Notice the echo here of Acts 9:1.
Cf. Ps. 145:3 and Ps. 147:5.
A reference to Bishop Ambrose of Milan; see Bk. V, Ch. XIII; Bk. VIII, Ch. 11, 3.
In baptism which, Augustine believed, established the effigiem Christi in the human soul.
Lignum is a common metaphor for the cross; and it was often joined to the figure of Noah’s ark, as the means of safe transport from earth to heaven.
This apostrophe to “the torrent of human custom” now switches its focus to the poets who celebrated the philanderings of the gods; see De civ. Dei, II, vii-xi; IV, xxvi-xxviii.
Probably a contemporary disciple of Cicero (or the Academics) whom Augustine had heard levy a rather common philosopher’s complaint against Olympian religion and the poetic myths about it. Cf. De Labriolle, I, 21 (see Bibl.).
Terence, Eunuch., 584-591; quoted again in De civ. Dei, II, vii.
Cf. Ps. 103:8 and Ps. 86:15.
An interesting mixed reminiscence of Enneads, I, 5:8 and Luke 15:13-24.
Another Plotinian echo; cf. Enneads, III, 8:10.
Yet another Plotinian phrase; cf. Enneads, I, 6, 9:1-2.
Cf. Gen. 3:18 and De bono conjugali, 8-9, 39-35 (N-PNF, III, 396-413).
Twenty miles from Tagaste, famed as the birthplace of Apuleius, the only notable classical author produced by the province of Africa.
Another echo of the De profundis (Ps. 130:1)–and the most explicit statement we have from Augustine of his motive and aim in writing these “confessions.”
Deus summum bonum et bonum verum meum.
Avertitur, the opposite of convertitur: the evil will turns the soul away from God; this is sin. By grace it is turned to God; this is conversion.
Eversores, “overturners,” from overtere, to overthrow or ruin. This was the nickname of a gang of young hoodlums in Carthage, made up largely, it seems, of students in the schools.
A minor essay now lost. We know of its existence from other writers, but the only fragments that remain are in Augustine’s works: Contra Academicos, III, 14:31; De beata vita, X; Soliloquia, I, 17; De civitate Dei, III, 15; Contra Julianum, IV, 15:78; De Trinitate, XIII, 4:7, 5:8; XIV, 9:12, 19:26; Epist. CXXX, 10.
Note this merely parenthetical reference to his father’s death and contrast it with the account of his mother’s death in Bk. IX, Chs. X-XII.
I.e., Marcus Tullius Cicero.
These were the Manicheans, a pseudo-Christian sect founded by a Persian religious teacher, Mani (c. A.D. 216-277). They professed a highly eclectic religious system chiefly distinguished by its radical dualism and its elaborate cosmogony in which good was co-ordinated with light and evil with darkness. In the sect, there was an esoteric minority called perfecti, who were supposed to obey the strict rules of an ascetic ethic; the rest were auditores, who followed, at a distance, the doctrines of the perfecti but not their rules. The chief attraction of Manicheism lay in the fact that it appeared to offer a straightforward, apparently profound and rational solution to the problem of evil, both in nature and in human experience. Cf. H.C. Puech, Le Manichéisme, son fondateur–sa doctrine (Paris, 1949); F.C. Burkitt, The Religion of the Manichees (Cambridge, 1925); and Steven Runciman, The Medieval Manichee (Cambridge, 1947).
Cf. Plotinus, Enneads, V, 3:14.
Cf. Ovid, Metamorphoses, VII, 219-224.
For the details of the Manichean cosmogony, see Burkitt, op. cit., ch. 4.
Cf. Prov. 9:17; see also Prov. 9:13 (Vulgate text).
Cf. 1 John 2:16. And see also Bk. X, Chs. XXX-XLI, for an elaborate analysis of them.
Cf. Ex. 20:3-8; Ps. 144:9. In Augustine’s Sermon IX, he points out that in the Decalogue three commandments pertain to God and seven to men.
An example of this which Augustine doubtless had in mind is God’s command to Abraham to offer up his son Isaac as a human sacrifice. Cf. Gen. 22:1, 2.
