Ambrose of Milan
(339-397 AD)

Ambrose of Milan (from André Thevet)

Ambrose of Milan (from André Thevet)
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Born the son of Aurelius Ambrosius, the imperial viceroy of Gaul,[1] Ambrose followed in his father's footsteps and became governor of Aemilia-Liguria (Northern Italy) in AD 370. He might well have remained in a political career had not dramatic events overtaken him. Ambrose had his official residence in Milan, where he was a catechumen in the church. When the bishop of the city, a pro-Arian named Auxentius died, the election of a new bishop was hotly contested by the Arian and Nicene parties within the church. The contest became so violent that Governor Ambrose was summoned to the church where the election was taking place because of reports of a riot. The story goes on to tell how someone shouted out "Bishop Ambrose!" a cry that was taken up and resulted in his being elected bishop.[2] Being only a catechumen he was hurriedly rushed through the various church orders and was ordained only eight days later, on 7th December 373.[3] Whatever the reasons for his election Ambrose proved his determination to succeed in his new position. His training and particularly his knowledge of Greek[4] set him in good stead. He devoted himself to prayer and to the study of both the Scriptures and pagan literature, rapidly becoming an accomplished preacher and writer.[5] His was able to read the works of the eastern writers in their original language and he made use of Philo, Origen, Athanasius, Didymus the Blind, Cyril of Jerusalem, Basil of Caesarea, Hippolytus of Rome and the Neoplatonist, Plotinus.[6] Ambrose is credited as being chiefly responsible for the final defeat of Arianism within the Western church.[7] Familiarity with Greek also enabled Ambrose to introduce allegorical interpretation to the western church.[8] He was deeply influenced by Philo and Origen, seeing in Scripture three levels of meaning: the literal, the moral and the allegorical, but also making use of typology.[9] His hermeneutic was of great help to Augustine, who refers to Ambrose in his Confessions, in removing his objections to the Old Testament Scriptures.[10]

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[1] F. Homes Dudden, The Life and Times of St. Ambrose, Vol. 1. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1935), 2: "From his palace at Trier he administered a region roughly equivalent to the modern countries of France, Spain, Portugal, part of Germany, and Britain together with the islands of Sardinia, Corsica and Sicily."

[2] The story passed into the folklore of the early church and so may well have been embellished. See W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), 645, n.10 for references.

[3] Frend, Rise, 618; W.G. Rusch, The Later Christian Fathers. (London: Duckworth, 1977), 48.

[4] Which was becoming a rarity for western bishops by this time.

[5] Angelo Di Bernardino, ed. Patrology, Vol. 4. (Westminster, Maryland: Christian Classics, Inc., 1991), 145.

[6] Rusch, 49; Louis J. Swift, "Ambrose," Everett Ferguson, editor, Encylopedia of Early Christianity. (New York: Garland, 1990), 30.

[7] Rusch, 48.

[8] Hans von Campenhausen, The Fathers of the Latin Church, trans. Manfred Hoffman. (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1964), 94; Roland J. Teske, trans. Saint Augustine On Genesis. (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1991), 14-15.

[9] Swift, 30.

[10] Augustine, Confessions, 6.3.3-6.4.6 (NPNF, 1st series, Vol. 1, 91-92). For further details see next chapter.

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Primary Sources

On-line Resource Ambrose (Christian Classic Ethereal Library)
Book or monograph Ambrose, Hexameron, Paradise, Cain and Abel, J.J. Savage, trans. The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 42. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1961. Hbk. 0813200423. pp.449. {}
Book or monograph Ambrose, Letters, 1-91, Fathers of the Church, Vol. 26, trans. Mary Melchior Beyerika. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press. Pbk. ISBN: 0813210917. pp.515. {}
Book or monograph Ambrose, Seven Exegetical Works, Fathers of the Church, Vol. 65, trans. Michael P. McHugh. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press. Hbk. ISBN: 0813200652. pp.447. {}
Book or monograph Ambrose, Theological and Dogmatic Works, Fathers of the Church, Vol. 44, trans. Roy J. Deferrari. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press. Hbk. ISBN: 081320044X. pp.343. {}
Book or monograph St Gregory Nazianzen & St. Ambrose, Funeral Orations, Fathers of the Church, Vol. 22, trans. Leo P. McCauley et al. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press. Hbk. ISBN: 0813200228.
Book or monograph Paulinus, Life of Ambrose, trans. J.A. Lacey, Fathers of the Church, Vol.15. Catholic University of America Press, 1952: pp. 27-66.

