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Augustine also devoted significant attention to the crucial question about the nature of the original creation and, specifically, of sexuality. Early in his career, while still under the influence of the allegorical interpretation of scripture he had learned from Ambrose of Milan, Augustine tended to interpret the opening chapters of Genesis symbolically. In Confessions, for example, Augustine suggested that the 'increase and multiply' of Genesis 1.28 might refer to the ability of the human mind to generate a multitude of thoughts to express a single concept or to give an obscure text a plurality of meanings (Conf. 13.24.37). Similarly, in his early treatise On Genesis against the Manichaeans (c. 388), Augustine had preferred to give the creation stories in Genesis a spiritual, rather than a physical, interpretation.14

But early in the fifth century, as he composed The good ofmarriage in response to the debate between Jerome andJovinian, Augustine acknowledged that the Genesis text might be taken literally; perhaps God had intended Adam and Eve to reproduce sexually, even if there had been no sin (The good of marriage 2.2). Within a decade the new direction in Augustine's thought had solidified. By the year 410, in the ninth book of his Literal commentary on Genesis, Augustine expressly rejected the view that sexual union and procreation were devised only in response to human sin and mortality. Now Augustine argued that sexual reproduction was God's original intention for humanity from the very beginning of creation (De Gen. ad litt. 9.9.14-15).

This shift in Augustine's interpretation of Genesis was to have a notable influence on his views of sex and marriage. By acknowledging that sex was essential to God's original creation, Augustine had grounded marital life firmly within the positive will of the Creator. Augustine now had solid grounds on which to argue that procreation was one of the genuine goods of marriage and the object of God's original blessing. However, once he had rooted the body and human sexuality in the pre-lapsarian world, Augustine began to envision original sin as damaging human nature precisely in its procreative urges. Now Augustine concluded that the primary effect of the sin of Adam and Eve was the emergence of the 'concupiscence of the flesh', a disorder of the human heart that was manifested most patently in the disordered desires of the human body (De Gen. ad litt. 11.31.41). For Augustine, the Pauline 'law of sin' that caused the apostle to do what he did not wish to do (cf. Romans 7.15-16) was evident especially in the tendency for sexual desires to run contrary to the rational control of mind or will.

14 Excellent accounts of the development of Augustine's teaching can be found in Elizabeth A. Clark's '"Adam's only companion"' and 'Heresy, asceticism, Adam, and Eve' and in P. Brown's Body and society, 387-427.

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