[FoRK] St. Augustine on the Literal Meaning of Genesis...

Joe Barrera joe
Wed Aug 10 17:54:22 PDT 2005


>From the first paragraph:

"In all the sacred books, we should consider the eternal truths that
are taught, the facts that are narrated, the future events that are
predicted, and the precepts or counsels that are given. In the case of
a narrative of events, the question arises as to whether everything
must be taken according to the figurative sense only, or whether it
must be expounded and defended also as a faithful record of what

No Christian will dare say that the narrative must not be
taken in a figurative sense. For St. Paul says: 'Now all these things
that happened to them were symbolic.' [2] And he explains the statement
in Genesis, 'And they shall be two in one flesh,' [3] as a great mystery
in reference to Christ and to the Church."


>From the 19th chapter:

39. Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the
heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and
orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about
the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years
and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so
forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and

Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a
Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking
non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent
such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance
in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an
ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household
of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the
great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our
Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.

If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves
know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our
books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning
the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the
kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods
on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the
light of reason?

Reckless and incompetent expounders of holy Scripture bring untold
trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one
of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who
are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to
defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they
will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from
memory many passages which they think support their position, although
'they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they
make assertion.' [67]

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