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On Christian Doctrine is an introduction to the interpretation & explanation of the Bible which exerted an enormous influence throughout the Middle Ages.


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On Christian Doctrine is an introduction to the interpretation & explanation of the Bible which exerted an enormous influence throughout the Middle Ages.

30 review for On Christian Doctrine

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brian Eshleman

    The words in his title have gotten an offputting reputation in other contexts, and that's a shame. Doctrine is guidance in love. Augustine himself, probably from somebody's frightening childhood experience with City of God, would tend to offer an intimidating nameplate. Try anyway. He is a master of the trenchant turn of phrase who would have been right at home on social media. Only after we've liked and shared do we realize the extent to which he is conveying timeless reverence toward Christ and The words in his title have gotten an offputting reputation in other contexts, and that's a shame. Doctrine is guidance in love. Augustine himself, probably from somebody's frightening childhood experience with City of God, would tend to offer an intimidating nameplate. Try anyway. He is a master of the trenchant turn of phrase who would have been right at home on social media. Only after we've liked and shared do we realize the extent to which he is conveying timeless reverence toward Christ and His Word. Plus, it's about 100 pages, so you get all the cachet of reading Augustine in a tiny fraction of the time it takes to lug around City of God to its completion. Watch out, though. The approachability of his prose in the heat of his love for Christ which is immediately apparent therein might embolden you to the point that you wouldn't mind hanging out with him longer.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    A fascinating little book for all kinds of people: late antiquity buffs; philosophers; hermeneuts; and of course, Christians. Augie usually manages to find his way to a reasonable middle position: against biblical literalism, also against waiting for a direct experience of God. Book one describes 'things' rather than signs, and we get some of Augie's less up to date opinions: you shouldn't love people for themselves, but for the sake of God, and the same thing goes for one's self. But these are A fascinating little book for all kinds of people: late antiquity buffs; philosophers; hermeneuts; and of course, Christians. Augie usually manages to find his way to a reasonable middle position: against biblical literalism, also against waiting for a direct experience of God. Book one describes 'things' rather than signs, and we get some of Augie's less up to date opinions: you shouldn't love people for themselves, but for the sake of God, and the same thing goes for one's self. But these are backed by more liberal-friendly ideas. The neighbor who we are to love, for instance, is pretty much everyone. We then move on to 'signs, ambiguities and difficulties of,' which is full of fairly sensible advice for anyone who wants to read anything. There are some things you have to know in order to interpret words: languages, for instance, institutions, general facts, logic, rhetoric. But we shouldn't take too much pleasure in these. It sometimes seems, unfortunately, that Augie really thinks you should only know things that are boring and will help you conform to society. I suspect that this claim needs to be put in some kind of historical context--in a solidly Christian culture, presumably, we would be more free to enjoy "human-made institutions," since, he goes on to say, there is much of value to be found even in pagan literature. Having dealt with the difficulties, we move on to the division between literal and figurative understanding of signs. If sections of scripture are not related to moral behavior or to faith, they should be interpreted figuratively (which, though he doesn't say it, means pretty much all of it should be interpreted figuratively). He goes on to discuss morality at some length, making a nice distinction between the corruption of one's own mind and body (wickedness) and harm to another (wrongdoing). Augie, and almost every religious thinker after him, focuses too much on wickedness, and nowhere near enough on wrongdoing. Interestingly, book three was started in the 390s, but abandoned, and only finished in the 420s; much of the later work is less interesting, though classicists might appreciate his description of Tyconius, who wrote his own system of interpretation. Book four, also late, is a defense of the rhetorical beauty of the bible. Not riveting. Not at all. But on the whole, a fascinating, quickish read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    booklady

