Monday, September 25, 2006

Did Augustine Really Affirm Purgatory in “The City Of God” Book 21?

I’ve been reading a book from the 17th Century by John Daill’e, A Treatise on the Right Use of the Fathers in the Decision of Controversies Existing at This Day in Religion [Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1856].

In Chapter IV, Daill’e posits that many of the writings of the Early Church Fathers have been corrupted: “The writings of the Fathers, which are considered legitimate, have been in many places corrupted by time, ignorance, and fraud, pious and malicious, both in the early and later ages” (p.61).

One example Daill’e gives is from St. Augustine’s City Of God:

“…[T]hat which is observed by Vives upon the twenty-first Book of Augustine de Civitate Dei; namely, that ten or twelve lines, which we find at this day in the twenty-fourth chapter of that Book, containing a positive assertion of purgatory, were not to be found in the ancient manuscripts of Bruges, and of Cologne; no, nor yet in that of Paris, as noted by those that printed Augustine, anno 1531” (p.69-70).

I haven’t had time to investigate Daille’s claim, and I only mention it in the hope that someone else is familiar with this issue. It is certain that Catholic apologists cite Augustine on Purgatory from book 21. For instance, these quotes seem to be popular on Catholic websites:

"Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment [-ante iudicium illud severissimum novissimumque-]. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow after that judgment." (The City of God 21:13 c. 413-426 A.D.)

"The prayer either of the Church herself or of pious individuals is heard on behalf of certain of the dead; but it is heard for those who, having been regenerated in Christ, did not for the rest of their life in the body do such wickedness that they might be judged unworthy of such mercy, nor who yet lived so well that it might be supposed they have no need of such mercy." (The City of God 21:24:2)

Catholic Apologist Patrick Madrid states:

"In Matthew 12:32, the Lord mentions a sin that cannot be forgiven even “in the world to come,” implying that there are some sins that will be forgiven after death (St. Augustine interpreted this passage this way, with regard to purgatory, in City of God 21:24:2). [Source]

Can anyone either verify or refute Daille’s claim? Keep in mind, I’m not arguing at this point that Augustine either affirmed or denied purgatory. I’m simply curious if anyone can verify that the early copies of The City Of God are missing inferences or references to Purgatory.

On a secondary issue, Daill'e really does raise a good point on the unreliability of the transmission of the Early Church Fathers' writings. That there have been corruptions of the texts is really beyond dispute. Daill'e spends a lot of time documenting this, and I must say that his work will have a profound influence on the weight I give the Early Church Fathers. By comparison with the text of the New Testament, the New Testament wins hands down in reliability, as one would expect it to, it being the very words of God.


FM483 said...

Regarding Madrid’s attempt to substantiate an unscriptural doctrine of “purgatory” through Matthew 12:32, I would encourage people to read this verse in context by also reading the surrounding verses. In the preceding varse Jesus is emphasizing that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit condemns a person, whereas other sins are forgivable. Only unbelief condemns a person, and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the sinful man rejecting the Gospel of salvation. Verse 32 merely emphasizes that such blasphemy against the Holy Spirit has eternal consequences both in this world and the age to come. This verse says nothing about a condemned sinner who is dead being able to have his sins forgiven in purgatory. To read this meaning into this text of Scripture is pure eisegesis. On the other hand, there are other passages of Scripture which speak much more clearly that there is no “second chance” in purgatory(e.g. Luke 16:20-31).

Frank Marron

Jonathan Brumley said...

In the Summa Theologica, I.2.88.1, St. Thomas sites a sermon by St. Augustine on the subject of Purgatory:

"On the contrary, Augustine, in a sermon on Purgatory (De Sanctis, serm. xli), enumerates certain generic venial sins, and certain generic mortal sins."

I have been unable to find an online version of "De Sanctis" or the mentioned sermon, but it would be interesting to read what he said on this topic.