Religious Historical Writing: St.Agustin

Biblical View of History:

               In the medieval period, monks and scholars in Europe wrote historical literature convicting Christianity was the true religion. They believed church was the dominant factor in all human activity. Many of them wrote on the history of the church.

                Bible, the sacred book of Christians, is of historical importance. Because it outlines a plan of history from the past to the future, concentrated on principles events; the events are creation of world, the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, the man’s incarnation as Jesus Christ, the evangelical work of the church and the second coming of  Jesus Christ to establish the Kingdom of God.   

                 The bible is divided into three periods. The first from Adam to Moses, the second from Moses to Christ and the third part from first coming of Jesus Christ to expected second coming of Christ to this world. The information about the Old Testament about history of Jews and spread of Christianity from Palestine to Roman Empire added historical value to bible.


            In spite of its historical nature and content, the early church was so theological, in its approach and was indifferent to history.


               St.Agustin was considered as one of the greatest thinkers in the history of church. Among his writings the most famous are the ‘City of God’, ‘Confessions’ written in 21 books. The ‘City of God’ un-doubted is one of the greatest works in the world. It explains that the state is an evil, for Cain who killed his brother Abel and founded the city, by the man who committed such a sin. The city of God is the celestial kingdom of God. The church is the reflection of the Kingdom of Heaven, as it is of divine foundation.


           St.Agustin in his ‘Confessions’, writes about, how evil troubled him before he embraced Christianity. God causes temptations by the devil only for the benefit of man and ultimately rewards him for facing the ordeals. According to biblical version, God created the world in just six days and rested on the 7th day. He demarked 7 periods in history from Adam to Deluge, Deluge to Abraham, Abraham to David, David to Babylonian, captivity of Jews, from captivity to the birth of Christ, the present age is the god shall give us rest.

His Representation:

          In medieval period, they put God in history and asserted that the god ruled over the human affairs. The human fortunes and misfortunes are not to be wept or laughed, but only understand as the work of god. The church was supreme over the state. He also made it that the church succeeded the Roman Empire for the benefit of mankind.


                An authoritative theologian and a distinguished philosopher, St.Agustin lived during the period of Roman Empire. The Roman Empire declined and Christianity established itself. He was under the influence of Manichaeism philosophy which says, in the world there are two opposite forces – Ormuzd, which represented virtue and Ahriman which represented evil. In man, the struggle was between soul and body, therefore spiritualism and materialism. He refused this doctrine as a human behavior, but accepted this concept of conflict and gave it a historical importance, when he wrote ‘City of God’. Hence, his theory influenced theology, philosophy as well as political principles and economic concepts.

Character of Christian Historiography:

                  In the medieval period, the impact of Christian church upon historical writing was profound.

  1. The Romans and the Greeks had a definite sense of time. Hence, gave importance to the present. But the Christian historiography looked upon every period as a part of eternity. This divided history into two periods – with the coming of Jesus Christ. The early period leading to him and the later period following from him. 
  2. For Greek and Romans, the central gravity was Greek and Rome. They were civilized and others were barbarians. They were rulers and others were ruled. But for Christians, it was universal. All were equally important. It was the story of the people all over the world, involved in the working out of will of god.
  3. History lost its humanistic character and became theistic. Christianity saw work not as human process, but as divine will.  Achievements of man are not due to their will, but it was because of the wisdom of god. God directed the historical process for the benefit of human beings.
  4. Christian historiography, nothing except god was eternal and what god creates, he could change.  The Greeks and Romans are considered as unchangeable now appeared as changeable. Empire like Greek and Roman emerged to fulfill the purpose as obtain by god and vanish from the scene of history when their function was over. Thus the historical process created its own vehicle and involves creation as well as destruction causing change. This impact made medieval historiography so theocentric.