Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wrong Use of St Augustine?

I am writing this in response to an article by "Ken" at Beggars All (linked below)...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011  Roman Catholic wrong use of Augustine

Augustine is invoked a lot by Roman Catholics in his comments on on Psalm 99
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1801099.htm  Augustine's Expositions on Psalm 98 (Actually, Psalm 99)  see here also at the ccel site

Actually, it IS Psalm 98 - in Catholic editions of the Scriptures!

Otherwise known as
"Ennarations (Expositions) on Psalm 98"

There are 2 big problems with this.

לַהֲדֹם
= לַ"L" = "at"; הֲדֹם = "hadom" = footstool. Psalm 99:5 and 9 - both have the "L" preposition. "at the footstool of His feet" and "at His holy hill". לְהַר

"L" = "at"; הַר = "har" = hill

Augustine's sermon on Psalm 98 is Psalm 99 in English.
Again, it's Psalm 98 in English too - Catholic editions, like the Douay-Rheims. 
He didn't know Hebrew (as even Augustine admitted in his disputes with Jerome; and He didn't like Greek, as he also admitted, and he did not know Greek very well either. He and Tertullian before him contributed a lot of good things, but the reliance upon Latin rather than the original languages of the God-breathed Scriptures was a devastating mistake for the Church in history.); it is obvious - God does not say "Worship His footstool for His feet"; rather it says "worship [the Lord] at His footstool for His feet." Worship the Lord at His holy hill. ie "at the temple" or "at or in the earth, on the hill, the temple", etc.

Actually, it says: "Exalt ye the Lord our God, and adore his footstool, for it is holy."  A better argument would be that David (the psalmist) is referring to the Ark of the Covenant, which indeed was holy and worthy of our worship.
If St. Augustine has made a mistake here, it would appear that "Ken" has made a similar one.
Anyway,
1. Augustine was wrong on Psalm 99 - the Hebrew is clearer than his commentary. Hence, again; the great need for the Reformation and the clarity it brought in separating the good of Augustine from his mistakes and extra biblical traditions.
Now IF St. Augustine is "wrong" about this footstool commentary, how is THAT indicative of the need of a reformation?  Methinks "Ken" has slipped into a bit of misdirected hyperbole here.  

