“Love is the hand of the soul”

The grammar of continence in Augustine’s doctrine of Christian love

First presented at the North American Patristics Society. June 1, 1996.  The full version is available in the Journal of Early Christian Studies 6:1 (Spring 1998): 59-92.
  • The Grammar of Grasping
  • The Grammar of Clinging
  • Having by Not Having
  • Conclusion
  • Notes


In recent years scholars have increasingly recognized that Augustine’s close attention to “concupiscence” grew not from a crude preoccupation with sexuality but from a complex analysis of the sources of all human behavior. Peter Brown has called it a shadowy “drive to control, to appropriate, and to turn to one’s private ends, all the good things that had been created by God to be accepted with gratitude and shared with others;” for Augustine, concupiscence “lay at the root of the inescapable misery that afflicted [humanity].”

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