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Recommend for Me. Reg: Print:. Regular price. Finally, the identification of the literal meaning of the text and the intention of its authors fully warranted a study of the factors which shaped and influenced their mentality—their languages, cultures and historical contexts. The elements for a theoretical justification of historical biblical studies, however, must not be confused with the studies themselves.

This is evident, for example, in his adoption of the Origenist-Augustinian notion that the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets—the elite whose duty it was to lead the people—had an explicit faith in the mysteries of the Holy Trinity and Christ. Since the mass of the people were not ready for this, their faith was implicit in their acceptance of the Old Law in which these mysteries were prefigured.

This did not lead Aquinas to posit mysteries behind every word of the Old Testament, but it does explain why the messianic prophecies, such as Isaiah , can be taken as referring directly to Christ in their literal meaning. Another instance was his acceptance of the Augustinian teaching on the multiplicity of the literal sense.

God might have enabled the prophet or sacred author to comprehend many of the diverse meanings which others would draw out of what had been written—even if the human instruments did not in fact know these diverse meanings, surely God did. It was more of a pragmatic norm designed to accommodate the wide diversity in patristic interpretations of particular passages when there could be little hope of reaching an agreement on just what the author had meant. This demonstrates that St. They were not delivered in the clear-cut, settled once and for all categories which theological manuals associate with Thomist thought.

He was grappling with problems the impications of which are not yet fully comprehended today. One wonders whether the crises in Catholic interpretation of die Bible during the sixteenth and seventeenth, or the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, would have been so acute had theologians and exegetes assimilated, let alone advanced, the presuppositional positions of Aquinas. He was not a pioneer forging new literary conventions or discovering unknown hermeneutical techniques. He picked up whatever tools were available and hurried on to his speculation.

Not that his labors in the field of exegetical presuppositions were left at the lecture room door when he began to comment on Scripture. Bernard, Richard of St. Victor or Stephen Langton. Yet, he did make a contribution, his exposition on the Psalms is clear proof of it. He should not be dressed up as some sort of Melchisedech in biblical interpretation, appearing mysteriously without antecedents. One is then justified in considering the commentaries of St. Thomas on St. John, and especially on St. Paul, as the maturest fruit and the most perfect realization of medieval scholastic exegesis.

The founding of the Dominican house of studies at Paris in put new life into the scriptural exegesis of the University.

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Led by Hugh St. Cher, who was instrumental in having the young Brother Thomas come to Paris for his baccalaureate studies, the friars of St. Jacques became famous for their cooperative efforts in producing biblical concordances, correctories and commentaries. No matter how fully its deficiencies were recognized, the Vulgate, as edited by Alcuin in , remained the quasi-official text for all the lectures at the University.

Alcuin had no consistent policy in his divisions of the Text, and wide divergencies existed up to and including the twelfth century in the matter of citations. Stephen Langton seems to have worked out the present system of chapters near the end of Iiis teaching career. They were not long in becoming standard and, with a few precisions possibly due to Hugh St.

Cher, remain in use today. Partitioning chapters into verses was not introduced until the sixteenth century. This accounts for St. Since Aquinas distinguished between authenticity and canonicity, he had no qualms on including the deuterocanonical books within the canon. Those who wrote the Scriptural canon, such as the Evangelists, Apostles and others like them, so firmly asserted the truth that they left nothing to be doubted.

The reason for this is that only the canonical Scriptures are normative for faith. Whereas others who write about the truth do so in such a way that they do not want to be believed unless what they affirm is true. This does not imply that St. Thomas advocated sola scriptura ; he could not abstract the Book from its living environment within ecclesial tradition.

The generations of Christians stretching from Apostolic times down to their own were not viewed by the medieval mind as separating them from the integral Christian message but far more as uniting them to it. The Church Fathers were the incomparable guides in this positive task of assimilating Christ and his meaning. They never could be rejected in an authentically Christian hermeneutic.

The many glosses facilitated recourse to them; to each passage of a given book the glosses would attach an excerpt from one or more of the Fathers which explained or exemplified the text.

