The question I asked here seems to be like a NP-hard problem in that a single example would answer the question with a "yes" but a "no" would require an exhaustive search of all Christian thought (presumably including works no longer extant!). I do not think it is worthy of being closed--it is potentially answerable--, but I suspect the answer may be "no" in which case a referenced answer would not be possible.

I am tempted to suggest that someone provide an answer along the lines of "It appears likely that there was no earlier use" (I need to clarify the question and skim through Confessions to find a reference--as well as probably comment on answers, though mostly through clarifying the question.), so that I could accept an answer (but I am a little hesitant to accept a "probably no").

Anyway, this issue seems more general than just that single question.

My asking this question here was motivated by the question about closing open-ended questions.

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I think it's okay to leave such questions around for such a time as the right expert can address them. A couple of "probably not" answers are fine and helpful as far as they go, but some day it needs somebody to say "No. I've studied the history of thought in this area through time and Augustine is the first."

As such, I'm a little disappointed in the current answers that fill the void in knowledge about the issue you asked about with personal ramblings on a tangential topic. That's not what we should be encouraging.

In any event, I don't see this as one-sided at all. It's just harder to come up with references for one side. That doesn't mean that an expert can't come along and make a definitive statement about it.

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By the way, as far as I know--and generally confirmed by responses--Augustine did not extend the concept of evil not technically existing to suppose that a 'lack of existence' was necessary for God to cause to be a non-self. –  Paul A. Clayton Feb 8 '13 at 6:34
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