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Robert Holcot's Quodlibeta

  • Richard E. Gillespie (a1)


As historians of medieval theology and philosophy increasingly turn to study intellectual developments in the early fourteenth century, it is natural that Robert Holcot, O.P. († 1349), should come to stand out as an Oxford master worthy of further investigation. During his own lifetime, when he was associated with the household of Richard de Bury, the famous bishop of Durham, and on even into the early years of the sixteenth century, when several editions of his major works were printed, Holcot was held in high regard as a commentator on the Sentences, as a biblical exegete, and as a supplier of moralizing sermon exempla. His view of predestination was carefully studied by John Eck, and the Parisian master Jacques Almain devoted a treatise to his Sentence commentary.



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1 Recent studies of Holcot include the following: J. Breumer, ‘Zwang und Freiheit in der Glaubenszustimmung nach Robert Holkot,’ Scholastik 37 (1962) 514-529; Alois Meissner, Gotteserkenntnis und Gotteslehre nach dem Englischen Dominikaner Theologen Robert Holkot (Limburg/Lahn 1953); E. A. Moody, ‘A Quodlibetal Question of Robert Holcot, O.P., on the Problem of the Objects of Knowledge and Belief,’ Speculum 39 (1964) 53-74; J. T. Muckle, ‘Utrum theologia sit scientia: A Quodlibetal Question of Robert Holcot, O.P.,’ Mediaeval Studies 20 (1958) 127-153; Heiko A. Oberman, ‘Facientibus quod in se est Deus non denegat gratium: Robert Holcot, O.P., and the Beginnings of Luther's Theology,’ Harvard Theological Review 55 (1962) 317-342; id., Forerunners of the Reformation (New York 1966) 123-150; id., The Harvest of Medieval Theology (Cambridge, Mass. 1963) 235-243; Beryl Smalley, English Friars and Antiquity in the Early Fourteenth Century (Oxford 1960) 133 ff; id., ‘Robert Holcot, O.P.,’ Archivum fratrum praedicatorum 26 (1956) 7-28; L. Thorndike, ‘A New Work by Robert Holcot (Corpus Christi College, Oxford Ms 138),’ Archives internationales de l'histoire des sciences 2 (1957) 227-235; J. C. Wey, ‘The Sermo finalis of Robert Holcot,’ Mediaeval Studies 11 (1949) 219-223.

2 de la Chambre, William (Anglia Sacra [ed. Henry Wharton; London 1691] I 765, as quoted by E. A. Moody, op. cit. 56 n. 8) includes Thomas Bradwardine, Richard Fitz-Ralph, Walter Burley, John Maudith, Richard Killington, and Robert Holcot as members of De Bury's household. Contemporary scholarship assigns the Philobiblon to De Bury rather than to Holcot, as was once the case; see Michael Maclagen, ed, Philobiblon: Richard de Bury (Oxford 1960).

3 A partial listing of the works of Holcot which appeared in early printed editions includes as the most important his Super quattuor libros Sententiarum quaestiones and Super librum Sapientiae. For an indication of manuscripts and editions of these and related works, see F. Stegmüller, Repertorium commentariorum in Sententias Petri Lombardi I (Würzburg 1947) 360-3, id., Repertorium biblicum medii aevi V (Madrid 1955) 141-151, and P. Glorieux, La Littérature quodlibétique II (Paris 1935) 258-61. His collection of sermon exempla were at first appended to his Wisdom commentary, but quickly became popular in their own right, were detached, and are presently to be found in numerous continental libraries in MSS entitled ‘Moralitates.’

4 Eck, Eck, Chrysopassus (Ingolstadt 1517). I am grateful to Prof. Heiko A. Oberman for this reference.

5 Almain, Almain, Dictata super Sententias M. Roberti Holcot (Paris 1526). Almain discusses only Book I of the commentary.

6 See Michalski, Michalski, 'La physique nouvelle et les différents courants philosophiques au XIVe siècle.’ Extrait du Bulletin de l'Académie polonaise des sciences et des lettres, classe d'histoire et de philosophie, année 1927 (Cracow 1928) 10-18, where Augustine of Ratisbon's difficulties are described at some length in the preface to the edition published by Johannes Trechsel in Lyons in 1497. Included in this edition are Holcot's Super Sententias, Conferentiae sex super sententias, De imputabilitate peccati, and Determinationes. The difficulties of the editor are evident in the text: In book I q. 1 of the Sentences we read ‘Nota, quod iste articulus IV est diminutus et incompletus, sed nusquam est reperire completum.’ At the conclusion of this question we read ‘Quaestio secunda, quam non omnes codices habent… de obiecto credendi.’ E. A. Moody, loc. cit., has recently pointed out that an opinion attributed to Ockham is actually the contradiction of Ockham's position. That these difficulties are found in this first book of the Sentence commentary, for which the extant MSS show the fewest textual variations, is suggestive of the problems involved in establishing the text of Holcot's works.

