The City of God (De Civitate Dei) by St Augustine. Published by MobileReference (mobi)
The City of God (De Civitate Dei) by St Augustine. Published by MobileReference (mobi)

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The City of God (Latin: De Civitate Dei, also known as De Civitate Dei contra Paganos, "The City of God against the Pagans") is a book written in Latin by Augustine of Hippo in the early 5th century, dealing with issues concerning God, martyrdom, Jews, and other Christian philosophies.

Augustine wrote the treatise to explain Christianity's relationship with competing religions and philosophies, and to the Roman government with which it was increasingly intertwined. It was written soon after Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410. This event left Romans in a deep state of shock, and many saw it as punishment for abandoning their Roman religion. It was in this atmosphere that Augustine set out to provide a consolation of Christianity, writing that, even if the earthly rule of the empire was imperilled, it was the City of God that would ultimately triumph - symbolically, Augustine's eyes were fixed on heaven, a theme repeated in many Christian works of Late Antiquity.

- Excerpted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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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

Customer Reviews:

  • A fair alternative for casual study and reading
    This abridged version of St. Augustine's work is great for casual readers who are looking to brush up on their classics or, as in my case, for students who either don't have time to read and decipher the text in its entirety or need help doing so. If you want to truly study "The City of God," you should probably stick with the Modern Library edition (ISBN 0679783199) which provides better explanatory footnotes, one sentence chapter summaries, a collection of commentaries, and a much more comprehensive subject index. This Image abridged version, however, benefits from simpler and more fluid prose. After reading a chapter of the Modern Library edition, I often found myself referring back to this edition to reinforce and/or clarify what I had just read. I also appreciated the better biblical footnotes found in this version. Certainly the existing chapters are condensed and those that the editors have omitted are given brief summaries. Overall, this edition does not take away the essence of Augustine's original but it does make it slightly more digestible to the average reader....more info
  • Consummation of the Classical Tradition!!
    I read this book for the sake of pleasure, and nothing more. What a surprise I was in for! I've always admired classical texts, and the tradition of rhetoric which has influenced even the greatest speakers of our own times, such as Martin Luther King Jr., and John F. Kennedy. However, I was totally unprepared for the moving experience of St. Augustine's written words. Had I not been a Christian before I read this book, I believe I would have been compelled to convert! The most interesting aspect of this work seems to me, to be that the utilization of such an ingrained, classical tradition as rhetoric was being applied (and rather effectively so) toward what was to become the new paradigm of Western Heritage. All things classical would be replaced by all things Christian, but thus so by the influence of powerful speakers--who were trained in the Classical tradition! This book is an enjoyable read; both for aspiring religious scholars AND lovers of classical culture....more info
  • Re translation of COG
    Thomas Merton did many great things in his life, but he didn't "translate" the City of God. He wrote the intro for this edition (the Dodds translation). A more up-to-date translation would be that of R.W. Dyson, available at Amazon in PB....more info
  • Literal version of a classic
    Augustine wrote the City of God to respond to pagan charges that Rome fell to the barbarians because Christianity had made it soft and removed the gods' (small "g") blessings. Augustine uses devastating (and occasionally tedious) historical reasoning and sheer deductive logic to demolish that view. Those who know little Roman history will have trouble understanding the allusions. There are, however, footnotes for the more obscure references.

    Thomas Merton, probably the most activist contemplative in the 20th century, surely read the book in the original and felt he could make a more readable translation. This version is almost painfully literal. He adopts Augustine's Latin style, which tends to be very verbose. Forty word sentences, such as we would "ding" a 9th grader for, are the result. And those are the short ones! Nonetheless, blame the Latin original.

    Still, shortening the sentences will in many cases lose some of the meaning. Latins thought a lot more rigorously and logically than we. Augustine was their leader. Don't read this non-stop, and have a history of Rome handy, just in case. This is a Christian classic that every educated person should know, but that doesn't mean it's as easy as, say, something by Tim LeHay....more info

