Disciplining Christians

Disciplining Christians : Correction and Community in Augustine's Letters

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Disciplining Christians reconsiders several of Augustine's most well-known letter exchanges, including his famously controversial correspondence with Jerome and his efforts to engage his Donatist rivals in a letter exchange. It reads these letters with close attention to conventional epistolary norms and practices, in an effort to identify innovative features of Augustine's epistolary practice. In particular, it notes and analyzes Augustine's adaptation of the traditionally friendly letter exchange to the correction of perceived error in the Christian community. In transforming the practice of letter exchange into a tool of correction, Augustine draws on both the classical philosophical tradition and also scripture. His particular innovation is his insistence that this process of correction can-and often must-be done in the potentially public form of a letter exchange rather than in the privacy of a face-to-face conversation. This is particularly true when the perceived error is one that has the potential to jeopardize the salvation of the entire Christian community.
In offering epistolary correction, and requesting reciprocal correction from his correspondents, Augustine treats his practice of letter exchange as a performance of Christian caritas. Indeed, in his view, the friendliest correspondence was that which was concerned solely with preserving the salvation of the participants. In recognizing Augustine's commitment to the corrective correspondence and thus reading his letters with attention to their corrective function, we gain new insights into the complicated dynamics of Augustine's relationships with Jerome, Paulinus of Nola, the Donatists, and Pelagius.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 272 pages
  • 160.02 x 236.22 x 25.4mm | 521.63g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195372565
  • 9780195372564
  • 1,385,433

Review quote

Disciplining Christians is a competent and well-researched monograph on a central motif in Augustine's epistolary oeuvre. * Josef Loessl, Vigiliae Christianae * Ebbeler has written a bold and original monograph, full of fresh insights. It is warmly recommended to all those who are interested in Augustine and the literary culture of Late Antiquity. * Winrich Loehr, Bryn Mawr Classical Review * Undoubtedly, this is a highly recommended book for all students and critics of Latin epic and Imperial epic in particular. Its insightful and challenging views will provoke future discussion and studies on the fascinating poem of Valerius Flaccus. * Antony Augoustakis, Classical Journal * This thoughtful work will no doubt attract specialists in late antiquity and early Christianity as well as those with an interest in the famous African church father. * Owen M. Phelan, Religious Studies Review * Jennifer Ebbeler's book expertly examines Augustine's letters in depth as classically influenced works. * Michael T. Martin, History * there is a real sense that Ebbeler has herself engaged in an extended dialogue with Augustine and come to know his epistolary eccentricities just as well as a Jerome or Paulinus. She treats these letters and their writer in the spirit of charitable criticism with which they were composed. Her book is an important contribution to the study of Augustine, late antique Christianity and ancient epistolography. * Robin Whelan, Journal of Roman Studies *
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About Jennifer V. Ebbeler

Jennifer V. Ebbeler is Associate Professor of Classics, University of Texas, Austin
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Table of contents

Introduction ; 1. Rebuke, Friendship, and Community ; 2. Experiments in Epistolary Correction ; 3. The Honeyed Sword: Rebuking Jerome ; 4. The Donatists and the Limits of the Corrective Correspondence ; 5. The Retrospective Correction of Pelagius ; Conclusion- The Paper Trail
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