Mohamed Ahmed Suleiman Ahmed, PhD

The Philosophical Concept of God’s Essence in the Theology of Hugo Ripilinus

Mohamed Ahmed Suleiman Ahmed, PhD

Faculty of Arts, Beni Suef University, Egypt


Abstract: My research paper focuses on the philosophical concept of god’s essence in the theology of Hugo Ripilinus. The reason to choose this subject is the philosophical arguments which Hugo uses in his doctrine to prove the religious truth. In my research paper I will focus and depend mainly on Hugo’s major work “Compendium Theologicae Veritatis”. Although Hugo’s work has the theological and religious title, we cannot however deny that this work in its authentic academic content depends entirely on philosophical arguments and logical inference. In this research paper I will show how Hugo uses the philosophical arguments, inference, syllogism and deduction to prove and explain the nature of god’s essence. I will explain the main concepts which Hugo used in his arguments depending on his understanding to the nature and concept of god. From the other side, I will explain the concept of essence and substance in terms of philosophical and logical significance. The reason which led me to choose this subject remains in the combination which Hugo made between the theological percepts and the philosophical analysis of arguments. Although Hugo mentions the theological truth as undoubted truth, he insists that this truth is reasonable and has its logical and philosophical proof.

Keywords: God; Essence; Substance; Philosophical argument;

The background of the subject

This research paper falls within the sphere of medieval philosophy, mainly medieval Christian philosophy. I choose Hugo Ripilinus as representative of the philosophical theology which uses the philosophical argument in order to prove the religious truth. The background of the research derives its importance from the unique contribution of Hugo Ripilinus and his works in developing medieval theology in terms of philosophical arguments. From this point I can determine the importance of this research paper to show the philosophical method which Hugo used in his arguments to present theological doctrine based on the philosophical argument.


My contribution to the subject remains in how to abstract from Hugo’s work, (Compendium Theologicae Veritatis), the main philosophical arguments which he used in proving the religious truth. Hugo has logical and philosophical cultural background. He has also a good knowledge of the ancient intellectual tradition; besides, he is a good reader of the philosophical texts together with the theological tradition. He presents unique concepts which combine within their texts between the philosophical axioms and the religious truth.


In my research paper I will use the analytical descriptive method. This means that I will propose the ideas of Hugo depending on his writings, mainly his major work Compendium Theologicae Veritatis. In this work Hugo uses and depends on the philosophical arguments and logical inference besides syllogism. Hugo uses in his doctrine twofold method in all his work. This method starts from religious percepts and rational contemplation to conclude stable truth based on philosophical arguments.

At the end of my research paper, I will propose the results and outcomes which I will conclude from my perspective and analysis to Hugo’s doctrine. These results show the importance and authenticity of my research paper.

Sources and bibliography

I thank professor Jasper Hopkins, Department of Philosophy, University of Minnesota for assistance with sources, translations, commentaries, and references that greatly improved the manuscript. The contribution of professor Jaspers enriched my paper with a lot of new interpretations of the original text. The philological analysis of concepts was not going to be understood without his precious comments and remarks on the translation of the Latin text.

Who is Hugh Ripelin of Strasburg?

Hugh Ripelin of Strasburg, or in his French name “Hugues Ripelin” or “Hugues de Strasbourg”, (in Latin: Hugo Ripilinus Argentinensis). He was a French Dominican theologian who was born in 1205 in Strasburg and died in 1270 in the same city in France. Hugh came from a patrician family in Strasbourg, represented on the municipal council. He had to join the Order of Friars Preachers soon after the founding of the convent of Strasbourg in 1224. (Hugues Ripelin de Strasbourg OP, un théologien au cœur de la cité », (2012).

Between 1232 and 1259, he was mentioned, sometimes as prior, sometimes as sub-prior, of the convent of Zurich, founded in 1230, and that he contributed decisively to set up. In the 1250s, he participated actively in the municipal affairs of Zurich. Around 1260 he returned to Strasbourg and was prior of the convent in 1261. He devoted his last years to teaching and writing.