  • A central Christian work
    This is one of the great statements of Christian thought. It is the work which will define for many throughout the generations the fundamental Christian way of thinking about the world. Unfortunately this means it too is tarred by a fire- and- brimstone replacement theology which ruled Christian thinking in regard to the Jews for close to fifteen hundred years afterward.
    The work sets up the basic contrast between the Good and the Evil, those who are part of the City of God( whether on Earth or in Heaven) and those who are in the City of sins, condemnation, and death. Augustine is a great teacher of doctrine, and his doctrine divides the world into the saved and the damned. If you are not going to be with the Church then you are not going to live. His idea in short is an absolute idea, and his great intellect argues to support a way of understanding the world which is total and complete.
    The intellectual challenge presented by this book is great indeed. And in it one of the great minds of religious history expounds his fundamental teaching.
    As one who belongs to a people and religion condemned in this book I cannot simply sing its praises. But it is impossible not to recognize the great scope and power of the mind at work here. ...more info
  • The Antithesis between the City of God and City of Man
    Since the beginning, the Seeds of the Woman and of the Serpent have been at war. Augustine, in this defense of the early Christian Church, tells the story of God's people through history and it's glorious conclusion. The two cities will be in conflict throughout history, but the gates of hell will not prevail against the onslaught of the victorious Church of God. In the end the Word of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Read Augustine for this theme and for excellent groundwork in Theology....more info
  • The Worlds Greatest
    This is undoubtedly one of the most pious works ever written. I simply do not understand how someone could become so literally religious that he/she could devote so much energy to self piety and introspection. I'm not sure that most people could approach the lifestyle of St. Augustine. May we shouldn't even try. This book is an important read for everyone....more info
  • City of God
    This is an apologetic text in defence of the Chritian faith. In this book, Augustine persuasively informed his audience (readers) regarding the history of creation from the fall of humanity to their redemption provided they recognized him as God of their lives. This is possible only as they abandon all forms of idolatries lest they experience a catatrosphe similar to what led to the fall of Rome. Augustine's concept of the two cities are in contrast to each other, viz, the city of God versus the city of Satan. The former is governed by God, and the later by the Devil that also governs the minds of many un-regenerated. Thus, Augustine appealed, in his 22 volumes that are now in a single volume, to join him "in rendering thanks to God" through this great work! Pastor Moses Oladele Taiwo, Ph.D. Professor of New Testament and Head of the Department of Urban Christian Ministry, New Life Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC 28203. Tel: (704) 334 6884 Ext.106. ...more info
  • A brief comment
    I just had one comment to make about the book, since it rarely seems to get discussed in the other reviews here, if at all.

    Besides the many important issues the book dicusses, one of the main themes Augustine was concerned with is how an intelligent man could be religious. This problem is all the more important today since the rise of science has seriously called into question the Bible's picture of the universe. Whether I agree with his answers or not, Augustine was a great intellect for any age and a great man of God, and his book should be read more often by Christians, or anybody interested in religious history and philosophy....more info

  • An Illuminating Classic
    First of all, I am writing this review for the 1958 abridged edition by Image Books (City of God), but I know that this review will be posted on the product pages for the other editions, most of which are unabridged. So, I want to make one quick comment that is specific to the abridged version: I think this was a great copy to read. The editor cut out some of the digressions, which made the book about 300 pages shorter than the normal length (over 800 pages). I was reading this for a research project, so I was thankful for an edition that got rid of some of the less central points so that I could quickly get through the work and still get exposed to Augustine's main points.

    That being said, whether you read the abridged or the unabridged version, this book is an absolute classic. Most people don't know this about Augustine, but he lived in Northern Africa (today's Tunisia) while that area was part of the Roman Empire. He started writing "City of God" shortly after the city of Rome had be sacked by the Goths in 410 A.D., and this book is a response to the claims being made by the pagan population of the time that Rome had been sacked because as the official religion of the Empire had been Christianity people had stopped worshiping the pagan gods. Thus, they claimed, the pagan gods allowed Rome to be sacked; they withdrew their blessing from Rome, as it were.

    Of course, Augustine thinks this notion is ridiculous and he spent the next 14 years of his life writing "City of God" to refute the pagan view. This work is a great exposition of classical Christianity. The influence of the book was (and is) beyond measure; it remained an important work in terms of influence at least until the end of the Middle Ages. One of the things I really liked about the book is that the translation was really good; you really get an insight into Augustine's character. Furthermore, since Augustine wrote about previous philosophers (Plato, Varro, etc.), you get a great idea of how this work fits into that context.

