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The Apocalyptic Element in Olivi's Critique of Aristotle

  • David Burr (a1)

Extract

Modern scholars are well aware of the role played by Petrus Iohannis Olivi in the so-called spiritual Franciscan movement. They are equally aware that his adherence to that movement was partly inspired by a theology of history which attributed eschatological significance to the Franciscan order, a theology of history based at least in part upon the views of Joachim of Fiore. On the other hand, in the last few decades Olivi's role in the development of Scholastic thought has been appreciated by an increasing number of scholars. While few scholars portray him as the equal of Bonaventure, Aquinas, Scotus, or Ockham, many are willing to place him among the handful of medieval thinkers who stand just outside that charmed circle.

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1. For a bibliography of published primary and secondary sources see Bibliographia Oliviana,” Collectanea Franciscana, XXXVIII (1968), 167–95. A complete list of Olivi's works—only about half of which have been published—can be found in Dionysius Pacetti's edition of Olivi's, Quaestiones quatuor de domina (Quaracchi: College of St. Bonaventure, 1954). The following works will be cited in this study:

Published Sources

De perlegendis philasophorum libris (hereafter De perlegendis), in Antonianum, XVI (1941), 3744.

De studio divinarum litterarum (hereafter De studio), in Sancti Bonaventurae … operum … supplementum (Trent: 1773), Vol. I, 2449.

Quaestiones de perfectione evangelica (hereafter De perf. evang.), qq. 2 & 3 in Studi Francescani, LXI (1964), 120–58.

Quaestiones in secundum librum sententiarum (Quaracchi: College of St. Bonaventure, 19221926), 3 vols. (Hereafter II Sent.)

Quodlibeta (Venice: Soardum, 1509).

Responsio fratris Petri Ioannis Olivi ad aliqua dicta per quosdam magistros Parisienses de suis quaestionibus excerpta (hereafter Responsio), in Archivum franciscanum historicum, XXVIII (1935), 115–55 & 374407; XXIX (1936), 98141 & 365–95.

Manuscripts

Lectura super apocalypsim (hereafter Apoc.). Mss. Rome, Biblioteca Angelica 382; Rome, Vat. Borgh. 38.

Lectura super Ioannem (hereafter Ioan.). Ms. Florence, Bibliotheca Laurenziana, plut. 10 dext. 8.

Lectura super Lucam (hereafter Luc.). Ms. Rome, Ottob. lat. 3302.

Lectura super Matthaeum (hereafter Matt.). Ms. Vat. lat. 8670.

Quaestiones de perfectione evangelica, q. 8. Mss. Florence Bibliotheea Laurenziana, conv. sopp. cod. 448; Rome, Vat. lat. 4986.

Idem, q. 16. Mss. Assisi, cod. 677 and 684; Rome, Vat. lat. 4986.

The Qq. de perf. evang. are numbered here according to the order in which they appear in Vat. lat. 4986. Citations of works with more than one manuscript listed above will give manuscript and folio numbers.

The research for this paper was made possible by a grant from the Penrose Fund of the American Philosophical Society.

2. II Sent., q. 16 (I, 337): … Aristoteles etiam non hoc videtur ibi sentire, licet mihi non sit cura quid hie vel alibi senserit.

3. II Sent., q. 57 (II, 341): … Si autem dieatur quod Averroes ponit primam, … sciendum quod similiter ponit unum intellectum in omnibus nobis et quod fuit Saraeenus.

4. De perlegendis begins with Paul's announcement that “God has made foolish the wisdom of this world.”

5. Petri Iohannis Olivi de renuntiatione papae Coelestini V quaestio et epistola,” Arohivum franciscanum historicum, XI (1918), 323. Such an observation might seem to explain how an apparently respectable, erudite Scholastic like Olivi could have been raised to the status of an eschatological figure by leaders of a grass-roots revolt which exploded in the Provençal church two decades after his death. One could argue that it was Olivi the Joachite rather than Olivi the scholar who planted the seeds of the revolt. It must be recognized, however, that in no case can this distinction explain all of his troubles, since it is impossible to imagine any significant connection between Joachism and the philosophical and theological views censured in 1283.

6. De perf. evang., q. 2, 120–21.

7. Ibid., 123–24.

8. Ibid., q. 3, 148f.

9. Ibid., 151, 156f. Note however that in Olivi's mind study of the Bible is not clearly separated from the more systematic sort of theological investigation found in the Sentence commentaries of his time. See the De studio, 46f. where he makes a smooth transition from one to the other.

