Saturday, 11 April 2015

James Adams: Augustine's Defense of the Patriarchs as a Defense of the Unity of Scripture in De Bono Coniugali

In De Bono Coniugali, Augustine makes the curious claim that the married Old Testament Patriarchs “would have accepted it with joy,” that “it” being celibacy. This claim defends their exemplarity as models of sanctity for all Christians by locating sanctity in the internal possession of virtue, rather than a physical state as Jerome and Jovinian argue. I propose this argument makes the patriarchs a nexus point unifying the Old and New Testaments by linking the moral imperatives of the New Testament to the narratives of the patriarchs through complex figurative readings so that the virtues commended by the New Testament’s moral imperatives exist as dispositions of the mind. Simply stated, Augustine’s defense of the Old Testament patriarchs is a defense of the unity of the Old and New Testaments. This thesis elucidates the purposes behind the exegetical strategies on which Elizabeth Clark has written; however, little has been proposed as to the purpose of those strategies. This thesis argues for the larger purpose of those strategies and offers some insights into the use of biblical figures as points of theological reflection.

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