    A thick read, a read that makes you think, but a very enjoyable one nonetheless. I would recommend this book to anyone curious for some exposure to classical Christianity at its best....more info
  • The hardest book I've ever read...And one of the best.
    St. Augustine's immortal classic is incredibly long and very, very hard to follow at times. When I set out to read this a few years ago, I had no idea what I was getting into. I read it because a professor I had in college that I greatly respected told me he'd never been able to read it all the way through, and I thought my reading it would impress him, or something. It took me forever, but I read it from cover to cover, and it was a rewarding experience. The book is essentially a very long examination of Christian theology, contrasted sharply with Roman paganism. There are very few theological questions that aren't at least touched upon; many of the ideas that would vex Christian philosophers for centuries are first addressed here. Augustine brings a fine, lucid mind and good instinct for argument and rhetoric to the discussion. This book is a must-read for anyone who takes the intellectual component of their Christian faith seriously. Highly recommended....more info
  • History and Theology in One Rich Volume
    This is a difficult read. It is worth the effort because it is highly educational and very enjoyable. Some familiarity with Roman history and mythology would be helpful but is not necessary. Augustine shows his reader the superiority of the City of God over the city of man. With Biblical and historical examples, Augustine shows that citizens of the City of God have characters and hopes that set them apart from the ungodly. He exposes the ugliness of paganism and the folly of men outside of the City of God. Today's reader will see that these differences between the two cities manifest themselves as clearly in our day....more info
  • City of God Versus the City of Demons
    In this massive post-classical/late antique work, St Augustine exposes the follies of Rome's Pagan past, while revealing the mystery of the Church throughout the ages and unto eternity. Augustine begins with a refutation of pagan worship, thus proving the ignorance that reflected in their system of delusive beliefs. Later on in this work he explains many prophecies that were fulfilled in relation to Christ and the Church. After laying a sound foundation based on scriptural facts and Theological truths, he then incorporates a splendid picture of heaven and hell along with the resurrection of the body adjoined in felicity with the spirit for eternity with God the Father....more info
  • Augustine Created "The West"
    Augustine's name is not tossed around as much as that of Plato or Caesar or many other famous men and women of antiquity, but there is no doubt that he is one of the most important thinkers in all of Western history, and he in fact created the theory of "The West" that has over time become our identity.
    Augustine, classically educated, a religious experimenter, Rome's top university professor and greatest scholar, and the premier thinker of the contemporary church, reacted to the fall of Rome by creating a whole new approach to what it is citizens are to look to for their citizenship and community. He postulates a new world order centred on the Christian revelation, but including all that is good from Roman and Greek civilization.
    Since Rome fell, the kind of fantasy world of Roman myth and lore kept in the popular imagination by Virgil's Aeneid and related art and literature could no longer hold water. It was time for a stronger focal point for patriotism and self-definition. That would be a Christian one, including Rome and Greece, to be sure, but the major element would be Christ. The Bible would gently nudge aside Virgil, and perhaps Augustine, aware of his own extraordinary literary prowess, saw his own monumental works edging aside the other great Latin writers such as Cicero and Sallust.
    This would all be quite some bit of bombastic or farsighted folly were it not to prove true. Augustine's work was indeed adopted as the 'mind' of Christendom, his City of God being read to emperors and kings, and leading the thoughts of the leaders of Christian Europe for over a thousand years.
    His 'grand unifying theory' of Western civilization, uniting the organization of Rome with the thought of Greece and the revelation of the Bible, has been accepted as the de facto definition of what it means to be Western until only the very last few decades of our time.
    Augustine, apparently aware of his talents, must have been aware that his epic work outshone anything written before, and is itself a testament to the civilization that he advocates: a fully coherent combination of Greek philosophy, Roman civilization and Biblical wisdom. This seamless blend of literary prowess from Rome's greatest scholar and highest ranking professor generates for the reader a powerful education in philosophy, history and theology, tied together with awesome rhetoric, that is uniquely powerful, erudite, insightful and useful all at once.
    From a historical and literary perspective, this may have been the very most important book ever written by reputedly human hands.
    As it is written for the leaders of society and not for the average citizen, be ready to be intrigued, challenged to thought, and impressed with every line.
    By no means must the reader have any kind of religious belief to benefit from this book, nor must the reader agree with all that Augustine postulates, nor can the reader, due to the great distance of time seperating him from us and improvements in scientific knowledge since his time. The importance, greatness and power of the writing itself commend it to us....more info
  • Read this and be changed forever.
    This is quite possibly my favorite book of all time. It is a priceless resource in my search to better understand - and live - my Catholic faith. If I could, I would rename it "Christian Mechanics" because Augustine explains the Bible in terms so explicit that he seems to transmit a mathmatical understanding of God's plan.
    The Modern Library edition has Thomas Merton's beautiful introdution, which I found to be an extremely helpful guide in walking through Augustine's epic. Read this and be changed forever....more info
  • Big, worthwhile, even necessary
    Recently read St. Augustine's City of God. It's a pretty good workout; my impression is that I've only sampled something, without having enough time to properly consider his wide-ranging discussion. It's simultaneous a work of Christian apologetics, theology, philosophy, historiography, and Biblical criticism. Its influence, overwhelming in medieval times, persists to the current day. It's a demanding work, but it can be read without any specialized historical knowledge.

    Augustine reflects deeply here on human nature and the meaning of eternal life and eternal punishment, within an explication of the "meaning" of history. He writes of all human history as a single narrative. This also a work of Biblical exegesis, as Augustine treats Scripture as a historical document. For Augustine, creation is good, creation exists in time and has a history. Indeed, since God enters into history to show man His love, history itself is sanctified, through the City of God.

    The book contains the parallel histories of what Augustine terms the City of God and the City of Man, both descended from Adam. The City of Man is founded on murder (specifically fratricide, the murder of a brother, viz. Cain and Abel, Romulus and Remus). The City of Man has been deceived and debased, fallen under the sway of pagan gods, which appear to be either demons or, at best indifferent or benign spirits that are mistakenly worshipped. The City of God, on the other hand, is a pilgrim on this earth, toiling here in the joyous expectation of final salvation in God's Kingdom.

    Augustine wants to explain the ways of God to man, but he does this from some humility, expressing his speculation in doubt. City of God also shows Augustine to be interested in the goods of Greek and Roman philosophy and rhetoric and in purging the negative elements of these while and Christian revelation. He's always intent on removing the possibility of gnostic/Manichaean distortions of Christian texts, such as St. Paul's admonitions not to "live according to the flesh" but rather "according to the spirit." Augustine is clear that this does not mean disdain for the body, but that one should refuse to live according to human ways, and consent to live by God's will.

