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The Confessions of St. Augustine: Modern English Version

The Confessions of St. Augustine: Modern English Version

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The Confessions of St. Augustine: Modern English Version

4.5/5 (48 ratings)
192 pages
3 hours
Apr 1, 2008


Confessions 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 in Numidia, through his youth and early adulthood in Carthage, Rome, and Milan, readers will see Augustine as a human being, a fellow traveler on the road to salvation. Though staggering around potholes and roadblocks, all will find strength in Augustine's message: when the road gets rough, look to God! Previously released in 1977, this book invites readers to join Augustine in his quest that led him to be one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the history of the church.
Apr 1, 2008

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The Confessions of St. Augustine - Augustine

The Confessions

of St. Augustine

The Confessions

of St. Augustine


© 2005 by Baker Book House

Published by Revell

a division of Baker Publishing Group

P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287


New Spire edition published 2008

ISBN 978-0-8007-8762-2

Previously published in 1977 by Baker Book House

Printed in the United States of America

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

Scripture is taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

The Writings of Augustine

The Content of Confessions

Confession of the Greatness of God


Monnica: His Mother’s Care

At Carthage

The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Time Loses No Time

Healing and Refreshment

Monnica at Milan


The Way of Perfection


The Death of Monnica

The Book of Memory

The Heaven and the Earth

The Living Soul

The Writings of Augustine

Augustine of Hippo (354–430) was a prolific writer of theological works, covering a great variety of subjects. As in Confessions, his fertile mind could drift into very creative ideas on a wide variety of subjects that interested him and in which he always found connections to God.

He also wrote rhetorical arguments on the significant controversies of his day. In particular, he produced a number of attacks on the theology of the Manichaeans, the mystical Eastern transplant into the Roman Empire that had enraptured him as a young man.

A great number of sermons are retained, recorded as was the custom of the period by disciples of the preacher.

The writings of Augustine can be difficult and his reasoning complex, yet particularly in Confessions high-toned philosophy gives way to poetic movements of praise and application. He produced The Trinity, one of the most in-depth books on the subject ever written, but also wrote sermons that are models of simple communication in the language of the people. A total of 363 sermons have been saved that can be definitely attributed to Augustine. He was trained in rhetoric and taught it, yet as a Christian communicator he believed that emotion-lifting oratory was beneath the dignity of the Christian, who didn’t need technique when handling the eternal truths of God.

The following list is far from exhaustive, but it places some of Augustine’s writing into his career. Some of these works are among 270 letters and epistles that have been preserved.

The Content of Confessions

Written at some point between 397 and 400, Confessions is technically not an autobiography or memoir but a confiteri, the praise of a soul. It is one book-length sustained prayer of praise. For this reason, it is frequently misunderstood by those who cannot understand why a book continually addresses God and meanders so freely between anecdotes and theological discussions. Superficially, the first ten chapters seem unrelated to the last three.

A careful study of the subjects and flow of the text, however, shows that the autobiographical sections are not a diary or even so much Augustine’s testimony of his dealings with God. Rather, the stories are illustrations— Augustine’s vehicle to unwrap eternal realities by noticing how he himself is an example of God at work. He is considering the fabric of God’s design of life.

We seldom consider most of these questions because they are bound up in our story, which we are too busy living to analyze. Augustine is trying to cut the binding. This is why the text often seems to settle in some insignificant point or emotion or love and spend considerable time looking at it from multiple directions.

Augustine seems to obsess about flaws in his character or interpersonal relationships. Beyond his evident intense emotional sensitivity, he is teaching himself and us through these passages. Each is intended to force us to look at normal life experiences in a new and fresh way, whether the awareness of an infant or the bonds between close friends or the dynamics of grief at a loved one’s death. Augustine wants us to see him as a case study in reality, and he thrusts his mind more and more into this reality in the final chapters of his book.

But beyond even the philosophical reasoning, each element becomes a reason to praise God. Such a combination of personal revelation, meditations, and praise is virtually unique in Christian literature.

This edition follows the abbreviated text as first published by Baker Book House in 1977. It omits large sections of the full text of Confessions but samples enough to see much of the exquisite joy being unveiled on each page.

