Augustine on the Angels’ Creation

In City of God 11.9, Augustine considers the creation of the angels, or rather, Scripture’s relative lack of attention to it. Genesis doesn’t mention the creation of the angels explicitly, but since Genesis purports to be comprehensive (“created the heavens and the earth,” “rested from all his works”), they must, Augustine reasons, be in there somewhere. He finds a clue in a stray verse in Job: “Quando facta sunt sidera, laudaverunt me voce magna omnes angeli mei” (When the stars were made, all my angels praised me with a loud voice) (Job 38:7). This tells him that the angels existed before the stars, which suggests to him that the discussion of the LORD’s creation of light and his separation of it from darkness might be about their creation and fall.

Here’s the thing, though: this wording actually isn’t even in the Vulgate, much less the MT; it’s a Latin rendering of an Old Greek version of Job. In the Vulgate, the stars and the angels praise together: “cum me laudarent simul astra matutina et iubilarent omnes filii Dei.” It’s only in the Old Greek that the angels precede the stars: “ὅτε ἐγενήθησαν ἄστρα ᾔνεσάν με φωνῇ μεγάλῃ πάντες ἄγγελοί μου.”

We can adopt Augustine’s line of reasoning, it seems to me, only if we have a capacious understanding of Scripture’s constitution as, not a single text, but rather a family of texts linked by a complicated translation history, and united by their liturgical authority to be the means by which the LORD speaks scripturally to his people.

This entry was posted in Angels, Augustine, City of God, Genesis, Job, Translation and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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