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VIII. 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 1609 .

1. But man’s form is upright, and extends aloft towards heaven, and looks upwards: and these are marks of sovereignty which show his royal dignity. For the fact that man alone among existing things is such as this, while all others bow their bodies downwards, clearly points to the difference of dignity between those which stoop beneath his sway and that power which rises above them: for all the rest have the foremost limbs of their bodies in the form of feet, because that which stoops needs something to support it: but in the formation of man these limbs were made hands, for the upright body found one base, supporting its position securely on two feet, sufficient for its needs.

2. Especially do these ministering hands adapt themselves to the requirements of the reason: indeed if one were to say that the ministration of hands is a special property of the rational nature, he would not be entirely wrong; and that not only because his thought turns to the common and obvious fact that we signify our reasoning by means of the natural employment of our hands in written characters. It is true that this fact, that we speak by writing, and, in a certain way, converse by the aid of our hands, preserving sounds by the forms of the alphabet, is not unconnected with the endowment of reason; but I am referring to something else when I say that the hands co-operate with the bidding of reason.

3. Let us, however, before discussing this point, consider the matter we passed over (for the subject of the order of created things almost escaped our notice), why the growth of things that spring from the earth takes precedence, and the irrational animals come next, and then, after the making of these, comes man: for it may be that we learn from these facts not only the obvious thought, that grass appeared to the Creator useful for the sake of the animals, while the animals were made because of man, and that for this reason, before the animals there was made their food, and before man that which was to minister to human life.

4. But it seems to me that by these facts Moses reveals a hidden doctrine, and secretly delivers that wisdom concerning the soul, of which the learning that is without had indeed some imagination, but no clear comprehension. His discourse then hereby teaches us that the power of life and soul may be considered in three divisions. For one is only a power of growth and nutrition supplying what is suitable for the support of the bodies that are nourished, which is called the vegetative 1610 soul, and is to be seen in plants; for we may perceive in growing plants a certain vital power destitute of sense; and there is another form of life besides this, which, while it includes the form above mentioned, is also possessed in addition of the power of management according to sense; and this is to be found in the nature of the irrational animals: for they are not only the subjects of nourishment and growth, but also have the activity of sense and perception. But perfect bodily life is seen in the rational (I mean the human) nature, which both is nourished and endowed with sense, and also partakes of reason and is ordered by mind.

5. We might make a division of our subject in some such way as this. Of things existing, part are intellectual, part corporeal. Let us leave alone for the present the division of the intellectual according to its properties, for our argument is not concerned with these. Of the corporeal, part is entirely devoid of life, and part shares in vital energy. Of a living body, again, part has sense conjoined with life, and part is without sense: lastly, that which has p. 394 sense is again divided into rational and irrational. For this reason the lawgiver says that after inanimate matter (as a sort of foundation for the form of animate things), this vegetative life was made, and had earlier 1611 existence in the growth of plants: then he proceeds to introduce the genesis of those creatures which are regulated by sense: and since, following the same order, of those things which have obtained life in the flesh, those which have sense can exist by themselves even apart from the intellectual nature, while the rational principle could not be embodied save as blended with the sensitive,—for this reason man was made last after the animals, as nature advanced in an orderly course to perfection. For this rational animal, man, is blended of every form of soul; he is nourished by the vegetative kind of soul, and to the faculty of growth was added that of sense, which stands midway, if we regard its peculiar nature, between the intellectual and the more material essence being as much coarser than the one as it is more refined than the other: then takes place a certain alliance and commixture of the intellectual essence with the subtle and enlightened element of the sensitive nature: so that man consists of these three: as we are taught the like thing by the apostle in what he says to the Ephesians 1612 , praying for them that the complete grace of their “body and soul and spirit” may be preserved at the coming of the Lord; using, the word “body” for the nutritive part, and denoting the sensitive by the word “soul,” and the intellectual by “spirit.” Likewise too the Lord instructs the scribe in the Gospel that he should set before every commandment that love to God which is exercised with all the heart and soul and mind 1613 : for here also it seems to me that the phrase indicates the same difference, naming the more corporeal existence “heart,” the intermediate “soul,” and the higher nature, the intellectual and mental faculty, “mind.”

