The Confessions of Saint Augustine: Prolegomena


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,
noverim me,
noverim te.
sol. 2.1.1

`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 `made the truth' - in this sense, became himself truthful - when he found a pattern of words to say the true thing well. But both the `truth' that Augustine made and the `light' to which it led were for him scripturally guaranteed epithets of Christ, the pre-existent second person of the trinity. For Augustine to write a book, then, that purported to make truth and seek light was not merely a reflection upon the actions of his life but pure act itself, thought and writing become the enactment of ideas.4

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 a fortiori other people are known, only through knowing God. So Augustine appears before us winning self-knowledge as a consequence of knowledge of God; but his God he searches for and finds only in his own mind.

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 ambages, and thus without the cunning texture and irony, of human discourse; his God is pure spirit, without the limitations, and thus without the opportunities, of fleshliness. That God is in every way utterly inhuman; and yet (here we approach the greatest mystery of this book) humankind is created in the image and likeness of that God - a resemblance that Augustine prizes highly, and in which he finds the way to knowledge both of self and of God.

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.

Hearing Confessions

A Century of Scholarship

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 `take up and read' doing double duty, addressed to Augustine and to the devout reader). The story was one of conversion, and the trajectory from plight to piety an unbroken one. But that assurance was shattered by the great disturbing question (for which it is conventional to divide the credit): was the story true? As told in the Confessions did it not conflict in important ways with what we learn of the same period from other works, works written closer to the date of the events recounted? Had piety and literature neglected the truth? 6

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 œuvre for evidence to marshal. The classic works are those of Alfaric and Boyer. 7 A counter-movement began in articles in the 1940s and reached its classic expression in 1950 with the publication of Pierre Courcelle's magisterial Recherches. 8 That book worked a Copernican revolution in Augustine scholarship. 9 Courcelle's book turned from the horizontal to the vertical, to weigh and assess each piece of evidence more carefully, and to look beneath innocent texts not hitherto canvassed for indications of the intellectual and emotional currents that had buffeted Augustine. In particular, Courcelle took further than anyone else before him the investigation of the mechanism of Platonic influence on the young Augustine, and pursued his quarry with rigor and sobriety. The demonstration of the Platonic permeation of Christian intellectual discussion around Ambrose at Milan was Courcelle's greatest achievement.

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 cognoscenti.

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 1 Jn. 2.16 both reflect those triadic patterns further and are significant for the structure of the early books of the Confessions. In matters of detail, Kusch must be argued with, but his instincts were sound. His work has been appreciated by some demanding judges, 14 but did not succeed in reorienting debate.

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: `it seems to me that an attempted work of art may be so much more splendid for its very broken imperfection revealing the man so intimately.' 16 If we can hope to read on those terms, expecting little, grateful for every fragmentary beauty, some further reflections may be in order.

Avenues of Approach

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

`the constitution of silence and are folded in a single party'
, 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, `was heißt Christentum?', has lost its savor: and that marks a watershed in the history of our culture. There remains, to be sure, an element of anxiety on all sides, a sense that a figure like Augustine must either be defended or attacked, that large and immediate issues are at stake - in a way they are not at stake, for example, among readers of Silius Italicus or Notker Balbulus. If we could forget for a moment that he was a Christian, and even forget for a moment that he was Augustine, he would probably appear very different; but in those matters, memory's hold is unshakeable, and we cannot forget at will.

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 `necessary for salvation' , and if Augustine then turns and flatly denies some principle or other of neo-Platonism on no other grounds than that it conflicts with something that scripture or church policy states, has he compromised himself? Where does he get the confidence and authority to make such distinctions? And if some other thinker, no less respected than Augustine among Christians, should contradict Augustine on one of these points, who is to judge between them?

But does anyone think that Christianity is a thing of the mind only? Perhaps in Paris, but surely not semper, ubique, ab omnibus. By way of thought experiment, consider only an orthodox Reformed view of the matter. The question for that view is whether and when Augustine acquired the theological faith that is the substance of salvation. Such a view might be sympathetic to the most anti-Catholic parts of the French debate (surely the dalliance with the platonicorum libri is not where we should see Augustine becoming a Christian), but would be more inclined to accept the paradigmatic conversion of the Milan garden scene as authentic. But do the Platonic doctrines then entertained and held for years afterwards in some way compromise the integrity of that theological faith? On available evidence, no clear judgment is possible.

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 `making the truth' , was itself an important part of his religion, somewhere between doctrinal disputation and cult act - perhaps even forming a link between the two. The life about which Augustine tells us in his text finally slips beyond our grasp, and the cult-life about which he tells us little or nothing is even more remote. But the life of this particular act of `confession', the writing of this text by a man self-consciously turning from youth to middle age, is as present to us on the page as our own lives - indeed, becomes as we read it a part of our own lives. It is that fragment of the `life' of Augustine that is most accessible to us.

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 a priori grounds, what deeds and traits of Augustine's known life may have been influenced by family relations. 32

Augustine should have the last word, his own advice to Paulinus of Nola on how to read him: ep. 27.4, `sed tu cum legis, mi sancte Pauline, non te ita rapiant quae per nostram infirmitatem veritas loquitur, ut ea quae ipse loquor minus diligenter advertas, ne dum avidus hauris bona et recta quae data ministro, non ores pro peccatis et erratis quae ipse committo. in his enim quae tibi recte, si adverteris, displicebunt, ego ipse conspicior, in his autem quae per donum spiritus quod accepisti recte tibi placent in libris meis, ille amandus, ille praedicandus est apud quem est fons vitae, et in cuius lumine videbimus lumen sine aenigmate et facie ad faciem, nunc autem in aenigmate videmus. in his ergo quae ipse de veteri fermento eructavi, cum ea legens agnosco, me iudico cum dolore; in his vero quae de azymo sinceritatis et veritatis dono dei dixi, exulto cum tremore. quid enim habemus quod non accepimus? at enim melior est qui maioribus et pluribus quam qui minoribus et paucioribus donis dei dives est: quis negat? sed rursus melius est, vel de parvo dei dono gratias ipsi agere quam sibi agi velle de magno. haec ut ex animo semper confitear meumque cor a lingua mea non dissonet, ora pro me, frater; ora, obsecro, ut non laudari volens, sed laudans invocem dominum, et ab inimicis meis salvus ero.'

A Reading of the Confessions

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 quaestio. That structure helps make explicit the received views, the difficulties that present themselves, a resolution of the difficulties with whatever new contribution is possible, and, in many ways most important, a final discussion that does justice to the merits of the received views while resituating them in the light of new ideas. The presentation under Videtur is itself a reading of other scholars' readings, and contains elements of new interpretation, and what appears under Respondeo does not pretend to be entirely new or original.


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 `tentatives d'extases plotiniennes' 35 of Bk. 7 and the vision of Ostia in Bk. 9. But other passages may be interpreted in the same context. For example, 36 the description of the contents of the de pulchro et apto in Bk. 4 presents that work as though it were a doomed first attempt to ascend in the mind to the summum bonum. It suggests two reasons for the failure of that ascent, ignorance of the nature of God and ignorance of the nature of created things. 37 In that context, the first `tentative' of Bk. 7 occurs after Augustine has been shown to have renewed his understanding of the divine nature in the first pages of Bk. 7, culminating in the reading of the platonicorum libri. But that `tentative' fails; the paragraphs that follow reveal decisively Augustine's mature view of the nature, that is to say (under Plotinus' tutelage) the non-nature, of evil: in other words, his discovery at that time of the essential goodness of created things. In the wake of that discovery, the second `tentative' of Bk. 7 is, on Plotinian terms as Augustine understood them, a complete success. 38 It is not that the Plotinian method did not work for Augustine; it worked, but it was not enough. It left him disappointed and hungry for something different, perhaps richer, perhaps more permanent, perhaps merely something more congruent with the realities of everyday life. That is achieved in Bk. 9 at Ostia. The report of that vision begins with the most explicit Plotinian allusion in the whole work, 39 but goes far beyond that Plotinian form to an explicitly Christian, scriptural, and eschatological ending. 40 The vision of Ostia anticipates the beatific vision. That new post-Plotinian ascent to vision becomes the organizing pattern for the first half of Bk. 10, in which Augustine, in the presence of the reader, does what he learned to do at Ostia. 41 Similar patterns of discourse keyed to the ascent of the mind to God, and marked particularly by recurrence of the significant quotation of Phil. 3.13, occur throughout Bks. 11-13. 42 (The pattern of successive visions from Bk. 4 to Bk. 7 to Bk. 9 also matches a theory about three types of vision that Augustine had expounded several years before writing the Confessions and returned to in detail in the commentary de Genesi ad litteram years later; the vision of Ostia thus matches the highest type of `vision' possible in this life. 43 )

Sed contra:

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 a priori difficult to accept that the mature work of a Christian bishop, who will later express grave reservations about the worth of Platonic philosophy (notably in civ.) would be itself a frank manifestation of that style of thought and doctrine. 44 Intrinsically, the difficulty is that not all that is in the Confessions is included in an explanation that focuses on the ascent of the mind to God. 45 Noticeably missing from the summary in the previous paragraph is the obviously crucial Bk. 8; but the real scandal of the work that overthrows such an unilinear attempt at interpretation is the central Bk. 10 itself. If the work were an attempt to depict the ascent pure and simple, then the memorable `sero te amavi' paragraph (10.27.38) would have served perfectly well for the last paragraph of the work as a whole. Not only do Bks. 11-13 obtrude, but the last half of Bk. 10, an affront to our disdain for such scrupulosity, makes nonsense of any attempt at so limited a reading. 46 But that depiction of the present state of Augustine's soul as a victim of the three temptations of 1 Jn. 2.16 must be taken seriously; indeed, taken seriously enough, it opens another line of sight into the organization of the earlier books of the work. 47 A pattern of conduct can be traced through Bks. 2-4 according to which Augustine sins first according to the concupiscence of the flesh (both the sexual sins of adolescence and the symbolic re-enactment of the fall implied by the incident of the pear tree), next according to concupiscence of the eyes (described mainly in Bk. 3, where he falls prey to one sort of curiositas in his mania for the spectacula of Carthage and to another in his allegiance to the Manichees), and finally according to ambitio saeculi (which is most lightly touched on at this stage - see on 4.7.12). 48 The moral rise of Augustine, that parallels but does not duplicate the ascent of the mind, follows a reverse order: his zeal for his public career fades first at Milan, 49 then his adhesion to the spirit of curiosity that had led him to the Manichees, 50 and only last his enslavement to the desires of the flesh. 51 It is that liberation that comes between the Milan and Ostia visions and makes possible the higher vision that he comes to at Ostia and in Bks. 10 and following. 52


