St. Augustine's Confessions

There is no universal agreement regarding the memory of great men. There are always detractors, and there are always those who whitewash even great sins so as not to lose a hero. By that criteria, St. Augustine of Hippo was certainly a great man.

As a Saint of the Church, he would not have accepted that description. Saints are marked by humility, grief at their own sin, constant repentance, and total capitulation of personal opinion to the Tradition of the Fathers. All these traits are clearly present throughout the writings of Blessed Augustine, and nowhere more clearly than his Confessions.

In modern times, confession often conjures ideas of memoir without restraint, of tell-all secrets whispered loud enough for everyone to hear. There is a temptation to interpret St. Augustine's project in similar terms—"Lord make me chaste, but not yet!" is often assumed to be a direct quote, but the actual quote is rarely remembered, and almost never in proper context. Certainly we are made privy to the great Bishop's carnal and spiritual sins, but this isn't a contemporary scandal rag. The Confessions is a prayer that also happens to be an autobiography.

All confessional prayer is autobiographical. Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians know this directly through the sacrament of Confession, while Protestants know it intuitively through personal prayer. Augustine of Hippo knew it through both: as a Bishop of the Church he heard and made sacramental confessions, and as a praying man he poured out his soul to God. The goal of confession in the sacramental sense is to purge us of sin and drive us toward repentance, the turning away from sin. This is the purpose behind the Confessions, not a glorification or exoneration of past wickedness.

But there is another meaning to the word confession, one that is almost wholly forgotten in the modern era. For St. Augustine and his contemporaries, confession was integral in every way to the Christian life, not just as a means of attaining purity of heart, but as a way to express the fullness of the faith. Confession is what Christians do every time they recite Holy Scripture, give a cup of water in Jesus' name, or share the Gospel with someone in need. St. Augustine is not only confessing his sins, he's confessing his faith.

Confession also refers to any formal profession of faith, such as in the Symbol of Faith (Nicene Creed). As a Bishop and Father of the Church, St. Augustine spent much of his career carefully presenting such teachings in volumes of books and letters. There is less of that formally present in the Confessions than elsewhere in his work, but it is the anchor holding his personal confessions in place.

It is this last sense of confession that has generated much of the controversy surrounding the Blessed Bishop of Hippo. The Roman Catholic communion considers him one of the greatest saints of the Church; the Eastern Orthodox Church is divided; and Reformed Protestants believe him to be a proto-Calvinist and the originator of ideas regarding predestination and election. However, given the pre-Schism opinion of the Fifth and Sixth Ecumenical Councils (naming him among the Church Fathers and referring to him as "blessed"), it is safe to say all Christians can find benefit in his work. (Unfortunately for Protestants, there is almost no evidence that he was anything like a proto-Calvinist—aside from eccentric readings of his work—but that's another essay altogether.)

The first nine books of the Confessions are almost exclusively about St. Augustine's life, focusing on his wanderings in the spiritual wilderness, the circumstances of his conversion, his spiritual struggle, and his baptism. It is this first part of the book that has earned its author recognition as the inventor of the spiritual autobiography. While we learn about his foray into Manicheanism, the saintliness of his mother St. Monica, and many other personal details, it is his inner struggle that is important—all other details are ancillary.

The last four books shift to more theological and philsophical themes. The nature of Creation is primary, but he ranges wide, including one of the best essays on the nature of Time ever written (see Book XI). The Saint warns us whenever his personal opinion is being presented, and this is important—much of the mixed reception of St. Augustine among the Orthodox stems from a failure to separate what he states dogmatically as a Bishop from what he writes as Augustine the man.

This humility—this willingness to identify one's own thoughts as mere opinion, so difficult for us entrenched creatures—is at the heart of the Confessions. In confessing his sins Augustine is not bragging or telling a good story, he's humbling himself before God and man, revealing a heart filled with contrition and the desire to be healed. He is, as any Saint does, presenting us a consummate example of godliness.

Scholars will dissect, theologians will analyze, and philosophers will debate St. Augustine's Confessions as long as such people exist in the world. For the rest of us, the beauty and value of this book is not in its literary merit or its use as an ideological cudgel. Confessions is golden because it teaches us how to pray, how to stand before God in humility, and how to present ourselves before our fellow human beings, not as great men, but as great sinners striving for salvation.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here. Note: C. Hollis was raised Presbyterian, but converted to Eastern Orthodoxy a number of years ago. All views and opinions are his own.

 

Confessions (LatinConfessiones) is an autobiographical work by Saint Augustine of Hippo, consisting of 13 books written in Latin between AD 397 and 400. The work outlines Saint Augustine's sinful youth and his conversion to Christianity. Modern English translations of it are sometimes published under the title The Confessions of Saint Augustine in order to distinguish the book from other books with similar titles. Its original title was Confessions in Thirteen Books, and it was composed to be read out loud with each book being a complete unit.

Confessions is generally considered one of Augustine's most important texts. It is widely seen as the first Western Christian autobiography ever written (Ovid had invented the genre at the start of the first century AD with his Tristia), and was an influential model for Christian writers throughout the Middle Ages. Professor Henry Chadwick wrote that Confessions will "always rank among the great masterpieces of western literature."
—from Wikipedia

 

 

Translators Selected for Comparison: 

  1. 1838 Edward B. Pusey (based on Watts' 1631 text)
  2. 1942 FJ Sheed
  3. 1960 John K. Ryan
  4. 1961 R.S. Pine-Coffin
  5. 1991 Henry Chadwick
  6. 1997 Maria Boulding
  7. 2001 Phillip Burton
  8. 2002-06 Garry Wills
  9. 2017 Sarah Ruden
  10. 2019 Thomas Williams

Other Translators Exist:

1631 Watts
1886 J. G. Pilkington
1896 Knoll
1897-1909 C. Bigg
1908 J. Gibb / W. Montgomerey
1912 WHD Rouse (Loeb, based on Watts, Knoll, Pusey & Bigg)
1953 Vernon J. Roarke
1955 Albert Cook Outler
1963 Rex Warner
2013 Fr Benignus O'Rourke OSA
2014-16 Carolyn Hammond (Loeb library)
2018 Peter Constantine

Structure of the Confessions: 

Thirteen books
I-IX Autobiographical
X Philosophy of Memory
XI Time and Eternity
XII Form and Matter
XIII Creation of the World

 

Atonin-D. Sertillanges O.P., La vie intellectuelle… (1920 ff; The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, and Methods. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1998); a sadly neglected Catholic classic. Here is an infamous quotation from chapter 5.1:

Étudiez, bien entendu, en latin! Les traductions de la Somme sont traîtresses. Celui qui se laisserait arrêter par le petit effort de débrouiller une langue dont un esprit ordinaire vient à bout en deux mois ne mériterait pas qu’on s’inquiète de sa formation. Nous parlons pour des ardents: que ceux-là, désireux de pénétrer dans le «cellier à vin», se donnent la peine d’en chercher la clef.

