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JUSTICE AND MERCY: THE COMMUNICATION OF CONCEPTS THROUGH THE LETTERS OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, BISHOP OF LINCOLN, FROM GREGORY THE GREAT TO JOHN WYCLIFF
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the Requirements for the degree of MASTER OF ARTS in HISTORY by David Glenn Terrell
Department Approval Date: September 1, 2011
The author hereby grants the American Public University System the right to display these contents for educational purposes. The author assumes total responsibility for meeting the requirements set by United States Copyright Law for the inclusion of any materials that are not the author’s cre ation or in the public domain.
© Copyright 2011 by David Glenn Terrell. Except where otherwise noted, content is licensed under a Creative Commons AttributionNoncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.1 For permission to use content under terms outside this license, contact the author.2
DEDICATION This thesis is dedicated to my family and friends, whose strong support of my decision to undertake my Master’s program, and patient understanding and acceptance of my attending to its intense reading schedules and the demands of satisfying its writing deadlines, allowed me to progress towards achieving a childhood dream, to become a historian.
Acknowledgements I am indebted to those who taught me to think: my parents, Byron and Annette Terrell; and, the teachers of my youth, especially Mrs. Mary Lou Baylor, Mr. William “Bill” Traylor, and, Mr. Marshall Toppel. I am grateful to my professors at American Military University, especially Drs. Dorothy A. Slane and Stanley D. M. Carpenter, for their insight, conversation, and example—all of which I hope to emulate. I also thank Dr. Don Sine for his guidance and support given me during the writing of this thesis.
Terrell 5 ABSTRACT OF THE THESIS JUSTICE AND MERCY: THE COMMUNICATION OF CONCEPTS THROUGH THE LETTERS OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, BISHOP OF LINCOLN, FROM GREGORY THE GREAT TO JOHN WYCLIFF by David Glenn Terrell American Public University System, September 1, 2011 Charles Town, West Virginia USA Dr. Don Sine, Thesis Professor
Robert Grosseteste (c. 1168-1253), an English, Catholic theologian, learned many theological concepts through the study of the works of earlier theologians. For example, he derived an understanding of divine Justice and Mercy, as a concept, from Gregory the Great’s Moralia in Iob; and expressed his views upon it often, in his letters. Later, his papers fell under the eye of John Wycliff (1328-1384), who, in turn, incorporated many Grossetestean views into his own theology; including those about Justice and Mercy Grosseteste derived from Gregory. This thesis examines the transmission of Gregory’s conceptualization of Justice and Mercy to Wycliff, through the medium of Grosseteste’s letters. This researcher examined the Moralia, Grosseteste’s letters, and Wycliff’s English Sermons, seeking evidence of a common conceptualization of Justice and Mercy. Analysis of the results support the idea that Grosseteste founded his beliefs about Justice and Mercy upon views expressed in Gregory’s Moralia and, giving them expression in his letters, influenced Wycliff’s theological position relative to the same.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER DEDICATION ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ABSTRACT OF THE THESIS I II III IV INTRODUCTION LITERATURE REVIEW ROBERT GROSSETESTE AND HIS WORLD JUSTICE AND MERCY IN GREGORY THE GREAT’S MORALIA IN IOB JUSTICE AND MERCY IN GROSSETESTE’S LETTERS JUSTICE AND MERCY IN WYCLIFF’S SERMONS CONCLUSIONS BIBLIOGRAPHY
PAGE 3 4 5 7 12 19 29
V VI VII
44 66 81 91
CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION
Bishop Robert Grosseteste of Lincoln (c. 1168-1253) was an English Catholic statesman, scientist, metaphysician, philosopher, theologian and pastor. He lived during the recrystallization of medieval Europe’s civic, intellectual and religious institutions from the scattered fragments surviving late Antiquity. He was present at the First Council of Lyons (1245), which excommunicated Emperor Fredrick II; and, was an early advocate of reforms targeting practices whose continued exhibition would later contribute to the fragmentation of western Christendom. His extant writings include philosophical and scientific texts, commentaries on Aristotle, scriptural analysis, sermons, translations of Greek patristic writers, and over 130 letters. These letters provide the modern researcher with valuable insights into the ideas, attitudes, concerns and practices of early 13th century English clergy and laity.3 For the two centuries after his death, Grosseteste’s writings exercised a significant influence upon English philosophy and theology. For example, John Wycliff (1328-1384), bible translator and proto-Reformer, ranked Grosseteste above Aristotle in intellectual regard. Grosseteste’s opposition to abuses of curial and papal prerogatives; his assertions about the primacy of Scr ipture; and, his faith that Christ lay at the center of God’s covenant with mankind, became central ideas in Wycliff’s theology. However, in spite of being labeled “the first reformer”, Grosseteste never recanted his sincere devotion to catholic doctrine, never abjured his
Robert Grosseteste, The Letters of Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, (Translated by F. A. C. Mantello, & Joseph Goering, Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2010), 3; James McEvoy, "Robert Grosseteste: The Man and His Legacy" (In Editing Robert Grosseteste, edited by Evelyn A Mackie, & Joseph Goering, 3-30. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), 18.
Terrell 8 ultimate obedience to Papal authority, and always and insistently supported a unified Christendom. 4 In subsequent centuries, scholars have viewed Grosseteste as a reformer, a teacher, and a statesman and have used these labels to give context to their examination of his many efforts: to reform the church, dauntlessly striving to correct curial abuses; to improve the education of his colleagues, reviving the study of ancient languages and promoting clerical instruction in ancient and classical thought; and, to promote the liberties of the church relative to secular authority. Through each lens, finds a consistent thread; Grosseteste’s insistence “that abstract notions such as love, truth, mercy, justice, and peace should have real consequences in human action and the life of the church.” 5 Of interest to this researcher is the evolution of Christian conceptualizations of Justice and Mercy, which figured prominently in the soteriological writings of Protestant reformers, including those of John Wycliff. Robert Grosseteste derived his conceptualization of divine Justice and Mercy from Gregory the Great’s Moralia in Iob (Moralia on Job) and, through expression in his extant letters, influenced Wycliff’s theological position relative to the same. Pope Gregory “the Great” (540-604) is one of the doctors of the early church who wrestled with the theological doctrines of his day, including the role of Christ, the character of the Eucharist, the existence of purgatory, and the nature of the Trinity. 6 He also concerned himself with the doctrine of Justice and Mercy, presenting his views best in his Moralia on Job,
Stephen E. Lahey, John Wycliff, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 139-140; Francis Seymour Stevenson, Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln: A Contribution to the Religious, Political and Intellectual History of the Thirteenth Century, (London: MacMillan & Co. , 1899), 335-336.
Grosseteste, Letters, 21; Stevenson, 337.
Jaroslav Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600), (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 274, 355, 334-339, 355-356, 336.
Terrell 9 a commentary on the Old Testament book of Job. Gregory extolled Job’s virtues, especially the patient acceptance of suffering that Job exemplified.7 Gregory believed that Christians should face God’s Justice and Mercy by righteous action classifiable into six virtues. Anticipating Justice, Christians were to live a life of Duty to God, having a righteous Fear of God’s judgment over their human failings, and making proper Restitution for the effects of those failings on others. Hoping for Mercy, they were endure Suffering without railing against God, performing Penance to demonstrate contrition, while striving to find Acceptance and a measure of peace in one’s tribulation. Mantello and Goering, who translated and annotated Grosseteste’s letters in 2010, assert that Grosseteste, in almost every letter, wrestled over these same issues. This researcher read the Moralia and examined Grosseteste’s letters in detail, identifying and understanding his notions of, and attitudes about, Justice and Mercy and found significant similarities, especially through the six notional virtues describing Gregory’s ideal Christian accommodation to God’s imposition of Justice and promise of Mercy. John Wycliff is usually regarded for fomenting religious antagonism, if not rebellion. However, he was also, like Grosseteste, a dedicated preacher concerned with the salvation of his fellow Christians. This researcher believes that Wycliff developed his understanding of Justice and Mercy through the medium of Grosseteste’s letters, during his studies at Oxford. Accordingly, this researcher examined Wycliff’s English Sermons for signs that his conceptualization of Justice and Mercy is similar to that Grosseteste derived from his studies of Gregory.
Kevin L Hester, Eschatology and Pain in St. Gregory the Great: The Christological Synthesis of Gregory's 'Morals on the Book of Job', (Bletchley: Paternoster, 2007), 97; Gregory, Moralia, Preface, 6. 14.
Terrell 10 In pursuit of proving this thesis, this researcher examined the following primary sources: Gregory’s commentary on the Book of Job, Moralia in Iob (Moralia on Job); Grosseteste’s letters, and several of his sermons and poems; and, Wycliff’s English Sermons. Biographies about Grosseteste helped this researcher determine that earlier historians had not specifically addressed his conceptualization of Justice and Mercy. Other scholarly works written about Gregory, Grosseteste, and Wycliff provided useful assessments of their several attitudes, works, and theology. Appropriate general histories provided knowledge of 12 th century western philosophy and theology against which one could measure Grosseteste. This thesis is organized as follows: (1) an Introduction to the thesis and to Robert Grosseteste, his historical position, and the methodology pursued by the researcher; (2) a literature review; (3) a brief biography of Grosseteste; (4) a discussion of Justice and Mercy as expressed in Gregory the Great ’s Moralia in Iob; (5) a review of Grosseteste’s letters, documenting references to Justice and Mercy; (6) a review of John Wycliff’s Sermons relative to the same; and, (7) Conclusions. The research supports the thesis, in that Grosseteste’s letters contained many references to his expectation, derived from the Moralia, that the fundamental force balancing Justice and Mercy is the experience of, and response to, suffering. Both believed that suffering was an unavoidable characteristic of life God uses for both the punishment and salvation of mankind. Wycliff, in his turn, read Grosseteste’s annotated works and letters, came to admire him and to believe his assurance that, through suffering, God is preparing humanity against the Last Judgment. Wycliff listened, learned and, in his turn, taught others similarly. Demonstrating the plausibility that Grosseteste was the intermediary for transmitting this concept from Gregory to Wycliff illuminates how this fundamental Christian concept moved from the 5th century to the
Terrell 11 14th century relatively unchanged, and acknowledges Grosseteste’s largely unheralded influence upon modern Christianity. 8
Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Reformation, (New York: Penguin Books, 2004), 106-152; Grosseteste, Letters, 21-22.
CHAPTER II LITERATURE REVIEW
The sources contributing to this thesis consisted of the primary and secondary sources necessary to ascertain the attitudes and views concerning the theology of divine Justice and Mercy in the works of Grosseteste, those who influenced him, and John Wycliff. These consisted primarily of Grosseteste’s own letters, Sermons and other pastoral writings. 9 Grosseteste-centric Sources Letters and Autographic Documents. Grosseteste’s letters became more accessible in a 2010 work, in which Mantello and Goering translated and annotated his 132 extant letters in English. The letters serve to illustrate Grosseteste’s character, convictions, assumptions and concerns. Mantello and Goering distinguished between those letters and documents Grosseteste included in his official collection, probably meant for official dissemination, and a second group of letters that survived outside of the collection. Considered in contemporary terms, the letters represent a fascinating collection of official correspondence in which Grosseteste provided instruction, requested favors, or offered advice and personal communications.10 Biographies. Other sources of value were the five, readily locatable, Grosseteste biographies. 11 The earliest, written by Samuel Pegge in 1793, is written in two parts. The first is a straight narrative that chronicles Grosseteste’s interactions with papal and secular authority; and, his actions as Bishop relative to his immediate superiors and subordinates. The second part
Lahey, 140. Grosseteste, Letters, 3-6.
There are six Grosseteste biographies, by: Richard of Bardney (1502), Pegge (1793), Perry (1871), Stevenson (1899), Southern (1986), and McEvoy (2000). That written by Richard of Bardney proved impossible to locate.
Terrell 13 of Pegge’s work consists of an examination of Grosseteste’s character as expressed through the testimony of his contemporaries; and, a catalog of his works. George Perry’s biography, written in 1871, is another narrative which positions Grosseteste as the proto-protestant of the 13th century. Perry’s entire narrative focus is upon the vice and corruption Grosseteste found in the church once he became Bishop. Any analysis of Grosseteste’s theological stance within the volume must be inferred from Perry’s assessments of his opinions and intentions. That said, as Perry concludes the story of Grosseteste’s life, he dwells upon his character in a manner that makes this researcher believe that, between Perry’s obvious anti-Catholicism and English nationalism, one could glean some sense of Grosseteste’s theological attitudes as Perry understood them. In contrast, Francis S. Stevenson’s 1899 work eschewed unveiled anti-Catholicism. Stevenson does acknowledge that there is ambiguity in factual knowledge concerning Grosseteste’s life and career, stemming from a lack of information, and admits that previous interpretation may have been biased. He also availed himself of papal registers that previous biographers did not and his use of these materials served to provide a more nuanced conception of Grosseteste’s opinions and attitudes. The next biography was published by R. W. Southern in 1986. During the intervening 90 years, Grosseteste scholars had continued to translate, analyze and disseminate his writings but, no new biographies emerged. Southern revisited Grosseteste’s life because he came to believe that previous biographies were incorrect in their assumption that Grosseteste studied in Paris. Partially driving this was Southern’s understanding of the critical importance that education in Paris played in the career of 13th century clerics. While there are no explicit records to indicate Grosseteste had schooled in Paris, his chancellorship at Oxford and his call to the Bishopric in
Terrell 14 Lincoln assured later scholars that he had. Southern points to Grosseteste’s early career as a natural philosopher, his style of speech, and his modes of argument as evidence he studied in English provincial schools, perhaps at Oxford itself, contradicting those who insisted he studied in France. Southern’s biography is not a pure narrative. Instead, it traces the history of Grosseteste’s scientific and theological modes of thinking—his “vision.” Later in the book, Southern examines Grosseteste’s thought pertaining to God as it evolved over time, w here this researcher found hints of Grosseteste’s theological positions. Finally, James McEvoy wrote his work in 2000 as part of the Great Mediaeval Thinkers series published by Oxford University Press. McEvoy intended his book to provide an overall view of Grosseteste’s life, philosophy and theology; to examine Grossetestean historiography; and, provide readers with insights into the historical origins of Grosseteste’s thought. One of the book’s aims, “to expound Grosseteste’s thought on the basis of his authentic writings, and insofar as possible to understand his own ideas and initiatives in the light of developments taking place around him…,”12 makes the book explicitly applicable to the thesis. Studies and Essays. When reviewing scholarly publications about Grosseteste, one finds that the overwhelming majority of work has examined him as a philosopher or in a politicoreligious context. In a sense, scholarship overlooked his many writings on pastoral theology, the time he spent as a professor of theology at Oxford, and his continued interest in theological issues while Bishop of Lincoln. In 2004, James Ginther published his study of Grosseteste as theologian, in which he examines the focus of Grosseteste’s theology, naming it “the person and work of Christ” and surveys the state of Christian doctrine in the 13 th century, all relevant to this thesis.
James McEvoy, Robert Grosseteste, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), xiv.
Terrell 15 An earlier book of essays, edited by D. A. Callus and published in 1953, commemorated the seventh centenary of Grosseteste’s death. Of interest to this researcher are two essays in this volume. In the first, William Pantin describes and evaluates Grosseteste’s relations with both pope and king, detailing many theological and pastoral attitudes Grosseteste exhibited while Bishop. The second, by Beryl Smalley, speaks of Grosseteste as a Biblical scholar and discusses his style, outlook, technique, and preferences with regard to analyzing scriptural and pseudoBiblical works. Although attitudes pertaining to this thesis are not specifically addressed, one can infer characteristics of Grosseteste’s attitudes about Justice and Mercy from his opinions about related Biblical issues. In 2003, Mackie and Goering edited a collection of essays that discussed several of Grosseteste’s works. This included an essay by Mackie about the “Castle of Love”, a poem written by Grosseteste said to contain the heart of his theology. Overall, the work discusses aspects of editing Grosseteste’s works and its examination of their “authenticity, chronology, textual transmission, editorial practice, and contemporary sources and influences,”13 which provides essential information that assisted this researcher to arrive at reasonable interpretations, and to make supportable assertions. Gregory the Great Upon his death, Grosseteste left his substantial library to the Oxford University, giving scholars access to his reading and the valuable marginal notes inscribed within. From these books and textural analysis of Grosseteste’s letters, it is cle ar that he revered Gregory the Great, especially his Moralia on Job.
Evelyn A Mackie, and Joseph Goering, Editing Robert Grosseteste, (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2003), dust jacket.