    Again, there's no way to give an adequate summary of a book like this, but it is surprising readable (if voluminous). I'm sorry I waited as long as I did to read it.

    The translation here is readable, the abridgement makes the work as a whole accessible to a casual reader, and Etienne Gilson's foreword and Bourke's introduction are good companions....more info
  • Augustine's tale of two cities.
    "The City of God" is Augustine's most famous work. I agree with Thomas Merton's introduction to the latest Modern Library version, which says that an uninitiated reader of Augustine may wish to read his "Confessions" first to get a good background on the author. "The City of God" is long and deep, covering many philosophical and Biblical debates (many that are still alive today), so one who has been introduced to Augustine through his auto-biographical "Confessions" may find it easier to follow his logic as he discusses the numerous topics of "The City of God."

    The first few hundred pages of "The City of God" may be very slow and difficult for the average modern, Western, reader. Augustine is speaking directly to the average Roman citizens of the time (413 AD), so the first several chapters of "The City of God" are spent debunking the Romans' beliefs in polytheism, a mindset long since abandoned by most in the civilized Western world (thanks mostly to... Augustine). But the difficulty of these first few chapters should only make one appreciate Augustine all the more for having helped dismiss such a convoluted belief system. Once Augustine has broken down the problems with Zeus and friends, he moves on to discussing Plato, Aristotle, and other Greek philosophers. Augustine discusses why these founders of Western culture came close to understanding the idea of the Judeo-Christian God, but he shows where they too eventually fell short of total comprehension of Him.

    After Augustine has dealt with these religions and philosophies of the Romans, he begins to address the Bible and how it concerns the City of God and the earthly city (Rome, which had been sacked by Alaric in 410, was the best example of the latter). Augustine outlines the differences in the beliefs and actions of believers and non-believers, or in other words, the citizenries of the two cities in question. In doing this, Augustine discusses numerous debates and questions, including figurative vs. literal interpretations of Old Testament stories, how the Old Testament prophets pointed towards Jesus Christ and how Christ fulfilled their prophesies, as well as many other questions that are still discussed every day, nearly 16 centuries later. Ultimately, Augustine gives us the beautiful picture of life graced by Christ through the faith he gives to the citizens he elects to join his city. Augustine shows us how Christ's grace removes his predestinated citizens from the worries of the earthly city, while (paradoxically) energizing them to care that much more for the inhabitants of this city (as the Christians in Rome did for non-believers they sheltered from Alaric's invaders).

    One note of recent relevance: The City of God is often referenced today for Augustine's discussion of "just war" theory. While Augustine definitely believed that war can at times be just, and therefore morally obligatory, he does not really go into great detail about "just war" theory in "The City of God." In nearly 900 pages (in the Modern Library edition), he writes about war for no more than 1-2 pages.

    I highly recommend "The City of God" to everyone, Christian or not. Just for the history of it, this book is fascinating, but the theology makes it one of the greatest works ever written....more info

  • Along with his Confessions, this book is his best
    The Roman Empire was on the verge of being destroy, and pagans blamed Constantine the Emperor for the Christianization of the Roman Empire (because the Pagan gods protected the Empire.)Hence, Saint Agustine wrote this wonderful masterpiece....more info
  • City of Rad
    I expected City of God to read like any faithful Baedeker would; charming descriptions of quaint, exotic inhabitants; fanastically woven descriptions of alluring locales; perhaps even a tip on where to take in some fine cuisine. To this end, my expecations were most pleasantly vindicated. If you want to know how to make the most out of your holiday to the City of God, I recommend giving more than a careful perusal to this fine tome. ...more info
  • Important Doctrine
    This is one of the more important doctrines in the history of Christianity. Much of the structure of the Catholic church is based on the ideas of St. Augustine. However, one need not be a Catholic to believe or be influenced by his writings as they as universal to all Christians.

    The first sections of the book draw into question the abandonment of the worship of pagan gods for the one true God as the reason for the fall of the Rome. Some of the more eloquent arguments against this idea follow. If Christianity is to blame for the fall of Rome, what caused all of the previous wars? Why would the gods not prevent these wars?

    The remainder of the book is a somewhat condensed history of Christianity as told in the Bible. Some of this is dry reading as even St. Augustine is willing to admit that he carries on too long occasionally. If one has difficulty reading philosophers such as Plato, the author argues against them to support his argument. So reading these sections may be problematic to some. The discussion of the last judgment is among those that caught my attention, stating that the separation it caused from God is like dying a second death.

    Some of the discussion in the book one may find disagreeable. For example, St. Augustine states that intercourse should be limited to procreative purposes. Believing there to be shame in the act, he can see no other purpose.

    As another reviewer stated, this is a heavy read for which one may need some background in the customs and life of the Romans. Familiarlity with some of St. Augustine's other works was also an asset to me in reading this book. It is an enlightening journey in faith....more info
  • Monumental
    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.

