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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 216: Caelestius




Caelestius was the first and most celebrated of Pelagius’ disciples.1 He followed his master so exactly and successfully that their adherents were often named Pelagians or Caelestians indiscriminately. In the East Caelestius apparently became more prominent than Pelagius.2

Caelestius’ native land is unknown. Apparently Jerome calls Pelagius, not Caelestius, “dog of the Alps.”3 Garnier believes he may have been from Campania. According to Garnier Prosper refers to Caelestius, not Julian, as the “asp-viper of Campania.”4 However Garnier’s opinion is doubtful. Caelestius was from birth a eunuch of an illustrious family. Perhaps for this reason he has been called a “monster.”5

Jerome was accustomed to denigrate his adversaries.6 According to Jerome in his discourses Caelestius “walked on thorns.” He used solecisms, not syllogisms as his disciples called them.7 Nevertheless from the remains of his writings, his subtle mind and false philosophical argumentation can be detected.8 Augustine calls him a man of active mind.9 Had he corrected his errors, he assuredly would have been useful to the Church. According to Augustine, Pelagius and he had doctrines in common. Mercator attributed facility in oratory to him.10

Caelestius was initially a lawyer but he soon embraced monastic life.11 According to Gennadius in his youth before becoming involved with Pelagius he had lived in a monastery and had written three letters to his parents in the form of three small books.12 These works contain instructions on morality and ← 15...

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