Writings of Augustine. On Christian Doctrine
On Christian Doctrine
In Four Books.
Translated by Rev. Professor J. F. Shaw, of Londonderry.
Published in 1886 by Philip Schaff,
New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.
Argument--The author, having discussed in the preceding book the
method of dealing with unknown signs, goes on in this third book to
treat of ambiguous signs. Such signs may be either direct or
figurative. In the case of direct signs ambiguity may arise from the
punctuation, the pronunciation, or the doubtful signification of the
words, and is to be resolved by attention to the context, a comparison
of translations, or a reference to the original tongue. In the case
of figurative signs we need to guard against two mistakes:--1. the
interpreting literal expressions figuratively; 2. the interpreting
figurative expressions literally. The author lays down rules by which
we may decide whether an expression is literal or figurative; the
general rule being, that whatever can be shown to be in its literal
sense inconsistent either with purity of life or correctness of
doctrine must be taken figuratively. He then goes on to lay down
rules for the interpretation of expressions which have been proved to
be figurative; the general principle being, that no interpretation can
be true which does not promote the love of God and the love of man.
The author then proceeds to expound and illustrate the seven rules of
Tichonius the Donatist, which he commends to the attention of the
student of Holy Scripture.
Chapter 1 .--Summary of the Foregoing Books, and Scope of that Which
I. The man who fears God seeks diligently in Holy Scripture for a
knowledge of His will. And when he has become meek through piety, so
as to have no love of strife; when furnished also with a knowledge of
languages, so as not to be stopped by unknown words and forms of
speech, and with the knowledge of certain necessary objects, so as not
to be ignorant of the force and nature of those which are used
figuratively; and assisted, besides, by accuracy in the texts, which
has been secured by skill and care in the matter of correction;--when
thus prepared, let him proceed to the examination and solution of the
ambiguities of Scripture. And that he may not be led astray by
ambiguous signs, so far as I can give him instruction (it may happen,
however, that either from the greatness of his intellect, or the
greater clearness of the light he enjoys, he shall laugh at the
methods I am going to point out as childish),--but yet, as I was going
to say, so far as I can give instruction, let him who is in such a
state of mind that he can be instructed by me know, that the ambiguity
of Scripture lies either in proper words or in metaphorical, classes
which I have already described in the second book. 
 See Book ii. chap.x.
Chapter 2.--Rule for Removing Ambiguity by Attending to Punctuation.
2. But when proper words make Scripture ambiguous, we must see in the
first place that there is nothing wrong in our punctuation or
pronunciation. Accordingly, if, when attention is given to the
passage, it shall appear to be uncertain in what way it ought to be
punctuated or pronounced, let the reader consult the rule of faith
which he has gathered from the plainer passages of Scripture, and from
the authority of the Church, and of which I treated at sufficient
length when I was speaking in the first book about things. But if
both readings, or all of them (if there are more than two), give a
meaning in harmony with the faith, it remains to consult the context,
both what goes before and what comes after, to see which
interpretation, out of many that offer themselves, it pronounces for
and permits to be dovetailed into itself.
3. Now look at some examples. The heretical pointing,  "In
principio erat verbum, et verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat," 
so as to make the next sentence run, "Verbum hoc erat in principio
apud Deum,"  arises out of unwillingness to confess that the
Word was God. But this must be rejected by the rule of faith, which,
in reference to the equality of the Trinity, directs us to say: "et
Deus erat verbum;"  and then to add: "hoc erat in principio
apud Deum." 
4. But the following ambiguity of punctuation does not go against the
faith in either way you take it, and therefore must be decided from
the context. It is where the apostle says: "What I shall choose I
wot not: for I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart,
and to be with Christ, which is far better: nevertheless to abide in
the flesh is more needful for you." Now it is uncertain
whether we should read, "ex duobus concupiscentiam habens" [having a
desire for two things], or "compellor autem ex duobus" [I am in a
strait betwixt two]; and so to add: "concupiscentiam habens dissolvi,
et esse cum Christo" [having a desire to depart, and to be with
Christ]. But since there follows "multo enim magis optimum" [for it
is far better], it is evident that he says he has a desire for that
which is better; so that, while he is in a strait betwixt two, yet he
has a desire for one and sees a necessity for the other; a desire,
viz., to be with Christ, and a necessity to remain in the flesh. Now
this ambiguity is resolved by one word that follows, which is
translated enim [for]; and the translators who have omitted this
particle have preferred the interpretation which makes the apostle
seem not only in a strait betwixt two, but also to have a desire for
two. We must therefore punctuate the sentence thus: "et quid
eligam ignoro: compellor autem ex duobus" [what I shall choose I wot
not: for I am in a strait betwixt two]; and after this point
follows: "concupiscentiam habens dissolvi, et esse cum Christo"
[having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ]. And, as if he
were asked why he has a desire for this in preference to the other, he
adds: "multo enim magis optimum" [for it is far better]. Why, then,
is he in a strait betwixt the two? Because there is a need for his
remaining, which he adds in these terms: "manere in carne necessarium
propter vos" [nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for
5. Where, however, the ambiguity cannot be cleared up, either by the
rule of faith or by the context, there is nothing to hinder us to
point the sentence according to any method we choose of those that
suggest themselves. As is the case in that passage to the
Corinthians: "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us
cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit,
perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Receive us; we have wronged
no man." It is doubtful whether we should read, "mundemus nos
ab omni coinquinatione carnis et spiritus" [let us cleanse ourselves
from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit], in accordance with the
passage, "that she may be holy both in body and in spirit,"  or,
"mundemus nos ab omni coinquinatione carnis" [let us cleanse ourselves
from all filthiness of the flesh], so as to make the next sentence,
"et spiritus perficientes sanctificationem in timore Dei capite nos"
[and perfecting holiness of spirit in the fear of God, receive us].
Such ambiguities of punctuation, therefore, are left to the reader's
 John i. 1, 2.
 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and
 This Word was in the beginning with God.
 And the Word was God.
 The same was in the beginning with God.
 Phil. i. 22-24.
 The Vulgate reads, multo magis melius, omitting the enim.
 2 Cor. vii. 1, 2.
 1 Cor. vii. 34.
Chapter 3.--How Pronunciation Serves to Remove Ambiguity. Different
Kinds of Interrogation.
6. And all the directions that I have given about ambiguous
punctuations are to be observed likewise in the case of doubtful
pronunciations. For these too, unless the fault lies in the
carelessness of the reader, are corrected either by the rule of faith,
or by a reference to the preceding or succeeding context; or if
neither of these methods is applied with success, they will remain
doubtful, but so that the reader will not be in fault in whatever way
he may pronounce them. For example, if our faith that God will not
bring any charges against His elect, and that Christ will not condemn
His elect, did not stand in the way, this passage, "Who shall lay
anything to the charge of God's elect?" might be pronounced in such a
way as to make what follows an answer to this question, "God who
justifieth," and to make a second question, "Who is he that
condemneth?" with the answer, "Christ Jesus who died." But as
it would be the height of madness to believe this, the passage will be
pronounced in such a way as to make the first part a question of
inquiry,  and the second a rhetorical interrogative. 
Now the ancients said that the difference between an inquiry and an
interrogative was this, that an inquiry admits of many answers, but to
an interrogative the answer must be either "No" or "Yes." The
passage will be pronounced, then, in such a way that after the
inquiry, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" what
follows will be put as an interrogative: "Shall God who
justifieth?"--the answer "No" being understood. And in the same way
we shall have the inquiry, "Who is he that condemneth?" and the answer
here again in the form of an interrogative, "Is it Christ who died?
yea, rather, who is risen again? who is even at the right hand of God?
who also maketh intercession for us?"--the answer "No" being
understood to every one of these questions. On the other hand, in
that passage where the apostle says, "What shall we say then? That
the Gentiles which followed not after righteousness have attained to
righteousness;"  unless after the inquiry, "What shall we say
then?" what follows were given as the answer to this question: "That
the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to
righteousness;" it would not be in harmony with the succeeding
context. But with whatever tone of voice one may choose to pronounce
that saying of Nathanael's, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?"
 --whether with that of a man who gives an affirmative answer,
so that "out of Nazareth" is the only part that belongs to the
interrogation, or with that of a man who asks the whole question with
doubt and hesitation,--I do not see how a difference can be made. But
neither sense is opposed to faith.
