How to Read the Old Testament

Lent 2014: Readings from Augustine

All those passages speak of Christ. The head now ascended into heaven along with the body still suffering on earth is the full development of the whole purpose of the authors of Scripture, which is well called Sacred Scripture. Every part of the narrative in the prophetical books should be viewed as having a figurative meaning, except what serves merely as a framework for the literal or figurative predictions of this king and of his people. For as in harps and other musical instruments the musical sound does not come from all parts of the instrument, but from the strings, and the rest is only for fastening and stretching the strings so as to tune them so they’ll give a pleasant sound when struck by the musician, so in these prophetical narratives the circumstances selected by the prophetic spirit either predict some future event, or if they have no voice of their own, they serve to connect together other significant utterances. (Contra Faustum, 22, 94: PL 42, 463)

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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