Summa Th. I EN Qu.13 a.8

Article: 8 Whether this name "God" is a name of the nature?

Objection: 1. It seems that this name, "God," is not a name of the nature. For Damascene says (De Fide Orth. 1) that "God (Theos) is so called from the (theein) [which means to care of] and to cherish all things; or from the (aithein), that is to burn, for our God is a fire consuming all malice; or from (theasthai), which means to consider all things." But all these names belong to operation. Therefore this name "God" signifies His operation and not His nature.

2. Further, a thing is named by us as we know it. But the divine nature is unknown to us. Therefore this name "God" does not signify the divine nature.

On the contrary Ambrose says (De Fide i) that "God" is a name of the nature.

I answer that Whence a name is imposed, and what the name signifies are not always the same thing. For as we know substance from its properties and operations, so we name substance sometimes for its operation, or its property; e.g. we name the substance of a stone from its act, as for instance that it hurts the foot [loedit pedem]; but still this name is not meant to signify the particular action, but the stone's substance. The things, on the other hand, known to us in themselves, such as heat, cold, whiteness and the like, are not named from other things. Hence as regards such things the meaning of the name and its source are the same.

Because therefore God is not known to us in His nature, but is made known to us from His operations or effects, we name Him from these, as said in Article [1]; hence this name "God" is a name of operation so far as relates to the source of its meaning. For this name is imposed from His universal providence over all things; since all who speak of God intend to name God as exercising providence over all; hence Dionysius says (Div. Nom. ii), "The Deity watches over all with perfect providence and goodness." But taken from this operation, this name "God" is imposed to signify the divine nature.

Reply to Objection: 1. All that Damascene says refers to providence; which is the source of the signification of the name "God."

2. We can name a thing according to the knowledge we have of its nature from its properties and effects. Hence because we can know what stone is in itself from its property, this name "stone" signifies the nature of the stone itself; for it signifies the definition of stone, by which we know what it is, for the idea which the name signifies is the definition, as is said in Metaph. iv. Now from the divine effects we cannot know the divine nature in itself, so as to know what it is; but only by way of eminence, and by way of causality, and of negation as stated above (Question [12], Article [12]). Thus the name "God" signifies the divine nature, for this name was imposed to signify something existing above all things, the principle of all things and removed from all things; for those who name God intend to signify all this.

Article: 9 Whether this name "God" is communicable?

Objection: 1. It seems that this name "God" is communicable. For whosoever shares in the thing signified by a name shares in the name itself. But this name "God" signifies the divine nature, which is communicable to others, according to the words, "He hath given us great [Vulg.: 'most great'] and precious promises, that by these we [Vulg.: 'ye'] may be made partakers of the divine nature" (2P 1,4). Therefore this name "God" can be communicated to others.

2. Further, only proper names are not communicable. Now this name "God" is not a proper, but an appellative noun; which appears from the fact that it has a plural, according to the text, "I have said, You are gods" (Ps 81,6). Therefore this name "God" is communicable.

3. Further, this name "God" comes from operation, as explained. But other names given to God from His operations or effects are communicable; as "good," "wise," and the like. Therefore this name "God" is communicable.

On the contrary It is written: "They gave the incommunicable name to wood and stones" (Sg 14,21), in reference to the divine name. Therefore this name "God" is incommunicable.

I answer that A name is communicable in two ways: properly, and by similitude. It is properly communicable in the sense that its whole signification can be given to many; by similitude it is communicable according to some part of the signification of the name. For instance this name "lion" is properly communicable to all things of the same nature as "lion"; by similitude it is communicable to those who participate in the nature of a lion, as for instance by courage, or strength, and those who thus participate are called lions metaphorically. To know, however, what names are properly communicable, we must consider that every form existing in the singular subject, by which it is individualized, is common to many either in reality, or in idea; as human nature is common to many in reality, and in idea; whereas the nature of the sun is not common to many in reality, but only in idea; for the nature of the sun can be understood as existing in many subjects; and the reason is because the mind understands the nature of every species by abstraction from the singular. Hence to be in one singular subject or in many is outside the idea of the nature of the species. So, given the idea of a species, it can be understood as existing in many. But the singular, from the fact that it is singular, is divided off from all others. Hence every name imposed to signify any singular thing is incommunicable both in reality and idea; for the plurality of this individual thing cannot be; nor can it be conceived in idea. Hence no name signifying any individual thing is properly communicable to many, but only by way of similitude; as for instance a person can be called "Achilles" metaphorically, forasmuch as he may possess something of the properties of Achilles, such as strength. On the other hand, forms which are individualized not by any "suppositum," but by and of themselves, as being subsisting forms, if understood as they are in themselves, could not be communicable either in reality or in idea; but only perhaps by way of similitude, as was said of individuals. Forasmuch as we are unable to understand simple self-subsisting forms as they really are, we understand them as compound things having forms in matter; therefore, as was said in the first article, we give them concrete names signifying a nature existing in some "suppositum." Hence, so far as concerns images, the same rules apply to names we impose to signify the nature of compound things as to names given to us to signify simple subsisting natures.

