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ABSTRACT: An Irish writer of the mid-seventh century, Augustinus Hibernicus, tried to explain the unusual events of the Bible in rationalist way. His rationalism is not as unusual as some believe because he was applying arguments developed by patristic writers. He had, however, a certain independence of mind, especially in his avoidance of some of Augustine's ideas. Augustine's use of the theory of the rationes seminales has not influenced him. This is not because he was ignorant of the idea, but because it conflicted with his more consistent conception of creation and miracles.
KEYWORDS: Augustinus Hibernicus, rationes seminales, creation, nature, Hiberno-Latin, early Ireland, miracles, Bible, Genesis, Augustine, Gregory the Great.
Damian Bracken, Department of History, University College, Cork
Chronicon 2 (1998) 1: 1-37
1. Some events told in the Bible defy rational explanation: these wonders or miracles are the subject of De mirabilibus sacrae scripturae (DMS)2 written in Ireland around the year 655 by Augustinus Hibernicus.3 Augustinus Hibernicus applies rationalist principles to his investigation of these unusual events. He tries to show how the miracles of Scripture do not work against nature, create new nature, or change the existing nature of creation. He is far ahead of his time in trying to explain these events in a rational way. However, when compared to the explanation of miracles in the works of Augustine of Hippo (his chief inspiration), it can be shown that Augustinus Hibernicus's rationalism in some cases is a development of ideas already found in Augustine's work. This paper tries to show that in advancing a rationalist explanation of the miraculous, Augustinus Hibernicus was not always ploughing his own rather heterodox furrow, but following Augustine. Questions have been asked about how well he knew Augustine's theology, especially his theory of the rationes seminales. I will also try to show that Augustinus Hibernicus may have understood the concept of the rationes seminales, but decided not to use it because it conflicted with his own interpretation of miracles.
2. Most who have examined DMS agree that it is rationalist in outlook. James Kenney believed that Augustinus Hibernicus's `thesis is, for the time, a somewhat rationalistic one '.4 Bernard Bischoff described it as `daring rationalistic writing'.5 Edmondo Coccia's grim judgement on the work was that `we cannot form a very positive opinion of the theological speculation of the Irish from it'.6 He criticised Kenney and Bischoff who thought that DMS was rationalist, stating that this is true only if `by rationalism is intended a system which, when it does not eliminate the divine, tends to humanise it and, when it does not deny the supernatural, naturalises it'. Manlio Simonetti thought very differently and believed that its sophistication was `sufficient to admit to a high level of culture the milieu in which the author of DMS was formed and worked'.7 Simonetti also significantly advanced our understanding of the work by showing how the theology of Augustine was applied and, in certain respects, developed, by Augustinus Hibernicus. This deserves to be investigated because it shows how Augustinus Hibernicus's theology continued to be used by Insular writers. Marina Smyth refers to his remarkable consistency in adhering to his rational methodology.8 He was also individualistic, even in the way he handles long-held interpretations of biblical passages.9
3. Augustinus Hibernicus's rational attitude is perhaps best seen in the criteria he chooses to define a miracle. In the prologue, he declares his aim:
Indeed, above all, the purpose of my whole effort is this: to show in all matters in which something seems to happen above and beyond the everyday management of affairs, that in such cases God does not create a new nature, but governs that which he founded in the beginning.10
4. In his definition of a miracle, therefore, Augustinus Hibernicus considers God to act according to nature, but above the usual temporal course of events. Perhaps he has in mind here the idea found elsewhere in his work that a miracle is something which occurs in nature over time, but is possible for God, who exists outside time, to accomplish in an instant.11 As Simonetti (229, n. 5) points out, because creation itself is a single act, it is not part of the everyday and therefore cannot be considered a miracle. Augustinus Hibernicus included it because the explanation of this event allowed him to set out the criteria and terms of reference for his investigation. He therefore explains the problem of miracles in the context of his treatment of the simple schema of the first chapter of Genesis where God calls creation into being over six days and rests on the seventh.
5. This posed a problem. Was it to be understood that after God completed the act of creation and established the rules by which creation would exist, he was no longer involved in the future course of events? Augustinus Hibernicus discusses this by contrasting Genesis 2:2, `And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done', which implies the work of the Creator has a finite quality, with John 5:17, `My father is working still, and I am working', which seems to indicate an ongoing process.12 He may be influenced here by Augustine's De genesi ad litteram (GAL) IV, 11 (Quomodo utrumque constat, Deum in die septimo requievisse, et nunc usque operari; PL 34.303) or De genesi contra Manichaeos (GCM) I, 22.13
6. Augustinus Hibernicus gives a summary of his solution to the problem of how God could continue to be involved in his creation without disrupting its preordained patterns in the phrase tunc ergo creator, nunc gubernator deus intelligendus est, `therefore God must be understood then as the Creator, now as the governor' (PL 35.2151). This means that in the six days of creation narrated at the beginning of Genesis God acted as Creator. After the sixth day, the work of creation ceased and God became the manager or governor of what had been created. If God continues to administer creation, how is this accomplished without intervening in the natural order of things? He resolves the matter by proposing that God administers his creation in two ways: one by the everyday management of things and another by some unusual governance of extraordinary events, but he never intervenes to change nature. By implication, this distinction is applied to the unusual biblical events and miracles that interested him. In III, 9, he says,
Two underlying principles are observed in the natural governance of things. Wherefore the everyday governing of things is regarded as a lower principle, as for example when blood is made from water in animals and salt water becomes sweet either by means of the clouds or by pouring through the earth. And the superior principle is the unusual governing which is recognised in the wonders of matters such as the water in Egypt changing into blood in a moment in time (Exod. 7:20) and when God changed the water into sweetness by touching with the wood (Exod. 15:22-25).14
7. Therefore, the ordinary management of things (quotidiana rerum administratio) and the unusual governing of things (inusitata gubernatio) are the means by which God continues to administer creation. Both, in their own way, can be considered wondrous, however, the second, the `unusual governing of things', is how God works miracles. For Simonetti, the resolution of the apparent tension between miracles and the law of nature depends on the theology of Augustine, specifically GAL.15 Simonetti (246-7) suggests that in certain respects Augustinus Hibernicus actually developed the ideas of Augustine: `Now, for Augustine, a miracle is the result of an unusual means by which God works in the world, but always within the limits of nature. This is the one assumption that our author seeks to demonstrate through the entire course of his work. This, in short, is what is presented as an analytical demonstration, or, if you prefer, with greater exemplification, of the doctrine which Augustine had enunciated briefly and illustrated with few examples'. This is significant in showing how important GAL was for De mirabilibus sacrae scripturae and the sophistication of the Irish writer.
