Monday, January 20, 2014

But I Did Not Read There

In The Evolution of Medieval Thought, Dom David Knowles writes
. . . . on almost all points where Scripture gave no lead, Augustine accepted from the Timaeus and Meno of Plato and the Enneads of Plotinus the explanations they gave of the intellectual problems that engaged his attention, and if a reader of Augustine is in doubt about the origin of a particular philosophical idea, he will usually find the answer in Plotinus. But Augustine was never one to take words and propositions from another without re-thinking them for himself . . .
Augustine tells of his first encounter with the Platonists in Book VII of his Confessions. A couple of paragraphs give the flavor of several more:
  I did read there that the Word, God, 'is not born from flesh, or blood, or human desire, or of fleshly desire, but from God.'
  But I did not read there: 'The word became flesh, to live with us.'
  I did tease out from various expressions and modes of thought in those books that the Son, since 'he had the form of the Father, considered it no usurpation to be held God's equal,' since he was by nature his equal.
  But those books do not contain: 'He emptied himself out into the nature of a slave, becoming like to man. And in man's shape he lowered himself, so obedient as to die, by a death on the cross. For this God has exalted him, favored his title, over all other titles, that to the title of Jesus all knees shall bend, above the earth, upon the earth, and below the earth, and the lips of everyone shall testify that Jesus is Lord in the glory of the Father.
 (Translation by Garry Wills: has Pusey's translation, which I think less readable, and for that matter the Latin text.)

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