Thursday, September 11, 2014

"City of God" XVIII.36-39

Chapter 36:
Following the canonical texts, Augustine now turns to the Apocrypha, which he mistakenly places in the canon (here Jerome has a leg up on his younger contemporary). Augustine himself points out that these texts were not understood to be canon until much later in history, as a close reading of even the texts themselves will show to the careful reader. (Maccabees especially are clear that there are no prophets in the land, and so the books cannot be Scripture.)

Chapter 37:
"Philosophy" was a latecomer on the scene, only coming after (and possibly stealing from) the Prophets. Even Egyptian wisdom isn't older than Abraham.

Chapter 38:
In fact, if we count Enoch and Noah, Prophecy goes way back...
Which raises the question of the canonicity of the books attributed to Enoch and Noah. [The Book of Enoch I've heard of, I confess my ignorance of any "Book of Noah".]
This is not necessarily a problem, even when the New Testament (as in the book of Jude) cites them. After all, we have the books of 1 Samuel - 2 Chronicles which talk about history recorded elsewhere. It may be the case that these historians were both inspired and uninspired, depending on which books they happened to be working on. Nor should we trust the non-Canonical texts as sources of truth, since their authors and dates are suspect.

Chapter 39:
The point is, no one gets to claim that the wisdom of their peoples came first--the Scriptures antedate all of them.
We should note that this is a remarkably different view than the modern one. The ancient idea was that the oldest wisdom must be closest to the primal truth, while we tend to worship at the altar of newness. I suspect both views are wrong, and that Scripture alone is the fount of saving truth. I mean, I don't suspect that last part, I know it. But I suspect that both the veneration of the old and the new have their limitations and drawbacks.

No comments:

Post a Comment