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Augustine's large contribution of writings covered diverse fields including theology, philosophy and sociology. Along with John Chrysostom, Augustine was among the most prolific scholars of the early church by quantity.

Theology

Christian anthropology

Augustine was one of the first Christian ancient Latin authors with a very clear vision of theological anthropology.[96] He saw the human being as a perfect unity of soul and body. In his late treatise On Care to Be Had for the Dead, section 5 (420) he exhorted respect for the body on the grounds it belonged to the very nature of the human person.[97] Augustine's favourite figure to describe body-soul unity is marriage: caro tua, coniunx tua – your body is your wife.[98][99][100]

Initially, the two elements were in perfect harmony. After the fall of humanity they are now experiencing dramatic combat between one another. They are two categorically different things. The body is a three-dimensional object composed of the four elements, whereas the soul has no spatial dimensions.[101] Soul is a kind of substance, participating in reason, fit for ruling the body.[102]

Augustine was not preoccupied, as Plato and Descartes were, in detailed efforts to explain the metaphysics of the soul-body union. It sufficed for him to admit they are metaphysically distinct: to be a human is to be a composite of soul and body, with the soul superior to the body. The latter statement is grounded in his hierarchical classification of things into those that merely exist, those that exist and live, and those that exist, live, and have intelligence or reason.[103][104]

Like other Church Fathers such as Athenagoras,[105] Tertullian,[106] Clement of Alexandria and Basil of Caesarea,[107] Augustine "vigorously condemned the practice of induced abortion", and although he disapproved of an abortion during any stage of pregnancy, he made a distinction between early and later abortions.[108] He acknowledged the distinction between "formed" and "unformed" fetuses mentioned in the Septuagint translation of Exodus 21:22–23, which incorrectly translates the word "harm" (from the original Hebrew text) as "form" in the Koine Greek of the Septuagint. His view was based on the Aristotelian distinction "between the fetus before and after its supposed 'vivification'". Therefore, he did not classify as murder the abortion of an "unformed" fetus since he thought it could not be known with certainty the fetus had received a soul.[108][109]

Augustine held that "the timing of the infusion of the soul was a mystery known to God alone".[110] However, he considered procreation as one of the goods of marriage; abortion figured as a means, along with drugs that cause sterility, of frustrating this good. It lay along a continuum that included infanticide as an instance of 'lustful cruelty' or 'cruel lust.' Augustine called the use of means to avoid the birth of a child an 'evil work:’ a reference to either abortion or contraception or both."[111]

Creation

In City of God, Augustine rejected both the contemporary ideas of ages (such as those of certain Greeks and Egyptians) that differed from the Church's sacred writings.[112] In The Literal Interpretation of Genesis Augustine argued God had created everything in the universe simultaneously and not over a period of six days. He argued the six-day structure of creation presented in the Book of Genesis represents a logical framework, rather than the passage of time in a physical way – it would bear a spiritual, rather than physical, meaning, which is no less literal. One reason for this interpretation is the passage in Sirach 18:1, creavit omnia simul ("He created all things at once"), which Augustine took as proof the days of Genesis 1 had to be taken non-literalistically.[113] As an additional support for describing the six days of creation as a heuristic device, Augustine thought the actual event of creation would be incomprehensible by humans and therefore needed to be translated.[114]

Augustine also does not envision original sin as causing structural changes in the universe, and even suggests the bodies of Adam and Eve were already created mortal before the Fall.[115][116][117]

Ecclesiology

St. Augustine by Carlo Crivelli

Augustine developed his doctrine of the Church principally in reaction to the Donatist sect. He taught there is one Church, but within this Church there are two realities, namely, the visible aspect (the institutional hierarchy, the Catholic sacraments, and the laity) and the invisible (the souls of those in the Church, who are either dead, sinful members or elect predestined for Heaven). The former is the institutional body established by Christ on earth which proclaims salvation and administers the sacraments, while the latter is the invisible body of the elect, made up of genuine believers from all ages, and who are known only to God. The Church, which is visible and societal, will be made up of "wheat" and "tares", that is, good and wicked people (as per Mat. 13:30), until the end of time. This concept countered the Donatist claim that only those in a state of grace were the "true" or "pure" church on earth, and that priests and bishops who were not in a state of grace had no authority or ability to confect the sacraments.[118]

