Pope Benedict XVI: Reason for the Incarnation according to Abbott Rupert of Deutz

Fr. Tim Finnigan is Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark, parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, visiting tutor in Sacramental Theology at St John’s Seminary Wonersh, and tutor in Dogmatic Theology at St Hugh’s Charterhouse, Parkminster.

Here is a post from Fr. Tim Finigan’s website “The hermeneutic of continuity” [please note that all comments and links in brackets are my addition]

Pope Benedict on the motive of the Incarnation
in the thought of Rupert of Deutz

Another theme in today’s [Wednesday, 9 December 2009] General Audience was the motive of the incarnation. Here is a passage which I have translated from the address:

“Like other theologians of the Middle Ages, Rupert also asked: why was the Word of God, the Son of God, made man? Some, many, responded, explaining the incarnation of the Word with the urgency of repairing the sin of man. Rupert on the other hand, with a christocentric vision of the history of salvation, enlarged the perspective, and in a work of his entitled “The Glorification of the Trinity” held the position that the Incarnation, the central event of all history, was foreseen from all eternity, even independently of the sin of man, so that all creation could give praise to God the Father and love Him as a unique family gathered around Christ, the Son of God. He therefore saw in the pregnant woman of the apocalypse the whole history of humanity which is oriented to Christ, just as conception is oriented to birth; a perspective which would be developed by other thinkers and enriched also by contemporary theology, which affirms that the whole history of the world and of humanity is a conception oriented to the birth of Christ.”

The thesis that the incarnation was predestined even apart from sin is usually attributed to the Blessed John Duns Scotus who defended it against the Dominicans; it is often called the “Franciscan Thesis”. It is fascinating that a Benedictine theologian, writing a century and a half earlier, promoted the same perspective on the incarnation. One can find evidence of the same view in Maximus the Confessor [more on St. Maximus] and, arguably, in St Irenaeus and St Paul, but it is significant that Pope Benedict seems to speak in favour this view as well. [i.e. Pope Benedict’s General Audience of July 7th, 2010]

The thesis is particularly taught in the Faith Movement as part of an overall perspective on creation and the incarnation, and much scholarly work has been done by the Franciscans of the Immaculate, especially relating to the Blessed John Duns Scotus himself.

[To learn more about Abbott Rupert of Deutz’s position on the Incarnation and that of Bishop Robert Grosseteste one can read this piece by Fr. Daniel Horan, OFM]

I have translated a passage of Abbott Rupert of Deutz here.

Christ, the Beginning of Creation – Conclusion

Christ, the Beginning of Creation – Conclusion

by Fr. Maximilian M. Dean, F.I.

[To see the full article on one page visit Appendix: Christ the Beginning]

Everything has been made by means of Christ

Returning, then, to the words of the Evangelist we see that all of this corresponds to the flow of the Prologue. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was made nothing that has been made” (Jn 1:1-3). The revelation here is that everything had been made through Jesus Christ.

That the entire universe was made by God is logical. Every work of God ad extra, in fact, is always a work of the entire Trinity, even if at times certain works may be attributed to only One of the Divine Persons. Creation is a work of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and is sometimes attributed to the Father, sometimes to the Son and sometimes to the Spirit (i.e. Veni Creator Spiritus), but it remains always a work of God Three in One.

However, in this verse St. John wants to make us understand that the creative work of God was accomplished through Christ, “the Beginning of the creation of God” (Apoc 3:14). St. Paul had already written this a number of times before St. John wrote his Gospel. In his letter to the Hebrews Paul wrote that “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all in these days has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the world” (Heb 1:1-2). God, through Christ, made the world, that is, through Him who “effected man’s purgation from sin” (v.3), namely the Word made flesh (in fact this entire first chapter – the “Prologue” – of the Epistle to the Hebrews is speaking of the Word Incarnate who now sits “at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much superior to the Angels…” and in this passage Christ, as we have already seen earlier, is called by God Himself the “Beginning”).

