Sunday, 16 February 2014

Question 102 – The Location of Human Beings in Paradise

Why this Question Matters

What of the Garden of Eden itself? What was it and why does the Genesis account place the first human in paradise rather than on a normal part of the earth?

The Thread of the Argument
A1: Was the Garden of Eden really a physical place with a geographical location that we could visit today? Perhaps the Genesis account should be interpreted purely spiritually so that we think of it purely in terms of the perfect state of existence of the first human beings. St Augustine identified these two alternatives as common opinions of his day and a third intermediate position in which a spiritual reality was founded upon a physical reality. This last position was the one that he held and St. Thomas follows him in this opinion; when interpreting something presented in scripture as an historical reality we are free to delve into the spiritual realities flowing from that account but we must not lose sight of the foundational role played by the historical account. Aquinas follows other Church Fathers in placing the Garden of Eden in the East, in the noblest places on Earth.

There are some obvious objections that Aquinas must answer. If the Garden of Eden is a physical location then why has nobody found it? Aquinas gives the rather weak answer that it is cut off from our sight by physical obstacles; by mountains and hot regions. Again, the Garden of Eden held the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; scripture tells us that these were spiritual realities, therefore the garden must itself have been spiritual. Aquinas rejects such an interpretation, insisting that they were physical trees that held a certain spiritual power.

A2: Aquinas asks the seemingly strange question of whether paradise was a place fit for human habitation. The point of the question appears to come from the alternatives proposed in the objections: as men and angels were created ordered towards beatitude, they should have been made inhabitants of the place of the blessed, the empyrean heaven beyond the fixed stars; man being a composite of body and soul implies that he should either inhabit heaven (as soul) or an earthly place where all other animals live (as body).

Aquinas answers by arguing that paradise was suited to man because it was a very nice place whose properties supported the infused supernatural power of the soul in maintaining the incorruptibility of the body. Humans were not placed in the empyrean heaven as they were not fitted for it as part of their nature (in the absence of the supernatural gift of grace); they were placed in the Garden of Eden as it was suited to both body and soul.

A3: Genesis 2:15 states that God put man into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and to guard it. This seems odd; what was there to guard it from? Similarly Genesis 3:17 suggest that man’s need to cultivate the soil was a punishment for the sin of the fall. Aquinas argues that cultivation in the Garden of Eden would have been a pleasant task free of the burden imposed after the fall; similarly, man was guarding the Garden of Eden for himself, lest he lose it by sinning.

A4: Genesis 2:15 says that God created the first man and subsequently put him in paradise. It seems rather strange that the first man was not actually created in paradise in the first place; Eve was, after all. Aquinas answers that paradise was certainly fit for human habitation, and fit for human habitation in the initial state of innocence. However, the initial state of human beings was not part of their nature but a supernatural gift of God; to create the first human in the Garden of Eden would have made it seem that the initial state of innocence was part of human nature. Having created the first man with the supernatural gift of grace given to the species, rather than the individual in particular, God created woman from the first man in the Garden of Eden having established the principle of the species.

Handy Concepts

  • The account of the Garden of Eden is to be interpreted as a spiritual reality founded upon an historical reality.
  • The Garden of Eden was perfectly suited to the human composite of body and rational soul in the state of innocence.


  • In answer to the third & fourth objections to the first article Aquinas omits mention of the Cherubim and the flaming sword left by God to guard the Tree of Life; could he not have argued that although the Garden of Eden was a physical place, nonetheless it remains hidden to us because of these guards?

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Question 101 – The Condition of Progeny with Respect to Knowledge

Why this Question Matters

We saw Aquinas argue in 1a.q99.a1 for a natural development of bodily coordination for children born in the state of innocence. Here he turns his attention to the question of their intellectual development. What would have been the state of knowledge and the ability to reason for children born before the fall?

The Thread of the Argument

A1: In Ia.q94.a3 Aquinas argued that Adam and Eve, created in their maturity, would have had full scientific knowledge (that is, knowledge of the principles of things). Would the same have applied to children born before the fall?

