Front Page Titles (by Subject) VIII.: The Biblical Text - On the Mysteries and the Treatise on the Sacraments
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VIII.: The Biblical Text - Ambrose, On the Mysteries and the Treatise on the Sacraments [387 AD]
On the Mysteries and the Treatise on the Sacraments by an Unknown Author, trans. T. Thompson, ed. with Introduction and Notes by J.H. Strawley (New York: Macmillan, 1919).
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The Biblical Text
The quotations from the New Testament found in de Mysteriis appear to agree fairly closely on the whole with the text exhibited in the Latin Version of Jerome (the Vulgate), especially in St. Paul’s Epistles. There is, however, a considerable number of Old Latin readings, and especially of readings found in the Irish group of Vulgate MSS. Of the other readings found in de Mysteriis some appear in other writings of Ambrose and in the works of other Latin Fathers; while others again seem to be due to citations from memory, or free quotations which paraphrase the passages referred to.
The New Testament text exhibited in de Sacramentis presents much the same features as that of de Mysteriis, and agrees on the whole with the Vulgate, with an intermixture of Old Latin readings, and a certain number of free quotations due to lapse of memory or loose citation.
Among the Old Latin readings found in these treatises are the following:
In the version of the Lord’s Prayer found in de Sacram. v. 4. 18 we find the clause, “Suffer us not to be led into temptation” (ne nos patiaris induci in tentationem). This is probably due to Tertullian (de Or. 8), from whom it passed to Cyprian, the African Old Latin, and some MSS. of the Vulgate. The same author (v. 4. 29) shows acquaintance with another reading in the same clause (“temptation which we are not able to bear”), which is quoted by Jerome, Hilary, and Ps. Augustine, Serm. lxxiv.
The citation of the insertion in John v. 4 in de Myst. iv. 22 and de Sacram. ii. 2. 3 exhibits several readings which find support in one or other group of Vulgate MSS. Both have “qui prior descendisset,” languore, and tenebatur. The word natatorium in de Myst. corresponds to natatoria of some Vulgate MSS. Similarly the readings in John xiii. 8 (“thou wilt have no part with me”), and John xiii. 10 (“needeth not save to wash his feet”) are found in some Vulgate MSS.
A certain number of readings in both treatises find support in the works of Ambrose, e. g. 1 Cor. x. 4 (omission of “spiritual” before “rock”), de Myst. viii. 49 (so some MSS. in de Sacram. v. 1. 3); 1 Cor. x. 11 (facta sunt for contingebant), de Sacram. i. 6. 20; Eph. v. 18 (“holy Spirit”), de Sacram. v. 3. 17; 1 John v. 7 (the order “water, blood, spirit”), de Myst. iv. 20; Col. iv. 3 (aperiatur mihi ostium verbi), de Sacram. v. 3. 17. The reading in Mt. x. 16 (quoted de Myst. iv. 25), “astuti sicut serpentes,” is found in Augustine (de Doctr. Chr. ii. 16. 24).
In the Old Testament both writers depend upon the Latin Versions made from the Septuagint. Jerome’s work on the Old Testament occupied roughly the years 390-405 a.d. The greater part of it was based on the Hebrew, and when published it gained acceptance slowly. This explains the fact that the Old Testament quotations in these treatises shew constant agreement with the Greek Bible where they diverge from the Vulgate. On the other hand, the quotations from the Psalms are in constant agreement with the Vulgate. The reason for this is that the Vulgate Psalter represents Jerome’s second revision of the Psalter,1 which was based on the Greek Versions, and which his later version from the Hebrew failed to supplant in general favour. Where the readings in passages taken from the Psalms diverge from the Vulgate they are generally found to be nearer to those of the Septuagint, e. g. in the quotation of Psalm xxiii. (de Myst. viii. 43, de Sacram. v. 3. 13) both writers read in verse 1 pascit for regit. In verse 5 of the same psalm de Myst. has “thy” cup (though some MSS. read “my,” as in de Sacram. and Vulgate). Similarly in de Sacram. v. 3. 16 the reading “ex Aegypto” (Psalm lxxx. 8 (lxxix. 9)) is nearer to the Septuagint than the Vulgate.
The text of the Song of Songs, for the Old Latin Version of which we have little evidence beyond the copious references in the writings of Ambrose, and a few verses from Jerome, Augustine, and others, presents the same general features as the other Old Testament citations. Its divergences from the readings of the Vulgate are generally explained by reference to the Greek Bible, though in some cases the renderings are due to the use of a different Latin word to represent the same underlying text. The quotation of Cant. viii. 2 in de Myst. vii. 40 appears to be a conflation of two readings, combining elements which are found separately in the Septuagint and the Vulgate. If the quotation stood alone it might be thought that the words, “there thou shalt teach me” (ibi docebis me), had been introduced into the text from the Vulgate, but the words are found also in Ambrose, Exp. in Ps. cxviii. 19. 25, which shows that the reading was current in the time of Ambrose, who died before the completion of Jerome’s revision of the Song of Songs.
[1 ]From its early currency in Gaul this revision is generally known as the Gallican Psalter.