7. There is, again, an ambiguity arising out of the doubtful sound of
syllables; and this of course has relation to pronunciation. For
example, in the passage, "My bone [os meum] was not hid from Thee,
which Thou didst make in secret,"  it is not clear to the reader
whether he should take the word os as short or long. If he make it
short, it is the singular of ossa [bones]; if he make it long, it is
the singular of ora [mouths]. Now difficulties such as this are
cleared up by looking into the original tongue, for in the Greek we
find not stoma [mouth], but hosteon [bone]. And for this reason the
vulgar idiom is frequently more useful in conveying the sense than the
pure speech of the educated. For I would rather have the barbarism,
non est absconditum a te ossum meum,  than have the passage in
better Latin, but the sense less clear. But sometimes when the sound
of a syllable is doubtful, it is decided by a word near it belonging
to the same sentence. As, for example, that saying of the apostle,
"Of the which I tell you before [prædico], as I have also told you in
time past [proedixi], that they which do such things shall not inherit
the kingdom of God." Now if he had only said, "Of the which I
tell you before [quæ prædico vobis]," and had not added, "as I have
also told you in time past [sicut proedixi]," we could not know
without going back to the original whether in the word prædico the
middle syllable should be pronounced long or short. But as it is, it
is clear that it should be pronounced long; for he does not say, sicut
proedicavi, but sicut prædixi.
 Rom. viii. 33, 34.
 The English language has no two words expressing the shades of
meaning assigned by Augustin to percontatio and interrogatio
 Rom. ix. 30.
 John i. 47.
 Ps. cxxxix. 16. "My substance was not hid from Thee when I was
made in secret" (A.V.).
 My bone was not hid from Thee.
 Gal. v. 21.
Chapter 4.--How Ambiguities May Be Solved.
8. And not only these, but also those ambiguities that do not relate
either to punctuation or pronunciation, are to be examined in the same
way. For example, that one in the Epistle to the Thessalonians:
Propterea consolati sumus fratres in vobis. Now it is
doubtful whether fratres [brethren] is in the vocative or accusative
case, and it is not contrary to faith to take it either way. But in
the Greek language the two cases are not the same in form; and
accordingly, when we look into the original, the case is shown to be
vocative. Now if the translator had chosen to say, propterea
consolationem habuimus fratres in vobis, he would have followed the
words less literally, but there would have been less doubt about the
meaning; or, indeed, if he had added nostri, hardly any one would have
doubted that the vocative case was meant when he heard propterea
consolati sumus fratres nostri in vobis. But this is a rather
dangerous liberty to take. It has been taken, however, in that
passage to the Corinthians, where the apostle says, "I protest by your
rejoicing [per vestram gloriam] which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord,
I die daily." For one translator has it, per vestram
jurogloriam, the form of adjuration appearing in the Greek without any
ambiguity. It is therefore very rare and very difficult to find any
ambiguity in the case of proper words, as far at least as Holy
Scripture is concerned, which neither the context, showing the design
of the writer, nor a comparison of translations, nor a reference to
the original tongue, will suffice to explain.
 1 Thess. iii. 7. "Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over
 1 Cor. xv. 31.
Chapter 5.--It is a Wretched Slavery Which Takes the Figurative
Expressions of Scripture in a Literal Sense.
9. But the ambiguities of metaphorical words, about which I am next
to speak, demand no ordinary care and diligence. In the first place,
we must beware of taking a figurative expression literally. For the
saying of the apostle applies in this case too: "The letter killeth,
but the spirit giveth life." For when what is said
figuratively is taken as if it were said literally, it is understood
in a carnal manner. And nothing is more fittingly called the death of
the soul than when that in it which raises it above the brutes, the
intelligence namely, is put in subjection to the flesh by a blind
adherence to the letter. For he who follows the letter takes
figurative words as if they were proper, and does not carry out what
is indicated by a proper word into its secondary signification; but,
if he hears of the Sabbath, for example, thinks of nothing but the one
day out of seven which recurs in constant succession; and when he
hears of a sacrifice, does not carry his thoughts beyond the customary
offerings of victims from the flock, and of the fruits of the earth.
Now it is surely a miserable slavery of the soul to take signs for
things, and to be unable to lift the eye of the mind above what is
corporeal and created, that it may drink in eternal light.
 2 Cor. iii. 6.
Chapter 6.--Utility of the Bondage of the Jews.
10. This bondage, however, in the case of the Jewish people, differed
widely from what it was in the case of the other nations; because,
though the former were in bondage to temporal things, it was in such a
way that in all these the One God was put before their minds. And
although they paid attention to the signs of spiritual realities in
place of the realities themselves, not knowing to what the signs
referred, still they had this conviction rooted in their minds, that
in subjecting themselves to such a bondage they were doing the
pleasure of the one invisible God of all. And the apostle describes
this bondage as being like to that of boys under the guidance of a
schoolmaster. And those who clung obstinately to such signs
could not endure our Lord's neglect of them when the time for their
revelation had come; and hence their leaders brought it as a charge
against Him that He healed on the Sabbath, and the people, clinging to
these signs as if they were realities, could not believe that one who
refused to observe them in the way the Jews did was God, or came from
God. But those who did believe, from among whom the first Church at
Jerusalem was formed, showed clearly how great an advantage it had
been to be so guided by the schoolmaster that signs, which had been
for a season imposed on the obedient, fixed the thoughts of those who
observed them on the worship of the One God who made heaven and
earth. These men, because they had been very near to spiritual things
(for even in the temporal and carnal offerings and types, though they
did not clearly apprehend their spiritual meaning, they had learnt to
adore the One Eternal God,) were filled with such a measure of the
Holy Spirit that they sold all their goods, and laid their price at
the apostles' feet to be distributed among the needy,  and
consecrated themselves wholly to God as a new temple, of which the old
temple they were serving was but the earthly type.
11. Now it is not recorded that any of the Gentile churches did this,
because men who had for their gods idols made with hands had not been
so near to spiritual things.
 Gal. iii. 24. The word paidagogos means strictly not a
schoolmaster, but a servant who takes children to school.
 Acts iv. 34, 35.
Chapter 7.--The Useless Bondage of the Gentiles.
And if ever any of them endeavored to make it out that their idols
were only signs, yet still they used them in reference to the worship
and adoration of the creature. What difference does it make to me,
for instance, that the image of Neptune is not itself to be considered
a god, but only as representing the wide ocean, and all the other
waters besides that spring out of fountains? As it is described by a
poet of theirs,  who says, if I recollect aright, "Thou, Father
Neptune, whose hoary temples are wreathed with the resounding sea,
whose beard is the mighty ocean flowing forth unceasingly, and whose
hair is the winding rivers." This husk shakes its rattling stones
within a sweet covering, and yet it is not food for men, but for
swine. He who knows the gospel knows what I mean. What
profit is it to me, then, that the image of Neptune is used with a
reference to this explanation of it, unless indeed the result be that
I worship neither? For any statue you like to take is as much god to
me as the wide ocean. I grant, however, that they who make gods of
the works of man have sunk lower than they who make gods of the works
of God. But the command is that we should love and serve the One God,
who is the Maker of all those things, the images of which are
worshipped by the heathen either as gods, or as signs and
representations of gods. If, then, to take a sign which has been
established for a useful end instead of the thing itself which it was
designed to signify, is bondage to the flesh, how much more so is it
to take signs intended to represent useless things for the things
themselves! For even if you go back to the very things signified by
such signs, and engage your mind in the worship of these, you will not
be anything the more free from the burden and the livery of bondage to
 Luke xv. 16.
Chapter 8.--The Jews Liberated from Their Bondage in One Way, the
Gentiles in Another.
12. Accordingly the liberty that comes by Christ took those whom it
found under bondage to useful signs, and who were (so to speak) near
to it, and, interpreting the signs to which they were in bondage, set
them free by raising them to the realities of which these were signs.
And out of such were formed the churches of the saints of Israel.
Those, on the other hand, whom it found in bondage to useless signs,
it not only freed from their slavery to such signs, but brought to
nothing and cleared out of the way all these signs themselves, so that
the Gentiles were turned from the corruption of a multitude of false
gods, which Scripture frequently and justly speaks of as fornication,
to the worship of the One God: not that they might now fall into
bondage to signs of a useful kind, but rather that they might exercise
their minds in the spiritual understanding of such.
Chapter 9.--Who is in Bondage to Signs, and Who Not.
