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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 89: Contra Iulianum opus imperfectum


NOTE 891

Contra Iulianum opus imperfectum

Possidius assures us Augustine’s last work against Julian remained unfinished: Contra secundum Juliani responsorum imperfectum opus.2 Nevertheless Vignier gives us four last books of this work and claims Augustine completed it.3 In response to Possidius, Vignier assures us the word imperfectum does not appear in several manuscripts. These manuscripts should then indicate how many books this work possesses, as Possidius does with other works. If these manuscripts indicate the number of books, Vignier should and indeed must indicate these books. The Benedictines assure us all manuscripts have imperfectum and they leave the word in the title of the work.

As we have only six books of Augustine against the eight of Julian, Vignier is reduced to saying Augustine combated Julian’s first five books book by book and, without telling us in his sixth book which is not longer than the others, he responded to Julian’s sixth, seventh, and eight books. Vignier then gives the remainder of the text either entire or in an abridged form. It is apparently clear Augustine had wished to follow Julian and write eight books against him. There is nothing from Julian’s sixth book either at the end or in the body of Augustine’s work nor is there anything in Augustine’s other books to lead us to believe the work is a finished product. Certainly a work so long should have been finished with something notable. According to Vignier, at the end of Julian’s...

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