    Certainly there are moments of "how many angels on the head of a pin," which I suppose Augustine inspired in latter theologians. The various discussions of the form, age, and physical condition of post-Resurrected faithful seems unworthy of discussion. And yet he was writing in direct argument against contemporaries. This, at least, is fascinating; that anti-Christians of Augustine's day tried to build a rational case against particular aspects of Christian doctrine, rather than against the underlying thesis of Christ.

    The more history you know, the more mythology you have read, and the better acquainted with Scripture you are, the more you will get out of The City of God. But such things are not necessary. Augustine is a patient writer (as exemplified by the vast scope of this and other works). He walks his readers painstakingly through each subject.

    I must agree with other reviewers that the last two Books are worthy to stand alone, treating of hell, purgatory, and heaven. As vivid and daunting as the discussion of hell is, so is the beatific vision inspiring and easing. Augustine above all knows the value of true peace - the peace of Christ. And he knows too well the limits of the City of Man in attaining this peace. That he has indeed "tasted and seen" is wonderfully clear, and he inspires and encourages his readers to share in that faith and hope which motivate his life.

    There are so many details of note: from the Christ-prophetic visions of Greek sybils to the independent trinitarian philosophy of Plato. Such details are commonplace to Augustine, but we have forgotten them. Truly, The City of God must be reckoned among the necessities of catechismic formation, mostly for Roman Catholics, but if certain later prejudices can be ignored, for all Christians as well. I would caution Jewish readers that Augustine makes no bones about the deicide and subsequent temporal punishment that he believes the Jews endure, until their conversion with the Last Judgement. As to pagans and heretics of all stripes, you've met your match in Augustine... he outwitted you 1500 years ago.

    Lest I be as prolix as Augustine himself, I will conclude by referencing the great spiritual help that this book provides. Particularly in modern times, though American Christians (and even American Catholics) are notably free from persecution, the City of Man calls us ever more away from Truth. Augustine's book helps us walk, not on the path of our own disordered priorities, but toward that greater and infinite blessedness we have been promised in Christ....more info

  • Two societies. Analysis, exegesis, history, philosophy. . .
    With an eye to bypassing some of Augustine's many redundancies and digressions, the Image/Doubleday edition -- "abridged for modern readers" -- is nonetheless a major commitment for the reader. Augustine began writing The City of God at age 59 and worked on it, off and on, for much of the next 14 years. The impetus for the beginning of this vast work (and its recurring focus) was the charge of Pagans (polytheists) that Christianity was responsible for the decay and demise of the Roman Empire. The charge put forward the claim that the prosperity and social stability of the state was dependant upon polytheistic worship. In response, Augustine arrays several lines of argument, rebutting the assumed 'goodness' of the Pagan state, as such, and detailing the ethical/moral and logical failings of Paganism. Augustine displays tremendous scholarship, employing the writings of Paganism's greatest historians and philosophers in his case against their religious claims. The result is a giant literary, philosophical, historical, theological and exegetical work. In this abridged edition, some redundant and digressive texts are omitted with notes indicating this and summarizing their content. The integrity of the book and chapter divisions is retained.
    Against the 'city', i.e., society, of many gods, there is but one alternate society, this Augustine calls The City of God, adopting the expression found in several of King David's psalms. Not only is the society of many gods the society of polytheists, it is also the "city" of pantheists, atheistic materialists and philosophical Cynics. In the case of the Cynics and atheists, these false gods are the myriad gods of self, indeed, at least as many gods (selves) as there are believers in them. Thus there are two "cities", two loves, two ways to understand the big questions of existence, two destinations. Says Augustine:
    "The one City began with the love of God; the other had its beginnings in the love of self." XIV:13. "The city of man seeks the praise of men, whereas the height of glory for the other is to hear God in the witness of conscience. The one lifts up its head in its own boasting; the other says to God: 'Thou art my glory, thou liftest up my head.' (Psalm 3.4) In the city of the world both the rulers themselves and the people they dominate are dominated by the lust for domination; whereas in the City of God all citizens serve one another in charity. . ." XIV:28.
    Among the many philosophical (and historical) passages of interest are Augustine's general recountings of the history and development of Italian and Ionian philosophy, in Book VIII, particularly as regards ethics, theology, physics and cosmography.

