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In the first place then, this Commentary has long been universally allowed not to be the work of Ambrose. The person to whom it is now-a-days generally ascribed, but with allowances for considerable accessions by later hands, is Hilarius Diaconus. But, what is much more to our purpose, there is no doubt but that it is the work of one who was ignorant of the Greek language.
The Benedictine editors, in their address to the reader, prefixed to this treatise, urge, among others, this reason as of itself a decisive proof, that Ambrose was not the author. Ad hæc inutile fuerit, id quod nemini non est obvium, observare, nimirum, in Græcà lingua prorsus peregrinum extitisse illum scriptorem.” (Vol. ii, Appendix p. 20.)
This writer's testimony, therefore, so far as it is his own, is in our present enquiry of no value. He could not be directed, by any principle worthy of our consideration, to derive from his Latin text, an explanation, equivalent to that property of the Greek article which you are contending for. We shall hereafter see how he must have explained the passage, if he had appealed to those
persons who were best qualified to instruct him in the meaning of the original,
Before we quit this Commentary, I cannot resist the temptation of transcribing (I must own with more extensive designs of hostility than that of depreciating the learning of this single writer) the following passage from
Mill's Prolegomena. He is speaking of Morinus's attempt to exalt the authority of the Vulgate, by endeavouring to shew, upon the testimony of the Latin as well as the Greek Fathers, that the original text was become exceedingly corrupt. “Quemnam vero Latinorum adducit (says Mill)? “ Num Hieronymum? Celeri enim fere literas Græcas ignorabant, ideoque nec testes erant idonei : imo certe primo Ambrosium (seu Hilarium Diaconum, qui sub Ambrosii nomine Commentarios edidit in Epistolas Paulinas) and having quoted, as one of these testimonies of Hilary, an instance where he pretends to refer to Greek MSS. Mill adds, “Ita cæcus de coloribus. Nihil de codicibus Græcis novit Ambrosiaster.” (Sec.1318.)
4. But, the real Ambrose was a Greek Scholar? Yes: the Benedictines found, what they account a decisive argument, solely on that supposition. Does he then quote this verse? And if so, how does he understand it?
It is most true, Sir, that the verse is made use of by Ambrose, in the same sense in which we have seen it explained by Hilary.
In the treatise de Fide, where he is demonstrating the intimate union which obtains between the Father and the Son, he instances, Accipe adhuc unum regnum, unum imperium esse Patris et Filii. Habes ad Timotheum; (1 Tim. i. 1.) Paulus Apostolus Jesu Christi secundum imperium Dei salvatoris nostri, et Christi Jesu spei nostre. Unum igitur Patris et Filii regnum evidenter D
est declaratum: sicut et Apostolus Paulus adseruit di cens; Hoc enim scitote quod omnis impudicus, aut immundus, aut avarus, quod est idololatria, non habet hereditatem in regno Christi et Dei. Ergo unum regnum, et una Divinitas.” (De Fide 1. 3. c. 12. p. 515.)
5. Again, still more precisely; after mentioning the remark of some unthinking Arians, who were wont to maintain, that the Son is only their lesser God, from the circumstance of the arrangement of the three persons as they are disposed in the final charge of our Saviour, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Mat. xxviii. 19.) He proceeds to ask : “ Num quid ergo quia dicit Evangelium, in principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, inferiorem sig. nificavit Patrem, quia primo Verbum Dei in principio semper esse ac fuisse memoratur? Aut cum dixit Apos: tolus in regno Christi et Dei, ordinem fecit?” (De Instit, Virginis; c. 10, p. 265, vol. ii.)
What then are we to think?
I am willing, Sir, to allow that St. Ainbrose had read several Greek authors, and was well: acquainted with that language. However, in making this concession; we must not lay aside the remembrance, that he still understood it only as a foreigner.
, But, I am much more inclined to insist upon the small number of Ambrose's references to the original in all his voluminous writings. I believe that Ambrose very seldom looked into his Greck testament, either for his private satisfaction, or the purposes of public instruction, Speaking to, and writing for those who understood no other language than the Latin, he is contented, except in a very few instances, to confine himself to the Latin text: which indeed, in one place, he gravely informs them was a translation from a Greek original. I think, therefore, that it is exceedingly possible that Ambrose had very rarely seen the words εν τη βασιλεία του ΧρισTOU nærdeovand so, forgetting (or rather never once thinking about it) which of the two meanings of the Latin translation was in the intention of St. Paul at the time of writing, might unsuspectingly cite the passage in that sense which is undoubtedly the more obvious to a mere Latin reader,
· But it is by no means necessary that I should lay all the stress on these possibilities. The fact may be*, that like some others of the ancient Fathers, Ambrose occasionally was not strictly scrupulous about the soundness of some of the steps of his argument, provided they were specious, suitable to his purpose, and the conclusion orthodox. I mean to say (if the likelihood of his ignorance of the Greek text should be denied to me) that Ambrose would, upon occasion, convert a Latin passage boldly to his advantage, though he might not be ignorant that the Greek original would hardly admit of his interpretation. + See Bishop Horsley's Tracts against Dr. Priestley, p. 318, &c.
Thus, to go no farther than the very words which I have quoted “ secundum imperium Dei;” the Greek word here is ETLICYW; and an exact writer would therefore hardly quote this passage as a direct example of his
imperium.” Again; in the page immediately preceding the former of the above quotations, I do not know, whether to get another instance of this unity of dominion in the Father and the Son, he may not invent a passage: at least I find no other authority for the reading. “ Et ideo ad excludendum Arianæ sacrilegium sævitatis, unurn imperium Patris et Filii etiam Petrus sanctus adseruit, dicens: Sic enim abundantius ministrabitur vobis introitus in æternum imperium Dei et Domini nostri conservatoris Jesu Christi*.” Here the imperium is proper: for the Greek word is Barrelav. But Dei et Domini is a reading peculiar to Ambrose. And yet, after all, he does not deny, but that both these appellations may be understood to apply to the following Jesu Christi. And what then, I may add, could Ambrose have replied to me, if I could have told him, that I explained the passage in the Epistle to the Ephesians, in the same manner?
Yet again, in his celebrated charge against the Arians, of having corrupted the MSS. by the omission of the clause quoniam Deus Spiritus est, in the sixth verse of the third chapter of St. John, who in making such a charge, whether it were true or false) that was at all in the habit of referring to the Greek Testament, would not have taken care to remark, that he might be before * 2 Peter i. ll.