Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Man): Excerpts
How, although the thing may be necessary, God may not do it by a compulsory necessity;
and what is the nature of that necessity which removes or lessens gratitude, and what
necessity increases it.
Boso. But if it be so, then God seems as it were compelled, for the sake
of avoiding what is unbecoming, to secure the salvation of man. How, then, can it be
denied that he does it more on his own account than on ours? But if it be so, what thanks
do we owe him for what he does for himself? How shall we attribute our salvation to his
grace, if he saves us from necessity?
Anselm.. There is a necessity which takes away or lessens our gratitude
to a benefactor, and there is also a necessity by which the favor deserves still greater
thanks. For when one does a benefit from a necessity to which he is unwillingly subjected,
less thanks are due him, or none at all. But when he freely places himself under the
necessity of benefiting another, and sustains that necessity without reluctance, then he
certainly deserves greater thanks for the favor. For this should not be called necessity
but grace, inasmuch as he undertook or maintains it, not with any constraint, but freely.
For if that which to-day you promise of your own accord you will give to-morrow, you do
give to-morrow with the same willingness; though it be necessary for you, if possible, to
redeem your promise, or make yourself a liar; notwithstanding, the recipient of your favor
is as much indebted for your precious gift as if you had not promised it, for you were not
obliged to make yourself his debtor before the time of giving it: just so is it when one
undertakes, by a vow, a design of holy living. For though after his vow he ought
necessarily to perform, lest he suffer the judgment of an apostate, and, although he may
be compelled to keep it even unwillingly, yet, if he keep his vow cheerfully, he is not
less but more pleasing to God than if he had not vowed. For he has not only given up the
life of the world, but also his personal liberty, for the sake of God; and he cannot be
said to live a holy life of necessity, but with the same freedom with which he took the
vow. Much more, therefore, do we owe all thanks to God for completing his intended favor
to man; though, indeed, it would not be proper for him to fail in his good design, because
wanting nothing in himself he begun it for our sake and not his own. For what man was
about to do was not hidden from God at his creation; and yet by freely creating man, God
as it were bound himself to complete the good which he had begun. In fine, God does
nothing by necessity, since he is not compelled or restrained in anything. And when we say
that God does anything to avoid dishonor, which he certainly does not fear, we must mean
that God does this from the necessity of maintaining his honor; which necessity is after
all no more than this, viz., the immutability of his honor, which belongs to him in
himself, and is not derived from another; and therefore it is not properly called
necessity. Yet we may say, although the whole work which God does for man is of grace,
that it is necessary for God, on account of his unchangeable goodness, to complete the
work which he has begun.
Boso. I grant it.
How no being, except the God-man, can make the atonement by which man is
Anselm.. But this cannot be effected, except the price paid to God for
the sin of man be something greater than all the universe besides God.
Boso. So it appears.
Anselm.. Moreover, it is necessary that he who can give God anything of
his own which is more valuable than all things in the possession of God, must be greater
than all else but God himself.
Boso. I cannot deny it.
Anselm.. Therefore none but God can make this satisfaction.
Boso. So it appears.
Anselm.. But none but a man ought to do this, other wise man does not
make the satisfaction.
Boso. Nothing seems more just.
Anselm.. If it be necessary, therefore, as it appears, that the heavenly
kingdom be made up of men, and this cannot be effected unless the aforesaid satisfaction
be made, which none but God can make and none but man ought to make, it is necessary for
the God-man to make it.
Boso. Now blessed be God! we have made a great discovery with regard to
our question. Go on, therefore, as you have begun. For I hope that God will assist you.
Anselm.. Now must we inquire how God can become man.
How necessary it is for the same being to be perfect God and perfect
Anselm.. The Divine and human natures cannot alternate, so that the
Divine should become human or the human Divine; nor can they be so commingled as that a
third should be produced from the two which is neither wholly Divine nor wholly human.
For, granting that it were possible for either to be changed into the other, it would in
that case be only God and not man, or man only and not God. Or, if they were so commingled
that a third nature sprung from the combination of the two (as from two animals, a male
and a female of different species, a third is produced, which does not preserve entire the
species of either parent, but has a mixed nature derived from both), it would neither be
God nor man. Therefore the God-man, whom we require to be of a nature both human and
Divine, cannot be produced by a change from one into the other, nor by an imperfect
commingling of both in a third; since these things cannot be, or, if they could be, would
avail nothing to our purpose. Moreover, if these two complete natures are said to be
joined somehow, in such a way that one may be Divine while the other is human, and yet
that which is God not be the same with that which is man, it is impossible for both to do
the work necessary to be accomplished. For God will not do it, because he has no debt to
pay; and man will not do it, because he cannot. Therefore, in order that the God-man may
perform this, it is necessary that the same being should perfect God and perfect man, in
order to make this atonement. For he cannot and ought not to do it, unless he be very God
and very man. Since, then, it is necessary that the God-man preserve the completeness of
each nature, it is no less necessary that these two natures be united entire in one
person, just as a body and a reasonable soul exist together in every human being; for
otherwise it is impossible that the same being should be very God and very man.
