Augustine of Hippo (a city in Algeria today) is one of the most outstanding thinkers in the history of the Church. His many writings in Latin continue to influence Christian theology until today.


Augustine was born in Thagaste in North Africa (today in Algeria) in 354 to a mixed family – his father was a pagan, his mother, Monica (herself a devout Christian and later recognized as a saint, her feast being the day before her son's, on August 27), who prayed that her son would know Jesus Christ. While still young, Augustine stood out as a brilliant thinker but he did not know the Christ and lived according to the pagan mores of his times. After reading the biography of Saint Anthony, he opened the New Testament and read some verses from Saint Paul's Letter to the Romans and his life was turned upside down. He received baptism from the hands of Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan. Later, he wrote his life story, titled Confessions, and therein he described the passage from a wordly life to a life of faith.

He devoted his life to writing and among his writings are many important books in the history of Christian theology. His book "City of God" describes the history of salvation and the ascent of Christianity in the Roman Empire. In 391, Augustine was ordained a priest and shortly thereafter he became bishop of Hippo, in North Africa (today in Algeria). He served as bishop there until his death in 430.

In his Confessions, Augustine describes his conversion to Christianity in these terms: "I grasped, opened, and in silence read that paragraph on which my eyes first fell—“Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:13-14). No further would I read, nor did I need; for instantly, as the sentence ended—by a light, as it were, of security infused into my heart—all the gloom of doubt vanished away (Book 8, para. 30).

Note: Jewish Augustine scholar, Paula Fredricksen, lecturer at Boston University and Hebrew University, has recently published an important and revolutionary book on Augustine's teaching about Judaism and Jews. According to her, Augustine formulated a complex discourse about the Jewish people, based upon his reading of the Bible. The book, Augustine and the Jews (Doubleday) was published in 2008. A lecture of Fredricksen (in English) can be viewed on YouTube here.