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The City of God [The Modern Library] Hardcover – February 1, 1994

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Editorial Reviews Review

Augustine's City of God, a monumental work of religious lore, philosophy, and history, was written as a kind of literary tombstone for Roman culture. After the sack of Rome, Augustine wrote this book to anatomize the corruption of Romans' pursuit of earthly pleasures: "grasping for praise, open-handed with their money; honest in the pursuit of wealth, they wanted to hoard glory." Augustine contrasts his condemnation of Rome with an exaltation of Christian culture. The glory that Rome failed to attain will only be realized by citizens of the City of God, the Heavenly Jerusalem foreseen in Revelation. Because City of God was written for men of classical learning--custodians of the culture Augustine sought to condemn--it is thick with Ciceronian circumlocutions, and makes many stark contrasts between "Your Virgil" and "Our Scriptures." Even if Augustine's prose strikes modern ears as a bit bombastic, and if his polarized Christian/pagan world is more binary than the one we live in today, his arguments against utopianism and his defense of the richness of Christian culture remain useful and strong. City of God is, as its final words proclaim itself to be, "a giant of a book." --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"The human mind can understand truth only by thinking, as is clear from Augustine."
--Saint Thomas Aquinas

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 912 pages
  • Publisher: The Modern Library; 1st edition (February 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679600876
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679600879
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (177 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #188,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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237 of 248 people found the following review helpful By James T Humphrey II on April 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
St Augustine's City of God is a work for the ages. It was not only a great apologetic to the Christian faith of the 5th century; it is an apologetic to Christian faith for all centuries. It is the story of history unfolded in two exact opposite cities. It is the struggle between the two cities against one another. It is the story of the fall, grace, redemption, and salvation of man for those who live in the city of God. For those of the other city, it is the exact opposite. It is the story of the fall, judgment, damnation and ultimate destruction of those who loved themselves more than they loved God. This was the story of love, by one of the greatest saints of the Catholic Church, Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo.
The reason I give 4 stars out of 5 is because of the amazing difficulty that comes with reading this book. This is a VERY VERY heavy read, and one should be familiar with the prevailing Roman philosophies of the day, as well as Roman history.
Augustine talks of Plato, Cicero, Virgil and others frequently through the book. He also talks of the history of Rome, and these factors play a heavy note in his book. An few survey classes of Philosophy, and a World Civics class as well as a decent understanding of Christian history at this time, and theology is also a must. You should be familiar with the scriptures. Because of all these factors, you cannot just pickup and read this book. You'll have to know what Augustine is talking about to some level before you read this.
Other than that, this book is brilliance, and while some parts will be a little dry, it is very inspiring. You see Augustine write, sign, and stamp the doctrine of Original Sin, Amillinialism, and doctrines concerning Grace, the Trinity, and various "problems" concerning the Canon of Scripture.
He setup Christianity for the next 1000 years, and is still felt strongly today in Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox circles.
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115 of 119 people found the following review helpful By Clif Droke on October 31, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Like one of the reviewers above, I, too, set about the daunting task of reading this book from cover to cover, and it took me a good six months to complete it. But what a wonderful and worthwhile investment of time it was! It would do the modern Church well to read this book since Augustine places the City of God (i.e., Christ and His Church) within the context of the pagan world in which we live, and its message is as applicable to today as it was 1,500 years ago when he first wrote it. Most impressive, his grasp of both classical and biblical history and his profound understanding of Scripture is unparalleled by almost any author I have ever read, from Jerome's time until the present. If for no other reason, Christians should buy this book to gain an appropriate understanding of the last days and the rightful interpretation of the book of Revelation. Most of today's books on this subject pale in comparison to Augustine's exposition of this lofty and (sometimes) arcane subject.
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82 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Nathan A. Edwards VINE VOICE on October 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
The City of God was completed 13 years after Augustine began to write it in 413 A.D. It was written slowly and became a much different work than that which Augustine set out to create. Three years after the fall of the Roman Empire, Augustine set out to prove that Christianity was not to blame for Rome's collapse as some had charged. Almost half of The City of God was dedicated to this original purpose. Luckily for readers today, as well as then, by book eleven he turns his attention to the two cities and almost entirely dropped his original theme which has been a dead issue for some time. The two cities Augustine applies his brilliant mind to for the remainder of the work is that of The World and of God. Beginning in book eleven, Augustine traces the history of each city from a Christian perspective in a highly contemplative and truly beautiful manner. However, he seems to never miss an opportunity to correct any contrary philosophies along the way. He eventually makes his way to his ideas, based primarily on the writings of the apostles Paul and John, about the final realities of each city, as well as the consequences for their respective citizens.

The City of God would probably not be considered light reading by most, but if one can complete it while trying to digest as much as they can, it is certainly worth it. This is one of those works which is probably understood a little differently each time it is read. One helpful disclaimer offered by Thomas Merton is that if one is unfamiliar with Augustine and his writing, they would be best served to first read Augustine's Confessions (Penguin Classics) prior to tackling The City of God. It really is good advice.
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177 of 193 people found the following review helpful By Arthem on August 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Although I am normally a quick reader, it has taken me about six months to finish The City of God. At times I was frustrated, and believed that the book was imbued with a generative power, and grew longer the further I read.
And yet I am a little sad to have finished it, for no matter what was going on in my life, like Scripture, the City of God had relevance. How to summarize such a monumental work?
First of all, I do not concur with the dimishment of the early parts of the work. While Books 1 through X are indeed more clearly tied to the dissolving Roman world, it is extremely helpful for us to get our minds into a time when pagans were more than countercultural "post-Christian" teenage losers. Augustine's vivid arguments against the pagan "theology" are incisive. More notably, they bring into focus a world that was both ultra-rational in the Platonic/Aristotilean tradition, and "superstitious" in its belief in household gods, demons, curses, and magic. That both a very advanced science and such beliefs could coexist is a lesson to us in our secularized, smug modern world.
The temporal proximity of Augustine to Christ and the Apostles brings another level of clarity. While Augustine emphasized that "none shall know the day nor hour," it is clear that there is an apocolyptic undercurrent in the Christian society he inhabits. The urgency of Christian life seems to me to have diminished.
Particularly striking are Augustine's arguments against those "tender-hearted Christians" who hold various levels of Salvation for even the most depraved. In our world of ecumenical outreach, guitar-Mass hippy communalism, Augustine's defense of the limited Salvation is a necessary wake-up call.
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