For ease of understanding, paraphrase is employed where the literary Latin used by Augustine does not translate easily word for word into English. Paraphrase has also been employed to amplify difficult arguments, though carefully so as to preserve the thought.

The poetic nature of much of Augustine’s text has been broken out typographically to highlight the literary beauty of the thought.

A synopsis of the entire breadth of the text may help readers understand the wonder of this student of God at his window on life:

Book One: Augustine introduces the mysterious pilgrimage of God’s grace through his life. He observes infants and uses them to imagine what his own infancy must have been like, his learning to speak, and his childhood experiences in school.

Book Two: Augustine’s sixteenth year shows depravity at work in his laziness, lust, and mischief. The theft of some pears leads to contemplation of what the sinner really intends in sinful acts.

Book Three: As a student in Carthage, Augustine kindles an interest in philosophy and a turn from Christianity to Manichaean religion.

Book Four: Augustine reaches adulthood and begins teaching, while sinking deeper into the ideas of the Manichaeans and astrology. He takes a mistress and for the first time confronts face to face the fragility and impermanence of life.

Book Five: Hoping for confirmation of his Manichaean beliefs at the feet of the religion’s masters, he instead comes to disillusionment. He faces the vanity of human wisdom and begins to reconsider the religion of his mother. But he also flees her domination for Rome and then Milan. There the great preacher Ambrose forces him to look again to Scripture. Augustine becomes a catechumen.

Book Six: Monnica follows her son and finds him again at the threshold of orthodox faith, while dealing confusedly with the intricacies of adult life. Augustine becomes engaged, dismisses his first mistress, takes another, and continues his fruitless search for truth.

Book Seven: In his searching for truth, Augustine finally leaves the Manichaeans behind and rejects astrology but takes a side trip into Platonism as he tries to come to terms with God’s relationship to the reality he sees about him. From Neoplatonism he begins to have a breakthrough in studying Scripture and approaching the truth about Jesus Christ.

Book Eight: He finally comes to the point of conversion to Christ. But he still cannot conquer his preoccupation with worldly affairs and his desires. He is at a point of violent turmoil in which his divided will wars against itself. Finally he overhears a child’s song, which sends him to the Scripture text that is able to resolve his crisis.

Book Nine: Augustine resigns as a teacher of rhetoric and prepares for baptism with Adeodatus and Alypius. Shortly thereafter, they start back for Africa. Monnica does not accompany them, however, for she has died, and grief becomes the first trial of Augustine’s young faith. He finds the experience far different than in grieving as an unbeliever at the deaths of his friends.

Book Ten: Augustine turns from his story to what it means. First, how do memories retain reality and do they chart a path for understanding God? After an intricate analysis of the self, he applies what he has learned to the meaning of prayer. He also looks again at the big picture of sin nature and the Savior who mediates between God and sinner.

Book Eleven: Past memories, present experience, and what he has learned about the meaning of eternity lead to an attempt to unlock the mysteries of creation. He argues that time and creation are intimately related to each other. In fact, time is a created thing. But what sort of thing is it? Augustine considers what temporal process tells us about the abiding eternity of God’s now. This gives new insights into the first verses of Genesis.

Book Twelve: Defending the truth of Scripture’s account of creation, Augustine wonders at how visible, formed matter came out of nothing. He struggles again with his understanding of Genesis 1:1–2, realizing that he has not considered all possible explanations for the work of God. This leads to thoughts on how to interpret Scripture and why Christians should approach disagreements over nonessentials in the interpretation of a passage with humility and charity.

Book Thirteen: Augustine considers a more allegorical approach to Genesis to illustrate the deeper realities of God’s being. He returns to his consideration of a central theme of his writing: What is the image and likeness of God that is in a human being? He ends with praise to God for His work of creation and salvation, and the final eternal sabbath that awaits God’s people.

Confession of the

Greatness of God

You are matchless, O Lord.

So our praise of You must rise above our humanity.

Magnificent is Your power.

Your wisdom has no limits.

And we lowly creatures aspire to praise You. What is a human being, but a tiny particle of Your creation? Each human carries within the mark of coming death. That mortality bears witness to human sinfulness. It declares to all that You rebuff the proud.

Yet despite our lowness, human beings aspire to praise You, though we be but a particle of Your creation. You awake in us a delight at praising You. You made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it finds its place of rest in You.

