Origen de principis 1700
1. The subjects considered in the previous chapter have been spoken of in general language, the nature of rational beings being discussed more by way of intelligent inference than strict dogmatic definition, with the exception of the place where we treated, to the best of our ability, of the persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We have now to ascertain what those matters are which it is proper to treat in the following pages according to our dogmatic belief, i.e., in agreement with the creed of the Church. All souls and all rational natures, whether holy or wicked, were formed or created, and all these, according to their proper nature, are incorporeal; but although incorporeal, they were nevertheless created, because all things were made by God through Christ, as John teaches in a general way in his Gospel, saying, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made." The Apostle Paul, moreover, describing created things by species and numbers and orders, speaks as follows, when showing that all things were made through Christ: "And in Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and in Him: and He is before all, and He is the head." He therefore manifestly declares that in Christ and through Christ were all things made and created, whether things visible, which are corporeal, or things invisible, which I regard as none other than incorporeal and spiritual powers. But of those things which he had termed generally corporeal or incorporeal, he seems to me, in the words that follow, to enumerate the various kinds, viz., thrones, dominions, principalities, powers, influences.
These matters now have been previously mentioned by us, as we are desirous to come in an orderly manner to the investigation of the sun, and moon, and stab by way of logical inference, and to ascertain whether they also ought properly to be reckoned among the principalities on account of their being said to be created in 'Arkas, i.e., for the government of day and night; or whether they are to be regarded as having only that government of day and night which they discharge by performing the office of illuminating them, and are not in reality chief of that order of principalities.
2. Now, when it is said that all things were made by Him, and that in Him were all things created, both things in heaven and things on earth, there can be no doubt that also those things which are in the firmament, which is called heaven, and in which those luminaries are said to be placed, are included amongst the number of heavenly things. And secondly, seeing that the course of the discussion has manifestly discovered that all things were made or created, and that amongst created things there is nothing which may not admit of good and evil, and be capable of either, what are we to think of the following opinion which certain of our friends entertain regarding sun, moon, and stars, viz., that they are unchangeable, and incapable of becoming the opposite of what they are? Not a few have held that view even regarding the holy angels, and certain heretics also regarding souls, which they call spiritual natures.
In the first place, then, let us see what reason itself can discover respecting sun, moon, and stars,--whether the opinion, entertained by some, of their unchangeableness be correct,--and let the declarations of holy Scripture, as far as possible, be first adduced. For Job appears to assert that not only may the stars be subject to sin, but even that they are actually not clean from the contagion of it. The following are his words: "The stars also are not clean in Thy sight." Nor is this to be understood of the splendour of their physical substance, as if one were to say, for example, of a garment, that it is not clean; for if such were the meaning, then the accusation of a want of cleanness in the splendour of their bodily substance would imply an injurious reflection upon their Creator. For if they are unable, through their own diligent efforts, either to acquire for themselves a body of greater brightness, or through their sloth to make the one they have less pure, how should they incur censure for being stars that are not clean, if they receive no praise because they are so?
3. But to arrive at a clearer understanding on these matters, we ought first to inquire after this point, whether it is allowable to suppose that they are living and rational beings; then, in the next place, whether their souls came into existence at the same time with their bodies, or seem to be anterior to them; and also whether, after the end of the world, we are to understand that they are to be released from their bodies; and whether, as we cease to live, so they also will cease from illuminating the world. Although this inquiry may seem to be somewhat bold, yet, as we are incited by the desire of ascertaining the truth as far as possible, there seems no absurdity in attempting an investigation of the subject agreeably to the grace of the Holy Spirit.
We think, then, that they may be designated as living beings, for this reason, that they are said to receive commandments from God, which is ordinarily the case only with rational beings. "I have given a commandment to all the stars," says the Lord. What, now, are these commandments? Those, namely, that each star, in its order and course, should bestow upon the world the amount of splendour which has been entrusted to it. For those which are called "planets" move in orbits of one kind, and those which are termed aplaneis are different. Now it manifestly follows from this, that neither can the movement of that body take place without a soul, nor can living things be at any time without motion. And seeing that the stars move with such order and regularity, that their movements never appear to be at any time subject to derangement, would it not be the height of folly to say that so orderly an observance of method and plan could be carried out or accomplished by irrational beings? In the writings of Jeremiah, indeed, the moon is called the queen of heaven. Yet if the stars are living and rational beings, there will undoubtedly appear among them both an advance and a falling back. For the language of Job, "the stars are not dean in His sight," seems to me to convey some such idea.
