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An Overview

This study examines Augustine’s Trinitarian theology in De trinitate 8-10 and his theology of grace in De spiritu et littera, and explores the linkage between them. The aim is to provide a comprehensive treatment of these two important texts, and, above all, to demonstrate how the theological ideas of Trinity and grace are interrelated in Augustine’s thought. In order to accomplish these tasks, I have organized the material in three chapters. The first two chapters contain a detailed analysis of these two treatises, where I will discuss the development of Augustine’s arguments, and analyze the noteworthy concepts/expressions/peculiarities found there. In particular I will situate the analysis in a wider context by making comparisons to Augustine’s other works and engaging with scholarly debates wherever they appear. As such, Chapters 1 and 2 are written in a commentary form. Based on the detailed analysis of the first two chapters, I will make a synthetic comparison between De trinitate 8-10 and De spiritu et littera in Chapter 3, which seeks to demonstrate the common points in Augustine’s Trinitarian theology and his theology of grace. Even though the conceptions of the Trinity and grace are two crucial theological ideas in Augustine’s theology, current scholarship commonly regards them as two independent disciplines demonstrating two quite different sets of methodologies and concerns. This manner of interpretation limits us from understanding Augustine’s theology as a holistic entity. Because this study explains many aspects of these texts that have not been explored up to now, it offers a unique and original contribution to understanding the Querbeziehung (interrelation) of different theological ideas in Augustine.

Status Quaestionis

At first sight, De trinitate and De spiritu et littera are two works of contrasting content and literary styles. De trinitate is a systematic Trinitarian exploration, full of philosophical expressions, written over a long period of time, whereas De spiritu et littera is a polemical and exegetical work intended to explain his doctrine of grace during the early Pelagian controversy. The large differences between these two works would seem to deem a comparison between them superfluous. However, such a comparison, as we shall see, is in fact a fruitful enterprise. Indeed, an investigation of the interrelation issue is urgently needed in Augustinian research. Because of the sheer magnitude of his corpus or because of the profundity of his thought, studies on Augustine have been, unfortunately, split into many individual areas, each with its own limited focus, such as his Trinitarian theology, his Christology, his conception of the free will, his philosophical thoughts, his relationship to Manichaeism, his doctrine of grace, etc. The obvious result of this overspecialized approach is that the picture of Augustine presented tends to be highly biased. Scholars concentrate on a specific theme in Augustine, yet neglect how Augustine’s life experiences could have shaped his thought. Admittedly, it is difficult to provide a definite assertion of whether and how different theological ideas are related in Augustine, since he himself rarely explicitly mentions these aspects in his own writings. It is undeniable, however, that Augustine’s thought was significantly shaped by his deep engagement with a number of ongoing controversies.1 For this reason, an investigation of the interrelationship between Augustine’s different theological ideas is of utmost importance for a holistic understanding of Augustine as well as fathoming his thought. Most importantly, my research will successfully deliver a historical-contextualizing Augustinian study which will advance scholarship in De trinitate, De spiritu et littera and Augustine’s theology. But before going any further, it will be helpful to explore current scholarship and its lacunae in two areas: studies on De trinitate, and on De trinitate in light of the Pelagian controversy. For the sake of conciseness and clarity, I will only briefly mention the scholarly discussions here, and provide a fuller review of literature for De trinitate and De spiritu et littera in the main body of discussion (the beginning of Chapters 1 and 2).

