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On Christian Doctrine

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  1,851 ratings  ·  68 reviews
On Christian Doctrine is an introduction to the interpretation & explanation of the Bible which exerted an enormous influence throughout the Middle Ages.
Paperback, 191 pages
Published January 11th 1958 by Library of Liberal Arts/Bobb-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN) (first published 397)
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As teacher of Christian doctrine and a teacher of such teachers, St. Augustine’s classic work by this name seemed like something I ought to read. And yet I didn’t want to approach it as a philosophy student being forced to study some dusty old textbook, but rather as the curious seeker wanting to discover what this ‘Christian doctrine’ was all about. I discovered St. Augustine is an excellent teacher!

He begins with the rules for the interpretation of Scripture, which he considers very serious, e
In contrast to the unwieldy and meandering City of God, Augustine’s four books On Christian Doctrine are notably focused in comparison. Augustine seems to be at his best when he can let his rhetorical skills breathe. His arguments stay rooted in his fundamental belief in biblical truth, but at least here he engages in active interpretation. The entire last book is dedicated to honing skills to distinguish between literal and figurative biblical passages. He seeks for allegory in much of the Old ...more
First things first: I'm clearly not the kind of person for whom this book was intended. But that I thoroughly enjoyed De doctrina christianas—appropriately translated in my edition as On Christian Teaching, as opposed to the more misleading On Christian Doctrine—testifies to St. Augustine's sagacity and clarity as a thinker.

As for the work, it is comprised of four parts: The first concerns itself with the concept of love, which Augustine cleverly partitions into love as a means (what he calls to
St. Augustine's On Christian Doctrine provides historical insight into early church and medieval practices of Scriptural interpretation and rhetorical appropriateness - many of which are foreign to modern readers. It can be dry in portions, but it is also wise and spiritually rich. He champions the church's use of the world's knowledge for its own sake, using the image of the Israelites taking from the Egyptians as they begin their Exodus - "Every good and true Christian should understand that w ...more
One of the first major Christian hermeneutics texts. Modern exegetes may cringe at Augustine's use of the allegorical method of Scriptural interpretation, but no one can deny that his hermeneutics has been 1) profoundly influential throughout Christian history and 2) there is something to it. Augustine was attempting to mimic the methods of interpretation utilized by Christ and the apostles, and in this text he shows that he is aware of the extremes that allegorical interpretations can reach, bu ...more
Kevin Greenlee
On Christian Doctrine is the first work of Augustine’s I’ve ever finished. The reading group I’m in read the first two sections as a launching point for our discussion of myth and symbol, and I decided to finish the whole thing. The book is essentially a primer on how to read the Bible and then, in the fourth section, how to present the knowledge attained therein.

All in all, On Christian Doctrine is a very solid, though basic, examination of symbol, hermeneutics and eloquence. I like Augustine’s
William Curb
Jan 27, 2008 William Curb rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People studing religion or Christianity
While I would have never picked this book up on my own accord I found that I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. The book was assigned for my class on Dante to help us understand some of the literature that Dante would have read and to give us an idea of the type of literary criticism that Dante would expect. And it is true that our class needed to read this to see where Dante was coming from. The book is definitely dated in Christian ideas, but it does show a good foundation of what ...more
David Withun
In this short book, St. Augustine presents a wealth of knowledge from which any Christian can derive an excess of benefit. In successive pages, Augustine lays out for the reader the foundations of the Christian faith, of the Christian spiritual life, of proper interpretation of Scripture, and of the correct manner of speech, life, and thinking for a Christian teacher. I recommend this book for Christian teachers and for anyone who wishes to deepen their understanding of the faith and the Scriptu ...more
Jacob Aitken
And so begins the epistemology of the Western world, Christian or otherwise. It begins as a pocket guide to ethics:

**use: to employ whatever means are at our disposal to obtain what one desires (I.4). In accordance with the ordo amoris, God uses rather than enjoys us (I.31). God uses us in references to his own goodness

**enjoyment: to rest with satisfaction in a thing. The Trinity is the true object of enjoyment. Objects of enjoyment must be eternal and unchangeable (I.22). This leads to the Ord
Timothy Darling
I include this book in a selection of books I call "Conversation with Christ." This is a powerful older book that has influenced Christian thinking for centuries, giving us some of the roots of thoughts practices that are still widely used today. Augustine of Hippo of course is one of the greatest of Church Fathers and should be heard on any topic he chooses to discuss. This book, however is sadly ignored in our homiletics and hermeneutics classes to our own detriment. We are an arrogant, short- ...more
Books I-III: learning how to interpret the Bible; when is it literary and when is it figurative?; "rule of faith"; semiotics

Book IV: rhetoric (presenting what you've learned)

Good thoughts on hermeneutics, semiotics, and plundering the Egyptians.