8. Augustinus Hibernicus's rationalism can be seen in his explanation of Moses's changing the waters of the Nile into blood in Exodus 7:20. In the piece quoted above, he cites the changing of the Nile into blood as an example of how God works wonders through some unusual management above the ordinary course of events (superior inusitata gubernatio). He looks at this miracle in greater detail in I, 18, De aqua in sanguinem versa.
And now something must be asked which pertains to the purpose of the present work: how did God the governor of nature change the water into blood within the bounds of nature? Water is the basis of all liquids and every day it is changed into different liquids by its own ministrations, while incessantly it is naturally contracted into the food and refreshment of every nature. When, for instance, it is poured on the grape vine, water is changed into the taste (sapor) and colour (color) of wine; and when it ascends to the highest reaches of the olive tree, the same water makes the richness of the oil; and when it is accumulated by the bees in the honeycombs, it makes the sweetness of honey; and when it passes through the trunks of the palm trees, it bears dates and when compressed it becomes the sweetness of intoxicating drink; and when it is allotted to being the sustenance of various animals, it is divided into the different substances of the blood by the same flesh Moreover, through the same flesh there are many types of blood, to the number of twenty-three as reckoned by the physiologists, from which they declare urine, semen, black and red bile, saliva, tears and the rest to be derived. Water produces these by various means through the processes of its ordinary nature. Why, consequently, should it be opposed by the able minded that what it does over a longer time-span, should it not naturally be effected in a moment through the command of the most powerful Governor? Water then when changed into blood does not act against nature, but just as it can be done in other cases over time, the same can be done at once by the command of the Lord (PL 35.2165).
9. Here a miracle is explained as the speeding up of a process that occurs in nature over time. The waters of the Nile can become blood in the same way as creatures convert water into various bodily fluids, including blood. Plants convert water into other solutions and Augustinus Hibernicus's choice of the vine changing rainwater into wine is significant because on a purely `scientific' level he is describing the miracle performed by Christ in changing the water into wine at Cana (John 2: 1-11). If the work of the various animals changing water into blood over time can be used to explain the changing of the waters of the Nile into blood in an instant, then the work of the vine changing water into wine can be compared to Christ's miracle at Cana.16 His description of the work of the vine can certainly be described as rationalist. This change might imply to some a change in the nature of the water, and Augustinus Hibernicus could not allow this. Instead he calls it a changing of the colour (color) and taste (sapor) of the water into the colour and taste of wine (Cum enim per vitis arborem infunditur, in vini saporem et colorem mutatur). Only the external qualities of the water are affected, its essential nature remains unchanged.
10. This rationalism, and the definition of a miracle which is formed by this rationalist approach, is found in other Insular works. Cambridge, Pembroke College, MS 25 contains Latin sermons used in the Anglo-Saxon Church. James Cross says they were written in an Insular milieu and this suggests the influence of Hiberno-Latin literature.17 Part of the fourteenth sermon derives from Munich, Clm 6233, written by Dominicus and his students. Cross comments on the peculiar description in both Pembroke 25 and in Clm 6233 of the miracle of the wedding at Cana when Christ changed water into wine. The description `recalls explication of Scriptural statements in anonymous commentaries which often lean towards rationalism '.18 Pembroke 25 states: `And he made wine from the water, that is, the one hundred and fifty measures, and he changed the appearance of the water changing it into the colour and taste of wine' (Et fecit uinum de aqua, id est, .cl. modios, et mutauit speciem aquae conuertens in colorem et saporem uini). This is also how the miracle is described in Clm 6233.19 The miracle, therefore, is not the actual changing of the substance of water into another nature, that of wine, but the changing of the colour (color) and taste (sapor) of the water into the colour and taste of wine. These are precisely the properties Augustinus Hibernicus says are transmuted by the vine. In line with Augustinus Hibernicus's criteria, only the outward appearance is affected while the essential nature of the substance remains unaltered.
11. It would be significant if DMS could be shown to have influenced Insular writers like Dominicus and his contemporaries working on the continent in the eighth century. Alcuin certainly knew and used DMS. The opening quaestiones of his Interrogationes et responsiones in Genesin20 (later translated by Aelfric)21 and parts of his Quaestiones de Trinitate et de Genesi (PL 42.1171-76) are based on DMS. The beginning of the Interrogationes, taken from DMS, seems to be the basis for a section in at least one French MS of Honorius Augustodunensis's Elucidarium.22 Alcuin's discussion of the irremediable downfall of the devil and the Bible's silence on the matter is based in part on DMS I, 223 and possibly on Augustine.24 This is quoted by Hincmar of Reims in his De praedestinatione dei et libero arbitrio (PL 125.277) and has influenced Angelomus of Luxeuil's (d. 855) commentary on Genesis (PL 115.144). The section quoted by Alcuin from DMS must also be the basis for a piece quoted from his works in the Glossa Ordinaria.25 Significantly, in his letters Alcuin tells us that he was in contact with the Dominicus responsible for Clm 6233.26 He may therefore be the route along which Augustinus Hibernicus's rationalistic account of the changing of water into wine became known to Dominicus and others. The question of whether the homilies in Clm 6233 and Pembroke 25 were influenced, however indirectly, by Augustinus Hibernicus must, nevertheless, remain open because the terms color and sapor are applied by other writers to the changing of the water into wine. Maximus, bishop of Turin (d. 408/23), in his homily on the marriage at Cana, commenting on how the change from water to wine is like changing unbelievers into believers, says ` as the water changed into wine is fixed by taste and a ruddy glow, so what had been tasteless in them received the taste of knowledge, what had been pale assumed the colour of grace, what had been cold grew warm by the heat of immortality'.27 References to the changing of the colour (color) and taste (sapor) of wine are found in treatises on the Eucharist where the writer tries to show how the external characteristics of the bread and wine (the accidents of the species) remain constant while the substances were changed into the body and blood of Christ. Examples include Paschasius Radbertus's De corpore et sanguine domini28 and works associated with the School of Anselm of Laon.29 Rupert of Deutz, who crossed swords with Anselm,30 deals with the miracle of Cana in his Commentaria in euangelium sancti Iohannis. He says that all liquids come from a single element but are distinguished by their colour or taste (CCCM 9, 107). When Augustinus Hibernicus and the other Insular writers use these terms to describe the everyday miracle performed by the vine or compare this to the miracle performed by Christ at Cana, they could be said to equate the divine with the everyday and, as Coccia says, to eliminate or naturalise the supernatural. By examining how Augustine handles this and similar biblical miracles, we can see how these Insular writers were following the example of Augustine himself.
