Papers presented at the Eighteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2019: Volume 2: Politics and Society. The Patristic Legacy in the Middle Ages [1 ed.] 904294658X, 9789042946583, 9789042946590

The successive sets of Studia Patristica contain papers delivered at the International Conferences on Patristic Studies,

138 31 506KB

English Pages 131 [133] Year 2021

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

Papers presented at the Eighteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2019: Volume 2: Politics and Society. The Patristic Legacy in the Middle Ages [1 ed.]
 904294658X, 9789042946583, 9789042946590

Table of contents :
Title Page
Copyright Page

Citation preview


Papers presented at the Eighteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2019 Edited by MARKUS VINZENT Volume 2: Politics and Society: The Patristic Legacy in the Middle Ages Edited by JOHN T. SLOTEMAKER and JEFFREY C. WITT




STUDIA PATRISTICA Editor: Markus VINZENT, King’s College London, UK and Max Weber Centre, University of Erfurt, Germany

Board of Directors (2019): Carol HARRISON, Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford, UK Mark EDWARDS, Professor of Early Christian Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford, UK Neil MCLYNN, University Lecturer in Later Roman History, Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford, UK Philip BOOTH, A.G. Leventis Associate Professor in Eastern Christianity, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford, UK Sophie LUNN-ROCKLIFFE, Lecturer in Patristics, Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, UK Morwenna LUDLOW, Professor, Theology and Religion, University of Exeter, UK Ioannis PAPADOGIANNAKIS, Senior Lecturer in Patristics, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London, UK Markus VINZENT, Professor of the History of Theology, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London, UK Josef LÖSSL, Professor of Historical Theology and Intellectual History, School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University, UK Lewis AYRES, Professor of Catholic and Historical Theology, Department of Theology and Religion, Durham University, UK John BEHR, Regius Chair in Humanity, The School of Divinity, History, Philosophy & Art History, University of Aberdeen, UK Anthony DUPONT, Research Professor in Christian Antiquity, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, KU Leuven, Belgium Patricia CINER (as president of AIEP), Professor, Universidad de San Juan-Universidad Católica de Cuyo, Argentina Clayton JEFFORD (as president of NAPS), Professor of Scripture, Seminary and School of Theology, Saint Meinrad, IN, USA


Papers presented at the Eighteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2019 Edited by MARKUS VINZENT Volume 2:

Politics and Society: The Patristic Legacy in the Middle Ages Edited by JOHN T. SLOTEMAKER and JEFFREY C. WITT



© Peeters Publishers — Louvain — Belgium 2021 All rights reserved, including the right to translate or to reproduce this book or parts thereof in any form. D/2021/0602/139 ISBN: 978-90-429-4658-3 eISBN: 978-90-429-4659-0 A catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. Printed in Belgium by Peeters, Leuven

Table of Contents John T. SLOTEMAKER – Jeffrey C. WITT Introduction .........................................................................................


Ritva PALMÉN Guarding the Inner City of the Soul: The Patristic Legacy of the Notion of Security in the Middle Ages ..............................................


Pascale BERMON How Gregory of Rimini Read Saint Augustine: New Evidence. With a Focus on Ecclesiology......................................................................


John T. SLOTEMAKER John Mair on Patristic Authority and Sixteenth-Century Conciliarism


Delphine CONZELMANN Side by Side: The Church Fathers’ Supporting Role in William of St Thierry’s Attacks on Peter Abelard ................................................


Jeffrey C. WITT Pico della Mirandola’s Defense of Origen and his Scholastic Sources


Ueli ZAHND Augustinian Theology in Philosophical Ethics: John Mair’s Use of Augustine in his Commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics ...............


Rebekah EKLUND Octaves and Septenaries: Patristic Approaches to the Beatitudes in Medieval Life ......................................................................................


Eileen C. SWEENEY Love, Friendship, and Community: From Patristic to Medieval Notions.................................................................................................


Maggie Ann LABINSKI The Missionary Position: Augustine and Margery Kempe................ 107


see ASS. Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen Philologisch-historische Klasse, Göttingen. Analecta Bollandiana, Brussels. Antike und Christentum, ed. F.J. Dölger, Münster. Antiquité classique, Louvain. Acta conciliorum oecumenicorum, ed. E. Schwartz, Berlin. Ancient Christian Writers, ed. J. Quasten and J.C. Plumpe, Westminster (Md.)/London. Archives d’histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyen âge, Paris. American Journal of Ancient History, Cambridge, Mass. American Journal of Philology, Baltimore. Archiv für katholisches Kirchenrecht, Mainz. Abhandlungen der königlichen Preußischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin. Archivum Latinitatis Medii Aevi (Bulletin du Cange), Paris/Brussels. Archiv für Liturgiewissenschaft, Regensburg. Analecta Bollandiana, Brussels. Ante-Nicene Christian Library, Edinburgh. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Buffalo/New York. Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, ed H. Temporini et al., Berlin. Anatolian Studies, London. Année théologique augustinienne, Paris. Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, ed. R.E. Charles, Oxford. Archivum Romanicum, Florence. Archiv für Religionswissenschaft, Berlin/Leipzig. Acta Sanctorum, ed. the Bollandists, Brussels. Abhandlungen zur Theologie des Alten und Neuen Testaments, Zürich. Augustinianum, Rome. Augustinian Studies, Villanova (USA). Athanasius Werke, ed. H.-G. Opitz et al., Berlin. Archäologische Zeitung, Berlin. Bibliothèque augustinienne, Paris. Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, Madrid. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, New Haven, Conn. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd edn F.W. Danker, Chicago. Bibliothèque de l’École des Hautes Études, Paris. Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium, Louvain. Benediktinisches Geistesleben, St. Ottilien. Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca, Brussels. Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Antiquae et Mediae Aetatis, Brussels.




Bibliotheca Hagiographica Orientalis, Brussels. Beiträge zur historischen Theologie, Tübingen. Bursians Jahresbericht über die Fortschritte der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, Leipzig. Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, Manchester. Bibliothek der Kirchenväter, ed. F.X. Reithmayr and V. Thalhofer, Kempten. Bibliothek der Kirchenväter, ed. O. Bardenhewer, Th. Schermann, and C. Weyman, Kempten/Munich. Bibliothek der Kirchenväter. Zweite Reihe, ed. O. Bardenhewer, J. Zellinger, and J. Martin, Munich. Bulletin de littérature ecclésiastique, Toulouse. Bonner Jahrbücher, Bonn. Bibliotheca sacra, London. Bolletino di studi latini, Naples. Beiträge zur Wissenschaft vom Alten Testament, Leipzig/Stuttgart. Byzantion, Leuven. Byzantinische Zeitschrift, Leipzig. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, Berlin. Cahiers Archéologique, Paris. Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Washington. Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Mediaevalis, Turnhout/Paris. Corpus Christianorum, Series Apocryphorum, Turnhout/Paris. Corpus Christianorum, Series Graeca, Turnhout/Paris. Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, Turnhout/Paris. Church History, Chicago. Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, Berlin. Classical Philology, Chicago. Clavis Patrum Graecorum, ed. M. Geerard, vols. I-VI, Turnhout. Clavis Patrum Latinorum (SE 3), ed. E. Dekkers and A. Gaar, Turnhout. Classical Quarterly, London/Oxford. The Classical Review, London/Oxford. Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, Louvain. Aeth = Scriptores Aethiopici Ar = Scriptores Arabici Arm = Scriptores Armeniaci Copt = Scriptores Coptici Iber = Scriptores Iberici Syr = Scriptores Syri Subs = Subsidia Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, Vienna. Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae, Bonn. Collectanea Theologica, Lvov. Collection des Universités de France publiée sous le patronage de l’Association Guillaume Budé, Paris. Catholic World, New York. Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, ed. J. Hastings, Edinburgh.




see DAL Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. F. Cabrol, H. Leclercq, Paris. Dictionnaire de la Bible, Paris. Dictionnaire de la Bible, Supplément, Paris. Dictionary of Christian Biography, Literature, Sects, and Doctrines, ed. W. Smith and H. Wace, 4 vols, London. Dictionnaire d’histoire et de géographie ecclésiastique, ed. A. Baudrillart, Paris. Didaskalia, Lisbon. Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Cambridge, Mass., subsequently Washington, D.C. Dumbarton Oaks Studies, Cambridge, Mass., subsequently Washington, D.C. Downside Review, Stratton on the Fosse, Bath. H.J. Denzinger and A. Schönmetzer, ed., Enchiridion Symbolorum, Barcelona/Freiburg i.B./Rome. Dictionnaire de Spiritualité, ed. M. Viller, S.J., and others, Paris. Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. A. Vacant, E. Mangenot, and E. Amann, Paris. Études augustiniennes, Paris. Enciclopedia Cattolica, Rome. Eastern Churches Quarterly, Ramsgate. Estudios eclesiasticos, Madrid. Encyclopedia of the Early Church, ed. A. Di Berardino, Cambridge. Evangelisch-Katholischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, Neukirchen. Enchiridion Fontium Historiae Ecclesiasticae Antiquae, ed. Ueding-Kirch, 6th ed., Barcelona. Échos d’Orient, Paris. Études Byzantines, Paris. Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, Louvain. Exegetisches Wörterbuch zum NT, ed. H.R. Balz et al., Stuttgart. The Expository Times, Edinburgh. The Fathers of the Church, New York. Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, Berlin. Forschungen zur Kirchen- und Dogmengeschichte, Göttingen. Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments, Göttingen. Festschrift. Freiburger theologische Studien, Freiburg i.B. Frankfurter theologische Studien, Frankfurt a.M. Freiburger Zeitschrift für Theologie und Philosophie, Freiburg/Switzerland. Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller, Leipzig/Berlin. Geschichtsschreiber der deutschen Vorzeit, Stuttgart. Grande Lessico del Nuovo Testamento, Genoa. Gregorii Nysseni Opera, Leiden. Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies, Cambridge, Mass.



Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, Offenburg. Handbuch zum Neuen Testament. Tübingen. Harvard Dissertations in Religion, Missoula. Historisches Jahrbuch der Görresgesellschaft, successively Munich, Cologne and Munich/Freiburg i.B. Handbuch der Kirchengeschichte, Tübingen. Handbuch zum Neuen Testament, Tübingen. Handbuch der Orientalistik, Leiden. Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Cambridge, Mass. Harvard Theological Review, Cambridge, Mass. Harvard Theological Studies, Cambridge, Mass. Historische Zeitschrift, Munich/Berlin. The International Critical Commentary of the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, Edinburgh. Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres, ed. E. Diehl, Berlin. Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae, ed. H. Dessau, Berlin. Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum, Münster. Journal of Biblical Literature, Philadelphia, Pa., then various places. Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Berlin. Journal of Early Christian Studies, Baltimore. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, London. Journal of Jewish Studies, London. Jahrbuch für Liturgik und Hymnologie, Kassel. Jahrbücher für protestantische Theologie, Leipzig/Freiburg i.B. Jewish Quarterly Review, Philadelphia. Journal of Roman Studies, London. Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period, Leiden. Journal of the Society of Oriental Research, Chicago. Journal of Theological Studies, Oxford. Kommentar zu den apostolischen Vätern, Göttingen. Kerk en Theologie, ’s Gravenhage. Kirchliches Jahrbuch für die evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, Gütersloh. The Loeb Classical Library, London/Cambridge, Mass. A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ed. P. Schaff and H. Wace, Buffalo/New York. Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Oxford. H.G. Liddell and R. Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, new (9th) edn H.S. Jones, Oxford. Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, Freiburg i.B. Septuagint. Moyen-Âge, Brussels. Monumenta Asiae Minoris Antiqua, London. J.D. Mansi, Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, Florence, 1759-1798. Reprint and continuation: Paris/Leipzig, 1901-1927. Münsterische Beiträge zur Theologie, Münster.




Miscelanea Comillas, Comillas/Santander. Monumenta germaniae historica. Hanover/Berlin. Mediaevalia Lovaniensia, Louvain. See PG. Mélanges de science religieuse, Lille. Münchener theologische Zeitschrift, Munich. Le Muséon, Louvain. Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th edition, Stuttgart. Nachrichten der Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Nag Hammadi (and Manichaean) Studies, Leiden. New International Version. New King James Version. Novum Testamentum, Leiden. See LNPF. New Revised Standard Version. Nouvelle Revue Théologique, Tournai/Louvain/Paris. Neutestamentliche Abhandlungen, Münster. Novum Testamentum Supplements, Leiden. New Testament Studies, Cambridge/Washington. New Testament Tools, Studies and Documents, Leiden/Boston. Orbis biblicus et orientalis, Freiburg, Switz., then Louvain. Orientalia Christiana Analecta, Rome. Orientalia Christiana Periodica, Rome. Oxford Early Christian Studies, Oxford. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, Louvain. Orientalia Lovaniensia Periodica, Louvain. Orientalia. Commentarii editi a Pontificio Instituto Biblico, Rome. Oriens Christianus, Leipzig, then Wiesbaden. L’Orient Syrien, Paris. Migne, Patrologia, series graeca. A Patristic Greek Lexicon, ed. G.L. Lampe, Oxford. Migne, Patrologia, series latina. The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, ed. A.H.M. Jones et al., Cambridge. Migne, Patrologia, series latina. Supplementum ed. A. Hamman. Patrologia Orientalis, Paris. Paulys Realenzyklopädie der classischen Alterthumswissenschaft, Stuttgart. Patrologia Syriaca, Paris. Papyrologische Texte und Abhandlungen, Bonn. Princeton Theological Review, Princeton. Patristische Texte und Studien, Berlin. Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. G. Wissowa, Stuttgart. Questions liturgiques et paroissiales, Louvain. Questions liturgiques, Louvain. Rivista di Archeologia Cristiana, Rome. Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum, Stuttgart.

XII RAM RAug RBen RB(ibl) RE


Revue d’ascétique et de mystique, Paris. Recherches Augustiniennes, Paris. Revue Bénédictine, Maredsous. Revue biblique, Paris. Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche, founded by J.J. Herzog, 3e ed. A. Hauck, Leipzig. REA(ug) Revue des études Augustiniennes, Paris. REB Revue des études byzantines, Paris. RED Rerum ecclesiasticarum documenta, Rome. RÉL Revue des études latines, Paris. REG Revue des études grecques, Paris. RevSR Revue des sciences religieuses, Strasbourg. RevThom Revue thomiste, Toulouse. RFIC Rivista di filologia e d’istruzione classica, Turin. RGG Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. Gunkel-Zscharnack, Tübingen RHE Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique, Louvain. RhMus Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, Bonn. RHR Revue de l’histoire des religions, Paris. RHT Revue d’Histoire des Textes, Paris. RMAL Revue du Moyen-Âge Latin, Paris. ROC Revue de l’Orient chrétien, Paris. RPh Revue de philologie, Paris. RQ Römische Quartalschrift, Freiburg i.B. RQH Revue des questions historiques, Paris. RSLR Rivista di storia e letteratura religiosa, Florence. RSPT, RSPh Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques, Paris. RSR Recherches de science religieuse, Paris. RTAM Recherches de théologie ancienne et médiévale, Louvain. RthL Revue théologique de Louvain, Louvain. RTM Rivista di teologia morale, Bologna. Sal Salesianum, Roma. SBA Schweizerische Beiträge zur Altertumswissenschaft, Basel. SBS Stuttgarter Bibelstudien, Stuttgart. ScEc Sciences ecclésiastiques, Bruges. SCh, SC Sources chrétiennes, Paris. SD Studies and Documents, ed. K. Lake and S. Lake. London/Philadelphia. SE Sacris Erudiri, Bruges. SDHI Studia et documenta historiae et iuris, Roma. SH Subsidia Hagiographica, Brussels. SHA Scriptores Historiae Augustae. SJMS Speculum. Journal of Mediaeval Studies, Cambridge, Mass. SM Studien und Mitteilungen zur Geschichte des Benediktinerordens und seiner Zweige, Munich. SO Symbolae Osloenses, Oslo. SP Studia Patristica, successively Berlin, Kalamazoo, Leuven. SPM Stromata Patristica et Mediaevalia, ed. C. Mohrmann and J. Quasten, Utrecht.




Sammlung ausgewählter Quellenschriften zur Kirchen- und Dogmengeschichte, Tübingen. Schriften und Quellen der Alten Welt, Berlin. Spicilegium Sacrum Lovaniense, Louvain. Studi Medievali, Turin. Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae, Leiden. Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta, ed. J. von Arnim, Leipzig. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Mich. Teologia espiritual, Valencia. Theologie und Glaube, Paderborn. Theologische Jahrbücher, Leipzig. Theologische Literaturzeitung, Leipzig. Theologie und Philosophie, Freiburg i.B. Theologische Quartalschrift, Tübingen. Theologische Rundschau, Tübingen. Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Alten Testament, Stuttgart. Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament, Stuttgart. Theologische Zeitschrift, Basel. Thesaurus Linguae Graecae. Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Lancaster, Pa. Theologische Realenzyklopädie, Berlin. Theological Studies, New York and various places; now Washington, DC. Trierer theologische Zeitschrift, Trier. Texte und Untersuchungen, Leipzig/Berlin. Union Seminary Quarterly Review, New York. Vigiliae Christianae, Amsterdam. Vetera Christianorum, Bari (Italy). Vetus Testamentum, Leiden. Word Biblical Commentary, Waco. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, Tübingen. Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, Vienna. Yale University Press, New Haven. Zeitschrift für Antikes Christentum, Berlin. Zeitschrift für Aszese und Mystik, Innsbruck, then Würzburg. Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, Giessen, then Berlin. Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins, Leipzig. Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, Gotha, then Stuttgart. Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie, Vienna. Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche, Giessen, then Berlin. Zeitschrift für Rechtsgeschichte, Weimar. Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche, Tübingen.

Introduction John T. SLOTEMAKER, Fairfield, CT, USA – Jeffrey C. WITT, Baltimore, MD, USA

The present volume contains papers that were delivered in the workshop entitled Politics and Society: The Patristic Legacy in the Middle Ages, at the XVIIIth International Conference on Patristics Studies, Oxford University, 19th-24th of August, 2019. The theme of the workshop was Politics and Society broadly conceived, and as such examined questions such as: how Patristic authors shaped the way medieval thinkers theorized the proper relationship between Church and state, or an individual to his or her family; or how Patristic sources influenced theories of the human body, or human sexuality; or the law (both civil or canon) and legal institutions. But why this focus on politic and society? The study of patristic reception has often been focused quite narrowly on a particular subset of philosophical and theological topics or doctrines. For example, if one wants to get a sense of Augustine’s influence on late medieval and early modern theories of predestination, grace, and free will, there are ample resources both for medieval and early modern/Reformation. For the fourteenth century alone, there are useful monographs by Hester Goodenough Gelber, James Halverson, and Chris Schabel.1 If one moves into the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, there are further resources in the numerous works of Eric Leland Saak, as well as the virtual cottage industry around tracing Augustine’s influence on Martin Luther’s and John Calvin’s theologies of grace. The point here is that there are extensive resources for tracing the influence of patristic writers on specific theological or philosophical topics; that said, there is very little in terms of tracing the influence of patristic writers on broader social and political topics. Our goal here was to widen the conversation. With this workshop and the subsequent proceedings, we wanted to offer the opportunity for scholars (as well as to push scholars) to examine topics that extend to questions of social and political concern. The result was an exciting mix topics and studies, which, in this volume, we have grouped together and ordered in rough concentric circles beginning with articles that touch on the state and the structure of society generally and then 1 See Hester Goodenough Gelber, It Could Have Been Otherwise: Contingency and Necessity in Dominican Theology at Oxford, 1300-1350 (Leiden, Boston, 2004); James Halverson, Peter Aureol on Predestination. A Challenge to Late Medieval Thought (Leiden, Boston, 1998); and Chris Schabel, Theology at Paris, 1316-1345. Peter Auriol and the Problem of Divine Foreknowledge and Future Contingents (Aldershot, 2000).

Studia Patristica CV, 1-3. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



moving inward toward articles that deal with smaller scale communities such as the family and friendship, moving finally to considerations of the self’s most intimate relations. In this regard, the collection begins with an essay by Ritva Palmén, which considers the impact of patristic ideas of security (securitas) and its influence on medieval conceptions of the state. Pascale Bermon’s article traces the reception of Augustinian ideas about the corporate identity of the Church and its interest to those living amidst the political crisis of the Western Schism. Following in the wake of these early discussions of how to resolve the Western Schism, John Slotemaker picks up this theme a century later by focusing on sixteenth discussions of conciliarism, especially in the work of John Mair. Delphine Conzelmann’s article begins the volume’s slow inward turn toward more intimate aspects of social life, which nevertheless have cascading social implications. In this case, her focus is the subject of belief and orthodoxy, and the early medieval interactions with patristics sources in an effort to establish the boundaries of the Christian community and the theologian’s place within it. In a similar vein, Jeffrey Witt’s article follows with an examination of late medieval conceptions of heresy and the use of Patristic authors like Origen as test cases for theorizing the boundaries of the community. Ueli Zahnd’s paper then looks at the influence of patristic and classical sources in sixteenth century discussions of ethics, specifically Aristotle’s ethics. He shows how John Mair, in particular, employed these sources to argue for the compatibility of Aristotelian and Christian ethics. From here we turn to articles that consider even more individual and personal social themes. Rebekah Eklund provides an overview of the reception of patristic accounts of the beatitudes in medieval thought. Eileen Sweeney examines how the themes of friendship, and the tension between self-love and love of the other, discussed by Augustine, were received in the medieval tradition. Finally, the article by Maggie Labinski examines and contrasts patristic and medieval attitudes toward the most intimate of social relations, namely human sexuality. In keeping with the spirit of a workshop, the proceedings represent an attempt by the group to open up new spaces and bring new themes and questions to the table for discussion. We hope that, by preserving them in these proceedings, future readers can also take part in and be enriched by these conversations. We are grateful to Gillian Clark and Markus Vinzent for including our workshop in the XVIIIth International Conference on Patristics Studies. We also thank the presenters for participating in the workshop and for their efforts on behalf of the present volume. Note on Citations and Practices The present volume provides a full bibliographic reference for both primary and secondary sources the first time that a work is referenced, as there is no



bibliography either for individual essays or the collection as a whole. Individual authors have maintained their own standards with respect to Latin orthography, some retaining the late medieval and renaissance spellings and punctuation, others standardizing throughout. We have used the Anglicized names of medieval authors who have a commonly accepted English equivalent: e.g., Anselm of Canterbury and Peter Lombard instead of Anselmus Cantuariensis and Petrus Lombardus. For authors who have no standard Anglicized name – e.g., Roger Rosetus or Monachus Niger – we have used the Latin names. Throughout the volume individual authors have abbreviated the titles of medieval works in various ways, such that one could find Sent. or Sententiae in IV as abbreviations for Peter Lombard’s Sententiae in IV libris distinctae. Finally, in references to primary sources we have first recorded the textual divisions of the work followed by the modern volume number, pagination and line numbers, where relevant, in parentheses: e.g., Peter Lombard, Sent. III, d.2, c.3 (II, 30, ll.22-3).

Guarding the Inner City of the Soul: The Patristic Legacy of the Notion of Security in the Middle Ages Ritva PALMÉN, Helsinki, Finland

ABSTRACT This paper will discuss the conceptual history of security (securitas) in the late Antique and medieval context. By focusing on the writings of Cicero (d. 43 BC), Augustine (d. 430), Gregory the Great (d. 604), and their medieval followers such as Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153), Richard of St. Victor (d. 1173) and Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274), the paper aims to show how Roman ‘securitas’ transformed and acquired new religious connotations within patristic sources and how these novel interpretations were further developed and used in medieval texts. Building on the diverse and diffuse tradition from the patristic era, medieval writers understood security either as a form of negligence or assurance of faith and inner peace. In their analyses, monastic authors depicted both the human soul and their monastery as a kind of city (civitas) or house (domus) and asked how the inner peace of mind or the ordered communal life should be protected. By employing a wide range of military analogies, they described various internal defense systems, recommended strategies against the armies of tempting thoughts and emphasized virtues like humility. They also discussed the security of conscience and security as a sub-species of fortitude. The ultimate purpose of these accounts was both to help the individual to safeguard the inner balance of the soul and to maintain the good relationship between the individual and the community.

Nowadays, the research on security is an actively growing academic field with multiple sub-disciplines.1 Security regularly refers to international security and thus often military security, political security, economic security, cybersecurity, societal security and environmental security. At its most extreme, security concerns survival, such that security threats justify extraordinary measures to handle them.2 While security is usually thought to concern securing and protecting a state’s boundaries, people, institutions, and values, security may refer to the well-being of individuals and mean a distinct inner feeling of safety 1 For an overview of recent studies on security, see Alan Collins (ed.), Contemporary Security Studies, 4th ed. (Oxford, 2016). 2 See Barry Buzan, Ole Waever and Jaap de Wilde (eds), Security: A New Framework for Analysis (London, 1998), 21.

Studia Patristica CV, 5-19. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



as well. In both the public and individual domains, it may mean either freedom from harm or freedom from fear or anxiety.3 Since the core fears are unique and based on previous experiences, security means different things in different societies and for individuals.4 Safety is a major topic in sociological theories, which maintain that security and the feeling of being safe seem fundamental to our psychological welfare. As American psychologist Abraham Maslow famously claims, safety is one of the basic human needs. Having fulfilled one’s physiological needs for food and water, the need for safety dominates our behaviour.5 In addition to real-life events and phenomena, security has its more philosophical and theological connotations and usages as well. The philosophers discuss the justification of knowledge, or epistemic justification, asking what kind of knowledge could be secure and hence truth-guaranteed or infallible. Theologians are interested in talking about the epistemology of salvation or deliberating about the feeling of being safe from a theological point of view. Although the notion of security is surprisingly hard to define and has multiple frames of reference, the basic association is usually something positive. Naturally, some historically oriented research has noted the idea of security and shown how the modern concept of security has been constituted by a variety of ideas in the course of history.6 Security has proven to be a chimerical combination of the political, philosophical, moral, religious and legal heritage. In my article, I will pay special attention to historical developments of the notion of security by focusing on classical definitions of security and following the reception history of these discussions in the Middle Ages. Thus far, the lack of research on the intellectual history of security has been striking. Moreover, the existing studies often focus on social and political rather than human security or the feeling of security.7 My claim is that such a perspective overrides the moral, psychological and religious aspects that have also played an essential role in the historical development of the notion of security. 3 See the definition by Merriam-Webster, security#learn-more. 4 Ole Waever, ‘Conflicts of Vision, Visions of Conflict’, in Ole Waever, Pierre Lemaitre and Elzbieta Tromer (eds), European Polyphony: Perspectives beyond East-West Confrontation (New York, 1989), 300-1. 5 Abraham Maslow, ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’, Psychological Review 50.4 (1943), 370-96. 6 Cecilia Ricci provides an useful overview of modern historical studies of security by recapitulating the works of Ludwig M. Hartmann, Hans U. Instinski, John T. Hamilton, and especially Andrea Schrimm-Heinz, who identifies two basic senses of security in the Roman world, ‘having no preoccupations’ and ‘protection of the individual’, see Security in Roman Times: Rome, Italy and the Emperors (London, 2018), 31-2. 7 For a complicated system of dowry and security guarantee, see Julius Kirshner, Marriage, Dowry, and Citizenship in Late Medieval and Renaissance Italy (Toronto, 2015). For the practice of safe-conduct, security and war, see Maurice Keen, The Laws of War in the Late Middle Ages (London, 1965).

Guarding the Inner City of the Soul


Obviously it is impossible to fill the existing gap in the historical study of security within the limits of one article. My aim is to concentrate on a selection of medieval sources which comment on the idea of security with special emphasis on its psychological aspects and the need for security. In order to provide a background for the study, I will first introduce the conception of security in the Greco-Roman world and late Antiquity by referring to authors such as Cicero, Augustine (d. 430), and Gregory the Great (d. 604). I will then discuss the reception history of security in the writings of medieval monastic authors such as Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153) and Richard of St. Victor (d. 1173) and then present Thomas Aquinas’s (1274) thoughts on security.8 This paper then shows how Roman ‘securitas’ changed, acquiring new religious connotations in patristic sources, and how these novel interpretations were further developed and used in medieval texts. The development was not uniform, but expanded to include other related and parallel concepts as well such as tranquillity (tranquillitas), certitude (certitudo), and peace (pax), which will also be mentioned in this article. My paper is based on the assumption that studying the transference and overlap between theological and political terminology can further illuminate and explicate the later complexity of the medieval and early modern use of security. By providing a new interpretation of (dis)continuities of the historical semantics of security deriving from late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, my analysis challenges the previous research which has either stressed the absence of the notion of securitas in the medieval usage or claimed that it has been replaced by other terms such as certitude and peace.9 Consequently, I aim to revise the previous studies of the conceptual history of security which have highlighted the idea that the early modern political philosophers built their insights of security solely on ancient sources.10

8 Obviously, discussion of security and its cognate terms goes well beyond these authors and continues in the later Middle Ages, and is seen in, for instance, later medieval discussion about the good administration of the happy state, which should guarantee the resources, tranquility and security of the state without fear (securitas sine timore), see Michael Wilks, The Problem of Sovereignty in the Later Middle Ages: The Papal Monarchy with Augustine’s Triumphus and the Publicists (Oxford, 1963), 102, with a citation from Engelbert of Admont. 9 For instance, Andrea Schrimm-Heinz argues that securitas was only rarely used in the Middle Ages, being neither a central notion or a slogan. See her ‘Gewißheit und Sicherheit: Geschichte und Bedeutungswandel der Begriffe ‘certitudo’ und ‘securitas’ (Teil I)’, Archiv für Begriffsgeschichte 34 (1991), 123-213. 10 For a useful conceptual history of security, see J. Frederik M. Arends, ‘From Homer to Hobbes and Beyond – Aspects of ‘Security’ in the European Tradition’, in Hans Günter Brauch et al. (eds), Globalization and Environmental Challenges: Reconceptualizing Security in the 21st century (Berlin, 2008), 263-77, which emphases the role of classical Greek and Roman roots of the idea of security in the early modern period, but leaves the medieval period without further examination.



I. The Origins of securitas: Cicero, Seneca, Augustine The conception of security has its roots in Greek philosophy, especially the Epicurean idea of ataraksia and stoic apatheia. Based on these traditions, Cicero (106-43 BC) coined the Latin word securitas. For him, securitas (sine/se ‘without’; cura ‘care, careful, concern’) referred to the security of public and private life under the protection of the emperors, and to the absence of care and fear. It was a prerequisite both for someone’s personal happiness (vita beata) and one’s social prestige (dignitas).11 Hence, as Cecilia Ricci puts it, for Cicero, securitas does not just refer to some external condition; rather, it is a dynamic predisposition, which enables one to maintain oneself securely.12 Later Seneca emphasized the link between the good life and security explicitly, writing that security is the essence of a happy life.13 Security is the characteristic good of the wise, a kind of apathetic Stoic disposition towards the cares of the world. People who feel secure are like Gods who are not afraid of death.14 These examples illustrate mainly positive connotations of security. However, while Classical authors recognized the positive aspects of security, they sometimes referred to securitas also as an acedia-like state of mind, with the intention of saying that a person was careless and indifferent. Even Seneca himself occasionally refers to slowness and an inactive disposition by using the word securitas.15 This duality of security manifests itself in various respects in later sources. An important theological and philosophical change in the semantics of security occurred in the early Christian religious context, where the notion of security was discussed in relation to the fundamental theological question regarding salvation and one’s future destiny.16 Just as it was important to know how one was saved, it was essential to discuss whether the individual was able to know with certainty that he or she was saved. This epistemology of salvation was a prominent line of thought in the later examinations of security, moving beyond mere intellectual speculations about salvation to pastoral theological issues. The main question was whether the proper certainty of salvation could be achieved in this life and how this certainty could be reflected in a person’s behaviour. 11 Cicero, Tusculanae disputationes 5.2, ed. M. Polenz (Leipzig, 1918); trans. J.E. King, LCL (Cambridge, MA, 1960). For the Classical background of securitas, see A. Schrimm-Heinz, ‘Gewißheit und Sicherheit’ (1991), 131-40; J.F.M. Arends, ‘From Homer to Hobbes’ (2008), 263-71 and C. Ricci, Security in Roman Times (2018), 33. 12 C. Ricci, Security in Roman Times (2018), 35-6. 13 Seneca, Ad Lucilium epistulae morales 92.3: Quid est vita beata? Securitas et perpetua tranqillitas, ed. L.D. Reynolds (Oxford, 1960). 14 J.F.M. Arends, ‘From Homer’ (2008), 264. 15 Seneca, De beneficiis V 12.2, ed. C. Hosius (Leipzig, 1914). 16 The Latin cognate terms securitas, certitudo, and fiducia appear only rarely in the Vulgate Latin Bible. For the biblical references of both Greek and Latin equivalents of security, see K.D. Stanglin, Arminius on the Assurance of Salvation: The Context, Roots, and Shape of the Leiden Debate, 1603-1609 (Leiden, 2007), 153-4.

Guarding the Inner City of the Soul


Tertullian was among the first Church Fathers who explicitly discussed the ambivalent nature of security in Christian life, writing about this dilemma in his De cultu foeminarum: ‘He who acts secure is not anxious; he does not possess safe and firm security. But he who is anxious can truly be secure.’17 The basic idea is that the cluster of emotions such as fear, hope, and the continuous uncertainty should be practiced in an appropriate balance in order to keep religious people safe, whereas presumptuousness and overconfidence imply the lack of true safety. This view manifests the deep-rooted ambivalence in the Christian’s emotional life in that true security involves the feelings of fear and uncertainty, both of which have a salutary function. Augustine of Hippo stands as the most notable representative of the Latin Church Fathers who warns of lethal indifference (mortifera securitas), but also mentions security in a positive light.18 Augustine, known for his theology of predestination, thinks that no one can be assured (secures) of eternal life, but people can live in hope. He then formulated the influential idea that hope and salutary fear simultaneously work for the individual’s well-being and spiritual protection, preventing presumptuousness and false security, or complacency.19 Augustine explains that false security and desperation together represent two extremes that should be avoided in the Christian life. The scriptural examples of good individuals gone bad and bad individuals becoming good are there for a reason, namely, ‘so that the righteous may not be exalted by security into pride, nor the wicked be hardened by despair against the remedy.’20 However, in addition to this specific moral theological view, Augustine also exploits security in more general contexts, alluding to confidence and trust. Security is then either a neutral disposition or an explicitly positive emotion. He refers to the invisible Church as the house of God, Domus Dei, which should be carefully built with mutual labor and trust and in the eschatological fulfilment dedicated to God with the feelings of joy and security (securitas).21 Augustine also gives a positive memorable account of security in his Confessions, where he describes his personal experience of feeling of inner security after his reading the letter to Romans: ‘No further would I read, nor did I need; for instantly, as the sentence ended – by a light, as it were, of security infused into my heart – all the gloom of doubt vanished away.’22 17 Tertullian, De cultu foeminarum 2.2, PL 1, 1318: Qui securus agit, non est sollicitus, non possidet tutam et firmam securitatem. At qui sollicitus est, is vere poterit esse secures. 18 For the positive connotations of security in Augustine, see Oscar Velásquez, ‘From Dubitatio to Securitas: Augustine’s Confessions in the Light of Uncertainty’, SP 38 (2001), 338-41. 19 Phillip Cary, Inner Grace: Augustine in the Traditions of Plato and Paul (Oxford, 2008), 119. 20 Augustine, Contra Faustum Manichaeum 22.96, PL 42, 464; see the interpretation in K.D. Stanglin, Arminius (2007), 32. 21 Augustine, Sermo 337.2, PL 38, 1476-7. For references and discussion about the construction and dedication of the house of God, see F.G. Clancy, ‘Augustine’s Sermons for the Dedication of a Church’, SP 38 (2001), 48-55, 51. 22 Augustine, Confessionum libri XIII, VIII, 29, ed. L. Verheijen, CChr.SL 27 (Turnhout, 1981).



These cases exemplify the great variety of semantics of security in the classical and late ancient eras, also showing a growing concern for the questions of individual faith and salvation among the Christian authors. As pointed out by Arends, Christian authors such as Tertullian and Augustine exploited ‘securitas’ in the new meaning of assurance of faith, with an emphasis on doctrinal contents of faith. This transformation disposed theologians to refer more often to the word ‘certitudo’, which was considered as a cognitive notion describing the firmness of our faith, without the negative connotations of security. Moreover, feelings of inner and outer safety were also more often referred to as a state of tranquillity (tranquillitas) or inner peace (pax).23

II. The need for security and inner peace Gregory the Great has been considered as a link between patristic and medieval periods of moral theology as well as a foundational source of medieval discussions of virtues and vices. In his writings, Gregory both depicted the human soul as a kind of house (domus) or city and asked how the inner peace of mind or the ordered communal life should be protected.24 Gregory holds that the firm fabric of the four cardinal virtues is like the four corners in a house, protecting the house, that is, our inner selves, against the armies of evil spirits.25 The ultimate purpose of these accounts was both to help the individual to safeguard the inner balance of the soul and to serve in maintaining the good relationship between the individual and community. Since the intersection between theological and political terminology lies at the heart of his use of security, it is no surprise that Gregory’s warlike imagery evokes the discussion of safeguarding the soul and questions of security. Like Augustine, Gregory has a twofold meaning in his conception of security. He warns against a false sense of security, writing that it tends to be the mother of indolence.26 People should be aware of the sins that security induces, such as negligence.27 Security is an enemy of effort and people should not look 23 A. Schrimm-Heinz, ‘Gewißheit und Sicherheit’ (1991); J.F.M. Arends, ‘From Homer to Hobbes’ (2008). 24 S. Gregorii Magni Moralia in Iob, 31.87, ed. Marcus Adriaen, 2 vol. (Turnhout, 2005). For an explication of the idea of spiritual warfare and its changes in the Middle Ages, see Katherine A. Smith, War and the Making of Medieval Monastic Culture (Woodbridge, 2011), with numerous examples. 25 Gregory, Moralia in Iob, 31.76-7. 26 Id., Registrum Epistularum libri VII-XIV, Ep. vii, 22, ed. D. Norberg, CChr.SL 140A (Turnhout, 1982): Perpende, dulcissima filia, quia mater neglegentiae solet esse securitas. For a discussion of Gregory’s worldview and eschatological theology, with the tendency to admonition against false security, see Robert A. Markus, Gregory the Great and His World (Cambridge, 1997), 53-4. 27 Gregory, Moralia in Iob (2005), 24.27.

