GENESIS Introduction

June 24, 2010


Hebrew: “Beresith”

The Greek interpreters entitled the first book of Moses Genesis, because it contains the creation and origin of the world: the Hebrews, according to their custom, named it from the first word of the whole book, Beresith, that is in the beginning.  It contains not only the creation of the world, but also its advances; it also covered God’s wondrous direction of the world for 2369 years, up until the death of Joseph.

Chapter I. Concerning the creation of the world, the distinction and adornment of created things, and the formation of man, to whom God subjected all that He had created.

[The chapter headings are translated from a 1716 edition of the Latin Vulgate.]


“Scripture and Tradition never cease to teach and celebrate this fundamental truth: ‘The world was made for the glory of God’ [Vatican I, Dei Filius].  St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things ‘not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it,’ for God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness: ‘Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened his hand’ [St. Thomas].  The First Vatican Council explains: ‘This one, true God, of his own goodness and “almighty power,” not for increasing his own beatitude, nor for attaining his perfection, but in order to manifest this perfection through the benefits which he bestows on creatures, with absolute freedom of counsel “and from the beginning of time, made out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal …” [cf. Lateran IV]’ [Dei Filius] (Catechism of the Catholic Church §293).

Roman Catechism (Catechism of the Council of Trent): “God did not craft the world from any material, but created it from nothing; and was compelled by no power or necessity, but instituted it by His own free will and purpose.  Nor indeed was there any other reason that might impel Him to the work of creation, except to impart His goodness to the things He had caused to be.  For God’s nature, utterly blessed in itself, has no need of anything, as David says: I have said to the Lord, thou art my God, for thou hast no need of my goods.[1] God made whatever He willed, led by His goodness: thus in creating all things He followed no exemplar or form outside of Himself; the supreme Creator regarded in Himself the truth, for the exemplar of all things is contained in the divine intelligence, and as though imitating it, brought into existence, from the beginning, the universe of creatures by His highest wisdom and infinite power, which is uniquely His.  For He spoke and they were made: he commanded and they were created[2] (I., ii., 15.).

St. Thomas: “It remains to consider the procession of creatures from God.  And this consideration shall have three parts: in the first, the production of creatures is considered; in the second, their distinction; in the third, their preservation and governing” (Summa Theologiae, Ia q. xliv. pr.).

(i) On the production of creatures in general.

“It is necessary to say that everything that exists in any way, is from God.  For if something is found in something else by participation, it must necessarily be caused by that to which it is fitting by essence.  Now it was shown above that God is Himself being subsisting in itself, and that there cannot be more than one self-subsistent being.  Therefore it remains that all other things apart from God are not their own being, but participate in being.  Thus it is necessary that all things, differentiated according to their different participation in being, be caused by one first Being, Who exists most perfectly” (ibid., a. i.).

The Lord hath made all things for himself [3] … it does not belong to the First Agent to act for the acquisition of some end; he intends only to communicate his perfection, which is his goodness.  And every creature intends to seek after its own perfection, which is the likeness of the divine perfection and goodness.  Thus, therefore, the divine goodness is the end of all things … [God] alone is most perfectly generous, because he does not act on account of his own need, but only on account of his goodness” (ibid., a. iv.).

(ii, a.) On the distinction of creatures in general.

“After the production of creatures in being, their distinction is to be considered.  And this consideration shall be in three parts.  For first we shall consider the distinction of things in general … we treat first of the very multitude, that is, distinction, of things” (ibid., q. lxvii. pr.).

“It is to be said that the distinction and multitude of things is from the intention of the first agent, which is God.  For he produced creatures in being in order to communicate his goodness to creatures, to represent it through them.  And since it could not be sufficiently represented by one creature, He produced many and diverse creatures, so that what is lacking of representation of the divine goodness in one, may be supplied from the others; for the goodness that in God is simple and uniform, is in creatures in many ways and by parts.  Whence the whole universe more perfectly participates in, and represents, the divine goodness, than any other creature” (ibid., a. i.).

(ii, b.) The inequality of creatures.

“Just as the wisdom of God is the cause of the distinction of creatures, so it is of their inequality.  Which is manifest thus.  A twofold distinction is found in things: one, formal, in those that vary by species; the other, material, in those that vary in number only.  And since matter exists for the sake of form, material distinction exists for the sake of formal.  Whence we see that in incorruptible things there is only one individual in each species,[4] because the species is sufficiently preserved in that one; but in generated, corruptible things, they are many individuals in each species, in order to preserve it.  From which it is plain that formal distinction is more important than material.  But the distinction of formal things always requires inequality, because, as it is said in VIII Metaphys., the forms of things are like numbers, in which species are varied through addition or subtraction of unity.  Whence in natural things, species vary by degrees, through the addition or subtraction of unity.  Whence in natural things it is seen that species are ordered by degrees: as mixtures are more perfect than elements, and plants than minerals, and animals than plants, and men than other animals; and in each of these is found one species more perfect than the others.  Therefore, just as the divine wisdom is the cause of the distinction of things, for the sake of the perfection of the universe, so it is of inequality.  For the universe would not be perfect, if only one degree of goodness were found in things” (ibid., a. ii.).

(iii). There is only one world.

“It is to be said that the very order in existing things thus created by God, shows that there is only one world.  For this world is called one through the unity of order, by which any part of it is ordered to all the others.  But whatever things are from God, have order toward each other and to God Himself, as was shown above.  Whence it is necessary that all things pertain to one world.  And so they were able to posit many world, who said that the cause of the world was not any ordered wisdom, but chance; like Democritus, who said that  this world was made, as well as infinite others, out of the collision of atoms” (ibid., a. iii.).

[1] Ps. xv. 2.

[2] Ps. xxxii. 9.

[3] Prov. xvi. 4.

[4] Incorruptible things are those that are incorporeal; thus, for instance, every angel has its own form and is its own species.


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