Interpretation of the Bible for Non-Believers: Reading the Bible with Marshall

I am getting more and more interested in the Bible lately. I am starting to read some bible on my own. I do not know if it is the call of conversion from Heaven or just a period of philosophical interest. Anyways, it is because of the authentic moment of the conversion story of Augustine and Heidegger that I started to gain interests in hermeneutics and the Bible. I will begin updating my interpretation of the Bible(mostly the New Testament) in this forum from now on, as a non-believer, specifically a marxist and a philosophy-lover. Also, some interpretations of Augustine's works will be published alongside if I read any.


Let us start with the conversion story of Augustine in the Confessions(credits from materials from Mr. Staron):


The Confessions of St. Augustine --------

Book 8, “The Grace of Faith”

(13) I will now recount and confess to your name, “O Lord, my helper and my redeemer,” how you delivered me from the fetter of desire for concubinage, by which I was held most rightly, and from the slavery of worldly concerns. I went about my accustomed tasks with ever increasing anxiety, and each day I sighed for you. I frequented your church whenever I was free from the burden of the tasks under which I groaned. Alypius was with me, since now, after his third term as assessor, he was relieved of his legal duties and was looking for clients to whom he might again sell his counsel, just as I sold skill at speech, if such skill can be imparted by teaching. By reason of our friendship, Nebridius had consented to teach under Verecundus, a citizen and grammarian of Milan and a very close friend to all of us, who urgently desired, and by right of friendship demanded from our group, the reliable assistance he needed so much. Nebridius was not attracted to this by desire for profit; if he wished for that, he could have gained greater rewards from his learning. But he was a very kind and agreeable friend, and out of duty to friendship he would not reject our request. He acted in a very prudent manner, as he was on guard against becoming known to men who were great according to this world, and he avoided among them all mental disturbance. He wished to keep his mind free and to have as much time as possible open to engage in study, to read, or to hear things concerning wisdom.

(14) One day when Nebridius was absent, for what reason I do not recall, there came to our home to visit me and Alypius a certain Ponticianus, a countryman of ours, in so far as being from Africa, who held a high office at court. I do not know what he wanted from us, but we sat down to talk together. He chanced to notice a book lying upon a game table that stood before us. He took it up, opened it, and much to his surprise found that it was by the apostle Paul. He had thought that it was one of another of the books that I was wearing myself out in teaching. Whereupon he smiled and looked at me as if to congratulate me, and expressed surprise that he had suddenly found these writings and these alone before my eyes. For he was a faithful Christian, and often he prostrated himself before you, our God, in many long prayers within the church. When I told him how I expended very great pains upon those Scriptures, a discussion arose in which he narrated the story of Anthony, an Egyptian monk. His name was famous among your servants, but up to that very hour it had been unknown to us. When he discovered this, he dwelt all the more on the subject, introducing this great man to us who were ignorant of him, and wondering at this same ignorance. We in turn stood in amazement on hearing such wonderful works of yours, deeds of such recent memory, done so close to our own times, and most fully testified to, in the true faith and in the Catholic Church. All of us marveled at it, we because there had been such great wonders, and he because they had not been heard of by us.


