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Augustine of Hippo

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St. Augustine of Hippo as pictured during the Renaissance

Aurelius Augustinus, Augustine of Hippo (November_13, 354August 28, 430) is a saint and the pre-eminent Doctor of the Church according to Roman Catholicism; he was the eldest son of Saint Monica. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, which does not accept all of his teachings, he is usually called "Blessed Augustine." Many Protestants also consider him to be a spiritual ancestor of Protestantism, in the sense that Protestantism's founder Martin Luther was deeply influenced by him (Luther was trained as an Augustinian monk), and in Protestantism's general focus, following Augustine, on original sin which leads to a more pessimistic assessment of human reason and action apart from divine grace.

Contents

Life

Saint Augustine was born in 354 in Tagaste to a Christian mother and a Pagan father, raised in Roman north Africa, educated in Carthage, and employed as a professor of rhetoric in Milan by 383. He followed the Manichaean religion in his student days, and was converted to Christianity by the preaching and example of Ambrose of Milan. He was baptized at Easter in 387, and returned to north Africa and created a monastic foundation at Tagaste for himself and a group of friends. In 391 he was ordained a priest in Hippo Regius, (now Annaba, in Algeria). He became a famous preacher (more than 350 preserved sermons are believed to be authentic), and was noted for combating the Manichaean heresy.

In 396 he was made coadjutor bishop of Hippo (assistant with the right of succession on the death of the current bishop), and remained as bishop in Hippo until his death in 430. He left his monastery, but continued to lead a monastic life in the episcopal residence. He left a Rule (Latin, Regula) for his monastery that has led him to be designated the "patron saint of Regular Clergy," that is, parish clergy who live by a monastic rule.

Augustine died on August 28, 430, during the siege of Hippo by the Vandals. He is said to have encouraged its citizens to resist the attacks, primarily on the grounds that the Vandals adhered to Arian Christianity, which Augustine regarded as heretical.

Writings

At the end of his life (426-428?) Augustine revisited his previous works in chronological order and suggested what he would have said differently in a work titled the Retractions, giving the reader a rare picture of the development of a writer and his final thoughts.

Augustine and the Jews

Augustine wrote in Book 18, Chapter 46 of The City of God [1] (http://www.ccel.org/fathers/NPNF1-02/Augustine/cog/t103.htm) (one of his most celebrated works along with The Confessions): "The Jews who slew Him, and would not believe in Him, because it behooved Him to die and rise again, were yet more miserably wasted by the Romans, and utterly rooted out from their kingdom, where aliens had already ruled over them, and were dispersed through the lands (so that indeed there is no place where they are not), and are thus by their own Scriptures a testimony to us that we have not forged the prophecies about Christ."

Augustine deemed this scattering important because he believed that it was a fulfillment of certain prophecies, thus proving that Jesus was the Messiah. This is because Augustine believed that the Jews who were dispersed were the enemies of the Christian Church. He also quotes part of the same prophecy that says "Slay them not, lest they should at last forget Thy law". Some people have used Augustine's words to attack Jews as anti-Christian, while others have used them to attack Christians as anti-Jewish. See Christianity and anti-Semitism

To appreciate the significance of Augustine's utterances one must relate them to the apologetic or polemic against Judaism of earlier Fathers, especially the Latin writers Tertullian (Adversus Iudaeos), Cyprian (Testimonia ad Quirinum), Pseudo-Cyprian (De Montibus Sina et Sion and other writings), Novatian, Commodian, Lactantius, Zeno of Verona, Ambrosiaster, Ambrose, Jerome, Prudentius, as well as to Origen's interpretation of the Old Testament which sees it as a book whose spiritual meaning the Jews cannot understand.

An important work on this subject is Bernhard BLUMENKRANZ, Die Judenpredigt Augustins, Paris 1973 (originally 1946).

Influence as a theologian and thinker

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Augustine remains a central figure, both within Christianity and in the history of Western thought. Himself much influenced by Platonism and neo-Platonism, particularly by Plotinus, Augustine was important to the "baptism" of Greek thought and its entrance into the Christian, and subsequently the European intellectual tradition. Also important was his early and influential writing on the human will, a central topic in ethics, and one which became a focus for later philosophers such as Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. It is largely due to Augustine's influence that Western Christianity subscribes to the doctrine of original sin, and the Roman Catholic Church holds that baptisms and ordinations done outside of the Roman Catholic Church can be valid (the Roman Catholic Church recognizes ordinations done in Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches, but not in Protestant churches, and recognizes baptisms done in nearly all Christian churches). Catholic theologians generally subscribe to Augustine's belief that God exists outside of time in the "eternal present"; time existing only within the created universe.

