Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The man who claims to have read all of Augustine is a liar

There is a famous saying of St. Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636) that the man who claims to have read all of Augustine is a liar. It is quoted frequently but rarely with an exact reference. I have traced down the quote. In PL 83.1109 St. Isidore says [concerning the false view of Florezius?]

Corrupte apud Florezium, Augustine,

"Mentitur qui te totam legisse factetur"

My (literal) translation:

[Concerning Augustine] He is a liar who confesses to have read the whole [of his works].

See the full paragraph below.[1] Normally the quote is cited to mean that there are too many works of St. Augustine for anyone to claim to be an expert. Joseph Kelly comments, however, "The famous remark of the Spanish scholar Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636), that anyone who claimed to have read all the works of Augustine was a liar, was referring not to the number of the saint's works but to their accessibility in the early middle ages."[2]  Apparently there were few libraries that had a complete collection of St. Augustine's works.  Still the saying resonates with the difficultly of fully absorbing all of St. Augustine's thought.


[1] Full paragraph of PL 83.1109

Pro alumna alii ultique.

IV. Entit ; al., eninet.

V. Corrupte apud Florezium, Augustine,

Mentitur qui te totam legisse factetur.

Pro an quis alii ant quis. De re ipsa vide Etymo.og.

lib. vi, cap. 7, n. 3, versu 4, alii, quae loquur. Pro

ipse , alii ipsi, quod metro non congruit. Pro prudent-,

metrum desiderari ; sed videntur potius esse tres

hexametri sine ullo pentametro. De tertio versu dietum

in Isidorianis, loc. cit.

[2]Joseph F. Kelly, "Late Carolingian Era" in Augustine through the ages: an encyclopedia Ed. Allan Fitzgerald, John C. Cavadini. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999) p. 127.

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