In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

BOOK REVIEWS Summa Theologiae: A Concise Translation. By ST. THOMAS AQUINAS. Edited by Timothy McDermott. Westminster, Md.: Christian Classics, 1989. Pp. lviii + 651. $78.00 (cloth). There are probably just a few of us familiar with Dominico Gravina's Compendium rythmicum, an ancient little book that summarizes the entire Summa theologiae in the same Latin meter as " Tantum ergo." But doubtless many are familiar with the experience Gravina must have had that led him to write such a book. It is the same experience that has led to a remarkable number of synopses, compendia, introductory translations, selections, and most recently to Timothy McDermott's Concise Translation. These attempt to present the doctrine of the Summa without the massive weight of syllogism and definition, unfamiliar style, and innumerable (sometimes obscure) references, which make it so daunting a task for the unprepared reader. For example, Paul Glenn in Tour of the Summa excises every objection and response and summarizes only the bodies of the articles. Walter Farrell in Companion to the Summa does not attempt trans· lation hut instead rewords and restructures the Summa in the typically modern paragraph style. However, these works have their shortcomings . By neglecting the doctrine contained in the responses and by failing to provide any transition from the summary of one article to another, the Tour considerably weakens the ordo disciplinae which, as Thomas argues in his prologue, is essential to this work. In this regard, even Anton Pegis's Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas tends to stumble along, despite being a close translation. The Companion, on the other hand, does preserve a continuity of thought, but in the final account it is Thomas's thought only secondhand. The Concise Translation, however, masterfully combines the strengths of these hooks, while avoiding their weaknesses. For it achieves concision in a manner that respects the order and development of the Summa, " not by selecting out parts, hut by compressing and distilling the whole" (p. xiii). Yet at the same time it is a translation. It is essentially Thomas in a similar form, approximately one sixth the size. McDermott admits that he has made certain omissions (for example, some of the remarkably lengthy discussions of the ceremonial and judicial precepts of the Old Law), but in these cases he retains enough to give the reader a sense of Thomas's treatment. There are of course 7~7 728 BOOK REVIEWS many passages which would he impossible to make more concise (for example, the proofs for God's existence), except by adapting them to a modern format. Here McDermott's use of modern punctuation and sentence structure tends to smooth out the stacatto (though extremely precise) structure of Thomas's syntax. At a glance, the Concise Translation appears as a thoroughly modern text, with paragraphs, titled sections, chapters, bibliography, and indices . Not surprisingly, it is divided into three main parts: God, Journeying to God, and The Road to God. Each of these is divided into chapters (numbered continuously through the parts) that correspond more or less to the so-called Treatises. For example, Part One, Chapter Five, entitled "Man's Place in Creation," corresponds exactly to the Treatise on Man. These chapters, in turn, are divided into sections which correspond closely to the major divisions that Thomas outlines in his introductions at the heads of various questions. The ohjec· tion/response format, however has completely disappeared, and the only evidence of the question/article format appears at the heads of certain paragraphs and in the margins. But this does not mean that the ohj ections and responses have altogether vanished. McDermott's careful eye has picked out many of the important distinctions they con· tain and has skillfully incorporated them into complete and unified paragraphs. This holds true also with many instances of the sed contra. Finally, in streamlining his text, he has done away with most references, keeping just enough to indicate on whom Thomas primarily relied. This regrettably leaves the reader unaware of Thomas's extensive use of his predecessors. But all in all, McDermott's format makes the text eminently readable. The translation itself is remarkable for its fidelity to the original and ease of comprehension. It almost...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 727-730
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.