The Wages of Sin: A Grammatical Theology of Death

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats



This dissertation investigates the origins of death. It does so by drawing on Augustine of Hippo’s theology of creation, especially as expressed in his De Genesi ad litteram. It argues that recovering Augustine’s theory of the rationes seminales as presented in De Genesi ad litteram is a useful tool that allows contemporary theology to engage with modern cosmology and evolutionary biology without compromising on Catholic magisterial teaching regarding the connection between sin and death. The work consists of five chapters, plus an introduction and conclusion.

The first chapter is methodological. It explains how one might read the text of Genesis ad litteram in the sense Augustine uses the term. To do this, it draws on the resources of Ordinary Language Philosophy. Chapter two investigates Augustine’s use of the term ‘rationes seminales’ and provides a speculative account of what they are. Chapter three connects the speculations on the rationes seminales to the fall of the angels, examining scriptural and doctrinal evidences concerning the nature of the demons. Chapter four remains focused on the angelic fall, but from a literary perspective. It uses Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida and Milton’s Paradise Lost to flesh out a theology of angels, their fall, and the effects this has on the created order. The last chapter examines how the effects of the angelic fall play out in time. It connects the speculations about the angelic fall to the human fall, showing how the doctrine of original sin as taught by the Catholic magisterium is compatible with discoveries in evolutionary biology and modern cosmology.





Porter, Philip Gregory (2020). The Wages of Sin: A Grammatical Theology of Death. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.