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E04546: Augustine of Hippo preaches in Latin a sermon on the feast of the birthday (nativitas) of *John the Baptist (S00020). He emphasises that it is the feast of his earthly birth, not his martyrdom, and that the saint celebrated on this day is John the Baptist, not the Evangelist. Sermon 380, preached sometime between 391 and 430, possibly in Hippo Regius (North Africa).

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posted on 2017-12-31, 00:00 authored by robert
Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 380

1. Quietis et parua uox sufficit. Si autem uultis, fratres, quieti audire, nolite habere cor in auribus, sed aures in corde.Hodiernum diem beati Ioannis Baptistae solemnitati illuxisse tradit et credit ecclesia. Oportet autem hoc de ipso die credere, quod sine uarietate totus orbis agnoscit: sed quia Ioannis esse diem nemo dubitat, non Ioannis qui euangelium scripsit, sed Ioannis Baptistae praecursoris Domini, qui tanto magnus apparuit, quanto se humilem praebuit, dicens, cum ipse christus putaretur, non se dignum corrigiam calceamenti soluere ei, quem Dominum agnoscebat, ut amicus esse mereretur. Nonnulli autem putant passionis eius diem hodie celebrari. Sciat prius sanctitas uestra, natiuitatis esse diem, non passionis. Ex lectione quippe euangelica inuenitur eius natiuitas sex mensibus praecedere domini natiuitatem. Et quoniam diem natiuitatis Domini octauo calendarum Ianuariarum die consensus tradit ecclesiae; restat ut hodiernus dies natiuitatis Ioannis intelligatur.

'For people who are keeping still, even a weak voice from the speaker is enough. But if you want to listen in real stillness, brothers, don't have your mind in your ears, but ears in your minds. The Church believes and hands down to us that this day has dawned for celebrating the feast of John the Baptist. We must, of course, believe about this day what the whole world acknowledges without exception. But because nobody doubts that it is John's day, not the John who wrote the Gospel, but John the Baptist, the Lord's forerunner, the man who was revealed to be all the greater, the more lowly he presented himself as being; thus when he was thought to be the Christ, he said that he was not worthy to undo the sandal strap of the one whom he acknowledged as his Lord, in order to gain the right to be his friend. Some people, however, think that what is being celebrated today is his death. The first thing your holiness should understand is that today is the day of his birth, not his death. The gospel reading, indeed, discloses that his birth preceded the birth of the Lord by six months. And since there is general agreement in the Church on the tradition that the Lord's birthday falls on the eighth day before the Kalends of January [= 25 December], it remains that today is to be taken as the birthday of John.'

In what follows the preacher focuses on the relation between John the Baptist and Christ and explains how the latter was preceded by the former and still was pre-existent. This part is a direct polemic with the Arians.

Text: Patrologia Latina 39, 1675. Translation: Hill 1995, 361 (slightly adapted). Summary: Robert Wiśniewski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

John the Baptist : S00020

Saint Name in Source

Ioannes Baptista

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Latin North Africa

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Hippo Regius

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Hippo Regius Carthage Carthago Karthago قرطاج‎ Qarṭāj Mçidfa Carthage

Major author/Major anonymous work

Augustine of Hippo

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


The dating of this sermon is uncertain. It was possibly preached in Hippo, Augustine's episcopal see. The theological argument developed in the following part of the sermon may be a later interpolation, but the opening paragraph quoted in this record seems authentic – it is very close to the remarks that can be found other sermons of Augustine, see: Sermon 287 (E02345); Sermon 292 (E02428); Sermon 293 (E02431).


Text: Migne, J.P., Patrologia Latina 38 (Paris, 1865). Translation: Hill, E., The Works of Saint Augustine. A Translation for the 21st Century, vol. III 10, Sermons 341-400 On Various Subjects (New York: New City Press, 1995).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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