Boso. All that you say is satisfactory to me.
How it behoved God to take a man of the race of Adam, and born of a
Anselm.. It now remains to inquire whence and how God shall assume human
nature. For he will either take it from Adam, or else he will make a new man, as he made
Adam originally. But, if he makes a new man, not of Adam's race, then this man will not
belong to the human family, which descended from Adam, and therefore ought not to make
atonement for it, because he never belonged to it. For, as it is right for man to make
atonement for the sin of man, it is also necessary that he who makes the atonement should
be the very being who has sinned, or else one of the same race. Otherwise, neither Adam
nor his race would make satisfaction for themselves. Therefore, as through Adam and Eve
sin was propagated among all men, so none but themselves, or one born of them, ought to
make atonement for the sin of men. And, since they cannot, one born of them must fulfil
this work. Moreover, as Adam and his whole race, had he not sinned, would have stood firm
without the support of any other being, so, after the fall, the same race must rise and be
exalted by means of itself. For, whoever restores the race to its place, it will certainly
stand by that being who has made this restoration. Also, when God created human nature in
Adam alone, and would only make woman out of man, that by the union of both sexes there
might be increase, in this he showed plainly that he wished to produce all that he
intended with regard to human nature from man alone. Wherefore, if the race of Adam be
reinstated by any being not of the same race, it will not be restored to that dignity
which it would have had, had not Adam sinned, and so will not be completely restored; and,
besides, God will seem to have failed of his purpose, both which suppositions are
incongruous: It is, therefore, necessary that the man by whom Adam's race shall be
restored be taken from Adam.
Boso. If we follow reason, as we proposed to do, this is the necessary
Anselm.. Let us now examine the question, whether the human nature taken
by God must be produced from a father and mother, as other men are, or from man alone, or
from woman alone. For, in whichever of these three modes it be, it will be produced from
Adam and Eve, for from these two is every person of either sex descended. And of these
three modes, no one is easier for God than another, that it should be selected on this
Boso. So far, it is well.
Anselm.. It is no great toil to show that that man will be brought into
existence in a nobler and purer manner, if produced from man alone, or woman alone, than
if springing from the union of both, as do all other men.
Boso. I agree with you.
Anselm.. Therefore must he be taken either from man alone, or woman
Boso. There is no other source.
Anselm.. In four ways can God create man, viz., either of man and woman,
in the common way; or neither of man nor woman, as he created Adam; or of man without
woman, as he made Eve; or of woman without man, which thus far he has never done.
Wherefore, in order to show that this last mode also under his power, and was reserved for
this very purpose, what more fitting than that he should take that man whose origin we are
seeking from a woman without a man? Now whether it be more worthy that he be born of a
virgin, or one not a virgin, we need not discuss, but must affirm, beyond all doubt, that
the God-man should be born of a virgin.
Boso. Your speech gratifies my heart.
Anselm.. Does what we have said appear sound, or is it unsubstantial as a
cloud, as you have said infidels declare?
Boso. Nothing can be more sound.
Anselm.. Paint not, therefore, upon baseless emptiness, but upon solid
truth, and tell how clearly fitting it is that, as man's sin and the cause of our
condemnation sprung from a woman, so the cure of sin and the source of our salvation
should also be found in a woman. And that women may not despair of attaining the
inheritance of the blessed, because that so dire an evil arose from woman, it is proper
that from woman also so great a blessing should arise, that their hopes may be revived.
Take also this view. If it was a virgin which brought all evil upon the race, it is much
more appropriate that a virgin should be the occasion of all good. And this also. If
woman, whom God made from man alone, was made of a virgin (de virgine), it is
peculiarly fitting for that man also, who shall spring from a woman, to be born of a woman
without man. Of the pictures which can be superadded to this, showing that the God-man
ought to be born of a virgin, we will say nothing. These are sufficient.
Boso. They are certainly very beautiful and reasonable.
How of necessity the Word only can unite in one person with man.
Anselm.. Now must we inquire further, in what person God, who exists in
three persons, shall take upon himself the nature of man. For a plurality of persons
cannot take one and the same man into a unity of person. Wherefore in one person only can
this be done. But, as respects this personal unity of God and man, and in which of the
Divine persons this ought to be effected, I have expressed myself, as far as I think
needful for the present inquiry, in a letter on the Incarnation of the Word, addressed to
my lord, the Pope Urban.
