Home>Ambrose of Milan

Has your Majesty never heard that when Julian commanded the temple at Jerusalem to be restored, they who cleared away the rubbish were destroyed by fire from heaven? Are you not afraid lest this should now happen?

Aurelius Ambrosius

“Ambrose of Milan”
Called “Pseudo-Hegesippus”

‘How shall Christ help us, when we fight for the Jews against Christ? when we are sent to take vengeance on their behalf? They have lost their own armies, and they wish to destroy ours.’

(On Matthew 24)
“It was spoken then of the temple made with hands, that it should be overthrown. For there is nothing made with hands which age does not impair, or violence throw down, or fire burn. Yet there is also another temple, that is, the synagogue, whose ancient building falls to pieces as the Church rises. There is also a temple in every one, which falls when faith is lacking, and above all when any one falsely shields himself under the name of Christ, that so he may rebel against his inward inclinations.

Matthew adds a third question, that both the time of the destruction of the temple, and the sign of His coming, and the end of the world, might be inquired into by the disciples. But our Lord being asked when the destruction of the temple should be, and what the sign of His coming, instructs them as to the signs, but does not mind to inform them as to the time. It follows, Take heed that you be not deceived.” (Golden Chain, in loc.)

LETTER XL. [A.D.388.]

In the year 388 A.D. the synagogue of the Jews at Callinicum in Mesopotamia was burnt by the Christians, at the instance, it was asserted, of the Bishop. Some monks also in the same district, having been insulted by some Valentinian heretics, while singing Psalms in processsion on the Festival of the Maccabees, (Aug. 1st.) had burnt their conventicle. Theodosius had ordered that the Bishop should re-build the synagogue at his own cost, and that the monks should be punished, and the whole matter carefully sifted, and justice done. This Letter is written by S. Ambrose to remonstrate. He urges his plea with the boldest importunity, and, as he tells his sister in the following letter, Theodosius eventually yielded.


6.  The military Count of the East reported that a synagogue had been burnt, and that this had been done at the instigation of the Bishop. You decided that the others should be punished, and that the synagogue should be rebuilt by the Bishop himself. I will not insist on the propriety of calling for the Bishop’s own statement; for the clergy are wont to check disturbances and desirous of peace, save when they are themselves moved by some offence against God or insult to the Church. But suppose this Bishop to have been too eager in setting fire to this synagogue, and now to grow timid before the judgment-seat, has your Majesty no fear, lest he should acquiesce in your sentence, no apprehension of his becoming apostate?

7.  Do you not fear, what will certainly be the case, that he will meet your officer with a refusal; and so he will be obliged to make him either an apostate or a martyr, and both of these are adverse to your interests and savour of persecution, that he should be forced either to become an apostate or undergo martyrdom. You see then whereunto this matter tends; if you think the Bishop firm, avoid driving his firmness to martyrdom; if you think him frail, shun exposing his frailty to a fall. For a heavy responsibility lies on him who has caused one who is weak to fall.

8.  Under these circumstances I suppose that the Bishop will say that he himself kindled the fire, gathered the crowd, collected the people; so as not to lose an opportunity of martyrdom, and in place of the weak to offer up a bolder victim. O happy falsehood; obtaining for others acquittal, for himself Grace. This is my request also to your Majesty, that you would turn your vengeance upon me, and, if you consider this a crime, impute it to me. Why do you order the absent to be punished? you have the guilty person before you, you hear his confession, I openly affirm that I myself set the synagogue on fire, or at least, that I ordered others to do so; that there might be no place in which Christ is denied. And if it be objected, why did I not set it on fire in this very city? It began to be burnt, I reply, by the Divine judgment, my work was superseded. And to speak the truth, I was the less zealous because I expected no punishment. Why should I do that which being unavenged would also be unrewarded? These words are a shock to modesty, but they also bring back grace; they provide against the commission of that which may offend Almighty God.

9. But suppose that no one will cite the Bishop to do this; for this is what I have begged of your Clemency, and though I have not yet read that the edict is revoked, I will nevertheless assume it to be so. But what if other more timid persons, from a fear of death offer to rebuild the synagogue from their own funds, or the Count, finding this previously ordained, should himself command it to be restored at the expense of the Christians? Your Majesty will then have an apostate Count, and you will entrust your victorious banner, your labarum, which is consecrated by the name of Christ, to one who is the restorer of the synagogue which knows not Christ. Command the labarum to be carried into the synagogue, and let us see if they do not resist.

10.  Shall then a building be raised for perfidious Jews out of the spoils of the Church, and shall that patrimony, which by Christ’s mercy has been assigned to Christians, be transferred to the temples of the unbelieving? We read that temples were in former days erected from the spoils of the Cimbri and other enemies of Rome. Shall the Jews inscribe this title on the front of their synagogue: ‘The temples of impiety built from the spoils of Christians?’

