St. Bonaventure's Collations on the Ten Commandments

St. Bonaventure's Collations on the Ten Commandments

St. Bonaventure's Collations on the Ten Commandments

St. Bonaventure's Collations on the Ten Commandments


Towards the end of his career, St. Bonaventure gave three sets of sermons at Europe's intellectual center, the University of Paris. The "Collations on the Ten Commandments" addresses three important aspects of St. Bonaventure's work. As a Bible expositor, he takes this central passage of Old Testament scripture and shows how the Decalogue is an essential guide for Christian life.

As a theologian/philosopher, he provides reasoned answers to certain criticisms and questions of the time; and, finally, as a preacher, he follows the style of the thematic sermon which was just coming into prominence at that time.


The Collations on the Ten Commandments

A. Preliminary Comments

The Collationes De Decem Praeceptis were given during the season of Lent at the University of Paris in the year 1267. Bonaventure was 50 years old when he gave these talks and he was then Minister General of the Franciscan Order. He had previously been at Paris between the years 1235 and 1257, first as a student and then as an instructor. He ended his formal academic career in 1257 when he was elected Minister General. Bonaventure continued in this position until he was made cardinal of the Church in 1273. He died one year later.

These talks are called collations, but there is some speculation as to what that term actually meant. In the case of Bonaventure’s Collationes De Decem Praeceptis the talks are very clearly sermons because they adhere very closely to the pattern of the thematic sermon. This style of sermonizing was just coming into vogue during Bonaventure’s day. There were three major elements to this style: theme, protheme, and development of the theme.

The theme gives the portion of Scripture that serves as the point of departure for the sermon, and which contains in itself the basis of all further development. The protheme is a small sermon in and of itself, usually using a different portion of Scripture and accompanied by a short exposition of that portion. The protheme usually ends with a prayer asking God’s help and guidance for the preacher and for his audience.

These two opening sections account for only a small part of the total sermon. By far the largest part of the sermon is taken up with the development of the theme. This development consists of creating divisions within the theme and then making further sub-divisions or distinctions.

The Latin text used as a basis for the English translation is from Vol, 5 of St. Bonaventure’s Opera Omnia issued by the College of St. Bonaventure at Quaracchi, Italy, in 1891.

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