(Calvin, Genesis 1, part 3)

know that there is one only true God whom we worship, so it is no common
confirmation of this faith that we are companions of the Patriarchs; for
since they possessed Christ as the pledge of their salvation when he had
not yet appeared, so we retain the God who formerly manifested himself to
them. Hence we may infer the difference between the pure and lawful
worship of God, and all those adulterated services which have since been
fabricated by the fraud of Satan and the perverse audacity of men.
Further, the Government of the Church is to be considered, that the
reader may come to the conclusion that God has been its perpetual Guard
and Ruler, yet in such a way as to exercise it in the warfare of the
cross. Here, truly, the peculiar conflicts of the Church present
themselves to view, or rather, the course is set as in a mirror before
our eyes, in which it behaves us, with the holy Fathers to press towards
the mark of a happy immortality.

  Let us now hearken to Moses.

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

Chapter I.

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the
face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that [it was] good: and God divided the light
from the darkness.
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the
evening and the morning were the first day.
6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and
let it divide the waters from the waters.
7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which [were] under
the firmament from the waters which [were] above the firmament: and it
was so.
8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning
were the second day.
9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto
one place, and let the dry [land] appear: and it was so.
10 And God called the dry [land] Earth; and the gathering together of the
waters called he Seas: and God saw that [it was] good.
11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed,
[and] the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed [is] in

itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
12 And the earth brought forth grass, [and] herb yielding seed after his
kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed [was] in itself, after his
kind: and God saw that [it was] good.
13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.
14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to
divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for
seasons, and for days, and years:
15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give
light upon the earth: and it was so.
16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and
the lesser light to rule the night: [he made] the stars also.
17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the
18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light
from the darkness: and God saw that [it was] good.
19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving
creature that hath life, and fowl [that] may fly above the earth in the
open firmament of heaven.
21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth,
which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every
winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that [it was] good.
22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the
waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.
23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his
kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind:
and it was so.
25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after
their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind:
and God saw that [it was] good.
26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and
let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the
air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping
thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he
him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and
multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over
the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living
thing that moveth upon the earth.
29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which
[is] upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which [is]
the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 
30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to
every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein [there is] life, [I
have given] every green herb for meat: and it was so.
31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, [it was] very
good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

1. "In the beginning." To expound the term "beginning", of Christ, is
altogether frivolous. For Moses simply intends to assert that the world
was not perfected at its very commencement, in the manner in which it is
now seen, but that it was created an empty chaos of heaven and earth. His
language therefore may be thus explained. When God in the beginning
created the heaven and the earth, the earth was empty and waste. He
moreover teaches by the word "created," that what before did not exist
was now made; for he has not used the term "yatsar", which signifies to
frame or forms but "bara", which signifies to create. Therefore his
meaning is, that the world was made out of nothing. Hence the folly of
those is refuted who imagine that unformed matter existed from eternity;
and who gather nothing else from the narration of Moses than that the
world was furnished with new ornaments, and received a form of which it
was before destitute. This indeed was formerly a common fable among
heathens, who had received only an obscure report of the creation, and
who, according to custom, adulterated the truth of God with strange
figments; but for Christian men to labour (as Steuchus does) in
maintaining this gross error is absurd and intolerable. Let this, then be
maintained in the first place, that the world is not eternal but was
created by God. There is no doubt that Moses gives the name of heaven and
earth to that confused mass which he, shortly afterwards, (verse 2,)
denominates waters. The reason of which is, that this matter was to be
the seed of the whole world. Besides, this is the generally recognized
division of the world.
  "God." Moses has it Elohim, a noun of the plural number. Whence the
inference is drawn, that the three Persons of the Godhead are here noted;
but since, as a proof of so great a matter, it appears to me to have
little solidity, will not insist upon the word; but rather caution
readers to beware of violent glosses of this, kind. They think that they
have testimony against the Asians, to prove the Deity of the Son and of
the Spirit, but in the meantime they involve themselves in the error of
Sabellius, because Moses afterwards subjoins that the Elohim had spoken,
and that the Spirit of the Elohim rested upon the waters. If we suppose
three persons to be here denoted, there will be no distinction between
them. For it will follow, both that the Son is begotten by himself, and
that the Spirit is not of the Father, but of himself. For me it is
sufficient that the plural number expresses those powers which God
exercised in creating the world. Moreover I acknowledge that the
Scripture, although it recites many powers of the Godhead, yet always
recalls us to the Father, and his Word, and spirit, as we shall shortly
see. But those absurdities, to which I have alluded, forbid us with
subtlety to distort what Moses simply declares concerning God himself, by
applying it to the separate Persons of the Godhead. This, however, I
regard as beyond controversy, that from the peculiar circumstance of the
passage itself, a title is here ascribed to God, expressive of that
powers which was previously in some way included in his eternal essence.