Terrell 16 This researcher based assertions pertaining to Gregory’s attitudes towards Justice and Mercy primarily upon a valuable work by Kevin Hester. His Eschatology and Pain in St. Gregory the Great: The Christological Synthesis of Gregory's 'Morals on the Book of Job' thoroughly discusses Gregory’s eschatology and christology, in which he declares the experience of pain to be useful in the motivation of a Christian towards spiritual advancement and eventual salvation at the Last Judgment. The work was also a valuable guide to reading and understanding the Moralia. Mainstream Thirteenth-century Theology To provide foundational knowledge about Justice and Mercy, as 13th century theological concepts, this researcher utilized several reputable general, intellectual and theological histories, sourcebooks, monographs, and papers. These included: Maurice Powicke’s The Thirteenth Century; Charles Haskins’ The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century; Gillian Evans’ Philosophy and Theology in the Middle Ages; Jaroslav Pelikan’s most valuable sourcebooks, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600), The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (600-1700), The Growth of Medieval Theology (600-1300), Reformation of Church and Dogma (1300-1700) and Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture (since 1700); Gregg Allison’s Historical Theology; Leo Donald Davis’ The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787): Their History and Theology; Jon D. Levenson’s Sinai & Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible; Gregory Sadler’s Mercy and Justice in St. Anselm’s Proslogion; Robert Brentano’s Two churches: England and Italy in the thirteenth century; and, Mary Mansfield’s The Humiliation of Sinners: Public Penance in Thirteenth-century France. Additionally, this researcher consulted the works of Thomas Aquinas, particularly the Summa Theologica and his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard with an eye to illuminating then-contemporary contrasts to Grosseteste’s attitudes on Justice and Mercy.
Terrell 17 Wycliff’s Theology and the Reformation If Wycliff, as an Oxonian theologian critical of Church abuses and corruption, was exposed to Grosseteste’s papers and then espoused ideas traceable to Grosseteste, then it is possible to assert a transmission of ideas from Grosseteste to Wycliff and thence into the Protestant Reformation. To address the aspect of the thesis pertaining to the transmittal of Grosseteste’s ideas to Wycliff, this researcher consulted recent histories focusing upon Wycliff’s thought and upon histories examining the roots of the Protestant Reformation. Stephen E. Lahey’s John Wycliff, another biography in Oxford’s Great Mediaeval Thinkers series, provides valuable information about his attitudes and beliefs. Wycliff’s sermons consist of two bodies of writing. The first, written in Latin, probably for an educated audience, were edited and published in four volumes by Johannes Loserth in 1887 for the Wycliff Society of London. The second, written in English, were collected and edited by Thomas Arnold in 1868. Although their authorship is not perfectly ascertained, Arnold was convinced that Wycliff authored them. 14 As this researcher currently lacks Latin reading skills and, in the absence of English t ranslations of Wycliff’s Latin Sermons, except a few partial translations Loserth provides, this researcher will concentrate on the English Sermons in the search for similarities to Grosseteste’s conceptualization of Justice and Mercy. The general history, The Reformation, written by Diarmaid MacCulloch in 2003, provides information about general aspects of the period including, changes in the manner clergy and laity conceived of God as both judge and redeemer. Steven Ozment’s 1980 work, The Age of Reform (1250-1550), was valuable in its investigation of the reformation as a continuation of some domains of mediaeval thought while it revolted from others. In a brief exploration for
John Wyclif, and Thomas Arnold, Select English Works of John Wyclif, (Vol. I. III vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1871), xiv-xv.
Terrell 18 signs that Grosseteste’s ideas on Justice and Mercy truly survived to be incorporated into the roots of the Protestant Reformation, this researcher examined Jaroslav Pelikan’s previously mentioned sourcebooks and Roland Bainton’s 1950 landmark biography and intellectual history of Martin Luther, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther.
CHAPTER III ROBERT GROSSETESTE AND HIS WORLD
Feudalism, the Church, and the Universities were the great European mediaeval institutions. Their development between c.800 and 1300, eventually led to the dissemination of knowledge developed in antiquity across large numbers of people, throughout many centers of learning, and fueled the later era of rapid religious, intellectual, and political transformation. The transition from European antiquity to classical Europe began about the second quarter of the 12th century, with the rediscovery of ancient learning that had survived in Greek and Arabic texts brought to the west as a result of trade and scholarly clerics fleeing the sack of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade. Once rediscovered, the “new science” continued to affect Europe into the 13th century, as the ancient texts were translated and absorbed into the curricula of the European universities. By the year 1200, this “mediaeval renaissance” is widespread, and by Grosseteste’s death, has irreversibly changed Europe, setting it on the course that would lead to renaissance, reformation and enlightenment. During this time, France was important as a center of theological learning. Spain, influenced by Moorish thinking, functioned primarily as an information conduit, funneling information and documents, arriving by sea from the east, to the north of Europe. England proved to be a primary adopter of innovation, particularly with regard to technologies related to the design and manufacture of devices.15 The 12th century, or more precisely, the one hundred years ending with the Fourth Crusade’s sack of Constantinople in 1204, did constitute a renaissance of sorts—marked in the beginning by the rise in prominence of the cathedral schools, and continuing through the creation
Charles Homer Haskins, The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1927), 4, 10-11.
Terrell 20 of the earliest universities at Salerno, Bologna, Montpellier, Paris, and Oxford. The scope and curriculum of higher education evolves during this century, the seven liberal arts giving way to: Roman law, both secular and canon; the Ancients, including Aristotle, Euclid, and Ptolemy; and, the Greek and Arabic Physicians who expanded upon them. The intellectual centers thus developing during the 12 and 13th century formed around bodies of men who were literate and engaged in the pursuit of theological or secular learning, or the creation and promulgation of law, such as those found surrounding universities, cathedrals, and the courts and administrative departments which formed in the larger towns and cities. This was a change from the immediately preceding centuries, when monasteries were the chief centers of culture.16 Grosseteste’s adult life, straddling the end of the 12th century and the beginning of the 13th century, was a period of great transitions. In literature, art and architecture, the stolid and squat old Romanesque gave way to the airy, tall and new Gothic. Opportunities for learning expanded, in both the scope of subjects and the dissemination of knowledge, through the consistent use of Latin as a near-universal language in the West. At the same time, new forms of literature became available to larger numbers of people through the use of the vernacular. Nevertheless, the fairly frequent dearth of material in the historical record adversely affects a modern historian’s ability to make well-supported assessments. For example, the chronology of Grosseteste’s career, especially the years before he became Bishop, is not firmly fixed . Southern’s chronology, the most reasonable to this researcher, positions Grossetest e as a scientist and natural philosopher from about 1195 to 1225, as a practicing theologian between 1225 and 1235, and as Bishop from 1235 to the end of his life in 1253. This chronology is conjectural, as there is almost no record of Grosseteste’s early education but, because of the prevalence and
Haskins, 6, 32-33.
Terrell 21 prestige of the Parisian schools, and the almost universal use of Parisian-trained clerics in the Bishoprics of the church, Callus assumes that Grosseteste was a joint product of Paris and Oxford. Other scholars, especially Southern, assert that Grosseteste’s strong independence and unconventional academic methods argue against his having been trained in Paris; an assertion shared by this researcher. Southern asserted that Grosseteste was strictly a product of the English provincial schools, and represented a pure example of a 12 th century English scientific mind, unaffected by years of continental scholasticism. Southern bases much of his assertion upon Grosseteste’s scientific originality, arguing that only an insular education would have allowed him to mature without killing his uncertainty about the nature of being, natural phenomena, and the zoological and physical wonders of the world. Grosseteste was not strictly dogmatic about science, nor was he a slavishly bound to Patristic writers. Because he came to the study of theology later in life, his mind had already assumed a cast molded differently from those produced by the continental schools, particularly those in Paris, where scholastic authority defined intellectualism. In classifying Grosseteste, Southern dwells upon his theological nonconformity; his early interest in conducting scientific, observation-based studies; his willingness to focus exclusively upon his pastoral responsibilities; his openness to the theology he finds in his studies of Greek writers; and, his passionate, even violent espousal of his principles. Grosseteste exemplified a new type of man emerging in Europe, interested in re-examining the past with a new energy that we have come to call humanism. One hesitates to define Grosseteste as a humanist but, he was a curious man, interested in the origins of ideas and in knowing about the men who had originally thought them. In spite of his erudition and insight, Grosseteste’s influence only extended a little over 150 years after his death. He is not well known today, even to the informed public and academic community. 17
R.W. Southern, Robert Grosseteste: The Growth of an English Mind in Medieval Europe, (Oxford:
Terrell 22 When trying to understand Grosseteste’s intellectual contributions, one is best served by viewing him against the contemporary environment at Oxford. When Grosseteste was chancellor of Oxford, the curriculum concentrated on the study of the Holy Scriptures, interpreted through the works of Church Fathers and argued utilizing Aristotelian reasoning. In spite of his leadership, this situation did not continue long after he left Oxford for his bishopric in Lincoln. By the time of his death, theologians educated in Paris and teaching at Oxford had standardized the curriculum to the continental model, which focused almost exclusively on scholastic authors, especially the Sentences, written by Peter Lombard—to the diminishing of scriptural study. Grosseteste is notable as a theologian and philosopher because of his incorporation of “scientific” modes of reasoning into his theology and willingness to seek out and appeal to earlier works, such as his translations of Greek classics and the works of Eastern Christian writers. His points of view and temporal setting situate him squarely between Aristotle and Descartes. Grosseteste’s ecclesiastic career gives ample evidence of his sincerity in performing the duties assigned to him and, of insisting upon rectitude of conduct in himself and those under his authority. He became a model, exemplifying the uncompromising reformer, known for fairness, strict judgment and a fiery temper displayed in the pursuit of both. 18 A possible source of Grosseteste’s temperamental nature is his origins . Grosseteste was from peasant stock; a condition held against him by more aristocratic members of clergy and nobility. His laying aside of science, when called to be a theologian; and, his similar stepping away from teaching when called to be a pastor exemplified his devotion to the church and to
Oxford University Press, 1986), 24,140; Haskins, 6; McEvoy, Robert Grosseteste, xiii-xiv, 23. McEvoy, Robert Grosseteste, i; George G Perry, The Life and Times of Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1871), 18-20.
Terrell 23 those souls whose care were placed in his charge. Grosseteste was born around 1170, probably in a small town in Lincolnshire, to an Anglo-Norman-speaking peasant family; a later source of scorn heaped upon him by those of more aristocratic lineage. The first decade of his life coincided with significant political and religious upheaval in the Holy Roman Empire and the British Isles. The dispute between King Henry II and Archbishop Thomas Becket crested when Grosseteste was two years old. Before he was 10, Queen Eleanor would raise Aquitaine against Henry II, be defeated and then imprisoned; the Waldensian movement would begin at Lyons; the first authenticated influenza epidemics would be recorded; and, Henry II would do penance at Canterbury. By the time Grosseteste would reach 30 years of age, the Muslims would take Jerusalem, and Richard I (“the Lion’s Heart”) would succeed Henry II; only to be imprisoned during the Third Crusade, released, crowned for a second time, and killed in war with France. 19 Around age 30, Grosseteste entered upon an administrative career, taking service with the Bishop of Hereford, home to a cathedral school where Roger of Hereford and Alfred Sareshel, renowned masters of learning, were teaching the “new science”, based upon recent translations of Greek and Arabic texts. These years were also notable for the growing number and size of universities, which were beginning to replace the monasteries as chief centers of culture. 20 Between 1202 and 1204, while Grosseteste was in his mid-thirties, the fourth crusade raged in far Eastern Europe. The sack of Constantinople would shatter the eastern empire but, monks fleeing to the west, and secular nobles returning for war, would infuse Europe with a great mass of Greek documents. The papacy, in the hands of Pope Innocent III, asserts papal authority over the Empire; places England under interdict; preaches for an unprecedented
Perry, 17-20; McEvoy, Robert Grosseteste, 20; Bernard Grun, The Timetables of History, (Third Revised Edition. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991), 156-163.
Southern, liii; McEvoy, Robert Grosseteste, xi; Grun, 162-3; Haskins, 33.
Terrell 24 crusade within Europe; and, excommunicates both King John of England and the emperor, Otto IV.21 Although professionally an administrator, Grosseteste’s personal interests between approximately 1198 and 1222 were scientific. After this period, Grosseteste became increasingly focused upon theology. Sometime around the year 1214, Oxford University was founded. Grosseteste returned to Oxford and became both lecturer in theology and chancellor for about 20 years. 22 He entered clerical orders as a deacon in 1225, the year after the first Franciscan friars entered England; and, he served as an archdeacon between 1229 and 1231.23 His extant scientific works from this period include explorations of the scintillation of stars; the origin of sound; the flooding of the Nile; the nature of color, light, eclipses, comets and the tides; the structure of the calendar; the causes of thunder; and, commentaries upon Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics and Physics.24 The years of Grosseteste’s scientific and theological studies were prolific, in terms of academic work. He established himself as a preeminent natural philosopher and an innovative, independent-minded theologian; and, would continue to teach theology at Oxford until 1230, when he became the first lector of the Franciscans at the university; an undertaking he continued for five years, ending with his election as Bishop, in June, 1235.25 Grosseteste was over 65 years of age in 1235, when he became Bishop of Lincoln, the largest diocese in England. He was an atypical candidate. Southern asserts that Grosseteste
Grun, 164-5; James Trager, The People's Chronology: A Year-by-Year Record of Human Events from Prehistory to the Present, (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1992), 103-4.
22 23 21
McEvoy, Robert Grosseteste, xi.
Southern, xviii; McEvoy, Robert Grosseteste, 25-29; Grun, 168-9; Richard C Dales, "Robert Grosseteste's Scientific Works," (Isis, 1961: 381-402), 402; Trager, 107.
Southern 125-160. Southern, xviii; McEvoy, Robert Grosseteste, xi, 25-29.
Terrell 25 never studied in Paris—normally a critical qualification for higher clerical office — and, that he may not even have studied at Oxford. Instead, Southern believes that he received a provincial education, probably in Lincoln, at the cathedral school, or at Cambridge. If true, his provincial background may explain his lack of “systemic moderation which is one of the distinguishing marks of scholastic thought”26 while it also explains his individuality.27 Grosseteste was Bishop of Lincoln for 18 years, from 1235 to his death in 1253. During his life, he established himself as a master of Aristotelian logic and had contributed to the rising conversation concerning mathematics and natural phenomenon. He wrote a well-received treatise on the nature and metaphysical meaning of light that combined his philosophical and theological interests. He learned Greek at an advanced age, when it was most unusual for any Roman Catholic cleric to do so, and translated several Greek philosophical and theological works into Latin, including the Testaments of the 12 Patriarchs by Pseudo-Dionysus. In spite of a strict, traditional theological outlook, Grosseteste contributed some distinctive theological attitudes and views for discussion by the academic community, including views concerning divine Justice and Mercy this researcher believes derived from his interest in and admiration for Gregory the Great’s Moralia on Job.28 To assist one achieve an understanding of Grosseteste’s attitudes, it is useful to examine the philosophy he lived. Grosseteste, as a Bishop and pastor, was intent upon the necessity of having a qualified, attentive, and responsible priest in every parish of his see. Shortly after his installation, he published a letter to his archdeacons in which he described certain abuses and exhorted them to reform them. Repeatedly, he asserted that the work of the parish priest and the
26 27 28
Southern, vii. Southern, vii-xviii; McEvoy, Robert Grosseteste, 21-25. McEvoy, Robert Grosseteste, xii.
Terrell 26 rural monk was more than outward manifestations of administering the sacraments and celebrating masses. For Grosseteste, the main work of the pastor was that exemplified by Christ, the Great Shepherd; feeding the hungry, covering the naked, visiting the sick, teaching spiritual truth, condemning vice, and severely punishing vice when necessary. His commitment to this ideal exceeded his sympathy with the financial difficulties faced by the papal curia. He hated the abuses inherent in the assignment of unqualified or absent parish priests. His letters proclaim his views about the significant threat to the spiritual welfare of simple Christians posed by absent or inept priests. However, one should note that Grosseteste was just as hard on himself. Once made Bishop, he evidenced continual concern for the spiritual welfare of those in his charge. He often agonized over the prospect of failing in this responsibility, facing Christ at the Last Judgment, and suffering eternal damnation as a result. This fear and expectation caused him to preach often to his clergy, plainly describing their duties and exhorting them to obedience and responsible attendants to those duties. In response, some accused him of intolerance, impatience and of being an enemy to the monks and priests subordinate to him. However, it is clear that this was never the case when these individuals followed the rule of their respective orders. It is unjust to accuse him of oppression while he was attempting to eliminate vice and correct irregularity. 29 In his zeal, Grosseteste removed from their positions at least eleven heads of subordinate religious communities in his first several years as Bishop. His standards in this regard were clearly more sharply defined and insisted upon more energetically than were those of his contemporaries. Grosseteste considered the pastoral care provided by a good priest to be a significant component of God’s mercy. He believed those who had accepted the tonsure, yet
Robert Brentano, Two Churches: England and Italy in the Thirteenth Century, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), 7; Perry, 16, 86-7, 119, 136, 215, 230-1; Samuel Pegge, The Life of Robert Grosseteste, the Celebrated Bishop of Lincoln, (London: Society of Antiquaries, 1793), 38, 141, 254; Southern, 7.
Terrell 27 provided for their own carnal and temporal needs from the tithes and offerings of the church, endangered the souls of both themselves and of those people in their charge.
