De Sacramentis 1.1.17

1.1.17 “On the work of the second day, when the firmament was made.” Having gone over the light made on the first day (again), Hugh returns to the firmament made on the second day (again). He observes that God did not move on to the work of the second day before evaluating or “judging” the work of the first day, calling it “good.” As for the firmament, he says that this was “created from nothing in that matter of the universe,” by which it is not precisely clear whether he means that the firmament was created immediately from nothing amidst the matter of the universe or that it was created mediately from the matter of the universe which was originally created from nothing. Hugh’s meaning, however, would seem to be the latter, given his earlier argument (see 1.1.4, for example) that only the initial bringing into being of the unformed heavens and the earth properly involved an act of creation, and that the work of the subsequent six days, accordingly, was a work of mere “disposition” or formation of that original matter. This would further imply that the firmament for Hugh is no mere division or separation of waters from waters, but is a material being itself. He writes, for example, of “its circumference intervening, as it were, as a middle body” and thus it “separate[s] and divide[s] that great and immense gathering of waters from one another.” The picture Hugh leaves us with is that of Earth surrounded by a series of concentric spheres, the first or innermost of which is one set of “waters” (one is tempted to call this the sea covering the Earth, but this is not quite right—see 1.1.21), the second is the firmament (Hugh hasn’t specified what it is made of yet—see next chapter–but this would appear to be “the sky,” and thus presumably made of air), and the third is another, outer sphere of waters (the “heavens,” our “outer space”).

De Sacramentis 1.1.16

1.1.16 “Whether God worked for six days without interval, or in some other manner.” Hugh wonders if God’s resting on the seventh day means that he was continually and unceasingly creating on the previous six days, or if it only means that there was no day-long interval between any two acts of God’s creation until the arrival of the seventh day. Hugh seems to find either position tenable: the former position, for example, involves God not only first creating the light but then subsequently directing it until “it completed its course;” the latter position, by contrast, he distinguishes as “easy and more readily adapted to reason for understanding.”

De Sacramentis 1.1.15

1.1.15 “What was done with that primal light after the creation of the sun; and whether the sun was made substantially from the same.” The creation of light on the first day of the week prompts the question of what happened to this light after the creation of the sun and its light on the third day of the week. One answer that has been posed is that “now no traces of it can be found ,ever since the brightness of the sun shone forth.” Another position is that “there are still left certain slight remnants of it which here and there periodically appear by night on the inner periphery of the firmament to those who gaze rather carefully.” (The Northern Lights as the residue of the original, first-day-of-creation light.) Hugh’s own position, however, is that it was precisely the light made on the first day of the week that was “afterwards transformed into the substance of the sun,” yet “with increased clarity” and hence with “a better form.” (The Sun as recycled first-day light.)


De Sacramentis 1.1.14

1.1.14 “What precaution is here signified regarding good work.” Hugh offers up a series of three “precautions” or applications of the foregoing discussion to our good works. First, make sure that you have the divine light in you, “so that all your works may be of light and not darkness.” Second, make sure that the light in you is not mixed with any darkness. Third, make sure that the works which you do in that unmixed light are good. Hugh concludes the chapter with the observation that he has been “touch[ing] upon a certain few mysteries of light,” but that it is now time to “return to the systematic exposition” of Genesis.

De Sacramentis 1.1.13

1.1.13 “Why Scripture says: ‘God saw the light.’” The question of this chapter is by or in what light did God see the light that he made at first and by which he called it “good,” given that “nothing can be seen without light.” His answer is that this first created, changeable light was seen by God in an uncreated, unchangeable light. It is by this same divine light, moreover, that God sees all of his works, and “by which we also should see every light.”