    As teacher of Christian doctrine and a teacher of such teachers, St. Augustine’s classic work by this name seemed like something I ought to read. And yet I didn’t want to approach it as a philosophy student being forced to study some dusty old textbook, but rather as the curious seeker wanting to discover what this ‘Christian doctrine’ was all about. I discovered St. Augustine is an excellent teacher! He begins with the rules for the interpretation of Scripture, which he considers very serious, e As teacher of Christian doctrine and a teacher of such teachers, St. Augustine’s classic work by this name seemed like something I ought to read. And yet I didn’t want to approach it as a philosophy student being forced to study some dusty old textbook, but rather as the curious seeker wanting to discover what this ‘Christian doctrine’ was all about. I discovered St. Augustine is an excellent teacher! He begins with the rules for the interpretation of Scripture, which he considers very serious, even to the mandate of becoming a teacher of such: ‘why does he himself undertake to interpret for others? Why does he not rather send them direct to God that they too may learn by the inward teaching of the Spirit without the help of man? The truth is, he fears to incur the reproach: You wicked and slothful servant, you ought to have put my money to the exchangers. Matthew 25:26-27 Seeing, then, that these men teach others, either through speech or writing, what they understand, surely they cannot blame me if I likewise teach not only what they understand, but also the rules of interpretation they follow. . . He who reads to an audience pronounces aloud the words he sees before him: he who teaches reading, does it that others may be able to read for themselves. Each, however, communicates to others what he has learned himself. Just so, the man who explains to an audience the passages of Scripture he understands is like one who reads aloud the words before him.’ The point being Scripture isn’t self-explanatory for the uninitiated, hence the need for Church and tradition. Augustine continues with his very basic explanations of terms, leading the reader carefully through examples, illustrations and quotes from Scripture. I was impressed by the relevance of the text, the author’s insights into human character and how much of the text I highlighted. I listened to it, while following along on my Kindle. I stopped frequently to record my favorite quotes, some of which follow: ‘For to enjoy a thing is to rest with satisfaction in it for its own sake. To use, on the other hand, is to employ whatever means are at one's disposal to obtain what one desires.’ ‘For it is not by change of place that we can come nearer to Him who is in every place, but by the cultivation of pure desires and virtuous habits.’ ‘And in regard to all these laws, we derive more pleasure from them as exhibitions of truth, than assistance in arguing or forming opinions, except perhaps that they put the intellect in better training. We must take care, however that they do not at the same time make it more inclined to mischief or vanity—that is to say, that they do not give those who have learned them an inclination to lead people astray by plausible speech and catching questions, or make them think that they have attained some great thing that gives them an advantage over the good and innocent.’ ‘To teach is a necessity, to delight is a beauty, to persuade is a triumph. Now of these three, the one first mentioned, the teaching, which is a matter of necessity, depends on what we say; the other two on the way we say it.’ ‘The Christian teacher … when the hour has come that he must speak, he ought, before he opens his mouth, to lift up his thirsty soul to God, to drink in what he is about to pour forth, and to be himself filled with what he is about to distribute. For, as in regard to every matter of faith and love there are many things that may be said, and many ways of saying them, who knows what it is expedient at a given moment for us to say, or to be heard saying, except God who knows the hearts of all? And who can make us say what we ought, and in the way we ought, except Him in whose hand both we and our speeches are?’ ‘The man who cannot speak both eloquently and wisely should speak wisely without eloquence, rather than eloquently without wisdom. If, however, he cannot do even this, let his life be such as shall not only secure a reward for himself, but afford an example to others; and let his manner of living be an eloquent sermon in itself.’ I also appreciated Augustine’s quotes from St. Ambrose on women’s’ ‘face painting’ – which were allegedly included to illustrate types of rhetorical arguments – but I suspect more than a little underlying agenda. Even so, from the vantage of more than 1600 years, I found them both humorous and apropos. In my preliminary review I made reference to his example of the ancient custom of practicing theatrical ‘favorites’ (to excess) not unlike our modern custom of Star Search, American Idol and other forms of athletic and film/music industry celebrity worship. I was reminded of the even older saying, “The eye is not satisfied by seeing nor has the ear enough of hearing. What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun!” Ecclesiastes 1:8-9 ><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>><><><><><>< In chapter 29 I love St. Augustine's example of 'the man in the theatre who is fond of a particular actor, and enjoys his art as a great or even as the very greatest good, he is fond of all who join with him in admiration of his favorite, not for their own sakes, but for the sake of him whom they admire in common; and the more fervent he is in his admiration, the more he works in every way he can to secure new admirers for him, and the more anxious he becomes to show him to others; and if he find any one comparatively indifferent, he does all he can to excite his interest by urging his favorite's merits: if, however, he meet with any one who opposes him, he is exceedingly displeased by such a man's contempt of his favorite, and strives in every way he can to remove it. Now, if this be so, what does it become us to do who live in the fellowship of the love of God, the enjoyment of whom is true happiness of life, to whom all who love Him owe both their own existence and the love they bear Him, concerning whom we have no fear that any one who comes to know Him will be disappointed in Him, and who desires our love, not for any gain to Himself, but that those who love Him may obtain an eternal reward, even Himself whom they love?' Nowadays of course, we have our college (or pro) football teams, movie and music stars. We wear their colors, follow their lives and think their every move worth reporting. Indeed, we live like human celebrities are the greatest good imaginable. Just envision giving to unchangeable, immutable and everlasting Truth the kind of celebrations we give to here-today-gone-tomorrow mortals like ourselves? Well, actually He doesn't want those kinds of spectacles. He's the be-still, small (childlike), and silent type.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Genni

