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Augustine's Early Theology of ImageA Study in the Development of Pro-Nicene Theology$
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Gerald P. Boersma

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190251369

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190251369.001.0001

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Ambrose of Milan

Ambrose of Milan

(p.87) III Ambrose of Milan
Augustine's Early Theology of Image

Gerald P. Boersma

Oxford University Press

For Ambrose as well, imago dei refers principally to Christ. For Ambrose, Colossians 1:15 is unambiguous in teaching that the image is identical to its source—invisible, immaterial, and eternal. However, unlike Hilary and Victorinus, Ambrose will at times also refer to the human person as imago dei. What it means for the human person to be the image of God is seen in light of Christ; the imago dei intimates an immaterial and eternal relation. One should not, therefore, look to the body, but only to the soul, as the image of God. Nevertheless, engaging with both the Apostle Paul and Plotinus, Ambrose is attentive to the embodied character of the human person and to the corollary moral implications. A rich ethical theology derived from the imago dei is evident in Ambrose’s preaching. Ambrose does not denigrate the body but urges a “transvaluation” of bodily desires. This is evident especially in Ambrose’s writing on cosmetics and virginity that are framed within Stoic ethical categories (particularly Stoic ideals of sequi naturma and apatheia) that Ambrose infuses with Christian content. That the image of God is realized in its propensity to imitate is, for Ambrose, integral to the definition of an image. The imago dei is, in the human person, a dynamic movement by which one is being “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29).

Keywords:   Ambrose of Milan, stoicism, Paul, Plotinus, sequi naturam, apatheia, cosmetics, virginity

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