Commentary on City of God

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Jay Rubin | Forum Activity | Posted: Fri, Mar 17 2017 8:57 PM

Where can I find a commentary on the City of God?

Posts 1674
Paul N | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 18 2017 5:25 AM

This may be less of a commentary and more of an overview:

https://vyrso.com/product/39542/shepherds-notes-city-of-god 

Posts 5251
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 18 2017 8:28 AM

Keep Smiling Those  are just copies of his book... not a detailed commentary indeed i checked them last night and while a good introduction the notes are mostly restricted to identifying Biblical passages and occasional other works.

-Dan

Posts 5251
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 18 2017 8:45 AM

F. Edward Cranz has a translation with commentary of City Of God but not available in Logos, the notes from vyrso might be the best the FL ecosystem has to offer.. but I would love to be surprised if anyone has other information.

-Dan

Posts 5251
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 18 2017 9:12 AM

Keep Smiling 4 Jesus :):

Actually seems to have the most detailed notes of the 3 copies I have in my Library as well as commentary in the text as introductions.

I thought I would share my 3 versions i chose a rather random spot to view:

BOOK V1

argument

augustin first discusses the doctrine of fate, for the sake of confuting those who are disposed to refer to fate the power and increase of the roman empire, which could not be attributed to false gods, as has been shown in the preceding book. after that, he proves that there is no contradiction between god’s prescience and our free will. he then speaks of the manners of the ancient romans, and shows in what sense it was due to the virtue of the romans themselves, and in how far to the counsel of god, that he increased their dominion, though they did not worship him. finally, he explains what is to be accounted the true happiness of the christian emperors.

preface

Since, then, it is established that the complete attainment of all we desire is that which constitutes felicity, which is no goddess, but a gift of God, and that therefore men can worship no god save Him who is able to make them happy,—and were Felicity herself a goddess, she would with reason be the only object of worship,—since, I say, this is established, let us now go on to consider why God, who is able to give with all other things those good gifts which can be possessed by men who are not good, and consequently not happy, has seen fit to grant such extended and long-continued dominion to the Roman empire; for that this was not effected by that multitude of false gods which they worshipped, we have both already adduced, and shall, as occasion offers, yet adduce considerable proof.

chap. 1.—that the cause of the roman empire, and of all kingdoms, is neither fortuitous nor consists in the position of the stars.2

1. The cause, then, of the greatness of the Roman empire is neither fortuitous nor fatal, according to the judgment or opinion of those who call those things fortuitous which either have no causes, or such causes as do not proceed from some intelligible order, and those things fatal which happen independently of the will of God and man, by the necessity of a certain order. In a word, human kingdoms are established by divine providence. And if any one attributes their existence to fate, because he calls the will or the power of God itself by the name of fate, let him keep his opinion, but correct his language. For why does he not say at first what he will say afterwards, when some one shall put the question to him, What he means by fate? For when men hear that word, according to the ordinary use of the language, they simply understand by it the virtue of that particular position of the stars which may exist at the time when any one is born or conceived, which some separate altogether from the will of God, whilst others affirm that this also is dependent on that will. But those who are of opinion that, apart from the will of God, the stars determine what we shall do, or what good things we shall possess, or what evils we shall suffer, must be refused a hearing by all, not only by those who hold the true religion, but by those who wish to be the worshippers of any gods whatsoever, even false gods. For what does this opinion really amount to but this, that no god whatever is to be worshipped or prayed to? Against these, however, our present disputation is not intended to be directed, but against those who, in defence of those whom they think to be gods, oppose the Christian religion. They, however, who make the position of the stars depend on the divine will, and in a manner decree what character each man shall have, and what good or evil shall happen to him, if they think that these same stars have that power conferred upon them by the supreme power of God, in order that they may determine these things according to their will, do a great injury to the celestial sphere, in whose most brilliant senate, and most splendid senate-house, as it were, they suppose that wicked deeds are decreed to be done,—such deeds as that, if any terrestrial state should decree them, it would be condemned to overthrow by the decree of the whole human race. What judgment, then, is left to God concerning the deeds of men, who is Lord both of the stars and of men, when to these deeds a celestial necessity is attributed? Or, if they do not say that the stars, though they have indeed received a certain power from God, who is supreme, determine those things according to their own discretion, but simply that His commands are fulfilled by them instrumentally in the application and enforcing of such necessities, are we thus to think concerning God even what it seemed unworthy that we should think concerning the will of the stars? But, if the stars are said rather to signify these things than to effect them, so that that position of the stars is, as it were, a kind of speech predicting, not causing future things,—for this has been the opinion of men of no ordinary learning,—certainly the mathematicians are not wont so to speak saying, for example, Mars in such or such a position signifies a homicide, but makes a homicide. But, nevertheless, though we grant that they do not speak as they ought, and that we ought to accept as the proper form of speech that employed by the philosophers in predicting those things which they think they discover in the position of the stars, how comes it that they have never been able to assign any cause why, in the life of twins, in their actions, in the events which befall them, in their professions, arts, honors, and other things pertaining to human life, also in their very death, there is often so great a difference, that, as far as these things are concerned, many entire strangers are more like them than they are like each other, though separated at birth by the smallest interval of time, but at conception generated by the same act of copulation, and at the same moment?

