St. Augustine and Cosmology
A study of St. Augustine and Cosmology is best begun by begun with St. Augustine, Vol. 1: The Literal Meaning of Genesis (Ancient Christian Writers), John Hammond Taylor, Newman Pres, 1982.
After that, a search in the data bases on the Falvey website yields a great number of resources,including:
On Genesis : Two books on Genesis against the Manichees ; and, On the literal interpretation of Genesis, an unfinished book / by Augustine, Saint, Bishop of Hippo. Published 1990 Call Number: BR61 .F38 v. 84 1991 Located: Falvey West - Ground Floor
On Genesis: / by Augustine, Saint, Bishop of Hippo. Published 2002 Call Number: BR65.A5 E53 1990 pt. 1, v. 13 Located: Falvey West - Ground Floor
Just one webpage at http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt47.html presents this:
A NEO-PATRISTIC RETURN TO THE FIRST FOUR DAYS OF CREATION
by Msgr. John F. McCarthyPart III - THE DAYS OF CREATION ACCORDING TO ST. AUGUSTINE
St. Augustine made four distinct efforts to provide a clear and coherent interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis. Having suggested an allegorical interpretation in his work On Genesis against the Manichaeans (389 A.D.), 1 and having made an unsatisfactory attempt at a literal interpretation in his Letter of Genesis, Unfinished Book, written in 393 A.D. but published with some revisions only in 426 as a useful indicator of his early efforts, 2 he later expressed his opinions at greater length in his fresh undertaking The Letter of Genesis (401-415 A.D.), 3 and summarized them with some modifications in The City of God (413-427 A.D.). 4
In the beginning God created heaven and earth (Gen 1:1). St. Augustine maintains that we know from the sacred and infallible Scriptures that, in the first instant of time, God created the world out of nothing. He reasons that, when Genesis opens with the words, in the beginning, it means that God "had made nothing previously," and, therefore, that the world was made, "not in time, but simultaneously with time." He sees time as being the measure of change in created things, and, since before thisbeginning there was no angel, no material thing, no matter at all, therefore there was no time before the creation recorded in Gen 1:1. 5 He stresses that God made everything in the world out of nothing, that in the creation of the world change and motion itself was created, so that before this beginning there was absolutely no movement of anything bodily or spiritual outside of God, Who is Himself eternal and without motion. 6
Augustine does not exclude the contrary opinion that the angels were created, not in the beginning of time, but before the beginning of time, for in that case, he says, the words in the beginning mean literally, not in the beginning of all creation, since the angels would previously have been created, but rather in the Beginning, that is, in the divine Wisdom, the divine Word of God, Who is the Beginning, as He tells us in Jn 8:25, in answer to the question Who are you? - (I am) the Beginning. 7 Augustine is open to this opinion, chiefly because, he says, "it gives me the liveliest satisfaction to find the Trinity celebrated in the very beginning of the Book of Genesis." 8 Regarding the meaning of heaven and earth in the very first verse of Genesis, Augustine says rather indecisively in The City of God: "Under these names heaven and earth the whole creation is signified, either as divided into spiritual and material, which seems the more likely, or into the two great parts of the world in which all created things are contained, so that, first of all, the creation is presented in sum and then its parts are enumerated according to the mystic number of the days." 9
In The Letter of Genesis he had explained that here as in Gen 2:4 the words heaven and earth mean the whole of creation, 10 understanding heaven in this verse to mean, not the physical heaven of outer space, but the incorporeal heaven of the angelic spirits, who are situated above the bodily heavens, not by a higher location in space but by sublimity of nature. 11 Thus the word heaven in this verse he took to mean the angels, fully formed in their nature, while the earth signifies "the invisible, unstructured, and abysmally dark incompleteness of the bodily mass from which things existing in time were to come." 12
Augustine admits that the creation of the angels is not plainly stated in this description of the creation of the world, but he thinks that it is implicitly stated either under the name of heaven in verse one or under the name of light in verse three, because he "cannot believe" that their creation was omitted entirely. He refers to other places in the Scriptures where the creation of the angels is explicitly stated (Dan 3:58; Ps 148:2-4; Job 38:7). Thus, in The City of God, Augustine avers that, "if the angels are included in the works of God during these six days, they are that light which was called day." 13 And in The Letter of Genesis he expounds at length his theory that, prior to the first day, the angels were created in their natural being under the name of heavenin Gen 1:1, and the light of the six days represents degrees of their supernatural illumination in the grace of the Beatific Vision. 14
