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Ambrose of Milan's On the Holy Spirit


Rhetoric, Theology, and Sources


Despite being the first extended defense of the divinity of the Holy Spirit written in Latin and influencing the Trinitarian theology of Augustine of Hippo, Ambrose of Milan’s On the Holy Spirit (De Spiritu Sancto) has received little scholarly attention. This book seeks to change this perspective by claiming that Ambrose defines the Holy Spirit in a way consistent with pro-Nicene theology using classical Ciceronian rhetoric to interpret Scripture in a quasi-judicial situation.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-4632-4074-5
  • *
Publication Status: In Print

Publication Date: Feb 10,2020
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 484
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-4632-4074-5
$158.00
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Despite being the first pro-Nicene defense of the divinity of the Holy Spirit written in Latin and influencing the Trinitarian theology of Augustine of Hippo, Ambrose of Milan’s On the Holy Spirit has received little scholarly attention. Jerome maligned the book as badly written and even plagiarized. Modern scholars have followed in that judgement. This study contradicts this perspective, claiming that Ambrosedefines the Holy Spirit in a way consistent with pro-Nicene theology using classical Ciceronian rhetoric to interpret Scripture in a quasi-judicial situation: Emperor Gratian played the role of judge, Ambrose’s theological opponents served as the prosecution, and Ambrose was the defendant. Instead of merely viewing Ambrose’s On the Holy Spirit through the lens of source-criticism, this study utilizes classical rhetorical theory, especially stasis theory, as a methodology that gives due weight both to the conflict in which Ambrose was embroiled and the bishop’s pro-Nicene theological reasoning. Stasis theory helped the rhetorically educated to generate the relevant arguments for the case before them. After documenting the ecclesiastical-political conflict that occasioned On the Holy Spirit’s composition, this study provides the first comprehensive account of the pneumatology of Ambrose’s opponents, the Latin Homoians. Ambrose’s own intellectual formation is then investigated, revealing his intimate knowledge of rhetoric and his acquaintance with some philosophical doctrines, both of which factored into the genesis of On the Holy Spirit. Rhetorical analysis of the text uncovers Ambrose’s attention to the concerns—theological and political—of his primary audience, the Emperor Gratian. Ambrose used Greek sources, but selected ideas which helped him craft his case. Finally, it is demonstrated that Ambrose used the “definition issue” in stasis theory to understand the Holy Spirit’s identity, interpreting Holy Scripture to discover his differentiaefrom creatures but also his shared propriawith the Father and the Son. A lengthy appendix helps advance our understanding of the extent and character of Ambrose’s borrowing from Greek sources.

Not only does this study provide the first full study of Ambrose’s On the Holy Spirit, but it also suggests that rhetorical theory significantly influenced argumentation in fourth-century Trinitarian controversies, though this has been overlooked in modern scholarship. 

Despite being the first pro-Nicene defense of the divinity of the Holy Spirit written in Latin and influencing the Trinitarian theology of Augustine of Hippo, Ambrose of Milan’s On the Holy Spirit has received little scholarly attention. Jerome maligned the book as badly written and even plagiarized. Modern scholars have followed in that judgement. This study contradicts this perspective, claiming that Ambrosedefines the Holy Spirit in a way consistent with pro-Nicene theology using classical Ciceronian rhetoric to interpret Scripture in a quasi-judicial situation: Emperor Gratian played the role of judge, Ambrose’s theological opponents served as the prosecution, and Ambrose was the defendant. Instead of merely viewing Ambrose’s On the Holy Spirit through the lens of source-criticism, this study utilizes classical rhetorical theory, especially stasis theory, as a methodology that gives due weight both to the conflict in which Ambrose was embroiled and the bishop’s pro-Nicene theological reasoning. Stasis theory helped the rhetorically educated to generate the relevant arguments for the case before them. After documenting the ecclesiastical-political conflict that occasioned On the Holy Spirit’s composition, this study provides the first comprehensive account of the pneumatology of Ambrose’s opponents, the Latin Homoians. Ambrose’s own intellectual formation is then investigated, revealing his intimate knowledge of rhetoric and his acquaintance with some philosophical doctrines, both of which factored into the genesis of On the Holy Spirit. Rhetorical analysis of the text uncovers Ambrose’s attention to the concerns—theological and political—of his primary audience, the Emperor Gratian. Ambrose used Greek sources, but selected ideas which helped him craft his case. Finally, it is demonstrated that Ambrose used the “definition issue” in stasis theory to understand the Holy Spirit’s identity, interpreting Holy Scripture to discover his differentiaefrom creatures but also his shared propriawith the Father and the Son. A lengthy appendix helps advance our understanding of the extent and character of Ambrose’s borrowing from Greek sources.

Not only does this study provide the first full study of Ambrose’s On the Holy Spirit, but it also suggests that rhetorical theory significantly influenced argumentation in fourth-century Trinitarian controversies, though this has been overlooked in modern scholarship. 