Grant, Lord, that we may know which of two things must come first: Must we call out to You before we can praise You? Must we call on You before we can know You? For who can call on You, without first knowing You? One who doesn’t know You may come with a false idea of who You are.

Or, is it rather, that we call on You so that we may know You? How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?1

And so we know that those who seek the Lord will praise Him, for those who seek shall find Him, and those who find will praise Him. I will seek You, Lord, by calling on You. I will call on You with a belief that knows You truly, for You have been preached. My faith, Lord, shall call on You, the faith You first gave to me. By that faith You breathed life into me through the Incarnation of Your Son, through the ministry of the Preacher.2

For who is Lord but the Lord?

Who is God except our God?

The highest.

The most good.

The most mighty.

The most omnipotent.

The most merciful, yet most just.

The most hidden, yet most present.

The most beautiful, yet strongest.

The stationary, yet incomprehensible constant. You cannot change, yet You change everything. You are never new, yet never old. You make all things new, yet conquer the proud with old age before they know of its approach.

You are ever working, yet ever at rest. You are still gathering yet You lack nothing. You are still supporting, filling, and overspreading; still creating, nourishing, and maturing; still seeking, although You have all things.

You love without yearning, are jealous without bitterness; share our regret without self-reproach; express anger without losing serenity.

When all others fail to finish what they propose, Your purpose remains unchanged. You receive what You found yet had never lost. You are never in need yet rejoice in what You gain. You never covet yet exact excessive payments, so that You may owe. Yet who has anything that is not already Yours? You pay debts when You owe nothing, but in remitting debts You lose nothing.

And what have I now said, my God, my life, my holy joy? What does any mortal say when speaking of You? Yet woe to the one who does not speak, for silence is the most eloquent voice.

Oh, that I might rest on You.

Oh, that You would enter my heart and make it intoxicated, so that I might forget all woes and embrace You, my only good.

What are You to me? Take pity on me and teach me how to express it.

What am I to You that You demand my love and care enough to be angry and threaten me with grievous woes if I don’t give it? It is no small woe if I do not love You.

Oh, have mercy on me and tell me, O Lord my God, what You are to me. Say to my soul, I am your salvation. Say it loudly enough that I may hear.

Behold, Lord, my heart lies exposed before You. Open the ears of that heart and say unto my soul, I am your salvation.

After You have spoken, allow me to quickly grasp You.

Hide not Your face from me.

Let me die, so that I will not only die.

Only let me see Your face.


1. Romans 10:14.

2. While some have suggested that Augustine here refers to the preacher Ambrose, whose teaching helped bring Augustine to salvation, the context here makes clear that the only Preacher whose words bring knowledge of God and make praise possible is the incarnate Son, Jesus Christ.


Narrow is the mansion of my soul.1

Enlarge it, so that You can enter.

It lies in ruins.

Repair it.

I know and confess that You will find corruption there that is offensive to Your eyes. But who else shall clean it? To whom can I cry except You? Lord, scrub away my secret faults. Save Your servant from the power of the enemy. Since I believe You, I call to You, Lord, for You alone know.

Haven’t I given testimony of my sins to You? Haven’t You forgiven the wickedness of my heart? I don’t argue with Your judgment, for You are Truth. I fear my own self-deception, for my corrupt heart lies even to itself.

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What people think about The Confessions of St. Augustine

