John Duns Scotus
The Franciscan friar John Duns Scotus (c.1266–1308) was born in the village of Duns in Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders. The Scottish philosopher/theologian John Mair (c.1467–1550) reports that:
When [Scotus] was no more than a boy, but had been already
grounded in grammar, he was taken by two Scottish Minorite [i.e.
Franciscan] friars to Oxford, for at that time there existed no univer-
sity in Scotland. By the favour of those friars he lived in the convent
of the Minorites at Oxford, and he made his profession in the religion
of the Blessed Francis.1
It is supposed that it was in the late 1270s that Scotus began his studies at Oxford, first in arts and then in theology. On 17 March 1291 he was ordained into the priesthood, a date that permits an educated guess regarding his year of birth, for since twenty-five was the minimum age for ordination, and since Scotus was evidently a person of immense and precocious talent, it is probable that he was born on or not long before 17 March 1266.
While at Oxford he lectured on the Sentences of Peter Lombard (c.1100–c.1160), a theologian whose set of four books of Sentences (Sententiae = opinions) remained central to the teaching of theology in the Catholic church for at least the following three centuries. By 1300 Scotus had begun revising his lectures, but the revision was far from complete when he was sent to Paris to lecture there on Lombard’s Sentences. His Paris lectures began in autumn 1302, but in June of the following year he was exiled from France for siding with the pope in an argument with the French monarch, Philip the Fair, regarding Philip’s wish to tax church property. Scotus probably spent his exile in Oxford, though it is possible that he spent some or even all of the period in Cambridge. In late 1304 he was back in Paris, where he continued to lecture on the Sentences, and in addition lectured on the Bible and led