Guarding the Inner City of the Soul


for it in this world, since the wicked will finally reap trouble from security.28 Even peace on earth is sometimes exploited to boost a vain kind of security.29 However, while these negative uses of security prevail in his treatises, Gregory clearly recognizes our deep psychological need for inner assurance and the security of our salvation. Hence, he reminds his readers that the right kind of good security emerges from the anticipation of forgiveness. He writes: ‘For a man hath compunction in one sort, when on looking within he is frightened with dread of his own wickedness, and in another when on looking at heavenly joys he is strengthened with a kind of hope and security. The one emotion excites tears of pain and sorrow, the other tears of joy.’30 In the soul’s renewal and spiritual conversion, feelings of sorrow are followed by hope – and security.31 However, the process is ongoing in the sense that after the conversion and turning to God, every person will encounter fleshly temptations. By developing a war-like vocabulary and using military metaphors, Gregory claims that these temptations are like armies of war, attacking the soul whenever possible. The right kind of feeling of security at the right time helps the individual to resist these temptations. As Gregory explains, then, people feel first the sweetness of security and are nurtured in quietness and peace. Having tasted this sweetness, they endure more patiently the contests with temptations, as they have found in God a higher object of affection. However, all people encounter tutoring lessons of humility as well, when the feeling of security is taken away and anxiety and fear return. The interrupted feeling of security breaks the possible carelessness and misguided belief in our own strength.32 As for Augustine before him, Gregory the Great sometimes replaces certitude with ‘securitas’, particularly in doctrinal contexts.33 Hence, if Gregory refers positively to the firmness of faith or the perfect certainty of faith, he prefers using the word certitude (perfecta certitudo fidei).34 The main issue then concerns the epistemology of salvation, i.e., how we come to believe firmly the doctrines of faith and whether we can individually be assured about our salvation. These questions raise further issues about the relation between knowledge and faith and how convincingly our beliefs are grounded and hence thought to be secured.35 Gregory was without a doubt a main figure in developing this 28

Ibid. 10.37. Gregory, Homiliae in euangelia, 2, 35.1, ed. R. Étaix, CChr.SL 141 (Turnhout, 1999): Tranquillitatem quippe humanae pacis ad usum uertimus uanae securitatis… 30 Gregory, Moralia in Iob (2005), 24.10. 31 See the discussion and examples of Gregory’s ideas of fear, death and security, in Caroline Straw, ‘Purity and Death’, in John C. Cavadini (ed.), Gregory the Great: A Symposium (Notre Dame, 2001), 16-37. 32 Gregory, Moralia in Iob (2005), 2.78. 33 J.M.F. Arends, ‘From Homer to Hobbes’ (2008), 271. 34 Gregory, Homilie in Hiezechihelem II, 10. 35 For the discussion about faith, will and knowledge in Gregory and other medieval figures, see G.R. Evans, Getting it Wrong (Leiden, 1998), 172. 29



new vocabulary of security, certitude, and peace. However, examination of the examples from Gregory himself as well as twelfth- and thirteenth-century authors shows that the discussion about security remained diverse and undetermined. III. Medieval monastic accounts of security Building on the miscellaneous and diffuse tradition from the patristic era, medieval theologians and philosophers continued to understand security either as a form of negligence or assurance of faith and inner peace. Several medieval moral psychological sources testify how inner peace and the balance of mind were essential not only for one’s own spiritual life but also for the ordered public life to serve its communal equilibrium. This tendency is seen in how the monastic authors such as Bernard of Clairvaux, Aelred Rievaulx and Richard of Saint-Victor as well as medieval political theorists like Giles of Rome and Christine de Pizan metaphorically depicted the human soul as a kind of monastery, house, or castle needing security. By employing a wide range of military or fighting analogies, they described various internal defence systems, recommended moral psychological strategies against the armies of tempting thoughts and emphasized virtues like humility and temperance. While the feeling of inner security is one of the essential aims in one’s spiritual life, true danger lies in mortifying, poor security. Bernard of Clairvaux, one of the most notable monastic authors, clearly recognizes the dual aspect of security formulated by Augustine and Gregory.36 He often claims that false security is the beginning of evildoing, admonishing his fellow monks and disciplining them with regard to how ‘from security one person fell into negligence, from negligence to curiosity, from curiosity into desire, from desire into custom, from custom into contempt, and from contempt into malice.’37 Unsurprisingly, repeated negative implications of security are manifest in Bernard’s texts. In one of his sermons, Bernard depicts a powerful allegory showing unordered sensuality as often being the source of spiritual destruction, poor security playing its role in the fall. ‘The chariot of Sensuality’ is drawn by two horses, Prosperous Life and Abundance of Goods. Two coachmen of the chariot are Lazy Languor and False Security (infida securitas), since wealth is the ruin of a slothful person and prosperity destroys foolish people by bringing them false security. By shading the troubles and freshening the air, these two coachmen ward off the human cares and hence utilize wily means to 36 Bernard, Liber ad milites templi de laude nouae militia 18, vol. 3, 229. All the Bernard citations are to Bernardi Opera Omnia, vol. 1-6, ed. J. Leclercq, C.H. Talbot and H.M. Rochais (Rome, 1957-77). 37 Bernard, Parabola VII (6.2).

Guarding the Inner City of the Soul


promote their aims. Bernard describes how some effeminate people then dissemble when faced with necessary cares, and rather than enduring life’s perplexing troubles, have recourse to false security, thinking that all is well.38 Sometimes Bernard over-emphasizes these negative characters of security to the point that once he even writes that there is no safety anywhere, not in heaven, not in paradise, no less in the world.39 The basic problem in these examples is that the person who feels secure is not able to feel enough fear, growing arrogant. The Christian should simultaneously fear God and hope for eternal life in heaven, since the right kind of fear makes one vigilant and active within one’s spiritual life.40 Fear itself is seen as a positive sign of humility, which removes pride and cleanses the soul. Bernard maintains however, that good and real security for the soul is possible, but only in the life to come. Bernard’s letter to Romanus, sub-prior in the Roman curia who is anxious about death and dying, serves as a good example of this idea, also showing the subtle shift in the emphasis on ideas of fear and safety and how they are discussed in relation to death and the afterlife. Bernard succinctly reminds Romanus that while nothing is more certain to mortals than death, the hour of our death is always uncertain. The just person understands that he cannot avoid death, but does not fear it either, awaiting it in peace and perfect security. Death is an exit from the present life, but entrance to the future life. From the new life comes pleasure and eternal safety. The future life is happy because of the rest it offers; it is better because it is new and its safety makes it the best.41 In this example, it seems that fear and security exclude one another. However, fear of death and punishment represent the lower kind of fear, servile fear (timor servilis). Bernard’s account of fear is more inclusive, since he explains that fear is in fact part of Christian life, existing in its every step. It is common to practice servile fear in the initial stages of spiritual advancement, where fear grows from an expected punishment. Nevertheless, at the more advanced level fear changes to filial and chaste fear in which punishment is taken away, while loving and reverential fear remain forever.42 Chaste fear and the appropriate feeling of security are not then in conflict. It is curious to note that the discussion about the good and right kind of security does not seem to appear in any secular context or worldly affairs in Bernard’s texts. This is remarkable, since he is known for his active involvement in politics, preaching the crusades and his other involvements in the business 38

Id., Sermones super Cantica Canticorum 39, 7 (2, 22). Id., Sermones de diuresis 30, 1 (6, 1, 214): NUSQUAM est securitas, fratres, neque in caelo, neque in paradiso, multo minus in mundo. 40 Id., Sermones super Cantica Canticorum 6, 8 (1, 30). 41 Id., Epistulae 105 (7, 264). 42 Id., Liber de diligendo Deo 38 (3, 152). For discussion of Bernard’s parables and the different role of fear in one’s spiritual life, see, e.g., Mette Bruun, Parables: Bernard of Clairvaux’s Mapping of Spiritual Topography (Leiden, 2007), 217-25. 39



of the day. In his letter to the King of England, Henry I, Bernard prays for the safety and peace of England, by using words like sospitas (safety, health, welfare) et pax.43 Similarly, he writes to Louis, King of France, wishing him health, safety, and peace (salutem, sospitatem, et pacem).44 An interesting intersection between inner and outer security appears in Bernard’s ideal of a new knighthood where the knights of Christ are experts in spiritual as well as corporeal combats. They are fearless people who secure themselves from every quarter, their souls being fortified by faith and their bodies dressed in steel.45 Other medieval monastic authors like Aelred of Rievaulx and Richard of Saint-Victor followed Bernard’s lead and kept referring to the idea of inner security within their treatises. However, their general attitude towards the notion of security is more positive.46 Aelred speaks approvingly about feelings of being secured and inner tranquillity, often praising the wonderful sweetness and hope arising from security.47 In his treatise on spiritual friendship, inspired by Cicero’s De amicitia, he identifies four elements intrinsic to friendship, showing how security can be felt in interpersonal relations as well. These four characteristics of friendship are love, affection, security, and happiness. The security in friendship implies that friends are able to share their confidences and councils without fear or suspicion.48 Aelred praises friendship accordingly, ‘What happiness, what security, what joy to have someone to whom you dare to speak on terms of equality like to another self’.49 Within this secular context, fear and security are mutually exclusive. Aelred offers a cosmological explanation of the roles of fear and security as well. In the fall, the human being experienced a metaphysical transfer from the sphere of security to the sphere of fear. Yet at the end of the world, humans return from fear to security.50 However, Aelred also explicitly mentions the possibility that religious people are already able to experience the feeling of security in spiritual raptures in this life. He writes: ‘Whenever someone is so inflamed by the love of God and by certain sweet attachment to Jesus Christ that by his love he is rapt into such security … he will seem to himself secure and certain that he will not be damned but will without any doubt be saved’.51 43

Bernard, Epistolae 92 (7, 241). Bernard prays for safety and peace for Henry’s country. Id., Epistolae 45 (7, 133). 45 Id., Liber ad milites Templi De laude nouae militia 1 (3, 214). 46 See Aelred, Liber de verbo incarnato, PL 196, 997A-997C. 47 E.g., id., De speculo caritatis 1, 28; 3, 3, CChr.CM 1, ed. C.H. Talbot (Turnhout, 1971), 5-161; Sermones 42, 3, 332, CChr.CM 2AB, ed. G. Raciti (Turnhout, 1989). 48 Id., De spirituali amicitia 3.17, ed. A. Hoste, CChr.CM 1 (Turnhout, 1971), 287-350. 49 Id., De spirituali amicitia 2.11: Quae felicitas, quae securitas, quae iucunditas… 50 Id., Sermones 65, 4, 171; 56, 2, 91. 51 Ibid. 34, 26, 285. Aelred of Rievaulx, Liturgical sermons, The Second Clairvaux Collection 29-46, trans. Mary Ann Mayeski (Collegeville, MN, 2016). 44

Guarding the Inner City of the Soul


Whereas for Gregory the Great, the right kind of hope was a medium between fear and security, Aelred connects security and hope. Richard of Saint-Victor follows the same structure in his works. Hope and security are intertwined, since only secure, i.e., certain hope (ex securitate spei) produces ardent love.52 The secure place of one’s soul is so precious that one should strive to preserve its peace and defend its safety.53 Richard is also interested in exploring the concept of conscience, asking whether it can be safe and secured as well. The discussion about the free and secure conscience (libera et secura conscientia) occurs in Augustine’s works frequently and is classical, but Richard develops the idea further. For him, a secured conscience is a kind of combination of moral deliberation and firmness of the mind. In his De Trinitate, Richard states that the truth of God has been revealed to us and divinely confirmed with signs and wonders. These should produce faith in people that cannot be doubted. Thus, we may approach the divine judgment with great security of conscience.54 This in spite of the fact that we cannot achieve full knowledge of how our future life will be.55 In his De sacrificio David Prophetae, Richard offers a surprising new formulation of the security of conscience. He first reminds his readers that in perfect charity there is no fear, but hope. Fear makes the soul tremble, whereas security brings peace. The security of conscience has a twofold nature: both the good people and bad people can enjoy it. Our conscience is like the inner world where either good or bad security prevails, depending on our general goodness or badness. The inner world can also lack security and that happens as we are only partially good or bad people. The security of conscience always brings along joy, but relying on our moral status, that joy is either false or righteous. True joy derives from the good and secure conscience.56 Preferring spatial similes of conscience and its security, Richard explains that our conscience is like a house or even a royal palace, if it is secured, fortified, and strong.57 In one of his sermons, Richard describes how the heavenly paradise full of pleasure represents the human mind full of security founded on the confidence of good conscience.58 While Richard is usually keen to explore the positive aspects of security or discuss its function in connection with conscience, he is also well aware of the 52 Richard, De differentia sacrificii Abrahae (PL 196, 1045B): Sic utique sic ex securitate spei nascitur anxietas desiderii. See Ibid. 1056A. 53 Id., De exterminatione mali et promotione boni, PL 196, 1113C. 54 Id., De Trinitate I, II, 88: cum quanta conscentie Securitate pro hac parte ad divinum iudicium poterimus accedere, ed. J. Ribaillier (Paris, 1958). 55 He also relates security to knowing something for certain, maintaining that full knowledge of one’s future life is not yet possible. Richard, Explicatio aliquorum passuum difficilium apostolicae, PL 196, 682C. 56 Id., De sacrificio, PL 196, 1035C-1036B. 57 Id., De eruditione hominis interioris, PL 196, 1299A: Quid per domum intelligimus, nisi conscientiam, et quid per palatium, nisi conscientiae securitatem, securitatisque fiduciam? 58 Id., Sermones Centum XLIII, PL 177, 1012B-D.



traditional negative connotations. In his De statu interioris hominis, which deals with the fallen state of the human being, Richard gives a gloomy vision of the individual’s interior world. He mourns how the king, that is free will, cannot command the spiritual and carnal desires or find perpetual peace and security. Thoughts encounter thoughts, affects resist affects, opposing motions resist opposing motions. We are divided in conflict even among ourselves.59 The continual inward battle of the soul ensures that the hoped for inner security will remain a distant dream. IV. Expanding discourses of security While the idea of security was often discussed and the concept of securitas was used in connection with Christian salvation, certitude, and conscience, some medieval authors resumed the Classical discussion about security as a sub-species of fortitude, one of the cardinal virtues. The foundational text in this tradition is Macrobius’s influential Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, which among other things, examines the classical cardinal virtues and their sub-species. In his analysis of political virtues, he writes that fortitude has seven political sub-virtues, which are magnanimity, confidence, security, magnificence, constancy, tolerance and strength (magnanimitas, fiducia, securitas, magnificentia, constantia, tolerantia, firmitas).60 The twelfth-century philosophical dialogue Moralium dogma philosophorum, an anonymous compendium of the four cardinal virtues, revolves around this discussion. It emphasizes the direct juxtaposition between fear and security also seen in Macrobius’s original work and repeats the idea of fortitude and its seven subdivisons with their corresponding duties. Fortitude itself is defined as an assault that strikes back against adversity. The role of security is essential for maintaining fortitude, since the duty of security is to offer solace in the face of adverse fortune.61 By creating a dialogue between fear and security, the author of the text highlights that the greatest adversary of security is fear, which tries to frighten the soul by constantly reminding it about death. Security, however, alludes to death as a natural end for all mortal beings like us. Life itself is like a pilgrimage and it is foolish to fear the death that we cannot avoid.62 This link between fortitude and security was further elaborated in the thirteenth century by several authors, most notably Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae, Secunda Secundae. In his account, it is possible to discern a whole 59

Id., De statu interioris hominis post lapsum, PL 196, 1128C-D. Macrobius, Commentarii in Somnium Scipionis 1, 8, 7, ed. J. Willis (Leipzig, 1970), 38. 61 Moralium dogma, I C. Das Moralium Dogma Philosophorum des Guillaume de Conches: lateinisch, altfranzösisch und mittelniederfränkisch, ed. John Holmberg (Uppsala, 1929). 62 Moralium dogma, I C, 3: Securitatis officium est contra aspera fortune solatium dare. 60

Guarding the Inner City of the Soul


spectrum of the earlier views in a way that he recognizes the dual nature of security, mentions the secured conscience and discusses security with his examination of the cardinal virtues. In his analysis of hope and desperation in the Summa Theologiae, Aquinas addresses the classical theme concerning hope, security, and negligence. Aquinas’s general account of hope is complicated, since he discusses both natural hope as an emotion as well as theological hope as a virtue. Natural hope is directed to particular goods and their attainment, whereas theological hope directs one to the universal good and is not considered an emotion, but a virtue which exists only by divine infusion. Referring to the natural emotion of hope, he writes that security pertains to hope (ad spem securitas pertinet), and then mentions the classical worry about how security produces negligence. The consequential question is then whether hope is a help or hindrance to action. Without specifically moral theological implications, he observes that hope generates the feeling of security, which in turn can lead to self-satisfaction and diminish action. Hope is an irascible emotion which is directed to objects that are desirable, but arduous to achieve. If securitas causes us to perceive the good as easy to attain, it proportionally diminishes the character of hope. However, if securitas protects us from being paralyzed by fear without obscuring our perception of the good as difficult to attain, it stimulates that hope and motivates us to action.63 Aquinas does not posit safety as something that is contrary to fear, as Bernard did, but defines it merely as the exclusion of fear. The co-operation between hope and security creates the psychological structure of affective responses to good and evil, since hope regards a good as something to be obtained, whereas security regards an evil as something to be avoided. However, security does not necessarily bring negligence, save in so far as it lessens the idea of difficulty, which could in turn lessen the character of hope.64 In his analysis of fear, Aquinas is interested in discussing the classical distinction between servile fear and filial fear, and their relation to security. His account is clear in the sense that security is fundamental to everlasting happiness, which necessarily excludes servile fear arising from the fear of punishment.65 Importantly, Aquinas is also aware of Macrobius’s idea that security is connected to fortitude.66 He agrees with Macrobius that security is part of fortitude as one of its sub-species directly, but also acknowledges the link between security 63

Thomas, Summa theologiae [hereafter ST] II, I, q.40, a.8, arg.1. For discussion, see Robert Miner, Thomas Aquinas on the Passions: A Study of Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae 22-48 (Cambridge, 2009), 220 and 226. The writings of Aquinas are available online at Corpus Thomisticum, Citations are from the Leonine edition, Opera omnia (Rome, 1882-). 64 ST q.45, a.1, ad 3. Hence, as Aquinas holds, security is opposed to fear as a privation, whereas audacity is a real contradiction to fear. 65 ST II, II, q.10, a.9. 66 ST II, II, q.128, arg.6.



and magnanimity. By recurring to Cicero’s idea that it belongs to magnanimity to give way neither to a troubled mind, nor to man, nor to fortune,67 security belongs indirectly to magnanimity, in so far as it banishes despair.68 In fact, security is the condition for both fortitude and magnanimity. While Aquinas discusses security and its various aspects in his theological writings, his commentaries on the Bible contain numerous references to security. Most of these derive from the Latin biblical passages themselves, but they also include abundant citations from the Church Fathers like Augustine, John Chrysostom and Gregory the Great. Interesting notes on security appear in Aquinas’s commentary on Job. Within this commentary, Aquinas asks how Job argues so fiercely on his own behalf, against other people and even before God. He then claims that if a man is just in comparison to another man, he can freely and securely argue with him (libere et secure potest cum eo contendere), because justice and truth are made clear in mutual agreement. However, no man is secure (tutum) when he argues with God.69 Aquinas explains that Job does not consider himself sufficient to argue with God, since argument consists in answering and making objections. Aquinas notes that sometimes, although a person is not powerful or wise, he still fiercely argues with a judge because of the security of his conscience (propter securitatem suae conscientiae), the idea of a clear and secured conscience free from fear mentioned by Richard and, before him, Augustine.70 * * * As scholarship on intellectual history has often pointed out, Thomas Hobbes revived the history of ‘securitas’, starting the ‘renaissance’, during which ‘securitas’ developed into the English ‘security’, which became the central goal and standard of the modern state. Within the limits of this short article, I have aimed to show that the previously neglected medieval era has a specific role in the conceptual history of security. While this article has mainly been interested in exploring security in the individual’s own inner life, I also hoped to demonstrate that multi-layered discussions about the notion of security and its family of concepts were existant and common terminology in the Middle Ages. Most of the historical discussion circulates around security and the inwardly related emotional dispositions, mostly fear, hope, and desperation. By examining the explanations and usages of security, it is possible to get a better view of these other emotions and their characterizations as well. Most obviously, the authors have different ways of addressing the relation between fear and its supposed 67 68 69 70

ST II, II, q.129 a.7 s. c. ST II, II, q.129 a.7 co. Thomas, Expositio super Iob, 9, 1. Ibid., 9, 3.

Guarding the Inner City of the Soul


counter feeling, security. Fear and security are often depicted as mutually exclusive dispositions that cannot be felt simultaneously. This is seen most clearly when fear concerns death or punishment. However, filial fear allows good security to grow. It also seems that some authors, such as Richard and Aelred, are more keen to address the positive sides of security and downplay the aspects of fear, whereas others, such as Gregory and Bernard, prefer to warn of the negative and careless aspects of security, accompanied with the elaborate theory of fear.

How Gregory of Rimini Read Saint Augustine: New Evidence. With a Focus on Ecclesiology Pascale BERMON, Paris, France

ABSTRACT Gregory of Rimini, who died in Vienna in November 1358, wrote five newly discovered Tables on Augustine’s De libero arbitrio, Retractationes, Enchiridion, 83 Questions and on Fulgentius’s De fide ad Petrum. One of the four known manuscripts of these Tables, the codex Eichstätt, Universitätsbibliothek, st 628, was copied in Vienna after 1391. It shows that the Viennese theological community was eager to obtain the works of the General Master of the Augustinian Order, who had died in their city forty years ago. Their marginal annotations to Rimini’s Tables express their ecclesiological concerns with the Western Schism. This modest example shows how Augustine, filtered by Gregory of Rimini, became a mirror of subsequent ecclesial events, such as the Western Schism.

Gregory of Rimini was born around 1300 in Rimini, where he entered the Order of Augustinian Hermits. He studied in Paris between 1323 and 1329, then went back to Italy. He was importantly in Bologna between 1332 and 1337, teaching in the Augustinian convent San Giacomo at the very moment and in the very same place where his friar Barthelomeus of Urbino was compiling the huge florilegium of Augustine’s works entitled Milleloquium Veritatis. Gregory went back to Paris in 1342, to comment on Peter Lombard’s Sentences in 1343-1344. There he became a master in theology in 1345 and published his Ordinatio in 1346. He went back to Italy and was teaching in Padua between 1346-1351 and in Rimini between 1351 and 1357. He was elected in May 1357 as General Master of his Order. He died in November 1358 in Vienna, Austria.1 He is famous for his outstanding knowledge of Saint Augustine. Damasus Trapp, Eric L. Saak, and others have underlined his thorough reading of the Bishop of 1 Gregory of Rimini’s biography has been reconstructed by Venicio Marcolino, ‘Der Augustinertheologe an der Universität Paris’, in Heiko-Augustinus Oberman (ed.), Gregor von Rimini: Werk und Wirkung bis zur Reformation (Berlin, 1981), 127-94; id., ‘Einleitung’, in Gregorii Ariminensis O.E.S.A. Lectura super primum et secundum Sententiarum, ed. Damasus Trapp, Venicio Marcolino et al., Spätmittelalter und Reformation Texte und Untersuchungen 6 (Berlin, New York, 1979), 1, XI-CIII. See Pascale Bermon, L’Assentiment et son objet chez Grégoire de Rimini (Paris, 2007), 17-26.

Studia Patristica CV, 21-27. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



Hippo.2 As Christopher Schabel puts it, Gregory read Augustine ‘more carefully and extensively than most previous thinkers’, and he has been credited with ‘the development of a “historico-critical” method in philosophical theology, partly foreshadowing modern scholarly methods.’ He quotes from Augustine ‘with great accuracy and detail’, that explains why ‘his Sentences commentary was often used as a source for Augustinian quotations.’3 This contribution presents new evidence for these well known facts, with a focus on ecclesiology. I have found in November 2017 a text that I have been able to attribute to Gregory of Rimini: five tables that the Doctor Authenticus wrote about five works of Saint Augustine or attributed to him, i.e. the De libero arbitrio, the Retractationes, the Enchiridion, the 83 Questions and the De fide ad Petrum. This last book is actually by the African bishop Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe (d. 527 or 533 CE), but it was impossible in the fourteenth century for anyone to guess that this book was not by Saint Augustine. I have published an article on this discovery in the acts of the Colloquium Augustine, Augustinians and Augustinianisms in the Italian Trecento, held in Zurich in December 2017.4 I have made the complete critical edition of this new text by Gregory of Rimini, which will be published in the ‘Collection des Études augustiniennes, Série Moyen Âge et Temps modernes’.5 I have discovered these tables in four manuscripts : A B C D

Eichstätt, Universitätsbibliothek, Staatsbestand 144 (post a. 1375) Eichstätt, Universitätsbibliothek, Staatsbestand 628 (ca. a. 1391-1399) Heiligenkreuz, Bibliothek des Zisterzienserstiftes 97 (a. 1391?) Augsburg, UB, II.1.2° 67 (a. 1450)

Manuscript A, copied after 1375 on paper with watermarks from Avignon, Northern Italy and Bavaria, contains the five tables written one after the other (uncompiled version). Manuscript B was copied between 1391 and 1399 in the Dominican convent of Vienna (Austria) and contains the tables in a revised, compiled order. Manuscript C, copied in Heiligenkreuz, 25 km southwest of 2 Damasus Trapp, ‘Augustinian Theology of the 14th Century’, Augustiniana 6 (1956), 146-274; Eric Leland Saak, Creating Augustine. Interpreting Augustine and Augustinianism in the Later Middle Ages (Oxford, 2012), 33; P. Bermon, L’Assentiment (2007), 84. 3 Christopher Schabel, ‘Gregory of Rimini’, in Edward N. Zalta (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2015 Edition), . 4 Pascale Bermon, ‘Cinq tables inédites sur des livres de saint Augustin attribuées à Grégoire de Rimini’, in Johannes Bartuschat, Elisa Brilli and Delphine Faivre-Carron (eds), Agostino, Agostiniani e Agostinismi nel Trecento italiano (Ravenna, 2018), 11-40. 5 Gregorius Ariminensis O.E.S.A., Cinq tables inédites sur des ouvrages de saint Augustin (De libero arbitrio, Retractationes, Enchiridion, De diversis questionibus octoginta tria, [sancti Fulgentii Ruspensis] De fide ad Petrum), ed. Pascale Bermon, EAMA (Paris, forthcoming).

How Gregory of Rimini Read Saint Augustine: New Evidence


Vienna, in 1391, contains also the compiled version. Manuscript D, copied at the Augustinian convent of Lauingen (Bavaria) in 1450, is a partial manuscript of the uncompiled version, which contains only the Tables on the Enchiridion and the De fide ad Petrum. If the first three manuscripts date back to a common ancestor, probably from northern Italy, the last one belongs to another family. It is not surprising to find that two of these manuscripts come from Vienna or its region, since Gregory of Rimini died there in November 1358. He could have left his papers there or, more likely his work – including his tables – aroused a wide interest (largely documented elsewhere) at the University of Vienna, which was founded seven years after his death and which claimed to be under his patronage and, more generally, under that of the Augustinians.6 These tables are anonymous in the manuscripts, but I can attribute them with certainty to Gregory of Rimini by comparing them with two pieces of information: on the one hand, their attribution to Gregory in the inventory of the books of the Cardinal of Florence, Pietro Corsini, written in Avignon in 1405;7 on the other hand, the quotations from the same works in Rimini’s Sentences commentary. In his Sentences commentary, Rimini quotes Augustine’s same five books with the same chapter numbering and the same doctrinal concerns as he does in his Tables. However, he does not quote his Tables in his Sentences, nor does he quote his Sentences in his Tables. The two texts are rather parallel. And neither one nor the other replaces the Augustinian text: Gregory of Rimini refers to it and summarizes it in his Tables and he quotes it, sometimes extensively, in his Sentences commentary. Gregory of Rimini’s reading of the Bishop of Hippo’s books is accurate, conceptually elaborate and exhaustive. His indexes are a distillation of the Augustinian text, as close as possible to it, carried out by a high-standard intellectual whose immediate horizon is the appropriation of its patristic source by modes of divisio textus, selection, quotation, reformulation of theses, which are then indexed by keywords in tables. For the De libero arbitrio and for the Enchiridion, Gregory of Rimini produces a segmentation of Augustine’s text that is his own. I have also established that his manuscript of the 83 Questions was contaminated with the 21 Sentences, which is typical of the majority of the manuscripts of the 83 Questions circulating at that time. Gregory’s about 1500 theses testify to his elaborate continuous reading of Augustine. The analysis of the source text is guided by the possible exploitation of Augustinian theses in scholastic disputes or related genres. But Gregory of Rimini is also sensitive to 6 See Damasus Trapp, ‘La tomba bisoma di Tommaso da Strasburgo e Gregorio da Rimini’, Augustinianum 6 (1966), 5-17. 7 Louis Carolus-Barré, ‘Bibliothèques médiévales inédites, d’après les archives du Vatican’, Mélanges d’archéologie et d’histoire 53 (1936), 330-77, 358 (n. 86: ‘Item liber Tabulae magistri Gregorii de Armerio super certis libris beati Augustini’) and 371 (n. 293: ‘Item parvus libellus in pergameno continens tabulam magistri Gregorii de Arminio super libro sancti Augustini, de libero arbitrio, incipit in nigro prenosce (gross. unum)’).



concrete themes (for example friendship, or care for the sick, in q. 71 of the 83 Questions, etc.) or to spiritual themes (such as the bread of angels, panis angelorum, in De libero arbitrio, book III). Indexing must allow the theologian, professor, or preacher to jump easily to the patristic source that the thesis summarizes, or, conversely, to allude to this source, with its reference and master thesis, without having to quote it. Both uses are possible: the index can either lead to the source or replace it. The compiled version of the manuscripts B and C is intended to facilitate the combination of quotations from various works by Augustine, in what I have called ‘clusters’ of quotations.8 I think that Gregory of Rimini made these indexes before his arrival in Paris in the early 1340s, most probably in Italy in the 1330s. The manuscript tradition points towards Northern Italy. It is reasonable to assume that this work was carried out in Bologna, which was then a true centre of patristic studies: Barthelemy of Urbino was working there on his amazing Milleloquium Veritatis, which testifies to a broader knowledge of the Augustinian corpus than the one that the 17th-century scholars had. However, if the Milleloquium is a collection of sometimes very long quotations of Augustine, Gregory’s Tables are only collections of rewritten theses, the two books being indexed by keywords in alphabetical order. Gregory of Rimini’s Tables are much more similar to two widespread Tables on De Trinitate and on De civitate Dei that Antoine Brix and Thomas Falmagne9 recently removed from Robert Kilwardby and reattributed to Aymeric of Piacenza, General Master of the Order of Preachers, who had died in Bologna in 1327 and whose Table to De civitate Dei is transmitted with Rimini’s Tables in two manuscripts copied in the Vienna region. Moreover, in these years, the famous canonist Iohannes Andreae was working in Bologna at his Hieronymianus, an anthology of texts by Saint Jerome that bears similarities to the Milleloquium. Gregory of Rimini’s recovered Tables therefore complete the vision we have of Bologna as a center for patristic studies in the first half of the fourteenth century. If the Augustinians took an active part to this movement, work on patristic texts and especially on Augustine was not their exclusive monopoly, as some previous scholars have suggested.10 At the time of the Western Schism (1378-1417), some readers of Gregory’s Tables wrote interesting annotations in the margins of manuscript B, Eichstätt st 628, copied after 1381 in the Dominican convent in Vienna. It contains the five tables in a compiled version, with Aymeric of Piacenza’s table on De civitate Dei. Gregory’s and of Aymeric’s Tables form a codicological unit, to which 8

See Gregorius Ariminensis O.E.S.A., Cinq tables inédites (forthcoming). Antoine Brix, ‘La Tabula De ciuitate Dei dite de Robert Kilwardby. Problèmes d’attribution et tradition manuscrite’, Revue des Études Augustiniennes 60 (2014), 125-46. Antoine Brix informed me of his most recent conclusions, based on his discussions with Thomas Falmagne. He thinks that these tables are to be attributed with a high probability to Aymeric of Piacenza. 10 D. Trapp, ‘Augustinian Theology’ (1956). 9

How Gregory of Rimini Read Saint Augustine: New Evidence


the fifteenth-century label affixed to the upper plate of the binding refers: DEI […] ET QUOSDAM ALIOS DIVI AUGUSTINI. The codex opens with an interesting text entitled in the catalog description Sermo optimus de artibus liberalibus et schismate, written in 1381, three years after the schism of 1378 (fols. 1r-18rb). This is a scholastic sermon, written in the first person during Lent 1381, on the study of the liberal arts and which relates, in the part devoted to astronomy, to the schism experienced by the Church under the pontificate of Urban VI (1378-1389). The author refers to the death of Gregory XI on 27 March 1378, gives a very detailed account of the conclave of 1378 and of the events of April 1378, apparently taken from Iacobus de Seva’s Factum, to which he refers at least twice, fol. 14va (Iohannes de Lignano and Iacobus de Seva) and fol. 15va (ut scribit magister Iacobus de Seva).11 This codex is thus a witness to the concerns of Viennese theologians in the years immediately following the Western Schism. There are a few marginal annotations to Gregory of Rimini’s Tables on Augustine that come from the same milieu and express the same ecclesiological concerns. First, in the upper margin of fol. 331rb, we read: TABULA SUPER LIBROS DE CIVITATE

Assencio. Utrum dicere contra papas sit errare (Assent. Whether it is mistaken to speak against Popes).

This echoes the term ‘assencio’ in the Tabula super Enchiridion under the lemma ERROR: Utrum omnis error sit peccatum et utrum sapiens, ne incidat in errorem, debeat in omnibus assencionem rationis suspendere et nichil tamquam certum approbare, ut academici contendebant. (Augustine spoke out against the Academicians who stated that any error is a sin).

The marginal question ‘Assencio. Vtrum dicere contra papas sit errare’, is an allusion to the Western schism, which since Gregory XI’s death in 1378, saw two popes confronting each other: the Pope of Rome and the Pope of Avignon. There were indeed two popes in 1399 (presumed date of the copy of this manuscript): Pope Boniface IX of Rome (1389-1404) and Pope Benedict XIII of Avignon (1394-1417). The latter, who had sworn an oath when the conclave had opened to abdicate in the interest of the union of the Church were he elected Pope, no longer wanted to hear about abdication after his election. The Council of Pisa (March-July 1409) would increase the confusion by adding a third pope elected by the Council (Alexander V). The marginal remark quoted above follows the following reasoning, if it is brought into comparison with the 11 See Jean-Patrice Boudet, ‘Giovanni da Legnano et la genèse de son interprétation astrologique du Grand Schisme d’Occident’, in Ch. Barralis, J.-P. Boudet, F. Delivré and J.-Ph. Genet (eds), Église et État, Église ou État? Les clercs et la genèse de l’État moderne. Actes de la conférence organisée à Bourges en 2011 par SAS et l’université d’Orléans en l’honneur d’Hélène Millet (Paris, Rome, 2014), 347-65.



thesis extracted from the Enchiridion: ‘to pronounce against the Popes’, by giving assent to this thesis i.e. to the fact that there must not be several Popes, is it a mistake? or should we, in order to be wise and to avoid any error, suspend any assent in this matter? This position therefore seems to leave the door open to the wisdom of skepticism, which would refuse to speak out against a plurality of Popes. Second, in the upper margin of fol. 331va, we read: Utrum Iob fuerit in Ecclesia and Judas extra. (Whether Iob was outside the Church and Judas inside).

This echoes the following thesis in the text, taken from the De fide ad Petrum which contain the expression ‘extra ecclesiam’: Extra Ecclesiam, nec baptismus, nec elemosine, nec martiris et nominis Christi gloriosa confessio, neque alia queque opera prosunt hominibus, nisi forte ut minus torquantur; que omnia prosunt si Ecclesiam fiant. (The good deeds are useful only to those who are inside the Church). Extra Ecclesiam vitam finientes sive pagani sive iudei sive heretici vel scismatici, igne perpetuo cum dyabolo sunt arsuri. (Those who finish their lives outside the Church, like schismatics, will burn in hell with the devil).

The author of the marginal annotation insists on the fact that there is no salvation outside the Church and on the difficulty of determining who is in and who is outside the Church. Third, in the upper margin of fol. 331vb, we read: Facile est velum ante oculos ponere, submisso incedere capite, vestes viles induere, sed verum humilem probat iniurie pasciencia. Alleluia.

This quotation on the always possible hypocrisy of religious people and on true humility is attributed to Gregory the Great in an anonymous Italian Sunday sermon in the beginning of the thirteenth century. It is placed in the margin of a thesis taken from the De fide ad Petrum: Ecclesia presens usque ad finem mundi simul bonos et malos continet viros, et hoc est in qualibet professione, sive laycorum sit, sive clericorum.

Again, the author of the annotation is insisting on the difficulty of discriminating between good and bad men (viros). To conclude, one of the four witnesses known today of a work newly discovered and attributed to Gregory of Rimini, his Tables On Five Works By Saint Augustine, is the manuscript Eichstätt, st 628. This manuscript shows that the Viennese theological community, around 1390, was eager to obtain the works of the General Master of the Augustinian Order who had died in their city in 1358. More generally they were eager to obtain working tools, especially on Saint Augustine, developed in Northern Italy by the circle of

How Gregory of Rimini Read Saint Augustine: New Evidence


patristic scholars who worked in Bologna in the 1320s-1340s. These Viennese theologians were concerned about the Western Schism they were experiencing. They annotated some margins of Gregory of Rimini’s Tables on Augustine, expressing their ecclesiological concerns. It is a modest example, but it shows how Augustine, filtered by Gregory of Rimini, became a mirror of subsequent ecclesial events, such as the Western Schism. In particular, the marginal annotator uses the skeptical position of the Academicians reported by Gregory of Rimini in his Table on Enchiridion to suggest that in an ecclesiological matter such as the plurality of Popes, it would be an option to ‘suspend one’s own judgment’.

John Mair on Patristic Authority and Sixteenth-Century Conciliarism John T. SLOTEMAKER, Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT, USA

ABSTRACT John Mair was the most influential theologian at the University of Paris in the first decades of the sixteenth century. In his theological writings he defended a version of conciliarism that he traced back to the long tradition of conciliarists at Paris (e.g., Pierre d’Ailly and Jean Gerson) and which he developed in his commentary on the book of Matthew and in his commentary on Peter Lombard’s Sentences. The present paper will consider Mair’s engagement with patristic sources in his response to papalism (in particular, Thomas Cajetan). This use of sources is important to trace methodologically, given that within two decades of the publication of Mair’s commentary on Matthew the same texts would be hotly debated again, this time between Protestant and Catholic theologians defending divergent views of the Church. Thus, while the paper is focused on Mair, it also gestures at the way in which patristic authority would play a somewhat different role in the conflagration that engulfed the Church in the sixteenth century.

John Mair was born in 1467 or 1468 in Gleghornie, Scotland, a small town fifteen miles east of Edinburgh in the diocese of St. Andrews.1 His initial education was in Haddington, before beginning further studies in 1490 at Cambridge University, God’s House (later Christ’s College), and leaving for Paris in either 1491 or 1492. While at the University of Paris Mair was a member of the Collège Sainte-Barbe and as a Scotsman belonged to the English-German Nation;2 he earned his license in the arts in 1494 and the masters of arts in 1495. While at Paris Mair studied logic under Jean Bolu, Thomas Bricot, and Jerónimo Pardo.3 Mair earned his doctorate in November of 1506 under Jan Standonck. 1 The biographical data here relies on James K. Farge, ‘John Mair: An Historical Introduction’, in John T. Slotemaker and Jeffrey C. Witt (eds), A Companion to the Theology of John Mair (Leiden, Boston, 2015), 13-22. See also the sources cited therein (13, n. 1). For an introduction to Mair’s theology, see John T. Slotemaker, ‘John Mair as Theologian’, in David Fergusson and Mark W. Elliott (eds), The History of Scottish Theology, Volume I. Celtic Origins to Reformed Orthodoxy (Oxford, 2019), 96-108; the introduction here reuses with permission some material published therein. 2 Alexander Broadie, ‘John Mair’s Dialogus de Materia Theologo Tractanda: Introduction, Text and Translation’, in Alasdair A. MacDonald, Zweder R.W.M. von Martels and Jan R. Veenstra (eds), Christian Humanism: Essays in Honour of Arjo Vanderjagt (Leiden, Boston, 2009), 419-30. 3 See, e.g., the dedicatory letter to Jean Bolu in John Mair, Octo libri Physicorum cum naturali philosophia atque metaphysica (Paris, 1526). See J.K. Farge, ‘John Mair’ (2015), 14.