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  • (5/5)
    One of the great works in philosophy and religion.
  • (4/5)
    The "Confessions" of Saint Augustine is a hard work to pin down--part conversion story, part apologetics text, part philosophical treatise, part Bible commentary. It is also a hard work to read. There are many points of interest within the text, but it is not something you just read straight through without a lot of stopping and thinking, and preferably some supplemental research. There were many times reading the book that I felt that my time would be better spent just reading hours of the Bible, and that I was trying to force myself to grapple with a seminary-level text without the prerequisite educational background. This is a vitally significant work in Christian history, to be sure; it lays out fundamental arguments against the Manichaeans, has been looked to by the Roman Catholic church in support of purgatory, and even influenced the philosophical writings of Descartes. However, this wide-ranging history is far beyond the scope of the book itself, and it almost needs its own commentary to be understood by the layperson. The Barnes and Noble edition contains a historical timeline, an introduction, endnotes, a brief essay on the Confessions' influence on later works (which I found to be the most helpful supplemental piece in the book and wish I had read it before the text), a selection of famous quotes responding to the text, and a few critical questions to consider in thinking about the work.
  • (4/5)
    A marvelous autobiography of a Church Father. How he coped with avoiding the "call" to God. He sought the truth in pganism, then Aristotelian philosophy, then Manichaeism. All the while relishing a sinner's life. Then he visited Milan, called upon Ambrose and began his conversion to Christianity. He portrays himself, warts and all, living with a mistress, his quest for easy living and money, only to be confronted by a voice telling him to read the Bible. It changes his life. He converts. He pursues Catholicism with devotion and eventually finds himself the Bishop of Hippo, ministering to the poor of all faiths. Quite a man.
  • (3/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    This is a master work of religious philosophy. This was one of the first things I read which made me understand religion in the deeper sense.
  • (5/5)
    Has been called the greatest autobiography of all time.Exceedingly eloquent; the entire book is a prayer which reflects on the author's life and the work of God's grace within it.
  • (5/5)
    This book is very dear to me. I read "Confessions" in a very difficult personal time and quickly became overwhelmed by Augustines sincerity, intellect, and love for The Immutable Light. Augustine presents us with a very interesting time period in as where Christianity and Roman Paganism lie in juxtaposition. Besides Augustine's personal confessions, I enjoyed his examination of Genesis and his hefty discourse on time, or perhaps I should say the lack of the past and future. Rather than prattle on in the present, which has become past, I will urge you, reader, to introduce yourself to an author you most assuredly will hold very close to your heart.
  • (4/5)
    This book has been one of the slowest reads so far this year and took around 41 days to finish. My main struggle was with the language the book was written it. The underlying story was interesting, but there were so many extra words around everything. Especially in the first books, Augustine is constantly referencing back and forward between the past and the present and the relationship between his past actions and God. He regrets choices and actions that he took, but acknowledges that God was present in them and worked through them.
    The more I read, the more the underlying story of Augustine's journey became clear. It showed that his was a slow meandering journey to finding God.
    His mother, Monnica, is one of the main characters in the book, who is constantly praying to God to save her son. And her prayer is answered before her death, albeit not by many years.
    The last chapter ended by tying up the experience with an honest look at how Augustine was living in the present. He struggled with wanting to follow God in his heart, but also wanting to follow his own wills/passions. It is an encouraging insight into the life of such a well-known, influential Christian theologian and philosopher showing that he never attained perfection, but was reassuringly human.
  • (3/5)
    Read the whole thing as part of my church history course. It probably meant more to me reading it as an adult than it would have if I read it all the way through when I bought it in high school. A reminder that God's love is deeper than anything we can imagine.
  • (4/5)
    I have read this book several times, both as part of the Basic Program of Liberal Education at the University of Chicago and most recently as one of the monthly selections of a reading group in which I participate. Like all classics it bears rereading and yields new insights each time I read it. But it also is unchanging in ways that struck me when I first read it; for Augustine's Confessions seem almost modern in the telling with a psychological perspective that brings his emotional growth alive across the centuries. From the carnality of his youth to the moment in the Milanese Garden when his perspective changed forever you the story is an earnest and sincere exposition of his personal growth. You do not have to be a Catholic or even a believer to appreciate the impact of events in the life of the young Augustine. His relations with his mother, Monica, are among those that still have impact on the modern reader. This is one of those "Great" books that remind you that true insight into the human condition transcends time and place.
