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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 228: Vision of God

Extract

ARTICLE 228

Vision of God

Augustine treats the vision of God with our bodily eyes once more in Letter 148, written in 413 at the latest.1 He calls it a memoire addressed to Fortunatianus, bishop of Sicca. Letter 148 is to be distinguished from Letter 92. Letter 92 demonstrates God is not corporeal, not divisible into parts. There Augustine had said we shall never see God with our bodily eyes. In a non-extant letter, Augustine rather vigorously refuted a friend, a bishop near Sicca in Proconsular. He had not weighed his words sufficiently in proportion to his episcopal dignity. Augustine did not think measured speech required since he named no one in particular. Nevertheless the bishop was offended.

Augustine wanted peace with him and requested his forgiveness. Through a venerable man deserving of the highest honor (apparently Aurelius of Carthage), Augustine wrote to request the bishop come to a particular place. The bishop refused. He had the notion Augustine wanted to play him for a fool and insult him over his error. Such behavior was of course far from Augustine’s mind.

Augustine did not believe he should seek out this bishop at his home. He feared if the bishop did not accept his apology, a scandal might ensue. Such a scandal would be an irritant to him and troublesome to the faithful. The Church’s enemies might even ridicule them. At a possible meeting with Fortunatianus, Augustine would have expressed sorrow at offending...

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