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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III:
Doctrinal Treatises of St. Augustin: Chapter 21

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 21.—Of the Babylonish Captivity, and the Things Signified Thereby.

37. “Howbeit, after the lapse of some generations, another type was presented, which bears very emphatically on the matter in hand. For that city 1451 was brought into captivity, and a large section of the people were carried off into Babylonia. Now, as Jerusalem signifies the city and fellowship of the saints, so Babylonia signifies the city and fellowship of the wicked, seeing that by interpretation it denotes confusion. On the subp. 306 ject of these two cities, which have been running their courses, mingling the one with the other, through all the changes of time from the beginning of the human race, and which shall so move on together until the end of the world, when they are destined to be separated at the last judgment, we have spoken already a little ago. 1452 That captivity, then, of the city of Jerusalem, and the people thus carried into Babylonia in bondage, were ordained so to proceed by the Lord, by the voice of Jeremiah, a prophet of that time. 1453 And there appeared kings 1454 of Babylon, under whom they were in slavery, who on occasion of the captivity of this people were so wrought upon by certain miracles that they came to know the one true God who founded universal creation, and worshipped Him, and commanded that He should be worshipped. Moreover the people were ordered both to pray for those by whom they were detained in captivity, and in their peace to hope for peace, to the effect that they should beget children, and build houses, and plant gardens and vineyards. 1455 But at the end of seventy years, release from their captivity was promised to them. 1456 All this, furthermore, signified in a figure that the Church of Christ in all His saints, who are citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, would have to do service under the kings of this world. For the doctrine of the apostles speaks also in this wise, that ‘every soul should be subject to the higher powers,’ and that there ‘should be rendered all things to all men, tribute to whom tribute (is due), custom to whom custom,’ 1457 and all other things in like manner which, without detriment to the worship of our God, we render to the rulers in the constitution of human society: for the Lord Himself also, in order to set before us an example of this sound doctrine, did not deem it unworthy of Him to pay tribute 1458 on account of that human individuality 1459 wherewith He was invested. Again, Christian servants and good believers are also commanded to serve their temporal masters in equanimity and faithfulness; 1460 whom they will hereafter judge, if even on to the end they find them wicked, or with whom they will hereafter reign in equality, if they too shall have been converted to the true God. Still all are enjoined to be subject to the powers that are of man and of earth, even until, at the end of the predetermined time which the seventy years signify, the Church shall be delivered from the confusion of this world, like as Jerusalem was to be set free from the captivity in Babylonia. By occasion of that captivity, however, the kings of earth too have themselves been led to forsake the idols on account of which they were wont to persecute the Christians, and have come to know, and now worship, the one true God and Christ the Lord; and it is on their behalf that the Apostle Paul enjoins prayer to be made, even although they should persecute the Church. For he speaks in these terms: ‘I entreat, therefore, that first of all supplications, adorations, 1461 intercessions, and givings of thanks be made for kings, for all men, and all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, with all godliness and charity.’ 1462 Accordingly peace has been given to the Church by these same persons, although it be but of a temporal sort,—a temporal quiet for the work of building houses after a spiritual fashion, and planting gardens and vineyards. For witness your own case, too,—at this very time we are engaged, by means of this discourse, in building you up and planting you. And the like process is going on throughout the whole circle of lands, in virtue of the peace allowed by Christian kings, even as the same apostle thus expresses himself: ‘Ye are God’s husbandry; ye are God’s building.’ 1463

38. “And, indeed, after the lapse of the seventy years of which Jeremiah had mystically prophesied, to the intent of prefiguring the end of times, with a view still to the perfecting of that same figure, no settled peace and liberty were conceded again to the Jews. Thus it was that they were conquered subsequently by the Romans and made tributary. From that period, in truth, at which they received the land of promise and began to have kings, in order to preclude the supposition that the promise of the Christ who was to be their Liberator had met its complete fulfillment in the person of any one of their kings, Christ was prophesied of with greater clearness in a number of prophecies; not only by David himself in the book of Psalms, but also by the rest of the great and holy prophets, even on to the time of their conveyance into captivity in Babylonia; and in that same captivity there were also prophets whose mission was to prophesy of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Liberator of all. And after the restoration of the temple, when the seventy years had passed, the Jews susp. 307 tained grievous oppressions and sufferings at the hands of the kings of the Gentiles, fitted to make them understand that the Liberator was not yet come, whom they failed to apprehend as one who was to effect for them a spiritual deliverance, and whom they fondly longed for on account of a carnal liberation.



Or = community, civitas.


See Chapter xix.


Jer. 25:18, Jer. 29:1Jer. xxv. 18, xxix. 1


Dan. 2:47, Dan. 3:29, Dan. 6:26Dan. ii. 47, iii. 29, vi. 26; 1 Esdras 2.71 Esdr. ii. 7; Bel. 41Bel. 41


Jer. 29.4-7Jer. xxix. 4-7


Jer. 25.12Jer. xxv. 12


Rom. 13:1, 7Rom. 13:1, 7


Matt. 17.27


Pro capite hominis, literally = "on" account of that head of man, etc.


Eph. 6.5Eph. vi. 5


Instead of orationes; the better authenticated reading is adorationes.


1 Tim. 2:1, 21 Tim. 2:1, 2


1 Cor. 3:9, Jer. 25:12, Jer. 29:101 Cor. iii. 9; cf. Jer. xxv. 12, xxix. 10

Next: Chapter 22

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