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The Life of Augustine of Hippo

Part Three: The Pelagian Crisis (411–430)

Edited By Frederick Van Fleteren

The seventeenth century was the century of Saint Augustine. In 1695, Louis Sébastien, Le Nain de Tillemont, finished volume 13 of his Mémoires ecclésiastique, entitled La vie de saint Augustin. The volume consisted of approximately 1200 pages wherein Louis Sébastien gathered from the works of Augustine and elsewhere all extant passages relevant to the biography of Augustine of Hippo. Completed in 1695, the biography was published posthumously in 1700. The work lies in the tradition of Jansenism from Port-Royal and the Leuven. Though an ascetic recluse on the family estate for the last twenty years of his life, he was in touch with important French scholars and the ecclesiastical movements of his time. Louis’ work is the first modern biography of Augustine and the most comprehensive of all Augustinian biographies, even today. Modern authors consult him and frequently adopt his theories without citation. His method exercises influence on contemporary Parisian scholarship on Augustine. This English translation has been divided into three volumes covering three time periods: part 1: birth to episcopal consecration (354–396); part 2: the Donatist controversy (396–411); part 3: the Pelagian controversy (411–430).
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Article 213: Pelagius (2)

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ARTICLE 213

Pelagius (2)

In Augustine and other ancients Pelagius is usually given the title monk. This title indicates his profession of monastic life and his lack of clerical rank.1 According to Augustine his heresy did not originate with bishops, priests, or clerics, but with certain purported monks.2 According to Orosius he was a layman. He complains Pelagius was forced to sit with priests in the assembly in Diospolis.3

During the time Pope Zosimus believed Pelagius to be orthodox, he described him as a layman.4 Whether he was a monk in Ireland or England in the monastery of Bangor is of little consequence.5 English historians, for example Usserius, claim uncertain legends concerning Pelagius.6 Some believe he was a monk, living in his own house, and renouncing pretension and secular employment, such as Paulinus, Pammachus, and others. He certainly possessed no private property and carried renunciation of material goods to excess.7

At the beginning of the fifth century Pelagius lived in the East if he is the one (as is nearly universally supposed) of whom Chrysostom speaks in a letter written apparently in 407. “The monk Pelagius has caused me grief. Consider how many crowns those are worthy who persist with generosity in the service of God since they have lived precisely according to authority, and have not allowed themselves to defect, as others.”8 Doubtless Pelagius had left Chrysostom’s communion and defended his own innocence and this fall had caused Chrysostom grief....

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