This is a preliminary translation of the Ambrosiaster Latin text, I Corinthians chapters 12.
For introductory notes on this translation along with commentary go to: Notes on Translating Ambrosiaster’s Corinthians 12-14.
Comment. In. Epist. I ad Corinthios 12
(Vers. 1-2) “Moreover concerning spiritual things I do not wish you to be ignorant. You know that you were heathens, these ones are following the appearance of idols, even as you were being led.”1 The spirits, the person who will surrender to those, he is mindful of an earlier way of life; that just as they were in the form of images, worshiping idols, and were being led by the guide [and] will of demons. So also the ones worshiping God, they are to exist with the form of the law of the Lord, these ones march as if it is to be pleasing with the Lord. In fact the form of every piece of the law ought to appear in the occupation and the behaviour of the worshiper. Namely, the above form and image is of the law of God.
(Vers. 3) “On this account which I make known to you that no one by speaking in the Spirit of God says anathema to Jesus. And no one can say the Lord Jesus except by the holy Spirit.” Seeing those who are unaware of matters concerning spiritual things, more importantly with mankind which they were giving God the glory by means of every single one of the gifts, these ones have not been understood the gift to be supplied through the holy Spirit. And because everyone who calls the Lord Jesus, he does not say this without the holy Spirit, in fact he possesses the grace of his own faith within him personally. Namely one cannot say the Lord Jesus without the gift of God. And it demonstrates through this that there is to be praise and gratitude in all things of God. That2 just as the image of idols is in accordance with its servants, having its own order through each part of the ranks, it is still wholly by men. Therefore also the rank of the gifts are with the office of the Church by the law belonging to the Master, certainly they have not been granted by human merit. But while the the members which are pertaining to the edification of the Church that through one another and in each other they have glory, just like it is as well in human service. For instance there are scholae3 who give unto themselves worth with having been set into a position. While the honour of a position may give glory, [it is] one’s own praise. As it then says, “No one by the Spirit of God says anathema to Jesus” (I Cor. 12:3). For the voice that says anathema to Jesus has been proved4 with human error. For whatever has been falsified is by man. “And no man can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost”5 (I Corinthians 12:3). For the expression itself which the Lord Jesus is being shown, not by the prostrating of men and such as they summon the image of a god. But the holy Spirit has been poured out by means of the truth. Whatever truth is being spoken by whoever, it is spoken by the holy Spirit. So that they were not then to esteem the favour of men in regards to the Christian example and they were clearly not enough to prove by means of this itself, just as it is also in the likeness (I mean inventions by man when God is being called who is not and through this the priests have been subjected by them). For it demonstrates by them that their is no human benefit with them when the Lord Jesus is being called. But the greater gift of God, which its mystery has been deemed worthy to be made known to mankind.
And indeed the declaration itself acquires forgiveness of sins like the formal speech of idols magnifies. Therefore it points out these things because they do not perform a betterment in religion saying “Lord Jesus” yet they receive. Nor should they consider favour by the manner of human idols with regard to the law of the Lord, when God is called upon who does exist.
Finally the ones who do not realize that the gift of God is that which is in accordance with faith; every single6 person has chosen for themselves whom they follow, saying, “I am of Paul, and I am of Apollo” (I Corinthians 1:12). He humbles the haughtiness of these people, that they undergo themselves, like I said, to prove.
(Vers. 4) “Now there are diversity of graces”7 Not that one wishes to ascribe this to human merit, but the favour of God for the purpose of honouring His name, namely just as that one says “Lord Jesus” says by the holy Spirit, of what kind of force it is. So also has the grace of such a power it is having been set in the place of the order of the office of the Church. By all means not special, but of an order by the power of the holy Spirit. From whence also he says from the beginning,8 “Neither he who waters is anything nor he who plants, but God is the one who gives the growth” (I Corinthians 3:7).
(Vers. 5, 6) “But the same Spirit. And there are the diversity of ministries.” He says diverse gifts are to be exhibited by the same Spirit. “The same Lord. And there are diversity of operations.” (I Corinthians12:6) For he joins Christ to the holy Spirit. “But the same God who works all in all.” (I Corinthians 12:6). In such a thing it is not to be granted with these men, as if it would be [their] very own, but God plants in alone. In order that he may say as well the work [is] the gift of the holy Spirit and the grace of the Lord Jesus of the one God. No grace and gift has been divided according to the characters of the Father, Son and the holy Spirit. But of indistinguishable unity and threefold nature one work is being realized, that he should render all glory and divine excellence to the one. “And there are divisions of graces”9 in offices of the Church, not having been assigned by human merit. For if the holy Spirit is similarly God and the Lord is similarly God and the one God is three. In fact seeing that the glory and power and nature of the holy Spirit is of God and the Lord Jesus is the same in nature which God is, certainly one is the the holy Spirit, and the Lord Jesus and the Father God. And indeed one God belonging to each and three one God.