Very few Bishops rose from humble origins, which argue that Grosseteste was clearly an exceptional individual whose intellectual background and theological and social orthodoxy were acceptable to the canons of the cathedral, the pope and the king. Certainly, had this not been the case, Grosseteste would never have become Bishop of the largest diocese in England. 31 Two ideas drove Grosseteste during his episcopate. First, he was certain in his belief in an imminent, post-mortal judgment at the hands of Jesus Christ. Second, he anticipated Jesus Christ holding him to a higher standard of performance and conformance to Christian virtue, based upon his acceptance of Holy Orders and its covenant assigning him personal responsibility for the spiritual and pastoral care of souls in his care. He knew that he was responsible for more than his own behavior and that he would be held accountable at the Last Judgment. This deeplyheld belief was the source of his insistence upon the appointment of educated and worthy parish priests, the correction of abuses, and a preference for employing Dominicans and Franciscans as preachers. 32 For Grosseteste, theology was a discipline that called one to courageously express one’s beliefs in morality and with the use of intellect. 33 In seeking the source of his courage, one wonders if its origins lay in his science. His scientific curiosity and the satisfaction he derived from returning to first principles and deriving useful knowledge empowered him to go to the
30 31 32 33
Southern, 260; Perry, 267. Southern, 5. McEvoy, Robert Grosseteste, 30. McEvoy, Robert Grosseteste, 7.
Terrell 28 scriptures and, using clear logic and many illustrations drawn by analogy from the natural world and people around him, express views unaligned with the masters held up by the scholastics. 34 Grosseteste therefore read the scriptures and the works of the church fathers with benefit, incorporating their conceptualizations into his theological worldview. His reading preferences gave priority to Augustine’s City of God and to Gregory’s commentary on Job, based upon an analysis by Southern that indexed Grosseteste’s references to other authors . We are fortunate that Grosseteste’s copy of the Moralia is still extant. The annotations in the book demonstrate the intensity with which he read and pondered Gregory’s work . Unsurprisingly, he references the Moralia more frequently than any book except Augustine’s City of God. 35
Perry, 57. Southern, 198
CHAPTER IV JUSTICE AND MERCY IN GREGORY THE GREAT’S MORALIA IN IOB
In the centuries following the origin of Christianity, the nascent religion repeatedly confronted two theological issues. First, Christianity, as a monotheistic religion arising out of Judaism, had to resolve a seeming contradiction resulting from their assertion that the mortal Jesus was also the divine Christ; who was also God, but not God. Second, the religion became deeply concerned about the post-mortal status of man relative to God, embodied in whether one’s eternity would be spent in heaven or hell, represented metaphorically as Eden (or Zion) and Babylon, respectively. Eden represented a paradisiacal world, as created by God, for his human children—who were, originally, worthy to live in it. After Adam’s willful disobedience of God, man, now unfit to enjoy God’s personal presence, was cast out of Eden into a world without God, metaphorically typified under the name of Babylon. Within this framework, humanity’s only hope for reunion with God lay in the redemption and salvation wrought by the Christian atonement that freed the Elect from sin; rendering them worthy to enter Zion, a place of purity where God can dwell; leaving the Reprobate to suffer torment in Hell. 36 However, the Christian religion, formed in an oriental mind comfortable with continuing uncertainty inherent in such inscrutable divine mysteries, collided with the intellectual mindset of the Hellenes and the legalistic paradigms of the Romans. 37 Church fathers, such as
Jon D Levenson, Sinai & Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible, (New York: HarperCollins, 1985), 111-
136. Ori Brafman, and Rod A Beckstrom, The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, (New York: Penguin Books, 2008), 19; Leo Donald Davis, The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787): Their History and Theology, (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1983), 33; David G Terrell, "Historical Evaluation of the First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787)," Scribd.com Portfolio of David G Terrell, (February 26, 2010, http://www.scribd.com/doc/31886314/terrell-dg-historical-evaluation-of-the-first-sevenecumenical-councils-325-787-scribd (accessed June 26, 2011)), 1.
Terrell 30 Augustine, wrestled with trying to reconcile divine foreknowledge —within which, an omniscient God was clearly able to decide the fate of a human soul—with human free will. Foreknowledge implied predestination, yet the Christian concept of the atonement, with its personal and merciful divine grace continually provoked controversy over whether one could have any effect upon one’s salvation through personal performance. Augustine, in the last years of his life, became convinced one could not. He believed that, God, in his omniscience, foreknows those he will save, and that humanity’s ability to choose good over evil was destroyed by the fall of Adam. Therefore, for Augustine, humanity was incapable of consciously behaving morally without God’s direct intervention, through the application of divine grace.38 Pre-Christian philosophers tried to explain how the natural world operates, in physical and metaphysical terms. As they considered the causes of events, they postulated the existence of a variety of spiritual powers of varied intentions, striving to account for nature and its phenomena; and, to understand the forces that moved matter and effected man. Christianity introduced a new element into the human equation—divine grace. Grace, the actions of a merciful God, was presented as an idea or force able to change the course of events for righteous ends. The primary action of grace, as defined in the Christian orthodox thought of the Middle Ages, concerned itself with human agency and will. Grace moved humans to act in a way that rescued them from their sinfulness; defined as actions contrary to the commandments or will of God. 39 The concept of grace was intimately concerned with that of Justice and Mercy, as Christians faced judgment at the hands of a God who commanded his followers to be perfect “even as I am.” [Mt 5:48 KJV] Yet, humanity was obviously not perfect; neither in their daily activity, nor though the inherited effect of Adam’s transgression. It seemed a difficult matter for
Evans, 81; Pope Gregory I, Morals on the book of Job, (Oxford: J.H. Parker, 1844), 7. 24, 33. 12. Evans, 86; Gregory, Moralia, 16. 32.
Terrell 31 theologians to explain why Christians, redeemed by the atonement of Christ, still needed to pay for their sins. Medieval writers taught that one’s baptism was free but redeemed one only from the sins committed prior to that baptism and, thereafter, a Christian continually worked to redeem himself. 40 These conflicts of opinion constituted the soil from which theology arose during the few centuries after Christ’s crucifixion. Initially lacking the characteristics promoting the long-term survival of a religion – including a centralized hierarchy, any condescension on the part of ruling elites, and rapid communications that would facilitate the creation and maintenance of hierarchy and acceptance – Christian religious groups around the Mediterranean formed isolated local organizations focused on the ideas of redemption and salvation through a reconciliation wrought by the Christian atonement.41 Gregory the Great, one of the doctors of the early church who wrestled with the doctrine of Justice and Mercy, presented his views best in his Moralia on Job, a commentary on the Old Testament book of Job. For Gregory, the virtue Job exemplified was patience, in the face of suffering. Gregory’s took the position that Christians should respond to tribulation just as Job— enduring suffering patiently and never rebelling against God, due to a sure faith in divine Justice and Mercy. Faced with divine judgment, Christians should, like Job, examine themselves deeply and penitently, seeking within for a fault but, always being submissive.42 In examining Justice, Gregory associated the concept with three aspects. First, one had a duty to obey God’s commandments. Second, one should be conscious of their imperfect
Mary C Mansfield, The Humiliation of Sinners: Public Penance in Thirteenth-century France, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995), 115.
Kevin L Hester, Eschatology and Pain in St. Gregory the Great: The Christological Synthesis of Gregory's 'Morals on the Book of Job', (Bletchley: Paternoster, 2007), 97; Gregory, Moralia, Preface, 6. 14.
Terrell 32 attendance to those duties, feeling the fear at the prospect of the consequences of failure. Finally, one had the responsibility to make restitution to parties injured by one’s failures, to absolve oneself from debts owed God because their failings. As to Mercy, Gregory likewise associated it with three aspects of its own. First, Christians should acknowledge that the suffering they experience is sent by God, either as punishment or corrective guidance. Second, Christians should perform penance for their failures, both to acknowledge them and to demonstrate sincere regret for them. Finally, Christians must practice acceptance in the face of whatever suffering is directed towards them, so that they might be purified and sanctified by the experience. In the preface to his Moralia, Gregory plainly tells of these aspects, writing: For of scourges there are sundry kinds; for there is the scourge whereby the sinner is stricken that he may suffer punishment without withdrawal, another whereby he is smitten, that he may be corrected; another wherewith sometimes a man is smitten, not for the correction of past misdeeds, but for the prevention of future ; another which is very often inflicted, whereby neither a past transgression is corrected, nor a future one prevented, but which has this end, that when unexpected deliverance follows the stroke, the power of the Deliverer being known may be the more ardently beloved, and that while the innocent person is bruised by the blow, his patience may serve to increase the gain of his merits; for sometimes the sinner is stricken that he may be punished, without withdrawal, as it is said to Judaea when doomed to destruction, I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one; and again. Why criest thou for thine affliction thy sorrow is incurable.43 The experience of judgmental and merciful suffering is a central theme in Gregory’s commentary on Job, along with a fearful anticipation of the end of the world, and the Last Judgment expected therein. He is caught up in his considerations of judgment, for: The mind of the righteous not only considers well what it is now undergoing, but also dreads what is in store. It sees all that it suffers in this life, and fears lest hereafter it suffer still worse things. It mourns that it has fallen into the exile of this blind state away from the joys of Paradise; it fears, lest, when this exile is quitted, eternal death succeed. And thus it already undergoes sentence in suffering chastisement, yet still dreads the threats of the Judge to come as the consequence of sin.44
Gregory, Moralia, Preface. 12. Gregory, Moralia, 7. 6.
Terrell 33 He reconciles these themes through the expected role of Jesus Christ as the judge of mankind. Gregory, as he wrote, expected the imminent return of Christ. He used this feeling of anxious anticipation to encourage the spiritual advancement of the church; declaring that Christians must prepare themselves by submitting their actions to their own self-judgment. He was adamant that: God requires these things, which He searches out in executing judgment upon them. He does not require those, which He so pardons as to let them be unpunished henceforth in His own Judgment. And so 'this day,' i.e. this enjoyment of sin, will not be required by the Lord, if it be visited with self-punishment of our own accord, as Paul testifies, when he says, For if we could judge ourselves we should not be judged of the Lord.45 Gregory believes that one will more likely engage in self-judgment in the aftermath of personal suffering. The suffering provides one an opportunity and incentive to contemplate their actions, examine their motivations, seek forgiveness, make restitution, and submit oneself to God—learning of God in the process. 46 Introspective events like these interested Gregory, who observed: … with what exactness the holy man passes judgment on himse lf, that the judgments of God may find nought in him to take hold of. For having an eye to his own frailty, he says. How much less shall I answer, and talk in my words with Him? Not relying upon the claims of his own righteousness, but betaking himself to the hope alone of entreating, he adds, Who, though I had anything righteous, yet would I not answer, but I would make supplication to my Judge. But apprehensive for the very entreaty itself, he adds, And when I have called, and He hath answered me, yet do I not believe that He hath hearkened unto my voice. Why does he shrink with so great apprehension, why does he tremble with such sore misgiving? But that his eye is fixed on the dreadfulness of the Judge, in the last strict reckoning, and not supporting the power of His searching eye, all that he does seems little worth in his account?47 For Gregory, suffering was both an instrument that God, the great Physician, would use to administer Justice—in the punishment of sin—and an act of Mercy—through its ability to
45 46 47
Gregory, Moralia, 4. 27. Hester, 1-8. Gregory, Moralia, 9. 30.
Terrell 34 focus one’s attention, spiritually, summoning one to penance and perhaps redemption. The character of Job provided a valuable example through which Gregory taught his view as to the proper response of a godly man to suffering; and of the manner in which God might use pain and suffering for executing Justice and bestowing Mercy. 48 Conversely, Job also instructed Gregory as to one’s contemplation of sins committed in life, for which one has not faced tribulation. The Elect, when they know that they have done unlawful things, but find upon careful examination that they have met with no afflictions in return for those unlawful deeds, with the immense force of their fear, are in a ferment with alarm, and labour and travail with dark misgivings, lest grace should have forsaken them forever, seeing that no recompensing of their ill-doing keeps them safe in the present life; they fear lest the vengeance which is suspended be stored to be dealt in heavier measure at the end; they are eager to be stricken with the correction of a Father's hand, and they reckon the pain of the wound to be the medicine of saving health.49 Gregory’s emphasis on restitution and acceptance derived from his belief that Christians were not subject to double jeopardy in the case of their sins. As Christians righteously considered their actions and judged themselves appropriately, inflicting penance, making restitution, and repenting; they could be forgiven for these faults and would no longer be held accountable for them at the Last Judgment. For because no believer is ignorant that the thoughts of the heart will be minutely examined at the Judgment, as Paul testifieth, saying, Their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another; searching himself within, he examines his own conscience without sparing before the Judgment, that the strict Judge may come now the more placably disposed, in that He sees his guilt, which He is minded to examine, already chastised according to the sin.50 Therefore, for Gregory, the Christ who was to judge mankind was also the God who would save mankind, often through the infliction of pain inherent in human existence.51
48 49 50 51
Hester, xi. Gregory, Moralia, 7. 22. Gregory, Moralia, 4. 26. Hester, xi.
Terrell 35 Hester, examining Gregory’s commentary on Job to discern how his theology impacte d Christian spiritual life, points out that Gregory relies on two ideas. First, Gregory insists that contemplation, focused upon one’s interior landscape, is a spiritual discipline one can employ to proactively act as judge of one’s own actions, and through subsequent repentance, preserve oneself from the effects of sin. Secondly, he insisted upon a worldview in which Christians view all evil in the world as the “scourge of God” used to sanctify humanity. 52 Interestingly, Gregory does not see Christ’s first and second coming as separate events, but rather sees them as related events linked in a continuum of activity. The eternal salvation of humanity is the work of Christ which began with his incarnation and will finish in the eschaton. After Christ sits in judgment of humanity, he will restore Earth to its original and perfect state. Eden will return. When Christ came to earth, declared his divine identity, and called mankind to repentance, fallen humanity had its spiritual vision renewed. The intensity with which individuals responded to his call became identified with their position with regard to their divine election. “For every Elect one at the Judgment is hid in the countenance of the Godhead in interior vision, whereas the blindness of the Reprobate without is banished and confounded by the strict visitation of Justice.”53 As Gregory conceived it, those who accepted Christ demonstrated that God had already accepted them.54 In his consideration of Job and his companions, as types of humanity, Gregory clearly agreed with Augustine, who divided mankind into the Elect of God and the Reprobate, destined for Hell. The Elect could turn inward through contemplation and examine their own motivations and innermost conceptualizations, in anticipation of Christ’s strict and exacting post -mortal
52 53 54
Hester, 8. Gregory, Moralia, 4. 19. Hester, 124.
Terrell 36 judgment of their thoughts and intentions while the Reprobate could not, being incapable of doing good. This idea of judgment did not preclude the judgment of one’s outward acts but, since Christ would judge perfectly, comprehending all, he would be capable of discerning the truth, brushing away all confusion, subterfuge, or denial. Thus, one could be confident in a fair judgment, as was Job.55 According to Gregory, Christ, during his mortal life, exemplified a middle way between Justice and Mercy. As exemplified in the scriptures, Christ was quick to forgive and equally quick to denounce others for hypocrisy. From this example, Gregory saw the beginnings of a cycle of judgment, originating during Christ’s mortal life, which will conclude at the Last Judgment; where Christ will complete the election of those destined for heaven. Where Gregory does make the distinction between the two advents of Christ, he does so by contrasting the humility and obedience Christ demonstrated during his earthly incarnation with the wrath and justice expected of Christ at the prophesied second coming. 56 In a pastoral appeal, later taken up by Grosseteste, Gregory calls for Christians to prepare themselves through constant internal evaluation, for “if individuals could not stand before Christ judgment when he came in humility how could they expect to stand on the day when he comes in wrath.”57 In this way, Gregory combines eschatology and suffering into his Christology, intimately connecting Justice and Mercy with each other. Christians find one within the other, and the suffering Christian’s experience becomes part of the manifestation of a sanctifying grace . This grace promotes personal righteousness, within the context of contemplation upon one’s inner life, and prepares the Christian for Christ’s judgment . Therefore, Gregory viewed suffering
55 56 57
Hester, 114. Hester, 124. Hester, 124.
Terrell 37 as either an experience intended to turn one from sin and towards righteousness or, as something of a down payment against suffering otherwise due after the Last Judgment.58 The mechanism for achieving this inner redemption is contemplation that incorporates the act of judging oneself against the example provided by Christ. For Gregory, the selfjudgment that arises from the compunction of conscience and the contrite suffering of penance is capable of reconciling one with Christ the Judge, making the atonement effective in the life of the Christian. Accordingly, he encouraged a reader that, if he could only: … raise himself to [contemplate] things eternal, and fix the eye of the soul upon those objects which remain without undergoing change, he sees that here below all whatsoever runs to an end is almost nothing at all. He is subject to the adversities of the present life, but he bethinks himself that all that passes away is as naught. For the more vigorously he makes his way into the interior joys, he is the less sensible of pains without.59 The contemplative and penitent Christian, whose sins have been expiated through sincere and voluntary acts of recognition, remorse, and restitution, will therefore be released from judgment for those sins, at the last day. However, those who have not conducted this intense self-examination and self-correction will find themselves standing naked, terrified, and alone before the divine judge; feelings intensified by the perception that the end of the world was near. Gregory emphasized this anxiety and called upon Christianity to prepare for the Last Judgment by turning inwards and engaging in contemplation and action preparatory to the judgment.60 According to Gregory, the prospect of God’s judgment engenders fear but, this fear is not the intent of Christ’s expected return. The fear of God should be turned by grace into a power through which mankind can correct their lives. It is this fear that transforms, or leads a human to penance, and which can then provide one some confidence that God will forgive their
58 59 60
Hester, 124-125. Gregory, Moralia, 10. 32. Hester, 128-130.
