Academic journal article Theological Studies

Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologiae: A Biography

Academic journal article Theological Studies

Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologiae: A Biography

Article excerpt

Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologiae: A Biography. By Bernard McGinn. Lives of Great Religious Books. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 2014. Pp. xi + 260. $24.95.

McGinn's life-story of this seminal text begins with a brief chapter surveying Aquinas's 13th-century Scholastic context, warning us that Scholasticism cannot be reduced to a set of "teachings or to a single system of thought" (11). It is more aptly seen as an Aristotelian science employing both reason and faith, and intimately related to the biblical concept of wisdom, a sacred teaching that derives its first principles from revelation, and arranges them so as to achieve its ultimate goal: a return to the transcendent source of truth and "eternal happiness" (59). As M. eloquently argues in chapter 2, this cyclical pattern informs the overall structure of the Summa, one that proceeds from Creator to creation and then traces humanity from the fall to ultimate redemption through the mediation of divine providence. This is the shape not only of the Summa but of Aquinas's entire thought-world.

Chapter 3 proves more daunting, since M. has a mere 43 pages to take the reader though a guided tour of the Summa itself. He wisely chooses to focus on a few representative topics--the existence and nature of God (79-89); the created order (89-95); virtue and teleological fulfilment (96-106); and the necessity of grace for salvation through Christ (107-16)--rather than trying to give a full outline. …

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