(15) From this subject his discourse turned to the flocks within the monasteries and to their way of life, which is like a sweet-smelling odor to you, and to the fruitful deserts in the wilderness, of all of which we knew nothing. There was a monastery at Milan, filled with good brothers, situated outside the walls, under the fostering care of Ambrose, but we had not known about it. He proceeded with his account, and we kept silent and attentive. Then it came about that he told us how he and three of his associates – just when I do not know, but it was at Trier – one afternoon, when the emperor was attending the games at the circus, went out for a walk in the gardens along the walls. As they chanced to walk in pairs, one went apart with him and the other two wandered off by themselves. While wandering about, these two others came upon a certain house, where dwelled some of your servants, “poor in spirit, of whom is the kingdom of heaven,” and there they found a little book in which was written the life of Anthony. One of them began to read this book, to marvel at it, and to be aroused by it. As he read it, he began to meditate on taking up such a life, and to give up his worldly career and serve you. These two men were numbered among those whom they style special agents. Then the reader, suddenly filled with holy love and by sober shame made angry within himself, turned his eyes upon his friend and said, “Tell me, I ask you, where will we get by all these labors of ours? What are we seeking for? To what purpose do we serve in office? What higher ambition can we have at court than to become friends of the emperor? In such a position what is there that is not fragile and full of peril? By how many perils do we arrive at a greater peril? When will we get there? But to become God’s friend, if I wish it, see, I become one here and now.” He spoke these words, and in anguish during this birth of a new life, he turned his eyes upon those pages. He read on and was changed within himself, where your eye could see. His mind was stripped of this world, as soon became apparent. For as he read, and turned about on the waves of his heart, he raged at himself for a while, but then discerned better things and determined upon them. Already belonging to you, he said to his friend, “I have now broken away from our former hopes, and I have determined to serve God, and from this very hour and in this very place I make my start. If it is too much for you to imitate me, do not oppose me.” The other answered that he would join him as a comrade for so great a reward and in so great a service. Both of them, being now yours, began to build a tower that at due cost of leaving all that they had and following you. By then Ponticianus and the man with him, who had walked in other parts of the garden, came in search of them in the same place, and on finding them, warned them that they must return, as the day was already late. The men told them of their resolution and purpose and how such a determination had sprung up and become established within them, and begged the others not to trouble them, even if they would refuse to join them. Ponticianus and his companion, although in wise changed from their former state, nevertheless wept over it, as he affirmed, congratulated them devoutly, and recommended themselves to their prayers. Then, with hearts dragging along upon the earth, they returned to the palace, while the other two fixed their hearts on heaven and remained in the house. Both men had affianced brides, and when these women heard the story, they also dedicated their virginity to you.

Chapter 7: The Naked Self


(16) Ponticianus told us this story, and as he spoke, you, O Lord, turned me back upon myself. You took me from behind my own back, where I had placed myself because I did not wish to look upon myself. You stood me face to face with myself, so that I might see how foul I was, how deformed and defiled, how covered with stains and sores. I looked, and I was filled with horror, but there was no place for me to flee to away from myself. If I tried to turn my gaze from myself, he still went on with the story that he was telling, and once again you placed me in front of myself, and thrust me before my own eyes, so that I might find out my iniquity and hate it. I knew what it was, but I pretended not to; I refused to look at it, and put it out of my memory.

(17) At that time, in truth, the more ardently I loved those men whose healthful affections I was hearing about, because they had given themselves wholly to you for healing, the more detestably did I hate myself as compared to them. Many, perhaps twelve, of my years had flown since that nineteenth year when by reading Cicero’s Hortensius I was aroused to a zeal for wisdom. Yet still I delayed to despise earthly happiness, and thus devote myself to that search. For the bare search for wisdom, even when it is not actually found, was preferable to finding treasures and earthly kingdoms and to bodily pleasures swirling about me at my beck. But I, a most wretched youth, most wretched from the very start of my youth, had even sought chastity from you, and had said, “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet!” For I feared that you would hear me quickly, and that quickly you would heal me of that disease of lust, which I wished to have satisfied rather than extinguished. I had wandered along crooked ways in a sacrilegious superstition, not indeed because I was certain of it, but as though I preferred it to other teachings which I did not seek with piety but opposed with hatred.

(18) I thought that the reason I deferred from day to day to reject worldly hopes and to follow you alone was because there seemed nothing certain by which I could direct my course. But the day had come when I stood stripped naked before myself, and my conscience upbraided me. “Where is my tongue? You said, forsooth, that you would not cast off your burden of vanity for the sake of an uncertain truth. See, now it is certain, and yet that burden still weighs you down, while men who neither wore themselves out in search of truth, nor meditated for ten years and more on such things, win wings for their readier shoulders.” Thus was I gnawed within myself, and I was overwhelmed with shame and horror, while Ponticianus spoke of such things. When he had brought an end to his story, and to the business for which he had come, he departed and I went into myself. What was there that I did not say against myself? With what scourges of self-condemnation did I not lash my soul, so that it would follow me as I strove to follow after you? Yet it drew back; it refused to go on, and it offered no excuses for itself. All arguments were used up, and all had been refuted. There remained only speechless dread and my soul was fearful, as if of death itself, of being kept back from that flow of habit by which it was wasting away unto death.