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Contributor Biography

Andrew Selby

Andrew M. Selby is Dean of Classical Instruction and teaches humanities and Latin at Trinity Classical Academy in Valencia, CA a school participating in the classical Christian education revival movement. He holds a Ph.D. in Religion from Baylor University. 

Acknowledgments

List of Abbreviations

Chapter One. Introduction

The Challenge of Fourth-Century Pneumatology

The Near Inevitability of Pro-Nicene Arguments for the Spirit’s Divinity

The Son’s and Spirit’s Divinity in Ambrose

Patristic Pneumatology: Literature Review

Jerome, Quellenforschung, and Ambrose’s De Spiritu Sancto

Literature on Ambrose in General

Methodology: Classical Ciceronian Rhetoric

The Task of the Present Study

Chapter Two. The Emperor Gratian’s Role in the Genesis of De Spiritu Sancto, 378–381

A Rhetorical–Judicial Situation

The “Homoians”: Real or a Rhetorical Invention?

The Origin of De Spiritu Sancto, 378–381

The Aftermath of the Battle of Hadrianople

The Letters Exchanged by Ambrose and Gratian and the Request for De Spiritu Sancto

De fide3–5 and the Resolution of the Basilica Sequestration

The Challenges Facing Ambrose in the Composition of DSS

Chapter Three. The Prosecution’s Position: Homoian Pneuma-tology

Summary of Homoian Texts and their Dating

1. Palladius of Ratiaria’s Pneumatology

2. The Pneumatology of Auxentius of Durostorum and Ulfila

3. The Holy Spirit in the “Adversus Orthodoxos et Mace-donianos

4. The Holy Spirit in the Instructio verae fidei

5. The Pneumatology of the “Arian Sermon”

6. Collatio cum Maximino

7. Pneumatology in the De sollemnitatibus sermones

8. The Contra Hereticos

Summary of Homoian Pneumatology

Chapter Three Conclusion

Chapter Four. The Defendant: Ambrose’s Rhetorical, Legal, and Philosophical Formation

Paulinus’ Testimony regarding Ambrose and the liberales disciplinae

Ambrose’s Rhetorical Education

The Late Antique Decadence Narrative and Stylized Epideictic Rhetoric in Twentieth-Century Histori-ography

Rhetorical Invention in the Church in Late Antiquity

Ambrose as a Lawyer

Ambrose and Philosophy

Chapter Four Conclusion

Chapter Five. Ambrose’s Use and Modification of Pathostoward Emperor Gratian

Section Two—Chapters Five, Six, and Seven

Ambrose, Pathos,and Gratian

Arrangement and Pathosin the Ciceronian Tradition

Prologues and Epilogues in Ambrose’s DSS

The Strange Case of DSS’s Two Prologues and Epilogues

The Exordium of Book 1: Gideon the Judge, Gratian the Judge, and the Holy Spirit the Judge

The Exordium of Book 2: The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and Samson

The Two Epilogues

Chapter Five Conclusion

Chapter Six. Rhetorical Invention and Refutation of Homoian Pneumatology in De Spiritu Sancto

The Ciceronian Theory of Issues

Stasis Theory in Cicero’s De inventione

The Stasis of DSS

Cicero’s Rules for the Definitional Issue

Definition of the Holy Spirit and Refutation of the Opponent’s Definition

Ambrose’s “Brief, Clear, and Conventional” Definition of the Holy Spirit in his Propositio/Partitio

Ambrose’s Refutation of the Opponents’ Definition of the Holy Spirit

The locusof Definition and Ambrose’s Use of differentiaeto Refute Homoian Pneumatology

Biblical Exegesis as the New Legal Documentation in the Restructuring of the Topics of falsum,turpis, and inutilis

Borrowing Refutation Arguments from Didymus and other Greek Writers

Chapter Six Conclusion

Chapter Seven. Ambrose’s Confirmation Arguments for the Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Finding the Propriaof God to Demonstrate the Spirit’s Equality: Common and Inseparable Operations

Power Argumentation in Pro-Nicene Theology at Large

Veni Creator Spiritus: The Holy Spirit as Creator

Excursus: Didymus as Ambrose’s Primary Source for “Operations-Power”

Arguments from the Equal Dignity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

The Pro-Nicene Tradition of Arguments from Dignity

Ambrose’s Non-Subordinationist Exegesis of Jn 4:24 (DSS3.11.69–12.89)

Excursus on Ambrose’s Borrowing from Basil: Biblical Prepositions and the Inner Life of the Trinity

On Jn 4:24: Worshipping the Spirit while Worshipping in the Spirit

Chapter Seven Conclusion

Chapter Eight. Conclusion

Appendix: Ambrose’s Greek Sources in Parallel Columns with His De Spiritu Sancto

Results

Bibliography

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Indices

Index of Names and Subjects

Index of Biblical Citations

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