    I feel presumptuous giving Augustine 3 stars. If you were to compare my intellect with Augustine's, mine would definitely be the one wanting. However, there were some thoughts I found troublesome. Augustine's book aims to contain a “general view of the subjects treated in the Holy Scripture”. It is secondarily concerned with proper hermeneutics in order to ascertain what those subjects are. Of his secondary aim, there is a lot of sense in what he writes. Is a passage literal? Do not interpret it I feel presumptuous giving Augustine 3 stars. If you were to compare my intellect with Augustine's, mine would definitely be the one wanting. However, there were some thoughts I found troublesome. Augustine's book aims to contain a “general view of the subjects treated in the Holy Scripture”. It is secondarily concerned with proper hermeneutics in order to ascertain what those subjects are. Of his secondary aim, there is a lot of sense in what he writes. Is a passage literal? Do not interpret it figuratively. Is it figurative? Do not interpret it literally. And so on. It is the “general view” of the subjects found in scripture that bothered me. Here, I cannot help but think that he breaks with his own advice found in the “Dangers of Mistaken Interpretation” section. Here he says, ”For if he takes up rashly a meaning which the author whom he is reading did not intend, he often falls in with other statements which he cannot harmonize with this meaning, And if he admits that these statements are true and certain then it follows that the meaning he had put upon the former passage cannot be the true one: and so it comes to pass, one can hardly tell how, that, out of love for his own opinion, he begins to feel more angry with Scripture than he is with himself.” Although Augustine does not become angry, I think he does force some ideas in order to fit them in with his original interpretations. For example, he expounds the idea that things here are either to be enjoyed, to be used, or are to be both used an enjoyed. He defines enjoyment as something we find satisfaction in for it's own sake and urges us to consider that God is the only true source of enjoyment. Things for use are those things that we employ to obtain what we desire (which is hopefully God). But then he tried to to put humans under the category of “things” and maintained that God only uses us (though of course with a different definition of use, with it being for our own good). This is something I agree with to some extent. What bothered me is that he expressly says that God does not enjoy us. He says, ”If He enjoys us, He must be in need of good from us, and no sane man will say that; for all the good we enjoy is either Himself, or what comes from Himself.”. Does it follow that in order to enjoy us it must be because he needs some good from us? Can we not say that He enjoys us since we do fall under the category of those things which come from Himself? Another bothersome thing he says is this: And thus a man who is resting upon faith, hope and love, and who keeps a firm hold upon these, does not need the Scriptures except for the purpose of instructing others. Accordingly, many live without copies of the Scriptures even in solitude on the strength of these three graces.” If he had said 'on the strength of Scriptures they had memorized” or something then maybe I could get behind his statement. But to put so much trust in the individual to be able to keep a firm hold on these things without the corrective aid of Scripture, well, it kind of blows my mind. And what Scripture does he base this statement on? So, I concede that I may be misreading this work, and I also think there are practical things, useful things if you will, to be found here, but until I can reconcile other problems I give it 3 stars.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Vapula

    Useful and important work from Augustine that conveys early elaborations of semiotics and hermeneutics.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Very good. Finally got around to reading the New City version. The translator excels—as well as occasionally ribs Augustine! Book I is the strongest; Book IV is the weakest. But overall, great. There's a reason why this has been an essential resource in reading the Bible for so many centuries! Very good. Finally got around to reading the New City version. The translator excels—as well as occasionally ribs Augustine! Book I is the strongest; Book IV is the weakest. But overall, great. There's a reason why this has been an essential resource in reading the Bible for so many centuries!

  7. 5 out of 5

    David Withun

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  8. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    In contrast to the unwieldy and meandering City of God, Augustine’s four books On Christian Doctrine are notably focused in comparison. Augustine seems to be at his best when he can let his rhetorical skills breathe. His arguments stay rooted in his fundamental belief in biblical truth, but at least here he engages in active interpretation. The entire last book is dedicated to honing skills to distinguish between literal and figurative biblical passages. He seeks for allegory in much of the Old In contrast to the unwieldy and meandering City of God, Augustine’s four books On Christian Doctrine are notably focused in comparison. Augustine seems to be at his best when he can let his rhetorical skills breathe. His arguments stay rooted in his fundamental belief in biblical truth, but at least here he engages in active interpretation. The entire last book is dedicated to honing skills to distinguish between literal and figurative biblical passages. He seeks for allegory in much of the Old Testament. Interestingly, Augustine speaks little of morality in his books On Christian Doctrine. There is but one purpose in our being for God- “He does not enjoy us but uses us.” Bk. 1, XXXI. In return, “He has mercy on us that we may enjoy him, and we have mercy on our neighbor so that we may enjoy Him.” Bk. 1, XXX. Unlike the Greek and Roman thinkers of before who sought the ways of righteous living to obtain eudaimon (spiritual happiness), Augustine strives for perfecting obedience and charity. Interpretation and study of biblical teachings lead the studious past the obscurity brought by original sin and into a fuller understanding of God’s wishes. Advancements in thought by philosophers before are used, but selectively.If those who are called philosophers, especially the Platonists, have said things which are indeed true and are well accommodated to our faith, they should not be feared; rather, what they have said should be taken from them as from unjust possessors and converted to our use. Bk. 2, XL. Augustine’s life of humility and quest for “faith, love and charity” strikes a chord for all who pursue decency. However, all builds upon that faith in biblical authority. Where the philosophers of prior centuries had faith in the existence of some abstract value, or even just man’s ability to achieve eudaimon through critical thought, Augustine places his faith in a collection of writings serving as an encoded blueprint for human action and thought.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Aitken