    For the reader whose serious interest is Christian theology and scriptural exegetics, Augustine needs no introduction. It would be fair to describe him as the most influential human voice of the Christian faith, post New Testament. I'll sketch my 'take' on his views in just three areas of interpretation on which there were conflicting views within the Christianity of late antiquity and which are yet disputed 1600 years later. These being (1) interpreting the Genesis creation account, (2) the balancing of determinism or 'predestination' with freedom of the will, and (3) the doctrine of 'hell'.
    (1) Although he devotes the matter more specific attention in other of his writings than he does here, Augustine finds a literal interpretation if Genesis 1-2 to give rise to paradoxes and conflicts within the text that make a literal interpretation unworkable. His understanding is sometimes called 'literary', as opposed to 'literal'. Rather than being an abrupt history, the account is understood as being essentially an introduction, a theological primer, presenting a literary exposition of God's primordial separateness, non-dependence, intimacy with the created ('hovering') and ultimate sovereignty 'over' it (Gen. 1:1-2), in other words, a framework for understanding the nature of God's relationship to his creation. In more recent times, those who hold for the so-called "framework" understanding have claimed this "non-literal" view; for an earlier but similar exegesis, read Philo (c.20BC-50AD). For Augustine, the physical and temporal facts of creation are a mystery known only to God (see Job 38ff). While he does not place the creation of man temporally six solar days after the original act of divine creation ("As for these 'days,' it is difficult, perhaps impossible to think -- let alone to explain in words -- what they mean"), he does use the genealogies of the Pentateuch to roughly estimate a time for the creation of the first man in God's image (Adam). He spends some effort examining inconsistent points in various genealogical accounts (both within and between the Septuagint and the Hebrew) but concludes that this is no significant difficulty as the genealogies are intended to establish lineages (e.g., for the patriarchs) and not to establish complete temporal histories. They are accurate for the purpose intended, inaccurate only if their intent is not recognized.
    (2) Today, many Christians who hold the strong 'Calvinist' view of "predestination", claim Augustine as a proponent of this view. While many succinct statements will appear to support this claim, we should understand such statements within their given contexts. In this regard, Augustine is no denier of the freedom of the human will or the omnibenevolence of God. Although he does use the term 'predestine,' he would certainly agree with Anselm that the meaning of the word when applied to the omniscient God is simply not the same as our understanding of the concept for which we appropriate the word. Augustine's wrestlings with the thorny openness/determinism question, as regards the human will, is not as `cut and dried' as the `Calvinist' often insists! Wesleyans and other so-called 'Arminians' can look to Augustine too, and will understand him in a broader and more contextual manner than the strict Calvinist can permit himself.
    (3) While I personally find no major difficulty in Augustine's approach to the two doctrinal issues considered above, I disagree with his doctrine of Hell. For Augustine, Hell is relentless, eternal, sensory, bodily torture, wherein one is, in his words, "pounded by perpetual pain." He tries to engage the opposing view of 'hell' being, in St Paul's words, "eternal destruction," but here he fails (Book XXI). It seems clear enough to me that Hades' chamber of pain and torture was adopted from Paganism and not scripture. The two texts that are often held to support Augustine's view are better understood as literary than literal. Either the 'worm that turns forever' and the "smoke of their torment" that ascends forever are metaphors (they obviously are), or the "second death" and the "eternal destruction" are metaphors (they do not have that sense). When commissioning His disciples, in a direct statement Christ himself calls "hell" the ultimate destruction of the soul (Matt. 10:28). I think it is evident that a large number of Christians, including Augustine, have on this issue chosen the wrong verses as metaphorical ('literary' as opposed to 'literal'), and the wrong verses as literal. The opposite of eternal life is eternal not-life, an eternal punishment to be sure, but not eternal torture, which, after all, would require eternal life and not its contrary. Augustine errs because he sees divine justice as necessarily trumping divine mercy, a view that cannot be well argued from New Testament scripture ("God IS love"; 1 John 4:8/16; and "Mercy triumphs over judgment", James 2:13). [Yes, I am a so-called 'annihilationist', many religious traditions stand against this understanding, many religious traditions are wrong.] Christians have been disagreeing on these issues for a long time, and obviously some readers will disagree with me.
    In Book XXII, concluding this great work, Augustine speculatively considers the nature of an eternal life reconciled finally and completely with God. Here, the text simply soars. Of course there is much more of interest in this expansive volume -- its historical importance, or one of Augustine's famous treatments of the physics of 'time' (Book XI), for example, than I can touch on here. "Thus, it is the love of study that seeks a holy leisure; and only the compulsion of charity that shoulders necessary activity."...more info
  • Reasons to read The City of God
    Any thinking Christian is daunted by this three-pound monster, but he owes it to himself to read it, front to back. The Great Doctor of the Latin Church here set forth the tenets for the entire Church to come, based on diligent studies of Scripture. Augustine is surprisingly readable when discussing history and even rises to humor when he discusses ancient Roman religious practices. He anticipates many of the great existentialists by over a millenium and a half in his treatments of the Old Testament. At the end of an exhausting journey, one is left with a reaffirmed faith and renewed strength in the promise of our Savior. No man should be deprived of the nourishment of the mind and spirit contained in this book. Happy reading...more info
  • City of God
    This is an apologetic text in defence of the Chritian faith. In this book, Augustine persuasively informed his audience (readers) regarding the history of creation from the fall of humanity to their redemption provided they recognized him as God of their lives. This is possible only as they abandon all forms of idolatries lest they experience a catatrosphe similar to what led to the fall of Rome. Augustine's concept of the two cities are in contrast to each other, viz, the city of God versus the city of Satan. The former is governed by God, and the later by the Devil that also governs the minds of many un-regenerated. Thus, Augustine appealed, in his 22 volumes that are now in a single volume, to us all to join him "in rendering thanks to God" through this great work! Pastor Moses Oladele Taiwo, Ph.D. Professor of New Testament and Head of the Department of Urban Christian Ministry, New Life Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC 28203. Tel: (704) 334 6884 Ext.106. ...more info
  • For the ages...
    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....more info

