In reading Augustine this week, I have been struck by his emphasis on how a teacher of the Scriptures ought to be prepared. Indeed, in his famous work Teaching Christianity (De Doctrina Christiana)--a manual for teaching Scripture--he lays out some principles for approaching and interpreting Scripture. However, Augustine seems to be first and foremost concerned that the heart of the Bible teacher be spiritually prepared for the task of exegesis. He writes:
First of all, then, it is necessary that we should be led by the fear of God to seek the knowledge of His will, what He commands us to desire and what to avoid. Now this fear will of necessity excite in us the thought of our mortality and of the death that is before us, and crucify all the motions of pride as if our flesh were nailed to the tree. Next it is necessary to have our hearts subdued by piety, and not to run in the face of Holy Scripture, whether when understood it strikes at some of our sins, or, when not understood, we feel as if we could be wiser and give better commands ourselves. We must rather think and believe that whatever is there written, even though it be hidden, is better and truer than anything we could devise by our own wisdom (Augustine, Teaching Christianity, 2.7.9).
While one must approach the study of Scripture with piety, Augustine asserts that preachers should also be spiritually prepared in order to communicate the Word. He adds:
In praying for himself and for those he is about to address, the preacher should be a person of prayer before he is a speaker of words. As the hour when he is to speak approaches, before he uses his tongue, he should raise his parched soul to God that he may gush forth what he has drunk in and pour out what has filled him up (Augustine, Teaching Christianity, 4.15.32 in Harmless 2010:126).
To be sure, for Augustine, the process of studying and communicating Scripture was a great spiritual exercise; not merely a rational one or that was based on self-reliant skill.
6/2/2013 11:15:24 pm
Thanks for this! My heart is preparing for my message work, as I write, and I have been studying the early church fathers for over a year (wish I did more) and I enjoy as much as I can gather and retain. Thanks again! ~ Matt
6/3/2013 12:42:33 am
Glad this is an encouragement as you prepare to preach.
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