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De Moor VIII:19: The Time of Creation, Part 1

All this production was made at the Beginning of Time.  That the World was made in Time, is not to be taken ἀκριβῶς/strictly, as if there were a Time before the World, in which it was created:  but that expression is to be understood popularly, so that it might be set in opposition to Eternity, and indicate nothing other than that the World is not eternal, but received the beginning of its duration in such a way that before that moment nothing else is conceived to be, except mere Eternity.  But, Time was verily Concreated with things; it thence began to flow from the first production of a created thing, so that, properly speaking, the World was produced, not so much in, as with, Time; that is, together with Time.  Therefore, it is impossible, to conceive of the Creature without Time, or to conceive of Time without the World or Creature:  similarly, as a body is not able to be without extension, motion without a thing moved, a mode of subsistence without an essence subsisting:  so Time, as the successive duration of the Creatures is the mode of their existence and subsistence, flowing continually, finite, mutable:  see Chapter IV, § 33.

Now, before that Beginning of Time, coeval with the first Creation of the World, nothing existed except the eternal God.  And indeed, whatever is, is either God or the Creature; the former is eternal, the latter temporal.  But the Scripture fixes the Beginning of the Duration of Creatures to that beginning, in which God created the heaven and the earth; so that it, on its way to a delineation of the Eternity of God, says that He was already before this World was created.

The Jews appear to disagree, when they relate that these Seven things were Created before the Worldthe Law, Gehenna, Paradise, the Throne of Glory, the House of the Sanctuary, Repentance, and the Name of Messiah:  which is asserted in the Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer,[1] chapter III.  Other passages from the writings of the Jews, in which the same Tradition is found, are cited by the Most Learned LETH in his Disseratione found in Thesis I Dissertationum in Vetus Testamentum, thesis IX, page 603.  But, 1.  if these things are properly understood, they are clearly false; but also in this way the Jews contradict themselves, who in the same Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, in the Subheadings in the same chapter III, say: עד שלא נברא העולם הקבה״ היה ושמו בלבד׃, before the World was created, the blessed God was alone and His Name.  Now, the Name of God they make to be the same as God, whence that saying, שמו הוא והוא שמו, His name is He, and He is His name:  or they understand by the Name of God His Knowledge and infinite Power, as it is in Menasseh,[2] problem III de Creatione.  Not even this is able to be reconciled with the other assertion concerning the creation of Hell on the Second Day, of which we also made mention above, and which, handed down by various among them, and proven in some manner, even if trifling, see in SPANHEIM, Elencho Controversiarum, opera, tome 3, column 957; and in VOSSIUS, de Idololatria, book II, chapter LXVII, opera, tome 5, page 244.  2.  And so perhaps that saying concerning the Seven things Created before the World is to be understood improperly, for example, concerning the Decree of God, whereby He determined from eternity the futurition of these things pre-eminently, in which sense the same is explained by many among the Jews themselves:  compare CALOVIUS, Bibliis Illustratis, on Genesis 1:1, page 215b; BUXTORF, Dissertatione de Decalogo, § 16; MAJUS, Synopsi Theologiæ Judaicæ, locus IV, § 5; and especially À LENT, de moderna Theologia Judaica, chapter VI, § 3, 5; HOORNBEECK, contra Judæos, book IV, chapter I, page 300, where he also writes, “But how they might reconcile with those, what Rabbi Eliezer says…that seven things were created before the World was created, etc., let them look to it.  I believe that they are going to have recourse to allegory.”

Now, as it is indubitable, says our AUTHOR, that God was able to create the World More Swiftly.  Before the Creation of the World there was only Eternity, which is without all former and latter, all swifter and slower, since these are notes of time, not obtaining in eternity, and so the World was not able to be created More Swiftly with respect to Eternity itself:  but it was able to be created More Swiftly with respect the following Duration of the World itself, so that the Duration of the World from its beginning to this time could have been of far more ages than it in fact was.  As a matter of fact, why might not, with the position of the heavenly bodies (as we take the measure of time from them, so also the determination of a longer or shorter duration) existing as it does today, this Sun from its beginning, if it had seemed good to God, have been able to have completed, not six thousand revolutions, but a hundred thousand, through the Zodiac?  Certainly this is not able to be denied, if we acknowledge God as the Independent and Indifferently Free Cause of Creation; and if at the same time we truly believe that the World was not from eternity, since only that which is eternal excludes what is swifter and slower.  Yet from this does not result an argument for the possible Eternity of the World:  for, no consequence is able to be drawn from a longer finite and limited duration to an eternal and infinite duration:  see MARESIUS’ Tetradecadem Assertionum Theologicarum, § II, in Sylloge Dissertationum, pages 229, 230; LULOFS, ad Buddeum de Atheismo et Superstitione, chapter VI, § 3 (246), pages 333-335.

