From Augustine’s Conversion to ‘Confessions’

Gerald Bray | January 25, 2016

Imagine you’re walking down a broad avenue that would normally take an hour to get to from one end to the other. Then imagine this avenue has any number of side streets and alleys leading off into fascinating byways that invite you to explore them. A journey that would normally take 60 minutes now takes all day, and still you haven’t reached the end of the avenue itself. If you can see yourself doing that, then Augustine: Conversions to Confessions is the book for you.

Robin Lane Fox, until recently a reader in ancient history at Oxford University, has written a partial biography of Augustine. The account doesn’t tackle the church father’s entire life but stops in AD 397, the year Lane Fox believes Augustine completed his famous Confessions. The aim of his book is to study the process of “conversion” that led to Confessions—or in other words, why did Augustine write about himself the way he did, and how accurate is his self-portrayal?

Portrait of the Past 

Lane Fox knows an enormous amount about the ancient world and brings his vast learning to bear in an eloquent and fascinating way. Digression is his strength, as whole chapters are taken up with studies of Manichaeism, Neo-Platonism, and the like. These descriptions…

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