De Sacramentis 1.1.12

1.1.12 “The sacrament of the divine works.” Hugh here reflects on the allegorical significance of the previous chapter’s discussion of why the original light preceded the sun’s own light. He had said that the reason the lesser light was allowed to precede the “clear” or “full light” was because the original confusion of the created order was such as to make it “not worthy of full light,” and he begins this chapter by observing that in this “a great sacrament is commended.” In this context, and for Hugh generally, sacrament refers to the mysterious, allegorical, or spiritual meaning of a thing. The sacramental meaning of the sequence of creation is the way in which the individual fallen soul, like creation in the beginning, is in “a kind of darkness and confusion,” a state that it cannot arise out of and “be disposed to the order and form of justice, unless it be first illumined to see its evils, and to distinguish light from darkness, that is, virtues from vices, so that it may dispose itself to order and conform to truth.”


De Sacramentis 1.1.11

1.1.11 “That light illumined three days; and why it was made before the sun.” Hugh returns to the existence of light preceding that of the sun, stating that “the light itself made those first three days before the sun was made, and illumined the world.” While this and his previous discussions might have given the impression that the light which preceded the sun was on that account superior to the sun’s own light, Hugh goes on to imply just the opposite. In response to the question of why generic (if you will) light was created before what he calls the “clear light” of the sun, he answers that it was possibly due to “the confusion” (of the original unformed matter) that “was not worthy of full light; yet it received some light, that it might see how to proceed to order and disposition.”

De Sacramentis 1.1.10

1.1.10 “That visible and invisible light were made simultaneously, and equally divided from darkness.” The argument of this chapter is an odd and even troubling one. According to Hugh, when God was dividing visible light from darkness, at that same moment he was also dividing the “invisible light” of angelic moral goodness from the fallen or falling angels’ moral “darkness of sin.” This separation occurred through the good angels “being turned toward the light of justice and illumined by light.” This concurrence of the separation of visible and invisible light, however, was no mere coincidence, for Hugh suggests that it was in some sense necessary or fitting that these two events coincide, indeed, that the separation of visible light from visible darkness was in some sense even dependent upon the separation of the good angels from the bad: “For thus the exemplars of God’s work had to be in harmony, so that those works of wisdom which were visible might follow the productions of the invisible.”

This I find very strange and disturbing. In 1.1.5 Hugh made the claim that the “likenesses” of corporeal creatures were “preceded already in the angelic spirits,” suggesting that the angelic natures exercise some kind of exemplar causality relative to corporeal creation. It would seem, therefore, to be precisely this dependence of the visible order upon the invisible that Hugh has in mind when he states that the separation of light from darkness in the visible world must have its antecedent exemplar in the invisible world. This by itself would be fine, except that what Hugh identifies as the exemplar for the separation of light from darkness in the visible world is a separation of moral light and darkness in the invisible world. The problem with this, of course, is that it implies that something negative, namely sin or evil, specifically the sin or evil of the fallen angels, is an exemplar or positive pattern for an otherwise created good, namely physical darkness. Evil, in short, has been unwittingly enfranchised and elevated to the level of form: the moral darkness of the fallen angels is what provides the formal pattern upon which physical darkness is said to depend. Put differently, angelic evil is what makes physical darkness possible, is what gives physical darkness its darkness? The irony, however, is that Hugh himself seems to see his thesis about invisible, moral light and darkness providing the exemplary pattern for physical light and darkness as being required rather than contradicted by his otherwise Augustinian privation theory of evil: “God indeed divided both, and named both; but He did not also make both. For God is not that author of darkness but of light, because sin is darkness and sin is nothing… God said: ‘Be light made.’ … God never said: ‘Be darkness made.’”

De Sacramentis 1.1.9

1.1.9 “Of what nature this light was made and where.” Light was the first thing created, but it was not created out of nothing but out of the original matter (which was created out of nothing). With the creation of light the first day was begun (though time preceded even this). Light is not only material, but also corporeal (because able to illumine corporeal, visible things), spatial (because corporeal or bodily), and mobile (because distinguishing day and night, and being able to “complete a space of time”). Hugh clarifies that light was indeed made before or, as he puts it, even “instead of and in place of the sun” with the consequence that it was light and not the sun that was first “circulated by its motion” and responsible for “distinguishing night and day.”

