Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Mirjam Kudella - WORKSHOP Title: Via est qua imus: Perspectives on Augustine's Christology PAPER Title: Augustine's Polemics against Manichaean Christology: A Question of Demarcation

In the wake of various investigations into Augustine’s Christology undertaken during the last centuries, and following the wide interest in Manichaean Christology (e.g. Rose; Richter; recently Franzmann; BeDuhn) and the questions occasionally raised as to the extent of Manichaeism's influence on Augustine’s theology in general (e.g. Drecoll/Kudella, forthcoming 2011), the task remains now to survey Augustine’s relation to and his polemics against Manichaean Christology in particular. In 1964, Julien Ries came to the conclusion that: “Augustine, a former disciple of Mani, knew the central role of Jesus in the doctrine he battled. If you read his treatises, however, you get the impression that his polemics are rather concentrated on the refutation of the two principles, on the destructive exegesis of the Holy Scriptures, on the false concepts of the soul, sin and the immutability of God […] This problem would be worth an investigation.” Is it true that Manichaean Christology provided Augustine with so few points of genuine conflict that he turned to other matters in his criticism of Manichaean theology? In this regard, I want to ask a twofold question: What are the differences between Manichaean theology and Augustine’s which are advantageous for Augustine’s critiques, and what are the similarities he brushes aside? In my contribution, I will deal with the Christological concepts of Western Manichaeism and compare these concepts with Augustine’s Christology. The differences might be, at least partly, the result of Augustine’s rejection of Manichaeism, both implicit and explicit, conscious and unconscious. On the other hand, certain similarities require examination from a very specific perspective: My question is not to what extent the Jesus-figure(s) of Western Manichaeism overlapped with the Christological concepts of the contemporary majority church in general (Feldmann has argued that young Augustine, who was raised a “Catholic”, did not fundamentally need to change his notion of Christ when he turned towards Manichaeism in search of the nomen Christi). Nor will my focus be on the question of whether the Jesus-figure(s) were actually significant for the function of the Manichaean myth (recently Coyle has called this assertion into question). I will rather concentrate on the specific way in which Augustine displays Manichaean Christology, as he emphasizes the irreconcilable differences and disregards the disturbing parallels.

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