Electi sancti. Another Manichean term for the perfecti, the elite and “perfect” among them.
Dedocere me mala ac docere bona; a typical Augustinian wordplay.
The rites of the soothsayers, in which animals were killed, for auguries and propitiation of the gods.
Vindicianus; see below, Bk. VII, Ch. VI, 8.
Cf. Ovid, Tristia, IV, 4:74.
Cf. Horace, Ode I, 3:8, where he speaks of Virgil, et serves animae dimidium meae. Augustine’s memory changes the text here to dimidium animae suae.
That is, our physical universe.
De pulchro et apto; a lost essay with no other record save echoes in the rest of Augustine’s aesthetic theories. Cf. The Nature of the Good Against the Manicheans, VIII-XV; City of God, XI, 18; De ordine, I, 7:18; II, 19:51; Enchiridion, III, 10; I, 5.
Cf. James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5.
Cf. Jer. 25:10; 33:11; John 3:29; Rev. 18:23.
The first section of the Organon, which analyzes the problem of predication and develops “the ten categories” of essence and the nine “accidents.” This existed in a Latin translation by Victorinus, who also translated the Enneads of Plotinus, to which Augustine refers infra, Bk. VIII, Ch. II, 3.
Again, the Prodigal Son theme; cf. Luke 15:13.
An echo of the opening sentence, Bk. I, Ch. I, 1.
A constant theme in The Psalms and elsewhere; cf. Ps. 136.
Followers of the skeptical tradition established in the Platonic Academy by Arcesilaus and Carneades in the third century B.C. They taught the necessity of [[epsilon]][[pi]][[omicron]][[chi]][[eta]], suspended judgment, in all questions of truth, and would allow nothing more than the consent of probability. This tradition was known in Augustine’s time chiefly through the writings of Cicero; cf. his Academica. This kind of skepticism shook Augustine’s complacency severely, and he wrote one of his first dialogues, Contra Academicos, in an effort to clear up the problem posed thereby.
The Manicheans were under an official ban in Rome.
A mixed figure here, put together from Ps. 4:7; 45:7; 104:15; the phrase sobriam vini ebrietatem is almost certainly an echo of a stanza of one of Ambrose’s own hymns, Splendor paternae gloriae, which Augustine had doubtless learned in Milan: “Bibamus sobriam ebrietatem spiritus.” Cf. W.I. Merrill, Latin Hymns (Boston, 1904), pp. 4, 5.
Cf. 2 Cor. 3:6. The discovery of the allegorical method of interpretation opened new horizons for Augustine in Biblical interpretation and he adopted it as a settled principle in his sermons and commentaries; cf. M. Pontet, L’Exégèse de Saint Augustin prédicateur (Lyons, 1946).
Another reference to the Academic doctrine of suspendium ([[epsilon]][[pi]][[omicron]][[chi]][[eta]]); cf. Bk. V, Ch. X, 19, and also Enchiridion, VII, 20.
Nisi crederentur, omnino in hac vita nihil ageremus, which should be set alongside the more famous nisi crederitis, non intelligetis (Enchiridion, XIII, 14). This is the basic assumption of Augustine’s whole epistemology. See Robert E. Cushman, “Faith and Reason in the Thought of St. Augustine,” in Church History (XIX, 4, 1950), pp. 271-294.
Cf. Plato, Politicus, 273 D.
Alypius was more than Augustine’s close friend; he became bishop of Tagaste and was prominent in local Church affairs in the province of Africa.
Here begins a long soliloquy which sums up his turmoil over the past decade and his present plight of confusion and indecision.
The normal minimum legal age for marriage was twelve! Cf. Justinian, Institutiones, I, 10:22.
A variation on “restless is our heart until it comes to find rest in Thee,” Bk. I, Ch. I, 1.
Thirty years old; although the term “youth” (juventus) normally included the years twenty to forty.
Phantasmata, mental constructs, which may be internally coherent but correspond to no reality outside the mind.
Echoes here of Plato’s Timaeus and Plotinus’ Enneads, although with no effort to recall the sources or elaborate the ontological theory.
