On the creation of the cosmos and man.

S A C R E D   C A T E C H I S M  O F   T H E EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCH I.E. OF THE ONE HOLY CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH

By ST. NEKTARIOS OF PENTAPOLIS

(Translated from the Greek original by Proptopresbyter George Dion. Dragas PhD, DD, DTh)

1.What is it that we call “cosmos” (i.e. ornament)?

 The term “cosmos,” meaning “ornament” (in its original Greek connotation), specifies the totality of the creation, because creation is characterized by an inherent order and harmony. The creation is divided into the visible and the invisible cosmos; the visible cosmos being the material nature; and the invisible cosmos being the immaterial nature, namely, the angels and the human souls.[1]

2.    What does the Church teach about the creation of the cosmos?

 She teaches that God made the cosmos;[2] in six days;[3] out of nothing;[4] and on account of the excess of His goodness and will;[5] and also that He did this only by His Word (Logos);[6] because He said and it came to pass; and so the cosmos is the work of the divine power and wisdom alone.[7]

 3. How long did it take God to create the cosmos according to the Scriptures?

 The Old Testament says that God created the cosmos in six days;[8] that on the first day God made heaven and earth, and the earth was invisible and unstructured, and the Spirit of God was moving upon the water. Then God said “Let there be light, and the light came to pass.”[9]  On the second day He made the firmament, namely, the expanse of heaven (the sky) and “God called the firmament heaven.”[10] On the third day God separated the waters and put them into one gathering; and so the dry land appeared and produced shoots of plants and trees. On the fourth day He created the sun, the moon and the luminaries (stars).[11] On the fifth day He created the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky and every soul of living reptiles according to their specific gender. On the sixth day He created the four-legged beings and reptiles and the other beasts of the earth according to their specific gender. And after the creation of all these creatures God made man.[12]

4. What does Scripture say about the Creation?

 It says that God made all things very good.

 5. Where did God place Adam and Eve?

 He placed them in Paradise.[13]

ON THE CREATION OF MAN

 1. What does the Old Testament say about the creation of man?

The O.T. tells the story, that once God completed the creation of everything and saw that they were all good, he said: Let us make man according to our image and likeness and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky, and the beasts of all the earth, as well as of everything that crawls on the earth; and God made man; in God’s image He made him, male and female He made them and God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply and fill the earth, and establish your dominion over it…etc.,” (Gen. 1:26-29).

 2. Why did God make man?

Gregory the theologian says that God made man, because “it was not enough for God’s goodness to move only in self-contemplation, and because goodness had to be shed as widely as those that would benefit from it, etc.”

 3. Whence did God create man?

Holy Scripture says, that “God made man from the dust of the earth and breathed into his face a breath of life and man became into a living soul” (Gen. 2:7).

 4. What does this “according to the image” of man’s creation refer to? to the body or to the soul?

It refers to the soul; because God is incorporeal and indescribable. The image of God was imprinted on the very nature of the soul of man, i.e. man became like God with respect to mind and freewill. The mind denotes the properties of the soul which have become relative to those properties of God, and freewill, the possibility of man to become like God in virtue. In other words, as God is a rational spirit, likewise He endowed man with spiritual rationality, which, however, is relative and limited; and since God is freely-determined (autexousios), likewise He endowed man with free-determination. As He is supreme ruler and master, He granted man the power to rule over all creatures on the earth. It is in the same way that the rest of the properties of man are to be understood and man needs to cultivate by using his freewill, so that he might become an image and likeness of God.[14] Scripture speaks about this as follows: “Put on the new man who was created according to God in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Eph. 4:24), and elsewhere, “and put on the new [man] who is renewed in true knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Col. 3:10). The Fathers of the Church teach that we received what is “according to the image” from God directly, and that it is up to us to obtain what is “according to likeness.” Gregory of Nyssa says, that “our being according to God’s image is proper to us according to the first creation; but our being according to God’s likeness depends on our freewill and exists in us only as a possibility, which becomes actuality through being operated or energized” (Oration on the making of man). John Damascenos says: “that which is ‘according to the image’ denotes ‘mind and freewill,’ and that which is ‘according to likeness’ denotes the likeness of virtue as far as this is possible”.[15]  

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 [1] According to John Damascenos “God brings into being and creates the universe of things, both visible and invisible things, as well as man who consists of both visible and invisible elements” (Accurate exposition of the Orthodox Faith II, 17).

