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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 26

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 26.—That the Ark Which Noah Was Ordered to Make Figures In Every Respect Christ and the Church.

Moreover, inasmuch as God commanded Noah, a just man, and, as the truthful Scripture says, a man perfect in his generation,—not indeed with the perfection of the citizens of the city of God in that immortal condition in which they equal the angels, but in so far as they can be perfect in their sojourn in this world,—inasmuch as God commanded him, I say, to make an ark, in which he might be rescued from the destruction of the flood, along with his family, i.e., his wife, sons, and daughters-in-law, and along with the animals who, in obedience to God’s command, came to him into the ark:  this is certainly a figure of the city of God sojourning in this world; that is to say, of the church, which is rescued by the wood on which hung the Mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus. 854   For even its very dimensions, in length, breadth, and height, represent the human body in which He came, as it had been foretold.  For the length of the human body, from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot, is six times its breadth from side to side, and ten times its depth or thickness, measuring from back to front:  that is to say, if you measure a man as he lies on his back or on his face, he is six times as long from head to foot as he is broad from side to side, and ten times as long as he is high from the ground.  And therefore the ark was made 300 cubits in length, 50 in breadth, and 30 in height.  And its having a door made in the side of it certainly signified the wound which was made when the side of the Crucified was pierced with the spear; for by this those who come to Him enter; for thence flowed the sacraments by which those who believe are initiated.  And the fact that it was ordered to be made of squared timbers, signifies the immoveable steadiness of the life of the saints; for however you turn a cube, it still stands.  And the other peculiarities of the ark’s construction are signs of features of the church.

But we have not now time to pursue this subject; and, indeed, we have already dwelt upon it in the work we wrote against Faustus the Manichean, who denies that there is anything prophesied of Christ in the Hebrew books.  It may be that one man’s exposition excels another’s, and that ours is not the best; but all that is said must be referred to this city of God we speak of, which sojourns in this wicked world as in a deluge, at least if the expositor would not widely miss the meaning of the author.  For example, the interpretation I have given in the work against Faustus, of the words, “with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it,” is, that because the church is gathered out of all nations, it is said to have two stories, to represent the two kinds of men,—the circumcision, to wit, and the uncircumcision, or, as the apostle otherwise calls them, Jews and Gentiles; and to have three stories, because all the nations were replenished from the three sons of Noah.  Now any one may object to this interpretation, and may give another which harmonizes with the rule of faith.  For as the ark was to have rooms not only on the lower, but also on the upper stories, which were called “third stories,” that there might be a habitable space on the third floor from the basement, some one may interpret these to mean the three graces commended by the apostle.—faith, hope, and charity.  Or even more suitably they may be supposed to represent those three harvests in the gospel, thirty-fold, sixty-fold, an hundred-fold,—chaste marriage dwelling in the ground floor, chaste widowhood in the upper, and chaste virginity in the top story.  Or any better interpretation may be given, so long as the reference to this city is maintained.  And the same statement I would make of all the remaining particulars in this passage which require exposition, viz., that although different explanations p. 307 are given, yet they must all agree with the one harmonious catholic faith.


Footnotes

306:854

1 Tim. 2.5.


Next: Chapter 27

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