Read again from Feb. 7-9, 2015.
I read a rather fusty translation by J.F Shaw and hope to be able to look at a more contemporary version. In his peerless biography of the saint, Peter Brown offers some typically insightful thoughts on Augustine's book, namely, how the sanctification of the Bible required the secularization of classical culture. The great themes are the discovery and expression of Scripture. (John Behr's observation that true theology is 'exegetical and confessional' is an interesting contemporary application.) ...more
Classic. Worth the effort it takes.

Interpreting and communicating the Scriptures is the subject. The first three books are on interpretation, the fourth on communication. Book One lays a foundation, that right interpretation of the Scriptures will be aimed at love of God and love of neighbour. Books Two and Three are more technical and deal with how to arrive at the best possible meaning, including solving ambiguities etc. Book Four is about how to teach in a way that makes the meaning clear and
Jun 17, 2015 Lisa rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Lisa by: Potter's School Classical Track Year 2
A theological text written by St. Augustine of Hippo, it consists of four books published between 397 and 426 AD that explain how to interpret and teach the Scriptures using rules he provides. I only read selections from book four. In this book Augustine focuses on the teaching of scripture, not on interpreting them. He argues that Christian teachers should use the art of rhetoric to teach the meaning of scriptures (since those who teach falsehoods use rhetoric, why shouldn't those who teach the ...more
Kyle Barton
On Christian Teaching is made up of four books—three on discovering truth in the Scriptures and one on presenting the truth to others.

Here’s how the four books break down:

Book 1 is about “things”. Augustine says that of all the things, some are to be used and some are to be enjoyed. Ultimately, the only thing that is to be enjoyed is the Triune God and all other things are to be used to that end. Book one is the most theological and abstract of the four books and contextualizes Augustine’s teac
Augustine's On Christian Doctrine would perhaps be better titled On Biblical Exegesis, an observation also made by the translator of this volume, D.W. Robertson, in the book's Introduction: "Esssentially, On Christian Doctrine is an introduction to the interpretation and explanation of the Bible" (ix). It is a fairly short work, consisting of a Prologue and four books. Its brevity appears at odds with Augustine's warning at the beginning: "[The subject of this book] is a great and arduous work, ...more
Nate Walker
This is a phenomenal work on education. As an inspiration for James Smith, his work on ordered loves emphasizes the goal of education not as simply the formation of the mind, but the formation of the loves, the heart. Augustine takes as his guiding principle for Christian education: What skills do students need to read and communicate God's word effectively? The answer: language and grammar (especially w.r.t. ancient languages), literature (understanding genre, poetry, etc.), history, geography, ...more
"Of all the Christian authors I've read (such as St. Teresa of Avila, C.S.Lewis, G.K.Chesterton, Thomas Merton), St. Augustine is the one I find most approachable and enjoyable, although he lived more than 1600 years ago. His books at once stimulate the mind, warm the heart and uplift the spirit, instructional and yet delightful, deep and rich in meaning and yet eloquent in style.

It's been more than 4 months since I finished his masterpieces
Confessions of Saint Augustine and City of God. Now re
Augustine begins the first of On Christian Doctrine’s four books by stating, “There are two things on which all interpretation of scripture depends: the process of discovering what we need to learn, and the process of presenting what we have learnt” (1.1). He starts with discovery, further subdividing “things” from “signs” and focusing the remainder of the first book on learning which things (people included) are appropriate to use, enjoy, and/or love (1.2). The second book focuses on the sign, ...more
I think the translation of the title to "On Christian Teaching" is more accurate, as the book doesn't relate to core theological points of the Christian faith, but rather principles for studying scripture and for teaching it. It consists of four books. Book 1 relates to loving God and people.

Books 2 and 3 relate to interpretive rules, and this is where I ran into some disagreements. Augustine describes interpreting numbers symbolically, refusing to believe that the disciples caught 153 fish just
I don't really feel comfortable rating a book from Saint Augustine, so I intend my rating to relate to the translation done by D.W. Robertson, Jr. For readers who need to carefully understand Augustine's argument, this translation is far superior to the more recent one done by R.H.P. Green, though Green's introductory material and notes are quite helpful.

One way to understand this book is as a project of replacing the 'corpus' of classical literature that Augustine and other Roman citizens were
Skip that Intro!

