Despite being the first pro-Nicene defense of the divinity of the Holy Spirit written in Latin and influencing the Trinitarian theology of Augustine of Hippo, Ambrose of Milan’s
On the Holy Spirit has received little scholarly attention. Jerome maligned the book as badly written and even plagiarized. Modern scholars have followed in that judgement. This study contradicts this perspective, claiming that Ambrosedefines the Holy Spirit in a way consistent with pro-Nicene theology using classical Ciceronian rhetoric to interpret Scripture in a quasi-judicial situation: Emperor Gratian played the role of judge, Ambrose’s theological opponents served as the prosecution, and Ambrose was the defendant. Instead of merely viewing Ambrose’s On the Holy Spirit through the lens of source-criticism, this study utilizes classical rhetorical theory, especially stasis theory, as a methodology that gives due weight both to the conflict in which Ambrose was embroiled and the bishop’s pro-Nicene theological reasoning. Stasis theory helped the rhetorically educated to generate the relevant arguments for the case before them. After documenting the ecclesiastical-political conflict that occasioned On the Holy Spirit’s composition, this study provides the first comprehensive account of the pneumatology of Ambrose’s opponents, the Latin Homoians. Ambrose’s own intellectual formation is then investigated, revealing his intimate knowledge of rhetoric and his acquaintance with some philosophical doctrines, both of which factored into the genesis of On the Holy Spirit. Rhetorical analysis of the text uncovers Ambrose’s attention to the concerns—theological and political—of his primary audience, the Emperor Gratian. Ambrose used Greek sources, but selected ideas which helped him craft his case. Finally, it is demonstrated that Ambrose used the “definition issue” in stasis theory to understand the Holy Spirit’s identity, interpreting Holy Scripture to discover his differentiaefrom creatures but also his shared propriawith the Father and the Son. A lengthy appendix helps advance our understanding of the extent and character of Ambrose’s borrowing from Greek sources.
Not only does this study provide the first full study of Ambrose’s
On the Holy Spirit, but it also suggests that rhetorical theory significantly influenced argumentation in fourth-century Trinitarian controversies, though this has been overlooked in modern scholarship.
"Andrew Selby does scholarship a great service by providing such a thorough examination of Ambrose’s DSS. By treating the diverse facets of the work (historical, political, rhetorical, and theological), he reveals “a man whose integrity of purpose was the very characteristic that has caused him to be the object of so much reproach and renown in his own day and beyond” (283). Selby also shows the valuable insights that can be gained by examining late antique Christian theological works through the lens of ancient rhetoric. Finally, he demonstrates the same rhetorical excellence which he highlights in Ambrose’s work, as his study is well-organized, clearly written, and pleasing to read."
-- Anthony Thomas, Church History, December 2021
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Andrew M. Selby is Dean of Classical Instruction and teaches humanities and Latin at Trinity Classical Academy in Valencia, CA a school participating in the classical Christian education revival movement. He holds a Ph.D. in Religion from Baylor University. Acknowledgments List of Abbreviations Chapter One. Introduction The Challenge of Fourth-Century Pneumatology The Near Inevitability of Pro-Nicene Arguments for the Spirit’s Divinity The Son’s and Spirit’s Divinity in Ambrose Patristic Pneumatology: Literature Review Jerome, Quellenforschung, and Ambrose’s De Spiritu Sancto Literature on Ambrose in General Methodology: Classical Ciceronian Rhetoric The Task of the Present Study Chapter Two. The Emperor Gratian’s Role in the Genesis of De Spiritu Sancto, 378–381 A Rhetorical–Judicial Situation The “Homoians”: Real or a Rhetorical Invention? The Origin of De Spiritu Sancto, 378–381 The Aftermath of the Battle of Hadrianople The Letters Exchanged by Ambrose and Gratian and the Request for De Spiritu Sancto De fide3–5 and the Resolution of the Basilica Sequestration The Challenges Facing Ambrose in the Composition of DSS Chapter Three. The Prosecution’s Position: Homoian Pneuma-tology Summary of Homoian Texts and their Dating 1. Palladius of Ratiaria’s Pneumatology 2. The Pneumatology of Auxentius of Durostorum and Ulfila 3. The Holy Spirit in the “ Adversus Orthodoxos et Mace-donianos” 4. The Holy Spirit in the Instructio verae fidei 5. The Pneumatology of the “Arian Sermon” 6. Collatio cum Maximino 7. Pneumatology in the De sollemnitatibus sermones 8. The Contra Hereticos Summary of Homoian Pneumatology Chapter Three Conclusion Chapter Four. The Defendant: Ambrose’s Rhetorical, Legal, and Philosophical Formation Paulinus’ Testimony regarding Ambrose and the liberales disciplinae Ambrose’s Rhetorical Education The Late Antique Decadence Narrative and Stylized Epideictic Rhetoric in Twentieth-Century Histori-ography Rhetorical Invention in the Church in Late Antiquity Ambrose as a Lawyer Ambrose and Philosophy Chapter Four Conclusion Chapter Five. Ambrose’s Use and Modification of Pathostoward Emperor Gratian Section Two—Chapters Five, Six, and Seven Ambrose, Pathos,and Gratian Arrangement and Pathosin the Ciceronian Tradition Prologues and Epilogues in Ambrose’s DSS The Strange Case of DSS’s Two Prologues and Epilogues The Exordium of Book 1: Gideon the Judge, Gratian the Judge, and the Holy Spirit the Judge The Exordium of Book 2: The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and Samson The Two Epilogues Chapter Five Conclusion Chapter Six. Rhetorical Invention and Refutation of Homoian Pneumatology in De Spiritu Sancto The Ciceronian Theory of Issues Stasis Theory in Cicero’s De inventione The Stasis of DSS Cicero’s Rules for the Definitional Issue Definition of the Holy Spirit and Refutation of the Opponent’s Definition Ambrose’s “Brief, Clear, and Conventional” Definition of the Holy Spirit in his Propositio/Partitio Ambrose’s Refutation of the Opponents’ Definition of the Holy Spirit The locusof Definition and Ambrose’s Use of differentiaeto Refute Homoian Pneumatology Biblical Exegesis as the New Legal Documentation in the Restructuring of the Topics of falsum, turpis, and inutilis Borrowing Refutation Arguments from Didymus and other Greek Writers Chapter Six Conclusion Chapter Seven. Ambrose’s Confirmation Arguments for the Divinity of the Holy Spirit Finding the Propriaof God to Demonstrate the Spirit’s Equality: Common and Inseparable Operations Power Argumentation in Pro-Nicene Theology at Large Veni Creator Spiritus: The Holy Spirit as Creator Excursus: Didymus as Ambrose’s Primary Source for “Operations-Power” Arguments from the Equal Dignity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit The Pro-Nicene Tradition of Arguments from Dignity Ambrose’s Non-Subordinationist Exegesis of Jn 4:24 ( DSS3.11.69–12.89) Excursus on Ambrose’s Borrowing from Basil: Biblical Prepositions and the Inner Life of the Trinity On Jn 4:24: Worshipping the Spirit while Worshipping in the Spirit Chapter Seven Conclusion Chapter Eight. Conclusion Appendix: Ambrose’s Greek Sources in Parallel Columns with His De Spiritu Sancto Results Bibliography Primary Sources Secondary Sources Indices Index of Names and Subjects Index of Biblical Citations