Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Saint Augustine and the Spread of Christianity

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Saint Augustine and the Spread of Christianity

Article excerpt


Intellectuals of Saint Augustine's time recognized his educational accomplishments in Numidia and in Carthage as exceptional. He philosophically cultivated unambiguous perspectives based on spiritual ideologies primarily emanating from ancient Kemet (Egypt) (ben-jochannan, 1991). As part of his intellectual development, Saint Augustine mastered the concepts of Neo-Platonism, a philosophical perspective credited to Egyptian-born intellectual, Plotinus, who shared Augustine's African roots although Plotinus was of Greek ancestry. Neo-Platonists believed God initially created a person's soul, which Plato defined as cognition, emotion, conation, and motivation that always has existed and is imperishable (Burns & Ralph, 1969). As part of the human maturation process, matter (the body) integrates with the soul. To complete the developmental progression of life, each person's goal is to return to the original form, which is the divine state (Perry, 2001).

Along with Neo-Platonism, Augustine valued and taught the principles of Manichaeism. The framework of Manichaeism consists of on-going struggles between opposites, the greatest of which is the interrelationship between good and evil (Burns & Ralph, 1969). However, Manichaeism and Neo-Platonism are similar to the teachings of the ancient Egyptian (Kemet) priests. They instructed students about the ability to maintain physical and spiritual balance in a world of interrelated opposites. Furthermore, Egyptian priests taught their students about the attainment of everlasting life, which is contingent upon the development of inner divinity (James, 1980).

In addition to his intellectual progression, this study examines Saint Augustine's social experiences and family influences in the context of his cultural and spiritual development. To dispute physical representations of Saint Augustine as a European theologian, an investigation of his self-reflective study, The Confessions of Saint Augustine as translated by notable linguist Outler (2002), reveals that Saint Augustine describes himself as an indigenous African. Although Saint Augustine identifies himself as an African, artists of the European Renaissance (1400-1600) and the Early Modern period (1500-1800) exhibited him as a confident, strong-minded European intellectual. They depicted Saint Augustine in this manner without any evidence or original pictures of him from the Greco-Roman period (30 BCE-476 CE).

Furthermore, in his autobiographical analysis (Outlet, 2002), as part of a discussion Saint Augustine has with his associate Simplicianus, they generate a strong inference specifically about the roots and evolution of Christianity in Africa before it spread to Europe. As Saint Augustine travelled to different parts of the world, he discovered that Romans practiced traditional Egyptian spiritual beliefs. When Saint Augustine's mother, Monica, was a devout Christian in North Africa, Romans worshipped the Egyptian God Osiris and the Goddess Isis. The worship of Osiris and Isis was an integral part of Mediterranean European culture. However, as Christianity spread to Europe, religious leaders struggled with their concept and application of monotheism and polytheism. Although Saint Augustine's mother taught him to believe in one God, his African cultural influences and intellectual persuasion enabled him to navigate through the contrasting concepts.

Physical Descriptions of Saint Augustine

Although born in Africa, traditional portraits of Saint Augustine depict him as a person with European physical characteristics. Historians often recognize two distinguished painters, Sandro Botticelli (15th century) and Philippe de Champaigne (17th century), for their artistic interpretations of Saint Augustine as a European intellectual. It is reasonable to consider that Botticelli and Champaigne did not have knowledge of Augustine's physical appearance. Neither original pictures nor literary observations about his portraits were in existence during the European Renaissance and the Early Modern period. …

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