11.  But the maintenance of discipline is perhaps what influences your Majesty. Is the show of discipline then weightier than the cause of religion? Police should give place to religion.

12.  Has your Majesty never heard that when Julian commanded the temple at Jerusalem to be restored, they who cleared away the rubbish were destroyed by fire from heaven? Are you not afraid lest this should now happen? Surely you ought not to have commanded what Julian commanded.

13.  But why are you thus moved? Is it generally because a public building has been burnt, or because it is a synagogue? If you are moved by the conflagration of the meanest edifice, (and what else could there have been in so obscure a town,) does not your Majesty remember how many prefects’ houses have been burnt at Rome, and yet no man enacted vengeance for them? Nay, if any Emperor had desired to punish such an act severely, he would rather have injured the cause of those who had suffered so great a loss. Which then is the more fitting, that the partial burning of some houses at Callinicum, or the burning of the city of Rome should be punished, if indeed either of them ought to have been so. At Constantinople, a while ago, the Bishop’s house was burnt, and your Majesty’s son interceded with you, that you would not avenge the wrong done to him, the youthful Emperor, nor the burning of the Bishop’s palace. Your Majesty should consider, that, if you should in like manner command this act to be punished, he may again intercede to prevent it. The former boon however was happily obtained from the father by the son, for it was only fitting that he should first remit the injury to himself. A good distribution of favour and well allotted it is, that the son should be petitioned for his own loss, and the father for the offence against his son. In this case there is nothing which you need keep back on your son’s account, beware also lest you derogate ought from God.

14.  There is then no adequate reason for any such commotion, that the people should be so severely punished for the burning of any building; much less seeing that it is a synagogue that has been burnt, a place of unbelief, a house of impiety, a receptacle of madness, which God Himself hath condemned. For thus we read what the Lord our God spake by the mouth of Jeremiah, Therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by My Name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you, and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. And I wilt cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim. Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to Me, for I will not hear thee. Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah? God forbids him to intercede for those whom you think worthy of being avenged.

15.  Were I pleading according to the law of nations, I should assuredly recount how many Churches the Jews burnt in the time of Julian’s reign: two at Damascus, one of which is but just repaired, and that at the expense, not of the synagogue, but of the Church, while the other is still a mass of shapeless ruins. Churches were likewise burnt at Gaza, Ascalon, Berytus, and nearly every town in that region, and yet no man asked for vengeance. At Alexandria too the most beautiful Church of all was burnt down by the Gentiles and Jews. The Church has not been avenged, shall then the synagogue be?

16.  And shall the burning of the temple of the Valentinians likewise be punished? For what but a temple is the place where Gentiles assemble? The Gentiles indeed reckon twelve gods, the Valentinians worship thirty two Aeons, whom they call gods. Concerning these I am informed that they have called for punishment upon some monks. For the Valentinians having endeavoured to stop them as they were going in procession according to ancient custom, chanting psalms, to celebrate the festival of the Maccabees, the monks exasperated by this affront, set fire to one of their rudely constructed temples in some country village.

17.  How many have to offer themselves to this choice, remembering that in Julian’s time he who threw down the altar and disturbed the sacrifice was condemned by the judge, and suffered martyrdom. And accordingly the judge who tried him was never considered other than a persecutor, no man would associate with him, no man deemed him worthy of a kiss of greeting. Were he not now dead, I should fear your Majesty’s taking vengeance upon him. Nevertheless he escaped not the Divine vengeance, but saw his son die before him.

18.  But it is reported that the judge was ordered to take cognizance of the matter, and was informed that he ought not to have reported upon it, but to have punished it, that the offerings which had been taken away were to be demanded back. Other particulars 1 will omit; but when the Jews burnt our Churches, nothing was restored, nothing demanded, nothing sought for. But what could the synagogue possess in that distant place, when everything in it was but of little value, nothing precious or abundant.  In short of what could a fire deprive the treacherous Jews? These are devices of the Jews who wish to accuse us falsely, that through their representations an extraordinary military tribunal may be appointed, and an officer sent, who perhaps will say what one said here before your accession, ‘How shall Christ help us, when we fight for the Jews against Christ? when we are sent to take vengeance on their behalf? They have lost their own armies, and they wish to destroy ours.’

19.  Nay, what are the calumnies into which they will not rush, who by false witnesses have slandered Christ Himself? who are false even in matters relating to God? Whom will they not charge with the guilt of this sedition? whom will they not thirst after, even though they know them not? They desire to see rank after rank of Christians in chains, to see the necks of the faithful placed under the yoke, the servants of God hidden in darkness, smitten with the axe, delivered to the fire, or sent to the mines, that their pains may be slow and lingering.

20.  Will your Majesty give this triumph to the Jews over the Church of God? this victory over the people of Christ, this joy to the unbelievers, this felicity to the Synagogue, this grief to the Church? They will place this solemnity among their feast-days; numbering it among those wherein they triumphed over the Ammonites, or Canaanites, or over Pharaoh king of Egypt, or which delivered them from the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. This festival they will add in memory of the triumph they have gained over Christ’s people.

