Peter Lombard

Peter Lombard

Peter Lombard

Peter Lombard

Synopsis

Peter Lombard is best known as the author of a celebrated work entitled Book of Sentences, which for several centuries served as the standard theological textbook in the Christian West. It was the subject of more commentaries than any other work of Christian literature besides the Bible itself. The Book of Sentences is essentially a compilation of older sources, from the Scriptures and Augustine down to several of the Lombard's contemporaries, such as Hugh of Saint Victor and Peter Abelard. Its importance lies in the Lombard's organization of the theological material, his method of presentation, and the way in which he shaped doctrine in several major areas. Despite his importance, however, there is no accessible introduction to Peter Lombard's life and thought available in any modern language. This volume fills this considerable gap. Philipp W. Rosemann begins by demonstrating how the Book of Sentences grew out of a long tradition of Christian reflection-a tradition, ultimately rooted in Scripture, which by the twelfth century had become ready to transform itself into a theological system. Turning to the Sentences, Rosemann then offers a brief exposition of the Lombard's life and work. He proceeds to a book-by-book examination and interpretation of its main topics, including the nature and attributes of God, the Trinity, creation, angelology, human nature and the Fall, original sin, Christology, ethics, and the sacraments. He concludes by exploring how the Sentences helped shape the further development of the Christian tradition, from the twelfth century through the time of Martin Luther.

Excerpt

Many people would be surprised to be told that there were any great medieval thinkers. If a great thinker is one from whom we can learn today, and if “medieval” serves as an adjective for describing anything that existed from (roughly) the years 600 to 1500 A.D.., then, so it is often supposed, medieval thinkers cannot be called “great.”

Why not? One answer often given appeals to the ways in which medieval authors with a taste for argument and speculation tend to invoke authorities, especially religious ones. Such invocation of authority is not the stuff of which great thought is made—so it is often said today. It is also frequently said that greatness is not to be found in the thinking of those who lived before the rise of modern science, not to mention that of modern philosophy and theology. Today's students of science are hardly ever referred to literature earlier than the seventeenth century. Modern students of philosophy are often taught nothing about the history of ideas between Aristotle (384–322 B.C.) and Descartes (1596–1650). Modern students of theology are often encouraged to believe that sound theological thinking is a product of the nineteenth century.

Yet the origins of modern science lie in the conviction that the world is open to rational investigation and is orderly rather than chaotic—a conviction that came fully to birth, and was systematically explored and developed, during the Middle Ages. And it is in medieval thinking that . . .

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