Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 2

Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 2: Making a "Catholic" Self, 388-401 C.E.

Jason David BeDuhn
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 584
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  • Book Info
    Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 2
    Book Description:

    By 388 C.E., Augustine had broken with the Manichaeism of his early adulthood and wholeheartedly embraced Nicene Christianity as the tradition with which he would identify and within which he would find meaning. Yet conversion rarely, if ever, represents a clean and total break from the past. As Augustine defined and became a "Catholic" self, he also intently engaged with Manichaeism as a rival religious system. This second volume of Jason David BeDuhn's detailed reconsideration of Augustine's life and letters explores the significance of the fact that these two processes unfolded together. BeDuhn identifies the Manichaean subtext to be found in nearly every work written by Augustine between 388 and 401 and demonstrates Augustine's concern with refuting his former beliefs without alienating the Manichaeans he wished to win over. To achieve these ends, Augustine modified and developed his received Nicene Christian faith, strengthening it where it was vulnerable to Manichaean critique and taking it in new directions where he found room within an orthodox frame of reference to accommodate Manichaean perspectives and concerns. Against this background, BeDuhn is able to shed new light on the complex circumstances and purposes of Augustine's most famous work, The Confessions, as well as his distinctive reading of Paul and his revolutionary concept of grace. Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 2 demonstrates the close interplay between Augustine's efforts to work out his own "Catholic" persona and the theological positions associated with his name, between the sometimes dramatic twists and turns of his own personal life and his theoretical thinking.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0785-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-25)

    AT EASTER IN the spring of 387, Augustine, recently retired civic rhetor of Milan, received baptism at the hands of the city’s bishop, Ambrose, formalizing at the same time both his conversion to the “Nicene” faith of the “Catholic” Church and his apostasy from the Manichaean sect to which he had belonged for more than a decade. Some of Augustine’s critics, in his own time as well as ours, have suggested that he never ceased being a Manichaean.¹ The Manichaean commitment he held overtly for more than a decade, they have contended, had sunk so deeply into his thinking, or...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The True Religion
    (pp. 26-53)

    AUGUSTINE RETURNED TO Africa in 388 a new man, the bearer of a new subjectivity.¹ Even while he presented himself as representing an alternative to the options of identity present in Africa, however, his own integration of this new identity into his life was far from complete. It provided the master discourse, but had yet to penetrate and pervade his entire set of self-presentations. He remained engaged in pursuing the life of the philosopher that had held his interest for most of his adult life, now simply recontextualized within a “Catholic” rather than a “Manichaean” setting. He made it quite...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Myth and Morals
    (pp. 54-87)

    IN THE FACE of aggressive Manichaean proselytization, by which “they pursue both the learned . . . and the unlearned,” Augustine had been advised by those more familiar with the current African scene to abandon the pretensions of his philosophical compositions in favor of something more widely useful in the competition for the hearts and minds of the people.¹

    For I was pleased by the opinion of some truly Christian men who, though they had been well trained in the liberal arts, nonetheless saw, when they read the other books we published against the Manichaeans, that the less educated understood...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Perfecting the Paradigm
    (pp. 88-121)

    IN THE EARLY spring of 391, Augustine took the road north from Thagaste to the coastal town of Hippo, supposedly on a personal mission to recruit for his community a prominent citizen (one of the agentes in rebus, or government comissioners)—such new recruits were essential to keep the project funded—but possibly also with a thought to relocate the community itself to Hippo (Serm 355.2; Possidius 3.3).¹ He claimed a few months later that “we were planning a period of retreat for gaining knowledge of the divine scriptures, and wanted to arrange our affairs in order that we could...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Fortunatus
    (pp. 122-163)

    TWO DAYS IN the late summer of 392 changed Augustine forever, although at the time he scarcely recognized it. Augustine had served as a priest in Hippo for little more than a year when he was approached by an unusual joint delegation of Catholics and Donatists, asking him to take on in debate the local Manichaean leader Fortunatus. Augustine reports that Fortunatus, who held the rank of a Manichaean presbyter,¹ had lived in Hippo a long time and had won over so many to his religion that it was “most pleasant for him to live there” (Retr 1.15.1). Augustine’s biographer,...

