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Christus Interpres. Die Einheit von Auslegung und Verkundigung in der Lukaserklarung des Ambrosius von Mailand.

Christus Interpres. Die Einhelt von Auslegung und Verkundigung in der Lukaserklarung des Ambrosius von Mailand. By Thomas Graumann. Pp. xi+477. (Patristische Texte und Studien, 41.) Berlin: de Gruyter, 1994. ISBN 3 11 014423 9. DM 238.

One of the benefits of Ambrosian scholarship in the last thirty or so years has been the increasing displacement of the figure of the `Kirchenpolitiker' by the figure of Ambrose in his pastoral, teaching and philosophical capacity. Not least one of the gains of this new understanding is an awareness of Ambrose's originality as an interpreter of Scripture. The purpose of the present study is explained by its subtitle; in Ambrose's commentary on St Luke's Gospel (in practice on sections of the Gospel) we find a unity of interpretation and of proclamation; in other words, Ambrose's concern throughout was to make clear the relation of the Gospel to people's lives and the power of the Gospel to transform human nature. The purpose of interpretation was conversion based on a correct understanding of the two-fold nature of Christ. It may seem strange that Ambrose should have been original in this respect, but in practice this intense linking of pastoral and theological concerns was not characteristic of the exegesis of most of his contemporaries or predecessors, although it was to exercise great influence upon Augustine. The topicality of Ambrose's exegesis, its reference to the present in which the exegesis was being delivered, has already been noted by C. Jacob (`Arkandisziplin', Allegorese, Mystagogie. Ein neuer Zugang zur Theologie des Ambrosius von Mailand (Theoph. 32) Frankfurt/M., 1990) and virtually the whole study of Graumann provides evidence for this fact. The author also shows how deeply rooted Ambrose's interpretation was in his own understanding of the being and work of Christ. From Christ Ambrose regarded himself as deriving the criteria and assumptions necessary for exegetical work. For this reason heretics are unable to interpret Scripture correctly since Christ alone is the true interpreter of Scripture (similar to Tertullian's argument that heretics cannot argue from Scripture to which they have no right in the first place) and the effectiveness of Christ in one's thinking and speaking can be appropriated only by those who have grasped his full divinity, therefore not by the Arians. Philosophical pagans also fail in their efforts to approach God for the same reason, that they are not able to seize the fact that in Christ the means of salvation was incarnated and actualized in history (a theme directly and superbly echoed by Augustine in chapter 21 of Book VII of the Confessions).

The author's approach is partly thematic, based upon various aspects of Christ as alone offering the true criterion and principle of exegesis. Each word and deed of Christ, according to Ambrose, yields something of value to the exegete, whose purpose is to relate this material directly to the lives of his hearers. Within this thematic approach the author tends to treat the material offered by Ambrose's commentary sequentially which enables the reader satisfyingly to follow Ambrose's thought through on particular topics. It is well known that Ambrose was influenced by Origen, not only using his Homilies on Luke, but also his Commentary of which we have a number of fragments. The intellectual originality of Ambrose when compared with Philo has already been shown by Herve Savon (Saint Ambroise devant l'exegese de Philon le Juif (Paris, 1977)). Graumann rightly points out the differences between Ambrose and Origen and the originality of Ambrose's thought in his commentary (esp. pp. 59-61, 93, 169, and 277). He still, however, represents Jerome as accusing Ambrose of plagiarism of Origen (p. 435). Quite apart from the unlikelihood of Jerome, of all people, heavily dependent as he was on Origen for so much of his own material, having the nerve to accuse anyone else of plagiarism, it has now been effectively shown by a recent article (N. Adkin, `Jerome on Ambrose. The Preface to the Translation of Origen's Homilies on Luke' Revue Benedictine, vol. 107, 1997, pp. 5-14) that the famous phrase of Jerome in his preface to his own translation of Origen's homilies (`mirum in modum de cunctarum avium ridere coloribus, cum totus ipse tenebrosus sit') refers not to a charge of plagiarism against Ambrose, but to Ambrose's alleged `mockery' of Jerome, `ridere de' here literally meaning `to laugh at'. (Why Jerome should have thought Ambrose was `mocking' him, I do not think we know. According to Adkin, it was because of Jerome's use of Hebrew. This however appears to me to be improbable. Origen, whom Ambrose plainly admired, made a point of going to the Hebrew text, quite apart from the unlikelihood of Ambrose's `mocking' someone because of that person's linguistic ability.)

Altogether this work is an impressive and thorough contribution to studies on Ambrose as an exegete and, because of its emphasis upon the theological foundations of Ambrose's approach to Scripture, it is almost equally important for any examination of Ambrose as a theologian. Minor points: although Auxentius, the opponent of Ambrose, was probably the Auxentius, the Bishop of Durostorum in Scythia Minor, it is doubtful whether Auxentius' native country (p. 205, n. 110) was really Scythia, which would have meant that he would have been a Goth. As von Campenhausen pointed out, Auxentius was almost certainly of Illyrian origin; had he really been a Goth, Ambrose would have emphasized this much more (Hans von Campenhausen Ambrosius von Mailand als Kirchenpolitiker (Berlin/Leipzig, 1929) p. 203, n. 3). On the theme of salus, treated on p. 113, n. 89, one could add the still important work by H. Franke `Salus Publica: ein antiker Kultterminus und sein fruhchristlicher Bedeutungswandel bei Ambrosius', Liturgische Zeitschrift, 5. Jahrgang, vol. 4 (1932/33), pp. 145-60. Proof reading, alas, is not what it was: the second half of n. 37 on p. 36 refers to p. 41, not p. 31; the reference in n. 21 on p. 32 is to p. 35 f., not p. 30 f.; the reference in n. 337 on p. 170 should probably read `oben 63 mit Anm. 152'. There are various Latin misprints: p. 44, n. 71, read `formis' for `formas'; p. 54, line 5 `nam sicut' should be followed by `sic' (as in n. 113) not `ita'; p. 188, n. 49 should read `quod inter ipsa hospitia'. There are many others. These may seem trivial but the content of the work deserved greater accuracy.
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Author:Lenox-Conyngham, Andrew
Publication:The Journal of Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1998
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