Among the attributes of God we have enumerated omniscience
as necessary to His being. For knowledge is an element of perfection,
and God, who is in every way perfect, must possess this attribute.
Therefore knowledge to the highest degree must be attributed to
God, a knowledge so complete that it allows no ignorance or defect
of intelligence. Were it not so we would have an imperfection in
the attributes of God and so in God Himself. From this it follows
that God's knowledge is immediate, and that He does not reason by
The objects of God's knowledge are not objects apart from His Being.
And further, from God's perfection, it follows that His ideas are
not limited like ours to objects apart from Himself. On the contrary,
God by His own power has created objects existing apart from Himself,
but they were determined by His understanding. [N1]
Otherwise they would have their nature and essence in themselves and
would be by nature prior to God, which is absurd. Certain ones,
because they have not remembered this, have fallen into egregious
blunders. There are some who think that matter exists in its own power
apart from God, and yet coeternal with Him, and that God, knowing
this, has merely set it in a reproducing order and impressed other
forms on it from without. Then others believe that things are by
nature necessary, or impossible, or contingent, and so far as God
knows them as contingent is ignorant whether they exist or not.
Finally, others say that God recognizes contingent being from its
environment because, perchance, He has had a long experience.
Beside these, there are other errors of like nature, to which I
might refer were it not useless to so do. For from what has been
said, the falsity of these is evident.
[Note N1]: It clearly follows, therefore, that the understanding of
God by which he knows all created objects, and His will and
power which determined them are one and the same thing.
We revert now to our proposition, namely, that independent of God
there are no objects of His knowledge, but that He Himself is the
object of His Knowledge, indeed He is that knowledge. Those who
think that the world is the object of God's knowledge are far less
wise than those who wish some building planned by a great architect to
be considered the object of their knowledge. For the artificer is
compelled to seek for suitable material outside of himself; but
God sought no material outside of Himself, but things, in essence and
in existence were made by His understanding or will.
It may be asked, then, whether God knows evil and sin, and distinction
of reason, etc. We reply that God necessarily must know those things of
which He is the cause. Especially since nothing can exist for a
single moment except by the concurrence of the divine will. Therefore,
since evil and sin are nothing in things, but only in the human mind
as it compares things with one another, it follows that God does not
know these independent of the human mind. Distinctions of reason we
have said are only modes of thought, hence they, too, should be known
so far as He conserves the human mind. Not, however, that God has
such modes of thought in order that He may the more easily retain what
He knows. Provided one carefully attends to these few remarks, there
is no question that can be asked about God's understanding which
cannot easily be answered.
God's knowledge of universals, and of particular truths.
But meanwhile, we must not overlook the error of those who think that
God knows nothing except eternal truth, e.g., angels and the heavens
which they think are by nature without beginning and without end.
Beside, in this world nothing but ideas are without a beginning and
unchanging. They seem to err from choice and to wish to keep up some
obscurity. What, indeed, is more absurd than to deny God's knowledge
of individual things, which cannot exist for a single moment without
His sustaining power! Then they maintain that God is ignorant of
things which actually exist, but knows universals which do not exist
or have any essence apart from these individual objects. On the contrary,
we would attribute to God a complete cognition of individual things,
but deny the knowledge of universals except so far as He understands
the human mind.
Finally, before ending this discussion, it seems necessary to give
some answer to those who inquire whether God has many ideas or only
one simple idea. To this I respond that the idea of God because of
which He is called omniscient is one and simple. For God is called
omniscient only because He has an idea of Himself. This idea, or
knowledge, since it exists with God, is nothing else than His essence,
nor, indeed, could it possibly be anything but this.
God's cognition of created objects cannot properly be said to be
knowledge. For if God so chose, these objects might have some other
essence which has no place in His cognition of them. Nevertheless,
it is often asked whether His cognition of objects is manifold or simple.
To this we would reply, that this question is like those which
inquire whether God's decrees and acts of will are one or many;
and whether God is omnipresent, or whether His concurrence, by which
separate objects are preserved, is the same for all things.
Concerning such questions, as I have already said, we have no certain
knowledge. Yet, in the same way, we very certainly know that this
concurrence of God, if it is correlated with his omnipotence, must be
unitary, although its effect is manifested in various ways. So also
the voluntary acts and decrees of God (for we may so call His cognition
of the world), considered as in God, are not many although through
created objects (or better in created objects),
they are variously expressed. Finally, if we consider the analogy of
nature as a whole, we are able to consider it as one being, and
consequently the idea or decree of Natura naturata will but one.