MIRACLES IN AUGUSTINUS HIBERNICUS AND AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO
12. The explanation of the miracle of Cana in Pembroke 25 and Clm 6233 has been described as `rationalist',31 precisely the term applied to Augustinus Hibernicus's interpretation of the wonders of Scripture. The term rationalist, when used to describe the attitudes of these Insular commentators on Scripture, is suitable when it means an adherence to a certain `scientific' consistency. By this I mean that down-to-earth attempts to account for the way a miracle works in the Old Testament should hold true for similar types of miracles in the New. Not only would it be inconsistent to explain the miracles of the Old Testament as the speeding up of a natural process and similar ones in the New as a change in nature, it would set a division between the modus operandi of the God of the Old Testament and the Jesus of the New. If the changing of water into other liquids in the Old Testament is explained in a certain way, then similar wonders in the New must also follow this course. While it is tempting to see, like Bischoff, the Insular explanations of these miracles as `daringly rationalist', or, like Coccia, to interpret this rationalism as bordering on the heretical, by looking at patristic attempts to explain biblical miracles it becomes apparent that Augustinus Hibernicus and the early Irish were, in some cases, following what patristic writers were saying. The following examination of some of the works of St Augustine shows how Augustinus Hibernicus got his ideas on miracles from Augustine and how the `rationalism' of Augustinus Hibernicus is not so much a daring innovation by the Irish writer, but a logical inference from the writings of this great Father of the Church.
13. The tenth-century Hiberno-Latin collection of sermons on various Gospel readings, the so-called Catechesis celtica, contains a homily on John 2:1-11, the marriage at Cana and the changing of the water into wine. The homilist says that the day on which this event is commemorated also marks the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, the baptism of Christ in the Jordan and the adoration of the Magi.32 The homilist devotes a long passage to the significance of the six stone jars and at the point where the water is changed to wine, Augustine is quoted: `Wherefore Augustine: The wonderful works of the Lord have grown old, but the rain from heaven continues to fall on the roots of the vine and pours forth the fruit on the branch of the tree. The making of the wine from water is not more wondrous or difficult than what God does each day in the world'.33 The Catechesis celtica is, therefore, in the same tradition as Augustinus Hibernicus, Clm 6233 and Pembroke 25, in comparing the action of the vine changing rainwater into wine to the miracle Christ performed in changing the water into wine at Cana.34 Although the quotation is not directly from any of Augustine's works, Wilmart, the editor of the Catechesis celtica, says that a similar piece occurs in Augustine's Sermo 126. The fourth chapter of Sermo 126, headed Miracula insolita fecit Christus, ut et in quotidianis quae viluerant, agnosceretur factor, says that Christ performed the unusual wonders so that the everyday miracles and their worker would not be overlooked. To elaborate this theme the sermon says that those at Cana saw how water was made wine and were struck senseless but the changing of water into wine is a `miracle' performed as a natural process by the action of the vine changing the rainwater into wine: Quae aqua erat vinum factum, viderunt homines, et obstupuerunt: quid aliud fit de pluvia per radicem vitis? The sermon continues in this vein and says that men were amazed that Jesus should feed the five thousand with five loaves (Matt. 14:17-21) but are not surprised by the fact that a few grains are all that are required to fill the cornfields of the world: `Men are amazed that Our Lord God Jesus Christ should have satisfied so many thousand with five loaves and are not surprised by the few grains that fill the land with cornfields' (PL 38.699).
14. Augustine gives a more extended consideration of this miracle in the Tractatus in Joannis euangelium. From his description of the Cana miracle in this and other works, we can see how Augustinus Hibernicus develops what amounts to a theology of miracles and God's relationship to his creation along the lines laid down by Augustine. Augustine considers the miracle of Cana in Tractatus VIII where he makes explicit reference to the wonderment caused by the Cana miracle, yet says that we are immune to the everyday miracle of the vine which performs the same feat every year: `Indeed, he who made wine in those six hydrae which he ordered to be filled with water at the wedding on that day, does the same every year with the vines. And as what the servants put into the hydrae was changed into wine by the work of the Lord, so too what the clouds pour down is changed into wine by the work of the same Lord. However, we are not surprised at that because it happens every year. Through familiarity the wonder is lost'.35 The discourse continues the theme and says that the resuscitation of the dead causes astonishment, yet the birth of children from nothing fails to cause the same degree of wonder. This point is also made by Augustine in Sermo 242.36 Significantly, the section ends with the observation that the changing of water to wine is commissioned by God through the vine.37
15. The Cana miracle is compared to the work of the vine and seen as an acceleration of the yearly transmutation of water into wine. Another of Christ's miracles, the feeding of the five thousand with five loaves, is explained with reference to the yearly growth of entire cornfields from seedlings. This theme is picked up by Augustine in the Enarrationes in psalmos where he says that the feeding of the masses every day from the few seeds sown in the earth is a greater miracle than the loaves and fishes (PL 36.1164). In the Tractatus in Joannis euangelium he says that God's governance of the whole world is a greater miracle than the feeding of the five thousand with five loaves. The point is also made that mankind is fed through a few grains from which the cornfields grow.38 This is precisely the line followed by Augustinus Hibernicus himself in his explanation of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. It has already been said that he conceived of a miracle as something that occurred in nature over time, but which was possible for God to commission in an instant. Both the reference to the growth of the cornfield from the little seed and this explanation of a miracle is expressed by Augustinus Hibernicus in the following terms: `Wherefore, according to the inferior principle, he produces bread as food for countless humans and from the little seed that becomes the great cornfield, over a long period of time (?), when, according to the superior ordering of things, he increases in a moment of time from the small amount of material by his blessing'.39 His use of the technical terms quotidiana gubernatio rerum and inusitata gubernatio rerum to describe the everyday and the extraordinary miracles of Scripture has already been commented on. Augustine's terms usitatum cursum ordinemque naturae (the everyday miracles), which are contrasted with the insolita: `unusual' in the Tractatus in Joannis euangelium, shows how Augustinus Hibernicus is building on concepts adumbrated by Augustine.40