Paul also affirms this when writing to the Colossians. Christ, “in whom we have our redemption, the remission of our sins” (1:14), thus the Word Incarnate, “is the Image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For in Him were created all things in the heavens and on earth […] All things have been created through and unto Him” (1:14-16).[1]

In this regard Augustine emphasizes the fact that John in the third verse of the Prologue would be speaking “uselessly of the Divinity of the Word if he meant to be silent about the humanity of that same Word”.[2] This follows from the fact that Christ is “insinuated” in the Prologue in two modes: on the level of His predestination ante assumptionem carnis and on the level of His manifestation cum assumpta carne, but whether speaking of Christ’s predestination or manifestation he is always referring to Christ, the Word made flesh.[3]

The Prologue then says that John the Baptist gave witness to Christ, to Him who “was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world knew Him not. And He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (Jn 1:10-11). Christ “was in the world.” Christ “came unto his own.” The world, therefore, “was made through Him,” through Christ.

Once again, the Apostle Paul preceded the Evangelist in maintaining that all things exist in virtue of the Christ: “for us there is only one God, the Father from whom are all things, and we unto Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through Him” (1 Cor 8:6).

In conclusion, following the norm lex orand, lex credendi, there is a clear affirmation in the Eucharistic Prayer II of the present Roman Missal which is not a recent invention, but rather a continuity of Tradition. Eucharistic Prayer II, which has its own preface, is based on the Anaphora composed by St. Hippolytus in 215, and for this reason it is strictly connected with his preface. In this preface the Church prays thus, that is that is it right and just to give thanks and praise to You “Father most holy, through Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Your Word through whom you made all things, whom You sent as our Savior and Redeemer, incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin.”

“Ante me factus est” (Jn 1:30)

Yet another confirmation of Christ as the Beginning comes from the testimony of John the Baptist which is recorded after the Prologue. He says, “This is He of whom I said, ‘After me there comes One who has been set above me, because He was before me.’” (Jn 1:30). We do well to look at the text in Latin: Post me venit vir, qui ante me factus est, quia prior me erat.” Some English translations (like the Confraternity which I use) translate vir (ἀνὴρ in Greek) with “one,” but the literal translation reads, After me comes the man who was made [factum est] before me, because He has been set above me.” The point here is that the Baptist is giving witness to the man Jesus Christ – this is as clear as the day. But the question is how can he say that Jesus was made before him? That ante me factus est cannot be applied to the Word in Himself, because the Eternal Word was not made, but begotten. The Baptist is always bearing witness to the Verbum caro factum est – the Word made flesh (1:14). Here is St. Augustine’s comment: “Christ created John [the Baptist] himself, after whom was created Christ who was Creator and creature…”[1]

Note well that St. Paul had already employed this terminology in strict reference to the Incarnation: God sent His Son factum ex muliere – made of the woman (Gal 4:4). Even St. Luke recounted how the shepherds, after the vision of the Angels and the hearing of that “good news of great joy,” said among themselves: “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, [videamus hoc Verbum, quod factum est] which the Lord has made known to us” (Lk 2:15).

The Baptist, therefore, was giving witness to the Word made man. But we all know that historically Christ was not made (temporal conception and birth) before the Baptist, but six months after him (cf. Lk 1:36). Jesus was conceived and born after him. This means that the Baptist, even if in a subtle way, was witnessing to Christ as the Beginning of every creature that existed; Christ was that Beginning in the mind of God before the foundation of the world. In fact, this is the only way in which Christ could be said to have been factum est before John the Baptist.

Otherwise this would mean that the Baptist was giving witness either to the creation of the Word in Himself (the Word was made – factum est – before the Incarnation!?!) or to the pre-existence of the humanity of Christ (in which case we would have an eternal creature!?! Equally heretical). These two heresies have been condemned repeatedly by the Church: namely, that the Eternal Word was created or that His humanity pre-existed. No, the Church has constantly professed that the Eternal Word was not created and that His humanity did not pre-exist.

Rather, Christ – as the Beginning – was always the firstborn in God’s decree of creation because Christ was foreseen and predestined in the beginning. Hence the Baptist was correct in saying that this Man comes after him, yet was set above him because He was before him. In other words: “After me comes the Christ [the Man], the Beginning in which God created all things, who was made before me in the divine decrees precisely because He preceded me in the divine design.”


