Original Research

Augustine on rhythm (or how to do theology in conversation with the arts)

Marthinus J. Havenga
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 44, No 1 | a2693 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v44i1.2693 | © 2023 Marthinus J. Havenga | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 August 2022 | Published: 15 March 2023

About the author(s)

Marthinus J. Havenga, Department of Systematic Theology and Ecclesiology, Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa


This essay reflects theologically on rhythm by turning to the North African church father Augustine, specifically his work De musica. It begins by briefly referring to recent theological work on rhythm, before introducing Augustine and discussing the role music played during and after his conversion to Christianity. This is followed by an exposition of De musica: a work which comprises six books. It is shown how the first five books offer a comprehensive rhythmic theory, which is then followed – in Book 6 – by a theological discussion of the topic. Finally, the essay briefly explores what we can learn from Augustine’s text, not only in terms of rhythm but also about theological engagements with the arts more generally.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: As part of the larger interdisciplinary conversation between theology and the arts, this essay focuses on the theological dimensions and implications of rhythm by turning to what could probably be viewed as one of Christian theology’s first interdisciplinary texts, namely Augustine’s De musica. Interdisciplinarity thus stands at the very heart of the contribution.


rhythm; Augustine; De musica; theology and the arts; theological aesthetics.


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