So we deny the Possible Eternity of Creation.  Although various among the Scholastics assert that there was Newness to the World by reason of Creation, like Bonaventure, Albert the Great,[3] and others; a great many of them fight for the possible Eternity of the World, as does Thomas in his Summa Theologica, part I, question XLVI, article I, Cajetan, Durandus, etc., who in this manner, appearing to assert the Eternity of the World, are going to excuse the error of ARISTOTLE.  For, while some among the Gentile Philosophers were thinking the World eternal only with respect to Matter, others were of the opinion that it was eternal with respect to both Matter and Form, without beginning, without dissolution; such were those of the Chaldeans in DIODORUS SICULUS’ Bibliothecam Historiam, book II, chapter XXX, who were asserting τὴν τοῦ κόσμου φύσιν ἀΐδιον, the eternal nature of the world, καὶ μήτε ἐξ ἀρχῆς γένεσιν ἐσχηκέναι, μήθ᾽ ὕστερον φθορὰν ἐπιδέξεσθαι, and that it neither had its genesis from a beginning, nor admitted a dissolution later.  Unless thus with a number of Gentile Philosophers they wished to assert only the eternal Matter of World, to which then the Form was added through divine Providence, according to that which follows, τήν δε τῶν ὅλων τάξιν τὲ καὶ διακόσμησιν θείᾳ τινὶ προνοίᾳ γεγονέναι, that the arrangement and ordering of all things came to pass by some divine forethought:  with those things brought in for comparison which the Philosopher ATTICUS[4] relates concerning Plato’s opinion in EUSEBIUS’ Præparatione Euangelica, book XV, chapter VI, page 801.  In any event, with those that maintain that the Form of the World, no less than the Matter, was eternal is enumerated, among others, ARISTOTLE, both by LACTANTIUS, book VII divinarum Institutionum, chapter I, and by the Gentiles themselves, for example, by ATTICUS the Platonist in EUSEBIUS’ Præparatione Euangelica, book XV, chapter VI, and CICERO in Lucullo or Academicis Quæstionibus, book II, chapter XXXVIII, and Tusculanis Quæstionibus, book I, chapter XXIX, etc.  Neither does ARISTOTLE conceal it, who in book I de Cœlo, chapter X, assails the opinion both of those that assign a beginning and end to the World, and of the others that, denying an end of duration to the World, nevertheless admit it Beginning:  compare BUDDEUS, explaining the opinion of Aristotle in his Thesibus de Atheismo et Superstitione, chapter I, § 15, chapter II, § 10, and Institutionibus Theologiæ dogmaticæ, tome I, book III, chapter II, § 35, pages 869, 870, likewise Historia ecclesiastica Veteris Testamenti, period II, section VI, § 13, tome 2, page 868a:  and there were a number cited above, § 4, upon this matter.  But however the matter stands concerning the opinion of Aristotle, we ourselves do not admit even the Possibility of the Eternity of the created World, whence the actual Eternity of Creation falls of itself.