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 (via, veritas, vita, sapientia, verbum dei) and all of those things Christ is to Augustine in the garden. The encounter with a scriptural text throws into new light the parallel line of ascent that Augustine has been unwittingly following from his earliest life, an ascent mediated to fallen humanity through the medicine of the scriptures (which offer one of the incarnations of the Word). The ascent of the mind, as Plotinus had preached it, had run to a dead end. Instead, an alternate path (via) 55 proved to be the true way to the goal Augustine sought. Whatever is incomplete about this encounter with Christ is brought to fulfillment in Bk. 9, through baptism (9.6.14), and culminates at the end of Bk. 10, where Augustine closes the central book of the work with a passage of such dense eucharistic imagery that it may best be thought of as perhaps the only place in our literature where a Christian receives the eucharist in the literary text itself. 56

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, inter alia, a time to test his resolve away from the presumed temptations of court and city living. 61

Ad primum:

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 summum bonum into a uniquely Christian ascent that combines the two paths that Augustine had followed in his own life. The exegesis of a chapter of scripture that fills the last three books itself displays the union of the intellectual and exegetic, the Platonic and Christian, approaches to God, setting a pattern that becomes the center of Augustine's life's work, to be fulfilled only eschatologically - a goal anticipated but not reached on the last page of this text. The form is exegetical, the content apparently philosophical; but on closer examination the content turns out to be more theology than philosophy. He sees traces of God the creator in Bk. 11 in the juxtaposition of time with eternity and understands himself as separated from God by his own position in time. He sees God the Son in the Word of revelation, and understands his own relation to that revelation by unraveling in Bk. 12 the perplexities and imperfections of human attempts to expound the divine word through human mechanisms of interpretation. God the spirit animating history emerges in Bk. 13 as Augustine pursues his allegory of the first chapter of Genesis along lines deliberately chosen to juxtapose creation history with church history, and to understand his own role as a member of, and guide in, that church.

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, `magnus es domine et laudabilis valde' (1.1.1), voiced by Augustine. When the same line (a scriptural text) is brought back at the beginning of Bk. 11, it is introduced `ut dicamus omnes' (11.1.1). The reader is expected to share the last three books, for if all persons are created no less in the image and likeness of God than Augustine, and if his readers are bound to Augustine through God in caritas, the image (to use the right word) of Augustine in these last three books is at one and the same time an image of what his readers are themselves. In this way the work is both itself an act of confession, and at the same time a model and pattern for other acts of confession, by Augustine and by his readers, at other times and places. There is no paradox in suggesting that this intricate interplay of images and patterns is both the culmination of Augustine's theological meditations and at the same time a feat possible in the fourth century only for someone who had read Plotinus, and read him very well.

The Confessions in Augustine's Life

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 confessio gave - far from it - but he was unable to refrain. His best defence is in the idiosyncratic notion of confessio that he uses to explain and guide his own words.

`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 util. cred. 70 - unconvincing, lamely argued, poorly organized - and he managed to complete only his commentaries on the sermon on the mount and on Galatians (while throwing up his hands at giving Romans a similar treatment).

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 (sol. 1.1.2-1.1.6) consist of prayer, praise, and invocation of a sort that could often be mistaken for what appears a decade later in the Confessions. 84 There is not the abundance of scriptural language, but the similarities are considerable. The soliloquia lack the power and assurance of the Confessions, and they have accordingly found little modern audience.

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 lib. arb. 1.11.22: 86

`num ista ipsa poena parva existimanda est, quod ei [sc. menti] libido dominatur, 87 expoliatamque virtutis opulentia per diversa inopem atque indigentem trahit, nunc falsa pro veris approbantem, 88 nunc etiam defensitantem, nunc improbantem quae antea probavisset et nihilominus in alia falsa inruentem; nunc adsensionem suspendentem suam 89 et plerumque perspicuas ratiocinationes formidantem; nunc desperantem de tota inventione veritatis et stultitiae tenebris penitus inhaerentem; nunc conantem in lucem intellegendi rursusque fatigatione decidentem: 90 cum interea cupiditatum illud regnum tyrannice saeviat, 91 et variis contrariisque tempestatibus totum hominis animum vitamque perturbet, 92 hinc timore inde desiderio, hinc anxietate inde inani falsaque laetitia, hinc cruciatu rei amissae quae diligebatur, inde ardore adipiscendae quae non habebatur, hinc acceptae iniuriae doloribus, inde facibus vindicandae . . . ?'

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 retr. 2.6.1, but the very existence of the retractationes shows that the underlying urge to master life by creating a text that provides the authoritative interpretation of that life was not entirely assuaged. 100

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 infantia, pueritia, and adolescentia ends in the first years of iuventus with a clarification and strengthening of will; the narrative was written just on the cusp between iuventus and the variously named fifth age. All other impulses that gave rise to the Confessions notwithstanding, it is not surprising that Augustine would have found the years around his forty-fifth birthday congenial to renewed introspection. 101

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.

Appendix: The `first confessions' of Augustine


de beata vita, 1.4

`ego ab usque undevicensimo anno aetatis meae, postquam in schola rhetoris librum illum Ciceronis qui Hortensius vocatur accepi [3.4.7], tanto amore philosophiae succensus sum ut statim ad eam me ferre meditarer [3.4.8]. sed neque mihi nebulae defuerunt quibus confunderetur cursus meus, et diu, fateor, quibus in errorem ducerer, labentia in oceanum astra suspexi. nam et superstitio [3.6.10] quaedam puerilis me ab ipsa inquisitione terrebat, et ubi factus erectior illam caliginem dispuli mihique persuasi docentibus potius quam iubentibus esse cedendum, incidi in homines quibus lux ista quae oculis cernitur inter summe divina colenda videretur [3.6.10]. non adsentiebar, sed putabam eos magnum aliquid tegere illis involucris, quod essent aliquando aperturi. at ubi discussos eos evasi, [5.7.12] maxime traiecto isto mari [5.8.14-15], diu gubernacula mea repugnantia omnibus ventis in mediis fluctibus academici tenuerunt [5.14.25]. deinde veni in has terras; hic septentrionem cui me crederem didici. animadverti enim et saepe in sacerdotis nostri [5.13.23] et aliquando in sermonibus tuis, cum de deo cogitaretur, nihil omnino corporis esse cogitandum, neque cum de anima [6.11.18, 7.1.1]; nam id est unum in rebus proximum deo. sed ne in philosophiae gremium celeriter advolarem, fateor, uxoris honorisque inlecebra detinebar [6.6.9], ut cum haec essem consecutus, tum demum, me quod paucis felicissimis licuit, totis velis, omnibus remis in illum sinum raperem ibique conquiescerem. lectis autem Plotini paucissimis libris [7.9.13], cuius te esse studiosissimum accepi, conlataque cum eis, quantum potui, etiam illorum auctoritate qui divina mysteria tradiderunt [7.20.26], sic exarsi [8.5.10], ut omnes illas vellem ancoras rumpere [8.11.25], nisi me nonnullorum hominum existimatio commoveret [6.11.19]. quid ergo restabat aliud nisi ut immoranti mihi superfluis tempestas quae putatur adversa succurreret? itaque tantus me arripuit pectoris dolor, ut illius professionis onus sustinere non valens [9.2.4], qua mihi velificabam fortasse ad Sirenas, abicerem omnia et optatae tranquillitati [8.12.30] vel quassatam navem fessamque perducerem.'