Study, of course, in Latin. Translations [of a work in post-Classical Latin] often prove false to its thought; they are always inadequate. A man who would allow himself to be deterred by the slight effort needed to make his way about a language that an ordinary mind can master in two months would not deserve to have interest wasted on his mental training. {fn 1} We are speaking to earnest students: let them desiring to get in the ‘wine-cellar’, take the trouble to find the key.
{fn 1 explains what I have put in square brackets above}

Such bracing challenges are rare and risk derision. But the basic assumptions are true. The same cannot be said for (even Koine) Greek. And the official Latin of the Church, is often documentary, solemn, ponderous, inaccessible without extensive experience. But the Latin Doctors of the Late Ancient and Medieval periods, and the manuals of the 16th to 20thC can quite feasibly be laid open in two months — say, 200 hours of intense serious study — and other parts of Father Sertillanges book explain how to capture that time in your busy life… if you want and are willing to get serious. 

 

SHEED NOTES:

Sheed's 1942 translation has been published twice, both times by Hackett publishing. The first edition included only the first ten books, but the revised edition has all thirteen, with an introduction by Peter Brown (a biographer of Augustine), and expanded notes and commentary by Michael Foley, extolled as "a truly excellent reader of Augustine." This translation is highly recommended by many

"To my ears, Sheed’s translation is the most beautiful English translation available. The same electric current that runs through Augustine’s original can be felt in this translation, which combines a slightly elevated style (more elevated in direct prayers) combined with the immediacy and transparency of a street preacher (not that different from Augustine’s own style). The latest edition includes an introduction by Peter Brown, the best biographer of Augustine, and notes and commentary by Michael Foley, ."
     —Jared Ortiz, Hope College, in Catholic World Report

"This translation is already a classic. It is the translation that has guided three generations of students and readers into a renewed appreciation of the beauty and urgency of a masterpiece of Christian autobiography. This is largely because the translator has caught not only the meaning of Augustine’s Confessions, but a large measure of its poetry.  It makes the Latin sing in English as it did when it came from the pen of Augustine, some sixteen hundred years ago. Deeply rooted in the tradition of which Augustine was himself a principal founder, this translation is not only modern: it is a faithful echo, in a language that has carried throughout the ages, of its author’s original passion and disquiet."
     —Peter Brown

"Saint Augustine's Latin presents notable difficulties for translators. And even good English translations have usually dated badly.  Frank Sheed’s, which I read a mere fifty years ago, still shows no signs of dating. It captures Augustine’s extraordinary combination of precise statement and poetic evocation as does no other."
     —Alasdair MacIntyre

"Augustine’s sublime Confessions fairly ring with the music of a baroque eloquence, lavish and stately.  F. J. Sheed’s ear for that music makes this translation a memorable opportunity to hear Augustine’s voice resonating down the years."
     —James O’Donnell

The man who served on my doctoral committee in the UC Berkeley History Department for Late Antique and Byzantine history, Peter Brown (yes, that Peter Brown), said he though Frank Sheed’s translation was the best. And says he still thinks so: he wrote the preface to the new edition that finally included the last three chapters of Confressions, which Sheed had prepared but, for reasons unclear, were not included in the original edition. I agree with P. Brown.

 

RYAN NOTES:

Msgr. John Kenneth Ryan was a professor of philosophy, and he was a member of the faculty of the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., since 1931. He served as dean of the School of Philosophy in 1960.

Msgr. Ryan received his education at St. Thomas Academy, St. Paul; Holy Cross College, American College of Rome, and the Catholic University of America.

Monsignor Ryan's main purpose in the present translation is to give a clear and accurate rendering of the Confessions. His method in translating this work has been first to try to determine what St. Augustine thought, and then to state those thoughts in clearly understandable English for the modern reader. He has resisted temptations "to paraphrase and to substitute current expressions that correspond, more or less, to those that St. Augustine set down."

Solid translation of an incredible book, and nicely laid out with a great cover and easy-to-read typeface. I have found this edition of Augustine's writings to be a little more opaque than some others, but it's definitely a college reading level and still fairly easy to pick up and read. I've enjoyed getting the catholic version of Augustine -- as Image Classics is a catholic company, the introduction and footnotes/endnotes are all written from that perspective. This by no means ruins the book, it's just a different twist on Augustine than I'm used to.

The translation was made modern, avoiding "thee and thou", easier to read and the prose flows.

There have been many English translations of the Confessions over the centuries but this one by John K. Ryan is the best I've come across so far. The language is neither archaic nor pedestrian and I feel it manages to capture something of the original Latin in what I have read of it so far.(My Latin is not good enough yet to read the entire thing in the original but I hope to be able to someday!)One of the other things I really like in this edition is that Mons Ryan references St. Augustine's scripture quotations and were appropriate or necessary he elaborates in the notes section on points made by St. Augustine.

PINE-COFFIN NOTES:

Used by Veritas Omnibus
In his introduction R. S. Pine-Coffin discusses Saint Augustine’s intentions in writing his Confessions and issues of translation. This edition also includes a list of dates of events recorded in the Confessions.
https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/take-and-read-confessions

Cambridge Review:
https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/classical-review/article/abs/st-augustine-confessions-a-new-translation-by-r-s-pinecoffin-pp-347-west-drayton-penguin-books-1961-paper-5s-net/0A443E55347A1286856091BA5CC13245
"Sheed's was good (1944), but this is better. Its style is more consistently modern, it frequently clarifies the argument, and it is sufficiently dignified when dignity is wanted. It is rather more free than Sheed's, especially in breaking sentences up or changing the order of clauses, which often makes all the difference between translation English and natural English. Pine-Coffin sometimes introduces the word which Pusey might have thought to be commentary..."

His monologues are never tedious. Sometimes they are even humorous. “I confess too that I do know that I am saying this in time, that I have been talking about time for a long time, and that this long time would not be a long time if it were not for the fact that time has been passing all the while” (p. 273.) Why his philosophy is this readable and free flowing is no doubt due, in part, to the translator’s work and talent. The transparency is a treat where philosophy is concerned. Augustine’s rhetoric really hits home because of it. That sentence is one of the longest that you will find in the whole book. Short sentences are the norm. It seems likely that the translator simplified the syntax to make these confessions more readable. I say this because my copy of The City of God was translated by someone other than R. S. Pine-Coffin, and it does not exhibit the same cut and thrust style. Obviously, it is more plausible that Pine-Coffin facilitated the style of his text than that the translator of The City of God made his text more convoluted. It is possible that The City of God and the Confessions are dissimilar in style in their original texts, and that therefore this is the reason for the difference in style between the two. But I don’t think so. I am so pleased with this translation that I will not read the Confessions in any other. Grammatical mingle-mangle will not obstruct your way even once while you peruse this.
 

