Sunday, 3 May 2015

Michael Cameron: The Role of the Septuagint in Augustine’s Practice of Exegesis

Augustine famously debated Jerome about biblical translations, assessing not only Jerome’s Hebrew translation project but also the ongoing value of the Greek Bible, commonly called the Septuagint (LXX). Jerome wanted to put the LXX into shadows behind the Hebrew text. Augustine resisted that radical move by arguing with Origen for the LXX’s ongoing authority alongside the Hebrew text; he contended for a poly-linguistic approach to the biblical canon. Scholars typically focus on theoretical aspects of the LXX’s value for Augustine arising from a few classic passages, e.g. his letters to Jerome, De doctrina christiana and De civitate dei. While acknowledging Augustine’s claim about the LXX’s importance, even sympathetic scholars have criticized what one calls his “emotional attachment” to the LXX. But a full understanding of Augustine’s view of Scripture comes from studying his hermeneutical practice as well as his theory. Relatively little attention has been paid to the hundreds of passages of Augustine’s working exegesis that display his practice of working with the Greek Bible. How does the LXX function hermeneutically and theologically in Augustine’s daily work of exegesis? This paper will synthesize results from analyzing patterns in Augustine’s use of the Greek Bible in works of exegesis like the Enarrationes in psalmos, Quaestiones in Heptateuchum, Sermones ad populum. The paper reaches for a fuller sense of Augustine’s approach to Scripture, a renewed appreciation for the LXX, and a deeper exploration of the poly-linguistic approach to Scripture.

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