Augustine in His Own Words

Augustine in His Own Words

EDITED BY William Harmless
Copyright Date: 2010
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt3fgp33
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  • Book Info
    Augustine in His Own Words
    Book Description:

    This volume offers a comprehensive portrait--or rather, self-portrait, since its words are mostly Augustine's own--drawn from the breadth of his writings and from the long course of his career

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1804-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Of Portraits, Voices, and the Art of Mosaic
    (pp. ix-xxii)

    Medieval and renaissance artists loved to imagine the great saints of the past, how they looked, how they dressed, how they lived. St. Augustine (354–430) was an occasional subject. Most artistic renderings of him, whether in paintings or illuminated manuscripts or stained glass windows, are rather workmanlike.¹ But there is one great portrait of him. It is a large oil painting by Vittore Carpaccio (c. 1460–c. 1526), entitled Saint Augustine in His Study.² Carpaccio portrays Augustine seated behind a desk, stylus in hand, his right arm raised in the air, poised between thoughts, ready to transcribe the next...

  5. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xxiii-xxvi)
  6. THE WORKS OF AUGUSTINE: Texts and Translations
    (pp. xxvii-xliii)
  7. [Map]
    (pp. xliv-xliv)
  8. CHAPTER 1 CONFESSIONS
    (pp. 1-38)

    Confessions is one of the uncontested classics of world literature. Even if Augustine had written no other work, this alone would have insured his lasting fame. Confessions is sometimes described as autobiography.¹ Calling it autobiography is at once true and untrue. it is true inasmuch as it narrates pivotal episodes from his life, from childhood through his dramatic conversion and baptism and ending with his mother’s death in 387. But it is untrue in other ways. Augustine records only a handful of events within each of its first nine books, and few facts are given. Even attentive readers lose track...

  9. CHAPTER 2 AUGUSTINE THE PHILOSOPHER
    (pp. 39-77)

    In his earliest publication, Augustine noted: “What is philosophy? A love of wisdom.”¹ the word’s etymology, he believed, defined the endeavor: philosophy is life shaped by a love-spurred search for wisdom. In late antiquity, philosophy was never a mere academic enterprise.² It required more than well-honed skills in dialectic, a fondness for abstraction, or an unflinching confidence in reason. It demanded a change of life, indeed, a conversion. It presumed renunciation of wealth and fame. It required ongoing ascetical purification, strict controls of diet and sexuality and the passions. It encouraged deep introspection, honest self-examination, a cleansing of mind and...

  10. CHAPTER 3 AUGUSTINE THE BISHOP
    (pp. 78-121)

    We think of Augustine as a writer and a theologian. He was both, certainly, but his writing and his theologizing sprang from and were shaped by his very demanding day job. For more than 35 years, Augustine spent his waking hours working as a bishop and pastor of a bustling North African seaport, Hippo regius (now Annaba, on Algeria’s eastern border).¹ That Augustine was a bishop may seem a simple biographical fact, but outside of scholarly circles, its massive implications remain underappreciated. It is, in fact, a fact that puts every other side of Augustine into its rightful perspective.²

    Getting...

  11. CHAPTER 4 AUGUSTINE THE PREACHER
    (pp. 122-155)

    Augustine’s friend, Possidius of Calama, once remarked that “those who read what Augustine has written in his works on divine subjects profit greatly, but I believe that the ones who really profited were those who actually heard him and saw him speak in church.”¹ Augustine was, by all accounts, a virtuoso orator, a fact that even enemies acknowledged.² In this chapter, we take a look at the Augustine his North African congregation knew best, Augustine the preacher.

    The main church in Hippo was known as the Basilica Major (also called the Basilica Pacis, “Basilica of Peace”). Its ruins were excavated...

  12. CHAPTER 5 AUGUSTINE THE EXEGETE
    (pp. 156-200)

    First-time readers of Augustine are struck by his deep biblicism. Every page, every paragraph, is threaded with biblical quotations, biblical allusions, biblical images. Augustine did more than comment on the Bible: he spoke Bible, making its words his words. Once, on the anniversary of his ordination, he explained why: “From what I feast on, from that I feed you. I am a table servant, not the master of the house. From what I set before you, from that I too draw my life.”¹ For Augustine, the Bible’s words were food, were life itself. In this chapter, we turn to the...