CHADWICK NOTES:

Now, Henry Chadwick, an eminent scholar of early Christianity, has given us the first new English translation in thirty years of this classic spiritual journey. Chadwick renders the details of Augustine's conversion in clear, modern English. We witness the future saint's fascination with astrology and with the Manichees, and then follow him through scepticism and disillusion with pagan myths until he finally reaches Christian faith. There are brilliant philosophical musings about Platonism and the nature of God, and touching portraits of Augustine's beloved mother, of St. Ambrose of Milan, and of other early Christians like Victorinus, who gave up a distinguished career as a rhetorician to adopt the orthodox faith. Augustine's concerns are often strikingly contemporary, yet his work contains many references and allusions that are easily understood only with background information about the ancient social and intellectual setting. To make The Confessions accessible to contemporary readers, Chadwick provides the most complete and informative notes of any recent translation, and includes an introduction to establish the context.

The religious and philosophical value of The Confessions is unquestionable--now modern readers will have easier access to St. Augustine's deeply personal meditations. Chadwick's lucid translation and helpful introduction clear the way for a new experience of this classic.


It might seem pointless to write a review of one of the cornerstones of Christian literature, yet I purchased this particular edition after struggling with the first chapter of the less expensive Kindle edition of the Pusey translation. I am glad I did. The grammar of Augustine's Latin Silver Age easily handles stylistic complexities that are not natural to modern English, and this translation by Henry Chadwick renders Augustine's prose brilliantly.

The first thing that really struck me about Confessions (Books 1 through 9) (and I should say this translation) is that it does not read as if it were written 1,500 years ago. In fact, in parts it reads as if it could have been written today. What I mean is: the language of Augustine (of the translator Henry Chadwick) is fresh, accessible, and engaging. All of this made the Confessions a real pleasure to read, from Book 1 to Book 9. His descriptions of his inner turmoil on the verge of his conversion to Christianity are raw, heartfelt, and heart wrenching. I could not put the book down.

I read the entire Confessions on Kindle with Professor Pine-Coffin's translation; however, I found his edition, as realized on Kindle, was not the best. At many points in my reading, I had to consult the notes in the Oxford World's Classics edition translated by Henry Chadwick to find an explanation of an obscure reference. The Pine-Coffin edition on Kindle is assiduous in having drill down notes for all the definite, and sometimes speculative references to biblical passages. The Chadwick translation has that and many, many more notes on Augustine's history and on lexical matters. Chadwick has another advantage absent from Pine-Coffin. The standard text of the Confessions is divided by Augustine's own Book numbers and "Chapter" or section numbers. Editors have added an additional division of chapters into paragraphs. Virtually all references to the Confessions includes these paragraph numbers. The Chadwick edition has these numbers. The Pine-Coffin edition (both on Kindle) does not.

I do not know Latin, so I could not check the translations, but I'm confident that both are professionally translated into good, modern colloquial English. The advantage of having the paragraph numbers is that it is far easier to compare two translations if both are so numbered.

Both are on Kindle, so I strongly recommend the Chadwick / Oxford translation. If you could have two Kindle windows open at the same time, I would suggest you have both on Kindle, but since you cannot, if you wish to compare two translations, I recommend the Barnes and Noble / Outhler translation. The Gary Wills translation on Kindle looks engaging, but its markings of the paragraphs seems non-standard. Prudence prohibits me from investing in a third copy of Confessions on Kindle, as I already own four editions, two paper, two Kindle.

This review is on the Chadwick translation published by Oxford World Press.

I'm not reviewing Confessions- there are plenty of fantastic reviews. Instead, I'll simply suggest that you read it. You'll find that Blessed Augustine has, at times, crawled into your mind and written about your own life.

A classmate of mine complained about how far Chadwick stretches to find Neo-Platonic influence in Augustine. I believe the influence is there and clear, and I flew to Chadwick's defense. Unfortunately, I fear my classmate was correct. After a passage in which Augustine complains about ruffian students, Chadwick offers the following footnote: "Plotinus similarly comments that ruffians and hoodlums do themselves much injury." I joked that if Augustine mentioned eating strawberries, we might see the following footnote from Chadwick: "Porphyry also enjoyed strawberries, and according to one biographer, Ammonius enjoyed strawberries while teaching his classes."

The Chadwick translation is extremely readable. The meaning of Augustine's text is clearly and easily conveyed to the reader, who gets to spend more time in reflection on them than in decoding them. Note that the poetry of older translations (like Outler's) is lost. Compare this short section:

Outler:
The house of my soul is too narrow for thee to come in to me; let it be enlarged by thee. If it is in ruins; do thou restore it. There is much about it which must offend thy eyes I confess and know it. But who will cleanse it? Or, to whom shall I cry but to thee? "Cleanse thou me from my secret faults," O Lord, "and keep back thy servant from strange sins."

Chadwick:
The house of my soul is too small for you to come to it. May it be enlarged by you. It is in ruins: restore it. In your eyes it has offensive features. I admit it, I know it; but who will clean it up? Or to whom shall I cry other than you? "Cleanse me from my secret faults, Lord, and spare your servant from sins to which I am tempted by others."

Overall, I enjoy and recommend the book. It's nice to keep it with an older, more poetic translation, but the same is true of all works in translation.


I could hear Shakespeare, Waugh, and Wilde echoing in some of his words. Mr. Chadwich also makes it clear that Augustine barrowed a lot from Neo-Platonist authors, especially Plotinus. The book also provides interesting insights into life in North Africa and Italy at that time, and their cultural differences. Augustine, like Aquinas, was North African.
The book was relatively light reading, and highly accessible -- but deep -- especially taken in its entirety. Chadwick's translation, although I cannot attest to the authenticity of it, as I know no Latin, was near poetical and his notes kept my interest by aiding my understanding, clarifying themes and points, without obfuscating the passion of Augustine's message.

+ Excellent translation and in-depth, yet concise, footnotes by Henry Chadwick.
+ Completely relevant today, regarding spiritual matters and culture... even originating from the 300/400's, A.D..
+ The choice of font, font size, formatting.
+ Specific and unobtrusive detailed footnotes into Augustine's perspective/philosophy/age (in addition to the referenced Biblical passages.) There's Aristotle, Plato, Cicero, Virgil, Plotinus, Porphyry, various Manicheans, Neoplatonism, etc.; alongside where this quote or thought can be found in other texts and/or the defining of such material.
- and oddly a "+": Unfortunately, a glued binding. For shame Oxford! (Well for this price, I do consider it a great deal. So, thank-you Oxford.)


