Michael Cameron from the Department of Theology has just published a book-length study of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) that analyzes the ancient Latin Church Father’s patterns of reading and teaching the Bible. Drawing on a quote from Augustine about the Old Testament, the book is titled Christ Meets Me Everywhere: Augustine’s Early Figurative Exegesis, and published by Oxford University Press.
Most readers first encounter Augustine’s love for the words of Scripture in his masterwork, the Confessions. Augustine does not merely quote texts there, but in many ways lets Scripture itself tell his story. As he journeys from darkness to light, Augustine figuratively becomes Adam in the Garden of Eden, or the Prodigal Son of Jesus’ parable, or the Pauline double personality devoted to and rebellious against God’s Law.
Moreover he speaks the words of the Psalms as if he himself had composed them. This self-portrayal reveals Augustine’s skill at transposing himself into the texts, and seeing their properties and dynamics as his own and by extension every believing reader’s own. In Christ Meets Me Everywhere: Augustine’s Early Figurative Exegesis, Michael Cameron argues that Augustine gradually learned this skill during the first fifteen years of his Christian life, first coming to see Scripture as a work of divine rhetoric, then discovering how portrayal of the humility of the man Jesus Christ and the devices that help replicate that humility in readers. Cameron shows how Augustine came to see the work of reading Scripture in the body of Christ, where the Head’s self-transposition into his Members teaches them to read Scripture through his eyes. This was the basis for the way Augustine read Scripture in Confessions, Sermons, Psalms expositions, and elsewhere, and shaped his pattern for training the reading habits of his audiences.
REVIEWS of Christ Meets Me Everywhere:
“Michael Cameron’s new book is a brilliant accomplishment in Augustinian studies. It is irreducibly a work of theology even as it is at the same time irreducibly a work of literary, historical, and cultural studies. Isn’t that the true scope and range of the significance of Augustine himself? It is a special delight to be able to share this book with students in my classes because it has something for every reader. If Christ meets Augustine everywhere, Michael Cameron has seen to it that Augustine can meet us everywhere too, because he has made Augustine available to such a wide readership and with such intelligence, creativity, and elegance.”
— John Cavadini, Associate Professor of Theology and Director of the Institute for Church Life, University of Notre Dame
“In his comprehensive and highly readable study of Augustine’s figurative exegesis, Michael Cameron succeeds admirably in his aim of catching Augustine’s hermeneutic ‘in the act of rising out of his practice.’ While Cameron is fully in control of the history of scholarship on hermeneutical theory and technical terminology (allegory, typology, figuration, and so forth), he never lets theory over-determine his own analysis of Augustine’s actual interpretive performance. Cameron provides a compelling, theologically informed reading of Augustine’s scriptural exegesis in the years up to 400 CE that is finely attentive to the North African’s ‘turnings’ of mysterious scriptural tropes until the transforming divine love for humanity in Christ is figured forth.”
— David Dawson, President and Professor of Religion, Earlham College
“Augustine specialists have long known Michael Cameron’s articles and his original dissertation as a vein of gold running through a huge scholarly mountain. That gold has now been mined, purified and shaped into the most important work on scripture in Augustine’s thought to be published in a generation. At the heart of this book Cameron shows us Augustine shaping an account of Scripture as he develops a theology of Christ’s salvific work. At the same time, Cameron offers us a magisterial vision of the ways in which Augustine adapts ancient rhetorical and analytical tools for his Christian ends. In an era when early Christian exegesis has caught the attention of historians and theologians of all types, Cameron’s exposition of Augustine should be on the reading lists of all devoted to the theological enterprise.”
–Lewis Ayres, Bede Professor of Catholic Theology, University of Durham
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