Metaphor, history and the ineffability of God: Augustine's approach to reading the Old Testament

Guido Jacobs

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    Summary of Guido Jacobs, "Metaphor, history and the ineffability of God"
    This PhD thesis is about two of Augustine's late works, De Genesi ad Litteram
    (‘The literal interpretation of Genesis’, which deals with the creation account)
    and Quaestiones in Heptateuchum (‘Questions on the Heptateuch’, his
    commentary on the first seven books of the Old Testament). It is very
    remarkable that Augustine, well-known for his use of allegorical interpretation,
    in these works shifts to a historical interpretation.
    In De Genesi ad Litteram, Augustine argues that the creation narrative is
    historically true, but that it nevertheless contains metaphors, in order to convey
    the metaphysical meaning of the act of creation. Augustine develops a new,
    fascinating view of metaphor, in which metaphors are deemed necessary for
    understanding metaphysical concepts, which cannot be explained in literal
    terms. This surpasses the Aristotelian view of metaphor, which was the view of
    metaphor in Augustine's time, and it also goes beyond allegorical interpretation,
    which attempts to decode the divine message of Scripture.
    Quaestiones in Heptateuchum is a relatively neglected work, in which
    Augustine meticulously investigates the historical narrative for its own sake. In
    addition, he uses generalization, a form of literal interpretation, to distil moral
    principles from the historical narrative. Furthermore, he investigates the Old
    Testament laws, and assesses which ones hold eternally.
    Considering the scope of this study, this book might be of interest to
    Augustinian scholars, as well as metaphor theorists and exegetes.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Tilburg University
    • van Geest, Paul, Promotor
    • van Wieringen, Archibald L.H.M., Promotor
    Award date7 Nov 2018
    Place of PublicationBergambacht
    Print ISBNs9789490393687
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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