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Reading Romans with St. Thomas Aquinas

Reading Romans with St. Thomas Aquinas

Matthew Levering
Michael Dauphinais
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 331
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  • Book Info
    Reading Romans with St. Thomas Aquinas
    Book Description:

    This volume fits within the contemporary reappropriation of St. Thomas Aquinas, which emphasizes his use of Scripture and the teachings of the church fathers without neglecting his philosophical insight.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1983-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xx)

    The first great commentator on the letter to the Romans, Origen of Alexandria, remarks that “there are two reasons why the letter that was written to the Romans is considered to be harder to understand than the Apostle Paul’s other letters.”¹ The first reason is that Paul “makes use of expressions which sometimes are confused and insufficiently explicit.”² Here Origen has in view not only issues related to predestination and free will, but also controversies “concerning the law of Moses, about the calling of the Gentiles, about Israel according to the flesh and about Israel which is not according to...

  4. 1 Aquinas on Paul’s Flesh/Spirit Anthropology in Romans
    (pp. 1-38)
    Bernhard Blankenhorn

    I will primarily argue that, despite numerous exegetical limitations, the late St. Thomas Aquinas achieved a broad and faithful appropriation of St. Paul’s flesh/spirit anthropology in the Epistle to the Romans. Second, I will show that Aquinas’s interpretation of key Romans passages on flesh/spirit does not adequately manifest his reception of the Pauline doctrine. Only the Summa theologiae allows a just evaluation of that reception. Third, I will show that a study of Aquinas’s Pauline exegesis must take into account the way in which St. Augustine mediates and guides that reading of Scripture.

    I will begin with a brief historical...

  5. 2 Aquinas on Abraham’s Faith in Romans 4
    (pp. 39-51)
    Markus Bockmuehl

    One of the more tantalizing and yet surprisingly neglected exegetical puzzles in Romans is this: does Paul depict the covenantal, circumcised, Jewish observant life of faithfulness as overtaken and replaced by an entirely law-free faith in Christ, or does he instead envisage such Jewish Torah praxis as in some sense tolerated or even affirmed and taken up within the Messianic faith? Two millennia of Gentile Paulinism may understandably have left little incentive to press for an answer; but the question as such does seem exegetically relevant to the figure of Abraham in chapter 4, as also to chapters 9–11....

  6. 3 Ressourcement of Mystery: The Ecclesiology of Thomas Aquinas and the Letter to the Romans
    (pp. 52-74)
    Hans Boersma

    Yves Congar (1904–95), in a 1974 Aquinas Lecture at Blackfriars, Oxford, on the topic of “St. Thomas Aquinas and the Spirit of Ecumenism,” held out the Angelic Doctor as a source of inspiration for discussion between Catholics and Protestants.¹ While recognizing the tension between “the ontological and sapiential point of view of Thomas and the existential-dramatic approach of Luther,” Congar pointed out that nonetheless not just Catholics but also Protestants were looking to Thomas Aquinas (1224/25–74) as a source of inspiration.² With some degree of relish, it seems, Congar quoted Karl Barth (1886–1968):

    An attentive reading of...

  7. 4 On the Relation of St. Thomas’s Commentary on Romans to the Summa theologiae
    (pp. 75-82)
    John F. Boyle

    In this essay, I would like to reflect on the relationship between St. Thomas’s commentary on Romans and his Summa theologiae. The commentary and the Summa are obviously different kinds of works and yet both products of the same theological mind. There is clearly some overlap. The Summa is far from devoid of scriptural content. The commentary is far from devoid of speculative distinction and definition. Nevertheless, many readers of St. Thomas desire, I think, to find more speculative matter in the commentary. If Scripture is the foundation of theology, then more of the speculative science ought to be spelled...