Now, switching gears a bit from the "footstool" discussion, "Ken" moves to the discussion of Transubstantiation and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  St. Augustine, indeed, does discuss the Real Presence in this treatise, but "Ken's" point on the "footstool" seems off target.
2. Augustine did not mean any transubstantiation type of doctrine or literally bowing before bread and wine as if they had become Christ - nowhere does he say this kind of thing. He just says that since Christ is both God and man (His human nature is "of the earth"), then it is appropriate to worship Him - which Protestants do without the transubstantiation idolatry and genuflecting, etc. - He is in heaven sitting at the right hand of God the Father; He is not in the bread or wine. The bread and wine are symbols/representations of His once for all sacrifice for sin.
Let us examine what St. Augustine actually DID say regarding this (emphasis mine):
I ask, what is His footstool? And the Scripture tells me, the earth is My footstool. In hesitation I turn unto Christ, since I am herein seeking Himself: and I discover how the earth may be worshipped without impiety, how His footstool may be worshipped without impiety. For He took upon Him earth from earth; because flesh is from earth, and He received flesh from the flesh of Mary. And because He walked here in very flesh, and gave that very flesh to us to eat for our salvation; and no one eats that flesh, unless he has first worshipped: we have found out in what sense such a footstool of our Lord's may be worshipped, and not only that we sin not in worshipping it, but that we sin in not worshipping. But does the flesh give life? Our Lord Himself, when He was speaking in praise of this same earth, said, It is the Spirit that quickens, the flesh profits nothing....But when our Lord praised it, He was speaking of His own flesh, and He had said, Except a man eat My flesh, he shall have no life in him. (John 6:54) Some disciples of His, about seventy, were offended, and said, This is an hard saying, who can hear it? And they went back, and walked no more with Him. It seemed unto them hard that He said, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, you have no life in you: they received it foolishly, they thought of it carnally, and imagined that the Lord would cut off parts from His body, and give unto them; and they said, This is a hard saying. It was they who were hard, not the saying; for unless they had been hard, and not meek, they would have said unto themselves, He says not this without reason, but there must be some latent mystery herein. They would have remained with Him, softened, not hard: and would have learned that from Him which they who remained, when the others departed, learned. For when twelve disciples had remained with Him, on their departure, these remaining followers suggested to Him, as if in grief for the death of the former, that they were offended by His words, and turned back. But He instructed them, and says unto them, It is the Spirit that quickens, but the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:63)  Understand spiritually what I have said; you are not to eat this body which you see; nor to drink that blood which they who will crucify Me shall pour forth. I have commended unto you a certain mystery; spiritually understood, it will quicken. Although it is needful that this be visibly celebrated, yet it must be spiritually understood. 
The point "Ken" misses here, as do most Protestants who attempt to address this point, is that something which is "spiritually understood" is still REAL!  Christians do not question the REALITY of God the Father or God the Holy Spirit - and yet they are purely SPIRIT.  Just because something is "spiritually understood" that does not equate to "symbols" or "representations!"  The REALITY of the matter is that Jesus Himself DECLARES the bread IS His body and the wine IS His blood!  What we physically perceive, spiritually we KNOW the TRUTH is that it IS His body and blood.  The REALITY is that it these hosts are no longer bread and wine but ARE His body and blood.  St. Augustine explains those disciples who walked with Him no more were seeing things only carnally - they lacked a spiritual perspective, but mostly what they lacked was FAITH - and I posit the case is the same for Protestants who do not see the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, they haven't the FAITH to accept what Jesus plainly declares.  These Protestants are no different than those who walk no more with Jesus except that they CLAIM they are still walking with Him while at the same time REJECTING what He so clearly taught and His True Church continues to teach.

In JMJ,
Scott<<<
 

10 comments:

  1. There are a lot more instances in St. Augustine's writings that prove that he believed in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Not only is the treatise on Psalm 98 not unique in this, but as you pointed out, Psalm 98 does indeed support the fact that he believed in the True Presence.

    This is the center of the Catholic worship. St. Augustine certainly would not be a Catholic let alone a Doctor of the Church if he disagreed with the universal Church's core dogma. It is just another instance of Protestants attempting to explain away the beliefs of the Church, just like they explain away what they find uncomfortable in Scripture.

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  2. My apologies for the hyperbolic generalization of Protestants. In my experience, vocal protestant "apologists" try to explain away what is plainly in support of Catholic doctrine in the Early Fathers, Councils, history, and Scriptures. The vast majority of Protestants who are not attempting apologetics are just ignorant of the facts.

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  3. Hi cathmom5,
    I agree with you, and it almost seems like a tactic or ploy being used here by "Ken" to say that St. Augustine was "wrong" about the "footstool" concept - so if he's wrong there, he must be wrong about the Real Presence too. Thus far my response has only dealt with his main article, he adds comments/responses in the combox of that article too and I plan to answer to those as well.

    In JMJ,
    Scott<<<

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  4. "He was speaking of His own flesh, and He had said, Except a man eat My flesh, he shall have no life in him."

    Thanks for this reminder on John 6.

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  5. Actually, it says: "Exalt ye the Lord our God, and adore his footstool, for it is holy."

    No, it says, "Exalt the Lord our Lord and worship at His footstool, for He is Holy."

    We know this when we study the entire Psalm 99 in its context, and the context of the temple, and the arc of the covenant.

    2 The LORD is great in Zion;
    he is exalted over all the peoples.
    3 Let them praise your great and awesome name!
    Holy is he!

    The object of worship in verse 2 and 3 is the Lord Himself, not the furniture in the temple, nor the temple itself, even though the place for worship of Yahweh was at and in the temple.