21.  Although they refuse to be bound by Roman laws, deeming them even criminal, they now pretend to claim vengeance according to those laws. Where were those laws, when they burnt the roofs of the consecrated Basilicas? If Julian avenged not the Church because he was an Apostate, will your Majesty, being a Christian, avenge the injury done to the Synagogue?

22.  And what will Christ hereafter say to you? Do you not remember what he said to holy David by the prophet Nathan? ‘I have chosen thee the youngest of thy brethren, and from private life have made thee Emperor.  I have placed thy offspring upon the Imperial throne. I have put barbarous nations under thy feet, I have given thee peace, I have delivered thine enemy captive into thy hands. Thou hadst no corn to support thy army, I opened to thee the enemies’ gates, the enemies’ granaries, by their own hand; they gave thee the very stores which they had provided for themselves. I confounded the counsels of thy enemy, so that he laid bare his own plans. The very usurper of thy empire I so bound, and so fettered his mind, that although he had the means of flying from you he shut himself in with all his followers, as if fearing lest any should escape you. His lieutenant32 and his forces on the other element, whom I had before dispersed to prevent their combining to make war on thee, I now called together again to render thy victory complete. Thy army, an assemblage of many fierce nations, I caused to keep faith and peace and concord, as if they had been one nation. And when there was imminent danger lest the perfidious plots of the barbarians should penetrate the Alps, I gave thee victory within the very barrier of the Alps, that thy victory might be without loss. Thus I made thee to triumph over thy enemy, and thou art giving my enemies a triumph over my people.’

23. Was it not the very reason why Maximus was abandoned, that before he set out on his expedition, hearing that a synagogue had been burnt at Rome, he sent an edict thither, acting as if he were the guardian of public order. Wherefore the Christians said, No good awaits this man. That king is become a Jew, and we have heard of him as a protector of order, but Christ, who died for sinners, shortly after put him to the proof. And if this was said of words only, what will be said of actual punishment? So he was soon defeated by the Franks and by the Saxons, in Sicily, at Siscia, at Petavio, and in every |266 quarter of the globe. What has a devout man in common with an unbeliever? The precedents of his impiety ought to be obliterated together with the impious man himself. That which injured the vanquished, that at which he stumbled, the victor ought to condemn, not to imitate.

24.  Now I have recounted these things to you not as though you were ungrateful; rather I have spoken of them as being rightly bestowed, that reminded thereby you may love much, as being one on whom much has been bestowed. To Simon’s answer our Lord thus replied, Thou hast rightly judged; and then, turning straightway to the woman who had anointed His feet with ointment, and was the type of the Church, He said to Simon, Wherefore I say unto thee, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. This is that woman who entered the house of the Pharisee, and cast out the Jew, but gained Christ. For the Church shut out the Synagogue, and why is it now attempted, that, with the servant of Christ, that is, from the breast of faith, and abode of Christ, the Synagogue should shut out the Church.

25.  It is from affection and regard for your Majesty, that I have introduced these things into my pleading. The beneficence which has led you, at my request, to liberate many persons from exile, from prison, from the extreme penalties of death, obliges me to incur the danger of offending you for the sake of your own good, rather than lose in one moment that privilege of every Bishop which I have for so long possessed. For no man can feel greater confidence than he who zealously loves, no man certainly ought to injure him who is careful for his well-being. And yet it is not the loss of favour I deprecate, but the danger to salvation.

26. Yet how important it is that your Majesty should not think of enquiry or punishment in a matter with regard to which no one up to this time has ever held enquiry or inflicted punishment! It is a grievous thing to hazard your faith for the sake of Jews. When Gideon killed the consecrated calf, the Gentiles 35 said, Let the gods themselves avenge this affront towards them. Who is to avenge the Synagogue? Christ Whom they slew, Whom they denied? Or will God the Father avenge them, seeing that by rejecting the Son they have rejected the Father also. Who is to avenge the heresy of the Valentinians? how will your Piety be able to avenge them, seeing that you have commanded them to be shut out, and forbidden them to meet together? And should I bring forward to you the example of King Josiah as approved of God, will you condemn in this case that for which he is praised.

27.  But if you do not place sufficient confidence in me, let your Majesty command the presence of those bishops whom you do approve, and let the question be discussed, what ought to be done so as not to injure the Faith. If in financial matters you consult your Courts, how much more fitting is it that in the cause of religion you should consult the Bishops of the Lord?

28.  Let your Clemency consider what dangerous spies and liers in wait the Church has against her, if they find ever so small an opening they will plant a dart therein. I speak after the manner of men; but God is feared more than men, and is rightly preferred to Emperors themselves. If any man thinks obedience should be paid to a friend, a parent, or a neighbour, am I wrong in deeming that God should be obeyed, and that in preference to all others. Let your Majesty consult for your own well-being, or suffer me to consult for mine.