13. Now he is in bondage to a sign who uses, or pays homage to, any
significant object without knowing what it signifies: he, on the
other hand, who either uses or honors a useful sign divinely
appointed, whose force and significance he understands, does not honor
the sign which is seen and temporal, but that to which all such signs
refer. Now such a man is spiritual and free even at the time of his
bondage, when it is not yet expedient to reveal to carnal minds those
signs by subjection to which their carnality is to be overcome. To
this class of spiritual persons belonged the patriarchs and the
prophets, and all those among the people of Israel through whose
instrumentality the Holy Spirit ministered unto us the aids and
consolations of the Scriptures. But at the present time, after that
the proof of our liberty has shone forth so clearly in the
resurrection of our Lord, we are not oppressed with the heavy burden
of attending even to those signs which we now understand, but our Lord
Himself, and apostolic practice, have handed down to us a few rites in
place of many, and these at once very easy to perform, most majestic
in their significance, and most sacred in the observance; such, for
example, as the sacrament of baptism, and the celebration of the body
and blood of the Lord. And as soon as any one looks upon these
observances he knows to what they refer, and so reveres them not in
carnal bondage, but in spiritual freedom. Now, as to follow the
letter, and to take signs for the things that are signified by them,
is a mark of weakness and bondage; so to interpret signs wrongly is
the result of being misled by error. He, however, who does not
understand what a sign signifies, but yet knows that it is a sign, is
not in bondage. And it is better even to be in bondage to unknown but
useful signs than, by interpreting them wrongly, to draw the neck from
under the yoke of bondage only to insert it in the coils of error.
Chapter 10.--How We are to Discern Whether a Phrase is Figurative.
14. But in addition to the foregoing rule, which guards us against
taking a metaphorical form of speech as if it were literal, we must
also pay heed to that which tells us not to take a literal form of
speech as if it were figurative. In the first place, then, we must
show the way to find out whether a phrase is literal or figurative.
And the way is certainly as follows: Whatever there is in the word of
God that cannot, when taken literally, be referred either to purity of
life or soundness of doctrine, you may set down as figurative. Purity
of life has reference to the love of God and one's neighbor; soundness
of doctrine to the knowledge of God and one's neighbor. Every man,
moreover, has hope in his own conscience, so far as he perceives that
he has attained to the love and knowledge of God and his neighbor.
Now all these matters have been spoken of in the first book.
15. But as men are prone to estimate sins, not by reference to their
inherent sinfulness, but rather by reference to their own customs, it
frequently happens that a man will think nothing blameable except what
the men of his own country and time are accustomed to condemn, and
nothing worthy of praise or approval except what is sanctioned by the
custom of his companions; and thus it comes to pass, that if Scripture
either enjoins what is opposed to the customs of the hearers, or
condemns what is not so opposed, and if at the same time the authority
of the word has a hold upon their minds, they think that the
expression is figurative. Now Scripture enjoins nothing except
charity, and condemns nothing except lust, and in that way fashions
the lives of men. In the same way, if an erroneous opinion has taken
possession of the mind, men think that whatever Scripture asserts
contrary to this must be figurative. Now Scripture asserts nothing
but the catholic faith, in regard to things past, future, and
present. It is a narrative of the past, a prophecy of the future, and
a description of the present. But all these tend to nourish and
strengthen charity, and to overcome and root out lust.
16. I mean by charity that affection of the mind which aims at the
enjoyment of God for His own sake, and the enjoyment of one's self and
one's neighbor in subordination to God; by lust I mean that affection
of the mind which aims at enjoying one's self and one's neighbor, and
other corporeal things, without reference to God. Again, what lust,
when unsubdued, does towards corrupting one's own soul and body, is
called vice;  but what it does to injure another is called
crime. And these are the two classes into which all sins may
be divided. But the vices come first; for when these have exhausted
the soul, and reduced it to a kind of poverty, it easily slides into
crimes, in order to remove hindrances to, or to find assistance in,
its vices. In the same way, what charity does with a view to one's
own advantage is prudence; but what it does with a view to a
neighbor's advantage is called benevolence. And here prudence comes
first; because no one can confer an advantage on another which he does
not himself possess. Now in proportion as the dominion of lust is
pulled down, in the same proportion is that of charity built up.
Chapter 11.--Rule for Interpreting Phrases Which Seem to Ascribe
Severity to God and the Saints.
17. Every severity, therefore, and apparent cruelty, either in word
or deed, that is ascribed in Holy Scripture to God or His saints,
avails to the pulling down of the dominion of lust. And if its
meaning be clear, we are not to give it some secondary reference, as
if it were spoken figuratively. Take, for example, that saying of the
apostle: "But, after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up
unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the
righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to
his deeds: to them who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek
for glory, and honor, and immortality, eternal life; but unto them
that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey
unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon
every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the
Gentile." But this is addressed to those who, being unwilling
to subdue their lust, are themselves involved in the destruction of
their lust. When, however, the dominion of lust is overturned in a
man over whom it had held sway, this plain expression is used: "They
that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and
lusts." Only that, even in these instances, some words are
used figuratively, as for example, "the wrath of God" and
"crucified." But these are not so numerous, nor placed in such a way
as to obscure the sense, and make it allegorical or enigmatical, which
is the kind of expression properly called figurative. But in the
saying addressed to Jeremiah, "See, I have this day set thee over the
nations, and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to
destroy, and to throw down,"  there is no doubt the whole of the
language is figurative, and to be referred to the end I have spoken
 Rom. ii. 5-9.
 Gal. v. 24.
 Jer. i. 10.
Chapter 12.--Rule for Interpreting Those Sayings and Actions Which are
Ascribed to God and the Saints, and Which Yet Seem to the Unskillful
to Be Wicked.
18. Those things, again, whether only sayings or whether actual
deeds, which appear to the inexperienced to be sinful, and which are
ascribed to God, or to men whose holiness is put before us as an
example, are wholly figurative, and the hidden kernel of meaning they
contain is to be picked out as food for the nourishment of charity.
Now, whoever uses transitory objects less freely than is the custom of
those among whom he lives, is either temperate or superstitious;
whoever, on the other hand, uses them so as to transgress the bounds
of the custom of the good men about him, either has a further meaning
in what he does, or is sinful. In all such matters it is not the use
of the objects, but the lust of the user, that is to blame. Nobody in
his sober senses would believe, for example, that when our Lord's feet
were anointed by the woman with precious ointment,  it was for
the same purpose for which luxurious and profligate men are accustomed
to have theirs anointed in those banquets which we abhor. For the
sweet odor means the good report which is earned by a life of good
works; and the man who wins this, while following in the footsteps of
Christ, anoints His feet (so to speak) with the most precious
ointment. And so that which in the case of other persons is often a
sin, becomes, when ascribed to God or a prophet, the sign of some
great truth. Keeping company with a harlot, for example, is one thing
when it is the result of abandoned manners, another thing when done in
the course of his prophecy by the prophet Hosea. Because it
is a shamefully wicked thing to strip the body naked at a banquet
among the drunken and licentious, it does not follow that it is a sin
to be naked in the baths.
19. We must, therefore, consider carefully what is suitable to times
and places and persons, and not rashly charge men with sins. For it
is possible that a wise man may use the daintiest food without any sin
of epicurism or gluttony, while a fool will crave for the vilest food
with a most disgusting eagerness of appetite. And any sane man would
prefer eating fish after the manner of our Lord, to eating lentiles
after the manner of Esau, or barley after the manner of oxen. For
there are several beasts that feed on commoner kinds of food, but it
does not follow that they are more temperate than we are. For in all
matters of this kind it is not the nature of the things we use, but
our reason for using them, and our manner of seeking them, that make
what we do either praiseworthy or blameable.
20. Now the saints of ancient times were, under the form of an
earthly kingdom, foreshadowing and foretelling the kingdom of heaven.
And on account of the necessity for a numerous offspring, the custom
of one man having several wives was at that time blameless: and for
the same reason it was not proper for one woman to have several
husbands, because a woman does not in that way become more fruitful,
but, on the contrary, it is base harlotry to seek either gain or
offspring by promiscuous intercourse. In regard to matters of this
sort, whatever the holy men of those times did without lust, Scripture
passes over without blame, although they did things which could not be
done at the present time, except through lust. And everything of this
nature that is there narrated we are to take not only in its
historical and literal, but also in its figurative and prophetical
sense, and to interpret as bearing ultimately upon the end of love
towards God or our neighbor, or both. For as it was disgraceful among
the ancient Romans to wear tunics reaching to the heels, and furnished
with sleeves, but now it is disgraceful for men honorably born not to
wear tunics of that description: so we must take heed in regard to
other things also, that lust do not mix with our use of them; for lust
not only abuses to wicked ends the customs of those among whom we
live, but frequently also transgressing the bounds of custom, betrays,
in a disgraceful outbreak, its own hideousness, which was concealed
under the cover of prevailing fashions.
 John xii. 3.
 Hos. i. 2.
Chapter 13.--Same Subject, Continued.
21. Whatever, then, is in accordance with the habits of those with
whom we are either compelled by necessity, or undertake as a matter of
duty, to spend this life, is to be turned by good and great men to
some prudent or benevolent end, either directly, as is our duty, or
figuratively, as is allowable to prophets.