[2] Gen. 1:1, Ps. 145:5-6, Is. 2:5, 45:18, Jer. 9:12, Mk 13:19, Acts 4:24, 17:24, Rev. 10:6, 14:7, Heb. 3:4, Rom. 1:19, I Cor. 11:12, Eph. 3:9, Damascenos’ Accurate Exposition of the Orthodox Faith I:3, Augustine’s Confessions XI:4, On the City of God XI:4.

[3] Gen. 1:1, Ps. 17:5, 58:2, 101:26, Mk 1:6, John 1:1, Eph. 1:34, Col. 1:17, Heb. 1:2, Athenagoras’ Embassy 16, Cyril of Alexandria’s On John 6, Augustine’s On the City of God XI:4, XII:15, Confessions XI:10.

[4] II Maccabees 7:28, John 1:3, Rom. 4:17, Heb. 11:3, Tatian’s To the Greeks 5, Athenagoras’s Embassy 4, 15, 19, Irenaeus’ Against Heresies II:10, IV:20, Tertullian’s On Prescription against Heretics 13, Ephrem the Syrian’s On Genesis 1:1, John Chrysostom’s On Genesis Hom. 2, Lactantius’ Divine Institutes II:9.

 Those following Hermogenes held that the cosmos was created out of eternally preexisting matter (Tertullian’s Against Hermogenes II, Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History 5:21). Simon Magus, Menander, Basileides, Karpoktates and others taught that angels shaped the cosmos out of pre-eternal matter (Tertullian’s On Prescription against Heretics 46, Irenaeus’ Against Heresies I:24, Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History 4:7); for Kerynthus the cosmos was shaped by a lower power, God being unaware of it (Irenaeus’ Against Heresies III:11, Augustine’s On Heresies 8), and for Ophites, Manichaeans and Priscillianists, by the demon. Origen regarded the world as a necessary and inescapable consequence of God’s omnipotence, hence his talking of it as being eternal. All these heresies were condemned by the Church since long ago, but some of them reemerged in the middle ages. Such were the Paulicians or Bogomils (Beloved of God) who attributed the creation of the world to the demon Satanael (Photios’ Against Manichaeans 2:5, Euthymios Zigabenos’ Panoply 27).

[5] Ps. 103:11, 134:6, Rev. 4:11, Irenaeus’ Against Heresies II:1, Theodoret’s Difficulties on Genesis 3, Damascenos’ Accurate Exposition of the Orthodox Faith II:2).

[6] Gen.1:3, 6, 7, 9, Ps. 147:5, Rev. 1:11, Jer. 32:17.

[7] Ps. 134:5, Prov. 3:19, 8:23-30, Jer. 10:12, Irenaeus’ Against Heresies II:2, Origen’s On First Principles 1:2, Eusebius’ Evangelical Preparation 11:10, Cyril of Alexandria’s On John 16, Damascenos’ Accurate Exposition of the Orthodox Faith I:9.

[8] Genesis, chapter 1.

[9] Gen. 1:3.

[10] Gen. 1:14.

[11] According to John Damascenos, “the Creator put inside these luminaries the initial light which He had created, not because he could not provide some other light, but in order that the initial light might not remain inactive. A star or luminary is not the light itself but the receptacle of the light” (Accurate Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, I:9).

[12] There are many, in old times (like the Gnostics, the Manichaeans, the followers of Marcion, etc.) and today who view the cosmos as being extremely imperfect and full of deficiencies and evils, and attribute the cause of it either to God or to some other counter and opposing principle of evil; this view has been always condemned by the Church. Others, again, thought of the cosmos as being so good and perfect, that, forgetting and rejecting the Creator, they deified the creation and especially the material one. Both of these conflicting views are erroneous and, therefore, the Orthodox Christian is bound to spit out in the same way the blasphemies of the “materialists” and the “pseudo-spiritualists” (John Chrysostom On II Corinthians, Homily 11).

[13] On the names “Adam,” “Eve” and “Paradise,” St. Nectarios provides a lengthy appendix (10a). He basically says that Adam means “born,” Eve means “life” and Paradise specifies a place in Armenia. 

 [14] The Anthropomorphitai who initially were also called Audianoi from Audius, the leader of this heresy and a man of Syrian dissent, foolishly thought, as Theodoret says in his Ecclesiastical History, “that God had a human form and also the parts of a human body which were by condescension mentioned in Scripture.” This heresy appeared around the year A.D. 338 and received the name Anthropomorphitism or Anthropomorphianism around the year 370.

[15]  Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, II:29.

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