2658. Hoc autem quod sequitur quae si scribantur per singula, nec ipsum arbitror mundum posse capere eos qui scribendi sunt libros, potest dupliciter exponi. Uno modo, ut capere referatur ad capacitatem intellectus; quasi dicat: tot possent dici de Christo quod nec mundus caperet eos libros qui de his scriberentur. Supra XVI, 12: multa habeo vobis dicere, sed non potestis portare modo, idest capere.
2658. His statement, if every one of them were to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that should be written, can be understood in two ways. First, the word contain can refer to the capacity of our minds to understand. So the meaning is: so much could be said about Christ that the world could not understand all that could be written: I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now, that is, understand them (John 16:12).
Alio modo, ut sit locutio hyperbolica: et significat excessum operum Christi.
We could also regard this statement as a deliberate exaggeration; and it then indicates the abundance of Christ’s works.
2659. Sed quid est hoc quod dicit? Praemisit enim: et scimus quia verum est testimonium eius, et statim subdit hyperbolicam locutionem. Sed, secundum Augustinum, sacra Scriptura utitur quibusdam figuratis locutionibus, sicut: vidi Dominum sedentem super solium excelsum et elevatum, et tamen non sunt falsae: ita quando in sacra Scriptura est aliqua locutio hyperbolica. Non enim est intentio dicentis ut credatur quod dicit, sed quod intendit significare, scilicet excessum operum Christi. Hoc tamen non fit quando aliquid quod erat obscurum vel dubium exponitur, sed quando id quod est apertum augetur vel attenuatur; puta cum quis volens copiam alicuius rei commendare, dicit: hoc sufficit centum personis vel mille. Volens autem vituperare dicit: hoc vix sufficeret tribus. Nec tamen falsum dicit: quia sic verba rem quae indicatur excedunt, ut ostendatur quod non intendit mentiri, sed ostendere esse parum vel multum.
2659. How can we reconcile this? He had just said, we know that his testimony is true, and then immediately resorts to hyperbole, exceeding the truth. According to Augustine, Scripture does use figures of speech, such as I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne (Isa 6:1), and such statements are not false. This is so when hyperbole is used. The desire of the speaker is not that we accept the literal meaning of the words, but what they were intended to mean, that is, the great number of Christ’s works. Hyperbole is not used to explain what is obscure or doubtful, but to exaggerate or minimize what is obvious. For example, to emphasize how plentiful something is, one can say that there is enough for a hundred or a thousand people. And to minimize something, one could say that there is hardly enough for three. This is not speaking falsely, because it is so obvious that the words contort the reality that they show that one does not intend to lie, but to indicate that something is great or small.
2660. Vel potest referri ad virtutem Christi, qui signa faciebat: ut fiat vis in hoc quod dicit per singula. Scribere enim per singula, signa et dicta Iesu Christi, est dictorum singulorum et factorum enucleare virtutem. Verba autem et facta Christi sunt etiam Dei. Si quis autem vellet eorum rationem per singula scribere vel narrare, nullo modo posset; immo etiam nec totus mundus hoc potest. Infinita enim verba hominum non possunt attingere unum Dei verbum. A principio enim Ecclesiae semper scripta sunt de Christo, nec tamen sufficienter; immo si duraret mundus per centum millia annorum, possent libri fieri de Christo, nec ad perfectionem per singula, facta et dicta sua enuclearentur. Eccle. ult., 12: faciendi plures libros nullus est finis; Ps. XXXIX, 5: annuntiavi, et locutus sum: multiplicati sunt super numerum.
2660. Or, this statement could be understood to refer to the power of Christ, who performed these signs; and the emphasis is on every one of them. For to write about each and every word and deed of Christ is to reveal the power of every word and deed. Now the words and deeds of Christ are also those of God. Thus, if one tried to write and tell of the nature of every one, he could not do so; indeed, the entire world could not do this. This is because even an infinite number of human words cannot equal one word of God. From the beginning of the Church, Christ has been written about; but this is still not equal to the subject. Indeed, even if the world lasted a hundred thousand years and books were written about Christ, his words and deeds could not be completely revealed: of making many books there is no end (Eccl 12:12); the works of God are multiplied above number (Ps 40:5).