Augustine's ecclesiology was more fully developed in City of God. There he conceives of the church as a heavenly city or kingdom, ruled by love, which will ultimately triumph over all earthly empires which are self-indulgent and ruled by pride. Augustine followed Cyprian in teaching that bishops and priests of the Church are the successors of the Apostles,[26] and their authority in the Church is God-given.

Eschatology

Augustine originally believed in premillennialism, namely that Christ would establish a literal 1,000-year kingdom prior to the general resurrection, but later rejected the belief, viewing it as carnal. He was the first theologian to expound a systematic doctrine of amillennialism, although some theologians and Christian historians believe his position was closer to that of modern postmillennialists. The Catholic Church during the Medieval period built its system of eschatology on Augustinian amillennialism, where Christ rules the earth spiritually through his triumphant church.[119]

During the Reformation theologians such as John Calvin accepted amillennialism. Augustine taught that the eternal fate of the soul is determined at death,[120][121] and that purgatorial fires of the intermediate state purify only those who died in communion with the Church. His teaching provided fuel for later theology.[120]

Mariology

Although Augustine did not develop an independent Mariology, his statements on Mary surpass in number and depth those of other early writers. Even before the Council of Ephesus, he defended the Ever-Virgin Mary as the Mother of God, believing her to be "full of grace" (following earlier Latin writers such as Jerome) on account of her sexual integrity and innocence.[122] Likewise, he affirmed that the Virgin Mary "conceived as virgin, gave birth as virgin and stayed virgin forever".[123]

Natural knowledge and biblical interpretation

Augustine took the view that, if a literal interpretation contradicts science and humans' God-given reason, the Biblical text should be interpreted metaphorically. While each passage of Scripture has a literal sense, this "literal sense" does not always mean the Scriptures are mere history; at times they are rather an extended metaphor.[124]

Original sin

Painting of Saint Augustine by Tomás Giner, year 1458, tempera on panel Diocesan Museum of Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain.

Augustine taught that the sin of Adam and Eve was either an act of foolishness (insipientia) followed by pride and disobedience to God or that pride came first.[e] The first couple disobeyed God, who had told them not to eat of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:17).[125] The tree was a symbol of the order of creation.[126] Self-centeredness made Adam and Eve eat of it, thus failing to acknowledge and respect the world as it was created by God, with its hierarchy of beings and values.[f]

They would not have fallen into pride and lack of wisdom if Satan hadn't sown into their senses "the root of evil" (radix Mali).[127] Their nature was wounded by concupiscence or libido, which affected human intelligence and will, as well as affections and desires, including sexual desire.[g] In terms of metaphysics, concupiscence is not a being but bad quality, the privation of good or a wound.[128]

Augustine's understanding of the consequences of original sin and the necessity of redeeming grace was developed in the struggle against Pelagius and his Pelagian disciples, Caelestius and Julian of Eclanum,[26] who had been inspired by Rufinus of Syria, a disciple of Theodore of Mopsuestia.[129][130] They refused to agree original sin wounded human will and mind, insisting human nature was given the power to act, to speak, and to think when God created it. Human nature cannot lose its moral capacity for doing good, but a person is free to act or not act in a righteous way. Pelagius gave an example of eyes: they have capacity for seeing, but a person can make either good or bad use of it.[131][132]

Like Jovinian, Pelagians insisted human affections and desires were not touched by the fall either. Immorality, e.g. fornication, is exclusively a matter of will, i.e. a person does not use natural desires in a proper way. In opposition, Augustine pointed out the apparent disobedience of the flesh to the spirit, and explained it as one of the results of original sin, punishment of Adam and Eve's disobedience to God.[133]

