Huge St. Thomas Aquinas News from Logos

This could be big. Logos Bible Software is hoping to commission and publish the first complete English translations of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Commentary on the Sentences of Peter LombardCommentary on the Prophet Isaiah, and Commentary on the Prophet Jeremiah. All three texts will come with both the Latin original and a new English translation.

Logos has placed these titles in their pre-pub program in order to gauge interest and raise money for the translations. No word yet on who will be doing the translations, but Andrew Jones of Logos (who has completed his dissertation and will earn his PhD in Medieval ecclesiastical history next month) says it “will likely be a team effort. It is a very big project and is going to take some time to raise the money and find the scholars to work on it. As we collect pre-orders, we will nail down more aspects of the project and post more information about it. Aquinas’ commentaries on Jeremiah and Isaiah are much smaller and we will be able to do a lot of the work in house. Louis St. Hilaire, our patristics product manager, and I will work on these. We will then get them reviewed by outside scholars. The translations will be high-quality and accurate, and ultimately I’ll be responsible for the style of translation. ”

You don’t need to buy the full Logos package to order or even read these texts. Any book you buy from Logos comes with a free download of the software engine. It doesn’t have all the texts that make the platform so powerful, but it certainly allows you to read, search and annotate any text you’ve purchased.

All three works are, of course, of interest to Catholics, but the Sentences are the biggest project. Lombard’s Sentences compiled scriptural and patristic material along thematic lines, creating an important structure for systematic theology to develop. Every student aspiring to be a master of theology had to write a “commentary” on the sentences, including such notables as St. Thomas, Dun Scotus, and St. Bonaventure.

The Logos introduction to the Commentary on Isaiah offers a superb summa of St. Thomas the exegete:

Thomas Aquinas is most well-known as a scholastic theologian and philosopher, and his work is often considered primarily as the archetype of systematic theology: rational, system-building scholasticism. But in fact, he also wrote over twenty Scripture commentaries and other Biblical works, including five sustained treatments of Old Testament books. Among these, his commentary on Jeremiah and his Commentary on the Prophet Isaiah have never been translated.

Only recently have scholars began studying Aquinas’ commentaries in detail. Increasingly they are realizing that not only are Thomas’s scriptural works essential for understanding his theological and philosophical works, but that the image of Thomas as a rationalist system-builder must be adapted to accommodate Thomas the thoroughly scriptural theologian. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Thomism that was dominant in Catholic theology in the modern period was not the theology of Thomas himself, which retained a medieval, even monastic, foundation in Scripture.

What has become increasingly accepted is that in the Middle Ages theology was ultimately based on discursive Scriptural exegesis and was directed toward a better understanding of the meaning of Scripture—this included the theology of Thomas Aquinas, and so his exegesis and his theology cannot be divorced. In medieval exegesis there were understood to be two primary meanings of Scripture, the literal and the spiritual (the spiritual was subdivided into the moral, allegorical, and anagogical). Thomas’s exegetical works tend to focus on the literal sense rather than the mystical sense of Scripture. Thomas’s focus on the literal is a compliment to his Aristotelianism.

Thomas, of course, did not repudiate Augustinianism in his theology and likewise he did not repudiate the mystical exegesis of the monastic tradition in his exegesis, rather he built on both of them. Thomas, then, has been seen by some scholars as a bridge figure—someone capable of reconnecting the critical exegesis of the late modern period to the mystical exegesis of the early Christian centuries.

Thomas’s Scriptural works have taken on renewed importance in post-modern thought. Their study, though, remains in its infancy. The translation of his Commentary on the Prophet Isaiah into English will be a profound contribution to this on-going project. With linking of Bible references, indexing by Bible verse, and integration as a commentary into your Passage Guide, this makes the Logos edition of the Commentary on the Prophet Isaiah: English and Latin (2 vols.) more powerful and easy to use than anything else available.

This is an important project, and if it’s successful it could be a bold new way of getting more obscure texts translated for students, clergy, academics, and laypeople. The Logos pre-pub program is a kind of crowd-funding akin to Kickstarter, and it’s a way serious Catholics and students can support the wider availability of import texts.

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