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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 276: Zosimus and the African Bishops

Extract

ARTICLE 276

Zosimus and the African Bishops

Zosimus received Pelagius’ letters and had them read publicly.1 He was satisfied and found Pelagius had fully justified himself. Pelagius had clearly expressed his belief and gave no place for malicious interpretation. The Romans judged the same. According to the pope the Romans were overcome with joy and admiration and could scarcely refrain from tears. How could people whose faith was so perfect be described as heretical?

In his letter of September 21, 417 to Aurelius and the African bishops, Zosimus described this atmosphere and sent them Pelagius’ writings. He was persuaded these writings would produce in their minds the same joy he had and would cause them to regard Pelagius as orthodox since both he and Caelestius believed what was necessary and condemned what they ought. They were not returning from death to life or from heresy to true faith; rather they had always remained true and faithful.

In this letter Zosimus spoke against Heros and Lazarus more vehemently than previously.2 He asked where they were and why they had not come to Rome after he had written to Africa. They should retract their calumnies since they could not doubt this affair had been brought to Rome’s attention. Zosimus complained over the African deferral to the letters of those two bishops and to the testimony of Timasius and James. He wrote a discourse on love and peace and on the discretion necessary not to...

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