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On Christian Doctrine (Dover Philosophical Classics) Paperback – 24 Apr 2009


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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Augustine's Hermeneutics 7 Mar. 2006
By Stanford Gibson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
One author has said that Augustine can be "easier to read than many modern books about him." Nowhere in his writings have I found this to be more true than "On Christian Doctrine." This little text was so compelling that I literally could not put it down (though that may reveal more about me than it). It essentially outlines Augustine's program of Hermeneutics which often contrasts strongly with standard methods of the periods before and after him, while remaining reminiscent of both eras. Some particular points of interest:

-He insists that the author's intent should be the arbiter of meaning unless the text seems to be in contrast to what is clearly taught throughout scripture, at which point allegory is to be employed

-He suggests that mistaken interpretation of a particular passage is not too grievous an error as long as the interpretation remains true to the general testimony of Scripture

-He suggests that interpretation is difficult but that the best way to progress is to read and memorize as much of it as possible until it is intimately familiar

-There is a theologically interesting chapter in which he uses the passage about the bread as Christ's body as an example of the sort of passage that cannot be taken literally

A 1700 year old text obviously isn't going to work as a contemporary manual of interpretation, but for its value in historical theology, understanding the development of Biblical interpretation and insight into the mind of one of the Christianity's greatest pastoral minds this is well worth the money and 100 or so pages.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
The Foundation of Modern Hermeneutics 5 Aug. 2008
By Corey French - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Of all the patristic works on the interpretation of Scripture, the De Doctrina Christiana ranks as the preeminent work of criticism. Both practical and theoretical, the work is much to be enjoyed for the succinctness of phrase and the pellucid and perspicacious development of its central argument.

Certainly, the work is fundamentally pragmatic in nature: It is advice--originally for the priests of the diocese of Hippo--on correct biblical interpretation. However, it is much more than that. St. Augustine in many ways forms the groundwork for modern hermeneutics and semiotics in this text. In his discussion of charitable and concupiscent interpretations, he illustrates the nature and basis of a Christian interpretational praxis. In referring to the need for interpretation to be undertaken within, and submitted to, the community of the Church, he anticipates Stanley Fish's theory of interpretive communities.

But even more than this, the De Doctrina is a guide for living the Christian life. St. Augustine notes that symbols point us toward that which is to be enjoyed, God the Three-in-One. In this way, St. Augustine illustrates the absolute immanence of God within all Creation, a latency which, with the proper hermeneutical framework of charity and faith, will burst forth with the utter effulgence of God Incarnate.

This is a magisterial work, of interest both to Christians and non-Christians alike. This work will be especially helpful to those considering the problems of semiotics and hermeneutics or those who want better to access the densely multivalent world of medieval allegory.

And I cannot recommend more highly D.W. Robertson's translation. It is engaging without being ponderous. The introductory essay is also well done.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
God's Revealed Truth out lives human history 29 Nov. 2010
By Dennis J. Koupal Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It is estimated that are nearly 3 billion Christians in the world today nearly equally divided between Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants. Within His visible Church there is no disagreement that God sent His Son to earth, as spoken by the Prophets, to become the one High Priest offering the ultimate sacrifice of Himself once for all.
We can all "share the wealth" of the writings and viewpoints penned by Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo writing in the late 300's and early 400's. His viewpoints and theology precede doctrinal developments codified in pre-medieval and medieval times.
Clearly, Augustine was an inspired spokesman and defender of the one true Faith. His intent in "On Christian Doctrine" is to provide guidelines for the interpretation of Scripture, leading to a deeper understanding of God's intentions for His children. He is not interested in prescribing set boundaries of belief and behavior. Augustine is firm in his conviction that God's Word written by man, inspired by the Holy Spirit is sufficient for knowing that which God intended for us to know about Himself... about ourselves.
His primary thesis is summarized early on, "Now faith will totter if the authority of scripture begins to shake," followed by "And so these are the three things to which all knowledge and all prophecy are subservient "faith, hope and love."
From a practical perspective Augustine offers the following observations:
* Plainer passages are to satisfy our hunger, the more obscure to stimulate our appetite.
* Reject figments of superstition.
* Draw examples from the plainer passages to throw light on the more obscure... it is safer to explain doubtful passages by other passages than by reason.
*That which appears to suggest crime (ill toward others) or vice (ill toward self) is to be considered figurative... that which teaches prudence and love for God should be taken literally. Interestingly, Augustine uses Christ's own words in Jn. 6:53 "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man" to exemplify this principle.
Augustine offers a Christ centered view of the Faith that individual believers and leaders of the visible Church could benefit from today.
His concluding admonition is from Rom. 5:5, "And hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Spirit which is given to us.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Amazing classic. 14 Jan. 2014
By Bryan Lee Allen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Amazing classical literature translated well I was able to use it in my doctoral work on Christian Education and curriculum development.
A Guide to Scripture, Christian Living, and Much More 25 Jan. 2011
By Fan of Time-Life Books - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Saint Augustine (354-430) is one of the most influential theologians in Christianity. His Confessions, The City of God, and On Christian Doctrine are three of his most important books. On Christian Doctrine emphasizes how one should read and interpret the Scriptures, Christian living, and suggestions for Christian teachers. The version described in this review is translated by J. F. Shaw and is from Volume 18 in the Britannica Great Books series.

On Christian Doctrine is divided into four books which are further divided into short chapters. Augustine's purpose is to teach certain rules for the interpretation of Scripture. He points out that we need to attend to the context of the Scripture and to learn the Greek and Hebrew languages in which Scripture is written. Readers of scripture must also be able to distinguish between literal and figurative expressions. For Christian teachers, Augustine asserts that wisdom is more important than eloquence and that the Christian teacher must use different styles on different occasions; three styles include the majestic, temperate, and subdued. Regardless of style, truth is more important than expression. Of course, the book discusses many other topics including the Trinity, body and soul, and loving our neighbor.

Though Augustine's style is academic I found this book to be both highly readable and inspirational. Also, despite its age, this book is remarkably relevant and practical. Finally, On Christian Doctrine reveals the thinking of one of the most significant authors in Christianity.
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