    5 Exalt the LORD our God;
    worship at his footstool!
    Holy is he!

    Verse 9
    Exalt the LORD our God,
    and worship at his holy mountain;
    for the LORD our God is holy!

    verses 3, 5, and 9 are parallel, and verse 9 helps us interpret verses 3 and 5 rightly, if one tries to interpret 3 and 5 as meaning "it is holy" (the footstool)

    So, Augustine was wrong to read the Eucharist back into Psalm 99. My case still stands.

    The Lord did not like it when the Israelites used the holy things wrongly (the bronze serpent, the arc, the temple) - That is why He had the bronze serpent destroyed later; and let the Philistines take the arc; and let the Babylonians (586 BC) and Romans (70 AD) destroy the temple.

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  6. oops - typo

    "No, it says, "Exalt the Lord our Lord and worship at His footstool, for He is Holy."

    should have been:

    No, it says, "Exalt the Lord our God and worship at His footstool, for He is Holy."

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  7. Ken wrote: but the reliance upon Latin rather than the original languages of the God-breathed Scriptures was a devastating mistake for the Church in history.

    A point I brought out initially is that Ken does not point out any "devastating mistake for the Church in history." Even if, for the sake of argument, we GAVE him this "L" argument - there is nothing "devastating" here. I know Ken would like to MAKE this a "devastating" argument - but it simply is not.

    Secondly, and a point I did not bring out initially - Ken belittles the Latin text in favor of "the original languages of the God-breathed Scriptures" - as if:
    1) Something is lost in translation or
    2) The only "God-breathed" Scripture is that in the original autograph/language.

    Well, there are NO original autographs of the Scripture in existence! EVERY text has been copied - and there ARE variations even in "the original languages" as we have seen brought out in the discussions which have ensued here.

    In short, Ken is selling a pig in a poke. He's proved nothing and asserts a huge (devastating) mistake being made by St. Augustine.

    In JMJ,
    Scott<<<

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  8. Please can you tell me where this quote you referenced is from?

    "He didn't know Hebrew (as even Augustine admitted in his disputes with Jerome; and He didn't like Greek, as he also admitted, and he did not know Greek very well either. He and Tertullian before him contributed a lot of good things, but the reliance upon Latin rather than the original languages of the God-breathed Scriptures was a devastating mistake for the Church in history.); it is obvious - God does not say "Worship His footstool for His feet"; rather it says "worship [the Lord] at His footstool for His feet." Worship the Lord at His holy hill. ie "at the temple" or "at or in the earth, on the hill, the temple", etc."

    I posted it on Facebook but a friend replied:
    "In his "Confessions," Augustine says he hated Greek lessons as a boy, but in fact he was able to read the NT in Greek, and corresponded with Jerome on NT translation: "we are in no small measure thankful to God for the work in which you have translated the Gospels from the original Greek, because in almost every passage we have found nothing to object to, when we compared it with the Greek Scriptures." I believe Augustine also read Hebrew."

    What do I say now? :|

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  9. Alex asks: Please can you tell me where this quote you referenced is from?

    That was "Ken" from BeggarsAll. I quoted and then responded to him. It is not my position.

    It would also appear that you are approaching this differently than I did.

    We must be careful. In his Confessions he did not say he did not know Greek, only that he disliked Greek literature:
    20. But what were the causes for my strong dislike of Greek literature, which I studied from my boyhood? Even to this day I have not fully understood them. For Latin I loved exceedingly--not just the rudiments, but what the grammarians teach. For those beginner's lessons in reading, writing, and reckoning, I considered no less a burden and pain than Greek. Confessions, Ch. XIII

    He read and understood Greek, and Hebrew too - but never wrote in those languages. He loved Latin, which was the lingua franca, the common or vulgar (from which we get the term "Vulgate") language of educated people - of which St. Augustine clearly was one.

    In JMJ,
    Scott<<<

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