QUESTION 39: OF THE BAPTIZING OF CHRIST
We have now to consider the baptizing of Christ, concerning which there
are eight points of inquiry:
(1) Whether Christ should have been baptized?
(2) Whether He should have been baptized with the baptism of John?
(3) Of the time when He was baptized;
(4) Of the place;
(5) Of the heavens being opened unto Him;
(6) Of the apparition of the Holy Ghost under the form of a dove;
(7) Whether that dove was a real animal?
(8) Of the voice of the Father witnessing unto Him.
Article 1: Whether it was fitting that Christ should be baptized?
Objection 1: It would seem that it was not fitting for Christ to be baptized.
For to be baptized is to be washed. But it was not fitting for Christ to
be washed, since there was no uncleanness in Him. Therefore it seems
unfitting for Christ to be baptized.
Objection 2: Further, Christ was circumcised in order to fulfil the law. But
baptism was not prescribed by the law. Therefore He should not have been
Objection 3: Further, the first mover in every genus is unmoved in regard to
that movement; thus the heaven, which is the first cause of alteration,
is unalterable. But Christ is the first principle of baptism, according
to Jn. 1:33: "He upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and
remaining upon Him, He it is that baptizeth." Therefore it was unfitting
for Christ to be baptized.
On the contrary, It is written (Mt. 3:13) that "Jesus cometh from
Galilee to the Jordan, unto John, to be baptized by him."
I answer that, It was fitting for Christ to be baptized. First, because,
as Ambrose says on Lk. 3:21: "Our Lord was baptized because He wished,
not to be cleansed, but to cleanse the waters, that, being purified by
the flesh of Christ that knew no sin, they might have the virtue of
baptism"; and, as Chrysostom says (Hom. iv in Matth.), "that He might
bequeath the sanctified waters to those who were to be baptized
afterwards." Secondly, as Chrysostom says (Hom. iv in Matth.), "although
Christ was not a sinner, yet did He take a sinful nature and 'the
likeness of sinful flesh.' Wherefore, though He needed not baptism for
His own sake, yet carnal nature in others had need thereof." And, as
Gregory Nazianzen says (Orat. xxxix) "Christ was baptized that He might
plunge the old Adam entirely in the water." Thirdly, He wished to be
baptized, as Augustine says in a sermon on the Epiphany (cxxxvi),
"because He wished to do what He had commanded all to do." And this is
what He means by saying: "So it becometh us to fulfil all justice" (Mt. 3:15). For, as Ambrose says (on Lk. 3:21), "this is justice, to do first
thyself that which thou wishest another to do, and so encourage others by
Reply to Objection 1: Christ was baptized, not that He might be cleansed, but
that He might cleanse, as stated above.
Reply to Objection 2: It was fitting that Christ should not only fulfil what was
prescribed by the Old Law, but also begin what appertained to the New
Law. Therefore He wished not only to be circumcised, but also to be
Reply to Objection 3: Christ is the first principle of baptism's spiritual
effect. Unto this He was not baptized, but only in water.
Article 2: Whether it was fitting for Christ to be baptized with John's baptism?
Objection 1: It would seem that it was unfitting for Christ to be baptized
with John's baptism. For John's baptism was the "baptism of penance."
But penance is unbecoming to Christ, since He had no sin. Therefore it
seems that He should not have been baptized with John's baptism.
Objection 2: Further, John's baptism, as Chrysostom says (Hom. de Bapt.
Christi), "was a mean between the baptism of the Jews and that of
Christ." But "the mean savors of the nature of the extremes" (Aristotle,
De Partib. Animal.). Since, therefore, Christ was not baptized with the
Jewish baptism, nor yet with His own, on the same grounds He should not
have been baptized with the baptism of John.
Objection 3: Further, whatever is best in human things should be ascribed to
Christ. But John's baptism does not hold the first place among baptisms.
Therefore it was not fitting for Christ to be baptized with John's
On the contrary, It is written (Mt. 3:13) that "Jesus cometh to the
Jordan, unto John, to be baptized by him."
I answer that, As Augustine says (Super Joan., Tract. xiii): "After
being baptized, the Lord baptized, not with that baptism wherewith He was
baptized." Wherefore, since He Himself baptized with His own baptism, it
follows that He was not baptized with His own, but with John's baptism.