Since, then, this name "God" is given to signify the divine nature as stated above (Article [8]), and since the divine nature cannot be multiplied as shown above (Question [11], Article [3]), it follows that this name "God" is incommunicable in reality, but communicable in opinion; just in the same way as this name "sun" would be communicable according to the opinion of those who say there are many suns. Therefore, it is written: "You served them who by nature are not gods," (Ga 4,8), and a gloss adds, "Gods not in nature, but in human opinion." Nevertheless this name "God" is communicable, not in its whole signification, but in some part of it by way of similitude; so that those are called gods who share in divinity by likeness, according to the text, "I have said, You are gods" (Ps 81,6).

But if any name were given to signify God not as to His nature but as to His "suppositum," accordingly as He is considered as "this something," that name would be absolutely incommunicable; as, for instance, perhaps the Tetragrammaton among the Hebrew; and this is like giving a name to the sun as signifying this individual thing.

Reply to Objection: 1. The divine nature is only communicable according to the participation of some similitude.

2. This name "God" is an appellative name, and not a proper name, for it signifies the divine nature in the possessor; although God Himself in reality is neither universal nor particular. For names do not follow upon the mode of being in things, but upon the mode of being as it is in our mind. And yet it is incommunicable according to the truth of the thing, as was said above concerning the name "sun."

3. These names "good," "wise," and the like, are imposed from the perfections proceeding from God to creatures; but they do not signify the divine nature, but rather signify the perfections themselves absolutely; and therefore they are in truth communicable to many. But this name "God" is given to God from His own proper operation, which we experience continually, to signify the divine nature.

Article: 10 Whether this name "God" is applied to God univocally by nature, by participation, and according to opinion?

Objection: 1. It seems that this name "God" is applied to God univocally by nature, by participation, and according to opinion. For where a diverse signification exists, there is no contradiction of affirmation and negation; for equivocation prevents contradiction. But a Catholic who says: "An idol is not God," contradicts a pagan who says: "An idol is God." Therefore GOD in both senses is spoken of univocally.

2. Further, as an idol is God in opinion, and not in truth, so the enjoyment of carnal pleasures is called happiness in opinion, and not in truth. But this name "beatitude" is applied univocally to this supposed happiness, and also to true happiness. Therefore also this name "God" is applied univocally to the true God, and to God also in opinion.

3. Further, names are called univocal because they contain one idea. Now when a Catholic says: "There is one God," he understands by the name God an omnipotent being, and one venerated above all; while the heathen understands the same when he says: "An idol is God." Therefore this name "God" is applied univocally to both.

On the contrary The idea in the intellect is the likeness of what is in the thing as is said in Peri Herm. i. But the word "animal" applied to a true animal, and to a picture of one, is equivocal. Therefore this name "God" applied to the true God and to God in opinion is applied equivocally.

Further, No one can signify what he does not know. But the heathen does not know the divine nature. So when he says an idol is God, he does not signify the true Deity. On the other hand, A Catholic signifies the true Deity when he says that there is one God. Therefore this name "God" is not applied univocally, but equivocally to the true God, and to God according to opinion.

I answer that This name "God" in the three aforesaid significations is taken neither univocally nor equivocally, but analogically. This is apparent from this reason: Univocal terms mean absolutely the same thing, but equivocal terms absolutely different; whereas in analogical terms a word taken in one signification must be placed in the definition of the same word taken in other senses; as, for instance, "being" which is applied to "substance" is placed in the definition of being as applied to "accident"; and "healthy" applied to animal is placed in the definition of healthy as applied to urine and medicine. For urine is the sign of health in the animal, and medicine is the cause of health.

