ST. AUGUSTINE: The City of God [Book XV-XVIII]

Book XV – St. Augustine comments upon the Biblical narrative from Genesis to the Flood. He draws a comparison between the establishment of two cities – the Heavenly and the Earthly. Both cities were founded upon a fratricide. The Heavenly city was founded after Cain slew Abel. Rome was founded after Romulus slew Remus. Among other things, he attempts to defend the veracity of the account given in the Bible about the longevity of the antediluvians, he discusses the instances of incest in the Biblical narrative, and he explains the human-like – and therefore imperfect – emotions of God.

St. Augustine’s defense of the longevity of the antediluvians is unconvincing. Rather than provide biological evidence to support his claim that man can live for as many years as Methusela lived, he merely discredits alternative explanations. For example, some Theologians proposed that the ancients divided the modern year into ten parts; and therefore, one year of ours is ten years of theirs. This theory, however, would mean that Cainan was 7 years old when he begat his son. A 7 year old begetting a child is implausible.

Book XVI – St. Augustine continues his discussion of the Biblical narrative. He examines the chapters related to the descendants of Noah through the Kings of Israel.

St. Augustine devotes sections of this book to the discussion of ludicrous topics. In one section, Augustine considers whether antipodes exist. In the fifth century AD, at the time Augustine wrote this book, the people of the Roman empire were unaware of the Americas and the dimensions of the Earth. Naturally, Augustine resorts to supernatural arguments and Scripture to disprove the existence of antipodes. An incomplete and contradictory belief system often must refute ridiculous and irrelevant matters. To spend time considering the existence of antipodes is to waste time.

Book XVII – St. Augustine continues his discussion of the Biblical narrative. He examines the chapters and books related to the time period from the Kings of Israel to Christ. He also interprets the prophecies contained in the Old Testament to be the harbingers of Christ and the Church.

In interpreting the prophecies to be about Jesus, St. Augustine does not account for the possibility that Christ and the writers of the Gospels had read the Old Testament. Having read the Old Testament, Christ and the Gospel writers could have acted in such a way as to make it seem as if Christ had fulfilled the prophecies.

Book XVIII – St. Augustine discusses the parallel courses that the City of God and the City of the World take from Abraham to the end of the world.

This book contains much about the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The myth of Aeneas is treated as truth, except for Aeneas’ deification. How did such a learned man as Augustine wander from the right path? Power. Through Christ, Augustine gained power to overcome the lusts and passions of his youth.

Quotes:

The anger of God is not a disturbing emotion of His mind, but a judgment by which punishment is inflicted upon sin. His thought and reconsideration also are the unchangeable reason which changes things; for He does not, like man, repent of anything He has done, because in all matters His decision is as inflexible as His prescience is certain. But if Scripture were not to use such expressions as the above, it would not familiarly insinuate itself into the minds of all classes of men, whom it seeks access to for their good, that it may alarm the proud, arouse the careless, exercise the inquisitive, and satisfy the intelligent; and this it could not do, did it not first stoop, and in a manner descend, to them where they lie. But its denouncing death on all the animals of earth and air is a declaration of the vastness of the disaster that was approaching: not that it threatens destruction to the irrational animals as if they too had incurred it by sin.

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