Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 2
Making a "Catholic" Self, 388-401 C.E.
Publication Year: 2013
By 388 C.E., Augustine had broken with the Manichaeism of his early adulthood and wholeheartedly embraced Nicene Christianity as the tradition with which he would identify and within which he would find meaning. Yet conversion rarely, if ever, represents a clean and total break from the past. As Augustine defined and became a "Catholic" self, he also intently engaged with Manichaeism as a rival religious system. This second volume of Jason David BeDuhn's detailed reconsideration of Augustine's life and letters explores the significance of the fact that these two processes unfolded together.
BeDuhn identifies the Manichaean subtext to be found in nearly every work written by Augustine between 388 and 401, and demonstrates Augustine's concern with refuting his former beliefs without alienating the Manichaeans he wished to win over. To achieve these ends, Augustine modified and developed his received Nicene Christian faith, strengthening it where it was vulnerable to Manichaean critique and taking it in new directions where he found room within an orthodox frame of reference to accommodate Manichaean perspectives and concerns. Against this background, BeDuhn is able to shed new light on the complex circumstances and purposes of Augustine's most famous work, The Confessions, as well as his distinctive reading of Paul and his revolutionary concept of grace. Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 2 demonstrates the close interplay between Augustine's efforts to work out his own "Catholic" persona and the theological positions associated with his name, between the sometimes dramatic twists and turns of his own personal life and his theoretical thinking.
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press
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Note on Terminology
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At Easter in the spring of 387, Augustine, recently retired civic rhetor of Milan, received baptism at the hands of the city’s bishop, Ambrose, formalizing at the same time both his conversion to the “Nicene” faith of the “Catholic” Church and his apostasy from the Manichaean sect to which he had belonged for more than a decade. ...
Chapter 1. The True Religion
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Augustine returned to Africa in 388 a new man, the bearer of a new subjectivity.1 Even while he presented himself as representing an alternative to the options of identity present in Africa, however, his own integration of this new identity into his life was far from complete. ...
Chapter 2. Myth and Morals
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In the face of aggressive Manichaean proselytization, by which “they pursue both the learned . . . and the unlearned,” Augustine had been advised by those more familiar with the current African scene to abandon the pretensions of his philosophical compositions in favor of something more widely useful in the competition for the hearts and minds of the people.1 ...
Chapter 3. Perfecting the Paradigm
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In the early spring of 391, Augustine took the road north from Thagaste to the coastal town of Hippo, supposedly on a personal mission to recruit for his community a prominent citizen (one of the agentes in rebus, or government comissioners)—such new recruits were essential to keep the project funded— but possibly also with a thought to relocate the community itself to Hippo (Serm 355.2; Possidius 3.3).1 ...
Chapter 4. Fortunatus
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Two days in the late summer of 392 changed Augustine forever, although at the time he scarcely recognized it. Augustine had served as a priest in Hippo for little more than a year when he was approached by an unusual joint delegation of Catholics and Donatists, asking him to take on in debate the local Manichaean leader Fortunatus. ...
Chapter 5. The Exegete
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The kind of Christian Augustine had become in his conversion obligated him to acknowledge the authority of the Bible. But it was entirely up to Augustine to determine how much further he would engage with the biblical text than that gesture of acknowledgment. His compositions prior to his debate with Fortunatus provide a very clear indication that, ...
Chapter 6. The Problem of Paul
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Despite Augustine’s later attempts to claim a prominent place for Paul in his initial conversion and earliest years as a Catholic, the evidence of his own writings shows incontrovertibly that Paul came dramatically to the foreground of his attention in the mid-390s, as an intense set of exegetical discoveries that R. A. Markus has likened to a landslide.1 ...
Chapter 7. Accused
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Sometime in 394 or 395, as Augustine worked intently on finding a “Catholic” Paul, bishop Valerius proposed to his superior, Megalius, bishop of Calama and primate of Numidia, that his priest Augustine be appointed coadjutor bishop in Hippo.1 We do not know what argument Valerius made for this unusual step. ...
Chapter 8. Discoveries
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Affirmed in the authenticity of his conversion and conformity, and ordained bishop of Hippo by Megalius himself, Augustine now occupied a place of authority within the Catholic Church, making him both more visible to assessments of conformity and more influential in defining what should count as conformity. ...
Chapter 9. How One Becomes What One Is
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Augustine had a new self to present to the world. Following earlier formulaic summaries of his conversion,1 as well as what must have been a more self-conscious and crafted account in conditions of adversity, his subsequent vindication and elevation to the episcopate had created the circumstances in which he could and would transform his story into the literary triumph of his Confessions. ...
Chapter 10. Truth in the Realm of Lies
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Augustine’s shift from autobiography to exegesis in the concluding sections of the Confessions presents a notorious problem. There is no shortage of hypotheses that seek to account for this rather odd compositional move, linking, in Roland Teske’s all too apt characterization, “rather strange autobiography and even stranger exegesis.”1 ...
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“It is not easy to do justice to the opponents of St. Augustine,” W. H. C. Frend once said.1 He spoke at the midpoint of the last century, during which more historically conscious ways of reading Augustine gradually gained ground on synthetic, theologically expository approaches to his body of work, bringing with them a growing awareness of the complexity of his non-Catholic intellectual contacts and debts. ...
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This is the second volume of a planned trilogy on Augustine of Hippo’s engagement with the Manichaeans of North Africa, and its consequences for his legacy as a major contributor to the shape of Christian identity until the present day. It comes so close on the heels of the first that I am especially appreciative of the perspective I gained from the panel ...
Page Count: 584
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion