QUESTION 69: ON THE WORK OF THE THIRD DAY
We next consider the work of the third day. Under this head there are
two points of inquiry:
(1) About the gathering together of the waters;
(2) About the production of plants.
Article 1: Whether it was fitting that the gathering together of the waters should take place, as recorded, on the third day?
Objection 1: It would seem that it was not fitting that the gathering together
of the waters should take place on the third day. For what was made on
the first and second days is expressly said to have been "made" in the
words, "God said: Be light made," and "Let there be a firmament made."But
the third day is contradistinguished from the first and the second days.
Therefore the work of the third day should have been described as a
making not as a gathering together.
Objection 2: Further, the earth hitherto had been completely covered by the
waters, wherefore it was described as "invisible" [*Question , Article , Objection ].
There was then no place on the earth to which the waters could be
Objection 3: Further, things which are not in continuous contact cannot occupy one place. But not all the waters are in continuous contact, and therefore all were not gathered together into one place.
Objection 4: Further, a gathering together is a mode of local movement. But
the waters flow naturally, and take their course towards the sea. In
their case, therefore, a Divine precept of this kind was unnecessary.
Objection 5: Further, the earth is given its name at its first creation by the
words, "In the beginning God created heaven and earth." Therefore the
imposition of its name on the third day seems to be recorded without
On the contrary, The authority of Scripture suffices.
I answer that, It is necessary to reply differently to this question
according to the different interpretations given by Augustine and other
holy writers. In all these works, according to Augustine (Gen. ad lit. i,
15; iv, 22,34; De Gen. Contr. Manich. i, 5, 7), there is no order of
duration, but only of origin and nature. He says that the formless
spiritual and formless corporeal natures were created first of all, and
that the latter are at first indicated by the words "earth" and "water."
Not that this formlessness preceded formation, in time, but only in
origin; nor yet that one formation preceded another in duration, but
merely in the order of nature. Agreeably, then, to this order, the
formation of the highest or spiritual nature is recorded in the first
place, where it is said that light was made on the first day. For as the
spiritual nature is higher than the corporeal, so the higher bodies are
nobler than the lower. Hence the formation of the higher bodies is
indicated in the second place, by the words, "Let there be made a
firmament," by which is to be understood the impression of celestial
forms on formless matter, that preceded with priority not of time, but of
origin only. But in the third place the impression of elemental forms on
formless matter is recorded, also with a priority of origin only.
Therefore the words, "Let the waters be gathered together, and the dry
land appear," mean that corporeal matter was impressed with the
substantial form of water, so as to have such movement, and with the
substantial form of earth, so as to have such an appearance.
According, however, to other holy writers [*Question , Article ] an order of
duration in the works is to be understood, by which is meant that the
formlessness of matter precedes its formation, and one form another, in
order of time. Nevertheless, they do not hold that the formlessness of
matter implies the total absence of form, since heaven, earth, and water
already existed, since these three are named as already clearly
perceptible to the senses; rather they understand by formlessness the
want of due distinction and of perfect beauty, and in respect of these
three Scripture mentions three kinds of formlessness. Heaven, the highest
of them, was without form so long as "darkness" filled it, because it was
the source of light. The formlessness of water, which holds the middle
place, is called the "deep," because, as Augustine says (Contr. Faust.
xxii, 11), this word signifies the mass of waters without order. Thirdly,
the formless state of the earth is touched upon when the earth is said
to be "void" or "invisible," because it was covered by the waters. Thus,
then, the formation of the highest body took place on the first day. And
since time results from the movement of the heaven, and is the numerical
measure of the movement of the highest body, from this formation,
resulted the distinction of time, namely, that of night and day. On the
second day the intermediate body, water, was formed, receiving from the
firmament a sort of distinction and order (so that water be understood as
including certain other things, as explained above (Question , Article )). On the
third day the earth, the lowest body, received its form by the withdrawal
of the waters, and there resulted the distinction in the lowest body,
namely, of land and sea. Hence Scripture, having clearly expresses the
manner in which it received its form by the equally suitable words, "Let
the dry land appear."
