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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 226: Donatus of Mutugenne



Donatus of Mutugenne

When Augustine wrote Letter 139, bishop Boniface was at Carthage with Urban, a priest from Hippo. Boniface and Urban report carrying letters from Marcellinus to Augustine1 and he responded by Letter 143. He had lost the letter Boniface had carried, but he remembered Marcellinus had asked him where Pharoah’s magicians found the water which they had changed into blood.2 In the letter Urban carried, Marcellinus proposed an objection to a passage from De libero arbitrio.3 In addition one of his friends (he does not say if it was Volusianus) was dissatisfied with Augustine’s teaching in Letter 137 on the virginity of the mother of God.

Augustine responds on the passage in De libero arbitrio III with genuine humility. He believed himself capable of error and would be displeased to speak of himself in any other manner. He mentions his intention to review all his works and indicate in a published document what should be reworked and what is blameworthy. However he would retract nothing from the passage indicated by Marcellinus. Apparently the Pelagians had found an arguable point in that passage.

Marcellinus presses him to publish De Genesi ad litteram and De trinitate. Bishop Florentius had written him earlier to the same purpose. Augustine promises to publish these works later so as to have leisure to correct as many errors as possible.

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