The same applies to the question at issue. For this name "God," as signifying the true God, includes the idea of God when it is used to denote God in opinion, or participation. For when we name anyone god by participation, we understand by the name of god some likeness of the true God. Likewise, when we call an idol god, by this name god we understand and signify something which men think is God; thus it is manifest that the name has different meanings, but that one of them is comprised in the other significations. Hence it is manifestly said analogically.

Reply to Objection: 1. The multiplication of names does not depend on the predication of the name, but on the signification: for this name "man," of whomsoever it is predicated, whether truly or falsely, is predicated in one sense. But it would be multiplied if by the name "man" we meant to signify different things; for instance, if one meant to signify by this name "man" what man really is, and another meant to signify by the same name a stone, or something else. Hence it is evident that a Catholic saying that an idol is not God contradicts the pagan asserting that it is God; because each of them uses this name GOD to signify the true God. For when the pagan says an idol is God, he does not use this name as meaning God in opinion, for he would then speak the truth, as also Catholics sometimes use the name in the sense, as in the Psalm, "All the gods of the Gentiles are demons" (Ps 95,5).

The same remark applies to the Second and Third Objections. For these reasons proceed from the different predication of the name, and not from its various significations.

4. The term "animal" applied to a true and a pictured animal is not purely equivocal; for the Philosopher takes equivocal names in a large sense, including analogous names; because also being, which is predicated analogically, is sometimes said to be predicated equivocally of different predicaments.

5. Neither a Catholic nor a pagan knows the very nature of God as it is in itself; but each one knows it according to some idea of causality, or excellence, or remotion (Question [12], Article [12]). So a pagan can take this name "God" in the same way when he says an idol is God, as the Catholic does in saying an idol is not God. But if anyone should be quite ignorant of God altogether, he could not even name Him, unless, perhaps, as we use names the meaning of which we know not.

Article: 11 Whether this name, HE WHO IS, is the most proper name of God?

Objection: 1. It seems that this name HE WHO IS is not the most proper name of God. For this name "God" is an incommunicable name. But this name HE WHO IS, is not an incommunicable name. Therefore this name HE WHO IS is not the most proper name of God.

2. Further, Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iii) that "the name of good excellently manifests all the processions of God." But it especially belongs to God to be the universal principle of all things. Therefore this name "good" is supremely proper to God, and not this name HE WHO IS.

3. Further, every divine name seems to imply relation to creatures, for God is known to us only through creatures. But this name HE WHO IS imports no relation to creatures. Therefore this name HE WHO IS is not the most applicable to God.

On the contrary It is written that when Moses asked, "If they should say to me, What is His name? what shall I say to them?" The Lord answered him, "Thus shalt thou say to them, HE WHO IS hath sent me to you" (Ex 3,13-14). Therefor this name HE WHO IS most properly belongs to God.

I answer that This name HE WHO IS is most properly applied to God, for three reasons:

First, because of its signification. For it does not signify form, but simply existence itself. Hence since the existence of God is His essence itself, which can be said of no other (Question [3], Article [4]), it is clear that among other names this one specially denominates God, for everything is denominated by its form.

Secondly, on account of its universality. For all other names are either less universal, or, if convertible with it, add something above it at least in idea; hence in a certain way they inform and determine it. Now our intellect cannot know the essence of God itself in this life, as it is in itself, but whatever mode it applies in determining what it understands about God, it falls short of the mode of what God is in Himself. Therefore the less determinate the names are, and the more universal and absolute they are, the more properly they are applied to God. Hence Damascene says (De Fide Orth. i) that, "HE WHO IS, is the principal of all names applied to God; for comprehending all in itself, it contains existence itself as an infinite and indeterminate sea of substance." Now by any other name some mode of substance is determined, whereas this name HE WHO IS, determines no mode of being, but is indeterminate to all; and therefore it denominates the "infinite ocean of substance."

Thirdly, from its consignification, for it signifies present existence; and this above all properly applies to God, whose existence knows not past or future, as Augustine says (De Trin. v).