  • (5/5)
    Timeless autobiography showing how the Spirit of Christ drew this Church father to Himself.
  • (2/5)
    Written in the 4th century by an early intellectual christian who is famous (to me anyway) for his prayer - "Lord grant me chastity, but not yet"!. The book is in the form of an autobiography, interspersed with lots and lots of beseeching of the lord. The biography is interesting, and all the beseeching has a strong echo in the formulaic rants of the TV preachers. The book ends with some ponderings - on memory, and on the creation. Augustine believes god made the world, but he has some interesting questions about exactly how this was done. I couldn't help wondering, if Augustine was alive now, when there are much better explanations, whether he wouldn't be in the Richard Dawkins' camp. Read February 2009
  • (5/5)
    Actually brings up the idea that some parts of the bible are to be understood metaphorically, rather than literally. Including Genesis. I always have big trouble with the way Augustine just "sent away" his mistress when he converted. Lots of agonizing over how much it hurt him, but not much on how it affected her. Seems to me he should have married her.
  • (5/5)
    Fabulous feast. Who are you? God only knows, says Augustine reverently.
  • (5/5)
    I really felt my soul physically grow as I read this book.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    One of the most excellent books I've every read. From start to finish I was captivated letter by letter, word by word and so on.You do not have to be a catholic, or even a christian to enjoy this mans tail of finding faith.
  • (3/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    Augustine's 'efficacious grace' inspired Reformation theologians such as Martin Luther and John Calvin. Augustine taught that Adam's guilt, as transmitted to his descendants, severely weakens, though does not destroy, the freedom of their will. Luther and Calvin took it one step further and said that Original Sin completely destroyed liberty. So we can thank him for helping open up the floodgates of what I perceive to be a huge part of what hell would be like: the overwhelmingly negative infatuation with ascetism. Meanwhile, Augustine's arguments against magic, differentiating it from miracle, were crucial in the early Church's fight against paganism and became a central thesis in the later denunciation of witches and witchcraft. In other words, he perhaps unintentionallly contributed to the burning alive of many innocent people.However, because it is impossible to separate Christianity form European intellectual tradition, we must (for me grudgingly so) acknowledge Augustine's positive role.1. in bringing Greek thought back into the Christian/European intellectual tradition.2. his writing on the human will and ethics would become a focus for later thinkers such as Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. 3. His extended meditation on the nature of time imfluenced even agnostics such as Bertrand Russell. 4. throughout the 20th century Continental philosophers like Husserl, Heidegger, Arendt and Elshtaing were inspired by Augustine's ideas on intentionality, memory, and language.5. Augustine's vision of the heavenly city has probably influenced the secular projects and traditions of the Enlightenment, Marxism, Freudianism and Eco-fundamentalism.Augustine was a medieval thinker who contributed many things, and we must understand he did live in a dark time. I admit his positive achievements (like contributing to my atheism) but we must also realize how his asceticism, fundamentalism and guilt-mongering contributed immensely to some of the darkest moments in history. 4.5 stars for being an important part of history and our understanding of it, whether Augustine's influence is seen as good, bad, or in-between.
  • (5/5)
    What can I even say about this book? I am standing too close to say anything sensible. Fortunately other people have written plenty of actual reviews.Memo to future me: the quote you're (I'm) usually looking for is book 10, chapter 36, first paragraph. "You know how greatly you have already changed me, you who first healed me from the passion for self-vindication, [...] you who subdued my pride by your fear and tamed my neck to your yoke? Now I bear that yoke, and it is light upon me, for this you have promised, and thus have you made it be. Truly, it was this but I did not know it when I was afraid to submit to it."
  • (5/5)
    A wonderful book that at once balances a true confession of a life without God with the awe and wonder of knowing and seeking the Almighty. Augustine masterfully recognizes God's hand in every part of his life, and he makes his reader want to seek that hand as well. A masterpiece in both a religious and literary sense.
  • (5/5)
    Gorgeously written, though I suppose Latin generally translates into very lovely prose. I loved the introspective wanderings into the human consciousness, and recommend the book to anyone, especially one who puts the saints on an unattainable pedestal--the holy have never seemed so human.
  • (4/5)

