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The Life of Augustine of Hippo

Part Three: The Pelagian Crisis (411–430)

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 215: Spread of Pelagianism



Spread of Pelagianism

The Pelagian heresy may have spread from the East, in particular from Theodore of Mopsuestia.1 Rufinus of Syria brought it to Rome at the time of Pope Anastasius circa 400. As an intellectual, Rufinus did not dare profess Pelagianism publicly lest he attract widespread horror and indignation. However he became acquainted with Pelagius, inspired this error in him, and disposed Pelagius to maintain it and write about it. For this reason, in the Council of Carthage (411) Caelestius says he had heard original sin denied by a holy priest Rufinus who had died in Rome with Pammachus. Some have believed this Rufinus is the celebrated Rufinus of Aquilea.2 However Rufinus of Aquilea did not live in Rome with Pammachus and was not in Rome at the time of Anastasius. This situation has given rise to some authors claiming, if we suppose the truth of Caelestius’ witness (which based on Mercator is not doubtful) this Rufinus was a priest and Jerome’s disciple. He could have been Syrian and have come to West circa 399.3

Jerome indicates clearly Rufinus of Aquilea as among the first authors of the Pelagian heresy.4 Jerome clearly states Rufinus had been condemned under the name of Grunnius, a pseudonym for Rufinus.5 Jerome is probably speaking of Pelagius when he calls Rufinus Pelagius’ precursor and teacher.6 Pelagius acquires his work. Jerome attacks Pelagius as the inheritor of his odium for Rufinus. However, according to Garnier Jerome accuses...

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