And this was befitting: first, because John's baptism was peculiar in
this, that he baptized, not in the Spirit, but only "in water"; while
Christ did not need spiritual baptism, since He was filled with the grace
of the Holy Ghost from the beginning of His conception, as we have made
clear above (Question , Article ). And this is the reason given by Chrysostom
(Hom. de Bapt. Christi). Secondly, as Bede says on Mk. 1:9, He was
baptized with the baptism of John, that, "by being thus baptized, He
might show His approval of John's baptism." Thirdly, as Gregory Nazianzen
says (Orat. xxxix), "by going to John to be baptized by him, He
Reply to Objection 1: As stated above (Article ), Christ wished to be baptized in
order by His example to lead us to baptism. And so, in order that He
might lead us thereto more efficaciously, He wished to be baptized with a
baptism which He clearly needed not, that men who needed it might
approach unto it. Wherefore Ambrose says on Lk. 3:21: "Let none decline
the laver of grace, since Christ did not refuse the laver of penance."
Reply to Objection 2: The Jewish baptism prescribed by the law was merely figurative, whereas John's baptism, in a measure, was real, inasmuch as it induced men to refrain from sin; but Christ's baptism is efficacious unto the remission of sin and the conferring of grace. Now Christ needed neither the remission of sin, which was not in Him, nor the bestowal of grace, with which He was filled. Moreover, since He is "the Truth," it was not fitting that He should receive that which was no more than a figure. Consequently it was more fitting that He should receive the intermediate baptism than one of the extremes.
Reply to Objection 3: Baptism is a spiritual remedy. Now, the more perfect a
thing is, the less remedy does it need. Consequently, from the very fact
that Christ is most perfect, it follows that it was fitting that He
should not receive the most perfect baptism: just as one who is healthy
does not need a strong medicine.
Article 3: Whether Christ was baptized at a fitting time?
Objection 1: It would seem that Christ was baptized at an unfitting time. For
Christ was baptized in order that He might lead others to baptism by His
example. But it is commendable that the faithful of Christ should be
baptized, not merely before their thirtieth year, but even in infancy.
Therefore it seems that Christ should not have been baptized at the age
Objection 2: Further, we do not read that Christ taught or worked miracles
before being baptized. But it would have been more profitable to the
world if He had taught for a longer time, beginning at the age of twenty,
or even before. Therefore it seems that Christ, who came for man's
profit, should have been baptized before His thirtieth year.
Objection 3: Further, the sign of wisdom infused by God should have been
especially manifest in Christ. But in the case of Daniel this was
manifested at the time of his boyhood; according to Dan. 13:45: "The Lord
raised up the holy spirit of a young boy, whose name was Daniel." Much
more, therefore, should Christ have been baptized or have taught in His
Objection 4: Further, John's baptism was ordered to that of Christ as to its
end. But "the end is first in intention and last in execution." Therefore
He should have been baptized by John either before all the others, or
On the contrary, It is written (Lk. 3:21): "It came to pass, when all
the people were baptized, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying;"
and further on (Lk. 3:23): "And Jesus Himself was beginning about the age
of thirty years."
I answer that, Christ was fittingly baptized in His thirtieth year.
First, because Christ was baptized as though for the reason that He was
about forthwith to begin to teach and preach: for which purpose perfect
age is required, such as is the age of thirty. Thus we read (Gn. 41:46)
that "Joseph was thirty" years old when he undertook the government of
Egypt. In like manner we read (2 Kgs. 5:4) that "David was thirty years
old when he began to reign." Again, Ezechiel began to prophesy in "his
thirtieth year," as we read Ezech. 1:1.
Secondly, because, as Chrysostom says (Hom. x in Matth.), "the law was
about to pass away after Christ's baptism: wherefore Christ came to be
baptized at this age which admits of all sins; in order that by His
observing the law, no one might say that because He Himself could not
fulfil it, He did away with it."