Cf. the famous “definition” of God in Anselm’s ontological argument: “that being than whom no greater can be conceived.” Cf. Proslogium, II-V.
This simile is Augustine’s apparently original improvement on Plotinus’ similar figure of the net in the sea; Enneads, IV, 3:9.
Cf. Job 15:26 (Old Latin version).
It is not altogether clear as to which “books” and which “Platonists” are here referred to. The succeeding analysis of “Platonism” does not resemble any single known text closely enough to allow for identification. The most reasonable conjecture, as most authorities agree, is that the “books” here mentioned were the Enneads of Plotinus, which Marius Victorinus (q.v. infra, Bk. VIII, Ch. II, 3-5) had translated into Latin several years before; cf. M.P. Garvey, St. Augustine: Christian or Neo-Platonist (Milwaukee, 1939). There is also a fair probability that Augustine had acquired some knowledge of the Didaskalikos of Albinus; cf. R.E. Witt, Albinus and the History of Middle Platonism (Cambridge, 1937).
Cf. this mixed quotation of John 1:1-10 with the Fifth Ennead and note Augustine’s identification of Logos, in the Fourth Gospel, with Nous in Plotinus.
An echo of Porphyry’s De abstinentia ab esu animalium.
The allegorical interpretation of the Israelites’ despoiling the Egyptians (Ex. 12:35, 36) made it refer to the liberty of Christian thinkers in appropriating whatever was good and true from the pagan philosophers of the Greco-Roman world. This was a favorite theme of Clement of Alexandria and Origen and was quite explicitly developed in Origen’s Epistle to Gregory Thaumaturgus (ANF, IX, pp. 295, 296); cf. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, II, 41-42.
Some MSS. add “immo vero” (“yea, verily”), but not the best ones; cf. De Labriolle, op. cit., I, p. 162.
A locus classicus of the doctrine of the privative character of evil and the positive character of the good. This is a fundamental premise in Augustine’s metaphysics: it reappears in Bks. XII-XIII, in the Enchiridion, and elsewhere (see note, infra, p. 343). This doctrine of the goodness of all creation is taken up into the scholastic metaphysics; cf. Confessions, Bks. XII-XIII, and Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra gentes, II: 45.
”The evil which overtakes us has its source in self-will, in the entry into the sphere of process and in the primal assertion of the desire for self-ownership” (Plotinus, Enneads, V, 1:1).
”We have gone weighed down from beneath; the vision is frustrated” (Enneads, VI, 9:4).
This is an astonishingly candid and plain account of a Plotinian ecstasy, the pilgrimage of the soul from its absorption in things to its rapturous but momentary vision of the One; cf. especially the Sixth Ennead, 9:3-11, for very close parallels in thought and echoes of language. This is one of two ecstatic visions reported in the Confessions; the other is, of course, the last great moment with his mother at Ostia (Bk. IX, Ch. X, 23-25). One comes before the “conversion” in the Milanese garden (Bk. VIII, Ch. XII, 28-29); the other, after. They ought to be compared with particular interest in their similarities as well as their significant differences. Cf. also K.E. Kirk, The Vision of God (London, 1932), pp. 319- 346.
An interesting reminder that the Apollinarian heresy was condemned but not extinct.
It is worth remembering that both Augustine and Alypius were catechumens and had presumably been receiving doctrinal instruction in preparation for their eventual baptism and full membership in the Catholic Church. That their ideas on the incarnation, at this stage, were in such confusion raises an interesting problem.
Cf. Augustine’s The Christian Combat as an example of “the refutation of heretics.”
Non peritus, sed periturus essem.
Cf. Prov. 8:22 and Col. 1:15. Augustine is here identifying the figure of Wisdom in Proverbs with the figure of the Logos in the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel. In the Arian controversy both these references to God’s Wisdom and Word as “created” caused great difficulty for the orthodox, for the Arians triumphantly appealed to them as proof that Jesus Christ was a “creature” of God. But Augustine was a Chalcedonian before Chalcedon, and there is no doubt that he is here quoting familiar Scripture and filling it with the interpretation achieved by the long struggle of the Church to affirm the coeternity and consubstantiality of Jesus Christ and God the Father.
