Sacred Violence: African Christians and Sectarian Hatred in the Age of Augustine

By Teske, Roland J. | Theological Studies, December 2012 | Go to article overview

Sacred Violence: African Christians and Sectarian Hatred in the Age of Augustine


Teske, Roland J., Theological Studies


SACRED VIOLENCE: AFRICAN CHRISTIANS AND SECTARIAN HATRED IN THE AGE OF AUGUSTINE. By Brent D. Shaw. New York: Cambridge University, 2011. Pp. xviii + 910. $65.

The heftiness of this work is as impressive as the quality of the scholarship by which Shaw guides his readers through an amazingly detailed account of violence between the Christian churches of Africa in the Augustinian era, or rather from the beginning of the Donatist dissent from Catholic Christianity until the triumph of the Arian Vandals over the African provinces in the 430s that brought an end to the split.

For people like me, whose knowledge of the Donatist controversy is principally derived from Augustine's writing, S.'s book will be quite enlightening since it places the long controversy within the wider context of violence in Africa and takes a much less one-sided view of the controversy and of various forms of violence, from physical violence against persons or structures to sermons, hymns, and chants used to rouse partisan violence. Particularly enlightening are the discussions of the identity of the circum-cellions, of Augustine's manipulation of the Council of Carthage in 411, and of the involvement of secular forces in the dispute as the result of pressure exerted upon the imperial court by delegations of bishops, with relative ineffectiveness or often with undesirable results. …

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