16. All these ideas are repeated by Gregory in the Moralia. The vocabulary, but especially the theory, suggests that Augustine was his source. In his Moralium on Job 5:9, `His works are great, past all reckoning, marvels (mirabilia) beyond all counting', Gregory says that familiarity with the everyday miracles means that they go unnoticed. Giving the examples Augustine had cited, Gregory says that the resuscitation of the dead man excites wonder, but the everyday miracles of birth attract less attention even though the resurrection of the dead brings to life something that already existed whereas birth brings into being something that never existed before. Gregory also gives the example of the few seeds growing into many grains and compares it to the feeding of the five thousand with five loaves. His most important observation, for present purposes, is that of the changing of water into wine and the comparison to the everyday miracles of the vine changing the moisture of the earth into wine: `All those who saw the water changed into wine at once were amazed. Every day the moisture of the earth is drawn into the root of the vine and is changed into wine by the cluster of grapes and no one is surprised'.41 These ideas are also found in Taio of Saragossa's42 Sententiae (PL 80.741-2). Augustinus Hibernicus's colleague, Laithcenn mac Baith (d. c. 665), is disappointing, repeating some of the general principles in his Egloga de moralibus in Iob but none of the examples (CCSL 145.55).
17. If interpreted out of context, Augustine's treatment of the singular miracle of Christ's mission, the reviving of Lazarus, and his suggestion that the everyday miracle of birth is just as deserving of wonder, might be seen to equate this miracle with the everyday. However, his repeated statement of his intent is to show how the extraordinary can reveal the wonder of the everyday.43 By comparing the miracle at Cana to the work of the vine, the Insular examples may demonstrate a similar concern. If Augustinus Hibernicus's rationalism causes Coccia to have a low opinion of the Latin culture of early Ireland, it should be kept in mind that, in some cases, this rational and down-to-earth approach to miracles was developed from the teachings of Augustine of Hippo, teachings which Gregory the Greatwhose orthodoxy is hardly in doubtalso inherited.
AUGUSTINUS HIBERNICUS AND THE RATIONES SEMINALES
18. Augustine uses the theory of the rationes seminales in his explanation of creation and miracles.44 According to Augustine, these `seminal intelligences' were present in matter from the moment of creation and contained the necessary information for the growth and development of all creatures. The matter from which all creation was called into being was the materia informis or materia inuisa, the primal matter of Wisdom 11:18.45 There was a close connection between this materia informis and the rationes seminales. For Augustine, the terra inanis et uacua of Gen. 1:2 was the materia informis.46 John Scottus Eriugena examined the relationship between `the earth without form and void' and the rationes seminales/causales.47 In his commentary on Genesis, Angelomus of Luxeuil says that the materia informis contained within it the materials for the creation of heaven and earth and was, therefore, in a certain sense, `like the seed of heaven and earth',48 again linking the `earth without form and void' with the rationes seminales.
19. The theory of the rationes seminales was a neat solution to a complex problem, or, to what were really a number of connected problems. The account of creation in Genesis starts by saying that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. However, it also says that God's first creation was light. Furthermore, Gen. 1:27 says that when God created man, `male and female he created them'. Yet, in Gen. 2:21-22 we are told that first God made Adam and later made Eve from Adam's rib. So the first problem was the perceived discrepancies in the chronology of the account of creation in the Bible. For Augustine, and others, Genesis was to be interpreted allegorically, not literally. The act of creation occurred in a single moment of time, for `He that liveth for ever created all things together' (Sirach [Ecclesiasticus] 18:1). The problem here was to reconcile this theory of an instantaneous creation with the literal interpretation of Genesis that presents a story of an event staggered over six days. There was also the problem of deciding what stage in their development the creatures had reached when they were called into being. In christian exegesis, it was thought that Adam was created at the `perfect age', that is, at the time of maturity. For other elements of creation that were perceived to go through a cyclical process of renewal it was not so easy to decide what was their moment of perfection. Was the tree called into being as a seed in the earth, as a sapling, or at a fruit-bearing stage? If the tree were created at the moment of fruition, could God be shown to have created the seed and sapling? The rationes seminales showed how God could be the creator of everything even though the various stages through which all creatures pass may not have been present at the moment of creation. By endowing creation with the rationes seminales, creation would have this `causal intelligence' that would allow it to develop in accordance with the divine plan. God could, therefore, be shown to be the creator of all the stages through which creation developed. The rationes seminales were the ideal solution to Augustinus Hibernicus's task: to show how creation was complete after the sixth day and that God does not change creation or its nature in any of the marvellous events told later in the Bible. However, Augustinus Hibernicus makes no reference the rationes seminales. Was he ignorant of the theory or had he reasons for avoiding it? We have seen how Augustine and Augustinus Hibernicus conceived of miracles as the accelerating of a gradual process that happens in nature over time. Augustine says that this miraculous speeding up of a natural process is achieved through the rationes seminales, especially in miracles that involve the spontaneous generation of living creatures from the inanimate earth. By comparing Augustine's use of the rationes seminales in explaining some biblical miracles to DMS, I will show that Augustinus Hibernicus makes no reference to the rationes seminales not because he did not know about them, but because they conflicted with his position that after the sixth day creation ceased. For Augustinus Hibernicus, God's command on the sixth day `Let the earth bring forth living creatures' (Gen. 1:24) applied only to the sixth day and any notion that this act could be repeated after that day would undermine his entire thesis.