In the end we profess and believe that God is God, Three and One, eternal, without beginning and outside of time, and that God freely willed to create. The first creature to be willed by the Lord was Christ, and He willed that Christ’s human nature be united in soul and body to the divine Nature in the divine Person of the Son. We joyfully profess that Jesus Christ was the “Beginning of the creation of God” (Apoc 3:14) in whom all things were created, and this without exception (cf. Jn 1:3). In fact, all of the elect were chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4) and were created by means of Him and with a view to Him who is the Beginning of creation. In other words, Christ was the start of creation (and thus of time itself) and was the creative principle of everything. Time finds its beginning in God’s decree to communicate Himself to the humanity of Christ in the Incarnation[2] and this decree is the source from which all other creatures come forth.

The arguments of Scotus on the primacy of Christ can be reduced to two. The first is his perspicacious teaching of the ordinate volens[3] which maintains that God’s will unfolds in a most orderly fashion. After His Divine Essence (Scotus speaks of God as first ‘willing Himself’ – in modern English we might say: first, God is God, then…), God willed that which was most perfect, that which was closest to this end, namely the soul of Christ.[4] Then, through Christ, God willed everything else.

The second argument is his teaching on Christ’s predestination to the maximum grace and glory possible in the created world. His is a predestination which is not occasionata, not conditioned, not relative, but willed first as the summum opus Dei – the greatest work of God.[5]

But as we have seen in this study, the Scripture and Tradition attest that Jesus Christ is the Beginning of God’s creative activity. And since the Beginning must be the first, and not the second or third, this means that to the two principal arguments of Scotus we can add this datum of divine revelation that from the beginning God had Jesus Christ before Him as the cause and beginning of His designs to create. Therefore, the Incarnation was an immutable decree of the Divinity, a decree willed in an absolute manner, independently of anything which is outside of God. To sum it up: “Dico tamen quod lapsus non fuit causa praedestinationis Christi. Immo etsi nec homo nec angelus fuisset lapsus, nec plures homines creandi quam solus Christus, adhuc fuisset Christus praedestinatus sic.[6]


Ave Maria!


[1] St. Augustine, Sermo 290, c.2, n.2 (PL 38, 1313).

[2] Cf. St. Francis de Sales, The Treatise on Divine Love, L.II, c.IV.

[3] Bl. John Duns Scotus, Ordinatio, III, d.7, q.3; Opus Parisiense, Lib III, d.7, q.4.

[4] Bl. John Duns Scotus, Reportatio Barcinonensis, II, d.7, q.3.

[5] Bl. John Duns Scotus, Ordinatio, III, d.7, q.3; Opus Parisiense, Lib III, d.7, q.4.

[6] Bl. John Duns Scotus, Opus Parisiense, Lib III, d.7, q.4.



[1] Cf. Fr. Maximilian M. Dean, A Primer on the Absolute Primer of Christ, pp. 67-90, for a more detailed sutdy of Col 1:15-20.

[2] St. Augustine, Sermo 341 (PL 39, 1494).

[3] Cfr. Fr. Ruggero Rosini, op. cit., p.120, nota 223.

In italiano: Cristo, il Principio del creato – VIII parte

Cristo, il Principio del creato – VIII parte

P. Maximilian M. Dean, FI

In Cristo Dio creò il cielo e la terra (Gn 1,1)

Abbiamo già notato in modo generale e fatto qualche allusione particolare al vincolo stretto fra Genesi 1,1 e Giovanni 1,1. Adesso vogliamo stabilire dai Santi Padri e Dottori della Chiesa che, secondo la Sacra Tradizione, il principio di cui parla la Genesi e in cui Dio creò fu proprio Gesù Cristo[1]. Vuol dire che “In principio Dio creò il cielo e la terra” significa precisamente che Dio creò in Cristo quale Principio ditutto il creato.

Ecco soltanto qualche esempio tratto dai Santi Padri:

– San Zeno dichiara distintamente: “Carissimi fratelli, ‘in principio’ vuol dire, senza dubbio, Cristo nostro Signore”[2].

– San Girolamo afferma che Cristo è il principio di cui parla la Genesi: “Più secondo il senso che per la traduzione delle parole, per ‘in principio’ si può intendere il Cristo”[3].

– Nella sua Liturgia San Cirillo di Alessandria parla a Dio così: “Tu creasti tutto in Gesù Cristo, nostro Salvatore e Re”[4].

– San Gregorio di Tours insegna: “In principio il Signore formò il cielo e la terra nel Suo Cristo che è ogni principio, ossia nel Figlio Suo”[5].