Chapter 14.--Error of Those Who Think that There is No Absolute Right
22. But when men unacquainted with other modes of life than their own
meet with the record of such actions, unless they are restrained by
authority, they look upon them as sins, and do not consider that their
own customs either in regard to marriage, or feasts, or dress, or the
other necessities and adornments of human life, appear sinful to the
people of other nations and other times. And, distracted by this
endless variety of customs, some who were half asleep (as I may
say)--that is, who were neither sunk in the deep sleep of folly, nor
were able to awake into the light of wisdom--have thought that there
was no such thing as absolute right, but that every nation took its
own custom for right; and that, since every nation has a different
custom, and right must remain unchangeable, it becomes manifest that
there is no such thing as right at all. Such men did not perceive, to
take only one example, that the precept, "Whatsoever ye would that men
should do to you, do ye even so to them,"  cannot be altered by
any diversity of national customs. And this precept, when it is
referred to the love of God, destroys all vices when to the love of
one's neighbor, puts an end to all crimes. For no one is willing to
defile his own dwelling; he ought not, therefore, to defile the
dwelling of God, that is, himself. And no one wishes an injury to be
done him by another; he himself, therefore, ought not to do injury to
 Matt. vii. 12. Comp. Tobit iv. 15.
Chapter 15.--Rule for Interpreting Figurative Expressions.
23. The tyranny of lust being thus overthrown, charity reigns through
its supremely just laws of love to God for His own sake, and love to
one's self and one's neighbor for God's sake. Accordingly, in regard
to figurative expressions, a rule such as the following will be
observed, to carefully turn over in our minds and meditate upon what
we read till an interpretation be found that tends to establish the
reign of love. Now, if when taken literally it at once gives a
meaning of this kind, the expression is not to be considered
Chapter 16.--Rule for Interpreting Commands and Prohibitions.
24. If the sentence is one of command, either forbidding a crime or
vice, or enjoining an act of prudence or benevolence, it is not
figurative. If, however, it seems to enjoin a crime or vice, or to
forbid an act of prudence or benevolence, it is figurative. "Except
ye eat the flesh of the Son of man," says Christ, "and drink His
blood, ye have no life in you." This seems to enjoin a crime
or a vice; it is therefore a figure, enjoining that we should have a
share in the sufferings of our Lord, and that we should retain a sweet
and profitable memory of the fact that His flesh was wounded and
crucified for us. Scripture says: "If thine enemy hunger, feed him;
if he thirst, give him drink;" and this is beyond doubt a command to
do a kindness. But in what follows, "for in so doing thou shall heap
coals of fire on his head,"  one would think a deed of
malevolence was enjoined. Do not doubt, then, that the expression is
figurative; and, while it is possible to interpret it in two ways, one
pointing to the doing of an injury, the other to a display of
superiority, let charity on the contrary call you back to benevolence,
and interpret the coals of fire as the burning groans of penitence by
which a man's pride is cured who bewails that he has been the enemy of
one who came to his assistance in distress. In the same way, when our
Lord says, "He who loveth his life shall lose it,"  we are not
to think that He forbids the prudence with which it is a man's duty to
care for his life, but that He says in a figurative sense, "Let him
lose his life"--that is, let him destroy and lose that perverted and
unnatural use which he now makes of his life, and through which his
desires are fixed on temporal things so that he gives no heed to
eternal. It is written: "Give to the godly man, and help not a
sinner." The latter clause of this sentence seems to forbid
benevolence; for it says, "help not a sinner." Understand, therefore,
that "sinner" is put figuratively for sin, so that it is his sin you
are not to help.
 John vi. 53.
 Rom. xii. 20; Prov. xxv. 21, 22.
 John xii. 25. Comp. Matt. x. 39.
 Ecclus. xii. 4. Comp. Tobit iv. 17.
Chapter 17.--Some Commands are Given to All in Common, Others to
25. Again, it often happens that a man who has attained, or thinks he
has attained, to a higher grade of spiritual life, thinks that the
commands given to those who are still in the lower grades are
figurative; for example, if he has embraced a life of celibacy and
made himself a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven's sake, he contends
that the commands given in Scripture about loving and ruling a wife
are not to be taken literally, but figuratively; and if he has
determined to keep his virgin unmarried, he tries to put a figurative
interpretation on the passage where it is said, "Marry thy daughter,
and so shall thou have performed a weighty matter." 
Accordingly, another of our rules for understanding the Scriptures
will be as follows,--to recognize that some commands are given to all
in common, others to particular classes of persons, that the medicine
may act not only upon the state of health as a whole, but also upon
the special weakness of each member. For that which cannot be raised
to a higher state must be cared for in its own state.
 Ecclus. vii. 27.
Chapter 18.--We Must Take into Consideration the Time at Which
Anything Was Enjoyed or Allowed.
26. We must also be on our guard against supposing that what in the
Old Testament, making allowance for the condition of those times, is
not a crime or a vice even if we take it literally and not
figuratively, can be transferred to the present time as a habit of
life. For no one will do this except lust has dominion over him, and
endeavors to find support for itself in the very Scriptures which were
intended to overthrow it. And the wretched man does not perceive that
such matters are recorded with this useful design, that men of good
hope may learn the salutary lesson, both that the custom they spurn
can be turned to a good use, and that which they embrace can be used
to condemnation, if the use of the former be accompanied with charity,
and the use of the latter with lust.
27. For, if it was possible for one man to use many wives with
chastity, it is possible for another to use one wife with lust. And I
look with greater approval on the man who uses the fruitfulness of
many wives for the sake of an ulterior object, than on the man who
enjoys the body of one wife for its own sake. For in the former case
the man aims at a useful object suited to the circumstances of the
times; in the latter case he gratifies a lust which is engrossed in
temporal enjoyments. And those men to whom the apostle permitted as a
matter of indulgence to have one wife because of their incontinence,
 were less near to God than those who, though they had each of
them numerous wives, yet just as a wise man uses food and drink only
for the sake of bodily health, used marriage only for the sake of
offspring. And, accordingly, if these last had been still alive at
the advent of our Lord, when the time not of casting stones away but
of gathering them together had come,  they would have
immediately made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake.
For there is no difficulty in abstaining unless when there is lust in
enjoying. And assuredly those men of whom I speak knew that
wantonness even in regard to wives is abuse and intemperance, as is
proved by Tobit's prayer when he was married to his wife. For he
says: "Blessed art Thou, O God of our fathers, and blessed is Thy
holy and glorious name for ever; let the heavens bless Thee, and all
Thy creatures. Thou madest Adam, and gavest him Eve his wife for an
helper and stay. . . . And now, O Lord, Thou knowest that I take not
this my sister for lust, but uprightly: therefore have pity on us, O
 1 Cor. vii. 1, 2, 9.
 Eccles. iii. 5.
 Tobit viii. 5-7.
Chapter 19.--Wicked Men Judge Others by Themselves.
28. But those who, giving the rein to lust, either wander about
steeping themselves in a multitude of debaucheries, or even in regard
to one wife not only exceed the measure necessary for the procreation
of children, but with the shameless licence of a sort of slavish
freedom heap up the filth of a still more beastly excess, such men do
not believe it possible that the men of ancient times used a number of
wives with temperance, looking to nothing but the duty, necessary in
the circumstances of the time, of propagating the race; and what they
themselves, who are entangled in the meshes of lust, do not accomplish
in the case of a single wife, they think utterly impossible in the
case of a number of wives.
29. But these same men might say that it is not right even to honor
and praise good and holy men, because they themselves when they are
honored and praised, swell with pride, becoming the more eager for the
emptiest sort of distinction the more frequently and the more widely
they are blown about on the tongue of flattery, and so become so light
that a breath of rumor, whether it appear prosperous or adverse, will
carry them into the whirlpool of vice or dash them on the rocks of
crime. Let them, then, learn how trying and difficult it is for
themselves to escape either being caught by the bait of praise, or
pierced by the stings of insult; but let them not measure others by
their own standard.
Chapter 20.--Consistency of Good Men in All Outward Circumstances.
Let them believe, on the contrary, that the apostles of our faith were
neither puffed up when they were honored by men, nor cast down when
they were despised. And certainly neither sort of temptation was
wanting to those great men. For they were both cried up by the loud
praises of believers, and cried down by the slanderous reports of
their persecutors. But the apostles used all these things, as
occasion served, and were not corrupted; and in the same way the
saints of old used their wives with reference to the necessities of
their own times, and were not in bondage to lust as they are who
refuse to believe these things.
30. For if they had been under the influence of any such passion,
they could never have restrained themselves from implacable hatred
towards their sons, by whom they knew that their wives and concubines
were solicited and debauched.
