristotle treats in the book of Elenchi.

31 32

Cf. the excerpt from St. Thomas Compendium Theologiae I, c. 43 supra. And, St. Thomas might have added, this is the subject which Aristotle treats in the book of the Rhetoric. A similar addition could be made to his remarks on poetics, which follow. 33 That is, to this or that part since, as one may gather from the example that follows, someones reason could just as easily incline to the other part of a contradiction if the same food happened to be represented him under the likeness of something appetizing rather than disgusting.


V. ON THE FOURFOLD SENSE OF SACRED SCRIPTURE. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol. Ia, q. 1, art. 10 (tr. English Dominican Fathers):
Article 10: Whether in Holy Scripture a word may have several senses? We proceed thus to the Tenth Article: Objection 1: It seems that in Holy Writ a word cannot have several senses, historical or literal, allegorical, tropological or moral, and anagogical. For many different senses in one text produce confusion and deception and destroy all force of argument. Hence no argument, but only fallacies, can be deduced from a multiplicity of propositions. But Holy Writ ought to be able to state the truth without any fallacy. Therefore in it there cannot be several senses to a word. Objection 2: Further, Augustine says ( De Util. Cred. iii) that the Old Testament has a fourfold division as to history, etiology, analogy and allegory. Now these four seem altogether different from the four divisions mentioned in the first objection. Therefore it does not seem fitting to explain the same word of Holy Writ according to the four different senses mentioned above. Objection 3: Further, besides these senses, there is the parabolical, which is not one of these four. On the contrary, Gregory says (Moral. xx, 1): Holy Writ by the manner of its speech transcends every science, because in one and the same sentence, while it describes a fact, it reveals a mystery. I answer that, The author of Holy Writ is God, in whose power it is to signify His meaning, not by words only (as man also can do), but also by things themselves. So, whereas in every other science things are signified by words, this science has the property, that the things signified by the words have themselves also a signification. Therefore that first signification whereby words signify things belongs to the first sense, the historical or literal. That signification whereby things signified by words have themselves also a signification is called the spiritual sense, which is based on the literal, and presupposes it. Now this spiritual sense has a threefold division. For as the Apostle says (Heb. 10:1) the Old Law is a figure of the New Law, and Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. i) the New Law itself is a figure of future glory. Again, in the New Law, whatever our Head has done is a type of what we ought to do. Therefore, so far as the things of the Old Law signify the things of the New Law, there is the allegorical sense; so far as the things done in Christ, or so far as the things which signify Christ, are types of what we ought to do, there is the moral sense. But so far as they signify what relates to eternal glory, there is the anagogical sense. Since the literal sense is that which the author intends, and since the author of Holy Writ is God, Who by one act comprehends all things by His intellect, it is not unfitting, as Augustine says ( Confess. xii), if, even according to the literal sense, one word in Holy Writ should have several senses. Reply to Objection 1: The multiplicity of these senses does not produce equivocation or any other kind of multiplicity, seeing that these senses are not multiplied because one word signifies several things, but because the things signified by the words can be themselves types of other things. Thus in Holy Writ no confusion results, for all the senses are founded on onethe literalfrom which alone can any argument be drawn, and not from those intended in allegory, as Augustine says ( Epis. 48). Nevertheless, nothing of Holy Scripture


perishes on account of this, since nothing necessary to faith is contained under the spiritual sense which is not elsewhere put forward by the Scripture in its literal sense. Reply to Objection 2: These threehistory, etiology, analogyare grouped under the literal sense. For it is called history, as Augustine expounds (Epis. 48), whenever anything is simply related; it is called etiology when its cause is assigned, as when Our Lord gave the reason why Moses allowed the putting away of wivesnamely, on account of the hardness of mens hearts; it is called analogy whenever the truth of one text of Scripture is shown not to contradict the truth of another. Of these four, allegory alone stands for the three spiritual senses. Thus Hugh of St. Victor ( Sacram. iv, 4 Prolog.) includes the anagogical under the allegorical sense, laying down three senses onlythe historical, the allegorical, and the tropological. Reply to Objection 3: The parabolical sense is contained in the literal, for by words things are signified properly and figuratively. Nor is the figure itself, but that which is figured, the literal sense. When Scripture speaks of Gods arm, the literal sense is not that God has such a member, but only what is signified by this member, namely operative power. Hence it is plain that nothing false can ever underlie the literal sense of Holy Writ.

Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Super ad Galatas, cp. 4, lect. 7 (tr. B.A.M.): He says, therefore, These things which are written about the two sons , etc. are said through an allegorythat is, through another understanding. For allegory is a trope or
manner of speaking by which one thing is said and another is understood. Whence allegory is said from allos, which is other and goge, a leading, as if to say, leading to another understanding. But it must be noted that allegory is sometimes taken for a mystical understanding of any sort, sometimes for only one of the four which are the historical, the mystical, and the anagogical, which are the four senses of Sacred Scripture, and yet they differ with respect to signification. For there is a twofold signification. One is through sounds of voice; another is through the things signified by the sounds of voice. And this is particularly the case in Sacred Scripture and not in the others; forasmuch as God is its author, in whose power it is not only to accommodate vocal sounds for the purpose of designating [something] (which even man is able to do), but also the things themselves. And so in the other sciences handed on by man which cannot be accommodated for signifying except by words alone, they signify solely by sounds of voice. But this is proper in this science, that the very things signified by vocal sounds signify something else through them, and so this science can have many senses. For that signification by which vocal sounds signify something pertains to the literal or historical sense; but that signification by which the things signified by the vocal sounds in turn signify other things, pertains to the mystical sense. But something can be signified by the literal sense in two ways, namely, according to proper speech, as when I say, the man smiles; or according to a likeness or metaphor, as when I say, the meadow smiles. And we use both ways in Sacred Scripture, as when we say according to the first way that Jesus ascends, and when we say according to the second that He sits at the right hand of the Father. And so under the literal sense is included the parabolic or metaphoric. But the mystical or spiritual sense is divided into three. For in the first place, as the Apostle says, the Old Law is a figure of the New Law. And so, insofar as those things which belong to the Old Law signify the things of the New, there is the allegorical sense. Again, according to Dionysius in the book About the Celestial Hierarchy, the New Law is the figure of future glory. And so insofar as those things which are in the New Law and in Christ signify the things in the fatherland, there is the anagogic sense.


Again, in the New Law those things which are done in the Head are examples of the things we ought to do, because whatever things are written are written for our doctrine. And so insofar as those things in the New Law done in Christ, and in those things which signify Christ, are signs of the things we ought to do, there is the moral sense. And all of these are clear in an example. For when I make this statement, Let there be light, according to the letter about bodily light, it pertains to the literal sense. If Let there be light is understood to mean that Christ is born in the Church, it pertains to the allegorical sense. But if Let there

be light is said so that (one understands that) through Christ we are led into glory, it pertains to the anagogic sense. If, however, Let there be light is said so that [one
understands that] through Christ we are enlightened in understanding and inflamed in affection, it pertains to the moral sense.

See also: On Scripture in the Summa Theologiae by Michael M. Waldstein. The Aquinas Review Vol. 1, No. 1 (1994) pp. 73-94 Historical-Critical Scripture Studies and the Catholic Faith by Michael Waldstein (EWTN Library; taken from the Mar-Apr. 1996 issue of Catholic Dossier.) N.B. Having treated the mode or manner of the narrative, let us next consider its relation to what it conveys, the literal historic truth. Now inasmuch as the first chapters of Genesis relate in simple and figurative language, adapted to the understanding of a less developed people, the fundamental truths presupposed for the economy of salvation, as well as a popular description of the origin of the human race and of the Chosen People (Letter of the Pontifical Biblical Commission to Cardinal Suhard) and therefore do pertain to history in a true sense, it is necessary to consider in detail what history, a subject I investigate in my paper, Poetry and History (Papers In Poetics 7). Here, however, let the following excerpts suffice.


