2 Corinthians 3:6

Who also has made us able ministers of the new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.
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Ambrose of Milan

AD 397
Moreover, what wonder is it if the Spirit works life, who gives life as the Father does, who gives life as the Son does? Moreover, who would deny that to give life is of the eternal Majesty? … Therefore, let us see whether the Spirit is enlivened, or himself enlivens. But it is written: “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” So the Spirit gives life. But that you may understand that the quickening of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is not divided, learn that there is also a oneness of quickening, since God himself quickens through the Spirit; for Paul said: “He that raised up Jesus Christ from the dead shall quicken also your mortal bodies, because of his Spirit dwelling in you.” , . ...

Ambrose of Milan

AD 397
Rightly, then, does Paul say that “the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” The letter circumcised a small part of the body, but the understanding spirit keeps the circumcision of the entire soul and body so that chastity might be preserved, frugality loved and the unnecessary parts cut off (for nothing is so unnecessary as the vices of greed, the sins of lust, which did not belong to nature but which sin has caused). Bodily circumcision is the symbol, but the reality is the spiritual circumcision; the one cuts off a member, the other sin. Letter , To Clementianus. ...


AD 400
The Spirit, who is the law of faith which is not written but which is contained in the rational soul, is lifegiving, drawing to himself those who are guilty of mortal sin, so that they may be made righteous and cease altogether from sinning. Commentary on Paul’s Epistles.
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Augustine of Hippo

AD 430
Could it be possible that the law is not of God? None but an irreligious man would think that. But, because the law commands by the letter and does not help by the Spirit, whoever listens to the letter of the law in such wise as to think that it is enough for him to know what it commands or forbids, whoever trusts in the strength of his own free will to accomplish it and does not take refuge in faith in order to be assisted in his approach to the Spirit that quickens lest the letter find him guilty and kill him, that man has a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. Letter , To Paulinus. ...

Augustine of Hippo

AD 430
Therefore, God commands continence, and he gives continence; he commands by the law, he gives by the Spirit; for the law without grace makes sin abound, and the letter without the spirit kills. He commands so as to make us learn how to ask the help of grace when we try to obey his commandments and in our weakness fall wearied under the law, and also to make us grateful to him who helps us if we have been able to perform any good work. Letter , To Hilarius. ...
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Augustine of Hippo

AD 430
For, if you take away the Spirit, how does the law avail? It makes a prevaricator. On that account the Scripture says: “The letter kills.” The law orders and you do not obey… . Something is commanded, and you do not do it; something is forbidden, and you do it. Behold, “the letter kills.”
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Augustine of Hippo

AD 430
How does the Spirit give life? By causing the letter to be fulfilled, so that it may not kill.
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Augustine of Hippo

AD 430
Let the Spirit be joined to the law, because, if you have received the law and if you lack the help of the Spirit, you do not fulfill what is of the law. You do not carry out what is commanded you… . Let the Spirit be added, let him help: that which is commanded is accomplished. If the Spirit is absent, the letter kills you… . You cannot excuse yourself on the plea of ignorance since you have received the law. Now, because you have learned what you should do, ignorance does not excuse you… . But why does the apostle say: “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”? How does the Spirit give life? Because he causes the letter to be fulfilled so that it may not kill. The sanctified are those who fulfill the law of God according to the gift of God. The law can command; it cannot help. The Spirit is added as a helper, and the commandment of God is fulfilled with joy and delight. Certainly many observe the law from fear, but those who keep the law from fear of punishment would prefer that ...

Augustine of Hippo

AD 430
Therefore, you that fear the Lord, praise him, and that you may worship him, not as slaves but as free men, learn to love him whom you fear, and you will be able to praise what you love. The men of the Old Testament, fearing God, because of the letter which terrifies and kills and not yet possessing “the spirit which quickens,” ran to the temple with sacrifices and offered up bloody victims. They were ignorant of what was foreshadowed by them, although they were a figure of the Blood to come, by which we have been redeemed. Letter , To Honoratus ...

Basil the Great

AD 379
The difference between the spirit and the letter the apostle explains succinctly in another place by comparing the law and the gospel, saying: “For the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” By the “letter” he means the law, as is evident also from what precedes and follows. By the “spirit” he means the Lord’s doctrine, for the Lord himself said: “My words are spirit and life.” ...
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Cornelius a Lapide

AD 1637
Not of the letter but of the spirit. Not of the law, but of grace. I am a minister of the New Testament, but not in such a way that I bring tables of the law and of the covenant and its words, as did Moses in the Old Testament, but so that God may by my words inspire into you heavenly thoughts and desires. Cf. Augustine. (de Spirit. et Lit. c. iii.). For the letter killeth. (1.) Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine (de Doctr. Christ. lib. iii. c4) explain this to be that the letter of the law convicts and condemns them to death who do not obey this letter, i.e, the precepts of the law relating to righteousness and charity. For this letter of the law enacts that whosoever breaketh the law is to die the death. (2.) S. Augustine gives another explanation. If you abuse the literal meaning, and neglect the sense of Scripture, and fall into error, as Jews and heretics do, then the letter killeth. (3.) When metaphorical sayings are taken literally (S. Augustine, ibid. c. v, vi.). (4.) When types o...
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John Chrysostom

AD 407
The law was spiritual, but it did not bestow the Spirit. Moses had letters but not the Spirit, whereas we have been entrusted with the giving of the Spirit.
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Methodius of Olympus

AD 311
Set me free from the yoke of condemnation, and place me under the yoke of justification. Deliver me from the yoke of the curse, and of the letter that killeth;
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Tertullian of Carthage

AD 220
Therefore the New Testament will appertain to none other than Him who promised it-if not "its letter, yet its spirit; ". Even if "the letter killeth, yet the Spirit giveth life; ". Yet (he means) according to "the law of the letter"
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Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. - 2 Peter 1:20

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