De Sacramentis 1.1.20

1.1.20 “Why God is not said to have seen the work of the second day, that it was good.” Hugh finds it “strange” that God did not say that his work of the second day was “good” when he “certainly saw that it was good.” Hugh gives two reasons for this, both of which are highly speculative, and the second of which would seem to give us yet another example of the problem noted earlier (1.1.10 and, to a lesser extent, 1.1.19), namely of Hugh making the evils which were to occur later an exemplary cause or, as it is in this case, at least a reason or explanation for God’s pre-fall action during creation week. Hugh himself somewhat acknowledges the speculative nature of the first explanation he gives for God’s evaluative silence on the second day of creation: “Perhaps, because the number two is a sign of division, which is the first to depart from oneness.” Hugh doesn’t say anything further on the subject, yet clearly the implication is that unity is better than division. What Hugh is more interested in, however, is the “sacramental” possibilities of the passage: “Some sacrament is here commended.” Hugh says that God’s “second works were not praised, not because they were not good, but because they were a sign of evils,” namely of the later, “second” works of “devil and man.” (This implies that God’s work of the first day was praised, not only because it was good but because they were a sign of all God’s good works, including the second. So one might say that the work of the second day was commended in the commendation of the first.) As in Hugh’s argument in 1.1.10 that the “exemplar” of God’s separation of physical light and darkness was his antecedent separation of angelic good and evil, so here Hugh once again seems to be guilty of making evil itself a kind of exemplary cause and sacramental meaning of creation. (This may be distinguished from when he makes the restoration of evil, as opposed to evil itself, an exemplary and sacramental cause of creation, as when he argues in 1.1.3, for example, that in God’s creating the world first formless and then giving it form we have anticipated the work of re-formation that is human salvation.) Why, in short, does God not praise his own work of firmament-making on the second day? Because he wanted to show in advance his disapproval of the sin of men and the demons that would come later? As I’ve indicated before, I find this kind of sacramental meaning highly suspect.

It occurs to me, however, that there is an ambiguity in Hugh’s treatment of this issue that may have some bearing on the merits or legitimacy of his sacramental interpretation, and that is that it is not clear whether the issue here is God’s own purported silence on the second day of creation regarding the goodness of his work, or the silence of Scripture’s record as to God’s praise of his work on the second day. As I argued earlier (see on 1.1.8), Hugh actually provides us with a helpful perspective for considering precisely the interdependence of the creation event on the one hand and Scripture’s record of that event on the other (the creation narrative as the “completion” of the creation event, as it were), so that I wouldn’t want to overdraw the distinction between the two here. Nonetheless, the distinction is real, so that if we are uncomfortable with the idea (as I apparently am) of later acts of sin or rebellion determining or explaining the way in which God created in the beginning an as-yet unfallen world, the fact that Scripture itself, including its record of creation, was written in, to, and for a post-fallen situation might nonetheless be of some help in explaining some of the apparent peculiarities in Scripture’s own method of recounting God’s pre-fall creation of the world. Thus, even if God had pronounced his work of the second day “good” in the same manner as he did the other days, since it was good, after the fall God might nonetheless have purposed that Scripture not record this pronouncement in part for the sacramental significance it would have for men in the post-fall condition that it would be Scripture’s primary task to address.


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