VI. ON HISTORY. SUMMARY ACCOUNTS. 1. On the relation of poetic imitation to the compositions of history. Cf. Aristotle, Poetics ch. 8 (1451a 16-35) (tr. B.A.M.):
A plot is not one, as some think, if it is about one man; for manyindeed an infinite number of things happen to one man, out of some of which no one thing arises [lit. there is no one thing, ouden estin hen]. So also there are many actions of one man out of which no one action results [ginetai]. For this reason all [20] the poets seem to have erred who have composed a Heracleid, a Theseid, and such like poems. For they think that since Heracles was one man, a story about him is one thing. But Homer, just as he excels in other things, appears to have grasped this point well, whether by art or by nature. For in [25] making the Odyssey, he did not compose everything that ever happened to him, for example, his being wounded on Parnassus, and his feigned madness at the gathering of the army, the one thing being done, it being neither necessary nor likely that the other come about; but he constructed the Odyssey around one action, of the sort of which we are speaking; and likewise the [30] Iliad.34 Accordingly, just as in the other imitative arts, one imitation must be of one thing, so also the plot, since it is the imitation of an action, must be of one thing, and this a whole, and the parts of the thing must be so constituted that when some one part is transposed or removed it makes a difference in the sense that the whole is changed; for what makes [35] no noticeable difference when it is present or not present is no part of the whole.

Cf. Ibid. ch. 23 (1459a 1730) (tr. B.A.M.):

As for the imitative art which is narrative and in verse, it is clear that its plots should be constructed the way they are in tragedies, dramatically, and around one action, whole and perfect, [20] having a beginning, middles, and an end, so that, like one whole living thing, it may produce its proper pleasureand not be like the compositions of histories where what is required is a setting forth [or exposition, ekthesis] not of one action, but of one [period of] time, and whatever happened during it, whether to one man or to many, of which each [happening] stands to the other just as it chances [ hos etuchen]. For [25] as the sea-fight at Salamis and the battle with the Carthaginians in Sicily took place at the same time without tending to the same end; so also in those things which take place in successive times, one thing may sometimes happen after another from which no one end results. But almost all of the poets [30] do this.

Cf. Ibid. ch. 9 (1451b 1-11) (tr. B.A.M.):

But it is also apparent from what has been said that the job of the poet is to relate, not what has happened, but the sort of thing that might happenthat is, what is possible in accordance with likelihood or necessity. For the historian and the poet differ not by [the one] speaking in verse [and the other] not, [1451b] (for Herodotus put in verse would be no less a historian in verse than not in verse), but they differ in this, namely, that the one relates what has happened [5], but the other the sort of thing that might happen. For this reason, poetry is
34 For when the incidents composing the plot are so constructedthat is to say, some one thing being done, it is either necessary or likely that the other come about then such a plot will be both continuous and one; such a consequence making the limits of the prior and subsequent incidents touch, and hence become one and the same, such that the parts are held together; some such definition being required by Aristotles words at 1452a 14-15: But I call simple an action in which [15] (being, as defined, continuous and one), etc.


more philosophical and of more serious import than history; for poetry relates rather the universal, whereas history, the particular. But universal, in fact, is the sort of thing a certain sort of man happens to say or do according to what is likely or necessary, and [10] poetry aims at this sort of thing when it assigns names; but particular is what Alcibiades did or suffered.

Cf. Ibid. ch. 9 (1451b 27-32) (tr. B.A.M.):

So it is clear from these things that a poet [or maker] ought to be the poet [or maker] of plots rather than of verses, since he is a poet according to imitation, and what he imitates are actions. Therefore, although one fashion things that have occurred, [30] he is no less a poet; for nothing prevents certain things that have happened from being the sort of things that are likely to happen, and according to this he is their poet.

