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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 225: Council of Zerte



Council of Zerte

After Augustine had written his long letter to the Donatists, the Council of Cirrta (according to the Leuven edition) or Zerte (according to all other manuscripts) was held.1 There were two cities of this name in Africa, one in Proconsular and another doubtless in Numidia. In the conference Gaudentius and Salustus were called Donatist bishops of Zerte; at the same time Petilianus was Donatist bishop of Cirrta.2 The diocese of Gaudentius was not a Catholic bishopric. Perhaps the Council of Zerte was held to appoint a Catholic bishop there.

Nothing about this council is known other than the letter written to the Donatists.3 Donatist bishops had told their congregations the Catholics had bribed the judge (Marcellinus) at the conference. Thus he was obligated to pronounce in their favor. Such a ridiculous calumny should not have prevented the people from turning to the truth. Nothing was stronger in destroying this calumny than the acts of the conference.4 At the conference the Donatists had produced many documents against themselves. Even if Marcellinus were capable of being bribed, it still would have been impossible for him not to condemn them.

Some laity could not read the acts of the conference; their length hindered even those who were literate.5 The conciliar fathers believed they ought to indicate to their people the important matters accomplished in the conference in an abridgement of the acts. Such an abridgement would contribute to the salvation...

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