Creation through Christ
1:15 qui est imago Dei invisibilis, primogenitus omnis creaturae: [n. 29]
1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: [n. 29]
1:16 quoniam in ipso condita sunt universa in caelis, et in terra, visibilia, et invisibilia, sive throni, sive dominationes, sive principatus, sive potestates: omnia per ipsum et in ipso creata sunt: [n. 36]
1:16 For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers. All things were created through him and in him. [n. 36]
1:17 et ipse est ante omnes, et omnia in ipso constant. [n. 44]
1:17 And he is before all: and by him all things consist. [n. 44]
29. Postquam superius commemoravit gratiae beneficia specialia et universalia, hic commendat auctorem huius gratiae, scilicet Christum. Et
29. After Paul recalled for us the universal and special benefits of grace, he now commends the author of this grace, that is, Christ. And he does this,
primo per comparationem ad Deum;
first, in his relation to God;
secundo generaliter per comparationem ad totam creaturam, ibi primogenitus;
second, in relation to all of creation, at the firstborn;
tertio specialiter per comparationem ad Ecclesiam, ibi et ipse est caput.
and third, in relation to the Church, at and he is the head (Col 1:18).
30. Circa primum notandum est quod Deus dicitur invisibilis, quia excedit capacitatem visionis cuiuscumque intellectus creati, ita quod nullus intellectus creatus naturali cognitione potest pertingere ad eius essentiam. Iob XXXVI, 26: ecce Deus magnus vincens scientiam nostram. I Tim. ult.: lucem habitat inaccessibilem. Videtur ergo a beatis ex gratia, non ex natura.
30. As to the first, we should note that God is said to be invisible because he exceeds the capacity of vision of any created intellect, so that no created intellect, by its natural knowledge, can attain his essence: behold, God is great, and we know him not (Job 36:26); he dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim 6:16). And therefore, he is seen by the blessed by means of grace, and not by reason of their natural capacity.
Ratio huius assignatur a Dionysio, quia omnis cognitio terminatur ad existens, id est ad aliquam naturam participantem esse. Deus autem est ipsum esse non participatum ergo est incognitus. Huius ergo Dei invisibilis Filius est imago.
Dionysius gives the reason for this: all knowledge terminates at something which exists, that is, at some nature that participates in the act of existence; but God is the very act of existence, not participating in the act of existence, but participated in; and thus he is not known. It is of this invisible God that the Son is the image.
31. Sed videndum est quomodo dicatur imago Dei, et quare dicatur invisibilis.
31. Let us now see in what way the Son is called the image of God, and why he is said to be invisible.
Et quidem de ratione imaginis sunt tria, scilicet quod sit ibi similitudo, quod deducta sit vel expressa ex eo cum quo est similitudo, et quod deducta sit in aliquo pertinente ad speciem vel signum speciei. Si enim sunt duo similia, quorum unum non derivetur ab alio, neutrum dicimus alterius imaginem, sicut ovum non dicitur imago ovi. Et ideo ab imitando dicitur imago.
The notion of an image includes three things. First, an image must be a likeness; second, it must be derived or drawn from the thing of which it is a likeness; and third, it must be derived with respect to something that pertains to the species or to a sign of the species. For if two things are alike, but neither is derived from the other, then neither one is the image of the other; thus one egg is not said to be the image of another. And so something is called an image because it imitates.
Item si sit simile, sed non quantum ad speciem, vel signum speciei, tunc nec imago dicitur: sicut in homine multa sunt accidentia, ut color, quantitas, et huiusmodi, et secundum nullum horum dicitur imago. Sed si figuram eius accipiat, sic potest esse imago, quia figura est signum speciei; Filius autem est similis Patri, et Pater similis Filio, sed Filius habet hoc a Patre, Pater autem non a Filio. Et ideo proprie loquendo dicimus Filium imaginem Patris, et non e converso, quia deducitur et derivatur haec similitudo a Patre.
Further, if there is a likeness between two things, but not according to species or a sign of the species, we do not speak of an image. Thus, a man has many accidents, such as color, size and so on; but they are not the reason for calling something an image of a man. But if something has the shape or figure of a man, then it can be called an image, because this shape is a sign of the species. Now the Son is like the Father, and the Father is like the Son. But because the Son has this likeness from the Father, and not the Father from the Son, we, properly speaking, say that the Son is the image of the Father, and not conversely: for this likeness is drawn and derived from the Father.
