The most authoritative literary heirloom of medieval religion was the Bible. More precisely, in the Middle Ages, the Bible meant the Vulgate. The meaning of biblical passages on suicide has been debated with a vigour inversely proportional to their length, with the result that interpretations have been dependent largely on context and comparison. That means looking at the Bible through the eyes of the early Church first, as its passages concerning suicide came down through the Vulgate, and second, at how they were invoked and interpreted by the early ‘Fathers’ available in Latin. Only St Augustine spoke at any length on suicide, and bequeathed to later generations what became its locus classicus. The discussion here begins with the Bible, goes on to the Fathers before Augustine, and finishes with St Augustine.
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