10. De perf, evang., q. 3, 150 and 156.

11. Ibid., 150f. and 156f.

12. De perlegendis, 38.

13. II Sent., q. 6 (I, 131); q. 27 (I, 479); q. 54 (II, 269); q. 58 (II, 482).

14. De perlegendis, 37.

15. ibid., 42–44.

16. II Sent., q. 5 (I, 96). He explicitly mentions the unity of the intellect and the transmigration of souls as well as the denial of original sin., Christ's redemption and heavenly bliss.

17. De perf. evang., q. 2, 130 and 135.

18. See for example II Sent., q. 31 (I, 516f.). Olivi's effort to show the logical coherence of Aristotle's various errors has its Bonaventuran parallels. See Bonaventure's Col-lationes in Hexaemeron, VI, 2–4 in Opera (Quaracchi: College of St. Bonaventure, 1891), V, 360f.

19. Responsio, 405: … in quibus opinionibus philosophicis usitatis occultos laqneos, et quaedam perplexa et nodosa pericula fidei catliolicae timui, et vehementer suspicatus sum, et adhuc suspicor illa in posterum ab errorum seminatoribus propalanda.

20. Quodlibeta, II, q. 5, f. 12v: Seeundum mysterium est de multis philosophantibus christianis qui apertis heresibus effugatis unam phitouissam idest Aristotelis philosophiam in terra dei consulunt, quasi necessitate advocandi sapiontiam christi. Et quia ibi falsis vera commixta occurrit et ibi aliqua imago sapientie Christi, quem tamen phitonissa non novit sed Saul intelligit quod esset Samuel, idest Christus, et in terram, idest in scripturam terrenam incurvatus Christum ibi adorat, et quantum in se est plurimum in-quietat. Phitonissa vero finaliter dabit ei comedere vitulum suum idest errorem anti-christi, qui in ea seminaliter latet, de quo in psalmo Christus dicit, Ego sum pauper et dolens, tamen laudabo nomen dei eum cantico, et placebit domino super vitulum novellum cornua producentem et ungulas, ipse est bestia que ascendit de terra habens duo cornua similia agni. Negligunt autem isti advertere quod error Origenis et Ar-rianorum de altera phitonissa huius matre processit, scilicet de philosophia Platonis qui Magister Aristotelis fuit, sic se habet error antichristi ad errorem Arrianorum sicut philosophia Aristotelis ad philosophiam Platonis.

21. De perf. evang., q. 8, 448, f. 40rb; 4986, f. 41r–v: … dicendum quod sententia aristotelis de divitiis et felicitate humana est ut credo fomentum et radix erroris anti-christi sicut et alii errores eius, sicut suo loco in plentitudine habet tradi. Ipse enim magister fuit regis alexandri de cuius successione processit radix peccati antiochus qui dicitur silentium paupertatis et qui est imago antichristi. Et sieut ex doctrina erronea platonis magister eius processit heresis arriana sicut secundum sententiam quorundam magistrorum ex doctrina huius erronea procedit heresis antichristi, que est discipula heresis arriane sicut aristoteles platonis.

22. Rev., passim. For an analysis of the work see Raoul, Manselli, La Leetura super apocalipsim di Pietro di Giovanni Olivi (Rome: Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medio Evo, 1955), hereafter cited as Lectura. Reacting to exaggerations by other scholars, Manselli stresses Olivi's divergences from Joachim. Marjorie, Reeves, The Influence of Prophecy in the Later Middle Ages (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), 195ff. is probably right in suggesting that Manselli underestimates Olivi's debt to Joachim.

23. Note how this periodization affects the meaning of that slippery term “esehatological,” which is used in this essay to designate the period from the coming of the mystical Antichrist to the final judgment.

24. Rev., 382, ff. 48rb–49ra; 38, f. 64rb–vb.

25. ibid., 382, f. 44ra; 38, f. 58ra.

26. ibid., 382, f. 63ra–va; 38, ff. 83vb–84va.

27. Ioan., f. 3vb.

28. See Rev., 382, ff. 43vb–44ra; 38, f. 58ra. Here he draws parallels between the time of the apostles just prior to the giving of the Holy Spirit, the time of the heretics, and the time of the Antichrist. In each case the church, confronted with a crisis, cries out for illumination regarding those things which it is particularly expedient for it to know at that moment in history. It is clear, however, that Olivi sees the most striking parallels between the last two times.