Chapter 21.--David Not Lustful, Though He Fell into Adultery.
But when King David had suffered this injury at the hands of his
impious and unnatural son, he not only bore with him in his mad
passion, but mourned over him in his death. He certainly was not
caught in the meshes of carnal jealousy, seeing that it was not his
own injuries but the sins of his son that moved him. For it was on
this account he had given orders that his son should not be slain if
he were conquered in battle, that he might have a place of repentance
after he was subdued; and when he was baffled in this design, he
mourned over his son's death, not because of his own loss, but because
he knew to what punishment so impious an adulterer and parricide had
been hurried. For prior to this, in the case of another son
who had been guilty of no crime, though he was dreadfully afflicted
for him while he was sick, yet he comforted himself after his death.
31. And with what moderation and self-restraint those men used their
wives appears chiefly in this, that when this same king, carried away
by the heat of passion and by temporal prosperity, had taken unlawful
possession of one woman, whose husband also he ordered to be put to
death, he was accused of his crime by a prophet, who, when he had come
to show him his sin, set before him the parable of the poor man who
had but one ewe-lamb, and whose neighbor, though he had many, yet when
a guest came to him spared to take of his own flock, but set his poor
neighbor's one lamb before his guest to eat. And David's anger being
kindled against the man, he commanded that he should be put to death,
and the lamb restored fourfold to the poor man; thus unwittingly
condemning the sin he had wittingly committed. And when he
had been shown this, and God's punishment had been denounced against
him, he wiped out his sin in deep penitence. But yet in this parable
it was the adultery only that was indicated by the poor man's
ewe-lamb; about the killing of the woman's husband,--that is, about
the murder of the poor man himself who had the one ewe-lamb,--nothing
is said in the parable, so that the sentence of condemnation is
pronounced against the adultery alone. And hence we may understand
with what temperance he possessed a number of wives when he was forced
to punish himself for transgressing in regard to one woman. But in
his case the immoderate desire did not take up its abode with him, but
was only a passing guest. On this account the unlawful appetite is
called even by the accusing prophet, a guest. For he did not say that
he took the poor man's ewe-lamb to make a feast for his king, but for
his guest. In the case of his son Solomon, however, this lust did not
come and pass away like a guest, but reigned as a king. And about him
Scripture is not silent, but accuses him of being a lover of strange
women; for in the beginning of his reign he was inflamed with a desire
for wisdom, but after he had attained it through spiritual love, he
lost it through carnal lust. 
 Comp. 2 Sam. xvi. 22; xviii. 5; xix. 1.
 2 Sam. xii. 19-23.
 2 Sam. xii. 1-6.
 2 Chron. i. 10-12; 1 Kings xi. 1-3.
Chapter 22.--Rule Regarding Passages of Scripture in Which Approval is
Expressed of Actions Which are Now Condemned by Good Men.
32. Therefore, although all, or nearly all, the transactions recorded
in the Old Testament are to be taken not literally only, but
figuratively as well, nevertheless even in the case of those which the
reader has taken literally, and which, though the authors of them are
praised, are repugnant to the habits of the good men who since our
Lord's advent are the custodians of the divine commands, let him refer
the figure to its interpretation, but let him not transfer the act to
his habits of life. For many things which were done as duties at that
time, cannot now be done except through lust.
Chapter 23.--Rule Regarding the Narrative of Sins of Great Men.
33. And when he reads of the sins of great men, although he may be
able to see and to trace out in them a figure of things to come, let
him yet put the literal fact to this use also, to teach him not to
dare to vaunt himself in his own good deeds, and in comparison with
his own righteousness, to despise others as sinners, when he sees in
the case of men so eminent both the storms that are to be avoided and
the shipwrecks that are to be wept over. For the sins of these men
were recorded to this end, that men might everywhere and always
tremble at that saying of the apostle: "Wherefore let him that
thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." For there is
hardly a page of Scripture on which it is not clearly written that God
resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble. 
 1 Cor. x. 12.
 Comp. Jas. iv. 6 and 1 Pet. v. 6.
Chapter 24.--The Character of the Expressions Used is Above All to
34. The chief thing to be inquired into, therefore, in regard to any
expression that we are trying to understand is, whether it is literal
or figurative. For when it is ascertained to be figurative, it is
easy, by an application of the laws of things which we discussed in
the first book, to turn it in every way until we arrive at a true
interpretation, especially when we bring to our aid experience
strengthened by the exercise of piety. Now we find out whether an
expression is literal or figurative by attending to the considerations
Chapter 25.--The Same Word Does Not Always Signify the Same Thing.
And when it is shown to be figurative, the words in which it is
expressed will be found to be drawn either from like objects or from
objects having some affinity.
35. But as there are many ways in which things show a likeness to
each other, we are not to suppose there is any rule that what a thing
signifies by similitude in one place it is to be taken to signify in
all other places. For our Lord used leaven both in a bad sense, as
when He said, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees,"  and in a
good sense, as when He said, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto
leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the
whole was leavened." 
36. Now the rule in regard to this variation has two forms. For
things that signify now one thing and now another, signify either
things that are contrary, or things that are only different. They
signify contraries, for example, when they are used metaphorically at
one time in a good sense, at another in a bad, as in the case of the
leaven mentioned above. Another example of the same is that a lion
stands for Christ in the place where it is said, "The lion of the
tribe of Judah hath prevailed;"  and again, stands for the devil
where it is written, "Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion,
walketh about seeking whom he may devour." In the same way
the serpent is used in a good sense, "Be wise as serpents;"  and
again, in a bad sense, "The serpent beguiled Eve through his
subtilty." Bread is used in a good sense, "I am the living
bread which came down from heaven;"  in a bad, "Bread eaten in
secret is pleasant." And so in a great many other cases. The
examples I have adduced are indeed by no means doubtful in their
signification, because only plain instances ought to be used as
examples. There are passages, however, in regard to which it is
uncertain in what sense they ought to be taken, as for example, "In
the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red: it is full
of mixture." Now it is uncertain whether this denotes the
wrath of God, but not to the last extremity of punishment, that is,
"to the very dregs;" or whether it denotes the grace of the Scriptures
passing away from the Jews and coming to the Gentiles, because "He has
put down one and set up another,"--certain observances, however, which
they understand in a carnal manner, still remaining among the Jews,
for "the dregs hereof is not yet wrung out." The following is an
example of the same object being taken, not in opposite, but only in
different significations: water denotes people, as we read in the
Apocalypse,  and also the Holy Spirit, as for example, "Out of
his belly shall flow rivers of living water;"  and many other
things besides water must be interpreted according to the place in
which they are found.
37. And in the same way other objects are not single in their
signification, but each one of them denotes not two only but sometimes
even several different things, according to the connection in which it
 Matt. xvi. 6; Luke xii. 1.
 Luke xiii. 21.
 Rev. v. 5.
 1 Pet. v. 8.
 Matt. x. 16.
 2 Cor. xi. 3.
 John vi. 51.
 Prov. ix. 17.
 Ps. lxxv. 8.
 Rev. xvii. 15.
 John vii. 38.
Chapter 26.--Obscure Passages are to Be Interpreted by Those Which are
Now from the places where the sense in which they are used is more
manifest we must gather the sense in which they are to be understood
in obscure passages. For example, there is no better way of
understanding the words addressed to God, "Take hold of shield and
buckler and stand up for mine help,"  than by referring to the
passage where we read, "Thou, Lord, hast crowned us with Thy favor as
with a shield." And yet we are not so to understand it, as
that wherever we meet with a shield put to indicate a protection of
any kind, we must take it as signifying nothing but the favor of God.
For we hear also of the shield of faith, "wherewith," says the
apostle, "ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the
wicked." Nor ought we, on the other hand, in regard to
spiritual armor of this kind to assign faith to the shield only; for
we read in another place of the breastplate of faith: "putting on,"
says the apostle, "the breastplate of faith and love." 
 Ps. xxxv. 2.
 Ps. v. 12.
 Eph. vi. 16.
 l Thess. v. 8.
Chapter 27.--One Passage Susceptible of Various Interpretations.
38. When, again, not some one interpretation, but two or more
interpretations are put upon the same words of Scripture, even though
the meaning the writer intended remain undiscovered, there is no
danger if it can be shown from other passages of Scripture that any of
the interpretations put on the words is in harmony with the truth.
