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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 282: Final Condemnation of Pelagianism



Final Condemnation of Pelagianism

In his letter of March 21, 418, Zosimus apparently remained untouched by the zeal and reasoning of the African bishops by which they had tried to make him defend the grace of Christ.2 Evidently he had read their letters and acts with ennui and distaste.3 He declares himself for the truth without telling us exactly what he had determined on the matter except that the all-powerful grace of which he had treated was in his heart. Augustine was content to say Zosimus had condemned the Pelagians following the letters of the Council of Africa (417).4 The first letters coming from the East in 418 may have been those of Theodore of Antioch and Prayle of Jerusalem which had informed Augustine Pelagius had been convicted of heresy, condemned by the Council of Syria, and exiled from Palestine.5 Those who think the law of May 30, 418 preceded Zosimus’ condemnation of Pelagius believe this letter contributed to the final judgment.6 When precisely Zosimus’ judgment took place is unknown but it was likely in late April, 418 or a little thereafter.

If Zosimus had not been pressed to declare himself by doctrinal integrity and Honorius’ law, he still would have seen nearly all the Roman faithful with a common voice and universal ardor defending the truth of the teachings against which Pelagius fought.7 They knew his heretical teaching because of his time spent in Rome. Outside of what the Council...

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