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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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Note 61: Pro libero arbitrio


NOTE 611

Pro libero arbitrio

In a letter of 419, Jerome writes he had previously received books authored by Annianus, a heretical deacon of Celede, written against his Letter to Ctesiphon.2 This man had made an open profession of the heresies which had fallen into disfavor at the synod of Diospolis. At first, Garnier believed Annianis’ books were not Pelagius’ Pro libero arbitrio which in fact had been written earlier at the beginning of 417.3 Augustine knew of this work in the same year and surely possessed a copy of it at the end of 418.4 The work had been written in 417 in the East where Pelagius attempted to refute Jerome. Garnier added other reasons for supporting this thesis. However, after examining the matter more closely, Garnier believed it could better be said that Pro libero arbitrio and Annianus’work against Jerome were the same work. Both were composed by Pelagius in thought and by Annianus in writing and were published first in the West. Perhaps this is the reason Jerome did not attempt to refute the work so quickly. Jansenius thinks this conjecture is not improbable.5

All that notwithstanding, it is difficult to believe that a work published against Jerome in 417 had first been sent to him almost two years later. If Pelagius feared Jerome in the East, he feared Augustine no less in the West. Nothing obliges us to say Annianus’ work indicated by Jerome was Pelagius’ Pro libero arbtirio. It...

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