The Theological Tractates and The Consolation of Philosophy
by Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius
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[Transcriber's Note: The paper edition of this book has Latin and English pages facing each other. This version of the text uses alternating Latin and English sections, with the English text slightly indented.]










In preparing the text of the Consolatio I have used the apparatus in Peiper's edition (Teubner, 1871), since his reports, as I know in the case of the Tegernseensis, are generally accurate and complete; I have depended also on my own collations or excerpts from various of the important manuscripts, nearly all of which I have at least examined, and I have also followed, not always but usually, the opinions of Engelbrecht in his admirable article, Die Consolatio Philosophiae des Boethius in the Sitzungsberichte of the Vienna Academy, cxliv. (1902) 1-60. The present text, then, has been constructed from only part of the material with which an editor should reckon, though the reader may at least assume that every reading in the text has, unless otherwise stated, the authority of some manuscript of the ninth or tenth century; in certain orthographical details, evidence from the text of the Opuscula Sacra has been used without special mention of this fact. We look to August Engelbrecht for the first critical edition of the Consolatio at, we hope, no distant date.

The text of the Opuscula Sacra is based on my own collations of all the important manuscripts of these works. An edition with complete apparatus criticus will be ready before long for the Vienna Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum. The history of the text of the Opuscula Sacra, as I shall attempt to show elsewhere, is intimately connected with that of the Consolatio.



Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius, of the famous Praenestine family of the Anicii, was born about 480 A.D. in Rome. His father was an ex-consul; he himself was consul under Theodoric the Ostrogoth in 510, and his two sons, children of a great grand-daughter of the renowned Q. Aurelius Symmachus, were joint consuls in 522. His public career was splendid and honourable, as befitted a man of his race, attainments, and character. But he fell under the displeasure of Theodoric, and was charged with conspiring to deliver Rome from his rule, and with corresponding treasonably to this end with Justin, Emperor of the East. He was thrown into prison at Pavia, where he wrote the Consolation of Philosophy, and he was brutally put to death in 524. His brief and busy life was marked by great literary achievement. His learning was vast, his industry untiring, his object unattainable— nothing less than the transmission to his countrymen of all the works of Plato and Aristotle, and the reconciliation of their apparently divergent views. To form the idea was a silent judgment on the learning of his day; to realize it was more than one man could accomplish; but Boethius accomplished much. He translated the [Greek: Eisagogae] of Porphyry, and the whole of Aristotle's Organon. He wrote a double commentary on the [Greek: Eisagogae] and commentaries on the Categories and the De Interpretatione of Aristotle, and on the Topica of Cicero. He also composed original treatises on the categorical and hypothetical syllogism, on Division and on Topical Differences. He adapted the arithmetic of Nicomachus, and his textbook on music, founded on various Greek authorities, was in use at Oxford and Cambridge until modern times. His five theological Tractates are here, together with the Consolation of Philosophy, to speak for themselves.

Boethius was the last of the Roman philosophers, and the first of the scholastic theologians. The present volume serves to prove the truth of both these assertions.

The Consolation of Philosophy is indeed, as Gibbon called it, "a golden volume, not unworthy of the leisure of Plato or of Tully." To belittle its originality and sincerity, as is sometimes done, with a view to saving the Christianity of the writer, is to misunderstand his mind and his method. The Consolatio is not, as has been maintained, a mere patchwork of translations from Aristotle and the Neoplatonists. Rather it is the supreme essay of one who throughout his life had found his highest solace in the dry light of reason. His chief source of refreshment, in the dungeon to which his beloved library had not accompanied him, was a memory well stocked with the poetry and thought of former days. The development of the argument is anything but Neoplatonic; it is all his own.

And if the Consolation of Philosophy admits Boethius to the company of Cicero or even of Plato, the theological Tractates mark him as the forerunner of St. Thomas. It was the habit of a former generation to regard Boethius as an eclectic, the transmitter of a distorted Aristotelianism, a pagan, or at best a luke-warm Christian, who at the end cast off the faith which he had worn in times of peace, and wrapped himself in the philosophic cloak which properly belonged to him. The authenticity of the Tractates was freely denied. We know better now. The discovery by Alfred Holder, and the illuminating discussion by Hermann Usener,[1] of a fragment of Cassiodorus are sufficient confirmation of the manuscript tradition, apart from the work of scholars who have sought to justify that tradition from internal evidence. In that fragment Cassiodorus definitely ascribes to his friend Boethius "a book on the Trinity, some dogmatic chapters, and a book against Nestorius."[2] Boethius was without doubt a Christian, a Doctor and perhaps a martyr. Nor is it necessary to think that, when in prison, he put away his faith. If it is asked why the Consolation of Philosophy contains no conscious or direct reference to the doctrines which are traced in the Tractates with so sure a hand, and is, at most, not out of harmony with Christianity, the answer is simple. In the Consolation he is writing philosophy; in the Tractates he is writing theology. He observes what Pascal calls the orders of things. Philosophy belongs to one order, theology to another. They have different objects. The object of philosophy is to understand and explain the nature of the world around us; the object of theology is to understand and explain doctrines delivered by divine revelation. The scholastics recognized the distinction,[3] and the corresponding difference in the function of Faith and Reason. Their final aim was to co-ordinate the two, but this was not possible before the thirteenth century. Meanwhile Boethius helps to prepare the way. In the Consolation he gives Reason her range, and suffers her, unaided, to vindicate the ways of Providence. In the Tractates Reason is called in to give to the claims of Faith the support which it does not really lack.[4] Reason, however, has still a right to be heard. The distinction between fides and ratio is proclaimed in the first two Tractates. In the second especially it is drawn with a clearness worthy of St. Thomas himself; and there is, of course, the implication that the higher authority resides with fides. But the treatment is philosophical and extremely bold. Boethius comes back to the question of the substantiality of the divine Persons which he has discussed in Tr. I. from a fresh point of view. Once more he decides that the Persons are predicated relatively; even Trinity, he concludes, is not predicated substantially of deity. Does this square with catholic doctrine? It is possible to hear a note of challenge in his words to John the Deacon, fidem si poterit rationemque coniunge. Philosophy states the problem in unequivocal terms. Theology is required to say whether they commend themselves.

One object of the scholastics, anterior to the final co-ordination of the two sciences, was to harmonize and codify all the answers to all the questions that philosophy raises. The ambition of Boethius was not so soaring, but it was sufficiently bold. He set out, first to translate, and then to reconcile, Plato and Aristotle; to go behind all the other systems, even the latest and the most in vogue, back to the two great masters, and to show that they have the truth, and are in substantial accord. So St. Thomas himself, if he cannot reconcile the teaching of Plato and Aristotle, at least desires to correct the one by the other, to discover what truth is common to both, and to show its correspondence with Christian doctrine. It is reasonable to conjecture that Boethius, if he had lived, might have attempted something of the kind. Were he alive to-day, he might feel more in tune with the best of the pagans than with most contemporary philosophic thought.

In yet one more respect Boethius belongs to the company of the schoolmen. He not only put into circulation many precious philosophical notions, served as channel through which various works of Aristotle passed into the schools, and handed down to them a definite Aristotelian method for approaching the problem of faith; he also supplied material for that classification of the various sciences which is an essential accompaniment of every philosophical movement, and of which the Middle Ages felt the value.[5] The uniform distribution into natural sciences, mathematics and theology which he recommends may be traced in the work of various teachers up to the thirteenth century, when it is finally accepted and defended by St. Thomas in his commentary on the De Trinitate.

A seventeenth-century translation of the Consolatio Philosophiae is here presented with such alterations as are demanded by a better text, and the requirements of modern scholarship. There was, indeed, not much to do, for the rendering is most exact. This in a translation of that date is not a little remarkable. We look for fine English and poetry in an Elizabethan; but we do not often get from him such loyalty to the original as is here displayed.

Of the author "I.T." nothing is known. He may have been John Thorie, a Fleming born in London in 1568, and a B.A. of Christ Church, 1586. Thorie "was a person well skilled in certain tongues, and a noted poet of his times" (Wood, Athenae Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 624), but his known translations are apparently all from the Spanish.[6]

Our translator dedicates his "Five books of Philosophical Comfort" to the Dowager Countess of Dorset, widow of Thomas Sackville, who was part author of A Mirror for Magistrates and Gorboduc, and who, we learn from I.T.'s preface, meditated a similar work. I.T. does not unduly flatter his patroness, and he tells her plainly that she will not understand the philosophy of the book, though the theological and practical parts may be within her scope.

The Opuscula Sacra have never before, to our knowledge, been translated. In reading and rendering them we have been greatly helped by two mediaeval commentaries: one by John the Scot (edited by E.K. Rand in Traube's Quellen und Untersuchungen, vol. i. pt. 2, Munich, 1906); the other by Gilbert de la Porree (printed in Migne, P.L. lxiv.). We also desire to record our indebtedness in many points of scholarship and philosophy to Mr. E.J. Thomas of Emmanuel College.

Finally, thanks are due to Mr. Dolson for the suggestion in the footnote on the preceding page, and also to Professor Lane Cooper of Cornell University for many valuable corrections as this reprint was passing through the Press.

H.F.S. E.K.R.

October, 1926.

