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

this world." 25. For the light of this sun does not enlighten all of man, but the body of man and his mortal eyes, in which we are surpassed by the eyes of eagles which are said to gaze upon this sun much better than we. 26. But that other light feeds, not the eyes of irrational birds, but the pure hearts of those who believe God and turn themselves from the love of visible and temporal things to the fulfillment of his commands. If they wish to, all men can do this, because that light enlightens every man coming into this world. 27. Hence, darkness was over the abyss before there was this light, about which more is said in what follows.


CHAPTER 4

In Defense of Verse Three: Darkness Is Shown to Be Nothing

7. "And God said, 'Let there be light.' " 28. He said this because where there is no light, there is darkness, not because darkness is something; rather the very absence of light is called darkness. 29. So too, silence is not some reality, but silence is said to be where there is no sound. And nakedness is not something, but nakedness is said to be where there is no

____________________
25.
John 1.9.
26.
The Latin, omnem hominem, is ambiguous and can mean 'every man' or 'all the man.' In John 1.9 one would usually translate it in the first way, but Augustine clearly understands it here in the second sense. For the light of the sun enlightens only our bodily eyes, but the true light enlightens minds and hearts.
27.
In R 1.9.2 Augustine warns the Pelagians not to think that he said this in their sense. "It is true that all men can do this if they wish, but 'the will is prepared by the Lord' (Prov 8.35 according to LXX) and is increased so much by the gift of charity that they can. This was not said here because it was not necessary for the question under consideration."
28.
Gen 1.3.
29.
Darkness, like nakedness, silence and emptiness, is a lack or absence, not a positive reality. Augustine belabors this point to teach the little ones that evil too is not a nature, but a lack or absence in a nature. The Manichees held that evil is a positive reality which is opposed to the good and called "the nation of darkness." Given a metaphysical materialism, if evil is to be something real, then it must be bodily. Moreover, the good, which is also a body, is limited by the evil nature where they touch; cf. C 5.10.20 and CEM 21.23.

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