And if a man in searching the Scriptures endeavors to get at the
intention of the author through whom the Holy Spirit spoke, whether he
succeeds in this endeavor, or whether he draws a different meaning
from the words, but one that is not opposed to sound doctrine, he is
free from blame so long as he is supported by the testimony of some
other passage of Scripture. For the author perhaps saw that this very
meaning lay in the words which we are trying to interpret; and
assuredly the Holy Spirit, who through him spoke these words, foresaw
that this interpretation would occur to the reader, nay, made
provision that it should occur to him, seeing that it too is founded
on truth. For what more liberal and more fruitful provision could God
have made in regard to the Sacred Scriptures than that the same words
might be understood in several senses, all of which are sanctioned by
the concurring testimony of other passages equally divine?
Chapter 28.-- It is Safer to Explain a Doubtful Passage by Other
Passages of Scripture Than by Reason.
39. When, however, a meaning is evolved of such a kind that what is
doubtful in it cannot be cleared up by indubitable evidence from
Scripture, it remains for us to make it clear by the evidence of
reason. But this is a dangerous practice. For it is far safer to
walk by the light of Holy Scripture; so that when we wish to examine
the passages that are obscured by metaphorical expressions, we may
either obtain a meaning about which there is no controversy, or if a
controversy arises, may settle it by the application of testimonies
sought out in every portion of the same Scripture.
Chapter 29.--The Knowledge of Tropes is Necessary.
40. Moreover, I would have learned men to know that the authors of
our Scriptures use all those forms of expression which grammarians
call by the Greek name tropes, and use them more freely and in greater
variety than people who are unacquainted with the Scriptures, and have
learnt these figures of speech from other writings, can imagine or
believe. Nevertheless those who know these tropes recognize them in
Scripture, and are very much assisted by their knowledge of them in
understanding Scripture. But this is not the place to teach them to
the illiterate, lest it might seem that I was teaching grammar. I
certainly advise, however, that they be learnt elsewhere, although
indeed I have already given that advice above, in the second
book--namely, where I treated of the necessary knowledge of
languages. For the written characters from which grammar itself gets
its name (the Greek name for letters being grammata are the signs of
sounds made by the articulate voice with which we speak. Now of some
of these figures of speech we find in Scripture not only examples
(which we have of them all), but the very names as well: for
instance, allegory, enigma, and parable. However, nearly all these
tropes which are said to be learnt as a matter of liberal education
are found even in the ordinary speech of men who have learnt no
grammar, but are content to use the vulgar idiom. For who does not
say, "So may you flourish?" And this is the figure of speech called
metaphor. Who does not speak of a fish-pond  in which there is
no fish, which was not made for fish, and yet gets its name from
fish? And this is the figure called catachresis.
41. It would be tedious to go over all the rest in this way; for the
speech of the vulgar makes use of them all, even of those more curious
figures which mean the very opposite of what they say, as for example,
those called irony and antiphrasis. Now in irony we indicate by the
tone of voice the meaning we desire to convey; as when we say to a man
who is behaving badly, "You are doing well." But it is not by the
tone of voice that we make an antiphrasis to indicate the opposite of
what the words convey; but either the words in which it is expressed
are used in the opposite of their etymological sense, as a grove is
called lucus from its want of light;  or it is customary to use
a certain form of expression, although it puts yes for no by a law of
contraries, as when we ask in a place for what is not there, and get
the answer, "There is plenty;" or we add words that make it plain we
mean the opposite of what we say, as in the expression, "Beware of
him, for he is a good man." And what illiterate man is there that
does not use such expressions, although he knows nothing at all about
either the nature or the names of these figures of speech? And yet
the knowledge of these is necessary for clearing up the difficulties
of Scripture; because when the words taken literally give an absurd
meaning, we ought forthwith to inquire whether they may not be used in
this or that figurative sense which we are unacquainted with; and in
this way many obscure passages have had light thrown upon them.
 The word piscina (literally a fish-pond) was used in
post-Augustan times for any pool of water, a swimming pond, for
instance, or a pond for cattle to drink from.
 Quod minime luceat.
Chapter 30.--The Rules of Tichonius the Donatist Examined.
42. One Tichonius, who, although a Donatist himself, has written most
triumphantly against the Donatists (and herein showed himself of a
most inconsistent disposition, that he was unwilling to give them up
altogether), wrote a book which he called the Book of Rules, because
in it he laid down seven rules, which are, as it were, keys to open
the secrets of Scripture. And of these rules, the first relates to
the Lord and His body, the second to the twofold division of the
Lord's body, the third to the promises and the law, the fourth to
species and genus, the fifth to times, the sixth to recapitulation,
the seventh to the devil and his body. Now these rules, as expounded
by their author, do indeed, when carefully considered, afford
considerable assistance in penetrating the secrets of the sacred
writings; but still they do not explain all the difficult passages,
for there are several other methods required, which are so far from
being embraced in this number of seven, that the author himself
explains many obscure passages without using any of his rules;
finding, indeed, that there was no need for them, as there was no
difficulty in the passage of the kind to which his rules apply. As,
for example, he inquires what we are to understand in the Apocalypse
by the seven angels of the churches to whom John is commanded to
write; and after much and various reasoning, arrives at the conclusion
that the angels are the churches themselves. And throughout this long
and full discussion, although the matter inquired into is certainly
very obscure, no use whatever is made of the rules. This is enough
for an example, for it would be too tedious and troublesome to collect
all the passages in the canonical Scriptures which present obscurities
of such a kind as require none of these seven rules for their
43. The author himself, however, when commending these rules,
attributes so much value to them that it would appear as if, when they
were thoroughly known and duly applied, we should be able to interpret
all the obscure passages in the law--that is, in the sacred books.
For he thus commences this very book: "Of all the things that occur
to me, I consider none so necessary as to write a little book of
rules, and, as it were, to make keys for, and put windows in, the
secret places of the law. For there are certain mystical rules which
hold the key to the secret recesses of the whole law, and render
visible the treasures of truth that are to many invisible. And if
this system of rules be received as I communicate it, without
jealousy, what is shut shall be laid open, and what is obscure shall
be elucidated, so that a man travelling through the vast forest of
prophecy shall, if he follow these rules as pathways of light, be
preserved from going astray." Now, if he had said, "There are certain
mystical rules which hold the key to some of the secrets of the law,"
or even "which hold the key to the great secrets of the law," and not
what he does say, "the secret recesses of the whole law;" and if he
had not said "What is shut shall be laid open," but, "Many things that
are shut shall be laid open," he would have said what was true, and he
would not, by attributing more than is warranted by the facts to his
very elaborate and useful work, have led the reader into false
expectations. And I have thought it right to say thus much, in order
both that the book may be read by the studious (for it is of very
great assistance in understanding Scripture), and that no more may be
expected from it than it really contains. Certainly it must be read
with caution, not only on account of the errors into which the author
falls as a man, but chiefly on account of the heresies which he
advances as a Donatist. And now I shall briefly indicate what these
seven rules teach or advise.
Chapter 31.--The First Rule of Tichonius.
44. The first is about the Lord and His body, and it is this, that,
knowing as we do that the head and the body--that is, Christ and His
Church--are sometimes indicated to us under one person (for it is not
in vain that it is said to believers, "Ye then are Abraham's seed,"
 when there is but one seed of Abraham, and that is Christ), we
need not be in a difficulty when a transition is made from the head to
the body or from the body to the head, and yet no change made in the
person spoken of. For a single person is represented as saying, "He
hath decked me as a bridegroom with ornaments, and adorned me as a
bride with jewels"  and yet it is, of course, a matter for
interpretation which of these two refers to the head and which to the
body, that is, which to Christ and which to the Church.
 Gal. iii. 29.
 Isa. lxi. 10 (LXX.). "As a bridegroom decketh himself with
ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with jewels" (A.V.).
Chapter 32.--The Second Rule of Tichonius.
45. The second rule is about the twofold division of the body of the
Lord; but this indeed is not a suitable name, for that is really no
part of the body of Christ which will not be with Him in eternity. We
ought, therefore, to say that the rule is about the true and the mixed
body of the Lord, or the true and the counterfeit, or some such name;
because, not to speak of eternity, hypocrites cannot even now be said
to be in Him, although they seem to be in His Church. And hence this
rule might be designated thus: Concerning the mixed Church. Now this
rule requires the reader to be on his guard when Scripture, although
it has now come to address or speak of a different set of persons,
seems to be addressing or speaking of the same persons as before, just
as if both sets constituted one body in consequence of their being for
the time united in a common participation of the sacraments. An
example of this is that passage in the Song of Solomon, "I am black,
but comely, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon." 
