by Chris Breva
Faith, Hope, and Love as Expressed by Augustine of Hippo - A short paper I wrote
|The following paper was written for a history class but not turned in. After writing it, I realized I had misinterpreted the instructions. I am keeping this for a future theology class?
This paper will discuss St. Augustine’s paper Enchirdion. It will propose that the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary came about not as a doctrine of the Roman Catholic church but was instead a doctrine that outdated the rise of the rise of the Roman Catholic church. The paper will begin by introducing St. Augustine. It will say that Augustine was an early Christian who lived from 354AD to 430 and came from North Africa. It will say that the literary world remembers Augustine for his many writings, one of which was the Enchirdion. It will state that Augustine reports in the Enchirdion of the early church’s belief that Mary was a virgin and remained a virgin throughout her life. It will state that Augustine’s supporting evidence to believe in the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary predates the Second Council of Constantinople and was in fact, a belief of the Apostle Paul. It will conclude by stating that even the early Reformation Movement believed that Mary was a perpetual virgin.
Portalié says Augustine of Hippo, AKA St. Augustine, was born in 354AD in Tagaste in Hippo Regius, now Souk-Ahras, about sixty miles from Bona. Portalié says the region was then known as Hippo. Encyclopedia.com says that Hippo Regius was an ancient city in Bone Algeria, in North Africa.
Harrison reports that Augustine was converted to Christianity in 386AD by missionaries from Rome. Harrison goes on to say that Augustine’s writings have come to be known as classical literature around the world. Harrison says that most people first think of Augustine’s Confessiones when they think of Augustine.
Harrison reports that Augustine became the bishop of the church in Hippo in 396, ten years after his conversion. and many of his writings originated from there. Butler reports that one of the earliest known Christian writings in Latin came from Augustine and concerned a martyrdom in Hippo.
Knight believes Enchirdion was penned around 420 and shortly after the death of Jerome because Augustine references the death in the writing. Knight says that Augustine wrote Enchirdion as a letter to his friend Laurentius who had apparently presented Augustine a series of questions about Christian theology. Knight goes on to say that aside from the name, the world knows nothing of Laurentius. Enchirdion becomes a long letter. The Encirdion has 122 chapters. The chapters this paper will focus on are primarily chapters 33-40.
The Enchirdion was translated by J. F. Shaw and this author references that translation This paper does not dispute translations. This paper explores the possibility that the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary predates the Second Council of Constantinople and may have in fact been a doctrine of the early church. Support for this comes from the fact that Augustine states this very belief in Enchirdion. In it he says
And if her virginity had been marred even in bringing Him forth, He would not have been born of a virgin: and it would be false (which God forbid) that He was born of the Virgin Mary, as is believed and declared by the whole Church, which, in imitation of His mother, daily brings forth members of his body, and yet remains a virgin.
Shea says Augustine wrote this in 420 AD and the belief was adopted by the Roman church at the Second Council of Constantinople in the sixth century. The debate about the perpetual virginity of Mary rages on to this very day. This paper will not discuss supporting arguments for or against the perpetual virginity of Mary. This paper instead argues that Augustine and the early church fathers believed that Mary was a virgin before and after the birth of Jesus. In fact, Augustine seems to feel that the very divinity of Christ depended on the miraculous virgin birth. Augustine says that if Mary’s virginity had been marred even in bringing Jesus into the world, the divinity of Christ would be questionable. It seems to take a lot more faith to believe that Mary was a virgin both before and after the birth of Jesus than it does to believe that the Holy Spirit moved upon Mary causing her to conceive before the rupturing of her hymen. The current thinking among many Protestant churches and theologians that Mary lost her virginity by Jesus passing through her hymen from the inside seems to detract from Augustine’s belief that the birth of Jesus itself was a miracle in that Mary did not lose her virginity even in giving birth! Augustine goes on to declare that this belief was held in common by the “whole” church at the time of his writing. Shea reports that Augustine’s faith that Jesus was miraculously born as well as miraculously conceived was also echoed by the Reformation Movement preachers Martin Luther and John Wesley and John Calvin.
Augustine goes on to explain the concept the conception to Laurentius. He asks Laurentius if Laurentius, or anybody else, believed that Jesus was fathered in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit. Augustine points out logically that if this were the case, Jesus would not have preexisted as one aspect of the Trinity but would in fact be the offspring of Holy Spirit. Augustine admits it to be daunting that Jesus became conceived by the Holy Spirit while at the same time not being the son of the Holy Spirit. Augustine assures Laurentius however, that it was not Augustine’s belief that Holy Spirit fathered Jesus in the same sense that Mary mothered Jesus. Augustine says that Holy Spirit was the responsible for creating the body that Jesus inhabited, and that Holy Spirit also induced the miraculous birth of Jesus. (The author of this paper notes here that the use of the term “Holy Spirit” as opposed to “the Holy Spirit” is due to the author’s belief that Holy Spirit is a Person, the third Person of the Godhead and co-equal in power and glory to both the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is not just “power”.)
Augustine goes on to explain his concept of “born”. Augustine explains that just because a man is baptized in water and is said to have been born of “water” and “of the Spirit” does not necessarily make such a man a “son of the water”.
Augustine goes on to explain that it merely means the water took part in the man’s spiritual birth. In this sense, Holy Spirit took part in Jesus’ physical birth in that Holy Spirit created the body that Jesus inhabited. Augustine also says that many people are called “sons” of people who did not give birth to them. Adoption is an excellent example of this. A person who adopts a child is often called the parent of that child and said to “father” or “mother” that child, while at the same time not being the child’s physical parents. Augustine points out that the meaning of the Divine Word becoming flesh in John 1:14 was not that Jesus laid aside His divinity, but rather that divinity took the form of human flesh. Jesus became a man who was both man and God at the same time. This is the 4th doctrine of the Salvation Army, in which this author is a soldier. The doctrine says “We believe that in the person of Jesus Christ the Divine and human natures are united, so that He is truly and properly God and truly and properly man.”