confessionum mearum libri tredecim et de malis et de bonis meis deum laudant iustum et bonum atque in eum excitant humanum intellectum et affectum. interim quod ad me attinet, hoc in me egerunt cum scriberentur et agunt cum leguntur. quid de illis alii sentiant, ipsi viderint; multis tamen fratribus eos multum placuisse et placere scio. retr. 2.6.1 quotiens confessionum tuarum libros lego inter duos contrarios affectus, spem videlicet et metum, laetis non sine lacrimis legere me arbitrer non alienam sed propriam meae peregrinationis historiam. Petrarca, Secretum Hier ist des Säglichen Zeit, hier seine Heimat.
Sprich und Bekenn.
Rilke, Duineser Elegien 9.42-3 deus semper idem,
`He who makes the truth comes to the light.'1 The truth that Augustine made2 in the Confessions had eluded him for years. It appears before us as a trophy torn from the grip of the unsayable after a prolonged struggle on the frontier between speech and silence. What was at stake was more than words. The `truth' of which Augustine spoke was not merely a quality of a verbal formula, but veracity itself, a quality of a living human person.3 Augustine
Behind this fundamental act of the self lay powerful and evident anxieties - evident on every page. Augustine is urgently concerned with the right use of language, longing to say the right thing in the right way. The first page of the text is a tissue of uncertainty in that vein, for to use language wrongly is to find oneself praising a god who is not God. The anxiety is intensified by a vertiginous loss of privacy. Even as he discovers that he possesses an interior world cut off from other people, he realizes that he lies open before God: there is nowhere to hide, nowhere to flee.
Anxiety so pervades the Confessions that even the implicit narrative structure is undermined. When on the first page we hear that our heart is restless until there is repose in God, the reasonable expectation is that the text will move from restlessness to rest, from anxiety to tranquility. In some ways that is true: on baptism care flies away, 5 and the last page looks forward to the tranquility of endless praise in heaven. But the conversion story leaves the Augustine of this text far more uneasy than we might have expected. The proper culmination for an optimistic Confessions would be mystic vision as fruit of conversion (see introductory note to Bk. 10). But instead the last half of Bk. 10 and the whole of Bks. 11 to 13 - not incidentally the parts of the work that have most baffled modern attempts to reduce the text to a coherent pattern - defy the expected movement from turmoil to sedation and show an Augustine still anxious over matters large and small. It is unclear at what date it became possible, or necessary, for Augustine to endure that continuing tension. At the time of the events narrated in the first nine books, he surely expected more repose for his troubles.
The book runs even deeper than that. Augustine believes that human beings are opaque to themselves no less than to others. We are not who we think we are. One of the things Augustine had to confess was that he was and had been himself sharply different from who he thought he was. Not only was this true of his wastrel youth (to hear him tell it), but it remained true at the time of confessing - he did not know to what temptation he might next submit (10.5.7). We are presented throughout the text with a character we want to call `Augustine', but we are at the same time in the presence of an author (whom we want to call `Augustine') who tells us repeatedly that his own view of his own past is only valid if another authority, his God, intervenes to guarantee the truth of what he says. Even the self is known, and
His God is timelessly eternal, without time's distention and hence anxiety, but also without the keen anticipations and rich satisfactions, of humankind; his God is perfection of language incarnate, without the
All of us who read Augustine fail him in many ways. Our characteristic reading is hopelessly incoherent. Denying him our full cooperation, (1) we choose to ignore some of what he says that we deny but find non-threatening; (2) we grow heatedly indignant at some of what he says that we deny and find threatening; (3) we ignore rafts of things he says that we find naive, or uninteresting, or conventional (thereby displaying that in our taste which is itself naïve, uninteresting, and conventional); (4) we patronize what we find interesting but flawed and primitive (e.g., on time and memory); (5) we admire superficially the odd purple patch; (6) we assimilate whatever pleases us to the minimalist religion of our own time, finding in him ironies he never intended; (7) we extract and highlight whatever he says that we find useful for a predetermined thesis (which may be historical, psychological, philosophical, or doctrinal, e.g., just war, immaculate conception, abortion) - while not noticing that we ignore many other ideas that differ only in failing to command our enthusiasm. So when, for example, Augustine relies on the proposition that all truth is a function of Truth, and that Truth is identical with the second person of the trinity, and that Jesus the carpenter's son is identical with that same person - we offer at most a notional assent, but are compelled to interpret the idea to ourselves, rather than grasp it directly. Just when we are best at explaining Augustine, we are then perhaps furthest from his thought.
A formal commentary on the text is one way to subvert our impulses to misreading. The text itself enforces a discipline on the commentator, drawing attention back to the business at hand, which is mainly the exegesis of the most important layers of discernible meaning in the text. The commentator is obliged to take stands on controverted issues, but also has a responsibility to present views other than his own. And even when the commentator presses a tentative and idiosyncratic line of interpretation, he should at the same time present the evidence in a way that not only does not preclude but actually facilitates disagreement. And the commentator must have a respect for ambiguity verging on reverence.
The prolegomena presented here, therefore, fall into three parts. (1) An essay on the history of the interpretation of the text and the methods that have proved fruitful in pursuing Augustine's meanings to their various lairs. (2) A concise exposition of the main lines of interpretation emphasized in this commentary, gathering material that would otherwise be scattered through dozens of notes in the commentary. (3) Some technical information to facilitate use of the text and commentary printed here.
A hundred years ago, it is safe to say, everyone knew what the Confessions were about. The main outline of the autobiographical narrative that is part of the first nine books was clear enough, and the garden scene at the end of Bk. 8 was a cliché (and furnished the illustration for the title page of many editions and translations - the voice bidding to
The consequent quest for biographical fact and its appropriate assessment has driven scholarship ever since. This movement was at first horizontal, ranging throughout Augustine's
Courcelle's revolution had, however, more lasting effect on the study of Augustine's life than on the study of the Confessions. The lively discussion and fertile investigations to which he gave impetus concentrated increasingly on reconstructing the history of Augustine's readings and opinions (chiefly in the period before his ordination), at the expense of detailed studies of the rhetorical and exegetical strategies of the Confessions themselves. Some common features of this generation's work can be extracted from the mass of publications to help orient the present work.
First, the scholarship mirrored its own times. The abundance of post-Courcelle work dates from the fifties and sixties; the `galloping' bibliography (the epithet was applied by A. Mandouze) has slowed to a more dignified pace. One characteristic of that period, here as in so many other areas of scholarship, was an optimistic positivism. Scholars labored to construct large hypothetical schemas (embracing, e.g., the books Augustine read and the people he knew) to make possible positive and permanent advances in the study of the text.
Second, what was achieved was something whose essential quality becomes visible only at a generous distance. The reading we have been given of Augustine is an essentially gnostic one. This is no surprise, for we have been living through an increasingly gnostic age. The emphasis has been on the secret, hidden, inner lore (Augustine's borrowings from lost Platonic texts10 ), accessible only to the
Third, for the first time, Augustine has been fitted out with a new intellectual position. We see him now not merely as a provincial bishop, theologizing down the party line, but as a man constantly in dialogue with the wider world of the non-Christian thought of his time, accepting its excellences, quarreling selectively with its errors, sharing a common ground of debate and discussion. That is exactly the position that Christians of every stripe, but especially Catholics, were moving towards during the period in which these scholarly investigations were carried out. Augustine turned out to be our contemporary - to have been waiting for us to catch up with him.
To characterize the scholarly work of these last decades in this way may seem unduly harsh. But the sum total of all that has been accomplished in the last forty years weighs up to less than half what Courcelle accomplished in his one book. New lines of inquiry and new questions have not been risked. The issues have remained those that Courcelle defined, and the techniques remain his; infertility is the obvious fate of such debates.
Two works from outside the mainstream deserve special attention, as harbingers of ways to move ahead. In 1955, G.N. Knauer published his Hamburg dissertation Psalmenzitate in Augustins Konfessionen. This is the best modern study of the Confessions as literary artefact. 11 At about the same time, a Leipzig Habilitation was submitted by Horst Kusch, on the structure of the Confessions. The full work was never published, and repeated inquiries have failed to unearth a copy. 12 Kusch published a long article, 13 valuable especially for two ideas: first, that the structure of the last books of the Confessions reflects the trinitarian and triadic patterns that obsessed Augustine elsewhere; and second, that the three temptations of
But we have still not appreciated the Confessions purely as a work of literature. The narrative of past sins and pious amendments fills little more than half the pages of the work. What are the last four books doing there? The last catalogue of efforts to answer that question is two decades old 15 and books and articles continue to appear addressing it in one form or another. Some of the ideas they propose have merit, but none has been presented in a way to compel, or even very strongly to encourage, assent. One prevailing weakness of many of these efforts has been the assumption that there lies somewhere unnoticed about the Confessions a neglected key to unlock all mysteries. But for a text as multilayered and subtle as the Confessions, any attempt to find one, or even a few, keys is pointless. Augustine says himself that he meant to stir our souls, not test our ingenuity as lock-picks.
We may also mistrust readers who insist, or who insist on denying, that the work is perfect and beyond reproach. That form of idolatry, like the complementary iconoclasm with which it long disputed, has had its day. Better to heed an early reader of T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom:
Every major modern book on the Confessions has been written by a Catholic or a Parisian, or both. 17 To think of Alfaric, Boyer, Courcelle, Guardini, Henry, 18 Le Blond, 19 O'Connell,20 O'Meara, Pellegrino, 21 Solignac, and Verheijen is to come very close to exhausting the arsenal of large-scale studies of this text. 22 The names of those who have done the most important work in adjacent areas of research (e.g., Augustine's theological development - Pincherle, 23 du Roy - or his intellectual equipage - Marrou) follow the same law. There is even an important article by one scholar who has gone on to become Cardinal Prefect of what is no longer the Holy Office. 24 The exceptions are few and illuminating. There are Knauer's Psalmenzitate (but that work has been praised but neglected by the Catholic/French establishment), Theiler's Porphyrios und Augustin (another book with few followers), and Nörregard's Augustins Bekehrung 25 (rarely cited since 1950). J. Burnaby's Amor Dei is neither French nor Romanist, but Burnaby was an Anglican clergyman and Cambridge don, whose book was written directly against the most outspokenly Protestant criticism of Augustine in this century, A. Nygren's Agape and Eros. Gibb and Montgomery's edition and notes likewise came from two Cambridge dons. Finally, P. Brown's biography is donnish and Oxonian, but written by one who began life in Catholic Dublin and who has become in the years since the Augustine book an honorary Parisian of a modern sort. His book is the least preoccupied by the controversies that have surrounded this text for the last century. Another honorable exception is E. TeSelle's Augustine the Theologian (New York, 1970), a marvel of eirenic Protestant scholarship.
Now Catholics, former Catholics, and Parisians need not be the only readers to take an interest in this text. Augustine himself has had a checkered history in Roman Catholic modernity, somehow suspect for having given aid and comfort, if not to the Reformers, at least to Baius, Jansen, and their descendants. Leaving aside the quarrels of the first part of this century, whose partisans have accepted
, 26 we should not forget how much patristic scholarship owed to the discovery of liberal Catholics that such study did not bring them in conflict with Thomistic orthodoxy but offered a vocabulary and a range of reference broader and more flexible than what Roman catechisms had to offer. That movement, whose founding patron was Joseph De Ghellinck, S.J., culminated in the postwar establishment of the Corpus Christianorum series, the luxuriance of the Études Augustiniennes establishment in Paris, and a host of specialized projects in the field. Vatican II crowned the aspirations of those two generations of scholars with gratifying success and at the same time undermined their rationale. The generation of Catholic scholars that has flourished since the Council has no need of the mild subterfuge of patristic reference to clothe their ideas; accordingly, the great projects have seen a slow seepage of manpower to age, laicization, and more fashionable studies. Worse in some ways, Catholicism has lost many of its enemies, or at least the most learned of them, in eirenic, ecumenical times, and it is no longer possible to rely on anticlerical French scholars coming to work in these areas with the vigor with which they once sought evidence that the one, holy, catholic, and Roman church had not always been as it is today. The history of Christianity has ceased to be a vital concern for Christians and non-Christians alike, and the great and urgent question that formed the subtext of so many historical debates of the last century,
`the constitution of silence and are folded in a single party' (Eliot)
All this needs to be said by way of preface to some brief remarks about specific issues of interpretation that arise. The focus of modern discussion of this text has been the place of neo-Platonism in Augustine's life and writings. The polemic has moved between two poles: the attack on the plaster saint, beginning with the observation that his `Christianity' was, at least for an important period in his life, very like a specific non-Christian philosophy, and the defense, surrendering much of the plaster but insisting on the authentic Christian essence. All parties seem to have agreed unthinkingly on the principle that `Christianity' is in the first instance a body of intellectual propositions about God and his creatures and about particular events in the history of the relations between God and his creatures. On that view, movement into and out of `Christianity' is a matter of intellectual discussion and assessment, ending in assent or disagreement. If you believe in the Virgin Birth, you are Christian in a way that someone who offers liberal quibbles is not. Arguments for and against the existence of God are essential, and philosophy is the handmaid of theology. To argue then that philosophy has dictated to theology tends to undermine the authenticity of theology.