Boso. Yet briefly glance at this matter, why the person of the Son should
be incarnated rather than that of the Father or the Holy Spirit.
Anselm.. If one of the other persons be incarnated, there will be two
sons in the Trinity, viz., the Son of God, who is the Son before the incarnation, and he
also who, by the incarnation, will be the son of the virgin; and among the persons which
ought always to be equal there will be an inequality as respects the dignity of birth. For
the one born of God will have a nobler birth than he who is born of the virgin. Likewise,
if the Father become incarnate, there will be two grandsons in the Trinity; for the
Father, by assuming humanity, will be the grandson of the parents of the virgin, and the
Word, though having nothing to do with man, will yet be the grandson of the virgin, since
he will be the son of her son. But all these things are incongruous and do not pertain to
the incarnation of the Word. And there is yet another reason which renders it more fitting
for the Son to become incarnate than the other persons. It is, that for the Son to pray to
the Father is more proper than for any other person of the Trinity to supplicate his
fellow. Moreover, man, for whom he was to pray, and the devil, whom he was to vanquish,
have both put on a false likeness to God by their own will. Wherefore they have sinned, as
it were, especially against the person of the Son, who is believed to be the very image of
God. Wherefore the punishment or pardon of guilt is with peculiar propriety ascribed to
him upon whom chiefly the injury was inflicted. Since, therefore, infallible reason has
brought us to this necessary conclusion, that the Divine and human natures must unite in
one person, and that this is evidently more fitting in respect to the person of the Word
than the other persons, we determine that God the Word must unite with man in one person.
Boso. The way by which you lead me is so guarded by reason that I cannot
deviate from it to the right or left.
Anselm.. It is not I who lead you, but he of whom we are speaking,
without whose guidance we have no power to keep the way of truth.
How this man dies not of debt; and in what sense he can or cannot sin;
and how neither he nor an angel deserves praise for their holiness, if it is impossible
for them to sin.
Anselm.. We ought not to question whether this man was about to die as a
debt, as all other men do. For, if Adam would not have died had he not committed sin, much
less should this man suffer death, in whom there can be no sin, for he is God.
Boso. Let me delay you a little on this point. For in either case it is
no slight question with me whether it be said that he can sin or that he cannot. For if it
be said that he cannot sin, it should seem hard to be believed. For to say a word
concerning him, not as of one who never existed in the manner we have spoken hitherto, but
as of one whom we know and whose deeds we know; who, I say, will deny that he could have
done many things which we call sinful? For, to say nothing of other things, how shall we
say that it was not possible for him to commit the sin of lying? For, when he says to the
Jews, of his Father: "If I say that I know him not, I shall be a liar, like unto
you," and, in this sentence, makes use of the words : "I know him not," who
says that he could not have uttered these same four words, or expressing the same thing
differently, have declared, "I know him not?" Now had he done so, he would have
been a liar, as he himself says, and therefore a sinner. Therefore, since he could do
this, he could sin.
Anselm.. It is true that he could say this, and also that he could not
Boso. How is that?
Anselm.. All power follows the will. For, when I say that I can speak or
walk, it is understood, if I choose. For, if the will be not implied as acting, there is
no power, but only necessity. For, when I say that I can be dragged or bound unwillingly,
this is not my power, but necessity and the power of another; since I am able to be
dragged or bound in no other sense than this, that another can drag or bind me. So we can
say of Christ, that he could lie, so long as we understand, if he chose to do so. And,
since he could not lie unwillingly and could not wish to lie, none the less can it be said
that he could not lie. So in this way it is both true that he could and could not lie.
Boso. Now let us return to our original inquiry with regard to that man,
as if nothing were known of him. I say, then, if he were unable to sin, because, according
to you, he could not wish to sin, he maintains holiness of necessity, and therefore he
will not be holy from free will. What thanks, then, will he deserve for his holiness? For
we are accustomed to say that God made man and angel capable of sinning on this account,
that, when of their own free will they maintained holiness, though they might have
abandoned it, they might deserve commendation and reward, which they would not have done
had they been necessarily holy.
Anselm.. Are not the angels worthy of praise, though unable to commit
Boso. Doubtless they are, because they deserved this present inability to
sin from the fact that when they could sin they refused to do so.