29.  What shall I hereafter answer, if it shall appear that by an edict issued from hence Christians have been slain by the sword, or beaten to death with clubs or thongs loaded with lead? How shall I justify such an act, how shall I excuse it to those Bishops who having discharged the office of the priesthood for thirty years, nay for many more, have now bitterly to bewail, being deprived of their sacred functions and called to undertake municipal offices. If  those who fight for you are set free after a certain period of service, how much more ought you to consider those who fight for God! How I repeat, shall I defend this to the Bishops who complain in behalf of the clergy, and write word that the Churches are overborne by violent oppression.

30.  This however I desired should be made known to your Majesty; about this you will deign to deliberate and direct according to your will; but as to that which distresses and rightly distresses myself, exclude and reject it from your consideration. You do yourself whatsoever you have commanded to be done; even if he 37 do it not, I would rather that you should be merciful than that he should refuse to do what he has been commanded.

31.  Here are persons in dealing with whom you ought still to invite and earn the Clemency of God towards the Roman empire; here are persons for whom rather than for yourself you have to hope; let their grace, their well-being, appeal to you in what I now say. I fear your entrusting your cause to the judgement of others. As yet you are committed to nothing. Herein I will pledge myself for you to our God, fear not your oath. That change cannot be displeasing to God which is made for His honour. You have no need to alter your former letter whether it be yet dispatched or not, but command another to be written which shall be replete with faith and piety. It is open to you to change, it is not open to me to keep back the truth.

32.  You have forgiven the people of Antioch their offence against you, you have recalled the daughters of your enemy, you have committed them to be nurtured by their relative, you have bestowed money from your treasury on the mother of your enemy. This great piety, this great faith towards God will be obscured by your present act. Having thus spared your armed foes, and preserved your enemies, do not, I beseech you, so eagerly seek for vengeance upon Christians.

33. And now I entreat your Majesty not to disdain to listen to my fears both for yourself and myself; for it is the saying of an holy man, Woe is me, wherefore was I born to see this misery of my people? is it that I should incur the risk of offending God? Assuredly I have done what is most respectful to you: I have sought that you should listen to me in the palace, that you might not have to listen to me in the Church.


Hegesippus (2) (Egesippus), the alleged author of a work of which a translation from Greek into Latin, or what purported to be such, appeared c. 400, and is commonly referred to as de Bello Judaico or as de Excidio Urbis Hierosolymitanae. It is mainly taken from the Wars of Josephus. The translator freely adds to his author, sometimes from the later books of the Antiquities of Josephus, sometimes from Roman historians and other sources, and also freely composes speeches for the actors.

The work is that of an earnest defender of the Christian faith. An approximation to his date is supplied by several passages; as when he speaks of Constantinople having long become the second city of the Roman empire (iii. 5, p. 179), and of Antioch, once the metropolis of the Persians, being in his time the defence of the Byzantines against that people. He also speaks of the triumphs of the Romans in “Scotia” and in “Saxonia,” using language strikingly similar to that of Claudian (c. 398) (v. 18, p. 299; Claud. de iv. Cons. Honor. 31–34). The work early acquired a considerable reputation. Some have ascribed the translation to Ambrose. The Benedictines, however, strongly reject the Ambrosian authorship, asserting that it contains nothing whatever in Ambrose’s style; while Galland earnestly contends for it, and reprints an elaborate dissertation of Mazochius which he regards as conclusive (Galland. Biblioth. Patr. vii. prolegom. p. xxix.). The editors of the Patrologia incline to reject the Ambrosias authorship, though they print it among his writings (xv. 1962). The most correct edition (Marburg, 1858, 1864, 4to) was commenced by Prof. C. F. Weber of Marburg, and completed after his death by Prof. Julius Caesar, who elaborately discussed the authorship and date (pp. 389–399). Cf. G. Landgraf, “Die Hegesippus Frage” in Archiv. f. Latin Lexicogr. (1902), xii. 465·472, who decides in favour of the Ambrosian authorship.” [T.W.D.]

Otto Bardenhewer
“9. HEGESIPPUS. — This name was long borne by the Latin translator or editor of the (Greek) « History of the Jewish War» of Josephus Flavius. The Latin name was the result of a misunderstanding: out of it was made Iosippus, which gave way to Egesippus and finally to Hegesippus, so that Hegesippus was only the disfigured name of the author. Critical considerations, both internal and external, compel us to assign the translation to the latter half of the fourth century. Whether it be a youthful work of St. Ambrose or the production of another is still perhaps an open question, although at present most critics, in view of the testimony of the manuscripts and the resemblance its style bears to that of his known works, agree in attributing it to the great bishop of Milan. The translator, whoever he may be, abbreviated in some places the original work; thus, the last three books (v—vii) have been condensed into one book (v). Elsewhere he enlarged his text, either by means of supplements drawn from other quarters or by rhetorical additions; moreover, he imparted a Christian character to the entire work.