In this network of assumptions, Augustine's dealings with the Platonists call his theology into question. For one period of Augustine's life, from his public conversion to Christianity in 386/7 to his ordination as a Christian cleric in 391, the evidence viewed on those assumptions could be described in ways disturbing to traditionalists, who - sharing those fundamental assumptions about the nature of Christianity - were in a weak position to respond. Augustine's views appear so neo-Platonic as to be Christian in name only. Was Christianity for Augustine only a convenient dress in which to present ideas that were in origin non-Christian? To make that case (as Alfaric did) was to subvert the self-consciousness of the Latin Catholic tradition: if Augustine is not a Christian, then who is? If Augustine's version of Christianity is tainted, then whose is not? It is no wonder that the attempt raised heated defense. Boyer's orthodox book in response was sober, well-considered, and soundly argued, but it was not at its strongest when it came to awkward historical facts. Courcelle's book found middle ground: allowing plenty of room for Christianity, but insisting on the Platonic disposition of that Christianity. Further, Courcelle widened the net to include Ambrose and show that Platonized Christianity was the order of the day in imperial Milan of the 380s. The reorientation Courcelle effected has not been seriously challenged.
The drawbacks of the traditional assumptions are evident even on their own terms. What sort of thing is Christianity? When is it compromised by admixture from `outside'? The view that `Christianity' is something unadmixed can itself be a Christian doctrine, but that `Christianity' requires a rather specialized definition to be useful as a historical category. If Augustine uses neo-Platonic terms to describe Christian teachings, and even if he professes to see no distinction between a neo-Platonic teaching and a Christian one, and even more, if he adopts a neo-Platonic principle out of a vacuum and makes it part of his `Christianity', observers could think that the integrity and authenticity of his Christianity were at risk. But if those principles happen not to conflict with any express Christian doctrine
But does anyone think that Christianity is a thing of the mind only? Perhaps in Paris, but surely not
The defects of both Protestant and Catholic modern views of Augustine and of this text encourages us to look for alternatives. That which has proved most useful in the present work is easily stated. For Augustine, and for late antique men and women generally, religion is cult - or, to use the word we use when we approve of a particular cult, religion is liturgy. Anti-clerical Parisians and Protestants may agree that priestcraft is dangerous stuff, but Augustine would not concur with them. The central decision he makes in the period narrated in the Confessions is not to believe the doctrines of the Catholic Christians (that is important, but preliminary), but to present himself for cult initiation - and the threshold there is a matter not of doctrine but of morals. Bk. 8, the vivid narrative of hesitation and decision, depicts Augustine agonizing over whether he could and would live up to the arduous standards he thought required of one who would accept full initiation into the Christian cult. His decision to seek that initiation, taken provisionally in August 386, 27 carried out on the night of 24-5 April 387, was the centerpiece of his conversion.
Why do we downplay cult initiation for Augustine? There are several reasons, beginning with our own prejudices. Few modern scholars (indeed, few moderns of any stripe, including the most ardent proponents of a traditional doctrine of transubstantiation) hold a view of the importance and efficacy of cult acts that even remotely approaches the visceral reverence for cult that all late antique men and women felt. We like to believe that there were serene and cultless philosophers in that age, not exactly anticlerical but certainly not superstitiously devoted to ritual and ceremony. Whether there were such people is perhaps irrelevant to the immediate case of Augustine, for it is clear that he did not believe that such people existed. 28
A further evidentiary problem obtrudes to cut the cult-life of late antiquity off from our view. Virtually all late antique cults, and Christianity was emphatically no exception, kept the secrets of their rites closely held. Until 25 April 387, Augustine himself had never seen what Americans may see on television any Sunday and every Christmas Eve - the rituals of the Roman eucharistic liturgy. As a catechumen, he had been admitted to the church to hear scripture readings, hymns, prayers, and sermons, but then he had been politely shown the door when the central cult act was about to begin. In all the years after his baptism and ordination, in all the five million surviving words of his works, Augustine never describes or discusses the cult act that was the center of his ordained ministry. Liturgical texts from late antiquity are few and terse, and late antique commentary on liturgy itself even rarer. Much can be reconstructed, 29 but there is an inevitable disproportion. Augustine is verbose about doctrine, close-mouthed about ritual. He appears to us as a man of doctrine exclusively, though he himself tells us in explicit enough terms otherwise. 30 There is a proportion to be redressed, and no accurate guide to the correct balance. Augustine's Christianity was not 100% doctrine, 0% ritual, nor even 80%-20%; but was it 20% doctrine, 80% ritual? That is possible, but on balance unlikely. We are left to wander between the extremes, following our hunches. What is clear is that cult was decisive for him: without cult, no Christianity. But he was prepared to be very lenient on matters of doctrine; error alone has rarely been sufficient for excommunication: it is contumacy that draws anathema. He surely admitted to full church membership many ordinary citizens of Hippo for whom halting recital from memory of the apostle's creed and lord's prayer marked the upper limits of their capacity to master the verbal formulae of their new cult.
To take such a view of Augustine's religion is perhaps only possible for a post-modern reader, one who has learned afresh from the most recent generation of Parisians that the map is not the territory, that the narrative is not the event, that a text is not a life. There are important blanks in the Confessions: God is present but silent, Augustine's past life is over (`dead' he says of his infancy at 1.6.9), and his present life extends beyond the pages he writes in many ways, cult activity not least of them. From his earliest writings, Augustine's program as writer aspired to knowledge of God and knowledge of self. But God and Augustine we learn about only indirectly and at a rhetorical distance in the Confessions. To remember that is to begin to understand better the text as text, and there is perhaps the key to seeing the most vital feature of this particular text.
A text is not a life: so far, so good. To narrate one's past life and deeds is to put a pattern of words next to a life (by nature patternless, full of event and incident) and to declare that the words and the life have something to do with each other. `Something' is probably the right word. Later in these prolegomena, we will see how the pattern of words that appears in the Confessions had been taking shape in Augustine's texts for years before this text was actually written. The Confessions offer no unedited transcript, but a careful rhetorical presentation. But the writing of this text was itself part of Augustine's life. `Confession' for Augustine, that act of
The purpose of this commentary, for all the technical apparatus, is to bring that part of Augustine's life into the life of the reader. Philological scholarship takes its departure from one text and generates another, and the movement is all too often away from the object of the researches to the investigating subject; it is not optical illusion to think that modern scholarship has been increasingly at risk from a narcissism in which the object disappears from view and the scholarly subject takes center stage. That is a reason to write commentary rather than interpretive essay: to facilitate the movement past the commentator's words once again to Augustine's words - to Augustine's life.
One line of interpretation has been largely neglected here: inquiry into Augustine's psychological makeup and history. The appeal of such an interpretation is great and its lack regrettable, but there are compelling reasons for abstaining from the attempt. (1) Judged purely by the standards of modern psychoanalysis, the Confessions do not provide us with evidence of the quantity and quality necessary to make a well-founded assessment. (2) Because there are either no ancient or medieval figures, or very, very few, for whom such evidence is available, it is far from clear whether it is possible to use the patterns detected by scientific investigators in the personalities of modern men and women in assessing those long dead. Even assuming that the patterns detected by science are universal, making the necessary adjustments for the different circumstances of ancient public and private life is, flatly, impossible. 31 (3) In particular, it often seems on reading psychological interpretations of Augustine that the moderns too easily yield to Augustine's own insistence on the importance of his own conversion, as recorded in Bk. 8 of the Confessions. (4) Any reading, especially a psychoanalytical reading, of a text such as this should not be judged according to the simplicity it imposes but according to the complexity it reveals. So, to take only one example, it is obvious that Augustine's father and mother had very different effects on their son, but having made the observation, there is little left to do but speculate, on purely
Augustine should have the last word, his own advice to Paulinus of Nola on how to read him:
The Confessions are a single work in thirteen books, written in AD 397 33 The first nine books contain much autobiographical reminiscence covering the years AD 354-87; the last three books contain an allegorical exposition of the first chapter of Genesis, and Bk. 11 in particular contains a long discussion of the nature of time. Bk. 10 is known mainly for its long discussion of the nature of memory and for a disturbingly scrupulous examination of conscience. There is no evidence that the work ever circulated in a form other than the one we have, but some scholars believe that Bk. 10 is the fruit of second thoughts, added after the other twelve books were complete. 34 Translators have sometimes abridged the work by omitting part or all of Bks. 11-13.
The reading of this work presented here is loosely arranged according to the structure of a scholastic
The work as a whole is an intellectual autobiography, tracing the movement of Augustine's opinions on matters of a philosophic and religious nature from his earliest youth to the time of writing. The principal stages of this ascent from ignorance to illumination are precisely identified: the two
But all attempts to depict the Confessions as essentially or mainly a story of the ascent of the mind to God encounter great difficulties - one extrinsic and one intrinsic. Extrinsically, it is
The garden scene is indeed central to the work: but in what way? It is in the garden that Christ enters Augustine's life. The want felt and described at 7.18.24 is now filled. 53 A restrictive reading of the place of Christ in the Confessions, such as that of M. Lods, 54 insists that the words of Rom. 13.13-14, particularly, as Augustine hears them at 8.12.29, do not satisfy our expectation of what the place of Christ in a conversion should be. But the action of Christ in 8.12.29 is redemptive, salvific, and decisive. For Augustine, after all, it is incarnation pre-eminently that redeems, and to come to understand that incarnation accurately and to acquire in his life a pattern of conduct that he thought required by an understanding of that incarnation - that, for Augustine, is a very Christian, and Christ-centered, conversion.
The literal sense of the text of Rom. 13.14 cannot be pressed too hard here: `sed induimini dominum Iesum Christum'. Christ is many things to Augustine (
This view adds emphasis and shading to Augustine's preoccupation with the issue of continence. The struggle to decide whether to lead a completely celibate life is the one feature of the conversion narrative that ought to come as a surprise. If it were only a matter of finding the answers to deep questions, Bk. 7 would be the end of the narrative. That the issue of continence arose and became central to the decision in the Milan garden that we call Augustine's conversion, this was not part of what Augustine had bargained for when he set out to search for wisdom, nor was it what most people approaching Christianity in this period were worrying about. 57 There was no reason why Augustine could not have been baptized and still made that good marriage Monnica arranged.
