(ca. 354-430 A.D.), son of Patrick and Monica, a native of Thagaste in the Roman Province of Numidia, stood on the boundary between the world of Late Rome and the beginning of the Christian Roman Empire. Christianity had been legalized in A.D. 313 (under Constantine, 'the (so-called) Great'), and became the state religion (392 A.D., under Theodosius 'the (so-called) Great') around the time that Augustine became a priest. The Confessions were written within the few years after he became a priest (published ca. 400). Augustine's father and his family were pagan, and his father had great respect for the learning of the Classical period. Augustine's mother's family were Christians, and apparently part of the orthodox African church. There had been a schism in Africa as a result of the persecution of the Christians under Diocletian (ca. 303-305 A.D.); during this persecution Christian officials had been ordered to surrender their holy books, Church property and wealth. Those who obeyed the law were considered to be slackers by the rest, who formed themselves into a conservative non-forgiving separate Christian church, under the leadership of Bishop Donatus. These Donatists were a thorn in everyone's side for a century, since they refused to 'allow back in to the communion of Christians' the Christians who had obeyed the authorities in what were really non-essentials of the Faith. Dealing with these people was part of Augustine's growing-up, in which he firmly resisted Christianity, and much later in his career as a priest and then Bishop of Hippo Regius (Numidia). He died in 430, defending his community against a siege of the Vandals.



The Confessions
  • What is the nature of Augustine's process of conversion? (8.8; 8.11-12; 9.6)

  • What is the importance in this process of
  • literature (1.13-14; 3.2; 4.1; 5.8 etc.)
  • Ciceronianism (3.4-5)
  • Platonism (7.20)
  • Astrology (7.6)
  • Manicheanisn (Dualistic Christianity) (8.10)
  • Arianism (3.6 etc.)
  • Pelagianism
  • (Saint) Paul (Saul of Tarsus)? (7.21; 8.12)
  • What is the importance of the women in Augustine's experience to his seeking of a satisfactory philosophy of life? His mother, Santa Monica? (3.11; 6.13 *9. 8-12) his girl-friends? (3.1; 6.15) What about marriage? (2.3) (Note: He had a son out of wedlock)

  • What is the importance of the men in Augustine's experience to his discovery of a satisfactory philosophy of life? His father? (2.3) What about `the friend' (Book 2.5; 4.4 and 9)? His friends in Italy? Simplicianus? (8.2; 8.5) Alypius? (6.10; 9.6) (Saint) Ambrose of Milan? (5.14; 6.3; 8.6; 9.7)

  • Why is the Confessions in the form of a conversation with (or prayer to the Deity)? Is this a statement of Augustine's philosophy of life? Is this a literary gimmick, perhaps, to give authority to an otherwise very difficult literary genre (autobiography, in which `the truth' is the last thing presumed by the reader)? Who is the audience for the Confessions?

  • What is the importance of Augustine's discussion of children and child psychology? (1.6-11; 2.4) Is he just `projecting his own guilt'? Or is this important for his philosophy and theology?

  • What is the nature of evil for Augustine? (3.7-9) What is the importance of the Devil?



January 24, 2010 2:50 PM

John Paul Adams, CSUN

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