Because light was first created in the place and course of the sun, it follows that, upon its creation, light also must have made its first appearance in the same place where the sun first appears each day, and like the sun, thereafter “traveling around in the same path, and descending first to its setting” so that “it might make the evening, and then, on being recalled to its rising, it might illumine the dawn.” This would seem to suggest that the sun, in rising and setting where it does, is merely following the light which precedes it.

Hugh’s explanation for why Scripture says that “there was evening and morning one day” is clever. As he points out, the first day, which began with the creation of light, was not and could not be preceded by any dawn, since before the creation of light there was only darkness. Therefore scripture includes the dawn following the first evening with the first day (the first evening taking place before the first dawn). Dawn, therefore, “must always refer to the preceding day.”

Hugh concludes the chapter by correlating his present teaching about light and the first day with his earlier discussion about time. Time (because change) began when the visible and invisible things were created, but until there was light, there was in this time neither night nor day. With the introduction of light, however, darkness and light could be differentiated, and so time could now be divided by day and night.


De Sacramentis 1.1.8

1.1.8 “On the mystery of light; why it was made first.” Hugh asks why God made light first, referring to this as the “mystery of light.” His answer: God “made light first, that afterwards he might make all things in light.” In proof of this he cites Jesus’s statement to Nicodemus in the Gospel of John that the one who does the truth “cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, because they are done in God” (John 3:21). We have already seen how, for Hugh, God created the world in such a way as to set an “example” for his rational creatures, particularly when he created matter first and added form later, thereby anticipating the pattern to be followed in the work of restoration, when man who was “first made unformed in a certain mode of its own, [would] afterwards … be formed through conversion to its Creator” (1.1.3).  In a similar vein, we find Hugh reasoning here from the premise of man’s “relation to light,” as it were, in the work of redemption and, in particular, as expressed in the gospels, to the order of creation itself: if redeemed man is one who comes to and performs his works in the light, then it is fitting that God himself should have set an example for this in conducting his own work of disposition “in the light.” As Hugh is careful to clarify, however, God “did not make light that He Himself might see by light, but that He might make His works manifest by light, because they were done in God.” God did not need the light to see what he was doing, in other words, but so that others might see what he was doing. The irony, of course, is that there was as yet no one present to whom God’s works might be made manifest through this light (angels, being incorporeal, for Hugh would not have needed light to see). The not insignificant fact remains, however, that had human beings been present from the start, by God creating light first, his work of disposition would have been manifest to them. In that fashion, at least, one might say that human beings were present, if not in person, then at least in and through this divine accommodation and solicitude.

But this discussion may lead us to a further, more complex but no less significant respect in which human beings were, and in a sense even now are or can be present when God first created light, and that respect, of course, is through the revelation of Scripture itself. When Genesis reveals to us the way in which God made the world, after all, it is making that act of creation in a very real sense present to us. In making the creation event present to us, however, it is also making us present in and to it. When God made the world, after all, he made it in such a way as to be the subject of thus susceptible to a future revelation, a fact that was just as true in the past when God first made the world as it is now when we read that revelation in the present. What this means is that Genesis is a very peculiar kind of account, one that reveals not only a particular and purported historical content, but in doing so, implicitly reveals the manner in which that content is able to give rise to its own account. Put differently, in reading Genesis, we are not only reading about God’s act of creation, or rather, precisely because we are reading about God’s act of creation, we are on that account also reading about the establishment of the very conditions for the possibility of its future revelation. Thus, when God reveals to us how he made the world, he is necessarily putting on display more than the act of creation itself, but also that act of creation as revealable, which, I am suggesting here, is a remarkable revelation in its own right. Put more succinctly still, the world was not only made and then revealed, but more precisely, was made to be revealed. This may also be seen to put a different perspective on many of our contemporary debates over how properly to interpret the opening chapters of Genesis, and reveals as grossly inadequate any interpretation that would seek to marginalize the text by treating it as merely poetic or literary account. For on the above reckoning, Genesis is not only about God’s act of creation, but in a very real sense is the point of creation: God created the world, at least in part, in order that Genesis might record that creation. This finally, is what I suggest is implied in Hugh of St. Victor’s argument that God created light first, if not exactly to manifest his works, then at least that his works might be made manifest.