contra academicos 2.2.3-6

`tu [Romaniane] me adulescentulum pauperem [2.3.5] ad studia pergentem et domo et sumptu et, quod plus est, animo excepisti; tu patre orbatum amicitia consolatus es, hortatione animasti, ope adiuvisti; tu in nostro ipso municipio favore familiaritate communicatione domus tuae paene tecum clarum primatemque fecisti; tu Carthaginem inlustrioris professionis gratia remeantem [4.7.12], cum tibi et meorum nulli consilium meum spemque aperuissem, quamvis aliquantum illo tibi insito - quia ibi iam docebam - patriae amore cunctatus es, tamen ubi evincere adulescentis cupiditatem ad ea quae videbantur meliora tendentis nequivisti, ex dehortatore in adiutorem mira benivolentiae moderatione conversus es. tu necessariis omnibus iter adminiculasti meum; tu ibidem rursus, qui cunabula et quasi nidum studiorum meorum foveras, iam volare audentis sustentasti rudimenta; tu etiam, cum te absente atque ignorante navigassem [5.8.14-15], nihil suscensens quod non tecum communicassem ut solerem, atque aliud quidvis quam contumaciam suspicans mansisti inconcussus in amicitia nec plus ante oculos tuos liberi deserti a magistro quam nostrae mentis penetralia puritasque versata est. (4) postremo quidquid de otio meo modo gaudeo, quod a superfluarum cupiditatium vinculis evolavi [8.12.29-30], quod depositis oneribus mortuarum curarum respiro, resipisco, redeo ad me [7.10.16], quod quaero intentissimus veritatem, quod invenire iam ingredior, quod me ad summum ipsum modum perventurum esse confido, tu animasti, tu inpulisti, tu fecisti. cuius autem minister fueris, plus adhuc fide concepi quam ratione conprehendi. nam cum praesens praesenti tibi exposuissem interiores motus animi mei vehementerque ac saepius assererem nullam mihi videri prosperam fortunam nisi quae otium philosophandi daret, nullam beatam vitam nisi qua in philosophia viveretur, sed me tanto meorum onere, quorum ex officio meo vita penderet, multisque necessitatibus vel pudoris vel ineptae meorum miseriae refrenari, tam magno es elatus gaudio, tam sancto huius vitae inflammatus ardore, ut te diceres, si tu ab illarum importunarum litium vinculis aliquo modo eximereris, omnia mea vincula etiam patrimonii tui mecum participatione rupturum [6.14.24]. (5) itaque cum admoto nobis fomite discessisses, numquam cessavimus inhiantes in philosophiam atque illam vitam quae inter nos placuit atque convenit, prorsus nihil aliud cogitare atque id constanter quidem, sed minus acriter agebamus, putabamus tamen satis nos agere. et quoniam nondum aderat ea flamma quae summa nos arreptura erat, illam qua lenta aestuabamus arbitrabamur esse vel maximam, cum ecce tibi libri quidam pleni [7.9.13?], ut ait Celsinus, bonas res Arabicas ubi exhalarunt in nos, ubi illi flammulae instillarunt pretiosissimi unguenti guttas paucissimas, incredibile, Romaniane, incredibile et ultra quam de me fortasse et tu credis - quid amplius dicam? - etiam mihi ipsi de me ipso incredibile incendium concitarunt. quis me tunc honor, quae hominum pompa, quae inanis famae cupiditas, quod denique huius mortalis vitae fomentum atque retinaculum commovebat? prorsus totus in me cursim redibam [7.10.16]. respexi [7.15.21] tamen, confiteor, quasi de itinere [7.21.27] in illam religionem quae pueris nobis insita est [1.11.17] et medullitus implicata; verum autem ipsa ad se nescientem rapiebat. itaque titubans, properans, haesitans arripio apostolum Paulum [7.21.27]. neque enim vere, inquam, isti tanta potuissent vixissentque ita ut eos vixisse manifestum est, si eorum litterae atque rationes huic tanto bono adversarentur. perlegi totum intentissime atque castissime. 104 (6) tunc vero quantulocumque iam lumine asperso [9.10.23] tanta se mihi philosophiae facies aperuit [8.11.27], ut non dicam tibi, qui eius incognitae fame semper arsisti, sed si ipsi adversario tuo, a quo nescio utrum plus exercearis quam impediaris, eam demonstrare potuissem, ne ille et Baias et amoena pomeria et delicata nitidaque convivia et domesticos histriones, postremo quidquid eum acriter commovet in quascumque delicias abiciens et relinquens ad huius pulchritudinem blandus amator et sanctus, mirans, anhelans, aestuans advolaret.'

de utilitate credendi 1.2:

`nosti enim, Honorate, non aliam ob causam nos in tales homines incidisse [3.6.10], nisi quod se dicebant, terribili auctoritate separata, mera et simplici ratione eos qui se audire vellent introducturos ad deum et errore omni liberaturos. quid enim me aliud cogebat annos fere novem [5.6.10], spreta religione quae mihi puerulo a parentibus insita erat [1.11.17], homines illos sequi ac diligenter audire, nisi quod nos superstitione [3.6.10] terreri et fidem nobis ante rationem imperari dicerent, se autem nullum premere ad fidem nisi prius discussa et enodata veritate? quis non his pollicitationibus inliceretur, praesertim adulescentis animus cupidus veri, etiam nonnullorum in schola doctorum hominum disputationibus superbus et garrulus, qualem me tunc illi invenerunt, spernentem scilicet quasi aniles fabulas, et ab eis promissum apertum et sincerum verum tenere atque haurire cupientem? sed quae rursum ratio revocabat, ne apud eos penitus haererem, ut me in illo gradu quem vocant auditorum tenerem [see on 5.7.13], ut huius mundi spem atque negotia non dimitterem, nisi quod ipsos quoque animadvertebam plus in refellendis aliis disertos et copiosos esse quam in suis probandis firmos et certos manere [Bk. 5, passim]? sed de me quid dicam, qui iam catholicus christianus eram? quae nunc ubera post longissimam sitim paene exhaustus atque aridus tota aviditate repetivi, eaque altius flens et gemens concussi et expressi, ut id manaret quod mihi sic adfecto ad recreationem satis esse posset et ad spem reducendam vitae ac salutis.'

de utilitate credendi 8.20:

`edam tibi ut possum cuiusmodi viam usus fuerim, cum eo animo quaererem veram religionem quo nunc exposui esse quaerendam. ut enim a vobis trans mare abscessi, iam cunctabundus atque haesitans quid mihi tenendum, quid dimittendum esset [5.8.15, 5.10.19] - quae mihi cunctatio in dies maior oboriebatur, ex quo illum hominem cuius nobis adventus, ut nosti, ad explicanda omnia quae nos movebant quasi de caelo promittebatur, audivi, eumque excepta quadam eloquentia talem quales ceteros esse cognovi [5.3.3, 5.6.10] - rationem ipse mecum habui magnamque deliberationem iam in Italia constitutus, non utrum manerem in illa secta in quam me incidisse [3.6.10] paenitebat, sed quonam modo verum inveniendum esset, in cuius amorem suspiria mea nulli melius quam tibi nota sunt. saepe mihi videbatur non posse inveniri, magnique fluctus cogitationum mearum in Academicorum suffragium ferebantur [5.10.19]. saepe rursus intuens quantum poteram, mentem humanam tam vivacem, tam sagacem, tam perspicacem, non putabam latere veritatem, nisi quod in ea quaerendi modus lateret, eundemque ipsum modum ab aliqua divina auctoritate esse sumendum. restabat quaerere quaenam illa esset auctoritas, cum in tantis dissensionibus se quisque illam traditurum polliceretur. occurrebat igitur inexplicabilis silva, cui demum inseri multum pigebat; atque inter haec sine ulla requie cupiditate reperiendi veri animus agitabatur. dissuebam me tamen magis magisque ab istis, quos iam deserere proposueram. restabat autem aliud nihil in tantis periculis quam ut divinam providentiam lacrimosis et miserabilibus vocibus, ut opem mihi ferret, deprecarer. atque id sedulo faciebam; et iam fere me commoverant nonnullae disputationes Mediolanensis episcopi [5.13.23], ut non sine spe aliqua de ipso vetere testamento multa quaerere cuperem, quae, ut scis, male nobis commendata execrabamur [5.14.24, 6.4.6]. decreveramque tamdiu esse catechumenus in ecclesia [5.14.25] cui traditus a parentibus eram [1.11.17], donec aut invenirem quod vellem aut mihi persuaderem non esse quaerendum.'

de duabus animabus 9.11:

`sed me duo quaedam maxime, quae incautam illam aetatem facile capiunt, per admirabiles attrivere circuitus: quorum est unum familaritas nescio quomodo repens quadam imagine bonitatis . . . alterum quod quaedam noxia victoria paene mihi semper in disputationibus proveniebat disserenti cum imperitis [3.12.21], sed tamen fidem suam certatim, ut quisque posset, defendere molientibus christianis. quo successu creberrimo gliscebat adulescentis animositas, et impetus suos in pervicaciae magnum malum imprudenter urgebat. quod altercandi genus quia post eorum auditionem adgressus eram [3.6.10], quicquid in eo vel qualicumque ingenio vel aliis lectionibus poteram, solis illis libentissime tribuebam. ita ex illorum sermonibus ardor in certamina [3.12.21], ex certaminum proventu amor in illos cotidie novabatur. ex quo accidebat ut quicquid dicerent, miris quibusdam modis, non quia sciebam, sed quia optabam verum esse pro vero approbarem. 105 ita factum est ut quamvis pedetemptim atque caute, tamen diu sequerer homines nitidam stipulam viventi animae praeferentes.'

contra epistulam Manichaei quam vocant `fundamenti' 3.3:

`ego autem qui diu multumque iactatus tandem respicere [7.15.21] potui quid sit illa sinceritas, quae sine inanis fabulae [4.8.13, 5.9.17] narratione percipitur; qui vanas imaginationes animi mei variis opinionibus erroribusque conlectas vix miser merui domino opitulante convincere; qui me ad detergendam caliginem mentis tam tarde clementissimo medico vocanti blandientique subieci [7.8.12]; qui diu flevi, ut incommutabilis et immaculabilis substantia [7.1.1ff] concinentibus divinis libris sese mihi persuadere intrinsecus dignaretur; qui denique omnia illa figmenta, quae vos diuturna consuetudine implicatos et constrictos tenent, et quaesivi curiose et attente audivi et temere credidi, et instanter quibus potui persuasi, et adversus alios pertinaciter animoseque defendi: saevire in vos omnino non possum, quos sicut me ipsum illo tempore ita nunc debeo sustinere, et tanta patientia vobiscum agere, quanta mecum egerunt proximi mei, cum in vestro dogmate rabiosus et caecus errarem.'

