INTRODUCTION Augustine's Confessions is not an autobiography in the literal sense, but is rather an autobiographical framework for a religious, moral, theological, and philosophical text1. Augustine explores the nature of God and sin within the context of a Christian man's life. The work can thus be viewed as both a discursive document and a subjective personal story. It is one of the most influential books in the Catholic religion, apart from the Bible.
Augustine wrote of his life and education up until the point of his conversion. After his conversion, he focused (as, he implies, a good Christian should) on understanding the major points of Catholic Christian doctrine. The early chapters recount his birth up to adulthood, but not in a typical, chronological fashion. Large sections of Augustine's life are left out, and critical figures are ignored or unnamed. Augustine did this because he wanted to focus only on the events in his life that led specifically to his conversion. He wished to show the reader his personal struggle to become a Christian, and how that struggle is a metaphor for all Christians' struggles.
Our fundamental aim in this essay will be to summarize the thirteen (13) books that make up St. Augustine s confession. BOOK I AND II -- EARLY LIFE AND ADOLESCENCE
Augustine begins Book I by praising the Lord and referring continually to Biblical passages of praise, especially the Psalms. He asks to know and understand the nature of God2, and how to pray and call upon him. Augustine is particularly interested in how God exists within the universe, and whether God is contained by the universe or if the universe contains God. 1 2
www.gradesaver.com/augustinesconfessions The Confessions as translated by Maria Boulding O.S.B. (New York: Vintage Spiritual Classics, 1997) p.3.
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Augustine then narrates how he grew up and learned the art of talking. He posited that he learned such a skill not by being taught, but rather from the intelligence given to him by God. Augustine's early religious instruction included the idea that God had granted eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus. When Augustine became very ill with a pressure on his chest he begged to be baptized so that he would have this eternal life after death. His mother Monica was very distraught and hastily made arrangements, but Augustine recovered. As a boy Augustine had no love for reading books3. He rebelled against the useless knowledge he was being taught, and also against their purported goal: to gain earthly wealth and glory4. Augustine loved Latin, but disliked learning Greek. He particularly abhors the instruction in the Roman pantheon of pagan gods, such as Jupiter both thunderer and adulterer, saying that the learning of such literature encourages sin5.
Augustine begins Book II with a candid confession of the deep and burning sexual desires that he experienced as a teenage boy. He ran wild in the shadowy jungle of erotic adventures. He realizes, however, that his one desire was simply to love and be loved. He says that as an adolescent he was misguided into thinking that concupiscence was the path to love. He also claims that if someone had put restraint on him and instructed him in the difference between love and lust, he might not have sinned so greatly or suffered so much. Augustine positions the lustful drives of his adolescence as part of the desire for beauty, and how easily he - and all mankind - are deceived into thinking that this is the only way to obtain and understand beauty. In this book he also discusses the Manichaeism ideal of celibacy, and quotes scripture to that effect. BOOK III -- STUDENT AT CARTHAGE 3 4
Ibid. p. 12. www.gradesaver.com/augustinesconfessions 5 Maria Boulding O.S.B, op cit p. 19.
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In this book Augustine describes his time in Carthage, where he was surrounded by a cauldron of illicit loves. Augustine studied a high level of rhetoric, oratory, and literature, and blew...
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