To understand the issue's place in the Confessions, we must pay attention to a lost work of Ambrose's, written while Augustine was in Milan. The title is arresting: de sacramento regenerationis sive de philosophia; 58 paraphrased, that would be `On Baptism; or, Concerning Philosophy.' The argument is straightforward enough: The way of the philosophers is not the true way, it is not enough to know the truth, one must have in addition sacramental membership in the Christian church. Phrased that way, the relevance to Augustine's position is clear. What is of greater interest, however, is that in that treatise, Ambrose found it polemically necessary and useful to counter the claims of the philosophers to have achieved a higher standard of moral life by their chastity; `continence is the pedestal on which right worship rests,' says Ambrose. 59 That was the challenge Augustine accepted: to become not merely Christian, but a Christian who outdoes the philosophers in all their excellences. In order to present himself for baptism, Augustine felt that he had to have achieved a degree of moral self-control that assured him of a lifetime of continence. 60 His holiday that autumn of 386 at Cassiciacum was,
What then of the apparent pattern of the work as a whole, the depiction of the ascent of the mind? Though Augustine in the years after the Confessions will drift away from the ascent-vocabulary of his youth, he certainly adhered to that way of speaking throughout his literary works of 386-97 and in the Confessions themselves. It must also be recognized that the substance of the ascent remains central to Augustine's activity. What is presented to us in the Confessions is the transformation of the traditional philosopher's ascent of the mind to the
The Confessions, then, present themselves to us a book about God, and about Augustine: more Augustine at the beginning, more God at the end. But Augustine does not disappear in this work. Properly speaking, Augustine is redeemed, and insofar as he is redeemed and reformed according to the image and likeness of God, he becomes representative of all humankind. The work begins with a cry of exultant praise,
The date of writing has been repeatedly canvassed and consensus achieved. Argument from the retractationes places the work between 397 and 401, while the way Augustine refers to Ambrose and Simplicianus makes us think that he had not yet heard at the time of writing of Ambrose's death and Simplicianus' succession to the see of Milan in April 397. Rhetorical and stylistic unity and the intensity that runs through the book like an electric current make it easiest to read as a work written entirely in 397. 62 Those who emphasize the disparity of the parts of the Confessions and find plausible the arguments for a double redaction or for the later insertion of Bk. 10 also find arguments for extending composition down to 401. 63 In view of the available evidence, it is not possible to press the matter to any firm resolution of these remaining disagreements.
Few proponents of Christian humility have obtruded themselves on the attention of their public with the insistence (to say nothing of the effectiveness) that marks this work. For a man who felt acutely the pressure of others' eyes and thoughts, 64 Augustine was often unable to refrain from calling attention to himself. What his flock thought, for example, of the long, magnificent sermon he once gave on the anniversary of his own episcopal ordination 65 is impossible to recover at this distance. It is not that Augustine was unaware of the irony and room for self-contradiction that his habit of
`Confession' in Augustine's way of understanding it - a special divinely authorized speech that establishes authentic identity for the speaker - is the true and proper end of mortal life. 66 He had struggled to find voice for this speech all his life. The corpus of his earlier writings, seen in this light, offers a picture of development that is hardly a linear progression. The conversions of Augustine were many, and they did not end in the garden in Milan. 67
It is conventional to think that 391 marked an important turning, with formal affiliation to the ecclesiastical hierarchy through ordination. 68 That moment brought a real shock to Augustine and opened a difficult and frustrating period of his life, when one literary project after another fell to pieces in his hands as a desperate writers' block settled on him. 69 The first thing he wrote in that period was the dreadful
Two events of the mid-390s conspired to worsen the crisis and propel it toward resolution: his new reading of Paul at the urging of Simplicianus, which included a rediscovery of the importance he would attribute to Paul in telling the story of his Milan conversion, and his ordination as bishop. 71 His writer's block claims its last victim in the unfinished torso of de doctrina christiana, apparently intended as an authoritative episcopal guide to Christian exegesis and preaching. 72 What freed his pen for the prolific career and the masterworks we know was the writing of the Confessions themselves. He discovered at length how to make `confession' in his special sense come to life through his writing. 73 After the highly personal Confessions began the torrent of his great works, including, significantly, a series of works re-beginning and then completing triumphantly projects that had come to nothing in the years before the Confessions. 74 Whether that new-found facility was achieved at the price of sacrificing some of the unrelenting zeal for inquiry is a question that deserves further examination. 75 One work stands out in the post-Confessions years as a deliberate continuation of the same enterprise in the same spirit: the de trinitate. 76 That is the only one of Augustine's major works that is not either polemical or a scriptural commentary, and in it we can see the trajectory of Bks. 11-13 carried to its logical conclusion, albeit not without difficulties and course changes. 77 The farther we get from the writing of the Confessions the harder it is to plot that trajectory as a constant purpose, but the ideas and obsessions of his youth remain vivid for the aged Augustine. 78 It is a little observed fact that what may be the last words we have from his pen, the last surviving lines of his incomplete opus imperfectum contra Julianum do not attack Pelagianism, the bug-bear of his old age, but Manicheism, the phantasm of his youth.
Other lines converge on the Confessions. 79 One additional element requires comment and emphasis.
The commentary on 7.9.13 discusses the evidence for the history of Augustine's readings in neo-Platonic, and specifically Porphyrian, philosophy. Augustine's readings at Milan included Porphyry, but in a non-threatening way. He found there a Platonism that led him towards Christianity and that he would criticize mainly for not going far enough in that direction. By no later than the time of the de consensu evangelistarum (399/400 or after), he had on the other hand read enough Porphyry to discover how hostile neo-Platonism could be to Christianity. The de consensu evangelistarum and the de civitate dei, and to some extent the de trinitate and de Genesi ad litteram as well, show Augustine working out his `Christian Platonism' (or better, `Augustinianism') in a way that no longer minimizes the separation. The achievement is a subtle one, for his reading of Rom. 1.20ff provided him with an instrument for claiming that while there was much true doctrine among the Platonists, there was error of a crippling kind in that they did not worship God as they ought. It was courageous of Augustine to cling to the truths he thought he had found in Platonism at this point, and not merely to reject the whole package of Plato, Plotinus, and Porphyry. Augustine's signal contribution to Christian thought lies in the success of the great works in which he achieved his own synthesis.
Doubt remains just when and how he came to reassess his Platonic authors, but the Confessions are intimately bound up in this process. The last work of Augustine before the Confessions to address the position of Christianity vis-à-vis Platonism was the vera religione that shortly preceded his priestly ordination of 391. He turned away more or less completely from the concerns and expressions of his Platonic period in the years after ordination, as he struggled to find ways to write as a Christian clergyman ought to write. With the Confessions he returned to his Platonic period and put a whole new reading on it. The Augustine of the Confessions has drawn a clear line separating him from the Platonists. The `ascents' of Milan are different in kind from that of Ostia and from that which is presented in Bk. 10 of the Confessions. In that difference, to say nothing of the content of Bks. 11-13, 80 lies the germ of the mature Augustine's Christian Platonism, almost as full of admiration as ever for the accomplishments of the Platonists, but with a new reserve and new boundaries. Cause and effect here are not to be traced, and matters are confused by the ambiguities of the evidence (see on 7.9.13) for the discovery of Porphyry's hostility to Christianity. If that occurred in the early 400s, i.e., very shortly after the Confessions, then no evidence from after that discovery may be taken confidently to throw light on the attitude to Platonism in the Confessions. What is clear is that already the Confessions mark a step away from the Christian Platonism of Milan, and of Augustine's works from 386 to 391. His presentation of Platonism in the Confessions is marked by his later discoveries, and the Platonism he found at Milan is criticized in the Confessions on terms that were only possible after leaving Milan. 81 That revision of his understanding of who he had been entailed a revision of his understanding of who he now was, and that achievement in self-knowledge seems to have been essential to the liberation he now found, refreshing old lines of inquiry and freeing his pen to write the books that were to come. The Confessions shows Augustine in the act of re-integrating elements of his thought and life that had begun to come apart for him, and it is that re-integration that is the foundation of his mature achievement. Without the `conversion' c. 397 that begat the Confessions, it is unlikely that Augustine would have become the towering figure that he is.
The motif of confession itself was importantly adumbrated in Augustine's earlier works in various ways. Two particular cases require comment here.
One of the first works Augustine wrote at Cassiciacum (Nov. 386/Jan. 387) was the book to which he gave a title of his own coinage: soliloquia. The work is a meditation on the circumstances of Augustine's life, without autobiographical reflection in the main 82 The approach is `anagogic' and at the same time self-reflective. 83 The most striking parallel to the Confessions is one of style and tone and overall approach. The opening paragraphs (
If the form of `confession' was emerging in Augustine's mind as early as 386, the substance of the narrative books was taking shape as well. 85 We all tell our life stories in formulaic ways, repeating ourselves with minor variations to different hearers. We are fortunate in having one passage from before the Confessions that shows Augustine doing exactly that - recounting his life story, howbeit briefly, and howbeit veiled as a hypothetical case. The veil indeed is so heavy that the passage has not been noticed by earlier students of the Confessions, but once the pattern is detected it cannot be ignored. The text in question is
The passage may not antedate the Confessions by more than a couple of years, 93 but it reflects a rehearsed narrative that would be developed more fully in the writing of the Confessions. 94
`Confession' thus came in Augustine's hands to be the necessary and sufficient formal complement to the substance of Augustine's early writing. From Cassiciacum (or perhaps from the writing of the de pulchro et apto: see on 4.13.20), Augustine's writings had been the record of the mind's ascent to God. There are places where Augustine writes about the idea of the mind's ascent to God, and places where in his writings he is himself clearly attempting an elevation of that sort: so the episodes recounted in Bks. 7 and 9. 95 The soliloquia are themselves a conscious `ascent', while the Cassiciacum dialogues both discuss the issues and attempt to exemplify the practice. Indeed, all the works Augustine wrote and published before the Confessions take one of three forms: `ascent', 96 scriptural exegesis, or anti-Manichean polemic. 97 As suggested above, later works as well practice the `ascent', even though Augustine writes about it much less frequently. The success of the Confessions, seen in those terms, is that the work integrated the private intellectual and religious experience of Augustine with the public responsibilities of the bishop. To `confess' is to find an authentic voice with which to express what is private in a way that can be shared with a wider public. How far the discipline of the pulpit 98 helped Augustine find this voice can only be a matter of speculation. 99 How far Augustine felt the Confessions a success is perhaps less a matter for speculation, given his remarks in
The Confessions are the last product of Augustine's youth and the first work of his maturity. His familiar pattern of the six ages of life (see on 1.8.13) shows that Augustine was conscious of that himself. His narrative of
It is impossible, then, to take the Confessions in a vacuum, and it is impossible to give any single interpretation that will satisfy. Even these few paragraphs of summary give a misleading impression of simplicity and directness, for a work that draws its rare power from complexity, subtlety, and nuance. In uncovering one or another device of construction or suggestion that Augustine employed, it may be that we do neither him nor his intended readers - if there are many such yet with us - any favor. He was assuredly the heir of an ancient rhetorical tradition that did not write to prove but to persuade, that knew that a work must have its effect on a reader or hearer directly or it is unlikely to have the desired effect at all. To take the Confessions apart piece by piece is to run the great risk that when all the pieces are put back together the marvelous machine will not run as it did before. But that is the task of the philologist: to take texts already in danger of demise from great age and remoteness, dismantle and study them, and then reassemble them and set them ticking. The only goal of interpretation is reading: exegesis leads to the Word, and not the other way round. If it often seems depressingly otherwise, then a renewed attention to our greatest master 102 of exegesis, hermeneutic, reading - call it what you will - cannot fail to be instructive, even (especially?) where it does not lead to agreement and outright discipleship.
The textual tradition of the Confessions is generally sound. 106 The work is transmitted in hundreds of medieval manuscripts, 107 of which one is late antique half-uncial, and nine more are ninth century minuscule. All critical editions of the last century have been based on the same (i.e., the oldest) manuscripts, progressively elucidating and defending the tradition they represent.