  8. 5 Thomas’s Theology of Preaching in Romans: A Lascasian Application
    (pp. 83-100)
    Edgardo Antonio Colón-Emeric

    Throughout history, Thomas Aquinas has been called many things—a Christian philosopher, a scholastic theologian, the doctor angelicus, the doctor communis, the dumb ox—but “preacher” is not one of them. Few outside the Dominican Order are likely to rank him as worthy of admission to the pantheon reserved for princes of preaching such as Augustine or Chrysostom. I would venture to guess that despite their undisputed theological worth, the writings of Thomas are not considered standard texts for courses in homiletics.¹ And yet, as a member of the Ordo Praedicatorum, Thomas was both an accomplished preacher and a teacher...

  9. 6 Romans 9–11: Rereading Aquinas on the Jews
    (pp. 101-112)
    Holly Taylor Coolman

    Given the events of the twentieth century—including both atrocities committed against the Jews and new openness and dialogue between Jews and Christians—it is not surprising that the question of Aquinas’s understanding of the Jews has received regular treatment.

    Aquinas stands as a profoundly influential voice within the Christian tradition, a thinker who is receiving renewed attention from both Catholics and Protestants. Any attempt to reassess the major strands of traditional Christian thinking on Judaism must take account of his thought. Furthermore, as is discussed further below, Aquinas’s own historic situation was marked by important shifts in Christian responses...

  10. 7 Degrading the Body, Suppressing the Truth: Aquinas on Romans 1:18–25
    (pp. 113-126)
    Adam G. Cooper

    From at least the days of Socrates, a prominent tradition in both pagan and Christian thought has affirmed a curious reciprocal relationship between a person’s moral condition and his or her grasp of reality. Over the centuries, this mutually influencing relation between knowledge and virtue has found expression in a variety of ways. On the one hand, there are statements asserting the relativity of moral goodness to intellectual clarity. Iris murdoch has become famous for her doctrine that only “true vision occasions right conduct.”¹ Simone Weil located the primary “sine qua non of goodness” in “the ability to see things...

  11. 8 The Holy Spirit in Aquinas’s Commentary on Romans
    (pp. 127-162)
    Gilles Emery

    In his Summa theologiae, St. Thomas offers an exposition of great breadth on the Holy Spirit in the inner mystery of God and in the divine economy. However, due to the specialized method and complex structure of this work, readers of the Summa do not always perceive there the significance of the teaching on the Holy Spirit. Indeed, this teaching is not limited to the questions that are specially devoted to the Holy Spirit in the Trinitarian life (prima pars, questions 36–38). Neither is this teaching limited to the treatise on the divine persons (questions 27–43), nor even...

  12. 9 The Multiple Literal Sense in Thomas Aquinas’s Commentary on Romans and Modern Pauline Hermeneutics
    (pp. 163-182)
    Scott W. Hahn and John A. Kincaid

    In the world of modern Pauline scholarship, one past interpreter of the Apostle who is often overlooked is Thomas Aquinas.¹ While we recognize this may be due to Thomas’s pre-modern hermeneutic and scholastic terminology, we are convinced that modern interpreters of the Apostle have an invaluable resource in the Doctor Communis. In particular, in this chapter we suggest that Thomas’s hermeneutic of the multiple literal sense could be an important tool that could help bridge some of the exegetical divides that currently plague modern Pauline hermeneutics.

    In order to demonstrate this, we begin by elucidating Thomas’s idea of Scripture’s multiple...

  13. 10 Aquinas’s Use of the Old Testament in His Commentary on Romans
    (pp. 183-195)
    Mary Healy

    Recent decades have witnessed a rediscovery of St. Thomas as biblical exegete. His biblical commentaries are attracting greater attention than ever before, and his theories of biblical interpretation, particularly his view of the literal and spiritual senses of Scripture, have been assiduously analyzed. Yet Aquinas’s actual practice of exegesis, and particularly his use of Scripture to comment on Scripture, remains largely unexplored.¹ This state of affairs is partly due to the enormous gap between Thomas’s pre-critical interpretive style and the methods and assumptions of modern historical-critical exegesis. In the face of the undeniable progress in determining the original meaning of...