2. "And the earth was without form and void." I shall not be very
solicitous about the exposition of these two epithets, "tohu", and
"bohu". The Hebrews use them when they designate anything empty and
confused, or vain, and nothing worth. Undoubtedly Moses placed them both
in opposition to all those created objects which pertain to the form, the
ornament and the perfection of the world. Were we now to take away, I
say, from the earth all that God added after the time here alluded to,
then we should have this rude and unpolished, or rather shapeless chaos.
Therefore I regard what he immediately subjoins that "darkness was upon
the face of the abyss," as a part of that confused emptiness: because the
light began to give some external appearance to the world. For the same
reason he calls it the abyss and waters, since in that mass of matter
nothing was solid or stable, nothing distinct.
  "And the Spirit of God." Interpreters have wrested this passage in
various ways. The opinion of some that it means the wind, is too frigid
to require refutation. They who understand by it the Eternal Spirit of
God, do rightly; yet all do not attain the meaning of Moses in the
connection of his discourse; hence arise the various interpretations of
the participle "merachepeth". I will, in the first place, state what (in
my judgment) Moses intended. We have already heard that before God had
perfected the world it was an undigested mass; he now teaches that the
power of the Spirit was necessary in order to sustain it. For this doubt
might occur to the mind, how such a disorderly heap could stand; seeing
that we now behold the world preserved by government, or order. He
therefore asserts that this mass, however confused it might be, was
rendered stable, for the time, by the secret efficacy of the Spirit. Now
there are two significations of the Hebrew word which suit the present
place; either that the spirit moved and agitated itself over the waters,
for the sake of putting forth vigour; or that He brooded over them to
cherish them. Inasmuch as it makes little difference in the result,
whichever of these explanations is preferred, let the reader's judgment
be left free. But if that chaos required the secret inspiration of God to
prevent its speedy dissolution; how could this order, so fair and
distinct, subsist by itself, unless it derived strength elsewhere?
Therefore, that Scripture must be fulfilled, 'Send forth thy Spirit, and
they shall be created, and thou shalt renew the face of the earth,' (Ps.
104: 30;) so, on the other hand, as soon as the Lord takes away his
Spirit, all things return to their dust and vanish away, (ver. 29.)

3. "And God said." Moses now, for the first time, introduces God in the
act of speaking, as if he had created the mass of heaven and earth
without the Word. Yet John testifies that 'without him nothing was made
of the things which were made,' (John 1: 3.) And it is certain that the
world had been begun by the same efficacy of the Word by which it was
completed. God, however, did not put forth his Word until he proceeded to
originate light; because in the act of distinguishing his wisdom begins
to be conspicuous. Which thing alone is sufficient to confute the
blasphemy of Servetus. This impure caviler asserts, that the first
beginning of the Word was when God commanded the light to be; as if the
cause, truly, were not prior to its effect. Since however by the Word of
God things which were not came suddenly into being, we ought rather to
infer the eternity of His essence. Wherefore the Apostles rightly prove
the Deity of Christ from hence, that since he is the Word of God, all
things have been created by him. Servetus imagines a new quality in God
when he begins to speak. But far otherwise must we think concerning the
Word of God, namely, that he is the Wisdom dwelling in God, and without
which God could never be; the effect of which, however, became apparent
when the light was created.
  "Let there be light." It we proper that the light, by means of which
the world was to be adorned with such excellent beauty, should be first
created; and this also was the commencement of the distinction, [among
the creatures.] It did not, however, happen from inconsideration or by
accident, that the light preceded the sun and the moon. To nothing are we
more prone than to tie down the power of God to those instruments the
agency of which he employs. The sun an moon supply us with light: And,
according to our notions we so include this power to give light in them,
that if they were taken away from the world, it would seem impossible for
any light to remain. Therefore the Lord, by the very order of the
creation, bears witness that he holds in his hand the light, which he is
able to impart to us without the sun and moon. Further, it is certain
from the context, that the light was so created as to be interchanged
with darkness. But it may be asked, whether light and darkness succeeded
each other in turn through the whole circuit of the world; or whether the
darkness occupied one half of the circle, while light shone in the other.
There is, however, no doubt that the order of their succession was
alternate, but whether it was everywhere day at the same time, and
everywhere night also, I would rather leave undecided; nor is it very
necessary to be known.

