Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

St. Augustine—De Doctrina Christiana | Book 4 (Ch.1-16)

By James T. Majewski ( bio - articles - email ) | Dec 21, 2020 | In Catholic Culture Audiobooks (Podcast)

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“Thus, in praying for himself and for those whom he is about to address, [the orator] should be a suppliant before he is a speaker… Who can make us say what we should, and say it in the way we should, except Him in whose ‘hand are both we and our words’?”

With this fourth and final book of Augustine’s work On Christian Instruction, we finally arrive at the chapters dedicated to, well, instruction. Whereas in Books 1-3 Augustine exhaustively describes the process of ascertaining the meaning of the Scriptures, here he turns his attention to the manner in which that meaning should be conveyed and taught.

And Augustine would know a thing or two about this: before his conversion, Augustine was an accomplished orator, schooled in the best Roman traditions of rhetoric. It’s exciting to see Augustine’s expertise and passion for the subject.

Augustine directs Book 4 to those who will be responsible for preaching and teaching the faith—the clergy, in particular. Augustine reasons that if those whose purposes are evil will make good use of rhetorical rules to disseminate their message effectively, how tragic it is if those preaching the Gospel do not also exercise the same care.

Still, the Christian orator succeeds, Augustine says, “more through the piety of his prayers than through the power of his oratory.”


Translation courtesy of Catholic University of America Press:

Alternate Translation at

Previous De Doctrina Christiana episodes:

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James T. Majewski is Director of Customer Relations for, the “voice” of Catholic Culture Audiobooks, and co-host of Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast. Based in New York City, he holds both a BA in Philosophy and an MFA in Acting. See full bio.

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