    And so begins the epistemology of the Western world, Christian or otherwise. It begins as a pocket guide to ethics: **use: to employ whatever means are at our disposal to obtain what one desires (I.4). In accordance with the ordo amoris, God uses rather than enjoys us (I.31). God uses us in references to his own goodness **enjoyment: to rest with satisfaction in a thing. The Trinity is the true object of enjoyment. Objects of enjoyment must be eternal and unchangeable (I.22). This leads to the Ord And so begins the epistemology of the Western world, Christian or otherwise. It begins as a pocket guide to ethics: **use: to employ whatever means are at our disposal to obtain what one desires (I.4). In accordance with the ordo amoris, God uses rather than enjoys us (I.31). God uses us in references to his own goodness **enjoyment: to rest with satisfaction in a thing. The Trinity is the true object of enjoyment. Objects of enjoyment must be eternal and unchangeable (I.22). This leads to the Ordo Amoris Ordo Amoris (I.27) God is to be loved for his own sake. Each man ought to love God more than himself. All things are to be loved in reference to God. The body lives through the soul, and it is by the soul that we love God. How do we love other men? Ideally, we should love them equally, but this is impractical. Therefore, we should pay special regard to those who need it most. **caritas: “that affection of the mind which aims at the enjoyment of God for His own sake, and the enjoyment of one’s self and one’s neighbor in subordination to God” (III.10.16). **prudence: charity with an eye to one’s own advantage **benevolence: charity with an eye towards one’s neighbor sign: a thing which causes something else to come into the mind as a consequence of itself (II.1) Augustine accuses the Jews of not knowing to what the signs pointed, and as a result they interpreted figurative realities literally (III.6.10). The Jews are liberated by seeing the realities to which the signs pointed. Augustine says Every sign is also a thing. But not the reverse. I agree, but I would modify it to say, More things are signs than you would expect, and the play of signs is ubiquitous. The rest of the book has a fairly interesting section on hermeneutics and rhetoric.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Books I-III: learning how to interpret the Bible; when is it literary and when is it figurative?; "rule of faith"; semiotics Book IV: rhetoric (presenting what you've learned) Good thoughts on hermeneutics, semiotics, and plundering the Egyptians. Read again from Feb. 7-9, 2015. Books I-III: learning how to interpret the Bible; when is it literary and when is it figurative?; "rule of faith"; semiotics Book IV: rhetoric (presenting what you've learned) Good thoughts on hermeneutics, semiotics, and plundering the Egyptians. Read again from Feb. 7-9, 2015.

  11. 4 out of 5

    J. Alfred

    The first three books are extremely interesting in how to read and interpret the Bible, and indeed how to think: there's a good amount of discussion on what is a thing, what is a sign, how signs are things and things are signs, but you can get mixed up if you interpret a sign as merely a thing and vice versa-- pretty profound stuff, as you might expect from the saint. Book four, on how Christians ought to try to sound good while speaking truth, is much less interesting. The first three books are extremely interesting in how to read and interpret the Bible, and indeed how to think: there's a good amount of discussion on what is a thing, what is a sign, how signs are things and things are signs, but you can get mixed up if you interpret a sign as merely a thing and vice versa-- pretty profound stuff, as you might expect from the saint. Book four, on how Christians ought to try to sound good while speaking truth, is much less interesting.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Greenlee

    On Christian Doctrine is the first work of Augustine’s I’ve ever finished. The reading group I’m in read the first two sections as a launching point for our discussion of myth and symbol, and I decided to finish the whole thing. The book is essentially a primer on how to read the Bible and then, in the fourth section, how to present the knowledge attained therein. All in all, On Christian Doctrine is a very solid, though basic, examination of symbol, hermeneutics and eloquence. I like Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine is the first work of Augustine’s I’ve ever finished. The reading group I’m in read the first two sections as a launching point for our discussion of myth and symbol, and I decided to finish the whole thing. The book is essentially a primer on how to read the Bible and then, in the fourth section, how to present the knowledge attained therein. All in all, On Christian Doctrine is a very solid, though basic, examination of symbol, hermeneutics and eloquence. I like Augustine’s principle exegetical rule (partially, I must confess, because I’ve thought of a similar thing myself) which states that the interpretation of scripture should always be one that leads to the love of God and/or others since Jesus said “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Mathew 22: 37-40). However, I found myself occasionally annoyed and distracted when Augustine chose to voice his opinions on sexuality (it is only for procreation in his mind) and am indeed not a fan of his general asceticism. Mind you, I do believe there is a place for ascetic practices (I’m a fan of Dallas Willard after all) but I think they are always for training. It seems to me that Augustine believes in asceticism because of some platonic aversion to creation, but I could be wrong. I also found the last section difficult at times because it relied very heavily on Greco-Roman theory about rhetoric, and thus frequently used terms with which I am not familiar. Of course, were I wanting to do a more in depth study of that section, I could easily do some reading on that theory, and it’s certainly not a fault of the book itself. In essence though, Augustine says that eloquence is good, but wisdom is better. If you can have both, then do, but if you have to choose, choose wisdom. All in all, this book is a good introduction to the reading of scripture and those interested in the thoughts of the church fathers should pick it up.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shep