Reply to Objection: 1. This name HE WHO IS is the name of God more properly than this name "God," as regards its source, namely, existence; and as regards the mode of signification and consignification, as said above. But as regards the object intended by the name, this name "God" is more proper, as it is imposed to signify the divine nature; and still more proper is the Tetragrammaton, imposed to signify the substance of God itself, incommunicable and, if one may so speak, singular.

2. This name "good" is the principal name of God in so far as He is a cause, but not absolutely; for existence considered absolutely comes before the idea of cause.

3. It is not necessary that all the divine names should import relation to creatures, but it suffices that they be imposed from some perfections flowing from God to creatures. Among these the first is existence, from which comes this name, HE WHO IS.

Article: 12 Whether affirmative propositions can be formed about God?

Objection: 1. It seems that affirmative propositions cannot be formed about God. For Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. ii) that "negations about God are true; but affirmations are vague."

2. Further, Boethius says (De Trin. ii) that "a simple form cannot be a subject." But God is the most absolutely simple form, as shown (Question [3]): therefore He cannot be a subject. But everything about which an affirmative proposition is made is taken as a subject. Therefore an affirmative proposition cannot be formed about God.

3. Further, every intellect is false which understands a thing otherwise than as it is. But God has existence without any composition as shown above (Question [3], Article [7]). Therefore since every affirmative intellect understands something as compound, it follows that a true affirmative proposition about God cannot be made.

On the contrary What is of faith cannot be false. But some affirmative propositions are of faith; as that God is Three and One; and that He is omnipotent. Therefore true affirmative propositions can be formed about God.

I answer that True affirmative propositions can be formed about God. To prove this we must know that in every true affirmative proposition the predicate and the subject signify in some way the same thing in reality, and different things in idea. And this appears to be the case both in propositions which have an accidental predicate, and in those which have an essential predicate. For it is manifest that "man" and "white" are the same in subject, and different in idea; for the idea of man is one thing, and that of whiteness is another. The same applies when I say, "man is an animal"; since the same thing which is man is truly animal; for in the same "suppositum" there is sensible nature by reason of which he is called animal, and the rational nature by reason of which he is called man; hence here again predicate and subject are the same as to "suppositum," but different as to idea. But in propositions where one same thing is predicated of itself, the same rule in some way applies, inasmuch as the intellect draws to the "suppositum" what it places in the subject; and what it places in the predicate it draws to the nature of the form existing in the "suppositum"; according to the saying that "predicates are to be taken formally, and subjects materially." To this diversity in idea corresponds the plurality of predicate and subject, while the intellect signifies the identity of the thing by the composition itself.

God, however, as considered in Himself, is altogether one and simple, yet our intellect knows Him by different conceptions because it cannot see Him as He is in Himself. Nevertheless, although it understands Him under different conceptions, it knows that one and the same simple object corresponds to its conceptions. Therefore the plurality of predicate and subject represents the plurality of idea; and the intellect represents the unity by composition.

Reply to Objection: 1. Dionysius says that the affirmations about God are vague or, according to another translation, "incongruous," inasmuch as no name can be applied to God according to its mode of signification.

2. Our intellect cannot comprehend simple subsisting forms, as they really are in themselves; but it apprehends them as compound things in which there is something taken as subject and something that is inherent. Therefore it apprehends the simple form as a subject, and attributes something else to it.

3. This proposition, "The intellect understanding anything otherwise than it is, is false," can be taken in two senses, accordingly as this adverb "otherwise" determines the word "understanding" on the part of the thing understood, or on the part of the one who understands. Taken as referring to the thing understood, the proposition is true, and the meaning is: Any intellect which understands that the thing is otherwise than it is, is false. But this does not hold in the present case; because our intellect, when forming a proposition about God, does not affirm that He is composite, but that He is simple. But taken as referring to the one who understands, the proposition is false. For the mode of the intellect in understanding is different from the mode of the thing in its essence. Since it is clear that our intellect understands material things below itself in an immaterial manner; not that it understands them to be immaterial things; but its manner of understanding is immaterial. Likewise, when it understands simple things above itself, it understands them according to its own mode, which is in a composite manner; yet not so as to understand them to be composite things. And thus our intellect is not false in forming composition in its ideas concerning God.


