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The Life of Augustine of Hippo

Part Three: The Pelagian Crisis (411–430)

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 303: De adulterinis coniugiis



De adulterinis coniugiis

After De anima et eius origine, Augustine dates two books to Pollentius entitled De adulterinis conjugiis.1 Nothing is known of Pollentius. Apparently a pious man, Augustine calls him his religious brother.2 He had read Augustine’s De sermone Domini in monte written many years previously.3 To his surprise Augustine maintained that women legally separated from their adulterous husbands must remain continent and can not remarry while their husbands are still living. He wrote Augustine for clarification. Pollentius believed that women leaving their husbands for reasons other than adultery were the only ones not permitted to remarry.

Pollentius knew Augustine would respond and so later sent him other questions.4 Augustine had finished his book before receiving these questions and wrote an additional response. Augustine’s friends had already published his first book, much to his dismay. He found himself obliged to write a second. In these two books he examines the question of marriage on scriptural authority.5 He calls the question confused, obscure, and difficult, and does not know if he has treated it clearly and precisely.6 Augustine knows full well he has not clarified the question completely, in this work or in any other. He had written several other replies which he leaves to the readers’ judgment. Augustine does not believe himself capable of solving all difficulties encountered in these questions.

One reason alleged by Pollentius against Augustine’s position is that men separated from their wives do not remain...

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