    One of the first major Christian hermeneutics texts. Modern exegetes may cringe at Augustine's use of the allegorical method of Scriptural interpretation, but no one can deny that his hermeneutics has been 1) profoundly influential throughout Christian history and 2) there is something to it. Augustine was attempting to mimic the methods of interpretation utilized by Christ and the apostles, and in this text he shows that he is aware of the extremes that allegorical interpretations can reach, bu One of the first major Christian hermeneutics texts. Modern exegetes may cringe at Augustine's use of the allegorical method of Scriptural interpretation, but no one can deny that his hermeneutics has been 1) profoundly influential throughout Christian history and 2) there is something to it. Augustine was attempting to mimic the methods of interpretation utilized by Christ and the apostles, and in this text he shows that he is aware of the extremes that allegorical interpretations can reach, but also shows that he feels there are ways to keep misuses of allegoresis in check. This book has recently greatly reduced my skepticism towards the allegorical method; as a systematician I find myself sympathetic to a theological interpretative method that can be used alongside modern critical methods. Hints of Augustine's hermeneutic are being recovered by Protestants today through the use of typology (which has always been somewhat present in the Reformers). Much more could be said about this book and my opinion of it. Let it suffice for now to say that I highly recommend this book, it has challenged and influenced my thinking, and I think both the layman and the theologian will find it to be a highly valuable read. (Note: I've looked through several editions of this text for a paper. Some are easier to read translations than others. The book is worth purchasing, but for those comfortable with reading it online, it can be found here: http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/jo...)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    St. Augustine's On Christian Doctrine provides historical insight into early church and medieval practices of Scriptural interpretation and rhetorical appropriateness - many of which are foreign to modern readers. It can be dry in portions, but it is also wise and spiritually rich. He champions the church's use of the world's knowledge for its own sake, using the image of the Israelites taking from the Egyptians as they begin their Exodus - "Every good and true Christian should understand that w St. Augustine's On Christian Doctrine provides historical insight into early church and medieval practices of Scriptural interpretation and rhetorical appropriateness - many of which are foreign to modern readers. It can be dry in portions, but it is also wise and spiritually rich. He champions the church's use of the world's knowledge for its own sake, using the image of the Israelites taking from the Egyptians as they begin their Exodus - "Every good and true Christian should understand that wherever he may find truth, it is the Lord's." "If we love in faith what we have not seen, how much more will we love it when we begin to see it? And if we love in hope what we have not attained, how much more will we love it when we have attained it? Between temporal and eternal things there is this difference: a temporal thing is loved more before we have it, and it begins to grow worthless when we gain it, for it does not satisfy the soul, whose true and certain rest is eternity; but the eternal is more ardently loved when it is acquired that when it is merely desired."

  15. 4 out of 5

    William Curb

    While I would have never picked this book up on my own accord I found that I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. The book was assigned for my class on Dante to help us understand some of the literature that Dante would have read and to give us an idea of the type of literary criticism that Dante would expect. And it is true that our class needed to read this to see where Dante was coming from. The book is definitely dated in Christian ideas, but it does show a good foundation of what While I would have never picked this book up on my own accord I found that I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. The book was assigned for my class on Dante to help us understand some of the literature that Dante would have read and to give us an idea of the type of literary criticism that Dante would expect. And it is true that our class needed to read this to see where Dante was coming from. The book is definitely dated in Christian ideas, but it does show a good foundation of what modern Christianity is. As always religion changes more than people want to admit and Christianity is no exception, so it was definitely interesting to read some of the older thoughts on the Religion.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Alvers

    I found a friend in this book. While I found him odd and strangely distant in many areas I also found him close and a great help to a climate of insanity in teaching and preaching. He provides clarity and cleverness that is simply timeless. In my opinion he has several limitations that many would point out. However, his upside is a healing to broken and strange set of preachers that this generation has been forced to endure. Modern sophistry and eloquence has horridly infected the church not onl I found a friend in this book. While I found him odd and strangely distant in many areas I also found him close and a great help to a climate of insanity in teaching and preaching. He provides clarity and cleverness that is simply timeless. In my opinion he has several limitations that many would point out. However, his upside is a healing to broken and strange set of preachers that this generation has been forced to endure. Modern sophistry and eloquence has horridly infected the church not only with limited understandings of scripture but with crass and silly devotion. Clearly his gifts have outlasted his days. I appreciate and have learned a great deal from this long ago friend and he has bettered and furthered my thoughts on declaring Christ. For that I am thankful.

  17. 5 out of 5

    G.M. Burrow

    It's by Augustine, which means you should read it. And by the way, it's pronounced Au-gustine. It's by Augustine, which means you should read it. And by the way, it's pronounced Au-gustine.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Emmiefiggs

