- Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Revell; Repackaged Ed edition (April 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0800787625
- ISBN-13: 978-0800787622
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 7.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 1,070 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,234,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Confessions of St. Augustine: Modern English Version Mass Market Paperback – April 1, 2008
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From the Back Cover
Join the journey to find God's grace
The Confessions of St. Augustine is one of the most moving diaries ever recorded of a man's journey to the fountain of God's grace. Writing as a sinner, not a saint, Augustine shares his innermost thoughts and conversion experiences and wrestles with the spiritual questions that have stirred the hearts of the thoughtful since time began.
Starting with his childhood and continuing through his youth and early adulthood, you this book shows Augustine as a human being, a fellow traveler on the road to salvation. Join him on his journey. Listen in as he worships God. If you are fighting changes in your life, struggling to know God more, or staggering around roadblocks in your faith, Augustine's confessions will stretch your mind and enrich your soul.
"No matter who you are or what your religious experience may be, The Confessions of St. Augustine is a book that will help you. It will teach you how to love God with all your mind as well as all your heart."-- Warren W. Wiersbe
About the Author
Augustine was born in AD 354. He lived a wild, self-destructive life as a young man in Italy and was the subject of many prayers by his worried mother, Monica. After a life-changing conversion, he lived on to become a tremendous influence on Christian thinking. He died in AD 430.
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Although a great swath of the book involves this cloying sycophantism, Augustine is a great writer and the quality of the prose kept me engaged throughout. Augustine's tangents contain some of the most interesting material in the book. He talks about how any great joy follows great pain (Book VIII); he marvels at the faculty of human memory (Book X); and he considers the mystery of time (Book XI). It's fascinating to see how his religious mind roves into these obscure domains of psychology and physics, and it's inspiring to see how his curious and penetrating intellect approaches these topics.
Regardless of how religious you are, Augustine’s singular devotion is ultimately admirable. God for him is goodness, and Confessions reveals a life wholly devoted to the highest principles of virtue as Augustine understood them. "This is the happy life, to rejoice to Thee, of Thee, for Thee; this is it, and there is no other. For they who think there is another, pursue some other and not the true joy."
Convinced of the wisdom to return to the Confessions, I sought a more modern translation that would be easier to read and, to my delight, found a translation by E.J. Sheed with an introduction by Augustinian biographer, Peter Brown. Brown (2000) is revered as one of the leading Augustinian biographers of our time and I had used his biography during my days in seminary.
I break this review up into four parts. In the first part, I give an overview of the Confessions and why we are interested. In the second part, I review the life of Augustine and sin, as he describes it. In the third part, I will focus on Augustine’s coming to faith. And, in the fourth part, I will review his theological writings, which focus on the creation accounts in Genesis.
Background on Augustine
For those unfamiliar with church history, Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) , which was in modern-day Algeria, lived right after the time of Emperor Constantine the Great (272-337 AD) who made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Bishop Ambrose baptized Augustine who had such contemporaries as Jerome, who translated the Bible in Latin. The fourth century posed a heady time for the Christian church and Augustine’s theology influenced much of what followed. For example, Martin Luther (1483-1546), a leader in the reformation more than a thousand years later, was an Augustinian monk (Bainton 1995, 25).
Of contemporary significance is the point that Augustine hailed from Africa where some of the best theology and early Bible manuscripts were copied. African scholarship dominated the early church and this dominance continued until the Islamic invasion in the sixth century, following the life and work of Mohammad (570-632 AD). The statement that Christianity is a “white man’s religion” (widely touted in developing countries) is not historically accurate and denigrates the significant contribution of African scholarship to the early church.
What Are the Confessions?
Augustine came to Christ as an adult. In his introduction, Peter Brown writes:
“On Easter day, April 24th, 387, he [Augustine] had ‘put on Christ’ by receiving baptism at the hands of Ambrose.” (xv)
Shortly before the death of his mother, Monica, who was a devout Catholic, later that year. Augustine supported himself teaching rhetoric, was heavily influenced by the writings of Plato, and wrote the Confessions to be read aloud. Each of the thirteen books could be read in about an hour’s time (xvi-xviii). Brown writes:
“For, as Catholic bishop, Augustine did not simply know ‘about’ the Bible, or preach ‘on’ the Bible. He prayed out of it every day, using especially the book of Psalms, which he believed to be the direct, personal prayers of King David, and so the model of all Christan, as they had been of all Jewish, prayer.” (xvii-xviii)
The influence of the Bible on the confessions is obvious to any reader because Augustine frequently begins a particular section in prayer and cites scripture throughout, allusions to which the editor has conveniently footnoted.
Less obvious to the reader is the definition that Augustine used for confession. As noted by the editor’s glossary, for Augustine confession could be:
1. a profession of faith,
2. praise of God, or
3. an act of penance (self-accusation).
Today, we primarily assume the last definition (329).
In his book, Confessions, Augustine of Hippo describes his life before and after converting to Christianity as an adult. Augustine shamelessly lays out the sins of his life, saying:
“Let the mind of my brethren love that in me which You teach to be worthy of love, and grieve for that in me which You teach to be worthy of grief.” (191)
I take this statement to mean that Augustine proposes to be frankly forthright in confession so that he can be an example to others. Is it any wonder that people trusted him and followed him into the monastic life? Having read the Confessions as a young man, I truly believe that they helped lead me to live ascetic lifestyle, even after it was no longer a financial necessity. I commend the Confessions to anyone who wishes to deepen their faith in Jesus Christ.
Augustine. 1978. Confessions (Orig Pub 397 AD). Translated by R.S. Pine-Coffin. New York: Penguin Books.
Bainton, Roland H. 1995. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. New York: Meridan Book.
Brown, Peter. 2000. Augustine of Hippo: A Biography (Orig pub 1967). Berkeley: University of California Press.
Metzger, Bruce M. and Bart D. Ehrman. 2005. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. New York: Oxford University Press.