Augustine’s Canonical Paul

In De Spiritu et Lettera (DSL) 36, Augustine asks what the Law is which is written on the hearts of believers in the new covenant (Jer. 31:33), if not the Holy Spirit, by whom charity is poured into their hearts (Rom 5:5). But he doesn’t stop there, going on instead to weave an intricate canonical tapestry around this notion. DSL is fundamentally a reflection on Paul’s discussion, in 2 Cor 3, of “the letter [that] kills,” and of “the Spirit [that] gives life,” and in that discussion, Paul explicitly contrasts the giving of the Ten Commandments on stone tablets at Sinai with Jeremiah’s promise of a law written on the hearts of the faithful (2 Cor 3:3). So, Augustine reasons, since the Law was graven upon the tablets at Sinai by the finger of God (Exod 31:18), and since the Holy Spirit is the finger of God (Lk 11:20), it must be the Holy Spirit who writes the Law, both on stone and on hearts, in the latter case imparting that charity (Rom 5:5) which is the fulfillment of the law (Rom 13:10, cf. Gal 5:6).

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