De Sacramentis 1.1.7

1.1.7. “On the distinction made by form.” Although Hugh has already begun in the previous chapter, particularly in his discussion of God’s creation of light on the second day, to address God’s work of disposition in six days, he seems to see himself formally turning to this subject in the present chapter. (The previous chapter had ended with the statement that “on the first creation, before nature came into form and disposition, we wish these words to suffice,” and the present chapter begins with “Next, we must treat in order how this disposition itself was accomplished. This is perhaps a good example of the comparative lack of systematicity that would lead St. Thomas, for example, in the following century to undertake a new kind of summa of the Christian faith.) Having treated the subject of creation, in other words, Hugh now turns to the subject of the divine work of disposition. As Hugh describes God’s labor over six days, he “disposed, and ordered, and reduced to form all that he had made.” The main concern of the present chapter, however, is the aforementioned distinction between creation and disposition. Whereas creation is ex nihilo and occurs at the very beginning, the work of disposition presupposes the work of creation, so that “he should not by any means think that, when first these things are said to have been made, they were created from nothing, but rather he should understand that they were formed from the matter itself, which was first created from nothing.” When Scripture thus refers to things being “created” during the six days, “the reference is not to the matter by which they begin to be, but to the form by which they begin to be what they are.”

Hugh’s synthesis of medieval quadriga, Augustinian semiotics, and the Liberal Arts

Here’s an attempt to schematize Hugh’s Synthesis of Medieval Hermeneutics, Augustinian Semiotics, and the Liberal Arts Tradition.

De Sacramentis 1.1.6

1.1.6. “On the first unformed state of all things; of what nature it was; and how long the world remained in it.” In this chapter we get a deeper picture of Hugh of St. Victor’s cosmology and cosmogony. When the world was first created, the unmixed earthly element was placed “in the middle.” In the middle of what? Apparently of the created, spatial cosmos as a whole. Created with and surrounding this earthly center was a confused “cloud” comprised of the other three elements, air, fire, and water, in so mingled a state that none of these could “appear what it was” (cp. the unformed matter of the “Receptacle” in Plato’s Timaeus, in which barely a trace of the four elements is allowed to appear and endure prior to the intervention of the divine Demiurge). This confused “cloud and darkness” of the three elements, “suspended on all sides,” filled up the rest of the spatial cosmos “from the surface of the earth lying in a middle position to the extreme and highest limit of the circle of heaven.” In a word, it is heaven. Hugh doesn’t make the point, but this rudimentary division between heaven and earth, or between the element of earth on the one hand and the confused mixture of air, fire, and water on the other, might be said to comprise what Hugh distinguished before as the otherwise unformed matter’s original and “first form,” the “form of confusion.” And although the waters had not yet been separated at this point, already the beds and channels of water in the earth “had been prepared…. as future receptacles of waters.”

Notable among these was “that great abyss” from which all streams of waters would have their origin. It was this great abyss that “showed the sheer void, horrible with its mouth still open and empty” (cp. the Greek concept of Chaos or Chasm, especially in Hesiod’s Theogony). Hugh mentions again the confused mixture of elements surrounding and covering the earth in general, and of the abyss in particular, now referring to it as the “dark mist” and “darkness” that Scripture describes as having been “over the face of the abyss when heaven and earth were created.”

