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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 77: Cyril’s Letter


NOTE 771

Cyril’s Letter

According to one reference,2 in his letter to the Council of Carthage, Cyril of Alexandria wrote Easter should be celebrated on April 15.3 Easter occurs on that date in 423. But the purpose of Cyril’s letter is to send to the Africans the canons of Nicea which they had requested in 419. The canons of Nicea were sent to Pope Boniface with Cyril’s letter on November 26, 419. The letter certainly dates from 419 and, as a result, the letter must refer to Easter, 420. Everyone realizes an error appears here. Bucherius wants to read IX kal. Mai. according to one manuscript to report the date 444.4 This date is odd and untrue. Clearly he is unaware of the history of Cyril’s letter. However Noris uses this reading to think Cyril had dated his letter on April 18 and an ignorant translator had taken the date as April 23 or the ninth day of the kalends of May according to Roman usage.5 This is an ingenious solution, but Cyril’s Greek text does not contain Pharmouthi lest the Africans not understand it. The text found by Bucherius is a bad translation: a false date has been placed in the text (without mentioning the addition which is joined to it which we leave unexamined here).6 If Cyril had written a number, it is easy to believe he had written 18 and a poor copyist had made it a 13. Others wish XVII...

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