Anselm.. What say you with respect to God, who cannot sin, and yet has
not deserved this, by refusing to sin when he had the power? Must not he be praised for
Boso. I should like to have you answer that question for me; for if I say
that he deserves no praise, I know that I speak falsely. If, on the other hand, I say that
he does deserve praise, I am afraid of invalidating my reasoning with respect to the
Anselm.. The angels are not to be praised for their holiness because they
could sin, but because it is owing to themselves, in a certain sense, that now they cannot
sin. And in this respect are they in a measure like God, who has, from himself, whatever
he possesses. For a person is said to give a thing, who does not take it away when he can;
and to do a thing is but the same as not to prevent it, when that is in one's power. When,
therefore, the angel could depart from holiness and yet did not, and could make himself
unholy yet did not, we say with propriety that he conferred virtue upon himself and made
himself holy. In this sense, therefore, has he holiness of himself (for the creature
cannot have it of himself in any other way), and, therefore, should be praised for his
holiness, because he is not holy of necessity but freely; for that is improperly called
necessity which involves neither compulsion nor restraint. Wherefore, since whatever God
has he has perfectly of himself, he is most of all to be praised for the good things which
he possesses and maintains not by any necessity, but, as before said, by his own infinite
unchangeableness. Therefore, likewise, that man who will be also God since every good
thing which he possesses comes from himself, will be holy not of necessity but
voluntarily, and, therefore, will deserve praise. For, though human nature will have what
it has from the Divine nature, yet it will likewise have it from itself, since the two
natures will be united in one person.
Boso. You have satisfied me on this point; and I see clearly that it is
both true that he could not sin, and yet that he deserves praise for his holiness. But now
I think the question arises, since God could make such a man, why he did not create angels
and our first parents so as to be incapable of sin, and yet praiseworthy for their
Anselm.. Do you know what you are saying?
Boso. I think I understand, and it is therefore I ask why he did not make
Anselm.. Because it was neither possible nor right for any one of them to
be the same with God, as we say that man was. And if you ask why he did not bring the
three persons, or at least the Word, into unity with men at that time, I answer: Because
reason did not at all demand any such thing then, but wholly forbade it, for God does
nothing without reason.
Boso. I blush to have asked the question. Go on with what you have to
Anselm.. We must conclude, then, that he should not be subject to death,
inasmuch as he will not be a sinner.
Boso. I must agree with you.
How Christ dies of his own power, and how mortality does not inhere in
the essential nature of man.
Anselm.. Now, also, it remains to inquire whether, as man's nature is, it
is possible for that man to die?
Boso. We need hardly dispute with regard to this, since he will be really
man, and every man is by nature mortal.
Anselm.. I do not think mortality inheres in the essential nature of man,
but only as corrupted. Since, had man never sinned, and had his immortality been
unchangeably confirmed, he would have been as really man; and, when the dying rise again,
incorruptible, they will no less be really men. For, if mortality was an essential
attribute of human nature, then he who was immortal could not be man. Wherefore, neither
corruption nor incorruption belong essentially to human nature, for neither makes nor
destroys a man; but happiness accrues to him from the one, and misery from the other. But
since all men die, mortality is included in the definition of man, as given by
philosophers, for they have never even believed in the possibility of man's being immortal
in all respects. And so it is not enough to prove that that man ought to be subject to
death, for us to say that he will be in all respects a man.
Boso. Seek then for some other reason, since I know of none, if you do
not, by which we may prove that he can die.
Anselm.. We may not doubt that, as he will be God, he will possess
Anselm.. He can, then, if he chooses, lay down his life and take it
Boso. If not, he would scarcely seem to be omnipotent.
Anselm.. Therefore is he able to avoid death if he chooses, and also to
die and rise again. Moreover, whether he lays down his life by the intervention of no
other person, or another causes this, so that he lays it down by permitting it to be
taken, it makes no difference as far as regards his power.
Boso. There is no doubt about it.
Anselm.. If, then, he chooses to allow it, he could be slain; and if he
were unwilling to allow it, he couId not be slain.
Boso. To this we are unavoidably brought by reason.
Anselm. Reason has also taught us that the gift which he
presents to God, not of debt but freely, ought to be something greater than anything in
the possession of God.
Anselm. Now this can neither be found beneath him nor above
Boso. Very true.
Anselm.. In himself, therefore, must it be found.
Boso. So it appears.
Anselm.. Therefore will he give himself, or something pertaining to
Boso. I cannot see how it should be otherwise.
Anselm.. Now must we inquire what sort of a gift this should be? For he
may not give himself to God, or anything of his, as if God did not have what was his own.
For every creature belongs to God.
Boso. This is so.
Anselm.. Therefore must this gift be understood in this way, that he
somehow gives up himself, or something of his, to the honor of God, which he did not owe
as a debtor.
Boso. So it seems from what has been already said.
Anselm.. If we say that he will give himself to God by obedience, so as,
by steadily maintaining holiness, to render himself subject to his will, this will not be
giving a thing not demanded of him by God as his due. For every reasonable being owes his
obedience to God.
Boso. This cannot be denied.
Anselm.. Therefore must it be in some other way that he gives himself, or
something belonging to him, to God.
Boso. Reason urges us to this conclusion.