The Text and Commentary

Manuscripts and Editions

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

  • Rome, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Sessorianus 55. The script is half-uncial and difficult to date. Lowe (CLA 4.420a) suggested late sixth century; Bischoff (quoted at CCSL 23.xxxviii) once ventured `saec. V/VI', but has since commented that he finds the half-uncial `rätselhaft' and `tantalizing' (see JThS n.s. 34 [1983], 114n2, and Atti-1986, 1.412).
  • O
  • Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, lat. 1911. Early ninth century, southern France. 109
  • P
  • Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, lat. 1912. Early ninth century, western Germany. Reported by the editors together with two eleventh-century manuscripts (Bambergensis 33 [B] and Turonensis 283 [Z]) with which it is closely related.
  • C
  • Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, lat. 1913. Mid-ninth century, Auxerre.
  • D
  • Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, lat. 1913A. Mid-ninth century, Loire valley (connected with Lupus of Ferrières). C and D are virtual twins, but both are conventionally reported because C lacks the last two-thirds of book VII and the first third of book VIII, where D is the sole witness to their common exemplar.
  • E
  • Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, lat. 12191. Part from the late ninth century and part from the early tenth, from Tours.
  • G
  • Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, lat. 12193. Ninth/tenth century, Loire valley. E and G are the two best representatives of a common tradition. (Also reported with them are the inferior MSS Paris BN lat. 10862 [F: ninth-century] and Munich clm 14350 [M: tenth-century].)
  • A
  • Stuttgart, Württembergische Landesbibliothek, HB.vii.15. End of the ninth century, eastern France.
  • H
  • Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, lat. 12224. Toward the middle of the ninth century, near Lyons.
  • V
  • Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 5756. Late ninth century, northern Italy. AHV taken together represent another common tradition, of which V is the least reliable witness.
  • 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 testimony of Eugippius, who gives some hints as to which witnesses may be trusted. 111

    | | |
    alpha beta Eugippius
    | |
    ----------- --------------------
    | | | | |
    S | | | |
    | | | |
    O | | ------------
    | | | |
    | ------- | -------
    | | | | | |
    CD E G P H V

    The editio princeps was published between 1465 and 1470 at Strasbourg by Jean Mantelin; editions appeared as part of three great collected editions of Augustine in the sixteenth century (Amerbach's Basel edition of 1506, Erasmus/Frobenius at Basel in 1528-29, and the `Louvain' edition of 1576-77). The Maurist edition of the Confessions appeared in the first volume of their great edition in 1679 (the whole completed in 1700). There have been five and a half critical editions in the last century.

    Mention should be made of the edition of E. B. Pusey at Oxford in 1838, emending the Maurist textus receptus in light of a few Oxford manuscripts; it is now of interest mainly as a document of the Tractarian movement's interest in the fathers. 112 Not long after, preparations began for the edition that eventually appeared in 1896 as volume 33 of the Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum. As was the practice in the Vienna Corpus of the early days, collation of manuscripts and preparation of the actual editions were carried out by different hands, with long delays. The Sessorianus collation was begun by a hand unknown to the Vienna editor, P. Knöll, and completed by A. Lorenz in 1867; a friend of Knöll's looked at doubtful passages upon later request. Knöll's editorial principle was to find the oldest and best manuscript, and follow it with a will. Here his favorite was S; Knöll's edition is marked by meticulous attention to detail in the apparatus, but his choice of a lodestar makes his text reflect the carelessness and haste of the scribe of S. 113 The text was reprinted with a few corrections (mainly abandoning readings of S that were clearly unacceptable) in a Teubner editio minor in 1898. The Vienna text was reprinted at Cambridge with some judicious corrections in 1908 (rev. ed. 1927) with excellent notes by Gibb and Montgomery. An edition by P. de Labriolle (1925) dissented from Knöll in favor of the Maurists from time to time, but has little independent value; its importance is that it was for long the standard text cited in French scholarship, and is still occasionally cited.

    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 textus receptus. The CCSL volume differs from Skutella's text on dozens of points (catalogued in Verheijen's preface), but it cannot be called an independent new edition. The apparatus is essentially identical, save for typography, with Skutella's. 116

    The Present Text

    The text given here offers no advance in recensio, and prints no apparatus criticus - there is discussion of textual issues in the commentary instead. It has however been re-examined word by word, and numerous corrections made. Divergences from Skutella (1969) and from Verheijen are noted in the commentary (except for orthographical variants). The text as printed below is perhaps susceptible of amelioration; but it contains nothing indefensible, and the points of real doubt are clearly signposted and discussed.

    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 ipsissima verba. This follows and refines Verheijen's practice; earlier editions (e.g., Skutella) have marked in the same way scriptural quotations, allusions, and echoes of every sort, which can be misleading. What expectations Augustine had for the ability of his readers to recognize his other citations, allusions, and echoes of biblical language cannot now be accurately judged. The traditional paragraphs of our editions have been retained for convenience of reference except where strong reasons have dictated a rearrangement; but the traditional form of reference to book, `chapter', and `paragraph' is maintained. 119

    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 Commentary

    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 Sondersprache is ripe for fresh and venturesome treatment) and that would attempt to do justice to the complex rhythms of the text. 126 The work is clearly sui generis and worth further study on these lines. 127

    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 prima facie incompatible with its employment in the Confessions, then surely it would be irresponsible for the commentator not to set the explicit interpretation found elsewhere alongside the passage of the Confessions and to let the reader judge how far the two texts throw light on one another. 129

    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

    Abbreviations and Methods of Reference

    The Works of Augustine

    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 retr. and Possidius, and a conspectus of editions, see Aug.-Lex. 1.xxvi-xli; H. J. Frede, Kirchenschriftsteller (Freiburg, 1981 and later supplements) has further details (e.g., editions of individual letters and sermons). A baker's dozen of Augustine's works have still not been seriously edited since the Maurists (of most interest: mus., mor., c. Iul., and Io. ep. tr.), and most of the sermons also want critical edition. Moreover, some editions of the last century (most notably: en. Ps.) are barely more than reprints of the Maurists. The defects of the editions are most trying when we attempt to determine the scriptural text A. knew at any given point, for there the tendency to Vulgate assimilation in medieval MSS and early modern editors is a powerful force.
    adn. Iobadnotationes in Job (399) 133 CSEL 28.2
    adult. adulterinis coniugiis (420) CSEL 41
    adv. Iud.adversus Iudaeos (428/9) PL 42 agone christiano (396)CSEL 41
    b. bono coniugali (401)CSEL 41
    b. bono viduitatis (414) CSEL 41 baptismo contra donatistas (400/1) CSEL 51
    beata 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.scontra 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. catechizandis rudibus (399) CCSL 46 civitate dei (413-426/7) CCSL 47, 48
    conl. Max.conlatio cum Maximino arrianorum episcopo (427/8) PL 42
    cons. consensu evangelistarum (399/400 - ?)CSEL 43 continentia (394/5)CSEL 41 correptione et gratia (426/7)PL 44
    cura cura pro mortuis gerenda (422?) CSEL 41 dialectica (387) PL 32 136
    disc. disciplina christiana (398) CCSL 46
    div. diversis quaestionibus LXXXIII (388/96) CCSL 44A
    div. qu. diversis quaestionibus VII ad Simplicianum (396) CCSL 44
    divin. divinatione daemonum (407) CSEL 41
    doctr. doctrina christiana (396 [completed 427]) CCSL 32
    duab. duabus animabus contra manichaeos (391/2) CSEL 25.1
    Dulc. octo Dulcitii quaestionibus (422/5) CCSL 44A 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 fide et operibus (413) CSEL 41
    f. et fide et symbolo (393) CSEL 41
    f. 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. gestis Pelagii (417) CSEL 42
    Gn. c. Genesi contra manichaeos (388/90) PL 34
    Gn. Genesi ad litteram (401-15) BA 48, 49
    Gn. litt. Genesi ad litteram imperfectus liber (393/4; 426/7) CSEL 28.1
    gr. et lib. gratia et libero arbitrio (418) PL 44
    gr. et pecc. gratia Christi et de peccato originali (426)CSEL 42 grammatica (387) PL 32 138 haeresibus (428) CCSL 46
    imm. 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. libero arbitrio (387/8-391/5) CCSL 29
    loc. hept.locutiones in heptateuchum (419) CCSL 33 magistro (389/90) CCSL 29 mendacio (394/5)CSEL 41 moribus ecclesiae catholicae et de moribus manichaeorum (388)PL 32 musica (388/90) PL 32
    nat. natura boni (398) CSEL 25.2
    nat. et natura et gratia (413/15) CSEL 60
    nat. et or. natura et origine animae 140 (419/20) CSEL 60
    nupt. et nuptiis et concupiscentia (419/21) CSEL 42
    obiurg.obiurgatio (= ep. 211.) 141 Lawless, Rule
    op. opere monachorum (401) CSEL 41 ordine (386) CCSL 29
    ord. mon.ordo monasterii Lawless, Rule patientia (417)CSEL 41
    pecc. peccatorum meritis et remissione et de baptismo parvulorum ad Marcellinum (411/12) CSEL 60
    perf. perfectione iustitiae hominis (415) CSEL 42 dono perseverantiae (428/9) PL 45
    praec.praeceptum Lawless, Rule
    praed. 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. octo quaestionibus ex veteri testamento 143 (?)CCSL 33
    quant. 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. sermone domini in monte (393/6) CCSL 35
    sol.soliloquia (386/7) CSEL 89
    spec.speculum (427) CSEL 12
    spir. et spiritu et littera (412) CSEL 60
    symb. cat.sermo de symbolo ad catechumenos (?) CCSL 46 trinitate (399-422/6) CCSL 50, 50A
    un. unico baptismo contra Petilianum (410/11) CSEL 53
    util. utilitate credendi (391/2) CSEL 25.1
    util. utilitate ieiunii (408) CCSL 46
    vera vera religione (390/1) CCSL 32 sancta virginitate (401) CSEL 41

    Biblical Citations

    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 `as close as possible' is an imprecise measure, and varies dramatically from one part of scripture to another. There are certainly many inconsistencies in the commentary, and there are probably places where a better (i.e., closer to Augustine's) version could have been found; this is an area in which scholarship makes constant, but painfully slow progress. The general principle employed (and decisive in cases of choice among more than one possibility) has been to find the text closest to what Augustine seems to have had in mind as he wrote the Confessions. What can be said beyond that is this:

    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 (ep. 71.2.3) that he used it. This is a translation based originally on the Greek Septuagint, and revised and corrected against the Greek text by Jerome, printed at PL 28.61-114. This translation differs dramatically from Jerome's later, better version.

    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 expressis verbis by Augustine in works other than the Confessions. 150 Where possible, the first choice is to give a citation in a form that is documented from Augustine, with a note ad loc.

