Literature Study GuidesThe ConfessionsBook 5 Sections 1 14 Summary

The Confessions | Study Guide

Saint Augustine

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The Confessions | Book 5, Sections 1–14 (Faustus at Carthage, Augustine to Rome and Milan) | Summary



Book 5 opens with an invocation: "Accept the sacrifice of my confessions, offered to you by the power of this tongue ... you have fashioned ... Bring healing to all my bones ... and let them exclaim, Lord, who is like you?" Augustine continues to praise God and reiterates God's omnipresence. Next, he turns to his 29th year, when he looks forward to meeting the Manichaean bishop Faustus, who is known as a wise man. He has begun to doubt the "long-winded myths" of the Manichaeans and has been reading the works of natural philosophers (scientists) by way of comparison. Augustine has now studied the science of his day, particularly astronomy, which doesn't square with Manichaean ideas about the movement of the planets and similar topics. In retrospect he realizes that Mani knew neither science nor piety but continued to pretend to knowledge he did not possess. When Faustus arrives, he speaks well but is not able to answer Augustine's questions. Instead, Faustus becomes Augustine's pupil, and he reads certain works with him of which he previously had no knowledge.

By this time Augustine is fed up with the students of Carthage, who are unruly and burst into teachers' classrooms and disrupt them. He would like to go to Rome, where students are better behaved. Augustine cannot abruptly leave the Manichaeans, however, since all of his friends and business associates belong to this group. In fact, his Manichaean connections help him get a position in Rome.


Augustine praises God in Sections 1 and 2 to testify to his glory. An important meaning of confession is to put oneself in the proximity of God, through praise, and to inspire others to do so with one's profession and confession. He notes that God sees even the wicked because he "abandon[s] nothing ... [he] has made." Here again he underlines God's omnipresence as well as his infinite mercy.

Augustine has lost faith in the Manichaean project, and when Faustus can give him no good explanation for the many myths that contradict what astronomers know about the movement of heavenly bodies, he is ready to move on. What he is expected to believe "did not correspond to ... rational explanations." While Augustine would never put science above faith, a faith that clearly discounts nature is not something he can live with.

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