Learning to Read the Scriptures

By Andrew Seeley

In his classic work on Scriptural interpretation, St. Augustine encourages students of Scripture to learn all the branches of knowledge necessary for understanding the holy word of God.  In a particular way, his advice pertains to what we would today https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/54/Knight_academy_lecture_%28Rosenborg_Palace%29.jpg/270px-Knight_academy_lecture_%28Rosenborg_Palace%29.jpgcall literature.  Before his conversion, St. Augustine had been a literary man himself, being a master of rhetoric, who gave speeches to delight the Imperial Court, and a teacher of the craft to others.  He cut his literary teeth on Virgil’s Aeneid, and delighted in all the techniques of verbal craftsmanship to be found in the ancient writings.

St. Augustine found that Sacred Scripture used all these techniques in presenting the stories and doctrines of the Old and New Testament.  This gives a sacred importance to teaching the techniques of literary composition:

I would have learned men to know that the authors of our Scriptures use all those forms of expression which grammarians call by the Greek name tropes [“figures of speech”], and use them more freely and in greater variety than people who are unacquainted with the Scriptures, and have learnt these figures of speech from other writings, can imagine or believe….But this is not the place to teach them to the illiterate, lest it might seem that I was teaching grammar. I certainly advise, however, that they be learnt elsewhere….  On Christian Doctrine III.29

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