Severian of Gabala on Genesis, sermon 2, chapter 3

I was browsing the Bareille French translation of Severian’s homilies, and came across this interesting passage.  But I can’t work out which bits of the bible he is quoting — not even when a ‘reference’ is given!

3.  “But, the land was invisible.”  What does it mean, invisible?  I have heard several of our holy fathers saying:  The land was invisible, because it was hidden under water. Many opinions can be extremely religious without being true for all that.  The three friends of Job, for example, seeing him surrounded with trials, condemned this holy man:  in their opinion, he had deserved his unhappy fate.  If you had not oppressed widows, they said to him, if you had not fleeced orphans, the Lord would not have treated you in this manner. Being unaware of the intentions of God, they condemned Job and said that his sufferings were deserved, not wanting to show God acting wrongfully.  Well!  although they were supporting the cause of God, God still blamed them and said to them:  “Why didn’t you speak justly about my servant?”  Job, XLII, 7. Their sentiment was inspired by piety; but nevertheless it was not right.  What now does the text before us mean:  “The earth was invisible and without beauty?” The interpreters have given a clear explanation of it.  The earth, they say, is called invisible, not because it was not seen, but because it was stripped of any ornament.  It had as yet neither the glory of its flowers, nor the crown of its fruits, nor the variety of its ornaments, nor its belt of rivers and fountains; it was invisible, not having been endowed yet with its marvellous fruitfulness.  The Scripture has said of one of its heroes:  “Isn’t this he who struck the visible Egyptian?”  II Reg., XXIII, 21. So are there invisible men?  No; but that was useful to direct our attention:  it is in an analogous sense that the earth is said to be invisible.

Interesting attitude to the Fathers: “it may be pious, but that does not mean it is right”!

“The land was invisible” is merely a different version of Genesis 1:1, The earth was without form and void; Augustine quotes Terra autem erat invisibilis et incomposita et tenebrae erant super abyssum, as does Tertullian in De Baptismo 3.

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