For it is not said, I was black as the tents of Kedar, but am now
comely as the curtains of Solomon. The Church declares itself to be
at present both; and this because the good fish and the bad are for
the time mixed up in the one net. For the tents of Kedar
pertain to Ishmael, who "shall not be heir with the son of the free
woman." And in the same way, when God says of the good part
of the Church, "I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I
will lead them in paths that they have not known; I will make darkness
light before them, and crooked things straight: these things will I
do unto them, and not forsake them;"  He immediately adds in
regard to the other part, the bad that is mixed with the good, "They
shall be turned back." Now these words refer to a set of persons
altogether different from the former; but as the two sets are for the
present united in one body, He speaks as if there were no change in
the subject of the sentence. They will not, however, always be in one
body; for one of them is that wicked servant of whom we are told in
the gospel, whose lord, when he comes, "shall cut him asunder and
appoint him his portion with the hypocrites." 
 Cant. i. 5.
 Matt. xiii. 47, 48.
 Gal. iv. 30.
 Isa. xlii. 16.
 Matt. xxiv. 50, 51.
Chapter 33.--The Third Rule of Tichonius.
46. The third rule relates to the promises and the law, and may be
designated in other terms as relating to the spirit and the letter,
which is the name I made use of when writing a book on this subject.
It may be also named, of grace and the law. This, however, seems to
me to be a great question in itself, rather than a rule to be applied
to the solution of other questions. It was the want of clear views on
this question that originated, or at least greatly aggravated, the
Pelagian heresy. And the efforts of Tichonius to clear up this point
were good, but not complete. For, in discussing the question about
faith and works, he said that works were given us by God as the reward
of faith, but that faith itself was so far our own that it did not
come to us from God; not keeping in mind the saying of the apostle:
"Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ." But he had not come into contact
with this heresy, which has arisen in our time, and has given us much
labor and trouble in defending against it the grace of God which is
through our Lord Jesus Christ, and which (according to the saying of
the apostle, "There must be also heresies among you, that they which
are approved may be made manifest among you"  ) has made us much
more watchful and diligent to discover in Scripture what escaped
Tichonius, who, having no enemy to guard against, was less attentive
and anxious on this point, namely, that even faith itself is the gift
of Him who "hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." 
Whence it is said to certain believers: "Unto you it is given, in the
behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for
His sake." Who, then, can doubt that each of these is the
gift of God, when he learns from this passage, and believes, that each
of them is given? There are many other testimonies besides which
prove this. But I am not now treating of this doctrine. I have,
however, dealt with it, one place or another, very frequently.
 Eph. vi. 23.
 1 Cor. xi. 19.
 Rom. xii. 3.
 Phil. i. 29.
Chapter 34.--The Fourth Rule of Tichonius.
47. The fourth rule of Tichonius is about species and genus. For so
he calls it, intending that by species should be understood a part, by
genus the whole of which that which he calls species is a part: as,
for example, every single city is a part of the great society of
nations: the city he calls a species, all nations constitute the
genus. There is no necessity for here applying that subtilty of
distinction which is in use among logicians, who discuss with great
acuteness the difference between a part and a species. The rule is of
course the same, if anything of the kind referred to is found in
Scripture, not in regard to a single city, but in regard to a single
province, or tribe, or kingdom. Not only, for example, about
Jerusalem, or some of the cities of the Gentiles, such as Tyre or
Babylon, are things said in Scripture whose significance oversteps the
limits of the city, and which are more suitable when applied to all
nations; but in regard to Judea also, and Egypt, and Assyria, or any
other nation you choose to take which contains numerous cities, but
still is not the whole world, but only a part of it, things are said
which pass over the limits of that particular country, and apply more
fitly to the whole of which this is a part; or, as our author terms
it, to the genus of which this is a species. And hence these words
have come to be commonly known, so that even uneducated people
understand what is laid down specially, and what generally, in any
given Imperial command. The same thing occurs in the case of men:
things are said of Solomon, for example, the scope of which reaches
far beyond him, and which are only properly understood when applied to
Christ and His Church, of which Solomon is a part. 
48. Now the species is not always overstepped, for things are often
said of such a kind as evidently apply to it also, or perhaps even to
it exclusively. But when Scripture, having up to a certain point been
speaking about the species, makes a transition at that point from the
species to the genus, the reader must then be carefully on his guard
against seeking in the species what he can find much better and more
surely in the genus. Take, for example, what the prophet Ezekiel
says: "When the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled
it by their own way, and by their doings: their way was before me as
the uncleanness of a removed woman. Wherefore I poured my fury upon
them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for their
idols wherewith they had polluted it: and I scattered them among the
heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to
their way, and according to their doings, I judged them." Now
it is easy to understand that this applies to that house of Israel of
which the apostle says, "Behold Israel after the flesh;" 
because the people of Israel after the flesh did both perform and
endure all that is here referred to. What immediately follows, too,
may be understood as applying to the same people. But when the
prophet begins to say, "And I will sanctify my great name, which was
profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of
them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord,"  the
reader ought now carefully to observe the way in which the species is
overstepped and the genus taken in. For he goes on to say: "And I
shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you
from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will
bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon
you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all
your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and
a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony
heart out of your flesh and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I
will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes,
and ye shall keep my commandments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in
the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I
will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses."
Now that this is a prophecy of the New Testament, to which
pertain not only the remnant of that one nation of which it is
elsewhere said, "For though the number of the children of Israel be as
the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall be saved,"  but
also the other nations which were promised to their fathers and our
fathers; and that there is here a promise of that washing of
regeneration which, as we see, is now imparted to all nations, no one
who looks into the matter can doubt. And that saying of the apostle,
when he is commending the grace of the New Testament and its
excellence in comparison with the Old, "Ye are our epistle . . .
written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in
tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart,"  has an
evident reference to this place where the prophet says, "A new heart
also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I
will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you
an heart of flesh." Now the heart of flesh from which the
apostle's expression, "the fleshy tables of the heart," is drawn, the
prophet intended to point out as distinguished from the stony heart by
the possession of sentient life; and by sentient he understood
intelligent life. And thus the spiritual Israel is made up, not of
one nation, but of all the nations which were promised to the fathers
in their seed, that is, in Christ.
49. This spiritual Israel, therefore, is distinguished from the
carnal Israel which is of one nation, by newness of grace, not by
nobility of descent, in feeling, not in race; but the prophet, in his
depth of meaning, while speaking of the carnal Israel, passes on,
without indicating the transition, to speak of the spiritual, and
although now speaking of the latter, seems to be still speaking of the
former; not that he grudges us the clear apprehension of Scripture, as
if we were enemies, but that he deals with us as a physician, giving
us a wholesome exercise for our spirit. And therefore we ought to
take this saying, "And I will bring you into your own land," and what
he says shortly afterwards, as if repeating himself, "And ye shall
dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers," not literally, as if
they referred to Israel after the flesh, but spiritually, as referring
to the spiritual Israel. For the Church, without spot or wrinkle,
gathered out of all nations, and destined to reign for ever with
Christ, is itself the land of the blessed, the land of the living; and
we are to understand that this was given to the fathers when it was
promised to them for what the fathers believed would be given in its
own time was to them, on account of the unchangeableness of the
promise and purpose, the same as if it were already given; just as the
apostle, writing to Timothy, speaks of the grace which is given to the
saints: "Not according to our works, but according to His own purpose
and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began;
but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour." He
speaks of the grace as given at a time when those to whom it was to be
given were not yet in existence; because he looks upon that as having
been already done in the arrangement and purpose of God, which was to
take place in its own time, and he himself speaks of it as now made
manifest. It is possible, however, that these words may refer to the
land of the age to come, when there will be a new heaven and a new
earth, wherein the unrighteous shall be unable to dwell. And so it is
truly said to the righteous, that the land itself is theirs, no part
of which will belong to the unrighteous; because it is the same as if
it were itself given, when it is firmly settled that it shall be
 2 Sam. vii. 14-16.
 Ezek. xxxvi. 17-19.
 1 Cor. x. 18.
 Ezek. xxxvi. 23.
 Ezek. xxxvi. 23-29.
 Isa. x. 22.
 2 Cor. iii. 2, 3.
 Ezek. xxxviii. 26.
 2 Tim. i. 9, 10.
Chapter 35.--The Fifth Rule of Tichonius.
50. The fifth rule Tichonius lays down is one he designates of
times,--a rule by which we can frequently discover or conjecture
quantities of time which are not expressly mentioned in Scripture.
And he says that this rule applies in two ways: either to the figure
of speech called synecdoche, or to legitimate numbers. The figure
synecdoche either puts the part for the whole, or the whole for the
part. As, for example, in reference to the time when, in the presence
of only three of His disciples, our Lord was transfigured on the
mount, so that His face shone as the sun, and His raiment was white as
snow, one evangelist says that this event occurred "after eight days,"
 while another says that it occurred "after six days." 
