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On Christian Teaching (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 17 Apr 2008
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a great chance to see how clever Augustine was. ... (It is more than a work on Christian teaching: it is a book about teaching. Or learning, in fact.) (The Guardian G2 section, 17 July 1997)
About the Author
R. P. H. Green is Professor of Humanity (Latin) in the Dept. of Classics, University of Glasgow. He has published books on Augustine's contemporaries Paulinus of Nola and Ausonius.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is an accessible translation of a relatively slim volume, divided into four 'books', with a helpful introduction for those new to Augustine. Both for those with a high view of Augustine, and those more critical of his legacy in ecclesiology, theological anthropology (for example, his strong and profoundly influential formulation of original sin) sacramentalism and other areas, this is nevertheless a book worthy of reflection. Love him or not, here is much here to be admired and learned from one of the giants of theological history.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
-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.
Here’s how the four books break down:
Book 1 is about “things”. Augustine says that of all the things, some are to be used and some are to be enjoyed. Ultimately, the only thing that is to be enjoyed is the Triune God and all other things are to be used to that end. Book one is the most theological and abstract of the four books and contextualizes Augustine’s teaching in the following books.
Book 2 is about the interpretation of “unknown signs”, both literal and metaphorical. This book is very practical and didactic and, in the process of instructing, Augustine ends up discussing the canon of Scripture, the benefits of knowing the original languages, textual criticism, literal versus dynamic translations, the meaning of biblical names and numbers, futile pagan superstitions, and the use of knowing history, chronology, and logic. He ends the book with the classic analogy often used by the church fathers of “plundering the Egyptians.”
Book 3 is about the interpretation of literal and figurative “ambiguities”. Right in the middle of book 3, Augustine breaks off writing and then finally resumes writing thirty years later. He includes a short overview of Tyconius’ seven rules of interpretation.
Book 4 is about rhetoric, eloquence, and wisdom. Augustine says that the aim of preaching is to instruct, to delight, and to move. He provides many examples from Scripture and from two contemporaries (Ambrose and Cyprian) that illustrate three different styles of speaking to accomplish this—the restrained style, the mixed style, and the grand style.
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