29. II Sent., q. 5 (I, 98): … credunt enim quod hic sit unus de principalibus articulis introductoriis infernalis sectae antichristi. Unde quidam magnus doctor numerum bestiae, scilicet sescenti sexaginta sex, sic exponebat: Quia enim scriptum est quod in circuitu impii ambulant ideo numerum bestiae uno numero circulari sub triplici cir-cuitu describitur.

30. Ibid.: Quia vero centum anni faciunt unum saeculum, mores verp humani reguntur per decalogum legis: ideo, ut dicebat, per sescentos significatur circuitus saeculorum, id est, circuitus aeternitatis temporum; per sexaginta vero circuitus unius intellectus in tota universitate hominum et ii sunt tres spiritus procedentes de ore bestiae ae draconis et pseudoprophetae in modum ranarum. The closing reference is to Revelations 16:13.

31. The connection was first noted by Ferdinand Delonne, Saint Bonaventure et le nombre apocalyptique 666,” France Franciscaine, VIII (1925), 519–25.

32. Opera, V, 497: Tres sunt errores cavendi in scientiis, qni saeram seripturam et fidem christianam et omnem sapientiam exterminant; quorum unns est contra causam essendi, alius contra rationem intelligendi, et tertius contra ordinem vivendi. Error contra causam essendi est de aeternitate mundi, ut ponere mundum aeternum. Error contra rationem intelligendi est de necessitate fatali, sicut ponere, quod omnia eveniunt de necessitate. Tertius est de unitate intellectus humani, sicut ponere, quod unus est in-telleetus in omnibus. Isti errores significantur in Apocalypsi in numero nominis bestiae. Dicitur ibi, quod habuit nomen, cuius numerus sexcenti sexaginta sex, qui est numerus cyclicus. Primi fnndant se super circulum motus et temporis; secundi, supra motum siderum; tertii, supra intelligentiam unam, dicendo, quod ingreditur et egreditur in corpus. Totum istud est falsum.

33. 684, t. 66rb; 677, f. 45rb; 4986, t. 99r: … et est ut estimo precursor novissimi antichristi existens et ipse mistice antichristus, propter quod numerus et nomen bestie merito competit sibi, ut scilicet vere nominetur dolieruz, falso vero et ypocritaliter dicor lux. In Rev. and elsewhere Olivi distinguishes between a mystical and a great (or true) Antichrist. The former will precede and prepare the way for the latter. Olivi usually pictures both as individuals, although—as this passage demonstrates—he does not always do so. His understanding of the idea seems to vary from passage to passage. In Luc., in his commentary on Luke 21, he speaks of two final Antichrists in addition to the mystical Antichrist.

34. 684, f. 66va; 677, f. 45rb; 4986, f. 99r.

35. 684, f. 71ra; 677, f. 49ra; 4986, f. 101r: Ex predictis autem potes perpendere quod hie modus et inventor ipsius est predecessor antichristi et mysticus antichristus. Sieutenim in prima questione de paupertate aliqualiter monstravi nichil parat viam anti-christo novissimo sicut destructio altissime paupertatis.

36. 684, f. 71rb; 677, f. 49rb; 4986, f. 101r: Et attende quod eongrue numerus bestiae utrique tentationi aptatur. Sieut enim de ultima frater Bonaventure me audiente optime exposuit dicens quod ibi sunt tres numeri a senario, qui est numerus circularis, intitulati. Nam primus numerus est sexies 100, secundus sexies 10, tertius sexies 1. Dixitur autem 6 numerus circularis quia si reflectendo dicas sexies 36, iterum numerus inde consurgens finit in 6, et sic in infinitum. In praefato ergo numero sunt tres circuitus: primo, scilicet centenario, per quem unum saeculum seu una generatio hominum designatur, ut sie per hnnc circuitum aeterna mundi recirculatio designatur; est etiam ibi circuitus dcalogi circuitum morum fatalium designans; est que tertio ibi circuitus unitatis circuitum unius intellectus in omnes homines juxta errorem Averrois praefigurans; ut sic statuatur mundi aeternitas ac fatalis necessitas et intellectus unitas seu aterius vitae respeetu hominum nullitas. Sic etiam conformiter potest hic numerus primae tentationi congrue assignari.

