"Though the path is plain and smooth for people of good will, those who walk it will not travel far, and will do so only with difficulty if they do not have good feet, courage, and tenacity of spirit. "

St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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"The Lord has always revealed to mortals the treasures of his wisdom and his spirit, but now that the face of evil bares itself more and more, so does the Lord bare his treasures more."

St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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"God gives us some things, as the beginning of faith, even when we do not pray. Other things, such as perseverance, he has only provided for those who pray."

St Augustine

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Life of St Augustine (354 - 430) Father and Doctor of the Church



by St Augustine of Hippo


An Introductory Note by the Editor

Preface -Showing that to teach rules for the interpretation of Scripture is not a superfluous task

BOOK I. Containing a General View of the Subjects Treated in Holy Scripture

1. The interpretation of Scripture depends on the discovery and enunciation of the meaning, and is to be undertaken in dependence on God's aid.
2. What a thing is, and what a sign
3. Some things are for use, some for enjoyment
4. Difference of use and enjoyment
5. The Trinity the true object of enjoyment
6. In what sense God is ineffable
7. What all men understand by the term God
8. God to be esteemed above all else because He is unchangeable Wisdom
9. All acknowledge the superiority of unchangeable: wisdom to that which is variable
10. To see God, the soul must be purified
11. Wisdom becoming incarnate, a pattern to us of purification
12. In what sense the Wisdom of God came to us
13. The Word was made flesh
14. How the wisdom of God healed man
15. Faith is buttressed by the resurrection and ascension of Christ, and is stimulated by His coming to judgment
16. Christ purges His church by medicinal afflictions
17. Christ, by forgiving our sins, opened the way to our home
18. The keys given to the Church
19. Bodily and spiritual death and resurrection
20. The resurrection to damnation
21. Neither body nor soul extinguished at death
22. God alone to be enjoyed
23. Man needs no injunction to love himself and his own body
24. No man hates his own flesh, not even those who abuse it
25. A man may love something more than his body, but does not therefore hate his body
26. The command to love God and our neighbour includes a command to love ourselves
27. The order of love
28. How we are to decide whom to aid
29. We are to desire and endeavour that all men may love God
30. Whether angels are to be reckoned our neighbours
31. God uses rather than enjoys us
32. In what way God uses man
33. In what way man should be enjoyed
34. Christ the first way to God
35. The fulfilment and end of Scripture is the love of God and our neighbour
36. That interpretation of Scripture which builds us up in love is not perniciously deceptive nor mendacious, even though it be faulty. The interpreter, however should be corrected.
37. Dangers of mistaken interpretation
38. Love never faileth
39. He who is mature in faiths hope and love, needs Scripture no longer
40. What manner of reader Scripture demands

BOOK 2. Having completed his exposition of things, the author now proceeds to discuss the subject of signs.

1. Signs, their nature and variety
2. Of the kind of signs we are now concerned with
3. Among signs, words hold the chief place
4. Origin of writing
5. Scripture translated into various languages
6. Use of the obscurities in Scripture which arise from its figurative language
7. Steps to wisdom: first, fear; second, piety; third, knowledge; fourth, resolution; fifth, counsel; sixth, purification of heart; seventh, stop or termination, wisdom
8. The canonical books
9. How we should proceed in studying Scripture
10. Unknown or ambiguous signs prevent Scripture from being understood
11. Knowledge of languages especially of Greek and Hebrew, necessary to remove ignorance of signs
12. A diversity of interpretations is useful. Errors arising from ambiguous words
13. How faulty interpretations can be emended
14. How the meaning of unknown words and idioms is to be discovered
15. Among versions a preference is given to the Septuagint and the Itala
16. The knowledge both of language and things is helpful for the understanding of figurative expressions
17. Origin of the legend of the nine Muses
18. No help is to be despised even though it come from a profane source
19. Two kinds of heathen knowledge
20. The superstitious nature of human institutions
21. Superstition of astrologers
22. The folly of observing the stars in order to predict the events of a life
23. Why we repudiate arts of divination
24. The intercourse and agreement with demons which superstitious observances maintain
25. The intercourse and agreement with demons which superstitious observances maintain
26. What human contrivances we are to adopt, and what we are to avoid
27. Some departments of knowledge, not of mere human invention, aid us in interpreting Scripture
28. To what extent history is an aid
29. To what extent natural science is an exegetical aid
30. What the mechanical arts contribute to exegetics
31. Use of dialectics. Of fallacies
32. Valid logical sequence is not devised but only observed by man
33. False inferences may be drawn from valid seasonings, and vice versa
34. It is one thing to know the laws of inference, another to know the truth of opinions
35. The science of definition is not false, though it may be applied to falsities
36. The rules of eloquence are true, though sometimes used to persuade men of what is false
37. Use of rhetoric and dialectic
38. The science of numbers not created, but only discovered, by man
39. To which of the above-mentioned studies attention should be given, and in what spirit
40. Whatever has been rightly said by the heathen, we must appropriate to our uses
41. What kind of spirit is required for the study of Holy Scripture
42. Sacred Scripture compared with profane authors