And the earth was void and empty, .... (Gen 1:2). St. Augustine explains that the author uses the more common word earth to signify unformed matter, but, he adds, the reader should not suppose that matter could have actually existed without form: what are separated artfully in the narrative, namely, the matter and the form, were in historical fact created simultaneously by God. 15 And so, not in temporal but in causal order first was created the unformed and formable raw material out of which everything was to be fashioned. 16 Thus does St. Augustine understand the words of Wis 11:18: "For thy almighty hand, which made the world of matter without form ...." 17 It is, furthermore, his studied opinion that all the matter in the universe was created at the same instant of time. Thus, the formless matter mentioned in verse two is understood to have had a certain priority of origin but not of time over the specific things mentioned in the succeeding verses. Matter and form are divided in the account, but they were created simultaneously. 18 While admitting that for God to make something incomplete and then to complete it has nothing reprehensible in it, St. Augustine sees the "six days" as a distribution only of narrative and not of time. 19 Thus, in his view, God "created all things together" (Ecclesiasticus 18:1), but separated them into six days in the account for those who could understand only piece by piece. 20 So the six days of the creation account are presented in the order in which they are known to the blessed angels, having before and after in the connection of the creatures but simultaneity in the effectiveness of the Creator." 21
... and darkness was upon the face of the deep, .... (Gen 1:2). This darkness is seen as covering and interpenetrating "an undefined chaos of earth and sea, for, where light is not, darkness must needs be." 22 This unformed matter, "although made out of nothing," has, nevertheless, "a capability for species and forms." 23 St. Augustine conjectures, without wanting to impose his opinion even upon himself, that the organized state of the things in the universe might be called, in the terminology of Genesis, "the world," while heaven and earth in Gen 1:1 represent the raw material, the "seed," as it were, of the organized heaven and earth, described here in Gen 1:2 as a mixture of indistinct elements to be given shape and form by God the divine Artist. 24
... and the spirit of God moved over the waters (Gen 1:2). Augustine is not sure, regarding the waters over which the Spirit of God moved, "whether by the name of water (the author of Genesis 1) wished to designate all bodily matter in order in this way to suggest from what have been made and fashioned all the things that we recognize in their kinds, calling it 'water,' because it is from moist nature that we see all the things on earth to be fashioned and to grow according to their various kinds, or whether he wished to designate a certain spiritual life [of the angels] fluctuating as it were before the form of its conversion." 25 But Augustine does not hesitate to affirm a reference to the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity in these first two verses of Genesis: "For, where Scripture says, In the beginning God made heaven and earth, we understand the Father in the name of God, and the Son in the name of the Beginning, Who is the beginning, not of the Father, but through Himself of the first and most preferred spiritual creatures, and following that, of all creatures, and, where Scripture says, and the Spirit of God moved over the waters, we see a full commemoration of the Trinity." 26 The Holy Spirit, he says, moved over the waters, not in a spatial sense, but by His power to effect, just as, for instance, the will of an artisan moves over the wood or other material that he is going to fashion." 27
And God said: Be light made. And light was made (Gen 1:3). St. Augustine made several unsatisfactory attempts to find a chronological explanation of the six days of creation in Genesis 1 while he was working on his intellectual interpretation of its literal sense. But he wondered why it should have taken Almighty God six days to effect the creation, and he opted instead for the simultaneous creation of the whole world. He puzzled over the creation of light on the first day, if the sun, the moon, and the stars came into place only on the fourth day. What would such a light-source be and how could its encircling a formless, unsolidified earth for two days have been able to cast the shadow of night? 28 Not having found a satisfactory solution to this question, he considered the possibility that the light created on the first day was a spiritual light, coming after darkness in the sense that the minds of angels were enlightened and formed by their Creator from the supernaturally unformed state of their natural knowledge, so that their natural knowledge of their own nature is referred to as evening of the first day, and the elevation of that knowledge to the vision and praise of the Light which is God Himself is referred to as morning of the first day. 29
He weighed the two alternatives: "... the first three days of all were passed without the sun, since it is reported to have been made on the fourth day. But, first of all, indeed, light was made by the word of God, and God, we read, separated it from the darkness, and called the light Day, and the darkness Night; but what kind of light that was, and by what periodic movement it made evening and morning, is beyond the reach of our senses; neither can we understand how it was, and yet we must unhesitatingly believe it. For either it was some material light, whether proceeding from the upper parts of the world, far removed from our sight, or from the spot where the sun was afterwards kindled; or under the name of light the holy city was signified, composed of holy angels and blessed spirits, the city of which the Apostle says, '(that) Jerusalem which is above is our eternal mother in heaven' (Gal 4:26); and in another place, 'For ye are all the children of the light and the children of the day' (1 Thess 5:5)." 30