4. "And God saw the light. Here God is introduced by Moses as surveying
his work, that he might take pleasure in it. But he does it for our sake,
to teach us that God has made nothing without a certain reason and
design. And we ought not so to understand the words of Moses as if God
did not know that his work was good, till it was finished. But the
meaning of the passage is, that the work, such as we now see it, was
approved by God. Therefore nothing remains for us, but to acquiesce in
this judgment of God. And this admonition is very useful. For whereas man
ought to apply all his senses to the admiring contemplation of the works
of God, we see what license he really allows himself in detracting from

5. "And God called the light". That is, God willed that there should be a
regular vicissitude of days and nights; which also followed immediately
when the first day was ended. For God removed the light from view, that
night might be the commencement of another day. What Moses says however,
admits a double interpretation; either that this was the evening and
morning belonging to the first day, or that the first day consisted of
the evening and the morning. Whichever interpretation be chosen, it makes
no difference in the sense, for he simply understands the day to have
been made up of two parts. Further, he begins the day, according to the
custom of his nation, with the evening. It is to no purpose to dispute
whether this be the best and the legitimate order or not. We know that
darkness preceded time itself; when God withdrew the light, he closed the
day. I do not doubt that the most ancient fathers, to whom the coming
night was the end of one day and the beginning of another, followed this
mode of reckoning. Although Moses did not intend here to prescribe a rule
which it would be criminal to violate; yet (as we have now said) he
accommodated his discourse to the received custom. Wherefore, as the Jews
foolishly condemn all the reckonings of other people, as if God had
sanctioned this alone; so again are they equally foolish who contend that
this modest reckoning, which Moses approves, is preposterous.

  "The first day". Here the error of those is manifestly refuted, who
maintain that the world was made in a moment. For it is too violent a
cavil to contend that Moses distributes the work which God perfected at
once into six days, for the mere purpose of conveying instruction. Let us
rather conclude that God himself took the space of six days, for the
purpose of accommodating his works to the capacity of men. We slightingly
pass over the infinite glory of God, which here shines forth; whence
arises this but from our excessive dullness in considering his greatness?
In the meantime, the vanity of our minds carries us away elsewhere. For
the correction of this fault, God applied the most suitable remedy when
he distributed the creation of the world into successive portions, that
he might fix our attention, and compel us, as if he had laid his hand
upon us, to pause and to reflect. For the confirmation of the gloss above
alluded to, a passage from Ecclesiasticus is unskilfully cited. 'He who
liveth for ever created all things at once,' (Ecclus. 18: 1.) For the
Greek adverb "koinei", which the writer uses, means no such thing, nor
does it refer to time, but to all things universally.