Hugh at this point returns to the earlier discussion of matter having been first created without form, claiming now that Scripture itself teaches this (something Hugh did not say in his earlier treatment) when it says that God created the earth “empty and void.” Hugh next defines “heaven and earth” as “that matter of all heavenly and earthly things from which afterwards the things which were first created simultaneously in this matter in essence were made successively in form,” and further specifying “earth” as “the element itself of earth” and “heaven” as “that light confusion of the remaining three elements.” In these two sources “was contained the matter for forming all the heavenly and earthly bodies.”

Hugh returns to the subjects of the darkness and the abyss, locating the latter in the earth and the former in heaven. He gives an intriguing argument for why the initial place of darkness was properly heaven and not the abyss, inasmuch as it is heaven and not the abyss to which “light was afterwards to come. For darkness could not have been save in the place of light.” Thus, although darkness may be said temporally or chronologically to precede light, darkness is nevertheless only able to inhabit that place where light is later to come, meaning that in an absolute, logical, or ontological sense it is light which precedes, defines, and so determines darkness. (Cp. Tolkien’s treatment of darkness’s dependence on light in The Silmarillion, particularly in the Ainulindalë and in “The Darkening of Valinor.”) Put differently, darkness is eschatological and teleological, in its very being already anticipating the light which it precedes and yet by which it will be negated or canceled, in whose presence it must flee. A few sentences later Hugh will explicitly refer to darkness as the “privation of light,” yet in the order of Genesis it is a very peculiar and provocative kind of privation: it is a privation that preexists the thing it is a privation of.

Hugh moves next to a discussion of the “waters,” the creation of which Hugh includes in that of the heavens. Hugh goes further, however, to actually equate the darkness, the heavens, and the waters as one and the same entity—“heaven itself is darkness itself, and this is also the waters”—and suggests only a semantic difference, at least initially, between the three. This reality is called heaven “on account of its lightness” or levity, darkness “on account of privation of light,” and water “on account of movement and fluctuation.”

The next paragraph finds Hugh occupied with a somewhat pedantic point, namely the question of heaven’s placement above the earth. Naturally, he observes that “the heavy should be arranged below and the light above.” What is perhaps of greatest interest in this section (at least to the present writer) is his explanation for why Scripture “has mentioned heaven before earth.” Hugh anticipates an objection that heaven was mentioned before earth inasmuch as “heaven was created below as a foundation,” and his reply gives us a brief insight the nature of medieval grammar and logic: “I think that it is so mentioned not for the sake of order [i.e., ascending physical or spatial order] but of dignity, and also because the word following must be considered as applying to the element of earth as the nearest term, as it were, and on this account last mentioned; therefore heaven had to be mentioned first and earth afterwards.” The reason earth is mentioned last, in other words, and therefore is the term made “nearest” to the speaker, as it were, is because earth is nearest to the speaker. Grammatical proximity, in short, reflects physical proximity.

“And where were the waters?” begins the following paragraph. These were neither under nor above heaven, but were in heaven and indeed the original waters were heaven. On the second day was made the firmament, which introduced a separation and hence distinction within the heavens and therefore also within the waters. The firmament “made a division” between waters and waters,” so that the “waters which first were waters were made waters,” that is to say, they were made “the waters which are under haven and the waters which are above heaven.” The firmament made a similar division between heaven and heaven, namely “heaven above heaven and heaven under heaven.”

So the firmament, one might say, gives form to the waters or the heavens, turning the waters into waters and the heavens into heavens. This perspective is confirmed in the next question Hugh raises, which is “how long a time the world existed in this confusion before its disposition was begun.” In 1.1.4, it may be recalled, Hugh had described the world’s original state or “form of confusion” as the “first form,” the world’s unformed form, as it were, and its later condition of disposition as its “second form” accomplished “through the intervals of the six days.” Thus, what we see in the second day is the firmament’s introduction of an element of disposition, the second form. Hugh goes on to say that the “first matter of all things began at the beginning of time, or rather with time itself.” This would seem to contradict Augustine’s argument, for example, in the Confessions that because of the heaven’s original perfection and plenitude of form (Augustine interprets “heavens” in Gen. 1:1 in Neoplatonic fashion to refer to the unchanging, sempiternal realm surrounding the divine presence) and because of the earth’s utter lack of form, there could have been no time when heaven and earth were first created, inasmuch as time involves the passage of one form to another. On the other hand, while Hugh suggests that time was created with the heavens and the earth, nevertheless between this initial creation and the later disposition “no delay was interposed; so that it may be truly said that this was done after that, but that between this which was made and that no delay at all intervened.” So the disposing of creation during the six days did literally or temporally take place after the initial act of creation, but this is not to say that there was a measurable, temporal period of duration between the act of creation and the first act of disposition.

