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The City of God | Study Guide

Saint Augustine

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Saint Augustine

Years Written

c. 413–26 CE


Religious Text


Philosophy, Religion

At a Glance

Saint Augustine was perhaps the most influential theologian and philosopher—along with Saint Paul the Apostle (author of many books of the New Testament)—in shaping early medieval Christianity. After its early days as a scattered minority religion, Christianity was officially adopted by the Roman Empire in the 4th century. Consolidated under the authority of bishops, any semblance of doctrinal unity began to disintegrate after the Western empire fell in the late 5th century. In the 11th century, these doctrinal differences led to a formal split between Roman Catholicism in the West and Orthodoxy in the East. Beginning in the 16th century, Christianity further splintered with the creation of various forms of Protestant Christianity. But almost all Christian sects to this day have certain key beliefs in common, and many can be traced back to Saint Augustine, and specifically to this text, which engages in biblical exegesis (critical examination of scripture) to confirm and establish doctrines that were, in many cases, previously suggested or argued by scholars, philosophers, and theologians. A few examples include the resurrection of the body after death; the damnation of sinners, whose bodies and souls are eternally punished; the unworthiness of all human beings who deserve damnation because of the original sin of disobedience committed by Adam and Eve; and the redemption of humanity through the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

The original teachings of Jesus Christ are known secondhand only through the Gospels of the New Testament, written some 40 to 70 years after his death. The meaning of Jesus's teachings was interpreted in diverse ways in the early days of the Jesus movement and into the first centuries of the Christian Church. Augustine employed his powerful intellect and rhetorical art to counteract significant movements of his day, which he labeled as "heresies" (i.e., alternative views about the meaning of Jesus's life and his teachings). For reasons related to his literary and rhetorical style as much as his religious authority, Augustine's interpretations of both the Old Testament and New Testament have significantly influenced Christianity for two millennia. Thus, The City of God is a seminal text for orthodox Christians as well as for those who wish to understand how these doctrines came into existence and how they have affected the Western psyche to this day.

About the Title

The City of God is the place of immortality and blessedness in the presence of God. It is the final destination for righteous Christians, as opposed to the city of man, a place of paganism and evil. Both cities exist simultaneously on both earth and in the afterlife. Augustine exhorts men to live by faith as pilgrims so they may attain the City of God and not be damned for their sins. The purpose of Augustine's text is to defend the City of God against its detractors, those who prefer their own gods to the one true God of Christianity.


This study guide for Saint Augustine's The City of God offers summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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