As member of the SBLPA I am mindful of the responsibility bestowed on me as I preach the word of God to an expectant congregation. The preparation of my sermon must be embraced with eagerness as I endeavour to unpack the divine truth of God’s word. If the finished sermon does not touch my heart then it will not touch the heart of the listener. While studying at the SBC I was challenged and excited by Saint Augustine’s, (one of the early church fathers) method of exegesis, he believed that scripture could have more than one interpretation, as the reader wrestled for the Devine truth.
Saint Augustine of Hippo was born at Thagaste, North Africa, 354 and died 430. The social- economical and political period he lived through influenced and shaped his Christian beliefs, producing a character of great passion, depth, and exuberant application to his major works.
In his Christological theological exegesis he always considered both the old and new Testaments being renowned for referring to Old Testament scripture to back up his exegesis of scripture;‘scriptura scripturam interpretat’, (scripture used to interpret scripture). Biblical exegetes stand firmly on his shoulders and he believed the bible was to promote one thing; the love of God and neighbour.
Augustine’s style of interpretation was that he believed that all scripture was divinely inspired, and that any tension found in scripture was God’s intention in order to encourage the reader to go deeper into the texts meaning. He followed Origen’s hermeneutics of Ascent seeking the spiritual level of scripture. He saw the Bible, not as Doctrine, but a journey of personal discovery, believing it is possible to know the love of God without the Bible. The Confessions. (397-400), recounts Augustine’s spiritual story through seventeen hundred explicit or implicit quotations.
It is difficult to formulate a coherent Augustinian theology as his lifelong dedication to going deeper into scripture resulted in an account of his changing theology.
An integral part of his style was that he did not go for the quick definition but teased out the inner most meaning. In his Confessions’ on Genesis 1 1-2a, a text of 17words he managed to write a commentary of 9.000 words. By the end of his life he saw the biblical God as the master rhetorician whose words had power to move beyond language. He found scripture to be the basis of a Christian culture, a ‘doctrina Christiana’ for all believers. He was also Trinitarian in his approach writing The Trinity, (comprising 15 books) with the first four books developing the biblical foundation of Trinitarian faith.
His genius became evident even in his early writings, rather than applying the technicalities of academic exegesis; he was driven by his faith and his passionate involvement in service to the church community.
In his Apologetic works, such as City of God many biblical themes are quoted and interpreted according to issues at stake. City of God was started when Augustine was 59yrs old(413) and finished in 426 when he was 72 yrs old, as the first Latin Christian attempt to produce a global philosophy of history.
A quote from Donald McKim, (Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters 1998) states;
“His biblical interpretation included the depth of humanity, the beginning and end of the world, the question of human consciousness, universal history, and all became familiar themes in his biblical interpretation. His vision embraced the whole mystery of Salvation”