Item haec similitudo est secundum speciem, quia Filius in divinis repraesentatur aliquo modo, sed deficienter, per verbum mentis nostrae. Verbum autem mentis nostrae est, quando formamus actu formam rei cuius notitiam habemus, et hoc significamus verbo exteriori. Et hoc verbum sic conceptum est quaedam rei similitudo quam in mente tenemus, et simile secundum speciem. Et ideo verbum Dei imago Dei dicitur.
Further, this likeness is according to species, because in divine matters the Son is somehow, although faintly, represented by our mental word. We have a mental word when we actually conceive the form of the thing of which we have knowledge; and then we signify this mental word by an external word. And this mental word we have conceived is a certain likeness, in our mind, of the thing, and it is like it in species. And so the Word of God is called the image of God.
32. Quantum ad secundum sciendum est quod Arriani hoc verbum male intellexerunt, iudicantes de Dei imagine secundum imagines quae fiebant ab antiquis, ut viderent in eis charos suos subtractos sibi, sicut et nos facimus imagines sanctorum, ut quos non videmus in substantia, videamus in imagine. Et ideo dicunt quod invisibile est proprium Patri, Filius autem est primum visibile, in quo manifestatur bonitas Patris, quasi Pater sit vere invisibilis, Filius vero visibilis, et sic alterius essent naturae. Hoc autem excludit Apostolus ad Hebr. I, 3 dicens: qui cum sit splendor gloriae, et figura substantiae eius, et cetera. Et sic est imago non solum Dei invisibilis, sed etiam ipse est invisibilis sicut Pater. Qui est imago invisibilis Dei.
32. As to our second question, we should note that the Arians misunderstood the text: for they thought about the image of God as they did of the images they made of their ancestors, so they could see in these images the loved ones no longer with them (just as we make images of the saints to see in these images those whom we cannot see in reality). And so they said that to be invisible was unique to the Father, and that the first visible reality was the Son, who manifested the goodness of the Father. They were saying that the Father was truly invisible, but the Son was visible, and thus their natures would be different. But the Apostle refutes this when he says: he reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power (Heb 1:3). And thus the Son is not only the image of the invisible God, but he himself is invisible like the Father: who is the image of the invisible God.
33. Deinde cum dicit primogenitus, etc., commendat Christum per comparationem ad creaturam. Et
33. Then when he says, the firstborn of every creature, he commends Christ in relation to creatures.
primo facit hoc,
First he does so;
secundo exponit, ibi quia in ipso.
and second, he amplifies it, at for in him.
34. Circa primum sciendum est quod Arriani sic intelligunt, quasi dicatur primogenitus, quia sit prima creatura: sed hic non est sensus, ut patebit. Et ideo duo sunt videnda, scilicet quomodo haec imago sit genita, et quomodo primogenita creaturae.
34. We should note, about the first point, that the Arians understood this to mean that Christ is called the first-born because he is the first creature. But this is not the meaning, as will be clear. So we have to understand two things: how this image is generated, and in what way it is the first-born of creatures.
Quantum ergo ad primum sciendum est quod in unaquaque re generatio est secundum modum sui esse et suae naturae. Alius enim modus generationis est in hominibus, et alius in plantis, et sic de aliis. Natura autem Dei est ipsum esse intelligere, et sic oportet quod eius generatio, vel conceptio intellectualis, sit generatio vel conceptio naturae eius. In nobis autem conceptio intelligibilis non est conceptio naturae nostrae, quia in nobis aliud est intelligere et natura nostra. Et ideo cum haec imago sit verbum et conceptio intellectus, oportet dicere quod sit germen naturae, et sic de necessitate genitus, quia accipit naturam ab alio.
In regard to the first, we should note that things generate in various ways depending on their nature and manner of existence, for men generate in one way, and plants in another, and so on for other things. But the nature of God is his existence and his act of understanding and so it is necessary that his generating or intellectual conceiving is the generating or conceiving of his nature. (In us, however, our intellectual conceiving is not the conceiving of our nature, because our nature is not the same as our act of understanding). Therefore, since this image is a word and concept of an intellect, it is necessary to say that it is the offspring of the nature, so that the one receiving the nature from the other is generated by necessity.