Cf. Ibid. ch. 10 (1452a 12-21) (tr. B.A.M.):

Of plots, however, some are simple, but others complex; for the actions of which the plots are the imitations are also such to begin with. But I call simple an action in which [15] (being, as defined, continuous and one) a change of fortune without reversal or recognition results; but complex, [one] from which there is a change of fortune involving recognition, or reversal, or both. These, however, should arise from the very way in which the plot is put together, so that from what has already taken place [20] it happen that the things mentioned come about either of necessity or in accordance with likelihood. For it makes a great difference whether these things 35 come about because of these things36 [propter hoc] or [merely] after them [post hoc].

2. The definition of history according to Aristotle in sum. History consists in the setting forth [or exposition, ekthesis] not of one action, but of one [period of] time, and whatever happened during it, whether to one man or to many, of which each [happening] stands to the other just as it chances [hos etuchen] (Poetics ch. 23, 1459a 23-24). For manyindeed an infinite numberof things happen to one man, out of some of which no one thing arises. So also there are many actions of one man out of which no one action results (ibid., ch. 8, 1451a 16-19), and the same is true for things done or suffered by many men: out of many of their actions and passionsthat is, the things they do and sufferno one thing arises or results, as, for example, the sea-fight at Salamis and the battle with the Carthaginians in Sicily took place at the same time without tending to the same end; so also in those things which take place in successive times, one thing may sometimes happen after another from which no one end results ( ibid., 1459a 29-30). 3. The relation between history and poetry in sum.

35 36

Namely, recognition and reversal. Namely, the incidents which precede them in time. Aristotles view is that a plot which is continuous and unified will consist of incidents which do not merely precede a recognition or reversal, but which precipitate them.


History relates what has happened which, for the most part, is accidental; yet it may include the sort of thing that might happen and is possible in accordance with necessity or likelihood, if what happened happens to be of this sort. Poetry relates the sort of thing that might happen and is possible in accordance with necessity or likelihood; yet it may include what has happened insofar as this comes under the rationale of what is possible. For although one fashion things that have occurred, he is no less a poet; for nothing prevents certain things that have happened from being the sort of things that are likely to happen, and according to this he is their poet ( Poetics ch. 9, 1451b 29-32). Whereas poetry embraces what happens both necessarily as well as with likelihood, it excludes what is unlikely and thus accidental except insofar as it is likely even that many things happen contrary to what is likely (ibid., ch. 18, 1456a 23-25). Hence, for the accidental to come under the necessary or likely, the confluence of such events must tend to the same end, their coming together being justifiable either by an appeal to the limitations of human knowledge, the root of fortune [being] ignorance and the inevitable limitations due to it in our practical actions (Charles De Koninck, The Nature of Possibility, for which, see further below), as well as to the causality of the author as first cause, insofar as he brings about a result that is unavoidable through an avoidable cause, seeing that, in this order, the poet or storyteller imitates the causality of God by giving things their natures and inclinations, as well as by directing together the motions following upon them, since He is what inclines them both (a point also elaborated on below). One may therefore recognize history as taking two forms, one in which the connection between events is primarily fortuitous, and one in which it is for the most part either likely or necessary. On this point, consider the following remarks:
By the term history we mean here, primarily, narratio. Historical personages, actions or events are, first of all, things that can be reported or narrated. It is true that these things may also reveal more or less rational connections that exist among them, and that the term history also serves to designate the kind of knowledge ordained to the discovery of such connections. Taken in this sense, History tends towards a certain universality and thus towards the estate of a science. And, in this sense, only significant facts enter into the realm of History: the kind of facts credited with historical importance. It is not with this second meaning of history that we are now concerned. Rather, taking the term in its more primitive sense, we call historical even such thingsnay, such above allas cannot form the object of any rationalization: the things that can at best be told, reported, narrated; in a word, things obscure, ineffable, incommunicable as to their essential meaning. 37

In light of the distinctions Aristotle makes concerning the possible connections between events, we may say that the things which may also reveal more or less rational connections are those which happen always and of necessity, or those which happen for the most part, and hence are the sort of thing which are possible according to likelihood or necessity, for which reason they will possess a kind of universality, and so tend towards the estate of science; and these will be such as are for the sake of something and are the result of nature or of deliberate intention, as will be explained further below.

