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BOOK REVIEWS 329 Thomas Aquinas as Reader of the Psalms. By THOMAS F. RYAN. Notre Dame: University ofNotre Dame Press, 2001. Pp. ix+ 233. $40.00 (cloth). ISBN 0-268-02003-5. Happy will be the day when scholars don't feel the need to encumber their studies of medieval biblical commentaries with prefatory justifications. Though a bit slow out of the gate, many students of the Middle Ages have finally begun to grant medieval scriptural exegesis something like its due as the epicenter of information about developments in medieval theology and spirituality, among other areas of knowledge. Thomas Ryan has no need for apologiae; his succinct and rewarding survey ofAquinas's commentary on the Psalter stands as its own best argument for the usefulness, nay necessity, for further study of this still underexplored genre. Ryan makes a convincing argument that Aquinas's Postilla super Psalmos (he completed work on Psalms 1-54 only) is far more than a dim, imprecise reflection of his "serious" scholarly production, such as the Summa Theologiae. Rather, the biblical commentaryproves an alternative butequallydemanding and productive means of "doing theology" in both the broader and narrower senses of the term. Positioning the commentary squarely within the context of Aquinas's career as an educator gives Ryan the perspective he needs to appreciate the pedagogical qualities of this rich work, the (probably) final expression of the Angelic Doctor's teaching, in the Dominican studium of Naples in 1272-73 (2). A brief but useful reminder ofthe importance of orality and memory (29ff.), not only for preachers but in the medieval classroom (even well into the thirteenth century) provides a touchstone throughout the book for Ryan to recall the exhortative and evangelical as well as the "educational" aspects of the Postills. In addition, Ryan refers a few times to Aquinas's inception lectures at the University of Paris (1256), which in context read like an advertisement for this commentary on the Psalms. Clearly, whatAquinas was doing in this commentary is no sideline to his "main" interests. At the same time, the speculative and the philosophical are admittedly offfocus in this fundamentally pastoral work. This is due in part to context: Ryan is well aware of the fact that the primary audience for the work is Dominicans destined for a life of preaching and interaction with Christians outside a university setting. Nonetheless, he rightly warns us against assuming that the Psalms commentary is therefore basic, simple, or derivative. Though doctrinal issues are not raised according to the "more familiar order" ofthirteenth-century theological discourse, they are raised as they are suggested by the text of the Psalms, and duly dealt with in sometimes extended "questions" (2, 4, 47). Indeed, Aquinas's commentary contains "elements of systematic theology" without being systematic; Ryan shows that the Postills demand a startling degree of theological sophistication of Aquinas's hearers/readers, particularly a more than passing knowledge of his own writings in the Summa about grace, works, and prayer (63, 110). In fact, as Ryan demonstrates brilliantly later in the book, Aquinas explored more fully in his Psalms commentary certain areas of 330 BOOK REVIEWS spirituality, particularly prayer, that he addressed only partially in his great Summa (chap. 4, "Christ's Example of Prayer in Super Psalmos"). Ryan begins appropriatelywith an analysis ofthe structure ofthe commentary and the exegetical choices made by Aquinas. This is an essential move, since it whips away the false (and to modern readers, damning) appearance ofbeing "derivative," an appearance caused by the reliance of medieval exegetes on the same roundup of usual suspects: Augustine, Jerome (for iuxta hebreos readings), Gregory the Great, Peter Lombard, Hugh of St. Cher, among other familiar faces. The way in which an exegete focuses his purpose and uses his sources is the key to his originality, as Ryan well knows and well demonstrates. To start with, Aquinas uses the by-then standard "Aristotelian" prologue, outlining the four "causes" of the Psalms; his identification of the first two of these causes informs the entire commentary, providing him with his hermeneutic program. They are, first, the "material" cause, the "matter" of the Psalms: this is identified, unsurprisingly (for a medieval Christian commentary), as Christ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 329-332
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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