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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 239: Jerome, Pelagius, and Demetriada



Jerome, Pelagius, and Demetriada

414 A.D.

The universal admiration for Demetriada’s decision brought commentary from the most prominent members of the Church.1 They rightly believed they should employ their voices to instruct and strengthen her in so generous a resolve. We can judge what must have been the discourses of others no longer extant by Jerome’s extant letter of 414.2 He attributed her decision to the continual prayers and repeated requests of this maiden’s mother and grandmother whom he knew only by the eyes of faith. Likely Proba and Juliana themselves requested of others instructions for their daughter.

Among Jerome’s various counsels was an earnest recommendation to attach herself to the faith of Pope Innocent and avoid falling into the trap of those who, after having been confounded by Pope Anastasius, were re-establishing themselves and secretly spreading the poison of their doctrine in the West. Several reasons lead us to believe Jerome is referring to the Pelagians whom he habitually sees as descendants of the Origenists. He considers their heresy as relating to the pre-existence of souls. Origen committed this error but Pelagians were not accused of it.

It is difficult to believe Proba did not request a work from Augustine. He informs Juliana that if Demetriada wanted something for her profession she had only to read De uirginitate.3 It is unknown whether this work satisfied them.

Pelagius set out to mingle his voice with those...

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