The original Benedictine edition of St Ambrose (Paris, 1686—1600) did not contain the so-called Hegesippus; cf. t. ii, praef. iv—v. Gallandi printed it in Bib!, vet Patr. vii. 653—771, whence it passed into the Venice reprint of the Benedictine Ambrose (1781—1782) ii, Appendix (with special pagination), and into Migne, PL., xv. 1961—2224. A separate edition was brought out by C. Fr. Weber and J. Caesar, Marburg, 1864. On this edition is based the Hegesippus-text found in the BaUerini edition of St. Ambrose, Milan, 1875—1883, vi. 1—276. Fr. Vogel, De Hegesippo qui dicitur, Iosephi interprete (Diss, inaug.), Erlangen, 1880. Vogel, Ambrosius und der tJbersetzer des Tosephus, in Zeitschr. fur die osterreich. Gymnasien (1883), xxxiv. 241—249 (Vogel does not admit that Ambrose is the translator). //. Rensch, Die lexikaiischen Eigentilmlichkeitcn der Latiniutt des sogcn. Hegesippus, in Romanische Forschungen (1883), i. 256—321, reprinted in Ronsch, Collectanea philologa, herausgegeben von C. Wagener, Bremen, 1891, m—80 (Ambrose is the translator). Klebs. Das lateinische Geschichtswerk Uber den jtldischen Kneg, in Festschrift zum 5oj«hrigen DoktorjubiUum L. Friedllnder dargebracht, Leipzig, 1895, PP- 2×0—341

(Ambrose is not the translator). After a profound comparative study of the grammatical and stylistic peculiarities of the pseudo-Hegesippus and the works of Ambrose, the latter is declared by G. Langraf, Die Hegesippus-Frage, in Archiv. f. latein. Lexikogr. (1902), xii. 465—472, to be the translator of the work in question.” (Patrology: The Lives and Works of the Fathers of the Church, p. 424)

Andrew Criddle
“Pseudo-Hegesippus is of interest in providing (in book 2 chapter 12) a version of the Testimonium Flavianum (Josephus’ account of Christ) which is unlikely to be directly or indirectly influenced by Eusebius:

“About which the Jews themselves bear witness, Josephus a writer of histories saying, that there was in that time a wise man, if it is proper however, he said, to call a man the creator of marvelous works, who appeared living to his disciples after three days of his death in accordance with the writings of the prophets, who prophesied both this and innumerable other things full of miracles about him. from which began the community of Christians and penetrated into every tribe of men nor has any nation of the Roman world remained, which was left without worship of him. If the Jews don’t believe us, they should believe their own people. Josephus said this, whom they themselves think very great, but it is so that he was in his own self who spoke the truth otherwise in mind, so that he did not believe his own words. But he spoke because of loyalty to history, because he thought it a sin to deceive, he did not believe because of stubbornness of heart and the intention of treachery. He does not however prejudge the truth because he did not believe but he added more to his testimony, because although disbelieving and unwilling he did not refuse.”

For the importance of a witness to Josephus that is independent of Eusebius, please see my series of posts:

  1. “Josephus, the Testimonium Flavianum, and Eusebius” (25 March 2011)

  2. “A Pre-Eusebian Witness to the Testimonium” (Aug. 7, 2004)

  3. “Tacitus, Josephus, and Eusebius” (Dec. 10, 2004)

Louis H. Feldman
“One of scholarship’s favorite indoor sports, especially at the turn of the century, had been to guess the identity of the author of Hegesippus. Some had argued that the author was the Ambrosiaster (pseudo-Ambrose, the unknown
author of the commentary on the epistles of St. Paul) in Milan and had suggested a date in the second half of the fourth century.

Wittig (179) had attempted to identify the author with Isaac of Judaea, portions of whose works on faith are still extant; and Scholz (180) had similarly disputed the ascription to Ambrose.

Lumpe (181) revives the theory, on the basis of linguistic and stylistic
similarities, that the author was Ambrose.

The way to resolve such a dispute, it would seem, is through close study and analysis of vocabulary, grammar, and style of the work as compared with other work of the same general period of similar content. Mras, in the preface to Ussani (182), concludes that the style forces us to discard both Ambrose and the Ambrosiaster as the author; as for Isaac, the evidence is not decisive, since, as we may note, the works are not similar in subject matter.

Gruber (183) has demonstrated the weakness of Mras’ (182) arguments.

Mras (184) has noted that the grammar of three passages in Hegesippus (2.22, 2.36.2, 1.41.9) is definitely not consonant with that employed by Ambrose, and that they are, in fact, unparalleled in their Latinity. But until we have concordances of both Hegesippus and of other writers of the time, the matter must remain sub iudice.