Charles De Koninck, The Nature of Man and His Historical Being, Laval theologique et philosophique, vol. 5, 1949, n. 2, p. 271. See also Art and Morality, with a Note on History.


As we have derived the most complete definition of history from the Poetics of Aristotle, it will be instructive to look more closely at his teaching on the matter, assembling his various pronouncements into a coherent whole, supplemented by various other works relevant to the same subject. 4. Alternatives pertaining to history. Something can happen or not happen. If something happens, it can happen by chance or not by chance. If it does not happen by chance, then it happens for an end, and this is what is by necessity or according to what is likely. Something can be done or it can be undergone (one can do or suffer, act or be acted upon). The setting forth or exposition of what is done or suffered can concern one man (= biography) or many men (= historiography) deal with what takes place in one [period of] time or what takes place in successive times embody a sequence of events that is post hoc or one that is propter hoc. Hence, the work of history may take the form of annals (the ordering principle is chronological, the sequence of events being post hoc) or a treatise (the ordering principle is causal, the sequence of events being propter hoc). The former is history in the primitive sense: a setting forth of what has happened; the latter, history in the philosophical sense: tracing out links of causation (e.g. Aristotles Constitutions vs. certain books of The Politics). Two things can happen at the same time without tending to the same end. Likewise, one thing can follow upon another from which no one end results. Aristotles examples of things happening hos etuchen (just as it chances): cold in the dogdays much rain during the dogdays burning heat during the winter two events happening at the same time or in successive times, such as the sea-fight at Salamis and the battle with the Carthaginians in Sicily, which took place at the same time. Aristotles examples of things happening at the same time by chance: the occurrence of an eclipse of the sun while someone is taking a walk (On Prophesying by Dreams, ch. 1, 462b 34463a 1) while he was walking it lightened (Post. An.. I. 4, 73b 10-15) for as the sea-fight at Salamis and the battle with the Carthaginians in Sicily took place at the same time (Poet. 23, 1459a 2530). 5. On the necessary, the likely, and the accidental. what cannot not be (= what cannot have itself otherwise) 87

the necessary (what is always and of necessity) what can not be (= what can have itself otherwise) the likely or probable (what is for the most part) the accidental (the unlikely or improbable) (what is for the least part) 6. In sum. We say that everything either is (1) always and of necessity (necessity not in the sense of violence, but that which we appeal to in demonstrations), or is (2) for the most part, or is (3) neither for the most part, nor always and of necessity, but merely as it chances; e.g. there might be cold in the dogdays, but this occurs neither always and of necessity, nor for the most part, though it might happen sometimes. The accidental, then, is what occurs, but not always nor of necessity, nor for the most part. In short, things can have themselves: (1) always and of necessity (the necessary = to anangkaion) (2) for the most part (the likely = to eikos) (3) neither always of necessity or for the most part but merely as it chances ( hos etuchen) (the accidental = to sumbebekos) (1) & (2) = what happens according to a universal or general rule (3) includes what happens by coincidence 7. Some divisions. the necessary: what cannot not be (what cannot have itself otherwise) the contingent: what can not be (what can have itself otherwise) the likely or probable: what happens for the most part the accidental (the unlikely or improbable): what happens for the least part that which has a per se cause things happening always and of necessity things happening for the most part that which has no per se cause, but a potentially infinite number of per accidens causes things happening for the least part what is possible as coming under the poetic art what happens always and of necessity what happens for the most part as coming under the purview of history what happens for the least part 88

the necessary: what is possible of necessity the likely: what is possible according to likelihood the accidental: what is possible according to chance (or what happens to be the case) 8. Aristotles definition of the likely and analogous definitions of the necessary and the accidental.