A figure that compares the dangers of the solitary traveler in a bandit-infested land and the safety of an imperial convoy on a main highway to the capital city.
Virgil, Aeneid, VIII, 698.
A garbled reference to the story of the conversion of Sergius Paulus, proconsul of Cyprus, in Acts 13:4-12.
The text here is a typical example of Augustine’s love of wordplay and assonance, as a conscious literary device: tuae caritati me dedere quam meae cupiditati cedere; sed illud placebat et vincebat, hoc libebat et vinciebat.
The last obstacles that remained. His intellectual difficulties had been cleared away and the intention to become a Christian had become strong. But incontinence and immersion in his career were too firmly fixed in habit to be overcome by an act of conscious resolution.
Trèves, an important imperial town on the Moselle; the emperor referred to here was probably Gratian. Cf. E.A. Freeman, “Augusta Trevororum,” in the British Quarterly Review (1875), 62, pp. 1-45.
Agentes in rebus, government agents whose duties ranged from postal inspection and tax collection to espionage and secret police work. They were ubiquitous and generally dreaded by the populace; cf. J.S. Reid, “Reorganization of the Empire,” in Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. I, pp. 36-38.
The inner circle of imperial advisers; usually rather informally appointed and usually with precarious tenure.
This is the famous Tolle, lege; tolle, lege.
Doubtless from Ponticianus, in their earlier conversation.
Note the parallels here to the conversion of Anthony and the agentes in rebus.
An imperial holiday season, from late August to the middle of October.
His subsequent baptism; see below, Ch. VI.
The heresy of Docetism, one of the earliest and most persistent of all Christological errors.
The group included Monica, Adeodatus (Augustine’s fifteen-year-old son), Navigius (Augustine’s brother), Rusticus and Fastidianus (relatives), Alypius, Trygetius, and Licentius (former pupils).
A somewhat oblique acknowledgment of the fact that none of the Cassiciacum dialogues has any distinctive or substantial Christian content. This has often been pointed to as evidence that Augustine’s conversion thus far had brought him no farther than to a kind of Christian Platonism; cf. P. Alfaric, L’Évolution intellectuelle de Saint Augustin (Paris, 1918).
The dialogues written during this stay at Cassiciacum: Contra Academicos, De beata vita, De ordine, Soliloquia. See, in this series, Vol. VI, pp. 17-63, for an English translation of the Soliloquies.
A symbolic reference to the “cedars of Lebanon”; cf. Isa. 2:12-14; Ps. 29:5.
There is perhaps a remote connection here with Luke 10:18-20.
Ever since the time of Ignatius of Antioch who referred to the Eucharist as “the medicine of immortality,” this had been a popular metaphor to refer to the sacraments; cf. Ignatius, Ephesians 20:2.
Here follows (8-11) a brief devotional commentary on Ps. 4.
Idipsum–the oneness and immutability of God.
Concerning the Teacher; cf. Vol. VI of this series, pp. 64-101.
This was apparently the first introduction into the West of antiphonal chanting, which was already widespread in the East. Ambrose brought it in; Gregory brought it to perfection.
Cf. Isa. 40:6; 1 Peter 1:24: “All flesh is grass.” See Bk. XI, Ch. II, 3.
Cf. this report of a “Christian ecstasy” with the Plotinian ecstasy recounted in Bk. VII, Ch. XVII, 23, above.
Cf. Wis. 7:21-30; see especially v. 27: “And being but one, she [Wisdom] can do all things: and remaining in herself the same, she makes all things new.”
Navigius, who had joined them in Milan, but about whom Augustine is curiously silent save for the brief and unrevealing references in De beata vita, I, 6, to II, 7, and De ordine, I, 2-3.
Nec omnino moriebatur. Is this an echo of Horace’s famous memorial ode, Exegi monumentum aere perennius . . . non omnis moriar? Cf. Odes, Book III, Ode XXX.