6. Hence also the apostle recognizes three divisions of dispositions, calling one “carnal,” which is busied with the belly and the pleasures connected with it, another “natural 1614 ,” which holds a middle position with regard to virtue and vice, rising above the one, but without pure participation in the other; and another “spiritual,” which perceives the perfection of godly life: wherefore he says to the Corinthians, reproaching their indulgence in pleasure and passion, “Ye are carnal 1615 ,” and incapable of receiving the more perfect doctrine; while elsewhere, making a comparison of the middle kind with the perfect, he says, “but the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit: for they are foolishness unto him: but he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man 1616 .” As, then, the natural man is higher than the carnal, by the same measure also the spiritual man rises above the natural.

7. If, therefore, Scripture tells us that man was made last, after every animate thing, the lawgiver is doing nothing else than declaring to us the doctrine of the soul, considering that what is perfect comes last, according to a certain necessary sequence in the order of things: for in the rational are included the others also, while in the sensitive there also surely exists the vegetative form, and that again is conceived only in connection with what is material: thus we may suppose that nature makes an ascent as it were by steps—I mean the various properties of life—from the lower to the perfect form.

1617 . Now since man is a rational animal, the instrument of his body must be made suitable for the use of reason 1618 ; as you may see musicians producing their music according to the form of their instruments, and not piping with harps nor harping upon flutes, so it must needs be that the organization of these instruments of ours should be adapted for reason, that when struck by the vocal organs it might be able to sound properly for the use of words. For this reason the hands were attached to the body; for though we can count up very many uses in daily life for which these skilfully contrived and helpful instruments, our hands, that easily follow every art and every operation, alike in war and peace 1619 , are serviceable, yet nature added them to our body pre-eminently for the sake of reason. For if man were destitute of hands, the various parts of his face would certainly have been arranged like those of the quadrupeds, to suit the purpose of his feeding: so that its form would have been lengthened out and pointed towards the nostrils, and his lips would have projected from his mouth, lumpy, and stiff, and thick, fitted for taking up the grass, and his tongue would either have lain between his teeth, of a kind to match his lips, fleshy, and hard, and rough, assisting his teeth to deal with what came under his grinder, or it would have been moist and hanging out at the side like that of dogs and other carnivorous beasts, projecting through the gaps in p. 395 his jagged row of teeth. If, then, our body had no hands, how could articulate sound have been implanted in it, seeing that the form of the parts of the mouth would not have had the configuration proper for the use of speech, so that man must of necessity have either bleated, or “baaed,” or barked, or neighed, or bellowed like oxen or asses, or uttered some bestial sound? but now, as the hand is made part of the body, the mouth is at leisure for the service of the reason. Thus the hands are shown to be the property of the rational nature, the Creator having thus devised by their means a special advantage for reason.



The Latin version divides the chapters somewhat differently at this point. The Bodleian ms. gives this section the title, “Of the dignity of the human form, and why man was created after the other creatures.”


“Vegetative”:—reading (with several mss. of both classes of those cited by Forbes) φυτικὴ for φυσικὴ (the reading which Forbes follows in his text). A similar reading has been adopted in some later passages, where the mss. show similar variations. It seems not unlikely that the less common φυτικὸς should have been altered by copyists to φυσικός. But Gregory seems in this treatise to use the word φύσις for the corporeal nature: and he may have employed the adjectival form in a corresponding sense.


Earlier, i.e. earlier than the animal life, or “sensitive” soul.


The reference is really to 1 Thess. v. 23. Apparently all Forbes’ mss. read πρὸς τοὺς ᾽Εφεσίους: but the Latin version of Dionysius Exiguus corrects the error, giving the quotation at greater length.


Cf. S. Mark xii. 30


ψυχικὴν: “psychic” or “animal:”—the Authorised Version translates the word by “natural.”


Cf. 1 Cor. iii. 3.


Cf. 1 Cor. 2:14, 15.


The Latin versions make ch. ix. begin at this point. The Bodleian ms. gives as its title:—“That the form of the human body agrees with the rationality of the mind.”


It is not absolutely clear whether λόγος in the following passage means speech or reason—and whether λογικὸς means “capable of speech,” or “rational.” But as λογικὸς in §7 clearly has the force of “rational,” it would seem too abrupt a transition to make it mean “capable of speech” in the first line of §8, and this may determine the meaning of λόγος.


Reading τῶν for τὸν, with some of Forbes’ mss.

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