(Chadwick translation, Kindle). I do not read Latin so cannot make an expert judgment. But after a few chapters I gave up reading this translation. I found it clunky and difficult to follow. I read the old hard copy I have (Pine-coffin) which was much smoother. It allowed me to get a better sense of the text. I compared paragraphs occasionally and never revised my opinion. On the upside, the Chadwick edition has extremely useful and copious explanatory notes, which brought out the neo-Platonic sources of Augustine's ideas.

I had previously struggled to immerse myself in Augustine's writings, but the Chadwick translation has been a real help. I had read the Penguin translation by R.S. Pine-Coffin in college, and I had since tried Sheed's translation, but I found both of them too stiff and removed. Chadwick's translation is written in more straightforward English, yet maintains a lyrical rhythm that captures Augustine's intensity in a beautiful, edifying way.

While the revision of Sheed's classic translation by Peter Brown and the New City Press translation by Maria Bolding are both very good, Chadwick's translation best captures the artistric and accuracy of Augustine's translation in a way that best inspires and connects with my students.

Dr. David Alexander
Assistant Professor of Church History
Liberty University


Many modern readers approach Confessions as though it is a conventional, albeit religious, autobiography; it is, however, better understood as a theological work. Augustine relates the events of his life and ‘confesses’ his sins in the first nine books, but he does so to establish theological points about the material world, human nature, grace, and God’s intervention in his life. Understood in this way, the last four books of Confessions no longer seem like such a sudden departure from the earlier autobiographical books. The last books were in some respects for me the more important books. There one can see that Augustine has already developed a concept of grace and predestination and sees it at work in his life. [“Grant what you command, and command what you will.” X.xxix(40). This is the prayer that led Pelagius to challenge Augustine’ s view of free will.] He also develops a strong ascetic doctrine that equates pleasure with sin. Indeed, he even confesses as a sin the pleasure he feels when he eats to alleviate hunger. See X.xxxi(44) (stating that one should eat in the same way that one uses medicine—in a dose designed only to promote health). And, even though Augustine’s discussion becomes more abstract, his discussion of memory and time are really ‘confessions’ on the limits of human knowledge. These books, Chadwick explains, are really the summation of the first nine: “There are, however, numerous subtle cross-references. The last four books make explicit what is only hinted at in the autobiographical parts, namely that the story of the soul wandering away from God and then in torment and tears finding its way home through conversion is also the story of the entire created order.” Introduction, p xxiv. It is, therefore, unfortunate that these books are oft neglected.

Chadwick’s translation of Augustine’s Confessions is excellent. He warns at one point that Augustine’s Latin is “a work of high art, with rhymes and poetic rhythms not reproducible in translation,” p 201 n25, but he nevertheless succeeded in translating Augustine’s work into a modern and readable English that manages to capture much of the nuance of Augustine’s thought. Chadwick’s introduction is also well-worth a careful read and he provides the reader with useful commentary in his footnotes, which include citations to ancient works that provide context for Augustine’s thought. [A review of the citations in the footnotes demonstrates how much Augustine was influenced by the secular writers of his day—especially, the Neo-Platonic philosophers.] In all, this is currently my favorite English translation of Augustine’s Confessions.

Henry Chadwick's translation is, in my judgment, the best English one going. Moreover, his Introduction nicely situates Augustine's Confessions against the backdrops of the neo-Platonism and Manicheanism that claimed him as a youth. The explanatory footnotes with which he sprinkles Augustine's texts are also very helpful. I would recommend his translation before all others for a first-time reader of the Confessions.

This translation by Henry Chadwick is one of the standard editions of the book available. Chadwick, a noted scholar of early Christianity, provides a good introduction that gives synopses of the books as well as background and contextual information. This is a book that will be of interest to novice readers of Augustine as well as scholars, to students, clergy and laypersons, and anyone else who might have an historical, literary, philosophical, theological or other interest in Augustine - something for everyone, perhaps?

There are many of these translations around but the best so far, in my opinion, is Henry Chadwicks. This translation speaks to the comtemporary reader in a way that is unpretentious and readable.

 

BOULDING NOTES:

Besides the Sheed translation, I’ve heard great things about Maria Boulding’s translation. Elizabeth Scalia raved about the book and the blogger Fr. Z described it as “[t]he best translation for most people.” Rowan Williams, the former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, claimed, “[Boulding] has perfected an elegant and flowing style.” If you’re interested in Boulding’s translation, get the Ignatius Press Critical Edition which pairs Boulding’s text with extensive notes and commentary by top Augustine scholars.

I absolutely LOVE Maria Boulding’s translation (didn’t know she was a “dame”) — I literally could not put it down. I didn’t know there was a book like htat anywhere. I can read a little Latin and I do think she captures the pell-mell pace of Augustine. If there is an affordable Latin edition anywhere I would love to buy it. I printed some off the internet o try to read the original (the only time I’ve ever done that with a Latin book, but I really wanted to read what he actually wrote), but the thought of reading the whole thing online is insupportable. I didn’t know there was an Ignatius Critical Edition of it!

Boulding achieves a degree of effortlessness in her prose not achieved by most. She has some occasional "padding", but usually to good effect. Not as literal as some, her choices on reflection tend to make sense.

I spent my lunch hour comparing passages from Sheed, Chadwick, and Boulding. So many differences! Sheed is definitely the most poetic of the three, managing to sound elevated without being too clunky. Boulding stood out as the most contemporary or colloquial - more like a memoir you might find written today rather than something ancient. I had to admit though that at times the Chadwick seemed to have much more force. In regards to Augustine's mistress, others wrote "lived with" and "carnal pleasure", but Chadwick wrote "slept with" and "erotic indulgence". It has more punch. – Matt J.

Boulding is quite good. The New City Press edition is superb for scholarly work. It is, however, more bulky and expensive.

A translation I don't like as much is Maria Boulding's ( The Confessions , 0375700218, p. 200). Boulding uses the word "for" not "of" -- "for my inmost self"-- although "inmost self" is an excellent alternative to "inner man" and is more generic for those who have trouble reading the general sense of the word man (human). However the preposition "for" has connotations that are quite different than "of" has, as does Sheed's use of "in" rather than "of". It is these small syntax differences that can change the whole meaning of an entire phrase or sentence.