Studies on De trinitate

Why do we need to make a comparison between De trinitate and De spiritu et littera? The most compelling justification is to shed light on the historical context of De trinitate. This aspect is of utmost importance for understanding Augustine’s Trinitarian argument in this work, which has not yet been adequately explored in scholarship. Previous interpretations of De trinitate can be classified into two main trends, the first, focusing on the philosophical dimension of the work (e.g., Du Roy, Brachtendorf),2 the second, on the theological elements (e.g., Studer, Williams, Ayres).3 Both trends have made significant contributions to scholarship. The philosophical interpretation, for instance, has made us aware of the affinity of Augustine’s Trinitarian theology with Neoplatonism, such as Du Roy.4 Brachtendorf illustrates the self-reflexive nature in Augustine’s conception of mind and the similarities with Plotinus’ notion of intellect.5 On the other hand, the theological interpretation seeks to demonstrate a more Christian reading of De trinitate by emphasizing the biblical elements in the work:6 Studer emphasizes the soteriology in trin. 1-4; Williams argues that the imago dei in trin. 14-15 is formulated as “a movement into our createdness”;7 Ayres argues for the continuity between Augustine’s Trinitarian theology and the church fathers of his time. However, both philosophical and theological interpretations, despite all their merits and contributions, have not yet been able to provide a wider historical context for understanding De trinitate. The philosophical interpretations are able to explain the complexities in Augustine’s arguments, but tend to reduce Augustine’s Trinitarian theology to a kind of Neoplatonic philosophy or a philosophy of mind. Seen from another angle, the theological interpretations focus on the Christian elements in De trinitate, yet they often negate the philosophical elements that are clearly present in the texts. Such divergent perspectives reveal the necessity and desideratum of a wider context for investigating De trinitate – a context that can provide a fuller account of the intricate relationship between philosophical and Christian elements in this work, which is missing in present scholarship.8

I argue in this study that the Pelagian controversy serves well as a background context for De trinitate. As I will show in the main body of discussion (e.g., 1.3. the analysis of trin. 8,3), the Christian elements occurring in the philosophical discussions of De trinitate are themes that are likewise highly relevant in the Pelagian debate. For instance, Augustine makes use of ascent-language in trin. 8,3-10 to explore how, if it is possible, one can know the Trinity. Remarkable here is that the ascent Augustine describes is not completely Neoplatonic – he discusses faith (trin. 8,6-7), justice (trin. 8,9) and other Christian themes within this discourse. Faith and justice are indeed salient themes in the Pelagian controversy, in which Augustine and the Pelagians debate the question as to whether a person can become just by his own efforts (cf. spir. et litt. 4ff), and whether faith is a gift from the Holy Spirit or is embraced as a result of one’s willful decision (cf. spir. et litt. 52-60). Another example: why does Augustine insistently return to the theme of human perfection in his Trinitarian exploration (e.g., trin. 8,9; 9,1; 10,7, etc.), which is one of the main points of debate in the Pelagian controversy? This is indeed noteworthy, since human perfection is not directly relevant to his exposition on the divine Trinity. Still one further example: Augustine explores the Trinity through the theme of the mind’s self-knowing in trin. 10, a conception which can be traced to Neoplatonism (cf. Horn and Pépin).9 Here he illuminates how the mind knows itself inherently (se nosse). Yet in the latter part of trin. 10 (trin. 10,7-19), Augustine concentrates more on another type of self-knowing: the actual situation of the mind’s self-knowing/self-reflexion (se cogitare), which is essential to the process of the purification of the soul. The latter shows us Augustine’s integration of the philosophical theme of the mind’s self-knowing into Christian spiritual development, human perfection and justice are but a few of the prevalent themes in his Pelagian rebuttal, which took place at the same time of the composition of De trinitate. As such, charting the common ground between De trinitate and the Pelagian sources supplies us with many new insights.

Studies on De trinitate in Light of the Pelagian Controversy

Although there are numerous studies on De trinitate and the Pelagian controversy, there are however only a few attempts to explore the interrelation between these two areas, and even these have not received adequate attention in scholarship. In the following paragraph, I will briefly discuss these attempts, highlighting their limitations and contributions. In doing so, the legitimacy of studying De trinitate 8-10 and De spiritu et littera for pursuing the relationship between Augustine’s Trinitarian theology and his doctrine of grace (in his anti-Pelagian thought) will become clear. The first study I want to draw attention to is Alfred Schindler’s article “Querverbindungen zwischen Augustins theologischer und kirchenpolitischer Entwicklung 390-400.” This article does not focus specifically on the interrelation between De trinitate and the Pelagian controversy. Instead it examines the possibilities of cross-disciplinary studies, with a particular emphasis on the relationship between Augustine’s Trinitarian theology and his ecclesiology during the Donatist controversy.10 Schindler first demonstrates that these two disciplines can be compared in form and content. For example, the love and community between the Father and the Son in Augustine’s Trinitarian thought can be better understood in the context of his ecclesiological doctrine of caritas and unitas, the imago trinitatis being understood as the Church.11 He then admits that this is not the real situation in Augustine’s own understanding.12 In other words, Schindler draws attention to the methodology of cross-disciplinary study in Augustine, but simultaneously rejects this possibility himself. Despite his negative judgment of the cross-disciplinary approach, Schindler’s account does interestingly reveal how Augustine’s thinking in different areas can be compared and related to each other, and thus help pave the way for our research on the interrelationship between different thought processes in Augustine.

