Augustine spends most of his time in these chapters explaining how Genesis chapters 1-11 could be true. How could Methuselah really have lived to be 969 years old? How do we deal with the fact that the Vulgate/Septuagint math has him living 14 years after the flood? How could any of these characters have lived that long? How could Cain have founded a city (you know, since there were only four named people when Genesis says he founded the city)? Augustine deals with these questions very carefully. I don’t have time today to deal with all of his answers, and I’m not sure his thinking would be compelling to a skeptical Modern/Postmodern readership anyway. I certainly wasn’t convinced by his answers.
To me, the more interesting piece of this section is how Augustine can assume a world where giants and gods and authoritative holy writings exist and have value. The world has changed in the last 1600 years. This part of the text would today require 200 pages of explanation to even make sense as an argument. We live in a world where I cannot assume that someone has faith in a god or the supernatural or anything. Augustine lives in a world where he knows everyone believes in some god or set of gods. Interesting. The argument just reads so differently. His world leaves all the options on the table. As Charles Taylor has detailed, our world is a closed world, where faith is always a contest.
May our loving God break in!