The Best Translation of St. Augustine’s “Confessions”


In his book Three Philosophies of Life, Dr. Peter Kreeft explains how he rediscovered St. Augustine’s Confessions:

“Only once have I ever encountered a translation that made such a difference, that so opened up for me a previously closed book. That was Frank Sheed’s translation of Augustine’s Confessions, which I found to be as living as molten lava. The most widely used translation of the Confessions is the one by a Mr. Pine-Coffin, and it is worthy of his name. It is a dead translation. Sheed’s is living.”

Poor Mr. Pine-Coffin.

ConfessionsWitty jabs aside, I completely agree with Kreeft. Sheed’s translation captures Augustine’s poetic verve better than any other. I’ve read it twice now. If you’re starting The Confessions for the first time, or perhaps restarting after a failed attempt, check out the Sheed version.

Beyond Sheed, I’ve heard great things about Maria Boulding’s translation. Elizabeth Scalia raved about the book. Likewise, Fr. Z described it as “[t]he best translation for most people.” And Rowan Williams, the former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, claimed, “[Boulding] has perfected an elegant and flowing style.”

If you’re interested in Boulding’s translation, I highly recommend the Ignatius Press Critical Edition which pairs Boulding’s text with extensive notes and commentary by top Augustine scholars.