Book Summary


The Confessions is a spiritual autobiography, covering the first 35 years of Augustine's life, with particular emphasis on Augustine's spiritual development and how he accepted Christianity. The Confessions is divided into 13 books. Books 1 through 9 contain Augustine's life story. Book 10 is an exploration of memory. Books 11 through 13 are detailed interpretations of the first chapter of Genesis, which describes the creation of the world.

Book 1: Augustine's infancy and early childhood. He falls ill and is almost baptized; he is sent to school to study Latin literature.

Book 2: Augustine's adolescence. He continues his studies; he becomes sexually mature; he steals pears with a group of friends.

Book 3: Augustine's early adulthood. He goes to Carthage to study; he reads Cicero's Hortensius, which inspires him with a love of wisdom; he encounters Manichaeism and becomes a Manichee.

Book 4: Augustine becomes a teacher of rhetoric; he takes a concubine; his grief at the death of a close friend drives him away from Thagaste.

Book 5: Augustine teaches at Carthage. He meets the Manichee bishop Faustus and is disappointed by Faustus' lack of knowledge; Augustine leaves Carthage for Rome and then Milan, where he hears the sermons of Bishop Ambrose, causing him to reject the teachings of the Manichees.

Book 6: Augustine learns more about Christianity but still cannot fully accept it; Monica arranges his marriage to a Christian girl, forcing him to send his concubine away.

Book 7: Augustine reads books of Platonist philosophy, which deepen his understanding of Christianity and the nature of evil; he finally accepts the truth of Christianity and repudiates Manichaeism.

Book 8: Augustine wavers in making a complete commitment to Christianity; after hearing various stories of conversion, he reaches a moment of spiritual crisis. Hearing a voice say, "Take and read," he picks up the Epistles of St. Paul and reads a passage that convinces him to give up his worldly career and devote himself to God.

Book 9: Augustine resigns his position and withdraws from the world. After his baptism, he sets out for Africa, but is delayed at Ostia, where Monica dies.

Book 10: Examination of memory and the temptations of the senses.

Book 11: Explanation of the first verse of Genesis, in which God begins the creation of the world; discussion of the nature of time and eternity.

Book 12: Explanation of the second verse of Genesis, with emphasis on the Word (Christ); discussion of how scripture may be interpreted.

Book 13: Explanation of the seven days of creation (the remainder of Genesis Chapter 1).