Thirdly, because by Christ's being baptized at the perfect age, we are
given to understand that baptism brings forth perfect men, according to
Eph. 4:13: "Until we all meet into the unity of faith, and of the
knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the
age of the fulness of Christ." Hence the very property of the number
seems to point to this. For thirty is product of three and ten: and by
the number three is implied faith in the Trinity, while ten signifies the
fulfilment of the commandments of the Law: in which two things the
perfection of Christian life consists.
Reply to Objection 1: As Gregory Nazianzen says (Orat. xl), Christ was baptized,
not "as though He needed to be cleansed, or as though some peril
threatened Him if He delayed to be baptized. But no small danger besets
any other man who departs from this life without being clothed with the
garment of incorruptibility"---namely, grace. And though it be a good
thing to remain clean after baptism, "yet is it still better," as he
says, "to be slightly sullied now and then than to be altogether deprived
Reply to Objection 2: The profit which accrues to men from Christ is chiefly
through faith and humility: to both of which He conduced by beginning to
teach not in His boyhood or youth, but at the perfect age. To faith,
because in this manner His human nature is shown to be real, by its
making bodily progress with the advance of time; and lest this progress
should be deemed imaginary, He did not wish to show His wisdom and power
before His body had reached the perfect age: to humility, lest anyone
should presume to govern or teach others before attaining to perfect age.
Reply to Objection 3: Christ was set before men as an example to all. Wherefore
it behooved that to be shown forth in Him, which is becoming to all
according to the common law---namely, that He should teach after reaching
the perfect age. But, as Gregory Nazianzen says (Orat. xxxix), that which
seldom occurs is not the law of the Church; as "neither does one swallow
make the spring." For by special dispensation, in accordance with the
ruling of Divine wisdom, it has been granted to some, contrary to the
common law, to exercise the functions of governing or teaching. such as
Solomon, Daniel, and Jeremias.
Reply to Objection 4: It was not fitting that Christ should be baptized by John
either before or after all others. Because, as Chrysostom says (Hom. iv
in Matth. [*From the supposititious Opus Imperfectum]), for this was
Christ baptized, "that He might confirm the preaching and the baptism of
John, and that John might bear witness to Him." Now, men would not have
had faith in John's testimony except after many had been baptized by him.
Consequently it was not fitting that John should baptize Him before
baptizing anyone else. In like manner, neither was it fitting that he
should baptize Him last. For as he (Chrysostom) says in the same
passage: "As the light of the sun does not wait for the setting of the
morning star, but comes forth while the latter is still above the
horizon, and by its brilliance dims its shining: so Christ did not wait
till John had run his course, but appeared while he was yet teaching and
Article 4: Whether Christ should have been baptized in the Jordan?
Objection 1: It would seem that Christ should not have been baptized in the
Jordan. For the reality should correspond to the figure. But baptism was
prefigured in the crossing of the Red Sea, where the Egyptians were
drowned, just as our sins are blotted out in baptism. Therefore it seems
that Christ should rather have been baptized in the sea than in the river
Objection 2: Further, "Jordan" is interpreted a "going down." But by baptism a
man goes up rather than down: wherefore it is written (Mt. 3:16) that
"Jesus being baptized, forthwith came up [Douay: 'out'] from the water."
Therefore it seems unfitting that Christ should be baptized in the Jordan.
Objection 3: Further, while the children of Israel were crossing, the waters
of the Jordan "were turned back," as it is related Jos. 4, and as it is
written Ps. 113:3,5. But those who are baptized go forward, not back.
Therefore it was not fitting that Christ should be baptized in the Jordan.
On the contrary, It is written (Mk. 1:9) that "Jesus was baptized by
John in the Jordan."
I answer that, It was through the river Jordan that the children of
Israel entered into the land of promise. Now, this is the prerogative of
Christ's baptism over all other baptisms: that it is the entrance to the
kingdom of God, which is signified by the land of promise; wherefore it
is said (Jn. 3:5): "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy
Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." To this also is to be
referred the dividing of the water of the Jordan by Elias, who was to be
snatched up into heaven in a fiery chariot, as it is related 4 Kgs. 2:
because, to wit, the approach to heaven is laid open by the fire of the
Holy Ghost, to those who pass through the waters of baptism. Therefore it
was fitting that Christ should be baptized in the Jordan.
