The doctrine of biblical inspiration has been considered suspect for contemporary belief by some Christian theologians. Patristic thinking about biblical inspiration has been rejected even more widely, with the common accusation being that it downplays the human element in the biblical texts. Suspecting that the patristic thinking about biblical inspiration has not been assessed correctly, this study considers what Saint Augustine says about the importance of believing in the divine inspiration of the Bible.
Augustine does not offer a treatise on biblical inspiration in itself, nor does he say much about how the process of biblical inspiration took place. But he does speak of two common traits of the Bible as consequences of its divine inspiration, namely, that the Bible has the highest authority and that it is unfailingly true. This study investigates Augustine’s thinking about the Bible as inspired by investigating what he thinks about the Bible as authoritative and true.
Rather than investigate Augustine’s thinking on these matters within the modern framing of biblical inspiration, this study does so in the context of the saving dynamic of faith seeking understanding. Augustine’s thinking about the inspired texts is best examined from this context.This study finds that for Augustine faith in the Bible as inspired, and therefore as authoritative and true, is a crucial component in the believer’s saving journey to God through the purification of one’s loves and in an increasing participation in God’s wisdom. This faith is put in the Bible as an authority alongside the authority of Christ and that of the Catholic Church. Within the Christian system of these three authorities, the biblical texts mentor believers in wisdom, mediate the divine wisdom, teach purification, and impart the correct knowledge of how to “use” temporal things, so that God is attained. Indeed, the meanings of the biblical texts can be considered right judgments that, when appropriated by believers, are passageways into an ever greater participation in the wisdom within which God is loved and “enjoyed.”