Miniaturizing Sin

Leithart | 10/13/2017 | Staff
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Peter Brown reviews of Sarah Ruden’s new translation of Augustine’s Confessions in this weeks New York Review of Books. I can’t speak to the translation, but I can speak to the reviewer: Everything Peter Brown writes is worth reading.

He comments on Ruden’s decision to translate dominus as “master” (as in master of slaves) rather than as “Lord.” Brown thinks Ruden captures some tonalities that might otherwise be missed, but gently worries that Ruden might underplay “Augustine’s images of the tenderness of God.”

God - Physician - Instance - World - Doctor

God as physician, for instance: “In the ancient world, the doctor was not the icy professional that he or she has become in the modern imagination. Unlike the surgeon, with his dreaded bag of knives, the doctor entered the house as a figure of magical, tender care. In a world with nothing like modern anesthesia, the doctor stood for the one principle of gentle change made available to bodies all too often held rigid on the rack of pain. His skilled words brought comfort, if only to the mind. His skilled hands played across the body, untying, where possible, the knots of pain. His drugs always carried with them reassuring traces of occult energies culled from herbs, which worked slowly and silently to bring the pain-wracked body back to its natural state.” Augustine makes a lot of God as the physician of souls.

Brown takes the opportunity to explore what he calls Augustine’s “deadly gift for miniaturizing...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Leithart
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