Aquinas claims that perfection in scientific knowledge was an individual accident of the first human beings, associated with their creation at maturity. The sources of revelation give us no information about what would have been the case with children born before the fall, so to answer this question we have to argue from the natures of things. In the case of human beings, it is natural for them (Ia.q84.a6) to accumulate knowledge through the sensible perception of things. There is no reason not to apply this fact to children who would have been born before the fall, so we should conclude that they would have had to grow in knowledge as we do; the only difference would have been that their rectitude would have meant that their growth in knowledge would have been unhindered by any of the difficulties that face us.

A2: What about the faculty of reason; would children born in the state of innocence have had the full use of their reason immediately upon their birth? Aquinas’s answer is a parallel to the answer of the first article; the use of reason depends to some extent on the sensory powers (Ia.q84.a7), so if they are not fully developed then the use of reason will remain to some extent in potentiality. Following the reasoning of Ia.q99.a1, the brain and the sensory powers are not fully developed in the new born and therefore the power of reason is not fully developed in them.

Handy Concepts

  • Children born in the prelapsarian Garden of Eden would have had to develop in knowledge and in the use of reason as this is part of human nature. Their graced existence would have made this development a lot easier than it is for us.

A Century!

Woohoo! A hundred questions done. Only 402 to go...

Or is it 503?

Question 100 – The Condition of Progeny with Respect to Justice

Why this Question Matters

Adam and Eve were created in a state of original justice. Would this supernatural gift of grace have been passed on to their progeny had the fall not intervened? And if such progeny did inherit this state, would they have been confirmed in that state to such an extent as they would necessarily achieve the beatific vision?

The Thread of the Argument

A1: In Ia.q95.a1 Aquinas argues that human beings were originally created in a state of grace that conferred upon them a sort of rectitude rendering them upright in the sight of God; a state of original justice. In this article he offers more precision to this argument by considering the question of whether such a state would have been passed on to children born to humans in this state. The major argument against such a state being passed on in generation is that it would then seem to be something natural to the human being; therefore continuing after the fall.

Aquinas observes that humans by their nature generate what is similar to themselves and that any proper accidents (that is, accidents that follow from the very nature of the species) do pass to progeny. On the other hand, children do not have to be like their parents in non-proper accidents. For example, children inherit the ability to laugh, as this follows from the nature of being a human; but Fred may sport a handsome tan when neither of his parents do. The gift of original justice, however, is a special case. It is a supernatural gift given to the species, but it does not follow on from the nature of the species itself. So in the prelapsarian state of innocence, original justice is proper (in an analogous sense) to the species and is therefore passed down to children from their parents. In reply to the second objection Aquinas points out that it is therefore not passed down, strictly speaking, by the process of generation but rather is infused by God as soon as the body of the child is ready for it.

Having recognized the state of original justice as being a supernatural gift to the species, it immediately follows that original sin is a sin that affects the whole species, as it is associated with the removal of the supernatural gift of grace from the species. So when we say that human nature was not changed by the fall we are saying that what is natural to the species was not changed, but the supernatural gift to the species was lost.

A2: We saw back in 1a.q64.a2 that when an angel takes the decision, at the moment of its creation, for or against God, that decision is irrevocable; the angel is confirmed in its decision. Aquinas now asks about the state of justice for progeny born before the fall; would they have been confirmed in this state of justice? That is, would they of necessity have been unable to turn away from God and away from the state of justice?

Angels differ from humans in that human beings have freedom of choice both before an act of choice and after that act. If an angel turns to or from God, that choice is immediately binding forever; if a human turns to or away from God in this life it is always open to them to change their mind and reverse the decision. However, those granted the beatific vision are confirmed in that vision; a human being cannot turn away from the ultimate good once it has been granted. The initial state of innocence did not involve the gift of the beatific vision, therefore human beings (whether Adam or Eve as originally created, or any of the progeny that might have been generated from them in such a state) in the state of innocence retained the free will ability to turn away from God.

Handy Concepts

  • Original justice was a supernatural gift to the human species that was lots in the fall.
  • Human free-will allows for a turning to or away from God; until the gift of the beatific vision is given, this decision is reversible.


  • Understanding the precise relation of human nature and the gift of grace in the state of innocence is important to understanding the twentieth century controversy over the supernatural. Aquinas’s position that this supernatural gift of grace is analogously proper to human nature but does not follow on from human nature itself is a subtlety that can be missed.

