A Thousand Words Is Worth a Picture

Michael Cameron

in Christ Meets Me Everywhere

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199751297
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199950584 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Historical Theology

A Thousand Words Is Worth a Picture

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Augustine deployed Ambrose's insight about Scripture's rhetorical character to refute the Manichees' dismissal of the “carnal” Old Testament. His first effort at biblical commentary demonstrated how rhetorical figures work in the first three chapters of Genesis. Augustine identified verbal strategies of figurative “likeness” between things, from metonymy (name exchange based on conceptual association) to synecdoche (parts suggesting wholes and vice versa). Scripture writers strove to go beyond wooden, literal approaches to communicate the ineffable: God's transcendence, the act of creation, and the realities of the spirit. Augustine saw in Scripture's figurative dimension a token of God's humble submission to the ambiguities of human speech, a portent of Christ's Incarnation. Augustine wrote the commentary to train aspiring interpreters to repel Manichean attacks on the faith of simple Christians.

Keywords: commentary; rhetoric; metonymy; synecdoche; cause-effect; container-contained; allegory; likeness; history; prophecy

Chapter.  12460 words. 

Subjects: Christian Theology

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