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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 34

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 34.—Of the Idea that the Angels Were Meant Where the Separation of the Waters by the Firmament is Spoken Of, and of that Other Idea that the Waters Were Not Created.

Some, 521 however, have supposed that the angelic hosts are somehow referred to under the name of waters, and that this is what is meant by “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters:” 522   that the waters above should be understood of the angels, and those below either of the visible waters, or of the multitude of bad angels, or of the nations of men.  If this be so, then it does not here appear when the angels were created, but when they were separated.  Though there have not been wanting men foolish and wicked enough 523 to deny that the waters were made by God, because it is nowhere written, “God said, Let there be waters.”  With equal folly they might say the same of the earth, for nowhere do we read, “God said, Let the earth be.”  But, say they, it is written, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”  Yes, and there the water is meant, for both are included in one word.  For “the sea is His,” as the psalm says, “and He made it; and His hands formed the dry land.” 524   But those who would understand the angels by the waters above the skies have a difficulty about the specific gravity of the elements, and fear that the waters, owing to their fluidity and weight, could not be set in the upper parts of the world.  So that, if they were to construct a man upon their own principles, they would not put in his head any moist humors, or “phlegm” as the Greeks call it, and which acts the part of water among the elements of our body.  But, in God’s handiwork, the head is the seat of the phlegm, and surely most fitly; and yet, according to their supposition, so absurdly that if we were not aware of the fact, and were informed by this same record that God had put a moist and cold and therefore heavy humor in the uppermost part of man’s body, these world-weighers would refuse belief.  And if they were confronted with the authority of Scripture, they would maintain that something else must be meant by the words.  But, were we to investigate and discover all the details which are written in this divine book regarding the creation of the world, we should have much to say, and should widely digress from the proposed aim of this work.  Since, then, we have now said what seemed needful regarding these two diverse and contrary communities of angels, in which the origin of the two human communities (of which we intend to speak anon) is also found, let us at once bring this book also to a conclusion.



Augustin himself published this idea in his Conf. xiii. 32 but afterwards retracted it, as “said without sufficient consideration” (Retract. II. vi. 2).  Epiphanius and Jerome ascribe it to Origen.


Gen. 1.6.


Namely, the Audians and Sampsæans, insignificant heretical sects mentioned by Theodoret and Epiphanius.


Ps. 95.5.

Next: Book XII

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