Biblical Problems And Augustine’s Allegorizing -- By: J. Barton Payne

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 14:1 (Nov 1951)
Article: Biblical Problems And Augustine’s Allegorizing
Author: J. Barton Payne


Biblical Problems And Augustine’s Allegorizing

J. Barton Payne

HISTORICAL and moral difficulties in the books of the Old and New Testaments have challenged the minds of all types of men, influencing methods of interpretation, theories of inspiration, and faith itself. This fact applies not simply to the modern era but was appreciated by scholars from the first, one of the greatest being Augustine, Bishop of Hippo. The following inquiry concerns particularly his approach to Scripture and its problems through allegorical interpretation.

Augustine stressed the importance of Biblical apologetics. In fact, “the experience of Augustine himself shows how serious a stumbling block the Old Testament presented to those who approached Christianity from a philosophical or educated standpoint”.1 His actual apologetic varied. In textual criticism the bishop was generally objective, as, for example, in the problem of Mt. 27:9.2 In the realm of higher criticism a rational approach might appear, as with regard to the conflicting geneologies of Christ3 or John’s knowledge of Jesus before the baptism.4 In certain matters he exhibits such standard principles as veritas rei citatae vs. veritas citationis,5 the temporary character of certain injunctions,6 or the incompleteness of the record.7 At other times he utilized allegorical interpretation, the assigning to a passage

of a figurative meaning other than the literal: for example, his solution for the Mt. 27:9 quotation of “Jeremiah” was “hinc potuit mystice significari”;8 he uses spiritual meanings to rectify differences between the MT and the LXX,9 or the versions;10 the slaughtering by Moses of the followers of the golden calf was explained as a picture of “mortifying your members which are on earth”;11 in reference to a seventh day of creation on which God rested he concluded the true sense to be not historical but allegorical;12 and that the Song of Solomon could not be accepted as a lite...

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