– Il venerabile San Beda sostiene: “Il principio è Cristo”[6].

Come se non fosse sufficiente tutto ciò, il Serafico Dottore ci dà una conferma chiara: “Se qualcuno vuole pervenire alla sapienza cristiana, deve necessariamente iniziare da Cristo… dal quale iniziarono i due più grandi sapienti, cioè Mosè, iniziatore della sapienza di Dio, e Giovanni, che ne è il termine. Il primo disse: ‘In principio Dio creò il cielo e la terra’, cioè nel Figlio…; e Giovanni: ‘In principio era il Verbo…’.[7]

Come si vede, se la Genesi sta parlando di Cristo quale Principio in cui tutto fu creato, così anche l’Evangelista nel suo Prologo. Siccome Giovanni vincolava fortemente il suo Prologo alla Genesi, occorre intendere che parla anche lui di Cristo e non soltanto del Verbo in Sé, quando scrive: “In principio era il Verbo…”

Su questo argomento, non possiamo omettere l’insegnamento di Sant’Agostino, che lo ha proposto più volte nei suoi scritti e sermoni. Come autorità su questo, vale la pena citarlo a lungo nella sua difesa della vera dottrina contro i manichei:

“Che cosa ribatteranno [i manichei] quando avrò risposto che il ‘Principio’ è lo stesso Figlio di Dio, nel quale la Genesi afferma che Dio ha fatto il cielo e la terra? Non ho difficoltà a provarlo, sapendo di avere a disposizione dei testimoni dallo stesso Nuovo Testamento, a cui, volenti o nolenti, spezzato il collo della superbia, sottostanno anch’essi. Disse pertanto il Signore agli increduli giudei: ‘Se aveste creduto a Mosè, credereste anche a Me; perché egli ha scritto di Me’ (Gv 5,46). Come non vederci lo stesso Signore, nel quale principio Dio Padre ha fatto il cielo e la terra? Infatti la frase: ‘In principio Dio ha fatto il cielo e la terra’, l’ha scritta proprio Mosè, che l’autorità dello stesso Signore ha confermato averla scritta riferendola a lui. O forse neanche Lui è il ‘Principio’? Non c’è possibilità di dubitarne: il Vangelo dice chiaro che avendo i giudei domandato al Signore chi fosse, Lui rispose: ‘Il Principio, lo stesso che parlo a voi’ (Gv 8,25). Ecco in quale Principio Dio ha fatto il cielo e la terra. Dio perciò ha fatto il cielo e la terra nel Figlio, per mezzo del quale sono state fatte tutte le cose e senza il quale niente è stato fatto. Così, concordando il Vangelo con la Genesi, conserviamo l’eredità secondo il consenso di ambedue i Testamenti e lasciamo le pretestuose calunnie agli eretici discreditati”[8].


[1] Cfr. P. Chrysostomus Urrutibéhéty, op. cit., cap. I, pp.43-49; cfr. anche P. Ruggero Rosini, op. cit., pp.111-117.

[2] San Zeno, Sermones, i.2, tr.3 (PL 11, 392).

[3] San Girolamo, Lib. Hebr. Quaest. In Gen, c.1 (PL t.23, p.938).

[4] San Cirillo, Liturgiae anaphora (PG 77, 1294).

[5] San Gregorio di Tours, Hist. Franc, L.I, n.1 (PL 71, 163).

[6] San Beda, Liber de sex dierum creatione (PL 93, 218).

[7] San Bonaventura, Collationes in Hexaemeron, I, n.10.

[8] Sant’Agostino, Sermo I, c.2 (PL 38, 24); altrove dice: “A costoro [ossia i manichei] fu Dio a creare il cielo e la terra nel principio, ma non al principio del tempo, ma in Cristo, essendo Egli col Padre il Verbo per mezzo del quale e nel quale è stata creata ogni cosa” De Genesi contra Manichaeos, L.1, c.22, n.33 (PL 34, 189).

Christ, the Beginning of Creation – Part VIII

Christ, the Beginning of Creation – Part VIII

by Fr. Maximilian M. Dean, F.I.