Regarding the command of God, Be light made, Augustine reasons: "But if the light which first was ordered to be made and was made is also to be understood as holding the pre-eminent place in creation, this is intellectual life, which, unless it should be turned to the Creator in order to be enlightened, would fluctuate formlessly." 31 He maintains that, if the spiritual light that was made is not to be understood as the "true light which is coeternal with the Father," but as the "wisdom that was made before all," then it is the passage of eternal wisdom into the sanctified souls of rational creatures, provided also that it was the creation of spirits that is spoken of under the name of heaven where it is written (Gen 1:1), In the beginning God created heaven and earth, and that it was not the physical heaven. 32
While, in The City of God, Augustine states that the implicit mention of the creation of the angels which could not conceivably have been omitted in the account is made either under the name of heaven in verse one "or perhaps rather under the name oflight" in verse 3, 33 he strongly asserts in The Letter of Genesis that the creation of the angels is mentioned under the name of heaven in verse 1 and their enlightenment by divine grace under the name of light in verse 3. He was guided to this conclusion by insurmounted difficulties in first ascribing the creation of physical light to this latter verse and then putting the six days of creation into a reasonable historical succession. 34 Thus, among many affirmations in The Letter of Genesis that the light mentioned in Gen 1:3 refers to the supernatural enlightenment of the angels by the Beatific Vision, we find the following: "And messengers in Greek are called 'angels,' by which generic title is named that whole city on high which we think was created on the first day."35 It is my understanding, therefore, of St. Augustine's opinion regarding the creation and elevation of the angels in the narrative of Genesis 1, that the supernatural illumination of the good angels in the Beatific Vision is literally implied under the name lightin verse three, and the creation of the angels is most probably implied under the name of heaven (or the heavens) in verse one, but, if not, then it is tacitly included under the name of light in verse three, which expressly narrates their elevation by grace. But it must be added that he never excluded the possibility that material light is what is literally intended under the creation of light in verse three.
And God saw the light that it was good .... (Gen 1:4). St. Augustine has little hesitation in affirming that the Holy Spirit is the holiness and goodness of the Blessed Trinity; He is the substantial Holiness of the Blessed Trinity, consubstantial with the Father and the Son. Hence, he says, "the whole Trinity is revealed to us in the creation, as well as "the enlightenment, the blessedness of the Holy City which is above among the angels." God has created, illumined, and blessed this city. "In God's eternity is its life; in God's truth its light; in God's goodness its joy." 36 The light whose goodness God saw is first of all the supernatural illumination of the good angels in the Beatific Vision, in their perfection as intellectual creatures converted to knowledge of and love for God in His Three Persons, and then the goodness of the species of all other creatures as seen in this light. And the three divine Persons are thus represented in the description of creation: the Word of God and the Begetter of the Word when it saysGod said, and the Holy Goodness in Whom God is pleased by whatever completed thing pleases Him in proportion to the measure of its nature." 37 The goodness of the thing is "the approval of the work in its design, which is the Wisdom of God." 38 God made the world good (Gen 1:31). "In this creation, had no one sinned, the world would have been filled and beautified with natures good without exception." 39
... and he divided the light from the darkness (Gen 1:4). In The City of God, St. Augustine avers that, if he is correct in understanding by the creation of light (verse 3) the creation of the angels as participators in that eternal light which is the only-begotten Son of God, then they themselves, as sharing in the unchanging light and day which is the Word of God, Who is "the true light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world" (Jn 1:9), can be called day, although they are light and day, not in themselves, but in God. But the unclean spirits, who have become impure by turning away from the true light of the Wisdom of God, "are no longer light in the Lord, but darkness in themselves, having been deprived of participation in eternal light."40 Peter the Apostle, he says, very plainly declares (2 Peter 2:4) that certain angels sinned and were thrust down to the lowest parts of this world; they are called 'darkness.' "Wherefore, though light and darkness are to be taken in their literal meaning in these passages of Genesis, ..., yet, for our part, we understand these two societies of angels, ... the one dwelling in the heaven of heavens, the other cast thence and raging through the lower regions of the air. ... For, though it is the material works of God that are spoken of, they have certainly a resemblance to the spiritual." 41
