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The Confessions of St. Augustine

by Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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11,06571251 (3.91)196
4th century (63) Augustine (500) autobiography (545) biography (593) Catholic (122) Catholicism (137) Christian (203) Christian Living (58) Christianity (656) Church Fathers (110) Church History (229) classic (143) classics (268) Early Church (63) history (168) Latin (75) literature (119) medieval (70) memoir (199) non-fiction (398) Patristics (143) philosophy (673) read (54) religion (1,050) saints (128) spirituality (166) Theology (850) to-read (65) translation (55) unread (67)
  1. 41
    The Six Enneads by Plotinus (jpers36)
    jpers36: Plotinus was a major influence on Augustine.
  2. 22
    Early Christian Lives (Penguin Classics) by Carolinne White (Anonymous user)
  3. 33
    Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C. S. Lewis (2below)
    2below: For anyone interested in exploring spiritual autobiographies, C. S. Lewis' is worth checking out. Unlike Augustine, who covers the entire span of his life from birth to his conversion in adulthood, Lewis focuses on his childhood and young adult years and how his experiences during this time shaped the development of his spiritual life as he got older. I found Lewis' book a much quicker read than Augustine's, though both are very good.… (more)
  4. 02
    Late Have I Loved Thee by Ethel Mannin (lisanicholas)
    lisanicholas: Mannin's novel is modeled on the real-life spiritual autobiography of St Augustine of Hippo. Read the original!
  5. 05
    The Public Hating {short story} by Steve Allen (satanburger)
    satanburger: CONFESSIONS 6.8 (you'll see the similarities)
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Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
I'm not a religious person but I really enjoyed this book. Augustine writes with such enthusiasm and is so full of ideas I couldn't help being swept along with it.
Throughout the book there are many clear examples of the confluence of Platonism and Christianity. The concepts of God and Truth often seem interchangeable. His philosophical thinking is sometimes startlingly prescient, although just as frequently, for a secular reader, maddeningly pious.
Books 1-9 are mostly autobiographical and give a fascinating picture of late antiquity. Book 10 is a close examination of his inner life focusing on sensation and memory. Book 11 contains detailed speculations on the nature of time. Books 12 and 13 give Augustine's figurative interpretation of Genesis. These last two books were heavy-going for me but I would think them essential reading for a Christian.
1 vote stylite | Mar 25, 2014 |
I know this is a "great" work of Christianity because I was told it was. But it did nothing for me. It seemed jumbled and erratic and hard to understand, despite the use of simple, easy language. It was more stream-of-consciousness that I excepted. I didn't enjoy reading about Augustine's life and struggles with sin. He was honest and that's rare from someone who because famous for their faith. I think this book can make a huge difference in many people's hearts - but for me, it was just not what I prefer to read. It was a bit too sentimental and full of angst for my rational tastes. ( )
  empress8411 | Mar 16, 2014 |
A classic work for its influence on Christian theology going forward, but hardly a pleasure read for anyone not a student of such or not keenly interested in early Christian lore. Non-religious at my best, I read it as an early example of autobiography and for the sake of its place in history; but the story of a man's search for himself and his quest for truth is something we all go through at some point in our quest for self-identity. In Augustine's case it is the story of an atheist brought to God, a journey that included the search for truth in many other directions before he resorted to religion.

This was a very difficult read, a chore really, and it took me much longer than its page count warranted. I had to lean on Sparknotes quite a bit to help me navigate it. Merging neo-platonic philosophy with Christianity, Augustine argues that everyone and everything moves towards God, knowingly or not, as part of a quest to achieve near-perfect (only God is perfect) state of being. That is an essential message to be aware of and watching for if you've any hope of getting through this.

The first nine parts are his biography, which serves as a sort of case study. This was the portion that satisfied my amateur interest. Augustine apologizes to God for every sin he can ever remember making, including some (e.g. crying incessantly as a babe) that he can't. Citing the evil sin of taking pride in his grammar lessons and rhetoric skills, etc. makes him sound almost a flagellant. Slightly more legitimate was the minor theft of fruit committed under peer pressure, and more philandering than was strictly warranted. Most peculiar to me was the supposed sin of taking pleasure in watching tragic drama, as he wonders where the pleasure came from to be entertained by tales of others' suffering, albeit fictional.