Studia Patristica CV, 29-40. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



While a student at Paris Mair began teaching and he remained at Paris until 1518, teaching both students in the Faculty of Arts and Theology. Between 1518 and 1526 Mair returned to his native Scotland and served as regent and principal of the University of Glasgow (1518-1523), and as professor of Arts and Theology at St. Andrews (1523-1526), only to return to Paris in 1526. Mair’s second sojourn to Paris was brief, as he returned to St. Andrews in 1533 to become Provost of St. Salvator’s College. Upon his return to Scotland Mair was increasingly consumed with administrative duties and ceased publishing altogether in the third decade of the sixteenth century. He died in his early eighties on the first of May, 1550. Mair’s life, therefore, extends from almost the mid-fifteenth century, up through the mid-sixteenth century, and, as such, he was witness to extensive changes in publishing, academic theology, and both the practical and theoretical aspects of ecclesiology. As a thinker he was profoundly shaped by both medieval scholasticism and Renaissance humanism, and, while his work bears the unmistakable mark of the late medieval scholastics, as witnessed in his massive commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, he also wrote two significant biblical commentaries: a commentary on Matthew published in 1518, and a commentary on all four gospels published in 1529. The focus of the present essay is Mair’s ecclesiology as worked out in his commentary on Matthew published in 1518. First a few notes are in order regarding the commentary itself before we consider Mair’s ecclesiology and his use of patristic sources.4 I. Mair’s Commentary on Matthew John Mair published two biblical commentaries that focused on the Gospels.5 The first was his commentary on Matthew published in 1518.6 This commentary 4 Mair’s political theology and conciliarism has been studied extensively. In particular, see J.H. Burns, ‘Politia Regalis et Optima. The Political Ideas of John Mair’, History of Political Thought 2 (1981), 31-61; id., The True Law of Kingship. Concepts of Monarchy in Early Modern Scotland (Oxford, 1996); J.K. Cameron, ‘The Conciliarism of John Mair: A Note on a Disputation on the Authority of a Council’, in Church and Sovereignty c. 590-1918. Essays in Honour of Michael Wilks, ed. Diana Wood (Oxford, 1991), 429-35; Francis Oakley, ‘On the Road from Constance to 1688. The Political Thought of John Major and George Buchanan’, Journal of British Studies 2 (1962), 1-31; id., ‘Almain and Major. Conciliar Theory on the Eve of the Reformation’, American Historical Review 70 (1965), 673-90; id., ‘“Anxieties of Influence.” Skinner, Figgis, Conciliarism and Early Modern Constitutionalism’, Past & Present 151 (1996), 60-110. 5 See Ueli Zahnd, ‘Der Humanist und die Scholastiker. Alte Reaktionen auf ein Neues Testament?’, Theologische Zeitschrift 73.3 (2017), 275-98, for a useful introduction to this material (esp. 291-7). 6 John Mair, In Mattheum ad literam expositio, una cum trecentis et octo dubiis et difficultatibus ad eius elucidationem admodum conducentibus passim insertis, quibus perlectis pervia erit quatuor evangelistarum feries (Paris, 1518). Nota bene: in the 1518 edition there are three levels of foliation that are operative: (1) foliation in the bottom right corner of the page that includes

John Mair on Patristic Authority and Sixteenth-Century Conciliarism


is substantial and treats all 28 chapters of the Gospel. The volume includes more than twenty pages of indices,7 followed by Mair’s Latin edition of the Gospel of Matthew8 and his commentary on the biblical text.9 The indices that Mair provides are useful for navigating the content of the work: the first outlines the book of Matthew and provides a list of each formal quaestio as well as the dubitatio litterales, the second index includes lists of persons, events, concepts, etc. Here we can look briefly at Mair’s list of questions. The list of questions is extensive. It begins with five introductory questions (quaestiones liminares) about the number of biblical books, the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, and the nature and number of the canonical Gospels. This is followed by questions for each of the 28 chapters of the book of Matthew, totaling 295 individual questions. The chapters Mair is most intently focused on are Matthew 5 (29 questions) treating the beatitudes and Jesus’s reading of the law, and Matthew 26 (28 questions) where Jesus celebrates the Passover and is interrogated by Caiaphas. In the former what one observes is that Mair has a particular interest in legal issues and individual case studies within Christian ethics.10 The latter is focused on theological questions related to the sacrament of the eucharist, christology, and soteriology. The questions of Mair’s commentary tend to be quite focused on material that originates from the gospel itself. For example, the first chapter of Matthew provides a genealogy of Jesus as well as Matthew’s brief account of his birth. Mair’s commentary on the first chapter is quite detailed and includes eleven quaestiones11 ranging from questions about the marriages of Solomon and lower-case letters (e.g., fols. a.i, or b.iii); (2) foliation in the top right that is lower-case and does not include the initial letter (e.g., fols. iii, or viii); and (3) foliation in the top right that is uppercase and does not include the initial letter (e.g., fols. III, or VIII). The first (1) is used for the tables, the second (2) is used for the commentary, and the third (3) is used for the biblical text itself. The reader should also note that the edition readily available through Google Books and linked to Ueli Zahnd’s incredibly useful website ( is corrupted in various ways: e.g., the text has been rearranged such that the commentary precedes the biblical text, and further the first folio of the commentary itself is missing (i.e., fol. ir). 7 Ibid. a.iiv-b.iiiir. 8 Ibid. Ir-XVIvb. This corrects U. Zahnd, ‘Der Humanist und die Scholastiker’ (2017), 294. 9 Ibid. ir-ciirb. 10 On Mair’s ethics, see James Keenan, ‘John Mair’s Moral Theology and Its Reception in the 16th Century’, in John T. Slotemaker and Jeffrey C. Witt (eds), A Companion to the Theology of John Mair (Leiden, Boston, 2015), 194-220. 11 In the twelfth century it was common for medieval authors to include formal quaestiones as part of their biblical commentaries (see, e.g., Peter Abelard’s commentary on Romans). This practice was discontinued, to a certain extent, as Peter Abelard’s Sentences became part of the formal educational process in theology at Oxford and Paris in the early thirteenth century – presumably separating the formal doctrinal questions, now treated in the Sentences, from biblical commentary. In the fourteenth century there is a return to the earlier tradition; e.g., Robert Holcot’s commentary on Wisdom includes numerous quaestiones on the biblical text. See John T. Slotemaker and Jeffrey C. Witt, Robert Holcot (Oxford, 2016), 275-9. Mair’s commentary, in many ways, seems reminiscent of commentaries like Holcot’s.



Rahab, and Boaz and Ruth as presented in Jesus’ genealogy (q.2),12 to whether or not there was a verum matrimonium between the Virgin Mary and Joseph (q.11);13 the latter, of course, being motivated by the medieval debate regarding whether or not a true marriage was marriage by mutual consent (consensus animorum) or by sexual relations (copula corporum). The impression the reader gets, therefore, is that Mair’s commentary often remains close to the biblical text. The other unique aspect of Mair’s commentary on Matthew is the biblical text itself. Mair produces a Latin edition of the book of Matthew that provides in the margins extensive notation (proto footnotes) that cross-references a given passage in Matthew with other biblical books. For example, in the margins to his commentary on chapter 1 of Matthew he presents references from Old Testament works (e.g., Gen. 21, 29, 30, 2Sam. 12, 1Kgs. 2, 1Chr. 3, Isa. 7, etc.) as well as parallel texts found in the other Gospels (e.g., Luke 3, 15; John 1).14 The Gospel parallels are extensive and offer an interesting intra-textual feature that the reader can use alongside Mair’s other commentary written on all four gospels.15 Having provided a brief overview of Mair’s biblical commentaries, here we turn to Mair’s ecclesiology as worked out in his commentary on Matthew 16 and 18. II. Mair’s Ecclesiology Matthew 16 begins with a discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus engages them in some debate and warns the disciples to beware of the teachings of both groups (Matt. 16:1-12). Following this discussion, Jesus famously asks his disciples ‘who do you say that I am?’ – to which Peter replies, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God’.16 Further, in response to this answer Jesus says to Peter, ‘You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church … I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven’ (see Matt. 16:15-9).17 12 J. Mair, In Mattheum (1518), fols. iiiivb-vra: Quaeritur de coniugiis Salmon et Booz cum Raab et Ruth. 13 Ibid. fol. viiira: An erat verum matrimonium inter virginem et Joseph. 14 Ibid. fol. Ir. 15 John Mair, In quatuor Evangelia expositiones luculente et disquisitiones et disputationes contra plurimae hereticos (Paris, 1529). 16 Mair, In Mattheum (1518), fol. IXrb: Dicit illis Jesus. Vos autem, quem me esse dicitis? Respondens Symon Petrus dixit. Tu es Christus, Filius Dei vivi? The punctuation here follows Mair’s edition (i.e., the second question mark). Here Mair provides a marginal note that indicates John 4 as a parallel. 17 Ibid. fol. IXrb: Et ego dico tibi, quia tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam, et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversus eam. Et tibi dabo claves regni caelorum. Et

John Mair on Patristic Authority and Sixteenth-Century Conciliarism


This passage, of course, would become hotly debated in the years following Mair’s commentary, as it was used to support, at times, a specific understanding of the Papacy and Papal authority (the Church as founded on Peter, Petros, the Rock, the first Pope of Rome).18 In response the Reformers, such as John Calvin, would offer an interpretation of this passage that decentered Peter and focused not on the keys being given to Peter, per se, but to the Apostles in general. Further, Calvin would attempt to find patristic support for this de-centering of Peter. In his attempt to combat what he found to be Papalist readings of this passage, he would turn to Cyprian, who argued that while Christ spoke to one man, Peter, it is not because Peter is to be singled out, but because Peter is the one who answered Christ’s question directly. Calvin, of course, would follow Cyprian and argue: No [person] in his or her senses will admit the principle that the Papists take for granted, that what here has been given to Peter was intended to be transmitted by him to posterity by right of inheritance; for he does not receive permission to give anything to his successors.19

From Calvin’s perspective, therefore, the ‘Roman Antichrist’ has covered up his tyranny by wickedly and dishonestly perverting the entirety of Matthew 16.20 However, in his response to the Romanus antichristus, Calvin does not focus specifically on a patristic defense of his exegetical position. He briefly mentions Augustine and Cyprian, but does not analyze any passages specifically or quote them in detail.21 His response to Rome, therefore, is more exegetical in nature, and does not rely on authorities as its primary foundation. Mair, as we will see below, takes a somewhat different approach to ground a similar argument – albeit, an argument that defends a conciliarist position prior to the great conflagration of the sixteenth century and its ecclesial debates.22 quodcumque; ligaveris super terram, erit ligatum et in caelis, et quodcumque; solveris super terram erit solutum et in caelis. 18 See Francis Oakley, Empty Bottles of Gentilism: Kingship and the Divine in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (to 1050) (New Haven, CT, 2010), 207-8; Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (Chicago, 1974), 160-1. 19 John Calvin, Commentarius in harmoniam evangelicam, in Ioannis Calvini opera quae supersunt Omnia, vol. 45, ed. G. Baum, E. Cunitz and E. Reuss (Braunschweig, 1891), 477: Nam principium, quod arripiunt papistae, nemo illis sanus concedet, datum hic Petro fuisse, quod velut iure haereditario ad posteros deinde transmitteret: neque enim quidquam successoribus dare permittitur. Quare papistae eum de alieno liberalem faciunt. 20 J. Calvin, Commentarius in harmoniam (1891), vol. 45, 476: Hactenus germanum verborum sensum dilucide exposui, ut nihil desiderari queat, nisi romanus antichristus tyrannidi suae colorem inducere volens non minus improbe, quam perfide locum hunc totum pervertere ausus foret. 21 Ibid. vol. 45, 477. 22 This exegetical tradition was also taken up by Mair’s brilliant student, Jacque Almain (†1515), who died a couple years before Mair published his commentary on Matthew, and whom Mair would outlive by 35 years. Almain would fiercely defend conciliarism in a heated debate with Tommaso de Vio, known usually as Cajetan, in response to the ‘Schism of Pisa’



John Mair’s commentary on Matthew 16 and 18 defends a conciliarist ecclesiology – over and against the power of the Pope – that he traces back to the fourteenth century. In his commentary on chapter 18 he quotes two passages in conjunction: (1) Matthew 18:15, if another member of the Church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone; and (2) Matthew 16:19, I [Christ] will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.23 The conjunction of these two verses raises the question of ‘whether the supreme pontiff is over the universal council or the universal Church, which is represented by the council’.24 The question, of course, is whether or not the Pope is to be corrected (as Matthew 18:15 implies), given that the Pope does not have a superior in the Church. Stated differently, perhaps, one can ask whether or not the Pope, who has no superior, can be corrected by the Church or a member of the Church, and, if so, how this is compatible with Matthew 16:19 in which Peter, the first Pope, is given the keys. Having established the question, Mair notes that there are basically two positions held with respect to this question. First, he notes that the Cardinals, the Thomists, and everyone in Rome publicly holds that the Pope is above a universal council.25 By contrast the Parisian theologians since at least the Council in 1511. Almain defended his conciliarist position exegetically and by means of patristic sources. Anticipating Mair and Calvin, Almain would argue that the power of the keys to bind and loose was not given to Peter per se, but to the Church at large. Unlike Calvin, Almain would accord Peter a special and particular role, though one that is limited by the body he serves, the Church. See J. Almain, Libellus de auctoritate ecclesiae (Paris, 1512), and id., Aurea opuscula (Paris, 1518). 23 Mair, In Mattheum (1519), lxviiiva (see, Du Pin 1132, Burns-Izbicki 285). Sections of Mair’s commentary have been translated in J.H. Burns and T.M. Izbicki, Conciliarism and Papalism (Cambridge, 1997). Burns and Izbicki used for their translation an excerpt from Mair’s commentary on Matthew found in the second volume of Louis Ellies Du Pin’s edition of Jean Gerson, Opera Omnia (Antwerp, 1706), II 1131-45. The section of text found in Du Pin’s edition originates from Mair’s commentary on Matthew 18, In Mattheum (1518), fols. lxiiivb-lxxiiira; the main question – quaeritur circa hanc materiam – begins on fol. lxviiiva. In my notes I provide first the foliation from Mair’s 1518 commentary, followed by the edition of Du Pin and the translation of Burns-Izbicki (sometimes with modification). I have tended to follow the Latin of Du Pin because it is probably easier for the reader to follow. 24 Ibid. fol. lxviiiva (Du Pin 1132, Burns-Izbicki 285): an Maximus Pontifex sit super Universale Concilium, vel super Universalem Ecclesiam, quam Concilium repraesentat. On Mair’s ecclesiology, see also his discussion of Matthew 16 [In Mattheum (1519), fols. lixvalxiiiivb], as well as his commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard: Mair, In Quartum Sententiarum quaestiones utilissimae suprema ipsius lucubratione enucleatae: denuo tamen recognitae et maioribus formulis impressae... (Paris, 1519), fols. 213rb-216rb. 25 Mair, In Mattheum (1519), fol. lxviiiva-vb (Du Pin 1132, Burns-Izbicki 285): Super praefata quaestione sunt modi dicendi oppositi, quorum unus tenet Papam esse supra Concilium Universale; hunc modum aliqui Cardinalium tenuerunt, et tenent communiter Thomistae; et Romae, ut afferitur, nulli fas est oppositum teneri.

John Mair on Patristic Authority and Sixteenth-Century Conciliarism


of Constance (1414-1418) held that a universal council has ultimate authority over a Pope. Presumably, here, he means to link this position with theologians such as Pierre d’Ailly († 1430) and Jean Gerson († 1429).26 Thus, there are two positions that can be held, and Mair’s commentary on this section of Matthew presents a defense of the Parisian position as maintained since the early fifteenth century. Mair’s commentary on these biblical passages is divided unevenly into two articles: the (1) first providing a brief definition of a universal council, the (2) second defending, with 11 sub-arguments, the claim that a council, duly assembled, representing the universal Church, is superior to the supreme pontiff’.27 The first article is extremely short and defines a universal council as: an assembly from every appropriate rank in the [ecclesiastical] hierarchy summoned by those upon whom it is incumbent to do so to discuss with a common purpose the public welfare of Christendom.28

Mair, however, spends little time discussing the definition and moves quickly into the second article where he presents arguments in defense of the claim that a council, duly assembled, etc., is superior to the Pope. Of the eleven sub arguments in defense of this position, it is the first three that are of interest for the present paper as they are the arguments grounded in the exegesis of patristic sources. (1) The first argument can be formulated thus: for any two powers A and B, if an appeal lies from A to B (and not conversely), and when B has the power to depose A for misconduct (and not conversely) and can impose binding laws on A, then B is greater than A. This, Mair argues, is precisely the position of the Pope in relation to the Church – a Church that can depose and dismiss him for his misconduct.29 Now, as Mair notes, the Pope is our brother (pontifex est frater noster) and has the same Father in heaven whom he addresses in prayer. Further, the Pope is a man who sins like all viatores. Thus, like all wayfarers, the 26 For the political and conciliarist thought of d’Ailly and Gerson, see Francis Oakley, The Political Thought of Pierre d’Ailly: the Voluntarist Tradition (New Haven, CT, 1964); id., The Conciliarist Tradition: Constitutionalism in the Catholic Church, 1300-1870 (Oxford, 2003), 60-110; and Louis Pascoe, Church and Reform: Bishops, Theologians, and Canon Lawyers in the Thought of Pierre d’Ailly (1351-1420) (Leiden, Boston, 2004). For Mair’s interaction with Gerson and d’Ailly, see In Mattheum (1519), fols. lxvb, lxiiva, lxixvb, and lxxra. 27 Ibid. fol. lxviiivb (Du Pin 1132, Burns-Izbicki 286): Concilium rite congregatum, universalem ecclesiam repraesentans est super maximum pontificem. 28 Ibid. fol. lxviiivb (Du Pin 1132, Burns-Izbicki 286): Concilium, sic definitur, est congregatio ex omni statu hierarchico quorum interest convocata [convocato 1519] ab iis quibus incumbit ad tractandum communi intentione, de utilitate publica christiana. 29 Ibid. fol. lxviiivb (Du Pin 1132, Burns-Izbicki 286): quando sunt duae potestates A et B, et appelatur ab A ad B, et non contra; et B potest pro demeritis deponere et ex authorare A, et non contra, et praescribere ei leges obligatorias, tunc B, est major A. Sed sic est de concilio et romano pontifice...



Pope should be censured and rebuked (corripere) as a brother, as Matthew 18:15 commands.30 The objection Mair anticipates to this argument is that, indeed, one can reprove the Pope privately or with ‘one or two witnesses’, however the Pope cannot ‘report to the Church’, for the Pope has no superior.31 Mair’s response is that, in fact, Gregory the Great (Pope 590-604), as Pope, understood his relationship to the Church in precisely this way. He observes that in Gregory the Great’s letter to John the Faster, Patriarch of Constantinople, he writes, In dealing with cases where a fault is committed through thoughtless audacity, we observe what He Who is Truth has taught, in the words, If your brother offends against you ... if he will not hear the Church, let him be to you as the heathen and the publican. And I, with my responsory letters, wrote on two separate occasions on my own account in the humble terms in which I have striven to correct sinners in the whole Church. Whatever I should have done humbly I have not omitted; but I am despised in that correction. All that remains is for me to approach the Church, which has just been mentioned, If he will not hear the Church, etc.32

Now, the context here is that Pope Gregory is criticizing John the Faster for using the title ‘universal patriarch’, and the point, Mair states, is that by ‘Church’ what Gregory meant is not the Pope (i.e. himself), but the greater and lesser prelates of the Church or a general council. As Pope Gregory acknowledges, there are times when he must ‘approach the Church’, and of course, Mair argues, he does not mean approaching himself for a wrong committed, but the body of the Church.33 (2) The second argument Mair presents is that when Christ gave Peter the keys of the kingdom; ‘the keys were given to Peter only in the Church’s name 30 Ibid. fol. lxviiivb (Du Pin 1132, Burns-Izbicki 287): Ergo possumus eum corripere, et in casu tenemur. 31 Ibid. fol. lxviiivb (Du Pin 1132-3, Burns-Izbicki 287): Sed hic dicis, possumus eum corripere in secreto, vel adducendo unum testem, vel duos, si peccatum sit iteraturus, sed non possumus dicere ecclesiae, quia non habet superiorem. 32 Ibid. fol. lxviiivb (Du Pin 1133, Burns-Izbicki 287): et nos quidem in quibus per ausum temerarium culpa committitur, servamus quod praecepit veritas, dicens, ‘Si peccaverit in te frater tuus, si ecclesiam non audierit, sit tibi sicut ethnicus et publicanus’ [Matt. 18:15, 17], et ego per responsales meos, semel et bis verbis humilibus, haec quae in tota ecclesia peccatores corrigere studui, per me scribo quicquid humiliter facere debui non omisi, sed in ea correctione despicior, restat ut ecclesiam, de qua Paulo ante praemittitur, ‘si ecclesiam non audierit’ [Matt. 18:17]. The Vulgate for 18:15-7 reads: si autem peccaverit in te frater tuus vade et corripe eum inter te et ipsum solum si te audierit lucratus es fratrem tuum. Si autem non te audierit adhibe tecum adhuc unum vel duos ut in ore duorum testium vel trium stet omne verbum. Quod si non audierit eos dic ecclesiae si autem et ecclesiam non audierit sit tibi sicut ethnicus et publicanus. 33 It is worth noting that Calvin would use this letter in his arguments against the power of the Church. See John Calvin, Commentarius in harmoniam evangelicam, in Ioannis Calvini opera quae supersunt Omnia, vol. 2, ed. G. Baum, E. Cunitz and E. Reuss (Braunschweig, 1864), IV.7.4 (826).

John Mair on Patristic Authority and Sixteenth-Century Conciliarism


and on the Church’s behalf. Therefore, they were given, rather, to the Church’.34 This is supported by Augustine, who in homily 45 on John, writes, Whatsoever you shall bind on earth, it shall be bound in heaven etc. If this were said only to Peter, the Church does not bind and loose. If, however, action is taken in the Church so that what is bound on earth is bound in heaven, and what is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven (since when the Church excommunicates [someone] on earth, he/she is bound in heaven, and when the excommunicated person is reconciled in the Church, he is loosed also in heaven) – if, then, this is what happens in the Church, Peter, in accepting the keys, signified holy Church. If, therefore, the good in the Church are signified by Peter’s person, the wicked in the Church are signified by Judas.35

Mair’s point, referencing Augustine, is that if the Church accepts the claim that when it excommunicates someone on earth they are bound in heaven, it must claim, as Mair does, that the powers to bind and loose were not given to Peter per se, but to the Church. If this were not the case the Church would not have the power to bind and loose – i.e., the power of the keys – but only Peter would. It follows, therefore, that the keys were given to Peter qua Church, not Peter qua Peter. (3) The third argument is a bit more complex. Mair writes that: one can argue that there can be an appeal to the council or the universal Church not just from the supreme pontiff, but from the supreme pontiff with a particular church; and a sentence of the supreme pontiff and a particular council can be annulled by the universal Church; therefore, the universal council is superior to the Roman pontiff.36

This argument is defended using various quotations from Augustine, and in particular a letter written from Augustine to Glorius, Eleusius, and Felix the grammarian. The letter is with regards to Caecelianus, who was appointed bishop of Carthage in 311 and whose appointment led to the Donatist controversy. Mair here recounts the historical context and observes that the African 34 Mair, In Mattheum (1519), fol. lxixra (Du Pin 1133, Burns-Izbicki 288): Claves non [non om. 1518] datae sunt Petro, [et non add. 1518] nisi nomine ecclesiae, et nisi propter ecclesiam, ergo citius datae sunt ecclesiae. 35 Ibid. lxixra (Du Pin 1133, Burns-Izbicki 288): ‘Quodcumque ligaveris super terram erit ligatum et in coelis’ [Matt. 16:19]. Si hoc Petro tantum dictum est, non hoc facit Ecclesia, si autem et in ecclesia fit, ut qua in terra ligantur, etiam in coelo ligentur; et qua solvuntur in terra, solvantur et in coelo, quia cum excommunicat ecclesia in terra, in coelo ligatur excommunicatus; cum reconciliatur aliquis in ecclesia, et in coelo solvitur et reconciliatur, si ergo hoc in ecclesia fit, Petrus, quando claves accepit, ecclesiam sanctam significavit, si ergo in persona Petri, significati sunt in ecclesia boni, et in Juda persona, significati sunt mali in Ecclesia. See Augustine, In evangelium Iohannis tractatus 45.10, CChr.SL 36, 393. Here Du Pin alters the grammar from the 1518 text. 36 Mair, In Mattheum (1519), lxixra (Du Pin 1133, Burns-Izbicki 288): Non solum a summo pontifice, sed a summo pontifice, cum particulari ecclesia, potest appellari ad concilium, sive universalem ecclesiam, et sententia [sententiam 1518] summi pontificis, et concilii particularis, potest solvi ab universali concilio; igitur universale concilium est super romanum pontificem.



bishops sought to depose Caecelianus, and petitioned Melchiades, the bishop of Rome (311-314), so that he would support their deposition of Caecelianus and the appointment of another bishop. In his letter of response, Augustine writes: As if it were not open to them to say of this, and with great justice, ‘look, we think those bishops who judged at Rome were not good judges’. There still remains a plenary council of the universal Church, where a case could be argued with those judges, so that, if they were convicted of having judged wrongly, their sentence could be annulled.37

Following this passage, Mair supports this with another reference from Augustine’s Enarrationes in psalmos, There are some words of the Lord which seem to refer specifically to the apostle Peter; and yet they cannot be understood clearly unless they are applied to the Church, which he is known to have personified on account of the primacy which he had over the disciples. Such, for instance, are the words, ‘I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven’.38

This passage, Mair notes, was further supported by a reference cited earlier in his commentary on Matthew 16, where he quotes the Retractationes as stating (in Mair’s paraphrase), that Augustine once expounded upon this rock as indicating Peter, afterwards he said more often, upon this rock, which is Christ.39 And in sermon 15, Augustine writes: ‘I will give you the keys of the kingdom in heaven’. By this He gave the keys to the universal Church as a single entity.40

And in a passage Mair mistakenly identifies as being from the Quaestiones veteris et novi testamenti, Augustine writes: Not one man but the Church as a single entity received these keys.41 37 Ibid. lxixra (Du Pin 1133-4, 288-89): Dicit Augustinus ad propositum, ‘quasi non eis ad hoc dici posset, et justissime dici: ecce putemus illos episcopos qui roma judicarunt, non bonos judices fuisse, restabat adhuc plenarium [plenariam 1519] ecclesiae universalis [universale 1519] concilium, ubi etiam cum ipsis judicibus causa posset agitari, ut si male judicasse convicti essent, eorum sententiae solverentur’. See Augustine, Epistle 43, PL 33, 169. 38 Mair, In Mattheum (1519), lxixra (Du Pin 1134, 289): Istud etiam confirmatur auctoritate Augustini, Psalmo cvi, dicentis, ‘sunt enim quaedam a Domino, quae ad apostolum petrum propterea pertinere videantur , nec tamen habent illustrem intellectum, nisi cum referuntur ad Ecclesiam, cuius ille cognoscitur in figura gestasse personam, propter primatum quem in discipulis habuit, sicut illud, “Tibi dabo claves regni coelorum”, et similia huiusmodi’. See Augustine, Enarrationes in psalmos, 108, CChr.SL 40, 1585. 39 See Augustine, Retractationes 1.10, CSEL 36, 97-8. 40 Mair, In Mattheum (1519), lxixra (Du Pin 1134, Burns-Izbicki 289): Idem Augustinus Sermone 15, De apostolis Petro et Paulo, dicit: ‘Tibi dabo claves regni coelorum’, per hoc unitati et universali ecclesiae claves dedit. 41 Ibid. lxixra (Du Pin 1134, Burns-Izbicki 289): Has autem claves non homo unus, sed unitas accepit ecclesiae. See Augustine, Sermon 295, PL 39, 1349. Mair also makes a general reference

John Mair on Patristic Authority and Sixteenth-Century Conciliarism


All told, Mair presents 6 quotations or references from Augustine to support the claim that the keys given to Peter were given to the universal Church, not to Peter or his successors as the Bishop of Rome specifically. And, alongside Augustine, Mair supports Augustine by making reference to Jerome’s commentary on Matthew (though he provides no citation),42 and he quotes Rabanus Maurus (†856), who writes: This power to bind and loose, although it seems to have been given by our Lord to Peter alone, nevertheless, was given to the other apostles.43

Turning for a moment from this barrage of sources to the original argument, we recall that the main point of the third argument is that a decision of the Pope and a particular church can be annulled by the universal Church – i.e., a universal council of the Church. Thus, all of these sub-arguments, in the form of patristic sources, are employed to give support to the claim that the power given to Peter, by Christ, was not given to Peter qua Pope, but to the universal Church. As such, the power of the keys, the power given to Peter, is actually given to the Church universal. The implication, for Mair, is that a universal council representing the Church universal has the ultimate authority over the Pope.

III. Conclusion John Mair’s commentary on Matthew was published in 1518, just a few months after Martin Luther’s 95 Theses spread through Germany in various publications. Mair, of course, did not know about Luther at the time he composed his commentary, and, when he did familiarize himself with Luther’s theology, he rejected it soundly. Yet in his ecclesiology he supported an interpretation of that the editors of the English translation identify with Augustine, De agone Christiano 30.2, CSEL 41, 134-5: e.g.: Non enim sine causa inter omnes apostolos huius ecclesiae catholicae personam sustinet Petrus; huic enim ecclesiae claves regni caelorum datae sunt, cum Petro datae sunt. It is, however, hard to claim definitively that this is the passage Mair was intending to reference. 42 See Jerome, Commentaria in evangelium S. Matthaei, PL 26, 118-20, here 120: Sed si consideret qui hoc quaerit, Petro illam benedictionem et beatitudinem, ac potestatem, et aedificationem super eum ecclesiae, in futuro promissam, non in praesenti datam intelligent. ‘Aedificabo’, inquit, ‘super te ecclesiam meam et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversus eam’. Et: ‘Dabo tibi claves regni coelorum’. Omni de futuro, quae si statim dedisset ei, numquam in eo pravae opinionis error invenisset locum. 43 Mair, In Mattheum (1519), lxixra-rb (Du Pin 1134, Burns-Izbicki 289): Haec autem ligandi atque solvendi potestas, quamvis soli Petro data videatur, tamen ceteris apostolis datur. See Rabanus Maurus, Commentariorum in Matthaeum, in PL 107, 992: Quae solvendi ac ligandi potestas, quamvis soli Petro data videatur a Domino, absque ulla tamen dubietate noscendum est quod et caeteris apostolis datur. See also Hincmar of Rheims, Libellus expostulationis 26, PL 126, 609, who repeats the passage of Maurus verbatim.



Matthew 16:18 that would be taken up by the various Reformers. Calvin, for example, would agree with Mair that when the power to loose and bind was given to Peter, it was given to all of the disciples, not just Peter. Further, when one studies the reception of the patristic inheritance, one realizes that the same passage employed by Mair would be used by the Reformers to make their case. John Calvin, for instance, would use Gregory’s letter to John the Faster, in the Institutes book 4, chapter 7, to defend his reading of Matthew. Thus, while ultimately Mair and Calvin would disagree about how to define the Papacy and the role of the Bishop of Rome, they would agree about how to exegete various biblical passages used to support their disparate positions, and they would employ the same patristic sources to defend that exegesis.

Side by Side: The Church Fathers’ Supporting Role in William of St Thierry’s Attacks on Peter Abelard Delphine CONZELMANN, University of Basel, Switzerland

ABSTRACT How far can a theologian go? What can, and more importantly, what can’t he say? It was not merely a personal rivalry, but this very question, that drove William of St Thierry (1080-1148) to view the theology of Peter Abelard (1079-1142) as a problem that needed to be addressed. Calling his friend and mentor, Bernard of Clairvaux, to action, William instigated a campaign against the prominent scholastic, or rather, against the methodology he was propagating. Reading Abelard’s works as an affront, both to current and historical Church authorities, William feared for the integrity of orthodox faith as such. Perceiving Abelard’s analytical approach to the Bible and established doctrines as a threat, he viewed himself as the defender of Christian tradition. The paper at hand will take a close look at William’s accusations against Abelard, with a special focus on his usage of patristic authority. As William sets Abelard’s novel teachings within the context of ancient heresies, he turns to the assistance of those who had fought the original exponents of these ‘erroneous ideas’. Just as Ambrose had proceeded against the Arians, and Augustine against the Pelagians and Manichaens, so William hoped to succeed against his contemporary enemy with their support. Introducing the Saint Doctors, as if witnesses in the courtroom of his own time, William takes on the role of a legal defense, giving voice to those who had initially established orthodoxy. It is therefore significant to address the role authority plays in William’s exegetical and spiritual project and the ways in which it differs from Abelard’s own regard for authoritative teachings. Their disagreements concerning the importance of tradition and communal consensus boils down to a conflict between Abelard’s self-perception as a philosophical scholar and William’s rejection of theologia as a legitimate human endeavor. This paper will contrast the two authors’ approach to the relationship of tradition and intellect, and ultimately, contrast their views on the limitations of the human mind.

An innovative genius and a scared reactionary; a true Scholastic thinker and a stubborn and conservative monk – historians have pitted them against each other, long after their actual conflict had ended. I am talking about Peter Abelard (1079-1142) and William of St Thierry (1075/80-1148).1 While Abelard is 1 As Martin Grabmann points out, the notion that scholasticism and mysticism are exclusive and opposing ways of thinking had ultimately been overcome by the epochal research of Heinrich

Studia Patristica CV, 41-52. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



often praised for his boldness to ‘not just absorb the definitive statements (auctoritates) in revered authors (auctores)’,2 but to creatively question theological content, William has often been excoriated for the seeming lack of such theological creativity. Yet, what sounds like a negative critique from a modern perspective, was precisely the kind of exegetical methodology William prided himself on. Not the established tenets of faith, but instead human reason itself was ‘old fashioned’ in his eyes, as it was not yet renewed by divine grace and human submission to it.3 Rather than ancient authors, whose mistakes are to be detected and refuted with logic and medieval thought, William considered the Church Fathers to be his – seemingly contemporary – allies in the fight for orthodox belief. It is precisely in his usage of authority, which seems to transcend time, that William demonstrates his own literary inventiveness.4 The paper at hand discusses William’s understanding of authorities and their importance, as well as his application of patristic authority in his conflict with Peter Abelard. William, although less remembered by historians than his mentor and friend, Bernard of Clairvaux, was a driving force behind the accusations Bernard would later more publicly express against Abelard and his ideas. William’s Disputatio adversus Petrum Abelardum was one of the main sources for the heresy trial and ultimate condemnation of Abelard at the Council of Sens in 1140 AD.5 While Bernard is today, amongst countless other achievements, infamous for his endorsement of the crusades, William, spurred by the Cistercian reform’s initial momentum, had another crusade in mind: one against the heresies of his time, which he found growing in the schools and monasteries all around him.6 Although it was the more prominent Bernard who would earn the label of ‘heresy hunter’ by modern historians, it was William who had initially alerted Bernard to the new and dangerous teachings of Abelard and his supporters.7 Bernard’s critique of Abelard took its major cues from William’s accusations, and both their writings against Abelard revolved around one common bone of contention: Abelard’s apparent disregard for Church authority. Denifle (see Martin Grabmann, Die Geschichte der scholastischen Methode [Basel, Stuttgart, 1961], vol. X, 95-6), yet the framework had influenced a large part of the historiography on Abelard and William. 2 Jan M. Ziolkowski (ed. and trans.), Letters of Peter Abelard, Beyond the Personal (Washington, DC, 2008), xxii. 3 Geoffrey Webb, ‘William of Saint Thierry VI: Faith and Heresy’, New Blackfriars 48 (1967), 214-7. 4 For a comprehensive study on William’s use of Patristic literature, see J.-M. Déchanet, Aux sources de la spiritualité de Guillaume de Saint-Thierry (Bruges, 1978). 5 William of St Thierry, Opuscula Adversus Petrum Abaelardum et de fide, ed. Paul Verdeyen (Turnhout, 2007), 11. 6 For a thorough study of the historical circumstances that led to Bernard’s involvement in Abelard’s trial, see Constant J. Mews, ‘The Council of Sens (1141): Abelard, Bernard, and the Fear of Social Upheaval’, Speculum 77.2 (2002), 342-82. 7 William, Opuscula (2007), 13-5.