Hugo was a theologian of the Dominican order who wrote the “Compendium Theologicae Veritatis” which has its own reputation as the most widely read theological work of the later middle ages in Western Europe. It was used also as a textbook for approximately 400 years. (Di G. H. Gerrits: Inter Timorem Et Spem: A Study of the Theological Thought of Gerard Zerbolt (1367- 1398), leiden. E.J. Brill, 1986)

This work was a problematic one. It was attributed to so many authors and theologians of the middle ages. But finally was set to be the authentic work of Hugh Ripelin of Strasburg which was set in the year 1265. The Ethics of Aquinas, Di Stephen J. Pope, (editor), Georgetown University press, Washington, DC, 2002.

The Compendium, composed at the end of his life, owed his considerable fortune to the fact that he gathered together all the great subjects of theology in a simple and agreeable form, quoting literally the previous and contemporary authors, and mingling tips on the practical Christian life. It was very soon translated into several vulgar languages (Middle-High German and Old French). (Etienne Gilson: History of Christian philosophy in the middle ages, pontifical institute of medieval studies, Toronto, 1954)

The Compendium Theologicae Veritatis was not the only work which was written by Hugh. There were other works which have the name of the same author. Among these works were: "Commentarium in IV Libros Sententiarum" and "Quodlibeta, Quaestiones, Disputationes et Variae in Divinos Libros Explanationes".

The work is in seven books resumes almost exactly the plan of Breviloquium of Saint Bonaventure. The titles of the seven books are: On the Nature of the Deity (De Natura Deitatis), On the Works of the Creator (De Operibus Conditoris), On the Corrupting-Effect of Sin (De Corruptela Peccati), On the Humanity of Christ (De Humanitate Christi), On the Sanctifying-Effect of the Graces (De Sanctificatione Gratiarum),On the Efficacy of the Sacraments (De Virtute Sacramentorum), On the Last Times and on the Punishments of Those Who are Evil and the Rewards of Those Who are Good ( De Ultimis Temporibus). Aquinas’s summa theologiae, critical essays, edited by: Brian Davies, Rowman and Littlefield publishing Inc. 2006.

Why Hugh Ripelin of Strasburg?

The reason to choose Hugh Ripelin of Strasburg is the importance of his philosophical theological work (Compendium Theologicae Veritatis) or the compendium of the theological truth. In this work, Hugh focuses on the philosophical analysis of the theological understanding of the nature of god. Hugh is following the systematic method in proposing his ideas and topics in a way which supports the rational thinking. Hugh is following also a clear linguistic method that allows to his reader to get easily to understand the main arguments in his doctrine. Etienne Gilson: History of Christian philosophy in the middle ages, pontifical institute of medieval studies, Toronto, 1954)

Hugh’s Sources

Hugh depends on variety of sources, philosophical and theological sources. Augustine comes among the most influential authorities upon his thought, especially when he refers to the idea of predestination. Among the most famous sources we find Peter Lombard’s Sentences, Bonaventure’s Breviloquium, and Albertus Magnus’s Summa de Creaturis. Hugh relies also on William of Auxerre’s Summa Aurea, Gregory the Great’s Moralia and Pseudo-Dionysius’s De Divinis Nominibus. He is seen also to rely on Richard of St. Victor’s De Trinitate, Hilary of Poitiers’s De Trinitate, Bernard of Clairvaux’s De Consideratione, Boethius’s De Consolatione Philosophiae, St. Anselm’s Proslogion—and a host of other writings, including those of Aristotle. Hugo Ripelin of Strassburg Compendium Theologicae Veritatis Translated And Introduced By Jasper Hopkins, Ph.D. Copyright August, 2012 By Jasper Hopkins

The influence of Hugh

The valuable work of Hugh had its influence upon his successors, not only in the number of copies or translations of the compendium, but also in the texts of some main authors who came later after him. We can see this clearly in the work of Nicholas Cusanus (1401-1464) titled “De Docta Ignorantia”, we can find in the work clear traces of Hugh’s influence. For example; when Nicholas speaks about infinity, he says: “infiniti ad finitum non proportion est” (Nicholas Cusanus: De Docta Ignorantia I, 3), it’s the same as Hugh mentioned: “finiti nulla est proportio ad infinitum” (Hugo’s Compendium I, 16).