Terrell 38 transgressions. This fear of God’s judgment, in the Christian, makes the soul more open to the grace of God and often serves as the first step in a person’s consideration of their internal landscape. However, at the Last Judgment , the division between one’s internal and external landscape will disappear. Each person will receive the exact reward merited by their performance in mortal life relative to the Christian standards which they accepted and exemplified. Gregory encouraged the Christian accordingly, writing: Whereas Paul the Apostle saith ; For, if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged, the Lord is found to be our ‘Salvation' then, in proportion as our sin is now rebuked by ourselves, from fear of God. Whence the Elect are used never to spare their own sins, that they may find the Judge of sin rendered propitious; and they look to find Him hereafter truly their 'Salvation,' whom they now strictly fear as their Judge. For, he that spareth himself now in sin, is not spared hereafter in punishment. So let him say. But I will rebuke mine own ways before Him. And what use and advantage results from such rebuking, let him add, He also shall be my salvation.61 Thus, Christ will reward those who examine their interior landscape and strive to bring it into conformity with the Christian ideal. The love, exemplified by Christ, found in their heart will, by the grace of God, will allow them to find a place with God in heaven. In the Last Judgment, those who sought only the exterior life of the world, and refused the shaping and illuminat ion of God’s just punishments will not receive an invitation to heaven. The concept of the Last Judgment, with its “laying bare” of the entirety of one’s life, allows a person to remember how they lived their lives—to their own glory or condemnation. Gregory uses a concept of the “inner judge” to express his conceptualization of interiority and exteriority. He asserts that Christ, through the atonement, earned the right to sit as judge of a person’s interior landscape but, Christians are also to exercise judgment upon themselves. The individual participates in his or her own judgment and, potentially supplants Christ’s judgment .62
Gregory, Moralia, 11. 48. Hester, 36-113.
Terrell 39 Gregory’s understanding of the Last Judgment also carried with it a distinct eschatological flavor. At the expected end of the world, Christ will be manifest to all mankind, as they stand to be judged. All will have the opportunity to examine their own lives in perfect detail and will have no choice but to agree with the accusations of the judge who stands before them, because the knowledge of one’s deeds and intentions will be perfect in both the judge and the accused. All will see their own sins projected upon their interior landscape, forced to acknowledge their condition in a torturous self-evaluation:63 For now is the time of affliction to the good, that one day exulting may follow them apart from tears. Hence it is elsewhere said by those, Thou hast humbled us in the place of affliction. Since the place of affliction is the present life, so the righteous here below, i.e. ‘in the place of affliction,’ are ‘humbled,’ because in the eternal life, i.e. in the place of delight, they are elevated. But when he said that ‘the soul was withered,’ he rightly put before too, in mine own self; because in our own selves, indeed, our soul is afflicted, but in God refreshed, and it is become far removed from the greenness of joy, in proportion as still being withheld from the light of the Creator, it draws back to itself. But then it attains to the greenness of true joy, when being lifted up by the grace of eternal contemplation it even transcends its very self.64 As Gregory considered the manner in which God uses suffering to affect the lives of humanity, his thinking fell into two distinct threads, based on Augustine’s division of humanity into the Elect and the Reprobate. Every person experiences suffering in the course of their life. The source of that pain and suffering is bound up in the will of God. Gregory incorporates this Augustinian doctrine into his personal, pastoral point of view, knowing that the world, by default, contains both classes of humanity; and, that the membership of the church reflects this population. Gregory knows, therefore, that God will save some at the last day and not others. He also knows that God’s judgments are just . It was this condition that drove Gregory to ponder
Hester 114. Gregory, Moralia, 20. 56.
Terrell 40 the significance of suffering in the life of the Elect and the Reprobate. It also made Gregory realize that the Mercy of God cannot exist independently from God’s Justice.65 Gregory’s original contribution to this theological concept lies in his asserting that the pain Christians undergo in mortality is part of this same interior self-judgment. Gregory believed that such external sufferings drive the Christian’s mental focus inward, where their own conscience can observe and judge their own actions and intentions. From this, Christians learn that they can sentence themselves to penance, make restitution, and reform themselves. In the Last Judgment, one’s own judgment is irrevocably bound up with the judgment rendered by Christ and one who properly prepares has nothing to fear. It is because of Job’s embodiment of this pattern that Gregory holds him up as an exemplar for Christians. Even though Job was unable to find culpability in his actions, he still concurred in God’s judgment because he held God’s judgment to be perfect . In judging himself, Job desired to clear himself from the need to do penance or make restitution as a result of sin. He was aware of his own ignorant and weak human nature, and instead of rebelling against God’s actions against him, he embraced them, choosing to trust more upon the divine judge than upon his own concept of individual righteousness. For Gregory, this translated into a paradigm that asserted the Elect should be quick to engage in self-evaluation because they know that sinful behavior and intention unresolved at life’s end would be punished by Christ . Gregory’s understanding of divine Justice is explainable in the context of double jeopardy. He asserts that if Christians face judgment and punishment in mortal life for wrongdoing, those sins will have no impact upon the Last
Hester, 71; Gregory, Moralia, 28. 7.
Terrell 41 Judgment. Gregory encourages the Elect to realize this and turn inward in self-examination, prayer, and penance. 66 In his contemplations of Job, Gregory came to understand that God inflicts pain upon humanity to turn them from unrighteousness by turning their minds towards God; and, among the Elect, increasing their love and devotion to God through two mechanisms. First, God occasionally distances himself from humanity, as the Father did from the Son during the crucifixion, leaving mankind alone, that the Christian might experience the absence of the light of Christ, that they might desire it greater afterward. Second, suffering in the Elect causes them to look forward to an idyllic, pain-free existence in heaven, and reminds them to look upon this life as ephemeral. For Gregory, suffering is a necessary part of salvation, based in the example of the incarnation and death of Christ.67 In opposition to the manner in which suffering affected the Christian Elect, Gregory believed that suffering for the Reprobate was always punitive. When reprobates suffered, they, in accordance with their nature, refused to repent; thus, meriting greater punishment at a future time. Gregory acknowledged that evil persons are not always punished for their wickedness, in mortality and, he considered this to be indicative of God’s desire to preserve rig hteous punishment for Judgment Day.68 He summarized his views regarding the role of imposing self-justice in the pursuit of divine mercy by writing: Since then it is now in our power to undergo an inward judgment of our mind against ourselves, let us examine and accuse our own selves, let us torture our former selves by penitence. Let us not cease to judge ourselves, while it is in our power. Let us carefully attend to what is said. For it is no longer in the power of man to come near to God for
66 67 68
Hester, 115-117; Gregory, Moralia, 9. 19. Hester, 134. Hester, 133.
Terrell 42 judgment. For it is a property of reprobates to be ever doing wrong, and never to repent of what they have done. For they pass over, with blinded mind, everything that they do, and do not acknowledge what they have done, except when they have been punished. But it is the custom of the Elect, on the other hand, to examine daily into their conduct from the very first springs of their thoughts, and to drain to the bottom, whatever impurity flows forth from thence. For as we do not notice how our limbs grow, our body increases, our appearance changes, our hair turns from black to white, (for all these things take place in us, without our knowing it) in like manner is our mind changed from itself, by the very habit of anxiety every moment of our life; and we do not perceive it, unless we sit down to carefully watch our inmost condition, and weigh our advances and failures day by day. For in this life, to stand still, is, in itself, to go back, as it were, to our old state, and when the mind is left undisturbed, it is overpowered by an old age, as it were, of torpor: because by neglecting itself, and by losing insensibly its proper strength, it wastes away, unknown to itself, from the appearance of its former power.69 What a Christian does in contemplation, with regard to their sins, determines how the Christian responds to suffering. Gregory called upon Christians to focus upon their sins and seek rebirth and re-creation through an interior examination, followed by self-directed action in the form of penance and restitution. Through this self-judgment, Gregory believed one could find future security against Christ ’s judgment, and present consolation in an evil world. Gregory saw the contemplation of one’s own intentions as a method capable of leading Christians to judge themselves against the Christian standard. When they did so, Christians could create and reinforce psychological schema, within which they could interpret their sufferings in an eternal perspective, as Gregory intended. For, concerning the quiet introspection needed to allow Christians to see mortal life in a context of eternity, he writes: He then who knows how to endure with boldness the temptation of the contest, even when he feels its shock, sits on high in the lofty citadel of peace. For he sees that the assaults of sin are, even when within him, subject to his power, since he does not yield his consent to them, from being overcome by any pleasure.70 This intention likely originated in Gregory’s long personal involvement in the monastic tradition, which encouraged the practice of contemplation as a spiritual exercise. For Gregory,
Gregory, Moralia, 25. 14. Gregory, Moralia, 23. 21.
Terrell 43 contemplative self-examination was a necessary activity within which Christians could evaluate, judge and pronounce sentence upon themselves; thus, preserving themselves when, after death, the power of judgment devolved upon Christ.71 In Gregory’s eyes, Christ is both the suffering servant, who washed his Apostles’ feet, and the just judge, who will preside at the Last Judgment. Sin, if properly managed by the Christian through contemplation, self-examination, self-recrimination, repentance, and restitution, can find solace in the Last Judgment. Thus, Gregory asserted that God pronounces judgment upon the Elect in the present, so that they may not suffer double jeopardy at the Last Judgment; and God gives mercy to the Reprobate in mortality so that they may justly stand convicted in the afterlife. Through this, Gregory believed that the Elect could find comfort in suffering a while the Reprobate would have no later claim upon mercy. 72
Hester, 118-119; Gregory, Moralia, 23. 21, 31. 27. Hester, xii, 72.
CHAPTER V JUSTICE AND MERCY IN GROSSETESTE’S LETTERS
Grosseteste served as bishop of Lincoln from 1235 to his death in 1253. His correspondence provides insight into a 13th century personality that is essentially unique in the historical record. We are unable to know the mind of any of Grosseteste’s contemporaries nearly so well. Because of his position within the clergy and the types of people with whom he corresponded, Grosseteste’s letters also provide a reasonable basis for understanding the mindset and biases of early 13th century secular and religious leaders and laity—during the time when European theology and canon law were becoming institutionalized. Grosseteste’s letters often relayed news of local happenings; asked for assistance and advice from those better placed, geographically or hierarchically, to provide it; and, disseminated ecclesiastic directives and administrative notes. The letters survived in eleven different manuscripts, each containing all or part of the corpus translated by Mantello and Goering. These manuscripts, complemented by some individual letters that circulated separately, now form the basis of understanding Grosseteste and his milieu. His letters are brilliant points illuminating a past we often see but darkly.73 To modern readers unused to mediaeval language forms, Grosseteste’s letters seem florid, exaggerated, overwrought, and over-formal. However, if one assumes that Grosseteste wrote with the intention of communicating himself effectively to his correspondents, it follows that the tone and style of the letters would be acceptable to the receiver. While reading the letters, this researcher benefitted by viewing them less as personal letters, in the modern sense,
Grosseteste, Letters, 3-6.
Terrell 45 and more as mediaeval literature, whose style, vocabulary and rhetorical devices were shaped by the conventions and preferences current at the time of their writing. 74 Mantello and Goering estimate that Grosseteste probably assembled the collection of letters himself, in about 1246. There are, therefore, no letters originating in the last seven years of his Bishopric. Having examined the letters in detail, one sees Grosseteste’s overwhelming insistence that the Church, in the person of the priest, provide adequate pastoral care to the laity. Pastoral care was, for Grosseteste, the central passion of his life in holy orders; which began in 1225 when he received his first benefice. Grosseteste was already more than 50 years old when he became a cleric, having served years as a civil administrator and having pursued his personal avocation of natural philosophy. He consistently took his pastoral responsibility seriously, while serving as archdeacon, canon of Lincoln, and Bishop of Lincoln, He always communicated that commitment to those above and beneath him in the priesthood with a directness and vigor that some mistook for insubordination and tyranny.75 Throughout his letters, Grosseteste demonstrated his belief in, and commitment to, obeying divine law. He found this law primarily in the scriptures, but also in the writings of church fathers. Grosseteste insisted that these documents, and the commandments given within them, constituted a sure foundation for the proper conduct of one’s life and relationships . In various letters, Grosseteste repeatedly calls upon these fundamental documents to support his positions; “whether he is refusing the request of the pope, a cardinal, or a powerful lord to grant an unqualified person a benefice in his diocese, or arguing that the king about the appointment of
Grosseteste, Letters, 6. Grosseteste, Letters, 16-18.
Terrell 46 monks and clerics as secular judges, or disputing with this cathedral chapter over their rights and responsibilities.”76 Throughout his letters, Grosseteste repeatedly demonstrated his belief that abstract virtues such as Justice and Mercy had, or rather should have, distinct consequences in Christian life. In his role as bishop, Grosseteste exercised ecclesiastic jurisdiction over the people within his see and, frequently faced decisions requiring him to reconcile claims for Justice and pleas for Mercy. In addition to his letters, Grosseteste authored a poem, The Castle of Love, in which he embodied aspects of his pastoral theology. In this poem, Grosseteste includes the story of a powerful king; the father of four daughters. These four girls were named after four virtues, Mercy, Justice, Truth and Peace. In the story, a king’s servant, having committed a crime, was condemned and placed in prison. The daughters, hearing of the servant’s conviction and punishment, each approach their father. Mercy, the eldest, pleads for pity. Truth, angered by her sister’s appeal, reminds the king of his duty to seek in proclaim truth at all times, even when it would be easy to have pity, ignoring the truth about the servant’s guilt . Justice, the third daughter, agrees with Truth; for the servant, by his own agency committed the crime. 77 When, Peace, the youngest daughter, arrives, she summarizes Grosseteste’s thoughts about his role as judge: “Noble father, listen to me. I am undoubtedly your daughter, born of your substance, and before you I should be heard. My two sisters [Truth and Justice] have abandoned me, and make their judgment without me. Similarly, Mercy was not called. No refuge therefore can be found for any living soul. For this reason I have fled; I will make my home with few until this conflict which has arisen among my sisters is resolved at last in peace. But why were truth and justice established if not to keep the peace? Justice has no other calling them to preserve peace. Should I then be denied when all things were made for me and set down for my existence? Yet I am not at all preserved if Mercy is not heard. My words should carry great weight, for you are the Prince of peace. Peace is the
Grosseteste, Letters, 19. Grosseteste, Letters, 21.
Terrell 47 end of all things; the one who has peace lacks nothing. Without peace there is no value in either riches or wisdom. The one who labors for peace will die in peace. Thus Peace should be heard on behalf of this servant who cries for mercy. I will tell you a most truthful statement about the four of us. Since four were established to make lawful judgments, and must all together make a single judgment, there will be no record of judgment until they are in agreement. They must agree as one and then form the judgment.”78 Grosseteste was not a careful scholastic, in his approach to these concepts. He rarely engaged in the careful arranging of his texts, nor did he specify precise definitions for his technical terms. Rather, Grosseteste was prone to seek his own solutions, going back to the primary sources and solving his own problems independently of the carefully built up body of knowledge produced by the scholastics. He was thought to be regressive, when ignoring about 100 years of cautiously reasoned argument, but he was simply not content to accept these often contradictory authorities as a foundation upon which to build belief, especially when his eternal salvation was in the balance. Interestingly, in spite of this independence, Grosseteste was often fearful to tread where earlier authorities made definitive assertions. If he was unable to support earlier “authoritative” conclusions, Grosseteste tended to respond by suggesting “possible” alternatives and then confessing an inability to choose decisively. His preferred method of reasoning consisted of identifying critical concepts, followed by a period of unhurried consideration, during which he pondered each concept from various angles limited only by his imagination. He learned this method in his early life, when he was observing nature and attempting to determine the causes of physical phenomena. However, imagination, as Grosseteste would have conceived it, did not concern one’s invention but, rather with one’s ability to discriminate, retain, and remember the kaleidoscopic impressions captured by the
Grosseteste, Letters, 21-22.
