Learning to See the Signs: How the Incarnation Reveals the Semiotic Nature of Scripture and Reality in Augustine’s De Doctrina Christiana
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Sutton, Mark Cole
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Augustine’s treatise on interpreting and teaching Scripture, De Doctrina Christiana, in suitably Augustinian fashion, seeks to understand the nature of all reality and how human beings interact with all things, created and divine. Augustine in mapping the structure of Scripture and reality into three categories, things to be used, things to be enjoyed, and things to be used and enjoyed, implicitly reveals his Christocentric understanding of both Scripture and reality. The things to be used are signs. Signs are all things which are not the things to be enjoyed, which is only God. Yet it is not clear how human beings can use those things to enjoy God, unless there is some way in which the things of this world are revealed as sign, and we are shown how to use them. Therefore, the primary argument of this thesis is that the Incarnation of Christ made it possible for humanity to use all things as signs, as “vehicles” for the enjoyment of God. Christ acts as our vehicle, as the path our vehicle follows, and as its destination. He is our model for reading all things as signs toward God. Yet it is through Scripture that we learn to see as Jesus sees, and therefore it is incumbent upon every Christian to be a good interpreter of Scripture so that we may learn to see Scripture and all things as Christ sees them.