  13. CHAPTER 6 CONTROVERSIES (I): Against the Manichees
    (pp. 201-231)

    Augustine has often been thought of as a systematic theologian. That is not accurate. He was, by training and by temperament, a controversialist, a debater. Four great debates shaped his career and have come to define his theological legacy. the earliest of these was his debate against his onetime coreligionists, the Manichees.

    Mani (216–277), Manicheism’s founder, was a Persian prophet and visionary who believed himself called to preach a final definitive revelation, to complete what previous religious founders—Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus—had left incomplete.¹ He was born in southern Babylonia, then part of the Persian Empire. His family seems...

  14. CHAPTER 7 CONTROVERSIES (II): Against the Donatists
    (pp. 232-273)

    The Christians of Hippo who in 391 seized and ordained Augustine called themselves “Catholics.” They had good claim to the title. Their church was allied with and recognized by a worldwide communion of Christian churches across the Empire. But in 391 Catholics were a local minority, not only in Hippo, but also across the provinces of Numidia and the Mauretanias. For much of the fourth century, the majority church of North Africa was Donatist. Donatists claimed that they—and they alone—were the one true Church, a Church “without spot or wrinkle” (Eph 5:27), the true descendants of the Church...

  15. CHAPTER 8 AUGUSTINE THE THEOLOGIAN: On the Trinity
    (pp. 274-314)

    Theology literally means “speaking of God.” For Augustine and his age, the great theological issue was how to speak rightly about “the Trinity who God is.”¹ His classic exposition appears in the fifteen books of On the Trinity (De Trinitate), a work nearly as influential as Confessions. He worked on it, off and on, for two decades, roughly from 400 to 422.² As he told Aurelius of Carthage, “I began the work . . . as a young man; I finished it as an old one.”³ He did not imagine that such a demanding work would be widely read. a...

  16. CHAPTER 9 CONTROVERSIES (III): On the City of God, Against the Pagans
    (pp. 315-372)

    On the City of God (De civitate Dei) is Augustine’s third masterpiece. It is, as he admits in his final words, “a huge work,” running nearly 900 pages in the Latin original.¹ Its scope is epic, an ambitious meditation on the contours and meaning of human history, from the genesis of the human race to its final judgment. It received rave reviews from the beginning. In 413, Macedonius, the powerful Vicar of Africa, read the first three books and proclaimed: “I am in doubt what to admire most in them: the lofty state of the priesthood, the teachings of philosophy,...

  17. CHAPTER 10 CONTROVERSIES (IV): Against the Pelagians
    (pp. 373-436)

    Augustine’s final controversy centered on the issue of grace. This debate, more than any other, would come to define his legacy to later ages, earning him the title doctor gratiae (“teacher of grace”). For Augustine, grace was no wispy abstraction. It lay at the very heart of his life story. In Confessions, he set out the high drama of his conversion, how, after hearing stories of converts, this one-time-Manichee-turned-indecisive-Catholic-catechumen wandered into a garden in turmoil and tears, heard a child’s voice, a call to “pick up, read,” prompting him to seize a book of letters from another convert, St. Paul,...

  18. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 437-440)

    Around 421, a man named Laurentius wrote Augustine and asked him to set out the essentials of Christianity. He wanted something brief, “not a work that would tax a whole bookcase,” but rather a work like what Greek writers of his day used to call “an enchiridion, a ‘handbook,’ ” quite literally, “a book the hand can hold.”¹ By this point in his career, Augustine had authored enough books to tax several bookcases. Yet for all his eloquent long-windedness, he remained capable of brilliant brevity and answered Laurentius with a modest-sized Enchiridion, drawing his outline and overview of Christianity from...

  19. CHRONOLOGY: The Life and Major Works of Augustine
    (pp. 441-446)
  20. SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING
    (pp. 447-466)
  21. INDEX OF SCRIPTURE
    (pp. 469-474)
  22. INDEX OF AUGUSTINIAN TEXTS
    (pp. 475-479)
  23. INDEX OF OTHER ANCIENT AUTHORS AND TEXTS
    (pp. 480-481)
  24. INDEX OF PERSONS AND SUBJECTS
    (pp. 482-496)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 497-497)