Anselm.. Let us see whether, perchance, this may be to give up his life
or to lay down his life, or to deliver himself up to death for God's honor. For God will
not demand this of him as a debt; for, as no sin will be found, he ought not to die, as we
have already said.
Boso. Else I cannot understand it.
Anselm.. But let us further observe whether this is according to reason.
Boso. Speak you, and I will listen with pleasure.
Anselm.. If man sinned with ease, is it not fitting for him to atone with
difficulty? And if he was overcome by the devil in the easiest manner possible, so as to
dishonor God by sinning against him, is it not right that man, in making satisfaction for
his sin, should honor God by conquering the devil with the greatest possible difficulty?
Is it not proper that, since man has departed from God as far as possible in his sin, he
should make to God the greatest possible satisfaction?
Boso. Surely, there is nothing more reasonable.
Anselm.. Now, nothing can be more severe or difficult for man to do for
God's honor, than to suffer death voluntarily when not bound by obligation; and man cannot
give himself to God in any way more truly than by surrendering himself to death for God's
Boso. All these things are true.
Anselm.. Therefore, he who wishes to make atonement for man's sin should
be one who can die if he chooses.
Boso. I think it is plain that the man whom we seek for should not only
be one who is not necessarily subject to death on account of his omnipotence, and one who
does not deserve death on account of his sin, but also one who can die of his own free
will, for this will be necessary.
Anselm.. There are also many other reasons why it is peculiarly
fitting for that man to enter into the common intercourse of men, and maintain a likeness
to them, only without sin. And these things are more easily and clearly manifest in his
life and actions than they can possibly be shown to be by mere reason without experience.
For who can say how necessary and wise a thing it was for him who was to redeem mankind,
and lead them back by his teaching from the way of death and destruction into the path of
life and eternal happiness, when he conversed with men, and when he taught them by
personal intercourse, to set them an example himself of the way in which they ought to
live? But how could he have given this example to weak and dying men, that they should not
deviate from holiness because of injuries, or scorn, or tortures, or even death, had they
not been able to recognise all these virtues in himself?
How, though he share in our weakness, he is not therefore miserable.
Boso. All these things plainly show that he ought to be mortal and to
partake of our weaknesses. But all these things are our miseries. Will he then be
Anselm.. No, indeed! For as no advantage which one has apart from his
choice constitutes happiness, so there is no misery in choosing to bear a loss, when the
choice is a wise one and made without compulsion.
Boso. Certainly, this must be allowed.
How, along with our other weaknesses, he does not partake of our
Boso. But tell me whether, in this likeness to men which he ought to
have, he will inherit also our ignorance, as he does our other infirmities?
Anselm.. Do you doubt the omnipotence of God?
Boso. No! but, although this man be immortal in respect to his Divine
nature, yet will he be mortal in his human nature. For why will he not be like them in
their ignorance, as he is in their mortality?
Anselm.. That union of humanity with the Divine person will not be
effected except in accordance with the highest wisdom; and, therefore, God will not take
anything belonging to man which is only useless, but even a hindrance to the work which
that man must accomplish. For ignorance is in no respect useful, but very prejudicial. How
can he perform works, so many and so great, without the highest wisdom? Or, how will men
believe him if they find him ignorant? And if he be ignorant, what will it avail him? If
nothing is loved except as it is known, and there be no good thing which he does not love,
then there can be no good thing of which be is ignorant. But no one perfectly understands
good, save he who can distinguish it from evil; and no one can make this distinction who
does not know what evil is. Therefore, as he of whom we are speaking perfectly comprehends
what is good, so there can be no evil with which he is unacquainted. Therefore must he
have all knowledge, though he do not openly show it in his intercourse with men.
Boso. In his more mature Years, this should seem to he as you say; but,
in infancy, as it will not be a fit time to discover wisdom, so there will be no need, and
therefore no propriety, in his having it.
Anselm.. Did not I say that the incarnation will be made in wisdom? But
God will in wisdom assume that mortality, which he makes use of so widely, because for so
great an object. But he could not wisely assume ignorance, for this is never useful, but
always injurious, except when an evil will is deterred from acting, on account of it. But,
in him an evil desire never existed. For if ignorance did no harm in any other respect,
yet does it in this, that it takes away the good of knowing. And to answer your question
in a word: that man, from the essential nature of his being, will be always full of God;
and, therefore, will never want the power, the firmness or the wisdom of God.
Boso. Though wholly unable to doubt the truth of this with respect
to Christ, yet, on this very account, have I asked for the reason of it. For we are often
certain about a thing, and yet cannot prove it by reason.
How his death outweighs the number and greatness of our sins.
Boso. Now I ask you to tell me how his death can outweigh the number and
magnitude of our sins, when the least sin we can think of you have shown to be so
monstrous that, were there an infinite number of worlds as full of created existence as
this, they could not stand, but would fall back into nothing, sooner than one look should
be made contrary to the just will of God.