35. Secundo videndum est quomodo dicatur primogenitus. Deus enim non alio se cognoscit et creaturam, sed omnia in sua essentia, sicut in prima causa effectiva. Filius autem est conceptio intellectualis Dei secundum quod cognoscit se, et per consequens omnem creaturam. Inquantum ergo gignitur, videtur quoddam verbum repraesentans totam creaturam, et ipsum est principium omnis creaturae. Si enim non sic gigneretur, solum verbum Patris esset primogenitus Patris, sed non creaturae. Eccli. XXIV, 5: ego ex ore altissimi prodii, primogenita ante omnem creaturam, et cetera.
35. Second, we have to understand in what way the Son is called the first-born. God does not know himself and creatures through two different sources; he knows all things in his own essence, as in the first efficient cause. The Son, however, is the intellectual concept or representation of God insofar as he knows himself, and as a consequence, every creature. Therefore, inasmuch as the Son is begotten, he is seen as a word representing every creature, and he is the principle of every creature. For if he were not begotten in that way, the Word of the Father would be the first-born of the Father only, and not of creatures: I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, the first-born before every creature (Sir 24:5).
36. Deinde cum dicit quia in ipso, etc.; exponit quod dixerat, scilicet quod sit primogenitus, quia scilicet est genitus ut principium creaturae. Et hoc quantum ad tria:
36. Then when he says, for in him were all things created, he explains what he has just said, that is, that the Son is the first-born because he was generated as the principle of creatures; and this with respect to three things.
primo quantum ad rerum creationem;
First, with respect to the creation of things;
secundo quantum ad earum distinctionem, ibi in caelis;
in the second place, with respect to their distinction, in heaven and on earth;
tertio quantum ad conservationem in esse, ibi et omnia in ipso, et cetera.
and third, with respect to their preservation in existence, and by him all things consist.
37. Dicit ergo: est primogenitus creaturae, quia est genitus ut principium omnis creaturae. Et ideo dicit quia in ipso, et cetera.
37. He says that the Son is the firstborn of every creature because he is generated or begotten as the principle of every creature. And so he says, for in him were all things created.
Circa quod sciendum est, quod Platonici ponebant ideas, dicentes, quod quaelibet res fiebat ex eo quod participabat ideam, puta hominis vel alicuius alterius speciei. Loco enim harum idearum nos habemus unum, scilicet Filium, Verbum Dei. Artifex enim facit artificium, ex hoc quod facit illud participare formam apud se conceptam, quasi involvens eam exteriori materiae: sicut si dicatur quod artifex facit domum per formam rei quam habet apud se conceptam. Et sic Deus omnia in sua sapientia dicitur facere, quia sapientia Dei se habet ad res creatas, sicut ars aedificatoris ad domum factam. Haec autem forma et sapientia est Verbum, et ideo omnia in ipso condita sunt, sicut in quodam exemplari, Gen. I: dixit, et facta sunt, quia in Verbo suo aeterno creavit omnia ut fierent.
With respect to this, we should note that the Platonists affirmed the existence of Ideas, and said that each thing came to be by participating in an Idea, like the Idea of man, or an Idea of some other kind. Instead of all these we have one, that is, the Son, the Word of God. For an artisan makes an artifact by making it participate in the form he has conceived within himself, enveloping it, so to say, with external matter; for we say that the artisan makes a house through the form of the thing which he has conceived within himself. This is the way God is said to make all things in his wisdom, because the wisdom of God is related to his created works just as the art of the builder is to the house he has made. Now this form and wisdom is the Word; and thus in him all things were created, as in an exemplar: he spoke and they were made (Gen 1), because he created all things to come into existence in his eternal Word.
38. Quantum autem ad rerum distinctionem, sciendum est quod aliqui, sicut Manichaei, erraverunt dicentes haec corpora terrena, quia corruptibilia, facta esse a malo Deo, caelestia vero, quia incorruptibilia, a bono Deo, scilicet Patre Christi. Sed mentiuntur, quia in eodem sunt utraque creata. Ideo dicit in caelis, et cetera.
38. With respect to the differences among things, we should note that some, like the Manicheans, were mistaken in thinking that earthly bodies, since they are corruptible, were made by an evil god, while the heavenly bodies, because they are incorruptible, were made by the good God, that is, by the Father of Christ. This was an error, because both types of bodies were created in the same. And so he says, in heaven and on earth.