[1] Anecdoton Holderi, Leipzig, 1877.

[2] Scripsit librum de sancta trinitate et capita quaedam dogmatica et librum contra Nestorium. On the question of the genuineness of Tr. IV. De fide catholica see note ad loc.

[3] Cp. H. de Wulf, Histoire de la Philosophie medievale (Louvain and Paris 1915), p. 332.

[4] See below, De Trin. vi. ad fin.

[5] Cp. L. Baur, Gundissalinus: de divisione, Muenster, 1905.

[6] Mr. G. Bayley Dolson suggests with greater probability that I.T. was John Thorpe (fl. 1570-1610), architect to Thomas Sackville, Earl of Dorset. Cf. American Journal of Philology, vol. xlii. (1921), p. 266.


Editio Princeps:

Collected Works (except De fide catholica). Joh. et Greg. de Gregoriis. Venice, 1491-92.

De consolatione philosophiae. Coburger. Nuernberg, 1473.

De fide catholica. Ed. Ren. Vallinus. Leyden, 1656.

Latest Critical Edition:

De consolatione philosophiae and Theological Tractates. R. Peiper. Teubner, 1871.


De consolatione philosophiae.

Alfred the Great. Ed. W.J. Sedgefield. Oxford, 1899 and 1900.

Chaucer. Ed. W.W. Skeat in Chaucer's Complete Works. Vol. ii. Oxford, 1894.

H.R. James. The Consolation of Philosophy of Boethius. London, 1897; reprinted 1906.

Judicis de Mirandol. La Consolation philosophique de Boece. Paris, 1861.

Illustrative Works:

A. Engelbrecht. Die Consolatio Phil. der B. Sitzungsberichte der Koen. Akad. Vienna, 1902.

Bardenhewer, Patrologie (Boethius und Cassiodor, pp. 584 sqq.). Freiburg im Breslau, 1894.

Haurean. Hist. de la philosophie scolastique. Vol. i. Paris, 1872.

Hildebrand. Boethius und seine Stellung zum Christentum. Regensburg, 1885.

Hodgkin. Italy and her Invaders. Vols. iii. and iv. Oxford, 1885.

Ch. Jourdain. (1) De l'origine des traditions sur le christianisme de Boece; (2) Des commentaires inedits sur La Consolation de la philosophie. (Excursions historiques et philosophiques a travers le moyen age.) Paris, 1888.

Fritz Klingner. De Boethii consolatione, Philol. Unters. xxvii. Berlin, 1921.

F.D. Maurice. Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy. Vol. i. London, 1872.

F. Nitzsch. Das System des B. Berlin, 1860.

E.K. Rand. Der dem B. zugeschriebene Traktat de Fide catholica (Jahrbuch fuer kl. Phil. xxvi.). 1901.

Semeria. Il Cristianesimo di Sev. Boezio rivendicato, Rome, 1900.

M. Schanz. Gesch. der roem. Litteratur. Teil iv. Boethius. Berlin, 1921.

H.F. Stewart. Boethius: an Essay. Edinburgh, 1891.

Usener. Anecdoton Holderi. Leipsic, 1877.






Investigatam diutissime quaestionem, quantum nostrae mentis igniculum lux diuina dignata est, formatam rationibus litterisque mandatam offerendam uobis communicandamque curaui tam uestri cupidus iudicii quam nostri studiosus inuenti. Qua in re quid mihi sit animi quotiens stilo cogitata commendo, tum ex ipsa materiae difficultate tum ex eo quod raris id est uobis tantum conloquor, intellegi potest. Neque enim famae iactatione et inanibus uulgi clamoribus excitamur; sed si quis est fructus exterior, hic non potest aliam nisi materiae similem sperare sententiam. Quocumque igitur a uobis deieci oculos, partim ignaua segnities partim callidus liuor occurrit, ut contumeliam uideatur diuinis tractatibus inrogare qui talibus hominum monstris non agnoscenda haec potius quam proculcanda proiecerit. Idcirco stilum breuitate contraho et ex intimis sumpta philosophiae disciplinis nouorum uerborum significationibus uelo, ut haec mihi tantum uobisque, si quando ad ea conuertitis oculos, conloquantur; ceteros uero ita submouimus, ut qui capere intellectu nequiuerint ad ea etiam legenda uideantur indigni. Sane[7] tantum a nobis quaeri oportet quantum humanae rationis intuitus ad diuinitatis ualet celsa conscendere. Nam ceteris quoque artibus idem quasi quidam finis est constitutus, quousque potest uia rationis accedere. Neque enim medicina aegris semper affert salutem; sed nulla erit culpa medentis, si nihil eorum quae fieri oportebat omiserit. Idemque in ceteris. At quantum haec difficilior quaestio est, tam facilior esse debet ad ueniam. Vobis tamen etiam illud inspiciendum est, an ex beati Augustini scriptis semina rationum aliquos in nos uenientia fructus extulerint. Ac de proposita quaestione hinc sumamus initium.

[7] sed ne codices optimi.




I have long pondered this problem with such mind as I have and all the light that God has lent me. Now, having set it forth in logical order and cast it into literary form, I venture to submit it to your judgment, for which I care as much as for the results of my own research. You will readily understand what I feel whenever I try to write down what I think if you consider the difficulty of the topic and the fact that I discuss it only with the few—I may say with no one but yourself. It is indeed no desire for fame or empty popular applause that prompts my pen; if there be any external reward, we may not look for more warmth in the verdict than the subject itself arouses. For, apart from yourself, wherever I turn my eyes, they fall on either the apathy of the dullard or the jealousy of the shrewd, and a man who casts his thoughts before the common herd—I will not say to consider but to trample under foot, would seem to bring discredit on the study of divinity. So I purposely use brevity and wrap up the ideas I draw from the deep questionings of philosophy in new and unaccustomed words which speak only to you and to myself, that is, if you deign to look at them. The rest of the world I simply disregard: they cannot understand, and therefore do not deserve to read. We should not of course press our inquiry further than man's wit and reason are allowed to climb the height of heavenly knowledge.[8] In all the liberal arts we see the same limit set beyond which reason may not reach. Medicine, for instance, does not always bring health to the sick, though the doctor will not be to blame if he has left nothing undone which he ought to do. So with the other arts. In the present case the very difficulty of the quest claims a lenient judgment. You must however examine whether the seeds sown in my mind by St. Augustine's writings[9] have borne fruit. And now let us begin our inquiry.

[8] Cf. the discussion of human ratio and divine intellegentia in Cons. v. pr. 4 and 5.

[9] e.g. Aug. De Trin.


Christianae religionis reuerentiam plures usurpant, sed ea fides pollet maxime ac solitarie quae cum propter uniuersalium praecepta regularum, quibus eiusdem religionis intellegatur auctoritas, tum propterea, quod eius cultus per omnes paene mundi terminos emanauit, catholica uel uniuersalis uocatur. Cuius haec de trinitatis unitate sententia est: "Pater," inquiunt, "deus filius deus spiritus sanctus deus." Igitur pater filius spiritus sanctus unus non tres dii. Cuius coniunctionis ratio est indifferentia. Eos enim differentia comitatur qui uel augent uel minuunt, ut Arriani qui gradibus meritorum trinitatem uariantes distrahunt atque in pluralitatem diducunt. Principium enim pluralitatis alteritas est; praeter alteritatem enim nec pluralitas quid sit intellegi potest. Trium namque rerum uel quotlibet tum genere tum specie tum numero diuersitas constat; quotiens enim idem dicitur, totiens diuersum etiam praedicatur. Idem uero dicitur tribus modis: aut genere ut idem homo quod equus, quia his idem genus ut animal; uel specie ut idem Cato quod Cicero, quia eadem species ut homo; uel numero ut Tullius et Cicero, quia unus est numero. Quare diuersum etiam uel genere uel specie uel numero dicitur. Sed numero differentiam accidentium uarietas facit. Nam tres homines neque genere neque specie sed suis accidentibus distant; nam uel si animo cuncta ab his accidentia separemus, tamen locus cunctis diuersus est quem unum fingere nullo modo possumus; duo enim corpora unum locum non obtinebunt, qui est accidens. Atque ideo sunt numero plures, quoniam accidentibus plures fiunt.


There are many who claim as theirs the dignity of the Christian religion; but that form of faith is valid and only valid which, both on account of the universal character of the rules and doctrines affirming its authority, and because the worship in which they are expressed has spread throughout the world, is called catholic or universal. The belief of this religion concerning the Unity of the Trinity is as follows: the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. Therefore Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God, not three Gods. The principle of this union is absence of difference[10]: difference cannot be avoided by those who add to or take from the Unity, as for instance the Arians, who, by graduating the Trinity according to merit, break it up and convert it to Plurality. For the essence of plurality is otherness; apart from otherness plurality is unintelligible. In fact, the difference between three or more things lies in genus or species or number. Difference is the necessary correlative of sameness. Sameness is predicated in three ways: By genus; e.g. a man and a horse, because of their common genus, animal. By species; e.g. Cato and Cicero, because of their common species, man. By number; e.g. Tully and Cicero, because they are numerically one. Similarly difference is expressed by genus, species, and number. Now numerical difference is caused by variety of accidents; three men differ neither by genus nor species but by their accidents, for if we mentally remove from them all other accidents,[11] still each one occupies a different place which cannot possibly be regarded as the same for each, since two bodies cannot occupy the same place, and place is an accident. Wherefore it is because men are plural by their accidents that they are plural in number.

