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Hagar's Vocation

Hagar's Vocation

R. James Long
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 296
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    Hagar's Vocation
    Book Description:

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    eISBN: 978-0-8132-2738-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xx)

    The story, and so by now its analogue, has been well aired.¹ Sara is unable to conceive so tells Abraham to lie with Hagar, the Egyptian serving girl, who promptly conceives. It is only then that Sara is able to conceive—even though she is ninety biblical years old.² Richard Fishacre, the first Dominican friar to incept at Oxford, finds in this story a metaphor for the relationship between philosophy and theology: the theologian must first know (in the non-Biblical sense) the natural sciences before he or she can hope to be fruitful as a theologian. This project is outlined...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Richard Fishacre’s Way to God
    (pp. 1-11)

    There are some persons to whom the inquiry seeking to demonstrate that God exists may perhaps appear superfluous. These are the persons who assert that the existence of God is self-evident, in such wise that its contrary cannot be entertained in the mind.¹

    With this observation Thomas Aquinas begins his discussion of the problem of God’s existence in theSumma contra Gentiles. Twice before he had raised the issue—in theScriptum super libros Sententiarum(1252–1256) and theDe veritate(1257–1258), and would return to it in theSumma theologiae, always invoking the rubricutrum Deum esse sit...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Role of Philosophy in Richard Fishacre’s Theology of Creation
    (pp. 12-20)

    Fishacre’s theological project has been too thoroughly studied for me to rehearse it at any length here.¹ In a very rich and dense proemium to his Commentary on theSentences,Fishacre borrows imagery from the book of Genesis to illustrate the relationship between scientia or philosophy andsapientiaor theology. Abraham, according to the biblical account, is obliged to have sexual relations with Hagar the slave woman before he is able to impregnate Sarah. The aspiring theologian, in other words, must have commerce with the worldly sciences before he can with any hope of being productive enter the chambers of...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Between Idolatry and Science: The Magical Arts in the Grosseteste School
    (pp. 21-47)

    Magic has always occupied the marches between religion on the one side and science on the other. It has also served as a crossing point where popular beliefs and folk religion intersect with the religion of the elite, expressed in the theology and philosophy of the schools.¹ Attributed by tradition to the Persian Zoroastrians,² this loosely defined phenomenon caught the attention of the bishop of Hippo, whose writings set the tone for Christian thinking on the subject until the twelfth century.³ With the connotations of the magical arts faced new challenges and was extended to new fronts.⁴

    The earliest scholastic...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Of Angels and Pinheads: The Contributions of the Early Oxford Masters to the Doctrine of Spiritual Matter
    (pp. 48-62)

    Surely one of the strangest doctrines to emerge from the intense theological debates of the thirteenth century was the concept of “spiritual matter.”¹ Traceable to theFons vitaeof Ibn Gabirol, spiritual matter (or “universal hylomorphism”) in tandem with the doctrine of the plurality of forms became one of the pillars of what used to be called with such confidence “the Franciscan School.”² In fact, as I shall argue, this terminologically gauche teaching exemplifies the occasional ill fit between the newly discovered natural philosophy of Aristotle and traditional Christian teaching.

    The metaphysical testing ground par excellence for the compatibility of...

  10. CHAPTER 5 The First Oxford Debate on the Eternity of the World
    (pp. 63-87)

    In a Paris manuscript containing a copy of Richard Fishacre’sSentencesCommentary¹ there appears at book 2, distinction 12, chapter 3, a lengthy treatment of the problem of the eternity of the world.² The same text, with only minor variants, is found at the very end of a copy of the same commentary in a London manuscript.³ Although missing from all the other manuscripts containing the second book of the Fishacre commentary, seven in number, a marginal comment in a Cambridge manuscript (C) notes its absence: “Hic deest questio de creatione vel inchoatione mundi, que scripta est una cum questione...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Fishacre and Rufus on the Metaphysics of Light
    (pp. 88-109)

    In one of the witnesses of Richard Fishacre’sSentencesCommentary there occurs in a later hand the following marginal note at book 2, distinction 13, chapter 2: “hic deest questio de luce que scripta est in parvo quaterno cum questionibus de heresibus.”¹ Although thequaternus² or gathering to which the note refers has not been recovered, thequestio de lucedoes appear, once at the end of a British Library copy of the Fishacre Commentary³ and a second time in a Bibliothèque nationale de France copy of the same work.⁴ Both appear at the same place in the text where...