The Church Fathers’ Role in William of St Thierry’s Attacks on Peter Abelard


The blatant arrogance Abelard demonstrated in his writings, not only toward some of Christianity’s historical teachers, but also towards its contemporary authorities, certainly did not help his case. Yet it seems as though he was not particularly keen on defending himself against these allegations to begin with. Although later threats to his life would prove him wrong, he considered himself invincible; the ‘Ajax’ of all intellectual matters.8 In his autobiographical Historia calamitatum he recounts the confrontations with his accusers as opportunities to provoke. Clearly enjoying his opponents’ confusion, he liked to point out contradictory opinions within the patristic corpus and lesser-known citations from revered Fathers’ works. During his time in the monastery of St Denis, he managed to antagonize his own subordinates, when challenging the commonly held view that Dionysius of Aeropagita, the monastery’s patron saint, had been Bishop in Athens. Quoting Bede as his witness in a dispute he himself instigated, he was able to both defend his own position and compromise his brothers under the guise of adhering to authority. Similarly, he publicly embarrassed Alberich of Reims – at least according to his own account of the conflict – when he was able to substantiate his claim that God is not able to beget Godself by quoting Augustine’s De Trinitate. In other words: He strategically used the most prominent authority of Catholic orthodoxy to argue for the position his contemporaries identified as the very heresy, Augustine had fought against during his own time. More often than not, his advertent provocations hit their mark. In his Disputatio against Abelard, William notes, albeit with dissent, that Abelard seems to challenge the doctrine of divine omnipotence quasi ex autoritate beati Augustini.9 Clearly, Abelard’s critics did not take issue with the lack of patristic quotations in his works. Rather, it must have been the way in which Abelard employed such quotations to attack well-established positions, that prompted William and Bernard to instigate their campaign against him. At the conflict’s core lies a fundamental disagreement on the nature of clerical authority, or even more so, on a Christian author’s potential source of knowledge. What kind and amount of knowledge can the human mind accumulate? Where lie its limitations, and with what right can a Christian thinker claim truth for themselves? It is therefore not coincidental that William addressed this precise selection of topics in his Commentary on Romans (Expositio super Epistolam ad Romanos)10, a work he wrote only shortly before he published his Disputatio 8

Peter Abelard, Historia calamitatum (= Epist. I), ed. CTLO (Turnhout, 2011), 67: Illud vero Ajacis, ut temperantius loquar, audacter proferam, Si queritis hujus Fortunam pugne, non sum superatus ab illo. 9 William, Opuscula (2007), 18: Omitto etiam quod ibi dicit, quasi ex auctoritate beati Augustini, non esse Deum omnipotentem, scilicet quia non potest nisi ea tantum quae uult: quod breuitatis causa praetermisimus. 10 William of St Thierry, Exposé sur l’Épitre aux Romains. Tome I (Livres I-III), ed. Paul Verdeyen (Paris, 2011).



against Abelard. Abelard’s and William’s Commentaries on Romans respectively are ideal reflections of their exegetical methodology.11 While it is in Abelard’s interest to bring light into the darkness that unfolds from the gaps and the apparent contradictions he finds within the patristic canon, William specifically exempts these questions from his investigation. Rather than discovering in the depths of the Biblical text what is yet to be uncovered, he claims his exposition is really an account of the Fathers’ understanding of the text.12 Although the reader might rightfully disagree with William, given the amount of original content dispersed through the book, William even refuses the title of author in the introduction to his Commentary.13 His work, he claims, is but a ‘little bird, adorned with the feathers of others’.14 Openly admitting to a certain form of plagiarism,15 William claims to rely purely on the doctrinal statements on which the Fathers seem to agree. His desire therefore is not to put forth any kind of innovative thought, but rather to solidify the foundation of faith, composed by the Fathers’ concord. Not only does William not take interest in the more ‘bothersome questions’ (quaestionum molestiis), but he rejects them as viable topics of concern for the human mind.16 His commentary aims at making the patristic discoveries more accessible and spiritually applicable to the reader, not to make new and innovative discoveries. This is not a mere literary decision. William considers certain theological problems to be ‘above’ the human intellect, making the desire to solve them a clear transgression of the God-set limitations for humanity. In the light of this moral argument, Abelard’s methodology is no longer just one that is different from William’s, but one he views as fundamentally problematic.17 In exempting a specific kind of quaestiones from his exegetical 11 Steven R. Cartwright, The Romans Commentaries of William of St. Thierry and Peter Abelard: A Theological and Methodological Comparison (Kalamazoo, 2001), 5-7. 12 William, Exposé (2011), 110: Epistolam Pauli ad Romanos multis et variis et difficillimis quaestionibus involutam suscepimus, non ut exponamus, quod supra nos est, sed ut aliqua sanctorum patrum, et maxime beati Augustini, sensa in eam vel scripta ex libris eorum et opusculis hinc inde collecta in unum hoc opusculum compingentes, suppressis quae in ea sunt quaestionum molestiis, unam continuam non nostram, sed ipsorum texamus explanationem. 13 On William’s use and transgression of the standard type of medieval preface, see Alastair J. Minnis, Medieval Theory of Authorship: Scholastic Literary Attitudes in the Later Middle Ages (Philadelphia, 2001), 48-58. 14 William, Exposé (2011), 110: Secundum poeticum fabulam aviculam nostram diversarum plumis avium et coloribus sollemniter vestivimus; quae si venerint et abstulerint singulae quae recognoverint sua, nuda vel nulla ramanebit nostra cornicula. William’s citation is in turn a quote from an Epistle of Horace, sent to the young author Julius Florus. For a study on the original Horatian passage, see Jeanne Neumann O’Neill, ‘Florus and the “Commendatio ad Gloriam” in Horace “Epistles” 1.3.’, Phoenix 53 (1999), 80-96. 15 William, Exposé (2011), 110: Nemo ergo furti nos arguat: ipsi nos prodimus. 16 Ibid. 17 Fiona Robb, Intellectual Tradition and Misunderstanding: The Development of Academic Theology on the Trinity in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries (London, 1994), 58.

The Church Fathers’ Role in William of St Thierry’s Attacks on Peter Abelard


approach, William draws an obvious reference to the scholastic method, centered on controversial and disputed questions. Although it is unclear whether William had actually read Abelard’s Commentary on Romans (written at the same time as his own), he was certainly familiar with the growing school theology and its methods, as he himself enjoyed scholastic education in Reims earlier in his life.18 It is also clear from his Disputatio against Abelard, that William, as well as Bernard (and probably most of Abelard’s contemporary critics), was very familiar with Abelard’s Sic et Non, an ideal representation of Abelard’s methodology: a kind of third-party evaluation of questions, which the most authoritative of Fathers had already disagreed on. William’s Commentary could therefore be read as an alternative program to such an analytic, almost deconstructive way of reading the patristic texts. Assuming an overwhelming consensus in the Fathers’ writings allowed William to set aside the contradictions that Abelard wanted to tackle as minor and irrelevant problems. Besides this opposition, he surmised clear exegetical guidelines, set up by the Church Fathers. His own exegetical project, therefore, is demonstrating the kind of thought William deemed appropriate for the Christian mind and community; one that, first and foremost, stays within the patristically defined confines of orthodoxy.19 Much of William’s conflicts with those he considered heterodox authors can be traced back to disagreements about the source of their knowledge, more so than disagreements about doctrinal conclusions. According to William, and counter to Abelard’s self-perception, knowledge will never be achieved through the feats of human intellect. Knowledge, especially knowledge of God, is a divine gift. In this respect, any self-description that goes beyond that of passive reception is, in William’s eyes, highly problematic. It is thus not surprising that William takes issue with the term theologus, or theologia: terms crucial for Abelard to define his own endeavor, as they describes an activity driven by human, rather than divine agency. The theo-logian literally claims to be in a position that allows him to speak on divine matters; a thought, William rejects entirely. The act of ‘theologizing’, according to William is fueled by human curiosity – a desire to achieve more than is already divinely given.20 Calling Abelard hic theologus in his indictment suffices to make it clear to his readers of what he accuses his adversary: intellectual conceit. Considering theologia something that can be learned, or worse, taught, grossly overestimates the human role in the process of divine inspiration. It is certainly no coincidence that the topics of human pride and humility are the running themes in William’s Commentary on Romans. Although the topics 18 For a detailed analysis of Abelard’s Commentary on Romans and his methodology, see Rolf Peppermüller, Abaelards Auslegung des Römerbriefes (Münster, 1972). 19 S.R. Cartwright, The Romans Commentaries (2001), 189-90. 20 M. Grabmann, Geschichte der scholastischen Methode (1961), vol. II, 106.



surface in Abelard’s Commentary as well, they do so much more theoretically, than in William’s Expositio. Concerned with his pastoral role and addressing the communities he is responsible for, humilitas, as well as superbia, are not abstract concepts for William. Following Augustine, William described Paul himself as the perfectly humble servant of the Church, setting him up as an ideal to emulate. Humility requires steady practice. It is one expression of a larger, spiritual attitude towards life and one’s own human existence. As far as this definition goes, William does not necessarily stand out from the ranks of his monastic contemporaries. What makes his perspective so special is the fact that he applied the spiritual ideal of humility to intellectual matters. William was on a mission to eradicate the kind of pride he believed to be flourishing in the theological schools, more so than ordinary forms of vanity, so often discussed in medieval homilies. Superbia, as William defined it, is attributing to the human mind, what can only be rightfully attributed to divine grace. Whoever participates in it endangers both established orthodoxy and one’s own relationship with God. Throughout William’s work, it is this notion, which he relentlessly emphasized, primarily having his readers’ faith in mind. Superbia, especially the kind that suggests higher knowledge can be achieved through philosophical thought, was an immediate threat, not only to institutional order but to the personal spiritual health of his subordinates. When he claimed that it is the ‘reliability of communal hope’ that he saw corrupted by the teachings of Abelard,21 the spiritual dimension of their doctrinal disagreements became ultimately clear. William did not stress the importance of patristic agreement for the sake of their institutional authority, but for the sake of divine inspiration and grace, which the Fathers’ lives exemplify. It should therefore not be surprising that the Doctor of Grace served as William’s main source in his Commentary.22 Heresy, a sin close to that of superbia, seems rooted in a misunderstanding or open disregard for the role of grace in any kind of human endeavor. William understood the historical Augustine as a defender of grace against these kinds of heresies, just as he interpreted the historical Paul as a defender of humility against both Pagan and Jewish pride. The methodology he claimed to follow in his introduction – namely compiling patristic opinions – might seem more authentic in light of this exegetical foundation; rather than creating his own defense of grace, William had to give voice to those who had successfully done so before. 21 William, Opuscula (2007), 13: Cum enim fidem communis spei grauiter nimis et periculose corrumpi uideo, nullo resistente, nullo obloquente, quam Christus suo nobis sanguine sacrauit, pro qua apostoli et martyres usque ad mortem pugnauerunt, quam sancti doctores duris laboris suis et magnis sudoribus defensam, integram et incorruptam usque ad faeces temporum nostrorum transmiserunt, contabesco in memetipso, et a frixura cordis et dolore spiritus cogor pro ea loqui, pro qua, si necesse et opportunum uellem etiam mori. 22 For an extensive study of Augustine’s influence on William’s spirituality and literary corpus, see David N. Bell, The Image and Likeness. The Augustinian Spirituality of William of Saint Thierry (Kalamazoo, 1984).

The Church Fathers’ Role in William of St Thierry’s Attacks on Peter Abelard


Although William’s and Abelard’s approaches fundamentally differ from one another in their evaluation of the ‘theological’ method, there is a striking similarity in their usage of authority. Abelard, using the lesser-known patristic statements to defend himself against his contemporary enemies, and William, referring to the same authorities in his attacks against perceived heresies, have one literary strategy in common. They introduced the Church Fathers as their witnesses into the courtroom scenes of their own time. Transcending time, historical figures act as allies and adversaries, often seeming to carry more theological weight than our actual twelfth-century authors did. In William’s case, his Disputatio against Abelard reads as a compilation of patristic positions, allowing him to act not as the plaintiff, but merely the defense. While his Commentary on Romans claimed to be an apology of grace, or rather the concept of grace put forward by Paul and Augustine, his Disputatio could be considered an apology of tradition. Abelard and William’s disagreement about the validity of theological endeavor is closely linked to their disagreement about the value and legitimacy of intellectual novelty. While it was part of Abelard’s self-perception as a philosophical scholar to discover inconsistencies not yet noticed by other thinkers and to develop his own point of view in regards to questions not yet unanswered, this pursuit of novel ideas was a thorn in William’s eyes. In his Disputatio against Abelard, he addressed Abelard’s problematic penchant for ‘new’ teachings even before mentioning any of the doctrinal disagreements on a level of content: For Peter Abelard, again, teaches new things and writes new things. His books cross the seas and leap over the Alps. His new sentences of faith and his new doctrines are being delivered through provinces and kingdoms. They are getting preached solemnly and are defended freely, to such an extent that they are said to have authority even in the Roman Curia.23

It is the idea of establishing new doctrines per se that is offensive to William, whose understanding of authority included not only the figures of Christian tradition, but the consensus of the Church – the curia, in particular. The notion of a single person, claiming to attain truth, a truth beyond, or even against the teachings of the Church as a whole, poses an epistemological problem. Authority, for William, was not a social construct. Rather, it was external evidence of divine inspiration. He therefore considered the doctrines, established over the course of Christian history and reaffirmed by contemporary Church authorities, to be verifiably inspired. Abelard’s attempts to deconstruct them with the human intellect and to teach noua dogmata was not only an affront to past and current Church authorities, but more so, an act of blasphemy. 23 William, Opuscula (2007), 13: Petrus enim Abaelardus iterum noua docet, noua scribit, et libri eius transeunt maria, transsiliunt Alpes, et nouae eius sententiae de fide, et noua dogmata per prouincias et regna deferuntur, celebriter praedicantur et libere defenduntur, in tantum ut in curia etiam Romana dicantur habere auctoritatem.



By such standards, however, Abelard’s statements, given their heterodox nature, are not divinely inspired. Consequentially, they are neither a matter of faith, nor a matter of knowledge: knowledge, here best conceptualized in the mystical sense, as expressing rightly ordered love of God. His opinions, although in some cases valid as such, have to remain precisely that: the mere opinions of an academic. As they do not come from God, they are to be considered no more than a scholastic guessing game. To claim truth for them, or to consider them in any way significant for the Christian faith, would be a gross overestimation of their content.24 Just as William had already established in his Commentary on Romans, his primary critique of Abelard was that of intellectual superbia: the wrongful assumption that he, as an individual, would have access to divine truth, which had not yet revealed itself to the whole of the Church. Novelty, as a sign of human pride, is sinful, no matter its doctrinal result. This observation could explain, in parts, why William did not get into the depths of Abelard’s doctrinal ‘errors’ in his Disputatio (nor in any other works). Denying the general validity of Abelard’s logical approach, William refrained from employing it to prove him wrong. William did not enter this fight by himself. Instead, he let an array of authoritative voices support his case. The Fathers, rather than being portrayed as historical figures, whose legacy needs to be defended, appear as William’s allies in the conflict. He made it clear, that when it comes to doctrinal matters, the Fathers are far better equipped than he himself to address heretical teachings. This is not William’s literary humility speaking, but rather his historical sensibility. The patristic era, as William understood it, was characterized by a fervent struggle for orthodoxy. As he was witnessing this struggle resurfacing in the teachings of Abelard and his students, William found himself in need of support. After all, what better support, than the Fathers who had once contributed to the very establishment of a Christian orthodoxy? In his Disputatio William chose his sources accordingly. Ambrose and Augustine are by far the most cited authors, with Augustine’s De fide and De Trinitate being the most referenced works. Quoting the Fathers, as mentioned before, almost like witnesses in a courtroom (where his Disputatio would end up shortly after its composition), William did not fail to mention their historical anti-heretical achievements, as though to stress their special qualification for the task. Just as Augustine had defended Christianity against the Manicheans, and Ambrose against the Arians, so they join forces with William to defend Christianity once again. In addition to supporting his own position against his opponents, the literary introduction of these ancient authors into his texts also 24

Ibid. 17: Absit enim ut hos fines habeat christiana fides, aestimationes scilicet siue opiniones academicorum sint aestimationes istae, quorum sententia est nichil credere, nichil scire, sed omnia aestimare.

The Church Fathers’ Role in William of St Thierry’s Attacks on Peter Abelard


served the purpose of aligning William with their authority. By expanding the concept of history, closely linking his contemporary conflicts with those of the past, William positioned himself on ‘the right side of history’. Conversely, of course, Abelard found himself on the wrong side of it. Throughout William’s Disputatio, Abelard’s name is aligned with those of various ancient heretics. William followed Ambrose in his liberal use of heretical classification. Just as Ambrose applied the term ariani to a variety of heterodox, non-Nicene groups, William too had to develop a broad understanding of the Arian heresy, in order to implicate Abelard’s teachings in this category of false doctrine. Lacking much differentiation, William defined the Arian heresy as any defamation regarding the divine nature of the Father and the Son.25 Referencing Abelard’s Theologia Scholarium I and the conception of the three divine names, which he presented there, William classified his position as Arian, and therefore suited to receive the Ambrosian criticism.26 Throughout his Disputatio, William rarely adapts or supplements the Fathers’ statements to fit his current context. In fact, he did not seem to consider the patristic circumstances different from his own in any significant way. The Fathers’ adversaries and his own simply were the same. This becomes especially apparent in chapter six of the Disputatio, when William addresses Abelard’s statements on free will. Reading the conflict against the backdrop of William’s Commentary on Romans, his passionate defense of grace, the topic of human agency in the history of salvation has a central role in the conflict. Maybe it was this sense of urgency William had felt for the question, which made him illustrate both Abelard’s and the Fathers’ positions as clearly opposed, with little room for interpretation. The chapter therefore contains very little original content. Instead, William simply gave voice to both theological positions, letting the stark contrast between the two speak for itself. The chapter begins with an extensive quotation from Abelard’s works. The reference itself, William must have thought, would demonstrate Abelard’s errors clear enough, without having to explain it in more detail. William’s only comment, rather than an actual engagement with Abelard’s statement, is a simple but brutal dismissal: Haec plane Pelagiana haeresis est.27 William saw no need to evaluate Abelard’s arguments, one by one, or in a more detailed manner. His position was identical with those anathematized centuries before. The orthodox refutation, therefore, had to be just as old as the 25

Ibid. 22: Ad quod tamen quid ibidem beatus Ambrosius dicat contra eos qui in natura diuinitatis Patris et Filii calumniabantur diversitatem, audiamus: ‘Cum’, inquit, ‘dico genitum, non proprietatem naturae sed significationem generationis expressi…’ 26 Ibid. 21: Contra hoc uero quod dicit impropria esse in Deo nomina Patris et Filii et Spiritus sancti, tamquam aliud significantia quam quod in nominibus ipsis sonat, hoc est contra Arianos beatus Ambrosius in libro De Spiritu sancto dicit: ‘Audis Filium Dei: aut dele nomen aut confitere naturam…’ 27 Ibid. 39.



heretical ideas themselves. The Saint Doctors, and William as well, had already written countless volumes and tractates against these errors.28 Fittingly, the rest of the chapter consists of various Augustinian quotes on the matter. After all, Augustine’s judgment of the case enjoyed more authority than William’s ever could. Setting Abelard’s position into the context of a conflict long passed and already won, allowed William to pass over further elaborations concerning its actuality. His uncommented rejection of some of these ideas, however, does not suggest that William is incapable of differentiation. While he classified some of Abelard’s teachings as mere reiterations of ancient heresies, he was acutely aware of the novel character of others. Since the innovative intention of Abelard’s theological endeavor was one of William’s major points of criticism, he acknowledged that certain aspects of Abelard’s thought clearly went beyond what others had claimed in the past. This is the case, for instance, in chapter three of the Disputatio, discussing Abelard’s pneumatology. William, reading in Abelard’s texts a degradation of the Holy Spirit, took special issue with the philosophical method that led Abelard to his conclusions. Abelard’s dialectical deconstruction of the Trinitarian doctrine, William feared, would eventually result in the destruction of the divine persons (destructio personarum).29 Consequentially, he did not attribute the complexity of Abelard’s arguments to its cleverness or academic integrity, but instead understood it as a plot, to obscure the simple truth of the Christian faith.30 In this case, the novelty of Abelard’s teaching seemed more important for William to emphasize than its association with historical teachings. He therefore contrasted the old (antiquae et uetustissimae ueterum) errors of Sabellius and Arius with Abelard’s new heresy, or worse, with the entirely ‘new God’ Abelard seemed to be proclaiming.31 Abelard’s distortion of the orthodox faith, according to William, amounted to nothing less than a new religion. What Abelard and his students therefore viewed as progress in the philosophical science was an entirely different, nonChristian kind of thought for William: one that was no longer an obedient 28 Ibid. 39-40: Haec plane Pelagiana haeresis est. Contra quam quantis librorum uoluminibus, quantis tractatibus a sanctis doctoribus, Augustino, Hieronymo multisque aliis pugnatum est, et quomodo iam olim ab ecclesiae liminibus et fidelium cordibus anathematizata est, neminem arbitror ignorare qui uel leuiter diuinorum librorum familiarem habuerit lectionem. 29 Ibid. 23: Proponit ergo in unitate diuinae essentiae non tam distinctionem, sicut ipse promittit, quam destructionem, sicut ipse promittit, quam destructionem personarum, demonstrare uolens ex his quae de materiae et formae dixerunt consistere philosophi, seriem diuinae generationis, scilicet quid sit Filium esse, uel genitum esse de Patre. 30 Ibid. 24: Haec est noua noui theologi theologia de Patre et Filio, sanctam christianae fidei simplicitatem alienis uestiens exuuiis reluctantem, et obscuriorem efficiens, dum nititur facere clariorem. 31 Ibid. 26: Sed haereses istae antiquae et uetustissimae ueterum sunt. Quod autem homo dialecticus sic agit de Deo Patre ac Filio, sicut de materia et materiato, cum huiusmodi omnia longe ab illa substantia sint, et quod Filium ex Patre quasi speciem praedicat ex genere, haec noua haeresis prorsus et propria eius est, et in hoc, sicut de Paulo dicebant Athenienses, ipse, ut mitius loquamur, nouorum deorum annuntiator apparuit in mundo.

The Church Fathers’ Role in William of St Thierry’s Attacks on Peter Abelard


reflection of the Divine, as it had revealed itself to humanity in the Holy Scriptures, but instead was striving for the kind of knowledge God had intentionally kept concealed from the human mind. William’s aversion to the task of theologia is founded in a fundamentally different understanding of the role human agency could play in the search for God. Rather than attempting to define the limits of knowledge based on intellectual curiosity, by asking a particular set of questions, William assigned a more passive role to the human mind. The faithful Christian author does not produce theological content actively, but rather devotes his time to expounding what the Scriptures and Church authorities have already stated about God. To be more precise: the Christian author ought to be a reader first. The following Ambrosian quote William employed to reprimand Abelard is therefore representative of William’s more general intellectual program: Hear the Son of God: Either erase the name or profess the nature. Why would you take pleasure in the torments of questions? I am allowed to know of the Son of God that he was born, but not how he was born.32

Knowledge is a matter of divine generosity. While humanity is granted some insight into the divine mystery, by means of revelation, some more specific knowledge of God remains beyond the epistemological limitations. The kind of knowledge that is accessible for the human mind is factual, rather than theoretical. As the Ambrosian reference states, the fact of the incarnation is an object of revelation, while its metaphysical circumstances are not. Well before its time, Ambrose seems to have addressed the scholastic curiosity, and placed it within a context of sinful hubris. William used the Fathers’ authority, not only to determine orthodox doctrine, but also to establish orthodox methodology. The kind of questions the emerging school of theology showed interest in lie beyond what God had allowed humans to know. Adhering to these patristic guidelines of permissible insight, William has made himself subject to the later critique of willful ignorance. Abelard’s conscious transgression of these clerically imposed limitations, on the other hand, made historians celebrate him as a pioneer of the modern ideal of free thought. This aspect of the conflict, however, is not merely a problem of historiography. These tendencies displayed in their thought were already clear to the protagonists themselves and crucially shaped their perception of the social and political roles they each had to play. Although William, of course, did not see himself as a reactionary, but rather a defender of spiritual discipline and Christian truth, the conservative intention behind his works is undeniable. Abelard himself was among the first to raise against him the accusations and ridicule, that he would later receive from philosophers and historians alike. Contributing to his own defense, Abelard accused William (and the supporters 32 Ibid. 21: Audis Filium Dei: aut dele nomen aut confitere naturam. Quid te quaestionum tormenta delectant? Mihi licet scire de Filio Dei quod natus est, non licet scire quomodo natus est.



of his position) of an inability to truly grasp the complexity of his arguments. The attacks against him, according to Abelard’s perception, were fueled by envy and instigated by contemporaries who simply could not keep up with him.33 His usage of authorities to support his claims was a superficial defense against those who lacked the intellectual curiosity to engage with the logical depth of his works.34 Indeed, we find in William’s works such an unwillingness to engage: both in his Disputatio, which contains very little original thought or logical refutation of Abelard’s position, and in his exegetical works, which largely steers away from doctrinal discourse and controversy. William’s Commentary on Romans perfectly represents this. Although William appears to have avoided metaphysical questions when possible, the Biblical text and its history demanded at least a minimal engagement with such topics. A central theme, he could not simply pass over untouched, was the topic of the Trinity. Rather than proposing a logical and dialectical defense of orthodox faith, however, William dealt with the topic in long passages, consisting almost entirely of Augustinian quotations.35 But to agree, in light of this, with Abelard’s claim that this methodology is no more than the makeshift solution of a monk, not up to the task of philosophical inquiry, would dismiss the idealistic self-perception that was guiding William’s project. William’s, and Bernard’s, campaign against Abelard and his followers was not a personal attack, but the fight against the task of theologia and a defense of divine revelation, or in other words, the fight against human superbia and the defense of humility and divine grace. Their accusations against the scholastic method were inextricably interwoven with the Cistercian reform they were propagating. Their focus of interest was not on the discussion of doctrinal details, but on the spiritual health and social integrity of the communities entrusted to them. William’s refusal to engage with Abelard’s doctrines on a philosophical level was a refusal to condone such thought through his own participation. Abelard’s desire to ask certain questions was seen as ultimately more detrimental to the communal faith than the answers he was giving. Thus, rather than refuting Abelard’s claims, William considered it his mission to eradicate their very root: namely, the dialectic approach to theology and the intellectual curiosity that had sparked it.

33 A sentiment he expressed, for instance, in regards to his conflict with William of Champeaux. E.g., Abelard, Historia calamitatum (2011), 64: Hinc calamitatum mearum quae nunc usque perseuerant coeperunt exordia et, quo amplius fama extendebatur nostra, aliena in me succensa est inuidia. 34 Abelard, Historia calamitatum (2011), 64: Ego autem subjeci hoc non esse novellam sed ad presens nichil attinere, cum ipse verba tantum, non sensum, requisisset; si autem sensum et rationem attendere vellet, paratum me dixi ei ostendere secundum ejus sententiam quod in eam lapsus esset heresim secundum quam is qui pater est sui ipsius filius sit. 35 William, Exposé (2011), 222-34.

Pico della Mirandola’s Defense of Origen and his Scholastic Sources Jeffrey C. WITT, Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore, MD, USA

ABSTRACT This article looks at Pico della Mirandola’s defense of the claim that it is more rational to believe that the Church Father, Origen, is saved rather than damned. Pico’s defense of Origen involves a close consideration of the nature of meritorious belief, the power of the will over the intellect, and what it means (or ought to mean) to be counted among the Christian faithful. Many scholars have seen in Pico’s defense of Origen signs of an emerging humanistic notion of belief and heresy distinct from a so-called scholastic position, with the account of Amos Edelheit (2008) being perhaps the most recent and most forceful representative of this position. In this article, I argue that Pico’s defense of Origen and subsequent definition of heresy, rather than representing a departure from the scholastic tradition, can readily be found with the scholastic tradition, and further, that Pico, in key textual passages, is drawing on scholastic sources.

I. Introduction The broad interest of this article is with changing conceptions of heresy within the church, how definitions of heresy are used to define who exists within a community and who exists without. Accordingly, shifts in the definition heresy can tell us a lot about a community’s own self-identification. As part of this work, I became interested in one the claims made by Pico della Mirandola about the long-standing controversy over the orthodox status of Origen,1 the subsequent accusation of heresy against Pico for this opinion, and Pico’s lengthy response to these accusations with his own definition of heresy. In the course of reading this discussion, I came across a contemporary analysis of Pico’s treatment of Origen by Amos Edelheit, who sees in Pico’s account of heresy and defense of Origen a key indicator of the dawn of humanism against the backdrop of a fading scholasticism. 1 For a description of early controversy over Origen’s orthodoxy see Jaroslav Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition: 100-600 (Chicago, 1977), and Mark Edwards, Catholicity and Heresy in the Early Church (Farnham, 2009). For a broader introduction to Origen and his place within the Church, see Ronald E. Heine, Origen: Scholarship in the Service of the Church (Oxford, 2011), and id., Origen: An Introduction to His Life and Thought (Eugene, OR, 2019).

Studia Patristica CV, 53-65. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



I would like to add to this discussion by looking more closely at Pico’s defense of Origen and his scholastic inheritance, ultimately challenging Edelheit’s thesis and showing that Pico’s defense of Origen, rather than clearly marking a break with the scholastic tradition, is squarely centered within it. II. Pico’s claim, accusation, and defense In 1486, Pico organized a public disputatio in Rome and disseminated in advance 900 theses to be discussed. Prior to the event itself, critics, having reviewed his theses, began to raise concerns.2 The criticism eventually garnered enough momentum to warrant an inquiry. The inquiry resulted in thirteen theses that were either suspect or condemned. For the moment it is the sixth thesis that occupies our concern: ‘It is more rational to believe that Origen is saved, than to believe that he is damned’.3 Pico’s interest in Origen has been the subject of scholarship for some time. For example, Eugenio Garin, in 1937, argued that Pico saw himself in Origen, and thus by defending Origen, he was defending himself, particularly with reference to Origen’s ‘denial of eternal punishment, his allegorical interpretation of scripture, and his personal christology’.4 Further, William Cravin notes that Garin’s position was considerably influential and became a fixture of Pico studies as it was repeated throughout the twentieth century by the likes of Pierre Marie Cordier, Giuseppe Saitta, and later Edgar Wind.5 All things considered, the condemned thesis feels fairly moderate. Pico’s own formulation appears even cautious and timid. Nevertheless, among the 900 theses asserted by Pico, it was one of the thirteen that the inquiry singled out as problematic. As Pico reports, his accusers viewed this thesis as: Impudent, to be refuted, smacking of heresy, [and] being contrary to the declarations of the Church.6

Why did this tentative and cautious thesis in support of Origen raise such concern among the inquisitors? More recent scholarship has become less convinced about Garin’s assertion of any strong identity between the doctrinal 2 Paul Richard Blum, ‘Pico, Theology, and the Church’, in M.V. Dougherty (ed.), Pico Della Mirandola: New Essays (Cambridge, 2008), 37-60, 38. 3 Ibid. 39-40 (Blum’s translation). 4 As summarized by William G. Craven, Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola Symbol of his Age (Geneva, 1981), 49; see also Eugenio Garin, Giovannni Pico della Mirandola: vita e dottrina (Firenze, 1937), 141. 5 W.G. Craven, Giovanni (1981), 49; see Pierre M. Cordier, Jean Pic de la Mirandole, ou la plus pure figure de l’humanisme chrétien (Paris, 1959), 72; Giuseppe Saitta, Il pensiero italiano nell’Umanesimo e nel Rinascimento, vol. 1: L’Umanesimo (Bologna, 1949), 594; Edgar Wind, ‘The revival of Origen’, in Dorothy Miner (ed.), Studies in Art and Literature for Belle Da Costa Greene (Princeton, 1954), 412-24, 414. 6 P.R. Blum, ‘Pico, Theology, and the Church’ (2008), 40 (Blum’s translation).

Pico della Mirandola’s Defense of Origen and his Scholastic Sources


positions of Pico and those of Origen.7 Rather, Craven suggests that Pico likely wanted to make a larger point about the nature of heresy and to draw a distinction between the legitimate role of condemning heretical dogma and pronouncing judgments about the eternal fate of individuals, which, for Pico, lies beyond the power of the Church. The choice to focus on Origen, therefore, may have more to do with the fact that the controversy over Origen’s status has considerable precedent and that the condemned nature of certain positions was well known.8 Thus, in arguing for the rationality of believing in Origen’s personal salvific status, Pico’s readers would see clearly that he is arguing for a strong limit to the Church’s jurisdiction. Disputation 7 of his Apologia is where Pico develops his response. At its heart, the response focuses on identifying what it means for a person to be ‘heretical’ and why it is rational to believe that Origen (and, as we will see, other patristic authors) escapes this label, despite holding theological beliefs that are legitimately condemned by the Church. It is this discussion that has often attracted attention the scholars of humanism, who in varying degrees suggest that Pico is here breaking with the scholastic tradition and setting the stage for a new era of tolerance.9 In this regard, Amos Edelheit’s account of Pico’s defense of Origen stands out because of the forcefulness with which he identifies Pico’s definition of heresy with a rejection of the scholastic tradition in favor of a ‘new humanistic theology’. Edelheit’s account is therefore worth a brief look. III. Edelheit and the Birth of Humanism Edelheit’s description of Pico’s ‘new’ position on faith and heresy begins with his account of the so-called ‘scholastic’ position on faith and heresy. He describes the general scholastic position as a view that identifies faith with a special kind of cognitive assent. Faith is assent to a proposition that cannot be demonstrated, but can only be supported by probable reasons, and in this regard is similar to the cognitive assent known as an ‘opinion’. But this assent is also special, and therefore distinguishes itself from an ‘opinion’, because it is commanded and forced by the will and therefore has the force and certainty normally proper to scientific assent alone.10 7

See W.G. Cravin, Giovanni (1981), 62. W.G. Cravin, Giovanni (1981), 62, for example, points us to Robert de Courson’s De Salvatione Originis as thirteenth-century prototype for similar discussions. 9 Cravin sees this suggestion in Edgar Wind. However, in opposition W.G. Cravin, Giovanni (1981), 63, writes: ‘[Pico] does not show any awareness of them, and certainly does not develop any ‘philosophy of tolerance’ as claimed by Edgar Wind’. 10 See, for example, Amos Edelheit’s description of the so-called Scotist position in, Ficino, Pico and Savonarola. The Evolution of Humanist Theology 1461/2-1498 (Leiden, Boston, 2008), 285: a position that he says Pico aims to avoid by departing from the scholastic tradition. By the 8



Important here for Edelheit’s reading is the logical consequence: giving assent to a false religious proposition or conversely failing to assent to a true religious proposition is not just a cognitive failure, but a direct consequence of a failure of the will or a clear sign that one lacks the ‘infused faith’ necessary for salvation. Whatever the case, because the will is expected to compel the intellect, a direct line can be drawn from a cognitive failure to the will’s stubborn refusal to obey a divine command, and subsequently to the damned status of one’s soul. In the case of Origen: if Origen died while holding a heretical position, the Church can do more than simply condemn the doctrines he held. Based on the above reasoning, it can justifiably conclude that he himself is damned. To be fair to Edelheit, we must certainly acknowledge that this is a definition of faith that can readily be found within the scholastic tradition. The response to Pico’s Apologia by Pedro Garcia even identifies it as the ‘common opinion’.11 Nevertheless, by the end of this article I hope it will be clear that this position was often regarded by many scholastic thinkers as extreme, rather than common, such that disagreeing with it can hardly be characterized as breaking with the scholastic tradition. Nevertheless, this seems to be the claim Edelheit wants to insist on. He goes on to state that Pico’s main intention in the Apology was to problematize this ‘scholastic’ definition of faith and to propose a new relationship between opinion and faith. He writes: The critique was aimed at confronting the Church and demanding a decision on a vast range of opinions, in order to a produce a historical critical perspective, which emphasized that these opinions had arisen in different cultural contexts, rather that deriving directly from faith. This is a deliberately extreme position, taken in order to create a problem for scholastic theology. The multiplicity of differing and often contradictory opinions was also a criticism: these were all opinions, which needed to be sorted out. Above all, the relationship between opinion and faith had to be reexamined.12

And even more forcefully he writes: Pico’s book is not yet another work of scholastic theology. Indeed, his aim is to question the very basis of scholastic theology...13

And somewhat ironically, given the conclusion of this article, he writes: [Pico’s position] was founded on a new method of theology and drew on texts and notions which were almost completely unknown to scholastic theologians.14 end of this article we hope it is clear that there are good reasons to think that Pico’s avoidance of what here is labeled the ‘Scotist position’ is not a departure from the scholastic tradition, but rather very much dependent on it. 11 For example, see Pedro Garcia, Determinationes magistrales (Rome, 1489), fol. D.v.v. See also W.G. Cravin, Giovanni (1981), 63 and n. 59. 12 A. Edelheit, Ficino, Pico and Savonarola (2008), 289. 13 Ibid. 283. 14 Ibid. 285 (emphasis mine). See below, p. 61-2, for the discussion of scholastic dependence.

Pico della Mirandola’s Defense of Origen and his Scholastic Sources


According to Edelheit, Pico repeatedly points out the difficulty that the average believer has in figuring out how to be faithful, since the Church’s own doctors so often disagree. In this case, one does not even know to which propositions he or she should grant unhesitating assent. Pico is introducing a serious problem: how can believers know which opinion is dangerous to them? If two theologians multum discordant on this matter, how can we expect to define what is heretical.15

This fact leads Pico to defend the following claim: one can acquit Origen of heresy, if they can show that their opinion is probable or plausible; in other words, if they can show that it has the appearance of truth. This is where the supposed new shift in the understanding of faith and opinion is supposed to take place. Faith and opinion should no longer be seen as rival kinds of assent. Nor should faith be seen as a special kind of indubitable opinion, forced by the will. On the contrary, one can be considered faithful simply by holding a plausible opinion that may or may not turn out to be true. But this leads to the follow up question. Does this not render everyone faithful who can show some plausibility to their belief? And therefore doesn’t this render the distinction between orthodoxy and heresy meaningless? Pico is said to avoid this problem by redefining faith and heresy outside of the bounds of cognitive assent and relocating it in the will in a new way, i.e. in isolation and distinction from the ultimate correctness or incorrectness of the assent in question. Pico then applies this definition of heresy to the case of Origen.16 Even granting that Origen held many erroneous opinions about the faith, strictly speaking, if there was no stain in his will, then this is not able to be used as an argument for the damnation of his soul.17

Edelheit summarizes his position as follows. A heretic, then, is not someone who has erred in his intellect, but rather someone who has had malice and perversity in his will.18

And correlatively, we can say that, one cannot conclude from an error in the intellect that there is malice or perversity in the will. Pico writes: ... therefore, granted that Origen erred both in many things and in foundational things, nevertheless if his will was well disposed, and in no way stained, nothing impeded his salvation. And thus for those who wish to conclude that he was damned, it does not 15

A. Edelheit, Ficino, Pico and Savonarola (2008), 299. See Edelheit’s discussion of this beginning, ibid. 336. 17 Pico, Apologia (1557), 213: Quod dato etiam, quod Origenes multas et plurimas habuerit opiniones erroneas in fide, hoc praecise, si in voluntate eius nulla fuit macula, aliquo modo non potest esse argumentum, quod anima eius sit damnata. 18 A. Edelheit, Ficino, Pico and Savonarola (2008), 340. 16



suffice that they show his errors, and his persistence in them, it is necessary that they show persistence with pertinacity, or negligence, or another malice of the will.19

And Edelheit again more or less quotes Pico verbatim here to make his point: Heresy and mortal sin are thus connected not to debilitas et defectus intellectus but rather to perversitas, negligentia, pertinacia, quaecumque alia malicia in voluntate.20

For the present, it is sufficient to summarize Edelheit’s description of Pico’s ‘new humanist theology’, as it pertains to his view on faith and heresy. Pico looks around at the diversity of theological opinions and concludes that faith cannot and should not be classified as a special kind of assent to or voluntarily chosen opinion about the ‘correct’ theological conclusion. Origen therefore should not be condemned because he justly asserted opinions, that though wrong, had probable support, and he held them with no malice or stubbornness against the teaching of the Church. In sum, Edelheit sees Pico’s downplaying of the will’s role in cognitive assent as a way to break the direct line between cognitive failure and moral failure. In this regard, one cannot automatically conclude from a cognitive mistake that the soul in question has stubbornly rejected the Church or lacks the infused faith necessary for salvation. The identification of a heretic requires a direct examination of the will; an assessment of the soul’s attitude and response toward that which appears to them to be a proposition of true religion.21 IV. Revising Edelheit Finally, let us consider why Edelheit’s thesis should be revised. The simple answer is that Pico’s definition of heresy is neither new nor anti-scholastic. In what follows, I will show not only that Pico’s definition of heresy and his defense of Origen has precedents in the scholastic tradition, but will also demonstrate that Pico is pulling his response directly and consciously from scholastic sources. The most direct source I have in mind is from the opening question of Robert Holcot’s Sentences commentary written in the 1330s. First let us identify a few 19 Pico, Apologia (1557), 213: ... ergo etiam, quod Origenes et in multis erraverit, et in principalioribus illa tamen, si fuit voluntas eius bene disposita, et nullo modo maculata, nihil impedivit eius salutem. et ita qui volunt convincere damnationem eius, non sufficit quod ostendant errores eius, et perseverantiam in eis: sed oportet, quod ostendant perseverantiam, cum pertinacia, aut negligentia, vel alia malitia voluntatis. 20 A. Edelheit, Ficino, Pico and Savonarola (2008), 340. 21 More subtle forms of this characterization of the divide between scholasticism and humanism can be found, for example, in P.R. Blum, ‘Pico, Theology, and the Church’ (2008), 46-7, who writes: ‘With that we come to a second implication of Pico’s transformation of scholasticism, which one could term the inherent fallibility of human discourse: heresy is anthropologically inevitable and thus legally impossible’ (emphasis mine).

