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Holy Church or Holy Writ: A Dilemma of the Fourteenth Century

  • George H. Tavard (a1)


Students of medieval theology are acquainted with the fact that neither the formative years of the medieval synthesis—say, from the 8th through the 12th century—nor the climax of the Middle Ages— 13th century—conceived of Holy Scripture as being only a set of inspired books, the ‘Canon,’ containing the Revelation committed by Christ to His Church. Rather, the Sacred Scripture—or, as it was also called, the Sacred Page or the Sacred Doctrine—was to the medieval mind wide enough to encompass somehow the works of the Fathers and those of subsequent Doctors. Distinct though these were from the canonical scriptures, they nonetheless were viewed in the same perspective: Holy Writ and the commentaries thereupon formed one uncleft whole which was kept together by the continuity of the Church's life. The apostolic writings were in a way continued by the Fathers' homilies and treatises, and these in turn were prolonged in the early medieval tractates.



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1 See, among other texts, Hugh of St. Victor, De Scriptura et Scriptori bus Sacris, ch. 6: “As the Prophets follow the Law and the Historians the Prophets, so the Apostles follow the Gospels and and the Doctors the Apostles. The wonderful plan of the divine dispensation is such that while the full and perfect truth resides in each scripture, none of them is superfluous.” (i.c, P. L. 175, 16)

2 See Chenu, M.-D., Introduction á l'Etude de saint Thomasd'Aquin, Paris 1950, p. 109, with the references given in notes 1 and 2.

3 In favor of the distinction: Gagnebet, , La Nature de la Théologie Spéculative, in Revue Thomiste, 1938, 139; 213255; 645674; Chenu, M.-D., La Théologie comme Science au XIII siécle, Paris, 1942. Against the distinction, Bonnefoy, J.-F., La Nature de la Théologie selon saint Thomas d'Aquin, Paris, 1939.

4 Henry of Ghent, Commentary on the Sentences, prologue, art. 10, q. 1

5 l.c., n. 4

6 ditto

7 i.c., n. 5

8 ditto

9 l.c., n. 9

10 i.c., n. 10

11 ditto

12 i.c., art. 8, q. 6, n. 14

13 Aureolis, Peter, Scriptum super I Sententiarum, ed. Buytaert, Eligius M., St. Bonaventure 1952, n. 15–16

14 Prologus de Commendatione Scripturae, P.L. 113, 31

15 Questio de Magisterio Infallibili, Opuscula et Textus, fasc. II, Aschendorff, p. 17.

16 l.c., p. 17–8

17 See the profession of faith of Pope St. Leo IX (1053), in Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum, n. 349.

18 See the Gelasian Decretum, in Denzinger, i.c., n. 164

19 De Scriptura et Scriptoribus Sacris, ch. 6 P.L., 175, 15–6

20 In Regulam b.Benedicti, bk. I P.L., 170, 496

21 See Denzinger, I.c., n. 489

22 i.c., bk. 2, ch. 5

23 Questio de Veritatibus Catholicis, Op. et Text., fasc. XVI, Aschendorff, p. 11.

24 l.c., p. 14

25 l.c., p. 13

26 l.c., p. 19.

27 De Veritate s. Scripturae, ch. 2, ed. Buddensieg 1906, vol. 1, p. 37

28 lc., bk. 2, ch. 5

29 For the 15th century, see Thomas Netter Waldensis (d.1431), Doctrinale Antiquitatum Fidei Ecclesiae Catholicae, bk 2, ch. 19–21; for the 16th, see Albert Pigge, Hierarchiae Ecelesiasticae Assertio, passim.

30 i.c., bk. 2, ch. 2

31 i.c., ch. 21, vol. 2, p. 168

32 l.c., ch. 20, vol. 2, p. 134–5

33 l.c., ch. 2, vol. 1, p. 34

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Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
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