4. And now we have to ascertain whether those beings which in the course of the discussion we have discovered to possess life and reason, were endowed with a soul along with their bodies at the time mentioned in Scripture, when "God made two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night, and the stars also," or whether their spirit was implanted in them, not at the creation of their bodies, but from without, after they had been already made. I, for my part, suspect that the spirit was implanted in them from without; but it will be worth while to prove this from Scripture: for it will seem an easy matter to make the assertion on conjectural grounds, while it is more difficult to establish it by the testimony of Scripture. Now it may be established conjecturally as follows. If the soul of a man, which is certainly inferior while it remains the soul of a man, was not formed along with his body, but is proved to have been implanted strictly from without, much more must this be the case with those living beings which are called heavenly. For, as regards man, how could the soul of him, viz., Jacob, who supplanted his brother in the womb, appear to be formed along with his body? Or how could his soul, or its images, be formed along with his body, who, while lying in his mother's womb, was filled with the Holy Ghost? I refer to John leaping in his mother's womb, and exulting because the voice of the salutation of Mary had come to the ears of his mother Elisabeth. How could his soul and its images be formed along with his body, who, before he was created in the womb, is said to be known to God, and was sanctified by Him before his birth? Some, perhaps, may think that God fills individuals with His Holy Spirit, and bestows upon them sanctification, not on grounds of justice and according to their deserts; but undeservedly. And how shall we escape that declaration: "Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid!" or this : "Is there respect of persons with God?" For such is the defence of those who maintain that souls come into existence with bodies. So far, then, as we can form an opinion from a comparison with the condition of man, I think it follows that we must hold the same to hold good with heavenly beings, which reason itself and scriptural authority show us to be the case with men.
5. But let us see whether we can find in holy Scripture any indications properly applicable to these heavenly existences. The following is the statement of the Apostle Paul: "The creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." To what vanity, pray, was the creature made subject, or what creature is referred to, or how is it said "not willingly," or "in hope of what?" And in what way is the creature itself to be delivered from the bondage of corruption? Elsewhere, also, the same apostle says: "For the expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God." And again in another passage, "And not only we, but the creation itself groaneth together, and is in pain until now." And hence we have to inquire what are the groanings, and what are the pains. Let us see then, in the first place, what is the vanity to which the creature is subject.
I apprehend that it is nothing else than the body; for although the body of the stars is ethereal, it is nevertheless material. Whence also Solomon appears to characterize the whole of corporeal nature as a kind of burden which enfeebles the vigour of the soul in the following language: "Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher; all is vanity. I have looked, and seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity." To this vanity, then, is the creature subject, that creature especially which, being assuredly the greatest in this world, holds also a distinguished principality of labour, i.e., the sun, and moon, and stars, are said to be subject to vanity, because they are clothed with bodies, and set apart to the office of giving light to the human race. "And this creature," he remarks, "was subjected to vanity not willingly." For it did not undertake a voluntary service to vanity, but because it was the will of Him who made it subject, and because of the promise of the Subjector to those who were reduced to this unwilling obedience, that when the ministry of their great work was performed, they were to be freed from this bondage of corruption and vanity when the time of the glorious redemption of God's children should have arrived. And the whole of creation, receiving this hope, and looking for the fulfilment of this promise now, in the meantime, as having an affection for those whom it serves, groans along with them, and patiently suffers with them, hoping for the fulfilment of the promises. See also whether the following words of Paul can apply to those who, although not willingly, yet in accordance with the will of Him who subjected them, and in hope of the promises, were made subject to vanity, when he says, "For I could wish to be dissolved," or "to return and be with Christ, which is far better." For I think that the sun might say in like manner, "I would desire to be dissolved," or "to return and be with Christ, which is far better." Paul indeed adds, "Nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful for you;" while the sun may say, "To abide in this bright and heavenly body is more necessary, on account of the manifestation of the sons of God." The same views are to be believed and expressed regarding the moon and stars.
Let us see now what is the freedom of the creature, or the termination of its bondage. When Christ shall have delivered up the kingdom to God even the Father, then also those living things, when they shall have first been made the kingdom of Christ, shall be delivered, along with the whole of that kingdom, to the rule of the Father, that when God shall be all in all, they also, since they are a part of all things, may have God in themselves, as He is in all things.
