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Augustine: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Paperback]

Henry Chadwick
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

22 Feb 2001 Very Short Introductions (Book 38)
By his writings, the surviving bulk of which exceeds that of any other ancient author, Augustine came to influence not only his contemporaries but also the West since his time. This Very Short Introduction traces the development of Augustine's thought, discussing his reaction to the thinkers before him, and themes such as freedom, creation, and the trinity.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New Ed edition (22 Feb 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192854526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192854520
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 11.2 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 143,688 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


magisterial and highly readable. (Bookseller)

About the Author

Henry Chadwick, formerly Regius Professor Emeritus of Divinity at the University of Cambridge. Among his other books are Early Christian Thought and the Classical Tradition, Priscillian of Avila, and Boethius: The Consolations of Music, Logic, Theology, and Philosophy (all published by OUP). He has also published an annotated translation of Augustine's Confessions (Oxford World's Classics), and, with his brother Owen, is General Editor of the Oxford History of the Christian Church.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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1. The oldest portrait of St Augustine. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding 8 Jan 2005
By A Customer
An outstanding introduction to Augustine. I read the entire book in a couple of days; it is fascinating, well written and amazingly comprehensive (for its size).
The first chapter sketches Augustine's life in about thirty pages. It is readable, informative but may need to be taken slowly if you are completely unfamiliar with the philosophy and background of the time.
The rest of the book is made up of excellent short chapters focusing on one subject e.g. Creation and Trinity.
This really is one of the best books I have read in the VSI range and has inspired me to read some of Augustine's works.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and concise 23 Jun 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Really great book, excellent for an introduction to Augustine and north African church history in general. Also great for people who are interested but don't want to go in-depth and have no intention of reading further.
Chadwick's style really makes the book, he writes with such wit and makes Augustine sound like a real-life person - something we rarely think of historical figures as being! I recommend Chadwick's book on "The Early Church".
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Revelation 31 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I came to this book needing to do some general background reading on theology and, knowing that Augustine had been such an influential writer/teacher in the early church, to learn more about him. I braced myself for some fairly arcane ideas and beliefs and a book that might perhaps not be the most scintillating. I was wrong! Over and over again I was struck by how clear and pertinent Augustine's thinking was. He had an outstanding intellect, but without the 'ivory towers'. It was also encouraging to find that he had not just persisted in a faith in which he had been brought up, but that his Christian convictions came at the end of a long personal journey of discovery and faith. Somehow this gave them added meaning.
Henry Chadwick's book is perfect as a survey of Augustine: the man, his beliefs and the impact they had. I read the book quickly and easily and found I had marked and underlined many place for future use - surely a good sign. The book is organised thematically, exploring Augustine's teaching on different areas of belief and theology. It makes reference to the many texts that Augustine wrote and that made such an impact on the development of the early Christian world.
Chadwick transformed my view of Augustine. I whole-heartedly recommend this book if you too are curious to learn more.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great for an understanding of St. Augustine 28 Sep 2003
By I X Key - Published on
This compact book is perfect.
It provides just the right background information, from influences of people who lived before St. Augustine to influences of his modern world, as well as lots of other information about the early Christian era & pagan dissidents, numerous similar & conflicting spiritual beliefs -- without getting boring by losing focus on the topic, Augustine, or by focusing on him too much which would mean omitting information about the strata he found his place in.
It offers a great framework of biographical information which sheds much light on Augustine's works.
It also, significantly, contains brilliant scholarly summaries & explanations & assessments of many of Augustine's beliefs without becoming subjective or dry ever.
I recommend this as compulsory background reading for anyone interested in mysticism, medieval history, philosophy, saints, or especially Augustine himself.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Fine Introduction 20 Mar 2003
By benjamin - Published on
Firstly, it should be noted that this book is not 895 pages! It is, in actuality, 144 pages - and it is a detailed 144 pages, too. This is actually the first book I ever read that got me interested in the thought of the early Church Fathers and it is a great introduction to St. Augustine. (The entire series is great, actually.)
Although this book is only a sketch, it provides some really helpful information when it comes to issues such as the Pelagian controversy and Augustine's views on Original Sin. It is interesting to note that although Augustine is held in such high regard by many today, his own ideas were sometimes reviled and considered heretical in his own time. Of course, it is also worth noting that Augustine's ideas are oftentimes completely misunderstood today; people sometimes force later developments onto Augustine.
Due to his continuing controversy - and the man is one of the more controversial orthodox thinkers in the history of the Christian Church - this book is worth reading. For those interested in further reading, the suggested readings in the back are a great place to start (I myself just picked up Peter Brown's autobiography on Augustine). For those who have no desire to become scholars on Augustine, however, this "very short introduction" is a very fine introduction as well. It is a great place to start.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great intro... 21 Feb 2003
By David C. Johnson - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Man, I wish I had these books when I was in school. Its not an indepth review of all of Augustine's thought & writings, but its amazing how much is packed into this little book (it will literally fit into your shirt pocket). The book will give you a great laymans introduction to Augustine, and you can be sure to impress anyone should your conversation turn towards the topic.
Recommended for the layman, just don't use it to prepare for debates with religious scholars :-)
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Information-Dense Introduction to a Very Complex Figure 29 Mar 2006
By George R Dekle - Published on
A country-boy-come-to-town who tries to make his mark on secular society while enjoying himself as much as possible winds up an ascetic philosopher/theologian who shapes the course of Western thought for the next several centuries. A profound thinker with a talent for poetic prose, St. Augustine was a prolific writer. More of his writings survive than of any other ancient author.

The book is small, but don't let the size fool you--the typeface is also small. Chadwick crams more information onto fewer pages than you could think possible. The typeface and the dense content lend themselves to a rather tedious reading experience, but the reward is well worth the effort.

Augustine's thought is placed in the context of contemporary society, and the reader learns of the little-known Manichee and Donatist heresies. The way the ancient Church dealt with the Donatist heresy stands in stark contrast to the way the medieval Church dealt with heretics.

Chadwick, of course, discusses the "Confessions" and "The City of God," but he does not neglect Augustine's other writings, taking pains to point out how indebted Augustine was to the Old Testament and the Classical authors (Cicero in particular) for his language, but not his ideas. It is ironic that Cicero, such a mediocre philosopher, had such a profound effect on St. Augustine, such a towering figure in the fields of philosophy and religion.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chadwick's Introduction is a Pleasure to Read 18 Jan 2009
By G. Kyle Essary - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book was an absolute pleasure to read. Henry Chadwick's erudition is evident in his writing, but his style keeps the reading highly enjoyable. Anyone should be able to sit down with this book and read it in a matter of hours enjoying every minute of it.

This is not a biography of Augustine's life as much as a biography of Augustine's thought. It traces the development of his thought in neoplatonism and his reliance upon Plotinus in particular, his time as a follower, but later opponent against Manicheeism and his prolonged arguments against Donatism. The book is not comprehensive, but gives brief introductions to Augustine's thoughts on Creation, Trinity, Politics, Sacerdotalism, and a few other topics and shows how they developed through his life and ministry.

I highly recommend this short volume and would suggest that it would be a perfect read for a short introduction to Augustine at an undergraduate level.
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