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Secondary Sources

Article Mary Charles-Murray, "They Speak to Us across the Centuries. 6. Ambrose," 109.8 Expository Times (1998): 228-231.
Article R.H. Connolly, "Some Disputed Works of St. Ambrose," Downside Review 65 (1947): 7-20.
Article George Demacopoulos, "Problematic Sources: A Survey of Recent Scholarship Concerning Ambrose of Milan and the Defeat of Western Homoianism," Greek Orthodox Theological Review 42.3-4 (1997): 359-373.
Article Michael Gorman, "From Isidore to Claudius of Turin: The Works of Ambrose on Genesis in the Early Middle Ages," Revue des Etudes Augustiniennes 45.1 (1999): 121-138.
Book or monograph Hanson: The Search for the Christian Doctrine of GodR.P.C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy 318-381. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1988. ISBN: 0567094855. pp.954.{}
Article L.J. van der Lof, "The 'Prophet' Abraham in the writings of Irenaeus, Tertullian, Ambrose and Augustine," Augustiniana 44 (1994): 17-29.
On-line Resource St. Ambrose (James F. Loughlin)
Article M.P. McHugh, "Satan and St. Ambrose," Classical Folia 26 (1972): 94-106.
Article M.P. McHugh, "The Demonology of St. Ambrose in the Light of the Tradition," Wiener Studien 12 (1978): 173-96.
Book or monograph McLynn: Ambrose of MilanNeil B. McLynn, Ambrose of Milan: Church and Court in a Christian Capital. Berkeley, California & London: University of California Press, 1994. Hbk. ISBN: 0520084616. pp.430. {}
Book or monograph C. Morino, Church and State in the Teaching of St. Ambrose. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of Press, 1969.
Article M. Poorthuis, "Who Is to Blame: Adam or Eve? A Possible Jewish Source for Ambrose's De Paradiso 12, 56," Vigiliae Christianae 50.2 (1996): 125-135.
Article Kim E. Power, "Ambrose of Milan: Keeper of the Boundaries," Theology Today 53.1 (1998): 15-34.
Book or monograph Hugh M. Riley, Christian Initiation: A Comparative Study of the Interpretation of the Baptismal Liturgy in the Mystagogical Writings of Cyril of Jerusalem, John Chrysostom. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1974. ISBN: 081320531X. {}
Article George E. Saint-Laurent, "St. Ambrose of Milan and the Eastern Fathers," Diakonia 15.1 (1980): 23-31.
Article George E. Saint-Laurent, "Augustine's Hero-Sage-Holy Man: Ambrose of Milan," Word and Spirit 9 (1987): 22-34.
Article L.J. Swift, "Saint Ambrose on Violence and War," Transactions of the American Philological Association 101 (1970): 533-43.
Article L.J. Swift, "Justitia and ius privatum: Ambrose on Private Property," American Journal of Philology 100 (1979): 176-87.
Article L.J. Swift, "Basil and Ambrose on the Six Days of Creation," Augustinianum 21 (1981): 317-28.
Article W.S. Watt, "The Text of Ambrose's De officiis," Journal of Theological Studies 53.1 (2002): 112-118.
Book or monograph Daniel H. Williams, Ambrose and the End of the Arian Nicene Conflicts. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995. Hbk. ISBN: 019826464X. pp.270. {}
Article Michael Winterbottom, "The Text of Ambrose's De Officiis," Journal of Theological Studies 46.2 (1995): 559-566.

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Book or monograph F. Homes Dudden [1874-1955], The Life and Times of St. Ambrose, 2 Vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1935. (Out of print).
On-line Resource Ambrose of Milan: Bishop and Doctor (James E. Kiefer)
Book or monograph A. Paredi, Saint Ambrose: His Life and Times. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1964. ISBN: 0268002398. pp.xii + 481.

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Alexander of Alexandria | Ambrose | Arnobius | Athanasius | Athenagoras | Augustine | Basil | Boethius | John Cassian | Celsus | Clement of Alexandria | Clement of Rome | Constantine | Cyprian | Cyril of Alexandria | Cyril of Jerusalem | Ephraem the Syrian | Epiphanius | Eusebius of Caesarea | Gregory of Nazianzus | Gregory of Nyssa | Gregory Thaumaturgus | Hermas | Hilary of Poitiers | Hippolytus | Ignatius of Antioch | Irenaeus of Lyons | Julius Africanus | Jerome | John Chrysostom | Josephus | Justin Martyr | Justinian I | Lactantius | Marcellus | Melito | Methodius | Minucius Felix | Novatian | Origen | Pachomius | Papias | Philo | Polycarp | Tatian | Tertullian | Theodore of Mopsuestia | Theodoret | Theophilus | Tyconius | Ulfilas | Victorinus | Marius Victorinus

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