The philosophical argument

Hugh proposes theological concepts and religious percepts which are the bases of his doctrine. He uses philosophical arguments, even in the religious proof, to confirm his doctrine. The first topic that occupied major part in Hugh’s theological context is the concept of god’s essence. Starting from the essence of god and his attributes, Hugh does not doubt nor has any skeptical notion related to god’s existence. The role of the Theological truth in Hugh’s percept is to illuminate the intellect that’s in order to be able to receive the ultimate truth. (Hugo, Compendium I)

Based on his understanding to philosophy, Hugh divides philosophy into three main fields; natural philosophy, rational philosophy and moral philosophy. Natural philosophy is meant to teach everyone to know creatures, but it does not teach us how to know the Creator. Rational philosophy teaches us how to make inferences, but it would not teach us how to resist the Devil. For moral philosophy, its role is to teach us how to acquire the essential virtues, but in another way, it does not teach us how to acquire love. (Hugo, Compendium I)

This is simply how Hugh understands philosophy and its role in relation to theological context. It is stated clearly that Hugh considers theological truth a kind of independent philosophy. According to his understanding to the ultimate truth, he considers the theological truth, or his philosophy, that it can accomplish all these things that the three kinds of philosophies can do. In another words, it teaches us how to know God, how to resist the Devil and also how the one devotes oneself towards love. (Hugo, Compendium I)

Divine essence

The first truth that Hugh is eager to prove is that god exists. The existence of god takes the form of the logical inference. Hugh proposes the argument in this way starting from the biblical text. If we examine the arguments of the existence of god in Hugh’s concept, we will find the following proofs:

Right faith attests that god exists

Right faith according to Hugh confirms the existence of god. If a person believes in god, this means that god actually exists, otherwise, no need to believe if this belief does not imply the existence of god. (Hugo, Compendium)

Sacred scripture confirms that god exists

Hugh quotes the psalm to confirm the existence of god, because god exists from eternity to eternity (psalms 89:2). He refers here to the argument that based on the verse of the Exodus (exodus 3:14) and what John of Damascus used in his book based on “He-who-is” argument (St. John of Damascus, De Fide Orthodoxa, Book I, Chapter. 9).

Relational existence and the Disparities between beings, or a comparison of things, indicate the existence of god

God is the Supreme Being; this being does not need any other support to exist. Our being is not equal to god’s being, because it is derived from His being. Without god’s being, nothing exists. God gives being to all things, through his “Ever-Present Being”, this means that the absence of god’s being would dissolve all beings. (Hugo, Compendium I)

Hugo quotes Gregory the great to confirm the existence using the divine attributes. As for justice and beauty, creatures cannot be considered or attributed to be beautiful or just in relation to god’s beauty and justice. Because these attributes are derived from the Supreme Being who gives these attributes to creatures. (Gregory the Great, Moralia, Book XXXV, Chap. 2 (PL 76:751 A).

The saints proclaim that god exists

Hugh goes from the philosophical argument to the philosophical theology. He relies on Saint Anselm using his argument which is based on the religious authorities. He is using also the ontological argument and the greatness argument too, which Saint Anselm used in his proofs about god’s existence. The argument itself depends on the form which says that:”God is something than which nothing greater can be thought of”. (Anselm of Canterbury, Proslogion, chap. 2)

This argument also has its sources in the Dionysian tradition. According to Dionysius, god is the being of all things; this being is super substantial divinity. This being cannot be thought not to be, because this being does not have no-being subsequent to its being and does not have being subsequent to its not-being. (Anselm of Canterbury, Proslogion, Chapter. 3)

Creatures declare that god exists

Hugh gives strict emphasis on the theory of creation to prove the existence of god. Everyone according to his nature thinks in his mind that he did not come to this world by his own self. (Psalms 99:3 (100:3) Hugh goes from the theory of creation to the theory of beauty, combining together nature and systematic harmony which shows and expresses the beauty of god. Nature and creatures reflect the existence of god. (Cf. Wisdom 7:24-26.7) And this is what the apostle declared clearly “now we see through a mirror, in a dark manner.” (I Corinthians 13:12). The same Apostle says also: “The invisible things of Him (i.e., of God) are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” (Romans 1:20)

Natural reason dictates it

In this argument, Hugh uses the rational inference to prove the existence of god. He confirms the use of reason depending on knowledge; this knowledge brings together cause and effect. (Hugo, Compendium I).

