St. Augustine—De Doctrina Christiana | Book 3 (Ch.24-37)
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“Students of these revered writings should be advised not only to learn the kinds of expressions in the Holy Scriptures… but also to pray that they may understand them.”
With these final chapters of Book 3, Augustine wraps up his treatment of figurative expressions. He illustrates just how tricky scriptural interpretation can be, citing instances wherein the same literary figure is employed in different—or even contrary—ways. He quotes many scriptural examples throughout these chapters, always careful to highlight the clearer instances in order to illuminate the more obscure ones.
Augustine shows how the scriptural authors utilized the whole range of literary devices—including metaphor, irony, parable, and allegory—even if the authors themselves did not define those devices as such.
And finally, Augustine relates a set of seven rules for scriptural interpretation—rules that were previously enumerated by a certain Donatist heretic named Tyconius, but that are here refined and repurposed within the broader context of Augustine’s work.
Augustine is careful to stress, however, that these rules alone cannot be relied upon as though a key to unlock the meaning of Holy Scripture. Indeed, as he concludes Book 3, Augustine emphasizes prayer—which he describes as “chiefly and especially necessary” when it comes to understanding the Scriptures.
Translation courtesy of Catholic University of America Press: https://verbum.com/product/120407/saint-augustine-christian-instruction-admonition-and-grace-the-christian-combat-faith-hope-and-charity
Alternate Translation at CatholicCulture.org: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/fathers/view.cfm?recnum=3275
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