PHILIP BURTON NOTES:

This translation of The Confessions by Philip Burton is quite wonderful. It's different in style than Albert Outler's or Philip Schaff's - whose works I'd characterize as more 'muscular', with a sort of classical quality about them. Burton opts for a more flowing, modern style, but surrenders nothing in clarity or beauty. I think if I had to choose among them, I'd go with this translation by Burton - it's that good. I plan on buying  F.J. Sheed's classic translation  and doing a comparison, as I hear that is the best of all.

One of the things I really like is that nearly all of the biblical references are kept in-line with the text (in both KJV and Douay citations for the Psalms, which differ by chapter and verse), resorting only to footnotes for citing other works or for background explanation. I also like that the particular lines and phrases used from other sources (most are from the bible, especially the Psalter) are italicized, helping you to appreciate just how wonderfully St. Augustine weaved his meditations in with pieces of related verses - really an outstanding literary and Spiritual achievement. The entire work reads like one long, beautiful prayer. Sublime.

This edition has a very helpful chronology of St. Augustine's life at the beginning of the book, with his milestones juxtaposed to that of his contemporaries, and of landmarks in the history of the Empire. This volume is attractive and well-constructed, and comes with a ribbon marker.

However...

I do have one major gripe with this edition. The introduction by Robin Lane Fox is absolutely appalling. I lost count of the asinine statements after the first 3 pages.

Some examples:

"Why did they ever think so [about becoming celibate]? They fastened on bits of the Gospels... and on a misunderstanding of Paul's cautious advice in 1 Corinthians 7."

'Fasten on bits of the Gospels' sounds an awful lot like 'cling to their guns and their religion.' Why is this opinion, packaged as agreed-on historical fact, in an introduction to a Catholic work? Jesus and many of his disciples were celibate - what's the problem? As for misunderstanding Paul, here's what he actually said:

"But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they so continue, even as I." (1 Corinthians 7:8)

"Now, concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord: but I give counsel, as having obtained mercy of the Lord, to be faithful. I think therefore that this is good for the present necessity: that it is good for a man so to be." (1 Corinthians 7:25-26)

Of St. Augustine's decision to become celibate, Fox writes: "We might wonder more simply whether [he made his vow of chastity based on] the second concubina... [being] drearier in bed." How anyone can read Augustine's account of his conversion in Book 8 and wonder as Fox does, is befuddling, especially coming from an Oxford historian. Fox should have some evidence for suggesting that St. Augustine's Confession is less than sincere. Whatever this is, it is not scholarship; or, more rightly, it is too much like modern scholarship.

Lastly, Fox writes, "The important facts are that he [Augustine] was not alone in making this leap [to celibacy] and that it was completely unnecessary selfishness." Again, Fox is able to read beyond what St. Augustine writes, and gaze 1600 years back into the soul of the great saint and ascertain his *true* motives. What a joke. This is what passes for scholarship these days. The assault on all things Catholic and all things virtuous continues in the ivory towers.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1196373.Language_in_the_Confessions_of_Augustine

When I first sat down to begin Book One of The Confessions, I was prepared for a war. I figured if I could get through five or ten pages, I’d be doing well. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how readable and compelling this spiritual autobiography is. The work is divided into thirteen separate “books”, and it’s no problem to lose yourself in one book per sitting—even if you’re not trained in history or theology. I’m sure much of this is due to Philip Burton’s fine translation.

Speaking of the translator, he did the reader a favour by setting all scriptural quotations in italics. Augustine was pickled in scripture—especially the Psalms. He can’t praise God without the Psalmist’s phrases springing to his pen. While with some this style could seem cumbersome (little more than parachuting in proof-texts), it’s endearing with Augustine. There’s no wonder why his name is prefixed with Saint.

Augustine’s heart was tender. When he sinned, he grieved over it. Not just so-called big sins, either. In one section he delves into his motives for steeling some fruit he didn’t even need from a neighbour’s tree. It’s encouraging to read someone who takes their spiritual life so seriously, and who admits their faults so freely. (Where else on the spiritual best-seller list can you find a chapter entitled, “Farewell My Concubine”?)

I have to admit that I was frustrated by the last three chapters. They were a reminder that ancient writers don’t follow the same conventions that we moderns do. After ten books of beautiful and gripping autobiography he spent the last three explaining his philosophical and allegorical understanding of Genesis 1. I know his break with Manichean philosophy runs through both biography and commentary but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating to read. Even so, endure the last three books. There are still gems to be found.

With a work so classic as The Confessions, you can find any number of editions. I choose the cloth-bound Everyman’s Edition from Knopf, published in 2001. The binding is solid and the typesetting is elegant. More importantly, the translator was clear and authentic and Robin Lane Fox’s substantial introduction helped to put the entire work into perspective.

I love this one. The language is elegant, poetic, but not so dense that it's inaccessible.

GARRY WILLS NOTES:

SAMPLE https://nds.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Saint-Augustine-Confessions.pdf

https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/99/07/25/reviews/990725.25noon1.html

St. Augustine's Childhood
St. Augustine's Memory
St. Augustine's Sin
St. Augustine's Conversion
Augustine's Confessions (Critical Essays)
Saint Augustine: A Life
Augustine's Confessions: A Biography
Font of Life: Ambrose, Augustine, and the Mystery of Baptism

Garry Wills is an exceptionally gifted translator and one of our best writers on religion today. His bestselling translations of individual chapters of Saint Augustine’s Confessions have received widespread and glowing reviews. Now for the first time, Wills’s translation of the entire work is being published as a Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition. Removed by time and place but not by spiritual relevance, Augustine’s Confessions continues to influence contemporary religion, language, and thought. Reading with fresh, keen eyes, Wills brings his superb gifts of analysis and insight to this ambitious translation of the entire book.

Wills's translations are very readable, though they occasionally lose the poetic beauty of earlier versions.


The traditional title for St. Augustine's classic devotional work The Confessions can be misleading. Because it is a transliteration, not a translation, of the Latin title, it encourages readers to think of the work as an autobiography, when in fact it is a prayer. Saint Augustine's Childhood, Garry Wills's translation of the first book of the Confessiones renders the work in fresh language, corrects scores of misinterpretations, and explains the prayerful nature of the book's structure, style, imagery, and rhetoric. The text describes infancy and the period during which children learn to talk, seamlessly incorporating scriptural allusions that have pockmarked previous translations. The concise notes and commentary, and a crucial appendix, bring Augustine's ideas about language acquisition into dialogue with more contemporary theories, such as Noam Chomsky's. Like Wills's short biography of Augustine for the Penguin Lives series, this project is masterfully rendered, and will be appreciated equally by scholars, students, and the general reader. Wills's sophistication is leavened by an appealing lightness. He describes one Latin term as "a nice frog-croak of a word"; a period of Augustine's adolescence is "a year of mild hell-raising"; and, paraphrasing Chesterton, Wills memorably suggests that "original sin becomes easier to understand at the moment when, on a long summer's afternoon, bored children begin to torture the cat." --Michael Joseph Gross
From Library Journal
Biographer and intellectual Wills is far from the first to have been snared by St. Augustine's complexity of mind and the tremendous rhythms of his prose. This short volume is simultaneously a successor to Wills's short biography of Augustine for Penguin and the first in a series of annotated translations from Augustine's Confessions. Wills's able translation does not disguise Augustine's breathtaking writing, and his commentary rightly brings Augustine into the company of Wittgenstein and Chomsky. This translation is highly recommended for most libraries.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.


