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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 317: Quaestiones ad Dulcitium



Quaestiones ad Dulcitium

424 A.D.

Circa 420 Dulcitius was executor of imperial laws in Africa against the Donatists. He consulted Augustine on various questions through a letter sent from Carthage.2 Augustine received it near Easter, March 30, 424. Easter was celebrated elsewhere on April 6, 424, but Africans celebrated eight days earlier.3

Augustine could not respond immediately to Dulcitius’ questions since soon after the Easter holy days he went to Carthage.4 He went there surely for important matters but he tells us only he was entirely occupied by a large number of affairs which never failed to arise in Carthage. He had no leisure there to dictate an answer. He returned three months later and upon his return was obliged to take care of matters in his own diocese during the first fifteen days. He then had a brief period of leisure and began immediately to work on Dulcitius’ questions.

Dulcitius consulted Augustine on eight difficulties on Scripture and Church teaching.5 Except for the answer to the fifth question, Augustine’s answers are to be found in various places in his works. Augustine is content to extract what he had already written to satisfy Dulcitius’ praiseworthy ardor at least partially, and to spare himself the onerous and useless labor of re-treating them.6

In this work, Augustine reports an extraordinary story from Stesan Mauritania.7 Celticus, a young catechumen, had a relationship with a widow who had vowed continence....

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