Et haec est distinctio secundum partes naturae corporeae. Gen. I, 1: in principio, id est in Filio, creavit Deus, et cetera.
This difference is based on the different parts of corporeal nature. In the beginning, that is, in the Son, God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1).
39. Platonici etiam dicunt quod Deus per se creavit creaturas invisibiles, scilicet angelos, et per angelos creavit naturas corporeas. Sed hoc excluditur hic, quia dicitur visibilia et invisibilia. De primo Hebr. XI, 3: fide intelligimus esse aptata saecula, ut ex invisibilibus visibilia fierent. De secundo autem Eccli. XLIII, 36 s.: pauca vidimus operum eius, omnia autem Dominus fecit, et cetera.
39. The Platonists also said that God created invisible creatures, that is, the angels, by himself, but created bodily natures by the angels. But this is refuted here, because Paul says, visible and invisible. As to the first he says: by faith we understand that the world was framed by the word of God; that from invisible things visible things might be made (Heb 11:3). About the second we read: we have seen but few of his works. For the Lord has made all things, and to the godly he has granted wisdom (Sir 43:32–33).
Haec autem distinctio est secundum creaturarum naturam.
This difference in things is based on the nature of created things.
40. Tertia distinctio est ordinis et gradus in invisibilibus, cum dicit sive throni, et cetera. Platonici etiam errant hic. Dicebant enim in rebus diversas esse perfectiones, et quamlibet attribuebant uni primo principio, et, secundum ordines earum perfectionum, ponebant ordines principiorum, sicut ponebant primum ens, a quo participant omnia esse, et illud principium ab isto, scilicet primum intellectum, a quo omnia participant intelligere, et aliud principium vitam, a quo omnia participant vivere.
40. The third difference is concerned with the order and degrees found in invisible realities, when he says, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers. The Platonists were mistaken in this matter for they said that there are different perfections found in things, and attributed each of these to its own first principle. And they said there was an order of principles according to the orders of these perfections. Thus they affirmed a first being, from whom all things participate in existence; and another principle, distinct from this, a first intellect, from which all things participate in intelligence, and then another principle, life, from which all things participate in life.
Sed nos non sic ponimus, sed ab uno principio res habent quicquid in eis perfectionis est. Et ideo dicit sive throni, etc.; quasi dicat: non dependent ab aliis principiis ordinatis, sed ab ipso uno solo verbo Dei.
But we do not agree with this, for all the perfections found in things are from one principle. Thus he says, whether thrones, or dominations and so on. As if to say: they do not depend on an array of principles, but on the one unique Word of God.
41. Sed quid est quod dicit Eph. I, 22: ipsum dedit caput, etc., ubi quaedam diversitas videtur esse ab istis?
41. Why does Paul say in his letter to the Ephesians: he has made him the head over all the Church? (Eph 1:22). For he does not seem to be saying the same thing there as here.
Solutio. Hic enim enumerat descendendo, quia ostendit progressum creaturae a Deo, ibi ascendendo, quia ostendit quod Filius Dei, secundum quod homo, super omnes creaturas est. Sed tamen ibi principatus ponuntur sub potestatibus, et virtutes inter dominationes et potestates, hic principatus super potestates, et principatus medium inter dominationes et potestates. Et secundum hoc diversae sunt sententiae Gregorii et Dionysii. Dionysius enim ordinat eos secundum quod dicitur ad Ephesios, quia in secunda hierarchia ponit dominationes, virtutes, et potestates. Gregorius vero ordinat eos sicut hic habetur, quia in secunda hierarchia ponit dominationes, principatus et potestates, in tertia vero virtutes, Archangelos et angelos.
I reply that here Paul is giving a descending list of such beings, because he is showing the procession of creatures from God; but in Ephesians he gives an ascending list, because he is showing that the Son of God, as man, is above all creatures. In Ephesians, the principalities are placed under the authorities (or powers), and the virtues are between the dominions and authorities; but here in our text, the principalities are placed above the authorities, and between the dominions and the authorities. This is the way the teaching of Gregory differs from that of Dionysius. For Dionysius arranges the spiritual beings as they are in Ephesians, because he puts the dominions, the virtues and authorities in the second hierarchy. But Gregory arranges them as Paul does here, because he puts the dominions, principalities and authorities in the second hierarchy; and the virtues, archangels and the angels in the third hierarchy.