Rhetoric and Exegesis in Augustine’s Interpretation of Romans 7:24-25

Author: Martin, Thomas
Martin, Thomas F.
This study makes a three-fold contribution to scholarship. On a general level, it demonstrates the impact of rhetorical culture on early Christian approaches to the Bible. It also demonstrates how Augustine’s interpretation of Paul was shaped by a ‘persuasive’ rhetorical milieu. Finally, it shows the history of a critical text (roman’s 7:24-25a) that Augustine employs from first to final writings. As such, it provides a lens for viewing and interpreting his theological and exegetical development over the course of his career.


“What makes the book so valuable and convincing is that Martin has taken the time to master the problems of dating Augustine’s writings, particularly sermons, so that he is able to fit the various expositions of Romans into the intellectual shifts over the course of Augustine’s life. . . . Martin is familiar with all the modern scholarship in the various European languages, no easy task when one is studying an author like Augustine who has been the subject of so many studies in different languages and from different perspectives. . . . the book is a substantial and original study, carefully researched, well organized, conversant with the literature, nicely written.” – Robert Louis Wilken

"The central aim of this study is to show that the Pauline miser ego homo cry, the concept of the corpus mortis huius and the notion of the gratia Dei per Iesum Christum together reveal the center of Augustine's spiritual theology. Thomas Martin does so by (1) carefully tracking the Pauline verses throughout the Augustinian corpus considering both chronology and context, and by (2) paying full attention to the rhetoric of Augustine's exegesis, an important aspect of Augustine's scriptural methodology, that has been neglected until recently ... This book is carefully written and composed. Tracing the history of Augustine's efforts with Romans 7:24-25a, the author has chosen to offer a represen- tative selection of Augustine's work on this text, enabling the reader to follow the author's investigation closely. Analysing Augustine's exegesis, Martin brings forward relevant information regarding the discussion on the date of some of the studied material (e.g. pp. 178-180 on Epistula 6*) ... By choosing rhetoric as a lens for research, the author has convincingly shown that for Augustine human saving history is essentially dialogical: "an unceasing cry for redemption with God neither deaf nor silent in response to humble words of confession" (introduction, p. xii). Paying attention to rhetoric, this study has furthermore revealed that Augustine's adaptation to different audiences forced him to discover new layers of meaning in the Pauline text. What I appreciated most is the fact that Martin has shown how Augustine tried to match experienceand exegesis. The underlying insight of the book (literally present from the first till the last page) is that, for Augustine, living the Christian message and understanding it are one." - Louvain Studies

"The analysis focuses on only two verses, Romans 7:24-25a, but these two form a crucial text. It serves not only as the culmination of Paul's prior reflections on the power of sin and the role of Law but as transition." - Giustificativo

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
Preface by J. Patout Burns
1. Augustine and Paul: The History of a Relationship
2. The Cry of Conversion (386-401 CE)
3. The Cry of our Captivity (402-417 CE)
4. “Still in the body of this death” (418-430 CE)
5. Conclusion: A Pauline Augustine, an Augustinian Paul
Bibliography; Indices