Ambrosiaster

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Ambrosiaster is the name given to the writer of a commentary on St Paul's epistles, "brief in words but weighty in matter," and valuable for the criticism of the Latin text of the New Testament. This commentary was erroneously attributed for a long time to St Ambrose.

The commentary itself was written during the papacy of Pope Damasus I, that is, between 366 and 384, and is considered an important document of the Latin text of Paul before the Vulgate of Jerome, and of the interpretation of Paul prior to Augustine of Hippo.[1]

In 1527 Erasmus threw doubt on the accuracy of ascribing the authorship of this document to Ambrose, and its author is now usually spoken of as Ambrosiaster, or pseudo-Ambrose.[1] Because Augustine cites part of the commentary on Romans as by "Sanctus Hilarius" it has been ascribed by various critics at different times to almost every known Hilary. Germain Morin broke new ground by suggesting in 1899 that the writer was Isaac,[2] a converted Jew and writer of a tract on the Trinity and Incarnation, who was exiled to Spain in 378-380 and then relapsed to Judaism; but he afterwards abandoned this theory of the authorship in favour of Decimus Hilarianus Hilarius, proconsul of Africa in 377.

With this attribution Alexander Souter agrees.[3] There is scarcely anything to be said for the possibility of Ambrose having written the book before he became a bishop, and added to it in later years, incorporating remarks of Hilary of Poitiers on Romans. The best presentation of the case for Ambrose is by P. A. Ballerini in his complete edition of that father's works.

Several other minor works have been attributed to this same author. There is also the Quaestiones Veteris et Novi Testamenti, which manuscripts have traditionally ascribed to Augustine. Most scholars consider this work to be that of Pseudo-Ambrose as well.[1]

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