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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 329: Leporius (1)



Leporius (1)

According to Augustine in De correptione et gratia, no one should be so blind or ignorant of the faith as to say Christ was born merely a man from the virgin by the work of the Holy Spirit and had merited to become God’s son by living sinless from his own free will.2 Cassian attributes this teaching to a group of whom Leporius was a principal protagonist.3 In a later retraction Leporius clearly confessed he had maintained this doctrine.4 Augustine played a major role in his renunciation of this teaching which most likely occurred before Contra Iulianum opus imperfectum. In that work Augustine attributes this error or something quite near it to Julian.5 Augustine may well have known this error from another source.

Leporius was a Gallic monk.6 He lived chastely but following Pelagian teaching with attribution of his virtue to his own free will, not to divine help.7 Apparently he learned these notions from Pelagius himself. He fell into a greater misfortune by advancing Pelagian principles to their ultimate conclusion.8 He renewed ancient Ebionism in its more recent version Nestorianism.9 Christ was born a mere man not God. He had not possessed divinity from birth but had later been chosen by God. By his works and as a recompense for his suffering, he acquired divinity.10 He had lived sinless, not by union with God but by the strength of the human will. At his baptism he had been made...

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