Augustine had served as a "Hearer" for the Manichaeans for about nine years,[134] who taught that the original sin was carnal knowledge.[135] But his struggle to understand the cause of evil in the world started before that, at the age of nineteen.[136] By malum (evil) he understood most of all concupiscence, which he interpreted as a vice dominating people and causing in men and women moral disorder. Agostino Trapè insists Augustine's personal experience cannot be credited for his doctrine about concupiscence. He considers Augustine's marital experience to be quite normal, and even exemplary, aside from the absence of Christian wedding rites.[137] As J. Brachtendorf showed, Augustine used Ciceronian Stoic concept of passions, to interpret Paul's doctrine of universal sin and redemption.[138]

St. Augustine by Peter Paul Rubens

The view that not only human soul but also senses were influenced by the fall of Adam and Eve was prevalent in Augustine's time among the Fathers of the Church.[139][140][141] It is clear the reason for Augustine's distancing from the affairs of the flesh was different from that of Ploti

Augustine's large contribution of writings covered diverse fields including theology, philosophy and sociology. Along with John Chrysostom, Augustine was among the most prolific scholars of the early church by quantity.

Theology

Christian anthropology

Augustine was one of the first Christian ancient Latin authors with a very clear vision of theological anthropology.[96] He saw the human being as a perfect unity of soul and body. In his late treatise ancient Latin authors with a very clear vision of theological anthropology.[96] He saw the human being as a perfect unity of soul and body. In his late treatise On Care to Be Had for the Dead, section 5 (420) he exhorted respect for the body on the grounds it belonged to the very nature of the human person.[97] Augustine's favourite figure to describe body-soul unity is marriage: caro tua, coniunx tua – your body is your wife.[98][99][100]

Initially, the two elements were in perfect harmony. After the fall of humanity they are now experiencing dramatic combat between one another. They are two categorically different things. The body is a three-dimensional object composed of the four elements, whereas the soul has no spatial dimensions.[101] Soul is a kind of substance, participating in reason, fit for ruling the body.[102]

Augustine was not preoccupied, as fall of humanity they are now experiencing dramatic combat between one another. They are two categorically different things. The body is a three-dimensional object composed of the four elements, whereas the soul has no spatial dimensions.[101] Soul is a kind of substance, participating in reason, fit for ruling the body.[102]

Augustine was not preoccupied, as Plato and Descartes were, in detailed efforts to explain the metaphysics of the soul-body union. It sufficed for him to admit they are metaphysically distinct: to be a human is to be a composite of soul and body, with the soul superior to the body. The latter statement is grounded in his hierarchical classification of things into those that merely exist, those that exist and live, and those that exist, live, and have intelligence or reason.[103][104]

Like other Church Fathers such as Athenagoras,[105] Tertullian,[106] Clement of Alexandria and Basil of Caesarea,[107] Augustine "vigorously condemned the practice of induced abortion", and although he disapproved of an abortion during any stage of pregnancy, he made a distinction between early and later abortions.[108] He acknowledged the distinction between "formed" and "unformed" fetuses mentioned in the Septuagint translation of Exodus 21:22–23, which incorrectly translates the word "harm" (from the original Hebrew text) as "form" in the Koine Greek of the Septuagint. His view was based on the Aristotelian distinction "between the fetus before and after its supposed 'vivification'". Therefore, he did not classify as murder the abortion of an "unformed" fetus since he thought it could not be known with certainty the fetus had received a soul.[108][109]

Augustine held that "the timing of the infusion of the soul was a mystery known to God alone".[110] However, he considered procreation as one of the goods of marriage; abortion figured as a means, along with drugs that cause sterility, of frustrating this good. It lay along a continuum that included infanticide as an instance of 'lustful cruelty' or 'cruel lust.' Augustine called the use of means to avoid the birth of a child an 'evil work:’ a reference to either abortion or contraception or both."[111]

