Commentaries by St. Thomas Aquinas reveal his study, love of Scripture
Reviewed by Matthew Vander Vennet
When we speak of St. Thomas Aquinas, most people familiar with the “Angelic Doctor” would tend automatically to think of his great contribution to Catholic theology and philosophy and as the Scholastic theologian par excellence. Even those more familiar with Aquinas would probably think of his two great works — the “Summa theologiae” or his “Summa contra Gentiles” — at the mention of his name. However, the foundational brilliance and guiding light throughout all of Aquinas’s works was his love of and familiarity with Sacred Scripture.
We can only truly begin to understand St. Thomas Aquinas as a theologian and philosopher once we know his depth of Scriptural engagement and knowledge. It informed everything else he accomplished. His great works were the “fruit of a biblical theologian’s lifelong study of Sacred Scripture” (xiv) and thus are key to the interpretation of Aquinas in our own day.
Until very recently, his New Testament commentaries did not command much attention. Thus, “Thomas Aquinas: Selected Commentaries on the New Testament,” edited by Jason C. Paone and produced by Word on Fire Academic, is a worthwhile contribution to this under-studied aspect of St. Thomas Aquinas and his work. Indeed, Aquinas’s commentaries on the New Testament offer an even more in-depth look at the master and his thought. As Paone states in his introduction to the volume “[O]ur guiding conviction is that a well-rounded perception of Thomas Aquinas, of the theologian and his method, demands a rigorous engagement with his biblical commentaries — his premier work as a thirteenth century theologian.” (xii)
HIS GENIUS SHINES FORTH
Paone undertook the great task of selecting some of the Angelic Doctor’s commentaries on various passages of the New Testament. That is no small feat. The volume itself is nearly 400 pages long. However, the material is superbly organized and presented. The work is divided into five parts, each divided into three chapters for a total of 15 chapters.
It is a welcomed addition to any library, especially those looking for a deep study into the New Testament by one of the greatest saints of all time.
The commentaries themselves follow Aquinas’s tried-and-true methods of discussion as in his more well-known works. His clear and insightful commentary is apparent from the very beginning and his erudition and genius shine forth brilliantly in each passage explained. Aquinas is a master at weaving together contemporary and patristic commentaries and intra-Scriptural references into his own. The synthesis produced is a clear explanation and exposition of the New Testament and its relation to Christian life, all animated by Aquinas’s love of the Word, who is Christ.
JOHN’S GOSPEL IS CENTERPIECE
Aquinas’s commentary on John’s Gospel takes a primary significance in this collection. According to Paone, “it represents a centerpiece of Thomas’ whole theological enterprise, which revolves around the being and agency of the Divine Word — the one who was sent to convey a new divine life to a world that had first received its life from him.” (xvi) Aquinas himself believed John’s Gospel to be ultimate in terms of revelation. Naturally, it would take pride of place in his commentary.
Word on Fire Academic, with the able editing of Jason Paone, has produced a remarkable edition of the often-overlooked work of the Angelic Doctor regarding Scripture and the pride of place it held for him. It is a welcomed addition to any library, especially those looking for a deep study into the New Testament by one of the greatest saints of all time. Hopefully, this collection of selected commentaries is just the beginning.
MATTHEW VANDER VENNET is director of advancement and development at The High School of Saint Thomas More in Champaign and a member of The Catholic Post’s book review team.