[10] The terms differentia, numerus, species, are used expertly, as would be expected of the author of the In Isag. Porph. Commenta. See S. Brandt's edition of that work (in the Vienna Corpus, 1906), s.v. differentia, etc.

[11] This method of mental abstraction is employed more elaborately in Tr. iii. (vide infra, p. 44) and in Cons. v. pr. 4, where the notion of divine foreknowledge is abstracted in imagination.


Age igitur ingrediamur et unumquodque ut intellegi atque capi potest dispiciamus; nam, sicut optime dictum uidetur, eruditi est hominis unum quodque ut ipsum est ita de eo fidem capere temptare.

Nam cum tres sint speculatiuae partes, naturalis, in motu inabstracta [Greek: anupexairetos] (considerat enim corporum formas cum materia, quae a corporibus actu separari non possunt, quae corpora in motu sunt ut cum terra deorsum ignis sursum fertur, habetque motum forma materiae coniuncta), mathematica, sine motu inabstracta (haec enim formas corporum speculatur sine materia ac per hoc sine motu, quae formae cum in materia sint, ab his separari non possunt), theologica, sine motu abstracta atque separabilis (nam dei substantia et materia et motu caret), in naturalibus igitur rationabiliter, in mathematicis disciplinaliter, in diuinis intellectualiter uersari oportebit neque diduci ad imaginationes, sed potius ipsam inspicere formam quae uere forma neque imago est et quae esse ipsum est et ex qua esse est. Omne namque esse ex forma est. Statua enim non secundum aes quod est materia, sed secundum formam qua in eo insignita est effigies animalis dicitur, ipsumque aes non secundum terram quod est eius materia, sed dicitur secundum aeris figuram. Terra quoque ipsa non secundum [Greek: apoion hulaen] dicitur, sed secundum siccitatem grauitatemque quae sunt formae. Nihil igitur secundum materiam esse dicitur sed secundum propriam formam. Sed diuina substantia sine materia forma est atque ideo unum et est id quod est. Reliqua enim non sunt id quod sunt. Vnum quodque enim habet esse suum ex his ex quibus est, id est ex partibus suis, et est hoc atque hoc, id est partes suae coniunctae, sed non hoc uel hoc singulariter, ut cum homo terrenus constet ex anima corporeque, corpus et anima est, non uel corpus uel anima in partem; igitur non est id quod est. Quod uero non est ex hoc atque hoc, sed tantum est hoc, illud uere est id quod est; et est pulcherrimum fortissimumque quia nullo nititur. Quocirca hoc uere unum in quo nullus numerus, nullum in eo aliud praeterquam id quod est. Neque enim subiectum fieri potest; forma enim est, formae uero subiectae esse non possunt. Nam quod ceterae formae subiectae accidentibus sunt ut humanitas, non ita accidentia suscipit eo quod ipsa est, sed eo quod materia ei subiecta est; dum enim materia subiecta humanitati suscipit quodlibet accidens, ipsa hoc suscipere uidetur humanitas. Forma uero quae est sine materia non poterit esse subiectum nec uero inesse materiae, neque enim esset forma sed imago. Ex his enim formis quae praeter materiam sunt, istae formae uenerunt quae sunt in materia et corpus efficiunt. Nam ceteras quae in corporibus sunt abutimur formas uocantes, dum imagines sint. Adsimulantur enim formis his quae non sunt in materia constitutae. Nulla igitur in eo diuersitas, nulla ex diuersitate pluralitas, nulla ex accidentibus multitudo atque idcirco nec numerus.


We will now begin a careful consideration of each several point, as far as they can be grasped and understood; for it has been wisely said,[12] in my opinion, that it is a scholar's duty to formulate his belief about anything according to its real nature.

Speculative Science may be divided into three kinds[13]: Physics, Mathematics, and Theology. Physics deals with motion and is not abstract or separable (i.e. [Greek: anupexairetos]); for it is concerned with the forms of bodies together with their constituent matter, which forms cannot be separated in reality from their bodies.[14] As the bodies are in motion—the earth, for instance, tending downwards, and fire tending upwards, form takes on the movement of the particular thing to which it is annexed.

Mathematics does not deal with motion and is not abstract, for it investigates forms of bodies apart from matter, and therefore apart from movement, which forms, however, being connected with matter cannot be really separated from bodies.

Theology does not deal with motion and is abstract and separable, for the Divine Substance is without either matter or motion. In Physics, then, we are bound to use scientific, in Mathematics, systematical, in Theology, intellectual concepts; and in Theology we will not let ourselves be diverted to play with imaginations, but will simply apprehend that Form which is pure form and no image, which is very Being and the source of Being. For everything owes its being to Form. Thus a statue is not a statue on account of the brass which is its matter, but on account of the form whereby the likeness of a living thing is impressed upon it: the brass itself is not brass because of the earth which is its matter, but because of its form. Likewise earth is not earth by reason of unqualified matter,[15] but by reason of dryness and weight, which are forms. So nothing is said to be because it has matter, but because it has a distinctive form. But the Divine Substance is Form without matter, and is therefore One, and is its own essence. But other things are not simply their own essences, for each thing has its being from the things of which it is composed, that is, from its parts. It is This and That, i.e. it is the totality of its parts in conjunction; it is not This or That taken apart. Earthly man, for instance, since he consists of soul and body, is soul and body, not soul or body, separately; therefore he is not his own essence. That on the other hand which does not consist of This and That, but is only This, is really its own essence, and is altogether beautiful and stable because it is not grounded in anything. Wherefore that is truly One in which is no number, in which nothing is present except its own essence. Nor can it become the substrate of anything, for it is pure Form, and pure Forms cannot be substrates.[16] For if humanity, like other forms, is a substrate for accidents, it does not receive accidents through the fact that it exists, but through the fact that matter is subjected to it. Humanity appears indeed to appropriate the accident which in reality belongs to the matter underlying the conception Humanity. But Form which is without matter cannot be a substrate, and cannot have its essence in matter, else it would not be form but a reflexion. For from those forms which are outside matter come the forms which are in matter and produce bodies. We misname the entities that reside in bodies when we call them forms; they are mere images; they only resemble those forms which are not incorporate in matter. In Him, then, is no difference, no plurality arising out of difference, no multiplicity arising out of accidents, and accordingly no number.

[12] By Cicero (Tusc. v. 7. 19).

[13] Cf. the similar division of philosophy in Isag. Porph. ed. Brandt, pp. 7 ff.

[14] Sb. though they may be separated in thought.

[15] [Greek: Apoios hulae] = [Greek: to amorphon, to aeides] of Aristotle. Cf. [Greek: oute gar hulae to eidos (hae men apoios, to de poiotaes tis) oute ex hulaes] (Alexander Aphrod. De Anima, 17. 17); [Greek: ei de touto, apoios de hae hulae, apoion an eiae soma] (id. De anima libri mantissa, 124. 7).

[16] This is Realism. Cf. "Sed si rerum ueritatem atque integritatem perpendas, non est dubium quin uerae sint. Nam cum res omnes quae uerae sunt sine his quinque (i.e. genus species differentia propria accidentia) esse non possint, has ipsas quinque res uere intellectas esse non dubites." Isag., Porph. ed, pr. i. (M. P.L. lxiv. col. 19, Brandt, pp. 26 ff.). The two passages show that Boethius is definitely committed to the Realistic position, although in his Comment. in Porphyr. a se translatum he holds the scales between Plato and Aristotle, "quorum diiudicare sententias aptum esse non duxi" (cp. Haureau, Hist. de la philosophie scolastique, i. 120). As a fact in the Comment. in Porph. he merely postpones the question, which in the De Trin. he settles. Boethius was ridiculed in the Middle Ages for his caution.


Deus uero a deo nullo differt, ne uel accidentibus uel substantialibus differentiis in subiecto positis distent. Vbi uero nulla est differentia, nulla est omnino pluralitas, quare nec numerus; igitur unitas tantum. Nam quod tertio repetitur deus, cum pater ac filius et spiritus sanctus nuncupatur, tres unitates non faciunt pluralitatem numeri in eo quod ipsae sunt, si aduertamus ad res numerabiles ac non ad ipsum numerum. Illic enim unitatum repetitio numerum facit. In eo autem numero qui in rebus numerabilibus constat, repetitio unitatum atque pluralitas minime facit numerabilium rerum numerosam diuersitatem. Numerus enim duplex est, unus quidem quo numeramus, alter uero qui in rebus numerabilibus constat. Etenim unum res est; unitas, quo unum dicimus. Duo rursus in rebus sunt ut homines uel lapides; dualitas nihil, sed tantum dualitas qua duo homines uel duo lapides fiunt. Et in ceteris eodem modo. Ergo in numero quo numeramus repetitio unitatum facit pluralitatem; in rerum uero numero non facit pluralitatem unitatum repetitio, uel si de eodem dicam "gladius unus mucro unus ensis unus." Potest enim unus tot uocabulis gladius agnosci; haec enim unitatum iteratio potius est non numeratio, uelut si ita dicamus "ensis mucro gladius," repetitio quaedam est eiusdem non numeratio diuersorum, uelut si dicam "sol sol sol," non tres soles effecerim, sed de uno totiens praedicauerim.

