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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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Augustine is both a man of his times and an universal genius. He is a self-acknowledged Roman and prominent African of the fourth and fifth century, but a man for all epochs and seasons. His works are occasional, but his themes far-reaching. He is responsible for halting the expansion of Manicheanism in the West, the spread of Donatism in the North Africa, and the proliferation of Pelagianism in the Church universal. In fact, and contrary to popular opinion, he is more responsible for halting the spread of Platonism, at least in its more extreme forms, in the West than diffusing it.

At the risk of over-simplification and for the sake of convenience, Augustine’s literary career may be divided, with some overlap, into three periods: anti-Manicheanism (386–400); anti–Donatism (400–411); anti-Pelagianism (411–430). In the first phase, his fundamental themes are the relation between faith and reason, the problem of free will and evil, and the relation between the Old and New Testaments. These themes bring him far beyond his own age into the ultimate character of Christian thinking, notions of being, and the nature of scriptural hermeneutics. During this period, seminal semiotics are to be found in his works. In the second phase, his principal themes are the nature, unity, and universality of the Church, the efficacy of the sacraments, and the relation of Church and state. Again these themes reach far beyond his own age to the very essence of the Church, the...

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