2011-2013 Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research C


The Theory and Practice of the Scriptural Exegesis in Augustine

Research outcomes

Basic information of the research project

  • Research Project Number: 23520098
  • Research Period: FY 2011–2013
  • Research Area: History of Thought
  • Research Institution: Tokyo Gakugei University
  • Principal Investigator: Dr. Naoki Kamimura, Tokyo Gakugei University
  • Co-Investigator: Ms. Makiko Sato, Keio University.
  • Overseass Collaborator: Prof. Pauline Allen, Centre for the Early Christian Studies, Australian Catholic University

Objectives of the Research

The overall objective is to attend to a crucial question fundamental to the contemporary scholarship of Augustine. How did Augustine interpret and explain the scriptures, particularly the Pauline epistles, during the period between his conversion in Milan (386) and his ordination as bishop in Hippo (396)? Hence, the proposed project aimed to explore the details of the scriptural exegesis in Augustine’s early treatises (including his philosophical and theological tractates, exegetical commentaries, letters, and sermons) on both Genesis and the Pauline epistles. As mentioned above, what is still to be done in Augustinian scholarship is a more intensive assessment of his writings in this period. The project does not concentrate on what is often called ‘Ancient Christian exegesis’ in a broader currency: instead, the solid model for interpreting and preaching the scriptures in the context of contemporary philosophical, theological, and pastoral thinking of Augustine is chosen to indicate a much clearer spectrum of this project. Since the cooperative projects were undertaken by an effort to consider the problems of Augustinian exegesis and the language theory from complementary viewpoints, this project intends to advance the preceding research achievements, one of which, by Kamimura, has considered his earliest Genesis commentaries: On Genesis, Against the Manicheans and On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis, an Unfinished Work, thereby contributing a significant study to the question, and the other research, by Sato, has examined the early stage of his linguistic thought in On Lying and On Christian Teaching, and offered the possibility of an integrated approach between the language theory and the scriptural exegesis of Augustine.

Research Approach

During several years prior to his ordination as bishop, not only did Augustine engage in his anti-Manichaean works, such as On the Catholic and the Manichean Ways of Life, On the Two Souls, and Debate with Fortunatus, a Manichean, but was forced to become much acquainted with the scriptures, thereby fulfilling the demanding role of bishop in one of Africa’s major sees. Indeed, something of those pastoral responsibilities were reflected clearly in his works. Some scholars have shared the idea of a revolution in his thought in the mid-390s. This implies that these years of careful and thoughtful reading of Pauline epistles and the pursuit of a pastoral and monastic life concluded with his response To Simplicianus in 396. Hence, by reading some of his philosophical and theological tractates, exegetical commentaries, letters, and sermons around the 390s and examining the significance of this idea in the light of these works themselves, we identify diverse strategies employed by Augustine, in order to meet the obligation to perform his pastoral, charitable, and administrative duties, instead of expanding a planned series of treatises on liberal arts and defending against the Manichaean attack. In order to achieve the objectives the research undertaken attempts to resolve three key questions: (a) How did Augustine interpret the book of Genesis and the Pauline epistles?; (b) what was the evolution of his language theory in this period?; (c) what was the evolution of his anthropological reflection in this period?