Non igitur si de patre ac filio et spiritu sancto tertio praedicatur deus, idcirco trina praedicatio numerum facit. Hoc enim illis ut dictum est imminet qui inter eos distantiam faciunt meritorum. Catholicis uero nihil in differentia constituentibus ipsamque formam ut est esse ponentibus neque aliud esse quam est ipsum quod est opinantibus recte repetitio de eodem quam enumeratio diuersi uidetur esse cum dicitur "deus pater deus filius deus spiritus sanctus atque haec trinitas unus deus," uelut "ensis atque mucro unus gladius," uelut "sol sol sol unus sol."

Sed hoc interim ad eam dictum sit significationem demonstrationemque qua ostenditur non omnem unitatum repetitionem numerum pluralitatemque perficere. Non uero ita dicitur "pater ac filius et spiritus sanctus" quasi multiuocum quiddam; nam mucro et ensis et ipse est et idem, pater uero ac filius et spiritus sanctus idem equidem est, non uero ipse. In qua re paulisper considerandum est. Requirentibus enim: "Ipse est pater qui filius?" "Minime," inquiunt. Rursus: "Idem alter qui alter?" Negatur. Non est igitur inter eos in re omni indifferentia; quare subintrat numerus quem ex subiectorum diuersitate confici superius explanatum est. De qua re breuite*r considerabimus, si prius illud, quem ad modum de deo unum quodque praedicatur, praemiserimus.


Now God differs from God in no respect, for there cannot be divine essences distinguished either by accidents or by substantial differences belonging to a substrate. But where there is no difference, there is no sort of plurality and accordingly no number; here, therefore, is unity alone. For whereas we say God thrice when we name the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, these three unities do not produce a plurality of number in their own essences, if we think of what we count instead of what we count with. For in the case of abstract number a repetition of single items does produce plurality; but in the case of concrete number the repetition and plural use of single items does not by any means produce numerical difference in the objects counted. There are as a fact two kinds of number. There is the number with which we count (abstract) and the number inherent in the things counted (concrete). "One" is a thing— the thing counted. Unity is that by which oneness is denoted. Again "two" belongs to the class of things as men or stones; but not so duality; duality is merely that whereby two men or two stones are denoted; and so on. Therefore a repetition of unities[17] produces plurality when it is a question of abstract, but not when it is a question of concrete things, as, for example, if I say of one and the same thing, "one sword, one brand, one blade."[18] It is easy to see that each of these names denotes a sword; I am not numbering unities but simply repeating one thing, and in saying "sword, brand, blade," I reiterate the one thing and do not enumerate several different things any more than I produce three suns instead of merely mentioning one thing thrice when I say "Sun, Sun, Sun."

So then if God be predicated thrice of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the threefold predication does not result in plural number. The risk of that, as has been said, attends only on those who distinguish Them according to merit. But Catholic Christians, allowing no difference of merit in God, assuming Him to be Pure Form and believing Him to be nothing else than His own essence, rightly regard the statement "the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God, and this Trinity is one God," not as an enumeration of different things but as a reiteration of one and the same thing, like the statement, "blade and brand are one sword" or "sun, sun, and sun are one sun."

Let this be enough for the present to establish my meaning and to show that not every repetition of units produces number and plurality. Still in saying "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," we are not using synonymous terms. "Brand and blade" are the same and identical, but "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," though the same, are not identical. This point deserves a moment's consideration. When they ask "Is the Father the same as the Son?" Catholics answer "No." "Is the One the same as the Other?" The answer is in the negative. There is not, therefore, complete indifference between Them; and so number does come in—number which we explained was the result of diversity of substrates. We will briefly debate this point when we have done examining how particular predicates can be applied to God.

[17] e.g. if I say "one, one, one," I enounce three unities.

[18] The same words are used to illustrate the same matter in the Comment. in Arist. [Greek: peri hermaeneias], 2nd ed. (Meiser) 56. 12.


Decem omnino praedicamenta traduntur quae de rebus omnibus uniuersaliter praedicantur, id est substantia, qualitas, quantitas, ad aliquid, ubi, quando, habere, situm esse, facere, pati. Haec igitur talis sunt qualia subiecta permiserint; nam pars eorum in reliquarum rerum praedicatione substantia est, pa*rs in accidentium numero est. At haec cum quis i*n diuinam uerterit praedicationem, cuncta mutantu*r quae praedicari possunt. Ad aliquid uero omnino non potest praedicari, nam substantia in illo non est uere substantia sed ultra substantiam; item qualitas et cetera quae uenire queunt. Quorum ut amplior fiat intellectus exempla subdenda sunt.

Nam cum dicimus "deus," substantiam quidem significare uidemur, sed eam quae sit ultra substantiam; cum uero "iustus," qualitatem quidem sed non accidentem, sed eam quae sit substantia sed ultra substantiam. Neque enim aliud est quod est, aliud est quod iustus est, sed idem est esse deo quod iusto. Item cum dicitur "magnus uel maximus," quantitatem quidem significare uidemur, sed eam quae sit ipsa substantia, talis qualem esse diximus ultra substantiam; idem est enim esse deo quod magno. De forma enim eius superius monstratum est quoniam is sit forma et unum uere nec ulla pluralitas. Sed haec praedicamenta talia sunt, ut in quo sint ipsum esse faciant quod dicitur, diuise quidem in ceteris, in deo uero coniuncte atque copulate hoc modo: nam cum dicimus "substantia" (ut homo uel deus), ita dicitur quasi illud de quo praedicatur ipsum sit substantia, ut substantia homo uel deus. Sed distat, quoniam homo non integre ipsum homo est ac per hoc nec substantia; quod enim est, aliis debet quae non sunt homo. Deus uero hoc ipsum deus est; nihil enim aliud est nisi quod est, ac per hoc ipsum deus est. Rursus "iustus," quod est qualitas, ita dicitur quasi ipse hoc sit de quo praedicatur, id est si dicamus "homo iustus uel deus iustus," ipsum hominem uel deum iustos esse proponimus; sed differt, quod homo alter alter iustus, deus uero idem ipsum est quod est iustum. "Magnus" etiam homo uel deus dicitur atque ita quasi ipse sit homo magnus uel deus magnus; sed homo tantum magnus, deus uero ipsum magnus exsistit. Reliqua uero neque de deo neque de ceteris praedicantur. Nam ubi uel de homine uel de deo praedicari potest, de homine ut in foro, de deo ut ubique, sed ita ut non quasi ipsa sit res id quod praedicatur de qua dicitur. Non enim ita homo dicitur esse in foro quem ad modum esse albus uel longus nec quasi circumfusus et determinatus proprietate aliqua qua designari secundum se possit, sed tantum quo sit illud aliis informatum rebus per hanc praedicationem ostenditur.

De deo uero non ita, nam quod ubique est ita dici uidetur non quod in omni sit loco (omnino enim in loco esse non potest) sed quod omnis ei locus adsit ad eum capiendum, cum ipse non suscipiatur in loco; atque ideo nusquam in loco esse dicitur, quoniam ubique est sed non in loco. "Quando" uero eodem praedicatur modo, ut de homine heri uenit, de deo semper est. Hic quoque non quasi esse aliquid dicitur illud ipsum de quo hesternus dicitur aduentus, sed quid ei secundum tempus accesserit praedicatur. Quod uero de deo dicitur "semper est," unum quidem significat, quasi omni praeterito fuerit, omni quoquo modo sit praesenti est, omni futuro erit. Quod de caelo et de ceteris inmortalibus corporibus secundum philosophos dici potest, at de deo non ita. Semper enim est, quoniam "semper" praesentis est in eo temporis tantumque inter nostrarum rerum praesens, quod est nunc, interest ac diuinarum, quod nostrum "nunc" quasi currens tempus facit et sempiternitatem, diuinum uero "nunc" permanens neque mouens sese atque consistens aeternitatem facit; cui nomini si adicias "semper," facies eius quod est nunc iugem indefessumque ac per hoc perpetuum cursum quod est sempiternitas.

Rursus habere uel facere eodem modo; dicimus enim "uestitus currit" de homine, de deo "cuncta possidens regit." Rursus de eo nihil quod est esse de utrisque dictum est, sed haec omnis praedicatio exterioribus datur omniaque haec quodam modo referuntur ad aliud. Cuius praedicationis differentiam sic facilius internoscimus: qui homo est uel deus refertur ad substantiam qua est aliquid, id est homo uel deus; qui iustus est refertur ad qualitatem qua scilicet est aliquid, id est iustus, qui magnus ad quantitatem qua est aliquid, id est magnus. Nam in ceteris praedicationibus nihil tale est. Qui enim dicit esse aliquem in foro uel ubique, refert quidem ad praedicamentum quod est ubi, sed non quo aliquid est uelut iustitia iustus. Item cum dico "currit" uel "regit" uel "nunc est" uel "semper est," refertur quidem uel ad facere uel ad tempus—si tamen interim diuinum illud semper tempus dici potest—sed non quo aliquo aliquid est uelut magnitudine magnum. Nam situm passionemque requiri in deo non oportet, neque enim sunt.