    Many good and useful quotes. Can be dry at times

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dan Glover

    This book is about both learning Christian doctrine from Scripture (books 1-3) and how to teach Christian truth to others (book 4). St. Augustine wrote this at the same time as he wrote the Confessions. This book was written to meet the need for a manual about how to instruct people in the doctrines of Scripture and the faith, responding to Theodosius's anti-pagan laws. It needed to be something erudite and learned to be taken seriously in a society steeped in classical learning but something wh This book is about both learning Christian doctrine from Scripture (books 1-3) and how to teach Christian truth to others (book 4). St. Augustine wrote this at the same time as he wrote the Confessions. This book was written to meet the need for a manual about how to instruct people in the doctrines of Scripture and the faith, responding to Theodosius's anti-pagan laws. It needed to be something erudite and learned to be taken seriously in a society steeped in classical learning but something which was applicable, understandable and accessible. This book contains some of Augustine's most famous ideas, such as his division of all things into those things which are to be used and those things which are to be loved, and how only God is to be loved for his own sake, whereas loving self and loving others is to be done for God's sake, and using things is to be done in order to love God more or to love others or self for God's sake. Loving things which are to be used is idolatry, and using that which ought to be loved is also error. It is interesting how often the incarnation or the Trinity factor in as not merely doctrines to believe but as frameworks through which to interpret all reality and as lenses through which to interpret all of Scripture. The Trinity is not merely content to be learned, but in the triune being of God pedagogical wisdom is to be seen. His discussion on teaching in the forth book contains brilliant insights. Augustine talks about how wisdom must lead eloquence in Christian teaching, yet eloquence is a willing servant which is never forced into the service of its master but follows naturally. Eloquence must never trump wisdom. Christian teaching must be true to instruct in correct doctrine, beautiful and heartfelt to grab the imagination and hold the hearer, and morally good to move the audience to right action and application. In both the first part on how to discover truth from the interpretation of Scripture, and the second part on how to teach Christian doctrine, Augustine uses extensive examples and discussions of particular biblical passages as well as some examples of classical or patristic writings. There are many valuable insights about Augustine's hermeneutic in this work. He always approached the text looking for the literal (as in the author's intended meaning) first, before searching for additional legitimate meanings or figurative senses in the text. Many will not agree with the virtue grid (my term) through which he puts passages of scripture to determine if they were to be understood as literal or figurative, but even for those who reject some of his methodology, there is rich treasure here to mine. I would like to do this excellent work justice with a proper summary and review, but as I am in classes again, I have no time. This is a work I will be returning to regularly. It is truly excellent! All Christians would benefit from reading this, but particularly those tasked with preaching or teaching.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Rapinchuk

    In On Christian Teaching, Augustine has written an excellent book on the topic of interpreting and teaching Scripture, although it includes so much more. Ultimately Augustine spends Books I-III discussing how to understand what is said in Scripture, and then in Book IV moving on to how to say/communicate what was understood. Augustine himself seems to admit that Books II-III are a bit wordy and tedious, but they are helpful nonetheless, particularly his discussion of things and signs, which are In On Christian Teaching, Augustine has written an excellent book on the topic of interpreting and teaching Scripture, although it includes so much more. Ultimately Augustine spends Books I-III discussing how to understand what is said in Scripture, and then in Book IV moving on to how to say/communicate what was understood. Augustine himself seems to admit that Books II-III are a bit wordy and tedious, but they are helpful nonetheless, particularly his discussion of things and signs, which are itself things that point to other things. Book I has an excellent discussion of what it means to love one's neighbor and how that discussion fits into reading and interpreting Scripture. In Book IV, Augustine does an excellent job of depending why and how a preacher or teacher of God's Word should do so eloquently. This book will be particularly helpful for preachers, though it has much to say to students of rhetoric and to teachers more generally.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Z. J. Pandolfino

