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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 67: Inauthentic Correspondence with Boniface


NOTE 671

Inauthentic Correspondence with Boniface

Beyond Augustine’s three large letters to Count Boniface, namely Letter 185, Letter189, and Letter 220, sixteen smaller letters are attributed to Augustine and sent to Boniface.2 The doctors of Leuven and others before and after have remarked these letters bearing Augustine’s name are different in spirit and style and are not cited by any ancient author. Many capable scholars believe they are forged by someone intending guidance in writing. That the thirteenth letter has been cited in the eleventh century does not prove its fifth-century origin.

Baronius defends these letters, but has been reduced to saying that, if they are not Augustine’s, they are surely authentic and written by another illustrious African bishop such as Aurelius of Carthage or Alypius.3 His reason is they conform to the history of this period quite well. The doctors of the Leuven have maintained they are pieces without erudition and believe it unnecessary to attribute them to an illustrious personage.4

As for the historical facts, the majority is unknown and find no corroboration anywhere. The alleged excommunication of Boniface is assuredly neither well founded nor probable. Baronius dates the last five letters in 427 when Mavortius and Placidia’s other generals waged war against Boniface.5 Augustine says he could not write during these perils, as Baronius recognizes.

The tenth letter appears at first to be the most well-founded. Valois uses it. The clear supposition of other scholars renders it...

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