Verse Two Is Defended
5. The Manichees. in finding fault with what follows in the Book of Genesis. "But the earth was invisible and without form,” ask, "How did God make heaven and earth in the beginning if the earth was already invisible and without form?” Since they want to attack the divine Scriptures before they know them. they fail to understand even the clearest things. For what could be said more clearly than the. words. “In the beginning God made heaven and earth, but the earth was invisible and without form"? That is, in the beginning God made heaven and earth. but the very earth which God made was invisible and without form before God arranged the forms of all things by ordering and distinguishing them in their places and ranks. before he said. "Let there be light" and "Let there be the firmament" and "Let the waters be gathered together" and "Let the dry land appear" and the remaining things which are explained in order in the same book so that even the little ones can grasp them. All these things contain such great mysteries that whoever has learned them either grieves over the vanity of all heretics. because they are human beings. or mocks it. because they are proud
6. There follows in the same book. “And darkness was over the abyss.” The Manichees find fault with this and say. "Was God then in darkness. before he made the light?" They themselves are truly in the darkness of ignorance. and for that reason they do not understand the light in which God was before he made this light. For they know only the light they see with the eyes of the flesh. And therefore they worship this sun which we see. not only along with the larger animals, but even with flies and worms, and they say that this sun is a particle of that light in which God dwells. But let us understand that there is a different light in which God dwells" From it there comes that light of which we read in the gospel. "He was the true light that enlightens every man coming into this world,” For the light of this sun does not enlighten all of man, but the body of man and his mortal eyes, in which we are surpassed by the eyes of eagles which are said to gaze upon this sun much better than we." But that other light feeds, not the eyes of irrational birds, but the pure hearts of those who believe God and turn themselves from the love of visible and temporal things to the fulfillment of his commands, If they wish to, all men can do this, because that light enlightens every man coming into this world. Hence, darkness was over the abyss before there was this light, about which more is said in what follows. Augustine, Saint Augustine on Genesis: Two Books on Genesis and on the Literal Interpretation of Genesis: An Unfinished Book, trans. Roland J. Teske (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University Press, 1991), 52-54. [Footnotes not included and underlining mine.]
TWO BOOKS ON GENESIS, AGAINST THE MANICHEANS
(De Genesi adversus Manicheos libri duo)
(I) After I was now settled in Africa, I wrote two books, On Genesis, against the Manicheans. Although whatever I discussed in earlier books in which I showed that God is the supreme Good and the unchangeable Creator of all changeable natures and that no nature or substance, insofar as it is a nature and substance, is an evil, was intentionally directed against the Manicheans, yet these two books very manifestly were published against them in defense of the Old Law which they attack with the vehement intensity of frenzied error. The first book begins from the words: "In the beginning God made heaven and earth’" and continues up to the passage when seven days have passed where we read that God rested on the seventh day. The second book begins from the words: "This book of the creation of the heaven and the earth’" and covers up to the place when Adam and his wife were driven from Paradise’ and a guard was placed over the tree of life.’ Then, at the end of this book, I contrast the error of the Manicheans with the creed of Catholic truth, including briefly and clearly what they hold and what we hold.
(2) But the new Pelagian heretics are not to think that what I said was said in agreement with them, namely: “This light, however, does not nourish the eyes of irrational birds but the pure hearts of those who believe in God and turn from the love of visible and temporal things to the fulfillment of His precepts; all have this in their power if they will.” Indeed, it is entirely true that all men have this in their power if they will; but “the will is made ready by God” and is strengthened by the gift of charity to such a degree that they have it in their power. This was not said here, then, because it was not pertinent to the question under discussion. But as to the fact that one reads there, that the blessing of the Lord concerning which the following was said: “Increase and multiply,” should be believed to have been transformed into carnal fertility alter the sin, if one cannot understand that this was said only in the sense that men would not have had children if men had not sinned, I entirely disapprove.
It does not, indeed, follow that an allegorical interpretation alone is warranted of what is said in the Book of Genesis: green herbs and fruit-bearing trees are given as food to every kind of beast and to all birds and to all serpents" because there are four-looted beasts and fowls of the air that seem to live on flesh alone. Perhaps they could also have been fed by men on the fruits of the earth if, in reward for an obedience whereby they served God without any iniquity, they had deserved to have all beasts and birds entirely subservient to them.
Moreover, the manner in which I spoke of the people of Israel could be disturbing: "Even now that people, in the sea of the people of God, so to speak, by corporeal circumcision and sacrifices obeyed the law”; for it was nol possible for the people of Israel to offer sacrifice in the midst of the Gentiles, just as, even at the present time, we see that they have remained without sacrifices, unless, perchance, the fact that they immolate a lamb during the Passover be counted as sacrifice.
(3) In the second book also, my statement that the term food could signify life–the manuscripts of a more correct translation do not have food but hay–does not seem to have been stated aptly enough, for the term hay does not correspond to the meaning life in the same way as the term food.
Moreover, I do not seem to have correctly called prophetic the words in this passage: "Why is earth and ashes proud?" for the book in which this is read is not the work of one of whom we can be certain that he should be called a prophet.
When I explained the passage: “God breathed into his face the breath of life and man. became a live soul or a living soul,” I did not understand the Apostle as he wished to be understood when he used testimony from Genesis saying: “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” For the Apostle used this testimony in order to prove that the body is animated; I thought, however, that from this, one could prove that, in the beginning, the entire man, not his body alone, was created animated.
Moreover, I said: "Sins harm only the nature of him who commits them." I said this because he who harms a just man does not really harm him since he increases his "reward in heaven"; by sinning, however, he really harms himself, since, because of the very will to harm, he will receive the harm that he has done. The Pelagians, of course, can ascribe this opinion to their belief and, accordingly, can say that the sins of another have not harmed infants on the ground that I said: “Sins harm only the nature of him who commits them.” Hence, they do not realize that infants, who assuredly possess human nature, inherit original sin because in the first men human nature has sinned, and for this reason, “Sins harm only the nature of him who commits them.” Indeed, “by one man” in whom an have sinned, "sin entered into the world.” For I did not say, “only the man,” but I said: "Sins harm only the nature of him who commits them."
Likewise, they can seek a like subterfuge in a statement I made a short time afterwards: “There is no natural evil,” if this statement is not applied to nature as it was created in the beginning without sin. For this is truly and properly called the nature of man. However, we used the word in a transferred sense just as we, indeed, designate the nature of man at birth, according to the meaning of the Apostle when he said: “For we also once were by nature children of wrath even as the rest.” Augustine, Saint Augustine: Retractions, trans. Sister Mary Inez Bogan ((Washington D.C.: The Catholic University Press, 1968), 41-44. [Some spelling modified, closing extended quotation not included, footnotes not included; and underlining mine.]