Chapter 8: In the Garden

(19) Then, during that great struggle in my inner house, which I had violently raised up against my own soul in our chamber, in my heart, troubled both in mind and in countenance, I turn upon Alypius and cry out to him: “What is the trouble with us? What is this? What did you hear? The unlearned rise up and take heaven by storm, and we, with all our erudition but empty of heart, see how we wallow in flesh and blood! Are we ashamed to follow, because they have gone ahead of us? Is it no shame to us not even to follow them?” I said some such words, and my anguish of mind tore me from him, while astounded he looked at me and kept silent. I did not speak in my usual way. My brow, cheeks, eyes, color, and tone of voice spoke of my state of mind more than the words that I uttered. Attached to our lodging there was a little garden; we had the use of it, as of the whole house, for our host, the owner of the house, did not live in it. The tumult within my breast hurried me out into it, where no one would stop the raging combat that I had entered into against myself, until it would come to such an end as you knew of, but as I knew not. I suffered from a madness that was to bring health, and I was in a death agony that was to bring life: for I knew what a thing of evil I was, but I did not know the good that I would be after but a little while. I rushed, then, into the garden, and Alypius followed in my steps. Even when he was present, I was not less alone – and how could he desert me when I was reduced to such a state? We sat down as far as we could from the house. Suffering from a most fearful wound, I quaked in spirit, angered by a most turbulent anger, because I did not enter into your will and into a covenant with you, my God. For all my bones cried out to me to enter into that covenant, and by their praises they lifted me up to the skies. Not by ships, or in chariots, or on foot do we enter therein; we need not go even so far as I had gone from the house to the place where we were sitting. For not only to go, but even to go in thither was naught else but the will to go, to will firmly and finally, and not to turn and toss, now here, now there, a struggling, half-maimed will, with one part rising upwards and another falling down.

(20) Finally, in the shifting tides of my indecision, I made many bodily movements, such as men sometimes will to make but cannot, whether because they lack certain members or because those members are bound with chains, weakened by illness, or hindered in one way or another. If I tore my hair, and beat my forehead, if I locked my fingers together and clasped my knees, I did so because I willed it. But I could have willed this and yet not done it, if the motive power of my limbs had not made its response. Therefore I did many things in which to will was not the same as the ability to act. Yet I did not do that which I wanted to do with an incomparably greater desire, and could have done as soon as I willed to act, for immediately, when I made that act of will, I would have willed with efficacy. In such an act of power to act and the will itself are the same, but the very act of willing is actually to do the deed. Yet it was not done: it was easier for the body to obey the soul’s most feeble command, so that its members were moved at pleasure, than for the soul to obey itself and to accomplish its own high will wholly within the will. ... .

Chapter 11: The Voice of Continence

(25) Thus I was sick and tormented, and I upbraided myself much more bitterly than ever before, I twisted and turned in my chain, until it might be completely broken, although now I was scarcely held by it, but still held by it I was. Within the depths of my soul, O Lord, you urged me on. By an austere mercy you redoubled the scourges of fear and shame, lest I should give in again, and lest that thin little remaining strand should not be broken through but should grow strong again and bind me more firmly. Within myself I said: “Behold, let it be done now, now let it be done,” and by those words I was already moving on to a decision. By then I had almost made it, and yet I did not make it. Still, I did not slip back into my former ways, but close by I stood my ground and regained my breath. Again I tried, and I was but a little away from my goal, just a little away from it, and I all but reached it and laid hold of it. Yet I was not quite there, and I did not reach it, and I did not catch hold of it. I still hesitated to die to death and to live to life, for the ingrown worse had more power over me than the untried better. The nearer came that moment in time when I was to become something different, the greater terror did it strike into me. Yet it did not strike me back, nor did it turn me away, but it held me in suspense.

(26) My lovers of old, trifles of trifles and vanities of vanities, held me back. They plucked at my fleshly garment, and they whispered softly: “Do you cast us off?” and “From that moment we shall no more be with you forever and ever!” and again, “From that moment no longer will this thing and that be allowed to you, forever and ever!” What did they suggest by what I have called “this thing and that,” what, O my God, did they suggest? May your mercy turn away all that from your servant’s soul! What filth did they suggest! What deeds of shame! But now by far less than half did I hear them. For now it was not as if they were openly contradicting me, face to face, but as if they were muttering behind my back, and as if they were furtively picking at me as I left them, to make me look back again. Yet they did delay me, for I hesitated to tear myself away, and shake myself free of them, and leap over to that place where I was called to be. For an overpowering habit kept saying to me, “Do you think that you can live without them?”