In this second volume of The Confessions ("Confessiones") of St. Augustine, the author of Papal Sin continues his work of translating one of Christianity's great classics. Augustine of Hippo, whose conversion is often credited to the prayers of his saintly mother, Monica, wrote The Confessions at mid-life in the form of a conversation with God. Memory includes Book 10, which Wills considers a key to the work's other 12 books in that it links Augustine's accounts of his life before and after his baptism in 387 A.D. He also has added Book 11, in which Augustine reflects on time. Wills's translations are very readable, though they occasionally lose the poetic beauty of earlier versions. For example, Augustine's famous lament, rendered in Sheed's 1943 familiar translation as "Late have I loved Thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new; late have I loved Thee!" emerges in Wills's work as "Slow was I, Lord, too slow in loving you. To you, earliest and latest beauty, I was slow in love." Also, in Augustine's meditation on the flesh's urges, Wills uses "alcoholism" to describe what others have translated as "drunkenness," a debatable point since even those who do not suffer from the disease of alcoholism can be guilty of excessive drinking. Because such revisions breathe new life into the Confessions, Wills's work may attract additional readers to Augustine. Purists, however, will prefer Sheed's and others' more classic translations to this contemporary update.

Beware of misleading subtitles. This isn't the second book of Confessiones; it is Garry Wills' second book, after Saint Augustine's Childhood (2001), on that classic. What is translated is the pivotal tenth book, in which Augustine turns from self-examination and prepares for the final three chapters on the members of the Trinity, and, sans Wills' further commentary, the eleventh book. The primary concern of the tenth book is memory, which Augustine considers the essential tool of human knowledge. Out of the contents of memory, one constructs knowledge, not merely of one's own existence but of the existence of things not immediately present. Memory serves to guide one to good conduct, bind one in community with others, and lead one to God. Indeed, God the Father is the goal of Augustine's understanding in the eleventh book, and Augustine's means for grasping the nature of God is a dissection of time, which proves as ineffable as the Father, but no less real. Let us hope this isn't the last volume of Wills on Augustine. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


Garry Wills--Latin scholar, liberal Catholic apologist, historian, award-winning Augustine biographer, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author--is certainly one of the best qualified translators in America to render Saint Augustine's Confessiones for modern readers. With Saint Augustine's Sin Wills offers the third and perhaps most crucial volume of the translation (following Saint Augustine's Childhood and Saint Augustine's Memory), and, with a small exception, his text remains lively, erudite, and contemporary while preserving the rhetorical games of the original.
As in the earlier volumes, the supporting apparatus for the translation--almost two thirds of the slim book--allows Wills to open the literary and theological complexity of Augustine to new readers. In the introduction he declares that Augustine's titular sin is not sexual (as is often assumed), but, rather, is a gratuitous sin--a theft of pears committed with a group of young delinquents--akin to Adam?s sin of "compulsion to solidarity" with Eve. Wills buttresses his contention in the Appendix, "Augustine?s Theology of Sin." Here, he cites Augustine's City of God at length to demonstrate the parallel language used in the narration of the fall.

Wills' other major goal in this translation, beyond positioning the work in its proper contexts, is to preserve Augustine?s Latin "rhetorical pyrotechnics." In doing so, he embraces word play and conjures Augustine?s Latin imagery into English equivalents. At one point, his decision to mirror Augustine's use of a rare Latin verb leads to the opaque phrase, "I boldly foisoned into ramifying and umbrageous loves." But after this intended, intrusive lapse in clarity, the language of the pear theft itself melds perfectly Augustine's philosophical and theological anguish. Wills' scholarly notes taken together with his rousing, vital translation insure that Augustine will be enjoyed by contemporary readers afresh both for his gifts as a writer and for the passion of his spirituality. --Patrick O'Kelley

From Publishers Weekly
In his third volume of translations from "Saint Augustine's Confessions," Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Wills again questions whether this document is really about sexual debauchery. It has long been believed that these "Confessions," written in mid-life by Augustine of Hippo, were really coded admissions of Augustine's sexual excesses. ("Augustine + sin = sex," writes Wills. "That is the equation most people begin with when they first think of Augustine's Testimony.") This grates on Wills, who believes that such a superficial assumption makes it impossible to understand Augustine's deeper concerns about sinning, such as why we willfully turn against God. Yes, Augustine did have a mistress and yes, they did conceive and raise a son together out of wedlock-but this was all within the boundaries of social norms in his era (354-430). In fact, Wills says Augustine wasn't highly concerned by his sexual transgressions, since he considered sins of the flesh less disturbing than sins of the spirit. What really haunted Augustine was the time he joined some hooligans in stealing pears from an orchard-an impulsive but willful act against God. Although many historians assume this to be a cryptic account of sexual corruption, Wills believes it to be one of Augustine's most profound discussions of intentional sin. Wills's introduction takes up almost a third of this slender volume, but it's just as strong as his translation. He admires Augustine's fiery language and has done his best to make the saint's words accessible while maintaining their original depth and vibrancy.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

3.0 out of 5 stars Augustine is right. We can only dig the hole deeper; Grace alone avails.
Reviewed in the United States on August 14, 2016
The title of Will's book is "St Augustine's Sin" and the approach is that of a Latin translator and scholar. Wills is impressive as a scholar but not as a deep thinker. He's claiming to right public misconceptions that Augustine's sin is sexual, yet Will's understanding and analysis is superficial and not convincing.

No, Augustine's sin is not in taking some pears -- gratuitously -- as a boy; If we believe that we can believe anything. Perhaps in the number of references to sexual hank-panky, as moderns think of it, Augustine is "pure" as Wills at one point says. Nevertheless...come on!

Read not just to learn what Augustine tells as his sin but more importantly (or the project is meaningless) read to deeply understand what sin is, the subtly, the difficulty of naming and seeing one's own sin. Are we worshiping Augustine or are we taking on Augustine's key topic? Know that Wills fails to take on the topic of sin and this book can be useful in beginning the discussion.

