Saturday, 11 April 2015

Brian Gronewoller: Reading Homer, Reading God: Augustine's Hermeneutic of God's oeconomica dispositio in mor. 1.6.10-17.30

Over the past two decades scholars such as Robert Dodaro, Kathy Eden, and Michael Cameron have called attention to the influence that Augustine’s rhetorical education had on his exegetical method and theological discourse. Recently, M. Cameron (2012) briefly engaged Augustine’s incorporation of the concept of oeconomica dispositio with his hermeneutical approach to both the Christian scriptures and the created order. This paper builds upon Cameron’s work, arguing that Augustine employed such a hermeneutic from the earliest years of his Christian writing career, seen in his argumentation that supports his redefinition of the cardinal virtues in mor. 1.15.25. I will make this argument in two movements. First, Augustine’s use of the terms disponere and dispensatio in 1.7.11, 1.16.27, and 1.17.30 combine to reveal that he viewed the scriptures as written by a single, perfect author – the Trinitarian God. I will show that this view of authorship freed Augustine to interpret a constellation of disparate scriptural texts in 1.8.13 through 1.14.24 according to Quintilian’s mos Homericus, charitably reading all pericopes as intentionally arranged by their author to best communicate his or her message to the audience. Second, when brought into conversation with Augustine’s theory of language, I will show that 1.16.27 and 1.6.10-7.11 reveal that Augustine also applied such a hermeneutic to God’s authorship of the created order. This paper will contribute to scholarship by demonstrating that Augustine incorporated the rhetorical concept of oeconomica dispositio into his hermeneutical approach to scripture and creation from the beginning of his Christian writing career. 

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