Question 99 – The Physical Condition of Progeny

Why this Question Matters

The Garden of Eden before the fall was a place of grace and perfection for the first human beings. Would that perfection have led to the children of Adam and Eve (and their progeny after them) to have been born in a state of physical perfection? Returning to a theme of Ia.q92, would female children have been born is such a prelapsarian state, or is the sexual diversity that we see after the fall a consequence of the fall?

The Thread of the Argument

A1: One of the characteristics of human babies that distinguishes them from most of the rest of the animal kingdom is their lack of physical coordination upon birth; they are basically helpless and entirely dependent upon their parents. Is this condition a by-product of the fall of man? Would babies born in the Garden of Eden have been physically co-ordinated? After all, it seems that there was no imperfection in paradise and such an uncoordinated condition is surely a lack of perfection.

Aquinas starts his answer by distinguishing between knowledge that we have by supernatural revelation and knowledge gained through observation about the nature of things. In the absence of revelation about some subject, we should favour the latter in tackling a question like this. In this case, it is clear that it is part of the nature of human beings to be born the way that they are with brains that are yet to undergo the sort of development needed for full physical coordination. On the other hand, if we look to the sources of supernatural revelation on this question (such as Ecclesiastes 7:30), then all we see is the claim that “God made man upright”. But this, of course, should only be applied to Adam and Eve; created in their maturity, they did have such mental and physical rectitude.

A2: Returning to the theme of Ia.q92.a1, Aquinas asks whether any females would have been born in the state of innocence. The objections are of a similar nature to those appearing in that former question. For example, Aristotle’s teaching that a female is an “inadvertent male” caused by something going amiss in the developmental process combined with the perfection of the initial state would seem to rule out female births.

Aquinas dismisses the objections out of hand in the same way that he answers the objections of Ia.q92.a1: sexual diversity is part of the intention of nature and contributes to the perfection of the species. Both sexes would have been born in the initial state of innocence.

Following a line of thinking derived from the understanding of the reproductive process current at that time, the second objection claims that the active power in generation is male and that like will produce like unless it is impeded, either by the male principle being defective or by the female matter being unreceptive. The perfection of the initial state of innocence implies that neither of these conditions could occur and that therefore all births would have been of male children. Aquinas denies that sexual differentiation occurs that way, suggesting that an extrinsic accident is responsible for the differentiation. A coda to his answer is that, in the initial state of innocence, the human soul would have been able to be the source of that accident; the sex of the offspring could have been chosen by thinking about it!

Handy Concepts

  • In the Garden of Eden children would have been born as we are, lacking the physical coordination typical of babies born after the fall.
  • Sexual diversity was part of the creation of human beings and is natural to the species that both sexes be present.

Question 98 – Concerning the Conservation of the Species

Why this Question Matters

Aquinas has been concerned with aspects of Adam and Eve’s being as individuals in the state of innocence before the fall. Now he turns to questions about the human species. Had the fall been delayed so that in the state of innocence Adam and Eve had children, and perhaps those children themselves produced progeny there are a number of questions we can ask about these children. In this question Aquinas will turn his attention to how children would have come about in the first place. In subsequent questions Aquinas will ask about their physical state (Ia.q99), their state of original justice (Ia.q100) and their intellectual state (Ia.q101).

The Thread of the Argument

A1: Would human beings have generated other human beings (for example, by procreation) in the initial state of innocence? At first sight one might have thought not, as this prelapsarian paradise appears to be a state of perfection that doesn’t require any form of growth. As the first human beings would have been immortal in this state, there would have been no need for generation in order to conserve the species. Moreover, when we look at the world as it is, we see that generation and corruption seem to go together; as there was no corruption in the initial state of innocence, neither would there have been generation. Against this, of course, God enjoined the first human beings to “go forth and multiply”; a process that would seem to necessitate generation of some sort.

In his answer Aquinas observes that human beings are a sort of mixture; corruptible as far as we are bodily, incorruptible as far as we are spiritual. Also, when we consider the ends of nature we see that incorruptible creatures belong to the intention of nature individually; whereas corruptible creatures belong to the intention of nature not individually but for the sake of the species to which they belong. So when we consider human beings as bodily animals, we have to recognize that generation is part of our nature; something that does not substantially change with the fall. As spiritual creatures, on the other hand, we are ordered individually and per se towards our ends in the beatific vision.