Cf. this passage, as Augustine doubtless intended, with the story of his morbid and immoderate grief at the death of his boyhood friend, above, Bk. IV, Chs. IV, 9, to VII, 12.
Sir Tobie Matthew (adapted). For Augustine’s own analysis of the scansion and structure of this hymn, see De musica, VI, 2:2-3; for a brief commentary on the Latin text, see A. S. Walpole, Early Latin Hymns (Cambridge, 1922), pp. 44-49.
Cf. Rev. 8:3-5. “And the smoke of the incense with the prayers of the saints went up before God out of the angel’s hand” (v. 4).
One of the pre-Socratic “physiologers” who taught that [[alpha]][[iota]][[theta]][[eta]][[rho]] was the primary element in [[eta]] [[phi]][[upsilon]][[sigma]][[iota]][[gamma]][[zeta]]. Cf. Cicero’s On the Nature of the Gods (a likely source for Augustine’s knowledge of early Greek philosophy), I, 10: “After Anaximander comes Anaximenes, who taught that the air is God. . . .”
An important text for Augustine’s conception of sensation and the relation of body and mind. Cf. On Music, VI, 5:10; The Magnitude of the Soul, 25:48; On the Trinity, XII, 2:2; see also F. Coplestone, A History of Philosophy (London, 1950), II, 51-60, and E. Gilson, Introduction à l’étude de Saint Augustin, pp. 74-87.
Reading videnti (with De Labriolle) instead of vident (as in Skutella).
The notion of the soul’s immediate self-knowledge is a basic conception in Augustine’s psychology and epistemology; cf. the refutation of skepticism, Si fallor, sum in On Free Will, II, 3:7; see also the City of God, XI, 26.
Again, the mind-body dualism typical of the Augustinian tradition. Cf. E. Gilson, The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1940), pp. 173-188; and E. Gilson, The Philosophy of Saint Bonaventure (Sheed & Ward, New York, 1938), ch. XI.
Cf. the early dialogue “On the Happy Life” in Vol. I of The Fathers of the Church (New York, 1948).
Cf. Enchiridion, VI, 19ff.
When he is known at all, God is known as the Self-evident. This is, of course, not a doctrine of innate ideas but rather of the necessity, and reality, of divine illumination as the dynamic source of all our knowledge of divine reality. Cf. Coplestone, op. cit., ch. IV, and Cushman, op. cit.
Cf. the evidence for Augustine’s interest and proficiency in music in his essay De musica, written a decade earlier.
Gen. 27:1; cf. Augustine’s Sermon IV, 20:21f.
Again, Ambrose, Deus, creator omnium, an obvious favorite of Augustine’s. See above, Bk. IX, Ch. XII, 32.
Cf. the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, Luke 18:9-14.
Cf. Ps. 88:5; see Ps. 87:6 (Vulgate).
In the very first sentence of Confessions, Bk. I, Ch. I. Here we have a basic and recurrent motif of the Confessions from beginning to end: the celebration and praise of the greatness and goodness of God–Creator and Redeemer. The repetition of it here connects this concluding section of the Confessions, Bks. XI-XIII, with the preceding part.
The “virtues” of the Beatitudes, the reward for which is blessedness; cf. Matt. 5:1-11.
An interesting symbol of time’s ceaseless passage; the reference is to a water clock (clepsydra).
Cf. Ps. 130:1, De profundis.
This metaphor is probably from Ps. 29:9.
A repetition of the metaphor above, Bk. IX, Ch. VII, 16.
Augustine was profoundly stirred, in mind and heart, by the great mystery of creation and the Scriptural testimony about it. In addition to this long and involved analysis of time and creation which follows here, he returned to the story in Genesis repeatedly: e.g., De Genesi contra Manicheos; De Genesi ad litteram, liber imperfectus (both written before the Confessions); De Genesi ad litteram, libri XII and De civitate Dei, XI-XII (both written after the Confessions).
The final test of truth, for Augustine, is self-evidence and the final source of truth is the indwelling Logos.