6. "Let there be a firmament." The work of the second day is to provide
an empty space around the circumference of the earth, that heaven and
earth may not be mixed together. For since the proverb, 'to mingle heaven
and earth,' denotes the extreme of disorder, this distinction ought to be
regarded as of great importance. Moreover, the word "rakia" comprehends
not only the whole region of the air, but whatever is open above us: as
the word heaven is sometimes understood by the Latins. Thus the
arrangement, as well of the heavens as of the lower atmosphere, is called
"rakia" without discrimination between them, but sometimes the word
signifies both together sometimes one part only, as will appear more
plainly in our progress. I know not why the Greeks have chosen to render
the word "stereooma", which the Latins have imitated in the term,
firmamentum; for literally it means expanse. And to this David alludes
when he says that 'the heavens are stretched out by God like a curtain,'
(Ps. 104: 2.) If any one should inquire whether this vacuity did not
previously exist, I answer, however true it may be that all parts of the
earth were not overflowed by the waters; yet now, for the first time, a
separation was ordained, whereas a confused admixture had previously
existed. Moses describes the special use of this expanse, "to divide the
waters from the waters" from which word arises a great difficulty. For it
appears opposed to common sense, and quite incredible, that there should
be waters above the heaven. Hence some resort to allegory, and
philosophize concerning angels; but quite beside the purpose. For, to my
mind, this is a certain principle, that nothing is here treated of but
the visible form of the world. He who would learn astronomy, and other
recondite arts, let him go elsewhere. Here the Spirit of God would teach
all men without exception; and therefore what Gregory declares falsely
and in vain respecting statues and pictures is truly applicable to the
history of the creation, namely, that it is the book of the unlearned.
The things, therefore, which he relates, serve as the garniture of that
theatre which he places before our eyes. Whence I conclude, that the
waters here meant are such as the rude and unlearned may perceive. The
assertion of some, that they embrace by faith what they have read
concerning the waters above the heavens, notwithstanding their ignorance
respecting them, is not in accordance with the design of Moses. And truly
a longer inquiry into a matter open and manifest is superfluous. We see
that the clouds suspended in the air, which threaten to fall upon our
heads, yet leave us space to breathe. They who deny that this is effected
by the wonderful providence of God, are vainly inflated with the folly of
their own minds. We know, indeed that the rain is naturally produced; but
the deluge sufficiently shows how speedily we might be overwhelmed by the
bursting of the clouds, unless the cataracts of heaven were closed by the
hand of God. Nor does David rashly recount this among His miracles, that
God "layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters," (Ps. 104: 31;) and
he elsewhere calls upon the celestial waters to praise God, (Ps. 148: 4.)
Since, therefore, God has created the clouds, and assigned them a region
above us, it ought not to be forgotten that they are restrained by the
power of God, lest, gushing forth with sudden violence, they should
swallow us up: and especially since no other barrier is opposed to them
than the liquid and yielding, air, which would easily give way unless
this word prevailed, 'Let there be an expanse between the waters.' Yet
Moses has not affixed to the work of this day the note that "God saw that
it was good:" perhaps because there was no advantage from it till the
terrestrial waters were gathered into their proper place, which was done
on the next day, and therefore it is there twice repeated.

9. "Let the waters ... be gathered together." This also is an illustrious
miracle, that the waters by their departure have given a dwelling-place
to men. For even philosophers allow that the natural position of the
waters was to cover the whole earth, as Moses declares they did in the
beginning; first, because being an element, it must be circular, and
because this element is heavier than the air, and lighter than the earth,
it ought cover the latter in its whole circumference. But that the seas,
being gathered together as on heaps, should give place for man, is
seemingly preternatural; and therefore Scripture often extols the
goodness of God in this particular. See Psalm 33: 7, 'He has gathered the
waters together on a heap, and has laid them up in his treasures.' Also
Psalm 78: 13, 'He has collected the waters as into a bottle.' Jeremiah 5:
22, 'Will ye not fear me? will ye not tremble at my presence, who have
placed the sand as the boundary of the sea?' Job 38: 8, 'Who has shut up
the sea with doors? Have not I surrounded it with gates and bars? I have
said, Hitherto shalt thou proceed; here shall thy swelling waves be
broken.' Let us, therefore, know that we are dwelling on dry ground,
because God, by his command, has removed the waters that they should not
overflow the whole earth.

11. "Let the earth bring forth grass." Hitherto the earth was naked and
barren, now the Lord fructifies it by his word. For though it was already
destined to bring forth fruit, yet till new virtue proceeded from the
mouth of God, it must remain dry and empty. For neither was it naturally
fit to produce anything, nor had it a germinating principle from any
other source, till the mouth of the Lord was opened. For what David
declares concerning the heavens, ought also to be extended to the earth;
that it was 'made by the word of the Lord, and was adorned and furnished
by the breath of his mouth,' (Ps. 33: 6.) Moreover, it did not happen
fortuitously, that herbs and trees were created before the sun and moon.