Augustine's writings helped formulate the theory of the just war. He also advocated the use of force against the Donatists, asking "Why . . . should not the Church use force in compelling her lost sons to return, if the lost sons compelled others to their destruction?" (The Correction of the Donatists, 22–24)

Augustine's work The City of God heavily influenced works of Wincenty Kadlubek and Stanislaw of Skarbimierz on the relation between ruler and his subjects that lead to creation of Nobles' Democracy and "De optimo senatore" by Wawrzyniec Grzymala Goslicki.

St. Thomas Aquinas took much from Augustine's theology while creating his own unique synthesis of Greek and Christian thought. Two later theologians who claimed special influence from Augustine were John Calvin and Cornelius Jansen. Calvinism developed as a part of Reformation theology, while Jansenism was a movement inside the Catholic Church; some Jansenists went into schism and formed their own church.

Augustine was canonized by popular recognition and recognized as a Doctor of the Church in 1303 by Pope Boniface VIII. His feast day is August 28, the day on which he is thought to have died. He is considered the patron saint of brewers, printers, theologians, sore eyes, and a number of cities and dioceses.

Eastern Orthodox theologians consider that Augustine's theology of original sin is a key source of division between East and West. Some key Western theological sources do not assert Augustine's doctrine of "intrinsic impairment" to be necessary. For example, Tanquerey states that "[t]here is nothing to prove it". Therefore it is not plain that western theology depends upon a specific Augustinian doctrine.

A passage from Augustine's de Doctrina Christiana has been seen [2] (http://gnuhh.org/work/fsf-europe/augustinus.html) as a fore-runner of the free software movement, as it expressed the philosophy that knowledge, unlike physical possessions, must be freely shared: "For if a thing is not diminished by being shared with others, it is not rightly owned if it is only owned and not shared."

Under the similar heading of miscellaneous is the argument by Frances Yates in her 1966 study, The Art Of Memory, that a brief passage of the Confessions, X.8.12, in which Augustine writes of walking up a flight of stairs and entering the vast fields of memory (see text and commentary) (http://www.stoa.org/hippo/text10.html#TB10C8S12) clearly indicates that the ancient Romans were aware of how to use explicit spatial and architectural metaphors as a mnemonic technique for organizing large amounts of information. A few French philosophers have argued that this technique can be seen as the conceptual ancestor of the user interface paradigm of virtual reality.

Books

Letters

  • On the Catechising of the Uninstructed
  • On Faith and the Creed
  • Concerning Faith of Things Not Seen
  • On the Profit of Believing
  • On the Creed: A Sermon to Catechumens
  • On Continence
  • On the Good of Marriage
  • On Holy Virginity
  • On the Good of Widowhood
  • On Lying
  • To Consentius: Against Lying
  • On the Work of Monks
  • On Patience
  • On Care to be Had For the Dead
  • On the Morals of the Catholic Church
  • On the Morals of the Manichaeans
  • On Two Souls, Against the Manichaeans
  • Acts or Disputation Against Fortunatus the Manichaean
  • Against the Epistle of Manichaeus Called Fundamental
  • Reply to Faustus the Manichaean
  • Concerning the Nature of Good, Against the Manichaeans
  • On Baptism, Against the Donatists
  • Answer to Letters of Petilian, Bishop of Cirta
  • The Correction of the Donatists
  • Merits and Remission of Sin, and Infant Baptism
  • On the Spirit and the Letter
  • On Nature and Grace
  • On Man's Perfection in Righteousness
  • On the Proceedings of Pelagius
  • On the Grace of Christ, and on Original Sin
  • On Marriage and Concupiscence
  • On the Soul and its Origin
  • Against Two Letters of the Pelagians
  • On Grace and Free Will
  • On Rebuke and Grace
  • The Predestination of the Saints/Gift of Perseverance
  • Our Lord's Sermon on the Mount
  • The Harmony of the Gospels
  • Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament
  • Tractates on the Gospel of John
  • Homilies on the First Epistle of John
  • Soliloquies
  • The Enarrations, or Expositions, on the Psalms
  • On the Immortality of the Soul

Related topics

Bibliography

External links

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