Cf. the notion of creation in Plato’s Timaeus (29D-30C; 48E-50C), in which the Demiurgos (craftsman) fashions the universe from pre-existent matter ([[tau]][[omicron]] [[upsilon]][[pi]][[omicron]]d[[omicron]][[chi]][[eta]]) and imposes as much form as the Receptacle will receive. The notion of the world fashioned from pre-existent matter of some sort was a universal idea in Greco-Roman cosmology.
Cf. the Vulgate of John 8:25.
Cf. Augustine’s emphasis on Christ as true Teacher in De Magistro.
Cf. Ps. 103:4, 5 (mixed text).
Pleni vetustatis suae. In Sermon CCLXVII, 2 (PL 38, c. 1230), Augustine has a similar usage. Speaking of those who pour new wine into old containers, he says: Carnalitas vetustas est, gratia novitas est, “Carnality is the old nature; grace is the new”; cf. Matt. 9:17.
The notion of the eternity of this world was widely held in Greek philosophy, in different versions, and was incorporated into the Manichean rejection of the Christian doctrine of creatio ex nihilo which Augustine is citing here. He returns to the question, and his answer to it, again in De civitate Dei, XI, 4-8.
The unstable “heart” of those who confuse time and eternity.
Spatium, which means extension either in space or time.
The breaking light and the image of the rising sun.
Memoria, contuitus, and expectatio: a pattern that corresponds vaguely to the movement of Augustine’s thought in the Confessions: from direct experience back to the supporting memories and forward to the outreach of hope and confidence in God’s provident grace.
Communes notitias, the universal principles of “common sense.” This idea became a basic category in scholastic epistemology.
Cubitum, literally the distance between the elbow and the tip of the middle finger; in the imperial system of weights and measures it was 17.5 inches.
Distentionem, “spread-out-ness”; cf. Descartes’ notion of res extensae, and its relation to time.
Here Augustine begins to summarize his own answers to the questions he has raised in his analysis of time.
The same hymn of Ambrose quoted above, Bk. IX, Ch. XII, 39, and analyzed again in De musica, VI, 2:2.
This theory of time is worth comparing with its most notable restatement in modern poetry, in T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets and especially “Burnt Norton.”
Note here the preparation for the transition from this analysis of time in Bk. XI to the exploration of the mystery of creation in Bks. XII and XIII.
Celsitudo, an honorific title, somewhat like “Your Highness.”
Vulgate, Ps. 113:16 (cf. Ps. 115:16, K.J.; see also Ps. 148:4, both Vulgate and K.J.): Caelum caeli domino, etc. Augustine finds a distinction here for which the Hebrew text gives no warrant. The Hebrew is a typical nominal sentence and means simply “The heavens are the heavens of Yahweh”; cf. the Soncino edition of The Psalms, edited by A. Cohen; cf. also R.S.V., Ps. 115:16. The LXX reading ([[omicron]] [[omicron]][[upsilon]][[rho]][[alpha]][[nu]][[omicron]][[zeta]] [[tau]][[omicron]][[upsilon]] [[omicron]][[upsilon]][[rho]][[alpha]][[nu]][[omicron]][[upsilon]]) seems to rest on a variant Hebrew text. This idiomatic construction does not mean “the heavens of the heavens” (as it is too literally translated in the LXX), but rather “highest heaven.” This is a familiar way, in Hebrew, of emphasizing a superlative (e.g., “King of kings,” “Song of songs”). The singular thing can be described superlatively only in terms of itself!
It is interesting that Augustine should have preferred the invisibilis et incomposita of the Old Latin version of Gen. 1:2 over the inanis et vacua of the Vulgate, which was surely accessible to him. Since this is to be a key phrase in the succeeding exegesis this reading can hardly have been the casual citation of the old and familiar version. Is it possible that Augustine may have had the sensibilities and associations of his readers in mind–for many of them may have not known Jerome’s version or, at least, not very well?
Abyssus, literally, the unplumbed depths of the sea, and as a constant meaning here, “the depths beyond measure.”