20. In his explanation of certain miracles, Augustine of Hippo uses the rationes seminales to impose some rationale on the seemingly inexplicable. Moses (Exod. 4:2-3) and Pharaoh's magicians `by their secret arts' (Exod. 7:11-12) perform the miraculous feat of changing their wands into serpents. Augustine considers these strange occurrences in De Trinitate and says that miracles are the accelerating of events that occur in nature over time. Significantly, he begins his explanation by saying that God draws the rainwater through the roots to the branches of the vine and makes wine. Christ's changing of the water into wine at Cana is the same process done with `unusual speed'.49 He says that all visible creatures exist as seeds in the elements. These seeds, the rationes seminales, are active; they can do their work of growth and reproduction without prompting if conditions are right. However, they also respond to external stimuli and can be called into action by those who know enough about them. This is how Moses, with the help of the angels, and Pharaoh's magicians, with the help of demons, called living things from inanimate matter and changed the wooden rods into serpents.
21. Augustine again looks at this miracle in GAL VI, 13-14. He asks when God created Adam, was he at an age of maturity, fully grown, or formed in the womb of a mother. To answer the question, he gives the example of the vine soaking up moisture through its stock and producing juices which, when allowed to ferment, become good to drink. Cana was a miraculous shortcut in this process. His second example is the serpents made from wands. After a certain number of days the serpent becomes established in the womb, is born and grows strong. These days are telescoped in Moses's miracle of converting the rod into a serpent. All these miracles Augustine explains as the work of the rationes seminales which can work through time in the usual way, governing the growth and reproduction of various species; they can also work without the need for the usual lapse in time or sexual union for propagation and development by producing the creatures instantly from the earth. In the Liber quaestionum in Heptateuchum, II, 21, he again tries to explain miracles, in particular, the miracle of the wands changed into serpents. This time he is specific in his reference to the role of the rationes seminales.
Yet, if real serpents were made from the wands of the magicians, it is difficult to show how neither the magicians nor the evil angels, through whose agency these things were worked, were the creators of the serpents. Now through all the elements of the world there are present in physical things certain hidden seminal intelligences (occultae seminariae rationes) which, when an timely or causal advantage was given, burst forth in appropriate species after their fashions and within their limits. And so the angels who do these things are not called the creators of the animals just as the farmershowever much they may have known how to supply the visible advantages and conditions so that these things might be bornare not to be called the creators of the cornfields, trees or of the things that grow in the earth. But what they do visibly, the angels do this invisibly; in truth, God, who implanted these very causes and seminal intelligences in things, is the only true creator (PL 34.602-3).
22. In DMS Augustinus Hibernicus does not use the rationes seminales to explain this miracle. Despite the influence GAL had on his work, it is claimed that it cannot be said whether Augustinus Hibernicus fully understood the concept of the rationes seminales.50 If he had read and understood this theory it would have done away with the need for the laboured explanations he gives of some miracles. Here it will be shown that Augustinus knew of this theory and for his own reasons decided not to use it.
23. Immediately before his chapter `On the water changed into blood' where he considers the changing of the appearance (color) and taste (sapor) of water into those of wine, Augustinus Hibernicus discusses the Old Testament wonder of the wands changed into serpents which also seems to involve a change in substance. This is chapter I, 17, `Of the two signs, that is, of the hand changed in the bosom and the wand changed into a serpent'. In his explanation of the miracle of Moses's changing of the wand into the serpent he cites the plurimi doctores who maintained that the change was an illusion (imago). He counters those who point out that these serpentine illusions (imagines anguinae) performed the very real feat of devouring the serpents of the magicians (Exod. 7:12) by saying that this was also an illusion (PL 35.2164-5). However, before he gives this explanation he seems to offer another that reflects the theory of the seminales rationes. In Augustinus Hibernicus's discussion of this miracle he shows a definite unease with the theory.
24. He says that it is plainly taught that both the rod and the serpent are made from the earth. Therefore, that which takes it origin from the same matter is mutually changed into another thing `by the power of God the governor' (gubernatoris Dei potentia; PL 35.2164). This explanation looks very like the idea behind the rationes seminales discussed above. According to this theory, all substances are made from a single consistency and endowed with the rationes seminales. Therefore, one substance can change into another without disrupting the order of creation or the laws of nature. This allows Augustinus Hibernicus to say that the rod and the serpent are created from a common substance and can, therefore, be changed into other substances. The reasoning behind both the rationes seminales and Augustinus Hibernicus's thesis is the same, the significant difference is that for the rationes seminales the consistency from which everything was made was the formless matter, the materia informis, but for Augustinus Hibernicus it is the earth. As will now be shown, this need not be a serious objection to the proposal that Augustinus Hibernicus knew of the seminales rationes.
