Cover

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Title Page, Series Page, Copyright Page

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Contents

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p. v

A Note on the Translation

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p. vii

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CHAPTER 1 The Book's Birth

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pp. 1-16

To write the biography of Confessions, we have to start in the delivery room—how and when was it born? We shall see that the when can partly be determined by the how. How did Augustine write Confessions? Well, in the strict sense, he didn’t— didn’t set words down on papyrus or parchment. Augustine has been painted, by artists as great as Botticelli, Carpaccio...

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CHAPTER 2 The Book's Genre

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pp. 17-25

Augustine had never written anything like Confessions. In fact, no one had ever written anything like this book. James O’Donnell (2.8) points out that its very opening has no parallel in classical or Christian literature: “No other work of his begins with direct address to God. . . . Augustine invented a form and style unique...

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CHAPTER 3 The Book's African Days

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pp. 26-40

Augustine begins his prayer with thanksgiving for his birth and for the care that was given him as an infant. Since he cannot remember his infant days, he conjectures what he was like from babies he has observed. The one he observed most closely, of course, was his own son, Adeodatus (“Godsend”). Th e boy was born...

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CHAPTER 4 The Book's Ambrose

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pp. 41-57

Th e sea voyage from Carthage to Rome was broken up by a stop in Sicily (the ancients were shorehuggers) and that meant only about a hundred nautical miles in open sea. But this was an agony to Augustine, one of the ancient world’s worst sailors. He would only repeat the experience once, to get back to Africa four...

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CHAPTER 5 The Book's "Conversion"

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pp. 58-77

Th e most famous passage in Confession is the garden scene in Milan, from July 386, always referred to as the conversion scene—the moment when Augustine decided to be baptized. Th is is the second most celebrated conversion in Western Christian history, the fi rst being Paul’s on the road to Damascus. Th e only problem...

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CHAPTER 6 The Book's Baptismal Days

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pp. 78-97

Book 8 of Confessions ends on a misleadingly serene note. As Augustine fi nishes reading the passage from Paul, “light was fl ooding my heart with assurance, and all my shadowy reluctance evanesced” (8.29). He rushes to tell his mother that he will give up the wife she had...

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CHAPTER 7 The Book's Hinge

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pp. 98-111

Book 10 steps away from what Augustine has written about himself up to ten years ago, and asks two things. First, why did he tell his own story in the fi rst place, as part of his prayer of repentance for sin and thanksgiving for grace? He could have prayed in silence, and not in writing that other people could read. He told us...

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CHAPTER 8 The Book's Culmination

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pp. 112-132

Th ough some readers drop out of the book when Augustine’s life story seems to end, he tells us that this is the part he has been waiting for, and he cannot continue to hold back from the study of Scripture, which is his real goal: Even if...

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CHAPTER 9 The Book's Afterlife: Early Reception, Later Neglect

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pp. 133-148

Augustine tells us that Confessions was the book most frequently and favorably read during his lifetime. But not all notices of it were favorable. At the end of his life he drew up a list of his published works, to certify the authentic ones and make some comments on...

NOTES

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pp. 149-154

BASIC READINGS

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pp. 155-156

INDEX

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pp. 157-166