Saint Augustine of Hippo (sometimes called Aurelius Augustine after being confused with his contemporary Aurelius of Carthage) was one of the four godfathers of the Western Church, along with Ambrose, Jerome, and Gregory the Great. He was one of the most important Christian theologians and philosophers, and his writings fundamentally changed European thought. His work provides a bridge between ancient and medieval philosophy.
Augustine of the Hippo (born November 13, 354, Tagaste, Numidia – died August 28, 430, Hippo Rei Gius, in modern Algeria) was a bishop, philosopher, theologian, and church teacher. In his writings, he used logical arguments to demonstrate the authenticity of Christianity.
He studied rhetoric at a young age. Impressed by Hortensius of Cicero, he turned to philosophy. He followed Manichaeism first, then skepticism, and finally Neoplatonism. After Ambrose of Milan converted to Christianity (387), he became bishop of the North African hippo, Regius, in 396.
Table of Contents
Who is Saint Augustine?
St Augustine was born in Tagaste (now Souk Ahras), Numidia, in northern Africa, in 354. His father, Patricius, was a pagan, and his mother (Saint Monica) was a devout Christian. Augustine’s elementary education, received in his hometown, was Christian.
According to historical sources, Saint Augustine is one of the most important Christian theologians and philosophers whose works substantially altered European thought. His work forms a bridge between ancient and medieval philosophy.
His theology influenced the thought of Martin Luther, who had originally belonged to the Augustinian order.
Biography of Saint Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo
Year of birth:
13 November 0354 AD
Year of death:
28 August 0430 AD
How did Augustine change Christianity?
Augustine equated theocracy with the church. He explained the decline of the Roman Empire, saying that it had become a pagan place and had to give way to God’s castle, the Church.
According to historical materials and Christian records, Augustine of Hippo transformed Christianity through his theology and influenced the thinking of Martin Luther, who originally belonged to the Augustinian sect.
From a political point of view, Augustine argued that state organization was justified and fought for the separation of church and state. In his late work “City of God” (De Civitate Dei), he sees human history as the evolution of the human city (“civitas terrena”), which longs for the city of God (“Civitas Dei”).
What did Augustine of Hippo do?
Augustine identifies the City of God with the Church. He explains the fall of the Roman Empire because it had become a pagan place, which had to make way for the Citadel of God, the Church.
According to historical sources, in the years 373 – 383, St. Augustine is a professor of Rhetoric, first at Tagaste and then at Carthage. During this period, he was engaged in Cicero’s Hortensius dialogue, which urges the love of eternal wisdom, which would change his life, taking a decisive turn: St Augustine would become a Manichaean.
After a short time, the Manichaean bishop Faustus could not answer his questions, and Augustine withdrew from the sect. He goes to Rome to find a school of rhetoric but does not have the success he expected; in 384, he travels to Milan, where he meets the Christian bishop Ambrose.
What is Augustine’s theory?
Augustine respected only a part of Plato’s epistemology. Knowledge can only occur through direct contact (as Plato said) with general ideas, which are inherently divine. However, suppose Plato solved the problem of direct contact (which is possible because the soul has divinity) through the doctrine of memory. In that case, Augustine was referring to the Enlightenment because the soul is created and cannot “keep” anything or bring anything into it. Action has no power in its knowledge.
Augustine was the first to develop a comprehensive theory of divine grace as part of an effort against Pelagianism (Quaestiones diverse). Augustinian Pelagianism denies original sin and the immortality and integrity of Adam, the entire supernatural world. The idea of Pelagius, derived from the Stoics, affirms the complete liberation of man from God and his infinite power for good and evil.
According to this theory, man can control his passions (indifference) without God’s intervention. Due to this ability, human beings have an absolute responsibility to avoid evil through their efforts. There is no hierarchy of sin, and no evil is beyond the control of human agents.
Key Verse related to St Augustine of Hippo
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
Augustine’s first principle is to affirm the complete sovereignty of God over the will. All virtuous acts, without exception, require divine intervention in the form of an efficient providence that prepares in advance every good deed of choice (Retractationes, I, IX, 6).
Augustine’s most famous line is that “God is, through grace, the absolute master of the will and that under the action of grace, man is free. The reconciliation between God’s omnipotence and human freedom depends on divine government.”
Augustine says that people’s freedom remains intact. Augustine never renounces the principle of freedom of will, so his system attempts to achieve a synthesis between the affirmation of freedom and divine grace. For this reason, he does not postulate the existence of complete human power of choice: what man does does does not depend entirely on free will; the acceptance or rejection of faith is anticipated beforehand by God.
What was St Augustine’s defining conversion moment?
Picking up the “Book of the Apostle,” he reads the first words that fall before his eyes: “Not in revelry and drunkenness, not in fornication and shameful deeds, not in strife and envy; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not be carnally minded.” This is the moment of his conversion. The influence of Bishop Ambrose, who also baptized him on Easter night in 387, was decisive.
When Augustine of Hippo was thinking of marrying the mother of his infant son to give legitimacy to the relationship of his youth, he got involved in a new love affair. It is a moment of maximum tension in his conscience. This is the moment of his famous and defining conversion, recounted in the eighth book of Confessions.
After his conversion to Christianity (387) by Ambrosius of Milan, he became bishop of Hippo Regius in North Africa in 396.
What is Augustine’s philosophy?