In this case, Hugh uses the “Sequence of Causes” which implies the final cause which brought creatures to being. Every creature or everything needs something else in order to exist. The proceeding of infinity of causes leads directly to the final cause which created everything; this cause is God the creator, from whom all things flow forth. (Hugo, Compendium I)

The oneness of god

Is there one god or there are more than one god? The answer of Hugh confirms the theological tradition by asserting the religious truth which accepts only one god. The reference of Hugh here relies on the authority of the biblical text. As it is said: “See that I alone am, and there is no other God besides me” (Deuteronomy 32:39).

Hugh, in this theological context, confirms what the apostle says: “… one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). He quotes also the words of Boëthius when he speaks about god, “he is, if it can be said, altogether one” (Hugh, Ch.2)

Hugh rejects any kind of participation of any other creature in this oneness. God exists in his oneness; his being is one, no way to speak here about any kind of numerical plurality. (Hugh, Ch.2).

Here Hugh refers to reasoning, “the same point is shown also by reason”, here; he brings reason into theological percepts. The supreme good, as Hugh confirms, is a simple good, it is not composed of parts. So, when we say that divinity is not related to anything besides except Him, this means that divinity is one in being and essence. If divinity is related and depends on something besides, then it would be contracted to particular being. The Supreme Being is altogether simple. (Hugh, Ch.2)

God is not subject to any kind of plurality or species, there is no such distinction in god’s essence between genus and species. None of the predication forms are applicable to god. But when we read the Athanasius Creed: “the catholic faith is this: that we worship one god in trinity and trinity in oneness” (Hugh, Ch.2). Psalms confirm also this oneness by saying: “hey shall perish, but you remain”. (Psalms 101:27 (102:26-27)

The same as Saint Bernard sets it: “god does not have temporal alteration or substantial alteration” (Bernard of Clairvaux, De Consideratione, Book V, Chap. 7 (PL 182:798 C). Also Pope Leo confirms by saying: “Nothing can be added to or subtracted from the nature of Simple Divinity.” (Hugh, Ch.2). But psalms set: “there shall be no new god in you”, “new,” that is to say, “Newly Formed” or “Newly Born”. Psalms (80:10)

Multiplicity in god’s oneness

Can divinity be multiplied? Or, are there more than one divinity? According to Hugh there is only one divinity, but people or men are responsible to multiply divinity.

Hugo puts men into three kinds in terms of multiplying divinity. The first kind we find in Idolaters about whom the psalms speak: “All the gods of the Gentiles are devils.” (Psalms 95:5). The second kind as it is set by Hugo is represented in Necromancers, who ascribe power to magical signs and to other such foolishnesses. The third kind is represented in the Covetous and Carnal Men. Covetous are those who love money above all other things. Carnal Men such as Gluttons, who worship their belly. In this regard the apostle speaks about Carnal Men describing them as belly worshippers: “…whose God is their belly” (Philippians 3:19), the apostle speaks also about covetous saying: “… covetousness, something which is a serving of idols”). (Ephesians 5:5)

There is a true Oneness in god, because the divine attributes such as simplicity, immutability, and singularity confirms this oneness. This oneness, according to Hugo, does not derive from any other thing, because all plurality flows forth from it. So, God does not derive from anything but all things come from Him. (Hugh, Ch.2).

Participation in goodness

Is it possible for creatures to partake in divine goodness? It’s possible according to Hugo, because good men are partakers of divine goodness through the grace of providence. This is affirmed by the psalms when we read: “I have said ‘You are gods and are all sons of the Most High.’ (Psalms 81:6 (82:6).

Based on this participation, we must not understand that divinity has plurality, because there is only one true god. This means that participation in divine goodness is not in terms of plurality or multiplicity. Hugo refers that the name god does not, per se, have a plural because divinity itself does not admit division. (Hugh, Ch.2).


What are the arguments of Hugo in relation to the beginning and eternity? He confirms one beginning and one source for the whole universe. Since there is only one god, so, there is only one beginning, this beginning must be god himself. (Hugo, Ch. 3)

Hugo follows the Dionysian tradition regarding oneness and unity; this leads to one beginning and one being (Pseudo-Dionysius, De Divinis Nominibus, Chap. 13 (PL 122:1169 C). Hugo refers that among all creatures we find four things: (multitude, order, imperfection and union). Starting from this point, multitude takes its origin from oneness. So, there must be one beginning of all multitude.