Terrell 48 senses, allowing their repeated examination and making them subject to interpretation in pursuit of truth.79 When Grosseteste transitioned from being a natural philosopher to theologian, he did not abandon his scientific method. He continued his usual practice of returning to original sources and eschewing later commentators until he understood the basis of a subject. To prepare himself for these scientific and theological studies, Grosseteste learned to read Greek so he could return to the original works of Aristotle and Ptolemy, and read the works of Greek theologians beginning to enter Europe from Constantinople. He followed the same course with regard to theology and turned to the scriptures; an approach which differed from that taught in Paris, in the mainstream scholastic and theological curricula. Parisian scholasticism focused more attention upon the works of church authorities, whose commentaries upon the scriptures were often at odds with one another.80 Justice and Mercy. Grosseteste’s letters consistently show that he struggled to balance Justice and Mercy in an effort to achieve peace; and to provide adequate pastoral care as a vehicle for promoting peace amongst his flock. As a bishop, Grosseteste demonstrated the same intellectual habits that he had developed as a natural philosopher and theologian. These habits manifested themselves in his insistence upon finding problems previously solved by the scholastic community and addressing them once more, relying upon fundamental sources and eschewing both the comments of intermediate authorities and traditional practices. He focused intently upon the
Southern, 33, 35, 40-44. Southern, 173.
Terrell 49 details, developed an inductive understanding of the broader situation, and acted upon that understanding with a zeal approaching brutality and a fearlessness approaching temerity. 81 Between August 1231 and November 1232, Grosseteste wrote to Richard Marshal, earl of Pembroke, in which he advised Richard how a Christian knight might obtain the joys of heaven. In the letter, Grosseteste presents Richard with a metaphor, well suited to his correspondent’s military mind, which describes his conceptualization of Justice and Mercy, telling Richard that he should not: “…proceed half-heartedly on foot along the way that leads to [your] homeland, [but] should mount the horse of holy and heavenly desire; its bridle is discretion, its saddle is circumspection, it sees in advance the severity of the Judgment yet to come and the shame of past sin behind. There are two stirrups, humility on the right and repentance on the left, and two spurs, on the right foot the promise of future blessedness and on the left the fear of hell. And because it is unsafe for one to proceed unarmed along this way, where the most cruel thieves lie in ambush, put on the breastplate of justice, guard yourself with the shield of faith, protect yourself with the helmet of salvation, gird yourself with the sword of the spirit, that is, the word of God.” [Eph 6:14, 16-17]82 In this story, Grosseteste presents a conceptualization identical to that presented by Gregory in his commentary on Job. Here, Grosseteste describes Justice and Mercy as the vehicle by which one travels home, to heaven, and he associates the journey with duty, performed with discrete circumspection. He exemplifies Justice and Mercy through the means by which one rides the horse, perhaps symbolizing one’s body. Grosseteste associates humility with salvation and repentance with the fear of Hell. The use of the right hand-left hand symbology would cause Richard to remember scriptural imagery of the Last Judgment, in which the Elect were to be placed on the right hand of Christ and the Reprobate upon the left. Taken together, Grosseteste associates humility and salvation with the merciful right hand, and repentance and the fear of hell with the judgmental left.
Grosseteste, Letters, 22. Grosseteste, Letters, 72.
Terrell 50 About one year later, Grosseteste wrote a second letter to Richard Marshal, in which he discussed the difference between true and false wisdom, with the stated goal of teaching Richard “the characteristics of both kinds of wisdom” that he might “both fervently esteem the one kind and studiously avoid the other.”83 Here, Grosseteste draws explicitly upon Gregory, quoting the Moralia, to express his concept of wisdom, telling Richard that: … the wisdom of the just consists and doing nothing ostentatiously, in using words that make one’s meaning clear, in cherishing the truth as it is and avoiding falsehood, in doing good for no reward but thanks, in being more willing to put up with evil than to be its cause, in not seeking revenge for an injustice, in enduring insults for the sake of the truth, in supposing that there is an advantage in praying for those who are given to insults, in seeking out poverty, in forsaking possessions, in offering no resistance to the thief, and in offering the left cheek to the person who strikes the right one .”84 Around the year 1237, Grosseteste wrote a letter to Simon De Monfort, lord of Leicester, who was sitting in judgment of a burgess from Leicester. Grosseteste’s letter contained a short essay upon the role of a righteous judge, telling Simon that: Holy and righteous people are of the opinion that it is as wrong not to punish the guilty as it is to punish the innocent. So the person whose concern it is, by virtue of his office, to correct others is unjust if he fails to punish their transgressions. … Conversely, then, I infer that punishing the guilty is just and upright, approved before God and men, but punishing the innocent is cruel and brutish—no, it is even diabolical. … Now, punishing the guilty short of what they deserve is justice with mercy and in imitation of Christ, who punishes everyone in this way. Punishing the guilty with attention to achieving an exact correspondence and balance with what they deserve is justice applied inflexibly, or perhaps not justice at all, for it wants the intermingling of mercy, and only makes one deserving of being judged without mercy, since it is written that judgment will be without mercy for the one who has shown no mercy [Jas 2:13]. Punishing the guilty beyond what they deserve is an obvious injustice, for the more the punishment exceeds the fault, the more is innocence punished. So those who punish the guilty beyond the measure of their fault are liable to be accused of or charged with punishing innocence, and those who punish innocence are the companions of the
Grosseteste, Letters, 74. Gregory, Moralia, 10. 29; Grosseteste, Letters, 74.
Terrell 51 Herod who slew the innocents, indeed, they are the companions of those who crucified the innocent lamb, God’s own son.”85 Grosseteste does not explicitly re veal the names of the “holy and righteous people” to which he refers. However, it seems obvious from the tone that he believes his statements to represent a minority view. It is notable that he separates judgment from punishment; in that he does not suggest that Simon should eschew judgment all together but rather that he should judge righteously and exercise care in determining innocence, and then to allow mercy to affect his determination of the proper punishment for the guilty. Justice. As with Gregory, Grosseteste associated the concept of Justice with one’s duty to obey God’s commandments; to the sanctifying fear one experiences when considering their own sins; and, rendering restitution as part of the repentance process. One readily sees these concepts within his letters. Grosseteste also associated “the feeding of the flock” with “dispensing not only knowledge and doctrine, but also judgment and justice …” 86 which operated in “the nature of spiritual medicine, that the more people who administer it, the more effectively does it bring about salvation.”87 Taking the shepherd symbolism further, Grosseteste described his judgmental responsibilities in the same words used to describe the herding of insentient animals, saying: One will actually have to block the way of such animals, use a rod to strike and turn them in the right direction and prod them when they are sluggish, and so with hard work, and rousing words too, bring them back home. … Much more, the then, will a bishop use the rod of the Church’s discipline to bring back the wandering sinner who is weighed down
Grosseteste, Letters, 169-170.
Grosseteste, Letters, 389; from a document sent to the papal curia about 1245 detailing Grosseteste’s perceptions of his rights and responsibilities as bishop. Grosseteste, Letters, 51; from a letter written to the provincial minister of the Franciscans in England around 1230.
Terrell 52 by the burden of sin; he has been entrusted to the bishop’s Care, and for his damnation the bishop is accountable …88 Grosseteste often dwelt upon his positive belief in his culpability for the salvation of those placed in his pastoral care, as expressed in the document just referenced. In a letter to Margaret De Quincy, countess of Winchester, written in 1231 or 1232, Grosseteste discusses the actions of one of her agents, a man who was in conflict with the residents of his parish. Taking the side of his parishioners, Grosseteste rebukes the countess, telling her that if she does “not take appropriately harsh measures to restrain the vices of [her] agents, those vices will be considered [her] sins. “89 Shortly after becoming bishop, Grosseteste became involved in a controversy with the dean and chapter of Lincoln Cathedral, related to the authority of a bishop to visit subordinate organizations, to inspect their activities and procedures and correct errant behavior. Before the Pope decided the matter in his favor, Grosseteste wrote several letters justifying his actions with respect to his judicial function. In about 1240, Grosseteste wrote such a letter to the dean and chapter of Lincoln, detailing his objections to their behavior with respect to Master Richard of Kirkham. After opening the letter with an introduction describing the relationship between Grosseteste and the chapter as being identical to that of parent and child, he asserts his parental rights by declaring that his: …desire for the true good of the object of one’s love is first of all the truthful teaching and effective urging of the obligation to imitate virtue and avoid evil. Second, it is the rebuking of any sin that results from not heeding that teaching —not a gentle rebuke, like that of Eli the priest, but a stern one, like that of John the Baptist and the Savior himself. Third, it is the lashing of those who have not been corrected by rebukes. For it was in these stages that our savior revealed the actuality of his love for us. … Now, however,
Grosseteste, Letters, 397; from Grosseteste’s c. 1245 document sent to the papal curia. Grosseteste, Letters, 70.
Terrell 53 … I am obliged to combine rebuking with teaching, lest your blood be required at my hands [Ez 3:18].90 In conjunction with the same controversy and writing to Walter of Cantilupe, Bishop of Worcester, in mid-1242, Grosseteste dwelt upon the duties inherent in one’s calling as a spiritual leader. Drawing upon the old testament, Grosseteste expounded upon the ancient prophet, Moses, whom he deems “the meekest of man who ever lived on earth” 91 and through whom “the Lord teaches that it is just to perform one’s duties not in any way one pleases, but in accordance with justice.”92 He uses Moses to relate his conceptualization of his judicial responsibilities, telling Walter that: [Moses] loved the people entrusted to him. … Yet his extraordinary gentleness and unique and indescribable feelings of affection did not cause him to hold back his hand from appropriately just punishment of a people guilty of sin. … There can be no doubt that the person whose hand is held back in this regard by gentleness or love or in anything else will not truly be Moses; instead he will be able to fear what has been written: A curse on him who withholds his sword from bloodshed [Jer 48:10] … So wickedness must not be spared…93 In 1243, Grosseteste wrote to the abbot and monks of a Benedictine monastery in France concerning the objectionable actions of other monks of their order, then residing in Lincoln diocese, telling them that: … as the Apostle teaches, not only those who commit mortal sins, but also those who consent to such conduct in others, deserve to die [Rom 1:32]. Now, those who consent include people that do not stop evil when they have the power to do so. … So, when you have the power, by satisfying these responsibilities, to ensure that no one from among you is a transgressor, and especially an obvious one, how when you fail to do so, do not deserve to die?94
Grosseteste, Letters, 298-299; the reference to Eli derives from 1 Sm 2:22-25; that of John the Baptist from Mt 3:1-12; and, that from Jesus from Jn 2:14-17.
91 92 93 94
Grosseteste, Letters, 319. Grosseteste, Letters, 302. Grosseteste, Letters, 319-320. Grosseteste, Letters, 336.
Terrell 54 Shortly after writing this letter, Grosseteste wrote another to the archdeacons under his authority, in which he further refined these ideas by drawing upon the New Testament and telling them to: Pray ceaselessly [1 Thes 5:17], following both the example and the teaching of the Apostle, preach the word of life, and harshly criticize but all these means those in error, to put fear into the rest [1 Tim 5:20]. Punish harshly with the rod of correction any who do not comply with your rebukes, but do so in such a way that your every act is done with charity and a zeal for the salvation of souls. Deal justice, judgment, and equity to all freely, remembering that you are exercising the judgment not of mankind but of God , with whom there are no favorites and no greed for money [2 Chr 19:7].95 Duty. As one examines Grosseteste’s personal motivations, as revealed in his letters, one discovers a man strongly concerned with his own salvation. His personal quest to achieve heaven drove him to take his episcopal vow to “reverently receive, teach, and preserve the traditions of the orthodox fathers in the decretal constitutions of the holy and apostolic see” 96 very seriously. His fear of failing, with its attendant consequence of eternal damnation, weighed upon him. Late in 1235, Grosseteste wrote, a letter to William of Raleigh, treasurer of Exeter Cathedral and Chief Justice of the King’s Court, in which he clearly stated to William his “obligation to pass on the truth of the gospel, so that in you I may gain the re ward of eternal salvation that I desire most of all.”97 About the same time, in late 1235 or early 1236, Grosseteste wrote a letter to the archdeacons within his diocese in which he gave them direction concerning their duty and responsibility to correct errors and abuses in their subordinate parishes. In the letter’s opening, he illuminated his perceived responsibility and duty by telling the archdeacons that: It is a pastor’s duty to suffer with those who were ignorant and go astray, and to keep watch over the flock entrusted to him as if he will have to give an account of its souls
95 96 97
Grosseteste, Letters, 348. Grosseteste, Letters, 139. Grosseteste, Letters, 108.
Terrell 55 [Heb 13:17], and to feed that flock, as it is written in Jeremiah, with knowledge in doctrine [Jer 3:15]. I knowledge this duty and desire to do all I can to heal those in the flock entrusted by the Lord’s plan to me, despite my own unworthiness, who are ignorant and go astray.98 Grosseteste uses the symbolism of the shepherd on multiple occasions to illustrate the relative role of the priest and the parishioner, and to reinforce the accountability of the priest for the welfare of his “flock.” Examples include: So seek with the Apostle the sheep alone, come to them with the intention of feeding them with the word of preaching, the example of a holy way of life, and the devotion of simple prayer, for it is in these three duties, as you know, that the feeding of the lord’s flock consists. Since your absence would make it impossible for you to perform them, you are to be conspicuously and persistently present, so that at the time you give an account you are not found efficient when it is said: give an account of your stewardship [Lk 16:2].99 What, then, readily offers itself for offering to God as a sweet-smelling and most acceptable sacrifice is zeal for the election and appointment of a suitable shepherd in the Church of Winchester, and for the courageous rejection of all evil schemes opposed to the promotion of a good shepherd in that bishopric. May God then accept from your hands this sacrifice, that is to say, a zeal whose energetic concern is to ensure that a shepherd is elected and appointed in that church about whom one may justly and confidently presume that he desires not honor or rank but a burden of responsibility, not wealth but the work of one who preaches the gospel, that he desires not to rule but to serve, that he is one who as Scripture requires, wishes to lay down his life for his flock [Jn 10:11, 15] and to show himself and all things an example of good works [Ti 2:7], one who is willing and able to feed the lord’s flock in Scripture’s pasture with justice and judgment, knowledge and doctrine. … When, therefore, one who does not feed his flock with knowledge in doctrine takes a position as a shepherd, he first brings about his own death, because he arrives at the tabernacle but enters and comes forth from it without raising his voice to preach, and he is guilty of the death of the entire flock, since he owes them the fodder they need to sustain their lives but does not distribute it.100 In this way shepherds may be assigned to high office in his church who are imitators of the supreme shepherd, who feed the lord’s flock with judgment and justice, knowledge and doctrine, who are ready to lay down their lives for their flocks, “who,” as the blessed Bernard teaches, “stand up like men to defend the afflicted and make just decisions for
Grosseteste, Letters, 104. Grosseteste, Letters, 169; written in late 1236 to Richard of Cornwall, in a letter conferring a prebend
upon him. Grosseteste, Letters, 209; written in mid-1238 to Otto of Tonengo, papal legate in England, concerning his choice of a bishop for the See of Winchester.
Terrell 56 the meek of the earth; who are imperturbable in character, of proven holiness, ready to obey, meek and patient, submissive to discipline, strict in censoring, catholic in faith, loyal in behavior, disposed toward peace, and supportive of unity; who are upright in judgment, farsighted in council, discrete in commands, assiduous in organization, energetic in action, modest of speech, untroubled in adversity, faithful in prosperity, temperate in zeal, not remiss in mercy, not idle in their spare time, not unrestrained in hospitality, not extravagant in entertainment, not anxious when taking care of their own property nor greedy for someone else’s, not wasteful with their own possessions, and prudent and all places and circumstances.”101 So, when electing a shepherd, as is already evident, there is a very great danger of error as far as concerns the person to be chosen, as the wrong choice drags into the abyss the elector in the elected, together with all those of whom the one chosen is placed in charge. 102 If it is agreed that a good bishop is a shepherd whose sheep are his own [Jn 10:3], who is so attached to them that he is always prepared to lay down his life for them [Jn 10:11], placing their eternal salvation ahead of his own temporal welfare, and who owes an accounting of all of his sheep to the shepherd who is his superior and in whose place he serves, surely by law he cannot but visit them all, for all of them are his own [Jn 10:3].103 In sacred scripture we find the clearest possible evidence that those stand guilty of this sin who, when once given power in the care of souls, provide for their own carnal and temporal desires and necessities from the milk and wool of the sheep of Christ, and do not fulfill the duties of the pastoral office that oblige them to work for the eternal salvation of Christ sheep. For that failure to perform ones pastoral duties is, by testimony of scripture, the killing and damnation of the sheep.104 Lest one begin to believe that Grosseteste relished his role as a judge, other letters revealed his cautious approach to that duty. In a letter to Master Thomas of Wales, a canon of Lincoln Cathedral in the spring of 1238, Grosseteste outlined the qualities an archdeacon should possess. After describing the teaching, preaching, exemplary and fiscal duties of a curate,
Grosseteste, Letters, 215-216; written between mid-1238 and early 1239 to Ralph de Neville, bishop of Chichester, concerning his election to the see of Winchester; and, quoting St. Bernard, De consideratione, 4. 12. Grosseteste, Letters, 288; written in 1240 to the Augustinian canons of Missenden, in Buckinghamshire, as they prepared to Elect a new abbot. Grosseteste, Letters, 387; written in a document arguing Grosseteste’s pastoral respons ibilities written for the papal curia in 1245. Grosseteste, Letters, 445; from a letter written in early 1253 to Stephen de Montivial, archdeacon of Canterbury, and a member of the papal curia in which Grosseteste refuses to install a nephew of Pope Innocent IV as a canon of Lincoln Cathedral. The imagery calls to mind Ez 34:2-3.