    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. [1], [2], [3] indicate elements in triads of terms or names representing persons of the trinity: see on 1.7.12.
    AlfaricAlfaric, P. L'évolution intellectuelle de saint Augustin. Paris, 1918.
    ArtsArts, M. R. The Syntax of the Confessions of Saint Augustine. Washington, DC, 1927.
    Atti-1986Congresso internazionale su s. Agostino nel XVI centenario della conversione (Roma, 15-20 settembre 1986), Atti. Rome, 1987.
    Aug. Mag.Augustinus Magister
    BABibliothèque Augustinienne
    BrownBrown, P.Augustine of Hippo. London and Berkeley, 1967.
    Brown, Body and SocietyBrown, P. The Body and Society. New York, 1988.
    BurnabyBurnaby, J. Amor Dei. London, 1938.
    CCSLCorpus Christianorum, Series Latina.
    CL Classical Latin.
    Courcelle, LLW Courcelle, P. Late Latin Writers and Their Greek Sources. Trans. H. Wedeck; Cambridge, Mass., 1969.
    Courcelle, RecherchesCourcelle, P. Recherches sur les Confessions de saint Augustin. Paris, 1950; second ed. Paris, 1968.
    Courcelle, Les ConfessionsCourcelle, P. Les Confessions de Saint Augustin dans la tradition littéraire. Paris, 1963.
    CSELCorpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum
    Decret, AspectsDecret, F. Aspects du Manichéisme dans l'Afrique Romaine. Paris 1970.
    Decret, L'AfriqueDecret, F. L'Afrique Manichéene (IVe - Ve siècles). Paris, 1978.
    De MarchiDe Marchi, V. `De nonnullis Augustini Confessionum locis', Rendiconti dell'Istituto Lombardo, Classe di Lettere, Scienze morali et storiche 96(1962), 310-16
    DulaeyDulaey, M. Le rêve dans la vie et la pensée de saint Augustin. Paris, 1973.
    du Roydu Roy, O. L'intelligence de la foi en la trinité selon saint Augustin: genèse de sa théologie trinitaire jusqu'en 391. Paris, 1966.
    GuardiniGuardini, R. The Conversion of Augustine. London, 1960.
    HagendahlHagendahl, H. Augustine and the Latin Classics. Göteborg, 1967.
    HrdlickaHrdlicka, 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.
    IsnenghiIsnenghi, A. `Textkritisches zu Augustins “Bekenntnissen”', Augustiana 15(1965), 5-31.
    Jones, LREJones, A. H. M. The Later Roman Empire 284-602: A Social Economic and Administrative Survey. Oxford, 1964.
    KeilKeil, H. Grammatici Latini Leipzig, 1857-1880 (repr. Hildesheim, 1961).
    KnauerKnauer, 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.
    KuschKusch, H. `Studien über Augustinus', Festschrift Franz Dornseiff (Leipzig, 1953), 124-200.
    La Bonnardière, RecherchesLa Bonnardière, A.-M. Recherches de la chronologie augustinienne. Paris, 1965
    La Bonnardière, Biblia AugustinianaLa Bonnardière, A.-M. Biblia Augustiniana. Paris, 1960-.
  • Livres historiques
  • 1964
  • Epître aux Thessaloniciens, à Tite et à Philémon
  • 1964
  • Douze petits prophètes
  • 1967
  • Deutéronome
  • 1970
  • Livre de la Sagesse
  • 1972
  • Livre de Jérémie
  • 1975
  • Livre des Proverbes
  • Lawless, RuleLawless, 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.
    LHSLeumann, M., J. B. Hofmann, and A. Szantyr. Lateinische Syntax und Stilistik. Munich, 1972.
    Lieu, ManichaeismLieu, S. N. C. Manichaeism. Manchester, 1985.
    MAMiscellanea Agostiniana. Rome, 1930.
    Madec, Saint AmbroiseMadec, G. Saint Ambroise et la philosophie. Paris, 1974.
    MandouzeMandouze, 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.
    MarrouMarrou, H.-I. Saint Augustin et la fin de la culture antique. Paris 4, 1958.
    Mayer, Zeichen 1Mayer, C. P. Die Zeichen in der geistigen Entwicklung und in der Theologie des jungen Augustinus. Würzburg, 1969.
    Mayer, Zeichen 2Mayer, C. P. Die Zeichen in der geistigen Entwicklung und in der Theologie Augustins. II. Teil: Die antimanichäische Epoche. Würzburg, 1974.
    MeijeringMeijering, E. P. Augustin über Schöpfung, Ewigkeit und Zeit: Das elfte Buch der Bekenntnisse. Leiden, 1979
    MilneMilne, C. H. A Reconstruction of the Old Latin Text or Texts of the Gospels used by Saint Augustine. Cambridge, 1926.
    O'DalyO'Daly, G. J. P. Augustine's Philosophy of Mind. London and Berkeley, 1987.
    OLDOxford Latin Dictionary.
    O'MearaO'Meara, J. J. The Young Augustine. London, 1954; corr. repr. 1980.
    Otto, SprichwörterOtto, A. Die Sprichwörter und sprichwörtlichen Redensarten der Römer. Leipzig, 1890; repr. Hildesheim, 1962.
    Pellegrino, Les ConfessionsPellegrino, M. Les Confessions de saint Augustin. Paris, 1960.
    PerlerPerler, O. (with J.-L. Maier). Les Voyages de saint Augustin. Paris, 1969.
    Pincherle, Formazione teologicaPincherle, A. La formazione teologica di Sant' Agostino. Rome, n.d. [1947].
    Poque, Le langage symboliquePoque, S. Le langage symbolique dans la prédication d'Augustin d'Hippone: Images héroïques. Paris, 1984.
    RARecherches augustiniennes
    REAugRevue des études augustiniennes
    Rousselle, PorneiaA. Rousselle, Porneia (Oxford, 1988)
    Signum PietatisZumkeller, A., ed. Signum Pietatis: Festgabe . . . C. P. Mayer. Würzburg, 1989.
    SLAHensellek, W., et al., edd. Specimina eines Lexicon Augustinianum. Vienna, 1987-.
    Sorabji, TimeSorabji, R. Time, Creation and the Continuum: Theories in Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Ithaca, 1983.
    SouterSouter, A. A Glossary of Later Latin. Oxford, 1949.
    TeSelleTeSelle, E. Augustine the Theologian. New York, 1970.
    TestardTestard, 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).
    TLLThesaurus Linguae Latinae.
    van BavelBavel, 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 Meervan 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 PedisequaVerheijen, [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).
    WarnsWarns, 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 RomainWeber, R. Le Psautier Romain et les autres anciens Psautiers Latins. Rome, 1953.
    ZarbZarb, S. Chronologia operum s. Augustini secundum ordinem Retractationum digesta. Rome, 1934.

    Editions and Translations Cited

    Editions (cited by editor's last name except where abbr. is indicated):

  • J. Amerbach (Basle, 1506)
  • Erasmus (Basle, 1528)
  • Louvain
  • T. Gozaeus and J. Molanus (Louvain, 1576)
  • Maur.
  • Benedictines of St. Maur (Paris, 1679), repr. with minor alterations in PL 32 (1845)
  • E. B. Pusey (Oxford, 1838)
  • Raumer (Gütersloh, 1855)
  • G-M
  • J. Gibb and W. Montgomery (Cambridge, second edition, 1927, reprinted New York, 1979)
  • P. Knöll (Vienna, 1896 [CSEL, 33]); I occasionally quote (and specify) his ed. min. (Leipzig, 1898)
  • F. Ramorino (Rome, 1909)
  • P. de Labriolle (Paris, 1925-26)
  • Skut.
  • M. Skutella (Leipzig, 1934; from the revision by Juergens-Schaub [Stuttgart, 1969])
  • A. C. Vega (Madrid, fifth edition, 1968 [Biblioteca de autores cristianos, 11])
  • BA
  • Bibliothèque Augustinienne [BA 13-14] (Paris, 1962: reprinting Skutella, with annotaation by A. Solignac)
  • Pell.
  • M. Pellegrino (Rome, 1975 [Nuova Biblioteca Agostiniana]: this edition is mainly a reprinting of Skutella, noted only for a few divergences; the translation is cited as `Carena' [see below]).
  • Ver.
  • L. Verheijen, (Turnhout, 1981 [CCSL, 27])
  • 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 (magister Regis et rex magistrorum), Dale Kinney, George Lawless, OSA, Thomas Mackay, Robert A. Markus, and Amy Richlin. My encounters with Augustine began two decades ago, in an irretrievable place, and remind me at every turn of a friend of whom it can be said, as Augustine said of Nebridius (ep. 98.8) that he was a most assiduous and keen-eyed investigator in all matters dealing with doctrine and piety, and that what he hated most of all was a short answer to a large question.

    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. `nec trepidus ero ad proferendam sententiam meam, in qua magis amabo inspici a rectis quam timebo morderi a perversis, . . . magisque optabo a quolibet reprehendi quam sive ab errante sive ab adulante laudari. nullus enim reprehensor formidandus est amatori veritatis.' (trin 2. pro. 1)

    Bryn Mawr 23 November 1990


    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 o( de\ poiw=n th\n a)lh/qeian and the Latin `qui autem facit veritatem,' English translations prefer `he who does the truth' (and Luther: `Wer aber die Wahrheit tut'). What `doing the truth' might mean is anybody's guess, and the phrase is probably preferred out of fear of the implication in `making truth' that the truth does not exist until it is made.


    `Truth' in our sense is not a native concept in any of the languages of our tradition. English true begins in Germanic as a physical description (of the wood at the center of a tree trunk), becomes a moral description (of a faithful man - that sense persists as the meaning of German treu), and only eventually becomes a metaphysical or ontological category. (German itself borrows verus from Latin and makes it wahr to do duty in our sense of true.) Latin verus (cf. OLD) follows a similar development, where `real, genuine, authentic' is the original meaning and `consistent with fact' only much later. Greek a)lhqh/s, the original, tells a similar story. These etymologic facts betray a fundamental fault-line in Western thought, between being and discourse, reality and truth. A.'s Christianity represents a mighty effort at bringing the two into harmony, and the rejection of that Christianity leaves moderns to face again the unbridged chasm, the inexhaustible subject of contemporary literary theorists; the essay of J. Kristeva, `Le vréel' (translated as `The True-Real', The Kristeva Reader [New York, 1986], 214-37), defines the issue with unusual clarity.


