Twelve names of the Son of God are recounted, being distributed into three classes. These names are so many proofs of the eternity not only of the Son, but of the Father also. Furthermore, they are compared with the twelve stones in the High Priest's breastplate, and their inseparability is shown by a new distribution of them. Returning to the comparison with the High Priest's breastplate, the writer sets forth the beauty of the woven-work and the precious stones of the mystic raiment, and the hidden meaning of that division into woven-work and precious stones, which being done, he expounds the comparison drawn by him, showing that faith must be woven in with works, and adds a short summary of the same faith, as concerning the Son.

1. Enough hath been said, as I think, your sacred Majesty, in the book preceding to show that the Son of God is an eternal being, not diverse from the Father, begotten, not created: we have also proved, from passages of the Scriptures, that God's true Son is God, [1894] and is declared so to be by the evident tokens of His Majesty.

2. Wherefore, albeit what hath already been set forth is plentiful even to overflowing for maintaining the Faith -- seeing that the greatness of a river is mostly judged of from the manner in which its springs rise and flow forth -- still, to the end that our belief may be the plainer to sight, the waters of our spring ought, methinks, to be parted off into three channels. There are, then, firstly, plain tokens declaring essential inherence in the Godhead; secondly, the expressions of the likeness of the Father and the Son; and lastly, those of the undoubtable unity of the Divine Majesty. Now of the first sort are the names "begetting," "God," "Son," "The Word;" [1895] of the second, "brightness," "expression," "mirror," "image;" [1896] and of the third, "wisdom," "power," "truth," "life." [1897]

3. These tokens so declare the nature of the Son, that by them you may know both that the Father is eternal, and that the Son is not diverse from Him; for the source of generation is He Who is, [1898] and as begotten of the Eternal, He is God; coming forth from the Father, He is the Son; [1899] from God, He is the Word; He is the radiance of the Father's glory, the expression of His substance, [1900] the counterpart of God, [1901] the image of His majesty; the Bounty of Him Who is bountiful, the Wisdom of Him Who is wise, the Power of the Mighty One, the Truth of Him Who is true, [1902] the Life of the Living One. [1903] In agreement, therefore, stand the attributes of Father and Son, that none may suppose any diversity, or doubt but that they are of one Majesty. For each and all of these names would we furnish examples of their use were we not constrained by a desire to maintain our discourse within bounds.

4. Of these twelve, as of twelve precious stones, is the pillar of our faith built up. For these are the precious stones -- sardius, jasper, smaragd, chrysolite, and the rest, -- woven into the robe of holy Aaron, [1904] even of him who bears the likeness of Christ, [1905] that is, of the true Priest; stones set in gold, and inscribed with the names of the sons of Israel, twelve stones close joined and fitting one into another, for if any should sunder or separate them, the whole fabric of the faith falls in ruins.

5. This, then, is the foundation of our faith -- to know that the Son of God is begotten; if He be not begotten, neither is He the Son. Nor yet is it sufficient to call Him Son, unless you shall also distinguish Him as the Only-begotten Son. If He is a creature, He is not God; if He is not God, He is not the Life; if He is not the Life, then is He not the Truth.

6. The first three tokens, therefore, that is to say, the names "generation," "Son," "Only-begotten," do show that the Son is of God originally and by virtue of His own nature.

7. The three that follow -- to wit, the names "God," "Life," "Truth," reveal His Power, whereby He hath laid the foundations of, and upheld, the created world. "For," as Paul said, "in Him we live and move and have our being;" [1906] and therefore, in the first three the Son's natural right, [1907] in the other three the unity of action subsisting between Father and Son is made manifest.

8. The Son of God is also called the "image" and "effulgence" and "expression" [of God], for these names have disclosed the Father's incomprehensible and unsearchable Majesty dwelling in the Son, and the expression of His likeness in Him. These three names, then, as we see, refer to [the Son's] likeness [to the Father]. [1908]

9. We have yet the operations of Power, Wisdom, and Justice left, wherewith, severally, to prove [the Son's] eternity. [1909]

10. This, then, is that robe, adorned with precious stones; this is the amice of the true Priest; this the bridal garment; here is the inspired weaver, who well knew how to weave that work. No common woven work is it, whereof the Lord spake by His Prophet: "Who gave to women their skill in weaving?" [1910] No common stones again, are they -- stones, as we find them called, "of filling;" [1911] for all perfection depends on this condition, that there be nought lacking. They are stones joined together and set in gold -- that is, of a spiritual kind; the joining of them by our minds and their setting in convincing argument. Finally Scripture teaches us how far from common are these stones, inasmuch as, whilst some brought one kind, and others another, of less precious offerings, these the devout princes brought, wearing them upon their shoulders, and made of them the "breastplate of judgment," that is, a piece of woven work. Now we have a woven work, when faith and action go together.

