North American Patristics Society annual meeting location:Chicago, IL USA date:22 May 2009
Recent research has surfaced a peculiar phenomenon in the life and writings of Augustine of Hippo, namely, that the bishop references Cyprian of Carthage as a source of authority for theological positions which are often incoherent or even contradictory in the course of his heated argumentation with the Donatists (where he distances himself from Cyprian) and then the Pelagians (where he unreservedly claims the support of the Carthaginian primate).
This then leads to the underlying question of my paper proposal: if/ where/ how is Cyprian as an authority source used by the arguing sides differently and/ or similarly and if/ where/ how is Augustine’s use of Cyprian identical or different in the course of the successive controversies?
The results of this inquiry, carried out in conjunction with my ongoing doctoral research, will be abundant. As such, I will only focus on four clusters for examination from which to draw examples: ecclesiological examples (e.g., how does Augustine reference Cyprian to defend his notion of the Church as a corpus permixtum in both controversies?), political-societal (e.g., how can Augustine justify the interplay of church and state when the Cyprianic/ Donatist tradition maintains their separation and how is it different in both controversies?), the relationship of Rome and Africa (e.g., why does Augustine scantly refer to Rome against the Donatists and repeatedly with the Pelagians; also does this signify certain theological rifts between Africa and Rome?), and lastly I will briefly assess and posit further questions as to whether or not there is continuity in the interpretation of Cyprian in the controversies and if the issues raised in the confrontation with the Pelagians were already present in the Donatist debates.
To facilitate the research segment of this proposal, I will rely almost entirely on primary sources from Augustine and Cyprian (arranged from the Corpus Augustinianum Gissense and Cetedoc Library of Christian Latin Texts software), as well as surviving Pelagian and Donatist writings (taken from the CCSL/ CSEL series and with recourse to recent/ critical translations).The results of this line of questioning will be placed in conversation with contemporary research on both the Donatist and Pelagian controversies, and will demonstrate the manner in which the significance of Augustine’s divergent appeals to Cyprian impacts our understanding of Augustine’s conflicted legacy.