  14. 11 Aquinas on Romans 8: Predestination in Context
    (pp. 196-215)
    Matthew Levering

    How can Thomas Aquinas’s Lectures on the Letter to the Romans enrich our understanding of his theology of predestination? After a brief overview of Aquinas’s theology of predestination in the Summa theologiae, I explore his exposition of Romans 8 in his commentary.¹ Although biblical commentators differ among each other about the precise meaning of proorizein, Romans 8 has long been crucial for the doctrine of predestination, especially Paul’s statement that “those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom...

  15. 12 Beatus vir: Aquinas, Romans 4, and the Role of “Reckoning” in Justification
    (pp. 216-237)
    Bruce D. Marshall

    Since the sixteenth century it has often seemed that the theological reading of Scripture yields two quite different ways of thinking about the justification of the sinner. One centers on holiness, the other on forgiveness; one on God’s interior work, the other on his exterior word; one on love, the other on faith; one is Catholic, the other Protestant. These two different ways of looking at justification go by various names. The one focusing on holiness is often called an “ontological” account of justification, the one focusing on forgiveness a “forensic” or “juridical” account. It might be more helpful to...

  16. 13 Portraits of Paul: Aquinas and Calvin on Romans 7:14–25
    (pp. 238-261)
    Charles Raith II

    In 1541 Gasparo Contarini, appointed papal legate of the Roman Catholic Church, gathered together at the Diet of Regensburg theologians representing both Catholic and Protestant positions in order to discuss, among other things, the doctrine of justification. Anthony N. S. Lane, while analyzing article 5 of the Regensburg Colloquy, makes the point on numerous occasions that the crux of the issue concerned the basis of one’s acceptance before God: is it due to imputed righteousness alone or also due to inherent righteousness?¹ Answering this question hinges in large part on how one understands the transformation that occurs through God’s sanctifying...

  17. 14 Rendering God’s Glory: St. Paul and St. Thomas on Worship
    (pp. 262-273)
    Geoffrey Wainwright

    My plan is to highlight in St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans—and therefore, of course, in St. Thomas’s lectures on the epistle—those passages that have a particular bearing on worship, and to do so in the sequence adopted by the Apostle and followed by his commentator.

    Here we find fundamental theology and anthropology formulated in terms of worship, whereby the truth of God is positively declared and humankind is shown in its divine calling and (failed) obligation.

    God is properly worshiped both for what he is in himself and for what he does as creator.

    Simply as God,...

  18. 15 The Trinitarian, Spousal, and Ecclesial Logic of Justification
    (pp. 274-287)
    Michael Waldstein

    I had indeed been captivated with an extraordinary ardor for understanding Paul in the Epistle to the Romans. But up till then . . . a single word in Chapter 1:17, “In it the righteousness of God is revealed,” . . . stood in my way. For I hated that word “righteousness of God,” which, according to the use and custom of all the teachers, I had been taught to understand philosophically regarding the formal or active righteousness, as they called it, with which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.

    Though I lived as a monk without reproach,...

  19. 16 Origen, Augustine, and Thomas: Interpreters of the Letter to the Romans
    (pp. 288-302)
    Robert Louis Wilken

    Every commentator on the letter of Paul to the Romans seeks to discover a central theme that holds everything in the book together. But the best and most profound interpreters know that the epistle is so rich, its arguments so varied, its range of topics so grand, that the most substantive writing of the Apostle cannot be brought easily under a single rubric. Already in the third century, Origen of Alexandria, the first to write a verse by verse commentary on Romans, realized this. And in a characteristically perceptive passage in his commentary he compares what he calls Paul’s “apostolic...

  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 303-322)
  21. Contributors
    (pp. 323-326)
  22. Index
    (pp. 327-332)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 333-333)