Reply to Objection 1: The crossing of the Red Sea foreshadowed baptism in
this---that baptism washes away sin: whereas the crossing of the Jordan
foreshadows it in this---that it opens the gate to the heavenly kingdom:
and this is the principal effect of baptism, and accomplished through
Christ alone. And therefore it was fitting that Christ should be baptized
in the Jordan rather than in the sea.
Reply to Objection 2: In baptism we "go up" by advancing in grace: for which we
need to "go down" by humility, according to James 4:6: "He giveth grace
to the humble." And to this "going down" must the name of the Jordan be
Reply to Objection 3: As Augustine says in a sermon for the Epiphany (x): "As of
yore the waters of the Jordan were held back, so now, when Christ was
baptized, the torrent of sin was held back." Or else this may signify
that against the downward flow of the waters the river of blessings
Article 5: Whether the heavens should have been opened unto Christ at His baptism?
Objection 1: It would seem that the heavens should not have been opened unto
Christ at His baptism. For the heavens should be opened unto one who
needs to enter heaven, by reason of his being out of heaven. But Christ
was always in heaven, according to Jn. 3:13: "The Son of Man who is in
heaven." Therefore it seems that the heavens should not have been opened
Objection 2: Further, the opening of the heavens is understood either in a
corporal or in a spiritual sense. But it cannot be understood in a
corporal sense: because the heavenly bodies are impassible and
indissoluble, according to Job 37:18: "Thou perhaps hast made the heavens
with Him, which are most strong, as if they were of molten brass." In
like manner neither can it be understood in a spiritual sense, because
the heavens were not previously closed to the eyes of the Son of God.
Therefore it seems unbecoming to say that when Christ was baptized "the
heavens were opened."
Objection 3: Further, heaven was opened to the faithful through Christ's
Passion, according to Heb. 10:19: "We have [Vulg.: 'Having'] a confidence
in the entering into the holies by the blood of Christ." Wherefore not
even those who were baptized with Christ's baptism, and died before His
Passion, could enter heaven. Therefore the heavens should have been
opened when Christ was suffering rather than when He was baptized.
On the contrary, It is written (Lk. 3:21): "Jesus being baptized and
praying, heaven was opened."
I answer that, As stated above (Article ; Question , Article ), Christ wished to be
baptized in order to consecrate the baptism wherewith we were to be
baptized. And therefore it behooved those things to be shown forth which
belong to the efficacy of our baptism: concerning which efficacy three
points are to be considered. First, the principal power from which it is
derived; and this, indeed, is a heavenly power. For which reason, when
Christ was baptized, heaven was opened, to show that in future the
heavenly power would sanctify baptism.
Secondly, the faith of the Church and of the person baptized conduces to
the efficacy of baptism: wherefore those who are baptized make a
profession of faith, and baptism is called the "sacrament of faith." Now
by faith we gaze on heavenly things, which surpass the senses and human
reason. And in order to signify this, the heavens were opened when Christ
Thirdly, because the entrance to the heavenly kingdom was opened to us
by the baptism of Christ in a special manner, which entrance had been
closed to the first man through sin. Hence, when Christ was baptized, the
heavens were opened, to show that the way to heaven is open to the
Now after baptism man needs to pray continually, in order to enter
heaven: for though sins are remitted through baptism, there still remain
the fomes of sin assailing us from within, and the world and the devils
assailing us from without. And therefore it is said pointedly (Lk. 3:21)
that "Jesus being baptized and praying, heaven was opened": because, to
wit, the faithful after baptism stand in need of prayer. Or else, that we
may be led to understand that the very fact that through baptism heaven
is opened to believers is in virtue of the prayer of Christ. Hence it is
said pointedly (Mt. 3:16) that "heaven was opened to Him"---that is, "to
all for His sake." Thus, for example, the Emperor might say to one asking
a favor for another: "Behold, I grant this favor, not to him, but to
thee"---that is, "to him for thy sake," as Chrysostom says (Hom. iv in
Matth. [*From the supposititious Opus Imperfectum]).