    I began reading this once years ago, but it failed to engage me and I put it aside. When I started again I couldn't understand my previous lack of interest. The work ranges from philosophical speculation to personal memoir, and each kind has it's appeal. I was surprised by how must variety of belief and opinion late antiquity held on so many topics. Some of the debates and issues Augustine describes sound shockingly contemporary, though put in different terms. The passages covering Augustine's personal life can be poignant, especially those concerning death.

    The scholarly consensus is that the Confessions was meant to be a preamble to a longer work: a detailed exegesis of the entirety of Christian scripture. The last three books cover the first chapter of Genesis, with careful attention given to an allegorical interpretation of the creation story. This is apparently as far Augustine ever got, thus adding to the long tradition of great, unfinished masterpieces.

  • (4/5)
    The son of a pagan father, who insisted on his education, and a Christian mother, who continued to pray for his salvation, Saint Augustine spent his early years torn between the conflicting religions and philosophical world views of his time. His Confessions, written when he was in his forties, recount how, slowly and painfully, he came to turn away from the licentious lifestyle and vagaries of his youth, to become a staunch advocate of Christianity and one of its most influential thinkers, writers and advocates. 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.
  • (4/5)
    Augustine's Confessions are his biography, and they contain a lot of his theological and philosophical thoughts, as well details of his surprisingly interesting life. He didn't become a Christian until later in life, first being a Manichean, an interesting gnostic religion which died out in the middle ages. He writes about the bad things he did, how he regrets them, and speculates on psychological reasons for human behavior.Augustine was fairly well educated, and the chapters where he muses over problems of time and memory are quite thought provoking. The book is notable for the frankness of the author, his perceptiveness, and his variety of internal struggles. The literary impact of this book has also been huge; as the reader progresses numerous phrases will stand out, either because they have entered the common idiom, or because there is something very poetical captured in them. This book is notable for so many reasons.
  • (3/5)
    Veelvormig: gedeeltelijk autobiografie, gedeeltelijk getuigenisliteratuur.Soms zeer moeilijk leesbaar, soms gewoon storend door zijn pathetiek en door het kinderachtige zondebesef.Geen regeling voor het probleem van het kwaad.Qua intellectueel is hij wel de eerste die in de buurt van Plato en Aristoteles komt, maar om een heel andere manier. Vooral literair wel onderdoend.
  • (4/5)
    The first two thirds of Confessions are largely autobiographical. There is a tendency to think of saints as having been not quite human. Readers who have that impression about Augustine will find themselves mistaken. Among his youthful indiscretions, Augustine recalls playing games with his schoolmates when they were supposed to be studying, disliking his Greek studies, and having a live-in girlfriend with whom he had a child. As a young man, Augustine raised many of the same questions about God and Christianity that are still raised today, such as the nature of God in the Old Testament and inconsistencies between science and the Bible. He describes his surroundings and his daily activities in enough detail that it provides a window into daily life in the Mediterranean world of the 4th century. After an account of his mother's death, the last third of the book shifts from autobiography to a blend of philosophy and theology. Augustine ponders the nature of memory and time, the mysteries of creation from the Genesis account, and an interpretation of the church through the lens of creation. This is heavy going. Readers more interested in history and biography than in philosophy and theology may choose to stop with chapter 9.
  • (5/5)
    Chadwick's notes that accompany this version of Augustine's Confessions do the best job of understanding the deep Manichaean context of not only the book but Augustine's early (and, some would say, entire) intellectual life.
  • (5/5)
    Confessions of St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (free). Some books are best listened to, particularly ones translated into Elizabethan English from Latin. By listening, I'm able to cover more ground and not get bogged down in word choice, and I'm able to connect the streams of thought more seamlessly.

    I'd not read this classic, even though I long intended to "get around to it." Had it not been mentioned by Dallas Willard and Richard Foster as a great source for meditation and devotional (along with City of God which I will now read expediently), then I might not have gotten it done this year. Confessions is one of the first "Western" autobiographies and I was fascinated that it could have been written in the 1800s just as well as 398. Has the same raw quality of pre-20th-century memoirs that haven't been edited for their PC content and revisionism.

    Augustine lives somewhat of a privileged boyhood with good schooling, discipline, and a devout mother. He loves to sin, particularly struggling with lust and theft just for the sake of theft. As a teenager, Augustine joins a cult of Manicheans for 9 years. Like any cult, he finds it intellectually stifling-- he's discouraged from asking questions, or trying to use science or reason. The leaders he is under are not as well-educated as himself, and this makes it difficult. Many of the Manichee, like Mormons or JW's today, were devotees to the writings of Mani, but had not read all of his thoughts or understood them. There appear to be some appeals to astrology in Mani's writings, and the people Augustine is around don't really understand all of what they speak of. Among these were Faustus who was supposed to have all the answers, but Augustine finds generally disappointing. Nonetheless, Augustine finds their message liberating-- "it is not I who sin." Manicheans were dualists--Gnostics -- who believed that Jesus did not inhabit a physical body, and that our souls cannot be corrupted by what is done by our flesh. Even after Augustine rejects their teachings, he does not want to choose Scripture as Truth.

