Peter Lombard's four books of Sentences were one of the key texts of medieval Europe. Composed in the 1150s, they were compiled towards the end of a great period of debate, discussion and controversy in the schools, when masters like Peter Abelard, Hugh of St Victor and Gilbert of Poitiers were analysing a wide range of theological questions in a rational and systematic way. In the Sentences, Peter Lombard attempts to review all these theological questions and provide a reasoned solution to them.
The Sentences are arranged thematically: Book 1 covers the Trinity, Book 2 the Creation, Book 3 the Incarnation of the Word, and Book 4 the Sacraments. His opinions are based especially on Augustine, who provides something like 90% of the citations in the Sentences. Of his contemporaries, the Lombard was closest to the general approach of Hugh of St Victor, probably the least controversial of the masters of the time. But he also studied the writings of Abelard closely and directly, and was not immune from ecclesiastical condemnation himself.
The Sentences quickly became central to the study of theology and remained so until the Reformation. All the great theologians of the period studied and commented on them; even the young Martin Luther wrote glosses on the Sentences.
In the light of this, it is perhaps a little surprising that this is the first modern translation of the Sentences into English. Giulio Silano's translation is based on the Latin text of the 1971 edition by Ignatius Brady, published by the Franciscan Order. The scholarly apparatus of the translation is minimal, but adequate. Silano identifies the Lombard's sources in footnotes, but does not cite any editions of patristic and medieval works. Instead, he provides a bibliography which lists available modern English translations of authorities quoted in the Sentences – though he has generally re-translated these passages rather than using the existing translations. No editions are listed for works which are unavailable in an English translation. There is also an Index of Scriptural and Patristic Authorities cited, though it would have been helpful to have had the occasional references to the interlinear and ordinary gloss appear in this [End Page 296] index too. It might also have been helpful to present the Biblical citations separately from the patristic citations; as it stands, the Biblical citations are hard to notice in the full list.
Given the highly technical nature of this work, the English translation can hardly be intended to be read sequentially. Instead, it should serve as a reference book for students (and other researchers) who have little or no Latin, or who find the Lombard's Latin too technical to read easily. It is undoubtedly much more approachable and accessible than the Latin original. But with the footnotes generally limited to the brief identification of Peter Lombard's sources, the reader will need to go elsewhere to study the significance of particular theological debates and positions. Similarly, there are no notes on the translation of specific words, which tends to conceal the complexity of some of the original Latin terminology. The introductions are largely a summary of the contents of each book, rather than an account of the historical significance of its arguments, though the introduction to Book 1 does also contain an account of the life and significance of its author. Within these limitations, the translation is readable and clear. When it is eventually completed with Book 4, it will be a valuable introductory resource, especially for courses in medieval theology.
University of Western Australia