The last four parts are increasingly obtuse as he lays out his theory of change that moves towards God. I could barely parse these chapters. The first explored memory, the next was on the nature of time, the next the biblical story of creation, and the last ... Sparknotes doesn't cover this one and it lost me so completely, I can't even hazard a guess at what it was addressing even though I read every word. The tenth chapter is also a discussion of temptations and gave me the sad impression that he had built a cage about himself, cutting himself off from every pleasure life has to offer and reducing his experience to mere survival. He writes that of course he knows he cannot permit anyone to dissuade him from this position. It's a typical tenet in any fundamentalist perspectives, this defining anyone who tries to talk you out of your beliefs as inherently evil, permitting your dismissal of their every argument without having to hear or consider (been there, done that, bought the Ayn Rand t-shirt - sold it back.) I have met a brilliant man, one who became deeply inhibited by the self-identity he arrived at. ( )
1 vote Cecrow | Feb 13, 2014 |
Considering that the style of Augie's work is completely and utterly impenetrable, this is actually a pretty decent read. Just come to it expecting circularity, meditation, rapturous theology and self-flagellation, and you'll come away impressed.
Don't expect anything linear, and you'll be all the more impressed when he ends up, every now and then, out-Aristotling Aristotle with arguments of the (x-->y)&(y-->z)&(z-->p)&(p-->q); ~x is absurd; therefore q variety.
Don't expect any modern 'you are a unique and special snowflake and your desires are good it's just that your parents/society/upbringing/schoolfriends/economic earning power have stunted you' self-help guff. It'd be nice to read someone more contemporary who's willing to admit that people do things wrong, all the time, and should feel really shitty for doing wrong things.
Don't expect Aquinas. This is the hardest bit for me; if someone's going to talk about God I prefer that they be coldly logical about it. Augie goes more for the erotic allegory, self-abasement in the face of the overwhelming eternal kind of thing. No thanks.
Finally, be aware that you'll need to think long and hard about what he says and why he says it when he does. Books I-IX are the ones you'll read as autobiography, and books X-XIII will seem like a slog. But it's all autobiography. Sadly for Augie, he doesn't make it easy for us to value the stuff he wants to convince us to value, which is the philosophy and theology of the later books. The structure, as far as I can tell, is to show us first how he got to believing that it was possible for him to even begin thinking about God (that's I-IX). X-XIII shows us how he goes about thinking about God, moving from the external world, to the human self in X and a bit of XI, to the whole of creation in XI and XII, to God himself in XIII. I have no idea if this is what he had in mind, but it roughly works out. That's all very intellectually stimulating, but it's still way more fun to read about his peccadilloes and everyday life in the fourth century. ( )
1 vote stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (159 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barrois, Georges A.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bourke, Vernon J.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pusey, E. B.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sheed, F. J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warner, RexTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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dedicated to parentibus meis
First words
You are great, O Lord, and greatly to be praised: great is your power and to your wisdom there is no limit.
You are great, O Lord, and very worthy of praise; mighty is your power and your wisdom is immeasurable.
'Vast are you, Lord, and vast should be your praise' - 'vast what you do; what you know beyond assaying.'
Great art Thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised;  great is Thy power, and of Thy wisdom there is no number.   [tr. F. J. Sheed]
Quotations
It became clear to me that things which are subject to corruption must be good, for if they were perfect, or not good at all, they could not be corrupted.
Corruption is an agent of harm but if it is not taking away from what is good, it is causing no harm.
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In his own day the dominant personality of the Western Church, Augustine of Hippo today stands as perhaps the greatest thinker of Christian antiquity, and his Confessions is one of the great works of Western literature. In this intensely personal narrative, Augustine relates his rare ascent from a humble Algerian farm to the edge of the corridors of power at the imperial court in Milan, his struggle against the domination of his sexual nature, his renunciation of secular ambition and marriage, and the recovery of the faith his mother Monica had taught him during his childhood. Now, Henry Chadwick, an eminent scholar of early Christianity, has given us the first new English translation in thirty years of this classic spiritual journey. Chadwick renders the details of Augustine's conversion in clear, modern English. We witness the future saint's fascination with astrology and with the Manichees, and then follow him through scepticism and disillusion with pagan myths until he finally reaches Christian faith. There are brilliant philosophical musings about Platonism and the nature of God, and touching portraits of Augustine's beloved mother, of St. Ambrose of Milan, and of other early Christians like Victorinus, who gave up a distinguished career as a rhetorician to adopt the orthodox faith. Augustine's concerns are often strikingly contemporary, yet his work contains many references and allusions that are easily understood only with background information about the ancient social and intellectual setting. To make The Confessions accessible to contemporary readers, Chadwick provides the most complete and informative notes of any recent translation, and includes an introduction to establish the context. The religious and philosophical value of The Confessions is unquestionable--now modern readers will have easier access to St. Augustine's deeply personal meditations. Chadwick's lucid translation and helpful introduction clear the way for a new experience of this classic.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 014044114X, Paperback)

‘As a youth … I had prayed to you for chastity and said “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet”’

The son of a pagan father and a Christian mother, Saint Augustine spent his early years torn between conflicting faiths and worldviews. His Confessions, written when he was in his forties, recount how, slowly and painfully, he came to turn away from his youthful ideas and licentious lifestyle, to become instead a staunch advocate of Christianity and one of its most influential thinkers. A remarkably honest and revealing spiritual autobiography, the Confessions also address fundamental issues of Christian doctrine, and many of the prayers and meditations it includes are still an integral part of the practice of Christianity today.

In his introduction R. S. Pine-Coffin discusses Saint Augustine’s intentions in writing his Confessions and issues of translation. This edition also includes a list of dates of events recorded in the Confessions.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:40:34 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Confessions, by St. Augustine, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriateAll editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works. One of the first personal histories ever written, The Confessions of St. Augustine offers more than a gripping narrative of one man's battle against doubt. It is also a brilliant work of theology that helped set the foundation for much of modern Christian thought. In a series of thirteen books, Saint Augustine displays a profound and searching intellect as he examines his life: his early memories of growing up in Roman North Africa during the fourth century A.D., his disgusted response to his mother's faith, his agonies and sins as a student, and finally his dramatic conversion in a garden in Milan. Along the way, the Confessions explores with great force and artistry the nature of time, mind, and memory, and lays out Augustine's interpretation of the Book of Genesis. Throughout, Augustine's remarkable depth of thinking is matched only by his elegance of expression, which has powerfully moved readers for more than 1500 years. A timeless classic, the Confessions remains an unforgettable portrait of an individual's struggle for self-definition in the presence of a powerful God. Mark Vessey is Professor of English at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Latin Christian Authors in Late Antiquity and Their Texts and co-editor of Augustine and the Disciplines: Cassiciacum to “Confessions. He has written extensively on the reception of early Christian Latin writings in the Renaissance and later periods.… (more)

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Four editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

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