Friday, January 23, 2009

Scotus on the Lombard's Christological Models

This is something of a no-brainer. There is a claim made by a prominent Thomist theologian regarding Scotus’ Christology that is slanderous and based on sheer ignorance. Now, I am aware of this claim only through hearsay; several friends have taken this Thomist’s class and told me of the charge. I have not bothered to look it up in any of his published writings, as I doubt he would commit such a charge to writing. In any case, it comes from an intro to medieval theology class. Certain elements (the part about Thomas) of this claim are a central feature of this person’s scholarly work, however.

The Charge: Peter Lombard describes three models for the incarnation. One of them he rules out of bounds; another one he endorses. But there is a third one that he is not sure of. Thomas Aquinas, being a great lover of ancient lore, was always trying to acquire the oldest and best manuscripts of the fathers, councils and other church documents. He stumbled upon the documents of an ancient council (I think it was Constantinople II) and by imbibing them was able to formulate an orthodox Christology. Scotus, however, was not so interested, and so predictably fell into great error and is in fact a heretic.

Here is the text of the Lombard:
Liber III Sententiarum d.6-7

"De intelligentia harum locutionum: Deus factus est homo, Deus est homo, an his locutionibus dicatur Deus factus esse aliquid vel esse aliquid vel non. Ex praemissis autem emergit quaestio plurimum continens utilitatis, sed nimium difficultatis atque perplexitatis. Cum enim constet ex praedictis et aliis plluribus testimoniis, omnesque catholici unanimiter fateantur Deum esse factum hominem, et Christum verum Deum esse et verum hominem, quaeritur an his locutionibus: 'Deus factus est homo', 'Filius Dei factus est filius hominis','Deus est homo' et 'homo est Deus', ...

Alii enim dicunt in ipsa Verbi incarnatione hominem quendam ex anima rationali et humana carne constitutum: ex quibus duobus omnis verus homo constituitur. Et ille hoo coepit esse homo ille. Concedunt etiam hominem illum assumptum a Verbo et unitum Verbo, et tamen esse Verbum. Et ea ratione tradunt dictum esse 'Deum factum hominem' vel 'esse hominem', quia Deus factus est (id est coepit esse) quedam substantia ex anima rationali et humana carne subsistens; et illa substantia facta est (id est coepit esse) Deus. Non tamen demigratione naturae in naturam, sed utriusque naturae servata proprietate, factum est ut Deus esset illa substantia, et illa substantia esset Deus. Unde vere dicitur Deus factus homo et homo factus Deus, et Deus esse homo et homo Deus, et Filius Dei filius hominis et e converso. Cumque dicant illum hominem ex anima rationali et humana carne subsistere, non tamen fatentur ex duabus naturis esse compositum, divina scilicet et humana; nec illius partes esse duas naturas, sed animam tantum et carnem. Auctoritates ponit...

Sunt autem et alii qui istis in parte consentiunt, sed dicunt hominem illum non ex anima rationali et carne tantum, sed ex humana et divina natura, id est ex tribus substantiis: divinitate, carne et anima, constare; hunc Christum fatentur, et unam personam tantum esse, ante incarnationem vero solummodo simplicem, sed in incarnatione factam compositam ex divinitate et humanitate. Nec est ideo alia persona quam prius, sed cum prius esset Dei tantum persona, in incarnatione facta est etiam hominis persona: not ut duae essent personae, sed ut una et eadem esset persona Dei et hominis. Persona ergo quae prius erat simplex et in una tantum natura exsistens, in duabus et ex duabus subsistit naturis. Et persona quae tantum Deus erat, facta est etiam verus homo, subsistens non tantum ex anima et canre, sed etiam ex divinitate. Nec tamen persona illa debet dici facta persona, quamvis dicatur facta persona hominis. Facta est igitur illa persona, ut quibusdam placet, quiddam subsistens ex anima et carne, sed non est facta persona vel substantia vel natura. Et in quantum est ille subsistens, composita est; in quantum autem Verbum est, simplex est. Auctoritates ponit...

Sunt etiam et alii, qui in incarnatione Verbi non solum personam ex naturis compositam negant, verum etiam hominem aliquem, sive etiam aliquam substantiam, ibi ex anima et carne compositam vel factam diffitentur; sed sic illa duo, scilicet animam et carnem, Verbi personae vel naturae unita esse aiunt, ut non ex illis duobus vel ex his tribus aliqua substantia vel persona fieret sive componeretur, sed illis duobus velut indumento Verbum Dei vestiretur ut mortalium oculis congruenter appareret.

Aliis quoque pluribus modis illi sententiae [#1] potest opponi: quibus supersedemus, exercitationis studium lectori relinquentes et ad aliam properantes...

Posita est diligenter sententia secunda et eius explanatio. Cui in nullo, vel in modico, obviant auctoritates in tertia sententia inductae, quae iam consideranda est...

