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The Divjak Letters: New Light on St Augustine's problems, 416–428

  • W. H. C. Frend

A major manuscript discovery of hitherto unknown letters of Augustine of Hippo is a scholarly event whose importance can hardly be exaggerated. It is as though one of the lost books of Livy had suddenly turned up in palimpsest among medieval manuscripts in a cathedral library. For a discovery in similar circumstances, one has to go back to December 1904 when the learned Rev. Dr Karapet Ter-Merkettshian found an Armenian manuscript of Irenaeus' Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching in the library of the church of the Blessed Virgin at Eriwan in Armenia.

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1 See Robinson, J. Armitage (ed.), St. Irenaeus, the Apostolic Preaching, London 1920, 4.

2 Epp. 184A, 202A (P.L., xxxiii, 789, 929); Epp. 92A, 173A, 185A, 215A (CSEL. 34/2, 444:44, 648:57, 44:58, xciii); Ep. ad Firmum = Rev. Ben., li (1939), 109–21.

3 Published in CSEL88, Vienna 1981. This total includes one fragment, Letter 23A and a letter by Jerome to Bishop Aurelius of Carthage. The discoverer is now professor in the University of Vienna.

4 Letters 12 and 12. (The newly discovered letters are indicated as Letter, while those already published are indicated as Epistola.)

5 Letter 29.

6 See Divjak's account, pp. ix–xi of the Preface of the CSEL edn.

7 Divjak, J., ‘Die handschriftliche Uberlieferung der Werke des heiligen Augustinus (Spanien und Portugal)’, Sitzungsberichte der Oesterreichischen Akad. der IViss., phil. hist. Kl., Bd. 292, Vienna 1974.

8 The story is outlined by Divjak, ‘Augustinus’, xviii–xix.

9 Ibid., xlix, leaving open the question how the codex containing these letters reached Italy from North Africa.

10 A. Goldbacher (ed.) CSEL 57, pp. 598–9 = para. 5 of Letter 1 (Divjak, CSEL 88, p. 6).

11 Following the view of Bruyne, D., ‘Notes sur les lettres de Saint Augustine’, Revue d'Histoire Ecclésiastique, xxiii (1927), 523–30: ‘L'éditeur principal est sans doute saint Augustin lui-même…’ Dissenting views by A. Goldbacher (gradual assemblage of Augustine's letters) and H. Lietzmann (A. responsible for a number of small collections only) are cited by Divjak, ‘Augustinus’, xxix–xxx.

12 This is, of course, guesswork. It is not easy, on these grounds, to see why Augustine should have omitted Letter 29 to the deacon Paulinus of Milan, Ambrose's biographer. This letter comments favourably on the worth of some Acta Martyrum, particularly that of Cyprian in Bishop Ambrose's possession, compared with accounts of martyrs' trials available only from the public records (‘in forensibus gestis’).

13 Divjak, ‘Augustinus’, p. liv.

14 Letter 10. 2–8. Northern Numidia seems to have been the area worst-hit by these slave-traders from the Galata Islands and their native collaborators (10. 6–8). Augustine invokes ‘Roman laws’ and ‘Roman liberty’ in vain. He had, however, ransomed 120 captives of whom ‘only five or six’ had genuinely been sold by their parents to the slave-traders.

15 Letters 23A, para. 3, 7. ‘Itaque dictavi ex quo veni, id est a tertio Idus Septembris usque ad Kalandas Decembres versuum ferme sex milia.’

16 The material will be reviewed by Dr G. Bonner in a forthcoming issue of Etudes Augustiniennes.

17 Brown, P. R. L., Augustine of Hippo: a biography, London 1967, 355–6.

18 Letter 19. 3 (to Jerome) ‘quoniam sicut amicum corrigi cupiebam’ (i.e. Pelagius).

19 Letter 4. 2, 3 and compare Ep. 177. 3.

20 Outlined by Divjak, ‘Augustinus’, lxi.

21 Atticus was replying to letters sent to him by the North Africans.

22 De Nuptiis et Concupiscentia, ii. 42 (CSEL. 42, p. 295). Evil, Augustine argued, did not accrue to marriage from its own institution, but entirely from the circumstance that sin entered into the world by one man (Adam), and death by sin.

23 Letter 6. 4–8.

24 Letter 4. 2. ‘sese callidis verborum latibulis occultasset’.

25 Ibid., 4. 1. Augustine's view was ‘dicimus non omnes, sed quosdam peccatores damnari supplicio sempiterno’.

26 Ibid., 5. 2 ‘ut inter Graecos impune latitent’.

27 Dating, see Divjak, ‘Augustinus’, lxvii.

28 Letter 28. 1. ‘omnes basilicas traditas ecclesiae catholicae et universam multitudinem ad pacem Christi atque unitatem summa alacritate conversam exceptis paucis ordinis viris…’

29 Ibid., 2. 3.

30 Bishops Rogatus and Olympius are mentioned as both having been maimed ‘by the heretics’. See also De Gestis cum Emerito 9 (CSEL. 53. 192) for Circumcellion involvement.

31 Letter 23A, 3. He had even taken the name ‘Vincentius’ in honour of his patron, Vincentius of Cartenna. Compare De Natura et Origine animae 1, and Retract, ii. 8/3. See P. R. L. Brown, Augustine, 363–4.

32 Jerome, ap. Augustine, Ep. 195, ‘macte virtutc in orbe celebraris’.

33 She is the recipient of Augustine's Ep. 267, and Jerome sends her in c. 413 two books of his Commentary on Ezekiel as recorded in ap. Augustine Ep. 165. 2. 2.

34 Ep. 209. 7 ‘Aut in mea cathedra (Fussala) sedere debui, aut episcopus esse non debui’. In the letter to Fabiola, Augustine does not quote this statement by Antoninus.

