I Sentences, Distinction 3, Question 1
Concerning Man's Knowledge of God

ARTICULUS IV
Utrum philosophi naturali cognitione cognoverint Trinitatem ex creaturis.
Fourth Article
Whether philosophers knew the Trinity from creatures by a natural knowledge.
Ad quartum sic proceditur. 1. Videtur quod philosophi naturali cognitione ex creaturis in Trinitatem devenerunt. Dicit enim Aristoteles, in principio De caelo et mundo: Et per hunc quidem numerum, scilicet ternarium, adhibuimus nosipsos magnificare Deum unum eminentem proprietatibus eorum quae creata sunt. Similiter etiam Plato, in Parmen., loquitur multa de paterno intellectu, et multi alii philosophi.We proceed thus to the fourth issue. 1. It seems that philosophers reached the Trinity from creatures by a natural knowledge. For, at the beginning of On Heaven and Earth, Aristotle says: And indeed through this number, namely, three, we brought ourselves to magnify one God standing above the properties of the things that have been created. Similarly, in the Parmenides, Plato says many things about the paternal intellect, and so do many other philosophers.
2. Praeterea, philosophi potuerunt devenire in cognitionem eorum quae in creaturis relucent. Sed in anima est expressa similitudo Trinitatis personarum. Ergo videtur quod per potentias animae, quas philosophi multum consideraverunt, potuerunt in Trinitatem personarum devenire.2. Furthermore, philosophers could reach knowledge of the features that shine forth in creatures. But there is in the soul a clear likeness of the Trinity of persons. It seems, therefore, that through the soul's powers, which philosophers considered much, they could reach the Trinity of persons.
3. Item, Richardus de Sancto Victore, I de Trinit., cap. IV, dicit: Credo sine dubio quod ad quamcumque explanationem veritatis, quae necesse est esse, non modo probabilia, immo et necessaria argumenta non desunt. Sed necessarium est cognoscere Trinitatem. Ergo videtur quod ad ipsius cognitionem philosophi rationem habere potuerunt. Quod etiam videtur ex probationibus supra inductis, quibus Trinitas probatur.3. Moreover, in Book 1, Chapter 4 of On the Trinity, Richard of St. Victor says: I believe without doubt that probable, nay, necessary arguments are not lacking for any explanation of a truth that is necessary. But it is necessary to know the Trinity. It seems, therefore, that philosophers could have an argument to acquire knowledge of the Trinity. Such seems even to be the case from the arguments introduced above, by which the Trinity is demonstrated.
4. Item, dicitur Rom., I, in Glossa, quod philosophi non pervenerunt ad notitiam personae tertiae, scilicet Spiritus sancti, et idem habetur super Exod., VIII, ubi dicitur, quod magi Pharaonis defecerunt in tertio signo. Ergo videtur ad minus quod ad notitiam duarum personarum venerunt.4. Again, in a gloss on Romans 1, it is said that philosophers did not reach an awareness of the third person, namely, the Holy Spirit, and the same point is made in a gloss on Exodus 8, where it is said that the magicians of Pharaoh failed in the third sign. At the least, therefore, it seems that they came to an awareness of two persons.
Contra, Hebr., XI, 1: Est fides substantia sperandarum rerum, argumentum non apparentium. Sed Deum esse trinum et unum est articulus fidei. Ergo non est apparens rationi.On the contrary, Hebrews 11:1 states: Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But it is an article of faith that God is three and one. This is not, therefore, apparent to reason.
SOLUTIO. Respondeo dicendum, quod per naturalem rationem non potest perveniri in cognitionem Trinitatis personarum; et ideo philosophi nihil de hoc sciverunt, nisi forte per revelationem vel auditum ab aliis. Et hujus ratio est, quia naturalis ratio non cognoscit Deum nisi ex creaturis. Omnia autem quae dicuntur de Deo per respectum ad creaturas, pertinent ad essentiam et non ad personas. Et ideo ex naturali ratione non venitur nisi in attributa divinae essentiae. Tamen personas, secundum appropriata eis, philosophi cognoscere potuerunt, cognoscentes potentiam, sapientiam, bonitatem.Solution: I respond that it should be said that one cannot by natural reason arrive at knowledge of the Trinity of persons, and therefore, philosophers knew nothing about this, unless perhaps by revelation or by having heard it from others. This is because natural reason knows God only from creatures. However, all the things that are said about God on account of a relation to creatures concern God's essence, not the persons. Therefore, from natural reason, one comes only to the attributes of the divine essence. Philosophers could, nonetheless, know the persons according to the attributes appropriated to them, knowing God's power, wisdom, and goodness.