I. A similar method must be followed in treating of the angels; nor are we to suppose that it is the result of accident that a particular office is assigned to a particular angel: as to
Raphael, e.g., the work of curing and healing to Gabriel, the conduct of wars; to Michael, the duty of attending to the prayers and supplications of mortals. For we are not to imagine that they obtained these offices otherwise than by their own merits, and by the zeal and excellent qualities which they severally displayed before this world was formed; so that afterwards in the order of archangels, this or that office was assigned to each one, while others deserved to be enrolled in the order of angels, and to act under this or that archangel, or that leader or head of an order. All of which things were disposed, as I have said, not indiscriminately and fortuitously, but by a most appropriate and just decision of God, who arranged them according to deserts, in accordance with His own approval and judgment: so that to one angel the Church of the Ephesians was to be entrusted; to another, that of the Smyrnaeans; one angel was to be Peter's, another Paul's; and so on through every one of the little ones that are in the Church, for such and such angels as even daily behold the face of God must be assigned to each one of them; and there must also be some angel that encampeth round about them that fear God. All of which things, assuredly, it is to be believed, are not performed by accident or chance, or because they (the angels) were so created, lest on that view the Creator should be accused of partiality; but it is to be believed that they were conferred by God, the just and impartial Ruler of all things, agreeably to the merits and good qualities and mental vigour of each individual spirit.
2. And now let us say something regarding those who maintain the existence of a diversity of spiritual natures, that we may avoid falling into the silly and impious fables of such as pretend that there is a diversity of spiritual natures both among heavenly existences and human souls, and for that reason allege that they were called into being by different creators; for while it seems, and is really, absurd that to one and the same Creator should be ascribed the creation of different natures of rational beings, they are nevertheless ignorant of the cause of that diversity. For they say that it seems inconsistent for one and the same Creator, without any existing ground of merit, to confer upon some beings the power of dominion, and to subject others again to authority; to bestow a principality upon some, and to render others subordinate to rulers. Which opinions indeed, in my judgment, are completely rejected by following out the reasoning explained above, and by which it was shown that the cause of the diversity and variety among these beings is due to their conduct, which has been marked either with greater earnestness or indifference, according to the goodness or badness of their nature, and not to any partiality on the part of the Disposer. But that this may more easily be shown to be the case with heavenly beings, let us borrow an illustration from what either has been done or is done among men, in order that from visible things we may, by way of consequence, behold also things invisible.
Paul and Peter are undoubtedly proved to have been men of a spiritual nature. When, therefore, Paul is found to have acted contrary to religion, in having persecuted the Church of God, and Peter to have committed so grave a sin as, when questioned by the maid-servant, to have asserted with an oath that he did not know who Christ was, how is it possible that these-who, according to those persons of whom we speak, were spiritual beings--should fall into sins of such a nature, especially as they are frequently in the habit of saying that a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruits? And if a good tree cannot produce evil fruit, and as, according to them, Peter and Paul were sprung from the root of a good tree, how should they be deemed to have brought forth fruits so wicked? And if they should return the answer which is generally invented, that it was not Paul who persecuted, but some other person, I know not whom, who was in Paul; and that it was not Peter who uttered the denial, but some other individual in him; how should Paul say, if he had not sinned, that "I am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God? " Or why did Peter weep most bitterly, if it were another than he who sinned? From which all their silly assertions will be proved to be baseless.
3. According to our view, there is no rational creature which is not capable both of good and evil. But it does not follow, that because we say there is no nature which may not admit evil, we therefore maintain that every nature has admitted evil, i.e., has become wicked. As we may say that the nature of every man admits of his being a sailor, but it does not follow from that, that every man will become so; or, again, it is possible for every one to learn grammar or medicine, but it is not therefore proved that every man is either a physician or a grammarian; so, if we say that there is no nature which may not admit evil, it is not necessarily indicated that it has done so. For, in our view, not even the devil himself was incapable of good; but although capable of admitting good, he did not therefore also desire it, or make any effort after virtue.
