Having assigned this text to a group of students doing a summer course on Augustine, I've also enjoyed reviewing William Harmless' work--a one-volume reader that features compilations of key excerpts from Augustine's writings. The purpose of the book is to provide an single volume introduction to Augustine's works, especially those in Catholic University of America's Fathers of the Church Series. With goals similar to Augustine's Essential Sermons--an introduction to the corpus of Augustine's sermons--Augustine in His Own Words is an accessible yet rich overview of Augustine's life, ministry, and theology.
The work follows the chronology of Augustine's life and the ten chapters provide a helpful framework for Augustine's life as well as the progression of his thought:
2. Augustine the Philosopher
3. Augustine the Bishop
4. Augustine the Preacher
5. Augustine the Exegete
6. Controversies (I): Against the Manichees
7. Controversies (II): Against the Donatists
8. Augustine the Theology: On the Trinity
9. Controversies (III): On the City of God, Against the Pagans
10. Controversies (IV): Against the Pelagians
While one would expect to see chapters devoted to Augustine's philosophy, theology, and polemics and theology amid the Manichean, Donatist, and Pelagian issues, Harmless does a great job of putting all of this writing in the context of his day job--nearly 40 years of pastoral ministry in Hippo. So I particularly enjoyed the chapters on Augustine's work as a bishop, his preaching, and exegesis. Harmless puts each chapter itself in context with a brief introduction. Also, each excerpt begins with a brief paragraph that provides further insight to the reader. By carefully choosing these passages, the editor does a great service to first time readers of Augustine to keep them from getting bogged down. While most of the work is made up of Augustine's own writings, in some places, the works or voices of others (e.g. Jerome, Pelagius) are featured to provide further context for Augustine's thought. I especially appreciated the inclusion of Possidius who authored the Life of Augustine--a work often dismissed as unreliable hagiography by some; yet appreciated by others.
An accomplished scholar, Harmless is also a really good writer and his accessible and engaging style helps the first time reader navigate Augustine. This book would be great reader for a survey of Augustine course as each chapter provides not only a taste of Augustine through excerpted primary sources, but also a rich scholarly bibliography to facilitate research in specific areas.
10/15/2013 04:14:17 am
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