- Reading Sacred Scripture with Thomas Aquinas: Hermeneutical Tools, Theological Questions and New Perspectives ed. by Piotr Roszak and Jörgen Vijgen
One of the curiosities of Thomistic scholarship is that Aquinas's primary role as a Dominican master was to lecture on Scripture, yet until recently there has been relatively little attention paid to his engagement with Scripture. Scholarship on Aquinas's biblical commentaries has been neglected relative to the size of its presence in his corpus. A positive contribution to redressing this imbalance is in this recent text edited by Piotr Roszak and Jörgen Vijgen, who provide us with a collection of essays that investigate Aquinas's use of Scripture. Including the introductory essay, in twenty essays from international scholars we are presented with a variety of ways of understanding the role of Scripture in Aquinas's theology, the tools he used, how he thought about Scripture, and how his use of Scripture illuminates a variety of theological and philosophical questions.
As with any other good collection of essays, the editors provide a thematic guide and summary of the work in their introduction, beginning by reiterating Étienne Gilson's claim that Aquinas's "entire theology … is a commentary on the Bible" (vii), and making their own argument that "the thought of Aquinas undoubtedly operates within a biblical horizon" (viii), a claim that is further strengthened by the variety of ways the other nineteen essays reinforce the primacy of Scripture in Aquinas's thought. The contribution of this book, however, is not just to describe the primacy of Scripture in Aquinas's thought, but to take into account his hermeneutical [End Page 331] perspective as we understand it now while pointing to future research directions. Likewise, the essays do not just look backward historically, but also provide fruitful links to contemporary issues.
After the introduction, the next eleven essays are organized around the theme of hermeneutical tools. In these essays the authors attempt to provide an understanding of the Aquinas's basic exegetical approach, both in his theology of Scripture and in the variety of exegetical tools and methods he used. Several themes emerge out of these essays.
One theme that is taken up is that of the multiple senses of Scripture and how Aquinas deploys them. On one hand Gilbert Dahan (50–52) argues that, while Aquinas speaks of the four senses of Scripture inherited from Stephen Langton, he also engages with the threefold sense of Scripture from Hugh of St. Victor. But, contrary to Aquinas's description in Summa theologiae I, q. 1, a. 10, Dahan argues that the four senses of Scripture are not really functional in Aquinas's exegesis (52) and that "the backbone of his hermeneutical system" is engaging with the texts through narrative, parabolic, and poetic modes (58). On the other hand, Elisabeth Reinhardt, in an essay describing how Aquinas's inaugural lectures programmatically shape his future exegesis, shows how the four senses of Scripture are operative in his exegesis of the Book of Romans (80–82). Likewise, Roszak shows how Aquinas's use of scriptural citations tends to have a more spiritual sense when used in his commentary on the Psalms (135–37), and Jeremy Holmes shows how Aquinas reads the Old Testament primarily through the spiritual sense, a reading based on a participation metaphysics that allows Aquinas to preserve the theological value of the Old Testament through a Christological reading of those texts. These essays helpfully point to a possible difference between Aquinas's theory of the senses of Scripture and how he actually deploys that theory in his actual exegetical practice, a difference that deserves further study.
A second theme that emerges from these essays is the Christological shape of Aquinas's exegesis. Contrary to modern forms of exegesis, Aquinas sees Christ as the "center and summit of Sacred scripture and ultimately the reason for its unity" (Reinhardt, 88), so much so that, as Dahan points out, it is Christ who "gives the text its truth" (70). For...