Bell (184a) concludes that Hegesippus was probably a native of Antioch and was not Ambrose.

Only Hegesippus — and not the Latin Josephus – is ascribed to Ambrose, and so we sense that Cassiodorus has confused Hegesippus with the Latin version.” (Josephus and Modern Scholarship (1937–1980), pp. 41,42)

William Parr Greswell
“UHistoire de Josephus de la bataille Judaique. foL with figures. Verard.
This is the impression anni 1492, (ante sub anno 1480.) Mr. Warton says there is a very old prose romance, both in French and Italian, on the subject of the Destruction of Jerusalem, which is translated from the Latin work (very popular in the middle ages) intituled ” Hegesippi de Bello Judaico et Excidio
Urbis Hierosolyraitanx Libri V.” This is a licentious paraphrase of a part of the Jewish history of Josephus made about the IV. century. The name of Hegesippus is probably a corruption from Josephus, perhaps also called Josippus. The paraphrast is supposed to have been Ambrose of Milan, who flourished in the reign of Theodosius. On the subject of Vespasian’s siege of Jerusalem, as related in this book, our poet Adam Davie (who flourished circa 1512) has left a poem intitled the ” Battell of Jerusalem,” never printed. Der
Pasge notices the old French play on this subject, (probably “Mistere de la Vengeance, &c.”) “The Dystruccion of Jherusalem by Vaspazian and Tytus,” with cuts, was printed by Wynken de Worde an. 1528,4. and the impression several times repeated by our early printers. R. Pinson in particular gave “The destruccyon of Jerusalem, &c,” a quarto tract, (sine anno J consisting of 38 leaves, and containing 26 curious wood cuts. The frontispiece represents Vespasian and his camp, with cannon mounted on carriages by his side. He has the Roman eagle on his surtout, and is holding a parley with Pilate and Archelaus upon the battlements of Jerusalem. On the reverse of the title is an hermit, with a Palmer’s stall in one hand, and a string of beads in the other, &c.” (Fid. Jtncs9 p. 294J

Probably both these French and English dramas are founded on the narrative of the spurious Josephus, or Hegesippus. (Annals of Parisian Typography, pp. 275,276)

Irish Ecclesiastical Record
“As to the identity of Hegesippus, I would say that there is some probability of his beingAmbrose, and, furthermore, that this identity cannot be convincingly impugned by arguments based on a study of the vocabulary.’ But if this probability is true, it would have been better not to put it that it seems certain that Hegesippus and Ambrose lived at about the same time, etc. In fact, it is not certain whether there ever was an Hegesippus as distinct from Ambrose.” (1932 edition, p. 559)

Christopher Ligota
“This is naturally no more than a repetition of the confusion between Hegesippus, Pseudo-Hegesippus, and Flavius Josephus. The confusion was common in the sixteenth century. The second-century Church historian Hegesippus, a converted Jew and probably a native of Palestine, with whom, as we have seen, Neander was familiar,67 came to be identified with a Ps.-Hegesippus, invented to be the author of the (non-existent) Greek original of a fourth-century Christian reworking in Latin of Josephus’ De hello Indaico which paraded as the translation of Josephus, with Ambrose of Milan as the putative translator, until the appearance, sometime in the ninth century, of a philological translation of De bello which led to the fourth-century work being attributed to a different author, one Hegesippus (probably a corruption of Josephus).68 The Anacephaleosis was a summary, yet more pointedly Christian, of the Latin Ps.-Hegesippus, of a later date. The association with Ambrose carried such authority that Neander copied out word for word the recension of Pilate’s letter found in the Anacephaleosis (together with other apocryphal material) and did not so much as refer to other recensions of the letter,69 including the one in the Acta Pilati which had been printed by Scheurl in 1515.” (History of Scholarship, p. 227)

Boniface Ramsey
Over the centuries Ambrose was credited with certain writings that he probably did not compose. In this he was not unlike many other lathers. These works include llie TcDeum, a hymn of praise sung on solemn occasions, and the great Master proclamation known as the lixsultet. His name has also been attached to writings of considerably less renown, such as Hegesippus, or On the Jewish War (Hegesippus sive de hello iudaico); The Law of God, or A. Collation of Mosaic and Roma n Laws (Lex Dei, sire niosaicarum et romanarum legum collatio); A Second Defense of David (Apologia David altcrd), which was intended to serve as a companion piece to the Defense of the Prophet David; and On the Fall of a Virgin (Delapsu virginis). An early twentieth century’ scholar attributed the famous Athanasian Creed to Ambrose: subsequent scholarship, however, has shown that it is of neither Athanasian nor Ambrosian origin. Finally, in this connection some mention should be made of the so-called Ambrosiaster, the name given by Erasmus in the sixteenth century to the anonymous author of a set of commentaries on the Epistles of Paul, dating to the end of the fourth century. Previous to Erasmus this highly important work had been almost universally assigned to Ambrose, but the great Dutch humanist east doubt on this attribution, and later research demonstrated that his doubt was justified.” (Ambrose, p. 65)