Iamne patet quae sit differentia praedicationum? Quod aliae quidem quasi rem monstrant aliae uero quasi circumstantias rei quodque illa quidem[19] ita praedicantur, ut esse aliquid rem ostendant, illa uero ut non esse, sed potius extrinsecus aliquid quodam modo affigant. Illa igitur, quae aliquid esse designant, secundum rem praedicationes uocentur. Quae cum de rebus subiectis dicuntur, uocantur accidentia secundum rem; cum uero de deo qui subiectus non est, secundum substantiam rei praedicatio nuncupatur.

[19] quidem vulg.; quae codd. opt.


There are in all ten categories which can be universally predicated of things, namely, Substance, Quality, Quantity, Relation, Place, Time, Condition, Situation, Activity, Passivity. Their meaning is determined by the contingent subject; for some of them denote substance in making predication of other things, others belong to the class of accidents. But when these categories are applied to God they change their meaning entirely. Relation, for instance, cannot be predicated at all of God; for substance in Him is not really substantial but supersubstantial. So with quality and the other possible attributes, of which we must add examples for the sake of clearness.

When we say God, we seem to denote a substance; but it is a substance that is supersubstantial. When we say of Him, "He is just," we mention a quality, not an accidental quality—rather a substantial and, in fact, a supersubstantial quality.[20] For God is not one thing because He is, and another thing because He is just; with Him to be just and to be God are one and the same. So when we say, "He is great or the greatest," we seem to predicate quantity, but it is a quantity similar to this substance which we have declared to be supersubstantial; for with Him to be great and to be God are all one. Again, concerning His Form, we have already shown that He is Form, and truly One without Plurality. The categories we have mentioned are such that they give to the thing to which they are applied the character which they express; in created things they express divided being, in God, conjoined and united being— in the following manner. When we name a substance, as man or God, it seems as though that of which the predication is made were substance itself, as man or God is substance. But there is a difference: since a man is not simply and entirely man, and in virtue of this he is not substance. For what man is he owes to other things which are not man. But God is simply and entirely God, for He is nothing else than what He is, and therefore is, through simple existence, God. Again we apply just, a quality, as though it were that of which it is predicated; that is, if we say "a just man or just God," we assert that man or God is just. But there is a difference, for man is one thing, and a just man is another thing. But God is justice itself. So a man or God is said to be great, and it would appear that man is substantially great or that God is substantially great. But man is merely great; God is greatness.

The remaining categories are not predicable of God nor yet of created things.[21] For place is predicated of man or of God—a man is in the market-place; God is everywhere—but in neither case is the predicate identical with the object of predication. To say "A man is in the market" is quite a different thing from saying "he is white or long," or, so to speak, encompassed and determined by some property which enables him to be described in terms of his substance; this predicate of place simply declares how far his substance is given a particular setting amid other things.

It is otherwise, of course, with God. "He is everywhere" does not mean that He is in every place, for He cannot be in any place at all—but that every place is present to Him for Him to occupy, although He Himself can be received by no place, and therefore He cannot anywhere be in a place, since He is everywhere but in no place. It is the same with the category of time, as, "A man came yesterday; God is ever." Here again the predicate of "coming yesterday" denotes not something substantial, but something happening in terms of time. But the expression "God is ever" denotes a single Present, summing up His continual presence in all the past, in all the present—however that term be used—and in all the future. Philosophers say that "ever" may be applied to the life of the heavens and other immortal bodies. But as applied to God it has a different meaning. He is ever, because "ever" is with Him a term of present time, and there is this great difference between "now," which is our present, and the divine present. Our present connotes changing time and sempiternity; God's present, abiding, unmoved, and immoveable, connotes eternity. Add semper to eternity and you get the constant, incessant and thereby perpetual course of our present time, that is to say, sempiternity.[22]

It is just the same with the categories of condition and activity. For example, we say "A man runs, clothed," "God rules, possessing all things." Here again nothing substantial is asserted of either subject; in fact all the categories we have hitherto named arise from what lies outside substance, and all of them, so to speak, refer to something other than substance. The difference between the categories is easily seen by an example. Thus, the terms "man" and "God" refer to the substance in virtue of which the subject is—man or God. The term "just" refers to the quality in virtue of which the subject is something, viz. just; the term "great" to the quantity in virtue of which He is something, viz. great. No other category save substance, quality, and quantity refer to the substance of the subject. If I say of one "he is in the market" or "everywhere," I am applying the category of place, which is not a category of the substance, like "just" in virtue of justice. So if I say, "he runs, He rules, he is now, He is ever," I make reference to activity or time—if indeed God's "ever" can be described as time—but not to a category of substance, like "great" in virtue of greatness.

Finally, we must not look for the categories of situation and passivity in God, for they simply are not to be found in Him.

Have I now made clear the difference between the categories? Some denote the reality of a thing; others its accidental circumstances; the former declare that a thing is something; the latter say nothing about its being anything, but simply attach to it, so to speak, something external. Those categories which describe a thing in terms of its substance may be called substantial categories; when they apply to things as subjects they are called accidents. In reference to God, who is not a subject at all, it is only possible to employ the category of substance.

[20] Gilbert de la Porree in his commentary on the De Trin. makes Boethius's meaning clear. "Quod igitur in illo substantiam nominamus, non est subiectionis ratione quod dicitur, sed ultra omnem quae accidentibus est subiecta substantiam est essentia, absque omnibus quae possunt accidere solitaria omnino." (Migne, P.L. lxiv. 1283). Cf. Aug. De Trin. vii. 10.

[21] i.e. according to their substance.

[22] The doctrine is Augustine's, cf. De Ciu. Dei, xi. 6, xii. 16; but Boethius's use of sempiternitas, as well as his word-building, seem to be peculiar to himself. Claudianus Mamertus, speaking of applying the categories to God, uses sempiternitas as Boethius uses aeternitas. Cf. De Statu Animae i. 19. Apuleius seems to use both terms interchangeably, e.g. Asclep. 29-31. On Boethius's distinction between time and eternity see Cons. v. pr. 6, and Rand, i er dem B. zugeschr. Trakt. de fide, pp. 425 ff, and Brandt in Theol. Littzg., 1902, p. 147.


Age nunc de relatiuis speculemur pro quibus omne quod dictum est sumpsimus ad disputationem; maxime enim haec non uidentur secundum se facere praedicationem quae perspicue ex alieno aduentu constare perspiciuntur. Age enim, quoniam dominus ac seruus relatiua sunt, uideamus utrumne ita sit ut secundum se sit praedicatio an minime. Atqui si auferas seruum, abstuleris et dominum; at non etiam si auferas albedinem, abstuleris quoque album, sed interest, quod albedo accidit albo, qua sublata perit nimirum album. At in domino, si seruum auferas, perit uocabulum quo dominus uocabatur; sed non accidit seruus domino ut albedo albo, sed potestas quaedam qua seruus coercetur. Quae quoniam sublato deperit seruo, constat non eam per se domino accidere sed per seruorum quodam modo extrinsecus accessum.

Non igitur dici potest praedicationem relatiuam quidquam rei de qua dicitur secundum se uel addere uel minuere uel mutare. Quae tota non in eo quod est esse consistit, sed in eo quod est in comparatione aliquo modo se habere, nec semper ad aliud sed aliquotiens ad idem. Age enim stet quisquam. Ei igitur si accedam dexter, erit ille sinister ad me comparatus, non quod ille ipse sinister sit, sed quod ego dexter accesserim. Rursus ego sinister accedo, item ille fit dexter, non quod ita sit per se dexter uelut albus ac longus, sed quod me accedente fit dexter atque id quod est a me et ex me est minime uero ex sese.

Quare quae secundum rei alicuius in eo quod ipsa est proprietatem non faciunt praedicationem, nihil alternare uel mutare queunt nullamque omnino uariare essentiam. Quocirca si pater ac filius ad aliquid dicuntur nihilque aliud ut dictum est differunt nisi sola relatione, relatio uero non praedicatur ad id de quo praedicatur quasi ipsa sit et secundum rem de qua dicitur, non faciet alteritatem rerum de qua dicitur, sed, si dici potest, quo quidem modo id quod uix intellegi potuit interpretatum est, personarum. Omnino enim magna regulae est ueritas in rebus incorporalibus distantias effici differentiis non locis. Neque accessisse dici potest aliquid deo, ut pater fieret; non enim coepit esse umquam pater eo quod substantialis quidem ei est productio filii, relatiua uero praedicatio patris. Ac si meminimus omnium in prioribus de deo sententiarum, ita cogitemus processisse quidem ex deo patre filium deum et ex utrisque spiritum sanctum; hos, quoniam incorporales sint, minime locis distare. Quoniam uero pater deus et filius deus et spiritus sanctus deus, deus uero nullas habet differentias quibus differat ab deo, a nullo eorum differt. Differentiae uero ubi absunt, abest pluralitas; ubi abest pluralitas, adest unitas. Nihil autem aliud gigni potuit ex deo nisi deus; et in rebus numerabilibus repetitio unitatum non facit modis omnibus pluralitatem. Trium igitur idonee constituta est unitas.


