The City of God, Volume I EBOOK Tooltip

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On the city of God against the pagans (Latin: Dē cīvitāte Deī contrā pāgānōs), often called The City of God, is a book of Christian philosophy written in Latin by Augustine of Hippo in the early 5th century AD. The book was in response to allegations that Christianity brought about the decline of Rome and is considered one of Augustine's most important works, standing alongside The Confessions, The Enchiridion, On Christian Doctrine, and On the Trinity. As a work of one of the most influential Church Fathers, The City of God is a cornerstone of Western thought, expounding on many profound questions of theology, such as the suffering of the righteous, the existence of evil, the conflict between free will and divine omniscience, and the doctrine of original sin.

Augustine's translator provides a brief description of the contents of the work:

However, this great undertaking was at last completed in twenty-two books. Of these, the first five refute those who fancy that the polytheistic worship is necessary in order to secure worldly prosperity, and that all these overwhelming calamities have befallen us in consequence of its prohibition. In the following five books I address myself to those who admit that such calamities have at all times attended, and will at all times attend, the human race, and that they constantly recur in forms more or less disastrous, varying only in the scenes, occasions, and persons on whom they light, but, while admitting this, maintain that the worship of the gods is advantageous for the life to come. But that no one might have occasion to say, that though I had refuted the tenets of other men, I had omitted to establish my own, I devote to this object the second part of this work, which comprises twelve books, although I have not scrupled, as occasion offered, either to advance my own opinions in the first ten books, or to demolish the arguments of my opponents in the last twelve. Of these twelve books, the first four contain an account of the origin of these two cities—the city of God, and the city of the world. The second four treat of their history or progress; the third and last four, of their deserved destinies.

— Augustine, The Retractationes 2.69 as Translated by Marcus Dods in the ''Translators Preface'' of A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church Series 1 Volume 2 (New York : Christian Literature Co., c. 1890–1900)

As indicated in the above passage from the Retractions, the City of God can be further subdivided into the following parts:

Part I (Books I–X): a polemical critique of Roman religion and philosophy, corresponding to the Earthly City

Book I–V: A critique of pagan religion

Book I: a criticism of the pagans who attribute the sack of Rome to Christianity despite being saved by taking refuge in Christian churches. The book also explains good and bad things happen to righteous and wicked people alike, and it consoles the women violated in the recent calamity.

Book II: a proof that because of the worship of the pagan gods, Rome suffered the greatest calamity of all, that is, moral corruption.

Book III: a proof that the pagan gods failed to save Rome numerous times in the past from worldly disasters, such as the sack of Rome by the Gauls.

Book IV: a proof that the power and long duration of the Roman empire was due not to the pagan gods but to the Christian God.

Book V: a refutation of the doctrine of fate and an explanation of the Christian doctrine of free will and its consistency with God's omniscience. The book proves that Rome's dominion was due to the virtue of the Romans and explains the true happiness of the Christian emperors.

Book VI–X: A critique of pagan philosophy

Book VI: a refutation of the assertion that the pagan gods are to be worshipped for eternal life (rather than temporal benefits). Augustine claimed that even the esteemed pagan theologist Varro held the gods in contempt.

Book VII: a demonstration that eternal life is not granted by Janus, Jupiter, Saturn, and other select gods.

Book VIII: an argument against the Platonists and their natural theology, which Augustine views as the closest approximation of Christian truth, and a refutation of Apuleius' insistence of the worship of demons as mediators between God and man.

Book IX: a proof that all demons are evil and that only Christ can provide man with eternal happiness.

Book X: a teaching that the good angels wish that God alone is worshipped and a proof that no sacrifice can lead to purification except that of Christ.

Part II (Books XI–XXII): discussion on the City of God and its relationship to the Earthly City

Books XI–XIV: the origins of the two cities

Book XI: the origins of the two cities from the separation of the good and bad angels, and a detailed analysis of Genesis 1.

Book XII: answers to why some angels are good and others bad, and a close examination of the creation of man.

Book XIII: teaching that death originated as a penalty for Adam's sin.

Book XIV: teachings on the original sin as the cause for future lust and shame as a just punishment for lust.

Books XV–XVIII: the history or progress of the two cities, including foundational theological principles about Jews.

Book XV: an analysis of the events in Genesis between the time of Cain and Abel to the time of the flood.

Book XVI: the progress of the two cities from Noah to Abraham, and the progress of the heavenly city from Abraham to the kings of Israel.

Book XVII: the history of the city of God from Samuel to David and to Christ, and Christological interpretations of the prophecies in Kings and Psalms.

Book XVIII: the parallel history of the earthly and heavenly cities from Abraham to the end. Doctrine of Witness, that Jews received prophecy predicting Jesus, and that Jews are dispersed among the nations to provide independent testimony of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Books XIX–XXII: the deserved destinies of the two cities.

Book XIX: the end of the two cities, and the happiness of the people of Christ.

Book XX: the prophecies of the Last Judgment in the Old and New Testaments.

Book XXI: the eternal punishment for the city of the devil.

Book XXII: the eternal happiness for the saints and explanations of the resurrection of the body.


''Rome having been stormed and sacked by the Goths under Alaric their king, the worshippers of false gods, or pagans, as we commonly call them, made an attempt to attribute this calamity to the Christian religion, and began to blaspheme the true God with even more than their wonted bitterness and acerbity. It was this which kindled my zeal for the house of God, and prompted me to undertake the defence of the city of God against the charges and misrepresentations of its assailants. This work was in my hands for several years, owing to the interruptions occasioned by many other affairs which had a prior claim on my attention, and which I could not defer. However, this great undertaking was at last completed in twenty-two books. Of these, the first five refute those who fancy that the polytheistic worship is necessary in order to secure worldly prosperity, and that all these overwhelming calamities have befallen us in consequence of its prohibition. In the following five books I address myself to those who admit that such calamities have at all times attended, and will at all times attend, the human race, and that they constantly recur in forms more or less disastrous, varying only in the scenes, occasions, and persons on whom they light, but, while admitting this, maintain that the worship of the gods is advantageous for the life to come. In these ten books, then, I refute these two opinions, which are as groundless as they are antagonistic to the Christian religion.

''But that no one might have occasion to say, that though I had refuted the tenets of other men, I had omitted to establish my own, I devote to this object the second part of this work, which comprises twelve books, although I have not scrupled, as occasion offered, either to advance my own opinions in the first ten books, or to demolish the arguments of my opponents in the last twelve. Of these twelve books, the first four contain an account of the origin of these two cities—the city of God, and the city of the world. The second four treat of their history or progress; the third and last four, of their deserved destinies. And so, though all these twenty-two books refer to both cities, yet I have named them after the better city, and called them The City of God.''

Such is the account given by Augustine himself of the occasion and plan of this his greatest work. But in addition to this explicit information, we learn from the correspondence of Augustine, that it was due to the importunity of his friend Marcellinus that this defence of Christianity extended beyond the limits of a few letters. Shortly before the fall of Rome, Marcellinus had been sent to Africa by the Emperor Honorius to arrange a settlement of the differences between the Donatists and the Catholics. This brought him into contact not only with Augustine, but with Volusian, the proconsul of Africa, and a man of rare intelligence and candour. Finding that Volusian, though as yet a pagan, took an interest in the Christian religion, Marcellinus set his heart on converting him to the true faith. The details of the subsequent significant intercourse between the learned and courtly bishop and the two imperial statesmen, are unfortunately almost entirely lost to us; but the impression conveyed by the extant correspondence is, that Mar

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