The Creatureliness of Time and the Goodness of Narrative in Augustine’s Confessions

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Coppa, CL 

In this essay I will investigate Augustine’s presentation of the relationship between time and eternity in his Confessions. I contend that Augustine understands time in the light of his doctrine of creation ex nihilo. For Augustine, time is a creature, and therefore is characteristically marked by goodness, along with the rest of the created order. As such a creature, time can be said to formally participate in divine eternity. Though such formal participation falls short of resolving the enduring speculative tensions in Augustine’s account of time in Book XI, the participation of time in eternity is performed through Augustine’s narrative itself, which situates his meditation on time. Augustine’s narrative, in both form and content, figures eternity in the temporal splendour of polyphonic and relational love. The image of divine eternity in time is thus disclosed as a thoroughly narratival one. Augustine reforms the Platonic dictum that time is a ‘moving image of eternity’ by revealing that the likeness of time to divine eternity can only be realized through a decentering conversion to the stories and voices of others, which ground his own narrative voice and account. Augustine’s conversion narrative in Books XIII and IX witnesses his turn to the stories of others, in both narrative voice and action. A look at Augustine’s conversion account occupies the final part of the present essay. By configuring his narrative as a conversion to praise, Augustine reconfigures his narrative temporality to divine eternity. He thus activates the liturgical and eschatological dimensions of human temporality.

Journal Title
Studia Patristica: Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Patristic Studies
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Oxford International Conference on Patristic Studies
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Volume Title
24: St Augustine and his Opponents