As Augustine begins part four of his great work, he begins to track the development of the two cities throughout human history. These chapters are fairly easy to get through since they are basically a retelling of bible stories in chronological order. And honestly, these chapters are slightly more boring because of it.
“City of God” Part Four – “The Development of the Two Cities,” Book Fifteen – “The Two Cities in Early Biblical History”
Chapter 1: Augustine’s history of the two cities begins with Cain and Able.
“It is recorded of Cain that he built a city, while Abel, as though he were merely a pilgrim on earth, built none. For, the true City of the saints is in heaven, though here on earth it produces citizens in whom it wanders as on a pilgrimage through time looking for the Kingdom of eternity.
Chapter 2: Next, Augustine jumps forward to the two sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, and how their descendants were pictures of the two cities.
Chapter 3: [Editor’s Summary] Augustine suggests a spiritual explanation of the births of Ismael and Agar.
Chapter 4: The city of man will not last forever, but in the mean time they will not live peaceably with one another. Although many of their pursuits are good in theory, the way they attempt to achieve them are destructive.
Chapter 5: The founding of the city of man occurred with Cain killing Abel. Augustine sees parallels between the biblical account of Cain and Abel with the story of Romulus and Remus at the founding of the city of Rome.
“The root of the trouble was that diabolical envy which moves evil men to hate those who are good for no other reason than that they are good.”
Chapter 6: One reason we are commanded to comfort and help fellow believers is because even even believers succumb to sickness. Another reason is because if God has taken care of us, we should follow His example and help others.
Chapter 7: A relatively lengthy discussion is devoted to the topic of Cain and how and why God rejected his offering.
“The reason why God did not respect Cain’s offering was that it was ‘indiscreet’ in this, that while he gave to God some possession that was his, he kept himself for himself.”
“This, in fact, is the difference between good men and bad men, that the former make use of the world in order to enjoy God, whereas the latter would like to make use of God in order to enjoy the world – if, of course, they believe in God and His providence over man, and are not so bad as those who deny even this.”
“God explains why He refused to accept Cain’s sacrifice. It was because Cain should have been rightly displeased with himself rather than wrongly displeased with his brother; God makes clear that, unjust as Cain was in not ‘distinguishing rightly’ (in the sense of not living properly and of being unworthy to have his offerings approved), he was far more unjust in hating his brother without provocation.”
“In Cain’s case, the command of God was received in a spirit of impenitence. The sickness of his envy grew worse, and he killed his brother. Such was the founder of the city of earth.”
Chapter 8: Augustine addresses the question of how one man (Cain) could have built an entire city by himself. The answer is that it is acceptable to say there were many men present. Moses was only required to give the names that best showed the lineage from Adam to Abraham to Israel.
Chapter 9: Augustine dismisses the skepticism of non believers that early man could live to be 900 years old. He also states that there is the possibility that mankind were at one time much larger.
Chapter 10: Apparent discrepancies between various translations of the ages of individuals in the first few chapters of Genesis are examined.
Chapter 11: The issues that are found between discrepancies between the age of Methuselah and the year of the flood show that Bible translations can have errors.
Chapter 12: Augustine examines and rejects the idea that ten of the early biblical years were counted as being equal to one of our modern day years.
Chapter 13: More pondering on the issue of discrepancies between the original and the translation. Augustine concludes that whenever there is a discrepancy, one should always side with the original language.
Chapter 14: Augustine’s proof that the early biblical years are the same as our modern day solar years is the phrase “in the sixth hundredth year… in the second month, in the twenty seventh day of the month.” Why would a year be counted differently form what we have today if months and days are counted in their normal sense?
Chapter 15: [Editor’s Summary] Further problems of chronology for the period of Cain and Abel are raised in this chapter.
Chapter 16: Augustine deals with the issue of who Adam and Eve’s children married. The answer is, their siblings.
“But, as soon as, with an increased population, it became possible for men to choose wives who were not also their sisters, they were bound by the law of love to do so.”
Chapter 17: While Adam is considered the father of both lines of humanity, Cain and Seth are both unique to their own lines.
Chapters 18-19: [Editor’s Summary] These chapters suggest symbolic interpretations of the names of Seth, Abel, Enos, and Henoch. They are of some importance in determining the extent of Augustine’s knowledge of Hebrew.
Chapter 20: Augustine ponders why Moses included the family line of Cain, and why he included the limited number of names.
“My point is that, just as law in general, and the Decalogue in particular, is symbolized by the number ten, so the number eleven which goes beyond ten, transgreditur denarium, stands for a transgression of the law and, therefore, for sin.”
“Thus, it is that the descendants of Adam through Cain, the Transgressor, end on the number eleven, the symbol for transgression.”
Chapter 21: The manner in which Moses first focused on the family line of Cain before starting a new line with Seth, is intended to teach a lesson, that mankind needs a new beginning.
Chapters 22-27: [Editor’s Summary] Additional problems of Old Testament interpretation are now considered. The seduction o fthe ‘sons of Gd’ by the beauty of women leads to a discussion of bodily beauties. They are good but can be loved both well and ill. The notion that giants are the offspring of angels and women is rejected. Certain chronological difficulties in the account of the flood and the period of Noe are then reviewed. The meaning of divine anger is explained, as is Noe’s ark as a symbol of the Church.
Next time: “The City of God From the Flood to King David”