Pico della Mirandola’s Defense of Origen and his Scholastic Sources


key characteristics of Holcot’s opinion, demonstrating its striking similarity to the position held by Pico, then we can turn to the reasons why Holcot’s work should not just be seen as similar to Pico’s, but ought to be seen as a direct textual source. A. Holcot’s Position The heart of Holcot’s infamous position is that human beings do not have the capacity to will themselves to believe anything.22 To illustrate: can you force yourself to truly believe that there is an unicorn sitting next to you, despite the evidence to the contrary? Holcot does not believe you can do this, no matter how hard you wish to do so. For him it is phenomenologically impossible. For Holcot this applies also to the articles of faith. But he then has a problem; how does one make sense of the many biblical passages that appear to command belief? If the will cannot command cognitive judgment, how can the Bible demand belief as a moral command?23 Holcot’s answer requires a redefinition of the term ‘belief’ as it is used in these biblical commands; a re-definition that is eerily similar to the account of ‘belief and heresy’ that Edelheit attributes to Pico as evidence of his rejection of the scholastic tradition. In explaining the biblical command to believe, Holcot distinguishes three meanings of the word ‘to believe’. The first two are more common and have to do with cognitive assent. But consistent with his overall position, he notes that the will does not have influence here and thus this is not the meaning of belief used in the biblical passages under question. Instead, he introduces a third definition: this sense of belief is strictly speaking... ... to wish to live and to act according to those things [that are believed to be] revealed God and [believed to be] testified through miracles.24

And again, even more forcefully: [it is] to wish to assent, or to wish to accept the assent, or to wish to rejoice about the assent.25 22

See also John T. Slotemaker and Jeffrey C. Witt, Robert Holcot (Oxford, 2016), 40-63. Precisely the kind of question critics like Garcia ask. See for example Pedro Garcia, Determinationes magistrales (Rome, 1489), fol. F.ii.v: si credere non esset in libera potestate hominis: tunc credere non caderet sub praecepto: quod est contra Apostolum Ad hebraeos. XI, qui praecipit quod “accedente ad Deum oportet credere”. Et Saluator Math. ultimo,. “Qui non crediderit condemnabitur.” 24 Robert Holcot, In quatuor libros Sententiarum quaestiones, I, q.1, a. 6 (Lyon, 1518), fol. a.5vb: modo accipitur credere strictissime pro assentire revelato a deo et testimonio per miracula: et velle vivere et operari secundum ea... 25 Ibid. Similiter potest dici quod velle assentire vel acceptare assensum vel gaudere de assensu est meritorium. 23



From this he concludes that infidelity is not strictly speaking assenting to the wrong proposition, but... not wanting to believe what the Church believes, or to not wish to live according to [what appears to him to be] the precepts of faith ... [thus] not every error about those things that pertains to faith is the sin of infidelity or heresy.26

Why not? Holcot answers: If we posit that someone has the general wish to believe [that is, to follow and rejoice in] whatever it is they believe the Holy Spirit has revealed to the Church for belief, and under this disposition they erroneously assent to something that opposes some subtle article ... they are not a heretic or infidel...27

Thus like Pico, Holcot seems at pains to show that being faithful and orthodox has far more to do with the attitude of one’s will toward what plausibly appears to be the teachings of the Church than with the actual content of one’s cognitive assent. But let us pause here for a moment, as this is the beginning of the critical passage that, as we will see below, leads us directly to an important parallel passage in Pico. B. Reasons to see Holcot as Source Beyond the similarity of positions, there are good reasons to believe that Holcot was the direct textual source of Pico’s position and the description of that position in his Apologia. Thus, Edelheit’s claim – that Holcot’s position ‘was founded on a new method of theology and drew on texts and notions which were almost completely unknown to scholastic theologians’28 – needs qualification. Let me start with a notable piece of circumstantial evidence before providing two more direct proofs. 1) First, posterity had already attached Holcot’s name both to this unique position on the impotence of the will to command assent and to his unique identification of heresy with the will’s attitude toward beliefs believed to be orthodox rather than with the actual orthodoxy of the belief itself. Several 26 Ibid. fol. a.6vb: infidelitas est nolle credere quae ecclesia credit: vel nolle vivere secundum fidem id est secundum praecepta fidei…. Non omnis autem error in iis quae fidei sunt est peccatum infidelitatis vel haeresis. 27 Ibid. Quia posito quod aliquis in generali velit credere omnia quae spiritus sanctus revelavit ecclesiae esse credenda: et sub hac fide credat errando contineri quoddam oppositum alicui articulo subtili: ad cuius fidem explicitam non omnes tenentur. Et per consequens si adhaereat illi: habens tamen promptum animum credendi ea sola quae ecclesia credit talis non est haereticus nec infidelis... (See the continuation of this quotation below on p. 62). 28 A. Edelheit, Ficino, Pico and Savonarola (2008), 285.

Pico della Mirandola’s Defense of Origen and his Scholastic Sources


scholastic texts can affirm this (e.g., by Hugolino of Orvieto, Peter Gracilis, or Peter Plaoul), but I will focus here on just one that, through the chance survival of historical documents, we know was read by those within Pico’s immediate circle. The particular work I have in mind is a Sentences commentary written in 1393 by a secular Parisian Master named Peter Plaoul, 60 years after Holcot completed his own Sentences commentary.29 Thanks to the painstaking work of Parisian scholars, an edition of the circulation records at the Library of the Sorbonne has now been completed. And this library registrar indicates that Johannes Cordier borrowed the Sentences commentary of Plaoul on the sixth of January, 1476. We also know that the same work was later checked out by Johannes Lallier, in 1481. Cordier, who obtained his doctorate in theology in 1480, was a defender of Pico, and was probably arrested with him in 1488.30 Lallier was himself tried for heretical opinions in the 1480s; a sequence of events that Pico, being in Paris between July 1485 and March 1486, was able to witness first hand.31 Plaoul’s text itself includes the following brief but important remarks about Robert Holcot: The second position of Holcot is contrary to the first extreme: namely, that assent of faith is generated in no other way than by reason’s compulsion of the intellect, which is not attracted to the opposite; further to believe the articles is not meritorious because it is not in the free power of the will, since believing the articles, whenever it occurs, is necessitated.32

Importantly, we can here see that the position marked out by Edelheit and Garcia as the ‘common’ scholastic position, is already regarded by Plaoul in 29 In Jeffrey C. Witt, ‘Peter Plaoul’s Lecture Commentary on the Sentences: a Canonical Ordered List of Lectures’, Manuscripta 58.2 (2014), 159-270, I have provided a detail account of Plaoul’s lectures in the surviving witnesses and provided a numbering system to allow easy navigation of these witnesses. In the following refences and citations to Plaoul, I will use this numbering system, along with the SCTA ( identifier for the relevant paragraph, and folio references to a representative witness, Reims, Bibliothèque Municipale, Ms. 506 (= R). 30 Zenon Kaluza, ‘Les débuts de l’Albertisme tardif (Paris et Cologne)’, in Maarten J.F.M Hoenen and Alain de Libera (eds), Albertus Magnus und der Albertismus. Deutsche philosophische Kultur des Mittelalters (Leiden, Boston, 1995), 207-95, 284. See Thomas Sullivan, Parisian Licentiates in Theology, AD 1373-1500. A Biographical Register. Volume II: The Secular Clergy (Leiden, Boston, 2011), 170. On Cordier, see P.R. Blum, ‘Pico, Theology, and the Church’ (2008), 39 and the sources by cited in 39, n. 12. 31 T. Sullivan, Parisian Licentiates in Theology (2011), 307; see A. Edelheit, Ficino, Pico and Savonarola (2008), 284, n. 5. 32 Petrus Plaoul, Lectio 1, n. 5 ( (fol. R 1r): Secunda est Holcot, primae extremae contrariatur, scilicet, quod assensus fidei nullo modo generatur, nisi per rationem cogentem intellectum, non affectatum ad oppositum; et ultra credere articulis non est meritorium, quia non est in libera potestate voluntatis, quia quis ad credendum articulis necessatur quandoque.



1393 as ‘extreme’ in contrast to the extreme position at the other end of the spectrum held by Holcot. And again, Plaoul writes: In the fourth place it follows that Holcot was wrong when he says that those with sanctity of life make errors in the faith and do not have faith in that which they are expressly obligated to hold, as it appears in the case of Cyprian and many others, who held many heresies and nevertheless were saints.33

2) This last quotation from Plaoul, and the combined reference to Holcot’s position, and the identification of Cyprian as example of someone who, like Origen, is ultimately saved while holding an erroneous belief, leads us beyond circumstantial evidence to the most direct and decisive piece of evidence for Pico’s indebtedness to Holcot. The reference to Cyprian by Plaoul is a curtailed reference to a key passage in the text of Holcot which connects heresy to the stubbornness of the will, rather than an error in cognitive assent. In this passage he intends to provide anecdotal proof of the larger claim he is making and provides the continuation of the elided passage quoted above:34 … Whence Vincentius in the second part of his Mirror of History narrates how Bishop Helinandus alleged that some Bishop of Asia, who was called Papias, was the author of some heresies, which were about the chiliasm or the millennium, and according to Papias, he said that after a thousand years man would be with Christ in a corporeal body and would enjoy him in a bodily state. And not withstanding the fact that Papias was the author of these heresies, he is not listed among the heretics, but among the saints in the Martyrology. Similarly Hiereneus of Lugdunum and Victorinus of Petavia, each of who followed Papias, are nevertheless thought to be the most glorious martyrs. Similarly blessed Cyprian erred concerning whether heretics should be re-baptized. And yet these errors are not imputed against the aforesaid saints because they do not come from stubbornness (pertinacia), but from simplicity.35 33 Ibid. lectio 82, n. 8 ( (fol. R 129r): Quarto sequitur contra Holcot dicentem quod stat aliquos cum sanctitate vitae errare in fide et non habere fidem ad quam expresse tenetur, ut apparet de Cypriano et multis aliis, qui tenuerunt multas haereses, et nihilominus fuerunt sancti. Plaoul’s own response is as follows: quibus respondendum quod si tenuerunt haereses, hoc fuit quia non erant pro tunc in caritate, scilicet, ante eorum sanctitatem, ut Petrus, qui peccavit et David et post ea iustificari sunt. Ibid. lectio 82, n. 9 ( (fol. R 129r). 34 See above p. 60. 35 Holcot, In quatuor libros Sententiarum, I, q.1, a.6 (1518), fol. K.a.vivb: ... Unde Vincentius [Bellovacensis] in secunda parte Speculi Historialis narrat allegando Helinandum Episcopum de quodam Episcopo Asiae, qui dicebatur Papias, qui fuit auctor haereticorum, qui dicuntur chiliastae, id est, millenarii illi secundum Papiam dixerunt quod homo per mille annos foret cum Christo in vita corporali, et frueretur corporis voluptate. Et tamen non obstante quod iste Papias sic erat istorum auctor; non inter haereticos, sed inter sanctos in martyrologio computatur. Similiter Hyreneus Lugdunensis et Victorinus Pictavensis quorum uterque praedictum Papiam sequuntur; gloriosi tamen martyres extiterunt, similiter beatus Cyprianus de haereticis rebaptizandis erravit,

Pico della Mirandola’s Defense of Origen and his Scholastic Sources


With this passage in mind, we can turn back to the text from the Apology, which Pico intends to function as historical support for his similar definition of heresy. We need to note here that the following passage from Pico is one of the very passages quoted by Edelheit as decisive evidence of Pico’s ‘new humanist theology’. Therefore, I have used the translation of Pico provided by Edelheit: That not absolutely any error of the intellect makes man heretical but it is necessary that malice and perversity would be in the will. Therefore Augustine said: I can make an error [but] I cannot be a heretic. This is confirmed by decision of the universal Church, which canonized many who yet until [their] death persisted in [holding] wrong opinions in matters of faith and thereafter [those wrong opinions] were condemned as heretical by the Church, yet nowhere does one read that these opinions were retracted by those [many who held wrong opinions]. Such were Papias the bishop of Hieropolis, Victorinus of Piectava, Hiereneus of Lugdunum, the blessed Cyprianus, and many others who, we know, made a mistake in faith, and that their opinions were condemned as heretical, and still they are included in the canon of saints, whence it follows that it is necessary to say that either even they who died [believing] in those wrong opinions in faith, yet did not die in mortal sin; or that the Church had made a mistake in their canonization, since if they would say (as someone among those who opposed me said) responding that they perhaps had been wrongly canonized: then it is not I any longer but rather they whose opinions are contrary to the decision of the universal Church.36

One can see here that the same patristic quartet is at use to defend a very similar notion of heresy and infidelity. While Holcot goes unnamed here, it is clear that he is Pico’s source. 3) By way of conclusion, let me turn to a third and final piece of evidence that simultaneously confirms Pico’s deep familiarity with the position of Holcot and suggests that, in the end, Pico’s position on heresy and infidelity is even isti ergo errores praedictis sanctis non imputantur, quia non ex pertinacia, sed ex simplicitate erraverunt. 36 Pico, Apologia (1557), 213: Quod non praecise error intellectus, facit hominem haereticum, sed oportet quod sit malicia et perversitas in voluntate. Ideo dicebat Augustinus: Errare possum haereticus esse non possum. Confirmatur hoc ex determinatione universalis ecclesiae, quae multos canonizavit, qui tamen usque ad mortem perseveraverunt in erroneis opinionibus de fide, et deinde per ecclesiam pro haereticis reprobatis, quas opiniones nusquam legitur ab illis fuisse retractatas. Tales fuerunt Papias Episcopus Hieropolitanus, Victorinus Pictavensis, Hireneus Lugdunensis, beatus Cyprianus, et multi alii, quos scimus errasse in fide, et eorum opiniones pro haereticis condemnatas, et tamen ipsi habentur in canone sanctorum, ex quo sequitur, ut necessario dicendum sit, quod vel illi etiam, quod decesserint in illis opinionibus erroneis in fide, non tamen decesserint in illis opinionibus erroneis in fide, non tamen decesserint in peccato mortali, vel quod ecclesia erraverit in eorum canonizatione, quod si dixerint (ut etiam dixit quidam ex his qui me impugnabant) respondens. Quod ille forte non erant bene canonizati, iam non ego, sed ipsi sentiunt contra determinationem universalis ecclesiae (trans. A. Edelheit, Ficino, Pico and Savonarola [2008], 339-40).



much less radical than Holcot’s and actually falls within the mainstream of late-scholastic thinking. While Holcot remains unnamed as Pico’s source in disputation 7, in the very next disputatio Pico openly shows his familiarity with Holcot’s position. In this subsequent disputation, he defends a conclusion that he says really should be seen as a corollary to his earlier position. It just so happens that the corollary he has in mind is the foundational assertion made by Holcot, namely, that it is not in the power of the will to opine or believe something whenever one wishes. But in his explanation of this corollary, Pico actually distances himself from an interpretation that he associates with Holcot by name. He writes of Holcot: There was a certain doctor ... who held absolutely (simpliciter) that the act of believing is not free...37

Emphasis should be placed on Pico’s appreciation of the categorical nature of Holcot’s claim. And after a fairly nuanced description of Holcot’s division between types of belief, Pico identifies the precise point of contention: When miracles have been seen, Holcot intends that it is possible for the faithful to be compelled to belief, which is an opinion I do not believe to be true.38

Just like Plaoul then, he regards Holcot’s position as extreme. The heart of Pico’s positive position, then, lies in a moderated version of Holcot’s original thesis: this moderation amounts to saying, the will alone is not a sufficient condition for right belief, although it may still be involved. Before the will can prompt the intellect to assent to a proposition there must be motivating or probable reasons for that belief, and it lies outside of the will’s power to produce or block these motivating reasons. But this position is the fairly mainstream position that is visible in many scholastic reactions to Holcot’s position. Beyond the example of Plaoul, we can consider the response to Holcot’s position given by the Augustinian Huglino of Orvieto working at Paris in the late 1340s. Already, it has been said that in order that I may believe firmly that ‘something is in such and such a way’, many things are required. First, it must be entirely rational [plausible] that ‘such and such is true’, just as [the conclusion] proposes. In the second place, those twelve motivations mentioned earlier [are required] or something derived from these. Third, something that should be weighed carefully, [it is required] that God moves and anticipates and helps the will [i.e. cooperative grace], though he does not 37 Pico, Apologia (1557), 228: Et licet pro defensione conclusionis meae ista sufficiant, volo tamen et hoc dicere, quod fuit etiam aliquis Doctor, cuius ego, ut de me fatear damnationem in hoc articulo adhuc nusquam legi, qui simpliciter tenuit, quod actus credendi non esset et liber, hoc enim assertive tenuit Robertus Holcoth subtilissimus Doctor, ordinis Praedicatorum, in suo primo sententiarum. 38 Ibid. 229: non autem de fide primo modo accepta, quia per miracula visa, vult ipse posse fidelem necessitari ad credendum, quam opinionem ego non credo esse veram.

Pico della Mirandola’s Defense of Origen and his Scholastic Sources


compel. Then, when all these things are in place to help me, I generally concede that there is a freedom to assent that ‘something is in such and such a way’. Therefore [Holcot] proves nothing.39

In this passage, Hugolino is basically saying: no one thinks that our will could command us to believe in things that are patently false. Rather the claim is that when certain conditions are present – notably probable reasons that support (but do not demonstrate) the claim in question as well as God’s cooperative assistance – then we can choose or command our intellect to assent with the degree of conviction usually attributed to genuine faith (i.e. something more than a mere opinion). In fact, the will must be involved for us to assent at this level, since there is not enough ‘evidence’ to compel our intellect to assent. Similar middle positions are visible in the thoroughly scholastic commentaries of Henry Totting of Oyta (1370s),40 Peter Plaoul (1390s),41 and John Mair (1510).42 Thus, Pico seems to stand squarely within this scholastic tradition. V. Conclusion In conclusion, Pico’s treatment of Origen (and the patristic quartet listed in the critical passage above) may indeed counter and contradict a position held by a given scholastic thinker. However, one should guard against treating the scholastic tradition as a monolithic and uniform whole. What I hope we can see is that a clear diversity of opinion existed. Once this diversity is seen, it is further evident that the tolerant position toward Origen and the patristic quartet advanced by Pico is already present in similar and even more extreme forms among indisputably scholastic thinkers. Thus, scholastic thinkers were more than capable of defending Origen’s salvific status on their own, long before Pico came along. And contra Edelheit, Pico, far from rejecting the scholastic tradition, seems to be fully reliant upon it.

39 Hugolinus de Urbe Veteri, Commentarius in quattuor libros Sententiarum, ed. Willigis Eckermann (Würzburg, 1980-88), I, q.4, a.2 (I, 132): Iam dictum est, quod ad hoc, ut credam firmiter ‘sic esse’, plurima requiruntur. Primo scilicet, esse omnino rationabile, ‘sic verum esse’, ut proponitur. Secundo, habere motiva illa duodecim vel aliqua ex illis, de quibus supra. Tertio, quod perpendat, quod Deus moveat et praeveniat et adiuvet voluntatem, licet non cogat; et tunc generaliter concedo, quod ubi ista plurima dabit mihi concurrere, liberum erit assentire ‘sic esse’. Ideo nihil probat. Alia ratio facit pro prima conclusione et vera est. 40 See the attribution of this view to Oyta by Petrus Plaoul, Lectio 1, n.5 ( resource/l1-uaqriv) (fol. R 1r). 41 Ibid. 42 See John Mair, In primum sententarium (Paris, 1510), fol. 1rb-1va; id., In primum Sententiarum… (Paris, 1519), fol. 1rb-1va.

Augustinian Theology in Philosophical Ethics: John Mair’s Use of Augustine in his Commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics Ueli ZAHND, Geneva, Switzerland

ABSTRACT As one of the last books he produced, John Mair published in 1530 a huge commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Concerned with the challenges of his time – the intrascholastic quarrels, the humanist critique of scholasticism, and the Reformation – he dove into the writing of his commentary. He hoped to be able to reassure the traditional world view and approaches while arguing for an almost perfect concordance of Aristotle, the champion of natural reason, and the traditional catholic faith. In doing so, an important resource to test Aristotle’s orthodoxy was Augustine, such that the commentary became an interesting conglomerate of philosophical and patristic sources. This paper analyzes the presence of Augustine in the context of philosophical ethics, arguing that references to the Church Father were used quite flexibly, adapted to the goals of the commentary and going as far as to conceal the Augustinian authority of certain passages in order to show the conformity of Aristotle with Christian doctrine. Given the far-reaching presence of Augustine (and other Church Fathers) in this philosophical commentary, this paper also argues for the possible transmission of theological knowledge to Mair’s students of philosophy, which may have included John Calvin.

John Mair was an interesting figure, working in complicated times.1 In particular, he was at the crossroads of several large-scale debates that were on the cusp of recalibrating the intellectual landscape of the Latin Christendom. As a confident scholastic, Mair was in a continuous quarrel with the humanists of his time, even if he was receptive to their reacquisition of ancient sources and classical philosophy.2 Within scholasticism, he was an unambiguous advocate 1 For biographical information on Mair see the contribution of John T. Slotemaker in this volume, and James K. Farge, ‘John Mair. An Historical Introduction’, in John T. Slotemaker and Jeffrey C. Witt (eds), A Companion to the Theology of John Mair (Leiden, Boston, 2015), 13-22. 2 On Mair’s relation to humanism, see Ueli Zahnd, ‘Der Humanist und die Scholastiker: Alte Reaktionen auf ein Neues Testament’, ThZ 73 (2017), 275-98, 291-7, and id., ‘Terms, Signs, Sacraments: The Correlation between Logic and Theology and the Philosophical Context of Book IV of Mair’s Sentences Commentary’, in J.T. Slotemaker and J.C. Witt (eds), Companion to John Mair (2015), 241-87, 261-8 and 283-6.

Studia Patristica CV, 67-78. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



of nominalism, even if he actively tried to overcome the Wegestreit that had shaped the universities of the fifteenth century. And as a convinced catholic, he decidedly opposed the ‘grand band of pestilent heretics’ emerging from Germany, even if he approved of their pushing the theologians to put more emphasis on reading and explaining the Bible.3 Thus, while Mair advocated a clear and mainly scholastic position in a traditional sense, he was no stubborn scholastic, as the stereotype might suggest, but he was open to adopting, to a certain degree, the approaches of the new intellectual movements that emerged and gained importance at his time. Unsurprisingly, this attitude of merging different concerns with a scholastic approach is also present in Mair’s Ethics commentary. The commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics is the last work Mair published in his lifetime (even if he would live for another twenty years), and to a certain extent, this last printed work can be seen as the apogee of his oeuvre.4 It went to print in Paris in the summer of 1530, where it appeared as a huge folio volume extending to more than 350 pages,5 and, unlike most of the other works that Mair had revised and reedited during his 35 years of active teaching in Paris and Scotland, this was the only printed edition of the lectures he had developed on Aristotle’s moral philosophy.6 Given, however, that the whole commentary was written – as will become clear in the following – with the intention of defending Aristotle’s Ethics as the paramount guide to living a virtuous life (even a virtuous Christian life), Mair seemed to aim at achieving the reputed scholastic project of a philosophico-theological synthesis based on Aristotelian principles. Yet, in order to do so, Mair did not rely on one of the standard scholastic translations of the Nicomachean Ethics, as they had been employed in the 3 See John Mair, ‘Epistola dedicatoria’, in Commentarium in secundum Sententiarum (Paris, 1528), fol. Aa2r: Magna pestilentium haereticorum cohors cortice sacrorum fulta, quamquam abominabilia delyria invexit, hoc tamen boni (Domino sic volente, qui quorundam vitiis ad universi utitur decorum) suos inter errores attulit, ut sacris literis et illarum illustrationi theologiae professores syncerius insudarent, et aliena studia reiicerent. 4 Little research has been done so far on Mair’s commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics. See, however, Risto Saarinen, Weakness of Will in Renaissance and Reformation Thought (Oxford, 2011), 84-95, and on Mair’s ethics more generally, James F. Keenan, ‘John Mair’s Moral Theology and Its Reception in the 16th Century’, in J.T. Slotemaker and J.C. Witt (eds), Companion to John Mair (2015), 194-220. 5 John Mair, Ethica Aristotelis Peripateticorum principis, Cum Ioannis Maioris Theologi Parisiensis Commentariis. Vaenundantur, cuius prelo impressa sunt Iodoco Badio, et in societatem accepto Io[anne] Parvo (Paris, 1530). 6 It seems impossible to determine the years anymore, in which Mair lectured on the ethics. The available Parisian registers, at least, only speak in a very general manner that he taught the cursus artium (see James K. Farge, Students and Teachers at the University of Paris, the Generation of 1500: a Critical Edition of Bibliothèque de l’Université de Paris (Sorbonne), Archives, Registres 89 and 90 [Leiden, 2006], numbers 19, 43, 48, etc.). In addition, the textual traces of an actual lecture situation seem to have been omitted for the printed version, since I was not able to find any passages in which Mair directly addresses his students.

Augustinian Theology in Philosophical Ethics


medieval Aristoteles Latinus tradition.7 Rather, his edition was accompanied with one of the new humanist translations,8 namely the one by John Argyropulos who, after the defeat of Constantinople in 1453, had come to Florence, contributed to the emerging Renaissance culture with his knowledge of Greek philosophy and produced, among other things, new Latin translations of Aristotelian works.9 It is exclusively in his late Ethics commentary that Mair relied on one of these new translations. In regard to the humanists’ focus on practical philosophy, this seems an obvious acknowledgment of their concerns – even if Mair’s exposition itself would structurally remain in the speculative vain of traditional scholastic commentaries. For example, he used as the primary tools of commenting an expositio textus, followed by a set of dubia circa textus that revealed the traditional quaestio approach.10 Regarding content, however, the commentary abounds with examples from Roman history, with references to classical philosophy and philosophers, and with citations of classical poetry.11 If then, from the perspective of the humanism-scholasticism debate, the commentary is a kind of conglomerate, the same seems to be true for the aforementioned synthesis of a pagan’s philosophical ethics and Christian theology. For, as a scholastic nominalist philosopher, Mair had argued throughout his career for reducing the metaphysical overload that the Thomistic synthesis had 7 That is, most commonly, the Recensio recognita by Robert Grosseteste with the revisions of William of Moerbeke (Aristoteles Latinus, vol. 26.1-3.4, ed. R.A. Gauthier [Turnhout, 1973]). At some places, Mair also takes the translation of Leonardo Bruni into account (see the passages referred to at the beginning of the next footnote). 8 This was not just the printer’s decision (as one might suppose); see Mair’s discussion of different translations in Ethica II.3 (1530), fol. 22r; ibid. III.3, fol. 37r; or VIII.3, fol. 127r. In one of the passages discussed below (p. 74, n. 32), however, Mair refers to the Aristotelian text in a wording that seems closer to the Aristoteles Latinus tradition than to Argyropoulos’ translation: Mair wrote on fol. 104v: philosophus dicit, quod una prudentia existente inhaerebunt omnes, referring to Aristotle, Ethica Nicomachea VI 13.6, ed. Bekker 1145 a 2; Grosseteste had: simul enim prudencie uni existenti, omnes inerunt (Recensio recognita, ed. Gauthier [1973], 493), while Argyropulos translated: etenim cum prudentia quae est una, simul inerunt universae (in Mair’s Ethica, fol. 103v). It seems that Mair was so familiar with the text, that he referred to it in the typically scholastic wording, even if he had Argyropoulos’ text at hand. 9 He dedicated these translations to members of the Medici family, see Arthur M. Field, The Origins of the Platonic Academy of Florence (Berlin, 2014), 123f. At least since 1500, this text was available in a Parisian printed edition (Textus ethicorum Aristotelis a Johanne Argylopylo tractatus, Johann Philippi de Cruzenach for Geoffroy de Marnef, s.l. s.d. [Paris, 1500]). 10 These dubia only deal with small problems handled with in a few lines. There are also more extended discussions of certain topics that Mair explicitly presents as quaestiones, see, for example, below, n. 36. 11 Among the classical philosophers cited (other than Aristotle), the most prominent is Plato, closely followed by Cicero. Others that are cited or referred to several times are Thales, Pythagoras, Seneca and the Stoics as such, Epicurus, Xenophanes, Chrysippus, Xenocrates, Euclid, Zeno, and Plutarch. It is impossible even to give a short impression of the events of Greek and Roman history (and mythology) cited in the commentary; among the many references to classical poets, there are longer citations of Homer (e.g. on fols. 13r, 46r), Ovid (fols. 14r, 40r) and Juvenal (fols. 40r, 46r).



imposed on philosophy and Aristotle in particular.12 But Mair was also aware of the decisions of Lateran V in 1513, where the famous bull Apostolici Regiminis obliged philosophers to show the uniformity of philosophy and Christian doctrine.13 Hence, Mair had to combine in this commentary his metaphysically reductionist approach with a unifying, synthetic goal. And in a certain manner, the question about the unity of philosophy and theology was also at stake in the early Reformation, for Luther had argued, precisely with regard to ethical topics, against Aristotle, against the utility of philosophical arguments in religious matters,14 and finally, in the early 1520 debate with Erasmus, against all the defenders of free will as such.15 Accordingly, Mair’s exposition, and, as we will see, his defense of Aristotle, took place within the three major debates that had shaped the intellectual climate of his life: against the humanists he had to defend Aristotle as the lasting champion of moral philosophy, against his fellow scholastics he had to provide a defense of Aristotle that did not ask for speculative contortions, and against the Lutheran movement he had to defend the most important proponent of philosophy tout court as a usable resource of Christian ethics. As one can easily imagine, such a defense on multiple fronts was no easy task. Yet one of the strategies that lent itself to be adopted for it, of course, was to compare Aristotle with classical Christian sources, and with the Church Fathers and with Augustine in particular, given that these theologians represented orthodox Christian doctrine.16 In what follows, I would like to analyze a few passages of this commentary where Mair compares Aristotle to sayings 12

See U. Zahnd, ‘Terms, Signs, Sacraments’ (2015), 259-68. The bull has been re-edited as appendix in Eric A. Constant, ‘A Reinterpretation of the Fifth Lateran Council Decree Apostolici regiminis (1513)’, Sixteenth Century Journal 33 (2002), 353-79, 377-9, with the relevant passage in § 10. 14 In his Ethics commentary, Mair complains about Luther’s non-acceptance of philosophical arguments, see Mair, Ethica VII.2 (1530), fol. 108r: Verumtamen hic est error quando homo suae opinioni pertinaciter innititur aut amici, quando enim ipse est laudis avidus et haeresim aspergens aegerrime ad veritatis orbitam revocatur, quare de malo in peius descendit. Ut Vvuicleff superiore seculo nostrae Britanniae propudium, et nunc Martinus Luther Germaniae dedecus, qui cum cuculla omnem probitatem cum suis asseclis exuit. Tales inanis gloriae famelici, demonstrationes non audiunt, sed rimas sinistras elabendi invenire satagunt, ut delira dogmata protegere videantur. Tales sane sunt vituperabiles. See also ibid. VII.9, fol. 117r: … ut pertinacia Lutheri atque eius discipulorum, quorum indurata capita nulli rationum mallei eorum stulta opinione contundunt. 15 See Philippe Büttgen, Luther et la philosophie. Études d’histoire (Paris, 2011), and Theodor Dieter, ‘Martin Luthers kritische Wahrnehmung “der” Scholastik in seiner so genannten “Disputatio contra scholasticam theologiam”’, in Günter Frank and Volker Leppin (eds), Die Reformation und ihr Mittelalter (Stuttgart, 2016), 153-88. For references on Luther’s dispute with Erasmus, see below, note 26. 16 Given the topic of this paper, it will focus on Augustine, who is by far the most cited Church Father in the commentary (I have detected at least 50 citations, with references to De civitate Dei on the first, and to De Trinitate on the second place). Other Church Fathers cited or referred to are Ignatius of Antioch, Cyprian, Hilary, Chrysostome, Ambrose, Jerome, Denys the Areopagite, and Gregory the Great. 13

Augustinian Theology in Philosophical Ethics


of Augustine in order to prove the former’s orthodoxy. Yet in doing so, this analysis will also serve a different goal. For, given that there is an undeniable presence of Augustine and of other theological resources in this ‘philosophical’ commentary, it challenges a common pretext among historians of the Reformation: John Calvin studied in Paris when Mair was lecturing there, but Reformation historians usually say that Calvin could not have been influenced by scholastic theology, given that the future reformer only studied philosophy while he was in Paris.17 Mair’s commentary shows, on the contrary, that the disciplines were not as divided in Paris as Reformation historians would like to think. Therefore, while studying philosophy, John Calvin could have learned quite a lot about patristics and medieval theology. This is, however, only the subtext of what follows. To focus on Mair and Augustine, a first look at the dedicatory letter of the commentary is expedient. Mair dedicated his commentary to the recently overthrown Lord High Chancellor and Archbishop of York, Thomas Wolsey,18 and alongside a long series of formalities, Mair stated in this letter: I dedicate and devote to you this work, the most commendable [one] of the moral tradition, explained as good as possible with my commentaries, [authored] by Aristotle who is, according to the judgment of many people, the champion of the philosophers. For in this work, just as in the others, he showed himself as such, that is, [as the champion and the one who] outperforms the forces of nature,19 because he conforms in almost every sentence with the sound integrity of the catholic and truly Christian belief. […] In short, in such a huge and such a multifarious work you will hardly encounter a single plea that is intolerable to a Christian man, if you read it as it has been explained by us.20

17 See Ueli Zahnd, ‘The Early John Calvin and Augustine’, SP 87 (2017), 181-94, and John T. Slotemaker, ‘John Calvin’s Trinitarian Theology in the 1536 Institutes: The Distinction of Persons as a Key to his Theological Sources’, in Kent Emery, jr., Russell L. Friedman and Andreas Speer (eds), Philosophy and Theology in the Long Middle Ages. A Tribute to Stephen F. Brown (Leiden, Boston, 2011), 781-810, 784f., note 14 for a short bibliographic overview of the discussion. 18 Wolsey, who was entangled into the affair of Henry VIII’s wedding plans, had to leave his palace in London in October 1529; being accused of high treason, he would die in late 1530 on his way to defend himself at the court. Most probably, he never took notice of Mair’s dedication. 19 The idea that Aristotle was the model to show how far natural reasoning can go, was inherited in Latin scholasticism from Averroes, see the latters Commentarium magnum in Aristotelis de anima libros III 14, ed. F. Stuart Crawford (Cambridge, 1953), 433: Credo enim quod iste homo fuit regula in natura, et exemplar quod natura invenit ad demonstrandum ultimam perfectionem humanam in materiis. 20 Mair, ‘Epistola dedicatoria’, in Ethica (1530), fol. a1v: Tibi ... Aristotelis complurium iudicio philosophorum principis, moralium traditionum opus laudatissimum meis utcunque expositum commentariis et dico et dedico. Quippe in quo opere, ut in reliquis alios, ita sese, id est naturae vires superasse visus est: nam in omnibus fere sententiis, cum syncerissima catholicae ac vere Christianae persuasionis integritate concordat. […] Denique in tanto et tam multiiugo opere vix placitum unum Christiano homine indignum, si ut a nobis explanatum est, legatur, offendas.



This is first of all a clear statement that Aristotle was in conformity with Christian doctrine, at least if one followed Mair’s exposition. To show this conformity was thus the principal goal of his expositions. Likewise, given that, in accordance with Lateran V, conformity with Christian doctrine was the benchmark of good philosophy, Mair also wanted to show that Aristotle was, thanks to this conformity with Christian doctrine, the real champion of the philosophers. It is interesting, however, that this magisterial status is not just stated (as a traditional scholastic philosopher would probably have put it), but it is authorized with ‘the judgment of many people’. Most probably, this need for authorization of a statement that was self-evident in scholasticism is a sign of Mair’s implicit quarrel with the humanists and their preference for other classical moral philosophers. As a matter of fact, Mair, in this dedicatory letter, gave a few examples of Aristotle’s conformity with Christian belief, choosing, among others, the fact that Aristotle considered suicide to be the act of a most timid mind and not a virtuous act.21 This was, of course, a side blow precisely against other classical moral philosophers and the Stoics in particular, who approved suicide and nevertheless were in high esteem in humanist circles. Other examples of the dedicatory letter are no less telling, and they finally open up a perspective on patristic sources and Augustine in particular. Example four mentions the distinction of the active and contemplative life introduced in Aristotle’s Ethics,22 and Mair paralleled it with the biblical examples of Rachel and Leah on the one hand, and of Mary Magdalene and Martha on the other.23 But the most prominent theologian to have presented these two pairs of biblical women as allegories of the active and contemplative life was Augustine,24 such that we have here a first, even if implicit, use of the Church Father to show Aristotle’s conformity with Christian belief. More complicated is the very first example Mair gives, alluding to the fact that Aristotle defended free will.25 That this example appears at such a prominent place, may have different reasons. First, one might argue that without the 21

Ibid.: Manum sibi inferre ac necem consciscere ob rerum tristium devitationem non vere fortis animi, sed potius meticulosi gravissime definit. This is the second of four examples. 22 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics X, 6-9, ed. Bekker 1176 a 30-1179 a 32. 23 Mair, ‘Epistola dedicatoria’, in Ethica (1530), fol. a1v: Felicitatem homini in hac vita contingentem in heroicarum virtutum operatione constituit: duplicemque vitam et utramque laudabilem, activam dico et contemplativam, Iudaeis olim in Rachele et Lya, nobis nunc etiam in Martha et Magdalena sororibus figuratam, miro iudicio prosequitur: nam hanc etiam superis, illam tantum mortalibus accommodat. 24 See Augustine, Contra Faustum 22.52; De Trinitate I X.20; and De Consensu Evangelistarum I.5.8. Mair, Ethica X.8 (1530), fol. 167r, explicitly attributes to Augustine the identification of Mary with the vita contemplativa. 25 Mair, ‘Epistola dedicatoria’, in Ethica (1530), fol. a1v: Liberum enim hominis arbitrium constanter asserit.