Finally by one work, three are being named to be functioning. That the mystery of the Trinity should be confined in one God in nature and power.
(Vers. 7) “Moreover to each one the manifestation of the Spirit was given for an advantage.” That is, one receives the gift that his own life which is being directed by the divine rope and to each other and others would be useful while it demonstrates the example of good behaviour.
(Vers. 8 ) “To one indeed, by the Spirit, is given the word of wisdom.”10 That is for the purpose that he may bestow a cure for the sick or diseased.
(Vers. 9-10) “Others faith in the same Spirit”. It says this, that by the faith which is bound to be proclaimed and delivered, firmly planted in humility, one is to be able to receive the ability. “Others work of mighty works.” It signifies to be given the ability for demons to be cast out, or a sign which is to be brought about. “Others Prophecy.” That is, the one having been filled by the holy Spirit would speak about the future. “Others discernment of spirits.” This says that the one who should understand or appraises, who is being so-called, can it be either through the holy Spirit or worldly person? “Other kinds of languages, others interpretation of speech.” It is to be interpreted, that their words which they were speaking in languages or letters it is to be accurately interpreted through the gift of God.
(Vers. 11) “But all these things, one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he will.”11 Because he says the greatest of the three persons now is being declared to be delivered through the one holy Spirit. That because they are of one nature and power because one performs the three performs.12 Nevertheless one is God, whose grace is being divided into individuals, even as he wishes, not by human merit, but instead for the edification of His own Church. That all that the world wishes to be imitating but yet does not satisfy because that is of the flesh. These are to be seen in the Church, which is the house of God, having been granted with the parts of separate pieces, gift and governance of the holy Spirit among them for the approval of truth which are worthless to the world.
(Vers. 12-13) “For as the body is one and has many members and all the members from one body, seeing that they are many, one body they are, therefore it is also in Christ. And indeed in one Spirit we all have been baptized in one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free. We all drank the one Spirit.”13 He teaches through these things that not one person as it were who has been looked down ought to be despised and nor any other as it were has been perfected ought to be given preference, nor glory, which ought to be given to the only God which must be allotted by mankind. Since one in all also the same God is glorious. Naturally while we have all and one baptism and one and also the same holy Spirit. This reason on account of having been said before, which they were priding themselves in something else, just as certainly they were despising worthless things.
(Vers. 14) “For the body is also not one member but many” This is saying he demonstrates unity to have varieties of offices and this difference does not disagree in regards to the oneness of power. Since the unity of the body did not come about in singleness but in many members, that they perform mutually among themselves, which they are obligated [to do].
(Vers. 15) “If the foot should say, because I am not a hand, I am not part of the body. Is it really therefore not belonging to the body?” That is, is it not possible for them who are fragile appear to be denied being part of the body among the brethren, because he is not capable?
(Vers. 16) “And if the ear should say, because I am not of the eye, I am not part of the body. Is it really therefore not belonging to the body?” Does it not ought to say this, who the least is among the small, is not critical to be reckoned of the body, therefore he is not to be what [is] according to the first ranks?
(Vers. 17) “If the whole body be the eye, where is the hearing? If the whole thing is the hearing, where is the smelling? That is, if all are to be of one office and work; in what way is the remaining need of the body to be fulfilled, when it is made clear by the many offices that the work is near the steering oars14 of the body?
(Vers. 18) “But now God has set the members each one in the body, as he desired.” The will of God, which is characterized by forethought and powers of reasoning, it says that the members of the body adjust in order that nothing lacks in the body but also is to bring about perfection in the many members.
(Vers. 19) “For if they had been all one member, where is the body?” It is clear that if they were to have been of one position, they would have not been named members, nor a body. Therefore for that reason as well are to be joined together15 in the various parts of the members. For all would not be able to be that one member. Then on the other hand they are many, because they spread out from each other in self-respect.
