Recall that this is a continuation of Chapter 11; it wouldn’t hurt to review last week, since we cut off midstream. This is some thick going, too.
12 But the nature of God is not in the Word of God thus: it is one in species and differs in number. The way in which the Word has the nature of God is the way in which God’s act of understanding is His very being, as was said. Now, the act of understanding is the divine being itself. The Word, therefore, has the divine essence itself; has it with an identity not only of species but of number.
A nature, again, which is one in species, is not divided into a numerical many except by reason of matter. But the divine nature is entirely immaterial. It is, therefore, impossible that the divine nature be specifically one and numerically different. The Word of God, therefore, has a nature in common with God and has it with numerical identity. For this reason the Word of God and the God whose Word He is are not two gods, but one God. For the fact that among us two who have human nature are two men hinges on the fact that human nature is numerically divided in those two. But we showed in Book II that things which are divided in creatures are in God simply one being; thus, in creatures the essence is one thing and the act of being another; and in some creatures even what subsists in the essence is one thing, and its essence or nature another; for this man is neither his humanity nor his act of being. But God is both His essence and His act of being.
13 And although in God these are most truly one, there is still in God whatever belongs to the notion of a subsistent, or of essence, or of being itself: for it is suitable to Him that He should not be in something, in that He is subsistent; that He be what He is, in that He is essence; and that He be in act, by reason of His act of being.
Therefore, since in God the one understanding, the act of understanding, and the intention understood are the same as His own Word, there must most truly be in God that which belongs to the notion of the one understanding, that which belongs to the notion of the act of understanding, and that which belongs to the notion of the intention understood, or word. But in the essence of interior word which is the intention understood there is this: that it proceeds from the one understanding in accord with his act of understanding, since it is, so to say, the intellectual term of the operation.
For, in the act of understanding, the intellect conceives and forms the intention or the essence understood, and this is the interior word. From God, therefore, in His very act of understanding must His Word proceed. The Word of God is, therefore, compared to God understanding (whose Word He is) as to Him from whom He is, for this is essential to a word. Therefore, although in God the one understanding, the act of understanding and the intention understood, or Word, are by essence one, and although for this reason each is necessarily God, there remains the distinction of relation alone, in so far as the Word is related to the one who conceives as to Him from whom He is.
This is why the Evangelist, seeing that he had said: “God was the Word,” to keep one from understanding that all distinction between the Word and God speaking or conceiving the Word was taken away, added this: “This was in the beginning with God”; as though to say: “This Word, whom I have called God, is in a way distinct from God speaking, and so it can be said that He was with God.”
14 Of course, the word interiorly conceived is a kind of account and likeness of the thing understood. Now, a likeness of one thing existing in another is essentially an exemplar if it stands to the other as principle, or it is essentially an image if it is related to that whose likeness it is as to a principle. Now, in our intellect one sees an example of each of these situations.
For, since the likeness of the artefact existing in the mind of the artist is the principle of the operation which constitutes the artefact, the likeness is related to the artefact as an exemplar to that exemplified; but the likeness of a natural thing conceived in our intellect is related to the thing whose likeness it is as to its beginning, for our act of understanding takes its beginning from the senses which are changed by natural things.
Since, of course, God understands both Himself and other things, as was shown in Book I, His act of understanding is the principle of things understood by Him, since they are caused by His intellect and will; but His act of understanding is referred to the intelligible which He Himself is as to a beginning, for this intelligible is identified with the intellect understanding, whose emanation, so to say, is the Word conceived. Therefore, the Word of God must be referred to the other things understood by God as exemplar, and must be referred to God Himself whose Word He is as image. Hence, one reads of the Word of God in Colossians (1:15) that He is “the image of the invisible God.”
15 Now, there is a difference between intellect and sense, for sense grasps a thing in its exterior accidents, which are color, taste, quantity and others of this kind, but intellect enters into what is interior to the thing. And, since every knowledge is perfected by the likeness between the knower and the known, there must be in the sense a likeness of the thing in its sensible accidents, but in the intellect there must be a likeness of the thing understood in its essence.
Therefore, the word conceived in the intellect is the image or the exemplar of the substance of the thing understood. Since, then, the Word of God is the image of God (as we have shown), it is necessarily the image of God in His essence. Hence, we have what the Apostle says, that He is “the figure of the substance of God” (Heb. 1:3).
16 However, things have images of two kinds. For there is an image which does not share the nature with that whose image it is: whether it be its image in respect to the exterior accidents (a bronze statue is the image of a man, yet is not, for all that, a man); or if it be an image in respect of the thing’s substance, for the essence of man in the intellect is not a man.
The reason, as the Philosopher says, is that “it is not the stone which is present in the soul, but the species of the stone.” But the image of a thing which has the same nature with that whose image it is is like the son of a king: in him the image of his father appears and he is the same in nature as his father. Now, it was shown that the Word of God is the image of the speaker in respect of His very essence and that the Word has the very nature in common with the speaker. The conclusion, therefore, is that the Word of God is not only the image, but also the Son. For so to be one’s image as to be of the same nature with him is not discovered in one who cannot be called a son-so long as we are speaking of living things. For that which proceeds from a living thing in the likeness of species is called son. Hence, we read in a Psalm (2:7): “The Lord bath said to Me: You are My Son.”