Having considered what belongs to the divine substance, we have now to treat of God's operation. And since one kind of operation is immanent, and another kind of operation proceeds to the exterior effect, we treat first of knowledge and of will (for understanding abides in the intelligent agent, and will is in the one who wills); and afterwards of the power of God, the principle of the divine operation as proceeding to the exterior effect. Now because to understand is a kind of life, after treating of the divine knowledge, we consider truth and falsehood. Further, as everything known is in the knower, and the types of things as existing in the knowledge of God are called ideas, to the consideration of knowledge will be added the treatment of ideas.

Concerning knowledge, there are sixteen points for inquiry:

(1) Whether there is knowledge in God?

(2) Whether God understands Himself?

(3) Whether He comprehends Himself?

(4) Whether His understanding is His substance?

(5) Whether He understands other things besides Himself?

(6) Whether He has a proper knowledge of them?

(7) Whether the knowledge of God is discursive?

(8) Whether the knowledge of God is the cause of things?

(9) Whether God has knowledge of non-existing things?

(10) Whether He has knowledge of evil?

(11) Whether He has knowledge of individual things?

(12) Whether He knows the infinite?

(13) Whether He knows future contingent things?

(14) Whether He knows enunciable things?

(15) Whether the knowledge of God is variable?

(16) Whether God has speculative or practical knowledge of things?

Article: 1 Whether there is knowledge [*Scientia]?

Objection: 1. It seems that in God there is not knowledge. For knowledge is a habit; and habit does not belong to God, since it is the mean between potentiality and act. Therefore knowledge is not in God.

2. Further, since science is about conclusions, it is a kind of knowledge caused by something else which is the knowledge of principles. But nothing is caused in God; therefore science is not in God.

3. Further, all knowledge is universal, or particular. But in God there is no universal or particular (Question [3], Article [5]). Therefore in God there is not knowledge.

On the contrary The Apostle says, "O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God" (Rm 11,33).

I answer that In God there exists the most perfect knowledge. To prove this, we must note that intelligent beings are distinguished from non-intelligent beings in that the latter possess only their own form; whereas the intelligent being is naturally adapted to have also the form of some other thing; for the idea of the thing known is in the knower. Hence it is manifest that the nature of a non-intelligent being is more contracted and limited; whereas the nature of intelligent beings has a greater amplitude and extension; therefore the Philosopher says (De Anima iii) that "the soul is in a sense all things." Now the contraction of the form comes from the matter. Hence, as we have said above (Question [7], Article [1]) forms according as they are the more immaterial, approach more nearly to a kind of infinity. Therefore it is clear that the immateriality of a thing is the reason why it is cognitive; and according to the mode of immateriality is the mode of knowledge. Hence it is said in De Anima ii that plants do not know, because they are wholly material. But sense is cognitive because it can receive images free from matter, and the intellect is still further cognitive, because it is more separated from matter and unmixed, as said in De Anima iii. Since therefore God is in the highest degree of immateriality as stated above (Question [7], Article [1]), it follows that He occupies the highest place in knowledge.

Reply to Objection: 1. Because perfections flowing from God to creatures exist in a higher state in God Himself (Question [4], Article [2]), whenever a name taken from any created perfection is attributed to God, it must be separated in its signification from anything that belongs to that imperfect mode proper to creatures. Hence knowledge is not a quality of God, nor a habit; but substance and pure act.

2. Whatever is divided and multiplied in creatures exists in God simply and unitedly (Question [13], Article [4]). Now man has different kinds of knowledge, according to the different objects of His knowledge. He has "intelligence" as regards the knowledge of principles; he has "science" as regards knowledge of conclusions; he has "wisdom," according as he knows the highest cause; he has "counsel" or "prudence," according as he knows what is to be done. But God knows all these by one simple act of knowledge, as will be shown (Article [7]). Hence the simple knowledge of God can be named by all these names; in such a way, however, that there must be removed from each of them, so far as they enter into divine predication, everything that savors of imperfection; and everything that expresses perfection is to be retained in them. Hence it is said, "With Him is wisdom and strength, He hath counsel and understanding" (Jb 12,13).