The fullest description of the manuscripts utilized by editors is found in the preface of the CCSL edition by L. Verheijen, though it should be borne in mind that no modern editor has seen all the manuscripts he cites, and that they have not been collated afresh since Skutella. The description and discussion that follow are derivative. 108
Gorman's stemma (reproduced below) represents the most developed view of the tradition. No one manuscript may be ascribed preeminent authority. Where S has the advantage of great age, it has the disadvantages of haste and carelessness; it not only omits and iterates words and phrases, but it substitutes synonyms (particularly particles and conjunctions). It is the work of a man in a hurry. It was the favorite of Knöll. O is perhaps the best single MS, and presents a perfectly readable text. It was the favorite of Verheijen. There is general consent that CD provide independent testimony that can be used to control the differences between S and O. The family EG offers further control, which Verheijen largely neglected. The value of the testimony of P (+ BZ) and of AHV has not been clearly delineated. 110 Finally, there is a wild card in all this, the
| | |
alpha beta Eugippius
| | | | |
S | | | |
| | | |
O | | ------------
| | | |
| ------- | -------
| | | | | |
CD E G P H V
Mention should be made of the edition of E. B. Pusey at Oxford in 1838, emending the Maurist
M. Skutella's Teubner edition of 1934 marked a real advance. Skutella looked systematically at all the ninth century manuscripts and was wise enough to see that manuscripts other than S could throw light on the text, and even to look at Eugippius (though this latter task he did in no systematic way). He attempted a stemma, but the result was little more than a declaration in graphic form that S was unrelated to all the other manuscripts at which Skutella looked; hence he accepted in principle (though not always in practice) any reading shared by S and any other MS. Unfortunately, while this allowed him to abandon many of S's errors, it also reinforced many of its most vulgar ones, where one or more of the other manuscripts' scribes had fallen into the same trap of easy omission or iteration. But his text was easily the best the world had seen to that date, 114 and it has been reprinted often since. 115 In 1969, it was reprinted by the Stuttgart avatar of B. G. Teubner with careful vetting by H. Juergens and W. Schaub.
In 1970, L. Verheijen began in Augustiana a series of articles on the text of the Confessions, culminating in his 1981 edition (volume 27 of Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina). Verheijen discussed the relationships of the manuscripts at length, essentially jettisoning Skutella's families BPZ, AHV, and GEMF, and relying entirely for the constitution of his text on S, especially O, and also CD (while continuing to report the readings of the rest of Skutella's manuscripts). The effect was to move further away from S and closer to the Maurist
The text given here offers no advance in
The punctuation has been reviewed and revised throughout. 117 The result is a lighter punctuation and, not infrequently, clarification of passages that have been left obscure by editors reprinting without retractation the punctuation of their predecessors. 118 Quotation marks stand where they would appear in English, that is, where Augustine is expressly introducing a quotation of
Orthography is an even more vexed question, but less exegetically important. The arguments and practice of Verheijen (CCSL 27.lxxxii-lxxxiv) have been taken for a guide, even for consistency in quotations from editions of other works. 120
Whenever readings are reported in the commentary, those of SOCDG are always given; others are presented as interest warrants; where no readings of editors are reported, it may be presumed that the majority agrees with the reading printed in the text. When there is disagreement, the views of the Maurists, Knöll, Skutella, and Verheijen are consistently reported, others as interest warrants. But to be safe no argument from silence should be taken from the non-report of a given manuscript or edition at any point. 121
The first principle of exegesis is heuristic, to do for the text what needs to be done and what can be done for that text at the present moment. The present work seeks to fill a distinct gap, both in the absence of a formal commentary 122 and in the presence of several long-neglected tasks for interpretation of the work itself. Issues of history and doctrine raised by the Confessions have preoccupied scholars in modern times, to the neglect of the questions of the philologist, who examines the nexus between narrative and event not to determine what really happened, but what strategies shaped the narrative to its final form and marshalled upon the page the particular words we encounter, and how best we may understand the relation of parts to whole and whole to parts.
The way forward for students of the Confessions lies in renewed and assiduous attention to the most minute details of the text. 123 The form of a commentary maintains focus on the significant detail, makes it possible to present evidence more fully, and provides the reader with the materials for independent judgment; in addition, a commentary leaves room to present new and useful material on topics removed from the main novelties of argument the commentator may advance.
The principal tasks set for itself by this exegetical commentary are these: (1) To provide a representative selection of the evidence illustrating the use and interpretation in the Confessions of scriptural citations and scriptural language. (2) To seek out and juxtapose to the text illustrative passages from Augustine's other works. (3) To report the findings and views of modern scholars where they illuminate the text. (4) To discuss and interpret the text in view of the material collected.
The method has in the main been to allow Augustine to be his own commentator. Few authors of antiquity allow us this luxury, but if we had another 800,000 lines of Vergil beyond the Aeneid, we would not be slow to take advantage of those riches to throw new light on the epic; to perform this function in some obvious and straightforward ways for Augustine is an opportunity too long neglected. This is not the full philological, source-critical, historical, and philosophical commentary that has been a declared desideratum of scholars for more than a generation. 124 It is meant to be a working tool, contributing to dialogue, and has no aspiration to utter the final word. At the same time, it must be admitted that the commentator's job is to make facts where none existed before, 125 and in so doing to make the text itself a new thing. We must respect the text, and those who have worked on the text before us; and in this case, we must respect Augustine as well. Augustine has his limits, but it takes a very long time of living with him (and with his limits) to be sure that you are perceiving those limits in the right way, from the inside, with full awareness of the achievement implied by the vast range of territory that Augustine does embrace.
One area of investigation has been reluctantly foresworn: the stylistic study of Augustine's prose. To be sure, many of the individual observations on vocabulary and phrasing contribute to a study of the style of this work, but there is room for a systematic study that would rigorously compare this work to Augustine's other works and to other ancient and late antique Latin works (the question of `Christian Latin' as
This commentary differs from most Confessions scholarship of the last generations in its relative inattention to questions of more remote Quellenforschung. First, that task has been so exhaustively undertaken that, whatever riches remain to be discovered, it is undeniable that other tasks have been comparatively neglected, and it is those that have drawn my attention. 128 Second, it is important to distinguish between sources and analogues. What Augustine himself may have read and known is what is most important; what there may be in other early Christian writers that resembles, and even illustrates, what Augustine has to say, has been sought out much less diligently. Augustine's debt to Ambrose and Cicero has been pursued with some care and some new and useful material has been found.
This commentary assumes that where there is no evidence to the contrary, it is fruitful to expect that what Augustine says explicitly in interpretation of a verse of scripture at one time in his career may be juxtaposed with the use he makes of it (without explicit interpretation) elsewhere. Certainty in such juxtapositions is only rarely reached (and then usually when the passages cited from outside the Confessions come from periods close in time to the writing of the Confessions and preferably include citations both before and after), but there are many fruitful probabilities this side of certainty. Where Augustine quotes or alludes to a verse of scripture in the Confessions, and where another of Augustine's works provides an explicit interpretation of that verse of scripture that is not
This is not, alas, a commentary for the general reader, and neither is it a commentary for a passive reader. My practice has been to refrain from commentary in my own voice wherever possible, and to allow the texts to speak for themselves. Wherever possible, quotation has been preferred to paraphrase, evidence to interpretation. The aim is to give the reader the material with which to interpret rather than obtrude my own views. True enough, selection and arrangement have a way of directing exegesis, but the active reader will find ample resources for independent judgment. 130
The works of Augustine are cited according to the following abbreviations, 131 and from the editions indicated. Where a given edition, however, introduces a novel system of references, the conventional one has been preferred, to facilitate consultation of various editions, and the fullest form of reference (book, chapter, and section) is given to reduce ambiguity. The dates given for each work are meant only to provide an estimate for the reader of the place each work holds in the chronology of Augustine's life. There are many controversies. 132 For a fuller presentation of variant titles, refs. to
|adn. Iob||adnotationes in Job (399) 133||CSEL 28.2|
|adult. coniug.||de adulterinis coniugiis (420)||CSEL 41|
|adv. Iud.||adversus Iudaeos (428/9)||PL 42|
|agon.||de agone christiano (396)||CSEL 41|
|b. coniug.||de bono coniugali (401)||CSEL 41|
|b. vid.||de bono viduitatis (414)||CSEL 41|
|bapt.||de baptismo contra donatistas (400/1)||CSEL 51|
|beata v.||de beata vita (386)||CCSL 29|
|brevic.||breviculus conlationis cum donatistis (411)||CCSL 149A|
|c. acad.||contra academicos (386)||CCSL 29|
|c. Adim.||contra Adimantum (393/4)||CSEL 25.1|
|c. adv. leg.||contra adversarium legis et prophetarum (420)||CCSL 49|
|c. Cresc.||contra Cresconium grammaticum et donatistam (405/6)||CSEL 52|
|c. don.||contra partem Donati post gesta (411)||CSEL 53|
|c. ep. fund.||contra epistulam quam vocant `fundamenti' (396)||CSEL 25.1|
|c. ep. Parm.||contra epistulam Parmeniani (400)||CSEL 51|
|c. ep. pel.s||contra duas epistulas pelagianorum (420/1)||CSEL 60|
|c. Faust.||contra Faustum manichaeum (397/9)||CSEL 25.1|
|c. Fel.||acta contra Felicem manichaeum (404)||CSEL 25.2|
|c. Fort.||acta contra Forunatum manichaeum (392)||CSEL 25.1|
|c. Gaud.||contra Gaudentium donatistarum episcopum (419) 134||CSEL 53|
|c. Iul.||contra Iulianum (421/2)||PL 44|
|c. Iul. imp.||opus imperfectum contra Iulianum (429/30)||CSEL 85.1, PL 45 135|
|c. litt. Pet.||contra litteras Petiliani (400/3)||CSEL 52|
|c. Max.||contra Maximinum arrianum (427/8)||PL 44|
|c. mend.||contra mendacium ad Consentium (420)||CSEL 41|
|c. prisc. et orig.||contra priscillianistas et origenistas (415)||CCSL 49|
|c. s. arrian.||contra sermonem arrianorum (418/19)||PL 42|
|c. Sec.||contra Secundinum manichaeum (398)||CSEL 25.2|
|cat. rud.||de catechizandis rudibus (399)||CCSL 46|
|civ.||de civitate dei (413-426/7)||CCSL 47, 48|
|conl. Max.||conlatio cum Maximino arrianorum episcopo (427/8)||PL 42|
|cons. ev.||de consensu evangelistarum (399/400 - ?)||CSEL 43|
