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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 278: Council of Africa (417)



Council of Africa (417)

In all likelihood after Aurelius had received Zosimus’ letter concerning Caelestius, he sent a request to the bishops of Proconsular and the neighboring provinces of Numidia and Byzacena to assemble in Carthage to determine their response in so important an affair.2 When the nearest bishops had arrived, Aurelius wrote Zosimus to request he do nothing rash. The other bishops arrived and formed a council of two hundred and fourteen. According to Prosper the council preceded the condemnation of Caelestius by Zosimus.3 Several times Augustine calls it the Council of Africa.4 It was composed of several, but not all African provinces. This state of affairs causes Augustine to distinguish it from a general council.5

This council took place in Carthage.6 Zosimus responded on March 21, 418 to the bishops of the Council of Carthage. Apparently this council was held at the beginning of November, 417. The sub-deacon Marcellinus who carried the resolutions to the pope was prepared to depart on November 8. However, the council could have been concluded only some time later because of the importance of the necessary resolutions and the preparation of written pieces to be sent to Rome.

In this council decrees were enacted against the Pelagians.7 Decrees were approved to be embraced by Rome and the emperors Honorius and Arcadius. According to Prosper one of these decrees of the two hundred and fourteen council fathers declared that the grace which God accords...

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