(98) What was the meaning of Moses when he says, “And all the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with iniquity?” (#Ge 6:11). Moses himself has given us the reason why he speaks thus, in the sentence in which he asserts that iniquity had arisen by reason of the corruption of the earth; for deliverance from iniquity is righteousness, both in all the parts of the world, in heaven, that is, and earth, and among men.
(99) What is the meaning of his saying, “All flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth?” (Genesis 6:12). In the first place, the sacred historian calls the man who is devoted to the love of himself, flesh; therefore, when he had already said he was flesh, he introduces not the same flesh, but the flesh of the same being, namely, of man, or perhaps he is speaking even of man abstractedly considered; for every one who passes a life destitute of all civilisation, and bewildered by intemperance, is flesh. In the second place, he supposes here the cause of spiritual corruption to be, as in truth it is, the flesh, because that is the seat of desire; and from it, as from a living spring, arise all the peculiar appetites, and passions, and other affections. In the third place, he very naturally says, that all flesh had corrupted his way; for “his” is a partial case, declined from the nominative case of the pronoun “he, she, or it;” for as for the being to whom we refer honour, we scarcely dare to speak of him by his own name, but we call him He. And it is from this that the principle of the Pythagorean philosophers was derived, who said, “He said it,” speaking of their master in a glorious manner, since they feared to speak of him by name. And the same custom has obtained in cities and in private houses; for the servants, when speaking of the arrival of their master, say, “Here he comes;” and so when the prince of any individual city arrives, they use the same form of speech, “He comes,” when they speak of him. But what is the purpose of this prolix enumeration of all these instances on my part? The truth is, that I wished to show that it is the Father of the universe who is spoken of here; since, indeed, all his good qualities, and all his marvellous names, are widely celebrated by the praise bestowed upon the virtues; and, therefore, out of reverence he has used that name more cautiously, because he was about to bring on the world the destruction of the flood; but the case of the pronoun “He” is used by way of honour in these phrases. “All flesh had corrupted His ways,” inasmuch as it is truly convicted of having corrupted the way of the Father, in accordance with the lusts, and desires, and pleasures of the body; for these are the enemies and opposers of the laws of continence, and parsimony, and chastity, and fortitude, and justice; by which the road which leads to God is found out and widened, so that it should everywhere be a beaten and plain road.