Christian Grace and Pagan Virtue

Christian Grace and Pagan Virtue : The Theological Foundation of Ambrose's Ethics

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Ambrose of Milan (340-397) was the first Christian bishop to write a systematic account of Christian ethics, in the treatise De Officiis, variously translated as "on duties" or "on responsibilities." But Ambrose also dealt with the moral life in other works, notably his sermons on the patriarchs and his addresses to catechumens and newly baptized. There is a vast modern literature on Ambrose, but only in recent decades has he begun to be taken seriously as a thinker, not just as a working bishop and ecclesiastical politician. Because Ambrose was one of the few Latin Christian writers in antiquity who knew Greek, another major area of Ambrose scholarship has been the study of his sources, notably the Jewish philosopher Philo, and Christian writers such as Origen of Alexandria. In this book, Warren Smith examines the neglected biblical, liturgical and theological foundations of Ambrose's thought on ethics. Earlier studies have found little that was distinctively Christian in Ambrose's image of the virtuous person. Smith shows that though, like the pagans, Ambrose emphasized moderation, courage, justice, and prudence, for him these characteristics were shaped by the church's beliefs about God's salvific economy. The courage of a Christian facing persecution, for example, was an expression of faith in Christ's resurrection and the church's eschatological hope. Eschatology, for Ambrose, was not pagan wisdom clothed in pious language, but the very logic upon which virtue rests.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 344 pages
  • 154.94 x 236.22 x 30.48mm | 589.67g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195369939
  • 9780195369939

Review quote

This work serves as a wonderful addition to the library of the layman, pastor or researcher who wishes to explore Christian moral theology and the training of catechumens in the fourth century. * Brian E. Gronewoller, Theology * Smith offers a well-researched and compelling study of Ambroses theology that moves through creation, the fall, baptismal restoration, and the conferral of new citizenship. In this volume the reader is treated to a synthetic and systematic account of Ambrose as a theologian and careful exegete of Scripture * Gerald Boersma, Augustinianum *show more

About J. Warren Smith

Assistant Professor of Historical Theology, Duke Divinity Schoolshow more

Table of contents

PREFACE; PROLEGOMENA: THE RITUAL CONTEXT FOR AMBROSE'S SOTERIOLOGY; PART I - THE LOSS OF HARMONIC UNITY: AMBROSE'S ACCOUNT OF THE FALLEN HUMAN CONDITION; PART II - RAISED TO NEW LIFE: AMBROSE'S THEOLOGY OF BAPTISM; EPILOGUE; BIBLIOGRAPHYshow more

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