25. Augustine of Hippo took the earth referred to at the beginning of Genesis to be a sort of base element. In his comment on `the earth was a formless void' of Genesis 1:1 in GAL,51 GCM52 and the Confessions53 Augustine interprets this earth as the `primal stuff' or formless matter from which all visible creation was formed. If their common derivation from the earth makes it possible for all creatures to exist potentially in others, then Augustine in De Trinitate argues that the magicians' rods could be changed into serpents since these creatures existed potentially in the rods. However, it is his specific reference to the role of earth in this explanation that shows how close Augustinus Hibernicus's ideas are to Augustine's. This is significant because the rationes seminales are central to Augustine's argument here, as in the Quaestiones in Heptateuchum, which indicates that Augustinus Hibernicus must have known the theory. Augustine explains the miracles of the magicians in De Trinitate III by saying that earth is the common material from which wood and the flesh of all animals are formed and born, as did Augustinus Hibernicus. From this material God changed the rod into the flesh of the serpent.54 It was possible for the magicians to create the serpents through the `seeds that are hidden in the corporeal elements of this world'. These are not the seeds which are visible to our eyes but the `seeds of seeds', that is, the rationes seminales.55
26. If Augustinus Hibernicus has in mind the concept of materia informis in his reference to earth, he has the support of Augustine. Because he uses Augustine's argument to explain the miracle of the rods changed into serpents, he must also have known of the theory of the rationes seminales since it was vital to Augustine's thesis. Even so, Augustinus Hibernicus raises the possibility of interchangeability among the elements caused by their ultimate derivation from earth only to reject the idea immediately. It has already been shown that for Augustinus Hibernicus, God, when calling creation into being, acted as creator. His task, to show how God continues to control his creation and cause miracles without altering the nature of what has been created, was the problem the rationes seminales were supposed to solve. Therefore, according to Augustinus Hibernicus, after creation, God was no longer a creator but a governor (gubernator) of creation. He expresses the idea succinctly in the phrase tunc ergo creator, nunc gubernator deus intelligendus est. If serpents and the rods are made from the earth and therefore capable of being changed from one to the other `by the power of God the governor', then it must be accepted that all other creatures made from the same substance, the earth, can be changed into other creatures. He continues, `But if it is conceded that everything that is made from the earth can mutually change from one thing into another, that is, it is conceded that an animal can change into a tree, bread into stone, a man into a bird '56 This is a less than ringing endorsement of Augustine of Hippo's use of the rationes seminales and Augustinus Hibernicus's difficulties with this theory are seen when he says that to allow this would mean that `none of these could remain firmly within the proper confines of its nature'.57 He again uses his special phrase Deus gubernator: `God the governor' which he contrasts with Deus mutator: `God the changer [of nature]' which is what God would be if he allowed creatures he had already established in their proper natures to change in this way: `by this we shall say that God in these things is not a governor but a changer of nature. Heaven forbid lest we believe that after that first creation of all natures he makes something new that does not retain its own nature'.58 That God should change nature or create any new nature is contrary the whole of DMS and Augustinus Hibernicus restates his position at this point: `it is ridiculous to suppose that God created anything new after the first foundation of the nature of everything'. Augustinus Hibernicus knew the theory of the rationes seminales in some form but rejected it because he perceived that it conflicted with his own understanding of the nature of things. Given his position that after creation God acted as governor of creation and that even in the extraordinary events narrated in Scripture God never intervened to change nature, his belief that if a substance moves from its proper nature God becomes a changer of nature not a governor reveals his disapproval of the theory of the seminales rationes.
27. There are other occasions where the spontaneous generation of animals from the earth would serve to explain biblical wonders. In DMS I, 14 Augustinus Hibernicus considers the ram sacrificed by Abraham in place of Isaac (Gen. 22:9-14). Like the serpents in the contest of magic between Moses and the magicians, this ram could also have been produced there and then from the earth. Augustinus Hibernicus raises this possibility and again he promptly rejects it.
But one may ask where this ram in the wilderness came from: whether the earth produced it at this moment as it brought forth cattle in the beginning as some claim, or rather we believe that an angel carried down that ram from somewhere else lest God be said to have created that work from the earth after the sixth day (PL 35.2163).
28. He objects to this idea for the same reason that he rejected the proposal that the serpents who appeared from the wands were generated from the earth. This process seems too like the original work of creation of the first six days. God's command `Let the earth bring forth living creatures' (Gen. 1:24) belonged to the sixth day and after that day the work of the Creator in creating new natures ceased, as he says, `So it is very definitely proclaimed that everything that pertains to the arrangement and instruction of the creatures he completed by the sixth day'.59 It therefore cannot be allowed that the earth could produce a living creature at Abraham's sacrifice `lest God be said to have created that work from the earth after the sixth day '.
29. Augustine of Hippo compares the generation of living creatures from the earth to the work of the Creator on the sixth day in the Enarrationes in psalmos. He says, referring to the animals who perished in the Flood, that animal life was renewed after the Flood by the spontaneous generation of certain species from the earth as on the sixth day of creation.60 Augustine again refers to the possibility that some animals were created from the earth after the Flood in De ciuitate dei XVI, 7. All animals are descended from the pairs that were carried on the ark. Yet, these animals now inhabit the remotest islands. Some animals could swim to adjacent islands after the Flood and others could have been carried to them in boats or by angels. Another possibility is that they sprang from the earth on the remotest islands as on the sixth day. Quoting Genesis 1:24, Augustine gives an allegorical interpretation of the presence of the animals on the ark saying that they symbolise the universality of the Church and were not simply a means of renewing animal life after the Flood. This allegorical interpretation is justified because `the earth brought forth many animals on islands to which they could not cross' after the flood waters receded.61 Ireland was one such remote island. Augustinus Hibernicus therefore had to reconcile his objection to the theory that animals could not be created from the earth with Augustine's theory that this is precisely what happened after the Flood on islands cut off from the mainland.
30. Augustinus Hibernicus names the various animals that inhabit Ireland in DMS I, 7. He asks how such animals got to the island of Ireland in the chapter `Concerning the receding of the Flood waters'. He therefore discusses these animals in the same context as Augustine in De ciuitate dei. Augustinus Hibernicus explains their presence in Ireland by saying that they provide proof that islands were originally joined to larger land masses and that the animals crossed the connecting promontories to the islands. Augustine of Hippo could appeal to the rationes seminales to support his theory that animals could be generated from the earth. For Augustinus Hibernicus this would imply that the creating of the live creatures from the earth continued after the sixth day. Although some may find Augustine's explanation `acceptable and adequate' in accounting for the presence of these animals, he says that it `still remains a tangled problem to our minds'.
But some authorities say that the earth itself brings forth these species of beasts and wild animals, for they believe that these animals enclosed on islands came not from the ark but were born from the very earth. Certainly, although someone will have believed this idea of theirs (on the receding of the waters of the deluge of which we have spoken) to be acceptable and adequate, however this still remains a tangled problem to our minds.62
31. Augustinus Hibernicus avoids the rationes seminales in his explanation of these miracles and events. His reason for avoiding the theory is his insistence that after the sixth day, God's work of creatio ceased. His consistency in adhering to his conviction has led him to avoid authoritative explanations of certain biblical miracles just as his independence of mind led him to reject traditional interpretations of certain biblical passages. With this in mind, Fr MacGinty's judgement on Augustinus Hibernicus in comparison to Augustine is telling. He says that Augustinus Hibernicus keeps more rigorously to principle.63 In the explanation of the events told in Exodus 7, there is perhaps a question of who seems the more plausible: Augustine in saying that Moses created the serpents from the wands with the help of the rationes seminales and the angels (and the magicians with the aid of demons), or Augustinus Hibernicus, who believed that the miracle, as illusion, occurred in the eyes of the beholder.