And he called the light Day and the darkness Night; and there was evening and morning one day (Gen 1:5). In the exegesis of St. Augustine, the word day in Gen 1:4 means principally the supernatural formation of angelic minds in the light of the Beatific Vision which took place at the beginning of time. The angels in heaven are "that light which was called day and whose unity Scripture signalizes by calling that day, not the 'first day,' but 'one day.' These angels, having been illumined by the Light that created them, have themselves become light and day "in participation of that unchangeable Light and Day which is the Word of God. 42 The angels are outside of physical time, but St. Augustine proposes a kind of angelic time, that is, of change regarded as before and after, in the sense that there was a 'time' when the angels enjoyed only their natural knowledge, and this was followed by their elevation to supernatural knowledge and blessedness. 43 But from the moment in physical time that they were created, the blessed angels contemplate "the very eternity of the Word of God," and in this Beatific Vision they were first shown what God was afterwards (in physical time) going to create, that is, the knowledge of God's reasons for creating the world was instilled in their angelic minds before (in physical time) the creatures of the physical world were made at all. And so in the recurring words, and God said let there be made, St. Augustine sees a Scriptural reference to the eternity of the Word of God, while the words, and so it was done, refer to the knowledge instilled in the angelic minds of the design of creation, and, finally, the repeated words, God made, refer to the creatures themselves in their respective kinds. 44 Hence, the knowing of created things in themselves by the light of the Beatific Vision of the angels is what in Genesis 1 is called evening, while knowing them in praise of God's design in making them is called morning. 45
Evening, then, in the account of creation, is understood to mean with regard to the various things created, not the passage of time, but the limit of one created nature's way of acting, 46 while morning is the moving to another work of creation. 47 The angels see evening and morning simultaneously in the Beatific Vision, but their morning knowledge comes after evening knowledge, since it represents the lifting up of their gaze from the creatures themselves to the glory of their Creator. 48 In the successive 'days' of the creation account, evening, in a secondary sense, refers to matter that is in some way lacking in form, and morning refers to the form impressed upon it. 49 For every created nature, maintains St. Augustine, has certain boundaries, andevening here could mean the limit of one created nature, while morning is the beginning of a successive created nature, although some better interpretation may be given in the course of the debate. 50 Still, in the prior sense, the blessed angels see these creatures in the light of God's plan. And just as to know justice as unchangeable truth is superior to knowing it only in a just man, so the angels' knowing of creatures in themselves is just a twilight knowledge, while knowing them in their eternally abiding causes and reasons is a daytime knowledge and is "as if morning dawned in the minds of those who contemplate them." 51
Augustine teaches as the more probable opinion that God "made all things at once, also giving them order, not over intervals of time, but by causal connection, in order that the things that were made simultaneously might also be brought to perfection in a sixfold presentation of that day. And so the unformed and formable matter, spiritual and corporal, from which whatever was to be made would come, was the first thing made, not in the temporal, but in the causal order." 52 But the work of creation is separated in the narration of Genesis so that it can be more easily understood by those whose minds are less prepared. 53 "For the second day, the third, and the rest are not other days; but the same one day is repeated to complete the number six or seven, so that there should be knowledge both of God's works and of His rest." 54 The creation is divided in the account into six days, he says, because, according to the inner nature of numbers, 55 six is the first perfect (or complete) number, that is, it is the first number which is made up of the parts which exactly divide it added together (1+2+3), "and in this number of days God finished His work." Some may be unimpressed by this kind of interpretation, but "we must not despise the science of numbers, which in many passages of Holy Scripture is found to be of eminent service to the careful interpreter." 56
Thus, evening of the first day is the contemplation by the angels of their own created nature, while morning is their turning to the praise and love of God. Evening of the second day is their knowledge of the firmament in itself, while morning is their referring this knowledge to the praise and love of God. Evening of the third day is their knowledge of the earth and the sea and all the things that grow out of the earth. And so forth for the other three days. 57 When the sacred account states that God restedon the seventh day (which is also a perfect number for another reason), it means "that those rest who are in Him and whom He makes to rest." 58 The seventh day has no evening, since it has no creature for its object. 59 And because God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it (Gen 2:3), "Scripture commends and the Church knows that the number seven is in some way dedicated to the Holy Spirit." 60
