(54) Who those beings are to whom God says, “Behold, Adam has become as one of us, to know good and evil?” (#Ge 3:22). The expression, “one of us,” indicates a plurality of beings; unless indeed we are to suppose, that God is conversing with his own virtues, which he employed as instruments, as it were, to create the universe and all that is in it; but that expression “as,” resembles an enigma, and a similitude, and a comparison, but is not declaratory of any dissimilarity; for that which is intelligible and sensibly good, and likewise that which is of a contrary character, is known to God in a different manner from that in which it is known to man; since, in the same way in which the natures of those who inquire and those who comprehend, and the things themselves too which are inquired into, and perceived, and comprehended, are distinguished, virtue itself is also capable of comprehending them. But all these things are similitudes, and forms, and images, among men; but among the gods they are prototypes, models, indications, and more manifest examples of things which are somewhat obscure; but the unborn and uncreated Father joins himself to no one, except with the intention of extending the honour of his virtues.
(55) What is the meaning of the words, “Lest perchance he put forth his hand and take of the tree of life, and eat and live for ever;” for there is no uncertainty and no envy in God? (#Ge 3:23). It is quite true that God never feels either uncertainty or envy; nevertheless he often employs ambiguous things and expressions, assenting to them as a man might do; for, as I have said before, the supreme providence is of a twofold nature, sometimes being God, and not acting in any respect as a man; but, on some occasions, as a man instructs his son, so likewise should the Lord God give warning to you. Therefore the first of these circumstances belongs to his sovereign power, and the second to his disciplinary, and to the first introduction to instruction, so as to insinuate into man’s heart a voluntary inclination, since that expression, “lest perchance,” is not to be taken as a proof of any hesitation on the part of God, but in relation to man, who, by his nature, is prone to hesitation, and is a denunciation of the inclinations which exist in him. For when any appearance of anything whatever occurs to any man, immediately there arises within him an impulse towards that which appears, being caused by that very thing which appears. And from this arises the second hesitating kind of uncertainty, distracting the mind in various directions, as to whether the thing is fit to be accepted, or acquired, or not. And very likely present circumstances have a respect to that second feeling; for, in truth, the Divinity is incapable of any cunning, or malevolence, or wickedness: it is absolutely impossible that God should either envy the immortality or any other good fortune belonging to any being. And we can bring the most undeniable proof of this; for it was not in consequence of any one’s entreaties that he created the world; but, being a merciful benefactor, rendering an essence previously untamed and unregulated, and liable to suffering, gentle and pleasant, he did so by a vast harmony of blessings, and a regulated arrangement of them, like a chorus; and he being himself the only sure being, planted the tree of life by his own luminous character. Moreover, he was not influenced by the mediation or exhortation of any other being in communicating incorruptibility to man. But while man existed as the purest intellect, displaying no appearance either of work or of any evil discourse, he was certain to have a fitting guide, to lead him in the paths of piety, which is undoubted and genuine immortality. But from the time when he began to be converted to depravity, wishing for the things which belong to mortal life, he wandered from immortality; for it is not fitting that craft and wickedness should be rendered immortal, and moreover it would be useless to the subject; since the longer the life is which is granted to the wicked and depraved man, the more miserable is he than others, so that his immortality becomes a grave misfortune to him.