On Genesis: Two Books on Genesis against the Manichees; And, on the Literal Interpretation of Genesis, An Unfinished Book

By Saint Augustine; Roland J. S. J. Teske | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2

Verse One of Chapter One of Genesis Is Defended against the Critics
Who Ask What God Was Doing before the Creation of the World
and Why He Suddenly Decided to Create the World

3. The Manichees are accustomed to find fault in the following way with the first book of the Old Testament, which is entitled, Genesis. About the words, "In the beginning God made heaven and earth," 6. they ask, "In what beginning?" They say, "If God made heaven and earth in some beginning of time, what was he doing before he made heaven and earth? And why did he suddenly decide to make what he had not previously made through eternal time?" 7. We answer them that God made heaven and earth in the beginning, not in the beginning of time, but in Christ. For he was the Word with the Father, through whom and in whom all things were made. 8. For, when the Jews asked him who he was, our Lord Jesus Christ answered, "The beginning; that is why I am speaking to you." 9. But even if we believe that God made

____________________
6.
Gen 1.1.
7.
The Manichaean objections suppose that God's duration is temporal. The first objection supposes that God did nothing at all for ages upon ages before he created heaven and earth. The second objection supposes that God changed when he suddenly began to create after the ages of inactivity. Such Manichaean objections posed serious problems for Augustine. Just as he was unable to solve the Manichaean objections to the Christian view of God as anthropomorphic until he had learned from the Neoplatonists in Milan to conceive of God as incorporeal, so he could not solve the Manichaean objections about what God was doing before creation until he came to a view of God as eternal, that is, as timeless. Augustine's enthusiasm for what he learned in the libri Platonicorum is largely due to their supplying him with the concept of an incorporeal and timeless God—a concept that the whole Western Church lacked, apart from a handful of Neoplatonists in Milan, prior to Augustine. Cf. Gerard Verbeke, L'évolution de la doctrine du pneuma du stoicisme à s. Augustin (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer. Louvain: Institut supérieur de Philosophic, 1945), and Masai, "Conversions." Cf. also R. Teske, " 'Vocans Temporales, Faciens Aeternos': St. Augustine on Liberation from Time," Traditio 61 (1985) 29-47.
8.
Cf. John 1.1,3.
9.
John 8.25. Augustine interprets in principio, 'in the beginning' or 'principle' as referring to Christ on the basis of John 8.25. Hence, Genesis is not speaking about some temporal beginning, but about Christ, the Word, who

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On Genesis: Two Books on Genesis against the Manichees; And, on the Literal Interpretation of Genesis, An Unfinished Book
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Fathers of the Church - A New Translation *
  • The Fathers of the Church - A New Translation *
  • On Genesis - Two Books on Genesis against the Manichees and on the Literal Interpretation of Genesis: an Unfinished Book *
  • Contents *
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Select Bibliography xi
  • Introduction *
  • Introduction 3
  • Two Books on Genesis against the Manichees *
  • Book One 47
  • Chapter 1 47
  • Chapter 2 49
  • Chapter 3 52
  • Chapter 4 54
  • Chapter 5 56
  • Chapter 6 57
  • Chapter 7 58
  • Chapter 8 60
  • Chapter 9 62
  • Chapter 10 63
  • Chapter 11 64
  • Chapter 12 65
  • Chapter 13 66
  • Chapter 14 68
  • Chapter 15 71
  • Chapter 16 72
  • Chapter 17 74
  • Chapter 18 76
  • Chapter 19 77
  • Chapter 20 78
  • Chapter 21 80
  • Chapter 22 81
  • Chapter 23 83
  • Chapter 24 88
  • Chapter 25 89
  • Book Two 91
  • Chapter 1 91
  • Chapter 2 95
  • Chapter 3 96
  • Chapter 4 98
  • Chapter 5 99
  • Chapter 6 101
  • Chapter 7 102
  • Chapter 8 104
  • Chapter 9 107
  • Chapter 10 109
  • Chapter 11 111
  • Chapter 12 112
  • Chapter 13 114
  • Chapter 14 115
  • Chapter 15 117
  • Chapter 16 119
  • Chapter 17 121
  • Chapter 18 122
  • Chapter 19 123
  • Chapter 20 125
  • Chapter 21 126
  • Chapter 22 129
  • Chapter 23 131
  • Chapter 24 132
  • Chapter 25 134
  • Chapter 26 135
  • Chapter 27 137
  • Chapter 28 139
  • Chapter 29 140
  • On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis: An Unfinished Book *
  • Chapter 1 145
  • Chapter 2 147
  • Chapter 3 148
  • Chapter 4 151
  • Chapter 5 156
  • Chapter 6 161
  • Chapter 7 163
  • Chapter 8 165
  • Chapter 9 167
  • Chapter 10 168
  • Chapter 11 169
  • Chapter 12 171
  • Chapter 13 173
  • Chapter 14 176
  • Chapter 15 179
  • Chapter 16 182
  • Indices *
  • General Index 191
  • Index of Holy Scripture 196
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