By J. Warren Smith
Ambrose of Milan (340-397) used to be the 1st Christian bishop to write down a scientific account of Christian ethics, within the treatise De Officiis, variously translated as "on tasks" or "on responsibilities." yet Ambrose additionally handled the ethical existence in different works, particularly his sermons at the patriarchs and his addresses to catechumens and newly baptized. there's a large sleek literature on Ambrose, yet basically in contemporary a long time has he began to be taken heavily as a philosopher, not only as a operating bishop and ecclesiastical baby-kisser. simply because Ambrose was once one of many few Latin Christian writers in antiquity who knew Greek, one other significant region of Ambrose scholarship has been the research of his assets, significantly the Jewish thinker Philo, and Christian writers akin to Origen of Alexandria.
In this e-book, Warren Smith examines the missed biblical, liturgical and theological foundations of Ambrose's suggestion on ethics. prior reviews have came upon little that was once distinctively Christian in Ambrose's snapshot of the virtuous individual. Smith indicates that although, just like the pagans, Ambrose emphasised moderation, braveness, justice, and prudence, for him those features have been formed by means of the church's ideals approximately God's salvific economic climate. The braveness of a Christian dealing with persecution, for instance, was once an expression of religion in Christ's resurrection and the church's eschatological desire. Eschatology, for Ambrose, used to be now not pagan knowledge clothed in pious language, however the very good judgment upon which advantage rests.
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Additional resources for Christian Grace and Pagan Virtue: The Theological Foundation of Ambrose's Ethics (Oxford Studies in Historical Theology)
While Ambrose does discuss the healing transformation of “the body of death” that comes at the resurrection, he devotes more attention to the question of the moral unity of soul and body that is characteristic of a virtuous life. However, it is perhaps something of a misnomer to speak of conﬂict in the sense of the soul and body seeking different ends. In Ambrose’s anthropology, one typical of his day, the body does not actually do or seek anything except as it is moved by the animating soul. Therefore, moral unity is not, properly speaking, harmony of the soul and body but harmony between competing faculties or impulses of the soul that have different orientations.
3 The soul is the form of the body in the sense that its virtues or lack of virtues determine the actions of the body. The ends established by the soul determine what the body is and what it does. In his account of the body’s instrumental relation to the soul, Ambrose clearly shares Aristotle’s view that the soul is both the formal cause of the body in that it is the animating or actualizing principle and the ﬁnal cause as that which determines the end to which our bodily actions are directed.
Moreover, he insists that those who are attracted to the comeliness of our outward appearance love us only for the superﬁcial and ﬂeeting beauty of our body and so do not, rightly speaking, love us. Ambrose’s assumption is that what is real is that which endures. To be sure, as creatures who by deﬁnition are not eternal, our soul does not possess a beauty like God’s, eternal and perfect. Nonetheless, the beauty of the soul outlasts the radiance of youthful beauty, the pursuit of which is vain. 83 Ambrose’s point is that the catechumen should seek that beauty in herself and in others that is not subject to decay with the mere passage of time.