A2: Would the generation of new individuals in the state of innocence have been by sexual intercourse? Aquinas’s immediate answer to this follows the pattern of the answer he gave in the previous article. Human beings were created with sexual diversity; we can simply observe that sexual diversity by its nature is ordered towards procreation of the species. As the fall did not alter human nature, we can infer that generation would have been by means of sexual intercourse in the state of innocence had it occurred.

Aquinas doesn’t leave it there though, and what he continues on to argue has important implications for a much misunderstood area of Christian doctrine. One of the consequences of the fall is that, in our post-lapsarian state, the natural goodness of sexuality is deformed by an attendant concupiscence, which is a sort of disordered and extreme desire for sensuality. Expanding on this theme in the answer to the third objection, Aquinas even argues that the disordered desire of concupiscence may actually subtract from the pleasure naturally associated with sexual intercourse. In the state of innocence humans were graced with the gift of integrity, ordering all the lower powers under the power of reason; sexual intercourse in such a state would have been more sensual than it is to us. In our present state our lower powers are not under the control of reason; their self-indulgence subtracts from what could be experienced or achieved were everything ordered to the same end under the power of reason. The analogy that Aquinas gives is of one who is temperate in the consumption of food compared to the glutton. The former may gain more sensual pleasure from the moderate consumption of food than the latter does from his intemperate consumption.

Finally Aquinas points out that the state of sexual continence is a state that turns away from concupiscence, from this disordered desire, rather than a state that turns away from sexuality per se. It is in this regard that sexual continence is so praised by the Church. A natural consequence of this is that in the initial state of innocence such a state of sexual continence would not have been praiseworthy as there was no concupiscence from which to turn; fecundity would have existed without disordered desire.

Handy Concepts

  • Generation is natural, as bodily creatures, to the human species. Therefore there would have been generation in the Garden of Eden had the fall not intervened.
  • Human beings were created with sexual diversity ordered towards procreation; the generation of new individuals in the state of innocence would have been by means of sexual intercourse.
  • Concupiscence may be seen in contrast to the rectitude of the original human beings. It is a state of extreme sensual disorder. We recall from Ia.q81.a2 that the concupiscible power is the power of the sensitive appetite that is ordered to seeking out what is attractive to the senses and fleeing from what is harmful. Concupiscence is a disorder of the concupiscible power.
  • Christian teaching on sexual continence is based on a turning away from concupiscence rather than on a turning away from sexuality.


  • In the first article Aquinas observes that the point of individual corruptible creatures, that is the intention that nature has for them, is ordered towards the conservation of the species to which the individual belongs. This concord well with modern ideas of the survival of the gene.
  • The answer to the fourth objection to the second article quotes St. Augustine to the effect that sexual intercourse in the state of innocence would have led to no corruption of virginal integrity. Presumably this is argued for as being a type of the virgin birth of Jesus from Mary. What happened to Mary, in being the second Eve, directs our attention to what would have happened to Eve in childbirth in the state of innocence.
  • Throughout this section Aquinas observes that the sources of revelation don’t tell us an awful lot about the hypothetical situation of children born before the fall. In the absence of such information, Aquinas’s method is to turn to an understanding of human nature. Human nature was not changed, although it may have been obscured, at the fall and therefore things true about our nature after the fall were true of our nature before the fall.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Question 97 – Man’s Physical State in Paradise

Why this Question Matters

After consideration of the intellect and will of the first humans in the Garden of Eden, it is now time to turn the questions concerning their bodily state. In particular, this question gives a treatment of the preternatural gifts of bodily immortality and impassibility.