Expositions of Holy Scripture

Two glosses became standard textbooks in medieval exegesis: the Glossa Ordinaria which most probably originated with Anselm of Laon and his school, and the Magna Glossatura of Peter Lombard on the Psalms and letters of St. During the twelfth century the Masters of the Sacred Page not only had to comment on the biblical text but also to read, and interpret, if necessary, many of its patristic glosses. This left the master free to undertake the commentary proper. Aquinas was not content with second-hand patristic sources, he often went back to the original works if they were available.

When Urban IV requested him to compose a gloss on the four gospels, with particular attention to the Greek Fathers, St. Thomas included many quotations previously not given in the glosses; be even had translations of some Greek works made into Latin. When the Expositio Continua —or the Catena Aurea as it was popularly known—had been completed, it represented over twenty-two Latin Fathers and fifty-seven Greek Fathers.

Critical scholars of the caliber of Erasmus had nothing but praise for it. Concordances and dictionaries were essential to thirteenth century reference works. Thomas probably had at his disposal some of the better known topical concordances, such as those of Rabanus Maurus or Thomas Gallus with their lists of subjects and the relevant scriptural passages. For verbal concordances he could check Hugh of St. In philology and textual criticism St.

Thomas was not the equal of some of his contemporaries. He has been reproached for not learning Greek and Hebrew when he certainly had the opportunity to do so at Paris or Naples. But by his time specialization in these areas had already begun. The little Greek he knew, and the less Hebrew, was gleaned almost entirely from patristic references and the correctoria.

These latter, e. Cher and the Dominicans of St.

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Jacques, offered variant readings and emendations to the Alcuin Vulgate text used at Paris. Thomas relied on these for his textual criticism, not on a direct study of the manuscripts. References to pagan authors are also found in St. The one recurrent figure is, of course, Aristotle; his appearances nearly double all the rest put together.

Aquinas was in the best Augustinian tradition when he affirmed that Hence Augustine remarks in the second book of De Doctrina Christiana that if whatever the philosophers have stated is in harmony with our faith, not only should it not be mistrusted, it should be taken from them as though they were not its rightful owners and appropriated for our own use. Thomas wished to demonstrate that Aristotle was as much a witness and an unrightful owner as Plato.

Equipped with his text and reference material, the master was ready for his expositions. Aquinas must have lectured on Scripture anywhere from one to four times a week during the scholastic year. The bulk of his lectures were devoted to commenting on the Word of God in a systematic and continuous manner.

To this teaching he set aside the freshest time of day, the hour of Prime. Each book was preceded by a prologue or introduction in which the authorship, subject matter and purpose of the writing was discussed with the aid of a scriptural quotation in which these were all supposed to be at least figuratively contained. From Guerric of St. Quentin Thomas adopted the custom of occasionally doing this within the framework of the four causes, formal and material, final and efficient.

At other times he borrowed the introductory procedure of the grammarians and speaks of the matter, intention, and utility of the book. Next came the commentaries proper with their divisions of the text, explanations, questions and replies. The familiar austerity and no-nonsense quality of Scholastic Latin is heightened in many of the lectures that have been preserved. The first are expositiones, they were written by Aquinas himself or dictated outside of classes. In this category belong his commentaries on Isaias, Job, Jeremias, and Lamentations, the letter to the Romans, the first five chapters of St.

The second group are termed lecturae , they are transcriptions or reportationes of the actual lectures he gave. With the exception of his very first commentary, that on St. Matthew, all the other lecturae were taken down by St. Here belong his commentaries on St.

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John and the Pauline letters, possibly also those on the Psalms. That his lecturae on Romans and 1 Corinthians are missing suggest that he may have used the reportationes in composing his expositions. The system of transcribing lectures was practiced throughout the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

No pretence at style was made; quotations were usually abruptly recorded without introduction and the references were normally left for the master to fill in later. University statutes required that a master correct the reports personally before they were published. The Official Catalogue of St. John, and the catalogues of Tolomeo of Lucca perhaps the earliest catalogue of his writings and Bernard Gui state that Thomas also corrected the transcriptions of his lectures on St.

