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On Christian Teaching (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 17 Apr 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (17 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199540632
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199540631
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 1 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 183,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Augustine is not only a giant of the Christian tradition, but indeed the Western tradition. This, one of his lesser read works - behind Confessions, City of God, Enchiridion and perhaps On the Trinity - was started early in his Christian career, and completed after a hiatus of over thirty years. It is essentially a handbook on biblical interpretation, and has lasting value as such, however his skill as a rhetorician - honed teaching rhetoric in north Africa and Italy for more than a decade before his conversion to Christianity - is in itself worth paying close attention to in this volume. Behind the early chapters in particular, Augustine's underlying hermeneutic of love is abundantly evident, and a valuable exhortation for biblical interpreters and preachers today.

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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars 19 reviews
49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 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.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Theological and practical. Insight into the hermeneutics of one of the greatest Bible teachers ever 19 Sept. 2014
By kyle - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
On Christian Teaching is made up of four books—three on discovering truth in the Scriptures and one on presenting the truth to others.

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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary 31 May 2014
By M. Strong - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This small book summarizes much of Augustine's thought and theology. All good comes from God and man's fall precipitated the covenants, laws and finally Christ. Our source for this is the Bible but how should that book be read and taught? Augustine reveals the importance of identifying metaphor in analyzing texts and the danger of being over literal. Language, therefor, is the key theme both in understanding scripture and explaining it appropriately to the education and intelligence of the listener. He then goes on to emphasize the need for the homilist to understand rhetoric at least to balance the rhetoric of disbelievers. I would consider this book essential reading for any serious Christian today or, for that matter of any student of philosophy. I have yet to read any modern or even earlier writer who thinks and writes more clearly on scripture and language.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a turning point 7 July 2014
By Avid reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Even for those who no longer believe in its message, the Bible is generally regarded as a treasure trove of poetic and artistic gems that over the centuries (from Dante to Shakespeare, Milton and T.S. Eliot, to throw out names almost at random) have shaped Western values and sensitivities. It might, therefore, be hard for us to imagine how foreign, even barbaric the Bible appeared to the cultural expectations of late Antiquity. In his "Confessions" Augustine freely admits that for a long time he found it impossible to accept the message of the Bible because it was written in a style so foreign to the liberal arts he had been trained in. It was only when he heard Saint Ambrose of Milan preach on the Bible with all the rhetorical skills late antiquity demanded of its cultural elite that he began to appreciate the Biblical message in its own right. Ten years later--by now probably already bishop in the African town of Hippo--Augustine sits down to help others to make a similar transition from disdain to admiration for the Bible. Augustine first summarizes the central message of the Bible (quite an astounding and beautiful accomplishment) and then turns to the difficult medium of the message. He gives advice on how to gain the necessary factual and linguistic information to approach the biblical environment and how to deal with its often so strangely figurative and obscure style of expression. After an hiatus of over 40 years, in which he--like Ambrose--preached on themes of the Bible using all the tricks of the rhetorical trade of his time, he concludes his treatise by taking a decidedly different approach: He shows his contemporary readers that the Bible should not be perceived as a barbaric import because it exhibits many of the rhetorical devices that even a Cicero could not have improved on. These are the same strategies he recommends to a new generation of preachers. -- The value of this treatise is, in my view, primarily an historical one. It shows a crucial turning point in Western culture and it shows the architect of that turning point at work. After Augustine the Bible could no longer be regarded as a foreign import into Western culture. Instead it became fully integrated and soon even assumed the role of foundation stone of that same culture, an astounding turn about. -- This is a fascinating book, though the editor could have been more forthcoming in explaining some of the rhetorical concepts that are important for Augustine's argument.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't Pay for the Kindle Edition 6 Aug. 2015
By James Rovira - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This review is not of the paperback Oxford World's Classics edition, but of the Kindle edition, which is nothing but thievery on amazon's part -- the Kindle edition is not of the Oxford edition, but can be found for free online, readily, in a number of sources. Don't pay for an e-book version of this edition.
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