    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'


    `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
    . 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.


    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, op. cit., offered the orthodox response. Alfaric was

    `un prêtre passé au Modernisme'
    (Solignac, BA 13.58)
    ; 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.


    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: `Kuschs Arbeit scheint mir bezüglich der Frage des Aufbaus und der Einheit der Confessiones das Beste und Gründlichste zu sein, was bisher geschrieben wurde.'


    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.


    Mandouze 131n1, `Les heurts de la période marquée par le modernisme et, plus spécialement, les incompatibilités du protestantisme libéral et de l'intégrisme catholique sont une chose, l'état d'esprit d'Augustin à Cassiciacum en est une autre.' Consider as well the intensity and duration of the storm of controversy raised by Courcelle's study of the garden scene (8.12.29-30). The controversy replicated the earlier battles occasioned by application of scholarly instruments and criteria to biblical texts: literal narrative seemed threatened, and with literal narrative faith itself seemed threatened. It is not merely that the reaction to Courcelle could only have arisen in certain religious circles, but Courcelle himself would not have written as he did were such a response not inevitable. That is not to say that Courcelle wrote out of spite or in a deliberate attempt to shock, but that his own curiosity and his own sense of what questions mattered had been conditioned by an environment and a history that he shared with his opponents.


    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.


    Civ. 8.12 claims that Plotinus, Porphyry, and Iamblichus all recommended sacrifice to the gods. Even Porphyry's life of Plotinus (V. Plot. 2) shows Plotinus sacrificing on the birthdays of Socrates and Plato.


    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 (`et longe peregrinabar . . . de siliquis pascebam') and the first appearance of intellectus (`cum te non secundum intellectum mentis . . . sed secundum sensum carnis quaererem'), the vehicle of right knowledge of God.


    4.15.24, `non enim noveram neque didiceram nec ullam substantiam malum esse nec ipsam mentem nostram summum atque inconmutabile bonum.' For a further trinitarian implication, see on 4.15.24. See also on 5.10.20, `conaretur . . . repercutiebar', for the consistency with which the pattern is carried through.


    I cannot take the crucial phrase at 7.17.23 (`et pervenit ad id quod est in ictu trepidantis aspectus') in any other way. See commentary for Plotinian echoes - and especially the parallel texts in many other works of Augustine. Augustine is both more flattering to Plotinus than we are commonly wont to admit (here, by granting that he has indeed seen the `invisible things of God' [the crucial passage of Rom. 1.20 brackets the description of the ascent in that paragraph], if only for a moment), and at the same time more radically critical of him than we are willing to believe one so indebted to Plotinus could be.


    9.10.25, `si cui sileat . . .,' almost a translation from Plot. 5.1.2.


    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: `nonne hoc est, “intra in gaudium domini tui?”' [cf. Mt. 25.21]


    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, `ipse fecit nos' ) and 13.13.14.


    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 Io. ev. tr. 20.11-13, in which she sees the influence of Basil of Caesarea.


    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 ex professo disowned (cf. Marrou's famous palinode against his own early view: `jugement d'un jeune barbare ignorant et présomptueux.' [Marrou 665]), but in practice seems to live on.


    The rest of book 10 is a scandal to the doctiores; even when the rest of the book is rescued from the second-class status to which Williger and others sought to relegate it, the examination of conscience is ghettoized: Pincherle, Aug. Stud. 7(1976), 119-33, modifies Williger to claim that only the examination of conscience (10.30.41-10.37.60) was intercalated after a first draft of the rest was completed.


    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: civ. 12.1, `a superiore communi omnium beatifico bono ad propria defluxerunt et habentes elationis fastum pro excelsissima aeternitate, vanitatis astutiam pro certissima veritate, studia partium pro individua caritate superbi fallaces invidi effecti sunt.' For the case of vera rel., see du Roy 343-63 (343: `Chacune de ces concupiscences étant l'inversion de notre dependance à l'égard de chacune des trois personnes divines, le redressement consistera à retrouver notre authentique relation à chacune et à toute la Trinité'). A. could elsewhere apply the triadic pattern of temptations to assist in the interpretation of another narrative: s. 112.6.6-8.8 so reads the parable of the great feast (Lk. 14.15-24).


    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 ambitio saeculi. R. Crouse, in Neoplatonism and Early Christian Thought (Festschrift A.H. Armstrong: London, 1981), 183, on the fall of the soul through the three temptations: `What is represented here is the disintegration of human personality by the progressive separation and opposition of the personal powers of reason and will, first by the excessive or deficient love of the sensible (subordinate to reason), then by the subordination of reason itself to will, in curiositas, and finally by reason's contradiction in the willing of a lie.'


    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[1980] 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, `si Augustin a acquis la certitude que c'est une force du Très-haut qui a fait de lui un vainqueur, cela ne veut pas dire que ce soit l'action propre de Jésus-Christ. . . .. [Rom. 13.13-14] est une parole de force en vue de l'action, une exhortation destinée à entraîner la volonté déficiente, non une parole sur le Christ sauveur et rédempteur.'


    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., Tusc. 4, esp. 4.9.22, ascribing the origin of the four perturbationes animi [cf. 10.14.22] to intemperantia); the Manichees placed a high theoretical value on continence (whatever their defects in practice: see on 8.1.2); and neo-Platonism offered its own twist, presenting as its undoubted master one who `seemed ashamed of being in a body' (Porphyry, v. Plotini 1, the opening sentence: Plwti/nos i) kaq' h(ma=s gegonw\s filo/sofos e)w/|kei me\n ai)scunome/nw| o(/ti e)n sw/mati ei)/h) If it is surprising that the issue arises when and where it does in the Confessions, it is also surprising that it did not arise much earlier. How far that silence is an autobiographical datum (i.e., how far A. really did ignore such exhortations before Milan and 386), and how far it is a strategy of the autobiographer to enhance his dramatic presentation, we cannot tell.


    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: `Il pouvait s'agir d'un traité mis en forme, dans lequel le mystère de la vie chrétienne inaugurée dans le “bain de la régénération” était opposé à une autre doctrine de salut prêchée par le platonisme antichrétien accrédité par Porphyre. Et c'est en ce sens que me semble devoir être interprété le titre double.'), Madec 324 dates the work to no later than spring 387, and probably 384/6. Madec is strictly correct when he says at 324, `Mais ni les Confessions, ni les premières oeuvres ne semblent y faire allusion', but the reading of the Confessions suggested here reveals that it was indeed influential. About the time of the Confessions (ep. 31.8, of 396/7: Madec 249-50) A. was able to acquire a copy for renewed study, that is, about the time of his reassessment of his own relations to Platonism (a time when Ambrose would be a specially apt model if A. were concerned with finding a valid attitude towards philosophy for a bishop to take), and his position grew increasingly cautious and critical; note esp. that the Porphyrian Christology that is implicitly attacked in Ambrose's work is a focus of A.'s attacks from 397 on (conf. 7.19.25, s. 62.7.9, cons. ev. 1.7.11, 1.34.52). If Madec is right that Ambrose and A. were far apart in their view of Platonism while A. was in Milan (see Madec's summary at 346-7), it also seems clear that the re-reading of this important book by A. at about the time he wrote the Confessions was a force in drawing A. closer to Ambrose's views.

    Ambrose's book attacked those who claimed that Christ had learned from Plato (ep. 31.8, doctr. chr. 2.28.43 [modified at civ. 8.11, retr. 2.4.2, to retract the claim that Plato and Jeremiah were contemporary]), and it spoke strongly in favor of the redeeming power of the sacrament of baptism (c. Iul. 2.5.14), linking to baptism a moral reformation in matters of the flesh and praising continence (again c. Iul. 2.5.14 [where Ambrose is quoted, and this is of great interest, taking Rom. 7 to apply to the converted Paul, and not to the Old Man generally: see on 7.21.27 for the development A. himself underwent on that text], c. Iul. 2.8.24, but especially c. Iul. 2.7.20, quoted below); the work strongly implies something approaching a doctrine of original sin (c. Iul. 2.6.15 [with bits reechoed at c. Iul. 6.26.83, 3.21.48, c. Iul. imp. 2.8, 2.21, 2.31]), and attacked Platonic reincarnation teachings (c. Iul. 2.7.19). For the consistency of Ambrose's positions, worth comparing is the fragment of Ambrose on Isaiah from c. Iul. 2.8.23: `sicut enim regeneratio lavacri dicitur per quam detersa peccatorum conluvione renovamur, ita regeneratio dici videtur per quam ab omni corporeae concretionis purificati labe mundo animae sensu in vitam regeneramur aeternam.'


    c. Iul. 2.7.20, `“bona”, inquit, “continentia, quaedam velut crepido pietatis. namque in praecipitiis vitae huius labentium statuit vestigia, speculatrix sedula, ne quid obrepat illicitum. mater autem vitiorum omnium incontinentia [cf. conf. 8.11.27, where continentia is a fecunda mater filiorum gaudiorum], quae etiam licita vertit in vitium. ideoque apostolus non solum a fornicatione nos retrahit, verum etiam in ipsis coniugiis modum quemdam docet, et tempora praescribit orandi. intemperans enim in coniugio, quid aliud nisi quidam adulter uxoris est?”' The prestige of continence in various forms with Ambrose is famous; the importance of this passage is the twofold link between continence and confuting the philosophers on the one hand and right worship on the other (see on 8.1.2 for reasons for taking pietas so explicitly of `right worship'). Ambrose's remarks are rooted in the philosophical tradition; two of the `Sentences of Sextus' (§§ 86a and 231 [ed. H. Chadwick]) are echoed here, esp. 86a,krhpi\j eu)sebei/aj e)gkra/teia, which itself descends from Socrates, quoted by Xenophon, mem. 1.5.4: see Madec, Saint Ambroise 311-17.