|cont.||de continentia (394/5)||CSEL 41|
|corrept.||de correptione et gratia (426/7)||PL 44|
|cura mort.||de cura pro mortuis gerenda (422?)||CSEL 41|
|dial.||de dialectica (387)||PL 32 136|
|disc. chr.||de disciplina christiana (398)||CCSL 46|
|div. qu.||de diversis quaestionibus LXXXIII (388/96)||CCSL 44A|
|div. qu. Simp.||de diversis quaestionibus VII ad Simplicianum (396)||CCSL 44|
|divin. daem.||de divinatione daemonum (407)||CSEL 41|
|doctr. chr.||de doctrina christiana (396 [completed 427])||CCSL 32|
|duab. an.||de duabus animabus contra manichaeos (391/2)||CSEL 25.1|
|Dulc. qu.||de octo Dulcitii quaestionibus (422/5)||CCSL 44A|
|Emer.||de gestis cum Emerito donatistarum episcopo (418)||CSEL 53|
|en. Ps.||enarrationes in Psalmos (392/417)||CCSL 38, 39, 40|
|ench.||enchiridion ad Laurentium de fide et spe et caritate (422)||CCSL 46|
|ep. (epp.) 137||epistula (epistulae) (386-430)||CSEL 34, 44, 57, BA 46B|
|ep. cath.||epistula ad catholicos de secta donatistarum (405)||CSEL 52|
|exc. urb.||sermo de excidio urbis Romae (411)||CCSL 46|
|exp. prop. Rom.||expositio quarumdam propositionum ex epistola ad Romanos (394)||CSEL 84|
|f. et op.||de fide et operibus (413)||CSEL 41|
|f. et symb.||de fide et symbolo (393)||CSEL 41|
|f. invis.||de fide rerum invisibilium (400)||CCSL 46|
|Gal. exp.||epistolae ad Galatas expositio (394/5)||CSEL 84|
|gest. Carth.||gesta conlationis Carthaginiensis (411)||SC 194, 195, 224|
|gest. Pel.||de gestis Pelagii (417)||CSEL 42|
|Gn. c. man.||de Genesi contra manichaeos (388/90)||PL 34|
|Gn. litt.||de Genesi ad litteram (401-15)||BA 48, 49|
|Gn. litt. imp.||de Genesi ad litteram imperfectus liber (393/4; 426/7)||CSEL 28.1|
|gr. et lib. arb.||de gratia et libero arbitrio (418)||PL 44|
|gr. et pecc. or.||de gratia Christi et de peccato originali (426)||CSEL 42|
|gramm.||de grammatica (387)||PL 32 138|
|haer.||de haeresibus (428)||CCSL 46|
|imm. an.||de immortalitate animae (387)||CSEL 89|
|Io. ep. tr.||tractatus in Iohannis epistulam ad Parthos (406/7)||PL 35|
|Io. ev. tr.||tractatus in evangelium Iohannis (406-21?) 139||CCSL 36|
|lib. arb.||de libero arbitrio (387/8-391/5)||CCSL 29|
|loc. hept.||locutiones in heptateuchum (419)||CCSL 33|
|mag.||de magistro (389/90)||CCSL 29|
|mend.||de mendacio (394/5)||CSEL 41|
|mor.||de moribus ecclesiae catholicae et de moribus manichaeorum (388)||PL 32|
|mus.||de musica (388/90)||PL 32|
|nat. b.||de natura boni (398)||CSEL 25.2|
|nat. et gr.||de natura et gratia (413/15)||CSEL 60|
|nat. et or. an.||de natura et origine animae 140 (419/20)||CSEL 60|
|nupt. et conc.||de nuptiis et concupiscentia (419/21)||CSEL 42|
|obiurg.||obiurgatio (= ||Lawless, Rule|
|op. mon.||de opere monachorum (401)||CSEL 41|
|ord.||de ordine (386)||CCSL 29|
|ord. mon.||ordo monasterii||Lawless, Rule|
|pat.||de patientia (417)||CSEL 41|
|pecc. mer.||de peccatorum meritis et remissione et de baptismo parvulorum ad Marcellinum (411/12)||CSEL 60|
|perf. iust.||de perfectione iustitiae hominis (415)||CSEL 42|
|persev.||de dono perseverantiae (428/9)||PL 45|
|praed. sanct.||de praedestinatione sanctorum (428/9)||PL 44|
|ps. c. Don.||psalmus contra partem Donati (394)||CSEL 51|
|qu. ev.||quaestiones evangeliorum (399/400)||CCSL 44B|
|qu. hept.||quaestiones in heptateuchum (419)||CCSL 33|
|qu. Mt.||quaestiones XVII in Matthaeum 142 (?)||CCSL 44B|
|qu. vet. t.||de octo quaestionibus ex veteri testamento 143 (?)||CCSL 33|
|quant. an.||de quantitate animae (387/8)||CSEL 89|
|retr.||retractationes (426/7) 144||CCSL 57|
|Rom. inch. exp.||epistolae ad Romanos inchoata expositio (394/5)||CSEL 84|
|s. (ss.)||sermones 145 (392-430)||PL 38, 39, MA I, etc.|
|s. Caes. eccl.||sermo ad Caesariensis plebem (418)||CSEL 53|
|s. dom. m.||de sermone domini in monte (393/6)||CCSL 35|
|sol.||soliloquia (386/7)||CSEL 89|
|spec.||speculum (427)||CSEL 12|
|spir. et litt.||de spiritu et littera (412)||CSEL 60|
|symb. cat.||sermo de symbolo ad catechumenos (?)||CCSL 46|
|trin.||de trinitate (399-422/6)||CCSL 50, 50A|
|un. bapt.||de unico baptismo contra Petilianum (410/11)||CSEL 53|
|util. cred.||de utilitate credendi (391/2)||CSEL 25.1|
|util. ieiun.||de utilitate ieiunii (408)||CCSL 46|
|vera rel.||de vera religione (390/1)||CCSL 32|
|virg.||de sancta virginitate (401)||CSEL 41|
How best to cite scriptural texts that offer illumination or analogy to Augustine's words is a vexing problem. 146 Augustine knew scripture mainly in Latin (he could decipher the Greek when he had to, but had no Hebrew), and read the text in translation(s) that mainly antedated Jerome's. Scriptural texts are cited in this commentary in versions that come as close as possible to what Augustine would have known; but
1. For books of scripture for which there exist volumes of the Beuron Vetus Latina or of A. M. LaBonnardière's Biblia Augustiniana, we are more or less well served. But where, e.g., Vetus Latina provides us with a complete analysis of patristic citations of Latin versions of Genesis, it must be borne in mind that for some verses (where Augustine himself cited the particular verse frequently) we can say exactly what Augustine had in mind; for some other verses (where Augustine cited the particular verse frequently but in versions that varied from time to time), we can make a careful, well-founded, but in the end unverifiable guess as to what may have been in his mind when he was writing the Confessions; and for some verses, the VL text tells us what was in circulation, but if Augustine never quotes it explicitly in his works, we are left comparing the (or a) version-in-circulation with the words of the Confessions and making our own judgment of the resemblance. 147 La Bonnardière's volumes offer more help, confining themselves to passages actually cited by Augustine, but La Bonnardière's first interest is not textual, and inevitably no collection of Augustine's `citations' is ever complete - if only because disagreements as to what constitutes a citation will linger.
2. For the Psalter we are in the best position. Augustine's enarrationes in Psalmos comment on the whole of every Psalm, quoting the text, then frequently paraphrasing, analyzing, re-quoting, and re-quoting again. The exact version of the Psalter on which Augustine based each of the sermons could be reconstructed with very high accuracy, especially because we have the further resources of Knauer's Psalmenzitate and of R. Weber's Le Psautier Romain et les autres anciens Psautiers latins (Rome, 1953), meticulously presenting the evidence for pre-Jerome Latin Psalters verse by verse. 148 So far, it would seem, so good. But Augustine's sermons on the Psalms were delivered or dictated over a period of 25 years, from 392 to approximately 417, while the Confessions were written 397/401, in the first years of Augustine's episcopate. There is no guarantee that the text Augustine had in mind in 397 is the same as that on which he preached in 415, when the determining factor in the text of his sermon would have been the liturgical usage of the local church. But nowhere are we better off than with the Psalms. 149
3. For the book of Job, we are in the happy position of having a complete Latin translation that closely matches what Augustine would have known, and we have Augustine's own testimony (
4. For the remainder of the books of the Old Testament, notably including the Apocrypha thrown into limbo in modern times, we possess no complete pre-Vulgate Latin version, but we know that the Latin versions that existed were assiduous renderings of the Septuagint (LXX). The Greek text itself will be quoted from A. Rahlfs, Septuaginta (Stuttgart, 1935), and bare references will be made, always with the LXX symbol. Where `VL' is apposed to OT references, it should be borne in mind that the LXX Greek itself may be used as a check - to such an extent that sometimes it is possible to `quote' the `VL' for an OT passage when what we are doing is quoting a citation/allusion from some Latin writer, verified against the LXX Greek.
5. Many other individual texts of scripture are cited
6. When all else fails, which is often, the Vulgate is cited, following the most recent critical edition, that of R. Weber, Biblia Sacra iuxta Vulgatam Versionem 3 (Stuttgart, 1983), taking into account the large Roman critical edition and the New Testament of Wordsworth and White. Occasionally a reading is chosen from the apparatus criticus of the Vulgate if it seems closer to what Augustine had in hand on comparison with his text.
For bibliographical guidance, the reader should consult the volumes of the Fichier Augustinien (Boston, 1970-), which incorporate and systematize, and are in turn supplemented by, the annual bibliographical bulletins that appear in the Revue des études augustiniennes. As the Augustinus-Lexikon fascicles appear, they too will have valuable bibliography; a computerized bibliography prepared in Würzburg is also promised. Listed here are the compendia that facilitate concise citation; these works are by and large the most important and generally useful for the student going further. In general, titles of articles are omitted. The latest edition noted is the one actually consulted by me. , ,  indicate elements in triads of terms or names representing persons of the trinity: see on 1.7.12.
|Alfaric||Alfaric, P. L'évolution intellectuelle de saint Augustin. Paris, 1918.|
|Arts||Arts, M. R. The Syntax of the Confessions of Saint Augustine. Washington, DC, 1927.|
|Atti-1986||Congresso internazionale su s. Agostino nel XVI centenario della conversione (Roma, 15-20 settembre 1986), Atti. Rome, 1987.|
|Aug. Mag.||Augustinus Magister|
|Brown||Brown, P.Augustine of Hippo. London and Berkeley, 1967.|
|Brown, Body and Society||Brown, P. The Body and Society. New York, 1988.|
|Burnaby||Burnaby, J. Amor Dei. London, 1938.|
|CCSL||Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina.|
|Courcelle, LLW||Courcelle, P. Late Latin Writers and Their Greek Sources. Trans. H. Wedeck; Cambridge, Mass., 1969.|
|Courcelle, Recherches||Courcelle, P. Recherches sur les Confessions de saint Augustin. Paris, 1950; second ed. Paris, 1968.|
|Courcelle, Les Confessions||Courcelle, P. Les Confessions de Saint Augustin dans la tradition littéraire. Paris, 1963.|
|CSEL||Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum|
|Decret, Aspects||Decret, F. Aspects du Manichéisme dans l'Afrique Romaine. Paris 1970.|
|Decret, L'Afrique||Decret, F. L'Afrique Manichéene (IVe - Ve siècles). Paris, 1978.|
|De Marchi||De Marchi, V. `De nonnullis Augustini Confessionum locis', Rendiconti dell'Istituto Lombardo, Classe di Lettere, Scienze morali et storiche 96(1962), 310-16|
|Dulaey||Dulaey, M. Le rêve dans la vie et la pensée de saint Augustin. Paris, 1973.|
|du Roy||du Roy, O. L'intelligence de la foi en la trinité selon saint Augustin: genèse de sa théologie trinitaire jusqu'en 391. Paris, 1966.|
|Guardini||Guardini, R. The Conversion of Augustine. London, 1960.|
|Hagendahl||Hagendahl, H. Augustine and the Latin Classics. Göteborg, 1967.|
|Hrdlicka||Hrdlicka, C. L. A Study of the Late Latin Vocabulary and of the Prepositions and Demonstrative Pronouns in the Confessions of St. Augustine. Washington, DC, 1931.|
|Isnenghi||Isnenghi, A. `Textkritisches zu Augustins Bekenntnissen', Augustiana 15(1965), 5-31.|
|Jones, LRE||Jones, A. H. M. The Later Roman Empire 284-602: A Social Economic and Administrative Survey. Oxford, 1964.|
|Keil||Keil, H. Grammatici Latini Leipzig, 1857-1880 (repr. Hildesheim, 1961).|
|Knauer||Knauer, G. N. Psalmenzitate in Augustins Konfessionen. Göttingen, 1955; repr. in his Three Studies (New York, 1987).|
|Kunzelmann||Kunzelmann, A. `Die Chronologie der Sermones des Hl. Augustinus', MA 2.417-520.|
|Kusch||Kusch, H. `Studien über Augustinus', Festschrift Franz Dornseiff (Leipzig, 1953), 124-200.|
|La Bonnardière, Recherches||La Bonnardière, A.-M. Recherches de la chronologie augustinienne. Paris, 1965|
|La Bonnardière, Biblia Augustiniana||La Bonnardière, A.-M. Biblia Augustiniana. Paris, 1960-.|
|Lawless, Rule||Lawless, G. Augustine of Hippo and his Monastic Rule. Oxford, 1987.|
|Lectio I-II, III-V, VI-IX, X-XIII||`Le Confessioni' di Agostino d'Ippona: Lectio Augustini: Settimana Agostiniana Pavese. Palermo, 1984-87.|
|LHS||Leumann, M., J. B. Hofmann, and A. Szantyr. Lateinische Syntax und Stilistik. Munich, 1972.|
