XVII. 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 1661 ?”
1. It is better for us however, perhaps, rather to inquire, before investigating this point, the solution of the question put forward by our adversaries; for they say that before the sin there is no account of birth, or of travail, or of the desire that tends to procreation, but when they were banished from Paradise after their sin, and the woman was condemned by the sentence of travail, Adam thus entered with his consort upon the intercourse of married life, and then took place the beginning of procreation. If, then, marriage did not exist in Paradise, nor travail, nor birth, they say that it follows as a necessary conclusion that human souls would not have existed in plurality had not the grace of immortality fallen away to mortality, and marriage preserved our race by means of descendants, introducing the offspring of the departing to take their place, so that in a certain way the sin that entered into the world was profitable for the life of man: for the human p. 407 race would have remained in the pair of the first-formed, had not the fear of death impelled their nature to provide succession.
2. Now here again the true answer, whatever it may be, can be clear to those only who, like Paul, have been instructed in the mysteries of Paradise; but our answer is as follows. When the Sadducees once argued against the doctrine of the resurrection, and brought forward, to establish their own opinion, that woman of many marriages, who had been wife to seven brethren, and thereupon inquired whose wife she will be after the resurrection, our Lord answered their argument so as not only to instruct the Sadducees, but also to reveal to all that come after them the mystery of the resurrection-life: “for in the resurrection,” He says, “they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; neither can they die any more, for they are equal to the angels, and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection 1662 .” Now the resurrection promises us nothing else than the restoration of the fallen to their ancient state; for the grace we look for is a certain return to the first life, bringing back again to Paradise him who was cast out from it. If then the life of those restored is closely related to that of the angels, it is clear that the life before the transgression was a kind of angelic life, and hence also our return to the ancient condition of our life is compared to the angels. Yet while, as has been said, there is no marriage among them, the armies of the angels are in countless myriads; for so Daniel declared in his visions: so, in the same way, if there had not come upon us as the result of sin a change for the worse, and removal from equality with the angels, neither should we have needed marriage that we might multiply; but whatever the mode of increase in the angelic nature is (unspeakable and inconceivable by human conjectures, except that it assuredly exists), it would have operated also in the case of men, who were “made a little lower than the angels 1663 ,” to increase mankind to the measure determined by its Maker.
3. But if any one finds a difficulty in an inquiry as to the manner of the generation of souls, had man not needed the assistance of marriage, we shall ask him in turn, what is the mode of the angelic existence, how they exist in countless myriads, being one essence, and at the same time numerically many; for we shall be giving a fit answer to one who raises the question how man would have been without marriage, if we say, “as the angels are without marriage;” for the fact that man was in a like condition with them before the transgression is shown by the restoration to that state.
4. Now that we have thus cleared up these matters, let us return to our former point,—how it was that after the making of His image God contrived for His work the distinction of male and female. I say that the preliminary speculation we have completed is of service for determining this question; for He Who brought all things into being and fashioned Man as a whole by His own will to the Divine image, did not wait to see the number of souls made up to its proper fulness by the gradual additions of those coming after; but while looking upon the nature of man in its entirety and fulness by the exercise of His foreknowledge, and bestowing upon it a lot exalted and equal to the angels, since He saw beforehand by His all-seeing power the failure of their will to keep a direct course to what is good, and its consequent declension from the angelic life, in order that the multitude of human souls might not be cut short by its fall from that mode by which the angels were increased and multiplied,—for this reason, I say, He formed for our nature that contrivance for increase which befits those who had fallen into sin, implanting in mankind, instead of the angelic majesty of nature, that animal and irrational mode by which they now succeed one another.
5. Hence also, it seems to me, the great David pitying the misery of man mourns over his nature with such words as these, that, “man being in honour knew it not” (meaning by “honour” the equality with the angels), therefore, he says, “he is compared to the beasts that have no understanding, and made like unto them 1664 .” For he truly was made like the beasts, who received in his nature the present mode of transient generation, on account of his inclination to material things.
Otherwise Chap. xviii. The Bodleian ms. of the Latin version has the title:—“Against those who say that sin was a useful introduction for the propagation of the human race; and that by sin it deserved animal generation.”407:1662
S. Luke 20:35, 36.407:1663
Ps. viii. 6.407:1664
Ps. 49:12, 13Ps. xlix. 13 (LXX.)