104 103 102
Terrell 57 Grosseteste speaks to his judicial role in more lenient terms than one might expect from previous examples. While on one hand, Grosseteste insisted that the priest should grieve terribly “when his warnings about salvation go unheeded.”105 On the other, the priest should rejoice: … when he is able justly to acquit anyone accused, and he feels compassion when compelled for reasons of justice to condemn someone; one whom neither love nor hatred, fear nor hope, entreaties nor bribes, nor favoritism, divert from an honest judgment, nor whom the opinion of the majority beguiles into straying from that judgment [Ex 23:2]. His delight should be temperance and self-restraint, his repose should be labors and vigils, his whole desire should be to help souls. Exercising jurisdiction should be for him a serious an onerous responsibility, but for the good of others this burden must be undertaken with humility and born with courage.”106 Fear. Religious fear was a natural side-effect arising from comparisons of imperfect mankind to an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God who would judge humanity against the standard of Christ’s exemplary life. The story of Job appealed to Grosseteste’s imaginings upon the subject, which he revealed in a letter he wrote to Adam Marsh, his closest friend and clerical colleague, in late 1232. In the letter, Grosseteste, in humility, debased himself by identifying closely with Job; for as “… with Job in his distress, I fear all my works [Jb 9:28]. And I know that, just as it is written in the book of Job, a man cannot be justified compared with God, or one born of woman appear clean, and that if the Moon does not shine in the stars are not pure were in his site, how much less man, who is rottenness, and the son of man, who is a worm [Jb 25:4-6]?”107 Grosseteste felt such fear deeply, especially when faced with decisions regarding the delegation of authority. He drove himself hard and he expected much of his subordinates. Nevertheless, he felt his own salvation depended, in part, on the performance of those he selected as his subordinates, and the potential personal consequences of their failure concerned him
105 106 107
Grosseteste, Letters, 176. Grosseteste, Letters, 176-177. Grosseteste, Letters, 79-80.
Terrell 58 deeply. In probably 1244, Grosseteste mentioned this trepidation to the Archbishop-Elect of Canterbury in a letter in which he related that when he trusted “…someone with a cure of souls, every part of me shakes with the fear that I may by chance expose those souls to people who would murder rather than given new life, and that I may myself thereby be condemned at the dreaded Last Judgment together with the murderers.”108 Restitution. In Grosseteste’s time, the expiation of sin required both an expression of repentance and the restitution of ill-gotten gain or advantage. Restitution had always been an accepted social practice, seen in the wergild of the Norse and Germanic tradition and in the culture inherited from the Roman tradition. The practice became part of canon law in 1139, when the Second Lateran Council declared penance invalid in the absence of restitution to injured parties. Grosseteste’s scholast ic contemporaries were quite adamant in their insistence upon requiring restitution as a prerequisite to penance. 109 By the standards of the day, restitution was a serious obligation in which God expected one to devote significant effort and resources to find and repay those injured. Restitution was a mandatory action which did not excuse one responsibility for acts of charity, alms, and self-imposed vicarious suffering. 110 In his letters, Grosseteste demonstrated that expected restitution without question, from himself and from his correspondents. For example, in a letter to Margaret De Quincy written late in 1231 or early 1232, and previously considered, Grosseteste tells the countess, with respect to her agent, “If he takes steps to make restitution at your command, I shall be grateful and content.“111
Grosseteste, Letters, 293; written to Boniface of Savoy, referring a decision regarding a parochial benefice in the diocese of Lincoln to his higher authority.
109 110 111
Mansfield, 109-110. Mansfield, 115. Grosseteste, Letters, 70.
Terrell 59 In a similar manner, Grosseteste wrote a letter to the dean and chapter of Lincoln in late 1238 in which he asked them to enumerate their grievances against him. In the letter, he assured them of his peaceful intent and “… a mind ready to forsake evils, whenever they are shown to me to be evils, and to revoke and correct all wrongs, if I have any to acknowledge that I have inflicted on any one, and especially on you.”112 In probably 1246, Grosseteste also wrote to King Henry III, in response to his learning that the king was angry with his opposition to several royal mandates. In seeking to regain royal approbation, Grosseteste wrote to the king, declaring: If I have offended you either by writing or in some other way, I’m most devotedly beg you to have mercy and to pardon my offense, especially as to secure your clemency’s goodwill, I am prepared to correct and demand anything you consider wrong during the next conversation I will have with you.113 Mercy. The obverse side of Justice, in Christian eyes, was Mercy. To Grosseteste, Mercy was concerned with achieving forgiveness and the absolution of one’s sins. As with Gregory, Mercy in this life became associated with godly suffering, which God imposed upon the faithful as loving correction and upon the Reprobate as a merciful punishment in this life. However, at the same time, Grosseteste associated Mercy with one’s ability to forsake sin through repentance and through the penance by which one demonstrated one’s remorse and the abandonment of one’s sins. In further agreement with Gregory, he also viewed the experience of Job as worthy of emulation, especially Job’s submissive acceptance of tribulation. In general practice, Grosseteste tried to moderate God’s insistence upon Justice with his personal desire to be merciful. For example, He wrote a letter to the dean and chapter of Lincoln Cathedral, in late 1240 in which he expressed a desire “… to spare the whole body to the extent
Grosseteste, Letters, 227. Grosseteste, Letters, 370.
Terrell 60 that he could, just as a man who places another in custody, but nevertheless wishes to show him Mercy, does not enclose the man’s entire body and iron fetters but places only shackles on his feet or manacles on his hands, not to punish the feet or hands separately but the man who is in custody…” and speaking to them against nourishing any feeling of vengeance towards those they judged, warned them that, “… the lust for a vengeance … pierces his own soul and causes the soul’s virtues to pour out as if they were his lifeblood.”114 Suffering. The example of righteous behavior presented by the Old Testament book of Job was the dignified acceptance of suffering in the face of life’s adversity. In late 1239, Grosseteste wrote a letter to Simon de Montfort, comforting him in the face of some adversity, probably related to a dispute with the king related to his marriage to Eleanor, the king’s sister . Immediately after his salutation, Grosseteste consoles Simon by encouraging a dignified response that views the adversity as an opportunity for spiritual growth, writing thus: I have received the letter, dear friend, in which you make known the weight of your suffering, for which, and rightly, I feel much compassion, although it is my hope that this suffering will benefit your spiritual wellbeing, for the Apostle says: All who want to live piously in Christ Jesus suffer persecution [2 Tm 3:12]; and again, Now all discipline certainly seems for the present to bring not joy but grief; afterwards, however, it will yield for those who have been trained by it the most peaceful harvest of justice [Heb 12:11]. I also hope that the suffering of yours, if borne with patience and offered with thanks to him who scourges every son he acknowledges [Heb 12:16], well even accrue to you in temporal glory. For I have read that a great many holy fathers who courageously endured adversity were restored even to temporal prosperity with an increase of glory. So, let the harshness of this world’s sufferings not weaken but strengthen you, not cast you down but raise you up, not sadden you but give you cause to rejoice, as you say together with the Apostle: Our present suffering is short-lived and slight, and is earning for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure and comparison [2 Cor 4:17], and again, But we exult even in our sufferings [Rom 5:3]. For suffering is to the righteous what pruning is to vines, what cultivation is to untilled land, what washing is to dirty garments, what a healing but bitter drink is to those
Grosseteste, Letters, 301.
Terrell 61 who are ill, what shaping with a hammer is to vessels not yet fully molded, what proving in fire is to gold. So, the discipline of suffering is—for those who meditate not so much on its present annoyance as on the glory of its future reward —an occasion not for sadness but for joy. May you … be prepared, by imitating him and hoping for the reward that will come from suffering, to endure all suffering with the unshaken and dauntless courage of a resolute mind. 115 Grosseteste wrote similarly to the dean and chapter of Lincoln, probably in early 1242. In this case, the see of Canterbury was vacant and the monks of Christ Church were claiming the authority to act in the absence of an archbishop. Apparently, while the dean and chapter had appealed for “peace in a spirit of clemency and affection,” they were not backing Grosseteste’s opposition to the monks’ assumption of priestly authority. After speaking to the Augustinian concept of ‘peace’ as “tranquility of order, one in which inferior powers are obediently submissive in all things to superior ones …,”116 Grosseteste directly addressed the issue at hand, writing: You also suggest, as if to complain, that the opposite of peace has caused you to feel of oppressed to some degree. Now, I know that the opposite of that peace I described above cannot truthfully be anything but oppressive and wicked, and it is right that a person who rejects the tranquil and sweet gentleness of this peace should experience confusion and oppression. As the poet says: “Gently must we bear whatever sufferings we deserve.”117 … So, if the opposite of any peace that is not part of the peace I mentioned causes you or me to experience any punitive distress or discomfort, let us praise and thank God and not grumble. In this he has shown us his compassion, deeming us worthy, in imitation of himself and after the manner of those who are his imitators, to receive as good what is oppressive and distressing; for to those who endure such a burden as something good there is that certain promise of the kingdom of heaven. 118 Penance. In Grosseteste’s day, a single Latin word, penitentia, could describe both a sinner’s act of contrition and the penalty imposed by the priest under which a sinner could attain absolution. In the several centuries following Grosseteste, English came to distinguish between
115 116 117 118
Grosseteste, Letters, 265. Grosseteste, Letters, 310. Ovid, Ep. 5,7. Grosseteste, Letters, 310-311.
Terrell 62 a person’s "doing penance" and their "being penitent" while in Latin a single word, penitere, included both concepts—one intended as an act of reconciliation with God affecting one’s eternal salvation, and the other constituting one’s reconciliation with earthly church. When imposed, public penance partook of both these natures—being both a sacrifice on the part of the sinner and an example to the community. 119 Thus, when Grosseteste wrote to the abbot of the Augustinian canons of Leicester in about 1238, in response to a request that he lift a penalty of banishment from an errant monk, he is careful not to confuse what might be a merciful act in mortality with an act that might work ill upon the monk’s eternal salvation; telling the abbot: You are trying to convince me to permit his return because he is ill and old and has long wished to die at home among his brethren. But the more ill and old of body he is, the greater is his need to complete the just penance imposed for his former transgressions, so that his youth may be renewed like the eagles [Ps 102:5]. It was to perform this penance that he was sent to your community.”120 On the other hand, he tells the dean and chapter of Lincoln that “… when lovers of truth and goodness truly acknowledge their own evils, then immediately forsake them, and wipe them away with remorse, the shame of choosing evil is most blessedly concealed by a covering.121 Taken together, the two quotations just referenced exemplify the conventional theological view of Grosseteste’s time; that penance paid a debt in a real sense . It was neither symbolic nor paradoxical.122 The offended expected the offender to be humiliated, before God and his priests, for religious offenses; and, before his human neighbors when restitution was called for. Therefore, in the 13th century, restitution and routine private confession before one’s priest became the accepted practice by which one might pay debts to God and to one ’s fellow man.
119 120 121 122
Mansfield, 16-17. Grosseteste, Letters, 196-197. Grosseteste, Letters, 226; written in 1238 or early 1239. Mansfield, 118.
Terrell 63 This paradigm grew out of interpretations of Omnis utriusque sextus, the 21st canon of the Fourth Lateran Council (1213), which formalized previous custom and sacred requirements for Christians to confess their sins to one’s priest .123 Penance as a doctrine originated in the belief human beings could, with God’s help, repair the damage done by Adam to the cosmic order through a form of compensation underlying the atonement of Christ. Penance was, in some microcosm, a corollary of the atonement; it consisted of suffering, and sometimes even violence, but it was not worldly for it was voluntary, even passive. While such submission was often quite humiliating, it was accepted, if only because other alternatives were worse; and, if done properly, it could even become seen as constituting a moral triumph. 124 Acceptance. The patient willingness to endure tribulation was essential to Grosseteste’s conceptualization of the mercies of God. In November 1232, he answered a letter from his sister that inquired about his health, in which she told her that the truly religious life consisted of “a striving to reach the peak of perfection, so that a person who lives such a life no longer wrongs his neighbors and calmly bears his neighbors wrongs.”125 Shortly after, perhaps before the end of 1232, he wrote to his good friend, Adam Marsh, in which he spoke of his decision to resign one of his benefices, which his sister and some of his colleagues thought to be unwise. Opening his heart to his friend, he reveals his commitment to accept criticism, trial, and tribulation; saying: Although my mind was in turmoil in for a time troubled now and then by these and similar jibes, I have nevertheless now returned to my senses and accept them with joy. For if my conduct in this matter and the like has been foolish, the punishment I am suffering is just; and seeking God’s pardon, I cheerfully in gratefully submit to his just treatment of me. But even if I have wisely freed myself of a heavy burden, I nevertheless know that by this action I am not free of the stain of pollution, since all our justices are
123 124 125
Mansfield, 119. Mansfield, 290. Grosseteste, Letters, 76.
Terrell 64 like the rag of a menstruous women [Is 64:6], and our evil deeds are purely evil, but our good deeds are not purely good. So the more devoutly it is to be hoped that the bad that was mixed with the good of my action may be purged clean away, the more joyfully bought by to accept contumely and contempt. … [But] how hard it is to keep pride in check, how rare is the sense of one’s own weakness, how powerful is one’s feeling of contempt for others, how reluctantly one recognizes the needs of one’s weaker brethren, how false and merely fanciful is this position of power, and how true and substantial is the submission of servitude .”126 Several years later, in 1235, Grosseteste became bishop of Lincoln. He already had established a reputation for being stern and strict in the execution of his clerical responsibilities. In the months before his consecration in June 1235, Grosseteste received a letter from Michael Belet, a royal and ecclesiastical administrator. The letter charged him with excessive severity in a matter regarding a candidate for a parish rectory whom Grosseteste deemed to be unsuitable. His response is notable, in that it exemplified his response to criticism, even that which he considered unfounded, writing, “But my thanks are greater an even more sincere in heartfelt because you have been good enough to rebuke and reproach me with compassion and affection for my own rebuke and reproach, which, as many believe and feel, exceeded all measure and moderation. … Your rebuke will not cause me distress but will make me grow.”127 As Grosseteste demanded of himself, so did the demand of others. Between 1232 and 1234, while teaching at Oxford, he chastised an unnamed master theology for immoral behavior. After encouraging him to come to his senses, he closes his letter thus: So, with the deepest affection I ask you to drink, lovingly and therefore agreeably and healthfully, the bitter cup that is this letter, as I with bitterness drink the bitter and notorious sweetness that is the lasciviousness blamed on you. … So drink, not only agreeably but also greedily, the cup that is this bitter censure, that I may at some time drain with joy the cup that is your transformation into a new man.128
126 127 128
Grosseteste, Letters, 78-79. Grosseteste, Letters, 83. Grosseteste, Letters, 82.
Terrell 65 From these examples, one can know that Grosseteste was strongly committed to a conceptualization of Justice and Mercy derived from the book of Job, as commented upon by Gregory the Great. To act as Job did; to endure tribulation with patience, in fearful submission to God; having faith that it would be useful experience preparing one return a life in shielding one against the Last Judgment—was the epitome of Christian behavior, to be done in emulation of Christ. In probably 1236, he wrote a letter to John of Foxton, comforting him in a time of illness in words that distill the essence of his conceptualization of patiently enduring tribulations. I thank God that you are bearing with thanks to him the discomforts that come with illness and are drinking the bitter cup of tribulation with the sweetness of patience. I thank God, too, that for you the whip is conducive to learning, vexation to understanding, temptation to testing, and testing to the hope that does not prove false [Rom 5:45]. … Moreover, to you for your wisdom I offer my warmest thanks, as it has been responsible for your praying and reminding me, to my very great benefit, to prepare myself for that tribunal where all things will lie naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give our account [Heb 4:13]. That wisdom has also endowed you, despite your fear, with the courage to stand up against Leviathan; it has been responsible for strengthening you, despite your weakness, to endure temptation; it has roused you from your sluggishness to do good deeds abundantly and to endure evil ones courageously; and, in a word, it has taught you to fear and to tremble before him alone whose light dispels error, whose saving grace banishes grief, and whose protection is a fortification against attack. It has also taught you not to have a fearful heart should armies encamp against you, but instead to have hope, even if wars are raged upon you [Ps 26:3], because the denser the battle lines of your enemies, the greater their collapse as they totter and fall before the brilliant and terrifying splendor of the illumination that comes to us from God. So I entreat our Lord Jesus Christ, who is our illumination and our salvation, that, to reward you for this luminous and salutary teaching, he grant you his light and perpetual salvation, and strengthen you in the trials you endure to achieve the patience that has its perfect work [Jas 1:4]. And may he grant that with the Apostle you may exult in tribulations [Rom 5:3]. And know from experience what it means to say: Strength is made perfect in weakness, and when I am weak, then I am strong [2Cor 12:9-10].129
Grosseteste, Letters, 146-147.
