Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bonavanture and the Counterfactual Incarnation

In IV Sent. Dist. XXVI Art. II Q. II St Bonaventure discusses the sacramental signification of marriage, whereby the relationship between man and wife signifies the relationship of Christ and the Church. One of the objections has this argument:

Sed, si homo non peccasset, Christus incarnatus non esset, secundum communiorem et probabiliorem opinionem; et nihilominus magnum fuisset sacramentum: ergo non tantum coniunctio Christi et Ecclesiae est signatum.

But if man had not sinned, Christ would not have been incarnate, according to the more common and more probable opinion; and nevertheless marriage would have been a great sacrament: therefore not only the union of Christ and the Church is signified [in the sarament].

St Bonaventure replies that even if there were no Incarnation and so no Incarnate Christ and no Church, marriage would still signify the relationship between God and the soul. So it has a greater signification now than it would have, but in the counterfactual case it would still have sacramental significance.

My question, though, is about when Scotus' position, now identified with the Franciscan position, that Christ would have been incarnate even if Adam had not sinned, arose in the Franciscans and the Latin Church. It's not in Bonaventure, the Franciscan doctor par excellence before Scotus - where does it come from? Does it originate with Scotus?


Lee Faber said...

No, it's in Maximus confessor and various other fathers. The english in general had a pretty strong Marian piety, and I suspect Scotus picked it up there. I would check William of Ware and some of the other franciscans that didn't study with Bonaventure. The immaculate conception started up with the anglosaxons or right after them, for example.

Michael Sullivan said...

Well I know it's in some of the Eastern fathers. My question was where does it come into the West and into the Franciscans especially.

Anonymous said...

Lee and Michael,

The following work helped fill in some details about how Marian devotion spread from the early East, to the West, through the English (e.g., William of Ware), ultimately to Scotus's position on the Immaculate conception, etc.: Marielle Lamy, L’Immaculée Conception: étapes et Enjeux d’une Controverse au Môyen Age (XII-XV siècles), (Paris: Institut d’études Augustiniennes, 2000). I don't recall whether it addresses the subject of the Incarnation, however.

Also, I do recall--but can't remember where--Thomas Aquinas suggesting that Christ would have become Incarnate even had there been no fall; and this within the context of his discussion of marriage.


Brother Charles said...

I shall follow comments here with great interest. The 'Franciscan position' on the incarnation has penetrated everyday preaching by Franciscans, sometimes in fairly uncritical appropriation. Hmmm...I do need a dissertation proposal...

Thanks as always!

Nick said...

The strongest Biblical "evidence" I can see supporting the notion Christ would have become Incarnate despite sin is the fact Eph 5:31f quotes Genesis 2 and applies it to Christ and the Church - and we all know that Genesis 2 was before the Fall. That said, other texts clearly state Christ came specifically to fix the sin problem.

Michael Sullivan said...

Victor, thanks for the tip.