Das Isaak-Opfer. Historisch-systematische Untersuchung zu Rationalität und Wandelbarkeit des Naturrechts in der mittelalterlichen Lehre vom natürlichen Gesetz (review)
- Franciscan Studies
- Franciscan Institute Publications
- Volume 60, 2002
- pp. 373-378
- Additional Information
BOOK REVIEWS 373 enervating. Someone who has such control of the sources, it seems to me, can occasionally stake out firmer ground than is his habit. Sixth and last: the cover. In a volume dealing with the tumultuous events at the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th century, the choice of the famous Giotto fresco showing Francis and his friars receiving the Rule from Pope Innocent III, though undoubtedly attractive, is quite puzzling. Would not the manuscript illumination showing Celestine V creating the Poor Hermits out of the central Italian group of Spirituals (Ms. 1167, fol. 57v, Biblioteca nazionale Vittore Emmanuele, Rome) have been more to the point? Such decisions, however, are usually in the hands of editors, not authors. David Burr’s The Spiritual Franciscans: From Protest to Persecution in the Century after Saint Francis stands as a towering achievement in a career already marked by outstanding scholarship and a series of important publications. Although it represents in many ways the crowning summary statement by a scholar who has spent decades mining the sources concerning these zealots of minorite poverty, one can only hope that he will continue to apply his skills to new projects and avenues of research in the years ahead. The Franciscan Institute MICHAEL F. CUSATO, O.F.M. Isabelle Mandrella. Das Isaak-Opfer. Historisch-systematische Untersuchung zu Rationalität und Wandelbarkeit des Naturrechts in der mittelalterlichen Lehre vom natürlichen Gesetz. (Beiträge zur Geschichte der Philosophie und Theologie des Mittelalters. Neue Folge. Band 62.) Münster: Aschendorff, 2002. Pages: 331. In the twelfth century, the Stoic idea of cosmic order and the law of the biblical God blended so well as to allow the decretum Gratiani (1141) to state: Ius naturale est quod in lege et evangelio continetur. In the medieval context, this led to difficulty with several biblical passages and first of all with God’s command to Abraham to kill his innocent son. Isabelle Mandrella has taken that difficulty as a test case for looking closely at the clarity and consistency of natural law thinking in the Middle Ages. BOOK REVIEWS 374 Mandrella sets up her study by describing the medieval understanding of the Bible. The scholastics understood the Bible as God’s word, spoken to his people through human authors. The Bible was inspired, its word inerrable. Consequently, God did command Abraham to sacrifice his son. The scholastics did not raise questions about God’s command when reading and explaining Genesis; there they praised Abraham’s faith. The difficulty arose when discoursing on natural law, for in that context, as the method went, they raised problems in arguing their case, and one of them was God’s unnatural command to Abraham. They had less difficulty with several other questionable commands of God, but they debated them as well. Given then that trouble will arise between natural law and God’s command to kill Isaac, Mandrella enters the history of the conflict with the twelfth-century theologians and decretists. Although the authority of the Fathers and of Augustine of Hippo in particular encouraged them to accept God’s action, the development of rationality led them to engage in more explanation. The theologians and decretists began distinguishing cases where exception could and could not be made. Mandrella’s story really begins with William of Auxerre. Through his reading of Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics, William distinguished ethics by reason from revealed morality. Reason prescribed action in its own right. This led William of Auxerre to raise the question about the possibility of dispensation from reason’s dictates, from natural law, given its seeming occurrence in the Bible. And so the distinctions begin. If an action is not structurally bad (not malum secundum se, but malum in se) and if the circumstances assume the action into a higher purpose, then William could see his way to explaining the way Israel robbed the Egyptians on setting out for the Promised Land and Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice Isaac. He was explaining the cases rationally, in the context of natural law, and not offering ad hoc excuses. After seeing where Bonaventure of Bagnoregio and Albertus Magnus stood on the question, Mandrella offers a...