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 22

The Allegorical Meaning of Adam's Expulsion

"See, Adam has become as one of us with respect to the knowledge of discerning good and evil." 145. This ambiguous expression forms a figure of speech. 146. For we can take "Adam has become as one of us" in two ways. It can mean "one of us," namely, like God himself. In this sense we say, "one of the senators," that is, "as a real senator." In that case the expression is meant as mockery. On the other hand, because man would be a god, though by the gift of the Creator, not by nature, if he had willed to remain under his power, "of us" can be taken in the sense that one says, "from the consuls," or "on behalf of the consuls" of one who is not now a consul. But with respect to what did he become as "one of us"? With respect, of course, to the knowledge of discerning good and evil so that he might learn by experience when he feels the evil that God knew in his wisdom. Thus he would learn by his punishment that he cannot avoid the power of the Almighty that he did not wish to suffer voluntarily when he was happy.

34. "And then, lest Adam stretch forth his hand to the tree of life and live forever, God dismissed him from paradise." 147. It is well put, "he dismissed," and not, "he excluded," so that he might seem to be drawn down by the weight of his own sins to a place that suits him. 148. A bad man generally experi‐

____________________
145.
Gen 3.22.
146.
The figure of speech is amphiboly. That is, the words can have two different meanings.
147.
Gen 3.22-23.
148.
Augustine's Latin text read 'dismissed' from dimisit, not 'excluded' from exclusit, and provided him with what O'Connell calls "the dimisit insight." Augustine sees God's action in dismissing Adam and Eve rather than expelling them as combining and reconciling the views that our presence in these mortal bodies is both due to some sin we voluntarily committed and due to some natural necessity. O'Connell links Augustine's interpretation of the words of Genesis with Plotinus' Ennead 4.3.12-13. Cf. Early Theory, 169-173, and Later Works, 37-39. Augustine's image of love as a weight that carries man to his natural place makes the punishment of sin the natural consequence of one's sin, not an arbitrary punishment from God.

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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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