Concerning the specific theme of De trinitate and the Pelagian controversy, there are two previous attempts that merit attention. In “Influence de la lutte antipélagienne sur le ‘De Trinitate’ ou: Christocentrisme de saint Augustin,” Jean Plagnieux attempts to show that some elements of Augustine’s anti-Pelagian thinking can be found in De trinitate.13 He claims that the soteriological elements in De trinitate indicate that Augustine is forced more and more into the Pelagian controversy in the course of his composition of this work.14 This can be seen, he argues, in the increasing emphasis on the portrayal of Jesus Christ as saviour,15 and the increasing insertion of prayers into the discussion.16 To my knowledge, Plagnieux’s article is the first attempt in scholarship to establish an explicit connection between De trinitate and the Pelagian controversy, and thus deserves recognition for its pioneering efforts. Nevertheless, Plagnieux’s arguments are insufficient to substantiate his claims. For instance, he resorts to the redaction process of De trinitate to argue for the increasing influence of the Pelagian controversy in this work, but does not explain which redaction process he is referring to.17 As is well-known, it is difficult to fix a clear order and time for the composition of the fifteen books of De trinitate.18 Relying on an unclear redaction process thus weakens his thesis. Moreover, his evidence is fragmentary. The pieces of evidence that he regards as important are in fact piecemeal, such as the phrases gratia creatoris et saluatoris in trin. 5,1,19 the discussion of marriage in trin. 12,20 and the expressions of human nature (magna et mira natura; deformitas; non summa, tamen magna) in trin. 14,6,21 etc. In other words, Plagnieux has not concretely established which texts in the Pelagian controversy have influenced De trinitate nor the extent of their influence. His selection of material from Augustine’s anti-Pelagian works is too broad chronologically, extending from Augustine’s first contact with Pelagius to his treatises against Julian. Furthermore, as Schmaus has rightly pointed out, Plagnieux’s account does not explain why the philosophical discussion in De trinitate is mixed up with the historical information (provided by the anti-Pelagian treatises).22

The second explicit attempt to link De trinitate with the Pelagian controversy is Volker Henning Drecoll’s “Mens-notitia-amor: Gnadenlehre und Trinitätslehre in De Trinitate IX und in De peccatorum meritis/De spiritu et littera.” Drecoll’s study compares trin. 9 with the first two anti-Pelagian works – i.e., De peccatorum meritis et remissione et de baptismo paruulorum and De spiritu et littera. He first traces the features of Augustine’s Trinitarian argument in trin. 9,23 then proceeds with Augustine’s theology of grace in pecc. mer. and spir. et litt., lending special attention to the role of Christology and Pneumatology in Augustine’s argumentation.24 In comparing the argument pattern between trin. 9 and these anti-Pelagian works, he rightly concludes that Augustine’s concern for the distinction between Christ and the Holy Spirit in trin. 9 corresponds exactly to Augustine’s reflection on the relationship between Christology and Pneumatology in pecc. mer. and spir. et litt.25 Indeed, Drecoll’s approach is more sophisticated and successful than that of Plagnieux in two respects: 1) He correctly points out that the Pelagian controversy does not hinge on the issue of Christology alone, but also on Pneumatology; 2) the similarity demonstrated in Drecoll’s study is not exclusively based on linguistic parallels or fragmentary comparisons, but rather on Augustine’s Denkform.