Augustinian Theology in Philosophical Ethics


admission of free will, there is no need for a moral philosophy at all, so that its acceptation is some kind of a basic presupposition for any ethical work. But as already mentioned, the question of free will was also central in the early Lutheran Reformation where Luther denied it against Erasmus.26 Now, as a matter of fact, Luther would appear every now and then in Mair’s commentary, and almost every time that Mair referred to him and his followers, it was to say that they denied the free will of human beings.27 In this regard, to mention the liberum arbitrium here as the first example of Aristotle’s conformity with Christian doctrine, was another clear statement: this time to indicate that Mair was aiming to use his Aristotelian-Christian synthesis against these new heretics. But what would Mair do with Augustine, in this case, who was one of the core references of Luther’s denial of free will? Let me briefly focus on three passages that might further elucidate Mair’s use of Augustine. The first stems from a passage in Book VI and concerns the question of whether all virtues were connected as Aristotle stated.28 This did not seem sound, and Mair cited, among others, the example of Mark Antony, the Roman Statesman, who was said to have excelled in some virtues but also in several vices, which did not seem possible if all virtues were connected.29 Now, the wording in which Mair described Mark Antony stems almost verbatim from a fifteenth-century Renaissance humanist, Francesco Patrizi of Siena, 26

See Clarence H. Miller, Erasmus and Luther: the Battle over Free Will (Indianapolis, 2012). See Mair, Ethica III.3 (1530), fol. 37r: Vides Aristotelem natura duce pestilens dogma Vuitcleff ac huius Lutheri damnare, quod omnia de necessitate eveniunt; ibid. VI.2, fol. 93r: Ex isto et plerisque locis erubescat Lutherus libertatem arbitrii negans, quam Aristoteles naturae magisterio non clam nec uno loco ponit; ibid. VII.13, fol. 121r: Albumasar et reliqui superstitiosi astronomi […] liberum arbitrium et caetera id genus quibus bene beateque vivitur, subtraxerunt. Omnia haec monimenta indubie sunt vulcano cum Vuicleffi et Lutheri ac Œcolampadii operibus tradenda. But see also note 14. 28 See Mair, Ethica VI.13 (1530), fol. 104r, dub. 4: utrum virtutes sint necessario connexae; see Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics VI, 13.6, ed. Bekker 1144 b 30-1145 a 2. The famous Auctoritates Airstotelis put it even more straightforwardly: habens unam virtutem habet omnes (ed. Jacqueline Hamesse [Louvain, 1974], 241). On the problem of the connexio virtutum see Jörn Müller, Willensschwäche in Antike und Mittelalter. Eine Problemgeschichte von Sokrates bis Johannes Duns Scotus (Leuven, 2009), 128f. and 640-69, as well as Martin Rhonheimer, Die Perspektive der Moral. Philosophische Grundlagen der Tugendethik (Berlin, 2001), 21620. 29 See Mair, Ethica VI.13 (1530), fol. 104v: Contra istam virtutum connexionem argumentor, primo sic. Socrates potest se exercitare in una materia, alia non occurrente, et potest unam virtutem etiam intensissimam perfectissimamque acquirere sine alia, hoc in multis roborare possum quorum vitia eximias virtutes aequabant, ut Livius de Annibale poeno tradit. Simile de M. Antonio Triumviro scribunt. M. enim Antonius multis fulgebat virtutibus tamque in rebus arduis quam in adversis animum erexit; et quanto magis adversa fortuna vexabatur, tanto se praestantiorem exhibuit; comitate pietate insignis, omni officio singulis quibusque aderat, opibus ac consilio nemini deerat. Sed hasce virtutes multa vitia obscurabant. Nam inter sodales lenior illorum illecebris se ingerebat; aleam in multam noctem lusit; in ganeis ac scortorum amplexibus libenter versabatur. Proinde virtutes vitiis sunt sociae. 27



whose political writings had been printed in Paris in 1519.30 Though I did not discover who, in Mair’s context, used this passage as a critique of Aristotle and as an argument for the separated existence of human virtues,31 it is nevertheless obvious what context this argument came from: namely once more from the humanist circles with which Mair was fighting. And it is all the more telling how Mair defended the connection of all virtues, for he not only proposed how to understand Aristotle without getting into unsound conclusions,32 but he also showed that Aristotle was in accordance with important proponents of the Christian tradition: ‘Ambrose On Luke, Augustine On the Trinity, Gregory the Great in book 13 of the Moralia complied with this connection of the virtues, just as Cicero did in the Tusculan Disputations.’33 And after having evoked some possible counter arguments, Mair adds: These arguments [only] seem [to be true] and theologians who are not conversant with the Aristotelian doctrine use them arbitrarily to their own needs – because of sophistries foreign to the philosopher – against his express intention. Given, however, that Cicero and the leaders of the catholic church imitate Aristotle, it is a shame to diverge from the Aristotelian source.34

Once more, this passage underscores to what extent Mair was engaged in a quarrel with the humanists. All of the sudden, among those who confirm the accuracy of Aristotle’s account we find Cicero, the champion of the humanists, and we find him as an imitator of Aristotle. What is more, Mair even plays with the humanists’ language, speaking of the fons Aristotelicus, and he implicitly 30 Francisci Patricii Senensis pontificis caietani ENNEAS de regno, et regis institutione, opus profecto et historiarum varietate, et sententiarum gravitate commendandum, hactenus nunquam impressum. Venales prostant in aedibus honesti viri Gallioti a prato Bibliopolae Parisiensis (Paris, 1519), 87. On Patrizi see Gabriele Pedullà, ‘Francesco Patrizi e le molte vite dell’umanista’, in Sergio Luzzato et al. (eds), Atlante della letteratura italiana, vol. I (Torino, 2010), 457-63. 31 It even might be that this example was never used to challenge Aristotle, but that Mair maid it up in order to have a place to refute the humanists. This is at least a strategy that Mair used on other places, see U. Zahnd, ‘Terms, Signs, Sacraments’ (2015), 270f., and id., ‘Utilitas als antispekulatives Motiv. Zur Rezeption eines Gerson’schen Anliegens im ausgehenden Mittelalter’, Quaestio 15 (2015), 741-50, 748. 32 Mair, Ethica VI.13 (1530), fol. 104r-v: Istae virtutes sese stipant, et sicut quadratum solide stat, sic virtutibus redimitus in humana tentatione non cadet. Item nemo habet perfectam prudentiam nisi versatus in omni materia prudentiali actu interiori aut exteriori; ergo ipsa totalis requirit alias virtutes morales secum coassistere. Et hoc est quod philosophus dicit, quod una prudentia existente inhaerebunt omnes. Quaecumque enim connectuntur uni tertio, si illud infuerit, et illa inerunt. At aliae virtutes prudentiae annectuntur, ex saepius dictis, igitur. 33 Ibid. 104v: Ambrosius super Lucam, Augustinus de Trinitate, Gregorius 13 Moralium, hanc virtutum connodationem sequuntur; sic et Marcus Tullius libro Tusculanarum Quaestionum. This set of references (including the one on Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations II.32!) already appears in Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, IaIIae 65.1, sed contra, ed. Pietro Caramello (Torino, 1952), 283a. 34 Mair, Ethica VI.13 (1530), fol. 104v: Istae rationes sunt apparentes et theologi in Aristotelica doctrina non exercitati ob argutiolas peregrine philosophum contra eius expressam mentem pro libito ad sua capita trahunt. Verum postquam Tullius et ecclesiae catholicae proceres Aristotelem imitantur, turpe est ab Aristotelico fonte dilabi.

Augustinian Theology in Philosophical Ethics


accuses the humanists (as those who read Aristotle in a different way) of being inexperienced theologians drawing awkward conclusions.35 Augustine, on the other hand, appears without any further explanation as one of the doctrinal leaders of the catholic Church. But this also seems programmatic, for in simply stating the conformity of Aristotle with the Church Father, Mair corroborates this conformity as a matter of course. Is this to say, then, that Mair considered Aristotle as an antedated Christian? In his commentary to the first book of the Nicomachean Ethics, Mair explicitly addressed this question, and he addressed it, once more, in a rather polemical setting: Because of the unlettered who dissuade the young students from Aristotelian doctrine by asserting that he belongs to the damned, it is no digression to ask whether Aristotle counts among the number of the saved. We are asking here this question both because of those who afflict Aristotle wherever possible, and of those who rail at him, rejecting his fruitful doctrine because of his damnation.36

Mair replied to the problem in adopting an argument that he most probably had learned from the fourteenth-century scholastic Robert Holcot:37 given that, according to the precepts of their time, the pagans were not bound to the Mosaic law, it was sufficient for them to serve the laws of natural theology; and this is what Aristotle had done in Mair’s eyes.38 However,39 in opposition to the 35 See also the beginning of the passage cited in the next footnote, where the humanists are presented as ‘unlettered’ (ineruditi). 36 Mair, Ethica I.7 (1530), fol. 8r: Propter ineruditos qui iuvenes ab Aristotelica doctrina avocant, eo quod asserunt eum damnatum, alienum non fuerit inquirere an Aristoteles sit de numero salvandorum. Quaerimus hic hanc quaestionem tum ob eos qui Aristoteli plurimum afficiuntur, tum ob illos qui illum allatrant, eius succosam doctrinam ob eius damnationem reiicientes. Interestingly, among the second group, Mair explicitly names John Buridan, see ibid.: Ioannes Buridanus ex variis passibus Aristotelis nititur ostendere ipsum potentiam supernaturalem agnovisse, et se plurimum ex hoc gaudere. Falsus et deceptus Ioannes rebatur neminem nisi supernaturalia ponentem salvari posse. For Mair, however, Buridan also belongs to those uninformed thinkers who never had studied theology (just as the humanist philologians), see ibid. VI.13, fol. 104r: … priscorum multi, quos Buridanus qui omnem aetatem in artibus triverat delire insequitur. 37 Holcot had presented an analogous argument dealing with the salvation of the Jews, see John T. Slotemaker, ‘Omnis observator legis mosaycae iustus est apud Deum: Robert Holcot’s Theology of the Jews’, Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations 10 (2015), 1-37, and John T. Slotemaker and Jeffrey C. Witt, Robert Holcot (Oxford, 2016), 22-5. 38 Mair, Ethica I.7 (1530), fol. 8r: Paucis hanc quaestionem absolverimus. Ponamque propositionem hanc: gentiles ante legem evangelicam promulgatam non erant obnoxii ad Mosaicam legem servandam. Ad Romanos 2 hoc sacer Paulus monstrat. Gentes qui legem non habent sibi sunt lex, si servarunt legis naturae scita, hoc eis sufficiebat; et eis peccantibus sufficiebat peccatorum detestatio, et non requirebatur ea tempestate peccatorum denudatio sacerdoti. Hoc enim solum tempore evangelici discursus requiritur, satis erat Aristoteli ponere unitatem Dei, curam reum humanarum habentis. 39 As a further counter argument Mair, Ethica I.7 (1530), fol. 8r, said: non ignoro quidnam Iacobus a Voragine in quodam sermone De Aristotele dicat quod videlicet cuidam discipulorum apparuit dicens se nihil scire praeter poenam quam cogebatur cognoscere; having in mind most



conclusion that Aristotle belonged in this way to the saved, was a well known passage from the Glossa ordinaria on Psalm 140, stating that Plato, Aristotle, and Pythagoras were ripped off the rock uniting in Jesus.40 This seemed an authoritative text, but Mair, however scholastic he may have been, questioned the authority of this gloss by stating that ‘one has to see from what factory it came from and if the first origin of what is asserted there was authentic.’41 This is not only interesting because of the ‘humanist’ concern for authentic sources, but also because the first origin of this gloss is none other than Augustine, as the Glossa ordinaria explicitly stated.42 Mair, however, did not mention this origin; contented with having questioned the legitimacy of the gloss, he went on and concluded that ‘Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Cicero, and most of the other philosophers seem to me […] to have followed nature very well, so that it is imprudent to reprove them’.43 This passage shows thus two things: on the one hand, the extent to which Mair was willing to play with the humanists’ own approach, and on the other, how flexible he was, when necessary, in his use of Augustine. What about the question of free will, then? As far as I can see, there is no specific passage in Mair’s commentary in which he treated the problem of the liberum arbitrium.44 What exists, however, is a passage in book seven dealing with the virtue of temperance, where Mair suddenly introduced one of his dubia and asked: Concerning this whole matter one doubts above all whether somebody can be temperate without a gift of God, that is a special assistance of God. Leaving the philosopher aside and turning to the theologians I say: that the latter debate about this question. I consider the negative answer to conform more with the approved doctors and the decisions of the church, for which reason it is suitable to follow. For it is said in Wisdom 8:[21]: ‘I cannot be temperate except God gives it’. This verse was the reason for our dubium probably the famous story about Aristotle being ridden by a woman, as it was told by Jacques de Vitry (and not Jacobus de Voragine), see Joseph Greven, Die Exempla aus den Sermones feriales et communes des Jakob von Vitry, nr. 15 (Heidelberg, 1914), 15f. 40 Glossa ordinaria, vol. 3 (Venice, 1603), ad Ps. 140, col. 1533. I wish to thank Pascal Bermon who pointed me to the fact that this passage also has an important place in the proemium of Robert Holcot, Praelectiones in librum Sapientiae (Basel, 1586), 3f. 41 Mair, Ethica I.7 (1530), fol. 8r: Vide et ex qua officina id ille sumpsit, et an prima origo asserti est autentica, glosa super illos ‘Absorpti sunt iuncti Petrae iudices eorum’ Psalmo 140 [141, 6] ait, Plato, Aristoteles, Pythagoras iuncti Petrae in Christo absorpti sunt. 42 Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos ad Ps. 140, par. 19, CSEL 95.4, ed. Franco Gori (Vienna, 2002), 217. 43 Mair, Ethica I.7 (1530), fol. 8r: Verum Plato, Aristoteles, Seneca, Tullius et plerique philosophorum visi sunt mihi viri in vitae bonitate celebres, naturam ducem optime secuti. Propterea imprudentis est illos vituperare, sed quicquid sit de illorum salute frugiferum illorum dogma discutientes colligamus. 44 In the alphabetical index at the beginning of the work, the notion only appears in the very specific context of a debate with the Cyrenaics (see Mair, Ethica [1530], fol. a5v, and ibid. III.1, fol. 31v).

Augustinian Theology in Philosophical Ethics


at the present place, and it concerns not only the virtue of temperance, but every good thing [that is: every virtuous act].45

Fully aware of the fundamental importance of the problem, Mair tackles it here even if he has to explicitly leave for a moment the philosophical domain of his commentary. Putting aside one of the common scholastic interpretations of Wisdom 8 that Solomon was talking there only about the general concursus divinus for all things,46 Mair starts to defend the negative position, that it is impossible to do something good without a special assistance of God. And unsurprisingly, besides a whole set of biblical citations, his main reference for this is Augustine. In particular, Mair cites the Church Father’s De correptione et gratia 2: ‘The free will suffices for a bad act; but for a good act it is insufficient if it is not assisted by the almighty Good’.47 Referring then the reader to his extended discussion of the problem in his Sentences commentary,48 Mair concludes the question by stating that ‘already the small books of the children say that whatever we have as a merit is given by the preventing grace, and whenever we sin, we have to attribute it to ourselves. The contrary was the error of Pelagius’.49 As it seems now, in this theological context, the sphere of the free will is restricted to doing bad things, while every virtuous act needs God’s assistance. All of the sudden, thus, we are not so far away anymore from Luther’s denial of the free will, even if Mair would continue to say that the will cooperates 45 Mair, Ethica VII.10 (1530), fol. 118r: Circa totam hanc materiam in primis dubitatur an quis potest esse continens sine munere Dei, hoc est speciali Dei ope. Relicto philosopho, ad theologos deveniendo, dico hosce super hoc negocio disceptare. Partem negativam approbatis doctoribus ecclesiaeque determinationibus conformiorem arbitror; eapropter eam aemulari par est. Dicitur enim Sapientiae 8 [21]: ‘Non possum esse continens nisi Deus det.’ Quod verbum occasionem dubitandi nobis in praesentiarum praebuit, et non modo circa continentiam verumetiam circa omne bonum id contingit. 46 See, e.g., Thomas Aquinas, Scriptum super libros Sententiarum III.33, 1.2.2, ad 1, ed. Maria Fabianus Moos (Paris, 1956), 1029: Dicendum, quod nullum bonum potest homo habere, nisi Deus det; sed quaedam habentur a Deo non cooperantibus nobis, sicut ea quae sunt infusa; et quaedam nobis cooperantibus, sicut acquisita; et quaedam cooperante natura, sicut naturalia. 47 Mair, Ethica VII.10 (1530), fol. 118r: Aliud ergo auxilium Dei ad bonum requiritur quam ad malum. Hoc tangens […] Augustinus in De correctione [sic!] et gratia capitulo quarto: Liberum arbitrium ad malum sufficit, ad bonum autem parum est nisi adiuvetur ab omnipotenti bono. See Augustine, De correptione et gratia 2.2, PL 44, 935: Liberum itaque arbitrium et ad malum et ad bonum faciendum confitendum est nos habere: sed in malo faciendo liber est quisque iustitiae seruus que peccati; in bono autem liber esse nullus potest, nisi fuerit liberatus ab eo qui dixit, si uos filius liberauerit, tunc uere liberi eritis. Another Augustinian resource Mair refers to in this passage is the Epistola 186 (ad Paulinum Nolanum), c. 33, CSEL 57 (Vienna, 1911), 73. 48 Mair, Ethica VII.10 (1530), fol. 118r: Ad hoc Magister, distinctione vigesima sexta libri secundi Sententiarum Patrum authoritates inducit, ut in eandem distinctionem, libro secundo fusius monstravimus. The discussion of free will already begins in dist. 25, yet the present problem is tackled most thoroughly in dist. 27, see Mair, In secundum Sententiarum 27.1 (1528), fol. 69rb-vb. 49 Mair, Ethica VII.10 (1530), fol. 118r: Hoc puerorum libelli indicant quicquid habes meriti praeventrix gratia donat, et quidquid peccamus, id nobis attribuamus. Oppositum erat error Pelagii, cuius errores Gratianus allegat, ergo aliter a bonum aliter ad malum Deus cooperatur.



with grace in committing virtuous acts.50 It is no surprise that Augustine is Mair’s main reference at this point where he had to quit the philosophical discourse, and with the citation of De correptione et gratia he even could refer to him in a way that made clear that, with the backing of Augustine, there was no need to reject free will as such. A very quick conclusion to these brief remarks on Mair’s commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics and his use of Augustine will be sufficient. It has become apparent that Augustine was present on an important level and that he was mainly used to show Aristotle’s conformity with Christian doctrine. By means of this, he served to counter, on the one hand, the humanists’ approaches, and on the other hand, one of the tenets Mair attributed to the Lutheran reformation. However, that his broad and theological use of Augustine embedded in a philosophical lecture may have informed one of the later proponents of the Reformation is a story that has to be told on another page.


See David C. Fink, ‘John Mair’s Doctrine of Justification Within the Context of the Early 16 Century’, in J.T. Slotemaker and J.C. Witt (eds), Companion to John Mair (2015), 223-40, 232f. and 238f. th

Octaves and Septenaries: Patristic Approaches to the Beatitudes in Medieval Life Rebekah EKLUND, Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore, MD, USA

ABSTRACT The Matthean beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-10), as mediated through patristic lenses, had a profound influence on medieval society. Patristic approaches to the beatitudes paved the way for the beatitudes to appear in liturgical laments at medieval funerals and as the framework for some medieval pilgrimages, as well as in meditations on how to emulate the lives of the saints and in the moral instruction of children. John Chrysostom, Ambrose of Milan, Gregory of Nyssa, and Augustine (among others) set two main trajectories that endured into the medieval era: in the first, the beatitudes contribute to the Octave celebrations; and in the second, the beatitudes form the foundation on which the septenaries are built. In both strands, the beatitudes are understood as a set of virtues laid out in an ascending sequence leading upward toward union with God; this sequential and progressive understanding of the beatitudes flows easily into the medieval practice of the pilgrimage. In the first trajectory (the Octave), laid out primarily by Ambrose and Gregory, the beatitudes are associated with both the eschatological ‘eighth day’ and the liturgical celebrations known as the Great Octaves. In the second strand, laid out primarily by Augustine, the beatitudes are counted as seven (rather than eight) and associated with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 11, which lays the foundation for the medieval septenaries or sets of sevens.

I. Introduction The Sermon on the Mount, according to Augustine, is ‘the perfect pattern of the Christian life’.1 Augustine’s declaration represents the predominant approach to Matthew 5-7 in the Church’s first four centuries. Patristic thinkers typically understood the Sermon on the Mount as the sum of Jesus’ teaching, and thus as the sum of the Christian life. Warren Kissinger claims that the AnteNicene writers quoted and referred to the Sermon on the Mount more often than any other text in Scripture.2 Harvey McArthur likewise describes Matthew 1 Augustine, Commentary on the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Fathers of the Church 11 (Washington, DC, 2001), 1.1.1. 2 Warren S. Kissinger, The Sermon on the Mount: A History of Interpretation and Bibliography (Metuchen, 1975), 6.

Studia Patristica CV, 79-94. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



chapter five as the most frequently quoted chapter in the Bible in the first three centuries of the Church.3 This gives the beatitudes an almost unparalleled importance, since the beatitudes themselves were seen as the précis of the Sermon on the Mount. Once again, Augustine is representative; he saw each subsequent section of the Sermon on the Mount as an expansion of each beatitude. The beatitude was the quality that enabled one to perform the demands of that particular section: for example, he aligned poverty of spirit (the first beatitude) with Jesus’ teachings on anger in Matt. 5:21-4.4 Of course, a version of the beatitudes also appears in Luke 6:20-6, but patristic authors usually focused on Matthew’s version of the beatitudes in Matt. 5:3-12. While this sometimes led them to neglect or undervalue Luke’s version, it more often prompted them to place Luke’s version into conversation with Matthew’s. For many of them, as for Ambrose of Milan, Luke’s four were contained in Matthew’s eight; by implication, Matthew had preserved a fuller and perhaps more perfect version of Jesus’ beatitudes.5 Because the patristic authors dwelt at such length on the Matthean beatitudes, it is no surprise that medieval authors did likewise, and typically did so through the lenses provided to them by their patristic forerunners. What is more unexpected, however, is the widespread reach of patristic approaches to the beatitudes. The Matthean beatitudes, as mediated through patristic lenses, had a profound influence on medieval society. Once one knows where to look, one finds that the patristically-inflected beatitudes are interwoven into a variety of medieval practices, from pilgrimages to funerals. For example, patristic interpretations of the beatitudes played a role in educational manuals and in moral treatises on how to live a good life. In the West, medieval Christians would often hear sermons on the beatitudes, usually in relation to emulating the lives of the saints, since the beatitudes were (and still are) the appointed text for All Saints’ Day, and often appeared in other sermons as well.6 In the East, Christians would hear the beatitudes read at funerals, as part of the burial rite. 3

Harvey K. McArthur, Understanding the Sermon on the Mount (New York, 1960), 11. For each section, see Augustine, Commentary (2001), 1.9.22-10.28; 1.11.29-32; 1.12.33-6; 1.13.1-18.55; 1.19.56-23.80; 2.1.1-22.76; 2.23.77-25.86. Ulrich Duchrow argues that the beatitudes are also the ‘structural principle’ of Augustine’s Confessions, in Ulrich Duchrow, ‘Der Aufbau von Augustinus Schriften Confessiones und De Trinitate’, Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche 62.3 (1965), 338-67. 5 Ambrose of Milan, Commentary of Saint Ambrose on the Gospel According to Saint Luke, trans. Íde M. Ní Riain (Dublin, 2001), 5.49. 6 Sermons were the most common genre in the monastic period, more common than commentaries, and they draw mainly from patristic sources; see Brigitta Stoll, De Virtute in Virtutem: zur Auslegungs- und Wirkungsgeschichte der Bergpredigt in Kommentaren, Predigten und hagiographischer Literatur von der Merowingerzeit bis um 1200 (Tübingen, 1988), 27. The beatitudes first appeared in Western lectionaries as early as the ninth century in relation to the feasts for 4

Patristic Approaches to the Beatitudes in Medieval Life


The beatitudes appeared in medieval cathedral windows and manuscript illuminations, in pilgrimages and poetry and even the station Churches of Rome. Medieval people encountered the beatitudes everywhere – and they did so because of (among others) John Chrysostom, Ambrose of Milan, Gregory of Nyssa, and Augustine of Hippo. These patristic writers laid down two key trajectories: one has to do with the number eight, and the other has to do with the number seven. II. Eight beatitudes: the Octaves Patristic thinkers (and modern scholars!) do not always agree on how many beatitudes there are. One of the most common numbers given is eight. It is relatively simple to arrive at this number via Matthew’s beatitudes; one counts the number of times the phrase ‘Blessed are the/those who…’ (μακάριοι οἱ) appears in Matt. 5, and then one treats Matt. 5:11-2 (‘Blessed are you…’, μακάριοί ἐστε) either as an expansion of the eighth beatitude or as the beginning of the ‘salt and light’ sayings. It may not seem especially important to determine the number of the beatitudes, but the significance of the number eight helps to shape this first approach. This first trajectory was set primarily by Ambrose and Gregory – and to a lesser extent, by Chrysostom and Augustine. Gregory, of course, was more influential in the East, in the Greek-speaking Churches of the Byzantine empire, while Ambrose and Augustine’s theology was prominent in the Latin West. It is unclear if Latin writers were influenced by Gregory directly (given that few of them read in Greek), or if they arrived independently at this theme. For centuries, Western (Latin) and Eastern (Greek) thought developed in partial independence from one another, separated by language; but there was also frequent contact and negotiation between the two.7 These patristic theologians bequeathed a number of intertwined themes to medieval society, all of them important: 1) the beatitudes as virtues, 2) the beatitudes as steps of ascent toward God, and 3) the beatitudes as an ‘octave’. The third theme merits further explanation, since the term ‘octave’ refers first to the eschaton (i.e., the eschatological ‘eighth day’) and comes to refer eventually to an eight-day liturgical celebration. As we shall see below, the beatitudes come to be associated with both resonances of the term. The first two themes several different martyrs, and All Saints’ was established by the second half of the tenth century; see Derek A. Olsen, Reading Matthew with Monks: Liturgical Interpretation in Anglo-Saxon England (Collegeville, 2015), 171 n. 156 and n. 157. 7 See, e.g., Averil Cameron, Byzantine Matters (Princeton, 2014), 16-7, 20-1, 105-6. The Catena aurea of Thomas Aquinas, compiled at the request of Pope Urban IV in 1264, included commentaries from both Latin and Greek fathers; see Jean-Pierre Torrell, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Vol. 1, The Person and His Work, trans. Robert Royal (Washington, DC, 1996), 137, 139.



– virtues and steps of ascent – quickly become intertwined in patristic approaches to the beatitudes. John Chrysostom, the golden-tongued preacher of Constantinople, lived and wrote around the same time as Gregory and Ambrose. He proposed that the beatitudes form a ‘golden chain’, with each ‘former precept making way for the following one. … Thus, first, he that is “humble”, will surely also “mourn” for his own sins: he that so “mourns”, will be both “meek,” and “righteous”…’, and so on.8 Ambrose and Gregory extended this insight upwards: for them, the beatitudes were not a chain but a set of steps, or a ladder. The beatitudes were sequential and ascending steps toward union with God. In Gregory’s case, for example, the ultimate end of participation in the beatitudes is ‘communion with the Godhead’, and he used the metaphor of Jacob’s ladder (Gen. 28:10-9) to describe the beatitudes as steps that facilitate the soul’s ascent toward union with God.9 Ambrose likewise described the beatitudes as ‘the steps that form the ladder of virtue’.10 All three theologians understood the beatitudes as virtues that facilitated the soul’s purification and thus ascent toward God. For example, the first beatitude was the virtue of humility, which opposed the vice of pride. Once one became humble, this disposed one to become gentle – the virtue of the second beatitude – and so on, as one advanced further up the ladder toward Godlikeness. While most early writers assigned each beatitude its own unique virtue, Ambrose of Milan linked the beatitudes to a preexisting set of virtues: the four cardinal virtues in classical philosophical thought. As one of the few early Fathers who wrote a commentary on Luke’s Gospel, he was able to make use of the number four and the number eight (by using the formula ‘four times two equals eight’). That is, for Ambrose, Luke’s four beatitudes were contained in Matthew’s eight; Matthew’s four unique beatitudes were simply expansions of Luke’s four beatitudes – for example, the blessing on those who hunger (Luke 6:21a//Matt. 5:6) represents the virtue of justice, which implies also mercy (Matt. 5:7).11 In his commentary on the Lukan beatitudes, Ambrose proposes that Luke chose to include four beatitudes ‘in honour of the four cardinal virtues’, whereas Matthew chose the mystical number eight because of the phrase ‘for the octave’ found at the head of several psalms in the Septuagint and the Vulgate translations (in Greek, ὑπὲρ τῆς ὀγδόης; in Latin, super octava or pro octava).12 (Ambrose claims that the phrase ‘for the octave’ occurs at the head of ‘many psalms’ but 8

Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew 15.9 (NPNF1 10, 96). Gregory of Nyssa, The Lord’s Prayer; The Beatitudes, Ancient Christian Writers 18, trans. Hilda C. Graef (Mahwah, 1954), 130, 97. 10 Ambrose, Commentary (2001), 5.52, 5.60. 11 Ibid. 5.49. 12 Ibid. 9

Patristic Approaches to the Beatitudes in Medieval Life


in the existing version(s) of the LXX and the Vulgate, it occurs at the beginning of only two psalms: Psalm 6 and Psalm 11.) The octave, Ambrose writes, ‘denotes the completion and fulfillment of our hopes; the octave is, also, the sum of all the virtues.’13 For the psalmist, ‘the octave’ is likely a musical notation. But for Ambrose eight is a mystical number. It is the number of the rite of circumcision (which occurs on the eighth day after a Jewish boy’s birth). It is also, more importantly, the number of the resurrection, which occurs in a certain sense on an eighth day. Eighth day theology does not originate with Gregory or with Ambrose. Very early in the patristic era, as early as the first half of the second century, Christian writers started using the term ‘the octave’ or ‘the eighth day’ to refer to the eschaton.14 The specific link between the eighth day and the new creation has to do with a simple formula: seven plus one. (This formula will become especially important in Augustine’s thought.) In Genesis, creation begins on ‘the first day’ (Gen. 1:5), which both Jews and Christians understood as the first day of the week, or Sunday. Jesus’ resurrection also technically takes places on the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). But for Christians like Ambrose and Gregory of Nyssa, Jesus’ resurrection actually took place on an eighth day – that is, a second first day of the week (seven plus one), as a reprise of the first day of creation. The day of Christ’s resurrection signaled that God was remaking creation and inaugurating his new creation. Because Gregory of Nyssa wrote on the eight Matthean beatitudes and not the Lukan four, he gave even more attention than Ambrose to the number eight in relation to the beatitudes. In his reflections on the beatitudes and in other writings, Gregory frequently uses ‘the octave’ as a shorthand for the eschatological eighth day, the first day of the new creation.15 Gregory associates the eight Matthean beatitudes with the eighth day, or the eschaton, in one other innovative way that influences later Orthodox practice. For Gregory, the beatitudes are one means by which the original beauty of the image of God is restored in humanity. As one embodies the virtues of the beatitudes, the tarnish of sin on one’s soul is increasingly scoured away, leaving 13 Ibid. Ambrose matched each Lukan beatitude (and its Matthean parallel) with a cardinal virtue and then with one of the unique Matthean beatitudes, which he saw as corollaries. For example, the hungry (Luke 6:21a//Matt. 5:6) represent the virtue of justice, and if one is just, one is also merciful (Matt. 5:7). 14 It is possible that Christians found precedence for an eschatological octave in Jewish thought, perhaps in Enoch 91:12-3. For other references to the octave or ‘eighth day’ as the eschaton, see Epistle of Barnabas 15.6-9; Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 24.1; 41.4; 138.1; Cyprian, Epistles 64.4.3; Augustine, City of God 22.30.5. 15 Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nyssa’s Treatise on the Inscriptions of the Psalms: Introduction, Translation, and Notes, trans. Ronald E. Heine (Oxford, 1995), 2.5.53. See also Casimir McCambley, ‘On the Sixth Psalm, Concerning the Octave by Saint Gregory of Nyssa’, Greek Orthodox Theological Review 32.1 (1987), 39-50.



the mirror of the soul bright and clean, reflecting the original purity of humanity’s creation in God’s image.16 Gregory’s approach to the Matthean beatitudes becomes especially prominent in Byzantine liturgies, which include the beatitudes in two places. The first liturgical location shows the influence of the beatitudes as an octave in general; the second more specifically reveals Nyssa’s link between the beatitudes and the eschatological restoration of the imago Dei. First, the Matthean beatitudes are recited during the Lesser Entrance (the procession of the Gospels into the sanctuary), at which time the liturgy invokes the presence of angels worshiping alongside the people present, mirroring the heavenly worship ceaselessly occurring before the throne of God and pointing forward to eschatological adoration.17 Second, the beatitudes also appear in the Byzantine rite of burial. They are read immediately following an anthem by St John of Damascus, which begins by recalling Adam and Eve’s creation in God’s image and their subsequent Fall, and goes on to lament: ‘I weep and I wail when I think upon death, and behold our beauty, fashioned after the image of God, lying in the tomb disfigured, dishonored, bereft of form.’18 As Vigen Guroian points out, ‘The response to this lament immediately follows with recitation of the beatitudes.’19 This liturgical setting for the beatitudes reflects Gregory’s association of the beatitudes with the restoration of the image of God. In the West, the patristic association of the eight beatitudes with the octave is reflected in liturgy in another form: in the liturgical practices known as the Octaves. In short, an Octave is an eight-day liturgical celebration beginning on one Sunday and ending on another. It is possible that Octaves were celebrated as early as the fourth century. The practice of holding an Octave for a saint’s feast day probably arose in the eighth century, and by at least the ninth century the Latin churches had begun celebrating Octaves for Christmas, Epiphany, and Easter.20 Of course, not all the Octaves have a connection to the beatitudes. But many of them do. As Birgitta Stoll observes, medieval interpreters used the eight Matthean beatitudes to interpret the Octaves of Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost.21 16 For a more thorough study of Gregory of Nyssa’s exegesis of the beatitudes in relation to the restoration of the image of God, see Rebekah Eklund, ‘Blessed are the Image-Bearers: Gregory of Nyssa and the Beatitudes’, The Anglican Theological Review 99.4 (2017), 729-40. 17 Vigen Guroian, ‘Liturgy and the Lost Eschatological Vision of Christian Ethics’, Annual of the Society of Christian Ethics 20 (2000), 227-38. 18 Isabel Florence Hapgood (ed. and trans.), Service Book of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church (Englewood, 1975), 386, quoted in V. Guroian, ‘Liturgy’ (2000), 237. 19 V. Guroian, ‘Liturgy’ (2000), 237. 20 Fernand Cabrol, ‘Octave’, in The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 11 (New York, 1911); accessed 2 August 2019 at 21 ‘Die acht Seligpreisungen werden hauptsächlich zur Deutung der Oktaven von Weihnachten, Ostern und Pfingsten herangezogen’ (B. Stoll, Virtute [1988], 145). See also Amalar of Metz, On

Patristic Approaches to the Beatitudes in Medieval Life


For example, in the second half of the twelfth century, Italian bishop Sicardus von Cremona linked the beatitudes to the Christmas Octave by observing that, in both cases, ‘the first and eighth day refer to eternity’.22 This observation about the first and eighth days is both about the Octaves (since the first and eighth day were both Sundays) and about the beatitudes, since the first and the eighth beatitudes both contain the same promise: ‘for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt. 5:3, 10). Although the bishop may simply have arrived at this observation about the first and eighth days on his own, by reading the Matthean beatitudes, at least one of his patristic forebears had ascribed theological significance to this repetition of the promise ‘for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’. Both Polycarp and Ambrose had already noted that the first and eighth beatitudes contained the same reward, but it is Augustine who uses this detail at great length in his exegesis.23 Indeed, Augustine uses the overlapping promise to create an entirely different numbering system for the beatitudes – and one that proves influential in medieval thought and art (more on that below). Before we turn to Augustine, we need to examine one final element of medieval life that shows the influence of the patristic emphasis on the beatitudes as virtues. Toward the beginning of the twelfth century, Benedictine abbot Rupert von Deutz also notes the relationship between the eight beatitudes and the Easter Octave.24 But he goes even further. Rupert paired each beatitude with one of the station Churches of the Easter Octave. (The station Church was the appointed Church that pilgrims and worshipers would visit on a particular day of an Octave celebration.) Rupert matched Easter Sunday with the first beatitude (the blessing on the poor in spirit, or the humble) and with the station Church of St Mary, mother of Jesus and exemplar of humility.25 In the chart below, the first three columns show how Rupert von Deutz matched each of the eight beatitudes with that beatitude’s exemplar and with one day of the Easter Octave. The fourth column on the far right shows the traditional order of the station Churches for the Easter Octave in Rome.26

the Liturgy, Vol. 2, Books 3-4, Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, trans. and ed. Eric Knibbs (Cambridge, MA, 2014), 4.29. 22 Sicardus von Cremona: … octava tamen additur propter octo beatitudines, quae in illa solemni octava percipientur (PL 213, 227B; B. Stoll, Virtute [1988], 145-6). 23 Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians 2.3 (ANF 1, 33); Ambrose, Commentary (2001), 5.61; Augustine, Commentary (2001), 1.3.10. 24 B. Stoll, Virtute (1988), 141; see also ibid. 146-7. 25 Iterum de officio primi diei dominicae resurrectionis, quod hoc et cetera huius hebdomadae officia secundum octo beatitudines et secundum paene totidem donorum Spiritus sancti ordinata sint ascensiones: Beati pauperes spiritu; Rupert von Deutz, Liber de Divinis Officiis, Vol. 3, ed. and trans. Helmut Deutz and Ilse Deutz (Freiburg, 1999), 7.6-17; B. Stoll, Virtute (1988), 148. 26 The list of Rupert’s matches between the beatitudes and their exemplars for each day of the Easter Octave is drawn from B. Stoll, Virtute (1988), 148-50.


