In this episode of
Literary Tales we continue our examination of Augustine’s City of God and explore his juxtaposition of the two cities: The City of Man and the City of God and delve into how the privation of love leads to lust (the city of man) and how love of God and neighbors is the only true reality deserving of being called love (city of God). In this episode we also explain and explore Augustine’s “allegorical” (or ecclesiological) hermeneutic.
Gerard Seghers, “Saint Augustine,” 1650.
The Sack of Rome, 410 A.D., was the catalyst for writing the City of God.
Abraham Bloemaert, “Cain Slaying Abel,” ca. 1590. The murder of Abel by Cain was one of the key moments in Biblical history that Augustine latched onto in the City of God. He argued that the allegorical or typological reading of this story told the whole story of mankind: The Earthly City (Cain) with its lust for violence in conflict with the Heavenly City (Abel) with its wish for peace and service to God were irrevocably intertwined until the Judgement Day. Augustine also saw parallels between Rome’s founding with Romulus murdering Remus with Cain murdering Abel and founding the first cities of the world in the Genesis account.
Abraham Bloemaert, “The Burning of Troy,” 1593. Earthly History, according to Augustine, was tragedy after tragedy properly understood. Fallen men painted over tragedy with notions of “honor” and “glory” and “heroism” to mask the realities of death, destruction, and suffering.
Noah’s Ark. Although not uncommon, Augustine’s ecclesiological reading of Scripture cemented the “allegorical” approach in the Early Church. Augustine argued, in dealing with Noah’s Ark, that the story represented and prefigured the Christian story of salvation: The wood of the Ark is the Wood of the Cross, the inside of the Ark is the inside of the Church (body of Christ), and the Flood Waters either Judgement unto the wicked or baptismal regeneration for the Saved. The Ark’s journey unto the mountaintop represents the Christian’s final pilgrimage to God in Heaven.
Abraham Bloemaert, “Moses Striking the Rock,” 1596. As Augustine continued to read and relate the stories of the Old Testament, he argued that the Exodus is the story of the Christian Church at large. Faithful Israel (the Church) is intertwined with unfaithful Israel (the reprobate Christians) and held captive in Egypt (slavery to sin). Only when called out by God (the Burning Bush) do the Israelites (the Church) make pilgrimage out of Egypt (out of slavery) and into new life (Crossing the Red Sea) and enter into the Promised Land (Heaven). This is no easy journey, as the Wandering in the Wilderness also reveals. The pilgrimage of the Church is not without blemishes. The revolts and idolatry of Israel in the Wilderness represent the falling away and sinfulness of many Christians in their life and journey too. Augustine, contra Calvin, does not speak of an “Invisible Church.” There is only One Church and One Covenant. The Covenant of God with Israel in the Old Testament is a Visible Covenant with a Visible People. Old Testament Israel foreshadows the New Testament Church. Like Old Testament Israel, the New Testament Church will be a Visible People with Elect and Reprobate together until the Final Judgement (prefigured by the Swallowing of Korah and his Followers, etc.).
Giovanni Battista Gaulli, “Triumph in the Name of Jesus,” ca. 1679. The Christian’s destination is Everlasting Felicity with the Author of Love and Truth itself: God, in Christ Jesus.