Two recent key monographs on De trinitate have failed to acknowledge the importance of the approach of reading De trinitate in light of the Pelagian controversy. Lewis Ayres’ Augustine and the Trinity explores the development of Augustine’s Trinitarian thought from his early period to book 10 of De trinitate. He mentions Plagnieux’s article only once in a footnote, thereby missing the importance of this author’s insights.26 Nor does he mention or discuss Drecoll’s thesis, in spite of the fact that it is highly relevant to his discussion of De trinitate 9.27 Roland Kany’s Augustins Trinitätsdenken does mention both Plagnieux and Drecoll in his thorough review of the modern reception of De trinitate.28 Yet he only accounts for Plagnieux’s contribution to the dating issue of De trinitate,29 and rejects Drecoll’s thesis that there is an explicit connection between trin. 9 and the first two anti-Pelagian works.30 All in all, the review of scholarly literature clearly shows that many lacunae and misconceptions exist concerning the relationship between the Pelagian controversy and De trinitate. This issue is in need of a re-evaluation, based upon a more comprehensive and extensive treatment, which is precisely what this dissertation provides.

Scope and Methodology

Why De trinitate 8-10 and De spiritu et littera

As noted above, the review of the current state of scholarship reveals a desideratum in the study of Augustine’s Trinitarian theology – we need a broader context for exploring De trinitate. My conviction is that the early Pelagian controversy (i.e., 411-418) is one of these contexts.31 In view of the merits and shortcomings of the previous scholarly attempts, I have limited my research to De trinitate 8-10 and De spiritu et littera. There are three reasons why these two texts are ideal for this comparison. The first concerns the chronology: trin. 8-10 and De spiritu et littera were written in the same general period of time. Because we know that trin. 12 was ready for circulation in 415/416 (cf. ep. 162 and 169), we can estimate the date of trin. 8-10 around 412-414;32 De spiritu et littera is dated to 413, in light of Augustine’s comments in Retractationes as well as its relation to De peccatorum meritis and sermo 294.33 In comparing De trinitate 8-10 with De spiritu et littera, we can thus determine whether the early Pelagian controversy influenced Augustine’s way of articulating his Trinitarian argument and if so, how.

Secondly, both De trinitate books 8-10 and De spiritu et littera are crucial texts for studying respectively Augustine’s Trinitarian theology and his doctrine of grace. trin. 8-10 are essential to the understanding of Augustine’s Trinitarian theology, because they are precisely the books in which Augustine’s Trinitarian investigation turns to anthropology. Here he explores the Trinitarian character of the human mind and establishes certain important intramental triads: – amans, quod amatur, amor (trin. 8); mens, notitia sui, amor sui (trin. 9); and memoria, intellegentia, uoluntas (trin. 10).34 The themes knowledge (including self-knowledge) and love come in particular to fore in his exposition, which are instrumental for underpinning his thesis that the human mind is an image the holy Trinity. The triads thus form an important referential basis in the whole latter half of De trinitate.35 Regarding De spiritu et littera, this work represents one of Augustine’s most decisive rebuttals of the Pelagians. This is evident from Augustine’s own statement in Retractationes, where he describes De spiritu et littera as a work in which he argued forcefully against the enemies of God’s grace (cf. atrociter disputaui contra inimicos gratiae dei, retr. 2,37, CCL 57, 121/13). Hence, given the importance of De trinitate 8-10 and De spiritu et littera, these texts are ideal for drawing a comparison between Augustine’s Trinitarian theology and his doctrine of grace.

The third and most important justification for why these two texts merit our attention is the fact that Augustine’s argumentations in both texts share similar themes, namely the elements of knowledge and love. In De trinitate 8-10, Augustine examines how one can know the Trinity through love (trin. 8). He then discusses the relationship between human knowledge and love, depicting an analagous relationship between the Son and the Holy Spirit in the Trinity (trin. 9). In the end, he makes use of the theme of the mind’s self-knowing to illustrate how the mind can reflect the Trinity (trin. 10). In De spiritu et littera, Augustine’s anti-Pelagian arguments likewise revolve around knowledge and love. He insists that God’s grace not only involves the giving of the Mosaic law but also the endowment of divine love upon human beings through the Holy Spirit (cf. spir. et litt. 4-5). The law alone, he says, can only lead us to knowledge of sin (cf. spir. et litt. 13; 19, etc.). It is only when the Holy Spirit is present, he emphasizes, that evil desires can be transformed into good ones (cf. spir. et litt. 6ff), so that we can follow the command of God and live a righteous life (cf. spir. et litt. 13-15; 20; 26, etc.). The overlap in the themes (knowledge and love) between De trinitate 8-10 and De spiritu et littera is striking, thus soliciting further attention.