In City of God, Augustine rejected both the contemporary ideas of ages (such as those of certain Greeks and Egyptians) that differed from the Church's sacred writings.[112] In The Literal Interpretation of Genesis Augustine argued God had created everything in the universe simultaneously and not over a period of six days. He argued the six-day structure of creation presented in the Book of Genesis represents a logical framework, rather than the passage of time in a physical way – it would bear a spiritual, rather than physical, meaning, which is no less literal. One reason for this interpretation is the passage in Sirach 18:1, creavit omnia simul ("He created all things at once"), which Augustine took as proof the days of Genesis 1 had to be taken non-literalistically.[113] As an additional support for describing the six days of creation as a heuristic device, Augustine thought the actual event of creation would be incomprehensible by humans and therefore needed to be translated.[114]

Augustine also does not envision original sin as causing structural changes in the universe, and even suggests the bodies of Adam and Eve were already created mortal before the Fall.[115][116]Adam and Eve were already created mortal before the Fall.[115][116][117]

Augustine developed his doctrine of the Church principally in reaction to the Donatist sect. He taught there is one Church, but within this Church there are two realities, namely, the visible aspect (the institutional hierarchy, the Catholic sacraments, and the laity) and the invisible (the souls of those in the Church, who are either dead, sinful members or elect predestined for Heaven). The former is the institutional body established by Christ on earth which proclaims salvation and administers the sacraments, while the latter is the invisible body of the elect, made up of genuine believers from all ages, and who are known only to God. The Church, which is visible and societal, will be made up of "wheat" and "tares", that is, good and wicked people (as per Mat. 13:30), until the end of time. This concept countered the Donatist claim that only those in a state of grace were the "true" or "pure" church on earth, and that priests and bishops who were not in a state of grace had no authority or ability to confect the sacraments.[118]

Augustine's ecclesiology was more fully developed in City of God. There he conceives of the church as a heavenly city or kingdom, ruled by love, which will ultimately triumph over all earthly empires which are self-indulgent and ruled by pride. Augustine followed Cyprian in teaching that bishops and priests of the Church are the successors of the Apostles,[26] and their authority in the Church is God-given.

Eschatology

Augustine originally believed in premillennialism, namely that Christ would establish a literal 1,000-year kingdom prior to the general resurrection, but later rejected the belief, viewing it as carnal. He was the first theologian to expound a systematic doctrine of amillennialism, although some theologians and

Augustine's ecclesiology was more fully developed in City of God. There he conceives of the church as a heavenly city or kingdom, ruled by love, which will ultimately triumph over all earthly empires which are self-indulgent and ruled by pride. Augustine followed Cyprian in teaching that bishops and priests of the Church are the successors of the Apostles,[26] and their authority in the Church is God-given.

Augustine originally believed in premillennialism, namely that Christ would establish a literal 1,000-year kingdom prior to the general resurrection, but later rejected the belief, viewing it as carnal. He was the first theologian to expound a systematic doctrine of amillennialism, although some theologians and Christian historians believe his position was closer to that of modern postmillennialists. The Catholic Church during the Medieval period built its system of eschatology on Augustinian amillennialism, where Christ rules the earth spiritually through his triumphant church.[119]

During the Reformation theologians such as John Calvin accepted amillennialism. Augustine taught that the eternal fate of the soul is determined at death,During the Reformation theologians such as John Calvin accepted amillennialism. Augustine taught that the eternal fate of the soul is determined at death,[120][121] and that purgatorial fires of the intermediate state purify only those who died in communion with the Church. His teaching provided fuel for later theology.[120]

Although Augustine did not develop an independent Mariology, his statements on Mary surpass in number and depth those of other early writers. Even before the Council of Ephesus, he defended the Ever-Virgin Mary as the Mother of God, believing her to be "full of grace" (following earlier Latin writers such as Jerome) on account of her sexual integrity and innocence.[122] Likewise, he affirmed that the Virgin Mary "conceived as virgin, gave birth as virgin and stayed virgin forever".[123]

Natural knowledge and biblical interpretation