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On Christian Doctrine In Four Books by St. Augustine

Chapter 20. And men are easily offended in a matter of this kindà

20. And men are easily offended in a matter of this kind, just in proportion as they are weak; and they are weak just in proportion as they wish to seem learned, not in the knowledge of things which tend to edification, but in that of signs, by which it is hard not to be puffed up, seeing that the knowledge of things even would often set up our neck, if it were not held down by the yoke of our Master. For how does it prevent our understanding it to have the following passage thus expressed: |Quae est terra in qua isti insidunt super eam, si bona est an nequam; et quae sunt civitates, in quibus ipsi inhabitant in ipsis?| (And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad: and what cities they be that they dwell in. -- Num.13:19) And I am more disposed to think that this is simply the idiom of another language than that any deeper meaning is intended. Again, that phrase, which we cannot now take away from the lips of the people who sing it: |Super ipsum autem floriet sanctificatio mea| (But upon himself shall my holiness flourish -- Ps.132:18), surely takes away nothing from the meaning. Yet a more learned man would prefer that this should be corrected, and that we should say, not floriet, but florebit. Nor does anything stand in the way of the correction being made, except the usage of the singers. Mistakes of this kind, then, if a man do not choose to avoid them altogether, it is easy to treat with indifference, as not interfering with a right understanding. But take, on the other hand, the saying of the apostle: |Quod stultum est Dei, sapientius est hominibus, et quod infirmum est Dei, fortius est hominibus| (Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men -- 1 Cor.1:25). If any one should retain in this passage the Greek idiom, and say, |Quod stultum est Dei, sapientius est hominum et quo infirmum est Dei fortius est hominum| (What is foolish of God is wiser of men, and what is weak of God is stronger of men), a quick and careful reader would indeed by an effort attain to the true meaning, but still a man of slower intelligence either would not understand it at all, or would put an utterly false construction upon it. For not only is such a form of speech faulty in the Latin tongue, but it is ambiguous too, as if the meaning might be, that the folly of men or the weakness of men is wiser or stronger than that of God. But indeed even the expression |sapientius est hominibus| (stronger than men) is not free from ambiguity, even though it be free from solecism. For whether |hominibus| is put as the plural of the dative or as the plural of the ablative, does not appear, unless by reference to the meaning. It would be better then to say, |sapientius est quam homines|, and |fortius est quam homines|.
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