However, it is not my intention to claim that Augustine’s Trinitarian arguments in De trinitate are developed solely as a result of the early Pelagian controversy. I am aware that it is impossible, even perilous, to argue for a single influence in Augustine’s Trinitarian thought. Concerning the sources of Augustine’s thought, I support the convergence-theory as proposed by scholars like Goulven Madec, Eric Feldmann and Drecoll.36 In this view, Augustine is regarded as an original thinker, whose thought is characterized by the convergence of various traditions. As such, reading De trinitate in light of the early Pelagian controversy is not an attempt to interpret Augustine’s Trinitarian theology as another version of his theology of grace.

The Methodology and Its Benefits

Concerning the methodology, this study is structured into three chapters. Chapters 1 and 2 consist of a comprehensive treatment of De trinitate 8-10 and De spiritu et littera, analyzing in detail Augustine’s arguments. Elaborating on the results of Chapters 1 and 2, Chapter 3 subjects the two texts to a stringent comparison, delineating the parallels between the two texts and explicating the significance of these parallels for Augustine’s Trinitarian theology and his doctrine of grace. In other words, Chapters 1 and 2 can be likened to a commentary; Chapter 3 is a synthetic analysis.

Why, one might ask, do we need a comprehensive treatment of the texts in Chapters 1 and 2, even though all these technical details may not be immediately relevant for determining the interrelationship between the texts? I contend that an extensive exposition on these texts is the only way to highlight the complexities of the content, and that recognizing the profound complexities in Augustine’s thought is essential for understanding his doctrines. As shown in the Status Quaestionis above, the content of De trinitate is so multi-layered that it has led to diverse interpretations in scholarship, many of which focus only on single themes without considering the work as a whole. This is also the case for De spiritu et littera. Despite the decisive role De spiritu et littera plays in Augustine’s doctrine of grace, literature on this second anti-Pelagian work is surprisingly scarce: there is only one monograph devoted to a systematic analysis of this work, plus a handful of articles with limited explorations.

The rigorous treatment of these two texts in Chapters 1 and 2 is hence groundbreaking in a number of ways. For instance, the method of detailed analysis enables me to demonstrate in Chapter 1 the relationships between the Trinitarian triads in De trinitate by underlining the nuances in their expressions and noting the similar ways in which they are introduced.37 The in-depth analysis in Chapter 2 also enables me to establish that De spiritu et littera is in fact an exegesis of the whole book of Romans (evident in particular in spir. et litt. 8), even though the explicit departure point of the whole work is 2 Cor 3:6. These insights, although not relevant to the main thesis of study, are nonetheless important discoveries.

