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