11. Let none suppose me to be misguided, in that I made at first a threefold division, each part containing four, and afterwards a fourfold division, each part containing three terms. The beauty of a good thing pleases the more, if it be shown under various aspects. For those are good things, whereof the texture of the priestly robe was the token, that is to say, either the Law, or the Church, which latter hath made two garments for her spouse, as it is written [1912] -- the one of action, the other of spirit, weaving together the threads of faith and works. Thus, in one place, as we read, she makes a groundwork of gold, and afterwards weaves thereon blue, and purple, with scarlet, and white. Again, [as we read] elsewhere, she first makes little flowerets of blue and other colours, and attaches gold, and there is made a single priestly robe, to the end that adornments of diverse grace and beauty, made up of the same bright colours, may gain fresh glory by diversity of arrangement.

12. Moreover (to complete our interpretation of these types), it is certain that by refined gold and silver are designated the oracles of the Lord, whereby our faith stands firm. "The oracles of the Lord are pure oracles, silver tried in the fire, refined of dross, purified seven times." [1913] Now blue is like the air we breathe and draw in; purple, again, represents the appearance of water; scarlet signifies fire; and white linen, earth, for its origin is in the earth. [1914] Of these four elements, again, the human body is composed. [1915]

13. Whether, then, you join to faith already present in the soul, bodily acts agreeing thereto; or acts come first, and faith be joined as their companion, presenting them to God -- here is the robe of the minister of religion, here the priestly vestment.

14. Faith is profitable, therefore, when her brow is bright with a fair crown of good works. [1916] This faith -- that I may set the matter forth shortly -- is contained in the following principles, which cannot be overthrown. If the Son had His origin in nothing, He is not Son; if He is a creature, He is not the Creator; if He was made, He did not make all things; if He needs to learn, He hath no foreknowledge; if He is a receiver, He is not perfect; if He progress, [1917] He is not God. If He is unlike (the Father) He is not the (Father's) image; if He is Son by grace, He is not such by nature; [1918] if He have no part in the Godhead, He hath it in Him to sin. [1919] "There is none good, but Godhead." [1920]


[1894] or "that God's Son is true God." "very God."

[1895] S. John 1:14, 18; Hebrews 1:5; Romans 9:5; i. 3-4; S. John 1:1-3, 14.

[1896] Hebrews 1:3; S. John 14:9; Colossians 1:15.

[1897] 1 Corinthians 1:24; S. John 14:6; xi. 25.

[1898] i.e., ho on. Exodus 3:14 (LXX.)--kai eipen ho Theos pros Mousen, legon 'Ego eimi ho On. Cf. S. John 8:58; xviii. 6; Revelation 1:4, 8; iv. 8.

[1899] S. John 8:42; xvi. 27-8.

[1900] Hebrews 1:3. apaugasma tes doxes kai charakter tes hupostaseos authou. ' hipostasis is rendered "person" in the A.V. The R.V. 1881 has "effulgence of His glory and very image of His substance," and in the margin "the impress of His substance." The Son does not reproduce the person of the Father--otherwise there would be no distinction, but confusion, of Persons, but He does reproduce or represent the substance, or essence, of the Father--i.e., the logos tes ousias is the same for both Persons.

[1901] "speculum Dei"--lit. "mirror of God."

[1902] Jeremiah 10:10; S. John 14:6; xvii. 3; 1 John 5:20.

[1903] Deuteronomy 5:26; Romans 14:11; S. John 11:25; v. 26; 1 John 1:2; v. 20.

[1904] See Exodus 28:15-21. The precious stones set in the breastplate are named as follows: Septuagint Vulgate A.V. 1611 R.V. 1881

text margin i. sardion i. lapis sardius i. sardius (m. ruby) i. sardius or ruby topazion topazius topaz topaz smaragdos smaragdus. carbuncle carbuncle or emerald ii. anthrax ii. carbunculus ii. emerald ii. emerald or carbuncle sappheiros sapphirus sapphire sapphire iaspis jaspis diamond diamond or sardonyx iii. ligurion iii. ligurius iii. ligure iii. jacinth or amber achates achates agate agate amethustos amethystus amethyst amethyst iv. chrusolithos iv. chrysolitus iv. beryl iv. beryl or chalcedony berullion b. beryllus onyx onyx or beryl onuchion a. onychinus jasper jasper With the mystic jewel-work of the High Priest's breastplate--the logeion kriseos, rationale judicii--compare the "covering of the King of Tyrus." --Ezek. xxviii. 13. Septuagint Vulgate A.V. 1611 R.V. 1881 text margin text margin 1. sardion. 1. sardius 1. sardius or ruby 1. sardius or ruby 2. topazion 2. topazius 2. topaz 2. topaz 3. smaragdos 6. jaspis ? diamond ? diamond 4. hanthrax 10. chrysolitus 11. beryl or chrysolite 10 11. beryl 5. sappheiros 12. onyx 12. onyx 12. onyx 6. iaspis 11. berillus ? jasper ? jasper 7. ligurios 5. sapphirus 5. sapphire 5. sapphire 8. achates 4. carbunculus 3. emerald or chrysoprase 3. emerald or carbuncle 4 9. amethustos 3. smaragdus 4. carbuncle 4. carbuncle or emerald 3 10. chrusolithos 11. berullion 12. onuchion Also the foundations of the Heavenly City.-- Revelation 21:19 f. A.V. i. iaspis jasper ii. sappheiros sapphire iii. chalkedon chalcedony iv. smaragdos emerald v. sardonnx sardonyx vi. sardion sardius vii. chrusolithos chrysolyte viii. berullos beryl ix. topazion topaz x. chrusoprasos chrysoprasus xi. uakinthos jacinth xii. amethustos amethyst The Heavenly City had 12 gates--each one a pearl--inscribed with the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The foundations were inscribed with the names of the Twelve Apostles. These precious stones have been identified as follows, taking the High Priest's breastplate: i. 1. Red carnelian 2. Chrysolite (greenish-yellow) 3. Emerald ii. 4. Carbuncle 5. Lapis Lazuli (blue) 6. Jasper (Greek chalcedony, dark green) iii. 7. Jacinth 8. Agate (white, with red or green grain) 9. Amethyst (blue transparent quartz) iv. 10. Topaz (gold -brown) 11. Aquamarine (dark blue) 12. Banded Carnelian (black and white, or brown and white )