The Thread of the Argument
A1: One of the so-called preternatural gifts given by God to human beings in the Garden of Eden was immortality. In this article Aquinas justifies seeing this as a special gift of grace consistent with, but not part of, human nature. To do so, he identifies three ways in which something may be incorruptible (as bodily corruption is the basis of mortality). In the first way a creature such as an angel does not have any matter at all and is therefore incorruptible by its very nature. Aquinas, being consistent with the cosmology of the time, puts the celestial bodies in this category by arguing that their matter is ordered only to a single form. With such an ordering it is impossible for the matter to take on any other form and therefore the form/matter combination of a celestial must be incorruptible. The second possibility is that something is incorruptible because of the nature of its form. The third possibility is that something is kept from corruption by an efficient cause maintaining it in its current state. It is this last possibility that applies to the immortality of humans in the Garden of Eden. By a special gift of grace the initial humans were kept from corruption so long as they remained subject to God.

A2: A second gift given to Adam and Eve was the gift of impassibility, which when applied to the first human beings refers to their ability to remain free from any suffering. The point of this article is that the notion of impassibility is subject to two different definitions and it is only one of them that applies here; the objections to this article are built on understanding impassibility by means of the other definition. The proper meaning as it is understood here is that of being acted on in such a way as to remove the object of the action from its natural disposition; some form of suffering, for example. The more general meaning refers to not being the subject of any action; it is in this sense that only God is impassible.

A3: Did Adam and Eve have to eat and drink to maintain themselves in the Garden of Eden? They were, after all, impassible and immortal and therefore not eating would have had not have caused suffering or death. However, the Genesis account of creation tells us that the first humans were ordered to eat of the trees of the garden. Therefore if they didn’t they would have sinned and would have lost their immortality and impassibility; so this argument fails.

Aquinas could have simply answered this question by observing that human beings are by their nature bodily animals and it is in the nature of such animals to preserve their being by the consumption of food and drink. But he want to go further in order to differentiate between human beings in their initial state of innocence in the Garden of Eden and human beings in their glorified bodily state after the general resurrection. To do so, he identifies the dual nature of the human soul: it is both something that gives life to a bodily animal as well as being a subsistent spiritual being with an immaterial intellective power. In the initial state of innocence the soul acts towards the body as the former, giving bodily life to an animal being, with all the things that go with that state. But after the general resurrection, the soul will give something of its other spiritual nature in order to glorify the body and to give immortality and impassibility; to give human beings spiritual bodies. In this state, human beings will not have to eat or drink.

A4: In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve were forbidden from eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and it was their failure to obey that injunction that is associated with the complex series of actions that is the fall of man. They were, however, enjoined to eat of all the other trees of the garden and one of those trees was the Tree of Life. They were driven from paradise lest they continue to eat of the Tree of Life in their enhanced state of knowledge. Was the Tree of Life the cause of their immortality whilst in the state of innocence?

Aquinas answers that the Tree of Life prevented the first humans from dying but that it was not a cause of immortality absolutely speaking. By this he means that the power that enables the body to stay in being is a power of the soul itself. What the fruit of the Tree of Life was able to do was to fortify the body in such a way that the power of the soul to conserve the body was not impeded. But each fruit from the Tree of Life was itself a material body and therefore its power to do this was finite and limited. It was not the case that a single bite from the fruit of the Tree of Life would confer immortality but rather that it had to be taken repeatedly as a food in order for the effect to continue.

Handy Concepts

  • Adam and Eve were given the preternatural gifts of immortality and impassibility in their initial state of innocence.
  • The bodily state of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was a state consistent with human nature. Therefore they ate and drank as we do.
  • The Tree of Life conferred immortality in the sense of removing impediments to the conserving power of the soul; it had to be eaten repeatedly as food in order for this effect to continue.


  • The connection between the fruit of the Tree of Life and the Eucharist should be clear in Aquinas’s treatment in the fourth article. They are both live-giving, in different but analogous senses.

Question 96 – Man’s Dominion in the Initial State of Innocence

Why this Question Matters

The Genesis account of creation records that God gave dominion over the rest of material creation to human beings in a state of innocence. In this question Aquinas enquires into what that dominion consisted in and relates it to the natural order of creation towards God. In making this enquiry he asks a number of questions that are strictly speaking, given the fact of the fall, hypothetical concerning what human beings would be like in a state of innocence in paradise.

