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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
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


Page 2

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.

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 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.

μᾶλλον δὲ πρὶν περὶ τούτων διεξετάσαι͵ τὸν παρεθέντα λόγον κατανοήσωμεν. Μικροῦ γὰρ ἡμᾶς τὸ κατὰ τὴν τάξιν τῶν γεγονότων διέλαθεν· τίνος χάριν προηγεῖται μὲν ἡ βλάστη τῶν ἐκ τῆς γῆς φυομένων͵ ἐπιγίνεται δὲ τὰ ἄλογα τῶν ζώων͵ καὶ οὕτω μετὰ τὴν κατασκευὴν τούτων ὁ ἄνθρωπος. Τάχα γὰρ οὐ μόνον τὸ ἐκ τοῦ προχείρου νοούμενον διὰ τούτου μανθάνομεν. ὅτι τῶν ζώων ἕνεκεν ἡ πόα χρήσιμος ἐφάνη τῷ κτίσαντι͵ διὰ δὲ τὸν ἄνθρωπον τὰ βοτά· οὗ χάριν πρὸ μὲν τῶν βοσκημάτων͵ ἐκείνων τροφή͵ πρὸ δὲ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τὸ ὑπηρετεῖν μέλλον τῇ ἀνθρωπίνῃ ζωῇ.

Ἀλλ' ἐμοὶ δοκεῖ δόγμα τι τῶν κεκρυμμένων παραδηλοῦν διὰ τούτων ὁ Μωϋσῆς͵ καὶ τὴν περὶ ψυχῆς φιλοσοφίαν δι' ἀποῤῥήτων παραδιδόναι͵ ἣν ἐφαντάσθη μὲν καὶ ἡ ἔξωθεν παίδευσις͵ οὐ μὴν τηλαυγῶς κατενόησε. Διδάσκει γὰρ ἡμᾶς διὰ τούτων ὁ λόγος͵ ἐν τρισὶ διαφοραῖς τὴν ζωτικὴν καὶ ψυχικὴν δύναμιν θεωρεῖσθαι. Ἡ μὲν γάρ τίς ἐστιν αὐξητική τε μόνον καὶ θρεπτικὴ͵ τὸ κατάλληλον εἰς προσθήκην τῶν τρεφομένων προσάγουσα͵ ἣ φυσικὴ λέγεται καὶ περὶ τὰ φυτὰ θεωρεῖται. Ἔστι γὰρ καὶ ἐν τοῖς φυομένοις ζωτικήν τινα δύναμιν αἰσθήσεως [145] ἄμοιρον κατανοῆσαι. Ἕτερον δὲ παρὰ τοῦτο ζωῆς εἶδός ἐστιν͵ ὃ καὶ τοῦτο ἔχει͵ καὶ τὸ κατ' αἴσθησιν οἰκονομῆσαι προσείληφεν͵ ὅπερ ἐν τῇ φύσει τῶν ἀλόγων ἐστίν. Οὐ γὰρ μόνον τρέφεται καὶ αὔξεται͵ ἀλλὰ καὶ τὴν αἰσθητικὴν ἐνέργειάν τε καὶ ἀντίληψιν ἔχει. Ἡ δὲ τελεία ἐν σώματι ζωὴ ἐν τῇ λογικῇ͵ τῇ ἀνθρωπίνῃ λέγω͵ καθορᾶται φύσει͵ τρεφομένη τε καὶ αἰσθανομένη καὶ λόγου μετέχουσα καὶ νῷ διοικουμένη.

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

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