For order, since every order has an earlier and a later, so, it must have one beginning. Hugo is following what Boëthius emphasized about perfection in terms that every imperfect creature takes its origin from something perfect who is absolutely god. (Hugo, Ch. 3) & Boethius, Cf. De Consolatione Philosophiae, Prosa X, Notae (PL 63:764 D765 C)

As for union, if we examine union among different things, we find that every union must have something which is the cause and source of this union. This source according to Hugo is god. (Hugo, ch. 3)

Regarding evil, Hugo rejects the evil to have beginning. If there was one beginning for evil, from which all evils would derive their existence, this means according to Hugo that the Christ’s body would derive from it (from that evil beginning), because his body would be subject to the evil of pain. This is impossible in hug’s concept of Christ and his body. (Hugo, ch. 3)

The conclusion of hug’s doctrine regarding being and beginning can be summarized in one concept, that is there is only one being who is the one beginning, and this beginning is truly god. This truth is not based only on religious bases, but on philosophical arguments in terms of antecedence and causality. Creatures and nature confess the antecedence of this Supreme Being who is the Supreme Beginning. This Supreme Being is also the cause for every beginning. (Hugo, ch. 3)

Divine essence

What are the characteristics of the divine essence? Can this essence be expressed in terms of divinity? Hugo relates essence to divinity, because there is no difference between god and his essence. This divine essence is characterized with its own attributes. These attributes are eternity, wisdom, most powerful and most wise. (Hugo, ch. 10)

Hugo confirms that divine essence is one. Even we call the three persons as divine essence; this does not mean that there are two or three essences. Since essence is one, so there is a kind of unity or oneness of essence. We can see three persons, but only one essence. The divine nature in its oneness comprises three persons. The first is the father, the second is the Son and the third is the Holy Spirit. The father is from none, the son is from the father and the Holy Spirit is from both the father and the son. This means that the trinity of persons does not exclude from the essence oneness, simplicity, immensity, eternity and immutability. (Hugo, ch. 10)

In this regard, Hugo brings the emanation theory about the relation between the three persons. The emanation is the result of god’s love to both son and Holy Spirit. Since every good is diffusive of itself according to Dionysius. (Cf. Pseudo-Dionysius, De Divinis Nominibus, Chap. 4 (Dionysiaca, Vol. I, p. 147.

And since the father is the fount of goodness, the result of this is emanation, which is begetting. (Hugo, ch. 10)

Emanation is described by Hugo as the mod of loving-kindness and generosity, and it is also love (Amor), which is the Holy Spirit’s proceeding from the father and the son. (Hugo, ch. 10)

In this way, we must understand that there is equality of persons. According to what Saint Augustine confirms that no one of the three persons precedes the other in eternity or exceeds the other in greatness or prevails over the other in power. (Not Augustine but Fulgentius, De Fide ad Petrum Diaconum, Chap. 1, n. 4 (PL 65:674 A) & (Hugo, ch. 12)

Hugo mentions that there is equality in god regarding the three characteristics; this can be seen in the words of Hugo when he says:

“Because in lower objects there are these three things, namely, (substance, quality, and quantity): oneness in substance causes identity; but oneness in quality causes likeness; and oneness in quantity causes equality”. (Hugo ch. 12)

Hugo confirms here that there is equality in god but only with respect to a threefold quantity. He says: “insofar as there can be said, although improperly, to be quantity in God”. (Hugo, ch. 12)

Hugo explains this equality in a detailed way when he says:

“First, [there is equality] with respect to quantity-of-Might, which is Power. In another way, [there is equality] with respect to quantity-of-duration, which is eternity. In a third way [there is equality] with respect to quantity-of-greatness, by reason of which God is present in all things and present beyond all things and by reason of which He contains all things and locates all things. (Hugo, ch. 12)

Hugo concludes this inquiry about oneness in terms of essence and substance by the argument of Bernard. Hugo and Bernard propose that it is: ”it is presumptuousness to question the plurality of Persons in the Oneness of Essence and the Oneness of Essence in the plurality of Persons; it is devoutness to believe this; and is eternal life to know it. (Hugo, 13)

