Reading the Church Fathers discussion

City of God
This topic is about City of God
15 views
Augustine of Hippo: City of God > Book VI. The Theology of Varro the Scholar

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Nemo (last edited Mar 31, 2019 11:46PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1400 comments In the second half of Part I (Bks. VI - X), Augustine refutes the belief that the pagan gods have the power to grant eternal life.

If I'm not mistaken, he is addressing the beliefs held by the learned pagans as opposed to the populace, as the former has aided, if not led, the latter in the attack against Christianity.


message 2: by Nemo (last edited Apr 06, 2019 11:11AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1400 comments Varro was a man “unquestionably the acutest of all men, and, without any doubt, the most learned”, according to Cicero. It is fitting that Augustine quotes him extensively in City of God, and engages with his ideas.

Like his contemporary Cicero, Varro believes that religion, even if it is false, has its place in the state, as it serves important purposes.

Augustine here criticizes this utilitarian approach to religion, which also became one of the main arguments against religion by atheists:

For just as the demons cannot possess any but those whom they have deceived with guile, so also men in princely office, not indeed being just, but like demons, have persuaded the people in the name of religion to receive as true those things which they themselves knew to be false; in this way, as it were, binding them up more firmly in civil society, so that they might in like manner possess them as subjects.
IV.32



message 3: by Nemo (last edited Apr 06, 2019 12:10PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1400 comments One of the Supposed Benefits of (False) Religion
Varro, a very learned heathen, all but admits that these stories are false, though he does not boldly and confidently say so.  But he maintains it is useful for states that brave men believe, though falsely, that they are descended from the gods; for that thus the human spirit, cherishing the belief of its divine descent, will both more boldly venture into great enterprises, and will carry them out more energetically, and will therefore by its very confidence secure more abundant success.
III.4



message 4: by Nemo (last edited Apr 06, 2019 12:10PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1400 comments The Benefits of Theology

Varro writes the following concerning the study of religion, which Augustine quotes, and apparently agrees with, provided that the object of such study is the true God.

Just as it is of no advantage to know the name and appearance of any man who is a physician, and not know that he is a physician, so it is of no advantage to know well that Æsculapius is a god, if you are not aware that he can bestow the gift of health, and consequently do not know why you ought to supplicate him.

No one is able, not only to live well, but even to live at all, if he does not know who is a smith, who a baker, who a weaver, from whom he can seek any utensil, whom he may take for a helper, whom for a leader, whom for a teacher; that in this way it can be doubtful to no one, that thus the knowledge of the gods is useful, if one can know what force, and faculty, or power any god may have in any thing. For from this we may be able to know what god we ought to call to, and invoke for any cause; lest we should do as too many are wont to do, and desire water from Liber, and wine from Lymphs.
IV.22



John Angerer | 58 comments I like the way Augustine positions his argument in such a logical way. Starting with Varro’s building blocks in IV.3 and then slowly developing by drawing the circle closer and closer to Christianity, using subtle language concerning the Holy Spirit and the works of God in the world.


John Angerer | 58 comments In book VI, Augustine discusses the differences between theologies. One theology, my translation has translated it “fabulous” theology, I cannot find a reference anywhere about it (introduced in VI.5). I’m thinking it’s a translation issue, can anyone tell me if there is another name for “fabulous” theology? Is “fabulous” theology the same as “mythical?”


Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1400 comments John Angerer wrote: "In book VI, Augustine discusses the differences between theologies. One theology, my translation has translated it “fabulous” theology, I cannot find a reference anywhere about it (introduced in VI..."

The word fabulous is derived from the same Latin root as the word fable, fābula, literally meaning story; The word mythical is from the Greek word, mythos, meaning story. So both translations are appropriate.


back to top