Hegsippus de Excid. Urb. Hyerosolym. lib. ii. cap. 12

We have discovered that it was the opinion and belief of the Jews, as Josephus affirms, (who is an author not to be rejected, when he writes against himself,) that Herod lost his army, not by the deceit of men, hut by the anger of God, and that justly, as an effect of revenge for what he did to John the Baptist, a just man, who had said to him, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife. The Jews themselves also bear witness to Christ, as appears by Josephus, the writer of their history, who says thus: That there was it that time a wise man; if, says he, it be lawful to have him called a man; a doer of wonderful works, who appeared to his disciples after the third day from his death alive again, according to the writings of the prophets, who foretold these and innumerable other miraculous events concerning him; from whom began the congregation of Christians, and hath penetrated among all sorts of men; nor does there remain my nation in the Roman world which continues strangers to his religion. If the Jews do not believe us, let them at least believe their own writers. Josephus, whom they esteem a very great man, hath said this, and yet hath he spoken truth after such a manner, and so far was his mind wandered from the right way that even he was not a believer as to what he himself said, but thus he spoke, in order to deliver historical truth, because be thought it not lawful for him to deceive, while yet he was no believer, because of the hardness of his heart and his perfidious intention. However, it was no prejudice to the truth that he was not a believer, hut this adds mote weight to his testimony, that while he was an unbeliever and unwilling this should be true he has rim denied it to be so.

George Peter Holford
“The undisputed facts are, that Jerusalem has not since been in possession of the Jews, but has been successively occupied by the Romans, Arabic Saracens, Franks, WawaInes, and lastly by the Turks, who now posses it. It has never regained its former distinction and prosperity. It has always been trodden down. The eagles of idolatrous Rome, the crescent of Mahomet, and’ the banner of Popery, have by turns been displayed amidst the ruins of the sanctuary ; and a Mahomedan mosque, to the extent of a mile in circumference, now covers the spot where the Temple formerly stood. — The territory of Judea, then one of the most fertile countries on the globe, has for more than seventeen hundred years continued a desolate waste. The Jews themselves, still miraculously preserved a distinct people, are, as we see, scattered over the whole earth, invigorating the faith of the Christian, flashing conviction in the face of the infidel, and constituting an universal, permanent, and invincible evidence of the truth of Christianity.

 In order to invalidate this evidence, the apostate emperor Julian, impelled by a spirit of enmity against the Christians, about A. D. 363, made an attempt to rebuild the city and temple- of Jerusalem, and to recall the Jews to their own country. He assigned immense sums for the execution of this great design, and commanded Alypius or Antioch (who had formerly served as a lieutenant in Britain) to superintend the work, and the governor of the province to assist him therein. But (says Ammianus Marcelianus) “whilst they urged with vigour and diligence the execution of the work, horrible balls of fire, breaking out near the foundation, with frequent and reiterated attacks, rendered the place, from time to time, inaccessible to the scorched and blasted workmen ; and the victorious element continuing in this manner obstinately and resolutely bent, as it were, to drive them to a distance, the undertaking was abandoned.” Speaking of this event, even Gibbon, who is notorious for his scepticism, acknowledges, that ” an earthquake, a whirlwind, and a fiery eruption, which overturned and scattered the new foundations of the Temple, are attested, with some variations, by contemporary and respectable evidence, by Ambrose bishop of Milan, Chrysostom, and Gregory Nazianzen, the latter of whom published his account before the expiration of the same year.” [14] To these may be added the names of Zemuch David, a Jew (who confesses that “Julian was hindered by GOD in the attempt,”) of Ruffinus a Latin, of Theodoret and Sozomen among the orthodox, of Philostorgius an Arian, and of Socrates a favourer of the Novatians, who all recorded the same wonderful interposition of Providence, while the eye-witness of the fact were yet living. The words of Sozomen to this purport are remarkable : ” If it seem yet incredible (says he) to any one, he may repair both to witnesses of it yet living, and to them who have heard it from their mouths ; yea, they may view the foundations, lying yet bare and naked. Besides, it may be added, that no other reason has ever been alleged why Julian should abandon his magnificent but impious design.

