Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism

Ambrosiaster on 1 Cor. 2:4

Below are Ambrosiaster’s comments on 1 Cor. 2:4: “And my speech and my preaching were not in the persuasion of human wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and power of God.”1  He here dilates upon the difference between God’s wisdom and man’s wisdom, between power and mere words.2

Text and Translation

Et sermo meus, et praedicatio mea non in persuasione humanae sapientiae. Ostendit non se ut hominum favorem acquireret, humanae sapientiae placuisse, neque verborum arti studuisse, sed fidem auctori exhibuisse, qui doctrinam suam non ornatu traditionis humanae acceptabilem voluit esse verborum strepitu, sed ipsis rebus; quia res ante verba sunt.

Sed in ostensione spiritus et virtutis Dei. Quia ut verbis quae infirma iuxta virtutem sunt, res fatuae comptae prudentes videntur; Deus praedicationem suam non testimonio verborum voluit commendari, sed virtutis; ut verbi stultitia indicata, factis se sapientiam demonstraret spiritali ratione fundata.

And my speech and my preaching were not in the persuasion of human wisdom. [Paul] shows that he did not please human wisdom in order to gain human favor, and that he did not pursue verbal artistry, but that he manifested faith to the Creator, who has wished his doctrine to be acceptable not because of the adornment of human tradition with din of words, but because of the things themselves, since things [res] come before words [verba].

But in the display of the Spirit and of the power of God. [He says this] because, as foolish things, when adorned by words that are [in reality] weak compared to power, appear prudent, God wished his own proclamation to be commended by the testimony not of words, but of power, in order that the so-called foolishness of the word might show itself by deeds [actually] to be wisdom, established [as it is] upon spiritual reason.3 (PL 17, col. 193)



  1. Translation according to the Latin text of the passage used by Ambrosiaster.
  2. The translation is my own, and differs somewhat markedly from that of Gerald Bray. I don’t at the moment have access to the text he used in CSEL (I have used the old Patrologia Latina text), so I can’t be certain how much of the difference is attributable to that fact.
  3. Reading the text as it stands in PLfundata (“established”) modifies “foolishness.” If the accusative is read, it will modify sapientiam.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.