Satis diligenter, iuxta diversorum sententias, supra positam absque assertione et praeiudicio tractavi quaestionem. Verumtamen nolo, in tanta re tamque ad agnoscendum difficili, putare lectorem istam sibi nostram debere sufficere disputationem; sed legat et alia melius forte considerata atque tractata, et ea quae hic movere possunt vigilantiore atque intelligentiore, si potest, mente discutiat; hoc firmiter tenens, quod 'Deus hominem assumpsit, homo in Deum transivit, non naturae versibilitate, sed Dei dignatione: ut nec Deus mutaretur in humanam substantiam assumendo hominem, nec homo in divinam glorificatus in Deum, quia mutatio vel versibilitas naturae diminutionem et abolitionem substantiae facit.'"

Faber’s reply:

I don’t have much to say on the Aquinas part of this; I have seen statements of Thomas in which he says he got someone to translate some of the fathers for him. I haven’t seen Thomas saying he got ancient council documents. When it comes to texts of Aristotle, Gauthier has sufficiently demonstrated that Aquinas was aware of Moerbeke’s new translations, but made no special effort to acquire them and used whatever text was at hand in the convent where he was staying.

As for the charge against Scotus, well, our Thomist hasn’t bothered to actually look this question up in Scotus. It has been critically edited, and is found in volume 9 of the Vatican edition, p. 256-59.

Ordinatio III d.6 q.3:

“Last it is asked, without arguments, which of those three opinions, which the Master recites, is to be held.

I respond. The first is not commonly held, because the assuming is not that which is assumed, the Word however is ‘that man’. Whether ‘that man’ can stand for some singular of human nature, and not precisely for the supposit of the Word (just as white can stand for ‘this white’ which is the singular of white in the concrete-in the way in which this is true, ‘every colored is white’- and not for the subject or supposit subsisting in whiteness), will be discussed in distinction 11, ‘whether that man began to be’.

The third opinion in the time of the Master was not heretical, but after the time of Alexander [III, pope] it was condemned, just as is clear from Extra, ‘De haereticis’, Cum Christus [reference to the Decretales of Gregory IX]. Also, the authorites which seem to say that “Christ assumed human nature as a habit” are to be explained on account of some similitude of this nature to a habit: for just as one having a habit is not changed, but having more or habituated is hidden also under a habit, so the divine person is not changed by that union, but the human nature, which quasi hides the person of the Word.

Therefore the second opinion is to be held, that the person of the Word subsists in two natures: in one, from which it has first being [esse], in another (quasi adventicious) from which it has second being [esse], -just as in some way, if Socrates would be said to subsist in humanity and whiteness. But that that opinion says ‘the person of Christ is composite’, this is not commonly held, properly speaking of composition, namely from act and potency (just as from matter and form), or from two potentialities, of the sort which acccording to the Philosoher are called elements integrating the whole.

The authorities of Damascene, which say that person is composite, should be explained, because so truly is the human and divine nature there, just as if they were composing a person, but so inconfusedly that nothing third should be from them, because they do not make composition. And the same says Damascene himself chapter 49 “If according to the heretics Christ is of one composite nature, he is changed from a simple nature into a composite” and “neither is he called God, nor man,” “just as we say man to be from soul and body, or the body from the four elements”. He ought therefore to be explained that Christ is composite because of the truth of the two natures in which he exists-but composition is more truly denied, because one does not perfect another, nor from them is there some third nature.”

And that is the whole question. The Vatican editors speculate it is so short because it had been exhaustively treated by earlier scholastics. They also list parallal passages in the Summa and Sentences of Aquinas, Alexander of Hales, and Bonaventure. Determining Scotus’ knowledge of Thomas is tricky (Thomas just wasn’t that important outside the Dominican order, especially prior to the hardening of the viae in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries), but he certainly read Bonaventure and Alexander of Hales. So the whole charge is nonsense. Both Thomas and Scotus know to avoid the Lombard’s third position because of their training in canon law, something all mendicants and seculars were thorougly schooled in (which came out at the recent SIEPM conference, though it should have been obvious).

So where does this slander come from? I really do not know. Ignorance, sloppy scholarship, the age-old rivalry between the followers of Thomas and Scotus. All one can really say is “tolle, lege!”


Michael said...

Good stuff, but why didn't you say what the Lombard's three options were?

Brandon said...

I would be thoroughly astonished to find Scotus in conflict with the Christology of II Constantinople: it's pretty standard, being just a reaffirmation of the previous Councils.

I do recall reading somewhere the suggestion that Aquinas changed his view on some matter through reading the acts of II Constantinople (probably with some commentary or gloss). But my recollection was that it was a different topic altogether, namely, interpretation of Christological psalms. Unfortunately, I don't recall where I came across it. (I also don't think it contrasted Scotus in any way on this.) It would make much more sense as a suggestion, although I don't know what the evidence for it was; while it only does so in passing, the council condemns Theodore's interpretations of the Psalms (he did not think the messianic psalms were originally about Christ, even prophetically).

Lee Faber said...

Hmm. that is interesting. It might have been a different council, that's the first one that came to mind as I was writing.