3. Knowledge is according to the mode of the one who knows; for the thing known is in the knower according to the mode of the knower. Now since the mode of the divine essence is higher than that of creatures, divine knowledge does not exist in God after the mode of created knowledge, so as to be universal or particular, or habitual, or potential, or existing according to any such mode.

Article: 2 Whether God understands Himself?

Objection: 1. It seems that God does not understand Himself. For it is said by the Philosopher (De Causis), "Every knower who knows his own essence, returns completely to his own essence." But God does not go out from His own essence, nor is He moved at all; thus He cannot return to His own essence. Therefore He does not know His own essence.

2. Further, to understand is a kind of passion and movement, as the Philosopher says (De Anima iii); and knowledge also is a kind of assimilation to the object known; and the thing known is the perfection of the knower. But nothing is moved, or suffers, or is made perfect by itself, "nor," as Hilary says (De Trin. iii), "is a thing its own likeness." Therefore God does not understand Himself.

3. Further, we are like to God chiefly in our intellect, because we are the image of God in our mind, as Augustine says (Gn ad lit. vi). But our intellect understands itself, only as it understands other things, as is said in De Anima iii. Therefore God understands Himself only so far perchance as He understands other things.

On the contrary It is written: "The things that are of God no man knoweth, but the Spirit of God" (1Co 2,11).

I answer that God understands Himself through Himself. In proof whereof it must be known that although in operations which pass to an external effect, the object of the operation, which is taken as the term, exists outside the operator; nevertheless in operations that remain in the operator, the object signified as the term of operation, resides in the operator; and accordingly as it is in the operator, the operation is actual. Hence the Philosopher says (De Anima iii) that "the sensible in act is sense in act, and the intelligible in act is intellect in act." For the reason why we actually feel or know a thing is because our intellect or sense is actually informed by the sensible or intelligible species. And because of this only, it follows that sense or intellect is distinct from the sensible or intelligible object, since both are in potentiality.

Since therefore God has nothing in Him of potentiality, but is pure act, His intellect and its object are altogether the same; so that He neither is without the intelligible species, as is the case with our intellect when it understands potentially; nor does the intelligible species differ from the substance of the divine intellect, as it differs in our intellect when it understands actually; but the intelligible species itself is the divine intellect itself, and thus God understands Himself through Himself.

Reply to Objection: 1. Return to its own essence means only that a thing subsists in itself. Inasmuch as the form perfects the matter by giving it existence, it is in a certain way diffused in it; and it returns to itself inasmuch as it has existence in itself. Therefore those cognitive faculties which are not subsisting, but are the acts of organs, do not know themselves, as in the case of each of the senses; whereas those cognitive faculties which are subsisting, know themselves; hence it is said in De Causis that, "whoever knows his essence returns to it." Now it supremely belongs to God to be self-subsisting. Hence according to this mode of speaking, He supremely returns to His own essence, and knows Himself.

2. Movement and passion are taken equivocally, according as to understand is described as a kind of movement or passion, as stated in De Anima iii. For to understand is not a movement that is an act of something imperfect passing from one to another, but it is an act, existing in the agent itself, of something perfect. Likewise that the intellect is perfected by the intelligible object, i.e. is assimilated to it, this belongs to an intellect which is sometimes in potentiality; because the fact of its being in a state of potentiality makes it differ from the intelligible object and assimilates it thereto through the intelligible species, which is the likeness of the thing understood, and makes it to be perfected thereby, as potentiality is perfected by act. On the other hand, the divine intellect, which is no way in potentiality, is not perfected by the intelligible object, nor is it assimilated thereto, but is its own perfection, and its own intelligible object.

3. Existence in nature does not belong to primary matter, which is a potentiality, unless it is reduced to act by a form. Now our passive intellect has the same relation to intelligible objects as primary matter has to natural things; for it is in potentiality as regards intelligible objects, just as primary matter is to natural things. Hence our passive intellect can be exercised concerning intelligible objects only so far as it is perfected by the intelligible species of something; and in that way it understands itself by an intelligible species, as it understands other things: for it is manifest that by knowing the intelligible object it understands also its own act of understanding, and by this act knows the intellectual faculty. But God is a pure act in the order of existence, as also in the order of intelligible objects; therefore He understands Himself through Himself.

Summa Th. I EN Qu.13 a.8