Friday with the Fathers: Augustine on “Inerrancy”

Simple exercise…. how do you read Augustine here?

Augustine (354-430): For it cannot be remotely possible that the authority of the Scriptures should be fallacious at any point. FC, Vol. 20, Saint Augustine Letters, 147. Augustine to the noble lady Paulina, greeting, Chapter 14 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1953), p. 181.

Augustine (354-430): I have thought it my duty to quote all these passages from the writings of both Latin and Greek authors who, being in the Catholic Church before our time, have written commentaries on the divine oracles, in order that our brother, if he hold any different opinion from theirs, may know that it becomes him, laying aside all bitterness of controversy, and preserving or reviving fully the gentleness of brotherly love, to investigate with diligent and calm consideration either what he must learn from others, or what others must learn from him. For the reasonings of any men whatsoever, even though they be Catholics, and of high reputation, are not to be treated by us in the same way as the canonical Scriptures are treated. We are at liberty, without doing any violence to the respect which these men deserve, to condemn and reject anything in their writings, if perchance we shall find that they have entertained opinions differing from that which others or we ourselves have, by the divine help, discovered to be the truth. I deal thus with the writings of others, and I wish my intelligent readers to deal thus with mine. NPNF1: Vol. I, Letters of St. Augustine, Letter 148, §15.

Augustine (354-430): For we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7); but faith will start tottering if the authority of Scripture is undermined; then with faith tottering, charity itself also begins to sicken. See John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part I, Vol. 11, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., De Doctrina Christiana, Book I, §37. (New York: New City Press, 1996), p. 124.

Augustine (354-430): Your design clearly is to deprive Scripture of all authority, and to make every man’s mind the judge what passage of Scripture he is to approve of, and what to disapprove of. This is not to be subject to Scripture in matters of faith, but to make Scripture subject to you. Instead of making the high authority of Scripture the reason of approval, every man makes his approval the reason for thinking a passage correct. NPNF1: Vol. IV, Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, Book XXXII, §19.

Augustine (354-430): What sort of a man this Nathanael was, we prove by the words which follow. Hear what sort of a man he was; the Lord Himself bears testimony. Great is the Lord, known by the testimony of John; blessed Nathanael, known by the testimony of the truth. Because the Lord, although He had not been commended by the testimony of John, Himself to Himself bore testimony, because the truth is sufficient for its own testimony. NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate VII, §16, John 1:34-51.

Augustine (354-430): What is this word, which is thus called a light and a lantern at the same time, save we understand the word which was sent unto the Prophets, or which was preached through the Apostles; not Christ the Word, but the word of Christ, of which it is written, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”? For the Apostle Peter also, comparing the prophetical word to a lantern, saith, “whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lantern, that shineth in a dark place.” What, therefore, he here saith, “Thy word” is the word which is contained in all the holy Scriptures. NPNF1: Vol. VIII, St. Augustin on the Psalms, Psalm 119:105.

Augustine (354-430): Everything we have heard in the scriptures, brothers, is the voice of God saying “Watch out!” . . . Repent at the voice of scripture, for at the voice of the judge when he is here you will repent in vain. John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine Part 3, Vol. 2, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., Sermons, Sermon 22.3 (Brooklyn: New City Press, 1990), p. 43. (400 AD.)

Augustine (354-430): Let us treat scripture like scripture, like God speaking; don’t let’s look there for man going wrong. It is not for nothing, you see, that the canon has been established for the Church. This is the function of the Holy Spirit. So if anybody reads my book, let him pass judgment on me. If I have said something reasonable, let him follow, not me, but reason itself; if I’ve proved it by the clearest divine testimony, let him follow, not me, but the divine scripture. John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 3, Vol. 11, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., Newly Discovered Sermons, Sermon 162C.15 (New York: New City Press, 1997), p. 176.

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