Anselm.. Were that man here before you, and you knew who he was, and it
were told you that, if you did not kill him, the whole universe, except God, would perish,
would you do it to preserve the rest of creation?
Boso. No! not even were an infinite number of worlds displayed before me.
Anselm.. But suppose you were told: "If you do not kill him, all the
sins of the world will be heaped upon you."
Boso. I should answer, that I would far rather bear all other sins, not
only those of this world, past and future, but also all others that can be conceived of,
than this alone. And I think I ought to say this, not only with regard to killing him, but
even as to the slightest injury which could be inflicted on him.
Anselm.. You judge correctly; but tell me why it is that your heart
recoils from one injury inflicted upon him as more heinous than all other sins that can be
thought of, inasmuch as all sins whatsoever are committed against him?
Boso. A sin committed upon his person exceeds beyond comparison all the
sins which can be thought of, that do not affect his person.
Anselm.. What say you to this, that one often suffers freely certain
evils in his person, in order not to suffer greater ones in his property?
Boso. God has no need of such patience, for all things lie in subjection
to his power, as you answered a certain question of mine above.
Anselm.. You say well; and hence we see that no enormity or multitude of
sins, apart from the Divine person, can for a moment be compared with a bodily injury
inflicted upon that man.
Boso. This is most plain.
Anselm.. How great does this good seem to you, if the destruction of it
is such an evil?
Boso. If its existence is as great a good as its destruction is an evil,
then is it far more a good than those sins are evils which its destruction so far
Anselm.. Very true. Consider, also, that sins are as hateful as they are
evil, and that life is only amiable in proportion as it is good. And, therefore, it
follows that that life is more lovely than sins are odious.
Boso. I cannot help seeing this.
Anselm.. And do you not think that so great a good in itself so lovely,
can avail to pay what is due for the sins of the whole world?
Boso. Yes! it has even infinite value.
Anselm.. Do you see, then, how this life conquers all sins, if it be
given for them?
Anselm.. If, then, to lay down life is the same as to suffer
death, as the gift of his life surpasses all the sins of men, so will also the suffering
How this death removes even the sins of his murderers.
Boso. This is properly so with regard to all sins not affecting the
person of the Deity. But let me ask you one thing more. If it be as great an evil to slay
him as his life is a good, how can his death overcome and destroy the sins of those who
slew him? Or, if it destroys the sin of any one of them, how can it not also destroy any
sin committed by other men? For we believe that many men will be saved, and a vast many
will not be saved.
Anselm.. The Apostle answers the question when he says: "Had they
known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory." For a sin knowingly
committed and a sin done ignorantly are so different that an evil which they could never
do, were its full extent known, may be pardonable when done in ignorance. For no man could
ever, knowingly at least, slay the Lord; and, therefore, those who did it in ignorance did
not rush into that transcendental crime with which none others can be compared. For this
crime, the magnitude of which we have been considering as equal to the worth of his life,
we have not looked at as having been ignorantly done, but knowingly; a thing which no man
ever did or could do.
Boso. You have reasonably shown that the murderers of Christ can obtain
pardon for their sin.
Anselm.. What more do you ask? For now you, see how reason of necessity
shows that the celestial state must be made up from men, and that this can only be by the
forgiveness of sins, which man can never have but by man, who must be at the same time
Divine, and reconcile sinners to God by his own death. Therefore have we clearly found
that Christ, whom we confess to be both God and man, died for us; and, when this is known
beyond all doubt, all things which he says of himself must be acknowledged as true, for
God cannot lie, and all he does must be received as wisely done, though we do not
understand the reason of it.
Boso. What you say is true; and I do not for a moment doubt that
his words are true, and all that he does reasonable. But I ask this in order that you may
disclose to me, in their true rationality, those things in Christian faith which seem to
infidels improper or impossible; and this, not to strengthen me in the faith, but to
gratify one already confirmed by the knowledge of the truth itself.
How God took that man from a sinful substance, and yet without sin; and
of the salvation of Adam and Eve.
Boso. As, therefore, you have disclosed the reason of those things
mentioned above, I beg you will also explain what I am now about to ask. First, then, how
does God, from a sinful substance, that is, of human species, which was wholly tainted by
sin, take, a man without sin, as an unleavened lump from that which is leavened? For,
though the conception of this man be pure, and free from the sin of fleshly gratification,
yet the virgin herself, from whom he sprang, was conceived in iniquity, and in sin did her
mother bear her, since she herself sinned in Adam, in whom all men sinned.
