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Augustine of Hippo: A Biography. Revised Edition with a New Epilogue Paperback – 13 Dec 2000

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Revised edition edition (13 Dec. 2000)
  • ASIN: B00DY79E8A
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I came to this wonderful book knowing a little about Augustine: I had read 'Confessions' and 'On Grace and Free Will' and I had heard Augustine's name vilified all too often by people who have attributed ideas and doctrines to him that take no account of his own context. Thus this book was a revelation to me. Peter Brown sets Augustine firmly in his context as a citizen of the Late Roman Empire, as a North African Christian, as a philosopher enamoured of Plotinus, as a bishop and as a Christian endeavouring to lead a Christian life.
it is this context that is so illuminating. Suddenly, Augustine's views on baptism, sex, original sin and predestination make total sense, given his thought-world and the socio-political situation.
my one criticism is that the book was appallingly punctuated, with so many uses of a comma before 'that' (rather than 'which')as to drive me to distraction. I have also read Brown's The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity 200-1000 AD (Making of Europe) and don't remember it suffering from the same calamitous punctuation, so can only conclude that a rogue editor or a typographer is responsible.
That notwithstanding, this book is well worth reading if you want to gain a more nuanced view of someone who has come to be regarded in some sections of the evangelical church as a whipping-boy for every distasteful idea in Christian history.
Brown closes the main part of his biography with a quote from Possidius, Augustine's first biographer: `Yet I think that those who gained most from him were those who had been able actually to see and hear him as he spoke in Church, and, most of all, those who had some contact with the quality of his life among men.' this book, with its many quotes from Augustine's works, letters and sermons might just be the next best thing to having met the man himself.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a brilliant account of Augustine's life, divided roughly chronologically but also by topics, such as his friendships and his mother. It is always supported by reference to primary literature, but Peter Brown doesn't shy away from giving his (very educated) opinion, either, which makes for a more engaging read. It is rightly regarded as a classic.
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a memorable work
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8f9bcde0) out of 5 stars 39 reviews
121 of 123 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f6faab0) out of 5 stars Scholarly Biography at Its Best 20 Mar. 2003
By Oswald Sobrino - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Peter Brown has accomplished what a scholarly biography should: make us feel that we have come to enter the life and mind of the subject of the biography. Brown's chapters are relatively short and thus make reading this long book pleasurable because you can make identifiable progress in your reading. Brown also has copious citations to the works of Augustine for those who wish to track down a quote. In addition, he has added an epilogue that actually corrects the flawed judgments he made in the first edition over thirty years ago (this is a humility rare in academic circles). The epilogue also has a chapter on new writings of Augustine that scholars have uncovered since the first edition of his work. My only wish would have been for more theological exploration of the theme of predestination which is presented in a superficial manner. As a Catholic, I would also have preferred more explicit exploration of Augustine's relations with the popes of his time. But, all in all, Brown has written and updated a great biography that deserves its stature as the definitive biography of Augustine. I heartily recommend it.
159 of 168 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f6fab04) out of 5 stars A book worth owning... 13 May 2001
By Thomas J. Brucia - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I can only agree with other reviewers that this is an excellent biography... A suggestion to readers: Peter Brown, in this new (2000) edition, has added two chapters - as an Epilogue: 1.New Evidence, and 2.New Directions. Since his original work dates back to 1967, I would strongly suggest one FIRST read these two chapters, then move through the body of the biography, and finally reread the two "Epilogue chapters". (Don't ignore the footnotes; they're annotated!). Some of Brown's conclusions have changed in the past 33 years! --- Take advantage of the index; it is very well done. Some illustrations: "Jerome, acrimonious correspondence with Augustine," "Baptism, of infants," "Africans, love of puns and acrostics," "Pelagius, annoyed by the Confessions," etc. Skimming the index provoked me into re-reading several different bits. --- Brown's gift for expression (and his willingness to make judgments!) shine out everywhere. Here's a single paragraph to demonstrate: "The congregations who heard Augustine preach were not exceptionally sinful. Rather, they were firmly rooted in long-established attitudes, in ways of life and ideas, to which Christianity was peripheral. Among such men, the all-demanding message of Augustine merely suffered the fate of a river flowing into a complex system of irrigation: it lost its power, in the minds of its hearers, by meeting innumerable little ditches, by being broken up into a network of neat little compartments." --- An extremely helpful tool is Brown's inclusion of a "Chronological Table" at the beginning of each of the five sections of this work. Each is a multicolumn, vertical, two-page wide timeline that cross-references the events of each year (1) in the Roman Empire, (2) in Augustine's life, (3) in his writings of the year, and also provides (4) modern translations when available. [I have already tracked down and ordered a Catholic University Press reprint of Wilcox's 1955 translation of Augustine's Tractatus adversus Judaeos - which I had never even heard of until I read this biography! I look forward to reading Augustine's own words in 429 A.D. regarding Judaism!] --- This life history chronicles the development of one of the seminal personalities in the development of modern Christianity in such a way that you feel you know the man. That alone makes it an impressive accomplishment.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f6faf3c) out of 5 stars brown makes histoy come alive 2 Sept. 2004
By Travis M. Strow - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I just finished this book. On the whole I enjoyed this book thoroughly. A nice feature of this work is how it puts everything Augustine said into the historical surroundings, which makes reading primary sources more easily understandable as you understand the historical context they were written in. As an accomplished historian over this time period, Peter Brown is more than able to accomplish this task. Historical settings shown include: the backgroud of what growing up in Africa would have been like for Augustine, the beautiful imagery describing what Augustine's baptism (by Ambrose) and initiation into the Catholic Church would have been like, how conflicts with the Donatists, Manicheists (and of course) Pelagianists all came about and how Augustine dealt with them all, and the list goes on. My only concern is that I read the 1st edition of the book, and I've been told there are additional parts added in a revised 2nd edition which might interest me. However, that is hardly a fault of the book itself, (just a case of me being cheap by buying a used copy) so my review is the full 5 stars.