Let us now consider the category of relation, to which all the foregoing remarks have been preliminary; for qualities which obviously arise from the association of another term do not appear to predicate anything concerning the substance of a subject. For instance, master and slave[23] are relative terms; let us see whether either of them are predicates of substance. If you suppress the term slave,[24] you simultaneously suppress the term master. On the other hand, though you suppress the term whiteness, you do not suppress some white thing,[25] though, of course, if the particular whiteness inhere as an accident in the thing, the thing disappears as soon as you suppress the accidental quality whiteness. But in the case of master, if you suppress the term slave, the term master disappears. But slave is not an accidental quality of master, as whiteness is of a white thing; it denotes the power which the master has over the slave. Now since the power goes when the slave is removed, it is plain that power is no accident to the substance of master, but is an adventitious augmentation arising from the possession of slaves.

It cannot therefore be affirmed that a category of relation increases, decreases, or alters in any way the substance of the thing to which it is applied. The category of relation, then, has nothing to do with the essence of the subject; it simply denotes a condition of relativity, and that not necessarily to something else, but sometimes to the subject itself. For suppose a man standing. If I go up to him on my right and stand beside him, he will be left, in relation to me, not because he is left in himself, but because I have come up to him on my right. Again, if I come up to him on my left, he becomes right in relation to me, not because he is right in himself, as he may be white or long, but because he is right in virtue of my approach. What he is depends entirely on me, and not in the least on the essence of his being.

Accordingly those predicates which do not denote the essential nature of a thing cannot alter, change, or disturb its nature in any way. Wherefore if Father and Son are predicates of relation, and, as we have said, have no other difference but that of relation, and if relation is not asserted of its subject as though it were the subject itself and its substantial quality, it will effect no real difference in its subject, but, in a phrase which aims at interpreting what we can hardly understand, a difference of persons. For it is a canon of absolute truth that distinctions in incorporeal things are established by differences and not by spatial separation. It cannot be said that God became Father by the addition to His substance of some accident; for he never began to be Father, since the begetting of the Son belongs to His very substance; however, the predicate father, as such, is relative. And if we bear in mind all the propositions made concerning God in the previous discussion, we shall admit that God the Son proceeded from God the Father, and the Holy Ghost from both, and that They cannot possibly be spatially different, since They are incorporeal. But since the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and since there are in God no points of difference distinguishing Him from God, He differs from none of the Others. But where there are no differences there is no plurality; where is no plurality there is Unity. Again, nothing but God can be begotten of God, and lastly, in concrete enumerations the repetition of units does not produce plurality. Thus the Unity of the Three is suitably established.

[23] Dominus and seruus are similarly used as illustration, In Cat. (Migne, P.L. lxiv. 217).

[24] i.e. which is external to the master.

[25] i.e. which is external to the whitened thing.


Sed quoniam nulla relatio ad se ipsum referri potest, idcirco quod ea secundum se ipsum est praedicatio quae relatione caret, facta quidem est trinitatis numerositas in eo quod est praedicatio relationis, seruata uero unitas in eo quod est indifferentia uel substantiae uel operationis uel omnino eius quae secundum se dicitur praedicationis. Ita igitur substantia continet unitatem, relatio multiplicat trinitatem; atque ideo sola singillatim proferuntur atque separatim quae relationis sunt. Nam idem pater qui filius non est nec idem uterque qui spiritus sanctus. Idem tamen deus est pater et filius et spiritus sanctus, idem iustus idem bonus idem magnus idem omnia quae secundum se poterunt praedicari. Sane sciendum est non semper talem esse relatiuam praedicationem, ut semper ad differens praedicetur, ut est seruus ad dominum; differunt enim. Nam omne aequale aequali aequale est et simile simili simile est et idem ei quod est idem idem est; et similis est relatio in trinitate patris ad filium et utriusque ad spiritum sanctum ut eius quod est idem ad id quod est idem. Quod si id in cunctis aliis rebus non potest inueniri, facit hoc cognata caducis rebus alteritas. Nos uero nulla imaginatione diduci sed simplici intellectu erigi et ut quidque intellegi potest ita aggredi etiam intellectu oportet.

Sed de proposita quaestione satis dictum est. Nunc uestri normam iudicii exspectat subtilitas quaestionis; quae utrum recte decursa sit an minime, uestrae statuet pronuntiationis auctoritas. Quod si sententiae fidei fundamentis sponte firmissimae opitulante gratia diuina idonea argumentorum adiumenta praestitimus, illuc perfecti operis laetitia remeabit unde uenit effectus. Quod si ultra se humanitas nequiuit ascendere, quantum inbecillitas subtrahit uota supplebunt.


But since no relation can be affirmed of one subject alone, since a predication referring to one substance is a predication without relation, the manifoldness of the Trinity is secured through the category of relation, and the Unity is maintained through the fact that there is no difference of substance, or operation, or generally of any substantial predicate. So then, the category of substance preserves the Unity, that of relation brings about the Trinity. Hence only terms belonging to relation may be applied singly to Each. For the Father is not the same as the Son, nor is either of Them the same as the Holy Spirit. Yet Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each the same God, the same in justice, in goodness, in greatness, and in everything that can be predicated of substance. One must not forget that predicates of relativity do not always involve relation to something other than the subject, as slave involves master, where the two terms are different. For equals are equal, like are like, identicals are identical, each with other, and the relation of Father to Son, and of both to Holy Spirit is a relation of identicals. A relation of this kind is not to be found in created things, but that is because of the difference which we know attaches to transient objects. We must not in speaking of God let imagination lead us astray; we must let the Faculty of pure Knowledge lift us up and teach us to know all things as far as they may be known.[26]

I have now finished the investigation which I proposed. The exactness of my reasoning awaits the standard of your judgment; your authority will pronounce whether I have seen a straight path to the goal. If, God helping me, I have furnished some support in argument to an article which stands by itself on the firm foundation of Faith, I shall render joyous praise for the finished work to Him from whom the invitation comes. But if human nature has failed to reach beyond its limits, whatever is lost through my infirmity must be made good by my intention.

[26] Cf. Cons. v. pr. 4 and 5, especially in pr. 5 the passage "quare in illius summae intellegentiae acumen si possumus erigamur."




Quaero an pater et filius ac spiritus sanctus de diuinitate substantialiter praedicentur an alio quolibet modo; uiamque indaginis hinc arbitror esse sumendam, unde rerum omnium manifestum constat exordium, id est ab ipsis catholicae fidei fundamentis. Si igitur interrogem, an qui dicitur pater substantia sit, respondetur esse substantia. Quod si quaeram, an filius substantia sit, idem dicitur. Spiritum quoque sanctum substantiam esse nemo dubitauerit. Sed cum rursus colligo patrem filium spiritum sanctum, non plures sed una occurrit esse substantia. Vna igitur substantia trium nec separari ullo modo aut disiungi potest nec uelut partibus in unum coniuncta est, sed est una simpliciter. Quaecumque igitur de diuina substantia praedicantur, ea tribus oportet esse communia; idque signi erit quae sint quae de diuinitatis substantia praedicentur, quod quaecumque hoc modo dicuntur, de singulis in unum collectis tribus singulariter praedicabuntur. Hoc modo si dicimus: "Pater deus est, filius deus est, spiritus sanctus deus est," pater filius ac spiritus sanctus unus deus. Si igitur eorum una deitas una substantia est, licet dei nomen de diuinitate substantialiter praedicari.

Ita pater ueritas est, filius ueritas est, spiritus sanctus ueritas est; pater filius et spiritus sanctus non tres ueritates sed una ueritas est. Si igitur una in his substantia una est ueritas, necesse est ueritatem substantialiter praedicari. De bonitate de incommutabilitate de iustitia de omnipotentia ac de ceteris omnibus quae tam de singulis quam de omnibus singulariter praedicamus manifestum est substantialiter dici. Vnde apparet ea quae cum in singulis separatim dici conuenit nec tamen in omnibus dici queunt, non substantialiter praedicari sed alio modo; qui uero iste sit, posterius quaeram. Nam qui pater est, hoc uocabulum non transmittit ad filium neque ad spiritum sanctum. Quo fit ut non sit substantiale nomen hoc inditum; nam si substantiale esset, ut deus ut ueritas ut iustitia ut ipsa quoque substantia, de ceteris diceretur.

Item filius solus hoc recipit nomen neque cum aliis iungit sicut in deo, sicut in ueritate, sicut in ceteris quae superius dixi. Spiritus quoque non est idem qui pater ac filius. Ex his igitur intellegimus patrem ac filium ac spiritum sanctum non de ipsa diuinitate substantialiter dici sed alio quodam modo; si enim substantialiter praedicaretur, et de singulis et de omnibus singulariter diceretur. Haec uero ad aliquid dici manifestum est; nam et pater alicuius pater est et filius alicuius filius est, spiritus alicuius spiritus. Quo fit, ut ne trinitas quidem substantialiter de deo praedicetur; non enim pater trinitas (qui enim pater est, filius ac spiritus sanctus non est) nec trinitas filius nec trinitas spiritus sanctus secundum eundem modum, sed trinitas quidem in personarum pluralitate consistit, unitas uero in substantiae simplicitate.