The Thread of the Argument

A1: Aquinas finds underlying reasons behind the raw assertion of Genesis 1:26 of the dominion of humans over the animals with three variations on notions of the hierarchy of creation. In the first place he argues that there is a natural order to creation in which the more perfect makes use of the less perfect. As humans sit at the pinnacle of material creation it is therefore natural to them to have dominion over the rest of it. The second argument looks at creation from the point of view of God’s providence whereby lower things are governed by higher things. Finally, looking at the actual properties of man and of the other animals shows one that man has a general ability to make prudent decisions whereas animals lower than humans are only able to make prudential decision in circumstances to which they are adapted; their prudence shows a certain degree of participation in prudence. Aquinas then argues that whatever is such-and-such by participation is subject to that which is such-and-such through its essence.

A2: Aquinas reads Genesis 1:26 as giving humans dominion over all creatures, not just the animals. But there’s an immediate problems with this: what does it mean to have dominion over a daisy, for example? One can see the effect of man’s dominion in the herding of cattle or in the breaking-in of a horse under the influence of human reason; but ordering a daisy around is likely to end in little but frustration.

Aquinas responds by pointing to the way in which human beings have, in a sense, all of creation within themselves. Human beings have reason, like the angels; we have sentient powers, like the other animals; we have natural powers, like plants; we have a material body, in the same way that inanimate objects are material. In human beings the rational powers have dominion over the sentient powers and parallel to this we have dominion over animals by means of the command of reason. Similarly man has dominion over his natural powers and the body itself; but for these the dominion is not one of reason but of use. Therefore we should look for the parallel dominion that man has over the vegetable and the inanimate in the way in which we can make unimpeded use of them for our purposes.

The reply to the second objection brings up, and rejects, the point of view that in paradise animals all got along together just fine without killing and eating each other. Indeed, some have argued that cuisine in paradise was exclusively vegetarian. Aquinas argues that, although man’s first sin may have led to the “fall of creation”, animal natures were not changed in that event (in much the same way that human nature was not changed, but darkened, by the fall). As it is in the nature of animals to fit into a predator prey hierarchy, they would have been eating each other in paradise. Indeed, in domesticating animals, humans would have fed other animals to some of the domesticated animals.

A3: The state of innocence in paradise would seem, at first sight, to also imply a state of equality between human beings; surely, after all, those things that gives rise to inequality between human beings are associated with the consequences of the fall. On the other hand, we recognize at the very least sexual diversity in the very creation of human beings itself. Had there been more than two human beings in paradise, then there would have been diversity of age as well. We can go further than these simple examples: human beings are created with free will and therefore have the freedom of choice of their intellectual and moral development, whatever tools they are born with. There is also no reason to suspect that they would all have been made physically identical (within the sexes); it is perfectly possible for there to be diversity within a perfect creation. Having established that there could be diversity amongst human beings in paradise, we should recognize that the purpose of creation is ordered towards God and that ordering may be most effectively realized through the specialization associated with diversity; as the reply to the third objection observes, God was perfectly free to raise some to a greater degree and some to a lesser degree to achieve His purpose. Such diversity across the range of human attributes must be recognized as a certain form of inequality; but one that does not imply imperfection in creation.

A4: The third article established that there could be inequality amongst human beings in paradise; the obvious question arises as to whether that inequality would have led to dominion of one human being over another. To answer this question we have to recognize a distinction in what we mean by dominion. One way of looking at dominion is to see it in terms of a master and slave relationship. In this form of dominion the master has dominion over the slave for the good of the master and of his purposes. It is this type of dominion that could not have occurred in the state of innocence as this cannot occur without some form of suffering on behalf of the slave; even if the suffering is simply that of having to give entirely to someone else what ought to be one’s own.

The second way of looking at dominion is to see it more generally in terms of governance. In this form of dominion the ruler has dominion over the subject for the benefit of the subject, or for the common good. Humans being social animals is entirely consistent with organizing themselves for the achievement of common ends by means of a governing hierarchy. This second form of dominion of one human being over another is entirely consistent with the state of innocence.

Handy Concepts

  • Human beings have dominion over the rest of material creation. The animals are subject to our reason; plants and inanimate objects are subject to our use.
  • The state of innocence in paradise is consistent with inequality between human beings.
  • The state of innocence in paradise is consistent with the dominion of one human being over another, but only in the sense of governance to benefit the governed and the common good.