Wednesday, October 06, 2010

An Educated Spokesman

Augustine had a classical education that made him an acceptable ambassador of Christianity to the intellectual classes. His parents had to sacrifice to get their son, who was obviously gifted, into schools that studied in a classical manner. His education was very traditional, and tedious in the area of liberal arts. His education emphasized Latin and the philosophies of the classical Latin scholars. He read the writings of Virgil many times and cried when he read about Dido’s fate as she lamented for Aeneas. He read Cicero, not only for his impressive ideas, but to better grasp the Latin language and his use of rhetoric. Peter Brown, an author of a biography on Augustine, said, “The great advantage of the education Augustine received was that, within its narrow limits, it was perfectionist. The aim was to measure up to the timeless perfection of an ancient classic.” Augustine was taught to believe that the classical scholars never made mistakes. Every word had significance. He applied this careful reading and studying to Christianity as well. His education would have also involved the study of rhetoric. He was very good at not only speaking, but at convincing others that his viewpoint was right. It taught him to dynamically express himself, which was a great gift, and helped him to appeal to many kinds of people. Augustine, although proficient in Latin, struggled when it came to the Greek language. Eventually, he started to read Greek philosophers’ works, but mostly in a Latin translation. However, his knowledge of both Latin and Greek classical ideas was useful in his writings, teaching, and dialogues with people in Rome. Thus, Augustine was able to present Christianity in a way that appealed to the classical scholars of his day.