While St. Augustine is restrained in affirming this opinion, he insists that his interpretation of light and day in the Genesis account is intended as the proper and not merely a figurative or allegorical meaning of the words. In The Letter of Genesis he explains: "Let no one think that what I have said about spiritual light and the creation of day in the spiritual and angelic creature and about the contemplation which it has in the Word of God and about the knowledge by which the creature is known in itself and its being referred to the praise of unchangeable truth is meant to be understood, not in the proper sense (of the words) but figuratively, as it were, and allegorically, .... for where the light is better and more certain, there also it is more truly day. For Christ is not called the light in the same way that He is called a stone, since the former is in the proper sense, while the latter is in a figurative sense. ... Whoever seeks another meaning in the numbering of those days, not figuratively in prophecy, but properly in the actual creation of things, let him seek and with the help of God let him find one. ... For I do not maintain this interpretation in such a way that I contend that another more preferable one cannot be found, in the way that I maintain that Sacred Scripture did not want to suggest to us that God rested, as it were, after feeling tired or worn out." 61
And God made a firmament and divided the waters that were under the firmament from those that were above the firmament, and it was so (Gen 1:7). And God called the firmament heaven .... (Gen 1:8). Taking as a matter of fact, on the unquestionable authority of Sacred Scripture, 62 that God did make a firmament to divide the waters that were below from those that were above, St. Augustine sets out to determine what that firmament is. In his Confessions 63 and in his Unfinished Book on the Letter of Genesis, 64 he had entertained the idea that "the firmament was made between the spiritual waters above and the corporeal waters below," but he later retracted this interpretation as "having been stated without sufficient consideration, although the thing is extremely recondite." 65 In The City of God he expresses his mature opinion that the waters above and below the firmament are material water whose creation by God in indistinct form is expressed in verse 1 under the name of earth, or ground. 66
St. Augustine respected and adhered to the common opinion of his day that the ultimate constituents of matter are the Four Elements: earth, water, air, and fire, in that ascending order. 67 According to the model of the universe following from this, earth tended naturally to be situated at the bottom, with the water and the air successively above it and fire at the top. Thus, he says, the expression in Psalm 35:6, "who established the earth above the waters," cannot be taken literally, but only figuratively, because the normal place of the earth is below the water. 68 Nor, he adds, could water normally stay above the fiery heaven, 69 unless, perhaps, in tiny drops of vapor, 70 or as a sheet of solid ice. 71 Augustine doubts whether a sheet or globe of solid ice above the heavens can be seriously defended, and he appeals against any rash assertions in this regard. 72 But, he cautions, "in whatever way it exists and whatever kind of water it is, we have no doubt whatsoever that the water is there, because the authority of this writing exceeds the limits of all human imagination. 73
Where in the account of creation is the formation of the Four Elements to be found? According to one opinion the spirit of God borne over the waters (verse 2) is the element air, so that, (if the element fire is implied under the word heaven in verse 1), the creation of the Four Elements is thus presented: fire and earth in verse 1 and air and water in verse 2. Augustine has another opinion, but he allows free speculation in this regard as long as what must in any case be believed is kept intact, namely, "that God is the Maker and the Creator, and that there is absolutely no creature not having from Him the perfection of its kind and of its substance." 74
Again, notes Augustine, someone (Basil in his homilies on the six days of creation 75) has interpreted the firmament to mean the air that separates the rain clouds from the condensed water on the surface of the earth. It is firm and supportive inasmuch as it holds up the clouds after the fashion of a cushion. 76 Augustine admits that the air below the clouds can be called the heaven (cf. "the birds of heaven": shamayim [Gen 7:23]), but he is unconvinced that this lower air can be called a firmament. 77 In his opinion the firmament (raqia) of heaven is located in the space stretching downwards from the top of the fiery spheres through the thinner air to the top of the heavier air which can support the clouds. It is called a firmament because of its tranquility, by which it resembles the truth, "for nothing is more firm and sure than the truth": thy truth (reaches) even to the clouds (Ps 35:6; 56:11). Hence, in Augustine's opinion the creation of the Four Elements is presented in another way: all together without their distinctive forms under the word ground in verse 1, and then as distinctly formed during the second, third, and fourth days. Air as a distinct element is presented under two names in verse two: the separating out and formation of the dry upper air is expressed under the name firmament, while the moist lower air is presented under the name waters below the firmament. The heavier air is called water in that it contains moisture: it is both vaporous water and condensed air. 78
... and the evening and morning were the second day (Gen 1:8). In the opinion of St. Augustine, the account of the "six days" of creation presents the vision of the blessed angels as the creation of the world was revealed to them. Evening represents their vision of the limit of one created species and morning the appearance of another created species. 79 Implied in the account are as many "days" of creation as there are kinds of created things, since the number six, as the first perfect number, merely symbolizes all of the parts making up the whole of creation. Evening of the first day is the limit of the angelic nature in itself, as seen by the blessed angels, and morning of the first day (the one day) is their vision of their nature in praise of God and in love for God in the Beatific Vision. Morning of this first day involves their knowing that they are not gods and in humbly embracing this fact. 80