  9. CHAPTER 5 The Exegete
    (pp. 164-191)

    THE KIND OF Christian Augustine had become in his conversion obligated him to acknowledge the authority of the Bible. But it was entirely up to Augustine to determine how much further he would engage with the biblical text than that gesture of acknowledgment. His compositions prior to his debate with Fortunatus provide a very clear indication that, left to his own intellectual inclinations, the Bible had only a minor place in his discursive repertoire. He typically found a particular catch-phrase here and there useful for anchoring some philosophical position he wished to advance with scriptural authority, much as the writers...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Problem of Paul
    (pp. 192-238)

    DESPITE AUGUSTINE’S LATER attempts to claim a prominent place for Paul in his initial conversion and earliest years as a Catholic, the evidence of his own writings shows incontrovertibly that Paul came dramatically to the foreground of his attention in the mid-390s, as an intense set of exegetical discoveries that R. A. Markus has likened to a landslide.¹ Similarly, Peter Brown sees in this very brief period the “end of a distinctive, more classical view of the human condition to which he himself had been committed at the time of his conversion.”² The transformation was permanent and profound. Patout Burns...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Accused
    (pp. 239-273)

    SOMETIME IN 394 or 395, as Augustine worked intently on finding a “Catholic” Paul, bishop Valerius proposed to his superior, Megalius, bishop of Calama and primate of Numidia, that his priest Augustine be appointed coadjutor bishop in Hippo.¹ We do not know what argument Valerius made for this unusual step. It is possible that his health was failing, since he died within two or three years. It seems likely that he was concerned with retaining Augustine as his successor, and avoiding his cooptation to another episcopate. Members of the educated circle around Augustine had begun to be drawn away from...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Discoveries
    (pp. 274-313)

    AFFIRMED IN THE authenticity of his conversion and conformity, and ordained bishop of Hippo by Megalius himself, Augustine now occupied a place of authority within the Catholic Church, making him both more visible to assessments of conformity and more influential in defining what should count as conformity. A letter of congratulations arrived the following summer from the Milanese priest Simplician, whom Augustine would describe in Confessions as someone with whom he had consulted on spiritual matters in Milan prior to his conversion. Simplician expressed appreciation of Augustine’s writings (Ep 37.1–2), which would have been primarily his anti-Manichaean works, and...

  13. CHAPTER 9 How One Becomes What One Is
    (pp. 314-368)

    AUGUSTINE HAD a new self to present to the world. Following earlier formulaic summaries of his conversion,¹ as well as what must have been a more self-conscious and crafted account in conditions of adversity, his subsequent vindication and elevation to the episcopate had created the circumstances in which he could and would transform his story into the literary triumph of his Confessions. It apparently took him some time to craft this masterwork, completing it at the dawn of the fifth century.² He probably began the project after his return from the Catholic council held in Carthage in the summer of...

  14. CHAPTER 10 Truth in the Realm of Lies
    (pp. 369-402)

    AUGUSTINE’S SHIFT FROM autobiography to exegesis in the concluding sections of the Confessions presents a notorious problem. There is no shortage of hypotheses that seek to account for this rather odd compositional move, linking, in Roland Teske’s all too apt characterization, “rather strange autobiography and even stranger exegesis.”¹ Augustine himself exacerbated the question by providing an unusually taciturn description of Confessions in his Revisions, in which, stating that his intention had been to “lift up the understanding and affection of people to [God],” he explained the structure simply as, “The first ten books were written about myself; the last three...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 403-428)

    “It is not easy to do justice to the opponents of St. Augustine,” W.H.C. Frend once said.¹ He spoke at the midpoint of the last century, during which more historically conscious ways of reading Augustine gradually gained ground on synthetic, theologically expository approaches to his body of work, bringing with them a growing awareness of the complexity of his non-Catholic intellectual contacts and debts. His engagement with the Platonic tradition has been one of the most prominent areas of discussion. Increasingly, recognition of his borrowing from the Donatist Tyconius has entered the picture. Appreciation of the place of Manichaeism in...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 429-492)
    (pp. 493-514)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 515-536)
    (pp. 537-542)