Academic journal article Church History

Book Review: Christ Meets Me Everywhere: Augustine's Early Figurative Exegesis

Academic journal article Church History

Book Review: Christ Meets Me Everywhere: Augustine's Early Figurative Exegesis

Article excerpt

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Christ Meets Me Everywhere: Augustine's Early Figurative Exegesis . By Michael Cameron . Oxford Studies in Historical Theology. Oxford : Oxford University Press , 2012. xviii + 410 pp. $74.00 cloth.

Book Reviews and Notes

Not many read scripture as closely as Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430), but not many have paid close attention to how Augustine's reading of scripture developed as he grew in both philosophical insight as well as theological depth. As an imperially employed orator, Augustine had always been attracted to the power of words, but as he came to deepen his understanding of the central Christian mysteries, the words of scripture began to allure with a new veracity. In his latest, Michael Cameron of the University of Portland astutely traces this development in three major movements of Augustine's life: first, Novice: Rhetor, Convert, Seeker of Wisdom (386-391), then Journeyman: Priest, Apprentice, Student of Paul (391-396), concluding with Master: Teacher, Defender, Pastor of Souls (396-c. 400).

The first section thus treats the early allure of rhetoric upon the young Augustine's soul. While his formative years and Manichean adherences are well-traced narratives, Cameron ingeniously plays upon the many factors comprising a Latin boy's grammatical training as well as a Manichean hearer's observances to show what Augustine brought to Milan where he first encountered the kind of more learned Christianity which would eventually win him over. Accordingly, Cameron shows that a part of the many-pieced mosaic by which scholars have thus far explained Augustine's Catholic conversion is how "rhetorical figuration allowed him to render the God of Scripture as an orator who used different devices at different times to communicate with humanity" (49). Once Augustine could see the grammar of scripture (especially in the Old Testament) as that of a loving pedagogue calibrating his lesson and his language to his students' abilities and sensibilities, Augustine's soul began to receive God's W/word with a new clarity and appreciation. Reaching back to Cicero and Quintilian, then, Cameron shows how various components of the classical tradition (complete with helpful charts providing definitions and examples of terms) came to play in Augustine's writings at this time--with special attention to his On Genesis, Against the Manicheans , the Practices of the Catholic Church and of the Manichees (de moribus ), as well as On True Religion .

Next we come to see Augustine as an apprentice curator of souls. Ordained to the priesthood in 391 and enabled with special faculties to preach on the sacred scriptures (a duty at this time normally reserved for those of episcopal rank), Augustine had to shift his relatively private reading of scripture to a more public proclamation. Here St. Paul and the Psalms proved indispensable, and Cameron spends this second section exploring how both scriptural as well as Christological unity emerges as the lasting fruit of Augustine's newly embraced reading of scripture. Through his own study as well as his tutelage under Valerius (whom Cameron rightly depicts not as the senile old bishop in need of help, but as a cagey ecclesiastic who saw in Augustine nothing but future success), Augustine came to read the Old through the New Testament, especially Paul's epistles. …

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