Augustine accused: Megalius, manichaeism, and the inception of the Confessions

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Abstract

Although no one motive or purpose accounts for the complex character of the Confessions, one relatively neglected factor in the context of its composition is the controversy within the african Catholic Church over Augustine's Manichaean past, and the circumstances in which the Primate of numidia, Megalius, objected to Augustine's advancement to the episcopacy on these grounds and subjected him to an episcopal inquiry. By reconstructing the likely details of Megalius's charges against Augustine and comparing them with the facts of Augustine's history as they would have been viewed by those unsympathetic to him, we can better appreciate the dire circumstances in which Augustine composed several reflections in the mid-390s C.E. on the ethics of lying by either commission or omission, and how at least part of the Confessions' narrative is likely to have taken shape in the context of Augustine's strategic response to charges he could not answer on the record of his own known conduct. By making the issue one of the interior progress of his soul, invisible to those who only could see the lagging conduct of his behavior, Augustine won over the guardians of the african Catholica, and went on to build upon the foundation of his defense the Confessions as we now know it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-124
Number of pages40
JournalJournal of Early Christian Studies
Volume17
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Religious studies

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