Q&A: Who was St. Augustine?

Who was St. Augustine?

Question

I once read a set of facts regarding St. Augustine. There were some unusual facts concerning his life. Do you know where I can find a list of them?

Answer

I believe you could be referring to a "Did You Know" list of questions concerning St. Augustine found in Christian History: Augustine (Carol Stream IL: Christianity Today, 1987; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996). I will list those here.

That in the modern sense of the term, Augustine's Confessions was the first autobiography ever written?

That one of Augustine's duties as bishop of Hippo was to arbitrate lawsuits?

That Bishop Augustine lived almost entirely on vegetables?

That he encouraged conversation at meals but with a strictly enforced rule that the character of an absent person should never be negatively discussed? He had a warning to this effect carved on a plaque attached to his table.

That according to his biographer, Possidius, Augustine wrote more than 1,000 total works, including 242 books?

That Augustine set part of his written campaign against the Donatist heresy to verse?

Around 394 A.D., Augustine composed a song he titled "An ABC against the Donatists," and encouraged that it be frequently sung by the orthodox churches in his diocese. It became quite popular.

That at one point early in his career, Augustine was a speechwriter for the Roman emperor?

That a rich pagan man chose the young Augustine to be his protege, in hopes the bright young philosopher would help turn the rapidly Christianizing Roman empire back to paganism?

That while Augustine was still alive, people in France began a movement to canonize his writings and put them on a par with Scripture? And this effort continued for nearly 100 years!

That when Augustine became bishop of Hippo, he was "unalterably fixed there for the rest of his life"? The African church had a rule strictly forbidding the transfer of its bishops.

That Augustine founded a religious order for women, but that all females, even his sister, were excluded from his house and could see him only in the presence of others?

That the pre-Christian Augustine lived with the same woman, out of wedlock, for more than 13 years, and claimed in his writings to have deeply loved her yet never in his writings reveals her name?

That when the great European universities were formed in the 12th century, the curriculum they used was essentially the same as Augustine had outlined eight centuries earlier in On Christian Doctrine?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).