|Lieu, Manichaeism||Lieu, S. N. C. Manichaeism. Manchester, 1985.|
|MA||Miscellanea Agostiniana. Rome, 1930.|
|Madec, Saint Ambroise||Madec, G. Saint Ambroise et la philosophie. Paris, 1974.|
|Mandouze||Mandouze, A. Saint Augustin: L'aventure du raison et de la grâce. Paris, 1968.|
|Mandouze, Pros. chr.||Mandouze, A. Prosopographie chrétienne du Bas-Empire, I: Afrique (303-533). Paris, 1982.|
|Marrou||Marrou, H.-I. Saint Augustin et la fin de la culture antique. Paris 4, 1958.|
|Mayer, Zeichen 1||Mayer, C. P. Die Zeichen in der geistigen Entwicklung und in der Theologie des jungen Augustinus. Würzburg, 1969.|
|Mayer, Zeichen 2||Mayer, C. P. Die Zeichen in der geistigen Entwicklung und in der Theologie Augustins. II. Teil: Die antimanichäische Epoche. Würzburg, 1974.|
|Meijering||Meijering, E. P. Augustin über Schöpfung, Ewigkeit und Zeit: Das elfte Buch der Bekenntnisse. Leiden, 1979|
|Milne||Milne, C. H. A Reconstruction of the Old Latin Text or Texts of the Gospels used by Saint Augustine. Cambridge, 1926.|
|O'Daly||O'Daly, G. J. P. Augustine's Philosophy of Mind. London and Berkeley, 1987.|
|OLD||Oxford Latin Dictionary.|
|O'Meara||O'Meara, J. J. The Young Augustine. London, 1954; corr. repr. 1980.|
|Otto, Sprichwörter||Otto, A. Die Sprichwörter und sprichwörtlichen Redensarten der Römer. Leipzig, 1890; repr. Hildesheim, 1962.|
|Pellegrino, Les Confessions||Pellegrino, M. Les Confessions de saint Augustin. Paris, 1960.|
|Perler||Perler, O. (with J.-L. Maier). Les Voyages de saint Augustin. Paris, 1969.|
|Pincherle, Formazione teologica||Pincherle, A. La formazione teologica di Sant' Agostino. Rome, n.d. .|
|Poque, Le langage symbolique||Poque, S. Le langage symbolique dans la prédication d'Augustin d'Hippone: Images héroïques. Paris, 1984.|
|REAug||Revue des études augustiniennes|
|Rousselle, Porneia||A. Rousselle, Porneia (Oxford, 1988)|
|Signum Pietatis||Zumkeller, A., ed. Signum Pietatis: Festgabe . . . C. P. Mayer. Würzburg, 1989.|
|SLA||Hensellek, W., et al., edd. Specimina eines Lexicon Augustinianum. Vienna, 1987-.|
|Sorabji, Time||Sorabji, R. Time, Creation and the Continuum: Theories in Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Ithaca, 1983.|
|Souter||Souter, A. A Glossary of Later Latin. Oxford, 1949.|
|TeSelle||TeSelle, E. Augustine the Theologian. New York, 1970.|
|Testard||Testard, M. Saint Augustin et Ciceron. Paris, 1958.|
|Theiler, P.u.A.||Theiler, W. Porphyrios und Augustin. Halle, 1933 (repr. in his Forschungen zum Neuplatonismus [Berlin 1966], 160-248).|
|TLL||Thesaurus Linguae Latinae.|
|van Bavel||Bavel, T. J. van. Recherches sur la christologie de saint Augustin. L'humain et le divin dans le Christ d'après saint Augustin. Fribourg, Suisse, 1954.|
|van der Meer||van der Meer, F. Augustine the Bishop. London, 1961.|
|Verbraken||Verbraken, P. Études critiques sur les sermons authentiques de saint Augustin. Steenbrugge and the Hague, 1976.|
|Verheijen, Eloquentia Pedisequa||Verheijen, [L.] M. J. Eloquentia Pedisequa. Nijmegen, 1949.|
|Vg.||R. Weber, Biblia Sacra iuxta vulgatam versionem (Stuttgart, 3 1983).|
|VL (Beuron)||Vetus Latina: Die Reste der lateinischen Bibel. Freiburg, 1951-. (VL alone indicates a reading attributed to pre-Vulgate Latin scripture for a book of scripture not yet treated by Beuron).|
|Warns||Warns, G.-D. I thus refer to several unpublished papers preliminary to a Berlin dissertation that Herr Warns has been kind enough to allow me to see.|
|Weber, Psautier Romain||Weber, R. Le Psautier Romain et les autres anciens Psautiers Latins. Rome, 1953.|
|Zarb||Zarb, S. Chronologia operum s. Augustini secundum ordinem Retractationum digesta. Rome, 1934.|
Editions (cited by editor's last name except where abbr. is indicated):
Translations (cited by translator's last name):
A work such as this is as variously and irremediably in debt at every turn as Mr. Micawber. I will be content if someone says of me what Gibbon said of Augustine, that my learning is too often borrowed, and my arguments are too often my own.
For funding in various amounts, I am indebted to:
For moral support, encouragement, and scholarly consultation, I thank: J.V. Fleming, G.N. Knauer, Henry Chadwick, Carl R. Fischer, Jr., MD, Paula Fredriksen, Julia Haig Gaisser, Michael Gorman, Barbara Halporn, J.W. Halporn, Richard Hamilton, Col. Morton S. Jaffe, James J. John, the late Robert E. Kaske (
At an advanced stage, I had the use of the computer database of the Augustine Concordance Project of the University of Würzburg, in the copy located at Villanova University. It is a particular pleasure to express my gratitude to Fr. Allan Fitzgerald, O.S.A., for making this facility available to me.
I have also had the advantage of reading unpublished work on the confessiones by G.-D. Warns of Berlin and by Prof. Colin Starnes of Dalhousie University. I hope I have been adequately scrupulous in indicating my debts to their work ad loc., and I am very grateful to both scholars for their generosity and hope to see their work in print before long.
I thank as well my students at Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania: C.E. Bennett, Robert Gorman, Sarah Mace, Laurie Williams, Elizabeth Beckwith, Karl Maurer, Jeanette Jones, Anne Keaney, Erica Budd, arriet Flower, Lisa Rengo, John McMahon, Michael Klaassen.
The participants in my 1985 NEH-sponsored seminar at Glenmede (Bryn Mawr College) were present at the creation, and will find herein much that is familiar: J. Randal Allen, Vincent J. Amato, Herbert E. Anderson, Floyd D. Celapino, James A. Freeman, Kay S. Hodges, Patricia J. Huhn, Brother Joseph R. Kazimir, Kathleen M. Macdonell, Sister Miriam Meskill, V.I., Linda M. Porto, M. James Robertson, Sister Marie Clare Rutkowski, O.F.M., Patricia A. Walsh, Sister Patricia Welsh, R.S.M. President Mary Patterson McPherson of Bryn Mawr College provided the facilities for our seminar, but is also indirectly responsible for my having had the time and leisure to complete this work, and thus deserves double thanks. I have given talks that anticipate portions of the substance and argument of this work in settings under the auspices of the American Philological Association (New Orleans, 1980), the University of Pennsylvania (1981), the Lilly-Pennsylvania Program (Philadelphia, 1981), the Oxford Patristic Congress (1983), Bryn Mawr College (1987), the American Philological Association (New York, 1987), and The Colorado College (1988).
This work is evidence of the riches of three fine libraries, the Van Pelt Library of the University of Pennsylvania, the Falvey Memorial Library of Villanova University, and the Miriam Coffin Canaday Library of Bryn Mawr College.
J.K. Cordy and Hilary Feldman and the remarkable Press they represent never flinched for a moment: no small achievement.
John 3.21, as echoed by A. at 10.1.1. (References to the Confessions are given thus, by book, `chapter', and `section'; but the expression `see on 2.2.3' is regular shorthand for `See discussion in the commentary on 2.2.3.')
The translation may seem deliberately tendentious: for the Greek
`Truth' in our sense is not a native concept in any of the languages of our tradition. English
C. Mohrmann, RA 1(1958) 34: `Toutefois, la parole n'est pas seulement, pour lui, moyen de communication avec les hommes. On n'a qu'à lire les Confessions pour constater à quel degré l'expression verbale est un facteur essentiel de sa vie spirituelle.'
`fugit a nobis sollicitudo vitae praeteritae'
. Boissier has the credit for raising this question, and noting the disparity of accounts between the Confessions and the Cassiciacum dialogues, but he did not press those disparities and concluded that the two accounts could be reconciled - as has every major study of the question since with the exception of Alfaric. The other disturber of the peace was A. von Harnack, `Augustins Konfessionen', (Giessen, 1888), reprinted in his Reden und Aufsätze 1(1904), 51-79. The canonization of Boissier and Harnack as archetypal skeptics probably goes back to C. Boyer, Christianisme et néo-platonisme dans la formation de saint Augustin (Paris, 1920; rev. ed., Rome, 1953), whose introduction gives an excellent survey of scholarship 1888-1920.
`Est-ce à dire que, dans ses Confessions, saint Augustin ait volontairement altéré la vérité?': G. Boissier, `La conversion de saint Augustin', Revue des Deux Mondes 85(1888), 43-69 at 44
P. Alfaric, L'évolution intellectuelle de Saint Augustin: I, Du Manichéisme au Néoplatonisme (Paris, 1918), held that Augustine as bishop was eager to conceal that his original conversion of c. 386 had been not to Christianity but to neo-Platonism; Boyer,
; his book on Manichean scriptures has three dedicatees, one of whom is the leading French `modernist' Alfred Loisy. Boyer was a priest in good standing.
`un prêtre passé au Modernisme' (Solignac, BA 13.58)
P. Courcelle, Recherches sur les Confessions de saint Augustin (Paris, 1950; expanded ed. 1968).
For contrast, a single bald assertion from the `Ptolemaic' age:
A. Dyroff, in the collective volume Aurelius Augustinus (Cologne, 1930), 47: `Vor vielem sicher ist, daß in De ordine sich nicht die mindeste sichere Spur von Neuplatonismus vorfindet, obwohl genug Gelegenheit dazu war. Auch Contra Academicos und De beata vita verraten nichts Sicheres davon.'
For I believe it is true that every single Platonic text adduced in the scholarly debates as one that A. may have read has been lost to us in the form that A. knew. Even Plotinus he read in a Latin translation we no longer have and, given the difficulty of Plotinus, any translation must have been a palpably different thing from the original.
Less ambitious but useful was the early work of Verheijen, Eloquentia Pedisequa (Nijmegen, 1949).
I know of the work as Horst Kusch, Der Aufbau der Confessiones des Aurelius Augustinus (Leipzig, 1951); the author is said to have died in an automobile accident in the 1950s.
H. Kusch, Studien über Augustinus, Festschrift Franz Dornseiff (Leipzig, 1953), 124-200.
e.g., J. Ratzinger, REAug 3(1957), 375-6:
K. Grotz, Warum bringt Augustin in den letzten Büchern seiner Confessiones eine Auslegung der Genesis? (Diss. Tübingen, 1970), listing nineteen previously published hypotheses attempting to answer his question. I have read widely, and profited slightly, from the literary-critical essays of the last generation. The palm among such essays, many of which make no pretension to scholarly adequacy, must go to R. Herzog, for a venturesome reading of the work as a struggle to establish communication between the confessing voice and the divine source of speech: in K. Stierle et al., Das Gespräch (Munich, 1984), 213-50; discussed by E. Feldmann, in an essay in Der Stand der Augustinus-Forschung (Würzburg, 1989).
Vyvyan Richards, quoted in J. Wilson, Lawrence of Arabia (London, 1990), 686.
By `Catholic' I denote background and upbringing; views and practices at the time of writing are less important. The Anglophone reader curious to pursue this localization further may begin with the works of N. Abercrombie, The Origins of Jansenism (Oxford, 1936), and Saint Augustine and French Classical Thought (Oxford, 1938), especially the introductory chapter in the latter work.
La Vision d'Ostie (Paris, 1938).
Les conversions de saint Augustin (Paris, 1950).
St. Augustine's Confessions: The Odyssey of Soul (Cambridge, Mass., 1969).
Pellegrino's book is subtitled in the French edition `Guide de lecture', and O'Meara's second edition of The Young Augustine is similarly labeled `An Introduction to the Confessions': but both are preoccupied - O'Meara almost to the exclusion of all else - with using the Confessions to write the biography of A.
Eight of those eleven named were ordained Roman clergy at the time they wrote, one had taken orders but later left the priesthood, and one studied for the priesthood without taking orders. No woman has written a book on the Confessions to my knowledge (Prof. Margaret Miles may soon fill that gap); the closest approach to date is the series of articles in Convivium 25(1957) and 27(1959) by C. Mohrmann (a Francophone Catholic).
Pincherle's odyssey of soul was apparently complex, but seems to have ended with Rome. The range and variety of his work is little appreciated: some hints in the memorial notice at Augustinianum 20(1980), 425-8.
