The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold.
All Commentaries on Job 28:19 Go To Job 28
Gregory The Dialogist
84. What do we take ‘Ethiopia’ for, save the present world, which same by darkness of hue denotes a sinning people in the foulness of its merits. But sometimes by the name of Ethiopia the Gentile world in a special manner is used to be denoted, as being before black by the sins of unbelief. Which same on the Lord’s coming, the Prophet Habakkuk beheld affrighted with fear, and says, The tents of the Ethiopians tremble with dread, the tents of the land of Madian. [Hab. 3, 7] David also, the Prophet, seeing that the Lord should come for the redeeming of Judaea, but that first the Gentile world should believe, and afterwards Judaea should follow, (as it is written, Until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved, [Rom. 11, 25. 26.]) says, Ethiopia, her hand shall be first to God; [Ps. 68, 31] i.e. ‘before that Judaea believes, the Gentile world being black with sins offers itself to Almighty God to be saved.’ Now the topaz is a precious stone, and because in the Greek tongue to pan is the word for ‘every thing,’ on this account, that it shines bright with every colour, it is called ‘topazium,’ as if ‘topantium.’ But when the Gentile world being turned to God believed, numbers from out thereof were so enriched with the gift of His Spirit, that as with many colours, so with many virtues they shone bright. But lest any man be lifted up by the virtues he has received, it is now said by the holy man, The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it. As though he said in plain words; ‘No one of the Saints, with however many virtues he may be filled, yet as being gathered out of this blackness of the world can equal Him, concerning Whom it is written, That holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. [Luke 1, 35] For we, though we are made holy, yet are: not born holy, because by the mere constitution of a corruptible nature we are tied and bound, that we should say with the Prophet, Behold, I was shapen in wickedness, and in sin hath my mother conceived me. But He only is truly born holy, Who in order that He might get the better of that same constitution of a corruptible nature, was not conceived by the combining of carnal conjunction.
85. To this Wisdom as it were a kind of ‘topaz from Ethiopia wished to equal itself,’ when a certain heresiarch [Nestorius, Ben.] said, ‘I do not envy Christ being made God, because, if I wish even I myself may be made so.’ Who imagined our Lord Jesus Christ to be God, not by the mystery of His conception, but by the promotion of grace, arguing by misconstrued proofs that He was born simple man, but in order to be God that He had advanced by merit, and on this account reckoning that both himself and any others might be made coequal with Him, which same are made the children of God by grace, not understanding nor minding that the topaz from Ethiopia is not equal to Him. For it is one thing for those born men to receive the grace of adoption, and another for one by the power of Godhead preeminently to have come forth God from the very conception. Neither is it possible that to the glory of the Only-begotten, possessed by nature, another glory should be equal, received by grace. For the Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, [1 Tim. 2, 5] is not as this one raves one person in His human nature, and another person in the Divine nature. Not conceived and brought forth simple man, did he afterwards obtain of merit that He should be God. But the Angel announcing it, and the Spirit coming, at once the Word in the womb, at once within the womb the Word made flesh, (that unchangeable Essence likewise remaining to Him which He has coeternal together with the Father and the Holy Spirit;) did take upon Him within the bowels of the Virgin that whereby He might both being Impassible suffer passion, and Undying suffer death, and whilst Eternal before the world be a temporal being in the end of the world, that through an unutterable mystery, by a holy conception and an inviolate birth, in accordance with the verity of both natures, the same Virgin should be at once the handmaid and mother of the Lord. For so is it said to her by Elisabeth; Whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? [Luke 1, 43] And the Virgin herself at her conception said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it unto me according to thy word. [v. 38] And though He the same Being is one thing from the Father, and another thing from the Virgin, yet He is not one Person from the Father, and another Person from the Virgin. But the same Person is Eternal from the Father and the same a temporal being from the Mother, the same Who made is the same That was made, the same beautiful in form above the children of men [Ps. 45, 2] in respect of the Divine nature, and the same of whom it is written; We saw Him, and there was no shew, and He hath not form nor comeliness, [Is. 53, 2] in respect of the human nature. The same before the world from the Father without mother, and the same at the end of the world from the Mother without father. The same a Temple, the same the Builder of the Temple. The same the Maker of the work, and the same the Work of the Maker, remaining one Person from both and in both natures, neither being confounded by the conjunction of natures, nor doubled by the distinctness of natures. But because it is not these points that we have taken upon us to treat of, let us return to our course of interpreting.
86. We are to take note that the holy man, in order to shew that the Angels are, widely distant from this Wisdom, says, Fine gold shall not be given for it. Which same that he might exhibit the ancient Fathers likewise, dealers with sacred Revelation, as inferior, added, Nor shall silver be weighed in exchange thereof. Moreover that he might point out that the wisdom of the philosopher is far beneath this Wisdom, he brought in; Nor shall it be compared to the dyed colours of India. And he subjoined, Nor to the most precious sardonyx stone, nor to the sapphire. Furthermore in order that he might shew that in that city Above no one attains to equality with the Only-begotten, he added; The gold or the glass cannot equal it. That he might make it appear that the Prophets likewise were beneath It, he added; Neither shall vessels of gold high and overtopping be exchanged instead of it. Nor shall they be mentioned in comparison with her. For Wisdom is drawn from out of sight. Whilst at the last, that he might rebuke the very heretics in the Church themselves as well, who on coming from the error of the Gentile world, split through pride the faith which they receive, he added; The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it. As though he taught in plain words, saying; These, who from the blackness of sin come to conversion, cannot equal God-Man, though they may seem to shine bright with many virtues for colours. And that their pride might be thrown over, it is fitly added,
Neither shall the purest dyes be brought into comparison.
87. For those are called ‘the purest dyes’ who are genuinely humble, and genuinely holy, who know that from themselves indeed they have not the shew of virtuous attainments, but that they hold this by the gift of accessory grace. For they would not be ‘dyed,’ if they had possessed holiness by nature. But they are ‘the purest dyes’ because they keep in themselves with humility the superinduced grace of virtues which they have been vouchsafed. Hence it is that it is said by the voice of the Spouse concerning Holy Church; Who is this that cometh up blanched? [Cant. 6, 10] For because Holy Church has not a heavenly life by nature, but on the Spirit adding Itself is arrayed with beautifulness of gifts, she is described not as white but as ‘blanched.’ And observe, that when he said above, Nor shall it be compared to the dyed colours of India, those same colours he did not bring in ‘pure;’ but in this place that he might distinguish the dye of true virtues from that staining of the philosophers, whilst speaking of dyes, he added ‘the purest.’ For those are rightly called ‘the purest dyes,’ who were aforetime foul through wicked deeds, yet, the Spirit coming upon them, are clothed with the brilliancy of grace, that they should appear to be far other than they were. Whence also ‘Baptism,’ i.e. ‘dyeing [tinctio],’ is the name given to our own descending into the water itself. Since we are dyed, and we, who were before unsightly by the deformity of bad habits, on the faith being received are rendered beautiful by grace and the adornment of virtues.