Chapter

Rebuke, Friendship, and Community

Jennifer V. Ebbeler

in Disciplining Christians

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780195372564
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199932122 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195372564.003.0001

Series: Oxford Studies in Late Antiquity

Rebuke, Friendship, and Community

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This chapter considers the wider literary and philosophical background for the explication of Augustine's practice of corrective epistolary friendship in later chapters. It offers an introduction to Augustine's evolving conception and practice of Christian friendship writ large and considers some of the scriptural and philosophical precedents that may have shaped his outlook. It also contextualizes Augustine's practice of the corrective correspondence vis-à-vis the larger epistolary tradition in order to highlight the innovative features of Augustine's epistolary practice. The first section of the chapter is devoted to a close reading of Augustine's portrait of friendship in the Confessions, a text that was composed c.397. The second section offers a brief overview of the scriptural and philosophical precedents for Augustine's view that correction could and did have a place in friendship. The remainder of the chapter considers the suitability of reproach in the context of a friendship conducted via letter exchange rather than viva voce. Letters of rebuke are well attested in both the Greek and Latin epistolographic traditions. Augustine's particular epistolary innovation lies not in his composition of rebuke letters but rather in his desire to establish an ongoing correspondence in which he manages the correction of his correspondent's error.

Keywords: Augustine; Confessions; Christian friendship; corrective correspondence; epistolary correction

Chapter.  19226 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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