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386On the Making of Man.


Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, to his brother Peter, the servant of God.

If we had to honour with rewards of money those who excel in virtue, the whole world of money, as Solomon says15871587    Prov. xvii. 6 (LXX.). The clause is not found in the English version., would seem but small to be made equal to your virtue in the balance. Since, however, the debt of gratitude due to your Reverence is greater than can be valued in money, and the holy Eastertide demands the accustomed gift of love, we offer to your greatness of mind, O man of God, a gift too small indeed to be worthy of presentation to you, yet not falling short of the extent of our power. The gift is a discourse, like a mean garment, woven not without toil from our poor wit, and the subject of the discourse, while it will perhaps be generally thought audacious, yet seemed not unfitting. For he alone has worthily considered the creation of God who truly was created after God, and whose soul was fashioned in the image of Him Who created him,—Basil, our common father and teacher,—who by his own speculation made the sublime ordering of the universe generally intelligible, making the world as established by God in the true Wisdom known to those who by means of his understanding are led to such contemplation: but we, who fall short even of worthily admiring him, yet intend to add to the great writer’s speculations that which is lacking in them, not so as to interpolate his work by insertion15881588    Reading (with Forbes’ marginal note), ὑποβολῆς (for it is not to be thought of that that lofty mouth should suffer the insult of being given as authority for our discourses), but so that the glory of the teacher may not seem to be failing among his disciples.

For if, the consideration of man being lacking in his Hexaëmeron, none of those who had been his disciples contributed any earnest effort to supply the defect, the scoffer would perhaps have had a handle against his great fame, on the ground that he had not cared to produce in his hearers any habit of intelligence. But now that we venture according to our powers upon the exposition of what was lacking, if anything should be found in our work such as to be not unworthy of his teaching, it will surely be referred to our teacher: while if our discourse does not reach the height of his sublime speculation, he will be free from this charge and escape the blame of seeming not to wish that his disciples should have any skill at all, though we perhaps may be answerable to our censurers as being unable to contain in the littleness of our heart the wisdom of our instructor.

The scope of our proposed enquiry is not small: it is second to none of the wonders of the world,—perhaps even greater than any of those known to us, because no other existing thing, save the human creation, has been made like to God: thus we shall readily find that allowance will be made for what we say by kindly readers, even if our discourse is far behind the merits of the subject. For it is our business, I suppose, to leave nothing unexamined of all that concerns man,—of what we believe to have taken place previously, of what we now see, and of the results which are expected afterwards to appear (for surely our effort would be convicted of failing of its promise, if, when man is proposed for contemplation, any of the questions which bear upon the subject were to be omitted); and, moreover, we must fit together, according to the explanation of Scripture and to that derived from reasoning, those statements concerning him which seem, by a kind of necessary sequence, to be opposed, so that our whole subject may be consistent in train of thought and in order, as the statements that seem to be contrary are brought (if the Divine power so discovers a hope for what is beyond hope, and a way for what is inextricable) to one and the same end: and for clearness’ sake I think it well to set forth to you the discourse by chapters, that you may be able briefly to know the force of the several arguments of the whole work.

1. Wherein is a partial inquiry into the nature of the world, and a more minute exposition of the things which preceded the genesis of man.

3872. Why man appeared last, after the creation.

3. That the nature of man is more precious than all the visible creation.

4. That the construction of man throughout signifies his ruling power.

5. That man is a likeness of the Divine sovereignty.

6. An examination of the kindred of mind to nature: wherein by way of digression is refuted the doctrine of the Anomœans.

7. Why man is destitute of natural weapons and covering.

8. Why man’s form is upright, and that hands were given him because of reason; wherein also is a speculation on the difference of souls.

9. That the form of man was framed to serve as an instrument for the use of reason.

10. That the mind works by means of the senses.

11. That the nature of mind is invisible.

12. An examination of the question where the ruling principle is to be considered to reside; wherein also is a discussion of tears and laughter, and a physiological speculation as to the interrelation of matter, nature, and mind.

13. A rationale of sleep, of yawning, and of dreams.

14. That the mind is not in a part of the body; wherein also is a distinction of the movements of the body and of the soul.

15. That the soul proper, in fact and name, is the rational soul, while the others are called so equivocally: wherein also is this statement, that the power of the mind extends throughout the whole body in fitting contact with every part.

16. A contemplation of the Divine utterance which said,—“Let us make man after our image and likeness;” wherein is examined what is the definition of the image, and how the passible and mortal is like to the Blessed and Impassible, and how in the image there are male and female, seeing these are not in the Prototype.

17. What we must answer to those who raise the question—“If procreation is after sin, how would souls have come into being if the first of mankind had remained sinless?”

18. That our irrational passions have their rise from kindred with irrational nature.

19. To those who say that the enjoyment of the good things we look for will again consist in meat and drink, because it is written that by these means man at first lived in Paradise.

20. What was the life in Paradise, and what was the forbidden tree.

21. That the resurrection is looked for as a consequence, not so much from the declaration of Scripture as from the very necessity of things.

22. To those who say, “If the resurrection is a thing excellent and good, how is it that it has not happened already, but is hoped for in some periods of time?”

23. That he who confesses the beginning of the world’s existence must necessarily agree also as to its end.

24. An argument against those who say that matter is co-eternal with God.

25. How one even of those who are without may be brought to believe the Scripture when teaching of the resurrection.

26. That the resurrection is not beyond probability.

27. That it is possible, when the human body is dissolved into the elements of the universe, that each should have his own body restored from the common source.

28. To those who say that souls existed before bodies, or that bodies were formed before souls: wherein there is also a refutation of the fables concerning transmigrations of souls.

29. An establishment of the doctrine that the cause of existence of soul and body is one and the same.

30. A brief consideration of the construction of our bodies from a medical point of view.

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