Saturday, January 31, 2009

Did Augustine need the Bible?

I had my Hermeneutics class read the following from Augustine's On Christian Doctrine:
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. So that in their case, I think, the saying is already fulfilled: "Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away." [1 Cor 13:8] (On Christian Doctrine, Book 1, Chapter 39)
Someone asked: "Did Augustine think he had arrived at the place where he no longer needed the Bible?"

I replied: "I don't know. Wish I could ask him."

A few days later I found the answer on Dustin Resch's blog, who quotes from a letter Augustine wrote to one Volusianus:
"For such is the depth of the Christian Scriptures, that even if I were attempting to study them and nothing else from early boyhood to decrepit old age, with the utmost leisure, the most unwearied zeal, and talents greater than I have, I would be still daily making progress in discovering their treasures; not that there is so great difficulty in coming through them to know the things necessary to salvation, but when any one has accepted these truths with the faith that is indispensable as the foundation of a life of piety and uprightness, so many things which are veiled under manifold shadows of mystery remain to be inquired into by those who are advancing in the study, and so great is the depth of wisdom not only in the words in which these have been expressed, but also in the things themselves, that the experience of the oldest, the ablest, and the most zealous students of Scripture illustrates what Scripture itself has said: 'When a man has done, then he begins' (Sirach 18:6).” (Epistle 137)
Thanks Dustin! I'll be using this in class next week--both because of Augustine's statement about Scripture and because of his quotation from Sirach as Scripture at the end.

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