Questioning Christian baptism: insights from Augustine’s correspondence

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    This article explores letters Augustine wrote to or about catechumens (Ep. 258 to Marcianus, Ep. 151 to Caecilianus, Ep. 2* to Firmus and Ep. 227 (probably sent to Alypius). It argues against the indifferent mass stereotyping of catechumens in late antiquity, postponing baptism until death and the idea that catechumens did not represent a pastoral challenge for bishops. (Catechumens might be deeply involved in Christian communities while still preferring to adopt Christianity quite gradually, considering baptism to be the climax rather than the starting point of their religious experience.) The letters convey the sense of an ongoing negotiation on the normative markers of Christian belonging, with catechumens representing a crucial challenge for Augustine as he argued for a more clear-cut definition of belonging, centred around baptism. The article also discusses a new identification, suggesting that Firmus in Ep. 2* and Gabinianus in Ep. 227 are the same individual and thus dating Ep. 227 after Ep.2*, probably to 429.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)452-482
    JournalRevue d'Histoire Ecclesiastique
    Issue number3-4
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


    • catechumenate
    • conversion
    • letters
    • Augustine of Hippo
    • late antiquity
    • late roman Africa
    • baptism


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