    On Christine Teaching is a remarkably self-conscious book about biblical hermeneutics, the importance of symbolism, and the Christian rhetorical aesthetic. The text is divided into four books. The first differentiates between things (res) and signs (signa) in Scripture, and what it means to use (utor) things and to enjoy (fruor) things; the second examines unknown signa, unfamiliarity with which can be removed through comprehension of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, the languages in which Scripture is On Christine Teaching is a remarkably self-conscious book about biblical hermeneutics, the importance of symbolism, and the Christian rhetorical aesthetic. The text is divided into four books. The first differentiates between things (res) and signs (signa) in Scripture, and what it means to use (utor) things and to enjoy (fruor) things; the second examines unknown signa, unfamiliarity with which can be removed through comprehension of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, the languages in which Scripture is written, knowledge of historical contexts, and an awareness of the most useful and accurate translations of Scripture available; the third book deals with ambiguous signa, which may arise from the punctuation, the pronunciation, or the doubtful signification of words, in addition to common pitfalls that readers often fall into when faced with ambiguity—i.e., to interpret literal expressions figuratively and to interpret figurative expressions literally; the fourth book, my favorite, addresses Christian preachers, and thereby explains how those who learn to interpret Scripture properly should explain its meaning to others using their own words. In my mind, the most consequential assertions Augustine makes derive from the third and fourth books. In Book III, Augustine attempts to establish some rules for interpretation with respect to figurative expressions in Scripture. He calls attention to Matthew 22:36-40, at which point Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” When it comes to interpreting figurative passages of Scripture, Augustine states, one should “turn over in careful meditation what’s read” (versetur diligenti consideratione quod legitur) until an interpretation is found in accordance with the “rule of love” (regnum caritatis, 4.15.23). That is, no interpretation of Scripture can possibly be true if it does not promote love of God and love of other human persons. For Augustine, this principle is the touchstone for all biblical hermeneutics which, as one can imagine, calls into question a number of contemporary interpretations of Scriptural passages, especially those touted by rather conservative American evangelicals with respect to social concerns. The fourth book of On Christian Teaching was written much later than the previous three—whereas Augustine finished most of the book by around 397, he did not complete it until 426, a mere four years before his own death. In Book IV, Augustine explicitly addresses Christian preachers, to whom he stresses the importance of improvisation. The preacher who merely recites a sermon that he has memorized cannot make spur-of-the-moment changes to respond to the needs or desires of his audience. He cannot try a new approach if his congregation has failed to understand the main points of his address, nor can he comfortably end his sermon sooner than he intended upon recognition that he has achieved his end. Beyond this, he cannot willfully elevate or temper his rhetoric if he is beholden to a particular rhetorical style. In short, he cannot improvise, and the critical dynamic between preacher and congregation is lost. The performance of the sermon, rooted as it is in a correct interpretation of Scripture, is therefore a quasi-sacramental ritual, Augustine suggests, dependent upon the participation of preacher and audience alike, in which both parties are transformed by the unique circumstances of the here and now of the local church every Sabbath. In Book IV, Augustine is also hesitant to reproduce via stringent rules what he interpreted as corrosive decadence in the late antique classical rhetoric practiced by his contemporaries. In his view, late antique culture had become preoccupied with eloquent presentation at the expense of content and truth (for an obvious example, see the poetry of Ausonius). Conversely, Augustine values highly the ‘natural’ talent of gifted speakers; “a good ear, a knack, and the social fact of hearing good Latin spoken is what Augustine offers by way of training as a substitute for the schools of rhetoric,” writes Peter Brown. Augustine therefore states plainly that even a thorough knowledge of the rules of rhetoric cannot make up for an inability to effectively preach ex tempore, in other words, to improvise. The same problem that hinders the preacher who has memorized his sermon ostensibly afflicts the preacher who is worried about adhering to rhetorical norms as well—i.e., he is so concerned with style that he sacrifices content, especially truthful content that he may not have anticipated addressing prior to beginning his sermon. For Augustine, the ex tempore nature of preaching is not merely a contingent aspect of educating pious Christians, but an essential and extraordinarily valuable element in the genre of exegesis itself. There is, of course, so much more that can be said about On Christian Teaching; these remarks only hint at the rich material worthy of literary, philosophical, and theological analysis spread across the entire book. Moreover, just as Augustine’s other texts are as relevant today as they were in a late antique Roman context, modern Christian educators and preachers can still use On Christian Teaching in efforts to interpret the most puzzling Scriptural passages. One need only take a look at Book XII of the Confessions to see what Augustine’s hermeneutical approach can offer those prepared to take the Bible seriously.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Really enjoyable. I hadn't known much about the book expect some general things that Augustine would cover. His exploration of how to rightly order one's loves in Book I was great, and I found it fascinating to see how he envisioned using different academic disciplines to understand and teach the Scriptures. The most in-depth exploration of this is in Book IV, where he works from Cicero's ideas about rhetoric: the speaker aims to teach in simple style, to guide his audience's pleasures and displ Really enjoyable. I hadn't known much about the book expect some general things that Augustine would cover. His exploration of how to rightly order one's loves in Book I was great, and I found it fascinating to see how he envisioned using different academic disciplines to understand and teach the Scriptures. The most in-depth exploration of this is in Book IV, where he works from Cicero's ideas about rhetoric: the speaker aims to teach in simple style, to guide his audience's pleasures and displeasures in a moderate style, and to persuade the audience in the grand style. Augustine adapts them to the goal of a teacher of Christian doctrine and gives examples of these rhetorical style in the Scriptures. I'd like to return to it again sometime.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Rush

    A definite read and reread for the Christian seriously interested in rhetoric. It was great to read Augustine's basic take of signs and thing signified—the implications for language are fascinating. Book IV gets into his more practical instruction on rhetorical delivery, and he utilizes (it seems) a modified faith, hope, love triad to explain the goal and function of rhetoric. The Christian teacher wants his listener to understand, delight in and obey the truth, and must utilize different modes A definite read and reread for the Christian seriously interested in rhetoric. It was great to read Augustine's basic take of signs and thing signified—the implications for language are fascinating. Book IV gets into his more practical instruction on rhetorical delivery, and he utilizes (it seems) a modified faith, hope, love triad to explain the goal and function of rhetoric. The Christian teacher wants his listener to understand, delight in and obey the truth, and must utilize different modes of speech to attain this end since different audiences have different needs. Sometimes they need to be instructed out of ignorance; other times you need to smash hard hearts with hard words.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    St Augustine of Hippo here gives advice on preaching. 3/4 of said advice is a discussion of how to read Scripture so that one understands it and is this able to preach. I read this in preparation for my own homiletics course this coming semester, and even though St Augustine doesn't give as much practical preaching advice as one might desire, his run down of scriptural analysis is I think must read for anyone who plans to preach the Gospel, especially in light of our modern urge to separate Scri St Augustine of Hippo here gives advice on preaching. 3/4 of said advice is a discussion of how to read Scripture so that one understands it and is this able to preach. I read this in preparation for my own homiletics course this coming semester, and even though St Augustine doesn't give as much practical preaching advice as one might desire, his run down of scriptural analysis is I think must read for anyone who plans to preach the Gospel, especially in light of our modern urge to separate Scripture into little microcosms.

  25. 4 out of 5

    M.