AUGUSTINUS HIBERNICUS, LATER WRITERS AND THE RATIONES SEMINALES
32. The seminales rationes solved two problems: they squared the idea of an instantaneous act of creation with the six-day Genesis account and showed how all creatures were created in a single moment even though the various outward appearances of these creatures may have been hidden in their elemental stage. The intelligence or understanding (ratio) of the development of a particular species lay hidden as a sort of programme in the seed (semen) itself. Even though he nowhere mentions the rationes seminales, Augustinus Hibernicus can be shown to have played a significant role in the dissemination of ideas on the resolution of the tension between instantaneous and progressive creation. Both these problems are sometimes examined in the attempt to reconcile the idea that everything was created instantaneously with Genesis 2:22 where it is said that woman was not created until after the six days of creation. In GAL, immediately after comparing the heavens and earth of Genesis 1:1 to the materia informis, Augustine continues to give a literal interpretation of the seminales rationes where these `seminal intelligences' were contained in the actual seed. In a chapter that is headed with a paraphrase of Sirach 18:1 and John 5:17 (GAL V, 23, Quomodo Deus omnia simul creaverit, et nunc usque operetur), Augustine says that reflecting on the seed of the tree one has in mind the roots, trunk, branches, fruit and leaves as though all the properties of the tree were present in the single seed, not in a physical sense, but as a causal power (in semine ergo illa omnia fuerunt primitus, non mole corporeae magnitudinis, sed vi potentiaque causali).64 The programme of the stages of development through which all beings have to pass is therefore carried by the rationes seminales. Augustine's discussion here of the rationes seminales is found in a Hiberno-Latin commentary on Genesis that may be early in date.65 Later writers took up the idea of the tree to illustrate the work of the rationes seminales and to show how even though all things were created at the same time, God was also the author of their future development.
33. The impressive De sex dierum creatione relies to a significant extent on the works of Augustine.66 It attempts a reconciliation of Genesis 1:27, `So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them', which seems to indicate that woman was created at the same time as the man, with Genesis 2:22 which tells how God later created Eve from Adam's rib. Referring to the seed, De sex dierum creatione says that just as many things are hidden in the seed which will eventually grow roots and develop into a tree with a profusion of branches and leaves, so too the woman lay hidden in the body of Adam.67 The image of the tree and the explanation of how the creation of the woman occurred at the same time as the man temporaliter but not specialiter is found in the Quaestiones super Genesim, made for Charlemagne by Wicbod (d. 788) sometime around the year 786.68 The discipulus asks why it is said that the woman was created with the man even though she had not yet been formed.69 The answer is almost precisely the same as De sex dierum creatione. Angelomus of Luxeuil, in his Commentarius in Genesin, attempts to resolve the tension between the opening statement of Genesis, `In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth' (Gen. 1:1), with the statement in Genesis 1:3 that God's first act was to create light and he offers a similar explanation. He resorts to the theory of the materia informis and concludes that just as the seed had the potentiality already within it to develop into a tree with branches, fruit and leaves, so the unformed matter contained within it the materials for the creation of heaven and earth. The materia informis was, therefore, in a certain sense the seed of creation.70 In both the explanation of the creation of Eve and the resolution of the tension between Genesis 1:1 and 3 it was necessary to resort to the theory of the rationes seminales or causales in order to reconcile the theory of instantaneous creation with the observable fact that the perfecting of some creatures required more than an instant. The idea of the materia informis has been shown to be closely associated with the idea of the rationes seminales. Both respond to this need to show how creation occurred in a moment of time and yet God governed all stages of its development through time. It has also been shown how Augustinus Hibernicus may have used a theory similar to the materia informis in just such a context.
34. Augustinus Hibernicus also deals with the problem of how to accommodate the idea of an instantaneous act of creation with the progressive biblical account and the observable development of the species through different stages over time. As we might expect, his approach is more theoretical than the ones just examined. He explores how the various manifestations or appearances of a particular species may not be present at the moment of creation but contained as a type of programme in the species itself by trying to reconcile the Genesis account with Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 18:1, `He that liveth for ever created all things together', which conveys the idea of creation as an instantaneous act. He remarks how Genesis gives an account of creation divided over six days but that this division is not to be understood as divisions in time but in the alternation of works. Before quoting Sirach 18:1, he states that `the teller of the story has divided with his words what God has not divided in the perfecting of the work'. This is significant, as is the context in which it is presented:
This, as the authority of the book of Genesis confirms, is shown to have been brought about by the changing of the six days. So it is very definitely proclaimed that everything that pertains to the arrangement and instruction of the creatures was completed by the sixth day. So, indeed, it is written: `And God finished all his work in the sixth day, and blessed the seventh day, for on it he rested from all his works' [Gen. 2:2]. From which is understood that God perfected everything on the sixth day, that it may be seen that he did not work on the seventh, but ceased working. But the Lord Jesus replied to the Jews questioning about the Sabbath, that `My father is working still, and I am working' [John 5:17] We are told how all creation was established during the six alternating days. However, this alternation of the days is not to be understood as a stretch of time, only that the variety of the works is shown by them, for afterwards the teller of the story divided in his narrative what God had not divided in the execution of the work. God made all that he created at the same time, while with the same will he arranged the diversity and variety of all species to be made, by this same will he made all things in one moment of time and at the same time, which from their beginning he does not cease to manage through time.71
35. For Augustinus Hibernicus, therefore, the six-day account is simply a literary convention. This interpretation of the act of creation is found in a version of the Hiberno-Latin Dies dominica, a work of the eighth century concerning the mystical significance of Sunday. One version of the Dies dominica begins: Quare in hac die creata sunt omnia, id est celum et terram, mare et omnia quae in eis sunt, dum dixit in die quo `creauit Deus omnia simul' [Sirach 18:1]. Ideoque non diuisit opere, quod diuisit sermone; quod potuit Deus facere momento, diuisit scriptura per tempora.72 This quaestio, in its awkward construction,73 says creation was an instantaneous act in contrast to an account that divides it into temporal stages. The last sentence refers to God's ability to create everything in a moment as opposed to a division over time, or a division by words (quod diuisit sermone), found in Scripture. (Compare the words of the Dies dominica [non diuisit opere, quod diuisit sermone] with Augustinus Hibernicus [narrator divisit in sermone, quod Deus non divisit in operis perfectione].) The progress of creation is therefore divided into stages only by the words of the scriptural account, not in the completing of the works themselves. This idea is also found in the Catechesis celtica where, in the homily for the Easter vigil, the theory is ascribed to Augustine: `By this we understand that this making of the world is divided into six parts, but only in the naming, not in the doing. As Augustine says, what God did not divide in time by the stages of doing, Scripture divided by stages of speaking' ( quod non diuisit deus temporibus faciendi, diuisit scriptura temporibus loquendi).74 André Wilmart, the editor of the Catechesis celtica, expresses annoyance (40, n. 5) at not being able to find the exact source of this citation. The source, however, would seem to be Augustine's GAL I, 15 which closely parallels the words of the Catechesis Celtica: potuit dividere Scriptura loquendi temporibus, quod Deus faciendi temporibus non divisit (PL 34.257). This Augustinian idea of an instantaneous event `divided' by the words of a literary account must have been Augustinus Hibernicus's inspiration when he expressed the same concept in the extract translated above ( sed in his operum vicissitudo declaratur. Post namque historiae narrator divisit in sermone, quod Deus non divisit in operis perfectione). It would seem therefore that Augustinus Hibernicus and other Hiberno-Latin works, in their insistence that creation occurred in a moment of time but that the account is artificially divided in the conventions of writing, are following the lead provided by Augustine. His statement that even though God created everything in an instant and is still the creator of their subsequent development suggests that he was aware of the problem that the rationes seminales were supposed to solve.