Augustine may not have known the Platonic doctrine of nonbeing (cf. Sophist, 236C-237B), but he clearly is deeply influenced here by Plotinus; cf. Enneads, II, 4:8f., where matter is analyzed as a substratum without quantity or quality; and 4:15: “Matter, then, must be described as [[tau]][[omicron]] [[alpha]][[pi]][[epsilon]][[iota]][[rho]][[omicron]][[nu]] (the indefinite). . . . Matter is indeterminateness and nothing else.” In short, materia informis is sheer possibility; not anything and not nothing!
Dictare: was Augustine dictating his Confessions? It is very probable.
Visibiles et compositas, the opposite of “invisible and unformed.”
Constat et non constat, the created earth really exists but never is self-sufficient.
The heavenly Jerusalem of Gal. 4:26, which had become a favorite Christian symbol of the peace and blessedness of heaven; cf. the various versions of the hymn “Jerusalem, My Happy Home” in Julian’s Dictionary of Hymnology, pp. 580-583. The original text is found in the Liber meditationum, erroneously ascribed to Augustine himself.
This is the basis of Augustine’s defense of allegory as both legitimate and profitable in the interpretation of Scripture. He did not mean that there is a plurality of literal truths in Scripture but a multiplicity of perspectives on truth which amounted to different levels and interpretations of truth. This gave Augustine the basis for a positive tolerance of varying interpretations which did hold fast to the essential common premises about God’s primacy as Creator; cf. M. Pontet, L’Exégèse de Saint Augustin prédicateur (Lyons, 1944), chs. II and III.
In this chapter, Augustine summarizes what he takes to be the Christian consensus on the questions he has explored about the relation of the intellectual and corporeal creations.
Note how this reiterates a constant theme in the Confessions as a whole; a further indication that Bk. XII is an integral part of the single whole.
Cf. De libero arbitrio, II, 8:20, 10:28.
The essential thesis of the De Magistro; it has important implications both for Augustine’s epistemology and for his theory of Christian nurture; cf. the De catechizandis rudibus.
Cf. Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18; see also Matt. 22:37, 39.
”In the beginning God created,” etc.
The thicket denizens mentioned above.
Something of an understatement! It is interesting to note that Augustine devotes more time and space to these opening verses of Genesis than to any other passage in the entire Bible–and he never commented on the full text of Genesis. Cf. Karl Barth’s 274 pages devoted to Gen., chs. 1;2, in the Kirchliche Dogmatik, III, I, pp. 103-377.
Transition, in preparation for the concluding book (XIII), which undertakes a constructive resolution to the problem of the analysis of the mode of creation made here in Bk. XII.
This is a compound–and untranslatable–Latin pun: neque ut sic te colam quasi terram, ut sis uncultus si non te colam.
Cf. Enneads, I, 2:4: “What the soul now sees, it certainly always possessed, but as lying in the darkness. . . . To dispel the darkness and thus come to knowledge of its inner content, it must thrust toward the light.” Compare the notions of the initiative of such movements in the soul in Plotinus and Augustine.
Cf. Ps. 36:6 and see also Augustine’s Exposition on the Psalms, XXXVI, 8, where he says that “the great preachers [receivers of God’s illumination] are the mountains of God,” for they first catch the light on their summits. The abyss he called “the depth of sin” into which the evil and unfaithful fall.
Cf. Timaeus, 29D-30A, “He [the Demiurge-Creator] was good: and in the good no jealousy . . . can ever arise. So, being without jealousy, he desired that all things should come as near as possible to being like himself. . . . He took over all that is visible . . . and brought it from order to order, since he judged that order was in every way better” (F. M. Cornford, Plato’s Cosmology, New York, 1937, p. 33). Cf. Enneads, V, 4:1, and Athanasius, On the Incarnation, III, 3.
In this passage in Genesis on the creation.
Cf. the Old Latin version of Ps. 123:5.
Canticum graduum. Psalms 119 to 133 as numbered in the Vulgate were regarded as a single series of ascending steps by which the soul moves up toward heaven; cf. The Exposition on the Psalms, loc. cit.
Tongues of fire, symbol of the descent of the Holy Spirit; cf. Acts 2:3, 4.
Cf. the detailed analogy from self to Trinity in De Trinitate, IX-XII.