    In this later writing, Saint Augustine explains how and why it's important to study Scripture and be able to evangelize, as well as the features of the Christian preacher. It's part theological, part lingusitic, part educational, but interesting all around. In this later writing, Saint Augustine explains how and why it's important to study Scripture and be able to evangelize, as well as the features of the Christian preacher. It's part theological, part lingusitic, part educational, but interesting all around.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Matt Pitts

    A classic work in a smooth translation. I did not read all the introductory essays, but I especially appreciated the publishers including the section of Augustine’s retractions that addressed this work.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Zach Hollifield

    Great. Smither argues that this is basically Augustine's manual for preachers and interpreters of the word in Augustine as Mentor: A Model for Preparing Spiritual Leaders. Great. Smither argues that this is basically Augustine's manual for preachers and interpreters of the word in Augustine as Mentor: A Model for Preparing Spiritual Leaders.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Moellering

    Knowing Greek would have made a few parts a bit more meaningful, but Augustine is amazingly simple to understand. He gives clear direction on interpreting scripture (making it abundantly clear how blessed we are that God gave us the Magisterium) and on presenting truth to others.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Drew

    Book two is a slog but otherwise it is fascinating, especially if read as a manual for preachers.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Eli

    I loved this book. I love Augustine's mind, and it is so exciting to see how identical the ancients were to modern man. Augustine shows in this book that he was a true scholar and lover of truth. Modern man has so much to learn from the men of old; to think otherwise is madness. His advice and directions on learning various disciplines, such as logic, mathematics, art, animal science, history, etc. are excellent and should be read by young people, which would stimulate them and help them see why I loved this book. I love Augustine's mind, and it is so exciting to see how identical the ancients were to modern man. Augustine shows in this book that he was a true scholar and lover of truth. Modern man has so much to learn from the men of old; to think otherwise is madness. His advice and directions on learning various disciplines, such as logic, mathematics, art, animal science, history, etc. are excellent and should be read by young people, which would stimulate them and help them see why they should learn these things. Augustine gives his reader a true foundation for education, and shows us the ultimate reason for learning: to know, love and glorify God. The fourth book on rhetoric is also outstanding and should be read by all pastors and preachers. Not only will it prove enlightening, but it is also good for the heart and soul to read ancient literature and realize that we are not alone in our work, and that many before us have faced the very same issues we face. Augustine encouraged me and really helped me understand the role of rhetoric in Christian teaching. It was absolutely wonderful observing Augustine--who was a teacher of rhetoric before his conversion--analyzing the Scriptures and pointing out their natural and uncoerced beauty. This was a huge treat. There were, however, several things Augustine touched upon where I found myself disagreeing with him. Thankfully these were not dwelt upon by him, but they are enough for me not to give the book five stars and not to recommend it to others without reservation. Augustine's soteriology is, I believe, deficient. He follows the typical Catholic teaching of his day and seems to think that we obtain the hope of salvation through our good works and changed lives. Of course, the foundation for this, to Augustine, is faith. But as Augustine seems to think, we must believe in Christ so that, by God's grace, we become righteous people in our behavior, thereby enabling our souls to be saved. I need to read more of Augustine's soteriology to finalize my convictions about him, but this is the impression I keep getting when I read him, and it is unfortunate. However, Augustine's theology was moving in the right direction, and I believe that had Augustine lived in the days of Luther, he would have sided with the German monk. Luther took Augustine's theology to its proper conclusion. Augustine aimed the gun at the target, Luther pulled the trigger. I also took issue with Augustine's Neo-Platonism, which makes him despise the earthly too much, in favor of the ethereal and eternal. Some of this, of course, is good and Biblical, but I think Augustine can start sounding more like Plato than Paul sometimes. This approach to Scripture also brings him to reject the literal, earthly salvation of Israel and to embrace a more exclusively non-physical and spiritual interpretation of salvation. His comments on Ezekiel 36 are revealing on this matter. He states that while Ezekiel was talking about physical Israel, he suddenly and without any warning changes to talk, not about physical Israel, but about the spiritual Israel (i.e. the Church). Augustine justifies this by remarkably stating that, while it is completely unexpected, it isn't wrong: it's God giving us a happy and healthy challenge for our minds, which is good for us. I'm not at all convinced. This same Neo-Platonism causes Augustine to misunderstand Paul's statement in 2 Corinthians 3:6, "the letter kills, but the spirit gives life." Instead of seeing Paul's point that it is the law (Old Covenant) that kills and it is the gospel (New Covenant) that gives life, Augustine interprets this to mean that the literal interpretation of Scripture, or the physical things of the Hebrew religion, is what kills, and that is the freedom from such things that gives life. This all leads to further consequences, in which marital sex is said to be solely and exclusively for procreation, and that women should not wear any makeup (which, according to Augustine and others, is actually worse than adultery!). These things are the results of error, of taking one truth and not integrating it with all truth. But besides these criticisms, "On Christian Doctrine" is really an excellent book, profitable for all times, an ancient work of timeless value. I recommend the first two books for everyone, especially young people, and the last two book for pastors and preachers. There is much profit here. Thank you, Lord, for Augustine.

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