What is a summary of books 1–4 of Saint Augustine of Hippo’s De Trinitate (On the Trinity)?

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In De Trinitate or On the Trinity, Augustine explores the nature of the Blessed Trinity by looking closely at the Old and New Testaments as well as the Tradition of the Church.

In book 1, Augustine first addresses the errors of those who reject the Trinity or who get...

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the Trinity wrong. He also gives an overview of how his work will present the “problem” of the Trinity and explore it through faith and reason. He requests that his readers not project their errors onto him before he proceeds to define the Trinity as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who are of the same divine substance but are also three distinct Persons. He then builds on that definition by examining various questions and difficulties surrounding it, like the works of God, the equality of the Persons, and the Scriptural texts that seem to suggest the inequality of the Son to the Father (which Augustine argues are misunderstood).

In book 2, Augustine turns his attention to the way the Scriptures speak of the Blessed Trinity. He explores the “sending” of the Son and the Holy Spirit and the Son's incarnation as Jesus Christ. He also deals with various errors in which people claim that the Persons of the Trinity are not equal and shows how to seek the truth. Augustine then looks at some texts from the Old Testament to examine how they reveal the Blessed Trinity, focusing especially on the revelations to Moses, Abraham, and Daniel.

In book 3, Augustine continues his inquiry into the nature of the Trinity, reviewing what he has said before and then reflecting on how God reveals himself to human beings and to angels. He explores God as the cause of all things and of all change even though God himself does not change, and he discusses how God uses his creatures and reveals himself in and through creation. Augustine also speaks of miracles, their nature, and God's use of them. He then spends some time focusing on the Eucharist.

In book 4, Augustine claims that the way to attain knowledge of God is to seek knowledge from God himself. Jesus, the Incarnate Word, reveals God in a special way, and we learn the truth of God through Jesus. Augustine explores the deep meanings of Jesus's death and resurrection. He also spends some time on numerical symbolism and how it reveals the inner meanings of Scripture. Further, he reflects on Jesus as the one Mediator who gathers all into one in himself. He contrasts Christ with the devil, who brings death, while Christ brings life, and he shows how Christ, through his death, has brought eternal life. Finally, Augustine speaks of the resurrection of the dead and how people must embrace Christ through faith and love. He then returns to the equality of the three Persons of the Trinity.

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