86 Octave day



Easter Octave station Church

Easter Sunday

Poor in spirit

Virgin Mary

St Mary Major



St Peter

St Peter’s



St Paul

St Paul Outside the Walls


Hunger & thirst

St Lawrence

St Lawrence Outside the Walls



Mary Magdalene and the apostles

The 12 Holy Apostles


Pure in heart

Virgin Mary

Santa Maria ad Martyres



St John Lateran,27 John, Peter

St John Lateran

Sunday after Easter (the eighth day)


None named

St Pancras

It is difficult to pin down with precision when the station Churches for the Easter Octave were established, but they were likely set well before Rupert. According to George Weigel, the order of the Lenten Church stations ‘was largely fixed by Pope St Gregory the Great (590-604), although later additions filled out the program to its present form.’28 John Baldovin argues that Gregory is not the one who fixed the stations, since the Churches Gregory names as stations do not always match the Churches named in the first complete list of the Roman station Church pilgrimage, in the Würzberg Manuscript of the mid700s, the oldest surviving Latin lectionary.29 Either way, Rupert von Deutz interacts with what appears to be an established station Church tradition, putting to good use another pre-established link between the number eight, the Octave, and the beatitudes. The tradition of the Roman station Church pilgrimage endured for hundreds of years, only dying out sometime around the thirteenth century.30 As late as 27 In this case, Rupert mentions a specific church (St John Lateran) in addition to the name of the saint connected to that church (John). 28 George Weigel, with Elizabeth Lev and Stephen Weigel, Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches (New York, 2013), 5. 29 John F. Baldovin, The Urban Character of Christian Worship: The Origins, Development, and Meaning of Stational Liturgy, Orientalia Christiana Analecta 228 (Rome, 1987), 125-6; see also G. Weigel, Roman (2013), 6. 30 Weigel writes, ‘The Roman station church pilgrimage … began to die out in stages in the first centuries of the second millennium. … In its classic form, the Roman station church pilgrimage ceased to exist when the primary papal residence was relocated in 1305 to Avignon in the

Patristic Approaches to the Beatitudes in Medieval Life


the very end of the fifteenth century, a nobleman named Arnolf von Harff recorded an account of his pilgrimage to Rome. During the Easter Octave he visited the seven principal Churches of Rome (only some of which overlap with Rupert’s list and the traditional Easter Octave stations): St John Lateran, St Maria Major, Church of the Holy Cross, martyrs Caesarius and Anastasius, St Laurentius and St Stephen, St Sebastian and St Fabian, St Paul Outside the Walls, and St Peter’s Minster.31 It is tempting to suggest that the Roman Church stations for the Easter Octave were established at least in part through their associations with a beatitude. For example, the fourth beatitude is the blessing on those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and the fourth station is San Lorenzo fuori le mura (St Lawrence Outside the Walls). But which came first – the beatitude, which pointed to St Lawrence, or St Lawrence, whose life happened to fit well with a blessing on the hungry and thirsty? Perhaps the latter – but given how pervasive the beatitudes were, it is hard to say with complete confidence. The virtues associated with the beatitudes (humility, mercy, and so on) were relatively easy to apply to a variety of saints and exemplars. Patristic understandings of the beatitudes, including their associations with specific virtues, also influenced the medieval poet Dante, who depicted the beatitudes quite literally as an ascent toward God in Purgatorio. Dante paired most (but not all) of the Matthean beatitudes with one of seven terraces on the way to the top of Mount Purgatory. In Dante’s narrative, each time a penitent soul completes a stage of purgation and prepares to leave one of the seven terraces, an angel blesses the soul with the beatitude associated with that terrace, and the soul advances closer to Heaven.32 This shows Dante’s obvious reliance on the tradition established by Ambrose and Gregory, in which the beatitudes are a sequential series of ascending steps, a ladder leading closer to union with God. And it connects well to the patristic view of beatitudes as virtues that oppose particular vices: for example, the soul in Dante’s account receives the blessing on the poor in spirit (that is, the humble) after the purgation of pride. Once the pilgrim, being led by Virgil, advances to the seventh and final terrace, he is crowned and mitered and enters into the earthly paradise. The Divine Comedy has its own interesting links to the medieval practice of the pilgrimage. As Sumption notes, ‘Dante was almost certainly in Rome in the south of France’ (G. Weigel, Roman [2013], 7). Jonathan Sumption places the decline around the same time, writing that there is ‘some evidence that the Roman pilgrimage underwent a serious decline in the thirteenth century’; see Jonathan Sumption, Pilgrimage: An Image of Mediaeval Religion (Totowa, 1975, 2002), 227. 31 Arnold von Harff, The Pilgrimage of Arnold von Harff… (Farnham, 2010), 16-25, 44-6. There are some doubts over the genuineness of his account. 32 Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, trans. Jean Hollander and Robert Hollander (New York, 2003), Cantos 10-27.



Jubilee year and set the Divine Comedy at Easter 1300’.33 And Purgatorio, of course, is itself a record of a pilgrimage: the journey of a soul away from Hell, through Purgatory, and toward Paradise. The beatitudes, understood as sequential, progressive steps of moral formation, growth in virtue, and the cleansing of sin and vice, provide an apt template for a spiritual pilgrimage. Yet this description of Dante’s narrative has already revealed how Dante departs from the trajectory set by Ambrose and Gregory. Dante uses a somewhat unusual combination of the Matthean beatitudes. He does not feel compelled to keep the beatitudes in their canonical order, giving them instead in this sequence: 1. the poor in spirit (the first beatitude), 2. the merciful (the fifth beatitude), 3. the peacemakers (the seventh beatitude), 4. the mourners (the third beatitude), 5. those who hunger for justice (the fourth beatitude), 6. those who thirst for righteousness (the fourth beatitude again), and finally 7. the pure in heart (the sixth beatitude).34 More importantly, Dante’s scheme reveals that his influences are not limited to Ambrose and Gregory, for the simple reason that he names seven beatitudes, and seven terraces of Purgatory, rather than eight. For the number seven, Dante is indebted to Augustine’s creative exegesis of the Matthean beatitudes. III. Seven beatitudes: the septenaries Like Ambrose and Gregory before him, Augustine also interprets the beatitudes as a series of steps undertaken by the soul.35 But he counts them differently, and his numbering system lays down the second trajectory that shapes a variety of medieval practices in the West. Like Gregory, Augustine initially counts the beatitudes with the formula ‘seven plus one’, but he uses it to arrive at a different conclusion. He notes (as Ambrose also had) that both the first and eighth beatitude contain the same promised reward: ‘for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’. The eighth beatitude therefore circles around and returns to the first, meaning that, for Augustine, the true number of the beatitudes is seven. The eighth is a recapitulation and 33 J. Sumption, Pilgrimage (2002), 235. See also Anton ten Klooster, ‘Dante and the Beatitudes: Moral Transformation in “Purgatorio”’, Incontri. Rivista europea di studi italiani 34.1 (2019), 122-7. 34 V.S. Benfell III, ‘“Blessed are They That Hunger after Justice”: From Vice to Beatitude in Dante’s Purgatorio’, in Richard Newhauser (ed.), Seven Deadly Sins: From Communities to Individuals (Leiden, 2007), 194-5. Dante is mostly following Aquinas’ categorizing of the beatitudes in ST I-II.69.3. Meekness (the second beatitude) appears to have been subsumed under the category of the peacemakers, who overcome the vice of wrath. This makes sense since patristic and medieval interpreters both understood meekness as the virtue of appropriately controlling anger. Dividing the fourth beatitude into two sections allows Dante to use it to represent both the virtue of liberality (opposing avarice) and temperance (opposing greed). 35 Augustine, Commentary (2001), 1.3.10.

Patristic Approaches to the Beatitudes in Medieval Life


perfection of the first, just as the resurrection on the eighth day is a recapitulation of the first day – the dawn of the new creation. Armed with the number seven, Augustine proceeds to match each of the seven beatitudes to the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer and the seven gifts of the Spirit (as named in the old Latin text of Isaiah 11:2). Perhaps in order to make his lists line up better, he inverts the set of spiritual gifts, beginning with ‘the fear of the Lord’, which is the last gift named in Isaiah 11. He justifies this move by appealing to another scriptural principle: ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Prov. 9:10, italics added). For example, Augustine matches ‘the fear of the Lord’ with the petition ‘Hallowed be your name’ and with the blessing on the poor in spirit, which he understood as the virtue of humility.36 Lord’s Prayer petition

Gift of the Spirit


Hallowed be your name

Fear of the Lord

Poor in spirit

Your kingdom come



Your will be done



Give us our daily bread


Hunger and thirst

Forgive us our debts



Lead us not into temptation


Pure in heart

Deliver us from evil



This threesome of sevens is the first septenary. It dominates Western medieval understandings of how to achieve virtue and lead a good life: one begins with petition and prayer, receives the gifts of the Spirit, and is empowered to embody or perform the virtue of the beatitude. Viewing the beatitudes as seven stages toward a virtuous life that are empowered by the Holy Spirit appears in the writings of some of the medieval era’s most influential thinkers, from Rabanus Maurus and Paschasius Radbertus in the ninth century to St Anselm of Canterbury and John of Salisbury in the twelfth century. From Augustine’s initial set of sevens flower the famous medieval septenaries. In the early twelfth century, Hugh of St Victor added seven virtues that flowed from each beatitude, seven vices overcome by those virtues, and the seven fruits of the Spirit (even though there are actually nine fruits listed in Galatians 5:22).37 Hugh’s contemporary and namesake, the Benedictine Hugh 36 In On Christian Teaching, Augustine uses the gifts and beatitudes, in sequential order, as the necessary stages for a student of the divine Scriptures to learn to read and understand them properly; see Augustine, On Christian Teaching, Oxford World’s Classics, trans. R.P.H. Green (Oxford, 1997), 2.7.9-11. 37 Ryan P. Freeburn, Hugh of Amiens and the Twelfth-Century Renaissance (Surrey, 2011), 198. For an exploration of the relationship between the gifts, virtues, beatitudes, and fruits



of Amiens, may hold the record for the most septenaries; he included the usual sets (virtues, vices, petitions, fruits) and then added (in various writings) the seven sacraments, the seven seals of Revelation, the seven clerical orders, and the seven days of creation.38 But they all began with Augustine’s first set of seven: the seven beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-9. Even Augustine’s inversion of the gifts shows up in the septenaries, which often likewise invert the order of the spiritual gifts named in Isaiah 11. In the early ninth century, influential medieval theologian Paschasius Radbertus followed Augustine’s scheme, except that he also reversed the order of the Lord’s Prayer petitions.39 Some medieval septenaries follow Augustine’s ordering, and some follow Radbertus. Hugh of St Victor and Hugh of Amiens, for example, follow Augustine; the late thirteenth-century French treatise Somme le roi follows Radbertus. The combined patristic influence of Augustine, Chrysostom, Gregory of Nyssa, and Ambrose of Milan explains why the numbers seven and eight both appear repeatedly in the medieval era when the beatitudes are invoked. While some medieval writings and practices tend toward the number seven, and some toward the number eight, others display the typical patristic and medieval comfort with multiplicity by combining both, without apparent contradiction, in their reflections on the beatitudes. Paschasius Radbertus, whom Birgitta Stoll describes as ‘DER große Ausleger der Seligpreisungen’ (‘THE great interpreter of the beatitudes’) in the Carolingian era, used both numbers when he referred to seven gifts of the Spirit, seven prayers, and seven virtues of the beatitudes, while in the same passage referring to the resurrection of Christ as the octave.40 Gerhoh of Reichersberg, a twelfth-century German theologian, similarly combined the seven vices and seven spiritual gifts with the eight beatitudes and eight virtues.41 In 1228, Gregory IX’s papal bull canonizing Francis of Assisi in medieval thought, see D.O. Lottin, ‘Les dons du Saint-Esprit chez les théologiens depuis P. Lombard jusqu’à S. Thomas d’Aquin’, Recherches de théologie ancienne et medievale 1 (1929), 41-61. 38 R.P. Freeburn, Hugh (2011), 114. By the fourteenth century, the seven penitential psalms were also being used as prayers against the vices (e.g., Psalm 6 against anger); see Bruce K. Waltke, James M. Houston and Erika Moore, The Psalms as Christian Lament: A Historical Commentary (Grand Rapids, 2014), 15. Much like the beatitudes, medieval writers understood the seven penitential psalms as ‘seven steps on the ladder of repentance’ (B.K. Waltke, Psalms [2014], 17). However, I have found no evidence that the seven penitential psalms themselves were ever paired with the beatitudes or ever appeared in a septenary with the beatitudes. 39 Servais Pinckaers, The Sources of Christian Ethics (Edinburgh, 2001), 156; R.P. Freeburn, Hugh (2011), 196. 40 B. Stoll, Virtute (1988), 185. Radbertus writes, Septem virtutum beatitudines una nimirum caritas… Septem sunt incrementa meritorum sed una ex resurrectione Christi virtus quae et octava…: Paschasius Radbertus, Expositio in Matheo, Libri XII (I-IV), CChr.CM 56 (Turnhout, 1984), 56, 301, 2153/2158; 41 B. Stoll, Virtute (1988), 143.

Patristic Approaches to the Beatitudes in Medieval Life


described him as one who had uprooted the vices and make his heart an altar for God by following the path of the ‘sevenfold grace of the Spirit’, with ‘the help of the eight beatitudes of the Gospel’ as well as ‘the fifteen steps of the virtues mystically represented in the psalter (gradual psalms) [Pss 120-134].’42 Medieval people would also have encountered the beatitudes in moral instruction, both in writing and in art. To be sure, some of this writing (and some of the illuminations in manuscripts) was intended for royal households, and some of it was for use in monasteries. But some of it was more publicly accessible. When the beatitudes appear in medieval visual art, they are typically personified as women. For example, a magnificent full-page illumination in the twelfth-century Floreffe Bible (the Bible of a monastery in Floreffe, Belgium), depicts seven beatitudes as female busts enclosed in medallions and arranged around three women representing the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and love). Seven doves representing the gifts of the Spirit hover above each of the seven personified beatitudes. The beatitudes also appear in personified form in poetry – for example, as eight ‘Dames’ in the fourteenth-century poem ‘Patience’ penned by the Gawainpoet: Dames Poverty, Pity, Penance, Meekness, Mercy, Purity, Peace, and Patience.43 The virtues assigned to the Dames are the standard virtues typically assigned to each of the eight Matthean beatitudes, a tradition reaching back to the patristic era. (While some minor variations occur in the virtues ascribed to the beatitudes, this list is easily recognizable.) The Gawain-poet revealed his dependence upon Augustine by linking the virtues of poverty and patience, which are the virtues of the first and eighth beatitudes, respectively.44 Even the circular nature of the poem – the last line echoes the first – reflects Augustine’s view that the eighth beatitude recapitulates the first.45 About a century after the Floreffe Bible was illuminated, a thirteen-century moral treatise called Somme le roi was written or compiled by the Dominican Frère Laurent in 1279 for King Philippe III of France. At least fifteen copies of the Somme le roi contain a variation of an illumination called the Virtue Garden. The garden is a visual illustration of Augustine’s septenary: beatitudes, Lord’s Prayer petitions, and gifts of the Holy Spirit are all featured. There are seven women in the illumination, but this time they are, surprisingly, not the beatitudes. Instead, seven trees in the garden represent the seven beatitudes.46 42 Carolyn Muessig, ‘Preaching the Beatitudes in the Late Middle Ages: Some Mendicant Examples’, Studies in Christian Ethics 22.2 (2009), 137. 43 Gawain-Poet, Complete Works: Patience, Cleanness, Pearl, Saint Erkenwald, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, trans. Marie Borroff (New York, 2011), Patience, Prologue lines 31-3. 44 Jay Schleusener, ‘“Patience”, Lines 35-40’, Modern Philology 67.1 (1969), 66. 45 Miriam Grove Munson, ‘Humility, Charity, and the Beatitudes in Patience and The Scale of Perfection’, 14th Century English Mystics Newsletter 4.3 (1978), 22. 46 Ellen Kosmer, ‘Gardens of Virtue in the Middle Ages’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 41 (1978), 304.



Seven women pour streams of water onto the roots of the trees; the women represent the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, and the water symbolizes the gifts of the Spirit. That is, the garden depicts a petition producing a spiritual gift, which in turn ‘waters’ the virtue of each beatitude. For example, praying ‘Deliver us from evil’ produces the gift of wisdom, which nurtures the first beatitude: poverty of spirit or the virtue of humility.47 Finally, Dhuoda of Septimania, a noble laywoman in southern France, wrote the treatise Liber Manualis (between 841 and 843) as an education for her 15-year-old son William. She organized her program for William’s moral development around the seven spiritual gifts and the eight beatitudes.48 Although she was clearly influenced by Augustine, she departed from him in two ways – first, she did not invert the list of spiritual gifts, as Augustine had. Second, rather than pairing the two lists, she treated them ‘as an extended sequence’, a set of fifteen steps that her son must ascend – first the gifts and then the beatitudes.49 Taken together, all these examples reveal how thoroughly the patristic frame for the beatitudes influenced moral instruction at various levels of medieval society. Our last example returns us to the theme of pilgrimage. The medieval pilgrimage performed a variety of functions in medieval life. Pilgrims traveled to see the relics of saints (out of curiosity and devotion), to receive special blessings, and (later) to win indulgences. As illustrated by the journeys of the pilgrims in Purgatorio and in John Bunyan’s allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress, the journey itself was sometimes just as important as the destination. The beatitudes and the pilgrimage overlap at the level of moral formation, taking a cue from the patristic understanding of the beatitudes as virtues advancing one toward greater Christlikeness. Not all pilgrimages, of course, traveled the way of the beatitudes. But, in addition to Dante’s narrative, another especially influential account also invokes the beatitudes throughout its often humorous, occasionally caustic, and sometimes profound account of a pilgrimage. Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales represents a time of transition in the way that patristic readings influenced medieval understanding of the beatitudes. The beatitudes are threaded throughout Chaucer’s tales about merry and not always penitent pilgrims.50 The first beatitude is quoted (and then wildly 47 An eighth, taller tree in the garden represents Christ, ‘under whom the virtues grow’. For the image and additional commentary, see Rebekah Eklund, ‘The Blessed’, Visual Commentary on Scripture, 48 Dhuoda, Handbook for her Warrior Son, ed. and trans. Marcelle Thiébaux (Cambridge, 1998), 4.8. 49 Marie Anne Mayeski, ‘The Beatitudes and the Moral Life of the Christian: Practical Theology and Biblical Exegesis in Dhuoda of Septimania’, Mystics Quarterly 18.1 (1992), 10. 50 David Lyle Jeffrey suggests that ‘Custance, whose name suggests “perseverance” or “constancy”… seems the very embodiment of the Beatitudes’; see D.L. Jeffrey, ‘Dante and Chaucer’,

Patristic Approaches to the Beatitudes in Medieval Life


misinterpreted) in the Friar’s and Summoner’s tales. The seventh beatitude (the blessing on the peacemakers) provides the theme of the Tale of Melibee.51 As in the poem ‘Patience’, a beatitude-Dame also appears in Chaucer’s tales: Dame Prudence, a personification of the seventh beatitude (for the GawainPoet, the seventh beatitude was simply Dame Peace).52 Even the very last line of The Tales (the conclusion to The Parson’s Prologue and Tale) alludes to the beatitudes: ‘This blisful regne may mene purchace by poverte espiritueel, and the glorie by lowenesse, the plentee of joye by hunger and thurst, and the reste by travaille [disciplined labor], and the lyf by deeth and mortificacion of synne’ [‘This blissful reign may men purchase by poverty spiritual, and the glory by lowness, the plenty of joy by hunger and thirst, and the rest by travail, and the life by death and mortification of sin’].53 Chaucer’s final line alludes to the first beatitude (poverty of spirit, Matt. 5:3), the third54 (meekness, or lowliness, Matt. 5:5), and the fourth (hungering and thirsting, Matt. 5:6). It follows the typical patristic framework for the beatitudes by linking them to the overcoming of sin. In many respects, then, Chaucer is still treading the well-worn paths laid down by the patristic writers. In the Parson’s Tale, the beatitudes are invoked as remedies for the seven deadly sins. But whereas Dante matched the sin of envy to the virtue of mercy (the virtue of the fifth beatitude), Chaucer contrasts envy with the eighth and last beatitude, ‘Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you’ (Matt. 5:10-1). This beatitude was close to the heart of the followers of John Wycliffe – the persecuted Lollards.55 Chaucer studied under Wycliffe while at Oxford, and they both worked under the patronage of the same man, John of Gaunt.56 Chaucer’s fierce denunciations of the friars as ‘destructive of the authority of Scripture and betrayers of their own rule’ (echoed by Dante’s denunciation of corrupt clergy), alongside his inclusion of the blessing on the persecuted (not mentioned by Dante), points forward to the gathering storm of the Reformation.57

in Jeffrey P. Greenman, Timothy Larsen and Stephen R. Spencer (eds), The Sermon on the Mount through the Centuries (Grand Rapids, 2007), 93. 51 Ibid. 94-5, 96. 52 Ibid. 81-107, 97-8. 53 Quoted in ibid. 106-7. Modern English translation at parsons-prologue-and-tale. 54 In some manuscript traditions, followed by the Vulgate and thus by many Western medieval Christians, the blessing on the meek was second, followed by the blessing on those who mourn. For convenience, I am following the tradition, which is also followed by most modern English translations, that lists the meek as the third beatitude (Matt. 5:5). 55 Jeffrey, ‘Dante and Chaucer’ (2007), 102. 56 Ibid. 94. 57 Ibid. 95.



IV. Conclusion In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, after a century and a half dominated by the trajectories set by Ambrose of Milan, John Chrysostom, Gregory of Nyssa, and Augustine of Hippo, approaches to the beatitudes finally begin to veer off in new directions. Even then, the patristic approaches are not fully abandoned. Martin Luther largely approved of Augustine’s reading of the beatitudes, and John Calvin read and incorporated his own fair share of his patristic forerunners. The patristic influences are not fully undermined or abandoned until the rise of historical-critical methods during the Enlightenment era, and even then the trajectories set by the patristic figures stubbornly endure almost everywhere outside the world of academia and Protestant scholarship: one finds their fingerprints still in the most surprising places, from the Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon (who also makes significant use of medieval exegesis) to the evangelist Billy Graham. Even today – although perhaps less so than in the vibrant world of medieval visual art and journeying pilgrims – one can find the patristically-inflected beatitudes everywhere, if one only knows where to look.

Love, Friendship, and Community: From Patristic to Medieval Notions Eileen C. SWEENEY, Boston College, Boston, MA, USA

ABSTRACT This paper will consider the ways in which notions of love, friendship, and community in Augustine were developed by Anselm of Canterbury, Hugh of St Victor, and Thomas Aquinas. I consider two things, first, how the Christian Medieval reception of Augustine on affectivity developed in ways that are an important ‘source of the modern self’ without which we would find it hard to recognize ourselves. Second, I explore whether the notion of our relationships as grounded in affectivity, rather than reason or virtue, gives rise to an other-directed ethics and a new notion of friendship and community, not just upward to God as other but horizontally, human being to human being.

Introduction What I offer below is a combination of cliché, suggestion, and speculation. I traverse some of the well-worn path on love in Augustine (that’s the cliché) and give a very sketchy outline of how that notion of love and affectivity, considered as lying at the center of the human person, percolates through and is reshaped by some medieval thinkers. That’s the suggestion. The speculation is about the social consequences of the construction of love and its place in our lives that develops out of Augustine. Thus, there are three parts: love, friendship, and community. I consider two things, first, how the Christian medieval reception of Augustine on affectivity developed in ways that are an important ‘source of the modern self’ (an additional chapter, if you will, to Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self)1 without which we would find it hard to recognize ourselves. Second, I explore whether the notion of our relationships as grounded in affectivity, rather than reason or virtue, gives rise to an otherdirected ethics, not just upward to God as other but horizontally, human being to human being.


Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity (Cambridge, MA, 1989).

Studia Patristica CV, 95-106. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.


96 I. Love A. Augustine

I begin with the cliché; Augustine makes the most important basic claims about the centrality of love in the Christian tradition, transforming Stoic principles by placing them into an ethics of love. Augustine accepts the Stoic principle that one should not love what can be taken against one’s will, even accepting that the category of what can be taken against one’s will includes not only the material goods of wealth and one’s own body and its health and well-being, but also other human beings whom we might love.2 This becomes the distinction between uti and frui, what is to be loved for its own sake versus being loved for its usefulness. As Augustine’s De doctrina christiana makes clear, the only thing that can be frui, loved for its own sake, is God; all else is merely uti, useful for the end of loving God.3 As much as this would seem to discount the world of our passions and our human loves and relationships (and it does that), it still leaves love and relationship at the center of human life. The ultimate foundation is affective, as opposed to reason and the self-contained, self-sufficient life of Stoic virtue. We see very clearly the story of the turning rather than turning off of the passions in Augustine’s Confessions. The Confessions, of course, is full of emotions and affective attachments – besides Augustine’s sexual relationships and his friend’s addiction to the violence of the games, there are Augustine’s intense affections for his friends and his mother and his presentations of his experiences of love and grief as overwhelming and gripping. These relationships and feelings are problematic within the kind of Christianized Stoicism that reserves love for God, but also, clearly, on another level, Augustine affirms these affective experiences, and not just as stepping-stones toward transcendence one can and should skip if possible. In the Confessions Augustine presents himself as something like Alcibiades, as desire looking for an object. Unlike in the Symposium, where we view Alcibiades from the perspective of Socrates and the other diners (complete with stories of Socrates’ inhuman lack of desire), Augustine presents himself in the throes of all his messy passions. Alcibiades is ridiculous; Augustine is troubled; one is comic, the other has the seriousness if not the outcome of the tragic. And though sublimation is on the menu offered by both Plato and Augustine, Augustine’s struggle with the redirection of his desires is never the victory over desire that Socrates’ is. The Symposium, unlike the Gorgias or Republic, focuses on passion rather than reason, but in it Socrates still presents a model of virtue as rational self-control. 2

Augustine, De libero arbitrio I, 12-6. All works of Augustine are cited from Saint Augustine: Opera Omnia, Corpus Augustinianum Gissense, ed. C. Mayer, electronic edition (Basel, 1995). 3 Augustine, De doctrina christiana, I, 3-5.

Love, Friendship, and Community: From Patristic to Medieval Notions


Augustine’s rejection of this picture becomes especially clear in his powerful critique of pagan virtue in the City of God. The cardinal virtues, he argues, are unable to do much more than forcibly restrain evil, in their very acts witnessing to their own defeat: temperance is nothing more than “internal warfare”, fortitude “bears the most witness to human evils, because it is precisely these evils that it is compelled to endure with patience”, while prudence teaches about evil but fails to remove it from life, and justice labors continually but does not achieve its end of giving each their due.4 Moreover, they do not just fail but become vices when not directed toward service of God but for oneself.5 Augustine describes the Roman empire as fueled by the desire for glory and honor, and criticizes Cicero for praising glory as a motive for virtue.6 Moreover, Augustine argues that the desire for glory is the sin of pride, and it easily degrades to one for domination, since it rejects the notion of human beings as equal before God.7 Even more completely re-writing Stoic moral psychology, Augustine counsels feeling and not just doing for those who suffer: ‘So when you perform a work of mercy, if you’re offering bread, feel sorry for the hungry; if you’re offering drink, feel sorry for the thirsty; if you’re handing out clothes, feel sorry for the naked; if you’re offering hospitality, feel sorry for the stranger and traveler; if you’re visiting the sick, feel sorry for the people who are ill; if you’re burying the dead, feel sorry for the deceased; if you’re patching up a quarrel, feel sorry for the quarrelers.’8 Augustine repeats the list of works of mercy from Matthew 25, adding to each the exhortation to feel sorry for those who suffer as one offers solace. Seneca, considering whether should one feel as well as act for those who suffer, argues vehemently that feeling adds nothing and even interferes with the moral act. B. Love in the Middle Ages The Augustinian central focus on the affections finds further expression in Anselm of Canterbury. Anselm is the creator of some of the most emotional, personal, and elaborate prayers of his time, focused not on coolly convincing the intellect but on arousing the passions and will toward love of God. The 4 Augustine, De civitate Dei 19, 4. William Babcock (trans.), City of God, part I, vol. 7, The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century (Hyde Park, 2013), 355-7. 5 Ibid. 19, 25. 6 Ibid. 5, 12-3. 7 Ibid. 19, 12. 8 Augustine, Sermon 358A. Trans. Edward P. Hill, O.P., in Sermons 341-400, part III, vol. 10, The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century (Hyde Park, 1995), 197. This sermon is found in the Patrologia Latina edition of Augustine’s sermons but is not included in the Corpus Augustinianum Gissense. Susan Wessel cites some concern that it is a modern insertion. See ead., Passion and Compassion in Early Christianity (Cambridge, 2016), 231, n. 121.



prayers exhort not, as philosophers are wont, the calming of the passions but rather the stirring up of feelings of love, hope, longing, and sorrow; the primary concern is a lack of feeling, rather than too much. The prayers ask the reader to join in the sufferings of Christ’s passion and describes the love the sinner seeks from Jesus, Mary, and the saints in terms of intimate human love – that of lovers, parents and children, brother and brother, nurse and nursemaid.9 The importance and emphasis on the affective life is also found in Anselm’s letters. Echoing in some ways the deeply troubled Augustine in the Confessions, Anselm’s letters express passionate longing and anguished grief at separation, expressing fervent love for individuals, placing all his bliss in their presence and despair at their absence. Here is a typical passage: ‘My eyes long [concupiscunt] to see your face, my most beloved; my arms stretch out to your embraces. My mouth pants for your kisses; whatever remains of my life desires your conversation, so that my soul may delight in complete joy with you in the next life.’10 As with later notions of romantic love, the very intensity of this love explains, at least partly, how it can last forever regardless of the parties’ separation from one another.11 It is not just that Anselm borrows his language of longing and fervor from physical and sexual love, but also that he uses the language of love of something for its own sake rather than as a means, treating those human relationships as frui rather than uti. Hugh of St Victor’s short work, Soliloquoy on the Betrothal Gift of the Soul, is an internal dialogue between the soul and the self which explores the soul’s desire to be loved exclusively and uniquely, for and as itself. Strikingly, Hugh does not try to redirect or sublimate the desire for particular love, but instead shows how it is fulfilled in God’s love. In the dialogue, the soul protests that the gifts of creation are given to reptiles and worms as well as to the sinful and, thus, do not satisfy the desire to be uniquely loved.12 The self’s reply consists in a description of creation and salvation history in terms of the unique love of God for the individual soul. God’s gifts to the individual come first in the form of existence and then in the beauty of form: ‘Formerly, when you were not, he loved you and so he made you. Afterwards, when you were sordid, he loved you and so made you beautiful.’ The actions and relationship to Jesus Christ are also explained in terms of particular love, ‘Your spouse, your lover, your redeemer, your God, chose and preferred you. He chose you among all and took 9 See Eileen C. Sweeney, Anselm of Canterbury and the Desire for the Word (Washington, DC, 2012), 13-37. 10 Anselm, Epist. 120, in Anselmi Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi Opera Omnia, 6 vol., ed. F.S. Schmitt (Repr. Stuttgart, 1984), vol. III, 258, lines 8-12. My translation. 11 Anselm, Epist. 75, ed. Schmitt, vol. III, 197, lines 7-10. My translation. 12 Hugh of St Victor, Soliloquium de arrha animae, ed. Karl Muller (Bonn, 1913); English version: Soliloquy on the Betrothal Gift of the Soul, in Hugh Feiss, O.S.B. (ed.), On Love: A Selection of Works of Hugh, Adam, Achard, Richard and Godfrey of St. Victor (New York, 2012), section 21, 210.

Love, Friendship, and Community: From Patristic to Medieval Notions


you up from all and loved you in preference to all.’13 Only then is the soul satisfied, replying: ‘God … seems to me so completely occupied with guarding me that he forgets all others and chooses to be occupied with me alone.’14 Importantly, Hugh describes the connection with God in terms of being ‘touched’ and ‘moved’ rather than being ‘seen’ and ‘grasped’, pointing to another of his important contributions, in the transformation of mystical union in affective rather than intellectual terms. In Thomas Aquinas, the elements of the Victorine account of affectivity make it out of mystical theology, where it had been explicated as the character of love of God, into the treatise on the passions of the sensitive appetite. Hence, love is the inclination toward the good; desire is movement toward it; hope, the movement toward it as an attainable but arduous goal; despair, the turning away from an unattainable good; joy or pleasure, the resting in the good possessed. So too hatred is the disinclination to evil; aversion, the movement away from evil; fear, the movement from the arduous future evil, shunned rather than defeated; daring, the tendency toward evil in order to defeat rather than be subject to it; sorrow, the resting in subjection to evil; and anger, the movement toward evil in revenge for an evil done.15 For Aquinas all passion is in some way reducible to the tendency of things to seek what is suitable to their nature and flee the contrary; all are movements which presuppose a likeness or aptness to that toward which they tend.16 When Aquinas considers whether the passions themselves are morally good or evil, he argues against the Stoics and with the Peripatetics that passion is not an evil, not a disturbance of the soul or nature, unless unchecked by reason.17 But he goes further, citing Augustine, that any passion itself is good if it turns to what is truly good and tends away from what is truly evil.18 This Augustinian claim is used time and again as the pivot to shift the orientation of the discussion toward love of the good.19 The centrality of love as the inclination toward good makes possible and animates this schema; in an important sense love is the cause of all other passions and always that in terms of which they are analyzed and explained: “The end is the good desired and loved by each one. Hence is it manifest that every agent of whatever kind does every action whatever from love of some kind.”20 Against not just the Stoic rejection of pleasure 13

Ibid., section 50, 219. Ibid., section 65, 226. 15 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, part I-II, q. 23, a. 1, ed. Robert Busa [http://www.]; English translation by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province, 3 vol. (New York, 1947-48; reprint, 1981). 16 Ibid., part I-II, q. 25, a. 2; q. 26, a. 1; q. 27, a. 4. 17 Ibid., part I-II, q. 24, a. 1. 18 Ibid., part I-II, q. 24, a. 4, ad 2. 19 Ibid., part I-II, q. 24, aa. 1 & 2, sed contra. 20 Ibid., part I-II, q. 28, a. 6. 14



as good, but also the Platonic view that no pleasure can be the greatest good, Aquinas affirms that the greatest good of human being is in the pleasure/joy in the last end.21 Any trace of the quelling of desire, of Socrates’ transcendence of human desire, has disappeared. Is it the naturalization of love, that it’s part of human nature and not just something we share in common with our animal nature? That’s surely part of it, and Aquinas’s treatise on the passions is surely a high water mark in that naturalization. But it is also, perhaps as a consequence of that naturalization, a placing of affective, and hence relational, life as above the life of pure reason.

II. Suggestion: Friendship/Relationship When we shift from love considered as central to the human self to love as relational, as friendship of one kind or another, we find another kind of shift. In Augustine’s sermon on the Gospel of John he comments on love, God as love, and the command to love one another. Augustine makes clear that love of neighbor means loving and acting for their benefit, not our advantage.22 This much is found in Aristotle, but Augustine takes it further. We love our friends not just without reference to our own advantage, but even if they do things that offend us: ‘in people there are always things that cause offense; still, through friendship you force yourself to put up with things that offend you in a person, for the sake of friendship’.23 The love of friendship extends beyond friendship in and through the virtues of the person, to the whole person, warts and all. I can’t imagine Aristotle, or Plato, or Seneca saying anything similar. Take this ability to love other human beings, he advises, and use it to love God, the perfect object of love, but also the one who will bring you to love others for his sake.24 Still, there are times when Augustine seems to leave behind his deeply passionate self of the Confessions, who could neither not love nor not seek to be loved ardently. In Sermon 349 he plays this out as a competition between love for God and love for children, wives, etc. Of course he says, love them ‘with reference to Christ, with reference to God’, but he adds, ‘love Christ more’.25 And even in the Sermon I cited above where Augustine maintains that our love for other human beings endures beyond their virtues, even when they annoy us, it is in the context of contrasting that with love of God: God who is both unable to annoy, only to delight, and bids us to love others, not just himself.26 21 22 23 24 25 26

Ibid., part I-II, q. 34, a. 3. Augustine, Sermon 385. Ibid. Ibid. Augustine, Sermon 349. My emphasis. Augustine, Sermon 385, 4.

Love, Friendship, and Community: From Patristic to Medieval Notions


In this and other passages, Augustine seems to see love of God and love of human beings in competition, exhorting us to love of God as a better and more satisfying object, as if, as one commentator puts it, we had to ‘throw out our silver in order to make room for gold’.27 It’s hard not to conclude that Augustine distrusts biological relationships as much as he does nature in general, and though these often fall short, we have, alas, at least as many reasons to be concerned about supposedly spiritual relationships. Augustine does attempt to knit together love of God and love of others, arguing that the goods one seeks and finds in their genuine form in God – safety and well-being, health and justice – one wishes for one’s friend also in that genuine form, and wishes to have those goods together with the friend under God.28 Anselm turns up the volume on this ambivalence both using the model of and affirming the longing for the intimate bond of mother and child, brother and brother, but also completely abandoning the biological and physical for the spiritual. In his letters of spiritual direction, Anselm ultimately reverts to a more Augustinian model of a love of the other not as passionate or particular but in God, arguing that the attachment is so perfect the parties need neither words nor physical presence, and even that this intense and apparently particular love can be transferred without loss to any monk of the community. Nonetheless, Anselm’s letters and prayers acknowledge and affirm the human desire for these kinds of intense, physical, and exclusive attachments. While Anselm tells monks to abandon their families, exhorts them not to leave the cloister to help family members on the outside, urges husbands and wives to give up their marital relationship to join the cloister, he does not disparage the desires those relationships are designed to satisfy. Rather he argues that those most intimate, specific, concrete, and physical desires are fulfilled rather than obliterated in the spiritual relationships of the monastic life.29 Anselm has combined elements of earlier forms of classical friendship and sexual love in poets like Ovid, put together the moral basis and stability of classical friendship with the intensity of longing and desire in erotic love, to describe a model of human relationship that anticipates the advent of romantic love in the twelfth century. Anselm uses the kind of language mystics use for love of God for his love and longing for his fellow monks. He takes his language not just ‘up’ from erotic love but also ‘down’ from mystical union to human relationships. The reapplication of the language of mystical longing and union to human relationships, even the spiritual relationships of the monastery, places passionate human relationships at the center of human life; they are neither the optional ornament of virtuous life, nor characterized primarily by their careful management by reason. 27 Jason Lepojärvi, ‘A Friend’s Death: C. S. Lewis’ Disagreement with St. Augustine’, Sehnsucht: The C.S. Lewis Journal (2012), 67-80, 72. 28 Augustine, Sermon 385, 8. 29 E.C. Sweeney, Anselm (2012), 63-73.



Hugh of St Victor’s long digression on the Seraphim in his Commentary on the Mystical Theology weds their fiery love with the images of conjugal love from the Song of Songs, using the language of mutual penetration to describe the lover’s union, concluding, ‘love [dilectio] surpasses knowledge, and is greater than intelligence. He [the beloved] is loved more than understood, and love enters and approaches where knowledge stays outside’. The final ecstasy of union with the beloved requires, as Boyd Coolman points out, a shift from the active seeking of the intellect to the task of enstasis (as opposed to ecstasis), a stretching and hollowing out, so that one can receive the beloved one cannot actively grasp.30 This affirmation of passivity and receptivity stands over against the standard (if not universally held) view in ancient Western thought that denigrates passivity as feminine. Virtue is much more often cast in masculine tones as activity and self-sufficiency, and the roles of lover and beloved are set in opposition, lover as male and active, and beloved as female and passive. But in the Victorine account, all human beings are receivers of divine love, and, even more surprisingly, union is cast in terms of mutual indwelling, as both partners are received into the other. It is this sort of casting of the position of lover as unworthy receiver into the ideal for courtly love that brought the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas to find in courtly love a model of his ethics of the Other, when he writes, ‘There is in the erotic relationship [as conceived in courtly love] a characteristic reversal of the subjectivity issued from position, a reversion of the virile and heroic I.’31 J. Alan Mitchell makes the argument that for courtly love (as a version of mystical love) and Levinas there is a notion of ‘ethics as radical passivity before fortune and future contingency: a passivity that resembles a kind of courtship, given its demanding waiting period and uncertain end, its privileging of heteronomy over the autonomy of the self, its disavowal of self-sufficiency and its subjection of self to the other.’32 We might expect that none of this would make its way into Aquinas. As I mentioned, Aquinas’ account of love and the passions is modeled on the teleological movement of a thing from potency to act. But there is a subtle shift from movement toward the fulfillment/completion of a thing’s own nature to movement toward the good, which orients us toward not just what is contained in but is beyond nature. The shift becomes seismic in the question considering the ‘effects’ of love. Merely the titles of the articles tell us that we have left Aristotle behind to join the Victorines: Aquinas asks whether union, ‘mutual indwelling’ (mutua inhaesio), the ecstasy (extasis) of lover and beloved, the zeal (zelus) of and 30 Boyd Taylor Coolman, ‘The Medieval Affective Dionysian Tradition’, Modern Theology 24.4 (2008), 615-32, here 623. 31 Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh, 1981), 270. Cited in J. Allan Mitchell, ‘Romancing Ethics in Boethius, Chaucer, and Levinas: Fortune, Moral Luck, and Erotic Adventure’, Comparative Literature 57.2 (2005), 101-16, 111. 32 J.A. Mitchell, ‘Romancing Ethics’ (2005), 102.

