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Chapter XVIII.—Ambrose.

1. About this time Ambrose, 1898 who held the heresy of Valentinus, 1899 was convinced by Origen’s presentation of the truth, and, as if his mind were illumined by light, he accepted the orthodox doctrine of the Church.

2. Many others also, drawn by the fame of Origen’s learning, which resounded everywhere, came to him to make trial of his skill in sacred literature. And a great many heretics, and not a few of the most distinguished philosophers, studied under him diligently, receiving instruction from him not only in divine things, but also in secular philosophy.

3. For when he perceived that any persons had superior intelligence he instructed them also in philosophic branches—in geometry, arithmetic, and other preparatory studies—and then advanced to the systems 1900 of the philosophers and explained their writings. And he made observations and comments upon each of them, so that he became celebrated as a great philosopher even among the Greeks themselves.

4. And he instructed many of the less learned in the common school branches, 1901 saying that these would be no small help to them in the study and understanding of the Divine Scriptures. On this account he considered it especially necessary for himself to be skilled in secular and philosophic learning. 1902



Of the early life of Ambrose, the friend of Origen, we know nothing. We learn from Origen’s Exhortatio ad Martyr. c. 14, and Jerome’s de vir. ill. c. 56, that he was of a wealthy and noble family (cf. chap. 23 of this book), and from the Exhort. ad Mart. c. 36, that he probably held some high official position. Eusebius says here that he was for some time a Valentinian, Jerome that he was a Marcionite, others give still different reports. However that was, the authorities all agree that he was converted to the orthodox faith by Origen, and that he remained devoted to him for the rest of his life. From chap. 23 we learn that he urged Origen to undertake the composition of commentaries on the Scriptures, and that he furnished ample pecuniary means for the prosecution of the work. He was also himself a diligent student, as we gather from that chapter (cf. also Jerome, de vir. ill. c. 56). From chap. 28 we learn that he was a confessor in the persecution of Maximinus (Jerome calls him also a deacon), and it seems to have been in Cæsarea or its neighborhood that he suffered, whither he had gone undoubtedly on account of his affection for Origen, who was at that time there (cf. the Exhort. c. 41). He is mentioned for the last time in the dedication and conclusion of Origen’s Contra Celsum, which was written between 246 and 250 (see chap. 36, below). Jerome (l.c.) states that he died before Origen, so that he cannot have lived long after this. He left no writings, except some epistles which are no longer extant. Jerome, however, in his Ep. ad Marcellam, §1 (Migne’s ed., Ep. 43), attributes to Ambrose an epistle, a fragment of which is extant under the name of Origen (to whom it doubtless belongs) and which is printed in Lommatzsch’s edition of Origen’s works, Vol. XVII. p. 5. Origen speaks of him frequently as a man of education and of literary tastes and devoted to the study of the Scriptures, and Jerome says of himnon inelegantis ingenii fuit, sicut ejus ad Origenen epistolæ indicio sunt (l.c.). The affection which Origen felt for him is evinced by many notices in his works and by the fact that he dedicated to him the Exhortatio ad Martyr., on the occasion of his suffering under Maximinus. It was also at Ambrose’s solicitation that he wrote his great work against Celsus, which he likewise dedicated to him.


On Valentinus, see above, Bk. IV. chap. 11, note 1.


Greek, αἰρέσεις


γκύκλια γρ€μματα; “the circle of those arts and sciences which every free-born youth in Greece was obliged to go through before applying to any professional studies” (Liddell and Scott, defining γκ. παιδεία).


On Origen’s education, see p. 392, below.

Next: Chapter XIX