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ST. AUGUSTINE

ON THE SPIRIT AND THE LETTER

Translations of Christian Literature

Series II—Latin Texts

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LONDON
SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE
NEW YORK AND TORONTO: THE MACMILLAN Co.

1925

22

ER65
A69E5

PRINTED IN INDIA BY GEORGE KENNETH

AT THE DIOCESAN PRESS, VEPERY,

MADRAS-1925. C3603

It may be of assistance to the reader of this Treatise
to be reminded of the purpose and circumstances
under which it was written and its relation to the
great writer's thought. These points will be therefore
discussed under the following divisions :
I. The popular meaning of the phrase the

Letter and the Spirit.'
II. St. Paul's use of this Antithesis.
III. In which sense Augustine borrowed it.
IV. An analysis of the contents of the Treatise.
V. The influence of the Treatise on Christian
Thought.

I

In popular use, the phrase “the Letter and the Spirit’ frequently represents the meaning which lies on the surface and the meaning which lies below. It is the contrast between the verbal expression and the inner intention in the writer's mind.

Thus the letter of the law is contrasted with its spirit. The former can be kept while the latter is broken. Indeed the letter can be urged to frustrate the spirit. The letter of a Scripture text may be broken while its spirit is observed. The letter is the outward form, the spirit is the inward reality. The external observance of a religious rite is described as the letter, while the personal surrender of the heart is called the spirit.

Explained in this sense, as representing the distinction between the outward and the inner meaning, the phrase 'the Letter and the Spirit' when applied to Scripture becomes a method of interpretation.

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