Love, Friendship, and Community: From Patristic to Medieval Notions


wounding (laesiva) of the lover are effects of love. Aquinas considers how ‘wounding’ can take the forms of ‘melting’ (liquefactio), ‘enjoyment’ (fruitio), ‘languor’ (languor), and ‘fervor’ (fervor) all language that comes from the Song of Songs, and taken as describing the effects of intimate knowledge and satisfaction, possession and identification of feeling with the beloved.33 The question as a whole is grounded in two sources, the Song of Songs and Pseudo-Dionysius, the very same sources Hugh of St Victor and the Victorines tied to together to forge a new account of affectivity as at the center of human life. In these passages, Aristotelian orexis, directedness toward the end in the fulfillment of nature, is superseded by mystical love, in which the object is outside and exceeding the self, in which the aim is union with that other, not fulfillment of the self. Love is ecstatic in three ways, Aquinas explains, first, as the beloved dwells in the lover’s mind, second, in concupiscence, not being satisfied with the good one has, and seeking a good outside oneself, and, finally, most completely in the love of friendship where ‘affection goes out from itself absolutely’ wishing and doing good for the friend for his sake.34 Aquinas also argues that a passive love based in the sensitive appetite for God is more ‘godlike’ than a rationally grounded dilection: ‘it is possible’, he explains, ‘for man to tend to God by love, being as it were passively drawn by Him, more than he can possibly be drawn to Him by his reason, which pertains to the nature of dilection.’35 Aquinas, thus, repeats the Victorine claims valuing the affective over the cognitive, receptivity and passivity over activity, but goes further in expressing that view not in the context of mystical experience but the passions of the sensitive appetite. While clearly Aquinas takes the sensitive or bodily appetite to be inferior to the higher/ intellectual appetite, by outlining the positive character of appetite in general in the account of the sensitive passions, and by elevating them by association with mystical union, he gives them a value and place in human life beyond what is found in Aristotle. He even, as in this case, finds aspects of the sensitive appetite, its passivity and non-rational nature, as being more fitting for the love of God because God as object exceeds our rational capacities.

III. Speculation: Community The last notion in my trinity of exploration is to ask what changes Augustine’s understanding of love and friendship makes to the notion of community. When Augustine turns to this question in the City of God he is clear that the foundation is love: a community or people is ‘a group of many rational beings that is brought together by shared agreement in the things it loves’.36 Augustine rejects 33 34 35 36

Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, part I-II, q. 28, aa. 1-5. Ibid. q. 28, a. 3. Ibid. q. 26, a. 3, ad 4. Augustine, De civ. Dei, 19, 24.



Cicero’s view of the republic as ‘common acknowledgement of right and a community of interest’; since this was never achieved, Augustine argues, Rome was never a republic. Augustine’s definition, then, is more flexible than Cicero’s, encompassing good and evil regimes: we are what we love not just as individuals, but are constituted as a community by it. One standard critique of Augustine, of course, is that since the only true and just community is the city of God, he takes no interest in earthly politics. Another is that he so spiritualizes and universalizes love that it loses all connection to the particular. Augustine himself is ambivalent about this, as is clear in his account of his grief for Monica. He finally allows himself to cry but he awaits the criticism of it which on his own terms he cannot reject. In Anselm we see a similar ambivalence in the spiritualization of relationships that make one monk the same as another, that erases the distinction of wills into one, a unity that will be a reality in the heavenly community and is anticipated in the monastic community. I recently heard an interview with Sister Helen Prejean about her memoir describing two things that marked her pre-Vatican II life as a nun: first the wrapping up of her body in so many layers of fabric (something like 32 yards) that one of her fellow sisters was taken for a bolt of cloth when shopping in a fabric store, and the absolute call of obedience aiming at the utter extinction of self-will.37 Since space is limited, this can stand for what I would see as problems in the accounts of life in a true community for Augustine and Anselm. But of course we would not be dissatisfied with their picture of communal life and its consequences for our bodies and particularity if they had not set the bar quite high. Nonetheless, there are moments which counter this picture. Oddly (or perhaps not) the ones I have found so far are in accounts of various kinds of sin. Anselm demonstrates compassion toward fellow monks in their failures, advocating love and kindness rather than harsh punishment both in general and intervening in particular cases.38 In Bernard of Clairvaux’s De gradibus humilitatus et superbiae tractatus, a restatement/interpretation of the rule of St Benedict, the point of humility (and the problem with pride) is its effects not just vertically between the individual and their God (or other superior) but its horizontal consequences across the community. Humility is a recognition of one’s own failings, which then makes it possible to see others’ failings with understanding and a willingness to help them. Pride is an impediment to seeing the truth about oneself and others, and, hence, to providing any aid to others, as the proud, focusing on the failings of others but not their own, will be moved to anger rather than pity and to judge rather than assist.39 Bernard backs this view up 37 Sister Helen Prejean, Fresh Air, August 12, 2019. sister-helen-prejean 38 E.C. Sweeney, Anselm (2012), 53, 58, 73. 39 Bernard of Clairvaux, De gradibus humilitatus et superbiae tractatus, PL 182, 944C-950C.

Love, Friendship, and Community: From Patristic to Medieval Notions


with a long account of Jesus’ life and suffering as the exemplar of humility, which leads to empathy for human sufferings and failings. Bernard of Clairvaux’s admonishments against pride and for humility are based on the effects of both on the monastic community; humility makes for equality and compassion and pride for domination and cruelty. The tradition of the seven deadly sins begins in the monastic tradition of the very early Church, as a list of the temptations of monks living on their own, but by the twelfth century, grounded not in the failings of individuals alone maintaining their devotion to God but to those in community dealing with ‘the hell of the other’. The explanations of the wrongness of pride, envy, anger, avarice, gluttony, lust, and sloth are explicated more in terms of their deleterious effects on human relationships than as temptations to this world as opposed to the next. We can see this in the accounts of the ‘contrary virtues’, those opposed to the seven deadly sins: The first form of praise is by a deep humility against the capital vice of pride; the second, by the warmth of brotherly love against the rancor of envy; the third is by patience against the plague of burning wrath; the fourth, by the copious largess of alms against the spirit of greed and avarice; the fifth, by a reasonable abstinence against the copious flow of gluttony; the sixth, by continence and chastity against the desirousness of lust; the seventh, in a good perseverance against the listlessness of sloth.40

Pride, envy, anger, and avarice are explicitly understood as relational and as countered by the correct kind of other-directed behavior – humility, brotherly love, patience; moreover, avarice and gluttony are not countered by monastic asceticism in the lack of all property and the extremes of self-denial but in sharing of one’s goods in alms and in ‘reasonable abstinence’. The shift we might describe in Thomas Aquinas is, though in a different key, like Augustine’s response to the loss of his mother, ambivalent. On the one hand, having accepted Aristotelian categories, he grounds the commitments of friendship in virtue, and thus, in the greater goodness/virtue of loving that which has greater goodness/virtue: God. The account of charity is shot through with the language of hierarchy. Love/charity is given on the basis of the goodness of the object. Hence, without giving up the Aristotelian notion that friendship is founded on virtue, Aquinas can nonetheless agree that love of neighbor is universal acceptance because it is through love of God. God is loved because of his worthiness as an object and through him others are loved. The language of mutuality and receptivity doesn’t reappear in the texts on charity. Perhaps it is because charity is a virtue, but love and desire are passions of the sensitive appetite. Charity as a virtue is about well-directed love, and it is only well directed toward objects that are truly good. 40 Cambridge, University Library KkA.24, fo1. 285rb, cited in Richard Newhauser, ‘Preaching the “Contrary Virtues”’, Mediaeval Studies 70 (2008), 135-62, 135.



More affirming notes come in the discussion of ‘fraternal correction’. There Aquinas addresses both the issue of hierarchy and our love for others. At issue is whether a subject can correct his prelate. Not with justice, nor by administering punishment, he replies; rather fraternal correction is an act of charity which ‘is in the competency of everyone in respect of any person towards whom he is bound by charity’.41 He even adds that thinking one is better than one’s prelate in some respect is not presumptuous ‘because, in this life, no man is without some fault’.42 In affirming the principle of charity to love one’s neighbor as oneself, Aquinas explains the reason as clear in the word ‘neighbor’ ‘because the reason why we ought to love others out of charity is because they are nigh to us, both as to the natural image of God and as to the capacity for glory’.43 In this Aquinas seems both to affirm a natural loveableness (something it often feels like Augustine affirms in practice but not quite in theory) and that this loveableness is directly grasped and loved in the person, rather than only for God’s sake. IV. Concluding Remarks Though I have only skipped around shamelessly, there is a story to be told here about love as the center of human life and about relationships not limited to virtue, but grounded in feeling more than reason, in the desire to be loved for one’s particularity, and in loving that is about receiving rather than taking, about ecstasy rather than self-sufficiency, about the other rather than the self. These are all, whether in their more debased or sublime forms, still current ideas about love and relationship we still have and that we can trace back to Augustine and the Middle Ages. As far as community, I am looking back to Augustine and the Medievals to comment on the problem Hobbes and Rousseau considered: how do we get different people with competing desires to live together in peace, to form a community. Sometimes Anselm can describe the perfect community as the extinction of difference and different wills in ways that sound like Rousseau’s ‘general will’ and Aquinas can, with his emphasis on hierarchy, sound, though not Hobbesian, quite the monarchist, subordinating the lower to the higher. But there are in these accounts of love and relationship elements that counter the brutality of these solutions, a fundamental orientation toward the other, not as means of fulfilling self-interest and not as the same as oneself. The model of loving God transforms human relationships, and just as Augustine cannot find himself until he finds God, we are not fully ourselves without other human beings. That does not mean our relationships are without conflict, but it does mean that we cannot find fulfillment in instrumentalizing others. 41 42 43

Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae part II-II, q. 33, a. 4. Ibid. ad 4. Ibid. part II-II, q. 44, a. 7.

The Missionary Position: Augustine and Margery Kempe Maggie Ann LABINSKI, Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT, USA

ABSTRACT Perhaps no aspect of Augustine’s legacy has been as simultaneously controversial and influential as his theories about sex. In particular, Augustine’s autobiography has prompted readers to reconsider the ways in which sexual transformation is often dependent upon the condition of the interior realm. This article explores how Margery Kempe both embraced and nuanced essential elements of this tradition. I argue that, for Kempe, the ability to alter our sexual lives is not only contingent upon the inner-workings of the self. Unlike Augustine, her autobiography suggests that change is also tied to the genderbased pressures exerted by others. I conclude by proposing that, when taken together, Augustine and Kempe urge readers to acknowledge those places where contemporary gender norms shape the scope of our own sexual choices. By extension, these thinkers compel us to continue sharing stories about sex today.

Introduction I was hired to fill an opening in Feminist Philosophy, and several of the classes I teach focus on issues concerning sex and sexuality. One of my primary goals in these courses is to encourage students to think critically about the current state of their sex lives and their hopes for the future. Many philosophers have argued that sexual desires tend to exist in a state of flux – where we are is rarely where we long to be.1 As such, part of what it means to analyze sex is to be open to the opportunity for transformation, to acknowledge the differences that might exist between one’s sexual reality and potential fantasies. It is because of this that I do what I can to give students the time and space to reflect upon the relationship between their sexual aspirations and the need for personal or political change. In reality, I spend most of my time just trying to get everybody to talk. Mine should be the easiest job on the planet; given the ubiquitous presence of online media, many people have become quite accustomed to confronting sexual content. Nevertheless, the majority of my students are very hesitant to speak openly about sex. Their reluctance is, of course, hardly unique. Most of us are at least 1 For an early account of the social/political consequences of this ambiguity, see Carole S. Vance (ed.), Pleasure and Danger (Boston, London, 1984).

Studia Patristica CV, 107-117. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



somewhat averse to participating in such discussions. This is especially true when these conversations implicate our personal sexual experiences. We are happy to observe sex from a distance – at the movies, in a song, plastered on the side of a passing bus – but the thought of scrutinizing the precise things we elect to do in the bedroom leaves us feeling ill at ease. As a teacher, one of the main questions this raises for me is practical: Why put my students through it? Do classes about sex serve any real purpose, aside from cultivating the same generic analytic skills one might acquire in any college course? What, in other words, is the real value of talking about sex with others and leaning into the prospect of sexual change? In what follows, I would like to suggest that one answer to this inquiry can be found in the Western medieval tradition. While stereotypes abound about the conservativism of this time period, several medieval thinkers were ready and willing to narrate the details of their sexual escapades. To this end, I will focus on two examples – i.e., the Confessions of Augustine of Hippo2 and The Book of Margery Kempe.3 In these autobiographies, readers are granted access to the events that contributed to the development of each author’s sexual self. More specifically, both thinkers share stories of sexual conversion. They articulate what it was like to move from a state of deep erotic dissatisfaction and into a posture of sexual joy. Throughout their journeys, Augustine and Kempe offer keen insight into the nature of sexual agency and its role in affecting such change. Given this, I will argue that Kempe’s story shares much in common with her predecessor. However, I will also suggest that she struggles with sex in distinct ways. In particular, Kempe underscores how gender norms often influence our ability to make sexual choices. Her story reveals that sex is impacted by the social/political assumptions surrounding ‘men’ and ‘women’. To be clear, I am not claiming that contemporary readers will be satisfied with the conclusions these philosophers reach about sex. I am also not proposing that we should model our twenty-first century sexual trajectories after their own. What I do want to argue is that, in these most intimate of disclosures, Augustine and Kempe present a compelling reason as to why talking about sex remains crucial today. I. Augustine Augustine’s (354-430 CE) account of his initial frustration with his sex life centers on the idle pleasures of his youth. His examples range from casual sexual encounters4 to the lies he told to make himself feel better about 2

Augustine, Confessions, trans. Maria Boulding (New York, 1997). Margery Kempe, The Book, trans. Barry A. Windeatt (New York, 1986). 4 One of these ‘casual’ encounters was long term. For an overview of Augustine’s sexual experiences, see Kim Power, Veiled Desire: Augustine on Women (New York, 1996), 94-107. 3

The Missionary Position: Augustine and Margery Kempe


them:5 ‘There was a time in adolescence when I was afire to take my fill of hell. I boldly thrust out rank, luxuriant growth in various furtive love affairs; my beauty wasted away and I rotted in your sight, intent on pleasing myself and winning favor in the eyes of men.’6 Augustine is resolute that such incidents brought him much distress and left him longing for change. Most notably, sex raises pressing issues regarding the landscape of Augustine’s internal world.7 Though Augustine admits to having had suspicions about his actions from a relatively early age, he argues that once he started engaging in sex he simply could not stop. Sex became a habit that held him in its grip: ‘The truth is that disordered lust springs from a perverted well; when lust is pandered to, a habit is formed; when habit is not checked, it hardens into compulsion. These were like interlinking rings forming what I have described as a chain, and my harsh servitude used it to keep me under duress.’8 Augustine suggests that the trouble with habits is that they bind us. The repetition ties us so strongly to the past that it becomes exceedingly difficult to resist in the present. By extension, sex challenges Augustine’s understanding of the scope of his agency. On the one hand, he describes his relationship to sex as utterly involuntary. He argues that his desires ‘imposed’ themselves upon him like some kind of uncontrolled ‘frenzy’.9 Each sexual exploit was not so much ‘freely’ chosen as it was something he ‘endured … against [his] will’.10 On the other hand, Augustine also maintains that he alone is responsible for his sexual choices and resulting despair. Like any sin,11 the compulsory sensations he now faces are only possible because he consented to such habituation: ‘For the law of sin is that brute force of habit whereby the mind is dragged along … and deservedly so because it slipped into the habit willingly.’12 5 Augustine, Confessions (1997), 2.3.7: ‘The more disgraceful their deeds, the more credit they claimed; and so I too became as lustful for the plaudits as for the lechery itself. What is more to be reviled than vile debauchery? Afraid of being reviled I grew viler and when I had no indecent acts to admit that could put me on a level with these abandoned youths, I pretended to obscenities I had not committed, lest I might be thought less courageous for being more innocent, and be accounted cheaper for being more chaste’. See John J. O’Meara, The Young Augustine (New York, 2001), 31-45. 6 Augustine, Confessions (1997), 2.1.1. 7 This has led several scholars to argue that notions of the erotic underpin the entirety of the Confessions. See Margaret Miles, Desire and Delight: A New Reading of Augustine’s Confessions (Eugene, 1991). More recently, see Virginia Burrus, Mark D. Jordan and Karmen Mackendrik, Seducing Augustine: Bodies, Desires, Confessions (New York, 2010). 8 Augustine, Confessions (1997), 8.5.10. 9 Augustine, Confessions (1997), 2.2.4: ‘Where was I, and how far was I exiled from the joys of your house in that sixteenth year of my bodily age, when the frenzy of lust imposed its rule on me, and I wholeheartedly yielded to it? A lust that was licensed by disgraceful human custom, but illicit before your laws’. 10 Ibid. 8.5.11. 11 See John Cavadini, ‘Augustine’s Book of Shadows’, in A Reader’s Companion to Augustine’s Confessions, ed. Kim Paffenroth and Robert P. Kennedy (Louisville, London, 2003), 25-34. 12 Augustine, Confessions (1997), 8.5.12.



So understood, Augustine depicts his sex life as a site of contradiction – a painful part of his everyday reality that somehow fell both beyond and within his immediate control.13 Augustine explains that the recognition of this tension left him especially attracted to the stability afforded by a posture of chastity. The guilt he felt in the aftermath of sex was excruciating. Yet, it was nothing compared to the anxiety produced by the sense that he simultaneously was and was not master of his sexual domain.14 In contrast, chastity emerged as a rightly ordered alternative to this tumultuous both/and. It presented a way for Augustine to curtail the ‘frenzy’ and recover the sexual power that he felt he had lost.15 This is largely due to Augustine’s understanding of the word chastity in this context. While a variety of sexual lifestyles can warrant the label ‘chaste’ (e.g., marriage), within the Confessions Augustine has his eye on celibacy. For him, the steadiness possible in ‘seeking a wife’ cannot compare to that of a sexless life.16 As such, Augustine decides to do what he can to instigate such change. He begins by focusing more deeply within. He wagers that his sexual issues are primarily intellectual. After all, it was his mind that first ‘slipped’ into this lifestyle so many years ago. Augustine suggests that if he can only present himself with a good argument, if he can but find confirmation about the truth of chastity, the strength of his rational capacities will allow him to reclaim some semblance of sexual control: ‘I had been telling myself that my reason for putting off day after day the decision to renounce worldly ambition … was that I could as yet see no certain light by which to steer my course … truth was uncertain.’17 Unfortunately, Augustine’s proposed solution is not enough to free him from his urges. Even after he locates a series of strong arguments in favor of his sexual reawakening, he remains entrenched in the patterns of his youth.18 It is only at this darkest of points, the good bishop claims, that he began to grasp the full complexity of his predicament. He suggests that although he was right to turn within, he was wrong to put his faith in himself. Augustine states that the condition of the possibility of his sexual transformation demands more than the insights of reason. Instead, it requires that he recognize the gifts of the 13

This seems to also be due to Augustine’s understanding of the relationship between sex and original sin. See Rosemary Radford Ruether, ‘Augustine: Sexuality, Gender, and Women’, in Judith Chelius Stark (ed.), Feminist Interpretations of Augustine (University Park, 2007), 47-67. 14 Augustine, Confessions (1997), 8.7.17: ‘But now self-abhorrence possessed me, all the harsher as my heart went out more ardently to those young men, and I heard of the blessed impulsiveness with which they had without reserve handed themselves over to you for healing. By contrast with them I felt myself loathsome … I had been putting off the moment when by spurning earthly happiness I would clear a space in my life to search for wisdom’. 15 Ibid. 2.4. 16 Ibid. 8.12.30. 17 Ibid. 8.7.18. 18 Ibid. 8.7.18: ‘Well it is certain now, yet the burden still weighs you down, while other people are given wings on freer shoulders’.

The Missionary Position: Augustine and Margery Kempe


Christian God: ‘I had no experience of it and believed that continence must be achieved by one’s own strength, a strength of which I was not conscious in my own case. I was too stupid to realize that, as scripture testifies, no one can be continent except by [God’s] gift.’19 To be clear, Augustine does not suggest that his rational powers serve no sexual function. Later in his Confessions, he attributes part of his ability to sustain a life of chastity to the inner workings of his mind.20 However, he also differentiates between the proper domain of the intellect and that of his God. Augustine argues that while reason may help him stay on a certain sexual path, it is only God who is capable of gifting him that path in the first place.21 So understood, Augustine is forced to reinterpret the source of his initial frustration regarding the parameters of his agency. He proposes that the real problem is not that he lacks sexual power. His problem is that he has hitherto believed that the only way forward is to, somehow, access more. Augustine explains that his ability to embrace a new sexual life is dependent upon his willingness to give up the illusion that the terms of his sexuality are utterly within his purview, that the fulfillment of his sexual desires can occur when he ‘tries to stand by [himself]’.22 Chastity is a practice that he might welcome. But it is not one that he alone creates. Having acknowledged this,23 Augustine is finally able to embrace what he craves. By extension, his sexual transformation marks the completion of his conversion to the Christian faith. He affirms that it is only now that he has conceded even his sexuality that God occupies his entire self: ‘You … entered yourself to take [its] place, you who are lovelier than any pleasure … more lustrous than any light, yet more inward than is any secret intimacy.’24 The results of Augustine’s journey are almost entirely positive. While he admits that he still toils at times with erotic dreams,25 he assures his readers that he is otherwise at ‘peace’ with the happiness that chastity grants.26 Likewise, 19

Ibid. 6.11.20. For example, it is because reason is somehow compromised while sleeping that Augustine, Confessions (1997), 10.30.41 questions his inability to resist temptation in dreams: ‘What becomes then of my reason, which enables me to resist these suggestions in waking hours, and remain unshaken if the actions themselves intrude upon my attention? Is reason shut down along with my eyelids? Is it lulled to sleep with the body’s senses’. 21 While Augustine focuses on celibacy here, given that he is telling his own story, there is ample evidence to suggest that he saw all rightly ordered sexual choices as gifts to receive rather than intellectual arguments to win. This is especially clear in his support of, what he calls, ‘the glory of wedlock’ which opens up other sexual opportunities, namely the possibility of children (see ibid. 6.11.22). 22 Ibid. 8.11.27. 23 Ibid. 8.12.29. 24 Ibid. 9.1.1. 25 Ibid. 10.30.41. 26 Ibid. 20



Augustine’s community would appear to be entirely on board with his newfound sexual priorities. His friend Alypius, for example, wastes no time following in Augustine’s footsteps and commits himself to a similar sexual lifestyle.27 When Augustine shares the news with his mother Monica, she is ‘overjoyed’.28 Augustine suggests that Monica even managed to find ‘grandchildren’ through his chastity – spiritual offspring who were ‘more tender’ than any that he could have given her with his body.29 The ecstasy of Augustine’s story, is, therefore, expansive. What began as an internal struggle for control, ends with interpersonal celebration. II. Kempe Margery Kempe’s (1373-1478 CE) sexual narrative retraces several of the major themes explored by Augustine. Most notably, Kempe initially presents her sex life as a source of misery that leaves her eager for change. However, unlike Augustine, Kempe does not submit that the distress she feels is due to the erotic consequences of a carefree youth. Instead, she argues that her sorrow is the result of the gendered implications of marriage.30 More specifically, Kempe’s story begins with her description of what many scholars have agreed was31 a serious case of post-partem depression: ‘[T]his creature went out of her mind and was amazingly disturbed and tormented with spirits for half a year, eight weeks and odd days. And in that time she saw, as she thought, devils opening their mouths all alight with burning flames of fire.’32 Kempe’s despair in the aftermath of this experience is easy to understand. As a wedded woman, Kempe would have been expected to participate regularly in procreative sex. This would have left her continuously susceptible to such painful conditions – ailments to which the men of her community would have remained ‘by nature’ immune.33 For Kempe, the dangers of sex are, in other words, irreducible to the 27 Augustine, Confessions (1997), 8.12.30: ‘Confirmed by this admonition he associated himself with my decision and good purpose without any upheaval or delay, for it was entirely in harmony with his own moral character, which for a long time now had been far, far better than mine’. 28 Ibid. 8.12.30. 29 Ibid. ‘In so doing you had also converted her grief into joy far more abundant than she had desired, and much more tender and chaste than she could ever have looked to find in grandchildren from my flesh’. 30 This includes notions about motherhood. See Liz Herbert McAvoy, Authority and the Female Body in the Writings of Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe (Cambridge, 2004), 28-63. 31 For a general overview of what some have coined Kempe’s ‘madness’ and its relationship to her spirituality, see Dale Peterson, ‘The Book of Margery Kempe’, in Dale Peterson (ed.), A Mad People’s History of Madness (Pittsburgh, 1982), 3-19. 32 M. Kempe, The Book (1986), 41. 33 Ibid. 41.

The Missionary Position: Augustine and Margery Kempe


irritating pressures of habituation. The gender-based costs of pregnancy render sex potentially lethal, both for her mind and her body. Kempe explains that, in the aftermath of this physically and psychologically exhausting event, she found herself looking for an alternative – one that would not require that she lose herself to sustain herself. It was at this time, she states, that the Christian God blessed her with a late-night mystical encounter. By the end of their exchange, Kempe’s path was clear. She states that her reaction to her God was immediate and unequivocal: One night, as this creature lay in bed with her husband, she heard a melodious sound so sweet and delectable that she thought she had been in paradise. And immediately she jumped out of bed and said, ‘Alas that ever I sinned! It is full merry in heaven.’ This melody was so sweet that it surpassed all the melody that might be heard in this world, without comparison, and it caused this creature when she afterwards heard any mirth or melody to shed very plentiful and abundant tears of high devotion … And after this time she never had any desire to have sexual intercourse with her husband.34

Following in Augustine’s footsteps, Kempe finds herself tempted by a life of chastity. Her sexual transformation occurs quickly and is tied, at least temporally, to her gendered vulnerability when confronted with the only kind of sex she knew.35 As a result, it is (perhaps) not surprising that while Augustine needs eight chapters to come around to chastity, Kempe is moved to commit in less than eight pages. This gendered component remains at the forefront as Kempe’s narrative continues.36 For, sadly, the sheer fact of this sexual/spiritual event does not mark the completion of her conversion. Kempe’s tale extends and brings to light the historical tradition of restricting the reach of feminine agency. Kempe explains that, in contrast to Augustine, the primary difficulty she now faces is not so much combatting the illusion of her own sexual power. Rather, Kempe suffers because of the power assumed by others. Her issue is that the men around her do not believe that her new longings are worthy of their consideration.37 In particular, Kempe’s husband is emphatically opposed to her desire for chastity. When she attempts to explain to him what has happened, he refuses to offer his support. Instead, and despite her protests, he opts to commit acts of rape: ‘But he would have his will with her … [H]e used her as he had done before, he would not desist.’38 34

Ibid. 46. See Anthony Goodman, Margery Kempe and Her World (London, New York, 2002), 56-77. 36 In fact, it exists from the very first pages of The Book, as Kempe would have had to deal with questions about feminine authority in a world dominated by male voices. See Karma Lochrie, Margery Kempe and Translations of the Flesh (Philadelphia, 1991), 97-134. 37 These examples include many of the men Kempe met during her pilgrimages. See Isabel Davis, ‘Men and Margery: Negotiating Medieval Patriarchy’, in John H. Arnold and Katherine J. Lewis (eds), A Companion to the Book of Margery Kempe (Cambridge, 2004), 35-54. 38 M. Kempe, The Book (1986), 46-7. 35



In light of this devastating response, Kempe argues that her options were quite limited. She describes her situation in economic terms, suggesting that her marriage to her husband created a sexual ‘debt’ that society demands she repay.39 Kempe’s first attempt at reconciling the situation echoes Augustine’s own. Turning within, Kempe takes solace in her intellectual skills and does her best to offer her husband a compelling argument, one that appeals to his moral and spiritual convictions:40 ‘And often this creature advised her husband to live chaste and said that they had often (she well knew) displeased God by their inordinate love, and the great delight that each of them had in using the other’s body, and now it would be a good thing if by mutual consent they punished and chastised themselves by abstaining from the lust of their bodies.’41 Regrettably, Kempe’s husband is intractable. She states that while he agrees with the truth of her words, he is also resolved to the pleasures of his sexual habits. Indeed, her husband’s response closely mirrors the early sentiments of Augustine: ‘Her husband said it was good to do so, but he might not yet.’42 It is here that Kempe’s God returns to the scene. During a moment of prayer, He proposes that the two set in motion a special type of economic transaction.43 Although He leaves the details unspoken, the general plan is for Kempe to make use of those things that are within her gendered domain and, therefore, available for her to trade. First, her family has money. Such funds could rightly be used to pay off her husband’s remaining material debts. Second, given their daily proximity, Kempe has the means to annoy her partner. In this vein, God recommends that Kempe fast on certain days, disrupting the routine to which her husband has become accustomed. The scheme works, and Kempe’s husband eventually agrees to exchange her sexual freedom for the rectification of his monetary troubles and a more stable eating schedule. Kempe’s full sexual transformation is, thus, presented not as a result of her intellectual prowess. It is, rather, due to her openness to the gifts of the Christian God. For, again, God does not disclose the particulars of this operation. The manipulation of Kempe’s external world, the negotiation of her sex life, only occurs when she steps back and trusts that God will do what is necessary for her to ‘have [her] wish’.44 In the pages that follow, Kempe expresses her elation over her husband’s decision and enters into much ‘rejoicing that she [finally] has her desire’.45 The 39 Ibid. 46: ‘[F]or paying the debt of matrimony was so abominable to her that she would rather, she thought, have eaten and drunk the ooze and muck in the gutter than consent to intercourse’. 40 This is not to deny the affective aspects of Kempe’s Book. See Clarissa W. Atkinson, Mystic and Pilgrim: The Book and World of Margery Kempe (Ithaca, London, 1983), 129-56. 41 M. Kempe, The Book (1986), 46-7. 42 Ibid. 46-7. See Augustine, Confessions (1997), 8.7.17. 43 M. Kempe, The Book (1986), 56. 44 Ibid. 56. 45 Ibid. 60.

The Missionary Position: Augustine and Margery Kempe


form this desire takes is radically different from what readers first discovered in Augustine. Kempe argues that what chastity means for her is that she is now able to take a new husband and commit herself to ‘the manhood of Christ’.46 More specifically, Kempe enters into a novel set of sexual acts. As her God explains: ‘For it is appropriate for the wife to be on homely terms with her husband … Therefore I must be intimate with you, and lie in your bed with you. Daughter, you greatly desire to see me, and you may boldly, when you are in bed, take me to you as your wedded husband.’47 Kempe’s chastity does not relieve her of the passion that Augustine, if not begrudgingly, found with the erotic. Instead, it permits her to switch sexual partners. It allows her to experience the pleasures of an (arguably) better Man. Despite this move up the sexual chain of being, it is less than obvious if the results of Kempe’s expedition are entirely positive. Above all, it is unclear if this divine marriage is free of the same gendered implications that first caused Kempe such turmoil – that prevented her from enjoying her own sexual ‘wishes’.48 For instance, after God ‘ravishes’ Kempe, His first order of business is to instate a list of marital demands.49 These include the name she is to call Him, how she is to eat, what she is to wear, and the structure of any future communication.50 While such declarations may be considered endearing by some, and even appropriate by others, they also imply that key parts of Kempe’s sexual future continue to fall outside herself. Rather than being allowed a redeemed role as ‘wife’ and ‘spouse’, Kempe is still expected to submit to the authority of her husband.51 This spiritual marriage is, even now, a marriage – one wherein Kempe’s role would appear to be dictated by familiar hierarchies.52 To be fair, Kempe is adamant that she is nothing but elated by this arrangement.53 For the first time, her desires and the concrete minutia of her sexual life align.54 46

Ibid. 122-3. Ibid. 126. 48 Ibid. 56. 49 Ibid. 51: ‘Therefore, I command you, boldly call me Jesus, your love, for I am your love and shall be your love without end … But also, my beloved daughter, you must give up that which you love best in this world, and that is the eating of meat’. And ibid. 67: ‘And, daughter, I say to you that I want you to wear white clothes and no other colour, for you shall dress according to my will’. 50 Ibid. 51-2. For an analysis of Kempe’s divinely dictated attire, see Mary C. Erler, ‘Margery Kempe’s White Clothes’, Medium Aevum 62.1 (1993), 78-83. 51 M. Kempe, The Book (1986), 66-7. 52 This includes the consequences of His use of her as a tool to spite His enemies. See ibid. 117: ‘My beloved daughter, I swear by my high majesty that I will never forsake you. And, daughter, the more shame, contempt and rebuke that you suffer for my love, the better I love you, for I behave like a man who greatly loves his wife: the more envy other men have of her, the better he will dress her to spite his enemies. And just so, daughter, shall I behave with you’. 53 Ibid. 195-6. 54 See Sandra J. McEntire, ‘The Journey Into Selfhood: Margery Kempe and Feminine Spirituality’, in Sandra J. McEntire (ed.), Margery Kempe: A Book of Essays (New York, London, 1992), 51-69. 47



This highlights what is, arguably, the most significant aspect of Kempe’s story. Unlike her past sexual relationship, Kempe wants to be in this one. So understood, it is not so much that her current erotic existence is no longer ruled by external forces. It is that she now regards the interests of those forces as indistinguishable from her own. If we are willing to take her words seriously, if we accept that her ‘joy’ is real, then her story ends as climactically as Augustine’s.55 Likewise, the substance of her happiness mirrors Augustine’s own sexual conclusion. Both Augustine and Kempe end in a place of submission, conceding to the power of their God. However, this shared fate sounds with distinct tones. Augustine chooses to relinquish privilege for obedience. Kempe chooses to exchange one form of obedience for another. It is one thing to realize that one does not have the sexual control he imagined. It is another thing altogether to be denied the social/political luxury of such illusions in the first place. III. The Missionary Position The autobiographies of Augustine and Kempe raise provocative questions about the nature of sexual agency and its relation to sexual transformation. While Augustine underscores the ways in which one’s ability to change is often dependent on the condition of the self, Kempe’s story also highlights the external pressures exerted by others.56 This difference prompts contemporary readers to reconsider the gender-based conventions that influence these stories. Even with hundreds of years between them, both thinkers operated within societies that harbored similar ideas about the sexual expectations of ‘men’ and ‘women’. Without denying the severity of Augustine’s sexual turmoil, such expectations gave him advantages that were inaccessible to those like Kempe. These social/ political benefits alter the spirit, if not the meaning, of their respective narratives. So too, when read together, this pair offers an important response to the question with which we began: What is the value of talking about sex? Neither Augustine nor Kempe infer that telling their tales is easy. However, both maintain that giving voice to these intimate undertakings has an important purpose. In particular, each author suggests that such storytelling transcends the interests of the self and serves the lives of others. For example, Augustine explains that he puts himself through the difficult act of such disclosure because he trusts that it will ‘arouse’ the reader’s heart and convince them that they are also 55

M. Kempe, The Book (1986), 60. To clarify, I am not suggesting that Augustine’s sexual choices are in no way altered by his external world. Such a claim would contradict his remarks, for example, about the relationship between his sex life and friendship (Augustine, Confessions [1997], 2.3.7). I am also not suggesting that Kempe’s understanding of sex carries no internal quality. Her sexual encounter with the devil, for instance, clearly holds an internal element (M. Kempe, The Book [1986], 183-4). What I am suggesting is that the primary location of their struggle differs. 56

The Missionary Position: Augustine and Margery Kempe


capable of more than they believe.57 Likewise, Kempe argues that she tells her tale to ‘comfort’ those ‘creatures’ who are like her – whose existences are manipulated by powers beyond themselves.58 Above all, Augustine and Kempe propose that they promote these discussions in order to reveal to their communities the enduring love of the Christian God.59 Both thinkers take, as my title suggests, a missionary position when it comes to sex. They talk about their sexual practices because they hope that it will help others confront the state of their own sexual lives and bring them closer to that Being which they hold dear.60 While there are good reasons to be suspicious about the singularly Christian character of this conclusion, it does seem that the sentiment that lingers behind Augustine and Kempe’s ‘position’ is potentially wide-reaching. I, at least, am left wondering how our own twenty-first century apprehensions about sexual discourse might change if we entered into these conversations with a more inclusive version of this missionary spirit. Would our hesitation lessen if we supposed that the purpose of exchanging our sexual stories was to better the lives of others? Might we be more willing to enter into these discussions if we thought that the end-game had something to do with love? What I find most interesting about Augustine and Kempe is their conviction that the point of these narratives is irreducible to the masturbatory interests of the individual. To invite one another, to implore our students, to think about their sex lives is to ask them to think about someone else – to wrestle with what it means to have sex in a social/political world that continues to make the fulfillment of some desires exceedingly difficult. It is a decidedly medieval position. But it is also one with contemporary relevance.

57 Augustine, Confessions (1997), 10.3.3-6: ‘All the same, my inward healer, make clear to me what advantage there is in doing this. When the confession of my past evil deeds is read and listened to – those evil deeds which you have forgiven and covered over to make me glad in yourself, transforming my soul by faith and your sacrament – that recital arouses the hearer’s heart, forbidding it to slump into despair and say, “I can’t.” Let it rather keep watch for your loving mercy and your gentle grace, through which every weak soul that knows its weakness grows strong, It is cheering to good people to hear about the past’. 58 ‘Here begins a short treatise and a comforting one for sinful wretches, in which they may have great solace and comfort for themselves, and understand the high and unspeakable mercy of our sovereign Saviour Jesus Christ – whose name be worshipped and magnified without end – who now in our days deigns to exercise his nobility and his goodness to us unworthy ones’ (M. Kempe, The Book [1986], 33). 59 Augustine, Confessions (1997), 2.1.1; M. Kempe, The Book (1986), 33. 60 While some might argue that autobiographies are inherently monologues, rather than ‘conversations’, I would suggest that the appeal to mission confirms the dialogical orientation of both the Confessions and The Book.







50, B-3020 HERENT

- ISO 9706