(27) But now it asked this in a very feeble voice. For from that way in which I had set my face and where I trembled to pass, there appeared to me the chaste dignity of continence, serene and joyous, but in no wanton fashion, virtuously alluring so that I would come to her and hesitate no longer. To lift me up and embrace me, she stretched forth her holy hands, filled with varied kinds of good examples. Many were the boys and girls, there too a host of youths, men and women of every age, grave widows and aged virgins, and in all these continence herself was in no wise barren but a fruitful mother of children, of joys born of you, O Lord, her spouse. She smiled upon me with an enheartening mockery, as if to say: “Cannot you do what these youths and these maidens do? Or can these youths and these maidens do this of themselves, and not rather in the Lord their God? The Lord their God gave me to them. Why do you stand on yourself, and thus stand not at all? Cast yourself on him. Have no fear. He will not draw back and let you fall. Cast yourself trustfully on him: he will receive you and he will heal you.” I felt great shame, for I still heard the murmurings of those trifles, and still I delayed and hung there in suspense. Again she smiled, as if to say: “Turn deaf ears to those unclean members of yours upon the earth, so that they may be mortified. They tell you of delights, but not as does the law of the Lord your God.” This debate within my heart was solely of myself against myself. But Alypius, standing close by my side, silently awaited the outcome of my strange emotion.

Chapter 12: The Voice as of a Child

(28) But when deep reflection had dredged out of the secret recesses of my soul all my misery and heaped it up in full view of my heart, there arose a mighty storm, bringing with it a mighty downpour of tears. That I might pour it all forth with its own proper sounds, I arose from Alypius’ side – to be alone seemed more proper to this ordeal of weeping – and went farther apart, so that not even his presence would be a hindrance to me. Such was I at that moment, and he sensed it, for I suppose that I had said something in which the sound of my voice already appeared to be chocked with weeping. So I had arisen, while he, in deep wonder, remained there where we were sitting. I flung myself down, how I do not know, under a certain fig tree, and gave free rein to my tears. The floods burst from my eyes, an acceptable sacrifice to you. Not indeed in these very words but to this effect I spoke many things to you: “And you, O Lord, how long? How long, O Lord, will you be angry forever? Remember not our past iniquities.” For I felt that I was held by them, and I gasped forth these mournful words, “How long, how long? Tomorrow and tomorrow? Why not now? Why not in this very hour an end to my uncleanness?”

(29) Such words I spoke, and with most bitter contrition I wept within my heart. And lo, I heard from a nearby house, a voice like that of a boy or a girl, I know not which, chanting and repeating over and over, “Take up and read. Take up and read.” Instantly, with altered countenance, I began to think most intently whether children made use of any such chant in some kind of game, but I could not recall hearing it anywhere. I checked the flow of my tears and got up, for I interpreted this solely as a command given to me by God to open the book and read the first chapter I should come upon. For I had heard how Anthony had been admonished by a reading from the Gospel at which he chanced to be present, as if the words read were addressed to him: “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me,” and that by such a portent he was immediately converted to you. So I hurried back to the spot where Alypius was sitting, for I had put there the volume of the apostle when I got up and left him. I snatched it up, opened it, and read in silence the chapter on which my eyes first fell: “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in strife and envying; but put you on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscences.” No further wished I to read, nor was there need to do so. Instantly, in truth, at the end of this sentence, as if before a peaceful light streaming into my heart, all the dark shadows of doubt fled away.

(30) Then, having inserted my finger, or some other mark, I closed the book, and, with a countenance now calm, I told it all to Alypius. What had taken place in him, which I did not know about, he then made known to me. He asked to see what I had read: I showed it to him, and he looked also at what came after what I had read for I did not know what followed. It was this that followed: “Now him that is weak in the faith take unto you,” which he applied to himself and disclosed to me. By this admonition he was strengthened, and by a good resolution and purpose, which were entirely in keeping with his character, wherein both for a long time and for the better he had greatly differed from me, he joined me without any painful hesitation.

22 views0 comments