Augustine's Commentary on Galatians

Augustine's Commentary on Galatians

Augustine's Commentary on Galatians

Augustine's Commentary on Galatians

Synopsis

Now available in English for the first time, Augustine's Commentary on Galatians is his only complete, formal commentary on any book of the Bible and offers unique insights into his understanding of Paul and of his own task as a biblical interpreter. Yet it is one of his least known workstoday - and this despite its importance in the past for such major figures as Aquinas, Luther, Erasmus, and Newman. The present volume seeks to remedy this situation by providing not only an English translation with facing Latin text, but also a comprehensive introduction and copious notes. Since Galatians happens to be the only biblical book commented upon by all the ancient Latin commentators - including Jerome, Pelagius, Ambrosiaster, and Marius Victorinus, as well as Augustine - it provides a basis for comparing them and for identifying Augustine's special concerns and emphases.Augustine's Commentary also has crucial links to other works he wrote at the time, especially his monastic rule and De Doctrina Christiana. Augustine's emphasis on Galatians as a pastoral letter designed to preserve and strengthen Christian unity links the commentary to his monastic rule, while hismethod and sources link it to, and indeed pave the way for, the theory of biblical interpretation set forth in the De Doctrina Christiana.

Excerpt

Of all the voluminous writings of Augustine, few are so little known as his Commentary on Galatians. Written during a brief period of his life—that of his priesthood—which has never received even a fraction of the attention that has been lavished on his episcopate or on the years leading up to his conversion, this work stands none the less as Augustine’s first and only complete commentary on any book of the Bible. It deals, moreover, not with some obscure biblical book—as does Jerome’s first commentary, on the Book of Obadiah—but with one of the most decisive and influential texts in Christian history. Yet apart from recent articles by the distinguished Italian scholar M. G. Mara, the attention it has received has been limited almost entirely to passing references in footnotes. Equally surprising to me was the fact that no one had ever published an English translation of the Commentary, and so I decided to make that my first goal. As a translator I aimed at both accuracy and readability but often found it necessary to compromise between the two. in such cases I gave preference to readability but added a footnote wherever I thought the reader should be aware of the literal meaning. My translation retains Augustine’s genderspecific language (e.g. ‘sons of God’ rather than ‘children of God’), partly because his meaning would often have been obscured otherwise, partly because Augustine’s world was nothing if not patriarchal.

This book also contains an Introduction to Augustine’s Commentary that is nearly twice as long as the Commentary itself. in view of the ancient axiom that ‘a big book is a big bore’, some justification for the excessive length of my Introduction is in order. in his magisterial commentary on Augustine’s Confessions J. J. O’Donnell remarked, ‘The late fourth century was a great age for reading and debating Paul in the Latin church, and a fuller study of those movements would be most welcome’ (ii. 477). My second goal was to offer a contribution to that ‘fuller study’ by comparing Augustine’s Commentary with the other Latin commentaries on Galatians from this period. As it happens, Galatians is the only letter of Paul’s for which commentaries have survived from all the other Latin commentators of the time: Marius Victorinus, Ambrosiaster, Jerome, Pelagius, and the anonymous commentator whose work was . . .

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