The detailed analysis also enables me to demonstrate many crucial points in Augustine’s arguments that have been overlooked in previous studies, which are indeed significant for our thesis. I will give a few examples:38 (i) concerning trin. 8-10: I am able to highlight the change of his expression of “love” in trin. 8 which points to his integration of philosophy and Christian faith in his Trinitarian thought (especially in 1.3. the analysis of trin. 8,14); (ii) I have pointed out that the discussion of the mind’s self-knowing (se nosse) and self-thinking (se cogitare) is mentioned as early as trin. 8,3, against the mainstream opinion that this discussion is restricted to trin. 10; (iii) my observation that Augustine derives knowledge (notitia) from love (amor) but not vice versa, demonstrating that he conceives love as the key to activate knowledge (cf. 1.4. the analysis of trin. 9,2; 9,4); (iv) I demonstrate that se nosse and se cogitare are strikingly parallel in this context and that Augustine regards them as equally valid for proving the certainty of the mind’s self-knowledge (cf. trin. 10,16); and (v) my analysis of the triad interior memoria, interior intellegentia, interior uoluntas in trin. 14,10 reflects Augustine’s increasing interest in the theme of the mind’s self-thinking (se cogitare), in contrast to the prevailing opinion that his emphasis is on self-knowing (se nosse). There are more examples of new insights which my study provides:39 (vi) regarding Augustine’s argument in De spiritu et littera, I am also able to posit that the opponent group in De spiritu et littera is clearly Pelagius and his disciples (cf. 2.3. the analysis of spir. et litt. 2-3); (vii) My conclusion here is that Augustine makes use of Pneumatology to rescue his Christology. More examples are: (viii) the underscoring of the contrast between knowledge of sin (cognitio peccati) and knowledge of God’s glory (scientia gloriae eius) in Augustine’s argument; (ix) the pinpointing of the significance of the relationship between Augustine’s citation of Jer 31:31-34 and Rom 2:14-15, among many more. Hence, in short, the method of detailed analysis allows us to harvest new and diverse insights which significantly complement the synthetic discussion of Chapter 3.

Structure of the Work

With the aforementioned purposes in mind, Chapters 1 and 2 are organized in the following way. Each chapter begins with the sections: “Review of Literature” and “Structure and Dating of the Work.” These sections aim to present an overview of current scholarship concerning De trinitae 8-10 as well as De spiritu et littera in a systematic manner. I will then proceed to the in-depth analysis of Augustine’s argumentation in the main texts. To accommodate this, each section is further divided into smaller units, each unit corresponding to every chapter in De trinitate 8-10 and De spiritu et littera. Each of these units consists of two parts. The first part is a structural analysis, the goal of which is to point out the main themes of the text, and to illustrate the development of Augustine’s argumentation. Changes in arguments and tone in his expositions will particularly be highlighted (such as those indicated by the Latin particles: enim, atque, tamen, etc.). Textual issues (e.g., discussions of translations, textual criticism, etc.) will also be dealt with as far as they contribute to the interpretation of the text. The second part of each of the smaller units brings to fore noteworthy points in the texts, by drawing other works of Augustine into the picture and by confronting current scholarly discussions. Chapters 1 and 2 will conclude with a summary of results, in which the most important points are enumerated and at the same time serve as an index to facilitate locating a particular theme in the material treated.

Chapter 3 will commence with a thematic comparison between De trinitate 8-10 and De spiritu et littera, determining the major similarities between the most important elements in the two texts. I will then demonstrate how these two texts parallel one another in two respects, namely, in their similar pattern in the use of knowledge and love, and in their similar concern about human perfection. The whole study will come to a synthesis in the sub-section entitled “Final Conclusions/Remarks,” where I will reflect upon how the results of this study have justified a re-evaluation of De trinitate and De spiritu et littera.

Note on Editions and Citations

Unless otherwise stated, the text of De trinitate in this study is based on the critical edition of W. J. Mountain in Corpus Christianorum Series Latina (hereafter CCL) 50 and 50a, and De spiritu et littera on the critical edition of C. F. Vrba and J. Zycha in Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum (hereafter CSEL) 60, VIII/1. According to their availability, I have also utilized the critical editions of either CCL or CSEL for Augustine’s other works. All citations correspond to Corpus Augustinianum Gissense a C. Mayer editum 3 (hereafter CAG).

For the text of Plotinus’ Enneads the critical edition of P. Henry and H.-R. Schwyzer, Plotini Opera (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983) is used; texts of other Greek authors like Plato and Porphyry are based on the critical editions available in Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (hereafter TLG); the text of Marius Victorinus is based on the critical edition of P. Henry and P. Hadot in CSEL 83,1; biblical references are based on the edition of Weber-Gryson, Biblia Sacra Vulgata, 5th ed (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2007).

The Latin orthography here follows the CCL and CSEL, as well as the Augustinus-Lexikon. As such, “u” and “i” are used to represent “u/v” and “i/j” respectively. For the sake of uniformity, I stick with this rule in the whole study, even if some CSEL editions (e.g., Victorinus’ text in CSEL 83,1) use “v” instead. The abbreviations and the method of citing Augustine’s works follow the standard of Augustinus-Lexikon.