The corporeal world, says Augustine, was fashioned by God in the presence of angelic knowledge, with regard to which, evening of the second day is their knowledge of the firmament in its own nature as such, while morning is their elevation of this item of knowledge in praise and love of God as they contemplate the eternal reasons for the creation of the firmament. 81 And with regard to the thing created, evening of the second day represents the dark and unformed matter created at the first instant of time, while morning is the angelic understanding of the plan of God in impressing the form of the element air upon that part of the unformed matter which became the firmament. 82
... Let the waters that are under the heaven be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear. ... And God called the dry land earth, and the gathering together of the waters he called seas. ... (Gen 1:9-10). From these verses we know, says St. Augustine, that on the third day "the ground was separated from the water and each of these elements took its own distinct form, and the earth produced all that grows on it." 83 By the waters that are under the heaven is meant the formless matter in chaotic flux that was created in the beginning of time. On the third "day" some of this material received the form of the element water as we know it today. By the expression be gathered together is meant "be unified" under the form of the element water. 84 It also means, perhaps, either that the vaporous water so provided with its proper form was condensed into bodies of water at certain places on the surface of the earth or that condensed water ran down into hollow places created by the sinking of the surface of the earth. 85 Other invisible and formless matter was given the form of the element earth, rendering it visible and elementally structured, 86 and the earth, properly so-called, with its canyons and misty air and its other structural features came into being. 87 By this creative act of God the two species, water and earth, received their most notable and for us most manageable characteristics, namely, water its mobility and land its immobility. 88
... Let the earth bring forth the green herb .... (Gen 1:11). In maintaining that God made all things "together" (in a single instant), Augustine points out that he is not implying that plants appeared before the appearance of the sun. But a certain simultaneity is implied in Gen 2:4-5: These are the generations of the heaven and the earth, when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the heaven and the earth, and every plant of the field before it sprung up in the earth. ... The Scripture says that the plants were created before they sprang up in the ground, and not simply in the wisdom of the Word of God, because that was even before the day was made. Nor merely that the seeds of plants were created and began to germinate before the sun, because the seeds came originally from the plants and not the plants from the seeds: and such as yieldeth seed according to its kind (Gen 1:12). Rather, he says, we know these things only in the temporal order, but the blessed angels know them in their causes (causaliter). In Augustine's view, the text of Genesis is saying that in the beginning the ground received from God the (passive) power to produce plants, so that the things that would come into being over the spread of time were, so to speak, in the ground as in the "roots of the ages." Thus, since all the kinds (naturae) of plants and trees were contained in the first creation, from which God rested, from then on moving and governing through the passing years those very same things which He had created, He then proceeded to plant all the things which are being born even until now. 89
God "made all things together, instilling order into them, not over intervals of time, but by causal relationship," forming them from the "unformed and formable raw material, both spiritual and corporal, from which would come what was to be made," and which is presented "under the name of heaven and earth," and these are: first, the angelic creatures; secondly, the firmament, from which the bodily world begins; third, the species of sea and earth, and, in the ground potentially, so to speak, the nature of plants and trees (Gen 2:5), the earth receiving all of their numbers according to their kinds; fourth, the planets and stars, so that first the higher part of the world might be regulated by the visible things that are moved within the world; fifth, the swimming and flying creatures, existing potentially in the numbers which would emerge over the regular movement of time; and sixth, in like manner the animals, as arising from the lowest element of the world, but, nevertheless, potentially in their numbers which time afterwards would unfold visibly. Thus, "in the beginning, God made heaven and earth according to a certain formability, so to speak, of the matter which subsequently was to be formed by His word and which preceded its formation not in time but in origin." 90
