De Officiis - Vol. 1

By Ambrose; Ivor J. Davidson | Go to book overview

Book 1

Introduction: 1.1-22

The introduction covers 1.1-22. A. begins modestly: conscious of his inadequate preparation to take on the role of teacher, he confesses that his concern is simply to pay diligent attention to the Scriptures, and thus to learn himself as he fulfils his pastoral obligation to instruct others (1.1-4). In 1.5-22 he goes on to argue that the first lesson to learn is how to keep silent; by practising self-control, people discover when it is right to speak and when it is best to say nothing. Too many rush to speak because they do not know how to keep quiet (1.5). Silence is both meditative, an opportunity to listen for divine instruction or to direct one's words secretly to God (1.5-9), and ascetic, a refusal to give vent to passion or to respond to provocation (1.13-22). Humility and modesty are indispensable to Christian virtue (cf. 1.1-2, 13-14, 19-20). 1.5-22 is loosely structured around some verses from Ps. 38, a passage to which A. returns in 1.233-45; both sections draw on Origen's Hom. Ps. 38.1-2, which is also inspirational for A.'s Expl. Ps. 38.

These paragraphs have caused scholars a number of problems, focused in three areas. The first is the degree of diffidence A. expresses. Self-depreciation at the commencement of a work was a classical convention (see T. Janson, Latin Prose Prefaces: Studies in Literary Conventions (Stockholm, 1964), 116-61, especially 124 ff.), but the language of 1.1-4 has been thought to go beyond the usual confessions of intellectual inadequacy or artistic inability. The circumstances of A.'s election seem fresh in his memory, and his unpreparedness for the sacerdotii necessitudo (1.2) appears to be an enduring concern rather than just an unpleasant memory. Similar sentiments can be

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De Officiis - Vol. 1
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Ambrose iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Abbreviations xii
  • Note on Cicero Citations xxiii
  • Abbreviations and Editions of Other Works by Ambrose xxiv
  • Introduction 1
  • II- Date 3
  • III- Model 6
  • IV- Themes and Perspectives 19
  • V- Composition 33
  • VI- Purpose of the Work 45
  • VII- Constructing an Ecclesial Community- Ambrose''s Ethical Vision 64
  • VIII- The Influence of de Officiis 96
  • IX- Latinity 105
  • Text and Translation 113
  • Book 1 439
  • Book 2 692
  • Book 3 802
  • Select Bibliography 909
  • Indexes 953
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