Confessions Study Guide

Confessions was written partly in response to individuals who had taken an unhealthy and prurient interest in the Bishop of Hippo's early life. His less-than-model youth and young adulthood provided gossip and scandal for the more puritanical Christians of his time, and he felt it necessary to explain (and condemn) some of his early actions for use as a spiritual lesson for himself and his congregation. He also wrote it in search of his own personal grace.

Confessions was written in extremely erudite and polished Latin. Though ostensibly written for all Christians, it was predominantly targeted at well-educated, spiritual Christian men. It appealed not only to Christians on the basis of its orthodoxy of faith, but also to the cultivated for the quality of the language and rhetoric, and the philosophical nature of the content. The book is less an autobiography than it is a testimony, or a story told by a convert of his path to God. It is a confession of Augustine's sins and a confession of his faith in God, but it is also a prayer written within the context of one Christian's life. For many centuries, it has been considered one of the greatest works of Western literature. It is considered unique in form, and in the way it addresses the soul's longing for God. It may be examined not only in a theological way, but also as a work of philosophy or of human psychology. Among Augustine's works, Confessions is the most often read.