De Sacramentis 1.1.21

1.1.21 “How the waters were gathered together into one place that dry earth might appear.” Hugh at last turns to the work of the third day, God’s separating under heaven the waters from the waters on earth, so that dry land might appear (Gen. 1:9). Hugh explains this by reintroducing the “great abyss” first and last mentioned in 1.1.6: when Genesis says that God gathered the waters into one place, that one place, Hugh surmises, was none other than the abyss which was “made in the body of the earth of so great a capacity that it could have been the receptacle for all the waters.”

Hugh goes on to posit natural processes by which God accomplished this “gathering” of the waters. He notes that “the nature of the waters in the beginning was very thin and light, and dispersed like a kind of cloud.” This mist or vapor described would appear to include the entirety of the “waters below” which had been separated by the firmament from the “waters above” on the previous day. Afterward, however, and “by the divine power and command,” the misty waters-below the firmament began to be “pressed together into one mass… and to become dense, turning downward by its very weight and falling to the lowest level.” In this manner the water was “received by the earth” in, as has been said, the abyss within the earth, but also within the aforementioned (1.1.6) channels on the surface of the earth prepared beforehand as receptacles of the water. This condensation of the watery vapor had two effects: the first was that the space between the earth and the firmament which it had formerly occupied, now vacated, was “left clear and pure.” This open space would appear to be what we call “the sky.” The second effect of the condensing/gathering of the watery vapor was that “the very surface of the earth also began to appear.” Hugh describes the initial state of the earth’s surface as “muddy and slimy and bare, like land that had not yet brought forth any plants with which it could be clothed and covered.”

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