The theological structure of St. Augustine's exegesis in his "Tractatus in Iohannis Euangelium"

John M Norris, Marquette University

Abstract

This dissertation analyzes Augustine's exegesis in his Tractatus in Iohannis Euangelium from a theological perspective, specifically, from his understanding of the Incarnation. The initial idea for this thesis came from a conviction that Augustine's exegesis has been somewhat maligned by scholars, and that Augustine's exegesis would bear the same stamp of theological genius that the rest of his work exhibits. Before examining the Tractates, I present a survey of the two major sources for Augustine's exegetical method, examples of Christian exegesis with which Augustine was familiar, and his classical training as a rhetor. The major part of the dissertation reflects how Augustine, in the Tractates, applies these methods according to his understanding of revelation. A close examination of Augustine's exegesis in the Tractates reveals that his understanding of God's revelation to humanity in the incarnation of the Word determines his understanding of Scripture. Many of the disparate elements of Augustine's exegesis, his use of allegorical interpretation, his rhetorical style, his interpretation of Scripture by Scripture, can be better understood in the light of this theological principle. In the incarnation, the Word accommodates himself to humanity's capacity for knowledge, dwelling beneath the cover of flesh so that humanity can progress from a knowledge of Christ in the flesh to the Word in the beginning. For Augustine, the descent of the Word into flesh is the model for his theory of signs, for his doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture, for his understanding of the sacramental function of Scripture, and for the role of the preacher. Augustine bases his understanding of God's revelation in the Scriptures upon the mystery of God's revelation in Christ. God speaks to humanity in signs and figures, and Augustine must interpret Scripture according to this sacramental system of revelation.

Recommended Citation

John M Norris, "The theological structure of St. Augustine's exegesis in his "Tractatus in Iohannis Euangelium"" (January 1, 1990). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI9117355.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI9117355

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