Hugh returns to his earlier analogy from 1.1.3 comparing the way in which matter was first created without form with the way in which the angelic nature was similarly created initially “unformed” in comparison to the “wisdom and discretion” that would come later after the angelic nature had “fixed itself through the conversion of love upon that highest and true good in which it was to be made happy.” Hugh again affirms that both the corporeal and incorporeal natures were both created simultaneously in time and with time. One important difference between the corporeal nature created without form and the incorporeal, angelic nature created with form, however, is that only the latter was created in its own, subsistent and individuated being. With unformed matter was created that “from which” the corporeal nature was made, whereas with incorporeal nature was created “that which it is itself.”


De Sacramentis 1.1.5

1.1.5. “That all things, that is, visible and invisible, were created simultaneously.” In De Sacramentis 1.1.3 Hugh of St. Victor had said that the angels had “already existed at the very beginning of the world” such that they were able to witness and be instructed by God’s first creating matter unformed and then afterward giving it form. The present chapter seems to clarify, however, that the angels were not created before but simultaneous with the unformed matter: “in the beginning both the matter of visible and corporeal things and the essence of the invisible things in the angelic nature were created simultaneously.” It may be worth clarifying here that Hugh’s distinction here between things visible and invisible is not the distinction made in Gen. 1:1 between heaven and earth, for as the following chapter implies, both the heaven and earth of Gen. 1:1 would actually fall under the category of things “visible,” physical, or corporeal. Hugh’s purpose here, however, seems to go beyond a mere assertion of the concurrent creation of unformed matter on the one hand and angels on the other, when he makes the further, ambiguous and undeveloped suggestion that the form to be later bestowed on the unformed matter was also created in a sense and thus pre-contained in and along with the creation of the angelic beings. On the one hand, Hugh repeats the distinction between visible and invisible things when he says that “both the matter of visible things and the nature of invisible things were created simultaneously in essence,” or when he goes on to say that “nothing was made afterwards of which either the matter as in bodies or the likeness as in spirits did not precede in this first beginning.” However, Hugh would seem to blur the distinction somewhat between invisible and visible realities and suggest that in some sense the essence or forms of the corporeal creatures to come were also created in and with the angelic natures: “For even if new souls are still created daily, yet no new creature is made, because its likeness preceded already in the angelic spirits at the time when they were created.” When Hugh says that “no new creature is made,” I take him to mean that no new created species is made, including, presumably any corporeal creature, and the reason he gives for this is that the “likeness” (essence, form, or nature) of these creatures are “preceded already in the angelic spirits.” This makes it sound as though the likenesses of corporeal creatures, even if not the corporeal creatures themselves, were created in the angelic spirits, making the angels comparable, one is led to suppose, to Plato’s ideal forms. If this is what Hugh means, one hopes he will clarify and defend this doctrine more clearly in subsequent chapters.

De Sacramentis 1.1.4

1.1.4. “Whether there could ever have been matter without form.” Hugh clarifies what he means by unformed matter. Matter without any form whatsoever is in fact impossible; more specifically, it is impossible for a thing to have existence or being without also having some form. Nevertheless, the expression “unformed matter” is not absurd or without meaning; it refers to the respect in which matter originally existed “in a kind of confusion and mingled state” and was thus without “that beautiful and fitting disposition” that would be added later and is meant by “form.” Matter thus originally had “form,” but it was the “form of confusion,” a “broken state.” Hugh refers to the “form of confusion” as the “first form,” as distinct from the ‘second form, the form of disposition” which was wrought “through the interval of six days.”

