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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 231: De ciuitate dei

Extract

ARTICLE 2311

De ciuitate dei

De ciuitate dei could possibly be dated from 4112 since it was written in response to charges against the Christian religion concerning the fall of Rome (408–410).3 However there is every reason to believe Augustine did not begin writing it earlier than 413. He had not yet conceived its plan when he treated the same subject in 412 in his letters to Volusianus and Marcellinus; indeed these letters may have been the occasion of De ciuitate dei. At that time Marcellinus had exhorted Augustine to write not merely letters but entire books against the pagans. Such a work would be of incalculable benefit to the entire Church.4 For the moment Augustine was content with several letters.5 At the same time he asked Marcellinus to apprise him of the topics necessary to treat with the pagans. He could then meet the challenge in either letters or books, deo uolente. Quite possibly this correspondence with Marcellinus involved him gradually in undertaking his magnum opus. In fact De ciuitate dei is addressed to Marcellinus himself. He is the one from whom the idea of a response to pagans came and to whom Augustine had promised the work.6

Augustine says zeal for the Lord’s house stirred his desire to refute the pagan charges.7 However from this particular topic he proceeded to explicate the city of God and the city of man, that is, the society of the good whose leader is...

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