Gen. 1:3 and Matt. 4:17; 3:2.
I.e., the Body of Christ.
”The heavens,” i.e. the Scriptures.
Legunt, eligunt, diligunt.
Retia, literally “a net”; such as those used by retiarii, the gladiators who used nets to entangle their opponents.
Amaricantes, a figure which Augustine develops both in the Exposition of the Psalms and The City of God. Commenting on Ps. 65, Augustine says: “For the sea, by a figure, is used to indicate this world, with its bitter saltiness and troubled storms, where men with perverse and depraved appetites have become like fishes devouring one another.” In The City of God, he speaks of the bitterness of life in the civitas terrena; cf. XIX, 5.
In this way, Augustine sees an analogy between the good earth bearing its fruits and the ethical “fruit-bearing” of the Christian love of neighbor.
For this whole passage, cf. the parallel developed here with 1 Cor. 12:7-11.
In principio diei, an obvious echo to the Vulgate ut praesset diei of Gen. 1:16. Cf. Gibb and Montgomery, p. 424 (see Bibl.), for a comment on in principio diei and in principio noctis, below.
Sacramenta; but cf. Augustine’s discussion of sacramenta in the Old Testament in the Exposition of the Psalms, LXXIV, 2: “The sacraments of the Old Testament promised a Saviour; the sacraments of the New Testament give salvation.”
Cf. for this syntaxis, Matt. 19:16-22 and Ex. 20:13-16.
I.e., the rich young ruler.
Cf. Matt. 97 Reading here, with Knöll and the Sessorianus, in firmamento mundi.
Perfectorum. Is this a conscious use, in a Christian context, of the distinction he had known so well among the Manicheans–between the perfecti and the auditores?
An allegorical ideal type of the perfecti in the Church.
The fish was an early Christian rebus for “Jesus Christ.” The Greek word for fish, [[iota]][[chi]][[theta]][[upsilon]][[zeta]], was arranged acrostically to make the phrase [[Iota]][[eta]][[sigma]][[omicron]][[upsilon]][[zeta]] [[Chi]][[rho]][[iota]][[sigma]][[tau]][[omicron]][[sigma]], [[Theta]][[epsilon]][[omicron]][[upsilon]] [[Upsilon]][[iota]][[omicron]][[zeta]], [[Sigma]][[omega]][[tau]][[eta]][[rho]]; cf. Smith and Cheetham, Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, pp. 673f.; see also Cabrol, Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne, Vol. 14, cols. 1246-1252, for a full account of the symbolism and pictures of early examples.
Another reminder that, ideally, knowledge is immediate and direct.
Here, again, as in a coda, Augustine restates his central theme and motif in the whole of his “confessions”: the primacy of God, His constant creativity, his mysterious, unwearied, unfrustrated redemptive love. All are summed up in this mystery of creation in which the purposes of God are announced and from which all Christian hope takes its premise.
That is, from basic and essentially simple ideas, they proliferate multiple–and valid–implications and corollaries.
Idiotae: there is some evidence that this term was used to designate pagans who had a nominal connection with the Christian community but had not formally enrolled as catechumens. See Th. Zahn in Neue kirkliche Zeitschrift (1899), pp. 42-43.
A reference to the Manichean cosmogony and similar dualistic doctrines of “creation.”
Sed quod est, est. Note the variant text in Skutella, op. cit.: sed est, est. This is obviously an echo of the Vulgate Ex. 3:14: ego sum qui sum.
Augustine himself had misgivings about this passage. In the Retractations, he says that this statement was made “without due consideration.” But he then adds, with great justice: “However, the point in question is very obscure” (res autem in abdito est valde); cf. Retract., 2:6.
See above, amaricantes, Ch. XVII, 20.
Cf. this requiescamus in te with the requiescat in te in Bk. I, Ch. I.
Cf. The City of God, XI, 10, on Augustine’s notion that the world exists as a thought in the mind of God.
Another conscious connection between Bk. XIII and Bks. I-X.
This final ending is an antiphon to Bk. XII, Ch. I, 1 above.