De Sacramentis 1.1.3

1.1.3. “The reason why God wished through intervals of time to bring His works to completion, and to make being before beautiful being.” What’s important for divine omnipotence, however, is not that God should be held to have created matter with form, but that he be recognized to have been able to do so had he wished. Because divine power is identical with divine goodness, the more relevant consideration has less to do with what is fitting for divine power than with what is “more suited to the benefit and interest of the rational creature itself.”

Here it should be said we get a crucial insight into the theological principle behind what we will see to be Hugh’s “sacramental” or spiritual/allegorical interpretation of both Scripture generally and of the opening chapter of Genesis in particular. In creating and disposing the world in the order that he did, God’s purpose was not so much to display his own power as it was in his goodness to accommodate the needs and interests of his creatures. If the operative or relevant principle behind the pattern of the creation week, therefore, was not divine power but divine goodness, it remains for the interpreter of Scripture to discern what the divine “lesson” or sacramental meaning for man must be behind that pattern. Divine goodness over divine power as the central theological principle, in short, necessitates allegorical, and more specifically, an anthropocentric interpretation of Scripture.

Hugh writes that the order of creation is one in which “not only homage but also example might be prepared for this same rational creature.” Put differently, God created the world in such a way that in it man might better “recognize what it [he] was.” The order of creation, therefore, including the order of matter and form, is going to be an anthropocentric one for Hugh. Hugh’s is a cosmic and metaphysical personalism: there is no answering metaphysical questions such as matter and form without a consideration of what is good for man and how it helps man to understand himself as man. Thus, God created matter first unformed and then later formed precisely to teach man, first, about creation’s dependence upon God for its form, and second, about man’s own need to “receive form,” as it were, through redemption. As Hugh describes it, it is a difference between “being” (unformed matter) and “beautiful being” (formed matter, or man in his creation or “foundation”) or even “happy being” (man in his restored state). In this way Hugh makes the order of creation to be an analogy for the order of redemption: in the divine “work of foundation” we have a type of the divine “work of restoration,” in the creation of the world a picture of its re-creation (cp. Tolkien’s creation-myth in the Ainulindalë and its dramatization of his argument concerning sub-creation and the gospel in his essay “On Fairy-Stories.”)

As to who was there from the beginning to receive this example, the answer is the angels who were created first and men who were created afterward but who would be taught by Scripture. Similar to Augustine in his own interpretation of Genesis (see Confessions bk. 11), Hugh ends on an irenic note, giving the unconvinced reader permission “with all freedom to seek out someone else better and more subtle to prove the point more clearly,” or to adopt another doctrine entirely “as he wishes.”

De Sacramentis 1.1.2

1.1.2 1.1.2 “Whether matter was made before form.” Granted that matter was created by God, was it initially created with or without form? The church fathers have left conflicting statements on this matter, but they did so in a cautious manner, recognizing the “obscure and doubtful” nature of the matter, “so remote from our knowledge.”  Those who asserted that God created matter with form did so for an appreciable (even if not finally compelling) reason, namely that it seems “unworthy of the omnipotence of the Creator… to bring his work to perfection through intervals of time.”

De Sacramentis 1.1.1

1.1.1. “That there is one first principle by which all things have been made from nothing.” God created the world from nothing, something that the “philosophers of the pagans” failed to understand, as “they maintained that God was a maker only, not a creator.” Hugh implicitly recognizes that what is at stake in the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo is nothing less than the transcendence, authority, sovereignty, and freedom of God: “ineffable omnipotence… could not have anything else coeternal with it, to assist it in making, thus reposed in itself while it wished, so that what it wished, and when, and as much as it wished, might be created out of nothing” (8-9).