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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 268: Augustine and the Council Diospolis

Extract

ARTICLE 268

Augustine and the Council of Diospolis

Augustine had not yet possessed the acts of the Council of Diospolis when he wrote the pope.1 He had requested the acts from John of Jerusalem.2 Whether he received them from John, the pope, or someone else is unknown. They certainly fell into his hands by the end of 416 or the beginning of 417,3 somewhat after the Pelagian persecution of Jerome.4 He certainly had them when wrote Paulinus in 417.5

Augustine was pleased to find in the acts what he had previously believed, that Pelagius had been absolved only by exteriorly professing the Catholic faith.6 That belief prompted Augustine to write on this matter. Pelagius’ teachings had not been approved by his absolution.7 Augustine entitled this writing De gestis Palestini8 and Prosper gives it the same title.9 This inscription is more natural than the title Possidius gives it Contra gestos Pelagii10 and the common title De gestis Pelagii.11

Augustine addressed the work in 418 to the venerable old man Aurelius.12 Does Augustine give him this title since Aurelius was the oldest bishop in the province or as an honorary title?13 Without doubt he is the bishop of Carthage, as Prosper and Photinus say; Augustine treats him as pope.14 The dean of Numidia was at that time not Aurelius, but Silvanus or Valentinus. Augustine says the principal reason he addressed this work to Aurelius was his condemnation of Caelestius at the Council...

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