Quod si personae diuisae sunt, substantia uero indiuisa sit, necesse est quod uocabulum ex personis originem capit id ad substantiam non pertinere; at trinitatem personarum diuersitas fecit, trinitas igitur non pertinet ad substantiam. Quo fit ut neque pater neque filius neque spiritus sanctus neque trinitas de deo substantialiter praedicetur, sed ut dictum est ad aliquid. Deus uero ueritas iustitia bonitas omnipotentia substantia inmutabilitas uirtus sapientia et quicquid huiusmodi excogitari potest substantialiter de diuinitate dicuntur. Haec si se recte et ex fide habent, ut me instruas peto; aut si aliqua re forte diuersus es, diligentius intuere quae dicta sunt et fidem si poterit rationemque coniunge.





The question before us is whether Father, Son, and Holy Spirit may be predicated of the Divinity substantially or otherwise. And I think that the method of our inquiry must be borrowed from what is admittedly the surest source of all truth, namely, the fundamental doctrines of the catholic faith. If, then, I ask whether He who is called Father is a substance, the answer will be yes. If I ask whether the Son is a substance, the reply will be the same. So, too, no one will hesitate to affirm that the Holy Spirit is also a substance. But when, on the other hand, I take together all three, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the result is not three substances but one substance. The one substance of the Three, then, cannot be separated or divided, nor is it made up of various parts, combined into one: it is simply one. Everything, therefore, that is affirmed of the divine substance must be common to the Three, and we can recognize what predicates may be affirmed of the substance of the godhead by this sign, that all those which are affirmed of it may also be affirmed severally of each of the Three combined into one. For instance if we say "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God," then Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God. If then their one godhead is one substance, the name of God may with right be predicated substantially of the Divinity.

Similarly the Father is truth, the Son is truth, and the Holy Spirit is truth; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not three truths, but one truth. If, then, they are one substance and one truth, truth must of necessity be a substantial predicate. So Goodness, Immutability, Justice, Omnipotence and all the other predicates which we apply to the Persons singly and collectively are plainly substantial predicates. Hence it appears that what may be predicated of each single One but not of all Three is not a substantial predicate, but of another kind—of what kind I will examine presently. For He who is Father does not transmit this name to the Son nor to the Holy Spirit. Hence it follows that this name is not attached to Him as something substantial; for if it were a substantial predicate, as God, truth, justice, or substance itself, it would be affirmed of the other Persons.

Similarly the Son alone receives this name; nor does He associate it with the other Persons, as in the case of the titles God, truth, and the other predicates which I have already mentioned. The Spirit too is not the same as the Father and the Son. Hence we gather that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not predicated of the Divinity in a substantial manner, but otherwise.[27] For if each term were predicated substantially it would be affirmed of the three Persons both separately and collectively. It is evident that these terms are relative, for the Father is some one's Father, the Son is some one's Son, the Spirit is some one's Spirit. Hence not even Trinity may be substantially[28] predicated of God; for the Father is not Trinity—since He who is Father is not Son and Holy Spirit—nor yet, by parity of reasoning, is the Son Trinity nor the Holy Spirit Trinity, but the Trinity consists in diversity of Persons, the Unity in simplicity of substance.

Now if the Persons are separate, while the Substance is undivided, it must needs be that that term which is derived from Persons does not belong to Substance. But the Trinity is effected by diversity of Persons, wherefore Trinity does not belong to Substance. Hence neither Father, nor Son, nor Holy Spirit, nor Trinity can be substantially predicated of God, but only relatively, as we have said. But God, Truth, Justice, Goodness, Omnipotence, Substance, Immutability, Virtue, Wisdom and all other conceivable predicates of the kind are applicable substantially to divinity.

If I am right and speak in accordance with the Faith, I pray you confirm me. But if you are in any point of another opinion, examine carefully what I have said, and if possible, reconcile faith and reason.[29]

[27] i.e. personaliter (Ioh. Scottus ad loc.).

[28] i.e. sed personaliter (Ioh. Scottus ad loc.).

[29] Vide supra, Introduction, p. xii.



Postulas, ut ex Hebdomadibus nostris eius quaestionis obscuritatem quae continet modum quo substantiae in eo quod sint bonae sint, cum non sint substantialia bona, digeram et paulo euidentius monstrem; idque eo dicis esse faciendum, quod non sit omnibus notum iter huiusmodi scriptionum. Tuus uero testis ipse sum quam haec uiuaciter fueris ante complexus. Hebdomadas uero ego mihi ipse commentor potiusque ad memoriam meam speculata conseruo quam cuiquam participo quorum lasciuia ac petulantia nihil a ioco risuque patitur esse seiunctum.[30] Prohinc tu ne sis obscuritatibus breuitatis aduersus, quae cum sint arcani fida custodia tum id habent commodi, quod cum his solis qui digni sunt conloquuntur. Vt igitur in mathematica fieri solet ceterisque etiam disciplinis, praeposui terminos regulasque quibus cuncta quae sequuntur efficiam.

I. Communis animi conceptio est enuntiatio quam quisque probat auditam. Harum duplex modus est. Nam una ita communis est, ut omnium sit hominum, ueluti si hanc proponas: "Si duobus aequalibus aequalia auferas, quae relinquantur aequalia esse," nullus id intellegens neget. Alia uero est doctorum tantum, quae tamen ex talibus communis animi conceptionibus uenit, ut est: "Quae incorporalia sunt, in loco non esse," et cetera; quae non uulgus sed docti comprobant.

II. Diuersum est esse et id quod est; ipsum enim esse nondum est, at uero quod est accepta essendi forma est atque consistit.

III. Quod est participare aliquo potest, sed ipsum esse nullo modo aliquo participat. Fit enim participatio cum aliquid iam est; est autem aliquid, cum esse susceperit.

IV. Id quod est habere aliquid praeterquam quod ipsum est potest; ipsum uero esse nihil aliud praeter se habet admixtum.

V. Diuersum est tantum esse aliquid et esse aliquid in eo quod est; illic enim accidens hic substantia significatur.

VI. Omne quod est[31] participat eo quod est esse ut sit; alio uero participat ut aliquid sit. Ac per hoc id quod est participat eo quod est esse ut sit; est uero ut participet alio quolibet.

VII. Omne simplex esse suum et id quod est unum habet.

VIII. Omni composito aliud est esse, aliud ipsum est.

IX. Omnis diuersitas discors, similitudo uero appetenda est; et quod appetit aliud, tale ipsum esse naturaliter ostenditur quale est illud hoc ipsum quod appetit.

Sufficiunt igitur quae praemisimus; a prudente uero rationis interprete suis unumquodque aptabitur argumentis.

Quaestio uero huiusmodi est. Ea quae sunt bona sunt; tenet enim communis sententia doctorum omne quod est ad bonum tendere, omne autem tendit ad simile. Quae igitur ad bonum tendunt bona ipsa sunt. Sed quemadmodum bona sint, inquirendum est, utrumne participatione an substantia? Si participatione, per se ipsa nullo modo bona sunt; nam quod participatione album est, per se in eo quod ipsum est album non est. Et de ceteris qualitatibus eodem modo. Si igitur participatione sunt bona, ipsa per se nullo modo bona sunt: non igitur ad bonum tendunt. Sed concessum est. Non igitur participatione sunt bona sed substantia. Quorum uero substantia bona est, id quod sunt bona sunt; id quod sunt autem habent ex eo quod est esse. Esse igitur ipsorum bonum est; omnium igitur rerum ipsum esse bonum est. Sed si esse bonum est, ea quae sunt in eo quod sunt bona sunt idemque illis est esse quod boni esse; substantialia igitur bona sunt, quoniam non participant bonitatem. Quod si ipsum esse in eis bonum est, non est dubium quin substantialia cum sint bona, primo sint bono similia ac per hoc hoc ipsum bonum erunt; nihil enim illi praeter se ipsum simile est. Ex quo fit ut omnia quae sunt deus sint, quod dictu nefas est. Non sunt igitur substantialia bona ac per hoc non in his est esse bonum; non sunt igitur in eo quod sunt bona. Sed nec participant bonitatem; nullo enim modo ad bonum tenderent. Nullo modo igitur sunt bona.

