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

Guido Jacobs

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

289 Downloads (Pure)


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


Dive into the research topics of 'Metaphor, history and the ineffability of God: Augustine's approach to reading the Old Testament'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this