God in terms of essence and persons

Hugo makes differentiation between essence and person as representatives of divinity. In Greek language there are three words which have the significance of essence; these words are (Ουσία, Ουσίωσις, Υπόστασις and Πρόσωπο). In Latin language we find four equivalents to these words; these are (Essentia, Substantia, Subistentia and Persona). (Hugo Ch. XIII)

Hugo explains the meaning and significance of these words in comparison to each word and its use. He explains also the difference between these four terms. As for Ουσία or essentia, it is applied to creatures; and humanity is an example of it. Ουσίωσις refers to nature, for example the human nature. Υπόστασις it refers to what is distinguished but not distinct with any determinate property, for example a man. Πρόσωπο or persona refers to what is distinct with a distinguished or determinate property or character, for example Peter. (Hugo Ch. XIII)

Hugo concludes that as men are distinct and distinguished according to their individual qualities, so, father, son and Holy Spirit are distinct in terms of their individual conceptualizations. (Hugo Ch. XIII)

Hugh here is following the Greek tradition in terms of differentiation between Ουσία, Ουσίωσις, Υπόστασις and Πρόσωπο. According to the Greek tradition, father, son and Holy Spirit are three hypostases (three subsistences), in another words, three things that do not need any other thing for their existence. ((Hugo Ch. XIII)

As a result to this differentiation the divine essence becomes indistinct, whether in itself or of itself. But the divine person is distinct in himself and of himself because of his distinct properties. But Hugo in this regard refers to something deserves to be read carefully, it is that there is an intermediate mode related to the person. This intermediate mode comes if the essence is considered of the person, or if the person himself is considered in the essence. This intermediate mode is together “oneness-and-distinctness. (Hugo Ch. XIII)

Philosophical argument of essence and substance

Hugo mentions that substance is taken always for essence, but essence is never used to signify person. If this is the case, what are the definitions of “person”? Hugo presents three definitions of person:

Person is the individual substance of a rational creature. (Boethius : De Persona et Naturis Duabus, Chap. 3 (PL 64:1343 D).

Person is what subsists “per se” in accordance with a certain singular mode. This is the definition of Hugo of St. Victor (Richard of St. Victor, De Trinitate, Book IV, Chap. 24 (PL 196:946 C)

We can notice in this definition that it pertains and related to the etymology of the word itself, I mean the word “person”, it is said to be the same sense of “Per Se one”. (Hugo Chapter XIII)

Person is “a hypostasis that is distinct by virtue of a property that pertains to its unique identity.” (Hugo Ch. XIII)

One more thing here should be clarified regarding the four terms; (essence, substance, subsistence and person). These terms differ with respect to creatures. They differ in reality and in name. But these four terms, according to Hugo, differ formally with respect to god. (Hugo. Ch. XIII).

Divine presence

God is the omnipotent, from this point Hugo refers that there is quantity in god. This quantity is not distinguished or diminished in terms of dimensions or measures, but this quantity is quantity of power. (Hugo Ch. 14)

Since god is the omnipotent and the Supreme Being, he is present everywhere, and cannot be imagined in terms of bodily bulk. God has this kind of presence which Hugo calls “presence by majesty”. This presence is described by Hugo to be the immense. (Hugo 14)

We must understand the significance of this immensity with respect to god. This immensity can be expressed in four things; (infinity, incomprehensibility, uncircumscribability and eternity). (Hugo 14).

Hugo gives explanation to these four attributes of god as follow:

“If God is considered in and of Himself, He is in this respect Infinite” (Hugo Ch. 14). We understand that from the psalms when confirm that: “Of His greatness there is no end” (Psalms 144:3)

But if He (god) is considered in relation to the intellect, then in this respect He is incomprehensible. And as the apostle confirms this also: “O the depth of his riches.” (Romans 11:33). That’s why he is said to be seated above the Cherubim; (Psalms 79:2 (80:1). The Cherubim are one of the unearthly beings who directly attend to God according to Abrahamic religions. The numerous depictions of cherubim assign to them many different roles; their original duty having been the protection of the Garden of Eden. (Alice Wood, Of Wings and Wheels: A Synthetic Study of the Biblical Cherubim, 2008, walter de gruyter, GmbH, Berlin)

Hugo says that he is above the fullness of finite knowledge and above all [finite] understanding. (Hugo 14.)