Now both of these statements about the number of days cannot be true,
unless we suppose that the writer who says "after eight days," counted
the latter part of the day on which Christ uttered the prediction and
the first part of the day on which he showed its fulfillment as two
whole days; while the writer who says "after six days," counted only
the whole unbroken days between these two. This figure of speech,
which puts the part for the whole, explains also the great question
about the resurrection of Christ. For unless to the latter part of
the day on which He suffered we join the previous night, and count it
as a whole day, and to the latter part of the night in which He arose
we join the Lord's day which was just dawning, and count it also a
whole day, we cannot make out the three days and three nights during
which He foretold that He would be in the heart of the earth. 
51. In the next place, our author calls those numbers legitimate
which Holy Scripture more highly favors such as seven, or ten, or
twelve, or any of the other numbers which the diligent reader of
Scripture soon comes to know. Now numbers of this sort are often put
for time universal; as for example, "Seven times in the day do I
praise Thee," means just the same as "His praise shall continually be
in my mouth." And their force is exactly the same, either
when multiplied by ten, as seventy and seven hundred (whence the
seventy years mentioned in Jeremiah may be taken in a spiritual sense
for the whole time during which the Church is a sojourner among
aliens);  or when multiplied into themselves, as ten into ten
gives one hundred, and twelve into twelve gives one hundred and
forty-four, which last number is used in the Apocalypse to signify the
whole body of the saints. Hence it appears that it is not
merely questions about times that are to be settled by these numbers,
but that their significance is of much wider application, and extends
to many subjects. That number in the Apocalypse, for example,
mentioned above, has not reference to times, but to men.
 Luke ix. 28.
 Matt. xvii. 1; Mark ix. 2.
 Matt. xii. 40.
 Comp. Ps. cxix. 164 with xxxiv. 2.
 Jer. xxv. 11.
 Rev. vii. 4.
Chapter 36.--The Sixth Rule of Tichonius.
52. The sixth rule Tichonius calls the recapitulation, which, with
sufficient watchfulness, is discovered in difficult parts of
Scripture. For certain occurrences are so related, that the narrative
appears to be following the order of time, or the continuity of
events, when it really goes back without mentioning it to previous
occurrences, which had been passed over in their proper place. And we
make mistakes if we do not understand this, from applying the rule
here spoken of. For example, in the book of Genesis we read, "And the
Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man
whom He had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow
every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food." 
Now here it seems to be indicated that the events last mentioned took
place after God had formed man and put him in the garden; whereas the
fact is, that the two events having been briefly mentioned, viz., that
God planted a garden, and there put the man whom He had formed, the
narrative goes back, by way of recapitulation, to tell what had before
been omitted, the way in which the garden was planted: that out of
the ground God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight,
and good for food. Here there follows, "The tree of life also was in
the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil."
Next the river is mentioned which watered the garden, and which was
parted into four heads, the sources of four streams; and all this has
reference to the arrangements of the garden. And when this is
finished, there is a repetition of the fact which had been already
told, but which in the strict order of events came after all this:
"And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden."
For it was after all these other things were done that man
was put in the garden, as now appears from the order of the narrative
itself: it was not after man was put there that the other things were
done, as the previous statement might be thought to imply, did we not
accurately mark and understand the recapitulation by which the
narrative reverts to what had previously been passed over.
53. In the same book, again, when the generations of the sons of Noah
are recounted, it is said: "These are the sons of Ham, after their
families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their
nations." And, again, when the sons of Shem are enumerated:
"These are the sons of Shem, after their families, after their
tongues, in their lands, after their nations." And it is
added in reference to them all: "These are the families of the sons
of Noah, after their generations, in their nations; and by these were
the nations divided in the earth after the flood. And the whole earth
was of one language and of one speech." Now the addition of
this sentence, "And the whole earth was of one language and of one
speech," seems to indicate that at the time when the nations were
scattered over the earth they had all one language in common; but this
is evidently inconsistent with the previous words, "in their families,
after their tongues." For each family or nation could not be said to
have its own language if all had one language in common. And so it is
by way of recapitulation it is added, "And the whole earth was of one
language and of one speech," the narrative here going back, without
indicating the change, to tell how it was, that from having one
language in common, the nations were divided into a multitude of
tongues. And, accordingly, we are forthwith told of the building of
the tower, and of this punishment being there laid upon them as the
judgment of God upon their arrogance; and it was after this that they
were scattered over the earth according to their tongues.
54. This recapitulation is found in a still more obscure form; as,
for example, our Lord says in the gospel: "The same day that Lot went
out of Sodom it rained fire from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even
thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that
day, he which shall be upon the house-top, and his stuff in the house,
let him not come down to take it away; and he that is in the field,
let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot's wife." Is
it when our Lord shall have been revealed that men are to give heed to
these sayings, and not to look behind them, that is, not to long after
the past life which they have renounced? Is not the present rather
the time to give heed to them, that when the Lord shall have been
revealed every man may receive his reward according to the things he
has given heed to or despised? And yet because Scripture says, "In
that day," the time of the revelation of the Lord will be thought the
time for giving heed to these sayings, unless the reader be watchful
and intelligent so as to understand the recapitulation, in which he
will be assisted by that other passage of Scripture which even in the
time of the apostles proclaimed: "Little children, it is the last
time." The very time then when the gospel is preached, up to
the time that the Lord shall be revealed, is the day in which men
ought to give heed to these sayings: for to the same day, which shall
be brought to a close by a day of judgment, belongs that very
revelation of the Lord here spoken of. 
 Gen. ii. 8, 9.
 Gen. ii. 15.
 Gen. x. 20.
 Gen. x. 31.
 Gen. x. 32; xi. 1.
 Luke xvii. 29-32.
 1 John ii. 18.
 Comp. Rom. ii. 5.
Chapter 37.--The Seventh Rule of Tichonius.
55. The seventh rule of Tichonius and the last, is about the devil
and his body. For he is the head of the wicked, who are in a sense
his body, and destined to go with him into the punishment of
everlasting fire, just as Christ is the head of the Church, which is
His body, destined to be with Him in His eternal kingdom and glory.
Accordingly, as the first rule, which is called of the Lord and His
body, directs us, when Scripture speaks of one and the same person, to
take pains to understand which part of the statement applies to the
head and which to the body; so this last rule shows us that statements
are sometimes made about the devil, whose truth is not so evident in
regard to himself as in regard to his body; and his body is made up
not only of those who are manifestly out of the way, but of those also
who, though they really belong to him, are for a time mixed up with
the Church, until they depart from this life, or until the chaff is
separated from the wheat at the last great winnowing. For example,
what is said in Isaiah, "How he is fallen from heaven, Lucifer, son of
the morning!"  and the other statements of the context which,
under the figure of the king of Babylon, are made about the same
person, are of course to be understood of the devil; and yet the
statement which is made in the same place, "He is ground down on the
earth, who sendeth to all nations,"  does not altogether fitly
apply to the head himself. For, although the devil sends his angels
to all nations, yet it is his body, not himself, that is ground down
on the each, except that he himself is in his body, which is beaten
small like the dust which the wind blows from the face of the earth.
56. Now all these rules, except the one about the promises and the
law, make one meaning to be understood where another is expressed,
which is the peculiarity of figurative diction; and this kind of
diction, it seems to me, is too widely spread to be comprehended in
its full extent by any one. For, wherever one thing is said with the
intention that another should be understood we have a figurative
expression, even though the name of the trope is not to be found in
the art of rhetoric. And when an expression of this sort occurs where
it is customary to find it, there is no trouble in understanding it;
when it occurs, however, where it is not customary, it costs labor to
understand it, from some more, from some less, just as men have got
more or less from God of the gifts of intellect, or as they have
access to more or fewer external helps. And, as in the case of proper
words which I discussed above, and in which things are to be
understood just as they are expressed, so in the case of figurative
words, in which one thing is expressed and another is to be
understood, and which I have just finished speaking of as much as I
thought enough, students of these venerable documents ought to be
counselled not only to make themselves acquainted with the forms of
expression ordinarily used in Scripture, to observe them carefully,
and to remember them accurately, but also, what is especially and
before all things necessary, to pray that they may understand them.
For in these very books on the study of which they are intent, they
read, "The Lord giveth wisdom: out of His mouth cometh knowledge and
understanding;"  and it is from Him they have received their
very desire for knowledge, if it is wedded to piety. But about signs,
so far as relates to words, I have now said enough. It remains to
discuss, in the following book, so far as God has given me light, the
means of communicating our thoughts to others.
 Isa. xiv. 12 (LXX.). "How art thou fallen from heaven, O
Lucifer, son of the morning!" (A.V.).
 Isa. xiv. 12 (LXX.). "How art thou cut down to the ground,
which didst weaken the nations!" (A.V.).
 Prov. ii. 6.
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