[To see the full article on one page visit Appendix: Christ the Beginning]

God created the heavens and the earth in Christ (Gn 1:1)

We have already pointed out in general and even made some specific allusions to that strict bond between Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1. What we want to do now is to establish from the Holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church that, according to Sacred Tradition, the beginning to which Genesis is referring and in which God created the universe was Jesus Christ Himself.[1] In other words, “In the beginning God created heaven and earth” means precisely that God created all things in Christ who is the Beginning of all of creation (cfr. Apoc3:14).

Here are just a few examples drawn from the Church Fathers:

– St. Zeno distinctly asserts: “My dearest brothers, ‘in principio’ – ‘in the beginning’ without any doubt means Christ our Lord.”[2]

– St. Jerome maintains that Christ is the Beginning referred to in Genesis: “More from the sense [of the text] than from the translation of the words one can understand in principio – ‘in the beginning’ to be Christ.”[3]

– In the Divine Liturgy (Mass) written by St. Cyril of Alexandria God is addressed in this fashion: “You created all in Jesus Christ, our Savior and King.”[4]

– St. Gregory of Tours teaches: “In the beginning our Lord formed heaven and earth in His Christ who is the beginning of all, namely in His Son.”[5]

– Venerable Bede affirms: “The beginning is Christ.”[6]

As if all of these affirmations were not enough, the Seraphic Doctor gives a clear confirmation: “If anyone desires to attain Christian wisdom, he must necessarily start with Christ… where the two great ‘wise men,’ namely Moses – the initiator of God’s wisdom [Genesis] – and John who is its completion, started. The former said, ‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth,’ that is in the Son…; and John: ‘In the beginning was the Word…’.”[7]

As is evident, if Genesis is speaking of Christ as the Beginning in which all things were created, then the Prologue of the Evangelist is also referring to Him as well. Since St. John decisively links his Prologue to Genesis, it is necessary that one grasp that he too is speaking of Christ, and not just the Word in Himself as God, when he writes; “In the beginning was the Word…”

On this point we cannot leave out the illustrious teaching of St. Augustine who reiterated it over and over in his writings and sermons. Given his authority on the subject matter, we do well to cite at length his defense of the true doctrine of Christ against the Manicheans:

How will they [the Manicheans] respond when I will have told them that the ‘Beginning’ is the very Son of God in whom Genesis states that God made the heaven and the earth? I have no difficulty in proving this since I know that I have witnesses available from the New Testament itself which, willing or not – their stubborn pride broken – they too submit to. Thus our Lord said to the unbelieving Jews: ‘For if you believed Moses you would believe me also, for he wrote of me’ (Jn 5:46). How can we not see that this very Lord [is the Beginning], in whom God the Father made heaven and earth? In fact, the phrase ‘In the beginning God made heaven and earth,’ was written precisely by Moses, and the authority of our Lord Himself confirmed that he had written with reference to Him. Or is He not perhaps the ‘Beginning’? It is not possible to doubt this: the Gospel clearly says that the Jews, after having asked our Lord who He was, He responded, ‘The beginning, who also speak unto you’ (Jn 8:25). Behold the Beginning in which God made heaven and earth. God, therefore, made heaven and earth in the Son through whom he made all things and without whom nothing exists. In this way, harmonizing the Gospel with Genesis, we preserve the heritage according to the consensus of both Testaments and we leave the self-serving calumnies to the discredited heretics.”[8]

To be continued…

[1] Cfr. P. Chrysostomus Urrutibéhéty, op. cit., cap. I, pp.43-49; cfr. anche P. Ruggero Rosini, op. cit., pp.111-117.

[2] St. Zeno, Sermons, i.2, tr.3 (PL 11, 392).

[3] St. Jerome, Lib. Hebr. Quaest. In Gen, c.1 (PL t.23, p.938).

[4] St. Cyril, Liturgiae anaphora (PG 77, 1294).

[5] St. Gregory of Tours, Hist. Franc, L.I, n.1 (PL 71, 163).

[6] St. Bede, Liber de sex dierum creatione (PL 93, 218).

[7] St. Bonaventure, Collationes in Hexaemeron, I, n.10.

[8] St. Augustine, Sermo I, c.2 (PL 38, 24); elsewhere he writes: “it was God who created heaven and earth in the beginning, but not the beginning of time, but in Christ, since He was with the Father: the Word through whom and in whom everything has been made” De Genesi contra Manichaeos, L.1, c.22, n.33 (PL 34, 189).