I've just read this book for my Intro to Theology class. While the publisher and the comments on the back of the book seems to cherish the 100 pages of introduction by other scholars, I have to say reading through the first 50 pages makes me want to pull my hair out or stop reading this book altogether.

I finally took the advice of my wife (who got an earful about the Intro) and skipped the last 50 pages of it. Suddenly, I found myself enjoying Augustine, which is simple and refle
Ryan Handermann
Just read this again. Very helpful. This book is really for pastors who are trying to understand the Bible, but he has a lot of principles that applicable today, even in a regular school setting. For instance, imagine a school teaching a Bible class and how to understand the Bible, well what is the most important thing to get out of it? Augustine says that rule of interpretation number one is that we should learn to love God and love our neighbor. This seems obvious, but how often is that actual ...more
There is no point in rating this book because you will read it because it was assigned or because you have some interest in Augustine. Another dilemma is how does one rate a classic in Christian history and philosophy? Five stars for being old and persevered?

In any case, I gave it four stars because it was kinda fun to read. Almost everything in your contemporary hermeneutics or preaching classes is in this book in some form. Even if Augustine draws false results from these principles the princi
Shaun Brown
While at times difficult to read, On Christian Doctrine is an extremely rewarding book that helps Christians learn how to read and interpret Scripture, as well as teach Christian doctrine to different audiences. This text served as a manual for preachers for over a millennium after it was written, and would still be helpful for contemporary preachers and teachers.
Augustine argues powerfully for the development of eloquence, not for its own sake, but so that Biblical Truth is not the only voice in the marketplace not defended by reasonable arguments.

He writes, “the effect of eloquence on a person of good character is not so much to instruct when painstakingly discussed as to inspire when passionately delivered,” and that the teacher, “should be in no doubt that any ability he has and however much he has derives more from his devotion to prayer than his de
Daniel Alvers
I found a friend in this book. While I found him odd and strangely distant in many areas I also found him close and a great help to a climate of insanity in teaching and preaching. He provides clarity and cleverness that is simply timeless. In my opinion he has several limitations that many would point out. However, his upside is a healing to broken and strange set of preachers that this generation has been forced to endure. Modern sophistry and eloquence has horridly infected the church not onl ...more
David Miller
Augustine is my name-saint; I feel a special closeness to him when I read his books. In this short book, he initiates the discipline of semiotics, outlines what it means to live a Christian life, and gives excellent advice on understanding scripture. Good stuff!
Troy Martin
The bandage must fit the wound. Because the fall happened by the deception speech of the serpent, so our salvation happens by the foolishness of preaching. Through words were were damned, through words we are saved. Thus Augustine explores the vast oceans of speech and all that is them is. There are some dull parts (grammar and punctuation), but that happens when classical mind moves from the great leviathans of this ocean to a detailed biopsy of the troglodytes at this oceans bottom.
This should be mandatory reading for all Christians. I understand it's usefulness to pastors, but this will aid laymen most to understand their need and their responsibility in expanding their intellectual horizons. However, I appreciate even more the devotional character of this book: if loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength - and to love our neighbor as ourself is the sum of all Scripture, then that is how we need to read Scripture. Letting this principle guide the way you ...more
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  • The Major Works (World's Classics)
  • On the Apostolic Preaching
  • On the Holy Spirit
  • Three Treatises
  • On the Incarnation
  • Summa Theologica, 5 Vols
  • Early Christian Doctrines
  • On God and Christ: The Five Theological Orations and Two Letters to Cledonius
  • Augustine of Hippo: A Biography
  • For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy
  • On the Unity of Christ
  • The Nature of Doctrine
  • Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 Vols
  • The Christian Tradition 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition 100-600
  • The Complete Works
  • Against Christianity
  • The History of the Church: From Christ to Constantine
  • On Loving God
Augustine of Hippo, also known as St. Augustine, St. Austin, was bishop of Hippo Regius (present-day Annaba, Algeria). He was a Latin philosopher and theologian from the Africa Province of the Roman Empire and is generally considered as one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all times. His writings were very influential in the development of Western Christianity. According to his contemporary J ...more
More about Augustine of Hippo...
Confessions (Oxford World's Classics) City of God On Free Choice of the Will The Trinity The Enchiridion on Faith Hope and Love (Augustine Series 1)

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“We made bad use of immortality, and so ended up dying; Christ made good use of mortality, so that we might end up living.” 33 likes
“For no one should consider anything his own, except perhaps a lie, since all truth is from Him who said, "I am the truth.” 8 likes
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