J. Ratzinger, `Originalität und Überlieferung in Augustins Begriff der confessio', REAug 3(1957), 375-92.
Tübingen, 1923, originally in Danish: Copenhagen, 1920, with roots in a 1911-12 seminar of Harnack's at Berlin.
The provisional nature of that decision perhaps needs emphasis. Not until April 387 did A. make the commitment to the Christian cult that he would regard as irrevocable. The Cassiciacum dialogues come during a frustrating interim, and much of the peculiar character of those works can be traced to that neither-fish-nor-fowl state of A.'s mind and commitment at the time. Only in retrospect does the garden scene provide the decisive moment: a lapse between August 386 and April 387 would have rewritten the meaning of that scene completely.
F. van der Meer's Augustine the Bishop, 277-402, is excellent on the evidence from A.; by good luck, one of the few liftings of the veil to come down to us is Ambrose's own description of baptismal rites, quoted in my notes on 9.6.14.
en. Ps. 103. s. 1.14, `quid est quod occultum est, et non publicum in ecclesia? sacramentum baptismi, sacramentum eucharistiae. opera enim nostra bona vident et pagani, sacramenta vero occultantur illis; sed ab his quae non vident, surgunt illa quae vident.'
J. H. van den Berg, The Changing Nature of Man (New York, 1961), raises questions that I have not seen satisfactorily settled by students of psychohistory.
For what little I have to say, see on 1.11.17, with an excursus on fathers and mothers in the Confessions. I leave to others to write the history of the psychoanalysis of A. Two neglected studies seem to me of more worth than most of the better-known studies: W. Achelis, Die Deutung Augustins (Prien am Chiemsee, 1921), was almost the first Freudian reading of A., seeing in him traces of `inversion' (which is similar to, but in many ways different from, `homosexuality' as commonly constructed today). His (hard to find) book has a seriousness and an integrity that are, to my taste, almost universally lacking in the later essays in the same vein that I know. Reading Achelis makes clear how many other such essays have been written by students evidently engaged in their own (dare one say Oedipal?) struggle with Augustine. The other study I commend is thus an interesting exception because it was written by a woman: P. Fredriksen, `Augustine and his analysts', Soundings 51(1978), 206-27.
For date, see below, chapter 3.
For Williger's thesis, followed by Courcelle and O'Meara, see preceding 10.1.1.
Courcelle, Recherches 157-67 and, in the second edition only, 405-40.
One might also instance 3.6.10ff, where the reading of the Hortensius and the consequent turn to scriptures have ended in a mis-conversion, that to Manicheism. There is just enough of a hint there in the wording of 3.6.11 that A. is aware of this as a moment where the ascent might have begun but did not: the evidence is in the echo of the prodigal son's behavior (
I cannot take the crucial phrase at 7.17.23 (
The text anticipates the full and perfect enduring audition of the Word of God, and then explicitly equates that auditory event, using scriptural words of God to make the point, with eschatological joy:
For details, see preceding 10.1.1.
Cf. esp. 11.29.39-11.30.40 (n.b. 11.27.34, for the thematic echo of Ps. 99.3,
The ascent is from corporal to spiritual to intellectual vision. See on 7.10.16 for details.
There is a marked drop-off in the frequency and intensity of Plotinian (or Porphyrian) language in Augustine's works from the time of writing the Confessions. It would be odd for him to have thought highly enough of the system to use it to shape so personal a testament of faith, then let it largely drop away almost at once. The later works are undeniably less rich in their reflection of Platonic ideas (and that is probably one reason for the lack of sympathy they evoke in many scholars: the old Augustine has few friends today). The theme is not abandoned, to be sure, and there has even been an attempt to show that it is enriched by contact with a specifically Christian source: see S. Poque, `L'expression de l'anabase plotinienne dans la prédication de saint Augustin et ses sources', RA 10(1976), 187-215, tracing the later development in a few sermons, notably
The conventional way to deal with this objection has been to observe that Augustine did not plan his literary works very well, and that changes of plan in mid-stream were common. It remains astonishing that Courcelle (Recherches 23-6) could believe, e.g., that the last three books were the result of an attempt to conclude the Confessions with a complete commentary on all of scripture, an attempt then broken off after three books out of frustration at the amount of time and space it would take to complete that plan. The belief that Augustine was an inept maker of books is now
The rest of book 10 is a scandal to the
For confirmation that the three temptations are perverse imitation/reflection of the trinity, see on 1.20.31, 2.6.13, and 9.1.1. There is clear evidence that A. could see triads that reflect the trinity matched with triads of temptation and sin:
It is worth noting that the gravity of Augustine's fall measured against each of the three temptations undergoes a reversal in Bk. 10: the risen Augustine has almost completely vanquished concupiscence of the flesh, mainly conquered concupiscence of the eyes, but finds himself yet a prey to
Cf. esp. the incident of the drunken beggar at 6.6.9.
Courcelle's view (Les Confessions 18-26) dating Augustine's final break with Manicheism later than most others would accept has the merit of emphasizing that it was Platonism that decisively answered for Augustine the questions that the Manichees had pressed with such force.
In the garden scene specifically and Bk. 8 generally.
The interpretation here goes beyond conventional treatments (best: that of du Roy) of the place of trinitarian triads in A.'s thought, insisting not only on their doctrinal significance but on their rhetorical effectiveness. It is tempting to think that there might be some perfect method of textual analysis that would employ these triads to reveal to us at every turn in the Confessions exactly how A. was speaking of God: whether of one person or another of the trinity, or of all three at one time. In many passages, it is true, it is possible to define the direction of his discourse; and this commentary has probably gone further than many would have thought possible (and than some will think desirable) in making such identifications. But even if we accept that A. might have intended such a rigid and rigorous consistency, it is not likely that he would have been able to carry it through in practice for the whole length of this text.
There has been much debate over the Christological conversion of A., dating back to Courcelle's `Saint Augustin photinien à Milan', Richerche di stor. rel. 1(1954) 63-71. Discussions by all sides have followed the same pattern: analysis of the Christological report given at 7.19.25, followed by close reading of Cassiciacum texts to determine how much or little progress toward orthodoxy A. had made from the situation described in the Confessions (e.g., the sound and sensible review of the debate and assessment of the issues by W. Mallard, `The Incarnation in Augustine's Conversion', RA 15 80-98). The assumption is that at 7.19.25 A. reported that his conversion was all but complete except for the matter of the incarnation (after making clear at 7.9.14 that he thought the Platonists crippled by their lack of an incarnation doctrine), and that he then proceeded to write six more books of the Confessions without ever suggesting how or whether he managed to overcome that defect. This peculiar approach has been possible because in attending to doctrinal questions we have fallen into the modern practice of treating as purely intellectual matters, to be discussed and resolved as such, apart from the exclusively moral considerations that preoccupy the A. of Bk. 8.
`La personne du Christ dans la conversion de saint Augustin', RA 11(1976), 3-34; at 28,
See on 7.7.11.
See on 10.43.70; n.b. especially the use of Ps. 21.27.
To be sure, the Christianity of A.'s childhood and adolescence offered examples and encouragement; the Hortensius contained such, as did other works of Cicero (e.g.,
See Madec, Saint Ambroise et la philosophie (Paris, 1974), 247-337. The title is attested in full in three places in A.: Madec 269-76; (276:
Ambrose's book attacked those who claimed that Christ had learned from Plato (
The year 386 is pivotal in the history of the western church's attitude towards continence. Ambrose by treatise and Martin of Tours by example were taking a new, more demanding stand. Ambrose had a sister who was a consecrated virgin, and he himself at age 35 or more became a bishop without ever having married. Jovinian reacted in one direction, and Jerome in another (and in doing so alienated almost everyone). A., it is notable, never accepted or praised Jerome's position, though he knew it (
For the way the topic of continence develops in the Confessions, see further on 8.1.2
The best discussion of the evidence is Solignac in BA 13.45-54, who takes the position in favor of extended composition characterized here. Monceaux's argument, CRAI (1908) 51-3, taken up by de Labriolle in his ed., p. vi, that the c. Fel. must be dated to 398 and thus provides a
See on 1.6.7 and 10.36.59ff.
For further details, see preceding 1.1.1.
The line of criticism most likely to find Augustine vulnerable would argue that the solution presented in the Confessions is too neat and well-crafted to be entirely satisfactory. A reading of Augustine's later life and works starting from there would differ on some, but not all, points from that sketched in the next lines of my own argument here.
In 391 A. still felt the deaths of Nebridius and Adeodatus, who may both have died in 390.
Note these patterns: (1)
Immediately following upon the brilliant
Of great interest is the argument of M. Alflatt, REAug 20(1974), 113-34, that A. was in part driven to the study of Paul and to the conclusions he reached by his 392 debate with Fortunatus, in which he had to acknowledge that Paul had spoken of
In a tentative reconstruction of the sort offered here, this is probably where the evidence becomes too thinly stretched to admit of much certainty. At any rate, it seems that the first attempts to write about Paul are those of an idealist who still wants to believe that he will achieve ascetic perfection. At some level there is conflict, and ordination as bishop exacerbates the problem; and so in
The link between the incompleteness of
Augustine has a reputation for writing big books, so it is worth noting how slowly that skill came to him. Before his ordination as bishop, his longest books were
That suspicion is more or less the gravamen of the charge against the mature Augustine by du Roy (see du Roy 455): a less sympathetic student than du Roy would claim that A. had sacrificed his intellectual freedom to become an orthodox defender of static verbal formulae. The clash here is perhaps that between the private Augustine and the public man who was fated to become `Saint Augustine' and to become himself not merely a questioner but a voice of authority. See further on 7.1.1.
I disagree with the thesis, but admire the insight, of U. Duchrow, `Der Aufbau von Augustins Schriften Confessiones und De Trinitate', Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche 62(1965), 338-67, at 363-7, for attempting to describe the way
Gn. litt. owns an honorable second place in the post-Confessions `confessional' literature, and it is an essential tool for the interpretation of many passages in the Confessions; but it may be taken as fundamentally anti-Manichean, and perhaps in a way anti- (or at least meta-) Platonic.
It is true, as Brown 354 remarks, that he took a long time to bring himself to publish both Gn. litt. and
See M. Wundt, `Augustins Konfessionen', Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 22(1923), 161-206 at 166ff, esp. on the canonical questions surrounding A.'s ordination; and see also Pincherle's studies cited above.
Bks. 11-13 are the first clear sketch of the way the philosophical ascent of the mind and the Logos-based (scriptural) ascent of the soul can be integrated. Just as the first half of Bk. 10 represents what Ostia foreshadowed, so
J.J. O'Meara, Porphyry's Philosophy from Oracles in Augustine (Paris, 1959), 155-70, collects passages from the Confessions that seem to reflect the Porphyry of the de regressu animae/Philosophy from Oracles. If any of them survive scrutiny, they may profitably be taken in the sense I suggest here, as fruits of the reassessment, not as distinct echoes of the Milanese period. It remains possible that A. had discovered Porphyry's hostility by 397/401 (writing the Confessions) and that he only discussed the implications later (see on 7.9.13 for dating problems), but that is the less likely hypothesis.
Cf. du Roy 176-7, esp. on the way trinitarian speculation and contemplation facilitated the process.
A footnote is the proper place to notice an incidental line of convergence on A.'s the Confessions: the first fifteen chapters of Hilary of Poitiers'
P. Séjourné, Rev. sc. rel. 25(1951), 343, touches glancingly on the parallel:
Bk. 2: sexual profligacy.
Bk. 3: adhesion to the Manichees.
Bks. 5-6: adhesion to the Academics.
Bk. 8: on the verge of the garden scene.
This passage was probably written at Rome as early as 387/8, but we cannot say for sure that it was written before
An appendix below presents several other texts that anticipate the structure and content of the Confessions There is also admirable discussion of the development of the style and of the `Denkform' of the Confessions through earlier works by W. Schmidt-Dengler, Stilistische Studien zum Aufbau der Augustins Konfessionen (diss., Vienna, 1965), 206-26.
