Augustine's Changing Interpretations of Genesis 1-3

Author: Kim, Yoon Kyung
This book investigates and compares Augustine’s two commentaries on the opening chapters of Genesis: De Genesi contra Manicheos, his first scriptural exegesis, and De Genesi ad Litteram, the final and monumental version of his exploration of the creation. The book shows how Augustine’s exegesis of Genesis 1-3 progressed in the two commentaries. In so doing, the book suggests that there are two main factors to explain his progress: his notions of history and of the scriptures, which were developed and clarified during the period of the interval between the two commentaries.


“ ... Augustine wrote no less that four commentaries on the creation narratives of Genesis. De Genesi ad litteram liber imperfectus is, as the title states, incomplete ending quizzically at the phrase ‘male and female he created them.’ The fact that the last three books of Augustine’s Confessions constitute a commentary on the creation narratives indicates just how important the Genesis creation accounts were to Augustine both theologically and personally. The two commentaries, De Genesi contra Manichaeos and De Genesi ad litteram, are most important. In the present work Dr. Yoon Kyung Kim has undertaken the project of describing the intellectual progress of Augustine from De Genesi contra Manichaeos to De Genesi ad litteram. She deals with traditional issues such as Augustine’s effort to reconcile the two creation accounts of Genesis. She traces Augustine’s hermeneutical methodology to the rationes seminales of the Stoics and especially Plotinus. Her unique contribution may be found in her more precise description of the progress or change that took place in Augustine’s thought between these two works, that is between the years 389 and 415 …” – (from the Foreword) Professor Kenneth B. Steinhauser, Saint Louis University

“ ... Dr. Kim, in her work, goes beyond the range of Teske, Dawson and Eden, who largely confined themselves to issues within De doctrina christiana, and she investigates the field of Augustinian hermeneutics to much greater depth. Her exposition of what Augustine means secundum allegoricam significationem and what he means secundum historicam proprietatem is as subtle as it is enlightening ... Dr. Kim’s work is an ‘ice breaker’ that will have the effect of stimulating discussion about Augustinian hermeneutics for years to come. It will definitely serve as a corrective to the lack of scholarly substance that has long prevailed in a field of study that deserves better.” – Professor Jack C. Marler, Saint Louis University

“ ... Dr. Kim examines, in great detail, the method of interpretation of these two works. She exposes how Augustine has unmistakably moved over time to include historicity within his understanding of history and to connect this new sense with that of a literal interpretation. She carefully defends her conclusions by contrasting not only the works themselves but also the ways in which Augustine has explained how the first and second creation accounts can be reconciled with one another by Augustine’s appeal to a simultaneous creation and rationes seminales ... an interesting, informative, and enlightening study about how Augustine evolved in his thinking about the meaning of history and Christian exegesis.” – Professor Frederick G. McLeod, Saint Louis University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Kenneth B. Steinhauser
I. Introduction
II. Literal and Figurative Interpretation
III. History and Literal Interpretation
IV. Augustine’s Understanding of the Scriptures
V. Augustine’s Reconciliation of the Two Creation Stories
VI. Conclusion