For, as we are taught by those quotations which we adduced from the prophets, there was once a time when he was good, when he walked in the paradise of God between the cherubim. As he, then, possessed the power either of receiving good or evil, but fell away from a virtuous course, and turned to evil with all the powers of his mind, so also other creatures, as having a capacity for either condition, in the exercise of the freedom of their will, flee from evil, and cleave to good. There is no nature, then, which may not admit of good or evil, except the nature of God--the fountain of all good things--and of Christ; for it is wisdom, and wisdom assuredly cannot admit folly; and it is righteousness, and righteousness will never certainly admit of unrighteousness; and it is the Word, or Reason, which certainly cannot be made irrational; nay, it is also the light, and it is certain that the darkness does not receive the light. In like manner, also, the nature of the Holy Spirit, being holy, does not admit of pollution; for it is holy by nature, or essential being. If there is any other nature which is holy, it possesses this property of being made holy by the reception or inspiration of the Holy Spirit, not having it by nature, but as an accidental quality, for which reason it may be lost, in consequence of being accidental. So also a man may possess an accidental righteousness, from which it is possible for him to fall away. Even the wisdom which a man has is still accidental, although it be within our own power to become wise, if we devote ourselves to wisdom with the zeal and effort of our life; and if we always pursue the study of it, we may always be participators of wisdom: and that result will follow either in a greater or less degree, according to the desert of our life or the amount of our zeal. For the goodness of God, as is worthy of Him, incites and attracts all to that blissful end, where all pain, and sadness, and sorrow fall away and disappear.
4. I am of opinion, then, so far as appears to me, that the preceding discussion has sufficiently proved that it is neither from want of discrimination, nor from any accidental cause, either that the "principalities" hold their dominion, or the other orders of spirits have obtained their respective offices; but that they have received the steps of their rank on account of their merits, although it is not our privilege to know or inquire what those acts of theirs were, by which they earned a place in any particular order. It is sufficient only to know this much, in order to demonstrate the impartiality and righteousness of God, that, conformably with the declaration of the Apostle Paul, "there is no acceptance of persons with Him," who rather disposes everything according to the deserts and moral progress of each individual, So, then, the angelic office does not exist except as a consequence of their desert; nor do "powers" exercise power except in virtue of their moral progress; nor do those which are called "seats" i.e., the powers of judging and ruling, administer their powers unless by merit; nor do "dominions" rule undeservedly, for that great and distinguished order of rational creatures among celestial existences is arranged in a glorious variety of offices. And the same view is to be entertained of those opposing influences which have given themselves up to such places and offices, that they derive the property by which they are made "principalities," or "powers," or rulers of the darkness of the world, or spirits of wickedness, or malignant spirits, or unclean demons, not from their essential nature, nor from their being so created, but have obtained these degrees in evil in proportion to their conduct, and the progress which they made in wickedness. And that is a second order of rational creatures, who have devoted themselves to wickedness in so headlong a course, that they are unwilling rather than unable to recall themselves; the thirst for evil being already a passion, and imparting to them pleasure. But the third order of rational creatures is that of those who are judged fit by God to replenish the human race, i.e., the souls of men, assumed in consequence of their moral progress into the order of angels; of whom we see some assumed into the number: those, viz., who have been made the sons of God, or the children of the resurrection, or who have abandoned the darkness, and have loved the light, and have been made children of the light; or those who, proving victorious in every struggle, and being made men of peace, have been the sons of peace, and the sons of God; or those who, mortifying their members on the earth, and, rising above not only their corporeal nature, but even the uncertain and fragile movements of the soul itself, have united themselves to the Lord, being made altogether spiritual, that they may be for ever one spirit with Him, discerning along with Him each individual thing, until they arrive at a condition of perfect spirituality, and discern all things by their perfect illumination in all holiness through the word and wisdom of God, and are themselves altogether undistinguishable by any one.
We think that those views are by no means to be admitted, which some are wont unnecessarily to advance and maintain, viz., that souls descend to such a pitch of abasement that they forget their rational nature and dignity, and sink into the condition of irrational animals, either large or small; and in support of these assertions they generally quote some pretended statements of Scripture, such as, that a beast, to which a woman has unnaturally prostituted herself, shall be deemed equally guilty with the woman, and shall be ordered to be stoned; or that a bull which strikes with its horn, shall be put to death in the same way; or even the speaking of Balaam's ass, when God opened its mouth, and the dumb beast of burden, answering with human voice, reproved the madness of the prophet. All of which assertions we not only do not receive, but, as being contrary to our belief, we refute and reject. After the refutation and rejection of such perverse opinions, we shall show, at the proper time and place, how those passages which they quote from the sacred Scriptures ought to be understood.