17 Consideration must, furthermore, be given to this: Since in any nature the procession of the son from the father is natural, from the fact that the Word of God is called the Son of God He must proceed naturally from the Father. This is in agreement with the things said above, as one can perceive from what takes place in our intellect. For our intellect knows some things naturally; thus the first principles of the intelligibles, whose intelligible conceptions—called interior words—naturally exist in the intellect and proceed from it. There are also certain intelligibles which our intellect does not know naturally; rather, it arrives at the knowledge of these by reasoning.
The conceptions of these last do not exist in our intellect naturally, but are sought after by study. Manifestly, however, God understands Himself naturally just as He is naturally. For His act of understanding is His being (as was proved in Book I). Therefore, the Word of God understanding Himself naturally proceeds from Him. And, since the Word of God is of the same nature as God speaking and His likeness, this follows: This natural proceeding is unto a likeness of Him from whom He does proceed with identity of nature. But, this is the essential of true generation in living things: that which is generated proceeds from him who generates as his likeness, and as identified with him in nature.
Therefore, the Word of God is truly begotten by God speaking the Word; and His proceeding can be called “generation” or “birth.” This is why the Psalmist says: “This day have I begotten You” (Ps. 7:7); that is, in eternity which always is present and in which essentially there is neither past nor future. In this way the falsity of what the Arians maintained is clear, that the Father generated the Son by His will. For things which are by will are not natural things.
18 One must also consider that what is generated, so long as it remains in the generator, is said to be “conceived.” But the Word of God is begotten by God in such wise that it does not withdraw from Him, but abides in Him. (This is clear from the above.) Rightly, therefore, the Word of God can be called “conceived” by God. Hence, the Wisdom of God says in Proverbs (8:24): “The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived.”
But there is a difference between the conception of the Word of God and the material conception discovered by us in animals. For the offspring, so long as it is conceived and is inclosed in the womb, does not have its final perfection so as to subsist of itself in a place distinct from the one generating; hence, in the corporeal generation of animals, the conception of the offspring begotten is necessarily one thing and the delivery another; in the latter the offspring begotten is even spatially separated from the generator when it proceeds from the womb.
Now, the Word of God existing in God Himself speaking the Word is perfect, subsists in Himself, and is distinct from God speaking: for one does not look for a local distinction there, but they are distinguished only by a relation as was said. Therefore, in the generation of the Word of God conception and delivery are identified. Therefore, after this saying from the mouth of Wisdom, “I was already conceived,” there is shortly added: “Before the hills I was brought forth” (Prov. 8:24-25).
However, since in corporeal things conception and bearing involve motion, in these things there must be a certain succession: the term of conception is the being of the conceived in the one conceiving, the term of bearing is the being of the one born apart from the parent. Thus, in corporeal things, that which is conceived is necessarily not yet in being and that which is brought forth is in the bearing not distinct from the parent.
Now, the conception and birth of an intelligible word involves neither motion nor succession. Hence, at once it is conceived and it is; at once it is born and is distinct; just as that which is illuminated, at the moment of being illuminated, is illuminated because in illumination there is no succession. Since one discovers this situation in our intelligible word, by so much the more is it proper to the Word of God—not only because the intelligible conception is also birth, but because each of the two exists in eternity in which there can be neither before nor after.
Accordingly, after the saying of Wisdom: “Before the hills I was brought forth,” to keep us from thinking that while He was being brought forth He was not, this is added: “While He was preparing the heavens I was present” (Prov. 8:27). In this way—although in the fleshly generation of animals first a thing is conceived, then it is brought forth, and finally it acquires a presence to the parent at once associated with and distinct from the parent—we can understand that in divine generation all these are simultaneous. For the Word of God is at once conceived, brought forth, and present. And since what is born proceeds from a womb, just as the generation of the Word of God to convey His perfect distinction from the generator is called birth, it is called for a like reason “generation from the womb”; so we read in a Psalm (109:3): “From the womb before the day star I begot You.”
Nevertheless, since the distinction of the Word from the speaker is not the kind which prevents the Word from being in the speaker (as the things said make clear)—just as the distinctness of the Word is conveyed by calling Him “brought forth” or “begotten from the womb”—so, to show that this kind of distinction does not keep the Word from being in the speaker, John (1:8) says that He is “in the bosom of the Father.”
19 One should, of course, note carefully that the fleshly generation of animals is perfected by an active power and by a passive power; and it is from the active power that one is named “father,” and from the passive power that one is named “mother.” 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.
Since, however, the procession of the Word has been said to be in this: that God understands Himself; and the divine act of understanding is not through a passive power, but, so to say, an active one; because the divine intellect is not in potency but is only actual; in the generation of the Word of God the notion of mother does not enter, but only that of father. Hence, the things which belong distinctly to the father or to the mother in fleshly generation, in the generation of the Word are all attributed to the Father by sacred Scripture; for the Father is said not only “to give life to the Son” (cf. John 5:26), but also “to conceive” and to “bring forth.”