Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume III/Doctrinal Treatises of St. Augustin/On the Holy Trinity/Book XIV/Chapter 1
Chapter 1.—What the Wisdom is of Which We are Here to Treat. Whence the Name of Philosopher Arose. What Has Been Already Said Concerning the Distinction of Knowledge and Wisdom.
1. We must now discourse concerning wisdom; not the wisdom of God, which without doubt is God, for His only-begotten Son is called the wisdom of God; but we will speak of the wisdom of man, yet of true wisdom, which is according to God, and is His true and chief worship, which is called in Greek by one term, θεοσέβεια. And this term, as we have already observed, when our own countrymen themselves also wished to interpret it by a single term, was by them rendered piety, whereas piety means more commonly what the Greeks call εὐσέβεια. But because θεοσέβεια cannot be translated perfectly by any one word, it is better translated by two, so as to render it rather by “the worship of God.” That this is the wisdom of man, as we have already laid down in the twelfth book of this work, is shown by the authority of Holy Scripture, in the book of God’s servant Job, where we read that the Wisdom of God said to man, “Behold piety, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is knowledge;” or, as some have translated the Greek word ἐπιστήμην, “learning,” which certainly takes its name from learning, whence also it may be called knowledge. For everything is learned in order that it may be known. Although the same word, indeed, is employed in a different sense, where any one suffers evils for his sins, that he may be corrected. Whence is that in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “For what son is he to whom the father giveth not discipline?” And this is still more apparent in the same epistle: “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” Therefore God Himself is the chiefest wisdom; but the worship of God is the wisdom of man, of which we now speak. For “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” It is in respect to this wisdom, therefore, which is the worship of God, that Holy Scripture says, “The multitude of the wise is the welfare of the world.”
2. But if to dispute of wisdom belongs to wise men, what shall we do? Shall we dare indeed to profess wisdom, lest it should be mere impudence for ourselves to dispute about it? Shall we not be alarmed by the example of Pythagoras?—who dared not profess to be a wise man, but answered that he was a philosopher, i.e., a lover of wisdom; whence arose the name, that became thenceforth so much the popular name, that no matter how great the learning wherein any one excelled, either in his own opinion or that of others, in things pertaining to wisdom, he was still called nothing more than philosopher. Or was it for this reason that no one, even of such as these, dared to profess himself a wise man,—because they imagined that a wise man was one without sin? But our Scriptures do not say this, which say, “Rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.” For doubtless he who thinks a man ought to be rebuked, judges him to have sin. However, for my part, I dare not profess myself a wise man even in this sense; it is enough for me to assume, what they themselves cannot deny, that to dispute of wisdom belongs also to the philosopher, i.e., the lover of wisdom. For they have not given over so disputing who have professed to be lovers of wisdom rather than wise men.
3. In disputing, then, about wisdom, they have defined it thus: Wisdom is the knowledge of things human and divine. And hence, in the last book, I have not withheld the admission, that the cognizance of both subjects, whether divine or human, may be called both knowledge and wisdom. But according to the distinction made in the apostle’s words, “To one is given the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge,” this definition is to be divided, so that the knowledge of things divine shall be called wisdom, and that of things human appropriate to itself the name of knowledge; and of the latter I have treated in the thirteenth book, not indeed so as to attribute to this knowledge everything whatever that can be known by man about things human, wherein there is exceeding much of empty vanity and mischievous curiosity, but only those things by which that most wholesome faith, which leads to true blessedness, is begotten, nourished, defended, strengthened; and in this knowledge most of the faithful are not strong, however exceeding strong in the faith itself. For it is one thing to know only what man ought to believe in order to attain to a blessed life, which must needs be an eternal one; but another to know in what way this belief itself may both help the pious, and be defended against the impious, which last the apostle seems to call by the special name of knowledge. And when I was speaking of this knowledge before, my especial business was to commend faith, first briefly distinguishing things eternal from things temporal, and there discoursing of things temporal; but while deferring things eternal to the present book, I showed also that faith respecting things eternal is itself a thing temporal, and dwells in time in the hearts of believers, and yet is necessary in order to attain the things eternal themselves. I argued also, that faith respecting the things temporal which He that is eternal did and suffered for us as man, which manhood He bare in time and carried on to things eternal, is profitable also for the obtaining of things eternal; and that the virtues themselves, whereby in this temporal and mortal life men live prudently, bravely, temperately, and justly, are not true virtues, unless they are referred to that same faith, temporal though it is, which leads on nevertheless to things eternal.
- Ecclus. xxiv. 5. and 1 Cor. i. 24
- C. 14.
- Job xxviii. 28
- Disciplina, disco
- Disciplina, disco
- Heb. xii. 7, 11
- 1 Cor. iii. 19
- Wisd. vi. 26
- Prov. ix. 8
- Bk. xiii. cc. 1, 19.
- 1 Cor. xiii. 12
- Bk. xiii. c. 7.