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First, this work has been published in two volumes, which Amazon has mistakenly listed as being different editions. To find both volumes, click on the "All Editions" link. Although it is published in two volumes, readers should not be intimidated by this. The work proper is only about 400 pages long (a third the length of Augustine's "City of God"), and reads quite easily. As to why it was broken in two volumes, the answer lies in the 300 pages supplemental material, which would have made it quite bulky had it been published in a single volume. The quality and readability of this material, mostly presented in notes to the text, is quite high, and I found that it made an already enjoyable and interesting work even more so. As to the work itself, it is concerned with the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis, ending with the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. The subjects addressed through this work are biblical exegesis, God, the angels, Satan, heaven and earth, man, the soul, and the fall. Augustine began his work on the subject of biblical exegesis - how scripture is to be interpreted. He proposed four senses: "the eternal truths that are taught, the facts that are narrated, the future events that are predicted, and the precepts or counsels that are given." In this work, Augustine focused on the second of these - the facts that are narrated, which he called the literal sense. It is important to understand that although we tend to think of a 'literal' reading of scripture as one taking the words to have their most obvious meaning, that is not what Augustine meant by it. For Augustine, a literal reading meant only that the text was referring in some way to events that actually occurred, without any implication that the reference might not be very obscure.Read more ›
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This book opened up to me a whole new understanding and appreciation of St. Augustine, especially for his sense of true science. The introduction and annotations by John Hammond Taylor, S.J. were particularly helpful in this.
I have both Volume I and II, but virtually all of the material of interest to me came from Volume I, so I would recommend that you get Volume I (this book) first and then browse Volume II on Amazon to see whether you want it too.
The subject is, of course, the interpretation of the Genesis creation account. This is something to which St. Augustine repeatedly returned. He addressed the subject in the Confessions, City of God and lastly in this manuscript. His approach changed over time, generally from an allegorical to a "literal" interpretation of the Scripture (although it must be said that his idea of "literal" can sometimes be pretty allegorical in my view!)
For the most mature interpretation of the creation account, one should definitely favor this one (415± AD) over the others (mostly from the late 300s).
As a scientist, I have developed a great respect for how St. Augustine faced the interface between the Holy Scriptures and (then) contemporary science. His understanding of science and the proper approach to scientific thought is surprisingly modern. It is remarkable how balanced his views are, and how well he balances the authority of scripture and science.Read more ›
I probably should have expected it, given the title, but I was hoping for something a bit deeper from Augustine. This doesn't have the mystery and imagination of Confessions. Here describes his understanding of Genesis 1-2.9 point by point in a severely neo-Platonic manner. And Augustine is a devoted disciple of Plato; if one hasn't read any Plato it will be tough going indeed. This is thick stuff and I found I often had to skim some portions and reread others six times. Perhaps half of Augustine's analysis of Genesis is based on the idea of the Perfect Forms, and how God created the forms in the first chapter of Genesis, and they only actually became reality in the second chapter. Literal Meaning of Genesis is valuable on a historical basis, for understanding an ancient world view, but has little theological value today because so few now follow Plato's thoughts, and our culture is more Augustinian than anything else.
Even the style of the writing is Platonic, becoming a dialectic of Augustine with himself, as he raises and questions different possibilities, accepting them or dismissing them, coming to a Hegelian final result, and sometimes, no result at all, determining that something is unknowable. I caught a lot of the feel of Montaigne at times- as if Augustine was figuring this out and determining truth as he went along. The positive aspects of this are expressions of humility, openness to possibilities, and a real feel that there is a person behind this writing.Read more ›
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