1.8: Of the question why, if Christ is believed to have been
the wisest of men on the testimony of common narrative report, He should not be
believed to be God on the testimony of the superior report of preaching.
Augustine continues to respond to those who reject the
authenticity and historical reliability of the Gospels in their presentation of
Jesus. He notes that these skeptics hypocritically affirm that Christ was the
wisest of men, based on various reports about his life, but then reject the
Gospels, which are based on eyewitness reports from his closest followers. The
Gospels present Jesus as the only begotten Son, as God himself, and as the creator
of all things. He then counter-punches by asking why the pagan deities should
be considered “proper objects of reverence” if they are ridiculed in popular
theatrical productions. He challenges those who say they have books written by
Jesus which support their view to produced them.
1.9: Of certain persons who pretend that Christ wrote books
on the art of magic:
Here Augustine attacks those who make the false claims that
they have books written by Jesus on magic, which he used to produce his
miracles. If they have these books, he challenges such persons to use these
books to do the miracles Jesus did.
1.10: Of some men who are mad enough to suppose that the
books were inscribed with the names of Peter and Paul:
The attack continues, as Augustine points out that some of
the spurious “magic” books have nonsensical dedications to Peter and Paul.
These claims show their “deceitful audacity” and ignorance, making them a laughingstock.
It would be total folly to suggest that Jesus wrote anything to Paul, who did
not become a follower of Jesus during his earthly ministry but only after his
resurrection. Augustine chides such men for getting their information about
Christ and the apostles “not in the holy writings, but on painted walls.” He
notes that such spurious views likely developed in Rome where Peter and Paul
were martyred on the same day. These men had then misunderstood paintings which
depicted Jesus with Peter and Paul.
1.11: In opposition to those who foolishly imagine that Christ
converted the people to Himself by magical arts:
Augustine here offers another challenge to those who claim
Jesus did his miracles by magic. If this is so, how do they explain the fact
that the prophets wrote about him. If he used magic to influence them, then he
was “a magician before He was born.”
Augustine here continues his defense of the canonical
Gospels, especially against popular pagan traditions, which suggested that
Jesus had been a magician and used magic to manipulate circumstances and
perform miracles. He shows that books presenting this view which claimed to be
written by Jesus are spurious. He is especially critical of those who have
received a distorted view of Jesus based on visual art (paintings) rather on
the written Scriptures. His purpose, again, is to show the superiority of the
canonical Gospels as sources for the life of Jesus.