And the evening and the morning were the third day (Gen 1:13). Augustine notes that God, in His inscrutable wisdom, "though Himself eternal and without beginning, yet caused time to have a beginning." 91 Time began to run when creation began to move, 92 which coincides with Gen 2:6: But a spring rose out of the earth, watering all the surface of the earth. From this point on in the narrative of Genesis are noted the things that took place over the passage of time, "beginning from that element (water) from which all the genera of animals, plants, and trees arise, that they may carry out their time-oriented numbers arranged according to their respective natures. For all the first beginnings of seeds," he continues," from which all flesh and all greenery spring, are moist and grow out of moisture. And there are in them very effective numbers drawing with them potentialities following from those completed works of God from which He rested on the seventh day." 93 But, though God rested from the original work of creation, He continues to work in the governance of the same, 94 in accordance with the words of Jesus: My Father worketh until now; and I work (Jn 5:7). 95
In Augustine's view, the third day is not a chronological day coming after the second day and before the fourth, but has simply the next place in the ordered knowledge of the angels. The seas and the dry land, the grass and the trees are simultaneous with the first primordial matter in the angelic understanding. 96 The reason for which the creation of vegetation is assigned to the third day is because plants are immobile and fixed to the surface of the earth and thus pertain to it more directly. 97 But Augustine does not maintain that the various things described as made by God during the six days of creation appeared full-blown in the first instant of time. Rather, he says, when God made all things together, He made them "hiddenly" and in the secret recesses of nature, 98 that is, potentially and causally, so as to become visible over the due course of time. 99 Augustine is here treating principally but not exclusively of living things, as he describes their existence in the first instant of creation: they were made in seed, 100 not meaning the seed which they themselves produce, but in primordial packages, 101 in the causal order as the seeds of future things. 102 They are causal reasons (causales rationes) instilled by God into the things themselves. 103 Thus was the earth given a certain power to produce (producendi virtus), 104 an invisible inner potency to be unfolded over the ages, 105 not without creative divine interventions and not without the guidance of God's providence. 106
For Augustine, the third day represents as many days as there are natures covered by the angelic knowledge of the seas, the earth, and the vegetation of the earth. Evening is the knowledge of these natures in themselves, and morning is the elevation of that knowledge in praise of God and of the Wisdom of God's plan.
... Let there be lights made in the firmament of heaven to divide the day and the night.... To shine in the firmament of heaven, and to give light upon the earth... and to divide the light and the darkness. ... And the evening and the morning were the fourth day (Gen 1:14-19). In the view of St. Augustine, by the firmament of heaven is here probably meant "the whole ethereal structure, containing all the heavenly bodies, beneath which lies the serenity of the pure and tranquil air." 107 The evening of this day represents secondarily the transition of the angelic mind beyond the limits of the natures of the seas, the earth, and the vegetation, thus leaving the brightness of these natures in a kind of shadow, while the morning is the angelic contemplation of the natures of the luminous bodies. But primarily the evening is the angelic contemplation of these luminous natures in their own being, and the morning is the elevation of this contemplation to the praise and love of God. 108 With reference to the angelic contemplation which is the basic and literal meaning of the word day in this chapter, the fourth day is just another part of the one day on which God created the world. The sun and the moon, the planets and the stars were made from the original primal matter that was created at the first instant of time, and they were made at that same instant, so that this first appearance of physical light was actually simultaneous with the creation of the raw material of the universe.
For St. Augustine, the assigning of the making of the celestial luminous bodies to the fourth day of angelic understanding has something to do with the inner nature of numbers and something else to do with the order and interconnection of things in the universe. The moveable things of the heavens are presented before the moveable things on the surface of the earth, namely animals and men. And this second separation of light from darkness, of day from night, is a physical phenomenon related to the corporal vision of the animals and men to be created on the fifth and sixth days. Thus St. Augustine brings into his explanation of the days of creation, not only the natural and supernatural vision of the angels, but also the physical sight of the animals and, incidentally, the rational sight of men. 109
Part IV of this essay will be a neo-Patristic analysis of St. Augustine's interpretation of the first four days of creation, as presented in Part III.
1. Aurelius Augustinus, De Genesi contra Manichaeos, in Migne, Patrologia Latina (PL), vol. 34.
2. A. Augustinus, De Genesi ad litteram, imperfectus liber, in Corpus Scriptorum Latinorum (CSEL), vol. 28, part 1 (and in PL, vol. 34). Cf. his Retractationes, I, 18.
3. A. Augustinus, De Genesi ad litteram, in CSEL, vol. 28, part 1 (and in PL, vol. 34).
4. A. Augustinus, De civitate Dei, in PL, vol. 41 (published in several English translations, of which that of Marcus Dods in The Modern Library series, Random House, New York, has been used as a base for the citations in the present essay).