Huic quaestioni talis poterit adhiberi solutio. Multa sunt quae cum separari actu non possunt, animo tamen et cogitatione separantur; ut cum triangulum uel cetera a subiecta materia nullus actu separat, mente tamen segregans ipsum triangulum proprietatemque eius praeter materiam speculatur. Amoueamus igitur primi boni praesentiam paulisper ex animo, quod esse quidem constat idque ex omnium doctorum indoctorumque sententia barbararumque gentium religionibus cognosci potest. Hoc igitur paulisper amoto ponamus omnia esse quae sunt bona atque ea consideremus quemadmodum bona esse possent, si a primo bono minime defluxissent. Hinc intueor aliud in eis esse quod bona sunt, aliud quod sunt. Ponatur enim una eademque substantia bona esse alba, grauis, rotunda. Tunc aliud esset ipsa illa substantia, aliud eius rotunditas, aliud color, aliud bonitas; nam si haec singula idem essent quod ipsa substantia, idem esset grauitas quod color, quod bonum et bonum quod grauitas—quod fieri natura non sinit. Aliud igitur tunc in eis esset esse, aliud aliquid esse, ac tunc bona quidem essent, esse tamen ipsum minime haberent bonum. Igitur si ullo modo essent, non a bono ac bona essent ac non idem essent quod bona, sed eis aliud esset esse aliud bonis esse. Quod si nihil omnino aliud essent nisi bona neque grauia neque colorata neque spatii dimensione distenta nec ulla in eis qualitas esset, nisi tantum bona essent, tunc non res sed rerum uideretur esse principium nec potius uiderentur, sed uideretur; unum enim solumque est huiusmodi, quod tantum bonum aliudque nihil sit. Quae quoniam non sunt simplicia, nec esse omnino poterant, nisi ea id quod solum bonum est esse uoluisset. Idcirco quoniam esse eorum a boni uoluntate defluxit, bona esse dicuntur. Primum enim bonum, quoniam est, in eo quod est bonum est; secundum uero bonum, quoniam ex eo fluxit cuius ipsum esse bonum est, ipsum quoque bonum est. Sed ipsum esse omnium rerum ex eo fluxit quod est primum bonum et quod bonum tale est ut recte dicatur in eo quod est esse bonum. Ipsum igitur eorum esse bonum est; tunc enim in eo.

Qua in re soluta quaestio est. Idcirco enim licet in eo quod sint bona sint, non sunt tamen similia primo bono, quoniam non quoquo modo sint res ipsum esse earum bonum est, sed quoniam non potest esse ipsum esse rerum, nisi a primo esse defluxerit, id est bono; idcirco ipsum esse bonum est nec est simile ei a quo est. Illud enim quoquo modo sit bonum est in eo quod est; non enim aliud est praeterquam bonum. Hoc autem nisi ab illo esset, bonum fortasse esse posset, sed bonum in eo quod est esse non posset. Tunc enim participaret forsitan bono; ipsum uero esse quod non haberent a bono, bonum habere non possent. Igitur sublato ab his bono primo mente et cogitatione, ista licet essent bona, tamen in eo quod essent bona esse non possent, et quoniam actu non potuere exsistere, nisi illud ea quod uere bonum est produxisset, idcirco et esse eorum bonum est et non est simile substantiali bono id quod ab eo fluxit; et nisi ab eo fluxissent, licet essent bona, tamen in eo quod sunt bona esse non possent, quoniam et praeter bonum et non ex bono essent, cum illud ipsum bonum primum est et ipsum esse sit et ipsum bonum et ipsum esse bonum. At non etiam alba in eo quod sunt alba esse oportebit ea quae alba sunt, quoniam ex uoluntate dei fluxerunt ut essent, alba minime. Aliud est enim esse, aliud albis esse; hoc ideo, quoniam qui ea ut essent effecit bonus quidem est, minime uero albus. Voluntatem igitur boni comitatum est ut essent bona in eo quod sunt; uoluntatem uero non albi non est comitata talis eius quod est proprietas ut esset album in eo quod est; neque enim ex albi uoluntate defluxerunt. Itaque quia uoluit esse ea alba qui erat non albus, sunt alba tantum; quia uero uoluit ea esse bona qui erat bonus, sunt bona in eo quod sunt. Secundum hanc igitur rationem cuncta oportet esse iusta, quoniam ipse iustus est qui ea esse uoluit? Ne hoc quidem. Nam bonum esse essentiam, iustum uero esse actum respicit. Idem autem est in eo esse quod agere; idem igitur bonum esse quod iustum. Nobis uero non est idem esse quod agere; non enim simplices sumus. Non est igitur nobis idem bonis esse quod iustis, sed idem nobis est esse omnibus in eo quod sumus. Bona igitur omnia sunt, non etiam iusta. Amplius bonum quidem generale est, iustum uero speciale nec species descendit in omnia. Idcirco alia quidem iusta alia aliud omnia bona.

[30] seiunct. Rand; coniunct. codd. opt.; disiunct. vulg. Vallinus.

[31] est codd. inferiores; om. codd. opt.



You ask me to state and explain somewhat more clearly that obscure question in my Hebdomads[32] concerning the manner in which substances can be good in virtue of existence without being absolute goods.[33] You urge that this demonstration is necessary because the method of this kind of treatise is not clear to all. I can bear witness with what eagerness you have already attacked the subject. But I confess I like to expound my Hebdomads to myself, and would rather bury my speculations in my own memory than share them with any of those pert and frivolous persons who will not tolerate an argument unless it is made amusing. Wherefore do not you take objection to the obscurity that waits on brevity; for obscurity is the sure treasure-house of secret doctrine and has the further advantage that it speaks a language understood only of those who deserve to understand. I have therefore followed the example of the mathematical[34] and cognate sciences and laid down bounds and rules according to which I shall develop all that follows.

I. A common conception is a statement generally accepted as soon as it is made. Of these there are two kinds. One is universally intelligible; as, for instance, "if equals be taken from equals the remainders are equal." Nobody who grasps that proposition will deny it. The other kind is intelligible only to the learned, but it is derived from the same class of common conceptions; as "Incorporeals cannot occupy space," and the like. This is obvious to the learned but not to the common herd.

II. Being and a concrete thing[35] are different. Simple Being awaits manifestation, but a thing is and exists[36] as soon as it has received the form which gives it Being.

III. A concrete thing can participate in something else; but absolute Being can in no wise participate in anything. For participation is effected when a thing already is; but it is something after it has acquired Being.

IV. That which exists can possess something besides itself. But absolute Being has no admixture of aught besides Itself.

V. Merely to be something and to be something absolutely are different; the former implies accidents, the latter connotes a substance.

VI. Everything that is participates in absolute Being[37] through the fact that it exists. In order to be something it participates in something else. Hence that which exists participates in absolute Being through the fact that it exists, but it exists in order to participate in something else.

VII. Every simple thing possesses as a unity its absolute and its particular Being.

VIII. In every composite thing absolute and individual Being are not one and the same.

IX. Diversity repels; likeness attracts. That which seeks something outside itself is demonstrably of the same nature as that which it seeks.

These preliminaries are enough then for our purpose. The intelligent interpreter of the discussion will supply the arguments appropriate to each point.

Now the problem is this. Things which are, are good. For all the learned are agreed that every existing thing tends to good and everything tends to its like. Therefore things which tend to good are good. We must, however, inquire how they are good—by participation or by substance. If by participation, they are in no wise good in themselves; for a thing which is white by participation in whiteness is not white in itself by virtue of absolute Being. So with all other qualities. If then they are good by participation, they are not good in themselves; therefore they do not tend to good. But we have agreed that they do. Therefore they are good not by participation but by substance. But those things whose substance is good are substantially good. But they owe their actual Being to absolute Being. Their absolute Being therefore is good; therefore the absolute Being of all things is good. But if their Being is good, things which exist are good through the fact that they exist and their absolute Being is the same as that of the Good. Therefore they are substantial goods, since they do not merely participate in goodness. But if their absolute Being is good, there is no doubt but that, since they are substantial goods, they are like the First Good and therefore they will have to be that Good. For nothing is like It save Itself. Hence all things that are, are God—an impious assertion. Wherefore things are not substantial goods, and so the essence of the Good does not reside in them. Therefore they are not good through the fact that they exist. But neither do they receive good by participation, for they would in no wise tend to good. Therefore they are in no wise good.[38]

This problem admits of the following solution.[39] There are many things which can be separated by a mental process, though they cannot be separated in fact. No one, for instance, can actually separate a triangle or other mathematical figure from the underlying matter; but mentally one can consider a triangle and its properties apart from matter. Let us, therefore, remove from our minds for a moment the presence of the Prime Good, whose Being is admitted by the universal consensus of learned and unlearned opinion and can be deduced from the religious beliefs of savage races. The Prime Good having been thus for a moment put aside, let us postulate as good all things that are, and let us consider how they could possibly be good if they did not derive from the Prime Good. This process leads me to perceive that their Goodness and their existence are two different things. For let me suppose that one and the same substance is good, white, heavy, and round. Then it must be admitted that its substance, roundness, colour, and goodness are all different things. For if each of these qualities were the same as its substance, weight would be the same thing as colour or goodness, and goodness would be the same as colour; which is contrary to nature. Their Being then in that case would be one thing, their quality another, and they would be good, but they would not have their absolute Being good. Therefore if they really existed at all, they would not be from good nor good, they would not be the same as good, but Being and Goodness would be for them two different things. But if they were nothing else but good substances, and were neither heavy, nor coloured, and possessed neither spatial dimension nor quality, beyond that of goodness, they (or rather it) would seem to be not things but the principle of things. For there is one thing alone that is by nature good to the exclusion of every other quality. But since they are not simple, they could not even exist at all unless that which is the one sole Good willed them to be. They are called good simply because their Being is derived from the Will of the Good. For the Prime Good is essentially good in virtue of Being; the secondary good is in its turn good because it derives from the good whose absolute Being is good. But the absolute Being of all things derives from the Prime Good which is such that of It Being and Goodness are rightly predicated as identical. Their absolute Being therefore is good; for thereby it resides in Him.

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