The notes on 2.6.12 suggest that a comparison of the Confessions with the detailed, almost mechanical scheme of the mind's ascent that we have in
For the relative lapse in frequency of the `ascent' as a motif in A.'s writing after ordination and before the Confessions, that is to say, in the works of the period when A. was having difficulty planning and completing his literary projects, see F. Van Fleteren, `The Early Works of Augustine and His Ascents at Milan', Studies in Medieval Culture 10(1977), 19-23 at 21.
The categories are far from mutually exclusive: du Roy 236ff is very good on the way the first sections written of
The successes of the last generation in establishing the chronology of A.'s preaching ought now to lead to the history of his preaching, to trace themes, styles, and techniques from one end of his career to the other.
But one line of speculation deserves privileged attention. The negative opinions that are often held privately, and occasionally expressed publicly, about A.'s abilities as a literary artist - the old chestnut about whether A. `composes badly' or not - employ a model of literary composition from a more textual artistry. We assume that A. wrote, or should have written, as we do, full of afterthoughts, revisions, rearrangements, etc. But the ancient rhetorician worked, it seems obvious on reflection, in a far more improvisational mode than we do. If music were the analogy, his idiom was jazz, not classical (cf. H.-I. Marrou, Histoire de l'education dans l'antiquité [ed. 6, Paris, 1965], 300). The earlier adumbration of the structure of the Confessions at
From A.'s circle, we have the view of
The three most fruitful and creative periods of A.'s life all coincide with such boundaries: Milan/Cassiciacum at about age 32-33, the Confessions and the following outpouring of works at age about 45, and
In our cultural tradition: A.'s career was almost exactly contemporary with that of the founders (or forerunners) of what would come to be known as Zen Buddhism (esp. Tao-sheng, ca. AD 360-434: cf. H. Dumoulin, A History of Zen Buddhism [New York, 1963], 61). They would have understood each other instinctively. If that is not the conventional view of Augustine, then whatever this commentary can do to suggest the possibility is all to the good. That the parallels are not purely imaginary strikes the eye from this paragraph from a respected and sober general work:
Refs. in brackets to parallel passages of the Confessions. The title of this appendix echoes, and pays homage to, Courcelle's classic article, `Les premières confessions de saint Augustin', REL 21-22(1943-44), 155-74. He concentrates on the first passage here,
Maur. and Knöll read
This phrase corroborates the observation above that
Sound is not the same as flawless. The number of emendations accepted in any edition is small, and
At present the count is approximately 333, but Verheijen (CCSL 27.lx) suspected another hundred remain to be catalogued. See A. Wilmart, MA 2.259-268, as supplemented by L. Verheijen, Augustiana 29(1979), 87-96, and by the continuing volumes of Die handschriftliche Überlieferung der Werke des heiligen Augustinus (Sitzungsber. Akad. Wien, 1969ff).
Important refinements were added by M. Gorman, JThS n.s. 34(1983), 114-45. I know the MSS SOCDG from microfilms, using them as a check on the editions; fresh collations of S and O convince me that Knöll, Skutella, and Verheijen may be relied on (particularly as they offer a check on each other).
Dates and provenances of ninth century manuscripts attributed to Bischoff by Gorman, art. cit. 115.
As A. Isnenghi noted (Augustiana 15, 6), BPZ are fond of corrections that smooth the text for the grammatically and doctrinally sensitive.
Only a small portion of the text the Confessions as a whole is included in Eugippius' sixth-century anthology of Augustinian texts; I have suggested elsewhere (Augustiana 29, 281-2) that the researches of Verheijen showed that of the existing ninth-century witnesses, G offers the closest likeness to what can be descried of Eugippius' text. Gorman, art. cit. 143-4, holds to the hope represented in his stemma that a Eugippius-related codex may yet come to light representing a third overall branch of the MS tradition. The only substantial contribution of Eugippius at present is the demonstration that we may use at least CD and EG to corroborate S and O and to help us in deciding between them when they disagree; but it is clear, as Gorman has proved in detail, that what we have is only a respectable text, not a scientifically grounded one. In default of a vast labor of collation of eleventh-century MSS, we may never have one.
Pusey's translation has a classic status among English versions, and remains in print, though increasingly cut off from contemporary readers by its style. The best English translation is that of J. K. Ryan.
Despite the attention to
The Madrid edition of 1930 by A. C. Vega was not widely read outside Spain until the 1950s when it was revised and expanded in the Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos (Madrid, 1951, 5th ed. 1968); what he did, Skutella did better, and neither of his editions presented a real apparatus criticus (the BAC reprint seems to have been expanded by use of Skutella). He has some useful notes.
Esp. in volumes 13-14 of the Bibliothèque Augustinienne, with French translation and notes (a work of very great merit), and in the Nuova Biblioteca Agostiniana (Rome, 1965), with some corrections by M. Pellegrino and translation and notes by C. Carena.
The published word index (Catalogus verborum quae in operibus Sancti Augustini inveniuntur, VI: Confessionum Libri XIII [Eindhoven, 1982]) must be used with this edition, but like the new Thesaurus Sancti Augustini (Louvain, 1989), the Eindhoven volumes will be quickly rendered obsolete by computer technology.
In the commentary I have often silently modified punctuation of editions cited of A.'s other works, mainly where older editions confuse with abundance, but I have modified even good critical editions where it seemed the sense might be obscured.
See on 9.6.14,
The `chapters' go back to Amerbach and the `paragraphs' to the Maurists: see Knöll, CSEL ed., p. vi.
Although the manuscripts consistently have the familiar forms
For those who wish to observe the practices of the scribes and editors, a more generous selection of variant readings has been given in Book 1 than in later books; but for detailed examination, Verheijen's apparatus has the most accurate and compendious presentation.
The closest existing approximations are those of Gibb-Montgomery and Solignac; see also the four volumes on the Confessions in the series Lectio Augustini: Settimana Agostiniana Pavese (Palermo, 1984-87), containing thirteen essays, one on each book of the Confessions in the tradition of the Lectura Dantis.
For a program, not all fulfilled here, see my paper at the Oxford Patristic Congress in 1983, published as `Gracia y oración en las Confesiones', Augustinus 31(1986), 221-31; still to appear in Studia Patristica.
W. Theiler, reviewing Courcelle, Recherches, in Gnomon 25(1953), 113:
See, for example, on A.'s habits of referring to living and biblical figures by name at 4.4.7 and 7.21.27.
The standard studies (F. Di Capua, MA 2.678-81, and M. Borromeo Carroll, The Clausulae in the Confessions of St. Augustine [Washington, DC, 1940]) show that the rhythms of the Confessions conform neither to the quantitative nor to the accentual patterns preferred by ancient and medieval writers, and do not very closely resemble those of A.'s own other works. Recent studies of late antique prose rhythm (e.g., S. Oberhelman, CP 83, 136-49.) confirm that uniqueness without approaching the mystery any more closely. One hint may be found in Verheijen, Eloquentia Pedisequa 128-9, who observes that the `prosier' passages of the Confessions are more likely to observe clausular rules, while the more idiosyncratically confessional passages obey their own law. See also K. Polheim, Lateinische Reimprosa (Berlin, 1925; repr. 1963), 236-52.
The best single study, on a limited scale and not published, is W. Schmidt-Dengler, Stilistische Studien zum Aufbau der Konfessionen Augustins (Diss. Wien, 1965). Otherwise the best works touching upon style are C. I. Balmus, Étude sur le style de saint Augustin dans les Confessions et la Cite de Dieu (Paris, 1930) (but as Schmidt-Dengler observes, Balmus does not adequately take into account the biblical element), Knauer's Psalmenzitate, Verheijen's Eloquentia Pedisequa, and L. Pizzolato, Le fondazioni dello stile delle Confessioni di sant'Agostino (Milan, 1972); see also J. Fontaine, Aug. Mag. 1.117-26 (on imagery), M. Pellegrino, Les Confessions, 267-315, and several studies of C. Mohrmann, none systematic but all suggestive, esp. `Saint Augustin écrivain', RA 1(1958), 43-66; `Considerazioni sulle Confessioni di Sant'Agostino', Convivium 25(1957), 257-67, 27(1959), 1-71, and 27(1959), 129-39. P. Cambronne, Recherches sur la structure de l'imaginaire dans les Confessions de saint Augustin (microfiche thèse, Paris, 1982) is an immense study of certain themes (ascent/descent, exile/return, exteriority/interiority) that I have not been able to draw upon in useful ways here, but others may find it helpful; the work is not widely disseminated and is very difficult to use: a fair sample of the method (rather subjective) and content may be found in Cambronne's `Imaginaire et théologie dans les Confessions', Bull. litt. eccl. 88(1987), 206-28.
I have taken heart from a footnote: du Roy 287n1:
This principle contradicts the prevailing impression (classically expressed by Marrou 246, quoted and discussed by du Roy 17) that A. changed his mind so often that works of one period cannot reliably be interpreted by comparison with works of another period. Readers of this commentary may decide in each individual case how great is the danger.
Good advice for the active reader from an eighteenth century commentator on Milton, quoted in A. Fowler, Milton: Paradise Lost (London, 1971), 18:
Based on Augustinus-Lexikon: Grundgedanken und Richtlinien/Technische Richtlinien (Würzburg n.d. [1981?]), but I have made some modifications in detail and the published Augustinus-Lexikon made alterations of its own.
The most reliable and compendious general surveys of chronology are Goldbacher on the letters (CSEL 58: there are many revisions recorded in and suggested by A. Mandouze, Prosopographie chrétienne du Bas-Empire: I, Afrique (303-533) [Paris, 1982], under names of recipients and authors), Verbraken on the sermons (P.-P. Verbraken, Études critiques sur les sermons authentiques de saint Augustin [Steenbruge, 1976]), the list at CCSL 38.xv-xviii for the Enarrationes (with modifications by H. Rondet, Bull. litt. eccl. 61, 111-27 and 258-86, and 65, 110-36, and by A.-M. La Bonnardière, Recherches de chronologie augustinienne [Paris, 1965]), and A. Mutzenbecher in her edition of
Reference made to chapter and verse of Job under discussion at the point of the citation; users of the CSEL ed. can best follow these references using the app. script. at the foot of the page.
Date from M.-F. Berrouard, arguing from ep. 23A* at BA 46B.541.
The CSEL ed. contains only Bks. 1-3.
There is also an edition by J. Pinborg (Boston, 1975).
n.b. the new `Divjak' letters with a separate numeration: epp. 1*-29*.
But cf. V. Law, RA 19(1984), 155-83, who convincingly argues that the authentic vestiges of Augustine's treatise may be found in the so-called
The sermons on John have been the object of lively discussion. The landmarks are M. Le Landais, Études augustiniennes (Paris, 1953), 9-95 (on the context of
Title as in Possidius and CSEL (the only critical edition); variant title (in PL and in Aug.-Lex.): de anima et eius origine.
We may now, in the wake of L. Verheijen, La Règle de saint Augustin (Paris, 1967), and of Lawless, Rule accept as authentic the ordo monasterii, obiurgatio, and the praeceptum (critical texts at Verheijen, 1.148-52, 1.105-7, 1.417-37 respectively, reprinted at Lawless, Rule 74-108).
Authenticity controversial; defended and edited (ed. repr. in CCSL) by D. De Bruyne, MA 2.327-40.
The sermones post Maurinos [et post Morinum] reperti are designated by conventional abbreviations, e.g., s. Den., s. Frang., s. Guelf.; most are published in MA 1, others (esp. s. Lambot) have been published since in RB and REAug. For details, see Verbraken, supplemented by the list at Aug.-Lex. 1.xxxix.
Names of biblical books follow the Vulgate, though the abbreviations are anglicized (e.g., Jn., Lk.). To avoid confusion I always refer to `Ecclesiasticus' under the title `Sirach'.
A hesitantly reconstructed text of Gn. 1 is printed preceding the commentary on 13.1.1.
And see D. De Bruyne, `Saint Augustin reviseur de la Bible', MA 2.544-78.
For other works on which A. commented, we are less soundly grounded and must proceed cautiously in each case.
Some help comes from C. H. Milne, A Reconstruction of the Old-Latin Text of the Gospels used by S. Augustine (Cambridge, 1926).
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