Chapter outlines of the Confessions
In the searching presence of God, Augustine uses his memory to trace the grace (in Latin, gratia) of God in his life. He praises God for this gift, even though he had not noticed it at the time. He recalls his infancy, his learning to speak, and his early schooling.
He sixteenth year. It was a year without school, and filled with bad adolescent behaviour. The memory of stealing some pears prompts a deep probing of the motives and aims of evil. He said, "I became to myself an empty land."
The story of his student days in Carthage, his discovery of the book by Cicero, Hortensius, his interest in philosophy, his Manichean belief, and his mother's dream which foretold his eventual return to the true faith and to God.
This is the story of his years among the Manicheans. It describes his teaching at Tagaste, his taking a concubine, the attractions of astrology, the death of a friend which leads to his analysis of grief and transience. He reports on his first book, De pulchra et apto, and his introduction to the book by Aristotle called Categories and other books of philosophy and theology, which he mastered with great ease but with little profit.
A year of decision. Faustus comes to Carthage and Augustine loses his hope of finding truth in the Manichean doctrines. He decides to move from Carthage to Rome. His experiences at Rome prove disappointing, and he takes a teaching post at Milan. There he meets the bishop Ambrose, who confronts him as an impressive witness for Christian belief, and opens out the possibilities of the allegorical interpretation of the Bible. Augustine becomes very interested in the Christian faith.
Turmoil in his twenties. Monica, his mother, follows Augustine to Milan and finds him a candidate (catechumen) of the Catholic Church. His friends, Alypius and Nebridius, join him in a confused quest for the happy life. Augustine becomes engaged, dismisses his first concubine, takes another, and continues his fruitless search for truth.
The conversion to Neo-Platonism. Augustine traces his growing unease with the Manichean idea of God and evil, and the dawning understanding of God's eternal nature He studies Neoplatonism, especially the philosopher Plotinus. From this, he studies the Bible, especially the writings of Saint Paul. His pilgrimage is drawing toward its goal, as he begins to be drawn to Christ in hesitant faith.Image (below): Augustine of Hippo, mentioning especially his Confessions. (YouTube: 2 minutes) Book Eight
Conversion to Christ. Augustine is deeply impressed by the story of Simplicianus about the acceptance of Christ by the famous orator and philosopher, Marius Victorinus. He is stirred to emulate him, but finds himself still restrained by his sexual life and preoccupation with daily matters; he has thus far experienced an intellectual conversion but not yet a moral one. He is then visited by a court official, Ponticianus, who tells him and Alypius the stories of the conversion of Anthony of Egypt and also of two imperial officials." These stories throw him into a violent turmoil, in which his divided will struggles against himself. And then a child's song, which he heard by chance, sends him to the Bible; a text from Paul resolves the crisis by his moral conversion. He instantly is ready to become a Christian. Alypius also makes this decision, and the two inform the happy Monica.
The end of the autobiography. Augustine tells of his resigning from his position as a teacher, and of his weeks of reflection at Cassiciacum. He is baptized together with Adeodatus and Alypius. Shortly thereafter, they start back for Africa. Augustine recalls the spiritual heights (ecstasy) that he and his mother shared in Ostia. He then reports her death and burial and his grief. The book closes with a moving prayer for Monica, Patricius (his late father), and all his fellow citizens of heaven.
From biography of self to the analysis of self. Augustine turns from his memories of the past to the inner mysteries of memory itself. In doing so, he reviews his motives for these written Confessions, and seeks to chart the path by which men come to God. But this brings him into the intricate analysis of memory and its relation to the self and its powers. This done, he explores the meaning and mode of true prayer. In conclusion, he undertakes a detailed analysis of appetite and the temptations to which the flesh and the soul are heirs, and comes finally to see how necessary and right it was for the Mediator between God and man to have been the God-Man.
The eternal Creator and the Creation in time. Augustine ties together his memory of his past life, his present experience, and his ardent desire to comprehend the mystery of creation. This leads him to the questions of the mode and time of creation. He ponders the mode of creation and shows that it was de nihilo and involved no alteration in the being of God. He then considers the question of the beginning of the world and time. But what is time? To this Augustine devotes a brilliant analysis of the subjective nature of time and the relation of everything in time to the eternal nature of God. From this, he prepares to turn to a detailed interpretation of Genesis 1:1, 2.
The mode of creation and the truth of the Bible. Augustine explores the relation of the visible and formed matter of heaven and earth to the prior matrix from which it was formed. This leads to an intricate analysis the primal "possibility" from which God created, itself created de nihilo (Latin for "out of nothing"). He finds a reference to this in the misconstrued Scriptural phrase "the heaven of heavens." Realising that his interpretation of Genesis 1:1, 2, is not the only possible explanation, Augustine turns to an elaborate discussion of the multiplicity of perspectives in hermeneutics and reviews the various possibilities of true interpretation of this text of the Bible.Book Thirteen
The mysteries and images of the days of creation. Augustine interprets Genesis 1:2-31 in a mystical and allegorical fashion so as to exhibit the profundities of God's power and wisdom and love. He is also interested in developing his theories of hermeneutics on his favourite topic: creation. He finds the Trinity in the account of creation and he reflects on the work of the Spirit moving over the waters. In the firmament he sees the image of Holy Scripture, and in the dry land and bitter sea he finds the division between the people of God and the conspiracy of the evil ones. He develops the theme of man's being made in the image and likeness of God. He brings his survey to a climax and his Confessions to an end with a meditation on the goodness of all creation and the promised rest and happiness of the eternal Sabbath that is the destiny we seek.(Confessions continued on the next page.)
Confessions onlineSource: http://bible.christiansunite.com/augustine/confessions/confessions.shtml where the entire text of the Confessions is available online.The Confessions. The full text of a translation from 1909 in New Advent.http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1101.htm