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Physis : World Creation  

Gregory of Nyssa : THE MAKING OF MAN

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

Patrologia Graeca 44.144-9  * Greek Fonts


UT 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.

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.

Διὰ τί ὄρθιον τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τὸ σχῆμα͵ καὶ ὅτι διὰ τὸν λόγον αἱ χεῖρες· ἐν ᾧ τις καὶ περὶ διαφορᾶς ψυχῶν φιλοσοφία

Ὄρθιον δὲ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ τὸ σχῆμα καὶ πρὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν ἀνατείνεται καὶ ἄνω βλέπει. Ἀρχικὰ καὶ ταῦτα καὶ τὴν βασιλικὴν ἀξίαν ἐπισημαίνοντα. Τὸ γὰρ μόνον ἐν τοῖς οὖσι τοιοῦτον εἶναι τὸν ἄνθρωπον͵ τοῖς δὲ ἄλλοις ἅπασι πρὸς τὸ κάτω νενευκέναι τὰ σώματα͵ σαφῶς δείκνυσι τὴν τῆς ἀξίας διαφοράν͵ τῶν τε ὑποκυπτόντων τῇ δυναστείᾳ καὶ τῆς ὑπερανεστώσης αὐτῶν ἐξουσίας. Τοῖς μὲν γὰρ ἄλλοις ἅπασι τὰ ἔμπροσθεν κῶλα τοῦ σώματος πόδες εἰσί͵ διότι τὸ κεκυφὸς ἐδεῖτο πάντως τοῦ ὑπερείδοντος· ἐπὶ δὲ τῆς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου κατασκευῆς χεῖρες τὰ κῶλα ἐγένοντο. Τοῦ γὰρ ὀρθίου σχήματος αὐτάρκης ἦν πρὸς τὴν χρείαν μία βάσις͵ διπλοῖς ποσὶν ἐν ἀσφαλείᾳ τὴν στάσιν ἐρείδουσα.

 Ἄλλως δὲ καὶ τῇ τοῦ λόγου χρείᾳ συνεργός ἐστιν ἡ τῶν χειρῶν ὑπουργία. Καί τις ἴδιον τῆς λογικῆς φύσεως τὴν τῶν χειρῶν ὑπηρεσίαν εἰπών͵ οὐ τοῦ παντὸς ἁμαρτήσεται͵ οὐ μόνον πρὸς τὸ κοινὸν τοῦτο καὶ πρόχειρον ἀποτρέχων τῇ διανοίᾳ͵ ὅτι γράμμασι τὸν λόγον διὰ τῆς τῶν χειρῶν εὐφυΐας ἐνσημαινόμεθα (ἔστι μὲν γὰρ οὐδὲ τοῦτο λογικῆς χάριτος ἄμοιρον͵ τὸ φθέγγεσθαι διὰ γραμμάτων ἡμᾶς͵ καὶ τρόπον τινὰ διὰ χειρὸς διαλέγεσθαι͵ τοῖς τῶν στοιχείων χαρακτῆρσι τὰς φωνὰς διασώζοντας)· ἀλλ' ἐγὼ πρὸς ἕτερον βλέπων συνεργεῖν φημι τὰς χεῖρας τῇ ἐκφωνήσει τοῦ λόγου·

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Cf. St Basil the Great, On the Creation of the World (Hexaemeron)

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