He later had reason to regret this fact.
Contrary to the custom in Rome of his day, the classical schooling that Augustine received in colonial North Africa was conducted principally in Latin rather than in Greek.
Augustine later wrote in his Confessions
that his first Greek teacher
was a brutal man who constantly beat his students.
As a result, Augustine rebelled by vowing never to learn Greek.
After he became a Manichaean
, Augustine continued to read philosophy, but was soon hampered by his not knowing much Greek.
When aged in his twenties he would have found it difficult to read a Greek philosophical or theological text.
When as a bishop
and an author
he realised that he really needed to know Greek, it was impractical for him to undertake a formal study of it.
Although he gradually acquired some use of the language, he was never really at home in it.
His acquaintance with Greek literature was very limited. It has been questioned, for example, whether he was able to use, in the original, either the Hebrew or Greek Scriptures.
Apparently, he was in the habit of using translations of the Greek author, Plato (Confessions 8, 2).
On the other hand, however, Greek words frequently occur in his writings correctly rendered and discriminated.
And in his Letter 59, he mentions to Marcellinus about his taking up the Psalms in Greek translation and finding, in reference to certain difficulties, that it agreed with the Vulgate (i.e., the Latin translation of the Bible by his colourful contemporary, Jerome
One particular mistranslation of Greek by Augustine, however, concerned a significant theological insight by Saint Paul.
Augustine incorrectly translated Romans 5:12 to say that the human race committed sin through Adam, and not merely because of Adam.
Augustine took the verse to mean that every human being was spiritually present in Adam himself, and therefore directly responsible for the sin of Adam.
In fact, the apostle Paul was merely saying that, as a result of the sin of Adam, death came into the world and we have all suffered as a result.
The mistranslation had an unfortunate effect on his doctrine of original sin.
This made the thought of Augustine on this subject more harsh than it should have been. This has led some modern critics to reject this doctrine completely.
(Continued on the next page.)