FRAGMENT FROM THE FIRST BOOK OF THE DE PRINCIPIIS.
Translated by Jerome in his Epistle to Avitus.
"It is an evidence of great negligence and sloth, that each one should fall down to such (a pitch of degradation), and be so emptied, as that, in coming to evil, he may be fastened to the gross body of irrational beasts of burden."
ANOTHER FRAGMENT FROM THE SAME.
Translated in the same Epistle to Avitus.
"At the end and consummation of the world, when souls and rational creatures shall have been sent forth as from bolts and barriers? some of them walk slowly on account of their slothful habits, others fly with rapid flight on account of their diligence. And since all are possessed of free-will, and may of their own accord admit either of good or evil, the former will be in a worse condition than they are at present, while the latter will advance to a better state of things; because different conduct and varying wills will admit of a different condition in either direction, i.e., angels may become men or demons, and again from the latter they may rise to be men or angels."
1. Although all the discussions in the preceding book have had reference to the world and its arrangements, it now seems to follow mat we should specially re-discuss a few points respecting the world itself, i.e., its beginning and end, or those dispensations of Divine Providence which have taken place between the beginning and the end, or those events which are supposed to have occurred before the creation of the world, or are to take place after the end.
In this investigation, the first point which clearly appears is, that the world in all its diversified and varying conditions is composed not only of rational and diviner natures, and of a diversity of bodies, but of dumb animals, wild and tame beasts, of birds, and of all things which live in the waters; then, secondly, of places, i.e., of the heaven or heavens, and of the earth or water, as well as of the air, which is intermediate, and which they term aether, and of everything which proceeds from the earth or is born in it. Seeing, then, there is so great a variety in the world, and so great a diversity among rational beings themselves, on account of which every other variety and diversity also is supposed to have come into existence, what other cause than this ought to be assigned for the existence of the world, especially if we have regard to that end by means of which it was shown in the preceding book that all things are to be restored to their original condition?
And if this should seem to be logically stated, what other cause, as we have already said, are we to imagine for so great a diversity in the world, save the diversity and variety in the movements and declensions of those who fell from that primeval unity and harmony in which they were at first created by God, and who, being driven from that state of goodness, and drawn in various directions by the harassing influence of different motives and desires, have changed, according to their different tendencies, the single and undivided goodness of their nature into minds of various sorts?
2. But God, by the ineffable skill of His wisdom, transforming and restoring all things, in whatever manner they are made, to some useful aim, and to the common advantage of all, recalls those very creatures which differed so much from each other in mental conformation to one agreement of labour and purpose; so that, although they are under the influence of different motives, they nevertheless complete the fulness and perfection of one world, and the very variety of minds tends to one end of perfection. For it is one power which grasps and holds together all the diversity of the world, and leads the different movements towards one work, lest so immense an undertaking as that of the world should be dissolved by the dissensions of souls. And for this reason we think that God, the Father of all things, in order to ensure the salvation of all His creatures through the ineffable plan of His word and wisdom, so arranged each of these, that every spirit, whether soul or rational existence, however called, should not be compelled by force, against the liberty of his own will, to any other course than that to which the motives of his own mind led him (lest by so doing the power of exercising free-will should seem to be taken away, which certainly would produce a change in the nature of the being itself); and that the varying purposes of these would be suitably and usefully adapted to the harmony of one world, by some of them requiring help, and others being able to give it, and others again being the cause of struggle and contest to those who are making progress, amongst whom their diligence would be deemed more worthy of approval, and the place of rank obtained after victory be held with greater certainty, which should be established by the difficulties of the contest.
3. Although the whole world is arranged into offices of different kinds, its condition, nevertheless, is not to be supposed as one of internal discrepancies and discordances; but as our one body is provided with many members, and is held together by one soul, so I am of opinion that the whole world also ought to be regarded as some huge and immense animal, which is kept together by the power and reason of God as by one soul. This also, I think, is indicated in sacred Scripture by the declaration of the prophet, "Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord;" and again, "The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool;" and by the Saviour's words, when He says that we are to swear "neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool:" To the same effect also are the words of Paul, in his address to the Athenians, when he says, "In Him we live, and move, and have our being." For how do we live, and move, and have our being in God, except by His comprehending and holding together the whole world by His power? And how is heaven the throne of God, and the earth His footstool, as the Saviour Himself declares, save by His power filling all things both in heaven and earth, according to the Lord's own words? And that God, the Father of all things, fills and holds together the world with the fulness of His power, according to those passages which we have quoted, no one, I think, will have any difficulty in admitting. And now, since the course of the preceding discussion has shown that the different movements of rational beings, and their varying opinions, have brought about the diversity that is in the world, we must see whether it may not be appropriate that this world should have a termination like its beginning. For there is no doubt that its end must be sought amid much diversity and variety; which variety, being found to exist in the termination of the world, will again furnish ground and occasion for the diversities of the other world which is to succeed the present.
