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Reviewed by:
  • Thomas Aquinas and the Greek Fathers ed. by Michael Dauphinais, Andrew Hofer, and Roger Nutt
  • Alexis Torrance
Thomas Aquinas and the Greek Fathers. Edited by Michael Dauphinais, Andrew Hofer, O.P., and Roger Nutt. Ave Maria, Fla.: Sapientia Press of Ave Maria University, 2019. Pp. xviii + 360. $44.95 (paper). ISBN: 978-1-932589-82-5.

This volume brings together an illustrious cast of contributors to offer studies on an incredibly important theme. Its publication is thus a cause for celebration. Comprised of twelve chapters (thirteen if one counts, as one should, Andrew Hofer's insightful and developed conclusion) and a short introduction, this collection treats the reader to a feast of scholarship on the use and reception of the Greek Fathers in Thomas Aquinas, as well as the broader implications of Thomas's deep interest in the Greek Fathers for the theological discipline as a whole. In such a short review, I cannot do justice to the many and diverse riches of each individual contribution. I will attempt to offer a succinct summary of the contents. while some chapters will be discussed in more detail than others, [End Page 154] this is not a reflection of uneven quality (happily, this is one of those rare edited volumes with an evenly high quality) but rather simply betrays my own interests.

Dominic Legge, O.P., offers a discerning treatment of the episode of the Transfiguration in Thomas's work. It would be worth considering this chapter along with Marcus Plested's contribution to the volume, which likewise deals with the Transfiguration. Both authors see important points of contact between the Greek patristic tradition and Thomas, particularly via the latter's use of John of Damascus to discuss the light that shone from Christ upon the disciples. Their conclusions, however, differ slightly. For Plested, there is no clear conflict between Thomas's understanding of the light of Tabor and that of Palamas, and the attempt of Prochoros Kydones (a fourteenth-century Byzantine anti-Palamite admirer and translator of Thomas) to drive a wedge between them on this matter was wrongheaded and ultimately a failure: "the Byzantine Aquinas," Plested writes, "was indubitably a Palamite" (220). The possibility for this position arises for Plested from Thomas's mature works, where Plested perceives a shift away from Thomas's earlier explicit identification of the light of the Transfiguration as something created to something more nuanced and open to a Palamite reading.

I daresay that Legge would disagree with Plested's reading on this point. Although he seeks a rapprochement between Palamas and Thomas (27-28), he insists on the traditional Thomist reading of the "claritas" that shines through Christ's humanity as having its most immediate cause in the created habitual grace and charity that fills Christ's human soul. The importance of Thomas's qualification of John of Damascus's reading is emphasized by Legge: the glory of the Transfiguration is not only "from the divinity [or Godhead]" (as the Damascene writes) but also from Christ's human soul (24). Plested downplays this qualification, whereas Legge amplifies its significance. If the source or cause of the light at the Transfiguration is only "indirectly" (as Legge argues) the divine nature or the grace of hypostatic union, and its more direct and immediate cause is in fact the created habitual grace in Christ's human soul, then a reconciliation between Palamas and Thomas on this point is a rather tall order. It would repay further work.

Jorgen Vijgen's chapter on Thomas's reception of Origen is a gold mine of information and, until Vijgen completes his ambitious project on the subject, can be considered a basic point of reference for any future discussion of the matter. Here, we learn in detail how Thomas considers Origen a theological opponent but nonetheless someone trustworthy in biblical exegesis. We are shown how, in certain contexts, Origen is "doctor" and "sanctus" for Thomas, but in others (specifically doctrinal contexts), he is "deranged" (deliravit) (41, 87). Origen comes in for especial censure on the matter of the preexistence of Christ's human soul (which Thomas ardently rejects), but his Commentary on John...


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