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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 64: Roman Condemnation of the Pelagians


NOTE 641

Roman Condemnation of the Pelagians

Great difficulty appears in finding Prosper’s actual meaning when in referring to the Pelagians he writes, pestem subeuntem prima recidit Sedes Roma Petri.2 Assuredly Africa is the first to condemn this heresy. According to Jansenius, it can be said Rome became the first in this sense: while the bishops of Africa were the first to condemn the error, they had indicated to the pope he must anathematize Pelagius and Caelestius which they had not done.3 Thus, Innocent was the first to condemn the Pelagians.

That process would be true only of Pelagius. Caelestius had certainly been excommunicated in 411 by the Council of Carthage. The word “pest,” which Prosper uses, often indicates the error rather than the person. Others believe either Prosper joined the Roman judgment to the African and made them one (which is difficult to believe) or “first” indicates the dignity of the see of Rome and not its judgment as preceding others in a temporal sense. De Saci has followed this opinion; he translates: “Rome with more ardor, glory, and power forced the proud insolence from these rebels.”4 This is true of power, but not of ardor and glory where Africa had the upper hand.

Garnier maintains it can not be said in any sense the Pelagians were first condemned by Rome.5 According to Garnier, Prosper’s sense is the Pelagians had been condemned by the first see of Rome, the Roman...

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