Literature Study GuidesThe ConfessionsBook 11 Sections 1 13 Summary

The Confessions | Study Guide

Saint Augustine

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The Confessions | Book 11, Sections 1–13 (Time and Eternity) | Summary



Book 11 is an extended discourse on time, in which Augustine begins to introduce his exegesis (interpretation) of the first chapters of Genesis. He begins once again by testifying to God's power and goodness and asking him to grant him understanding, saying he wishes to understand how God made heaven and earth in the beginning. He presents a variety of possibilities about how God would not have made heaven and earth, concluding that he spoke the Word, who is also God. "All things are uttered simultaneously in one eternal speaking," he says. The beginning and end of any manifestation is "decreed in that eternal Reason where nothing begins or comes to an end. This eternal Reason is your Word, who is 'the Beginning' in that he also speaks to us."


Not surprisingly, Augustine moves from memory to time, since memory is the home of temporality. He also begins his interpretations of Genesis in this book. What did Moses mean when he said, "In the Beginning, God made heaven and earth"? In contrast to the beliefs of the materialistic Manichaeans, Augustine says that God did not make the world like a carpenter—out of pieces of material. Rather, he echoes the Gospel of John once again, which begins thus: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being." Augustine equates "the Word" with Jesus, as John also does. Thus, through that divine Word, which manifests eternally and all at once (there is no time in the Word), the spiritual world (heaven) and the physical world (earth) come into being.

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