In 389, Augustine cowrote a book he called The Teacher. The title comes from Matthew 23:10: “For you have one instructor [or, one teacher], Christ.” Augustine said that this book discusses and inquires and discovers “that there is no teacher who teaches men knowledge except God as written in the gospel.” And he quotes Matthew 23:10. The title of the book and where it came from is significant. It’s also significant that this book was written in 389. This was just three years after Augustine’s conversion.
You remember his story: he leaves Hippo in North Africa, goes up to Rome, then to Milan. He is literally running away from God, like Jonah or the prodigal son, but God catches him. In fact, God has been directing every step of his path, straight to Him. And in 386, in Milan, Augustine was converted. In 388, he leaves Rome and heads back to Carthage, and then on to Thagaste and Hippo, and there he will serve for the rest of his life as bishop.
But this is in 389, early in his Christian time. The title of The Teacher is significant and the date is significant, but what is really significant is that Augustine had a coauthor for this book. And this was not just any coauthor; it was a teenager. A sixteen-year-old came along to help Augustine write this book. And it was not just any sixteen-year-old; it was his son, Adeodatus.
The Teacher is a dialogue between father and son: the father, Augustine, and the son, Adeodatus. His son’s name literally means “a gift from God.” Datus means “gift,” “deo is “God,” and a is the preposition. It means “from.” Adeodatus was converted at the same time as Augustine, and they were baptized by Ambrose in Milan. Adeodatus was baptized as he was turning fifteen. He went with his father back to Carthage, and then in 389 they wrote this book together.
In the Confessions, this is what Augustine says of it: “There is a book of mine called The Teacher, which consists of a dialogue between Adeodatus and myself.” In the Confessions, Augustine writes most directly to God. He says, addressing God, “You know that all the ideas expressed by the second speaker in the discussion are his, although he was only sixteen when it took place, and I learned for myself that he had many other talents even more remarkable than this. His intelligence left me spellbound. And who but you could work such wonders?” Here is Augustine singing the praises of his son, Adeodatus, as they wrote this book together.
In the book, Augustine talks about how we use words to communicate. Words are symbols, they’re signs, they signify things. Adeodatus comes to realize that words put us on the alert. They make us ready to learn, but ultimately, the words we use to learn are sourced in God, and Christ is our teacher. In conclusion, Augustine says, “To know and to love him [that is, to know and to love God] is the blessed life, which all proclaim that they are seeking but few have the joy of really finding.” That is to say, all want the good life, but only few find it. And that was Augustine’s hope for his son, Adeodatus.
It is sad to say that a year after this book was written, Adeodatus died. But Augustine, who was very sorrowful from this, could at least take comfort in the fact that his son died in Christ. And so Augustine was confident that his son, Adeodatus, was with God.