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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III:
Doctrinal Treatises of St. Augustin: Chapter 12

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 12.—The Appearance to Lot is Examined.

“But there came two angels to Sodom at even.” Here, what I have begun to set forth must be considered more attentively. Certainly Abraham was speaking with three, and called that one, in the singular number, the Lord. Perhaps, some one may say, he recognized one of the three to be the Lord, but the other two His angels. What, then, does that mean which Scripture goes on to say, “And the Lord went His way, as soon as He had left communing with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place: and there came two angels to Sodom at even?” Are we to suppose that the one who, among the three, was recognized as the Lord, had departed, and had sent the two angels that were with Him to destroy Sodom? Let us see, then, what follows. “There came,” it is said, “two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them, rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; and he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house.” Here it is clear, both that there were two angels, and that in the plural number they were invited to partake of hospitality, and that they were honorably designated lords, when they perchance were thought to be men.

22. Yet, again, it is objected that except they were known to be angels of God, Lot would not have bowed himself with his face to the ground. Why, then, is both hospitality and food offered to them, as though they wanted such human succor? But whatever may here lie hid, let us now pursue that which we have undertaken. Two appear; both are called angels; they are invited plurally; he speaks as with two plurally, until the departure from Sodom. And then Scripture goes on to say, “And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that they said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, and there thou shalt be saved, 285 lest thou be consumed. And Lot said unto them, Oh! not so, my lord: bep. 48 hold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight,” 286 etc. What is meant by his saying to them, “Oh! not so, my lord,” if He who was the Lord had already departed, and had sent the angels? Why is it said, “Oh! not so, my lord,” and not, “Oh! not so, my lords?” Or if he wished to speak to one of them, why does Scripture say, “But Lot said to them, Oh! not so, my lord: behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight,” etc.? Are we here, too, to understand two persons in the plural number, but when the two are addressed as one, then the one Lord God of one substance? But which two persons do we here understand?—of the Father and of the Son, or of the Father and of the Holy Spirit, or of the Son and of the Holy Spirit? The last, perhaps, is the more suitable; for they said of themselves that they were sent, which is that which we say of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. For we find nowhere in the Scriptures that the Father was sent. 287



This clause is not in the Hebrew.


Gen. 19.1-19Gen. xix. 1-19


[It is difficult to determine the details of this theophany, beyond all doubt: namely, whether the “Jehovah” who “went his way as soon as he had left communing with Abraham.” (Gen. 18.33Gen. xviii. 33) joins the “two angels” that “came to Sodom at even” (Gen. 19.1Gen xix. 1); or whether one of these “two angels” is Jehovah himself. One or the other supposition must be made; because a person is addressed by Lot as God (Gen. 19.18-20Gen. xix. 18-20), and speaks to Lot as God (Gen. 19:21, 22Gen. 19:21, 22), and acts as God (Gen. 19.24Gen. xix. 24). The Masorite marking of the word “lords” in Gen. 19.2Gen. xix. 2, as “profane,” i.e., to be taken in the human sense, would favor the first supposition. The interchange of the singular and plural, in the whole narrative is very striking. “It came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, escape for thy life. And Lot said unto them. Oh not so, my Lord: behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight. And he said unto him, see I have accepted thee; I will not overthrow the city of which thou hast spoken.” (Gen. 19.17-21Gen. xix. 17-21.)—W.G.T.S.]

Next: Chapter 13