(Vers. 20) “There are many members indeed, yet one body.”16 He says this because many members, while they are to reciprocally need one another, they do not differentiate in the unity of nature although they are separate, because this diversity agrees as one in order that the benefit of the body may be complete. Just as this [diversity] to which the world itself well knows too. Diverse they are not only in functions17 but also in natures. Yet they effect towards the perfection of the one18 world and from all this the proper mixture produces something in fruitful reward which they produce for the benefit of humanity.
(Vers. 21) “And the eye is not able to say to the hand: I do not need your help.” It is this, it cannot say [it is] more important than the lower one. It is not useful to me because the eye indeed sees but in fact the hands remain which are working. Or rather the head to the foot, “You are not to me of any necessity”. That is, the greater in rank and authority cannot exist without that, which is humility. Because it is that humility has the power which cannot exalt because it empowers the uncultivated,19 with respect to which it cannot hear. And by this the feet accomplish the honour of the head.
(Vers. 22) “But much more that the members of the body who appear to be weak ones, they are necessary.” It is clearly shown that no matter how any things shall be exalted in worth, nevertheless if the object having been made lacks which makes its glory in its own confidences, its own honour will be worthless. For it is the function, by which the worth consists of. So it would be like lacking armies to the emperor. Although yet he may be a wise emperor, it is still necessary to have an army. It is a member of his body, before having tribunes, officials20, and experts. The soldiers are the least to all these and they are more necessary. Like members of the body which while they appear last, they are more advantageous. For the hand works without the eyes and the foot walks searching for nourishment.
(Vers. 23) “And such we think to the most ignoble members of the body, we place to those more abundant honour.” It has been similarly understood, because those who are being reckoned [Col. 262] to be without dignity we find in their case that we praise them just as also in the members of the lowest rank. For which the hands are with regard of honour, when we want, we grasp! For this reason also we add doing honour to them, let that one think by the foot.21 Someone that are insignificant and without worth, we dress with shoes. “and who are our degraded ones, they have more abundant honour.”22 It is evident because our shameful ones who appear disgusting, while they themselves avoid public appearance they are clothed in integrity, that not through irreverence do they have a rough appearance. In a similar way also certain brothers when they would be in need and in the condition of a degraded appearance, they are still not without grace, that is through which they are members of our body. For they are in the practice of having been girded with a gloomy garment [and] to walk with a bare foot. Therefore when they seem more worthless, they are more in esteem, because they are accustomed to have a life of moral purity.23 For these who appear looked down upon by man, it is a habit to be judged beautiful by God.
(Vers. 24) “But those who our distinguished ones lack nothing.” It was explained that a person does not lack, neither face, nor hand, that he is being improved with these which they are adorned with. Thus also in the brotherhood in which some study in expertise and the distinguished in the realm of practical experience thrive, nothing is being added24 to ourselves.25 For the due honour is being rendered to those. A truly necessary action of encouragement for the low or insignificant ones, through whom some honour is being added to these ones, in order that they may become useful. If not that, the ones who are indifferent would be more concerned about themselves than with the despised one.
(Vers. 25) “But God combined the body to him for which was lacking, to be granted the more abundant honour. And not should be a separation in the body, but the members should be mutually about concern [for each other].” Thus he says the human body has been controlled by God that all of His members should be essential ones. And through these as with mutual concern with each other because some without the other that is not possible and everyone reckoned inferior is more needed. Just as it has been explained about the brothers, even for the purpose of a discussion that no one ought to look down on as it were the helpless ones.
(Vers. 26) “And if any one member suffers, every member suffers [together].” This which belongs to the members of the body of the flesh is not ambiguous, because if the eye, or the foot, or the hand is to take hold in any affliction of sickness, the whole body suffers greatly, so that he teaches us to suffer with the brethren, [that is] if anybody will appear of such a way or need. “Or if one member is being uplifted then every member rejoices together.” It is clear that happy is head or the other members, if the feet have been taken care of or [are] healthy. Thus we ought to become cheerful ourselves, if we see any brother who has interest of God, and abundance in integrity of morals. This is to be sound in judgement.
(Vers. 27) “You are the body of Christ and [col. 263] members from the member.” He openly points out our own responsibility to discuss by the account of the members of the flesh, because we are not able [to do] everything the same but of each one according to the nature of the faith and we possess the grace which has been granted.
