Augustine and the Prophecy of Plato

Ch. 2 in "Platonism and Christian Thought in Late Antiquity", Edited by Panagiotis G. Pavlos, Lars Fredrik Janby, Eyjólfur Kjalar Emilsson, Torstein Theodor Tollefsen

London: Routledge

This chapter examines Augustine’s polemical agenda in his De consensu evangelistarum 1.35.53 and his De trinitate 4.18.24, passages for which Augustine relies on Cicero’s Latin translation of Plato’s Timaeus 29c3. Hoenig illustrates how, at Cons. ev. 1.35.53, the Timaean passage is used by Augustine for an argumentative strategy against Porphyry’s denial of Christ’s divinity, advanced in the Philosophy from Oracles. In the case of Trin. 4.18.24, on the other hand, it is shown that Augustine’s quotation of Tim. 29c3 appears in the context of a broader polemical programme that is designed to put his Homoian contemporaries on a par with the Neoplatonists by positioning both in opposition to Christian orthodoxy. In both cases, Augustine recruits Plato as a prophet who, at Tim. 29c3, predicted the Christian truth. Overall, it is to be found that Augustine carefully adjusts his use of Plato’s words to the type of criticism he is targeting.


About this book:

Platonism and Christian Thought in Late Antiquity examines the various ways in which Christian intellectuals engaged with Platonism both as a pagan competitor and as a source of philosophical material useful to the Christian faith. The chapters are united in their goal to explore transformations that took place in the reception and interaction process between Platonism and Christianity in this period. The contributions in this volume explore the reception of Platonic material in Christian thought, showing that the transmission of cultural content is always mediated, and ought to be studied as a transformative process by way of selection and interpretation. Some chapters also deal with various aspects of the wider discussion on how Platonic, and Hellenic, philosophy and early Christian thought related to each other, examining the differences and common ground between these traditions. Platonism and Christian Thought in Late Antiquity offers an insightful and broad ranging study on the subject, which will be of interest to students of both philosophy and theology in the Late Antique period, as well as anyone working on the reception and history of Platonic thought, and the development of Christian thought.