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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 283: Orthodoxy and Pelagianism



Orthodoxy and Pelagianism

In his encyclical letter against the Pelagians Zosimus not only requested the bishops to reject this heresy but apparently asked them to authorize the condemnation each by his own signature. Speaking of Constantinople in a memoire addressed in 419 to the church there, Mercator says clearly that Zosimus’ letter had been confirmed through the signatures of the bishops.1 Prosper says the entire Church had written a sentence against the Pelagians by the hand of all the prelates; Zosimus had placed the sword of Peter in the hand of the bishops.2 Thus the Pelagians had been destroyed as impious, and their teachings had been condemned by the hand of the councils and the Church universal.3 In effect Pelagians pleaded certain bishops had been obliged to sign individually in their own churches without being assembled in council for that purpose.4

According to some scholars Roman clerics and even the Roman laity were forced to sign.5 The Pelagian accusations concerning the prevarication of the Roman clergy and the anathema by Sixtus give us reason to believe the Roman clergy was obliged to declare itself.6 In the rest of the Church no proof can be alleged for forced declarations.

African bishops present at the councils had signed the condemnation against the Pelagians.7 Other bishops of the same African provinces signed at the end of the year, following the law of June 9, 419. Evidently the bishops of other Roman provinces signed...

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