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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 73: Zosimus’ Condemnation of Pelagianism


NOTE 731

Zosimus’ Condemnation of Pelagianism

Augustine was still in Carthage when the letters of condemnation of the Pelagians arrived.2 He had remained there to finish affairs in the aftermath of the council. He did not leave Carthage until the end of May at the earliest. Zosimus’ judgment against Caelestius and Pelagius can not be dated later than the beginning of May, 418. After he had seen Zosimus’ circular letter, Augustine certainly composed while still at Carthage De gratia Christi and De peccato originali. Augustine had not left Carthage yet for Caeasarean Mauritania and may have remained in Carthage until the end of August.3

Zosimus may have condemned Caelestius and the Pelagians in April or May. Augustine dates the circular letter between the African Council of 417 and the general African Council of May 1, 418.4 This dating apparently proves either that Zosimus’ letter precedes the latter council or at least it followed the council so closely that the letter was not an effect or conclusion of it.

Zosimus may have offered Caelestius a judgment before Easter (which occurred on April 7, 418) so that he could have taken his place as a priest on this feast. However, Zosimus appears distant from Caelestius in his letter of March 21, 418. It can not be imagined he had intended this more lenient judgment nor had he executed one in the nine days prior to Palm Sunday. The fifteen days following were probably so...

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