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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 88: Retractationes

Extract

NOTE 881

Retractationes

De correptione et gratia is the last work which Augustine mentions in Retractationes. Thus he apparently finished both works at almost the same time in mid-427. Nevertheless De correptione et gratia raised a storm of protest among the Gauls apparently before Augustine had published Retractationes.2 This brings us to date the latter work in 428. It is difficult to say Augustine had finished it much earlier since in De doctrina christiana IV he says that it was eight years or more since he was in Algiers in September, 418.3 It would be necessary to place De doctrina christiana IV at the end of 429 at the latest and probably earlier.4 According to Retractationes, De doctrina christiana IV was written before reviewing the books which follow, that is to say nearly all those he had written over the last thirty years he was bishop.5 It is difficult to say he had finished his Retractationes after 428 since the work against Maximinus is not found there which apparently was written in that year. Sigisvultus with whom Maximinus had come had been sent to Africa in 427.6

Baronius alleges Possidius as a witness to Augustine writing his Retractationes a little before the arrival of the Vandals in May, 428.7 However, this dating would not prevent us from believing Augustine had completed Retractationes some months later if necessary. Baronius also objects Retractationes should be dated at the end of Augustine’s life. From what he wrote...

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