Reply to Objection 1: According to Chrysostom (Hom. iv in Matth.; from the
supposititious Opus Imperfectum), as Christ was baptized for man's sake,
though He needed no baptism for His own sake, so the heavens were opened
unto Him as man, whereas in respect of His Divine Nature He was ever in
Reply to Objection 2: As Jerome says on Mt. 3:16,17, the heavens were opened to Christ when He was baptized, not by an unfolding of the elements, but by a spiritual vision: thus does Ezechiel relate the opening of the heavens at the beginning of his book. And Chrysostom proves this (Hom. iv in Matth.; from the supposititious Opus Imperfectum) by saying that "if the creature"---namely, heaven---"had been sundered he would not have said, 'were opened to Him,' since what is opened in a corporeal sense is open to all." Hence it is said expressly (Mk. 1:10) that Jesus "forthwith coming up out of the water, saw the heavens opened"; as though the opening of the heavens were to be considered as seen by Christ. Some, indeed, refer this to the corporeal vision, and say that such a brilliant light shone round about Christ when He was baptized, that the heavens seemed to be opened. It can also be referred to the imaginary vision, in which manner Ezechiel saw the heavens opened: since such a vision was formed in Christ's imagination by the Divine power and by His rational will, so as to signify that the entrance to heaven is opened to men through baptism. Lastly, it can be referred to intellectual vision: forasmuch as Christ, when He had sanctified baptism, saw that heaven was opened to men: nevertheless He had seen before that this would be accomplished.
Reply to Objection 3: Christ's Passion is the common cause of the opening of
heaven to men. But it behooves this cause to be applied to each one, in
order that he enter heaven. And this is effected by baptism, according to
Rm. 6:3: "All we who are baptized in Christ Jesus are baptized in His
death." Wherefore mention is made of the opening of the heavens at His
baptism rather than at His Passion.
Or, as Chrysostom says (Hom. iv in Matth.; from the supposititious Opus
Imperfectum): "When Christ was baptized, the heavens were merely opened:
but after He had vanquished the tyrant by the cross; since gates were no
longer needed for a heaven which thenceforth would be never closed, the
angels said, not 'open the gates,' but 'Take them away.'" Thus Chrysostom
gives us to understand that the obstacles which had hitherto hindered the
souls of the departed from entering into heaven were entirely removed by
the Passion: but at Christ's baptism they were opened, as though the way
had been shown by which men were to enter into heaven.
Article 6: Whether it is fitting to say that when Christ was baptized the Holy Ghost came down on Him in the form of a dove?
Objection 1: It would seem that it is not fitting to say that when Christ was
baptized the Holy Ghost came down on Him in the form of a dove. For the
Holy Ghost dwells in man by grace. But the fulness of grace was in the
Man-Christ from the beginning of His conception, because He was the
"Only-begotten of the Father," as is clear from what has been said above
(Question , Article ; Question , Article ). Therefore the Holy Ghost should not have been
sent to Him at His baptism.
Objection 2: Further, Christ is said to have "descended" into the world in the
mystery of the Incarnation, when "He emptied Himself, taking the form of
a servant" (Phil. 2:7). But the Holy Ghost did not become incarnate.
Therefore it is unbecoming to say that the Holy Ghost "descended upon
Objection 3: Further, that which is accomplished in our baptism should have
been shown in Christ's baptism, as in an exemplar. But in our baptism no
visible mission of the Holy Ghost takes place. Therefore neither should a
visible mission of the Holy Ghost have taken place in Christ's baptism.
Objection 4: Further, the Holy Ghost is poured forth on others through Christ,
according to Jn. 1:16: "Of His fulness we all have received." But the
Holy Ghost came down on the apostles in the form, not of a dove, but of
fire. Therefore neither should He have come down on Christ in the form of
a dove, but in the form of fire.
On the contrary, It is written (Lk. 3:22): "The Holy Ghost descended in
a bodily shape as a dove upon Him."
I answer that, What took place with respect to Christ in His baptism, as
Chrysostom says (Hom. iv in Matth. [*From the supposititious Opus
Imperfectum]), "is connected with the mystery accomplished in all who
were to be baptized afterwards." Now, all those who are baptized with the
baptism of Christ receive the Holy Ghost, unless they approach
unworthily; according to Mt. 3:11: "He shall baptize you in the Holy
Ghost." Therefore it was fitting that when our Lord was baptized the Holy
Ghost should descend upon Him.