37. 684, f. 71va; 677, f. 49rb; 4986, f. 101r: Sic etiam conformiter potest hic numerus prime temptationi congrue assignari in hoc eius dogmate primo fiet falsigraphicus circuitus eternalium reddituum. Secundo circuitus obedientialum morum sic necessitati humane presumptionis erraticarum stellarum subiectus ut fraudulenter dicat quod op-portet plus homini obedire quam deo et quod ab evangelii et evangelice regule puritate deviandum est propter preceptum maioris et quod eius interpretationi dolose est standum. Estque ibi tertio circuitus unius carnalis intellectus non solum in regulam set etiam in totam scripturam ut sic reprobetur illa spirituale intelligentia que per modos ex-taticos transit in futurum, et sic non sinat formari varios spirituales sensus in menti-bus singulorum …

38. Rev., 382, f. 54ra–rb; 38, f. 71va.

39. Ibid., 382, f. 67rb; 38, f. 89va.

40. Ibid.

41. Ibid., 382, f. 67ra; 38, f. 89rb.

42. Ibid. See also 382, ff. 48ra, 50va and 56vb; 38, ff. 63va, 66vb and 75ra.

43. See his interpretations of the seven angels with trumpets in Revelations 8:2 (382, f. 62ra; 38, f. 82rb); the angel in Revelations 21:9 and 21:15 (382, f. 117ra; 38, f. 118ra); and the twelve gates in Revelations 21:21 (382, f. 119ra). Olivi's emphasis on the doctors rests upon a number of foundations, one of which is a strong feeling for hierarchy derived from Psendo-Dionysins. See 382, ff. 120ra, 121vb.

44. Ibid., 382, f. 73rb; 38, f. 98ra–rb. See also 382, ff. 119ra and 120 rb.

45. Ibid., 382, f. 44vb; 38, f. 59rb–va. See also 382, f. 120ra–rb.

46. Ibid., 382, f. 17rb; 38, f. 89vb. Bonaventure applies Revelations 9:1 to Aristotelian philosophy in his Collationes in Hexaemeron, VI in Opera, V, 361.

47. Rev., 382, f. 92vb; 38, f. 125vb. A similar interpretation is found in Matt., f. 171b as quoted in Manselli, , Lectura, 158. I have not as yet been able to consult the manuscript itself.

48. Rev., 382, f. 93ra; 38, f. 126ra.

49. Ibid., 382, f. 9vb; 38, f. 13rb–va See also 382, f. 50ra; 38, f. 66ra.

50. Q. 8, f. 12vb: Hoc ipsam potest ostendi ex eo quod miro modo tollit et evacuat illa unde errores fidei aunt exorti et oriri possunt. Nam omnes fere sunt exorti ex esti-matione nimia et acquisitione curiosa rerum temporalium et sensibilium. Sapientia enim philosophornm et maxime Aristotelis omnia principia sua sumpsit ab experientia sensuum seu a senaibilibus mundi elementis et propterea iudieat simpliciter impossibile quicquid videtur esse contrarium erperimentis sensuum.

51. Ibid., f. 13ra.

52. Ibid., f. 13rb.

53. Ibid.

54. Rev., 382, f. 29vb; 38, f. 40rb.

55. Ibid., 382, f. 68ra–rb; 38, ff. 90vb–91rb.

56. For a sustained treatment of Olivi and Heilsgeschichte see the articles by Ernst Stadter listed in Gieben, , “Bibliographia Oliviana,” 191–92.

57. See the intriguing study by Joseph, Ratzinger, Die Geschichtstheologie des heiligen Bono-ventura (Munich: Schnell and Steiner, 1959), which unfortunately underestimates the resemblance between the two men.

58. See Stephanus, Bihil, ‘S. Franeiseus fuitne Angelus sexti sigilli?,” Antoniamum, II (1927), 5990. Ratzinger's analysis of Bonaventure demonstrates that the influence of Joachim was hardly limited to that group within the order usually identified as the spirituals.

59. The inconsistencies within Olivi's eschatological scenario are documented by the passages cited in this paper. Note the shift in his view of the relationship between poverty and philosophy on the one hand and the mystical and great Antichrists on the other.

60. For an evaluation of his contribution to philosophy see Efrem, Bettoni, Le Dottrine Filosofiche di Pier di Giovanni Olivi (Milan: Società Editrice “Vita e Pensiero,” 1959).

61. Joachim and Richard of Saint Victor are his main sources, while Augustine, Bona-venture and various Franciscan legends also play an important part. Here again the question of clearly defined criteria for verification is worth considering, since his sources include purported revelations to individual Franciscans. See 382, ff. 52va and 55va; 38, ff. 69rb and 52va. None of them deals with Aristotle, however, and thus they are not immediately relevant to this paper.

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