3

TRANSLATIONS

INTRODUCTION

The works that appear in translation here have been selected from among the many that Ambrose wrote because, it is believed, they will provide the reader with a reasonable grasp of his method and his concerns. The treatise On Virgins is included because Ambrose was one of Christian antiquity’s most ardent promoters of virginity. On Naboth represents Ambrose’s preoccupation with what we would today call social justice. The work On the Mysteries is a gem of early Christian baptismal literature, and it displays Ambrose in the guise of priest—liturgist. The prologue to the Lucan commentary focuses more specifically, of course, on exegesis, although hardly any of Ambrose’s writings fail to manifest his exegetical style. Needless to say, examples of Ambrose’s hymnody could not be omitted. His four undoubted hymns are presented here in a literal translation for the sake of retaining as much as possible of their imagery and theology; but for the sake of their poetry, with its sober majesty, the original Latin is given as well. Ambrose’s two letters on the Altar of Victory, appearing on either side of the pagan Symmachus’ Appeal, show the bishop in the role (not necessarily an attractive one to modern sensibilities) of politician, imperial tutor and uncompromising adversary of paganism.

Except for the prologue to the Commentary on Luke, these are translations of entire works. Abridgements and excerpts leave too much to the discretion of the person doing the abridging and excerpting, and they do not permit the reader to see the original author working out his thought in his own way, at his own pace.

As anyone who reads Ambrose will notice, he uses Scripture extensively. But often a passage that he cites, particularly from the

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Ambrose
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • List of Abbreviations xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Works 55
  • 3 - Translations 69
  • 4 - Paulinus of Milan, the Life of Saint Ambrose 195
  • Notes 219
  • Bibliography 233
  • Index 235
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