1. Augustine often throughout his works uses the type of language and images that seem to refer to lasciviousness and licentiousness without spelling it out as sexual. Sexuality was central in Augustine. Regardless of the number of times he "did it" or the number of women involved, this was Augustine's sin -- if no one else's. Wills seems to take a very childish, legalistic, superficial view of Augustine's problem.

2. Augustine had been a Manichean and they tended to either reject all sex or indulge in it as unimportant, which sounds exactly like what Augustine did during his life; he chose one or the other way but could not seem to find peace in moderation.

3. His major life decisions hinged on or were integral with his decisions about his sexual relations. His relation with his Mother and her domination about getting ahead in the society and his failure to find or choose his own marriage with a women for life is a real failure that Augustine never faces as sin directly, but rather only indirectly, as sex.

4. Wills argues that the morals of that day explain and excuse Augustine's treatment and behavior toward his common law wife. Again we are encouraging mindless hagiography when the topic should be Augustine's: What is my sin, Oh Lord? Augustine cannot see his own sin as he should. We as readers, weather in a different age or not, close are eyes at our own peril, and so fail to read Augustine deeply or begin to understand sin.

5. Woman your name is Sin. Or is it Sex? Augustine never allows us to know this woman he lived with for over a decade, by name or as anything separate from his needs, his desires, his goals, his struggle, his sin. Though he has feelings for here, she is not allowed to have significance as a human being. What does she think; what does she feel? She is put in a monastery when Augustine has determined to advance his career and life prospects by marrying a wealthy child…

Augustine cloaks -- whether consciously or not -- his troubling common law marriage and the relationships he seeks afterwards under the rubric of sex. Playing at life might better have described his condition. Wills mindlessly participates in the cloaking: suddenly sex is only good and godly if done directly for purposes of procreation -- the only reason Eve was a woman and not a man -- since a man would have made a better companion for Adam, according to Augustine.

Obvious failures to love but also legalisms go unnoticed by Wills. Baptism is held off so that it can wash away all sins at the very end. (The connection to sexuality holds here too.) Just a weird quirk of the age, nothing self-serving or unworthy of God in that, any more than Augustine's treatment of marriage or women. Wills still fails to see the forest.

With his failing to recognize the nature of his sin, marriage is nothing but a temptation to Augustine. This failure is salient in Augustine's commentary on Genesis in "The City of God" -- yet goes unnoticed by Wills. Despite the fact that the fall makes pointing fingers obviously ineffective, Augustine goes into great detail distinguishing Eve's sin from Adam's. The reader is left imagining (for the first time) what a wonderful world it would be if Adam had only held fast against Eve! And, reflective of his own problem, Augustine makes Adam's sin that of going along with Eve out of a wrongful "compulsion to solidarity." This was Adam's sin! One has to smile. Was he reversing and championing here his own "brave" behavior in breaking off with his common law wife for the sake of his future work and status?

There are numerous ironies in "The Testimony"(as Wills calls it) and Augustine's life that are sensitively revealed in Peter Brown's definitive biography -- which I highly recommend as background to studying what Augustine wrote.

    Chad Oberholtzer
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I had wanted...
Reviewed in the United States on September 13, 2008
I am a seminary student and enjoy church history, but one of my personal deficiencies is that I've never read anything by Augustine. So, when I stumbled upon this relatively short book, I was hoping for an entry-point into the writing of this great saint. I was somewhat disappointed.

The book consists of several sections, which bounce back and forth (somewhat abruptly) from various passages of Augustine's writings about sin and Wills' commentary on those passages. Maybe I'm just being obtuse, but I found the continuity from one section to the next to be seriously lacking. In some ways, the book felt like several booklets just lumped together, rather than a cohesive whole. I also found that Wills seemed to be writing to a readership with more familiarity with Augustine than I have. That's not his fault but simply provided another disconnect for me, as I often felt insufficiently informed to really understand a particular point that Wills was trying to point. My final critique is that Wills seemed to be pulling Augustine's writing from a multitude of sources, which made the entire reading experience feel rather schizophrenic.

All is certainly not lost, though. Wills' translation of Augustine's writing was lively and engaging (though I certainly can't attest to its accuracy). I appreciated the opportunity to get a taste for Augustine without having to tackle one of his main works like "City of God" in its entirety, a seemingly overwhelming task for an Augustine novice like myself.

Ultimately, I'm unclear about the intended audience for this book. It's not weighty enough to be an academic work, but it seemed too disjointed and dense to work on a more popular level. I'm glad to have finally experienced something of Augustine but do not feel like this book got me very far. Speaking from experience, I would not recommend this book to others just trying to enter the world of Saint Augustine. It is probably most appropriate for those already familiar with his work and interested in a richer understanding of his perspective on sin.

    Jason A. Beyer
5.0 out of 5 stars A real gem!
Reviewed in the United States on December 10, 2003
I want to start this review by thanking Garry Wills for giving us this real gem of a book. I found it in the new books section of my local library, and, intrigued (Augustine's *Confessions* being one of the few books I've enjoyed enough to read more than once), I brought it home with me. I returned it the next day, having devoured it in the meantime.
It is a rare gift to be able to take a work over 1600 years old and make it fresh and new again, but it is clearly a gift Wills possesses in spades. I can say with complete honesty that this small book has changed the way I think about this seminal figure and has re-ignited my interest in his works.
*Saint Augustine's Sin* is divided into four parts. The first part is Wills' summary of Augustine's view of sin, with a focus on Augustine's key example: his theft of pears as a young hooligan. Wills expertly re-weaves Augustine's analysis to drive home just why such an outwardly ordinary act becomes in Augustine's mind representative of sin in general.
The second part consists of a translation of the relevant material from the *Confessions*. Wills' translation captures the wordplay and rhetorical flourish of Augustine so well, one may easily fall prey to thinking that Augustine really wrote it in English. Wills also includes on facing pages Biblical passages and other quotes alluded to in Augustine's rich writing.
The third and fourth parts consist of Wills' commentary on the text and not-so-supplementary material from Augustine's other writings.
*Saint Augustine's Sin* is short, but what it succeeds in doing in such a short space is phenomenal. No one will put down this book unrewarded.


