Aquinas on Scripture. Edited by Thomas Weinandy, Daniel Keating, John Yocum
Version of Record online: 8 JUN 2009
© The author 2009. Journal compilation © Trustees for Roman Catholic Purposes Registered 2009
The Heythrop Journal
Volume 50, Issue 4, pages 725–726, July 2009
How to Cite
Ewbank, M. (2009), Aquinas on Scripture. Edited by Thomas Weinandy, Daniel Keating, John Yocum. The Heythrop Journal, 50: 725–726. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2265.2009.00501_26.x
- Issue online: 8 JUN 2009
- Version of Record online: 8 JUN 2009
Pp. xii, 257 , London , T & T Clark International , 2005 , $44.95/£22.75 .
These nine essays offer substantive introductions to Aquinas' expositions of Scripture, the major themes emphasised therein, and how these were related to his other major theological works. N. Healy articulates a balanced, comprehensive introduction portraying Aquinas as an ‘insightful, flexible and thoroughly scriptural theologian.’ (p. 2) Situated within a tradition that acknowledged historical-literal meaning(s) as normative and spiritual or mystical as derivative, Aquinas nonetheless ‘was willing to reinterpret a passage when it seemed to assert something he knew could not be true on logical, historical or scientific grounds.’ (p. 17) Moreover, he realised the futility of remaining content with mere repetition of the past supported by appeal to authorities and traditions and councils. (p. 20)
The initial essay by J. Yocum elaborates on Thomas' exposition on Job as coherently and profoundly revealing plausible arguments that human affairs do not elude divine providence, although Yocum judiciously admits that while remaining a reference for exegesis of the Old Testament Aquinas' work ‘might be surpassed by use of better historical and philological tools.’ (pp. 22, 42) J. Wawrykow next offers an overview of Thomas' literal exposition of Isaiah concerning the manifestation of the Son of God, with comparisons of Aquinas' collations for the spiritual life and pertinent sections in the Summa theologiae, which in spite of its pedagogical order maintains an intimate bond between Christ and nurturing grace from the Holy Spirit. (pp. 70–71) However, one may wonder whether Thomas unqualifiedly held that Moses and Paul were granted vision of God's essence, as Wawrykow reports. (p. 62) Thomas arguably implied that their experiences were more akin to prophets than to the blessed, for ‘Paulus non fuit raptus ad videndum Deum ut beatus esset simpliciter …’ (De ver., 13, 5, ad 6; In 2 Cor., 12, 1, 1; S.T., 2-2, 175, 3, ad 2)
J. Holmes analyses Thomas' modes of discourse in his lectures on Matthew, a work that integrates his anterior speculations since it was accomplished towards the end of his life and which, unfortunately, in printed versions contains spurious insertions. (p. 75) M. Levering examines Aquinas' lengthy commentary on John as emphasising the uniqueness of grace and truth in Jesus in terms of ‘a theology of fulfilment, but not a supersessionist theology.’ (p. 102) Levering amply documents Thomas' elucidation of John's principal purpose, which is ‘to show the divinity of the Incarnate Word.’ (p. 100) Unfortunately, he also seems to affirm that Qur'an definitively denies that ‘Isa died on the Cross even though such remains a disputed question. (p. 119) D. Keating offers a comprehensive overview of Aquinas on 1 and 2 Corinthians concerning sacraments and their ministers, although his statement that ‘the body of Christ is offered for the health of our bodies; the blood is offered for the health of our souls’ somewhat obscures Thomas' deeper unified meaning concerning the species as corresponding to our body-soul constitution. (p. 136)
M. Edwards offers a general overview of Aquinas' commentaries on Ephesians and Colossians, and soundly affirms that ‘relations within the Godhead … remain strictly beyond our knowledge.’ (p. 157) F. A. Murphy's essay is a penetrating reflection on how Thomas' ‘idea of charity within the Church as friendship is somewhat socially and ecclesially subversive’ in light of his commentaries on Philemon, Thessalonians, and Philippians. (p. 193) However, does Thomas' assertion ‘quia non diligit caput, qui non diligit membra’ mean, as Murphy takes it, ‘for he who does not love the head, does not love the members,’ or is it not rather that ‘for he does not love the head who does not love the members?’ (p. 176)
J. Saward explores the grace of Christ in his principal members and accurately presents many of Thomas' interpretations of the pastoral epistles that reflect the constitution of the church as it had actually developed, although his assertion concerning the ‘absolute necessity of maleness in the candidate for ordination, but also the discipline of both Christian East and West in admitting only celibate priests to the episcopate’ surely can be worthily challenged. (p. 220) Moreover, it does not seem correct to assert unqualifiedly, as Saward does, that ‘according to St. Thomas, the ordained man is something even beyond an instrument; he is a kind of ‘icon’ of Christ, who acts in His person and by His power.’ (p. 219) The text used to support this affirms that the ordained ‘bears the image of Christ in whose person and by whose power he pronounces the words [of consecration].’ (S.T., 3, 83, 1, ad 3) But such arguably implies said ‘imaging’ is principally instrumental-contextual in nature and not constitutively ontological, especially since this determination depends on previous resolutions relying on the authority of Gratian's Decretals and Dionysius Areopagite's Ecclesiastical Hierarchy. (S.T., 3, 82, 1, 3) Finally, T. Weinandy offers a substantive reflection on the supremacy of Christ in Aquinas' commentary on Hebrews, although he presents Thomas as an unqualified advocate of a virtually unproblematic isomorphism between conciliar doctrines and Scripture, while he appears to judge Thomas' attribution of beatific vision to the earthly Jesus as problematic. (pp. 227, n. 13 & 238, n. 35)
No reservations about particular points in these reflections may detract from the fact that these authors partially satisfy what Paul Ricoeur called the fundamental rule of any hermeneutics, that the interpreter should transfer and translate the meaning of a past work into the present's language while preserving historical ‘distance.’ There remains, nonetheless, Ricoeur's other requisite for genuine theological interpretation, and Thomas' achievements are no exception. It is necessary that one reconstruct whole networks of meanings to push problematics according to the interpreter's own terms.