St. Augustine: Interpreting God's Call

Essay by juicebox_17University, Bachelor'sA+, November 2006

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People interpret the Bible differently when they read it. In modern times, the bible is mostly interpreted according to the foundation of the Christian beliefs. In ancient times, the only foundation to Christian beliefs was the Bible. Peoples' faith revolved around the Bible, so most religious folk new the Bible very well. They were part of what is referred to as the Bible Culture. As part of this Bible culture, St. Augustine had a lot of scripture memorized, and he interpreted the Bible in many ways. St. Augustine is one of the most famous interpreters, and he interpreted the bible using some of the techniques represented in O'Keefe and Reno's Sanctified Vision, including the associative technique, dialectical strategy, allegorical strategy, the Rule of Faith, and literal interpretation. His conversion to Christianity also plays an important part on how he interpreted the Bible and how he fit into the Bible Culture because his initial beliefs were almost the opposite of the beliefs that made him arguably the single most influential theologian in the entire history of Western Christianity.

Augustine's first adult religious conviction was Manichaeism. The Manichean set of beliefs was attractive to Augustine because he liked the promise of truth the Manicheans offered. He claims that he was deceived by the promise of certainty, and "...mindlessly repeated many uncertain things as if they were certain." His thirst for knowledge (gnosis in Greek) was almost met when he met a philosophical priest named Ambrose. Augustine enjoyed listening to the manner in which Ambrose was able to string words together, but he only gradually understood them. Augustine said Ambrose was able to remove the "mystical veil" from scripture that Augustine, at that time, thought contained "perverse teaching." His realization that one can only have faith through God's will came about...