The Sentences of Peter Lombard, Book 3

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RamistThomist

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Lombard, Peter. The Sentences, Book 3: On the Incarnation of the Word. Translated by Giulio Silano. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. 2008.

“This is your dissertation topic: explain this problem in Peter Lombard’s Sentences.”

That is what someone would have done as a scholar in the Middle Ages. Since that is not readers today, what relevance could Peter Lombard have? For all of his speculation and theoretical probing, he is a practical thinker. One way to evaluate practicality is to see if children would ask the same questions. As it turns out, children often ask deep questions, the kind that Peter Lombard asks. We might not like his answers. Even when I do agree with him, I do not agree with how he got the answer. On the other hand, I do appreciate the logical and thorough way he evaluates opposing viewpoints.

Peter Lombard (1096-1160) was the “Master of Sentences.” His work, The Sentences, compilations from patristic writings concerning the various loci of theology, formed the basis for the post-Augustinian church. His writings never surpassed Augustine in importance, but they applied Augustine’s writings to numerous questions in theology.

This volume, Book 3, treats the various controversies that arose in post-conciliar Christology. Lombard’s straightforward method facilitates an easy review. Each distinction examines a particular problem in Christian theology. Lombard next surveys the Fathers, usually Augustine, on how to explain it. He then gives his own conclusion, again usually following Augustine.

The Person of Christ

It was more fitting that the Son, rather than the Father or Holy Spirit, took on flesh. It could not have been the Father, for whoever takes on flesh will also take the property of “being Mary’s Son.” It could not have been the Father, for he would then be both Father and Son. It could not have been the Holy Spirit, for then he would take the name “Son” from the Son.

When we say he took on human nature, we do not mean human nature as a universal, since Christ did not take the whole human race (i.e., I did not become incarnate). Rather, he took “soul and flesh, with the properties of both” (II.1.3). A person took on a nature: the Person of the Son took on a human nature, and that the divine nature was united to a human nature in the Son (V.1.10).

The Work and Life of Christ

Whether Christ, according to his human nature, was able to, and did, make progress in wisdom and grace.vLombard answers that His human nature received the fullness of grace from the moment of conception. The passages pertaining to progress mean, therefore, that he made progress in revelation to others.

Concerning redemption, Christ, “by the pain which he bore on the cross, all temporal punishment due for sin is entirely forgiven to the convert in baptism.” Although this sounds like a shot across the bow against purgatory, Lombard adds that “the same punishment is lessened in penance.”

Anticipating Reformation debates, Lombard says “Christ mediates between men and the triune God according to his human nature.” I could be mistaken, but the Reformed, holding strong to the offices of Christ, would not agree with Lombard here.

The Virtues of Christ

Did Christ have the full perfection of faith? Faith is used in different senses. If Christ had full knowledge, and faith is evidence of things not seen, then how could he have had faith? Yet since faith is a virtue, and Christ was not lacking in virtue, then how could he not have had faith?

Not an answer, but important: Lombard, being a good medieval, notes that faith is not the cause of charity, but charity of faith. It is this against which the Reformation responded. This is also why we reject justification by “spirit-wrought sanctity” or reading intense affections into the definition of justifying faith.

Conclusion

It is impossible to really understand medieval theology without at least some familiarity with Peter Lombard. And without that familiarity, key gains in the Reformation, even if they are accepted, will not always be appreciated.
 
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It's quite remarkable that Lombard's Sentences was the standard textbook at virtually all medieval universities for nearly three centuries (c.1225-c.1520). It wasn't until the Reformation took hold that Aquinas' Summa gained more prominence. Even the young Aquinas was required to write a dissertation on the Sentences, which then served as a broad template for his Summa. Many of the early scholastic reformers also cite and refer to the Master somewhat frequently.
 
When we say he took on human nature, we do not mean human nature as a universal, since Christ did not take the whole human race (i.e., I did not become incarnate). Rather, he took “soul and flesh, with the properties of both” (II.1.3). A person took on a nature: the Person of the Son took on a human nature, and that the divine nature was united to a human nature in the Son (V.1.10).

I get the sense sometimes reading TF Torrance that he held to the opposite view: that Christ took on "human nature" rather than "a human nature," which is why his work is (according to Torrance) universal rather than particular. Jacob, since you've read more Torrance than I have, what are your thoughts?
 
I get the sense sometimes reading TF Torrance that he held to the opposite view: that Christ took on "human nature" rather than "a human nature," which is why his work is (according to Torrance) universal rather than particular. Jacob, since you've read more Torrance than I have, what are your thoughts?
That's fairly accurate. He also says, with some pedigree from Nazianzus, that Christ took on "fallen humanity." Lombard does not say that. Lombard says Christ took upon some (not all) of the defects in our humanity, but not fallen humanity.
 
That's fairly accurate. He also says, with some pedigree from Nazianzus, that Christ took on "fallen humanity." Lombard does not say that. Lombard says Christ took upon some (not all) of the defects in our humanity, but not fallen humanity.
Where does Nazianzus say that and what would the implications of that be?

It would seem that "fallen humanity" is a diminished and distorted version of what God originally created and that Jesus took on a humanity that is like ours in every way but without sin - In other words, what Adam was before the fall. If only there were some Bible verse that clearly indicated this!
 
Where does Nazianzus say that and what would the implications of that be?

It would seem that "fallen humanity" is a diminished and distorted version of what God originally created and that Jesus took on a humanity that is like ours in every way but without sin - In other words, what Adam was before the fall. If only there were some Bible verse that clearly indicated this!

Probably more of an interpretation/implication of what he said. In his second letter to Cledonius, he gives his famous "unassumed is unhealed." Torrance and others drew the conclusion that Christ would not have needed to heal an untainted human nature.

The West got around this by saying the human nature was immediately sanctified by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin, and so avoided the problems with saying Jesus had fallen flesh.
 
I guess that raises the question of whether sin is an integral component of human nature as opposed to a deficiency. To fully assume human nature does not have to imply assuming sinfulness/fallenness unless you define sin as part of human nature.

Why would the West need to argue that the human nature was sanctified by the Spirit, as opposed to simply being conceived without original sin? The former implies the presence and then the removal of fallenness, or so it seems.
 
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