(Vers. 28) “And God has set certain one in the Church, indeed first the apostles.” Thus he set the leader in regards with the Church that they officers of Christ, just as the Apostle likewise says, “For by which we participate as an ambassador” (II Cor. 5:20). They are in that place bishops, by the declaration of Peter the apostle, and by the orders on the other hand from the Jews. “And the office of the bishop, let another take” (Acts 1:20).
“Secondly prophets.” We should understand prophets in a twofold sense both speaking26 concerning the things about to be, and revealing the Scriptures. However Apostles should be also prophets because the first rank has every subject. In fact the most wicked Caiphas on account that he was the chief priest, prophesied (John 11:51), certainly by the cause of rank, not of personal merit. Nevertheless they were specifically prophets both interpreters of Scriptures,27 and speaking about the future as Agabus was, who had prophesied the ruins and imprisonments to be about this Apostle in Jerusalem (Acts 21:11),28 and foretold the famine, which happened under Claudius (Acts 11:28). Yet for that reason he would become the most useful apostle, still sometimes he needs a prophet.
“Third teachers.” That he says the teachers who, since the epistles and the readings out loud [and traditions]29 must be preserved in the Church, were giving the young men initial instruction in the custom of the synagogue because the tradition of these people, it was prepared to be brought over to us.
In the fourth position it is to be: “Then powers,30 then the grace of healings”. For any who can [do this] as having in him the gift of the power of soundness of health are not to be a Bishop. “Helps, governments”. That he may be vigilant in understanding divine matters. So nevertheless that in any others which it is not being granted to be filled up, he should obtain through another [person] in respect to which he does not have because the whole cannot be granted to one. There are also governors who are in keeping the spiritual things together in human instructions. “Kinds of languages”. That the gift of God is to know many languages.31 “Interpretation of words.”32 When this is granted to some by the grace of God that he has the expertise of languages which require translations.
(Vers. 29) “Can it be all are apostles?” The reality is that one Bishop is in the Church. “Can it be all are prophets?” It is not ambiguous, it is not to be granted the prophetic to everyone. “Can it be all are teachers?” That is a teacher, to whom it is to be granted to teach others.
(Vers. 30) “Can it be all are powers?” This one is able to possess the power, to whom God gives to expel demons. “Can it be all have the gift of healings?” How could he do it that all should have the gift of healings? “Can it be all are speaking in languages?” Certainly not, except one who receives the gift in this matter. “Can it be that all interpret?” The person is able to interpret words to whom God gives. For the sense has been said before, this must be inserted. In fact he had explained by the reckoning which had been rendered, that everyone is to have the diverse graces and it is not that anyone be granted the whole thing by example of the members. For by the example of the fleshly body he insinuates the spiritual body and through this in all things God must be praised, and in the name of this one must be glorified of whom is grace. We furthermore arrive at this reckoning in the natural science33 realm. For while gold is better than silver, yet more in use is silver. And while brass is necessary, yet the need is more in iron. For while it is inferior one makes no household goods without iron.
(Vers. 31) “Be zealous of the better gifts”. After this he sums up with regards to the subjects. “I will explain to yet a more excellent way”. He carries those step by step for a good purpose, showing those the grace of every gift which has been said before that is seen in mankind, whether speaking, or healing, or prophesying, that it is not to be related to the person’s merit, but to the honouring of God. Therefore for that reason now he says to show more plainly the way with those ones themselves who are being passed to heaven whose merit gathers together with God. Because on the other hand having been said before that one cannot always reach out by merit. The Saviour says, “Many are going to say to me in that day”, that is [the day] of judgement, “Lord, Lord, had we not prophesied in your name and in your name we had cast out demons and we performed great powers?” (Matt. 7:22). And because this does not extend by merit, but they are functions of the Church in response34 to the confusion of the gentiles and the honour of God which must be bourne witness to, the Lord says to them, “Withdraw from me, I never knew you, workers of iniquity.”35 Namely by the axe36, because the work of God was being examined with regard to those ones, who have no concern for consequences in respect to themselves. For instance too with the 72 disciples who are rejoicing because the demons have been placed under them [their authority]. the Saviour says, “Let not one wish to rejoice in this, that the demons are subjected to you, but rejoice in this that your name has been written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20).
In what way is it not37 because they have been subjected in the name of God not by human merit? And in what way now does that not happen so, that men have the grace of God? It was required to do during the beginning times in order that the foundations of the faith were to receive strength but now it is not needed because people lead people to the faith when they see their good works and simple preaching.■
The original Latin copy used for this translation can be found here: The Ambrosiaster Latin text on I Corinthians 12-14