Augustine in the “De Doctrinâ Christianâ” (begun in 397 and ended in 426) gives us a genuine treatise of exegesis, historically the first (for St. Jerome wrote rather as a controversialist). Several times he attempted a commentary on Genesis. The great work “De Genesi ad litteram” was composed from 401 to 415. The “Enarrationes in Psalmos” are a masterpiece of popular eloquence, with a swing and a warmth to them which are inimitable. On the New Testament: the “De Sermone Dei in Monte” (during his priestly ministry) is especially noteworthy; “De Consensu Evangelistarum” (Harmony of the Gospels — 400); Homilies on St. John (416), generally classed among the chief works of Augustine; the Exposition of the Epistle to the Galatians” (324), etc. The most remarkable of his Biblical works illustrate either a theory of exegesis (one generally approved) which delights in finding mystical or allegorical interpretations, or the style of preaching which is founded on that view. His strictly exegetical work is far from equalling in scientific value that of St. Jerome. His knowledge of the Biblical languages was insufficient: he read Greek with difficulty; as for Hebrew, all that we can gather from the studies of Schanz and Rottmanner is that he was familiar with Punic, a language allied to Hebrew. Moreover, the two grand qualities of his genius — ardent feeling and prodigious subtlety — carried him sway into interpretations that were violent or more ingenious than solid.
But the hermeneutics of Augustine merit great praise, especially for their insistence upon the stern law of extreme prudence in determining the meaning of Scripture: We must be on our guard against giving interpretations which are hazardous or opposed to science, and so exposing the word of God to the ridicule of unbelievers creation of the universe, and the gradual development of the world under the action of the natural forces which were placed in it. Certainly the instantaneous act of the Creator did not produce an organized universe as we see it now. But, in the beginning, God creatednebulous mass (the word is Augustine’s Nebulosa species apparet; “De Genesi ad litt.,” I, n. 27), and in this mass were the mysterious germs (rationes seminales) of the future beings which were to develop themselves, when favourable circumstances should permit. Is Augustine, therefore, an Evolutionist?
If we mean that he had a deeper and wider mental grasp than other thinkers had of the forces of nature and the plasticity of beings, it is an incontestable fact; and from this point of view Father Zahm (Bible, Science, and Faith, pp. 58-66, French tr.) properly felicitates him on having been the precursor of modern thought. But if we mean that he admitted in matter a power of differentiation and of gradual transformation, passing from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous, the most formal texts force us to recognize that Augustine proclaimed the fixity of species, and did not admit that “from one identical primitive principle or from one germ, different realities can issue.” This judgment of the Abbé Martin in his very searching study on this subject (S. Augustin, p. 314) must correct the conclusion of Father Zahm. “The elements of this corporeal world have also their well defined force, and their proper quality, from which depends what each one of them can or cannot do, and what reality ought or ought not to issue from each one of them. Hence it is that from a grain of wheat a bean cannot issue, nor wheat from a bean, nor a, man from a beast, nor a beast from a man” (De Genesi ad litt., IX, n. 32).
source: Catholic Encyclopedia