Anselm.. Since it is fitting for that man to be God, and also the
restorer of sinners, we doubt not that he is wholly without sin; yet will this avail
nothing, unless he be taken without sin and yet of a sinful substance. But if we cannot
comprehend in what manner the wisdom of God effects this, we should be surprised, but with
reverence should allow of a thing of so great magnitude to remain hidden from us. For the
restoring of human nature by God is more wonderful than its creation; for either was
equally easy for God; but before man was made he had not sinned so that he ought not to be
denied existence But after man was made he deserved, by his sin, to lose his existence
together with its design; though he never has wholly lost this, viz., that he should be
one capable of being punished, or of receiving God's compassion. For neither of these
things could take effect if he were annihilated. Therefore God's restoring man is more
wonderful than his creating man, inasmuch as it is done for the sinner contrary to his
deserts; while the act of creation was not for the sinner, and was not in opposition to
man's deserts. How great a thing it is, also, for God and man to unite in one person,
that, while the perfection of each nature is preserved, the same being may be both God and
man! Who, then, will dare to think that the human mind can discover how wisely, how
wonderfully, so incomprehensible a work has been accomplished?
Boso. I allow that no man can wholly discover so great a mystery in this
life, and I do not desire you to do what no man can do, but only to explain it according
to your ability. For you will sooner convince me that deeper reasons lie concealed in this
matter, by showing some one that you know of, than if, by saying nothing, you make it
appear that you do not understand any reason.
Anselm.. I see that I cannot escape your importunity; but if I have any
power to explain what you wish, let us thank God for it. But if not, let the things above
said suffice. For, since it is agreed that God ought to become man, no doubt He will not
lack the wisdom or the power to effect this without sin.
Boso. This I readily allow.
Anselm.. It was certainly proper that that atonement which Christ made
should benefit not only thosed who lived at that time but also others. For, suppose there
were a king against whom all the people of his provinces had rebelled, with but a single
exception of those belonging to their race, and that all the rest were irretrievably under
condemnation. And suppose that he who alone is blameless had so great favor with the king,
and so deep love for us, as to be both able and willing to save all those who trusted in
his guidance; and this because of a certain very pleasing service which he was about to do
for the king, according to his desire; and, inasmuch as those who are to be pardoned
cannot all assemble upon that day, the king grants, on account of the greatness of the
service performed, that whoever, either before or after the day appointed, acknowledged
that he wished to obtain pardon by the work that day accomplished, and to subscribe to the
condition there laid down, should be freed from all past guilt; and, if they sinned after
this pardon, and yet wished to render atonement and to be set right again by the efficacy
of this plan, they should again be pardoned, only provided that no one enter his mansion
until this thing be accomplished by which his sins are removed. In like manner, since all
who are to be saved cannot be present at the sacrifice of Christ, yet such virtue is there
in his death that its power is extended even to those far remote in place or time. But
that it ought to benefit not merely those present is plainly evident, because there could
not be so many living at the time of his death as are necessary to complete the heavenly
state, even if all who were upon the earth at that time were admitted to the benefits of
redemption. For the number of evil angels which must be made up from men is greater than
the number of men at that time living. Nor may we believe that, since man was created,
there was ever a time when the world, with the creatures made for the use of man, was so
unprofitable as to contain no human being who had gained the object for which he was made.
For it seems unfitting that God should even for a moment allow the human race, made to
complete the heavenly state, and those creatures which he made for their use, to exist in
Boso. You show by correct reasoning, such as nothing can oppose, that
there never was a time since man was created when there has not been some one who was
gaining that reconciliation without which every man was made in vain. So that we rest upon
this as not only proper but also necessary. For if this is more fit and reasonable than
that at any time there should be no one found fulfilling the design for which God made
man, and there is no further objection that can be made to this view, then it is necessary
that there always be some person partaking of this promised pardon. And, therefore, we
must not doubt that Adam and Eve obtained part in that forgiveness, though Divine
authority makes no mention of this.
Anselm.. It is also incredible that God created them, and unchangeably
determined to make all men from them, as many as were needed for the celestial state, and
yet should exclude these two from this design.
Boso. Nay, undoubtedly we ought to believe that God made them for this
purpose, viz., to belong to the number of those for whose sake they were created.
Anselm.. You understand it well. But no soul, before the death of Christ,
could enter the heavenly kingdom, as I said above, with regard to the palace of the king.
Boso. So we believe.
Anselm.. Moreover, the virgin, from whom that man was taken of whom we
are speaking, was of the number of those who were cleansed from their sins before his
birth, and he was born of her in her purity.
Boso. What you say would satisfy me, were it not that he ought to be pure
of himself, whereas he appears to have his purity from his mother and not from himself.
Anselm.. Not so. But as the mother's purity, which he partakes,
was only derived from him, he also was pure by and of himself.
How he did not die of necessity, though he could not be born, except as
destined to suffer death.