We now see, indeed, that the earth is quickened by the sun to cause it to
bring forth its fruits; nor was God ignorant of this law of nature, which
he has since ordained: but in order that we might learn to refer all
things to him he did not then make use of the sun or moon. He permits us
to perceive the efficacy which he infuses into them, so far as he uses
their instrumentality; but because we are wont to regard as part of their
nature properties which they derive elsewhere, it was necessary that the
vigour which they now seem to impart to the earth should be manifest
before they were created. We acknowledge, it is true, in words, that the
First Cause is self-sufficient, and that intermediate and secondary
causes have only what they borrow from this First Cause; but, in reality,
we picture God to ourselves as poor or imperfect, unless he is assisted
by second causes. How few, indeed, are there who ascend higher than the
sun when they treat of the fecundity of the earth? What therefore we
declare God to have done designedly, was indispensably necessary; that we
may learn from the order of the creation itself, that God acts through
the creatures, not as if he needed external help, but because it was his
pleasure. When he says, 'Let the earth bring forth the herb which may
produce seed, the tree whose seed is in itself,' he signifies not only
that herbs and trees were then created, but that, at the same time, both
were endued with the power of propagation, in order that their several
species might be perpetuated. Since, therefore, we daily see the earth
pouring forth to us such riches from its lap, since we see the herbs
producing seed, and this seed received and cherished in the bosom of the
earth till it springs forth, and since we see trees shooting from other
trees; all this flows from the same Word. If therefore we inquire, how it
happens that the earth is fruitful, that the germ is produced from the
seed, that fruits come to maturity, and their various kinds are annually
reproduced; no other cause will be found, but that God has once spoken,
that is, has issued his eternal decree; and that the earth, and all
things proceeding from it, yield obedience to the command of God, which
they always hear.

14. "Let there be lights". Moses passes onwards to the fourth day, on
which the stars were made. God had before created the light, but he now
institutes a new order in nature, that the sun should be the dispenser of
diurnal light, and the moon and stars should shine by night. And He
assigns them this office, to teach us that all creatures are subject to
his will, and execute what he enjoins upon them. For Moses relates
nothing else than that God ordained certain instruments to diffuse
through the earth, by reciprocal changes, that light which had been
previously created. The only difference is this, that the light was
before dispersed, but now proceeds from lucid bodies; which in serving
this purpose, obey the command of God.
  "To divide the day from the night." He means the artificial day, which
begins at the rising of the sun and ends at its setting. For the natural
day (which he mentions above) includes in itself the night. Hence infer,
that the interchange of days and nights shall be continual: because the
word of God, who determined that the days should be distinct from the
nights, directs the course of the sun to this end.
  "Let them be for signs." It must be remembered, that Moses does not
speak with philosophical acuteness on occult mysteries, but relates those
things which are everywhere observed, even by the uncultivated, and which
are in common use. A twofold advantage is chiefly perceived from the
course of the sun and moon; the one is natural, the other applies to
civil institutions. Under the term nature, I also comprise agriculture.
For although sowing and reaping require human art and industry; this,
nevertheless, is natural, that the sun, by its nearer approach, warms our
earth, that he introduces the vernal season, that he is the cause of
summer and autumn. But that, for the sake of assisting their memory, men
number among themselves years and months; that of these, they form lustra
and olympiads; that they keep stated days; this I say, is peculiar to
civil polity. Of each of these mention is here made. I must, however, in
a few words, state the reason why Moses calls them signs; because certain
inquisitive persons abuse this passages to give colour to their frivolous
predictions: I call those men Chaldeans and fanatics, who divine
everything from the aspects of the stars. Because Moses declares that the
sun and moon were appointed for signs, they think themselves entitled to
elicit from them anything they please. But confutation is easy: for they
are called signs of certain things, not signs to denote whatever is
according to our fancy. What indeed does Moses assert to be signified by
them, except things belonging to the order of nature? For the same God
who here ordains signs testifies by Isaiah that he 'will dissipate the
signs of the diviners,' (Isa. 44: 25;) and forbids us to be 'dismayed at
the signs of heaven,' (Jer. 10: 2.) But since it is manifest that Moses
does not depart from the ordinary custom of men, I desist from a longer
discussion. The word "moadim" which they translate 'certain times', is
variously understood among the Hebrews: for it signifies both time and
place, and also assemblies of persons. The Rabbis commonly explain the
passage as referring to their festivals. But I extend it further to mean,
in the first place, the opportunities of time, which in French are called
saisons, (seasons;) and then all fairs and forensic assemblies. Finally,
Moses commemorates the unbounded goodness of God in causing the sun and
moon not only to enlighten us, but to afford us various other advantages
for the daily use of life. It remains that we, purely enjoying the
multiplied bounties of God, should learn not to profane such excellent
gifts by our preposterous abuse of them. In the meantime, let us admire
this wonderful Artificer, who has so beautifully arranged all things
above and beneath, that they may respond to each other in most harmonious