    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 (b. coniug. 22.27 and often later, e.g., pecc. mer. 3.7.13, nupt. et conc. 2.5.15 and 2.23.38, c. ep. pel. 1.2.4, haer. 82, c. Iul. imp. 1.97-8; see R. A. Markus, `Augustine's Confessions: Autobiography as a New Beginning, or, Manicheism Revisited,' [forthcoming]); instead, in the after years when the Pelagian position was thrown in A.'s face repeatedly by Julian, A. aligned himself firmly with Ambrose, trying for a middle ground between extremes. That policy is responsible for the abundant quotations from Ambrose in A.'s works against Julian, including most of the surviving fragments of the de sacramento regenerationis sive de philosophia. (The tactic was brushed off by Julian: c. Iul. imp. 4.110-113, esp. 4.112, `ceterum vel Ambrosii dicta, vel aliorum, quorum famam vestrorum nitimini maculare consortio, clara benignaque possunt ratione defendi.') A. is rarely given credit for his moderation. On the background and issues involved see best A. Rousselle, Porneia (Paris, 1983; trans. Oxford, 1988), esp. chapters 8-11, E. Clark, `Vitiated Seeds and Holy Vessels: Augustine's Manichaean Past', in her Ascetic Piety and Women's Faith: Essays in Late Ancient Christianity (Lewiston, NY, 1986), 291-349, Clark's `“Adam's Only Companion”: Augustine and the Early Christian Debate on Marriage', RA 21(1986), 139-62 (but construing the history as a debate on marriage rather than continence is a way of privileging the agenda of the 1980s over that of the 380s: much of what is idiosyncratic in what writers of that period say about marriage may be at least partly explained by noting that their attention was really elsewhere when they wrote many of the passages for which they are now taxed) and Peter Brown, The Body and Society (New York, 1988), 341-427. The curious prestige Julian of Eclanum enjoys among moderns is to be explained only by his usefulness as a club with which to beat Augustine. There is no evidence, after all, that Christianity for Julian ever reached beyond the comfortable upper-class and upper-class clerical circles into which he was born; A. the bishop is nowhere near so elitist or authoritarian.


    For the way the topic of continence develops in the Confessions, see further on 8.1.2


    Cf. also ep. 38.1 of mid-397, `secundum spiritum, quantum domino placet, atque vires praebere dignatur, recte sumus; corpore autem, ego in lecto sum. nec ambulare enim, nec stare, nec sedere possum, rhagadis vel exochadis dolore et tumore. . . . ut oretis pro nobis, ne diebus intemperante utamur, ut noctes aequo animo toleremus . . .' It is sobering to think that the Confessions may have been dictated by a man lying prone and enduring undignified and only marginally effective medical treatment.


    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 terminus ante quem for the Confessions, would support my own view above, but is untenable: c. Fel.must be dated to 404.


    See on 1.6.7 and 10.36.59ff.


    s. Frang. 2 [= s. 339 + s. 40].


    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) Gn. litt. imp. (393/4) was left incomplete, to be revived and redone differently and better after the Confessions in Gn. litt. (2) c. ep. Don. (a systematic refutation barely begun and not surviving) went nowhere, but bapt. (in 6 books) follows the Confessions. (3) The Pauline commentaries of 394/6 (arising out of discussions at Carthage when A. was a presbyter: retr. 1.23.1) go nowhere, until div. qu. Simp. put him on the right track leading directly to the Confessions, and beyond the Confessions to both trin. (see below) and to the anti-Pelagian controversy. (4) The c. ep. fund. he undertook in 396 to refute systematically a central Manichee text: after another failure, the idea lay dormant, until the massive c. Faust. of c. 399 finished the job. (5) His comments on mend. at retr. 1.27 reveal it - the last thing he catalogued as written before episcopal ordination - as another problematic work: `item de mendacio scripsi librum . . . auferre statueram de opusculis meis, quia et obscurus et anfractuosus et omnino molestus mihi videbatur, propter quod eum nec edideram.' (6) Finally, doctr. chr. was a real attempt to deal with the problems of preaching; unfinished (until 427), its task was performed much more humbly by the cat. rud. of 399/400. Some have suggested from time to time that cat. rud., written about the same time as the Confessions, offers in its model catechetical discourse an analogue of some sort for the Confessions, even that the Confessions exemplify in practice the theoretical structure recommended and demonstrated by cat. rud. This is at best loosely true (it is true, for example, that A. recommends that the `narratio' of the catechist begin with Gn. 1.1 and continue to the present [cat. rud. 3.5 and 6.10], and that matches the exegesis presented in Bks. 11-13 of the Confessions), but worth considering; on that assumption, however, consider this prescription from the other work: `But the greatest concern is to find the way to catechize rejoicing, for the more it is possible to do that, the pleasanter the catechesis will be' (`sed quibus modis faciendum sit, ut gaudens quisque catechizet [tanto enim suavior erit, quanto magis id potuerit], ea cura maxima est' [cat. rud. 2.4]). Is gaudens a reasonable adjective for the tone of voice of the Confessions?


    Immediately following upon the brilliant vera rel., the last thing he wrote before ordination.


    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 `involuntary sin'. On A.'s rereading of Paul, best is P. Fredriksen, `Beyond the body/soul dichotomy: Augustine on Paul against the Manichees and the Pelagians', RA 23(1988), 87-114.

    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 div. qu. Simp. he finds the reading of Paul (which then helps him make sense of his own life in the Confessions) that enables him to see how a relative failure to achieve perfection is compatible with all that he knows and believes. (His new reading of Paul at first made things worse - Robert Markus writes concisely but with great perception of the `intellectual landslide' of this period [Conversion and Disenchantment in Augustine's Spiritual Career (Villanova, 1989), 23].) His vehemence in the face of the Pelagians is vehemence in the face of his own younger, deluded self (hence the importance of quoting Ambrose in the last works, a way of insisting that `what I converted to then was indeed the real thing, and even then I was anti-Pelagian').


    The link between the incompleteness of doctr. chr. and the writing of the Confessions was made by A. Pincherle (cf. Formazione teologica di Sant' Agostino [Rome, n.d. (1947)], 194, and elaborated by him, esp. in `Intorno alla genesi delle Confessioni', Augustinian Studies, 5(1974), 167-76 (emphasizing the importance of A.'s new reading of Paul) and `The Confessions of St. Augustine: A Reappraisal', Augustinian Studies, 7(1976), 119-33. (The eventual conclusion of doctr. chr. thirty years after the Confessions shows the kinship between the two projects; the last words are: doctr. chr. 4.31.64, `ego tamen deo nostro gratias ago, quod in his quatuor libris non qualis ego essem [conf. 10.4.6], cui multa desunt, sed qualis esse debeat, qui in doctrina sana, id est christiana, non solum sibi, sed etiam aliis laborare studet, quantulacumque potui facultate disserui.')


    Mandouze 564: `Les sermons d'une part, les lettres d'autre part représentent deux manières différentes - plus fragmentaires mais aussi sans cesse remises à jour, et donc plus actuelles que l'ouvrage intitulé les Confessions - de continuer à confesser Dieu et à le confesser en parlant aux hommes et en leur faisant part d'une vie qui ne pouvait plus être une vie privée.' Miles Davis: `Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.'


    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 c. acad. (3 `books'), mus. (6 books, written in two stages but unfinished, and part of a larger project that fell apart), mor. (2 books), lib. arb. (3 books, but written in two stages), Gn. c. man. (2 books, but only part of what he had to say on that subject), s. dom. m. (2 books), and doctr. chr. (broken off in the middle of the third book). By length, mus. ran to about 40,000 words, lib. arb., s. dom. m., and the torso of doctr. chr. each to about 30,000 words, and a few others approaching 20,000 words. By contrast, the Confessions run to 13 books and are about twice as long (c. 80,000 words) as anything he had previously written. All his other large works were written later (longer than the Confessions: civ., Io. ev. tr., c. Iul., c. Iul. imp., c. Faust., trin., qu. hept., Gn. litt.; longer than anything else pre-Confessions: cons. ev., spec., c. Cresc., c. litt. Pet., and bapt.).


    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 trin. represents the logical next step to the Confessions.


    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 trin., and after that his career as a speculative theologian ended as he plunged into the Pelagian controversy.


    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 trin. is what the author of the Confessions had to do next - it is the work most directly in the line of the Confessions, and its completion was as important to A. as was completion of the Confessions (hence his tenacity in the face of difficulties in finishing it, hence his irritation at having it wrested from him before he was ready). (A parallel development may be observed in the movement from quant. an. 33.70ff, the fullest handbook of the ascent to come from A.'s pen, and doctr. chr. 2.7.9-2.7.11, which gives a seven stage ascent of the mind to God based on Is. 11.2.)


    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.


    But see 1.14.17, `nam cum triginta tres annos agam, quattuordecim fere anni sunt ex quo ista [i.e., worldly wealth] cupere destiti, nec aliud quidquam in his, qui quo casu offerrentur, praeter necessarium victum liberalemque usum cogitavi. prorsus mihi unus Ciceronis liber facillime persuasit nullo modo appetendas esse divitias, sed si provenerint, sapientissime atque cautissime administrandas.'


    Cf. du Roy 176-7, esp. on the way trinitarian speculation and contemplation facilitated the process.


    sol. 1.1.4, `quidquid a me dictum est, unus deus tu, tu veni mihi in auxilium. una aeterna vera substantia, ubi nulla discrepantia, nulla confusio, nulla transitio, nulla indigentia, nulla mors, ubi summa concordia, summa evidentia, summa constantia, summa plenitudo, summa vita, . . . cuius legibus arbitrium animae liberum est; . . . qui fecisti hominem ad imaginem et similitudinem tuam, quod qui se ipse novit agnoscit. exaudi, exaudi, exaudi me, deus meus, domine meus, rex meus, pater meus, causa mea, spes mea, res mea, honor meus, domus mea, patria mea, salus mea, lux mea, vita mea. exaudi, exaudi, exaudi me, more illo tuo paucis notissimo.' Only the last five words invoke an unmistakeably Platonic background. On this text, see du Roy 196-206.