  • The masterpiece of a great thinker.
    City of God is a difficult, complex, and wide-ranging book, which makes many references to persons and places that will often be obscure to most of us. But I think anyone can learn something from the genius and wide-ranging observations of Augustine. One of the first things I noticed when I began reading this book about twenty years ago was, "Hey! I recognize that faith!" Him, a Latin-speaking north African "Catholic" of the 4th Century, me, a 20th Century English-speaking Norte Americano WASP. City of God showed me that the Church of Christ is more united in its diversity than I realized. And in a sense, Augustine is broader still; he writes not only as a Christian, but as a human being. All of us can learn something from him, I think:

    The skeptic. You will find a few ideas here based on an out-dated "pre-scientific worldview." If you're looking for something to laugh at, and aren't intimidated by his intellect, you may be able to pull out a few quotes. But if you're looking for truth, you'll find much more, in every way. Augustine's love of truth burns from the pages of this book like a flame. The scope of his curiosity is broad, and his intellect first-rate by any standard.

    The missionary. In the tradition of Paul and John, point people to a God not entirely unknown. Remind people how their own ancestors sought God, and knew something about Him before we got there. Quote the oracle of Apollo, or the Platonists, to prove Christ. Expect God to do miracles.

    The New Ager. The period in which Augustine wrote City of God bares a striking resemblance to our own. "Many civilizations had met in one civilization," as Chesterton put it. Augustine argues against reincarnation and channeling and other modern fads. His solution is neither complete negation nor complete affirmation, but a more subtle synthesis that allows truths of many cultures to meet in Christ and find fulfillment; a solution that modern Christians have applied in an interesting way to redemptive truths in Buddhism, Hinduism, Marxism, and Islam.

    The debater and apologist. This book is a model for those who who want to make an effective argument. Know your opponent's arguments as well as they know them themselves. Admit when they are on the right track. When they wander off it, quote sources they see as authoritative to show the error of their nehs. Love truth. Use reason and passion in equal measure. (But maybe, in our day, don't be quite so long-winded. . . I mean thorough.)

    While I respect those reviewers below who read City of God cover to cover, personally I skimmed a bit. The Penguin edition also has a useful, though concise, index.

    Author, Jesus and the Religions of Man info

  • Some things are better read about than read
    I read this for a book group I was in, and was rather peeved at being forced to blow so much time on what is essentially useful only to the Classical historian or Scholasticism buff. Realistically, Augustine is just a particularly eloquent proponent of a religious argument we all get in Sunday School at age 10: The things of this world are transitory and passing, but the things of the next world are eternal and more valuable. You can almost hear the monotonous cadence. If what you want is to add to your already-considerable knowledge of the particulars of late Roman civilization, then this is the book for you. If you're in seminary and reading Aquinas, and you're thinking, "I'd certainly like to know more about his major intellectual influences," then this is the book for you. But if what you want is an increased familiarity with the major ideas of Western civilization, then do yourself a favor and go pick up a pair of textbooks: one on ancient history, the other on classical philosophy. Augustine of Hippo will get a few pages in each one, and that's honestly all he's worth. Plowing through the entirety of The City of God for simple philosophical or theological curiosity would be like reading the complete works of Louis Agassiz just to see what scientific racism was like. Both efforts would be fruitful, in one sense, but in another sense you'd have spent an awful lot of time learning about antiquated theories. ...more info
  • The foundations of Christianity
    Saint Augustine (354 - 430 AD), was born at a time when the Roman Empire was in its nadir, a situation quite antipodal to the heydays of the glorious times of the philosopher emperor Julius Caesar and a few others that, for the glory of Rome, spread the wings of the Roman conquest to the borders of almost all the civilized world, from Britain in the West to the occidental limits of the Persian Empire in the East. The barbarians hordes were already knocking at the gates of Rome and many other important cities and eventually got there invadind Rome trough the auspices of the Germanic barbarian Alaric, who, along with Atila the Hun, was one of the cruelest of his kind. The "Civitatis Dei" was written a few years after the first sack of Rome, a thrilling background to and the starting point of many of Saint Augustine ideas concerning God's attitude toward the city and its citizens. Despite the impending fall of the Western Empire, Christianism was steadily gaining ground as the official religion vis--vis Paganinsm, which began to suffer all the burden of (unofficial) persecuted by some Roman emperors. But Paganinsm still had strong adherents in many important places, specially in the Senate, and the purpose of Saint Augustine was to counterpoise the ascending fortunes of Christianity.

    Augustine, born in the north of Africa in the city of Hippo, was one of the most important theoreticians of Christian doctrine of all times, a great thinker in his own right, who could be compared to great Catholic thinkers as Saint Thomas Aquina and Saint Paul, being one of the true founding fathers of the Catholic tradition and religion along with the Gospel four Evangelists. His written output is impressive, even outstanding, both from the point of view of its quantity as from the point of view of its inner quality. His most important works, written in Latin as usual at the time, are "The City of God" (Civitatis Dei) and "Confessions", the former an impressive book of 1,100+ pages of teachings concerning various aspects of the lives of Christians and pagans in the V century he lived.