Characteristics of St. In the field of spiritual exegesis Thomas Aquinas exhibits a marked restraint when compared to interpreters such as Richard of St. Victor or Stephen Langton, and, to a less extent, in comparison with Hugh of St. Cher or St. Conformable to custom, he differentiated plainly between the literal and spiritual when he was going to offer more than a literal exegesis of the text. Yet he had no guides as to when these things were actually used by God to signify some further reality.

A result was that he he frequently followed patristic sources and saw spiritual meanings in minor events. For example, the fig tree under which Nathaniel slept Jn. Augustine as sin, or with St. Gregory as the Old Covenant. The gold, frankincense and myrrh of the Magi symbolize three different aspects of faith, deeds, and contemplation respectively. With the Fathers, nevertheless, St. Thomas was able to attain deep theological insights, e. This is a case where the sacred author himself intended more than one meaning In what he wrote—the multiplicity of the literal sense has not been entirely rejected by modem scholarship.

When reading St. In his commentaries, Aquinas at least twice reproaches Theodore of Mopsuestia for supposedly denying that any Old Testament texts could refer literally to Christ or the Church:. Another [error] was that of Theodore who claimed that nothing brought forward in the Old Testament is literally applicable to Christ but only accommodated to him Against this Thomas maintains that some passages have Christ alone as their literal meaning, e.

Most references to Christ, however, relate directly to some Old Testament personage who is a figure of Christ, e. Occasions in which the literal sense had only a Christian mystery as its focal point were comparatively rare for the Angelic Doctor. On the contrary, they generally have literal, historical reasons which the Jewish people could appreciate. His insistence on the intention of the human author helped him to resolve, or bypass, discrepancies among the synoptics and St.

Following St. Augustine, he recognized that Matthew preferred to recapitulate events. Aquinas was aware of the need for extreme pliability in the exegete; definitive solutions were few and far between. He presented them and would sometimes add that this one or that seemed better to him; at other times he left it up to his students to decide. Father Lagrange, O. His dominating desire was to uncover the meanings intended by the human and divine authors. And his constant attribution of several possible ones to a passage brought out the avowedly hypothetical nature of his attempts.

The literary context must be accounted for in any interpretation. Both St. Augustine and Richard of St. Victor had counseled this. In his Prologue to the Psalms, Aquinas enumerates some of the literary forms in the Bible: narration, admonition, commands, exhortation, prayer, praise, proverb and parable.


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Thomas displays an interest in this aspect of exegesis although his historical horizon was narrow and his sources negligible. The dialectical cast of St. Syllogisms are disclosed in St. Paul and the correct sequence of thoughts is commended in St. The chief ingredient of this approach to the Bible is the omnipresent divisions and subdivisions.

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Introduced by Hugh St. Cher, the method was utilized by both St. Albert and St. Bonaventure as well as St. In the twelfth century, commentaries were content to take one verse at a time and attempt to exhaust its literal and spiritual significance; the students did not get a feel for the book as a whole. The dialectical procedure enabled Aquinas to define the main theme of a book and then relate each of its parts to this unifying center.

Finally, the dominant note in his exegesis is its theological import. The schoolmen could not study the Word of God passively. Unequipped with the requisite philological and historical knowledge, they questioned the sacred text with the conceptions available to them. Exposition merges with disputation as theological objections are proposed and answered within the commentary.

To interpret the book of Job literally is to engage in a living dialogue with it concerning the problems of evil and predestination, of providence and retribution. The Bible was not an historical curiosity to be approached like an antiquated museum piece. The reported vision Aquinas had of Sts. Peter and Paul coming to aid him in interpreting a particular text demonstrates the vivid reality this Book and its authors had for him and his companions. A danger existed in St. This was the price he had to pay in his efforts to demonstrate in his day that the speculative and scientific theology he was fathering owed its very existence and vitality to the Bible.

As Father Chenu, O. We are confronted with the fact that St.