Review: The City of God

The City of God
The City of God by Augustine of Hippo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was totally worth the time it took to read it. Augustine’s understanding of the gospel and remarkable rhetorical skills make for a compelling breakdown of the fall of Paganism, the rise of Christianity, and the importance of gaining entrance into into the City of God by surrendering ourselves to God’s will.

I would heavily recommend reading it on audio first, because there are long sections of the book that, while germane anciently, are now completely irrelevant. The said sections concerned the political and philosophical questions of the fifth century and were difficult to endure. Reading it on audio enabled me to mentally ‘tune out’ until the narrator reached a more interesting subject. The sections would, however, be interesting subject matter to a serious student of history.

Many of Augustine’s insights were wholly new to me, such as his understanding of numerical symbolism. I’ll outline one example briefly:

‘God worked 6 days, then rested the 7th.
6 here represents completion of this mortal life. This is shown in that the fundamental base numbers of 1, 2, and 3, can be either multiplied together to reach the number 6 (1 X 2 X 3 = 6), or added together to also make 6 (1 + 2 + 3 = 6). Therefore, 6 is a number that is complete in this life.
7, then, is the transcendence of the number 6. Upon the finishing of this life, we then enter into the rest of the Lord (symbolized by the Sabbath Day), thus transcending at the completion of this life.’

He also explains the numbers 8 and 12, but in order to find out, you’ll have to read the book:)

Double five stars for Augustine’s theological understanding wisdom, and rhetorical mastery.

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  • It depends on which part of his life you are observing. He was born into a Christian family, rejected the gospel early on, excelled in his studies and career, decided there must be something more to life, sought God through many religions, and then came back to Christianity. During his years away from the church he was quite profligate, but when he returned he became one of the most influential Patristic Fathers.

  • Interesting about the numerology. I had no idea he was interested in that. I may have to give this a listen. I’ve heard various things about Augustine, himself, that leads me to believe his actions did not mirror his words, however. Perhaps my sources were off.