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

devil and his angels"; 119. rather it mentions that punishment of his against which we must be on guard. For his punishment is that he has in his power those who despise the command of God. The words by which sentence is pronounced against him make this clear, and the punishment is the greater because he rejoices over this unhappy power, whereas before his fall he was accustomed to rejoice in the sublime truth, in which he did not stand. 120. Hence, even the cattle are set ahead of him, not in power, but in the preservation of their nature. For cattle did not lose a heavenly happiness which they never had, but live their life in the nature that they received. Hence, God said to him, "You will creep upon your chest and belly." 121. We can see this in the snake as well, and the expression is transferred from that visible animal to this invisible enemy of ours. For the term "chest" signifies "pride" because the strong drives of the soul rule there. The term "belly" signifies "carnal desire" because that part of the body is recognized as softer. Since by these means he creeps up on those whom he wants to deceive, God said, "You will creep upon your chest and belly."


CHAPTER 18

The Enmity between Eve and the Serpent

27. "You will," it said, "eat the earth all the days of your life," 122. that is, all the days in which you enjoy this power before that final punishment of the judgment. For this [power] seems to be the life over which he rejoices and boasts. Hence, "You will eat the earth," can be understood in two ways: Either you will own those whom you deceive by earthly desire, that is, sinners, who are signified by the word, earth, or these words surely symbolize the third kind of temptation, namely, curiosity. 123. For one who eats the earth penetrates things deep and dark, but nonetheless temporal and earthly.

____________________
119.
Matt 25.41.
120.
Cf. John 8.44.
121.
Gen 3.14.
122.
Gen 3.14.
123.
For Augustine's view of curiosity, cf. DMu 6.13.39-40 and C 10.35.54, as well as O'Connell's Early Theory, 174-182.

-122-

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