7 Michalski, , op. cit. (supra note 6) 9-18.

8 As follows: Determinatio II = q. 52, in the following index; D.III = q. 53; D.IV = q. 57; D.V = q. 54; D.VI = q. 55; D.VII = q. 56; D.VIII = q. 88; D.IX = q. 89; D.X = q. 90; D.XI = q. 92; D.XV = q. 14. Determinationes VIII, IX, X, XI, and XV are found only in the Cambridge MS.

9 Michalski, , op. cit. (supra note 6) 13-14.

10 Ibid. Michalski's identification of Determinatio 1 with a question found in Richard Swineshead's Sentence commentary has since been questioned. Professor Moody informs me that the question belongs rather to Roger Rosetus.

11 Ibid.: ‘Il [London, British Museum Royal MS 10.C.VI] représente la seule rédaction émanant directement de l'auteur.’ The evidence adduced by Michalski for this thesis is discussed below.

12 Moody, E. A., op. cit. (supra note 1) 57-58.

13 Questions 86, 91, 87, 94, 95, 96, and 97, in the following index.

14 Questions 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, and 67, in the following index.

15 Questions 68, 69, 70, 9, 71, 16, in the following index.

16 Questions 85, 73, 74, 77, 72, 78, 80, 81, 82, 83, and 84, in the following index.

17 At London fols. 159v-162 r (question 71 in the following index) there is a question which includes in its body two others which are clearly separated in the Cambridge and Oxford MSS. Holcot did not substantially alter these two questions when he included them in the London MS.

18 For Holcot, II (Paris 1935) 258261.

19 James, M. R., A Descriptive Catalogue of Manuscripts in Pembroke College Library (Cambridge 1905) 212213.

20 Op. cit (supra note 6) 14-15. Although this beginning point is somewhat arbitrarily chosen, the lack of textual evidence in this MS as to where the quodlibetal questions begin left no other alternative. Michalski (ibid.) mentions having seen the word ‘Quodlibeta’ written in the upper margin of the folio where these questions begin, but the only such note I have found in the entire MS occurs at the head of folio 1 r, where Holcot's Sentence commentary begins.

21 Questions 1, 2, 3, 14, 84, 88, 89, 90, 92, and 93 in the following index.

22 Questions 100 and 101, in the following index.

23 Warner, G. F. and Gilson, J. P., British Museum: Catalogue of Western Manuscripts in the Old Royal and King's Collections (London 1921) I 327.

24 Wey, J. C., op. cit. (supra note 1) has published an edition of this brief discourse. It is labeled as a ‘Sermo finalis’ in Oxford, Oriel College, MS 15 fols. 204-205.

25 and Gilson, Warner, loc. cit. (supra note 23).

26 Mynors, R. A. B., Catalogue of the Manuscripts of Balliol College (Oxford 1963) 267268, gives a full description of the MS.

27 Questions 100 and 101, in the following index.

28 Michalski, , op. cit. (supra note 6) 13.

29 Glorieux, , La Littérature quodlibétique I (Le Saulchoir 1925) 4547, with regard to actual textual reference to this practice in the quodlibetal questions of Gerard of Abbeville.

30 In addition to Moody (op. cit. [supra note 1] 56-57), J. C. Wey (op. cit. [supra note 1] 219), who speaks of ‘a revision of the commentary made by Holcot himself some years after his lectures …’ and R. A. B. Mynors (op. cit. [supra note 26] 56) have accepted this thesis.

31 The late Muckle, J. T. (op. cit. [supra note 1] 127) in the only recent attempt to present an edited text based on all three of the quodlibetal manuscripts cautions: ‘I consider that Ms. P [that is, the Cambridge MS] represents an unrevised record by Holcot but I hesitate to say that the MSS are reportationes for the reason that the variants … run much the same as the other MSS of the time.’

32 According to Mynors, loc. cit. (supra note 26) the Oxford (Oriel) and London manuscripts are the ‘final version’ of the Sentence commentary, and only the Oxford Balliol College MS 71 stands between the Cambridge manuscript and the ordinatio texts.

33 See above text to note 17.

34 Michalski, , op. cit. (supra note 6) 17, where he says ‘Le recueil contenu dans Pembroke C., m'a rendu des services importants au cours de mes recherches, d'autant plus que dans le recueil de Balliol C., manquent plusieurs questions, qu'on trouve justement dans l'édition imprimée.’

35 With the exception of Muckle, loc. cit. (supra note 1) 127, who considered the Cambridge MS the best of the three on the basis of an actual collation of texts: ‘I feel it furnishes the best text — fewer corruptions and in the use of terms written more in the style of Holcot.’

36 Questions 58-70 of the following index follow an identical order in the Cambridge and London MSS; in questions 71-85 their order varies but remains similar.

I would like t o express my appreciation to the Fulbright Commission and to Professors Werner Dettloff and Richard Heinzmann of the Grabmann-Institut zur Erforschung der mitteralterlichen Theologie und Philosophic of the University of Munich, for their kind assistance in providing respectively the funds and the materials for this initial study of Holcot's Quodlibeta.


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