Whether God is a Body
Whether God is a Body

We proceed to the first article thus:

1. It seems that God is a body. For what has three dimensions is a body, and sacred Scripture attributes three dimensions to God, as in Job 11:8-9: "It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea." God is therefore a body.

2. Again, everything that has figure is a body, since figure is a mode of quantity. Now it seems that God has figure, since it is said in Gen.1:26: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness," and image means figure, according to Heb.1:3: "Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image [11] of his person. . . ." God is therefore a body.

3. Again, every thing that has bodily parts is a body, and Scripture attributes bodily parts to God, as in Job 40:9: "Hast thou an arm like God?" and in Ps.34:15: "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous," and in Ps.118:16: "The right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly." God is therefore a body.

4. Again, there cannot be position without a body, and scriptural sayings about God imply position. It is said in Isa.6:1: "I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne," and in Isa.3:13: "The Lord standeth to judge the people." God is therefore a body.

5. Again, only a body or something which has a body can be a local terminus a quo or ad quem, and Scripture speaks of God as a terminus ad quem in Ps.34:5: "They looked unto him, and were lightened," and as a terminus a quo in Jer.17:13: "they that depart from me shall be written in the earth." God is therefore a body.

On the other hand: it is said in John 4:24: "God is a spirit."

I answer: God is certainly not a body. This can be proved in three ways. First, particular examples make it plain that no body moves unless it is moved. But it was shown in Q.2, Art.3, that God is the unmoved first mover. This proves that God is not a body. Secondly, the first being must be actual, and in no sense potential. Potentiality precedes actuality within any one thing which passes from potentiality to actuality, but actuality is prior to potentiality absolutely, since the potential can become actual only through something which is actual. Now it was shown in Ch 2, Art.3, that God is the first being. It is therefore impossible that there should be anything potential in him. But every body is potential, since it is continuous, and consequently infinitely divisible. It is therefore impossible that God should be a body. Thirdly, it is clear from Q.2, Art.3, that God is the noblest being. Now a body cannot possibly be the noblest being, since it can be either alive or lifeless. A live body is obviously nobler than a lifeless one. But a live body is not alive because it is a body, otherwise all bodies would be alive. It therefore owes its life to something else, as our own bodies owe their life to the soul, and that which gives life to the body is nobler than the body. It is therefore impossible that God should be a body.

On the first point: as was said in Q.1, Art.9, sacred Scripture records spiritual and divine things for us in the similitude of corporeal things. The ascription of three dimensions to God denotes the extent of his power, by the simile of physical quantity. His power to know hidden things is denoted by depth, the surpassing excellence of his power by height, his everlasting being by length, and the love which he bears to all things by breadth. Or as Dionysius says: "The depth of God means his incomprehensible essence, the length the power which permeates all things, the breadth the extension of God over all things, in the sense that all things are under his protection" (9 Div. Nom., lect.3).

On the second point: it is not in respect of the body that man is said to be the image of God, but because he excels the other animals. Thus after saying: "let us make man in our image, after our likeness," Gen.1:26 adds: "and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea." For man excels all animals in reason and understanding, and is made in the image of God in respect of them. But these are incorporeal.

On the third point: Scripture attributes bodily parts to God metaphorically, in respect of his actions. The function of the eye being to see, the mention of the eye of God denotes his power to see intellectually, not sensibly. Similarly with the other parts mentioned.

On the fourth point: anything attributed to God which implies position is purely metaphorical. Sitting denotes his un-changeableness and his authority. Standing denotes his power to overcome whatever opposes him.

On the fifth point: since God is everywhere, we do not approach him by physical steps, but by the feelings of the mind. We also depart from him in this way. Approach and departure denote spiritual feelings by the metaphor of movement in space.


[11] Migne: ". . . and the figure of his substance."

question three of the simple
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