I will begin an intermittent series which delves into Augustine’s approach to interpretation which in large portion is the foundation of the evangelical hermeneutic today. Begin by reading the preface below.

Preface

Benefit of the Extensiveness of Augustine’s Writings
Augustine wrote extensively throughout his lifetime and readers greatly benefit from his vast knowledge. For this reason, one has the privilege and responsibility of using his thoughts to support and advance evangelical beliefs, particularly those regarding interpretation. When appropriating his writings to our current landscape of interpretation, one does not readily find an extended set of rules or a coherent system of guidelines that comprehensively direct Scriptural interpretation. Rather, one finds profound ideas, beliefs and deductions that compose and guide Augustine’s thought. To a significant degree, his many thoughts, although wide-ranging and often commingled, underlie the present-day evangelical stance on interpretation.

The volumes of his writings also speak to the true heartfelt desire of Augustine to see the salvation of God in the lives of sinners, the overwhelming desire for all thought to be brought under the subjection of God’s rule and his desire to oppose certain skeptics and other contrary winds. However as stated earlier, his thoughts particularly regarding the role of the exegete and exegesis are not easily streamlined into a defined fabric of hermeneutics or interpretation. The burden of synthesis is left primarily to the studier. Van de Meer expresses it well, “He did not create any absolutely new, self-enclosed system of thought, with its own clearly defined, consistent terminology. Nor had he the ability to work patiently to arrange all the little details of such a system in their separate compartments. He absorbed them all rapidly, almost unwittingly, into a visionary synthesis, embracing God, human beings and things. He gave the full chord, the harmony; he was never master of the manifold detail of reality. Anyone who approaches the Augustinian ethos finds himself faced, not by a system, but by the panoramic view….” Augustine’s most vital thought is evidenced not in the contribution of a full hermeneutic process, for there is no such contribution, but through his fundamental and profound reasoning, thoughts and inferences.

6 Notes to the Reader
Seven notes to the reader regarding this work: 1) “Meaning” for Augustine can most often be termed “original meaning”; this work follows his lead in this regard. 2) When the terms “authorial intention” and “meaning” are used in this work, particular context will be sufficient to determine whether “authorial intention” and “meaning” emphasize the intentions of God and the apostles (as authors) or the intentions of one or the other. 3) “Authorial intention” and “meaning” in this work refer primarily to intention and meaning as it relates to God and the biblical author; however, all human authors write with purposeful intention and stable meaning as well on the same basis that the biblical author did. 4) In that this work sets forth Augustine’s thoughts particularly on authorial intention and meaning, I posit that those thoughts are proper and correct not only within his own interpretative processes or the evangelical framework of interpretation but within God’s design for Scripture, language, communication and its representation of Him. 5) This work submits not merely Augustine’s assent to the existence of authorial intention and meaning but more importantly his belief in their stability, determinism and Divine origin. 6) Augustine is quoted at length in order that the reader may gain an ample understanding of Augustine’s ideas, beliefs and deductions on various issues involving God, authorial intention and meaning. I long for Augustine to speak profoundly, intensely and loudly.

Hermeneutical Perspectives of the Author, Text and Reader
The evangelical hermeneutic framework posits a distinct view of the author, text and reader, the three elements of hermeneutic interpretation. Hermeneutics can be viewed from various tri-fold perspectives such as: 1) the author, text and reader, 2) authority, textuality and contextuality, 3) agency (cause), action and affect (result), or 4) the author as the situational mechanism, the text as the normative mechanism and the reader as the existential mechanism4.

Regardless of the tri-fold perspective or description of interpretation learned or selected for study, Augustine’s profound thought provides an astute basis for each realm of interpretation. His views impact the entire interpretation process regardless of the context of interpretative analysis.

Co-Founder Michael Mewborn

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Series:
”The Importance of Augustine’s View of God, Authorial Intention and Meaning (Part 2)”