Reply to Objection 1: As Augustine says (De Trin. xv): "It is most absurd to say
that Christ received the Holy Ghost, when He was already thirty years
old: for when He came to be baptized, since He was without sin, therefore
was He not without the Holy Ghost. For if it is written of John that 'he
shall be filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb,' what must we
say of the Man-Christ, whose conception in the flesh was not carnal, but
spiritual? Therefore now," i.e. at His baptism, "He deigned to foreshadow
His body," i.e. the Church, "in which those who are baptized receive the
Holy Ghost in a special manner."
Reply to Objection 2: As Augustine says (De Trin. ii), the Holy Ghost is said to
have descended on Christ in a bodily shape, as a dove, not because the
very substance of the Holy Ghost was seen, for He is invisible: nor as
though that visible creature were assumed into the unity of the Divine
Person; since it is not said that the Holy Ghost was the dove, as it is
said that the Son of God is man by reason of the union. Nor, again, was
the Holy Ghost seen under the form of a dove, after the manner in which
John saw the slain Lamb in the Apocalypse (5:6): "For the latter vision
took place in the spirit through spiritual images of bodies; whereas no
one ever doubted that this dove was seen by the eyes of the body." Nor,
again, did the Holy Ghost appear under the form of a dove in the sense in
which it is said (1 Cor. 10:4): "'Now, the rock was Christ': for the
latter had already a created existence, and through the manner of its
action was called by the name of Christ, whom it signified: whereas this
dove came suddenly into existence, to fulfil the purpose of its
signification, and afterwards ceased to exist, like the flame which
appeared in the bush to Moses."
Hence the Holy Ghost is said to have descended upon Christ, not by
reason of His being united to the dove: but either because the dove
itself signified the Holy Ghost, inasmuch as it "descended" when it came
upon Him; or, again, by reason of the spiritual grace, which is poured
out by God, so as to descend, as it were, on the creature, according to
James 1:17: "Every best gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming
down from the Father of lights."
Reply to Objection 3: As Chrysostom says (Hom. xii in Matth.): "At the beginning of all spiritual transactions sensible visions appear, for the sake of them who cannot conceive at all an incorporeal nature . . . so that, though afterwards no such thing occur, they may shape their faith according to that which has occurred once for all." And therefore the Holy Ghost descended visibly, under a bodily shape, on Christ at His baptism, in order that we may believe Him to descend invisibly on all those who are baptized.
Reply to Objection 4: The Holy Ghost appeared over Christ at His baptism, under the form of a dove, for four reasons. First, on account of the disposition required in the one baptized---namely, that he approach in good faith: since! as it is written (Wis. 1:5): "The holy spirit of discipline will flee from the deceitful." For the dove is an animal of a simple character, void of cunning and deceit: whence it is said (Mt. 10:16): "Be ye simple as doves."
Secondly, in order to designate the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, which
are signified by the properties of the dove. For the dove dwells beside
the running stream, in order that, on perceiving the hawk, it may plunge
in and escape. This refers to the gift of wisdom, whereby the saints
dwell beside the running waters of Holy Scripture, in order to escape the
assaults of the devil. Again, the dove prefers the more choice seeds.
This refers to the gift of knowledge, whereby the saints make choice of
sound doctrines, with which they nourish themselves. Further, the dove
feeds the brood of other birds. This refers to the gift of counsel, with
which the saints, by teaching and example, feed men who have been the
brood, i.e. imitators, of the devil. Again, the dove tears not with its
beak. This refers to the gift of understanding, wherewith the saints do
not rend sound doctrines, as heretics do. Again, the dove has no gall.
This refers to the gift of piety, by reason of which the saints are free
from unreasonable anger. Again, the dove builds its nest in the cleft of
a rock. This refers to the gift of fortitude, wherewith the saints build
their nest, i.e. take refuge and hope, in the death wounds of Christ, who
is the Rock of strength. Lastly, the dove has a plaintive song. This
refers to the gift of fear, wherewith the saints delight in bewailing
Thirdly, the Holy Ghost appeared under the form of a dove on account of
the proper effect of baptism, which is the remission of sins and
reconciliation with God: for the dove is a gentle creature. Wherefore, as
Chrysostom says, (Hom. xii in Matth.), "at the Deluge this creature
appeared bearing an olive branch, and publishing the tidings of the
universal peace of the whole world: and now again the dove appears at the
baptism, pointing to our Deliverer."
