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

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

has a cause, there is something that surpasses the will of God—and this we may not believe. Hence, one who asks, "Why did God make heaven and earth?" should be told, "Because he willed to." For the will of God is the cause of heaven and earth, and the will of God, therefore, is greater than heaven and earth. One who asks, "Why did God will to create heaven and earth?" is looking for something greater than the will of God, though nothing greater can be found. Hence, let human temerity hold itself in check, and let it not seek what is not lest it not find what is. 17. If anyone desires to know the will of God, let him become a friend of God. For, if anyone wanted to know the will of a man of whom he was not a friend, everyone would laugh at his impudence and folly. But one becomes a friend of God only by the highest purity of morals and by that goal of the command, of which the Apostle speaks, "The goal of the command is charity from a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned," 18. and if they had this, they would not be heretics.


CHAPTER 3

Verse Two Is Defended

5. The Manichees, in finding fault with what follows in the Book of Genesis, "But the earth was invisible and without form," 19. ask, "How did God make heaven and earth in the beginning if the earth was already invisible and without form?" 20. Since they want to attack the divine Scriptures be‐

____________________
17.
The expression "that which is" is a reference to the God Who Is of Exod 3.14. In searching for something greater than the will of God—that which is not, the Manichees risk failing to find God, He Who Is. Augustine never, despite his enthusiasm for Neoplatonism, placed God above being, but identified God with being or essence—so much so that in comparison to God other things are not. Cf. EnP 134.4, EnP 101, S 2, 10, and C 7.11.17. Cf. Emilie Zum Brunn, St. Augustine: Being and Nothingness (New York: Paragon House, 1988), 97-118, for the Augustinian exegesis of Exod 3.14.
18.
1 Tim 1.5.
19.
Gen 1.2.
20.
The Manichees used this text to argue that God did not create matter; cf. DGnI 4.11. However, besides the Manichees, the ancient philosophers too held the doctrine of the eternity of matter, and Augustine had heard Ambrose preach against this doctrine; cf. his Hexaemeron 1.7.25.

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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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