A nice reference on Augustine is "Augustine Through The Ages: An Encyclopedia" by Allan Fitzgerald & John Cavadini; which may also interest readers as well. I have browsed through it in a library and hope to get a copy when the funds are available; it looked very promising to say the least. If you want to understand the theology and history of the Western/Latin Church, it is very hard to do so without knowing at least some basics of Augustine's theological distinctives and stances. Texts like Brown's biography here is a nice first step in understanding the old Saints thought.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f709324) out of 5 stars Passionate History of Significant Church Father 21 Aug. 2002
By rodboomboom - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Written in 1961 while at Oxford, yet here given subsequent "New Directions" from additional historical developments, provides a provocative and captivating read of a most influential Christian, bishop, theologian and writer.
Augustine is truly a gem of the church catholic, in a time of transition from one world power to another. Late Rome in Africa is so fascinating. Never before has it been brought to me the significance and the breath of this, yet here Brown does truly make one thirst for more. And I trust that this would be the highest compliment to his massive effort here, that one is stimulated for more of Augustine and his times.
Truly this should be read and judged by its intended scope, a history, a biography, not a theological or philosophical work. He achieves his purpose convicncingly with what he had at the time. Amazed at the continuity and yet slowly opening maze of issues, personalilities, and cultural developments that the author maintains, yet all the time revolving around the inner tensions and development of this amazing individual.
His background in Cicero and rhetoric served the church so well in his later years, as did his stints in Platonism and Manicheeism provide the necessary connects to his sigificant contributions to the spread of the early church and their bouts with Donatism, paganism and Pelagianism.
Certainly has awakened my appetite to further study into this great Christian. As the 576 pages go so easily from the words of this fine writer, you will enjoy this read as well.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f7092d0) out of 5 stars The most important bio of the most important churchmen 31 Aug. 2006
By R. Cannata - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As the first 19 reviews here have thoroughly described, this is the definitive bio of Augustine. (What Bainton once was for Luther). The 2nd edition is a whole new work.

I met Peter Brown in Princeton, where he taught, a few times, and he just oozed brilliance. I have nothing new to add except an anecdote that tells it all. The story goes that Brown was so focused and mature that he came to the idea of writing this definitive critical bio of Augustine while in his early teens. He focused all of his energy on it, methodically begining to maste the secondary academic literature on Augustine before even beginning his university studies. He wrote this bio shortly after completlng his undergraduate honors thesis, publishing it to rave reviews in his early 20s.

This story has made him a legend. And once, Dr. Paul Rorem of Princeton Seminary told us, he asked Brown about it. Brown laughed and told an even more amazing one. Turns out the truth is that Brown had not developed any special interest in Augustine until the end of his undergraduate studies. Being pressed for a thesis topic, with a deadline approaching, he picked Augustine almost at random. He then set about to master Augustine, and in just 2 years ended up writing the definitive bio that changed the field forever!

The mag. opus of one of the world's great scholars.
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