    So, Augustine remains fairly closely associated with Manichees while himself a professor of rhetoric both in Carthage and in Rome. Meanwhile, his mother is a devout Christian who prays earnestly for his salvation and implores him to repent.

    She follows him to Milan, where Augustine encounters Bishop Ambrose (whose own life seems fascinating), who Augustine respects; he attends every Sunday service. (I found some of the description of church life interesting, there appears to have been some struggles with what role wine should play in the life of the believer-- Ambrose apparently being opposed to Augustine's mother's use of wine in an act of worship.) Augustine is a philanderer, has a child by a "concubine" who he loves, but rejects in order to marry at his mother's behest. He generally hates married life and continues a life of adultery.

    Augustine converses with Simplicanius, spiritual father of Ambrose, who tells Augustine of Victorinus, a Roman philosopher and respected teacher of rhetoric in Rome, who toward the end of his life forsakes his career (it was illegal for Christians to teach rhetoric) to become a Christian. Augustine had read books translated by Victorinus, and this makes an impression on him.

    "But when that man of Thine, Simplicianus, related to me this of Victorinus, I was on fire to imitate him; for for this very end had he related it. But when he had subjoined also, how in the days of the Emperor Julian a law was made, whereby Christians were forbidden to teach the liberal sciences or oratory; and how he, obeying this law, chose rather to give over the wordy school than Thy Word, by which Thou makest eloquent the tongues of the dumb; he seemed to me not more resolute than blessed, in having thus found opportunity to wait on Thee only."

    Augustine also hears of Antony Eventually, Augustine has a conversion experience and repents.

    "I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: 'Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, in concupiscence.' No further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away."

    His son is baptised with him. His mother is jubilant, and dies some time afterwards.

    Modernly, Augustine's book is also seen as literature, with and it appears from reading around that modern scholars maintain that looking at his work from our modern lenses misses the overall purpose and meaning. Augustine's book is not some confession and testimony of a sinner, but rather his work was intended to convert Manicheans. After all, the biographical part ends in Book 9 and Augustine launches on a range of topics, including memory and the meaning of time. (Physics tells us that all moments in time already exists, and this is what I hear Augustine saying in Book 11.) It's plausible to me that his intended audience are Manichees since they were interested in times, planets, and creation as Augustine spends a great deal of time on these. He engaged in a lifelong battle against the Manichees in Hippo, and this work certainly seems part of his larger writings to that end. Augustine's philosophical musings are still of great interest today. I would like to read Brian Greene's take on his philosophy of time.

    Confessions really drives home the importance of Scripture to me; Augustine was 40 when he wrote it and knew the Scriptures well. Augustine took part in important church councils, and my understanding is that by the time of his ascension to Bishop, the accepted Western canon of scripture was already considered closed. I really enjoy how he writes/prays Scriptures when pouring his thoughts out. He prays the prayers of David, Jesus, Paul, etc. in relation to his own life and salvation. Opens every book with a heartfelt prayer/confession. I would like to read books on the theology of Augustine.

    It also inspires me to read more church history. People like Simplicanius could probably trace their spiritual lineage back to the Apostles. Christians like Antony were well-known in Augustine's circles, having also published works (Dallas Willard has a nice critique of Antony and the secular-sacred dichotomy that was probably popularized by Augustine's mention). What can we today learn from these and the controversies faced by the authors? Why aren't we Christians today more scholarly about our ancient heritage?

    5 stars out of 5, of course.
  • (5/5)
    Every time I start to get a little down on St. Augustine -- what with his invention of some pretty deplorable doctrines (ie original sin) -- I need to reread his Confessions. In fact, everybody should read his Confessions. It is an absolutely beautiful book! St. Augustine pours out his soul before God and all the world -- confessing his sins and telling the story of how he came to Christ, watching for the subtle movement of the Holy Spirit in all things and seeing God's guiding hand behind every event in his life. It's not often that you get to watch a sinner become a saint (literally!) -- read it!