Hugo mentions that god is uncircumscribable in relation to place. Here, he is influenced by Ambrose when he speaks about the divine attributes in terms of trinity. He says: “The Trinity has nothing prescribed, nothing circumscribed, nothing measured [and] is not enclosed in a place, is not reached by calculation, does not vary in age.” (St. Ambrose, Expositio Evangelii secundum Lucam, Book II, n. 13 (PL 15:1638 AB)

Finally, when we speak about god in terms of duration, he is eternal in this respect. As the apostle says it clearly about god’s eternity: “to the immortal king of the ages” (I Timothy 1:17) & (Hugo 14)

Hugo confirms that in god there is no depth, width, length or height. He mentions that these are metaphorically speaking in god. (Hugo. 14) (Cf. Ephesians 3:18).

He explains that in another way; for example, there is in god a breadth of love, by which he calls us back from error. This is what Jeremiahs says: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have drawn you, taking pity on you.” (Jeremiahs 31:3)

There is also, as Hugo says, a length of Long-suffering, with which god awaits those who are evil. There is also in god height of Wisdom, by which He excels all the senses. As it is written by the apostle: “All things are naked and open to His eyes” (Hebrews 4:13). (Hugo 14).

There is also in god a depth of justice, by which he condemns sinners, as it is confirmed by the apostle: “Depart from me, O accursed ones, into eternal fire.” Matthew 25:41.

Infinity in terms of god’s essence

In divine attributes, Hugo confirms the infinity of god, this infinity is undoubted. Hugo combines together in one unity between god’s power and god’s essence. Since god’s power is the same as his essence, it is evident then that god’s essence is infinite the same as his power. (Hugo 15)

For Hugo, god’s power cannot be present in so many things, and cannot be also present in more things. The same is applied on essence, it cannot be present in some things, and cannot be present in more things. By supposing that there were an infinite number of worlds, god would fill them all; this can be done with his presence. (Hugo 15).

Hugo imitates the Aristotelian paradigm when he speaks about the divine essence in terms of the four causes. For Hugo, god is the efficient, formal and final cause of all things. In this regard, Hugo says that it is not the case when we say that god is the efficient cause means that he is effected. (Hugo 15).

Either, we cannot say that since god is the formal cause means that god is formed. Also, we cannot say that since god is the final cause means that god is finite. In regard to substance, god is not finite, unless “finite” means complete and perfect. (Hugo. 15)

Hugo describes the word “infinite” in three different ways; negatively, privatively and contrarily. Infinite can be expressed in negative way when it is said to deny a limit, or god’s limit. (Hugo 15). This means that the thing is infinite when it is not limited. Hence, the thing is said to be infinite when it is not able to be limited. Infinite can be expressed also privatively when is able to be limited by its nature, but it is not limited. Infinite can be expressed contrarily when it has a disposition that is opposed to being limited. (Hugo 15)

Hugo describes these three ways regarding infinity as follow:

In the first sense the Divine Essence is Infinite because it does not have a limit and by its nature is not able to be limited. (Hugo 15).

The case is similar if the Divine Essence is said to be infinite in the third sense. (Hugo 15).

But if it is said to be privatively infinite, this means that it cannot be called infinite. In this sense Hugo mentions that because by its nature it is not able to be limited; because according to him it limits all things. (Hugo. 15)

Hugo presents his interpretation to the significance of the term “limit” supposing that this term is predicated also in a threefold way:

According to Hugo, “limit” indicates a terminal point; and this significance, I mean the terminal point, means that a continuous quantity is called infinite because it is immeasurable ad infinitum. And this is true according to Hugo, because in a continuum there is no end-point of productivity, even as in the case of numbering there is no end-point to addition. In another sense, Hugo uses the term “limit” to be the same thing as perfection. (Hugo 15)

In a third sense, Hugo uses the term “limit” to be on account of which any given thing is limited. And this concept has its own significance according to Hugo’s understanding. (Hugo 15) Hugo explains this significance as follows:

In the first sense Hugo confirms that God is Infinite. This is not according to dimensional quantity, because dimensional quantity is not present in God. But Hugo says that it is according to quantity of Power, because quantity of power is present in God. Hugo explains that in God there is no separation at all between Power and Essence, and also there cannot be infinity of Power that is not also infinity of Essence. (Hugo 15)