Fourthly, the Holy Ghost appeared over our Lord at His baptism in the
form of a dove, in order to designate the common effect of
baptism---namely, the building up of the unity of the Church. Hence it is
written (Eph. 5:25-27): "Christ delivered Himself up . . . that He might
present . . . to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle,
or any such thing . . . cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of
life." Therefore it was fitting that the Holy Ghost should appear at the
baptism under the form of a dove, which is a creature both loving and
gregarious. Wherefore also it is said of the Church (Cant 6:8): "One is
But on the apostles the Holy Ghost descended under the form of fire, for
two reasons. First, to show with what fervor their hearts were to be
moved, so as to preach Christ everywhere, though surrounded by
opposition. And therefore He appeared as a fiery tongue. Hence Augustine
says (Super Joan., Tract. vi): Our Lord "manifests" the Holy Ghost
"visibly in two ways"---namely, "by the dove corning upon the Lord when
He was baptized; by fire, coming upon the disciples when they were met
together . . . In the former case simplicity is shown, in the latter
fervor . . . We learn, then, from the dove, that those who are sanctified
by the Spirit should be without guile: and from the fire, that their
simplicity should not be left to wax cold. Nor let it disturb anyone that
the tongues were cloven . . . in the dove recognize unity."
Secondly, because, as Chrysostom says (Gregory, Hom. xxx in Ev.): "Since
sins had to be forgiven," which is effected in baptism, "meekness was
required"; this is shown by the dove: "but when we have obtained grace we
must look forward to be judged"; and this is signified by the fire.
Article 7: Whether the dove in which the Holy Ghost appeared was real?
Objection 1: It would seem that the dove in which the Holy Ghost appeared was
not real. For that seems to be a mere apparition which appears in its
semblance. But it is stated (Lk. 3:22) that the "Holy Ghost descended in
a bodily shape as a dove upon Him." Therefore it was not a real dove, but
a semblance of a dove.
Objection 2: Further, just as "Nature does nothing useless, so neither does
God" (De Coelo i). Now since this dove came merely "in order to signify
something and pass away," as Augustine says (De Trin. ii), a real dove
would have been useless: because the semblance of a dove was sufficient
for that purpose. Therefore it was not a real dove.
Objection 3: Further, the properties of a thing lead us to a knowledge of that
thing. If, therefore, this were a real dove, its properties would have
signified the nature of the real animal, and not the effect of the Holy
Ghost. Therefore it seems that it was not a real dove.
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Agone Christ. xxii): "Nor do we say
this as though we asserted that our Lord Jesus Christ alone had a real
body, and that the Holy Ghost appeared to men's eyes in a fallacious
manner: but we say that both those bodies were real."
I answer that, As stated above (Question , Article ), it was unbecoming that the
Son of God, who is the Truth of the Father, should make use of anything
unreal; wherefore He took, not an imaginary, but a real body. And since
the Holy Ghost is called the Spirit of Truth, as appears from Jn. 16:13,
therefore He too made a real dove in which to appear, though He did not
assume it into unity of person. Wherefore, after the words quoted above,
Augustine adds: "Just as it behooved the Son of God not to deceive men,
so it behooved the Holy Ghost not to deceive. But it was easy for
Almighty God, who created all creatures out of nothing, to frame the
body of a real dove without the help of other doves, just as it was easy
for Him to form a true body in Mary's womb without the seed of a man:
since the corporeal creature obeys its Lord's command and will, both in
the mother's womb in forming a man, and in the world itself in forming a
Reply to Objection 1: The Holy Ghost is said to have descended in the shape or
semblance of a dove, not in the sense that the dove was not real, but in
order to show that He did not appear in the form of His substance.
Reply to Objection 2: It was not superfluous to form a real dove, in which the
Holy Ghost might appear, because by the very reality of the dove the
reality of the Holy Ghost and of His effects is signified.
