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Augustine of Hippo

St. Augustine of Hippo, born A.D. 354, Tagaste; died August 28, 430, Hippo Regius (modern Bone, Algeria).

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Life

Augustine was 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 an monastic foundation at Tagaste for himself and a group of friends. In 391 he was ordained a priest in Hippo. He became a famous preacher (more than 350 preserved sermons are believed to be authentic), and noted for combatting 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 in 430 during the siege of Hippo by the Vandals. He is said to have encouraged its citzens to resist the attacks, primarily on the grounds that the Vandals adhered to Arian Christianity, which Augustine regarded as heretical.

Writings

  • On Christian Doctrine, 397-426
  • Confessions, around 400
  • City of God, begun c. 413, finished 426.
  • On the Trinity, 400-416.

Augustine was a prolific author in several genres - theological treatises, sermons, scripture commentaries, and autobiography. His Confessions is usually accorded the position of the first autobiography; Augustine moves from his conception to his current (at about the age of fifty) relationship with God, and ends with a long excursus on the book of Genesis in which he demonstrates how to interpret scripture. The psychological awareness and self-revelation of the work still impresses readers.

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, which gives us a remarkable 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, "The Jews who slew Him, and would not believe in Him, because it behoved 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." [1] (http://www.ccel.org/fathers/NPNF1-02/Augustine/cog/t103.htm)

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, while others have used them to attack Christians. See Christianity and anti-Semitism.

Influence as a Theologian

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.

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