Hugo explains the second sense of “matter” when is said to be infinite because it lacks perfection. In this case it lacks perfection because matter itself is not complete without its form. (Hugo 15) In the third sense Hugo explains when the evil of guilt is said to be infinite because it is not ordered to an end. (Hugo 15)


The conclusion and summary of my research paper can be concluded in the following points:

Hugo presented a unique contribution to medieval rational theology and its religious tradition; this can be noticed in the spread of his Compendium and its large reputation among medieval scholars. Hugo used the philosophical argument to prove the theological percepts based on the philosophical analysis of terms which he used along his discussions.

We can understand from the above mentioned passages that the theological doctrine of Hugo cannot be separated from his philosophical method. Hugo made an achievement to medieval philosophical theology by bringing together theology and philosophy. This is clear in his passages and discussions which showed enough evident proofs of both theology and philosophy. Within the doctrine of Hugo we can summarize the structure of his ideas and combination between theology and philosophy in these main points:

He uses frequently the biblical quotations, especially psalms and New Testament, and put together with the philosophical arguments into systematic logical prepositions. This logic expresses clearly that Hugo is a good reader to the philosophical and logical traditions. Augustine comes as an authority upon Hugo’s quotations, when he wants to support his ideas from the early patristic theology. Hugo depends also in many citations on the ideas of Saint Bernard when he wants to use the proof of mystical experience together with the logical inference. The same method he is following regarding the writings of Hugh and Richard of St. Victor.

Hugo also focuses on the writings of saint Ambrose of Milan when he speaks about God’s essence and god’s omnipotent. He gives more attention to the Dionysian tradition especially when he speaks about the divine attributes. The influence of Dionysius is present in all Hug’s arguments, whether it is mentioned clearly or by similarity of ideas in terms of the history of ideas.

Hugo relies on the philosophical tradition and uses the philosophical and logical terms in all his discussions. This is clearly present in his arguments which are talking about god’s existence and divine essence. Among the famous philosophers, he uses the Aristotelian method and also the Aristotelian terms, especially in his discussions about god’s essence and theory of creation.

Although Hugo does not refer directly and clearly to the platonic tradition, we cannot deny the influence of the Neo-Platonism upon him which is represented in the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite. Hugo quotes Dionysius in twofold way; he brings the theological ideas of Dionysius together with the philosophical arguments. He quotes Dionysius in mystical and philosophical ideas using the Aristotelian logic in a direct proposition.

Hugo uses the philosophical terms together with the theological percepts. His ability to present the theological principals within the sphere of theological arguments can be seen clearly in the philosophical terms which he used in his compendium. He speaks about substance, essence, cause and supreme power in terms of the Aristotelian metaphysics. His distinction between physical objects and material objects and their relation to form and matter, which are related to the nature of god’s essence and creation, brings to us the Platonic and Aristotelian concepts about the creation of form and matter.

Hugo uses the Platonic and Neo-platonic terms to express the relation between nature, creation and creator. He focuses on the role of reason and its perception of the omnipotent showing the role of faculty of reason to understand and realize by intelligence the likeness between man and god in terms of creation. From the medieval philosophical and theological tradition, Hugo mentions and depends also on Anselm and quotes his ontological argument which is based on faith and reason.

Hugo uses also the concept and proof of relational existence to explain the relation between genus and species using the role of intellect, as Anselm did, in the process of creation and the concept of the divine attributes. He also uses the argument of antecedent and causality through his understanding of the emanation theory. This emanation theory explains and shows Hugo’s metaphysical interpretation of creation and the relation between creator, creation and creatures. Regarding divine attributes, Hugo presents the philosophical arguments which are related to eternity, being, sequence of causes and divine order. This is to prove first god’s existence, and second to make distinction between god and creatures in terms of perfection and imperfection. Finally, Hugo understands and divides philosophy in three main categories; natural, moral and rational. This division does not separate philosophy from theology; it brings philosophy together as unity with theology. The aim of this unity is to achieve rational understanding and logical proof about his understanding of the god’s essence. This is briefly the philosophical concept of god’s essence in the theology of Hugo Ripilinus of Strasbourg.