chemotherapy-intensified fug of my dumb enduring, enabling me to join my voice with his in declaring,
Non ego vita mea sim: male vixi ex me. Mors mihi fui: in te revivesco. (Confessions 12.10.10)
Gonville and Caius College August 2015
This continuation of Confessions completes an intellectually coherent whole in the mind of Augustine the neophyte Christian character, within the text, and likewise in the mind of Augustine the writer, looking upon the events of his earlier life from a privileged authorial perspective, both at the time of composition and later.1 It is not so easy for a modern reader to see the coherence of that whole. Partly this is a matter of human interest—the “what does a donkey look for in the Bible?” principle.2 Many readers are more easily interested in the life story of another human individual than in the meandering, sometimes repetitive, reasonings of a mind trying to interpret the relationship between God and creation. The non-Christian reader, meanwhile, has no spiritual incentive for joining up the personal (Books 1–9) with the impersonal (Books 10–13). Most readers, then, conditioned by expectations of modern literary genres, are likely to assess the value of Confessions in terms of its biographical rather than its theological content.
- 1A. states that Books 1 to 10 are “his story” and Books 11 to 13 (marked by a second proem) are theological material (Retr. 2.6); but Book 10 is also markedly different in content from Books 1 to 9. See Volume 1 (LCL 26), xv–xvi.
- 2The answer to the rabbi’s question to his students is “other donkeys.” See Magonet, A Rabbi’s Bible, 66–79.