Abstract

This essay offers an analysis of the structure of Augustine's City of God. Building on Augustine's identification of the five parts of his work (in a letter he wrote to Firmus), I suggest that these five parts show Augustine to be undertaking a transformation of pagan understandings of history and its gods. Whereas the Romans worshiped gods who, like the Romans themselves, sought linear-historical goals such as fame and pleasure, Platonic philosophers rejected linear history and sought instead a participatory ascent to the transcendent God. Neither view of history would do for Augustine, who instead offers in the final three parts of City of God a demonstration of the interconnected linear and participatory aspects of history in relation to the Creator God who calls us to eternal life. This essay provides background to the thesis of my 2008 book Participatory Biblical Exegesis and proposes that contemporary biblical scholars and theologians, rather than grounding their methods in an acceptance of modernity's strictly linear (pagan) view of history, can learn from Augustine how to argue for a linear and participatory understanding of history adequate to Scripture.

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