27 May, 2010

Ambrosiaster on Justification Through Faith Alone

"God has decreed that a person who believes in Christ can be saved without works. By faith alone he receives the forgiveness of sins."
Ambrosiaster, commenting on 1 Corinthians 1:4b, in 'Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture', New Testament VII: 1-2 Corinthians, ed. by Gerald Bray (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 6.

"They are justified freely because they have not done anything nor given anything in return, but by faith alone they have been made holy by the gift of God."
Ambrosiaster, on Romans 3:24, 'Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans' ed. Gerald Bray, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 101.

'Ambrosiaster' is the name traditionally given to the unknown writer of a commentary on Paul's letters which for a long time was attributed to Ambrose of Milan. Scholars consider that the work was produced in the late 4th century and pre-dates Augustine's (mis)interpretation of Paul based on Jerome's Latin New Testament. It is thus an important testimony to how Paul was understood before Augustine, who famously knew no Greek, mistook 'justification' in Paul to mean 'make righteous', a misinterpretation which is the fountainhead of Rome's subsequent misunderstanding of justification, which makes works of love an inherent part of the 'process' by which a Christian is justified before God. Thus I submit him here as further testimony to the 'scarlet thread' of the evangel which can be traced through the vicissitudes of early and medieval Catholic history until it comes brilliantly to light in the evangelical catholicity of the Lutheran Reformation.

(See the current post on 'Glosses From An Old Manse' (link to the right) for further reflections.)

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