Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thomas Aquinas

The sixth reading in the GBWW series for Year Two is the Treatise on Law in the Summa Theologica written by Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).  Born near Naples, Italy to a noble family (his uncle was Fredrick Barbarossa), Aquinas had numerous opportunities available to him.  Therefore it was a great surprise to his family when he took the habit of the Dominicans and began studying theology at the University of Naples. Continuing his education in Paris he was introduced to Aristotle, recently re-discovered from Arabic sources.  Aquinas readily embraced and incorporated Aristotle (whom he called "the philosopher") into Christian theology and translated Aristotle directly from the Greek texts.   

Aquinas entered a university career teaching in Paris (later in Italy), and was recognized for his extraordinary skill and acumen. In 1269 he returned to Paris as the debate regarding the synthesis of Aristotle and Christianity was reaching its climax.  Aquinas successfully refuted the Latin Averroists and the Augustians who thought Aristotle was incompatible with Christianity.  This firmly established the union between ancient Greek philosophy and Christian theology which persists to this day.  It also cemented the reputation of Aquinas as the leading scholar in the Catholic Church. 

Aquinas is regarded as a Doctor of the Catholic Church and one of its most important philosophers and theologians.  His greatest work is the Summa Theologica, a voluminous manual that was written to instruct believers on issues of theology such as the existence of God, the need for God's laws, the sacraments, etc.  Aquinas frequently cites St. Augustine, Aristotle, other Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars as well as Scripture.  Since Year 2 of the GBWW is focused on law and political theory, I will be only be reading the section Treatise on Law which deals with the development, necessity and types of law in human society.

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