Reply to Objection 1: According to Augustine [*Gen. ad lit. ii, 7,8; iii, 20],
Scripture does not say of the work of the third day, that it was made, as
it says of those that precede, in order to show that higher and spiritual
forms, such as the angels and the heavenly bodies, are perfect and stable
in being, whereas inferior forms are imperfect and mutable. Hence the
impression of such forms is signified by the gathering of the waters, and
the appearing of the land. For "water," to use Augustine's words, "glides
and flows away, the earth abides" (Gen. ad lit. ii, 11). Others, again,
hold that the work of the third day was perfected on that day only as
regards movement from place to place, and that for this reason Scripture
had no reason to speak of it as made.
Reply to Objection 2: This argument is easily solved, according to Augustine's
opinion (De Gen. Contr. Manich. i), because we need not suppose that the
earth was first covered by the waters, and that these were afterwards
gathered together, but that they were produced in this very gathering
together. But according to the other writers there are three solutions,
which Augustine gives (Gen. ad lit. i, 12). The first supposes that the
waters are heaped up to a greater height at the place where they were
gathered together, for it has been proved in regard to the Red Sea, that
the sea is higher than the land, as Basil remarks (Hom. iv in Hexaem.).
The second explains the water that covered the earth as being rarefied or
nebulous, which was afterwards condensed when the waters were gathered
together. The third suggests the existence of hollows in the earth, to
receive the confluence of waters. Of the above the first seems the most
Reply to Objection 3: All the waters have the sea as their goal, into which they
flow by channels hidden or apparent, and this may be the reason why they
are said to be gathered together into one place. Or, "one place" is to be
understood not simply, but as contrasted with the place of the dry land,
so that the sense would be, "Let the waters be gathered together in one
place," that is, apart from the dry land. That the waters occupied more
places than one seems to be implied by the words that follow, "The
gathering together of the waters He called Seas."
Reply to Objection 4: The Divine command gives bodies their natural movement and
by these natural movements they are said to "fulfill His word." Or we may
say that it was according to the nature of water completely to cover the
earth, just as the air completely surrounds both water and earth; but as
a necessary means towards an end, namely, that plants and animals might
be on the earth, it was necessary for the waters to be withdrawn from a
portion of the earth. Some philosophers attribute this uncovering of the
earth's surface to the action of the sun lifting up the vapors and thus
drying the land. Scripture, however, attributes it to the Divine power,
not only in the Book of Genesis, but also Job 38:10 where in the person
of the Lord it is said, "I set My bounds around the sea," and Jer. 5:22,
where it is written: "Will you not then fear Me, saith the Lord, who have
set the sand a bound for the sea?"
Reply to Objection 5: According to Augustine (De Gen. Contr. Manich. i), primary
matter is meant by the word earth, where first mentioned, but in the
present passage it is to be taken for the element itself. Again it may be
said with Basil (Hom. iv in Hexaem.), that the earth is mentioned in the
first passage in respect of its nature, but here in respect of its
principal property, namely, dryness. Wherefore it is written: "He called
the dry land, Earth." It may also be said with Rabbi Moses, that the
expression, "He called," denotes throughout an equivocal use of the name
imposed. Thus we find it said at first that "He called the light Day":
for the reason that later on a period of twenty-four hours is also called
day, where it is said that "there was evening and morning, one day." In
like manner it is said that "the firmament," that is, the air, "He called
heaven": for that which was first created was also called "heaven." And
here, again, it is said that "the dry land," that is, the part from which
the waters had withdrawn, "He called, Earth," as distinct from the sea;
although the name earth is equally applied to that which is covered with
waters or not. So by the expression "He called" we are to understand
throughout that the nature or property He bestowed corresponded to the
name He gave.
Article 2: Whether it was fitting that the production of plants should take place on the third day?