More specifically, whoever posits the Eternity of Creation, asserts the Coexistence from eternity of the thing created and the God creating.  But, α.  Eternity is a perfection, not at all compatible with that imperfect duration that is proper to creatures, namely, successive and finite duration; since what is eternal, the same is also necessary and independent; and what is infinite in duration, the same is infinite in perfection:  all which are not able to be reconciled with creatures’ perfection, finite in every regard.  β.  An Eternal Creation also draws with itself an eternal, and therefore actually infinite, series of subordinate causes, which is absurd.  γ.  The very notion of Creation then indicates, that an eternal Creation expresses a contradiction in the adjective.  And Creation does indeed cause the Creature to pass from non-being to being, and so the non-being of the Creature precedes its being:  but concerning what it is able to be said, that, before it was, it was not, concerning the same eternal Existence is not able to be affirmed.  Among the Papists Augustinus Eugubinus[5] wrote truly, Cosmopœia, page 6:  That the World is not eternal, and that nothing is able to be eternal but God, is made manifest and irrefutable by the concurrence of all arguments.  Therefore, by all arguments it is evident, that the World was not, nor was able to be, from eternity:  which he strives to prove at length, pages 6-14.  For the shattering of the Eternity of the World, consult carefully SPANHEIM’S tractate, which is called l’Athée convaincu en 4 Sermons sur Psalm 14:1, Sermon IV, pages 282-322, the argument of which extract see above, Chapter IV, § 10.  Against the World’s possible eternal Creation or Creation from eternity, let REIMARUS also be considered, over de voornaamste Waarheden van den natuurlichen Godtsdienst, Essay 3, § 8, pages 152-156; BUDDEUS, de Atheismo et Superstitione, and LULOFS, Annotationibus upon the same, chapter VI, § 3, pages 329-336; LODEWIJK MEYER, Dissertatione, on § 4, XVIII, now also cited, § 28, pages 43-45.

Neither does this argue any Defect in the Power of God, as if He, being Omnipotent from eternity, were also able to create the World from eternity.  The Power was indeed present to God from eternity, whereby He created the World in His time, yet an eternal World is not able to be said to be the object of divine Power.  Therefore, from eternity it was possible for God to create the World:  but it was not possible for God to create the World from eternity; no more than it is able to be said to be possible for God to create a Creature, which is at the same time the Creator.  For, since God by Creation gives existence to the Creature, it is obliged to exist agreeably with its own nature, that is, with duration, as much successive as having a beginning.

That repugnance, which I said to be involved in the Eternity of the act of Creation, is not removed by the dissimilar example of the Generation of the Son, which we certainly acknowledge to be Eternal.  But the Generation of the Son of God is an internal act of God ad intra, which renders the Son ὁμοουσίον/Homoousios/Consubstantial with the Father through the communication of the numerically same divine Essence:  but Creation is a transient act outside of God unto Creatures by the production of natures altogether different from His own.

Neither does any consequence follows from the eternity of the Divine Decree to the Possibility of an eternal Creation; since the Decree is an Immanent act, of itself constituting nothing eternal diverse from God; which sort of thing an eternal Creation would actually constitute.

Since these things are so, it appears strange, that the Most Illustrious BURMAN, Synopsi Theologiæ, book I, chapter XLI, § 24, affirms, that he thinks that those asserting the Possibile Eternity of the World to are hardly refuted:  and the Most Illustrious BUDDEUS, Philosophiæ Theoreticæ, part V, chapter VII, § 1-3, pages 317, 318, asserts, that, if you depart from Sacred Scripture, it is not able to be demonstrated beyond dispute, that the World did not always exist:  compare LEYDEKKER’S Facem Veritatis, locus III, controversy XI, pages 140-143.

[1] Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus was one of the greatest Rabbis of the first and second centuries of the Christian era, and was a member of the Sanhedrin at Jamnia.  His work is marked by great commitment to the Scriptures and strict adherence to the traditional teaching of the Rabbis that preceded him.  Although Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer is traditionally ascribed to Rabbi Eliezer and other Tannaim, it contains Ninth Century material.

[2] Menasseh Ben Israel (1604-1657) was a Portuguese Rabbi, Kabbalist, and printer.  In 1610, his family settled in Amsterdam.  With the publication of his El Conciliador, an attempt to resolve apparent contradictions in the Hebrew Bible, his rising reputation gave opportunity to enter into relationship with many of the great Dutch theologians of the age.  He established the first Jewish printing press in Holland.

[3] Albert (c. 1193-1280) was a German Dominican friar and bishop, a noted Aristotlean philosopher, and teacher of Thomas Aquinas.

[4] Atticus (second century AD) was an anti-Peripatetic Platonist.  He interpreted Plato’s philosophy quite literally, and sought to cleanse it from the intrusion of Aristotelian elements.

[5] Augustinus Steuchus (1496-1549) was an Italian Roman Catholic scholar, who served as a prior of the Canons Regular of the Lateran, the bishop of Kisamos in Crete and prefect of the Vatican Library.  He brings his varied talents in languages and antiquities to bear upon exegesis.

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