4. If now, in the course of our discussion, it has been ascertained that these things are so, it seems to follow that we next consider the nature of corporeal being, seeing the diversity in the world cannot exist without bodies. It is evident from the nature of things themselves, that bodily nature admits of diversity and variety of change, so that it is capable of undergoing all possible transformations, as, e.g., the conversion of wood into fire, of fire into smoke, of smoke into air, of oil into fire. Does not food itself, whether of man or of animals, exhibit the same ground of change? For whatever we take as food, is converted into the substance of our body. But how water is changed into earth or into air, and air again into fire, or fire into air, or air into water, although not difficult to explain, yet on the present occasion it is enough merely to mention them, as our object is to discuss the nature of bodily matter. By matter, therefore, we understand that which is placed under bodies, viz., that by which, through the bestowing and implanting of qualities, bodies exist; and we mention four qualities--heat, cold, dryness, humidity. These four qualities being implanted in the ulh, or matter (for matter is found to exist in its own nature without those qualities before mentioned), produce the different kinds of bodies. Although this matter is, as we have said above, according to its own proper nature without qualities, it is never found to exist without a quality. And I cannot understand how so many distinguished men have been of opinion that this matter, which is so great, and possesses such properties as to enable it to be sufficient for all the bodies in the world which God willed to exist, and to be the attendant and slave of the Creator for whatever forms and species He wished in all things, receiving into itself whatever qualities He desired to bestow upon it, was uncreated, i.e., not formed by God Himself, who is the Creator of all things, but that its nature and power were the result of chance. And I am astonished that they should find fault with those who deny either God's creative power or His providential administration of the world, and accuse them of impiety for thinking that so great a work as the world could exist without an architect or overseer; while they themselves incur a similar charge of impiety in saying that matter is uncreated, and co-eternal with the uncreated God. According to this view, then, if we suppose for the sake of argument that matter did not exist, as these maintain, saying that God could not create anything when nothing existed, without doubt He would have been idle, not having matter on which to operate, which matter they say was furnished Him not by His own arrangement, but by accident; and they think that this, which was discovered by chance, was able to suffice Him for an undertaking of so vast an extent, and for the manifestation of the power of His might, and by admitting the plan of all His wisdom, might be distinguished and formed into a world. Now this appears to me to be very absurd, and to be the opinion of those men who are altogether ignorant of the power and intelligence of un-crested nature. But that we may see the nature of things a little more clearly, let it be granted that for a little time matter did not exist, and that God, when nothing formerly existed, caused those things to come into existence which He desired, why are we to suppose that God would create matter either better or greater, or of another kind, than that which He did produce from His own power and wisdom, in order that that might exist which formerly did not? Would He cream a worse and inferior matter, or one the same as that which they call uncreated? Now I think it will very easily appear to any one, that neither a better nor inferior matter could have assumed the forms and species of the world, if it had not been such as that which actually did assume them. And does it not then seem impious to call that uncreated, which, if believed to be formed by God, would doubtless be found to be such as that which they call uncreated?
5. But that we may believe on the authority of holy Scripture that such is the case, hear how in the book of Maccabees, where the mother of seven martyrs exhorts her son to endure torture, this truth is confirmed; for she says, "I ask of thee, my son, to look at the heaven and the earth, and at all things which are in them, and beholding these, to know that God made all these things when they did not exist." In the book of the Shepherd also, in the first commandment, he speaks as follows: "First of all believe that there is one God who created and arranged all things, and made all things to come into existence, and out of a state of nothingness." Perhaps also the expression in the Psalms has reference to this: "He spake, and they were made; He commanded, and they were created." For the words, "He spake, and they were made," appear to show that the substance of those things which exist is meant; while the others, "He commanded, and they were created," seem spoken of the qualities by which the substance itself has been moulded.
Origen de principis 1700