5. De civ. Dei, XI, 6.
6. De Gen. ad litt., V, 5.
7. De Gen. ad litt., I, 5.
8. De civ. Dei, XI, 32.
9. De civ. Dei, XI, 33.
10. De Gen. ad litt., V, 3.
11. De Gen. ad litt., I, 17.
12. De Gen. ad litt., I, 8.
13. De civ. Dei, XI, 9.
14. De Gen. ad litt., I, 17; VII, 5.
15. De Gen. ad litt., II, 11.
16. De Gen. ad litt., V, 5.
17. De Gen. ad litt., V, 17.
18. De Gen. ad litt., I, 15-16.
19. De Gen. ad litt., II,15; IV, 32; imperf. lib., 7.
20. De Gen. ad litt., IV, 33.
21. De Gen. ad litt., IV, 35.
22. De civ. Dei, XI, 9.
23. Imperf. lib., 15.
24. Imperf. lib., 3-4.
25. De Gen. ad litt., I, 5.
26. De Gen. ad litt., I, 6.
27. Imperf. lib., 5-6.
28. De Gen. ad litt., V, 1.
29. De Gen. ad litt., IV, 21.
30. De civ. Dei, XI, 7.
31. De Gen. ad litt., I, 9.
32. De Gen. ad litt., I, 17.
33. De civ. Dei, XI, 9.
34. Imperf. lib., V, 6.
35. De Gen. ad litt., V, 19.
36. De civ. Dei, XI, 24.
37. De Gen. ad litt., I, 6.
38. De civ. Dei, XI, 21.
39. De civ. Dei, XI, 23.
40. De civ. Dei, XI, 9.
41. De civ. Dei, XI, 33.
42. De civ. Dei, XI, 9.
43. De civ. Dei, XI, 13.
44. De Gen. ad litt., II, 8.
45. De Gen. ad litt., III, 25.
46. De Gen. ad litt., II, 14.
47. De Gen. ad litt., I, 17.
48. De Gen. ad litt., IV, 30
49. Imperf. lib., 15.
50. De Gen. ad litt., IV, 1.
51. De civ. Dei, XI, 29.
52. De Gen. ad litt., V, 5.
53. Imperf. lib., 7.
54. De civ. Dei, XI, 9.
55. De Gen. ad litt., IV, 1.
56. De civ. Dei, XI, 30.
57. De civ. Dei, XI, 7.
58. De civ. Dei, XI, 8.
59. De civ. Dei, XI, 31.
60. De Gen. ad litt., V, 5.
61. De Gen. ad litt., IV, 28.
62. De Gen. ad litt., V, 9.
63. Confessiones, XIII, 32.
64. Imperf. lib., 8.
65. Retract., II, 6:2.
66. De civ. Dei, XI,34.
67. De Gen. ad litt., II, 1-3; III, 3.
68. De Gen. ad litt., II, 1.
69. De Gen. ad litt., II, 3.
70. De Gen. ad litt., II, 4.
71. De Gen. ad litt., II, 5.
72. Imperf. lib., 8.
73. De Gen. ad litt., II, 5.
74. Imperf. lib., 4.
75. Basil, homil. in Hexaemeron, III, 8.
76. De Gen. ad litt., II, 4.
77. De Gen. ad litt., III, 1.
78. Imperf. lib., 14.
79. De Gen. ad litt., IV, 18.
80. De Gen. ad litt., IV, 22.
81. De Gen. ad litt., IV, 22.
82. Imperf. lib., 15.
83. De civ. Dei, XI, 9.
84. Imperf. lib., 10.
85. De Gen. ad litt., I, 12.
86. De Gen. ad litt., II, 15.
87. De Gen. ad litt., III, 11.
88. De Gen. ad litt., II, 11.
89. De Gen. ad litt., V, 4.
90. De Gen. ad litt., V, 5.
91. De civ. Dei, XII, 14.
92. De Gen. ad litt., V, 5.
93. De Gen. ad litt., V, 7.
94. De Gen. ad litt., V, 11.
95. De Gen. ad litt., IV, 12.
96. De Gen. ad litt., VI, 3.
97. Imperf. lib., 11.
98. De Gen. ad litt., VI, 1.
99. De Gen. ad litt., VI, 4.
100. De Gen. ad litt., VI, 5.
101. De Gen. ad litt., VI, 6.
102. De Gen. ad litt., VI, 11.
103. De Gen. ad litt., VII, 22.
104. De Gen. ad litt., VIII, 3.
105. De Gen. ad litt., VIII, 8.
106. De Gen. ad litt., IV, 12; VI, 14.
107. Imperf. lib., 12.
108. De civ. Dei, XI, 7.
109. Imperf. lib., 12.