Though Augustine's earthly existence was confined to the fourth and fifth centuries, his influence cannot be confined to any era, church, region, or subject. Consequently, authors (or editors) wishing to publish books about him generally have to choose between detailing his life or exploring his legacy.

Fortunately for those of us working on this issue, Augustine through the Ages: An Encyclopedia (Eerdmans, 1999), dares to do both—and succeeds. Of course, the endeavor required 900 pages and a host of talented contributors, edited by Allan D. Fitzgerald, O.S.A. (who also edits Villanova University's Augustinian Studies). The encyclopedia's entries cover a wide range of topics, making it a terrific starting place for tracing Augustine's thoughts from their origins to some fascinating conclusions.

Also in the broad, life-and-legacy vein is the Collectanea Augustiniana series (New York: Peter Lang), begun in 1990. The first three volumes focus on Augustine's conversion and baptism, his priestly ordination, and his relationship to Christian mysticism, respectively. The fourth volume, Augustine in Iconography, was particularly useful for this issue, as it gives the history behind famous images of the saint and, in so doing, helps illuminate the details of his life.

Who he was

Obviously, any study of Augustine's life begins with his own Confessions. Next in line is the Life of Augustine written a few years after the saint's death by his longtime friend Possidius. In trying not to duplicate the autobiography, Possidius summarizes Augustine's early life, then gives a more detailed description of his actions and attitudes as a bishop.

Moving closer to the present, Peter Brown's Augustine of Hippo (University of California, 1967) stands ...

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