Reply to Objection 3: The properties of the dove lead us to understand the dove's
nature and the effects of the Holy Ghost in the same way. Because from
the very fact that the dove has such properties, it results that it
signifies the Holy Ghost.
Article 8: Whether it was becoming, when Christ was baptized that the Father's voice should be heard, bearing witness to the Son?
Objection 1: It would seem that it was unbecoming when Christ was baptized for
the Father's voice to be heard bearing witness to the Son. For the Son
and the Holy Ghost, according as they have appeared visibly, are said to
have been visibly sent. But it does not become the Father to be sent, as
Augustine makes it clear (De Trin. ii). Neither, therefore, (does it
become Him) to appear.
Objection 2: Further, the voice gives expression to the word conceived in the
heart. But the Father is not the Word. Therefore He is unfittingly
manifested by a voice.
Objection 3: Further, the Man-Christ did not begin to be Son of God at His
baptism, as some heretics have stated: but He was the Son of God from the
beginning of His conception. Therefore the Father's voice should have
proclaimed Christ's Godhead at His nativity rather than at His baptism.
On the contrary, It is written (Mt. 3:17): "Behold a voice from heaven,
saying: This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), that which is accomplished in our
baptism should be manifested in Christ's baptism, which was the exemplar
of ours. Now the baptism which the faithful receive is hallowed by the
invocation and the power of the Trinity; according to Mt. 28:19: "Go ye
and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Wherefore, as Jerome says on Mt.
3:16,17: "The mystery of the Trinity is shown forth in Christ's baptism.
our Lord Himself is baptized in His human nature; the Holy Ghost
descended in the shape of a dove: the Father's voice is heard bearing
witness to the Son." Therefore it was becoming that in that baptism the
Father should be manifested by a voice.
Reply to Objection 1: The visible mission adds something to the apparition, to
wit, the authority of the sender. Therefore the Son and the Holy Ghost
who are from another, are said not only to appear, but also to be sent
visibly. But the Father, who is not from another, can appear indeed, but
cannot be sent visibly.
Reply to Objection 2: The Father is manifested by the voice, only as producing
the voice or speaking by it. And since it is proper to the Father to
produce the Word---that is, to utter or to speak---therefore was it most
becoming that the Father should be manifested by a voice, because the
voice designates the word. Wherefore the very voice to which the Father
gave utterance bore witness to the Sonship of the Word. And just as the
form of the dove, in which the Holy Ghost was made manifest, is not the
Nature of the Holy Ghost, nor is the form of man in which the Son Himself
was manifested, the very Nature of the Son of God, so neither does the
voice belong to the Nature of the Word or of the Father who spoke. Hence
(Jn. 5:37) our Lord says: "Neither have you heard His," i.e. the
Father's, "voice at any time, nor seen His shape." By which words, as
Chrysostom says (Hom. xl in Joan.), "He gradually leads them to the
knowledge of the philosophical truth, and shows them that God has neither
voice nor shape, but is above all such forms and utterances." And just as
the whole Trinity made both the dove and the human nature assumed by
Christ, so also they formed the voice: yet the Father alone as speaking
is manifested by the voice, just as the Son alone assumed human nature,
and the Holy Ghost alone is manifested in the dove, as Augustine
[*Fulgentius, De Fide ad Petrum] makes evident.
Reply to Objection 3: It was becoming that Christ's Godhead should not be proclaimed to all in His nativity, but rather that It should be hidden while He was subject to the defects of infancy. But when He attained to the perfect age, when the time came for Him to teach, to work miracles, and to draw men to Himself then did it behoove His Godhead to be attested from on high by the Father's testimony, so that His teaching might become the more credible. Hence He says (Jn. 5:37): "The Father Himself who sent Me, hath given testimony of Me." And specially at the time of baptism, by which men are born again into adopted sons of God; since God's sons by adoption are made to be like unto His natural Son, according to Rm. 8:29: "Whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of His Son." Hence Hilary says (Super Matth. ii) that when Jesus was baptized, the Holy Ghost descended on Him, and the Father's voice was heard saying: "'This is My beloved Son,' that we might know, from what was accomplished in Christ, that after being washed in the waters of baptism the Holy Ghost comes down upon us from on high, and that the Father's voice declares us to have become the adopted sons of God."