CHAPTER VI JUSTICE AND MERCY IN WYCLIFF’S SERMONS
John Wycliff is known to secular historians for instigating the Lollardy movement, or for inspiring the Hussite rebellion in Bohemia; to church historians for his anti-papal and antifraternal writings; to philosophers for his opposition to the conceptualism of Ockham; and, to others for his political, scientific and logical works. However, in addition to his roles as theologian, philosopher, metaphysician, semanticist, scriptural exegete, hermeneuticist, polemicist, and preacher, Wycliff was, like Grosseteste, a pastor concerned with the salvation of his fellow Christians. Additionally, the two men likewise combined a superior intellect with a cranky disposition and, like many cranky intellectuals, were never content to cultivate their understanding of the world quietly. Possessed by their thoughts and, in the spirit of extraversion usual to such men, they imposed them upon their fellows and demanded to be heard, contradicted, or accepted. While reading Wycliff’s Sermons, this researcher has come to agree with Lahey’s assessment, that “Wycliff’s writings give evidence of a contentious, acerbic personality who evolved from a philosopher with a quicksilver wit to a churchman unswervingly dedicated to the pastoral responsibilities of preaching and writing.”130 Two features distinguish Wycliff’s extant works. First, each demonstrates a high degree of analytic rigor, comparable to contemporary philosophical argument. Second, Wycliff is prone to digressing, revisiting points of personal interest with rigorous analysis.131 The sermons among Wycliff’s works consist of two bodies of writing. The first was written in Latin, probably for an audience of educated individuals. Johannes Loserth edited and published these sermons in 1887,
Lahey, x-4. Lahey, 11.
Terrell 67 in four volumes. They are readily classifiable into two groups, the largest of which, Wycliff probably compiled near the end of his life; probably writing these sermons for the edification of a group of preachers he was organizing. The smaller group consists of forty sermons that differ from the others by being generally orthodox, free of an ideological bitterness that pervades the larger group; and pervaded with “the idea that part of the Christian life involves patient suffering, enduring injustice and tyranny on earth to avoid damnation for succumbing to the temptation to return evil for evil.”132 The second body of sermons attributed to Wycliff were written in English, and collected and edited by Thomas Arnold. Although their authorship cannot be directly attributed to Wycliff, those collected by Arnold were likely authored by Wycliff; based upon a tradition of authorship in multiple manuscripts and they never having been ascribed to anyone else. According to the editor, “in the present case the weight of internal evidence tends strongly in the same direction … to establish Wycliff in the authorship of these Sermons beyond all reasonable doubt.”133 They present their contents in a more "plain and popular, even a drastic style of speaking, and a moving heartfelt tone, especially when the preacher anticipates the judgmentseat and the last account.”134 In the absence of English versions of Wycliff’s Latin Sermons, and given the lack of translation skills possessed by this researcher, except where Loserth was kind enough to provide translations, this effort to correlate Grosseteste’s conceptualization of Justice and Mercy will utilize Wycliff’s English Sermons.
132 133 134
Lahey, 161-162. Wycliff and Arnold, Select English Works Vol I,, xiv-xv)
Iohannis Wycliff, and Iohann Loserth, Iohannis Wyclif Sermones Vol I, (Vol. I. IV vols. London: Wyclif Society, 1887), ix-x; citing Lechler, John Wycliffe and his English Precursors, 187.
Terrell 68 Grosseteste and Wycliff. After his death, Grosseteste’s books and letters found their way into the library of the Oxford Franciscans. After two generations of Oxford scholars passed, “…a change of intellectual climate brought them into the central controversies of the day, and men found, or thought they found, that Grosseteste had anticipated some of their most hazardous thoughts.”135 It was about 1360, when scholars began to study them sympathetically, reading his letters, sermons and tracts as scholastics, seeing them as another link in the tradition, rather than as historical documents in their own right. Of these scholars, Wycliff is the only person to develop theological concepts very closely aligned with Grosseteste. 136 Wycliff found Grosseteste to be stimulating and even inflammatory. Grosseteste’s scientific efforts and intellectual method inspired Wycliff, as did his translations from Greek and his adoption of a program of study that emphasized the importance of the Holy Scriptures. One also wonders if Wycliff identified with Grosseteste’s life as scientist, theologian, pastor, reformer, and persecuted Christian. 137 Well into the late middle ages, Christian theology conceived of the Last Judgment using the symbolism of a heavenly balance, in which Christ, the severe judge, would strictly examine humanity, “weighing them in the balance,” and calling the Elect to heavenly exaltation and condemning the Reprobate to hell. Wycliff saw that Grosseteste used this conceptualization often, to better effect the salvation of those Christians placed in his care. He also saw how Grosseteste accepted with joy the repentance of the penitent, a subtle shift in emphasis away from seeing Christ as only a judge and towards recognition of the human Christ, whose suffering and death affected the salvation of humanity. This changing dialectic regarding the Last
135 136 137
Southern, 39. Southern, 315-316. Southern, 39-48, 298.
Terrell 69 Judgment; giving one the expectation of receiving grace and clemency through ones’ acceptance of Christ as Savior influenced Wycliff. 138 The full extent of Grosseteste’s influence upon Wycliff is not settled . Southern, for example, considers Grosseteste to be a minor factor in Wycliff’s overall theological development; never eclipsing Augustine’s influence upon Wycliff’s thinking . Also, in spite of the claims of Grosseteste’s biographers, it is unclear if his criticism of papal decisions aff ecting him set Wycliff upon a similar path. Yet, Wycliff did appeal to Grosseteste in matters regarding clerical corruption, the primacy of scripture, the critical importance of proper pastoral care for the laity, and the necessity of Christ’s incarnation regardless of the fall of Adam; and, he acknowledged the substantial value of the works Grosseteste translated from Greek. More subtly, hidden among his theological arguments and polemic against clerical abuses, one finds rare indications that Wycliff seems to have evolved a conceptualization of Justice and Mercy based upon Grosseteste’s, which was drawn, in turn, from Gregory the Great’s commentary on Job. 139 The scarcity of Wycliff’s references to the subject is likely related to his reluctance to discuss the three things of which Christ refused to speak, the hour of ones’ death, whether someone is destined for salvation or damnation, and when the earth will end. Wycliff strongly believed that clerics: … who pretend knowledge of such things only confuse the faithful: ‘preaching to the people of the future should be moderated prudently. … By narrating the events of the Day of Judgment and the future from prognosticating by the constellations they often
Berndt Bast Hamm, Reformation of Faith in the Context of Late Medieval Theology and Piety: Essays by Berndt Hamm, (Edited by Robert James. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2003), 34.
Terrell 70 deceive themselves and others.’ 140 A presumptuous care to discover things that God means us not to know only detracts from the more important business of saving souls.141 Wycliff on Justice and Mercy. What follows is a selection of material from Wycliff’s Sermons pertaining to Justice and Mercy, organized in a similar manner to the discussion of Gregory the Great and Grosseteste already provided. After presenting generalized examples of Wycliff’s attitudes, the researcher will present references to Justice and judgment, organized under the same subordinate concepts as were examples from Grosseteste’s letters: duty, fear, and restitution. Then, references to Mercy will be provided, being addressed through the same lenses as were Grosseteste’s letters: suffering, penance, and acceptance. Many of these concepts are combined in Wycliff’s English Sermon 17 which describes the banquet he imagines occuring after the Last Judgment, telling his listeners that: …the last seat at this feast is reserved for the man who does not presume to deserve heaven before others; but in his meekness, he can rest in knowing he shall come to heaven. Each man shall hope for eternal bliss; but if they live feebly and rely on a false hope, they will have only themself to blame. For this false hope, or despair, has an unfortunate quality, in that once we realize that we should have a hope of heaven, we compare ourselves with others. Many men, because of pride, hope to be set above others and this presumption of hope will prevent them from having a place at the feast. Instead, we should rest in the hope that we shall come to heaven, and forsake such vain comparisons, lest we join the prideful. 142 Later, in the same sermon, Wycliff expands upon the relationship between worldly position and wealth, and the prospects fo r one’s eternal exaltation by explaining that:
Lahey 193, note 35, citing Wycliff, De Antichristo, chap. 28, 102. 18-25, which is contained in Opus Evangelicum II.
141 142 140
Lahey, 193. Wycliff and Arnold, Select English Works Vol I, 42) Translated throughout by the researcher.
Terrell 71 Many men, powerful and wealthy in the things of this world, think that they should retain their power and wealth in heaven, and be preferred before other men. They suppose that, having lived a godly life, and having profited more in this world than the mass of mankind, they shall be esteemed higher in heaven; and so they say, that as they hope to come to heaven, they hope there to be esteemed higher in heaven. But such proud men, heedless of their state, should struggle to be virtuous so that they do not fool themselves; and therefore wise men teach us that the more important that you are here, the more you should strive to be meek. 143 In the next sermon in the series, Wycliff continues speaking upon the state of a man who would achieve heaven. He does so by speaking about man’s four passions: … that, when indulged upon, lead to either sin or reward. They are joy and sorrow, hope and fear of things that should come. Some take joy in good things, and some have joy in sin or in the riches of the world. Some men have sorrow at other men’s’ welfare because they have few worldly goods, for they love them too much. Some men have hope of worldly position and goods and fear losing them. But men should have sorrow for sin, their own and for other’s. Christ still weeps tears over sin, for sin is worse than any pain; and since the worst thing is this matter of sorrow, man should have more sorrow for sin than any other thing, and more joy in heavenly bliss than in any possible amount of worldly wealth or earthly position of power. 144 Justice. Wycliff, like Grosseteste, viewed Justice in terms of duty, fear, and restitution. Duty was part of one’s obligation to be obedient to the commandments of God and to the covenants one might make with God. This is especially true for those who had taken holy orders, assuming a responsibility for the spiritual welfare of other Christians; as the "…first and
Wycliff and Arnold, Select English Works Vol I, 43.
Wycliff and Arnold, Select English Works Vol I, 187.
Terrell 72 greatest work of the priest is the promulgation of religious truth.”145 However, man is never perfect, in this life, and in the commission of sin fails in his duties to God. Penance is the mechanism by which one repents for one’s sins, demonstrating remorse and the intention not to fail again. Restitution provided the mechanism by which one could demonstrate repentance in a tangible manner and provide recompense to persons wronged in one’s commission of sins. Duty. In his English Sermon 48, intended for delivery on the second Sunday after Easter, Wycliff drew upon the imagery of the shepherd to illustrate to his listeners the qualities of a good pastor, as was often used by Grosseteste. Holding up Christ as an example, Wycliff describes: … the habits of a good shepherd, so that by comparison we may be able to know when our earthly shepherds fail at their duties. The failure of such shepherds is most perilous for the church; for, when their duties are rightly performed, they can bring men to heaven, and when not, they can draw men to hell. Christ describes himself as a good shepherd, and he is the best shepherd that mankind may have. For he is good in himself and he cannot fail, for he is both God and man; and God cannot sin. And thus we have a measure by which we can know a good shepherd from an evil one, for the more that a shepherd is like Christ, the better shepherd he is; and the more that he strays from Christ the worse he is. And now that Christ has given us a standard by which we can know good shepherds from bad, he tells us the highest duty of a good shepherd: a good shepherd, according to Christ, puts his life before those of his sheep, for no one has more charity than someone who gives his life for his friends, and such a wise shepherd brings his sheep to heaven. Therefore, a good shepherd will have the most pain while his sheep gain the most profit. 146 Later, in the same sermon, Wycliff continues to examine the duties of a pastor using the shepherd metaphor. He draws further upon the shepherd’s responsibility to defend his flock
Wycliff and Loserth, Sermones Vol. I, iii; citing Sermon, p. 11, 16: Primum atque precipuum opus pastoris est veritatis fidei evangelizacio.
Wycliff and Arnold, Select English Works Vol I, 138.
Terrell 73 against attack, first by relating Christ’s assertion that he is a good shepherd who knows his sheep, and they him; and, then using this assertion to relate the duties of a shepherd, which: …make them known among the sheep, as my father knows me and as I again know my father. So says Christ, I put my life to keep my sheep against wolves. And as this knowledge does not separate Christ and his Father, so should the shepherd wait upon their sheep; and they should know them not by bodily habits nor by their sins, but by the three duties of the shepherd that Christ has assigned to them. A good shepherd is responsible to lead to his sheep in holy pastures; when his sheep are hurt or stabbed, he is to heal them and salve their wounds; and, when other evil beasts assail them, he is to help and protect them, even sacrificing his life to save his sheep from such beasts. 147 In English Sermon 79, Wycliff speaks to his audience about the role of one’s confessor and Bishop. Speaking in words very reminiscent of Grosseteste, he says: …that no man should become a prelate, having a cure of souls, without feeling great fear, for if such men prove unable, they should be damned before God, for the sheep will likely not be saved. Being in the care of such a prelate does them much spiritual harm, especially when such a person has sought a curate for money or worldly recognition. God gives men, especially his priests, responsibility, power and knowledge to govern his church after his law. Accordingly, men should take more care to fulfill their responsibilities well…. 148 In English Sermon 103, Wycliff speaks about the Last Supper and, after describing the event, he dwells for a time upon the many mansions in heaven of which Christ spoke and of the various degrees of merit and reward that man might obtain. Then, discussing the bliss he expects to find in heaven, Wycliff explains to his listeners how they should proceed to obtain it, by assuring them that:
Wycliff and Arnold, Select English Works Vol I, 140.
Wycliff and Arnold, Select English Works Vol I, 264.
Terrell 74 Christ does not start anything but he will make an end of it, therefore when he says that if they want to go to heaven he shall come again and take these apostles with him, we will see this verified at Christ’s coming at the last day, that where Christ is forever, both in heart and in bliss, they are there with him after this day without end. … And thus Christ identifies those who know how the world will end, and describes the way in which they should come to bliss, even those fathers known in the Old Testament. Therefore, we may trust in Christ… [knowing] the life that Christ led here [on Earth] is the way to come to heaven. However, if we forsake him in this life, we shall never come to bliss. 149 Fear. A central aspect of man’s experience of deeply-felt religious experience is a feeling of dependents which Otto calls “creature-consciousness”, which he then defines as “the emotion of a creature, submerged and overwhelm by its own nothingness in contrast to that which is supreme above all creatures.”150 This ‘mysterium tremendum’ possesses aspects of fear, or rather a peculiar sort of dread; an element of overpowering, unapproachable ‘majestas’; and an element of energy, urgency, or impetus to action that is somehow alien, or supra-human, and possesses an element of fascination. 151 In English Sermon 81, Wycliff expands upon the method by which Christian men should keep themselves in a state worthy of salvation. As when Grosseteste invoked Gregory’s Moralia, Wycliff calls upon his listeners to engage in contemplation when facing such fear, since when “… man is turned to himself, when his conscience bites him; that man’s soul fares much better.” 152
Wycliff and Arnold, Select English Works Vol I, 358.
Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy, (2nd Edition. Translated by John W Harvey. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1923), 1950, 10.
Otto, 12-40. Wycliff and Arnold, Select English Works Vol II, 271.
Terrell 75 In English sermon 82, Wycliff expounds on the characteristics of the “saintly life” and instructs his listeners therein about the manner in which they should face death, telling them that: … nothing is more subject to man’s power than his innermost thoughts and we may have fear, while alone with God in the hour [of our death]; since we know that old sins may trouble our soul, that we shall not have the power to resist the devil’s temptatio n. For as a considerate man becomes great, and although he may be in the prime of his strength, nevertheless, sin may grow in any man, and be so strong at the time of his death that the justice of God would not let that man come unto Him. We should have this fear of God, especially at the hour of our death; for it is a good defense against the devil and against despair. But this fear must be faced alone, with hope in the love of God; knowing that God has more love then the devil has envy; for God’s love is without end, but this envy is foul and enfeebling; but this envy cannot stand against the virtue of God’s love; … for God’s love empowers you to overcome evil in that hour . 153 Restitution. Wycliff speaks only rarely upon this topic. When he does, he seems to conform to the attitude presented by Grosseteste, in his letters. In English Sermon 57, Wycliff speaks upon Christian love, its precepts and scope. After encouraging his listeners to conform to the Christian ideal of loving one’s enemies, he speaks to the idea of “overcoming the world” through Christ-like behavior that includes making restitution to those one has wronged. Apparently, there was some theological question as to whom restitution was to be made, to God, in the form of the church, or to those wronged. Wycliff directly addressed the issue by telling his listeners, in a very Grossetestean manner, that: Men are commonly confused about determining to whom they should restore goods, that they have gotten wrongfully, since they should not give ill-gotten goods as alms before
Wycliff and Arnold, Select English Works Vol I, 278.