1 Written in the year 415.

2 On the application of astrology to national prosperity, and the success of certain religions, see Lecky’s Rationalism, i. 303.

 Augustine of Hippo, “The City of God,” in St. Augustin’s City of God and Christian Doctrine, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Marcus Dods, vol. 2, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 84–85.

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BOOK V

Preface

We have now seen, first, that happiness (or the full possession of all that the heart can long for) is not a goddess but a gift of God and, second, that the only God whom men should worship is the One who can make them happy—so that, if Felicity were in fact a goddess, she alone should claim our worship.

We must now turn to consider why God, who can give such gifts as can be shared by men who are not good and, therefore, not happy willed that the Roman Empire should spread so widely and endure so long. Certainly, as I have already said and, if need be, shall repeat, this cannot be attributed to the multitude of false gods whom the Romans worshiped.

Chapter 1

The cause, then, of the greatness of the Roman Empire was neither fortune nor fate. (I am using these words in the sense of those who say or think that fortune, or chance, is what happens without cause or rational explanation, and that fate is what is bound to happen, in spite even of the will of God or of men.) On the contrary, Divine Providence alone explains the establishment of kingdoms among men. As for those who speak of fate, but mean by fate the will and power of God, they should keep their conception but change their expression. Surely, though, it is best to say at once what one will have to say as soon as one is asked what is meant by fate. Ordinarily, when people hear the word fate they think of nothing but the position of the stars at the moment of one’s birth or conception. This position is for some independent of, and for others dependent on, the will of God. As for those who think that the stars determine, independently of God’s will, what we are to do and have and suffer, they should be given no hearing by anyone—none, certainly, by those who profess the true religion, and none even by those who worship any kind of gods, however false. For, the conclusion from their way of thinking is that no God at all should be either adored or implored.

For the moment, my argument is not directed against sincere pagans, but only against those who, in defense of what they call gods, attack the Christian religion. However, even those who think the stars are dependent on the will of God (in determining what human beings are to be and have and suffer) do the heavens a great wrong, if they imagine that the stars have their power so communicated to them by God’s supreme power that they remain responsible for what they determine. For, how can we suppose—if I may so speak—that the unblemished justice of that brilliant Senate of the Stars could choose to have crimes committed, the like of which no state on earth could command without facing a sentence of suppression at the bar of world opinion?

God is the Lord of both stars and men. But, what kind of rule over men’s actions is left to God if men are necessarily determined by the stars?

On the other hand, suppose, as many do, that the stars have their power from the supreme God, but that, in imposing necessity on men, they merely carry out God’s command without any responsibility of their own. In that case, we should have to impute to the will of God what, as we have just seen, would be monstrous to impute even to the stars.

There are some men who prefer to say that the stars rather signify than cause men’s fate, that a particular position is like a form of words which causes us to know, but does not cause, what happens in the future. This view was shared by men of no mean learning. However, this is not the way that astrologers usually speak. For example, they do not say: ‘Such and such a position of Mars signifies a murder.’ What they say is: ‘makes a murderer.’ Yet, even when we concede that they do not express themselves as they should and that they ought to learn from philosophers the right way to say what they think they have found in the stars, difficulties still remain. For example, they have never been able to explain why twins are so diffierent in what they do and achieve, in their professions and skills, in the honors they receive, and in other aspects of their lives and deaths. In all such matters, twins are often less like each other than like complete strangers; yet, twins are born with practically no interval of time between their births and are conceived in precisely the same moment of a single sexual semination.

 Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, Books I–VII, ed. Hermigild Dressler, trans. Demetrius B. Zema and Gerald G. Walsh, vol. 8, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1950), 241–243.

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BOOK V1

argument. Augustine first discusses the Doctrine of fate, for the sake of confuting those who are disposed to refer to fate the power and increase of the Roman empire, which could not be attributed to false gods, as has been shown in the preceding book. After that, he proves that there is no contradiction between God’s prescience and our free will. He then speaks of the manners of the ancient Romans, and shows in what sense it was due to the virtue of the Romans themselves, and in how far to the counsel of God, that He increased their dominion, though they did not worship Him. Finally, he explains what is to be accounted the true happiness of the Christian emperors.

preface

Since, then, it is established that the complete attainment of all we desire is that which constitutes felicity, which is no goddess, but a gift of God, and that therefore men can worship no god save Him who is able to make them happy—and were Felicity herself a goddess, she would with reason be the only object of worship—since, I say, this is established, let us now go on to consider why God, who is able to give with all other things those good gifts which can be possessed by men who are not good, and consequently not happy, has seen fit to grant such extended and long-continued dominion to the Roman empire; for that this was not effected by that multitude of false gods which they worshipped, we have both already adduced, and shall, as occasion offers, yet adduce considerable proof.

chap. 1. That the cause of the Roman empire, and of all kingdoms, is neither fortuitous nor consists in the position of the stars

The cause, then, of the greatness of the Roman empire is neither fortuitous nor fatal, according to the judgment or opinion of those who call those things fortuitous which either have no causes, or such causes as do not proceed from some intelligible order, and those things fatal which happen independently of the will of God and man, by the necessity of a certain order. In a word, human kingdoms are established by divine providence. And if any one attributes their existence to fate, because he calls the will or the power of God itself by the name of fate, let him keep his opinion, but correct his language. For why does he not say at first what he will say afterwards, when some one shall put the question to him, What he means by fate? For when men hear that word, according to the ordinary use of the language, they simply understand by it the virtue of that particular position of the stars which may exist at the time when any one is born or conceived, which some separate altogether from the will of God, whilst others affirm that this also is dependent on that will. But those who are of opinion that, apart from the will of God, the stars determine what we shall do, or what good things we shall possess, or what evils we shall suffer, must be refused a hearing by all, not only by those who hold the true religion, but by those who wish to be the worshippers of any gods whatsoever, even false gods. For what does this opinion really amount to but this, that no god whatever is to be worshipped or prayed to? Against these, however, our present disputation is not intended to be directed, but against those who, in defence of those whom they think to be gods, oppose the Christian religion. They, however, who make the position of the stars depend on the divine will, and in a manner decree what character each man shall have, and what good or evil shall happen to him, if they think that these same stars have that power conferred upon them by the supreme power of God, in order that they may determine these things according to their will, do a great injury to the celestial sphere, in whose most brilliant senate, and most splendid senate-house, as it were, they suppose that wicked deeds are decreed to be done—such deeds as that, if any terrestrial state should decree them, it would be condemned to overthrow by the decree of the whole human race. What judgment, then, is left to God concerning the deeds of men, who is Lord both of the stars and of men, when to these deeds a celestial necessity is attributed? Or, if they do not say that the stars, though they have indeed received a certain power from God, who is supreme, determine those things according to their own discretion, but simply that His commands are fulfilled by them instrumentally in the application and enforcing of such necessities, are we thus to think concerning God even what it seemed unworthy that we should think concerning the will of the stars? But, if the stars are said rather to signify these things than to effect them, so that that position of the stars is, as it were, a kind of speech predicting, not causing future things—for this has been the opinion of men of no ordinary learning—certainly the mathematicians are not wont so to speak, saying, for example, Mars in such or such a position signifies a homicide, but makes a homicide. But, nevertheless, though we grant that they do not speak as they ought, and that we ought to accept as the proper form of speech that employed by the philosophers in predicting those things which they think they discover in the position of the stars, how comes it that they have never been able to assign any cause why, in the life of twins, in their actions, in the events which befall them, in their professions, arts, honours, and other things pertaining to human life, also in their very death, there is often so great a difference that, as far as these things are concerned, many entire strangers are more like them than they are like each other, though separated at birth by the smallest interval of time, but at conception generated by the same act of copulation, and at the same moment?

