Few thinkers have shaped Western civilization more powerfully than St. Augustine (354-430). This volume offers a comprehensive portrait―or rather, self-portrait, since its words are mostly Augustine’s own―drawn from the breadth of his writings and from the long course of his career. One chapter is devoted to each of his masterpieces (Confessions, On the Trinity, and City of God) and one to each of his best-known controversies (against Manichees, Donatists, and Pelagians). It also explores the often overlooked facets of his career, namely, his everyday work as a bishop, preacher, and interpreter of the Bible.
Augustine was an extraordinarily prolific writer, and his eloquent long-windedness can prove overwhelming not only to newcomers, but even to experts. Few know what to read first or how best to read him in context, given the complex and dauntingly remote world of Late Antiquity. This collection is designed to help readers not only to sort through his vast corpus of writings but also to tune their ears to the melodies of his speech and the swirl of his mind. What catches our ear today, as it caught the ear of Augustine’s first hearers, is the heart beneath the voice, his uncanny ability to speak across the centuries, heart to heart, his heart to ours. His was an agitated eloquence, and he used it to ponder and wrestle aloud with life’s mysteries, both those glimpsed in the epic of human history and those astir in the depths of the human heart. But Augustine’s center and passion was another far greater mystery, the God he met in the Bible and in his heart.
This book is an introduction, intended for first-time readers. It brings together state-of-the-art scholarship, lucid translations, and a judicious selection of readings, including excerpts from newly discovered letters and sermons as well as from hard-to-find translations of his often formidable opponents.