35 Ibid. 1. ‘magnam illis (Christian's) cladem’.

36 Ibid., 2.

37 Augustine, , Sermo (Guelf. 32 = Miscellanea Agostiniana, ed. Morin, G., Rome 1930, i. 563–75).

38 Ep. 209. 3. On the language question, particularly in Augustine's diocese, see Simon, M., ‘Punique ou bcrbere? Note sur la situation linguistique dans l'Afrique romain’, Ann. de l'Institut de Philologie et d'Histoire orientates et slaves xii (1953), Brussels 1955, 613–29.

39 This was 25, see Canons of the Council of Hippo, 1 b, in Concilia Africae A. 345–525, ed. C. Munier, CC, ser. latin, cxlix, p. 33. Pope Siricius had laid down that no one under the age of 40 should be ordained presbyter, and 50 was the age required for a bishop. Ep. 1. to Himerius (P.L., xiii. 1142–3, with editor's note on other usages. Justinian, Novel. 123. 13, laid down 30, 35 and 45 as the minimum ages for deacon, presbyter and bishop respectively.

40 Ep. 209. 4–5.

41 Letter 20. 2.

42 Ibid., 3. ‘inimici ecclesiae frustrati nostri opens inrisione deciperent’.

43 Ibid., 5–7.

44 Ibid., 29–32.

45 Ibid., 7.

46 Ibid., 9.

47 Ibid., 11. 1. ‘quod nullas omnino culpas haberet’.

48 Ibid., 12. 1. ‘utrum ordinem rerum fideliter indicasset’.

49 Ibid., 15. i.

50 Ibid., 20. 1. See Lancel, S., ‘A propos des nouvelles lettres de S. Augustin et de la Conference de Carthage en 411: cathedra, diocesis, ecclesia, parochia, plebs, populus, sedes’, Revue d'Histoire Ecclésiastique, lxxvii (1982), 451.

51 Ibid., 22. 2: ‘et utique debere sufficere quod eorum animas occiderimus dando eis Antoninum; non etiam corpora eorum a nobis esse tradenda, ut per Antoninum iterum moriantur’.

52 Ibid., 33. 1.

53 Ibid., 27. 3.

54 For the location of some of the places mentioned by Augustine in his letter, see the forthcoming article by Lancel, S. in Etudes Augustiniennes, 1983.

55 Munier, Concilia Africae, p. 227. Recorded as Canon 125 in the Registri Ecclesiae Carthaginensis excerpta, ‘ad transmarina autem qui putaverit appellandum, a nullo intra Africam in communionem suscipiatur’.

56 Following Kidd's, B. J. order of events, A History of the Church to A.D. 461, Oxford 1922, iii. 164.

57 See Kidd, B. J., The Roman Primacy to A.D. 461, Oxford 1936, 90–1, concerning the determined manoeuvres by the North Africans to secure Pelagius' condemnation by the papacy and the imperial court.

58 Letters 22, 23 and 23A.

59 Letter 22. 8. There seems to have been a dispute between Honorius and Rusticus, bishop of Cartenna, who resented the loss of that part of the territory of Cartenna which made up Honorius' see. The area had been lost to Cartenna when Honorius' father had been its bishop, and Rusticus wanted Honorius promoted (as his father had been) to Caesarea in order to regain the territory for his own see.

60 Letter 22. 5. 3. For Augustine's concern also that canon 15 should always be obeyed, see Letter 20. 8. I.

61 Letter 22. 5. 3. ‘donee consuleretur sedes apostolica et antistes Carthaginiensis ecclesiae’.

82 Letters 22. 7. 1 and 23. 2.

63 Letter 22. 5. 4, ‘quod nullo utique pacto velle pot(u)erunt contra concilium Nicenum et alia concilia episcoporum’.

64 Ep. 205. 2 (CSEL. 57, p. 324).

65 Thus he says (Letter 12.4) that in the Balearics a true Christian, let alone an instructed one, was an extreme rarity.

66 Letter n. 1. ‘Priscillianistas, a quibus iam etiam Galliae vastabantur…quibus ita Hispaniae scatent’.

87 Letter n. 2.

68 Ibid… 3.

69 Ibid., 5–6.

70 Ibid., 21.

71 Ibid., 23ff

72 Ibid., 24. 3. ‘haec etiam ad aures incliti principis referentes’.

73 Thus, canon 12 of Toledo I in 400 envisages the existence of Catholic clergy with past Priscillianist connections and implies that there was disagreement among the bishops whether to be lenient or harsh towards these clergy. Other excerpts from the proceedings show that four bishops actually refused to anathematise Priscillian and his writings for fear of losing the support of their clergy and people. See Chadwick, Henry, Priscillian of Avila, Oxford 1976, 175–6 and 184–6.

74 Thus Letters 7, 14 and 16.

75 For example, Letter 7 (the dispute over a gift of 80 or more solidi made by Count Boniface to the church of Hippo but claimed by the widow of another official, the tribune Bassus).

76 Shown by Augustine in Letter 10. 4.

77 See for instance, Augustine, Ep. 185. 9. 35 and 36, written in c. 419.

78 The view of Victor of Vita, writing c. 490 in the middle of the Vandal occupation, Historia Persecutions provinciae Africanae ( = CSEL.), 1, 2 and 14.

79 Augustine, Ep. 220. 7 and 228. Possidius, Vita Augustini 28, ‘aedificia ecclesiarum quamplurimis locis ignibus concremata’.

80 A colloquium in honour of Professor Divjak's research was held at the University of Lille III, under the presidency of Professor Claude Lepelley, 13–15 September 1982. The Proceedings are being published in Etudes Augustiniennes, 1983.

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