Cain is the father of the earthly city, Seth the father of the heavenly. Cain kills his brother and begins founding cities. Seth is the “son of the resurrection” of Abel, whom Cain had killed. Augustine’s language here – “son of the resurrection” – is helpful here. In fact, I’m impressed with how well his automatically allegorical reading of Genesis stands up and how it helps with understanding the intention of the biblical writer here. Augustine is relating everything in Genesis 4-10 to the two cities, which are not obviously present in a literal reading of this part of the text, but I think he brings out nuances of the text that help us to see what the author is doing – Seth is a resurrected Abel (not literally, but within the narrative), the two cities are two distinct lines with separate ends, and his discussion of the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:2 as the men of the line of promise (or the city of God) is a compelling reading that had never occurred to me. Here, at least for me, the allegorical actually informs the literal readings of the text, rather than just jumping off from a literal reading.

I think I am beginning to see what Augustine is doing: he is describing the origins of the two cities, he has been developing his thinking on the ends and final purposes of the two cities, and he has made hints about the means and values and loves of the two cities. If he continues to develop his discussion of the ends and means of the cities, then he will soon have accounts of the cities that look at the beginnings, middles, and ends. That would be a full narrative that deals with both cities.

A couple of notes about the text – Augustine is making notes about the values and loves that the two cities demonstrate. All humans were made to love God as the supreme good but all of us find other goods to love or worship. When we love secondary goods as though they are God, we miss out on what God has for us and end up in sin. When we properly love God, however, we end in virtue. That’s how Augustine puts it, anyway:

“But if the Creator is truly loved – that is, if He Himself is loved, and not something else in place of Him – then He cannot be wrongly loved. We must, however, observe right order even in our love for the very love by which we love that which is worthy to be loved, so that  there may be in us that virtue which enables us to live well. Hence, it seems to me that a brief and true definition virtue is ‘rightly ordered love’. That is why, in the holy Song of Songs, Christ’s bride, the City of God, sings, ‘Set charity in order in me.'”

Virtue is “rightly ordered love”. May your love be rightly ordered.

Josh

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