[1905] Aaron the type of Christ the Priest. See Hebrews 4:15; v. 1-5; vii. 28; viii. 7.

[1906] Acts 17:28.

[1907] sc. to the name and title of God.

[1908] See Hebrews 1:3. "Splendor" is St. Ambrose's rendering of apaugasma. Theodoret says: "The radiance" (or "effulgence") "of a fire comes from it and accompanies it. The fire causes the radiance, but the radiance is inseparable from the fire. Also the radiance of the fire is of the same nature with it; so also is the Son of the same nature with the Father." Theophylact--"The sun is never seen without his radiance, and we cannot think of a father without his child." Delitzsch--"It is no nimbus around God that is here called His "glory," but God's own inconceivable, spiritual fire and brightness (die übersinnliche geistige Feuer und Lichtnatur Gottes selber), which He, in order to reveal Himself to Himself, makes an object to Himself" (aus sich heraussetzt).

[1909] "The act of knowing and comprehending all things necessarily includes the expression of mind-work or wisdom, that is, the Word, and without this it cannot even be conceived of. Rightly, then, did the Fathers deduce the eternity of the Word from the eternity of the Father."--Hurter, ad loc.

[1910] St. Ambrose's rendering of this passage (Job 38:36) agrees with the LXX.--tis de edoke gunaixin huphasmatos sophian, e poikiltiken elistemen. The A.V. 1611 has: "Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?" R.V. has "dark clouds" and "meteor" as marginal substitutes for "inward parts" and "heart." Vulgate--Quis posuit in visceribus hominis sapientiam? vel quis dedit gallo intelligentiam?

[1911] Exodus 35:27. kai hoi archontes enenkan tous lithous tes smaragdou kai tous lithous tes pleroseos eis ten epomida kai to logeion.-- LXX. Lapides onycninos et gemmas ad superhumerale et rationale.--Vulg. "Stones to be set."--A.V. & R.V. The LXX. gives the closest rendering of the Hebrew.

[1912] Proverbs 31:21 (22). St. Ambrose appears to follow the LXX., whose rendering of the passage is different from the Vulgate, with which our English versions agree. With what follows in the text, cf. Exodus 28:33, 34, also Exodus 28:5, 6.

[1913] Psalm 12.(xi. Vulg.) 6, 7. Cf. Proverbs 30:5.

[1914] These colours entered into the fashioning of the High Priest's Ephod (Exodus 28:5, 6) and the Vail of the Tabernacle. Probably a little symbolism was attached to the ornaments of Ahasuerus' palace of Susa, "where were white, green, and blue" (or violet) "hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver upon a pavement of red and blue and white and black marble." White and green might represent the earth, blue the air, purple the sea and water generally, in the curtains: whilst in the variegated marble pavement, red would naturally symbolize fire, blue the air, white water (as colourless when pure), black earth (the soil). Notice "the air we breathe," etc.--"Aëris quem spiramus et cujus carpimus flatum." Compare Virgil, Æn. I. 387, 388.

[1915] This was supposed by some of the Ionic philosophers to be the explanation of perception. We perceived earth, they supposed, by reason of the earthly constituent of our organism.

[1916] S. James 2:14-26.

[1917] i.e. if it is possible for Him to ascend to a higher plane of existence.

[1918] i.e. He is a son "by adoption," as one of ourselves.

[1919] i.e.He may not have as yet actually sinned, but it is within the range of possibility for Him--He is, as Hurter expresses it in his note, "auctor malitiæ si non actu, saltem potentia."

[1920] S. Mark 10:18.

chapter xx st ambrose declares
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