Monday, October 7, 2019

October 1st, Adult Ed Series on the City of God, Session 8 of 16, From Adam to Noah (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

In this series, which will continue for about six months, we are discussing the City of God by St Augustine - one of the most influential books in human history, a book that formed Western Civilization.

In Session 7, we conclude our discussion of the creation and fall of the angels and more forward with the state of man before the Fall, the Fall itself and the reality of Sin, and the effects of the Fall.

Listen online [here]!


The City of God
By St Augustine of Hippo
Session 8, Book XV: From Adam to Noah

The gods of the nations are demons. (Ps 95)
Glorious things are said of thee, o City of God! (Ps 86)

Note on schedule: We are now in the final portion of the book, in which St Augustine will make a commentary on the whole of Scripture moving through the Bible much more quickly than he has until now. We will meet every Tuesday in October and November, focusing for one month on the commentary on Scripture found in Books XV-XVIII and the second month on the discussion of the Last Things found in Books XIX-XXII.

I. Overview of the Biblical History from Adam to Noah
After the Creation and the Fall (Genesis 1-3), Adam and Eve conceived first Cain and then Abel. When Abel’s sacrifice was pleasing to God but Cain’s displeasing, Cain killed his brother (Genesis 4). Adam’s line is traced through another son, Seth – Enoch, his descendant, did not die but “walked with God and was seen no more, because God took him” (Genesis 5). There were a race of giants upon the earth and men were exceedingly wicked until, in the days of Noah, God determined to destroy mankind through the great flood (Genesis 6).

II. Cain and Abel/Seth as representing the two Cities
A. While Cain had worldly goals and ambitions, Abel was set only on desire of heaven. Thus, there was no rivalry between them, but only the hatred which the wicked bare against the good – and this is why Cain killed his brother. Thus, Cain represents the Worldly City while Abel (and then Seth) represent the City of God.

B. Cain’s sacrifice compared to Abel’s. A great mystery: What was wrong with Cain’s sacrifice? It is not made explicit in Scripture but seems to be that his will was turned against God’s (he loved sin, even though he performed the external actions of sacrifice), and he did not offer the best of his flocks to God but an inferior animal.
Abel’s sacrifice, and the sacrifice of his life, prefigure the perfect Sacrifice of Jesus and the Sacrifice of the Mass offered in the Church – Ecclesia ab Abel, the Church has existed (in figure) since Abel the Just.

III. Of the long life and great stature of the ancients
A. Should we believe that they lived so long? Adam lives 930 years, Methuselah lives 969 years, Noah 950 years, Abraham 175 years and Moses 120 years, etc. Notice that the lifespan greatly decreases after the time of the Flood.
As St Augustine points out, because of the years in which the patriarchs are said to have begun having children, we cannot claim that they had a different way of counting years (if 950 of “their years” equals about 80 of “our years”, then they would be having children at the age of 9 or 10!).  It seems that the only option is to accept that (even if not all men lived so long) at least these patriarchs really did live nearly 1,000 years according to God’s will.

B. What about the Giants? Nephalim? Demons and human women?
The descendants of Seth are called “the sons of God” while those of Cain are “the daughters of men” – thus, it is not a reference to intermingling of angels/demons and women, but rather of Seth’s descendants with Cain’s. St Augustine speaks well, “They were enormous not so much in their stature as in their wickedness.”

IV. Did the ancients marry their siblings and cousins?
A. St Augustine’s understanding of marriage and society – it is better to marry someone other than your sister, because this creates greater society and relations (the family tree doesn’t become a flag-pole).

B. Although contrary to the Natural Law for siblings to marry, this was permitted when there were none others – and likewise with first cousins. Notice that fathers/daughters and uncles/nieces were always forbidden – since this would be closer than siblings or cousins. Finally, notice that the marriage of Adam and Eve is actually a much closer than a marriage of siblings – Eve is even closer to Adam than a daughter to her father!

V. Notes about manuscripts and different translations of the Old Testament: The Hebrew Verity and the Greek Septuagint (LXX)

VI. The ark and the flood, to be discussed next week.

VII. Recommended reading for Books XV-XVIII  (about 101 pages)
A. Book XV – From Cain and Abel to the great Flood  (26 pages)
Chapters 1-10, Of the two Cities, Cain and Abel and the Giants before the Flood
Chapters 12, 14-16, Of the great ages of the early men and the question of marriage of relatives
Chapter 22, The “sons of God” and “daughters of men”
Chapters 26-27, The Ark

B. Book XVI – From Noah to Abraham and down through the Judges (22 pages)
Chapters 1-4, From the Flood to the Tower of Babel
Chapters 7-9, Various questions about the natural world in relation to the Creation and the Flood
Chapters 16-21, The three promises God made to Abraham
Chapters 22-26, 31-32, Various moments in Abraham’s life
Chapters 35-37, 39, Jacob and Esau
Chapter 43, Moses

C. Book XVII – From David through the Kings and Prophets  (23 pages)
Chapters 1-3, Of the prophecies of the Old Testament
Chapter 4, Samuel the Prophet
Chapter 6, King Saul
Chapter 8, King David
Chapter 14-17, Of the Psalms
Chapter 20, King Solomon

D. Book XVIII – Comparison of Sacred History with World History, the Gospel and Age of the Apostles  (20 pages)
Chapter 1, Summary of the preceding books
Chapters 28-30, 34-35, Prophecies about Christ and the Church
Chapters 42-43, Of the Hebrew and Greek versions of the Old Testament
Chapters 46-53, Of the Birth of Jesus, his Gospel, the preaching of the Apostles and the spread of the Church until the final great persecution at the end of time

V. Recommended listening on LibriVox for Books XV-XVIII  (about 6 hours)
Book XV, Chapters 1-7, 8-14, 22-27 
Book XVI, Chapters 1-8, 21-31, 32-43
Book XVII, Chapters 1-4, 5-8, 9-16
Book XVIII, Chapters 32-39, 40-47, 48-54


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