    The book's lenght notwithstanding, it is a very pleasant and easy reading, not losing the elegance it should have in Latin, with all the quotations necessary for the full understanding concerning some allusion of Augustine to the recent or remote history of Rome, ROman and Greek mythology and philosophical citations from authors renowned at the time but almost unknown today. A good introduction to the life and work of Saint Augustine is also provided.

    TO sum it up, the book is a very good one and an essential reading to anyone interested in the importance of the philosophical thinking before the Middle Ages, most certainly influenced by Plato instead of Aristotle. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did....more info

  • Tough going, but worth it
    It took me about five months of off-and-on reading to slog through City of God--it was time well-spent. Here is one of the rare 1000-page books that not only deserved its length, but could have been longer.

    What astounded me about reading St. Augustine was how relevant he is, even after 1600 years. The vast majority of what he discusses throughout this monumental book still matters--only the particulars have changed. In his day, pagans blamed Christians for wars and the collapse of civilization. Rationalists and materialists denied the supernatural, insisting that all religions were the same, and mocked those that believed in it. And Christians themselves, under pressure and guilt from what seemed to be the entire known world, expressed doubts about their faith. Sound familiar? Only the particulars of all these situations have changed--in the broadstrokes, Christianity is still fighting many of the same battles in which Augustine saw combat.

    This edition from Penguin Classics (I fully realize that Amazon will post this review on the Modern Library edition and other places that it doesn't belong) is very good. Henry Bettenson's translation is smooth, fast-moving, and heavily footnoted. While I found the footnotes very helpful--especially in the hundreds of places in which Augustine quotes from scripture and other authors, like Virgil and Plotinus--some of them struck me as unnecessary, particularly those criticizing Augustine's etymologies and those pointing out which gods or goddesses are or are not found outside Augustine's work. The most helpful notes were those describing puns or other untranslatable portions of the book.

    Like I said, City of God is very heavy reading and a great deal of work to get through, but the reward should outweigh the time it takes to read the book.

    Highly recommended....more info
  • The defining work of the Christian faith outside the Bible
    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....more info
  • Augustine: A man of thought and of God
    The City of God is a work for both the scholar and the Christian; it pours light, not only on the struggle between the early Church, but also on the bases of the faith and Augustine's belief's concerning God, man, heaven, hell, angels, law, sexual behaviour, and the practise of the faith.

    Laid out in articles within chapters, this excellent translation of Augustine's monumental work flows from sentence to sentence, giving each word and phrase the flavor of the original. It draws from both Augustine's lively prose and his spontaneous poetic sense which is always built upon his prodigous knowledge of scripture. For the academic, the student, the priest, or the fellow-man; this is a work worth reading and cherishing.

    St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo around Carthage, was not always the revered father of the Church as we know him today. First, a liberal youth, then a believer in and defender of the Manicheans, and finally a staunch catholic, he searched for truth wherever he could. Here, in his City, he lays out the difference between the world of faith and the world of mammon, i.e., those who live by worldly standards and those who live as if they were not true citizens of this world but only pilgrims on their way to the great city.

    The book is a beautiful exegesis on the scriptures, a treatise on many theological points, and a manual of moral guidelines. St. Augustine addresses the world and ideas of his time, and yet his work remains timeless, for the same truths apply today....more info

  • Unworthy printing of a most worthy version
    This is not the most attractive edition of St. Augustine's monumental City of God but it is worth getting anyway for the introduction by Etienne Gilson. The translation is quite good and, though it is somewhat abridged, this doesn't pose too great a problem as Bourke has inserted into the text a brief description of the material that he cut out so you can go to an unabridged edition if you choose....more info
  • The Best Kindle Edition of This Work
    For those without a Kindle this review will have little to offer except to say that this edition comes with a preface by Thomas Merton which for me was a welcome surprise. I usually don't bother with introductions.

    Kindle users, I looked at every Kindle edition of this work and this is without question the best formatted version. The only drawback is the lack of titles for each "book" in the table of contents. Instead they are just numbered; I, II, III, IV, and so on. There are also hyperlinked "footnotes," which I did not notice in other editions.

    I apologize to Kindle non-owners, but Amazon has not yet presented away to comment specifically on electronic editions, and many public domain books--classics--are not yet properly formatted for the Kindle (which despite a few hitches is a five star device). ...more info
  • Abridged "City of God"
    I was interested in studying examples of spiritual healing in the early Christian Church.I was quite disappointed to discover that only about six pages of Book XXII, Chpt. 8 were recorded, the remaining twelve pages were dismissed by an abridgement statement "Twelve more pages describe similar miracles witnessed by, or directly reported to Augustine."...more info
  • Ouch
    Well, I'm a Pagan and I did not like this book. It was written at a time when the Christians were starting on a major campaign to slaughter Pagans and bring us into the Dark Ages. But rather than say all the things I disliked about it, I'll just let anyone who wants to know what I think of it e-mail me....more info


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