15. "Let them be for lights." It is well again to repeat what I have said
before, that it is not here philosophically discussed, how great the sun
is in the heaven, and how great, or how little, is the moon; but how much
light comes to us from them. For Moses here addresses himself to our
senses, that the knowledge of the gifts of God which we enjoy may not
glide away. Therefore, in order to apprehend the meaning of Moses, it is
to no purpose to soar above the heavens; let us only open our eyes to
behold this light which God enkindles for us in the earth. By this method
(as I have before observed) the dishonesty of those men is sufficiently
rebuked, who censure Moses for not speaking with greater exactness. For
as it became a theologian, he had respect to us rather than to the stars.
Nor, in truth, was he ignorant of the fact, that the moon had not
sufficient brightness to enlighten the earth, unless it borrowed from the
sun; but he deemed it enough to declare what we all may plainly perceive,
that the moon is a dispenser of light to us. That it is, as the
astronomers assert, an opaque body, I allow to be true, while I deny it
to be a dark body. For, first, since it is placed above the element of
fire, it must of necessity be a fiery body. Hence it follows, that it is
also luminous; but seeing that it has not light sufficient to penetrate
to us, it borrows what is wanting from the sun. He calls it a "lesser
light" by comparison; because the portion of light which it emits to us
is small compared with the infinite splendour of the sun.

16. "The greater light." I have said, that Moses does not here subtilely
descant, as a philosopher, on the secrets of nature, as may be seen in
these words. First, he assigns a place in the expanse of heaven to the
planets and stars; but astronomers make a distinction of spheres, and, at
the same time, teach that the fixed stars have their proper place in the
firmament. Moses makes two great luminaries; but astronomers prove, by
conclusive reasons that the star of Saturn, which on account of its great
distance, appears the least of all, is greater than the moon. Here lies
the difference; Moses wrote in a popular style things which without
instruction, all ordinary persons, endued with common sense, are able to
understand; but astronomers investigate with great labour whatever the
sagacity of the human mind can comprehend. Nevertheless, this study is
not to be reprobated, nor this science to be condemned, because some
frantic persons are wont boldly to reject whatever is unknown to them.
For astronomy is not only pleasant, but also very useful to be known: it
cannot be denied that this art unfolds the admirable wisdom of God.
Wherefore, as ingenious men are to be honoured who have expended useful
labour on this subject, so they who have leisure and capacity ought not
to neglect this kind of exercise. Nor did Moses truly wish to withdraw us
from this pursuit in omitting such things as are peculiar to the art; but
because he was ordained a teacher as well of the unlearned and rude as of
the learned, he could not otherwise fulfill his office than by descending
to this grosser method of instruction. Had he spoken of things generally
unknown, the uneducated might have pleaded in excuse that such subjects
were beyond their capacity. Lastly since the Spirit of God here opens a
common school for all, it is not surprising that he should chiefly choose
those subjects which would be intelligible to all. If the astronomer
inquires respecting the actual dimensions of the stars, he will find the
moon to be less than Saturn; but this is something abstruse, for to the
sight it appears differently. Moses, therefore, rather adapts his
discourse to common usage. For since the Lord stretches forth, as it
were, his hand to us in causing us to enjoy the brightness of the sun and
moon, how great would be our ingratitude were we to close our eyes
against our own experience? There is therefore no reason why janglers
should deride the unskilfulness of Moses in making the moon the second
luminary; for he does not call us up into heaven, he only proposes things
which lie open before our eyes. Let the astronomers possess their more

(continued in part 4...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-01/cvgn1-03.txt