- Following Francis at the Time of the Antichrist:Evangelical Poverty and Worldly Riches in the Lectura super Lucam of Peter of John Olivi
Forty years ago, speaking of Peter of John Olivi’s commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of John, Raoul Manselli affirmed that these texts prove that Olivi had “a vast knowledge of the exegetes who preceded him, a vivid perception of the role of the Bible within the contemporary life of the Church, and, last but not least, a vivid understanding of the complex significance and value of being Franciscan.”1 Undoubtedly, this judgment can also be extended to the Lectura super Lucam, which Fortunato Iozzelli edited in 2010, thereby becoming the first of Olivi’s Gospel commentaries to be available in a modern edition.2 Iozzelli’s critical edition offers scholars a precious opportunity to better understand a text that, notwithstanding the increasing number of studies on Olivi, has remained largely unexplored and serves to point out the role of this text within the complex exegesis, theology, and spirituality of Olivi.3 His biblical commentaries assume a paramount [End Page 147] importance when one considers that – as Sylvain Piron points out – with Olivi “l’exégèse du texte sacré revient au centre de l’activité théologique” and his hermeneutics of the Bible was a key factor in developing his idea of evangelical poverty as well as his peculiar and dynamic theology of history.4 The present essay aims to contribute to this research by analysing two aspects: first, the way several passages of the Lectura developed an eschatological hermeneutic of history that represents a significant stage towards Olivi’s later Lectura super Apocalypsim; second, the way in which the Franciscan exegete elaborated upon the theme of wealth and (evangelical) poverty, considering this commentary within the thirteenth-century exegesis on the topic.5 These two elements directly regard Olivi’s consideration of the apocalyptic role of the stigmatic Saint Francis as renewer of the evangelical life of poverty. Hence, both aspects served the purpose of presenting Olivi’s readers with a Franciscan identity based on the Gospel and on an acute self-understanding of the order’s role in the eschatological era, which is to say, in the sixth age of the Church.
1. “Ante eos erit misticus Antichristus…”: A Gospel Reading for the Final Age
Iozzelli’s introduction to the critical text offers scholars a good presentation of the main characteristics of Olivi’s exegesis, the structure of the commentary, its main sources, and its textual tradition.6 I shall only recall a few general points of his introductory comments here. The Lectura [End Page 148] super Lucam was surely composed in a studium in the south of France, as becomes clear from a reference to Mary Magdalen who is said to have preached and died in the patria of the author and his listeners.7 The original audience of the Lectura was therefore composed mainly by young Franciscan friars who went through their spiritual and intellectual formation within the provincial school network.8 The date of composition of the Lectura super Lucam is difficult to pinpoint with precision.9 In fact, the text entertains a complex relationship with Olivi’s earlier Lectura super Matthaeum, which has been convincingly dated to 1279-80.10 Commenting on Luke, Olivi focused on the peculiar parts of the Lucan text – in particular its first two chapters – , whereas he skipped several passages that he had already commented upon in his Lectura super Matthaeum. However, the relationship between the two commentaries is not so simple. For instance, Olivi dedicated considerable attention to passages such as the so-called apocalyptic discourse, the Lucan version of the parable of the talents, and the Passion, though he had already commented on [End Page 149] those parts in his reading of Matthew. Moreover, contrary to what one might aspect, passages that recur only in the Gospel of Luke – such as the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:16-21) or Jesus’s encounter with Zacchaeus the tax collector (Luke 19:1-10) – received only brief mention.11 Once the Lectura super Matthaeum is published, it would...