Boso. Thus far it is well. But there is yet another matter that needs to
be looked into. For we have said before that his death was not to be a matter of
necessity; yet now we see that his mother was purified by the power of his death, when
without this he could not have been born of her. How, then, was not his death necessary,
when he could not have been, except in view of future death? For if he were not to die,
the virgin of whom he was born could not be pure, since this could only be effected by
true faith in his death, and, if she were not pure, he could not be born of her. If,
therefore, his death be not a necessary consequence of his being born of the virgin, he
never could have been born of her at all; but this is an absurdity.
Anselm.. If you had carefully noted the remarks made above, you would
easily have discovered in them, I think, the answer to your question.
Boso. I see not how.
Anselm.. Did we not find, when considering the question whether he would
lie, that there were two senses of the word power in regard to it, the one
referring to his disposition, the other to the act itself; and that, though having the
power to lie, he was so constituted by nature as not to wish to lie, and, therefore,
deserved praise for his holiness in maintaining the truth?
Boso. It is so.
Anselm.. In like manner, with regard to the preservation of his life,
there is the power of preserving and the power of wishing to preserve it. And when the
question is asked whether the same God-man could preserve his life, so as never to die, we
must not doubt that he always had the power to preserve his life, though he could not wish
to do so for the purpose of escaping death. And since this disposition, which forever
prevents him from wishing this, arises from himself, he lays down his life not of
necessity, but of free authority.
Boso. But those powers were not in all respects similar, the power to lie
and the power to preserve his life. For, if he wished to lie, he would of course be able
to; but, if he wished to avoid the other, he could no more do it than he could avoid being
what he is. For he became man for this purpose, and it was on the faith of his coming
death that he could receive birth from a virgin, as you said above.
Anselm.. As you think that he could not lie, or that his death was
necessary, because be could not avoid being what he was, so you can assert that he could
not wish to avoid death, or that he wished to die of necessity, because he could not
change the constitution of his being; for he did not become man in order that he should
die, any more than for this purpose, that he should wish to die. Wherefore, as you ought
not to say that he could not help wishing to die, or that it was of necessity that he
wished to die, it is equally improper to say that he could not avoid death, or that he
died of necessity.
Boso. Yes, since dying and wishing to die are included in the same mode
of reasoning, both would seem to fall under a like necessity.
Anselm.. Who freely wished to become man, that by the same unchanging
desire he should suffer death, and that the virgin from whom that man should be born might
be pure, through confidence in the certainty of this?
Boso. God, the Son of God.
Anselm.. Was it not above shown, that no desire of God is at all
constrained; but that it freely maintains itself in his own unchangeableness, as often as
it is said that he does anything necessarily?
Boso. It has been clearly shown. But we see, on the other hand, that what
God unchangeably wishes cannot avoid being so, but takes place of necessity. Wherefore, if
God wished that man to die, he could but die.
Anselm.. Because the Son of God took the nature of man with this desire,
viz., that he should suffer death, you prove it necessary that this man should not be able
to avoid death.
Boso. So I perceive.
Anselm.. Has it not in like manner appeared from the things which we have
spoken that the Son of God and the man whose person he took were so united that the same
being should be both God and man, the Son of God and the son of the virgin?
Boso. It is so.
Anselm.. Therefore the same man could possibly both die and avoid death.
Boso. I cannot deny it.
Anselm.. Since, then, the will of God does nothing by any necessity, but
of his own power, and the will of that man was the same as the will of God, he died not
necessarily, but only of his own power.
Boso. To your arguments I cannot object; for neither your propositions
nor your inferences can I invalidate in the least. But yet this thing which I have
mentioned always recurs to my mind: that, if he wished to avoid death, he could no more do
it than he could escape existence. For it must have been fixed that he was to die, for had
it not been true that he was about to die, faith in his coming death would not have
existed, by which the virgin who gave him birth and many others also were cleansed from
their sin. Wherefore, if he could avoid death, he could make untrue what was true.
Anselm.. Why was it true, before he died, that he was certainly to die?
Boso. Because this was his free and unchangeable desire.
Anselm.. If, then, as you say, he could not avoid death because he was
certainly to die, and was on this account certainly to die because it was his free and
unchangeable desire, it is clear that his inability to avoid death is nothing else but his
fixed choice to die.
Boso. This is so; but whatever be the reason, it still remains certain
that he could not avoid death, but that it was a necessary thing for him to die.
Anselm.. You make a great ado about nothing, or, as the saying is, you
stumble at a straw.
Boso. Are you not forgetting my reply to the excuses you made at
the beginning of our discussion, viz., that you should explain the subject, not as to
learned men, but to me and my fellow inquirers? Suffer me, then, to question you as my
slowness and dullness require, so that, as you have begun thus far, you may go on to
settle all our childish doubts.