  12. CHAPTER 7 The Division of the Waters (Gn 1:6–7): The History of a Conundrum and Its Resolution by the Early Oxford Masters
    (pp. 110-133)

    One of the oddest passages in the Genesis account of creation is surely the event of the second day: “And God said: Let there be a firmament made amidst the waters: and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made a firmament and divided the waters that were under the firmament from those that were above the firmament. And it was so.”¹ The Fathers of the Church valiantly engaged the problem, but for the most part their efforts were desultory, and they ended by declaring the event a mystery, beyond human ken, and moved on to the...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Adam’s Rib: A Test Case for Natural Philosophy in Grosseteste, Fishacre, Rufus, and Kilwardby
    (pp. 134-148)

    For the natural philosopher the Genesis account of the six days of creation, or hexaëmeron in the coinage of St. Ambrose, is replete with mind-bending puzzles: how can there be light without a heavenly body to emit that light, or how can there be waters above the firmament, not to speak of the concept of creation itself, abhorrent to all ancient Greek thinkers.¹ Ranking high among these philosophical puzzles is the account of the making For the natural philosopher the Genesis account of the six days of creation, or hexaëmeron in the coinage of St. Ambrose, is replete with mind-bending...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Richard Fishacre and the Problem of the Soul
    (pp. 149-157)

    The translation of the natural philosophy of Aristotle into Latin in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries presented the philosophers of that age with a radical alternative to the traditional Platonic-Augustinian system. With respect to Christian doctrine, moreover, few options were as crucial as the respective positions regarding the human soul. For Augustine (as for Plato) the soul was a substance, simple, complete, incorruptible, and related to the body as agent to instrument. It was a view that had behind it the weight of centuries of Christian speculation as well as spirituality.

    In Aristotelian psychology, on the other hand,...

  15. CHAPTER 10 Interiority and Self-Knowledge according to Richard Fishacre
    (pp. 158-167)

    Any account of Fishacre’s view of interiority and self-knowledge must begin with an examination of his view of the soul and its powers. Since, moreover, he never wrote a treatise that was professedly aDe animaor even aquaestiothat formally addressed the subject, one is forced to pick one’s way through his major work, hisSentencesCommentary, much of it in the context of a literal gloss on the Lombard’s text.

    As early as the third distinction of the first book, Fishacre addresses the structure of the human soul and its powers. Between the soul itself and its...

  16. CHAPTER 11 Richard Fishacre’s Treatise De libero arbitrio
    (pp. 168-180)

    That the human creature has the freedom to choose and that therefore we bear the moral responsibility for our actions was an issue central to Christian philosophy from at least the time of St. Augustine.¹ It is then not surprising to find resurfacing in the discussions of the Schoolmen of the High Middle Ages the issue of free choice.²

    The first formal treatise on the subject in the thirteenth century was that composed by William of Auxerre (d. 1231) as part of hisSumma aurea.It was William who appropriated the Lombard’s definition ofliberum arbitrium as facultas voluntatis et...

  17. CHAPTER 12 Undoing the Past: Fishacre and Rufus on the Limits of God’s Power
    (pp. 181-195)

    Peter Lombard asserted that “free choice does not refer to the present or the past, but to future contingencies.”¹ The assertion provides the Dominican master Richard Fishacre, commenting on this text, with the occasion to ask a question which to the best of our knowledge no one at the Oxfordstudiumhad yet asked: namely, whether God is free to alter the past.² The treatment, which takes the form of aquaestio, is concise and nuanced, but not without its difficulties. As was not infrequently the case, moreover, it drew the fire of his contemporary, Richard Rufus.³

    Any restriction of...

  18. CHAPTER 13 The Virgin as Olive Tree: A Marian Sermon of Richard Fishacre and Science at Oxford
    (pp. 196-207)

    The manuscript catalogued as Cambridge, Trinity College B.15.38, contains among other things a collection of sermons by Oxford masters of the mid-thirteenth century. The first sermon in the codex¹ is attributed to Richard Fishacre, the earliest Dominican at Oxford from whom we have any substantial body of writings.²

    The Fishacre sermon is in the form of asimilitudo(Mary is like an olive tree), a common device of the medieval preacher.3 Common also was the theme the Mother of God. The subject seems to have been a particular favorite with Richard Fishacre. Of the twenty-five sermons attributed to him by...

  19. CHAPTER 14 Richard Fishacre’s Quaestio on the Ascension of Christ
    (pp. 208-234)

    Fishacre’s approach to theology via the secular sciences is admirably illustrated in an untitled and anonymousquaestioon the Ascension of Christ, which occurs at the end of Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana MS Ottob. lat. 294.¹ On the evidence both external and internal, which I will review below, I feel confident in ascribing the piece to Fishacre. It is probable that hisSentencesCommentary was composed betweencirca1241–1245.² If so, I would tentatively place theDe ascensionebetween 1245 and 1248, the year of Fishacre’s death. The style, the rather unfinished nature of the text, and especially the character...

  20. CHAPTER 15 Richard Fishacre’s “Super S. Augustini librum de haeresibus adnotationes”
    (pp. 235-254)

    At the end of a Vatican codex containing an incomplete copy of Richard Fishacre’s Sentences Commentary is an anonymous scholastic treatise on heresies, which purports to provide rational arguments both for and against the ninety heresies listed and described by St. Augustine in hisDe haeresibus.The work is followed without a break by Fishacre’squaestioon the Ascension of Christ.¹

    On several counts I feel confident in ascribing the treatise on heresies to Fishacre as well. The Oxford Dominican was not credited with such a treatise by any medieval or early modern bibliographer.² However, there occurs the following marginal...

  21. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 255-262)
  22. Index of Names
    (pp. 263-266)
  23. Subject Index
    (pp. 267-272)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-273)