Ad primum ergo dicendum, quod, secundum expositionem Commentatoris, Aristoteles non intendit Trinitatem personarum in Deo ponere; sed propter hoc quod in omnibus creaturis apparet perfectio in ternario, sicut in principio, medio et fine, ideo antiqui honorabant Deum in sacrificiis et orationibus triplicatis. Plato autem dicitur multa cognovisse de divinis, legens in libris veteris legis, quos invenit in Aegypto. Vel forte intellectum paternum nominat intellectum divinum, secundum quod in se quodam modo concipit ideam mundi, quae est mundus archetypus.To the first, therefore, it should be said that, according to the exposition of the Commentator, Aristotle did not mean to set up a trinity of persons in God. But he meant that, because a threefold perfection is evident in all creatures, namely, in their beginning, middle, and end, the ancients for this reason used to honor God in triple sacrifices and prayers. Plato, however, is said to have known many things about divine matters, reading the ancient books of law that he discovered in Egypt. Or perhaps he calls the divine intellect 'the paternal intellect' insofar as in itself it comprehends the idea of the world, which is the archetypal world.
Ad secundum dicendum, quod similitudo Trinitatis relucens in anima est omnino imperfecta et deficiens, sicut infra dicet Magister. Sed dicitur expressa per comparationem ad similitudinem vestigii.To the second, it should be said that the likeness of the Trinity that shines forth in the soul is altogether imperfect and deficient, as the master will say below. But it is called 'clear' by comparison to the likeness of a vestige.
Ad tertium dicendum, quod si dictum Richardi intelligatur universaliter, quod omne verum possit probari per rationem, est expresse falsum; quia prima principia per se nota non probantur. Si autem aliqua sunt in se nota quae nobis occulta sunt, illa probantur per notiora quoad nos. Notiora autem quoad nos sunt effectus principiorum. Ex effectibus autem creaturarum, Trinitas personarum probari non potest, ut dictum est. Et ideo relinquitur quod nullo modo possit probari; et omnes rationes inductae sunt magis adaptationes quaedam, quam necessario concludentes. Remoto enim per impossibile intellectu distinctionis personarum, adhuc remanebit in Deo summa bonitas, et beatitudo, et charitas.To the third, it should be said that, if Richard's statement is understood universally in the sense that every truth can be proven by an argument, it is clearly false. For self-evident first principles are not proven. If, however, some things that are concealed from us are known in themselves, they are proven by means of things that are better known to us. Things that are better known to us, however, are effects of principles. Yet, from the effects of creatures, the Trinity of persons cannot be proven, as was said. It therefore remains that it can be proven in no way, and all arguments introduced concerning the Trinity are certain fitting arguments rather than arguments that establish their conclusion with necessity. For when, by an impossible assumption, the understanding of the distinction of persons has been removed, there will still remain in God the highest goodness, beatitude, and charity.
Ad quartum dicendum, quod philosophi non pervenerunt in cognitionem duarum personarum quantum ad propria, sed solum quantum ad appropriata, non inquantum appropriata sunt, quia sic eorum cognitio dependeret ex propriis, sed inquantum sunt attributa divinae naturae. Et si objiciatur, quod similiter devenerunt in cognitionem bonitatis, quae appropriatur Spiritui sancto, sicut in cognitionem potentiae et sapientiae, quae appropriantur Patri et Filio: dicendum, quod bonitatem non cognoverunt quantum ad potissimum effectum ipsius, incarnationem scilicet et redemptionem. Vel quia non tantum intenderunt venerationi bonitatis divinae, quam etiam non imitabantur, sicut venerati sunt potentiam et sapientiam.To the fourth, it should be said that the philosophers did not reach knowledge of two persons with respect to proper attributes, but only with respect to appropriated attributes - not insofar as these attributes are appropriated, because such knowledge of them would be derived from proper attributes, but insofar as they are attributes of the divine essence. And if it is objected that the philosophers likewise arrived at a knowledge of goodness, which is appropriated to the Holy Spirit, just as they arrived at a knowledge of power and wisdom, which are appropriated to the Father and to the Son, it should be said that they did not know goodness with respect to its most important effect, namely, the incarnation and redemption. Or it should be said that they did not know God's goodness because, just as God's power and wisdom were venerated by the philosophers, the philosophers aimed at only the veneration of the divine goodness, which they did not also imitate.

© John Laumakis
(jlamakis@hilltop.ic.edu)



The Aquinas Translation Project
(http://www4.desales.edu/~philtheo/loughlin/ATP/index.html)