Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume I/Confessions/Book XI/Chapter 5

Chapter V.—God Created the World Not from Any Certain Matter, But in His Own Word.

7. But how didst Thou make the heaven and the earth, and what was the instrument of Thy so mighty work? For it was not as a human worker fashioning body from body, according to the fancy of his mind, in somewise able to assign a form which it perceives in itself by its inner eye.[1] And whence should he be able to do this, hadst not Thou made that mind? And he assigns to it already existing, and as it were having a being, a form, as clay, or stone, or wood, or gold, or such like. And whence should these things be, hadst not Thou appointed them? Thou didst make for the workman his body,—Thou the mind commanding the limbs,—Thou the matter whereof he makes anything,[2]—Thou the capacity whereby he may apprehend his art, and see within what he may do without,—Thou the sense of his body, by which, as by an interpreter, he may from mind unto matter convey that which he doeth, and report to his mind what may have been done, that it within may consult the truth, presiding over itself, whether it be well done. All these things praise Thee, the Creator of all. But how dost Thou make them? How, O God, didst Thou make heaven and earth? Truly, neither in the heaven nor in the earth didst Thou make heaven and earth; nor in the air, nor in the waters, since these also belong to the heaven and the earth; nor in the whole world didst Thou make the whole world; because there was no place wherein it could be made before it was made, that it might be; nor didst Thou hold anything in Thy hand wherewith to make heaven and earth. For whence couldest Thou have what Thou hadst not made, whereof to make anything? For what is, save because Thou art? Therefore Thou didst speak and they were made,[3] and in Thy Word Thou madest these things.[4]


  1. See x. sec 40, note 6, and sec. 53, above.
  2. That is, the artificer makes, God creates. The creation of matter is distinctively a doctrine of revelation. The ancient philosophers believed in the eternity of matter. As Lucretius puts it (i. 51): “Nullam rem e nihilo gigni divinitus unquam.” See Burton, Bampton Lectures, lect. iii. and notes 18–21, and Mansel, Bampton Lectures, lect. iii. note 12. See also p. 76, note 8, above, for the Manichæan doctrine as to the ὕλη; and The Unseen Universe, arts. 85, 86, 151, and 160, for the modern doctrine of “continuity.” See also Kalisch, Commentary on Gen. i. 1.
  3. Ps. xxxiii. 9.
  4. Ibid. ver. 6.