In citing the text, I will first provide the book and chapter number, separated by a comma, and then the page and line number of the critical edition, separated by a slash. For example, trin. 8,1, 268/1-5 means: The edition of Mountain (CCL 50), book 8, chapter 1, page 268, lines 1-5.


Scholars commonly divide Augustine’s literary career into three periods (with some overlap): anti-Manichaeism (386-400); anti-Donatism (400-411); anti-Pelagianism (411-430). See Van Fleteren, “Introduction,” in The Life of Augustine of Hippo. Part Three, xv-xxv (xv). For a good overview of Augustine’s polemic against the Manichees and his engagements in the Donatist and Pelagian controversies, see Bonner, St Augustine of Hippo, 193-236; 237-310; 310-393.


Cf. Du Roy, L’intelligence de la foi. Brachtendorf, Die Struktur. For details, see 1.1. Review of the Literature.


In particular: Studer, Augustins De Trinitate. Williams, “Sapientia and the Trinity.” Ayres, Augustine and the Trinity. For details, see 1.1. Review of the Literature.


Cf. Du Roy, L’intelligence de la foi, 173ff.


See in particular Brachtendorf, Die Struktur, 15-55.


See 1.1. Review of the Literature.


Williams, “Sapientia and the Trinity,” 321.


A recent publication by Laela Zwollo does attempt to illustrate the complex relation between philosophy and theology in De Trinitate, yet from a different departure point than my own: by tracing Augustine’s exegesis of Genesis 1:26-27 – his doctrine of the image of God – to the philosophy of images of Plotinus. See Zwollo, St. Augustine and Plotinus, 15.


Cf. Horn, “Selbstbezüglichkeit.” Pépin, “Le tout et les parties.” For details, see 1.5. the analysis of trin. 10,6: “The source of the tota-totum argument,” and 1.5. the analysis of trin. 10,7: “Augustine’s source of ‘Know thyself.’”


Cf. Schindler, “Querverbindungen,” 103-6.


Cf. Schindler, “Querverbindungen,” 105.


Cf. Schindler, “Querverbindungen,” 105: “In Wirklichkeit läßt sich aber eine solche Konstruktion mit Hilfe von Augustins eigenen Äußerungen nicht durchführen.”


Cf. Plagnieux, “Influence,” 811.


Cf. Plagnieux, “Influence,” 825.


Cf. Plagnieux, “Influence,” 826: “Par là nous n’affirmons pas simplement qu’en bonne théologie le Verbe incarné seul donne accès à la révélation trinitaire, ni que les préoccupations pástorales aient pris le pas sur la systématisation purement spéculative, mais que la spiritualité d’ Augustin a été de plus dominée par sa dévotion au Christ, et au Christ crucifié.”


Cf. Plagnieux, “Influence,” 826: “On avance parfois que chez l’évêque d’Hippone assez souvent et très longtemps la prière paraît se confondre avec un pur envol philosophique.”


Cf. Plagnieux, “Influence,” 818-9.


For details, see 1.2.2. Dating of trin. 8-10.


Cf. Plagnieux, “Influence,” 820.


Cf. Plagnieux, “Influence,” 821-2.


Cf. Plagnieux, “Influence,” 824.


Cf. Schmaus, “Die Denkform Augustins,” 10: “Sie [i.e., Plagnieux’s account] kann nämlich nicht erklären, warum sich bei Augustinus metaphysische und geschichtliche Aussagen, philosophische Erörterungen und geschichtliche Daten scheinbar wahllos mischen.”


Cf. Drecoll, “Mens-notitia-amor,” 137-40.


Cf. Drecoll, “Mens-notitia-amor,” 140-50.


Cf. Drecoll, “Mens-notitia-amor,” 152: “Dieser in De trin. IX entwickelte Gedanke entspricht genau dem Zurücktreten der Christologie und der Erkenntnis in spir. et litt. Die Reflexion über die Notwendigkeit, die Gnadenlehre nicht von der Christologie her zu konzipieren, und die Reflexion darüber, daß auch die Betrachtung der menschlichen mens in der Trinitätslehre keine vollkommene notitia hervorzubringen vermag, sind also vergleichbar.”


