Date of Award

Fall 12-2008

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Barnes, Micnel R.

Second Advisor

Carey, Patrick W.

Third Advisor

Dr. Mark E. Johnson


This dissertation studies the schisms ("broken nets" according to Augustine) that bedeviled the North African Church, as well as its moral conditions during the late fourth and early fifth centuries. This study equally shows the rejuvenating nature of the Aurelian/Augustinian councils. These councils sought to regenerate debased and erroneous aspects of North African customs. The sanative nature of the Aurelian/Augustinian councils is not only buttressed from Augustine's Letter 22, but also from the content of the conciliar decrees emanating from the North African councils. These reforms were liturgical, moral, as well as disciplinary in nature. In correcting the African Church customs, Augustine sought to align them with those of the universal church.

The trademark moral rigorism of the African Church that had dire consequences for it is likewise highlighted in this work. Rigorist views were espoused by Tertullian, Cyprian, the Donatists, and even Augustine's Catholic Church. Rigorism is also present in the consuetudo or the African theology that sought exclusion for apostates and also rebaptized former heretics and schismatics. This work adumbrates that nets and broken nets were products of the time. While the Decian persecution of 251 gave rise to the lapsi, (and in extension Novatianism) the Diocletian persecution of 312 produced the traditores, which in turn aided the Donatist schism.

Part two of this work explores the state of the North African Church that Augustine and his cohorts sought through councils to reform. This section also examines the Cyprianic councils and the impact of customs and scriptural interpretations on the controversy in the North African Church.

The result of this dissertation will not only show the rejuvenating nature of the Aurelian and Augustinian councils, but also adds its voice to those among Augustinian scholarship that see a greater need and importance of studying Augustine more from his African environment. This is not in any way an attempt to discountenance the importance of other paradigms that go a long way toward a better understanding of Augustine.



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