Original Research

Augustine on redemption in Genesis 1–3

Edward L. Smither
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 35, No 1 | a1315 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v35i1.1315 | © 2014 Edward L. Smither | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 November 2013 | Published: 11 July 2014

About the author(s)

Edward L. Smither, Department of Intercultural Studies, Columbia International University, United States of America and Department of Science of Religion and Missiology, University of Pretoria, South Africa


Many theologians, including those concerned with theology of mission, frame the dramaof God’s story and mission (missio Dei) through the three major acts of creation, fall andredemption. Others add that the new creation ought to be regarded as a fourth act. Althoughthis framework describes the entire biblical narrative, creation, fall and the hope of redemptionare, of course, quite present in the first three chapters of Genesis. In this article, I endeavouredto engage with the commentaries of the African church father Augustine of Hippo (354–430 CE) to grasp his thoughts on redemption in Genesis 1–3. In his Genesis works, Augustinewas primarily concerned with clarifying the doctrine of creation and, relatively speaking, hadfar less to say about redemption. That said, Augustine was, quite interested with Scripture’sstory of redemption in his magnum opus De Civitate Dei [City of God]. Thus, in this article, Iexplored two major questions: firstly, why did Augustine pay so little attention to redemptionin Genesis 1–3? Secondly, how did he articulate and relate redemption in these chapters? Itwas shown that whilst his primary focus was to articulate creation, his thoughts on redemptionwere probably limited some because of the insufficiency of his Old Latin Bible translation andperhaps because of other distractions in ministry. Furthermore, it was argued that Augustine’sdoctrine of redemption was a subset of his discussion on creation – specifically, that the secondAdam (Christ) brought new life to God’s image bearers affected by the fall of the first Adam.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: My aim was to establish Augustine’sthoughts on redemption as a point of dialogue for theologians of mission endeavouring toclarify a theology of mission. As most mission theologians do not consult Augustine in theirwork and as most early Christian scholars do not read Augustine missionally, this studyoffered fresh insights for both groups of scholars.


Augustine; redemption; mission


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