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Raised on Christian MilkFood and the Formation of the Soul in Early Christianity$
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John David Penniman

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780300222760

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300222760.001.0001

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Milk Without Growth

Milk Without Growth

Augustine and the Limits of Formation

(p.165) Six Milk Without Growth
Raised on Christian Milk

John David Penniman

Yale University Press

Increasingly suspicious about the efficacy of human wisdom and authority, Augustine of Hippo came to view the possibility of graduating through traditional stages of education as inconsistent with the character of the Christian life he found described in scripture. In this way, he largely abandons the original function of milk, solid food, and the Roman Family as symbols aimed at the transformation of children into their perfect form. The symbolic power of milk for Augustine, like those who came before him, was found within its capacity to transfer familial belonging and a properly formed character. But by the end of his career, the bishop of Hippo had largely emptied milk of its forming power. That is, for Augustine, the nourishment offered within the household of God was milk without growth. This chapter explores the marked process of disillusionment that Augustine’s thinking undergoes and the ways in which this process impacts his understanding of milk, solid food, and the symbolic power of nourishment in the transformation of Christian souls. It concludes by arguing that Augustine came to view milk as, first and foremost, a sign of one’s humility before God and a strategic refusal of the arrogances of intellectual development.

Keywords:   Augustine of Hippo, Roman Family, Roman Empire, Milk, Ancient Education, Manichaeism, Breastfeeding

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