Augustinian Studies

Volume 54, Issue 2, 2023

Mattias GassmanOrcid-ID
Pages 157-175

The Composition of De consensu euangelistarum 1 and the Development of Augustine’s Arguments on Paganism

A recent study has argued from theological and classicizing parallels that the first, anti-pagan book of Augustine’s De consensu euangelistarum belongs between 406 and 412 CE. This article defends the traditional dating ca. 400–405 CE, implied by Retractationes. Uncertainty over the dating of parallels in De trinitate 1–4 cautions against reliance on theological peculiarities (a variant of John 5:19 and the phrase unitas personae, both otherwise paralleled in the 410s CE or later), while a close review of the patterns of classical citation proves resemblance to De ciuitate dei to be superficial. Not only does Augustine demonstrably cite the same classical texts on widely separated occasions, De consensu euangelistarum 1 evinces little of Augustine’s later knowledge of Porphyry and Varro. The crowning proof comes, however, in a brief rebuttal to pagan complaints over contemporary misfortunes. Although he focuses on Rome’s religious history, Augustine omits any hint of Alaric’s sack (410 CE), the religious-political instability of 408–409 CE, or Radagaisus’ invasion of Italy (405–406 CE), all of key importance for later works. The book’s method, scope, and tenor place it neatly within the span 400–405 CE, as our first testimony to the interreligious milieu for which De ciuitate dei would later be aimed.