Reading Psalm 4 To The Manicheans, a review

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Reading Psalm 4 To The Manicheans, a review

Post by James Batchelor on Fri Aug 17, 2018 9:57 pm

Reading Psalm 4 to the Manicheans, Review

Author: Annemaré Kotzé

1037 words

Annemaré Kotzé writes on the subject of St Augustine’s Confessions specifically focussing in on the address made in chapter 9 to the Manicheans. Kotzé argues that the address to the Manicheans changes the nature of Confessions as it makes the Manicheans the second target audience after the first, which is God.

Kotzé describes the way in which Augustine uses rhetoric to convince the Manicheans to make the change to Catholicism.

The first method mentioned is that Augustine displays a sense of despair and pity towards these, in his mind, wayward people. This accomplishes two things, it shows his stance that the Manichean ideology is wrong and secondly reassures the reader that he forgives them for this fault. This is supported by the phrase provided by Koté which states Augustine saw that their misery was brought upon the fact that their doctrine went against the interpretation of the scripture that would have solved their problems.

The second prong in the rhetoric strategy is that Augustine writes in such a way as to convince the reader, and thereby the Manicheans that he is not addressing anyone but God. This gives the impression that he is being truly honest in his feelings, as when a man is talking to God alone he has neither need nor capacity to lie. Kotzé refers to his use of the word “pater”, as a word one would only use in a private sense when talking to God. She backs this up with the phrase that Augustine wishes that they, meaning the Manicheans, could see him weep for them without them actually being there as he would not act in that way if he knew he was being observed. This heightens the sense of the reader being in a voyeuristic space when reading Augustine's Confessions.

The third tactic in Agustine’s plan on conversion is that he likens himself to the Manicheans, saying that he was once one of them but saw the error of his ways. This breaks down the wall of ‘us and them’ and thereby make his argument more convincing. He does this by describing them first as people as deaf as corpses and then stating that he too was one of those corpses.

The fourth method employed is the use of Manichean terminology so as to approach them on familiar ground. It is all too common even in today's modern society for people to reject an idea because they are unfamiliar with it, so making the idea seem less familiar decreases the chance of outright rejection. Kotzé states that the strongest argument to support this claim is the use of the term “paracletum, spiritum Veritatis” which apparently is only used by the Manicheans due to their interpretation of Jesus, and interpretation no one else uses, as they believe it to be false. Hence the strength of this argument as Augustine would not have used this term without the Manicheans in mind.

The final attempt by Augustine to convert them to Catholicism is by reading Psalm 4, by the prophet David, it is this final statement to which Augustine has been leading up to where the words of David echo his own words, making it gospel truth.

Kotzé acknowledges that some may doubt that Augustine is addressing anyone other than God and so goes to great lengths to prove her argument by citing the text. She cites the text in the original Latin with her translation, firstly to show that one cannot reduce her interpretation to bad translation and translates for the reader who most likely does not know Latin. Kotzé only makes reference to Augustine's text, as she believes that outside sources are unnecessary in proving her argument. I think this is an acceptable tactic as the main text is must always be the prime source of evidence. How others react to it or write about it very rarely reveals anything about the author's true intentions, they are in every sense secondary to the primary source. The fact that she can also translate the original Latin only serves to support her as very few critics can make that claim and they might have to rely on secondary sources to help them.

I found the way in which Koté wrote this article to be extremely easy and pleasant to read. Here is why I think that it was so well written. She never used jargon that would confound the average person who is not an expert on Augustine to understand, a person such as I. The average person in the street would be able to read her article without trouble, even when she did use jargon it was always closely followed by an explanation of what it meant. By doing this she managed to explain some complicated concepts in an easy to understand manner. Another small change was that she kept all her references in footnotes at the bottom of the page so the flow of her argument was not disturbed by references, proving that a small change can make a big difference.

She cared more about her argument than trying to appear intelligent and brainy, I think by keeping it simple and straightforward she impressed me more than those other experts whose vernacular punishes the reader for deigning to pick up their work. I found her argument to be very compelling as she was very methodical in her breakdown of Augustine’s rhetoric and explained her reasoning all the way through, continually backing up her argument with evidence from Augustine's Confessions. She frequently referred to other scholars who had done similar work to either confirm what they had said or to propose an alternative theory. This inspired confidence that she had extensive knowledge about the subject and also enlightened the reader to alternative views.

To conclude, Annemaré Kotzé examined five parts of Augustine’s argument meant to convert the Manicheans into Catholics. These are; pitying the Manicheans, giving a voyeuristic impression of his writing so as to appear truly honest, likening himself to a Manichean, using familiar terminology to eliminate the foreign nature of his views, and ending with a reading from the prophet David. Her argument was well supported and easy to read.


James Batchelor

Posts : 8
Join date : 2018-07-10
Age : 23

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