1 Written in 415.

 Saint Augustine, The Confessions; The City of God; On Christian Doctrine, ed. Mortimer J. Adler and Philip W. Goetz, trans. R. S. Pine-Coffin, J. F. Shaw, and Marcus Dods, Second Edition, vol. 16, Great Books of the Western World (Chicago; Auckland; Geneva; London; Madrid; Manila; Paris; Rome; Seoul; Sydney; Tokyo; Toronto: Robert P. Gwinn; Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1990), 249–250.

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As you can see the notes in even the most robust are minimal.

Here is the "summary" notes on the verses shared and "commentary" on Book 5 from the shepherds notes:

Summary

V:Preface—2 Fate and Astrology. Augustine had argued that happiness is a gift of God. Here he returned to the question of why God allowed the Roman Empire to flourish. All kingdoms owe their existence to God. If by fate is meant the “position of the stars” studied by astrology, this is totally false.

In chapter 2, Augustine talked about Hippocrates' view of twins. The learned medical doctor suspected two brothers to be twins because they got sick, reached crisis, and recovered at the same time. But, argued Augustine, even if this happened, it would be the result of similarities in the boys' parentage and environment, not because of the movement of the stars.

 

More than 1500 years ago, Augustine saw clearly that astrology was ridiculous. In fact, in much of the civilized world the church had all but done away with the practice. Yet in our day there are a number of telephone “psychic hotlines.” Most major newspapers carry daily horoscopes. And in some states every other corner has a “psychic counselor.” What does this say about the effect of Christianity, Christians, and our churches on the society in which we live?

 

 Dana Gould and Terry L. Miethe, Shepherd’s Notes: City of God (Nashville: B&H, 1999).

  COMMENTARY

The major themes in Book V are: (1) The providence of God and the greatness of Rome. (2) Astrology is an absolutely false idea, as are those that fate or destiny are related to God. (3) God rewarded early Roman virtue and gave Rome its success. (4) Rome began to decline when she became ambitious for glory and domination. (5) God helps Christian emperors who are humble, caring, and just leaders.

In the preface Augustine reminded us that true happiness, “or the full possession of all that the heart can long for,” is a gift of God. Rome's greatness was not caused by “fortune” or “fate.” But why did God allow the Roman Empire to spread so far and last so long? God's providence alone is the answer.

The Christian God is Lord of both stars and men! In chapters 1–7, a major part of the discussion is an argument against the ideas of astrology and fate. Augustine stated clearly that the astrologers talked utter nonsense. Chapter 5 gives a number of “proofs” to show that astrology is false.

 

The ability to deliberate and choose is a basic presupposition of society. David Hume (1711–76) tried to reduce the mind to a stream of consciousness, to say that men are “nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement.”24

But, as Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) said to Hume, the fact to be explained is not the succession of awarenesses but an awareness of succession. Knowledge itself is an argument for freedom of the will!

 

Next, Augustine turned to God's foreknowledge and free will. The Bible clearly teaches that God is sovereign. He knows and superintends all. It also teaches that man makes choices. This ability to choose is the source of sin in the world.

The fact that man can sin delineates a remarkable ability. No other creature can sin! Now, obviously, “errors” are not necessarily “sins.” A big problem with philosophical determinism is that it provides no intelligible theory of error. Determinists have to admit that errors happen and that they are extremely common. But determinism never tells us how error is possible, how it can be detected, or even what error is.

Human freedom is no restriction on God's power. Exactly the opposite is true; human freedom is perhaps the greatest expression of it. The basic error with the idea that there is some contradiction between God's power, knowledge, and human freedom is the idea that God's power is a kind of compulsion. This is clearly not the case.

Augustine had some extremely valuable advice for “Christian Emperors” which applies even more to today's Christians who lead on any level. It is all the more important that Christian leaders—from those who are elected or appointed to serve the government who claim to be Christians to leaders of a local church—stay humble, stay in touch with their humanity and with God.

24 David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature. First published in England in 1738.

 Dana Gould and Terry L. Miethe, Shepherd’s Notes: City of God (Nashville: B&H, 1999).

-Dan

Posts 18
Jay Rubin | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 18 2017 9:30 PM

Thanks. I downloaded that after checking it out. Can't go wrong for the price.

Posts 18
Jay Rubin | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 18 2017 9:31 PM

I am impressed! Thanks for the great response.

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