36. In the thirteenth century, Robert Grosseteste (1175-1253) considered the rationes seminales in his Hexaemeron. He showed how all creation was called into being in a moment in time and was complete even though some creatures were not created in a fully developed state. Like the writers considered earlier, Grosseteste gives examples of creatures that grow to maturity through stages. First he says that heaven, the earth and stars were created together and in an instant. Animals and men, however, were not created perfecta in species suas. This does not mean that new creatures emerged after God had completed his act of creation or that certain creatures were not perfected by God for this would suggest that God's work was incomplete or imperfect. Grosseteste says that men and animals were created in inicio temporis non perfecta in species suas, but were created perfect in racionibus causalibus et seminalibus: that is, their future development was present at the moment of creation but hidden in them as a sort of seminal intelligence. Grosseteste addresses the issue of the rationes causales/seminales after his discussion of creation as an instantaneous act. As has already been seen, these two ideas of creation as an immediate act and ratio seminalis were integrally linked. He then moves to a more theoretical consideration of the problem. Although he relies on Augustine's GAL in this, Grosseteste's central `patristic' quotation comes from none other than Augustinus Hibernicus and the very section he quotes is Augustinus's statement that the six days of creation are to be understood not as spaces of time but in the alternation of works: `Again, Augustine said in De mirabilibus diuine scripture: it is said how all creation was established by the alternation of the six days. However, this alternation of the days in not to be understood as a stretch of time, but that the change of the works is shown by them'.75 The next sentence, discussed earlier, says `for afterwards the teller of the story divided by his words what God had not divided in the executing of the work': Post namque historiae narrator divisit in sermone, quod Deus non divisit in operis perfeccione.76 It is ironic that one of the most famous teachers of his time in his explanation of the seminales rationes should quote Augustinus Hibernicus, who is said to have known nothing about the subject.
37. Did Augustinus Hibernicus avoid the rationes seminales for reasons other than his unease with a theory that seems to compromise the finality of God's creative work? Are there signs of a wider social dimension for DMS apart from the clerical literates who would have been interested in such biblical scholarship? Marina Smyth says that classical comments on the learning of the druids show how knowledge of the physical world was valued and this suggests the possibility of native interest in nature.77 However, she says that there are no traces of specifically anti-pagan polemics in any Irish work of this period and nor is there any evidence that there was an attempt to replace a native world view by a rational account of reality. On the other hand, Manlio Simonetti's statement that Augustinus Hibernicus at times betrays a certain `preoccupazione antimagica' is interesting. These anti-magic concerns come to the fore in explanations of some miracles. Most suggestive is Augustinus Hibernicus's insistence that the wands were changed into serpents not by the spells of the magicians, but that the whole episode was an illusion.78 If the wands can change into serpents, it must also be conceded that `an animal can change into a tree, bread into stone, a man into a bird'.79 Augustinus Hibernicus takes this further and suggests that to believe in some interchangeability among the creatures would be `to show assent to the ridiculous myths of the magicians who say that their ancestors flew through the ages in the form of birds'.80 Who are the `magicians' Augustinus Hibernicus refers to here? Magus is the equivalent of Irish druí, `druid', in Hiberno-Latin texts. It is possible that Augustinus Hibernicus is attacking the idea of the transmigration of souls (as does Augustine in GAL VII, 9-11; PL 34.360-2) or, more probably, the universal idea that souls can appear in the forms of birds, an idea he may have associated with pagan beliefs. The soul is represented as a bird in classical81 and apocryphal82 literature. The Irish immrama, or voyage tales, frequently represent the souls of the dead as birds.83 This image is found in examples of Irish religious literature,84 such as Irish apocrypha85 and hagiography.86 However, there is a difference in portraying the soul as a bird as part of a literary convention and a literal belief that souls exist as birds. For this reason, Augustine himself could use the image in his own writings,87 but in a tract written against the Pelagians condemn those who believe that rational (human) souls could exist in birds.88 Augustinus Hibernicus may also be attacking this belief and such an attack would be consistent with his logical outlook.
Although Augustinus Hibernicus has an independence of mind, his rationalism is not always the product of scepticism, but very often the inheritance of patristic theology. This independence of mind was seen in his avoidance of the rationes seminales. It cannot be assumed he was ignorant of the rationes seminales because he makes no explicit reference to them. His rigorous adherence to the principle of an absolute creative act made it impossible for him to use the theory.
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