Thus was this celebrated Emperor “taken in his own craftiness,” and his presumptuous attempt to frustrate the plans, and falsify the declarations of infinite Omnipotence and Wisdom, converted into a new and striking evidence of their certainty and truth.” (The Destruction of Jerusalem)

Samuel Mosheim Schmucker
“An illustration of the prevalent spirit of hostility between the Jews and Christians, which existed at this period, will be found in an event which occurred in the town of Callinicum, on the confines of Persia. The Christian Bishop of the place, taking some offense at the Jews, stirred up the populace to burn their synagogue, together with the church of the Valentinian heretics. The deed of violence was done ; but the Roman Governor of Callinicum immediately ordered the turbulent prelate either to rebuild the edifices, or to pay the damage which had been occasioned. This demand was appealed from, but the sentence was confirmed by the decree of the Roman Emperor. At this crisis the matter, came to the knowledge of the celebrated Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, who, in consequence of his superior zeal and talents, was at that period regarded as the most distinguished prelate in the Christian Church, and exercised very great influence at the imperial court. He addressed a letter to the then reigning Emperor Theodosius, reproving him for his edict in favor of the Jews ; and declaring that had he been in the place of the Bishop of Callinicum, he would have acted precisely as he did. It serves to illustrate both the weakness of the character of Theodosius, and the perverted influence which such an unscrupulous enthusiast as Ambrose had attained, that he succeeded in bending the purpose and the power of the monarch to his will ; and the outrage upon the Jews remained unpunished and unatoned for. During the progress of this dispute, Ambrose described a synagogue as being an impious place, the abode of perfidy and insanity, and asserted that, should the demolished structure be rebuilt, it should have inscribed upon it the words : ” This is a temple of ungodliness, erected from the plunder of the Christians.” Subsequently, however, Theodosius seems to have become ashamed of the tyranny exercised over him by Ambrose ; and before his death he decreed that the Christians should not plunder or demolish the synagogues, and expressly ordered the Governors of provinces to see to it that the decree was properly obeyed. At the same time he permitted the Christians to destroy the remaining temples of the Pagans, and the edifices of those Christian sects who were stigmatized as heretics by the majority. Nevertheless the Jews were still forbidden by law to enter the precincts of Jerusalem.” (A History of the Modern Jews, p. 46)

Pseudo Ambrose
Decimus Hilarianus Hilarius in 377?

Ambrosiaster (“Star of Ambrose”) is the name given to the anonymous author of the earliest complete Latin commentary on the thirteen epistles of Paul. The commentaries were thought to have been written by Ambrose throughout the Middle Ages, but their authorship was challenged by Erasmus, whose arguments have proved decisive.


 “And the heaven departed as a scroll] when it is ‘rolled together.’ By heaven is here meant the Old Testament : also when a scroll or book is rolled up, ‘ the writing which it contains is hidden from the eyes ‘ of the beholders. The book, therefore, was rolled up ‘ from the Jews, because they would not understand ‘ the spiritual meaning of the Old Testament, which ‘ pointed out to them the Messiah. The heaven there- ‘ fore departed like a scroll when it is rolled together, ‘ because the Old Testament deserted the Jews, and ‘ passed over to the Gentiles.’

“The opening, therefore, of the first seal relates to those things, which took place before the flood; the second seal relates to the Patriarchs; the third, to those who were under the law; and the fourth, to the Prophets.  The three remaining openings relate to the New Testament.   The fifth opening relates to the Martyrs; the sixth, to the rejection of the Jews, and the calling of the Gentiles.  The seventh relates to the second coming of Christ.”

“And the heaven departed as a scrowl when it is rolled together.] By heaven is here meant the Old Testament: also when a scrowl or book is rolled up, the writing which it contains is hidden from the eyes of the beholders.  The book, therefore, was rolled up from the Jews, because they would not understand the spiritual meaning of the Old Testament, which pointed out to them the Messiah   The heaven therefore departed like a scrowl when it rolled together, because the Old Testament deserted the Jews, and passed over to the Gentiles.”

Ambrosiaster, a commentary on St Paul’s epistles, “brief in words but weighty in matter,” and valuable for the criticism of the Latin text of the New Testament, was long attributed to St Ambrose.

Erasmus in 1527 threw doubt on the accuracy of this ascription, and the author is usually spoken of as Ambrosiaster or pseudo-Ambrose. Because Augustine cites part of the commentary on Romans as by “Sanctus Hilarius” it has been ascribed by various critics at different times to almost every known Hilary. Germain Morin[1] broke new ground by suggesting in 1899 that the writer was Isaac, a converted Jew, writer of a tract on the Trinity and Incarnation, who was exiled to Spain in 378-380 and then relapsed to Judaism; but he afterwards abandoned this theory of the authorship in favour of Decimus Hilarianus Hilarius, proconsul of Africa in 377.

With this attribution Alexander Souter[2], agrees. There is scarcely anything to be said for the possibility of Ambrose having written the book before he became a bishop, and added to it in later years, incorporating remarks of Hilary of Poitiers on Romans. The best presentation of the case for Ambrose is by P. A. Ballerini in his complete edition of that father’s works.

In the book cited above Souter also discusses the authorship of the Quaestiones Veteris et Novi Testamenti, which the manuscripts ascribe to Augustine. He concludes, on very thorough philological and other grounds, that this is with one possible slight exception the work of the same “Ambrosiaster.” The same conclusion had been arrived at previously by Dom Morin.