This post is part of an on-going series in which I and others systematically read through Augustine of Hippo’s City of God in 2014.

City of God 19.12–28

19.12. This world desires peace. People want peace in their homes. Nations go to war to establish a peace more favorable to themselves. Even animals and nature tend toward peace.

Augustine mentions Cacus, the mythological beast-man, claiming that even monsters want peace. Hercules kills Cacus in book eight of Virgil’s Aeneid to keep him from terrorizing the people in the area.

19.13. Augustine lists different kinds of peace beginning with the peace of the body and ending with the peace of the whole universe. In each instance, he emphasizes harmony and order.

He moves from the enjoyment of peace to the related issue of goodness of natures. He claims that no one, not even the Devil, has an evil nature. Instead we should talk about the nature as having an exceedingly diminished good. If a nature has no goodness, then it couldn’t experience pain when it loses its peace. (For a refresher on Augustine’s idea of evil growing out of a good created nature, look back at the beginning chapters of book twelve.)

His talk about how wretched and blessed people experience peace foreshadows his future discussion on their eternal states.

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What Really Happened In Houston

The sky is falling here in Houston.

The mayor’s office has subpoenaed sermons from a handful of pastors. The request seems to be a bullying tactic aimed at pastors who have opposed the city council’s “Houston Equal Rights Ordinance,” which protects gender identity along with categories such as race, sex, and creed. The biggest point of contention is that the law might require businesses to allow people to enter public restrooms based on their self-proclaimed gender identity rather than their biological sex. Who’s surprised that some Texans are disturbed?

Houston’s churches are leading the resistance against the new law, and it seems that the mayor’s office is trying to intimate this resistance by requesting copies of sermons and other communications.

It’s a petty move.

It’s constitutionally disturbing.

It’s a violation of the separation of church and state.

But why don’t they just give her the sermons anyway?

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This post is part of an on-going series in which I and others systematically read through Augustine of Hippo’s City of God in 2014.

City of God 19.1–11.

19.1. Book 19 begins a new section in City of God. In this final section of City of God, books 19 through 22, Augustine will ponder “ends.” First he reflects on man’s Final Good. (He means man’s ultimate aim. Philosophers sometimes talk about telos.) Then he will talk about final judgment and the end state of these two cities.

At the beginning of Book 19, Augustine launches into a somewhat tedious summary of Varro’s even more tedious division of philosophies. Varro had tried to account for all possible systems of philosophical belief. Augustine works through this exercise so he can show his reader what the philosophers thought about the Final Good. Then he can contrast that with Christianity’s teaching regarding man’s Final Good.

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This post is part of an on-going series in which I and others systematically read through Augustine of Hippo’s City of God in 2014.

City of God 18.42–18.54

18.42–43. Augustine defends his use of the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Christians adopted the Septuagint as part of their canon from the earliest days of the church. When Christianity moved into Latin-speaking communities, people translated this Greek translation of the Hebrew into Latin. We usually call these the Old Latin versions of the Old Testament.

Augustine recounts the traditional story of the Septuagint’s creation, in which seventy-two scholars independently arrive at the same translation. This legend, which attempts to prove the translation’s accuracy, is almost as old as the Septuagint itself.

Jerome had recently finished his own translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, a translation for which the Bishop of Rome had asked. Augustine is a bit uncomfortable with a translation based on the work of one man.

Augustine provides some of his own views on textual criticism. Good Latin translations should acknowledge differences in the Hebrew text and the Greek text. Christians should view both, even when they differ, as inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit might wish to communicate one thing through the prophets and another through the translators.

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This post is part of an on-going series in which I and others systematically read through Augustine of Hippo’s City of God in 2014.

City of God 18.29–18.41

18.29–31. Augustine mentions some passages in the prophets that speak of Christ. He does not dwell long on these. He believes that their references to Christ are self-evident and need little commentary.

He claims that he doesn’t know when Obadiah, Nahum, and Habakkuk were written. Since tradition includes them in the canon, he must follow suit. These three books do not contain much evidence about when they should be dated. Nahum can be dated to the 600s BC, but the other two are pretty wide open.

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This post is part of an on-going series in which I and others systematically read through Augustine of Hippo’s City of God in 2014.

City of God 16.26–16.43.

16.26–27. Augustine discusses the promise of Isaac’s birth and the covenant of circumcision.

Circumcision represents newness of life. Old skin is sloughed off on the eighth day. Augustine claims that the number eight symbolizes Christ’s resurrection because he rose on Sunday. The Sabbath was the seventh day of the week, and Jesus rose on the day after the Sabbath, the eighth day, inaugurating a new creation.

Augustine continues to protect Abraham from any criticism. Abraham’s laughter becomes laughter of thankfulness rather than laughter of incredulity.

But why must boys who aren’t circumcised on the eighth day die? The text says that they’ve broken the covenant. How can an infant have broken the covenant?

Augustine claims that the covenant mentioned here is actually God’s covenant with Adam. Children are born as covenant breakers because they are born with original sin. Circumcision symbolizes that even the infant needs rebirth in order to be set free from sin and death.

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