After the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who became the apostle Paul, on the road to Damascus, the most famous Christian conversion is, Wills says, Augustine's in a fourth-century Milanese garden. Moreover, Wills contends, Augustine's conversion as recounted in the eighth book of Confessiones--which Wills calls, to expunge any suggestion of criminality and better indicate its tone, The Testimony--derives from Luke's account of Saul's experience in Acts (like Saul, Augustine heard a directive voice) and incidents and emblems in Genesis and the Gospels (the garden of Augustine echoes Eden and Gethsemane; the fig tree at which Augustine casts himself down echoes the blasted fig tree cursed by Jesus in Matthew 21). In his introduction and commentary, Wills clarifies context and cons the famous text more thoroughly than any literary critic would nowadays, and his translation of it--the fourth, and final, of the extracts from ^Confessiones he has published yearly since 2001--successfully communicates the immense literary skill Augustine commanded. If only more of Wills' Augustine were forthcoming! Ray Olson


https://www.catholicregister.org/features/arts/item/5745-rediscovering-augustine%E2%80%99s-confessions
https://www.amazon.com/Augustines-Confessions-Biography-Lives-Religious/dp/0691143579
In this brief and incisive book, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Garry Wills tells the story of the Confessions--what motivated Augustine to dictate it, how it asks to be read, and the many ways it has been misread in the one-and-a-half millennia since it was composed. Following Wills's biography of Augustine and his translation of the Confessions, this is an unparalleled introduction to one of the most important books in the Christian and Western traditions.

Understandably fascinated by the story of Augustine's life, modern readers have largely succumbed to the temptation to read the Confessions as autobiography. But, Wills argues, this is a mistake. The book is not autobiography but rather a long prayer, suffused with the language of Scripture and addressed to God, not man. Augustine tells the story of his life not for its own significance but in order to discern how, as a drama of sin and salvation leading to God, it fits into sacred history. "We have to read Augustine as we do Dante," Wills writes, "alert to rich layer upon layer of Scriptural and theological symbolism." Wills also addresses the long afterlife of the book, from controversy in its own time and relative neglect during the Middle Ages to a renewed prominence beginning in the fourteenth century and persisting to today, when the Confessions has become an object of interest not just for Christians but also historians, philosophers, psychiatrists, and literary critics.

With unmatched clarity and skill, Wills strips away the centuries of misunderstanding that have accumulated around Augustine's spiritual classic.

RUDEN NOTES:

I’ve just finished the newest translation from Sarah Ruden, a renowned translator of ancient books who chose to devote her skills to this world-changing text.

Emphasizing the literary nature of Augustine’s work removes Ruden from the “literal” to “dynamic” spectrum of translation philosophy often applied to Bibles. Ruden’s work cannot be classified as “giving us Augustine’s Latin word for word”; nor can it be described as “making Augustine easy-to-understand in contemporary English.” Ruden’s aim lies elsewhere. She wants us to feel the literary power of Augustine’s rhetorical skills.

“My main justification for this new translation, after several learned and serviceable ones have become established, is the previously hidden degree to which Augustine makes his life and ideas vivid in the style of his Latin. In Augustine, the manner of presentation is especially compelling, because of his stress on beauty and joy on the one hand, and intellectual helplessness on the other.” (xxiii)

Confessions traces Augustine’s journey from pride to humility, and so we watch him renounce his boasting of rhetorical skill in a way that is rhetorically powerful! Ruden gets the paradox at the heart of Augustine’s story:

“[Augustine’s] purpose is always to show human worthlessness extravagantly blessed with gifts from God . . . and appalling human sinfulness showered with God’s grace, which if accepted leads to blissful eternal life. It’s necessary, in this schema, for the author to denigrate his own expressive genius even as he parades it, and he makes this reversal many times with considerable wit and charm.” (xx)

I started reading this translation of Confessions impressed with Ruden. After a few pages, I was impressed with Augustine. By the end of the book, I wasn’t even thinking about Ruden anymore, which is what you hope will be the result of reading a fine translation. For the rest of this review, I will offer a generous sprinkling of quotes from this new translation of Confessionswith the hopes that you will “pick up and read” this classic.

WILLIAMS NOTES:

"The best overall translation of Augustine's Confessions to date. . . . Williams captures the immediacy of Augustine's prayer, the playfulness of his language, and (without striving too hard) the properly elevated poetry of the text. As priest and philosopher and an Anglican with a good sense of English, Williams understands Augustine from the inside. For the foreseeable future, this will be my go-to translation for the Confessions."
     —Jared Ortiz, Hope College, in Catholic World Report

"Williams’s masterful translation satisfies (at last!) a long-standing need. There are lots of good translations of Augustine’s great work, but until now we have been forced to choose between those that strive to replicate in English something of the majesty and beauty of Augustine’s Latin style and those that opt instead to convey the careful precision of his philosophical terminology and argumentation. Finally, Williams has succeeded in capturing both sides of Augustine’s mind in a richly evocative, impeccably reliable, elegantly readable presentation of one of the most impressive achievements in Western thought—Augustine’s Confessions."
     —Scott MacDonald, Professor of Philosophy and Norma K. Regan Professor in Christian Studies, Cornell University

"It might be wondered why we need yet another translation of Augustine's Confessions, when so many fine and mellifluous ones already exist. But Thomas Williams supplies a compelling answer in his Introduction to this volume: nowhere else will the philosopher reading Augustine find complete consistency in the translation of key words in Augustine's armoury, vital for understanding his distinctive views about the self and God; and nowhere else is the reader guided so accurately to Augustine's biblical sources, yet with full clarification of the creative freedom with which he uses them.     
     "This is a masterly achievement, and will from now on be my own favoured translation for teaching and philosophical reflection."
     —Sarah Coakley, University of Cambridge and Australian Catholic University, Melbourne

"A major new translation of what is no doubt Augustine’s best known and most influential work. There are many good translations of the Confessions, but this is the first one to be carefully sensitive to the philosophical nuances of Augustine’s text. The careful yet readable translation is accompanied by an informative and thoughtful Introduction, ample notes, and appendices."
     —Paul Vincent Spade, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Indiana University, Bloomington

". . . A model of the translator’s art. Williams’s Confessions, accurate to the nuance, is as perfect a mirror of Augustine’s Latin text as the English language will allow."
     —Stanley Lombardo, Professor Emeritus of Classics, University of Kansas

"The best translators of Augustine's Confessions are not rivals of one another, but comrades and co-conspirators. They have a worthy friend in Thomas Williams, whose frank, graceful, wise, thoughtfully annotated English rendering is a brand new revelation of the power and beauty of Augustine's scripturally infused philosophical prose.”
     —Carol Zaleski, Professor of World Religions, Smith College

"Williams is the one I’d hand to an Augustine newcomer. In both its lyrical prose and its excellent, spiritually rich apparatus you can feel Williams's teaching experience. . . . [A] surprisingly necessary new Confessions."
     —Eve Tushnet, in The University Bookman

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