The likely (to eikos) is that which comes about for the most part, not without
qualification, as some define it, but in those things that happen to have themselves other than they are, that which so stands to the likely as the universal to the particular. (Aristotle, Rhet., I. 2, 1357a 35-39, tr. B.A.M.) The necessary is that which comes about always and of necessity, not without qualification, as some define it, but in those things which cannot have themselves other than they are, that which so stands to the necessary as the universal to the particular. (worded by B.A.M.) The accidental is that which comes about for the least part, not without qualification, as some define it, but in those things which can have themselves other than they are, that which so stands to the accidental as the universal to the particular. (worded by B.A.M.)

9. On the several senses of necessary according to Aristotle. A thing cannot have itself other than it is (1) due to itself (2) due to something external (a) a moving cause (violence) (b) a final cause or end (hypothetical necessity) (Cf. Meta. V. 5, 1015a 34 ff.) [end of excerpts] 10. That the narrative of the Work of the Six Days relates what has happened, and so is history, but does so by way of comparison and similitude. What has happened, the subject matter of history, as related by Genesis, as one may argue, consists in such undeniable truths as that God has created the heaven and earth; that He has divided light from darkness by producing the former; that He separated earth from the waters by producing seas; that He has brought forth the various species of plants and animals; that He has adorned the heavens with the sun, the moon, and the stars; and that He created man as the crown of creation. But as we argue elsewhere, the Hexaemeron relates the divine work not simply or as such, but according to a likeness it has to the coming into being of something according to an order of nature , whether it be an artifact or a living thing, their processes being analogous. That it was fitting for God to do so is clear from what men have learned down the centuries about the age and composition of the universe: Certain facts about the origin of the earth and cosmos, as they have been brought to light by the various sciences, include many matters that surpass the capacity of most men to understand, being things in no way profitable unto salvation. Those truths which are indispensible to him must therefore be conveyed in a mode and language intelligible to all men at all times and everywhere. And so we find the account before us to be made in terms of the large-scale features of his habitation: 89

The heaven, which is what we see when we look up; the earth, which lies beneath our feet when we look down; the waters which surround us; the region where the clouds gather; the celestial bodies which shine down upon us and measure our days, and months, and years. But the genesis of these things is spoken of according to a likeness it has to the production of an artifact, or again of a living thing, the principles of which, as well as their most common predicates, fall, to some extent at least, within the understanding of everyone: as, for instance that before there was something there was nothing ; that the production of something in its unformed state necessarily precedes its formation ; that it must be determined to its intended nature by a moving cause ; that the first thing produced in it must be its first principal part and so on. Likewise, since the heaven and earth comprise nature, but nature is a principle of motion and rest in that to which it belongs first and as such, and not by accident, and since their coming to be comprises an order of nature, the most forward example of which is the conception and birth of a man, the most known stages of the latter necessarily furnish a most fitting template according to which the genesis of all things is conveyed. There is, then, no falsehood involved in representing such things as the earth coming to be before the celestial bodies, or plants before the sun, or in speaking of a presumably solid firmament dividing the waters above from the waters below and the like, since some meaning other than what they first suggest is intended by their author. For when our feigning is referred to some signification, it is no lie but some figure of the truth. Otherwise, all the things that are said figuratively by wise and saintly men, or even by the Lord Himself, are to be reputed lies, since, according to the customary understanding, the truth does not consist in such sayings. (Summa Theol., IIa-IIae, q. 111, art. 1. ad 1) For in them a certain thing is feigned, not that it be asserted to exist in this way, but we propose it as the figure of another thing that we wish to assert. (ibid.) (c) 2013 Bart A. Mazzetti. All rights reserved. N.B. In addition to my other papers in this series (sc. The Opening of Genesis), see also: The Paradigm of Genesis. A Determination according to Reason of the Underpinnings of the Creation Story Excursus on Myth: A Series of Notes Poetry and History (Papers In Poetics 7)