Objection 1: It would seem that it was not fitting that the production of
plants should take place on the third day. For plants have life, as
animals have. But the production of animals belongs to the work, not of
distinction, but of adornment. Therefore the production of plants, as
also belonging to the work of adornment, ought not to be recorded as
taking place on the third day, which is devoted to the work of
Objection 2: Further, a work by which the earth is accursed should have been
recorded apart from the work by which it receives its form. But the words
of Gn. 3:17, "Cursed is the earth in thy work, thorns and thistles shall
it bring forth to thee," show that by the production of certain plants
the earth was accursed. Therefore the production of plants in general
should not have been recorded on the third day, which is concerned with
the work of formation.
Objection 3: Further, as plants are firmly fixed to the earth, so are stones
and metals, which are, nevertheless, not mentioned in the work of
formation. Plants, therefore, ought not to have been made on the third
On the contrary, It is said (Gn. 1:12): "The earth brought forth the
green herb," after which there follows, "The evening and the morning were
the third day."
I answer that, On the third day, as said (Article ), the formless state of
the earth comes to an end. But this state is described as twofold. On the
one hand, the earth was "invisible" or "void," being covered by the
waters; on the other hand, it was "shapeless" or "empty," that is,
without that comeliness which it owes to the plants that clothe it, as it
were, with a garment. Thus, therefore, in either respect this formless
state ends on the third day: first, when "the waters were gathered
together into one place and the dry land appeared"; secondly, when "the
earth brought forth the green herb." But concerning the production of
plants, Augustine's opinion differs from that of others. For other
commentators, in accordance with the surface meaning of the text,
consider that the plants were produced in act in their various species on
this third day; whereas Augustine (Gen. ad lit. v, 5; viii, 3) says that
the earth is said to have then produced plants and trees in their causes,
that is, it received then the power to produce them. He supports this
view by the authority of Scripture, for it is said (Gn. 2:4,5): "These
are the generations of the heaven and the earth, when they were created,
in the day that . . . God made the heaven and the earth, and every plant
of the field before it sprung up in the earth, and every herb of the
ground before it grew." Therefore, the production of plants in their
causes, within the earth, took place before they sprang up from the
earth's surface. And this is confirmed by reason, as follows. In these
first days God created all things in their origin or causes, and from
this work He subsequently rested. Yet afterwards, by governing His
creatures, in the work of propagation, "He worketh until now."Now the
production of plants from out the earth is a work of propagation, and
therefore they were not produced in act on the third day, but in their
causes only. However, in accordance with other writers, it may be said
that the first constitution of species belongs to the work of the six
days, but the reproduction among them of like from like, to the
government of the universe. And Scripture indicates this in the words,
"before it sprung up in the earth," and "before it grew," that is, before
like was produced from like; just as now happens in the natural course by
the production of seed. Wherefore Scripture says pointedly (Gn. 1:11):
"Let the earth bring forth the green herb, and such as may seed," as
indicating the production of perfection of perfect species, from which
the seed of others should arise. Nor does the question where the seminal
power may reside, whether in root, stem, or fruit, affect the argument.
Reply to Objection 1: Life in plants is hidden, since they lack sense and local
movement, by which the animate and the inanimate are chiefly discernible.
And therefore, since they are firmly fixed in the earth, their production
is treated as a part of the earth's formation.
Reply to Objection 2: Even before the earth was accursed, thorns and thistles had
been produced, either virtually or actually. But they were not produced
in punishment of man; as though the earth, which he tilled to gain his
food, produced unfruitful and noxious plants. Hence it is said: "Shall it
bring forth TO THEE."
Reply to Objection 3: Moses put before the people such things only as were
manifest to their senses, as we have said (Question , Article ; Question , Article ). But
minerals are generated in hidden ways within the bowels of the earth.
Moreover they seem hardly specifically distinct from earth, and would
seem to be species thereof. For this reason, therefore, he makes no
mention of them.