Translated from Volume 35 of Migne with my usual guess and gosh, along with Whitaker’s Words, Lewis and Short, forks and hope. (And if the critics are so darned baffled by some Irish guy writing to other Irish guys in “Carthage”, either they underestimate Irish traveling power, Irish imagination, or Irish whimsicality of placename kenning. If you can call the local lord a dragon, a sapling, and a branch, I think you can call Clonmacnoise “Carthage”.)
(UPDATE: “St. Carthagus” is St. Carthach, aka St. Mochuda of Lismore. So those opining it was dedicated to the Lismore folks, I can now understand them saying so. And arrrrrgh, what a horrible pun!)
It doesn’t seem to me that this gentleman is trying to “rationalize” Scriptural events, in the sense we moderns mean it. Rather, he seems to think that it’s much more elegant to show God exploiting His supreme control of natural law in some mysterious way beyond human power, than to show God flouting altogether the natural laws He set up. This is God as universe-programmer squeezing out all the needful clever applications through His providence from the beginning of Creation, rather than as universe-breaker. (Or you might compare it to that cartoon of the Animator doing “miraculous” things to Daffy Duck inside the cartoon world, but still mostly staying within the rules of the cartoon world to do it — even though the Animator’s far beyond Daffy Duck in his potential to make the cartoon world do stuff, and that particular cartoon world only exists because of him.)
We return now to the year AD 655….
Of the Wonderful Things of Holy Scripture: 3 Books.
O most venerable bishops and priests of the cities and monasteries of greatest Carthage — subject to you in all things, Augustine wishes you in Christ all that is desirable.
O most blessed ones —
While he yet lived, by my Father Eusebius’ command I was bound to this work — urged on also by you Christians, and compelled by the authority of the orders of our most venerable great master, to compose (God granting it) three books on the Miracles of the Old and New Testaments of Holy Scripture by historical exposition, with as much brevity as I could manage. I will be excused my boldness in groping toward this work, by the authority of those who bid it. Indeed, although I had discerned myself to be unequal to what was to be said, yet ordered to yield to authority, I dared not turn away to either side; knowing most certainly that a worse vengeance follows running away disobediently from orders, than the scolding rebuke for being unequal to the work that goes along with obeying orders, regardless of what is commanded.
Plus, on the other hand, the prophet Jonah, fleeing through danger on the waves of the sea rather than suffer rebuke if he had fulfilled what was ordered, found out that the people that he had feared could be open to his sermons. And the prophet of Bethel’s altar who did not finish a laborious journey in the hunger and thirst he had been ordered to take it, the vengeance on his disobedience was his death a little further along the road, after he had found himself full. (1 Kings 13) Indeed, when Jeremiah was still a boy, he had no education in letters nor strength of manly good sense, but since he obeyed what he was told, he earned the reception of what he had not possessed. (Jeremiah 1:4-9).
From which, therefore, I do not consider the poverty of my tiny faculties, but the foresighted authority behind my orders. Because if you had not believed there was some little spark of light in me, you would not have charged me in any way with the ingenious labor of this work.
In these volumes, a plan of arrangement is intended so: that the first is entitled “On the Pentateuch of Moses”; the second, “On the Prophets”; and the third, “On the New Testament”. The intention of all this labor with the greatest effort, truly, is so that in all things in which something is done outside the everyday way of things, it may be seen that God does not do something of a new nature there, but something of the same nature which He built in the beginning, and that He is revealed to govern.
Thereafter, also in this work, we were concerned that we might explain only the reason and order of the governance of things by hitherto disregarded meanings of figures. Because in these places where we have touched on a certain historical narration, it has held meaning in many senses; and if we may have argued for one of them, we may have produced them from many books and the longer labor of reading such works. But this especially would be negligent — to omit the established meanings for that reason — because whatever authors have taken the trouble to explain these places in a sense of mystical allegory — that is, by figurative exposition — what they have discovered will keep.
But this work — whether it may perish or endure — hangs upon your decision. Indeed, from that of one of you — that is, Bathanus, after Father Manchinanus. So that I believe I will accept the spit of his mouth and the lot of my labor in vain, on what my intelligence and that of others has added. Indeed, our prayer and petition despairs that from all the reading of all kinds done from the time they commanded it, until they might understand the race ended, that they might feel aversion to the work for any reason.
END OF AUTHOR’S INTRO.