    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' de trinitate, written a generation earlier, though offering a schematic and abstract narrative, breathe the same atmosphere as the Confessions. The quest for truth and a righteous life pursued in conventional philosophical terms, the sense of liberation arising from a reading of John 1, and the reorientation of philosophical studies in the wake of that reading - all these are in Hilary, and many of the scriptural texts that A. uses pivotally are there as well. (Parallels mentioned briefly and incompletely by Courcelle, Les Confessions 95-6. When A. read Hilary is not clear, though it is generally assumed, e.g. by du Roy and TeSelle, that it was early, perhaps even 387.)


    P. Séjourné, Rev. sc. rel. 25(1951), 343, touches glancingly on the parallel: `une fresque de son itinéraire philosophique et un rappel de ses propres errements'.


    Bk. 2: sexual profligacy.


    Bk. 3: adhesion to the Manichees.


    Bks. 5-6: adhesion to the Academics.


    Bk. 7: `tentatives d' extase'.


    Bk. 8: on the verge of the garden scene.


    8.12.28, `procella ingens ferens ingentem imbrem lacrimarum'.


    This passage was probably written at Rome as early as 387/8, but we cannot say for sure that it was written before lib. arb. was revised and completed in Hippo during Augustine's priesthood (391/5); a very similar passage at lib. arb. 3.18.52-3.19.53 restates and confirms what is here.


    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 quant. an. 33.70-76 gives some reason to believe that the biographical narrative of the Confessions is organized to reflect a detailed and progressive pattern of `ascent'.


    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 lib. arb. (basically the first book and the elegant `ascent' in the second) are a less polemical first sketch of ideas reprised in (the polemical) mor. On the place of anti-Manicheism, Mayer, Zeichen 2.438, sees that anti-Manicheism is a dominant concern in A.'s exegetical writings (in a way that anti-Platonism, anti-`paganism', and even anti-Pelagianism are not) because it was exegesis that rescued A. from the Manichean sect, and it was bad exegesis that was the source of their errors. Everything exegetical in A. down to 400 at least must be taken as having an anti-Manichean sub-text (including, e.g., Bks. 11-13 here).


    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 lib. arb. 1.11.22 is a hint of the process of composition: inventio on a small scale, gradual elaboration in (long lost to us) oral presentation, then the final virtuoso performance in the presence of the secretaries. If A. composes as we do, then several years of labor are appropriately imagined; but nothing in the work itself forbids us to think that it was rather the product of a fortnight.


    From A.'s circle, we have the view of Possidius, vita A. pr., `nec adtingam ea omnia insinuare quae idem beatissimus Augustinus in suis confessionum libris de semetipso, qualis ante perceptam gratiam fuerit qualisque iam sumpta viveret, designavit. hoc autem facere voluit, ut ait apostolus, ne de se quisquam hominum supra quam se esse noverat aut de se auditum fuisset crederet vel putaret, humilitatis sanctae more, utique nihilo fallens, sed laudem non suam sed sui domini de propria liberatione ac munere quaerens, ex his videlicet quae iam perceperat, et fraternas preces poscens de his quae accipere cupiebat.'


    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 civ., the completion of other projects (e.g., trin.), and the plunge into the Pelagian controversy, at age about 60. It is not absurd to consider conscious and semi-conscious influence of such periodization on a man's life, when (a) we have textual evidence that he thought of his own life in such categories, and (b) when we see ourselves measuring our own and others' lives by the twenty-first, fortieth, and sixty-fifth birthdays. L. Pizzolato, in Le “Confessioni” di sant'Agostino (Milan, 1968) and later works, employs the six days as a key to the structure of the whole work, with some fruitful results (see on 1.8.13, 2.1.1, and 7.1.1). The difficulty is that A. at the time of writing the Confessions is required by his scheme to be both middle-aged (the fifth age) for Bk. 10 and old (the sixth) for Bks. 11-13. Pizzolato also neglects the alternate scheme for seven ages proposed in vera rel. (see on 1.8.13).


    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: `Here we already find the essential themes which will characterize Augustine's thought throughout his career: God's constant presence to the self, even when its attention is directed toward the external world; the divine light as the source of all the truths that we apprehend; the need to “remember” the divine presence and turn within; the goal of immediate vision of God.' (TeSelle 68.) That links to the east are not preposterous to suggest at this period, cf. civ. 10.32, where Porphyry's de regressu animae is quoted as assigning some authority in describing the `universalis via animae liberandae' to the `Indorum mores ac disciplina.' For a sketch of what is possible in a related direction, see F.-J. Thonnard, `Augustinisme et sagesse hindoue', RA 5(1968) 157-74.


    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, beata v. 1.4, and more generally on texts with express autobiographical, `factual' content, while this selection includes texts that partake equally, or more than equally, of interpretation as against narrative. See also the passage from lib. arb. 1.11.22 quoted and discussed above. Courcelle's form of presentation is enlightening in its own way, setting out pieces of text in parallel columns; it is in part to complement his approach that the integral texts are given here. For a more detailed presentation of beata v. 1.4, see now J. Doignon, BA 4/1.135-40.


    Maur. and Knöll read cautissime; comparable timidity of the scribes at 4.3.6, `Nebridius . . . castus'.


    This phrase corroborates the observation above that lib. arb. 1.11.22 and 3.18.52-3.19.53 have personal reference for A.


    Sound is not the same as flawless. The number of emendations accepted in any edition is small, and loci desperati are very few (perhaps only 1.14.23 and 8.2.3). One passage (12.28.38) had been the object of a universally accepted emendation since the Louvain edition of 1576, but that is no longer tenable.


    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[1965], 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[1979], 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 quisquiliae in the app., the errors of the underlying collations were numerous. Skutella's edition excels Knöll's not least in accuracy of collations. (And the reader who knows that Knöll preferred S habitually will be surprised to see how often Knöll abandons that MS, but should know that in most of those cases, Knöll had an incorrect report of S before him.)


    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, `et baptizati sumus' .


    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 humiliare and humiliatus, I have accepted the arguments of D. De Bruyne (MA 2.558-61) in favor of the forms humilare and humilatus.


    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: `Ein bedeutsames Buch, eine der wichtigsten Vorarbeiten für einen zukünftigen wissenschaftlichen Kommentar zu den Konfessionen'; Knauer 21, `. . . daß ein umfassender Kommentar zu den Konfessionen dringend erwünscht wäre' (the reviews of Knauer, including that of Courcelle at REL 33[1956], 425, were full of similar hopes); M. Pellegrino, `Per un commento alle “Confessioni”', REAug 5(1959), 439-46 (see 446, `. . . ricordando che un buon commento realizzato entro un termine di tempo ragionevole sarà in ogni caso più utile d'un commento ideale che rimanga allo stato di progetto . . ..'). More recently, cf. W. Steidle, Romanitas-Christianitas (Festschrift J. Straub: Berlin, 1982), 527: `Eine durchgehende Kommentierung einzelner Bücher ist gewiss ein Desiderat. Jedenfalls findet der Philologe hier noch ein weites, vielfach unbeackertes Feld.'


    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[1988], 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: `Il est remarquable qu'à base de presque toutes les tentatives d'intellectus fidei d'Augustin, il y a un texte scripturaire qui en est l'amorce. . . . Mais la citation scripturaire accroche, pour ainsi dire, des thèmes du néo-platonisme, lesquels, en revanche, en commandent l'interprétation.' It is too facile to say that the neo-Platonic ideas control the interpretation: there is very often a marked struggle going on. My approach seeks no more than to redress the balance here and there in favor of the scriptural text.


    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: `A Reader of Milton must be Always upon Duty; he is Surrounded with Sense, it rises in every Line, every Word is to the Purpose; There are no Lazy Intervals, All has been Considered, and Demands, and Merits Observation.'


    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[1960], 111-27 and 258-86, and 65[1964], 110-36, and by A.-M. La Bonnardière, Recherches de chronologie augustinienne [Paris, 1965]), and A. Mutzenbecher in her edition of retr. (CCSL 57) for the rest of the œuvre (drawing upon O. Perler, Les Voyages de Saint Augustin [Paris, 1966]). The work of S. Zarb remains fundamental, esp. his Chronologia operum S. Augustini secundum ordinem Retractationum digesta (Rome, 1934 - reprinting articles in Angelicum for 1933 and 1934). I have not been able to gain access to a copy of the unpublished thèse of A. Mandouze, Retractatio retractationum sancti Augustini (Paris, 1968), which apparently covers the same ground. Of the works listed here, only 21 are given by Mutzenbecher as having certain dates; virtually all the rest could have question marks, though only a dozen or so are dated in a way at all arbitrary. There will be some discussions in the commentary.


    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 ars breviata.


    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 Io. ev. tr. 1-16); A. M. La Bonnardière, Recherches de chronologie augustinienne (dating Io. ev. tr. 1-16 to 406/7 with Io. ep. tr., putting the rest off to 418 and after); D. F. Wright, JThS n.s. 15(1964) 317-30 (separating Io. ev. tr. 20-22 from the rest); and M. F. Berrouard, in BA 71.29-35 (accepting 406/7 for Io. ev. tr. 1-16) and BA 72.18-46 (dating Io. ev. tr. 17-19 and 23-54 to 414, Io. ev. tr. 20-22 to 419/20). For Io. ev. tr. 55-124, ep. 23.A* now lends credence to a date of 419: see M.-F. Berrouard, Les lettres . . . Divjak (Paris, 1983), 302ff.


    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 doubtful.


    Authenticity controversial; defended and edited (ed. repr. in CCSL) by D. De Bruyne, MA 2.327-40.


    Refs. to retr. follow the conventional two-book scheme and `chapter' numbers as in Mutzenbecher's edition.


    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. Io. ev. tr., in particular, was written many years after the Confessions and cannot be counted on to present a text identical with that which A. used 397/401.


    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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