Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis; Augustine of Hippo (354-430AD) was bishop of Hippo Regius (present-day Annaba, Algeria). Augustine’s lucid Confessions are unambiguously rich in Scriptural interpretation. Augustine’s own books are metaphorically summed up as follows: “I, poor wretch, could not see the use of the things I was sent to school to learn; but if I proved idle in learning, I was soundly beaten” (10). Augustine’s early life may be characterized as his search for meaning -- the study of Scripture as the Word of God.
By Augustine’s own account: Hortensius, a lost dialogue written by Marcus Tullius Cicero in the year of 45 BC, became the impetus behind Augustine’s own searching movement into wisdom. Augustine was a member of the Manicheans, a non-religious sect devoted to the school of rhetoric, whose rhetorical devices Augustine himself expounded. Augustine, disillusioned by the Manicheans, would have to leave this sect in order to discover the mercy of God. Augustine would devout his life to a deeper understanding of Christianity, of which St. Ambrose helped provide sound guidance and not simply by eloquent speech alone, which he [Ambrose] did not possess, but an uncanny knowledge of the Catholic faith itself. Augustine’s purpose for writing Confessions was to teach that man does not live by bread alone but by every Word of God.
Augustine’s Confessions confirm the depravity of sin and inordinate desires of every kind: lust – measure of mind to mind not kept (23), misrepresentation, theft and goes on to describe other kinds of malice/addictions including arrogance and self-pride, et el. The purpose of this paper will show the allegory of one sinner to everlasting and immutable saint.
By his own account, Augustine’s childhood was characterized by love of play. Augustine, spending an inordinate amount of time in leisurely play, kept himself away from his studies becoming an idle student. Because of this, Augustine was beaten (10) for playing ball because of this he was separated from his studies. “But the one thing that delighted me in Cicero’s exhortation was that I should love, and seek, and win, and hold, and embrace, not this or that philosophical school but wisdom itself, whatever it might be” (38). Augustine began his life’s search for meaning. Augustine experienced the loss of a friend due to illness who chastised him for speaking non-devoutly.
Augustine’s son, Adeodatus, who he had reverence for, died at a young age. Augustine’s conversion to Christianity light be unto me was contentment for his mother, Monica.
Augustine during his life had to deal with his own illnesses. He experienced pulmonary problems and the healing of his tooth after a congregation had prayed for him. But his life may be characterized by an uncanny understanding of the book of Genesis in Scripture – what did Moses mean when he wrote… or, truth in the book of Genesis, while other men’s understanding of a truth may be different, and at the same time, all interpretations may be true. This can lead to questions of a possible multiple meaning of scripture. Something, though studied, has never been proven definitively.
Augustine’s reading of Aristotle’s Categories was misinterpreted by him to the extent it may be considered, in a sense, canonically. But it was his appreciation of the Gospel writers that guided his Confessions on thought, memory, sight and sense. The Apostle Paul’s own conversion and rendering of the Holy Spirit “I wrote what I wrote” in essence categorized his conversion from sinner to saint. From the things that are within time and outside of it, in other words, What was God doing before he created the world? A common apologetic question but something Augustine admits he did not know. But as he points out, that which is outside time, is outside the realm of existence. Any question of this nature is outside the firmament of Heaven as Heaven.
The purpose of Augustine Confessions was to account for his own life and is, in my opinion, divided into two parts: the account of his life and his conversion. The abyss of sin and the light that shines forth essentially illuminating the soul.
To purchase a copy of Confessions see link here: Confessions
To purchase a copy of Restless Heart, a new movie about St. Augustine’s life see link here: Restless Heart: The Confessions of Augustine