Augustine is one of the most influential and significant thinkers, especially considering that even Platonism influenced medieval thought through Augustine. He remains an authority more than a thousand years after his death, controlling, for example, the idea of Descartes.
Augustine’s philosophy replaces the concept of cyclical time with that of historical, linear time; history is “healing” in the sense of a path to good. Authentic learning is only possible through enlightenment.
Augustine’s writings reveal the unparalleled extent of his gifts. As a living conscience of Christianity, Augustine was compelled to defend the excellent faith against all the heresies that were emerging in the Church of God at that time: the Manichaeans, the Donatists, and the Pelagians. Of his writings, the most significant is the book On the Trinity, on which he worked for 14 years, and the book On the City of God. His most honored work is the book of his Retractions, an admission of his own mistakes, and his most widely read work is his Confessions.
When did Saint Augustine of Hippo die?
Blessed Augustine was born on 13 November 354 in Tagaste, a small town in the African province of Numidia. His father was not a Christian and was only baptized on his deathbed, but his mother, Monica, was a fervent believer. Augustine studied first in Tagaste, then in Madaura and Carthage. Being very gifted, he opened a school of rhetoric in Carthage and then went on to Rome and Milan.
Blessed Augustine remains the unparalleled teacher of the entire Christian West. He died on 28 August 430. His tomb is in the church of St Peter in Pavia. In the Christian Church, he is celebrated on 15 June.
His conception was taken up and used dogmatically to reject the Aristotelian notion of Thomas Aquinas. At the time of the Reformation, the concept of predestination and history as healing was mainly taken up. He was the first philosopher to consider history necessary in educating people and liquidating evil.
3 Teachings of Augustine
As we know, Augustine preached and experimented with his Augustinian teachings. Because his teachings became the foundation of Christianity, even Calvin and Luther became his followers. And they put the Augustinian access, which emphasizes the grace of God.
1. Returning to self means returning to our Creator
You remember how the one who said to his father, who wanted to save him, “Give me my share of the wealth, “20 went away and was lost. Behold, he is gone! He has squandered everything! Behold, he has been grazing pigs! Behold, he has dried up in poverty. Far from his father, he wants to be with himself.
Wanting to be with himself, he has not even remained with himself. If you slip away from your God, [how soon], you slip away from yourself. And you go out of yourself and leave yourself behind. Therefore it is said to such as these, “Sinners, return to heart!” return to yourselves that you may also return to Him Who made you.
2. Loving righteousness, we love God
It was, therefore, necessary to entrust these two commandments because he who loves his neighbor does not love him unless he first loves God. When he loves God, he does not love unrighteousness lest he hates his soul by loving unrighteousness. So if he does not love unrighteousness, let him love righteousness, and there [in character] he loves God.
Let him not seek Him with his eyes. Let him seek Him with [his own] mind, heart, and will to love Him more! So let him not set his mind on something that is not God, lest he comes to love that which is not God. Also, do not love a false representation lest we be led astray in this representation and imagine God according to our bodily feeling and imagine Him as we would like. Separating ourselves from representations of this kind, Scripture states, “God is love.”
3. Love for God and love for neighbor are closely linked
So now, if it pleases you, let one command of the Apostle be enough for you. Now that you have understood two commandments, one is enough for you. For before you know two, you need more than one. You begin to love yourself wrongly, and you love the one you love as yourself wrongly. And it should not be said, “You love wrongly,” but, “You do not love.”
Therefore, “thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not covet.” Where everything is, [where God is], He calls you to yourself. You may not commit adultery for fear of punishment but not for the love of justice. “Thou shalt not murder.” You may also want to kill but fear punishment. There will be no murder in your hand, but in your heart, you will know you are guilty.
The teaching that he had to be content with the skeptical position of truth probably won’t satisfy him. He meets St Ambrose, attends his sermons, and his life undergoes a new turning point.
Retreating to the garden on the Cassiacus estate for a “dramatic examination of the depths of his being,” Augustine has a moment of revelation under a fig tree: he hears a child’s voice from the neighboring house saying: “Tolle, law; Tolle, law” (“take and read; take and read!”).
To the virtues taken from Plato – justice, moderation, courage, wisdom – Augustine added the Christian virtues: faith, hope, and love; these were complemented by “human virtues”: love of neighbor, faithfulness, trust, humility.
The work of St. Augustine gave life, cohesion, and a historical vocation to the Catholic West. This world successfully synthesized Latin civilization, Germanic vitality, and Christian confession. From the pope down to the last peasant, Catholics will be marked by the historical creed of St Augustine and will force medieval history to fit into the frameworks and patterns he established.
If you have enjoyed the information in this article, you can test your knowledge by playing the following Quizlet about the Conversion and Life of Saint Augustine of Hippo. Have a good day!
Bible Trivia about Augustine of Hippo
Augustine, S. (2001). The pilgrim city: Social and political ideas in the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo. Boydell & Brewer Ltd.
Brown, P. (2013). Augustine of Hippo: a biography. Univ of California Press.
Lawless, G. (1990). Augustine of Hippo and his monastic rule.
Morrison, K. F. (1992). Conversion and Text the Cases of Augustine of Hippo, Herman-Judah, and Constantine Tsatsos.
Portalié, E. (1907). Life of St. Augustine of Hippo. The Catholic Encyclopedia, 2, 84-140.fig