Cf. Ayres, Augustine and the Trinity, 116 n. 80: “The classic (but ultimately unconvincing) attempt to see the emphasis on grace (and Christologically mediated grace) as a product of the Pelagian controversy is Jean Plagnieux.”


For Ayres’ discussion of trin. 9, see Augustine and the Trinity, 217-20 and 285-93.


Kany mentions Plagnieux in p. 21 and Drecoll in p. 214-216 of his Augustins Trinitätsdenken.


Cf. Kany, Augustins Trinitätsdenken, 21.


Cf. Kany, Augustins Trinitätsdenken, 214: “Vorausgesetzt, sie stimmte, so leuchtet dennoch nicht ein, warum daraus Rückschlüsse auf die Trinitätstheologie im neunten Buch von De trinitate zu ziehen sein sollen.”


The Pelagian controversy can be roughly divided into four phases: 1. against Caelestius and his supporters (A.D. 411-413), 2. against Pelagius himself (A.D. 414-418), 3. against Julian of Eclanum (from A.D. 418 onwards), 4. clarification to the monks at Hadrumetum and the Christians of southern France (from A.D. 426/427 onwards). See, for instance, a similar division in Drecoll, “Gratia,” 182-226 and Van Fleteren, “Introduction,” in The Life of Augustine of Hippo. Part Three, xvi. This study assumes the early phase of the Pelagian controversy as covering Augustine’s engagement with both Caelestius and Pelagius. The beginning of this controversy can be traced back to the condemnation of Caelestius at Carthage in September-October 411. Augustine’s direct engagement with Pelagius ends in 418; De gratia Christi et de peccato originali (summer 418) is Augustine’s final word in arguing directly against Pelagius. See Drecoll, “Gratia,” 202-216 and Dupont, Gratia in Augustine’s Sermones ad Populum, 35-93. For a detailed overview of the secondary literature on this issue, see Drecoll, “Gratia,” 208-9 and 214-6.


For details, see 1.2.2. “Dating of trin. 8-10.”


For details, see 2.2.2. “Dating of De spiritu et littera.”


For the reasons why trin. 8-10 is treated as a single unit, see 1.2.1. “An Overview of trin. 8-10.”


For instance, the triad memoria, intellegentia, uoluntas and its related form (e.g., meminisse sui, intellegere se, amare se) recur in trin. 11-14; the two triads mens, notitia, amor and memoria, intellegentia, uoluntas form the foundation for Augustine’s final illustration of the Trinity in trin. 15. Another example is the triad amans, quod amatur, amor. Although this triad is in the strictest sense a dyad (cf. trin. 9,2), the theme of love which it communicates is a seminal aspect throughout trin. 8-15.


Madec demonstrates that the concept of “love for wisdom” is a kind of convergence of philosophy and theology in Augustine. See Madec, “Christus,” esp. 859; id., La Patrie et la voie.

Feldmann explores the relationship between Cicero’s Hortensius and the Neoplatonic elements in Augustine’s early works, and argues that the texts convey “eine Konvergenz von Strukturen zwischen dem Hortensius und dem Neuplatonismus.” See Feldmann, “Konvergenz von Strukturen?” esp. 322.

Drecoll notes that various backgrounds, e.g., Platonic, Plotinian, Sethian Gnostic, etc. can be found in Augustine’s Trinitarian triads. He cautions against an overemphasis of one tradition against another, and advocates applying the convergency-theory to investigate how Augustine is influenced by the diversing traditions. See Drecoll, “Review of Augustine and the Trinity,” 97-98.


See 1.3. the analysis of trin. 8,9 and 1.5. the analysis of trin. 10,13; 10,17 and 10,18.


For details, see 1.6. A Summary of Results of Chapter 1.


For details, see 2.9. A Summary of Results of Chapter 2.

Trinity and Grace in Augustine

An Analysis of De trinitate 8-10 in Light of De spiritu et littera