Thursday, July 3, 2014

"Eye Hath Not Seen"


1.  Next he asks whether God’s Essence can be seen with bodily eyes.  The answer to this question is so straightforward that one might wonder why he bothers to dedicate an article to it.  This is one of those articles devoted primarily to the meeting of objections.

2.  There are three objections: two from scripture and one from Augustine.  The first is from the book of Job, who says he has seen God with his eyes and heard him with his ears.  The second is from Augustine, who describes the vision of our eyes in the resurrected state and attributes to them the power to see incorporeal things.  The third is from the book of Isaiah, who says that in a vision (which Aquinas takes to mean a phantasm of the imagination) he saw the Lord seated on a throne.  Since the power of the imagination is based on the organs of sight, it must be possible to see God with bodily eyes.

3.  The Sed Contra is from Augustine’s letter On Seeing God, where he says that it is impossible to see God as corporeal things are seen.  

4.  The Corpus is extremely brief: Bodily sight is a power seated in a corporeal organ, which receives the forms of corporeal things.  It cannot receive the forms of non-corporeal things, and since God is incorporeal, the bodily eye cannot see God.

5.  As for the objections, he gives a metaphorical reading to the texts from Job, places the passage from Augustine in a context that qualifies and explains it, and explains that in visions images are given that communicate some truth about God, not the vision of his essence itself.


- Job says that he has seen and heard God.
- Augustine says that in our glorified bodies we will see spiritual things with our eyes.
- Isaiah speaks of seeing God enthroned.

- The power of bodily vision is seated in a corporeal organ.
- The receptivity of that organ is solely to corporeal forms.
- God is incorporeal.

- Job speaks metaphorically.
- Augustine speaks conditionally.
- Isaiah’s vision is a sign and not a vision of God’s Essence.

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