Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 2

9780812244946: Hardback
Release Date: 31st May 2013

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 552

Series Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion

University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.

Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 2

Making a "Catholic" Self, 388-401 C.E.

Demonstrating that as Augustine defined and became a "Catholic" self, he also intently engaged with his former Manichaean faith, Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 2 explores the close interplay of these two processes in Augustine's works up to and including the Confessions.

Hardback / £69.00

By 388 C.E., Augustine had broken with the Manichaeism of his early adulthood and wholeheartedly embraced Nicene Christianity as the tradition with which he would identify and within which he would find meaning. Yet conversion rarely, if ever, represents a clean and total break from the past. As Augustine defined and became a "Catholic" self, he also intently engaged with Manichaeism as a rival religious system. This second volume of Jason David BeDuhn's detailed reconsideration of Augustine's life and letters explores the significance of the fact that these two processes unfolded together.

BeDuhn identifies the Manichaean subtext to be found in nearly every work written by Augustine between 388 and 401 and demonstrates Augustine's concern with refuting his former beliefs without alienating the Manichaeans he wished to win over. To achieve these ends, Augustine modified and developed his received Nicene Christian faith, strengthening it where it was vulnerable to Manichaean critique and taking it in new directions where he found room within an orthodox frame of reference to accommodate Manichaean perspectives and concerns. Against this background, BeDuhn is able to shed new light on the complex circumstances and purposes of Augustine's most famous work, The Confessions, as well as his distinctive reading of Paul and his revolutionary concept of grace. Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 2 demonstrates the close interplay between Augustine's efforts to work out his own "Catholic" persona and the theological positions associated with his name, between the sometimes dramatic twists and turns of his own personal life and his theoretical thinking.

Note on Terminology

Chapter 1. The True Religion
Chapter 2. Myth and Morals
Chapter 3. Perfecting the Paradigm
Chapter 4. Fortunatus
Chapter 5. The Exegete
Chapter 6. The Problem of Paul
Chapter 7. Accused
Chapter 8. Discoveries
Chapter 9. How One Becomes What One Is
Chapter 10. Truth in the Realm of Lies


Note on Terminology

My use of the term "Nicene" may at first seem out of place to those for whom it invokes primarily the Trinitarian controversy, which indeed plays practically no role in this study. Similarly, my use of "Catholic" may at first be jarring to those who regard this term primarily as a label of the fully developed Catholicism of a later period. Despite the danger of such possible misconstruals, I consider these terms both appropriate and necessary to my subject. My strategy here, as in the first volume of this study, is to employ "Nicene" to refer to the ideology of the community Augustine had joined, and "Catholic" to refer to the community itself and its institutions.

The community in question was formally and legally defined by an edict of Theodosius in 380 (Cod. Theod. 16.1.2) that expressly bestowed upon it the designation "Catholic" as an identifying name, not just an adjectival description. Augustine himself always referred to this community as "Catholic." In North Africa in particular, "Catholic" served to link the identity of the community to the larger imperially sanctioned Church, in distinction from the regional "Donatist" association of churches. It has become fashionable to prefer lower-case "catholic" to refer in this early period to a kind of mainstream residuum that is left over once one has distinguished all of the distinctive sectarian factions within early Christianity, without implying all of the formal institutional forms and normative authority of the later Catholic Church. But with reference to the situation in North Africa, such a usage would obscure the degree to which Augustine's "Catholic" community was itself a sectarian faction, competing not only with other sectarian groups such as the Manichaeans, but also with "Donatists" who, of all the parties, probably had the best claim to represent the Christian mainstream in the region. Overall, then, I find that using parallel capitalized descriptors strikes the right tone of parity among these rival claimants to the Christian tradition, broadly defined. At the same time, throughout the book, I am manipulating the term (Catholic, catholic, "Catholic," "catholic") in order to bring out facets of the story, including the tendentiousness of the intended implication of "catholic" against the alternative claims of other Christianities, as well as Augustine's own interest in making the "Catholic" church catholic by bringing under its wings all those with a commitment to the authority of Christ, through whatever powers of persuasion or polemic he could muster.

Yet problems would arise, I think, if I used "Catholic" to refer to the ideology of Augustine and his community, since as a system of ideas, or an -ism, it might too easily invoke "(Roman) Catholicism." I have chosen, therefore, to use "Nicene" to avoid that implication and as a convenient designation for the minimal creedal ideology to which members of this particular community were (in theory) committed. Even though a notorious problem exists regarding the various creeds in use within the "Catholic" Church of Augustine's time, they were imagined by their users to accord with "Nicene" positions, not only on the Trinity, but on God as omnipotent creator, on Christ's physical incarnation, death, and resurrection, and on the authority of the Church. Augustine was catechized in reference to one such creed (Conf 8.2.5), and Augustine himself treated this creed as the foundational statement of the ideology of the "Catholic" Church (De fide et symbolo; Sermones 212-14). Any number of more precise designations one might use for this ideology would be either awkward or novel or both. "Nicene" provides the appropriate parity with terms for competing Christian ideologies, such as "Manichaean."

Jason David BeDuhn is Professor of Religious Studies at Northern Arizona University and author of Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 1: Conversion and Apostasy, 373-388 C.E., also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

"Drawing on his unparalleled expertise in Manichaeism, Jason BeDuhn vividly narrates the decade between Augustine's conversion and his Confessions, making this familiar story startlingly fresh and new. Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 2 is a tour de force."—Paula Fredriksen, author of Augustine and the Jews