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Saint Thomas Aquinas "Nature and Domain of Sacred Doctrine" Purpose of Thinking To explain the methods employed in the scripture to reveal God's meaning to man. Question at Issue (problem) Specifically set out by Aquinas "In Ten Articles" to determine whether: sacred doctrine is necessary it is a science it is one or many it is speculative or practical it can be compared to other sciences it is wisdom God is its subject matter it is argumentative it rightly employs metaphors and similes (Ninth article) the sacred scripture of this doctrine may be expounded in different senses (tenth article and the explanation of 4-fold typology) Information In the ninth and tenth articles, the most interesting points of information are Aquinas' use of Dionysius' previous thought to explain how metaphor is used and Augustine's to expand on the idea of the two-fold (actually four-fold) way to read scripture. These are supplemented with "proofs" and examples from the scriptures. Concepts (Ninth article) The scriptural use of metaphor allows man, who understands through interpretation of the physical world, to understand the word of God at a variety of levels. He say that "God provides for everything according to the capacity of its nature...[and]...it is natural to man to attain intellectual truths through sensible things, because all our knowledge originates from sense." He explains that we can't know God at a level beyond our ability or willingness to understand, and so divine truths that we can access have to be explained at a level we can understand. He also seems to suggest that it would be impossible for people to understand God in any direct way--it is beyond our comprehension--so, at our level of comprehension, "what he is not is clearer to us than what he is." Further, the truth behind the metaphors will not be understood by those who are "unworthy". (Tenth Article) The scripture can be read two ways 1) the literal which includes history, etiology and analogy 2) and the allegorical which includes three spiritual senses: allegory, moral, and anagogic. The typology represents a heirarchy of meaning in which each sense has the complete meaning and therefore no confusions or contradictions exist. The literal is the truth of fact; the old testament prefigures the new and so is allegorical; the moral is that which "signifies" that which is "done in Christ"; and the anagogic is allegorical to the "eternal glory," or the ultimate design of God. Crucial Assumptions Aquinas discusses Scripture in terms of science because of the assumption of its Truth. A further assumption based on the form of presentation is that since it is "Truth" it can be explained. Another assumption is that the scriptures use metaphor to reveal meaning to men and that it can be read on each of four levels simultaneously. Implications and consequences Aquinas sets out the system of four-fold typology which will be used in a variety of forms by Dante, later in the Romantic period by Coleridge and Carlyle, and in the 20th century by Northrup Frye. Also it seems as
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html though in the form.. God's Truth in a way that is accessible to man. though at different levels.edu/engl/kaind/crit/aquitext. Points of View/Influences One of the interesting things here is that Aquinas uses argumentation in the form of a series of proofs that resemble scientific inquiry to discuss the form and meaning of scripture.ecu. while he recognizes that people understand things through the physical world. but as if he really wants to somehow see a way to prove the unprovable.e. This is how he explains/justifies the scriptural use of metaphor. he suggests that peoples' understanding of things comes by way of the sensual world. "proofs". It seems more than simply a rhetorical strategy in Aquinas. This seems to pre-figure Descartes in the attempt to show that somehow sacred texts and/or subjects which rest on "faith" can somehow be explored with a scientific method.. This does not privilege the world of ideas over the physical world in the same sense that Plato does but rather puts them in a relationship of one to the other and gives an importance to the physical world in the way that it reflects. but in form--i. his argument suggests that the physical world is a metaphor for the "Truth" that rests in the mind of the Divinity. Return to Aquinas' Menu Page Return to the Introduction Page 2 of 2 06 26 2008 11:13 PM . He begins with a series of objections (the Ninth article specifically dealing with the use of simile and metaphor) to a premise and them gives a series of replies to the objection. It's an interesting approach given that little was known "scientifically" at the time but that the Western impulse to order and scientific inquiry is already apparent. At the same time. rather than imitates. One interesting divergence from the Platonic ideal is that when Aquinas speaks of the scriptural use of metaphor. Aquinas pre-figures scientific inquiry. http://core.Comments on Saint Thomas Aquinus' "Nature and Domain of Sacred . not in subject or substance. I see a connection because of this move on Aquinas' part between Greek and Roman forms of argumentation and the emergence of scientific (empirical) methods of inquiry.