This is one in a series from Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries. The previous post is here. More information on the Bossuet Project is here.
Another admirable singularity of the creation of man: God forms him by His fingers
“Let the earth produce grasses and plants. May the waters produce fish and birds. May the earth produce animals.” All animals are created by command, without saying that God put out his hand. But when he wants to form the human body, “he himself takes mud between his fingers,” and gives him his shape. God has neither fingers nor hands: God has not made the human body more than other animals, but he only shows us in the creation of man a special purpose and attention. This among the animals is the only one who is right: the one turned to the sky: the one which shines by a beautiful and unique situation, the natural inclination of rational nature to high things. It is from there where the singular beauty came to man of the face, eyes, the entire body. The other animals show more strength, more speed, lighter weight, and so forth: the excellence of beauty belongs to man, and that is a wonderful picture of God splashed on His face.
The most excellent distinction of man’s creation in that of his soul
Once more God formed the other animals in this way: “Let the earth, let the waters produce plants and animals,” and thus they received being and life. But God, after taking in his all-powerful hands the mud from which the human body was formed, it is not said that he took his soul from the same place; but it is said “that he breathed on his face a breath of life,” (Genesis 2:7) and that “this is how He was made a living soul.” God made each thing come out according to its principles: he produced from the land grassland and trees with animals who have no other life than a purely earthly and animal one, (Genesis 2:9) but the life of man is taken from another principle, which is God. This is what the breath of life means, which God draws from His mouth to animate the man. This which is made in the likeness of God does not come from material things; and this image is not hidden in these base elements to come out, as does a statue of marble or wood. The man has two principles: according to the body as it comes from the earth, according to the soul as it comes from God alone; and that is why Solomon said “while the body returns to the earth from which it was taken, the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7) It comes from God in this way, not that it is in God in substance, and comes from there as some have imagined; because these ideas are too coarse and tangible; but it is in God as his only principle and his sole cause, which is why one says that he gives it. Everything else is derived from the elements; because everything else is corporeal and earthly; that which one calls the spirits in animals, are only detached parts and a vapor of blood. Thus everything comes from the earth; but the rational soul made in the image of God is given to him, and can only come from this divine mouth.
Alas! alas! “The man who has been placed in such a great honor,” so distinguished from animals by his creation, “was equalled to senseless beasts, and made like them.”
4 Replies to “The Creation of Men and Angels: Another admirable singularity of the creation of man: God forms him by His fingers, and The most excellent distinction of man's creation in that of his soul”
You seem so serious as you go about your discussion of all this European folklore. Angels! All-pwerful hands! Lovely stuff
Still, it’s pretty thin gruel. I haven’t seen anything in your Bossuet that wasn’t the common wisdom of gradeschool children when I was one.
Wouldn’t it be more interesting for you, as for the rest of us, if you spent some time thinking grown-up thoughts?
You’re a bright man. You can do better than this.
I thought you were signing off, evidently this blog has become an obsession with you…
Bossuet is one of the greats of French literature, I think it needs to be shared. I’ve found, however, that you’re not much of a Francophile.
God did not put me on this earth to regurgitate the conventional wisdom of the people who own and operate this place.