Terrell 76 having restored them to the men that should have them. They should make amends to God by the law he has given, and make restitution to them to whom God requires it. 154 Mercy. The experience of ‘creature-feeling’, with its associated feelings related to the imposition of divine justice, is often marked by a depreciation of self. Both the Prophet Isaiah and the Apostle Peter speak to this when they encounter this feeling, saying “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” The Christian religion balances the despair of failure with an atonement that provides a covering or shield against the judgment of God. This covering redeems mankind such that man is once again fit to live in the presence of his God. 155 In an exegetical tract describing “The Seven Works of Temporal Mercy”, Wycliff begins by asserting that mercy is a requirement for the Christian, in that: If a man was confident that, tomorrow, he would come before a judge, to either lose or keep all of his earthly goods, and also his life; he would dread his judgment, and prepare himself and his family to face the sentence with him. But where is our belief in the Day of Judgment, when we know that we shall come before the highest judge, and have our life judged, along with everything we have, to win and live forever in heaven, or else to lose and live forever with the pain of hell, with the devils and their angels? This should be our faith, and therefore we should have hope. If our life is good, in accordance with the law of God, to be glad in charity and with the sentence pronounced upon us. Since our beliefs teach us that Christ will not judge anyone unmercifully and that he will have mercy only on those who are merciful, each man should learn to be merciful. For this reason Christ says in this gospel, ‘Blessed be merciful men for they shall have mercy!’ 156
Iohannis Wycliff, and Iohann Loserth, Iohannis Wyclif Sermones Vol III, (Vol. III. IV vols. London: Wyclif Society, 1887), 174.
Otto, 45-70. Wycliff and Arnold, Select English Works Vol III, 168.
Terrell 77 Suffering. The central event of Christianity was Christ’s assumption of the role of sacrificial lamb, thus taking upon himself the sins of humanity—becoming the ultimate Paschal lamb and earning the right to judge humanity. The atonement wrought by Christ in the garden of Gethsemane and his passive, accepting behavior he exemplified in response to the pain of torture he experienced were held up as exemplifying the proper behavior men should emulate in the face of tribulation. In Epistle Sermon 34, Wycliff exhorts his listeners to perseverance in the face of suffering. He declares that man, after the fall of Adam, became subject to vanity that he might be taught some small understanding of his debt to Christ. It was man’s response to vanity that resulted in his: … bodily pain and illicit spiritual passions. Because of this, he necessarily suffers death for his sins. What man should therefore regret suffering willfully, if it will lead to heavenly bliss, since otherwise he will suffer terrible pain, and have no reward? Blessed be the Lord that subjects man to vanity so that he can have a hope of heaven. Therefore you should willingly suffer for righteousness. Have hope and solace in your pain, knowing men shall come to heaven as joint heirs of God’s Son, for the little pain that they suffer here. … We well know that man was made in this state so he might live forever and without death, be translated into heavenly bliss; but because of sin it became necessary to suffer pain and bodily death. But Christ has brought man again to the state that he should have had. … And as God rewards man over that which he deserves, so the state that men have now, having a hope of heaven, is better than was the state of innocence. This future should move man to be martyrs for the love of Christ. 157
Iohannis Wycliff, and Iohann Loserth, Iohannis Wyclif Sermones Vol II, (Vol. II. IV vols. London: Wyclif Society, 1887), 324-325.
Terrell 78 Penance. The Christian doctrine of Justice and Mercy includes within its framework, the concept of penance. The exercise of which allows one’s sin to be redeemed through God response to one’s personal effort, consisting of the acts of contrition, confession, and satisfaction .
It was before God that a sinner did his penance and made his confession, “not so that [God]
would change his judgment in response to our prayer, but so that by our prayer we might acquire the proper disposition and be made capable of obtaining what we request.” 159 Such was the divinely instituted means of soliciting God’s grace for the forgiveness of sin. Wycliff’s English Sermon 88 describes his conceptualization of the necessity of penance, in which he declares that all men should: … do penance [for sin], for the return of God shall come. It is known through God’s law, how mankind was exiled because of the sin of our first father; … Christ, our spiritual father taught us to do penance to redeem us from Adam’s sin . and, since God’s kingdom will not come without penance, each man that desires heaven should be doing penance. Therefore, the cause of Christ is plain to men that would understand it. Simply anticipating God’s return is not enough. 160 Acceptance. A central characteristic of the story of Job, commented upon by Gregory, extolled by Grosseteste, and held up to all Christianity as exemplary behavior was Job’s quiet acquiescence in the face of disaster and tribulation. During the middle ages, Europeans had ample opportunity to face situations similar to those spoken of in the book of Job. Life was short, oft times miserable and often wracked with pain, yet in the face of pervasive misery and agony, the church held up the example of Job, who prefigured the example of Christ, as the
Jaroslav Pelikan, Reformation of Church and Dogma (1300-1700), (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 95 -96.
159 160 158
Pelikan, Reformation of Church and Dogma, 130. Wycliff and Arnold, Select English Works Vol I, 306-307.
Terrell 79 method by one which could obtain Mercy at the Last Judgment by one’s patient accepting emulation of Jesus Christ. In several tracts written late in his life, Wycliff encourages the Christian in a manner reminiscent of Grosseteste, writing, “For in all the passion that Christ suffered, he failed not in steadfast cheer. He did not cry out for his pain, and so suffer yours likewise;” 161 and that “Christian men should be patient in the tribulation that falls upon them, for there are few men, and none that are currently living, that have not had persecution, and thus patience is required.”162 Wycliff, in his Epistle Sermon 2, succinctly stated his conceptualization that linked patient suffering and acceptance of tribulation with the development of Christian virtue and the comforting of the Holy Ghost, when he wrote that: God ordained [the scriptures] to be written so man can patiently hope, and find comfort in these writings. … [Be] of goodwill, and openly worship God, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ. … [For] Christ taught man to suffer, both in word and deed, with a sure hope of God’s comfort. For great virtue is formed in those who suffer, and yet remain penitent before God, trusting that in exchange for their patience, God will comfort them.
This thread of thought, in which the role of Christ was transformed between the time of Gregory the Great, through Grosseteste and thence to Wycliff—from that of a heavenly emperor depicted in imperial gravitas to that of the Man of Sorrows, whose utterly miserable death
John Wyclif, and Thomas Arnold, Select English Works of John Wyclif, (Vol. II. III vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1871), 233.
Wycliff and Arnold, Select English Works Vol II, 248.
Wycliff and Arnold, Select English Works Vol II, 226.
Terrell 80 evoked the Passion—displaced the severity expected of Christ the Judge with compassion. The fear and terror associated with divine justice on the Day of Judgment could be displaced by compassion and a shift in emphasis described in terms of “mercy, protection, intercession, consolation, and hope”
Depending on his audience, Wycliff would sometimes emphasize
“the seriousness of divine judgment …the urgency of penitence… [or] the necessity of good conduct for salvation.”165 In other circumstances his sermons would highlight the saving power of grace shed by a merciful Christ, which compensated for one’s “moral failures and spiritual weakness.”166
164 165 166
Hamm, 32. Hamm, 53-54. Hamm, 54.
CHAPTER VII CONCLUSIONS
Robert Grosseteste is a fascinating man. This study began as an effort to understand a man who lived many centuries ago, and whose interests seemed to parallel the researcher’s own. As this researcher examined Grosseteste’s letters, something of his nature and that of his audience, became visible. However, the wisdom contained in Grosseteste’s letters proved difficult to understand until this researcher had examined them in their totality, considered them as a part of Grosseteste’s life, and thoughtfully pondered them for over a year in the context of much additional reading. Only then was this researcher able to truly understand how vividly the letters illustrated Grosseteste’s mode of thought.167 Grosseteste lived at a time in which European perceptions of the ancient world were changing. He facilitated this evolution with his translations of the Greek texts arriving in Europe in increasing numbers, after the Norman conquest of Sicily and Southern Italy, and because of the increased commercial and diplomatic traffic between the momentarily Latin Constantinople and the city states of northern Italy. 168 Additionally, Grosseteste contributed to the evolution of High Middle Ages thought by his observations upon the natural sciences. 169 Early biographers depicted Grosseteste as a proto-reformer. However, he never demonstrated rebellion against accepted church doctrine. Other assessments of Grosseteste have varied from calling him a moderate theologian, “a representative figure of scholastic and scientific thought,”170 to labeling him as an eccentric religious extremist, who sowed discord far
167 168 169 170
Southern, lxv. Evans, 120; Haskins, 14. Southern, 150. Southern, 3.
Terrell 82 and wide. After his death, it was this latter view of Grosseteste—the image of the eccentric oppositionist—that was prominent in the writings of individuals such as Matthew Paris and Roger Bacon. It was also this view that Wycliff seized upon and, through which, he came to view Grosseteste as a kindred spirit. However described, Grosseteste was foremost a man inclined to examine Church doctrines in the light of Holy Scripture, the writings of church fathers, and his own observations—often examining theological issues scholastically-ensconced colleagues considered long settled. In this way, Grosseteste ignited a revisiting of church doctrines, and their basis in scripture which, becoming widespread, eventually proved to shake the foundations of institutionalized Christianity. 171 It is true, however, that Grosseteste, was aware that whatever strengths he possessed were more than matched, in his eyes, by his weaknesses. In his favor, he approached theology with a high degree of confidence, undertaking the most significant theological problems unhesitatingly and speaking his mind without restraint; knowing that he did not have complete answers. This researcher was favorably impressed with his willingness to speak plainly; to push the limits of the problem as far as his means allowed—and then, having exhausted himself, to perform an act of faith, leaving the problem in the hands of future researchers. Grosseteste spoke on many things, to include Justice and Mercy; and, his positions were never wholly new. For example, in relation to these issues, this researcher hopes to have illustrated a probable intellectual connection between Grosseteste and Gregory the Great’s commentary on Job. However, rather than accusing Grosseteste of any abject intellectual dependence, it is just to recognize that he
Terrell 83 offered his thoughts, however colored by what he had read, for the edification of his correspondents, aware of both his own flaws and of others’ potential. 172 In the end, however, Grosseteste was solitary. He was no disciple of some contemporary theologian or philosopher, and he created no school of thought in which later scholars would extol his thoughts, pronouncements and opinions. This was both a disadvantage and an advantage, as, on one hand, if his intellect failed him, he had no derived intellectual foundation upon which to rely; on the other, this isolation allowed Grosseteste to ponder concepts outside of any box, represented by conventional notions. Grosseteste, in his isolation, became accustomed to examine the specifics of theological conundrums and then, inductively synthesize his own opinions about the rightness of his solutions. After his life, his scientific work did not significantly affect English scientists in the century after his death and, although his commentary on Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics was commonly quoted, his theological and philosophical works do not seem to figure in any major, subsequent academic development. What kept interest in Grosseteste alive was the presence of his books and papers at the library at Oxford. This action lodged his records in the intellectual center of England, where they were readily available and occasionally be examined with interest —but, seemingly, never with deep interest until Wycliff discovered them in the 1360s. 173 Gregory and Grosseteste. Grosseteste believed that divine Justice and Mercy are exemplified by the two advents of Christ. These events, one in his past and the other imminently expected, punctuated the middle and end of God’s plan for humanity, which extended from the creation of the world, when God created mankind, to the Last Judgment, when everything about mankind’s behavior will become
Southern, 214. Southern, 230, 250, 297.
Terrell 84 known—the glorious acts of the Elect and the wickedness of the Reprobate. Instead of the mainstream interpretation of Christ’s advents, which viewed the first as utterly merciful and anticipating the second as wholly judgmental, Grosseteste derived from Gregory a conceptualization that viewed divine Justice and Mercy as being integral to both advents. Justice and Mercy were intimately related to one another, and a person could not have one without the other. 174 Grosseteste learned, from Gregory, that the fundamental force balancing Justice and Mercy is the experience of suffering. Suffering was unavoidable, given the fall of Adam, but God uses it for the punishment, elucidation and sanctification of his children. Gregory and Grosseteste combined this conceptualization with Augustine’s division of humanity into the Elect and the Reprobate. For them, the two classes of humanity experience pain in the same way but with different results. Suffering, for the Elect, leads to growth and sanctification; while, for the Reprobate, it is only punishment. In his commentary on Job, Gregory outlines this paradigm, built around the idea that God’s purposes regarding Justice and Mercy are always mixed. In mortality, the Elect experience suffering to call them to repentance, while God causes the Reprobate to suffer so as to demonstrate God’s Justice. However, Gregory and Grosseteste realized that the Reprobate may not suffer such punishment, thereby being a recipient of God’s mercy—for the time being—but both believed that, while such people receive mercy, they are building up a judgment against themselves which Christ shall execute at the Last Judgment. Grosseteste came to believe Gregory’s assertions that God’s forbearance towards the wicked was, itself, a punishment; since unpunished sin in mortality would be judged strictly in the eternities. With this understanding, Grosseteste believed that suffering satisfied God’s purposes
Terrell 85 by bringing a mortal closer to God and that Christians should open themselves to the potential message from God hidden behind the suffering, as did Job. In every sense, Gregory and Grosseteste tie whatever Justice and Mercy one experiences in mortality to the Justice and Mercy each person faces in post-mortality. 175 Gregory’s reflections upon the Holy Scriptures deeply influenced Grosseteste . Gregory has an absolute respect for the authority of scripture, considering them to be the absolute source of knowledge and truth—and appropriate for all Christians, both the simple and the theologian. He illustrates this metaphorically by describing the Scriptures as a river that was “both shallow and deep, wherein both the lamb may find a footing, and the elephant float at large.”176 Gregory communicated this love to Grosseteste and, in consequence, Grosseteste became acutely conscious of his ignorance of Biblical languages and his relative ignorance of the works of the Church Fathers, probably a result of his provincial schooling. He therefore learned Greek, and spent the last three decades of his life translating Greek texts, that he could become closer to the fundamental sources of scripture. To improve his knowledge, Grosseteste embarked on a serious reading program, going first to the Bible and then to the principal church fathers and then to Biblical commentators. We are fortunate that the list of the books Grosseteste owned at the time of his death is extant. That it includes works by Augustine, Jerome, Gregory, Ambrose, Bede, John Chrysostom, John of Damascus, and Origen is illustrative of Grosseteste’s broad commitment to obtaining knowledge. 177 Grosseteste kept lists of theological subjects and indexed them to locations within his books. The lists allowed him to return quickly to pages upon which subjects were mentioned
175 176 177
Hester, 73, 82, 84. Hester, 11. Southern, 181-187.
Terrell 86 and, it was from these lists that this researcher learned that Grosseteste was especially influenced by Augustine, whose book, the City of God, appealed to him on many subjects. Following Augustine, the author Grosseteste referenced most his lists is Gregory the Great. His still-extant copy of Gregory’s Moralia, topically marked and commented upon, led to this researcher’s realization that Gregory might have affected Grosseteste’s conceptualiza tion of Justice and Mercy. Examination of Grosseteste’s topical lists show Gregory dominating subjects relating to moral conduct and scriptural symbolism, reinforcing this researcher’s confidence in the preliminary thesis. Interestingly, after Augustine and Gregory, Grosseteste placed significant emphasis on the works of Saint Bernard and Anselm of Canterbury, to the exclusion of almost all other 12th century theologians. For example, Grosseteste hardly mentions Peter Lombard, although he certainly knew of Lombard’s Sentences and he mentions no one Parisian teacher later than Lombard. 178 Gregory clearly influenced Grosseteste, and both believed that the second coming of Christ was at hand. This feeling of expectation caused Gregory to focus upon Christ the Judge, and his writings, especially the commentary on Job, deeply influenced Grosseteste. Gregory’s picture of spiritual progression begins when one comprehends the imminent arrival of Christ the Judge, and fearfully begins to examine their behavior, motivations, and intents. The idealization that Gregory passed to Grosseteste saw earthly life in terms of being a remarkably short probation for a person’s eternal existence. For Gregory and Grosseteste, Job represented the most appropriate example of how suffering—the imposition of pain—was used by God; and, how it could be used by a sufferer to further their own salvation. Gregory’s conceptualization of divine Justice and Mercy implied that Christians, in meditating upon their suffering, should
Southern, 45, 188, 198.
Terrell 87 become anxious about the sinful state of their lives and their meager prospects at the hands of Christ the Judge. This anxious foreboding would be mitigated in the Elect by their realization of God’s promise of Mercy, at the hands of Christ the Savior of mankind. Gregory did not see pain as a good thing in itself, but rather as a product of sin, resulting from the fall of Adam, which is turned to man’s benefit by an all-knowing and all-powerful God. Gregory asserts that God uses pain to draw sinful humanity towards contemplation and redemption; to drive mankind from the world without taking them out of the world. Through self-examination and the presence of suffering, a sinner could judge themselves and make restitution, thus satisfying Justice. Gregory also believed that the fear of suffering and judgment could increase a person’s virtue through mild coercion, and the promotion of humility. In a real sense, Gregory saw pain and suffering as a tool by which God could teach the Elect to become Christ-like. 179 Grosseteste and Wycliff. According to Lahey, Grosseteste was “the guiding light and definitive force of mediaeval English preaching”180 who, when compared to his academic and clerical contemporaries, demonstrated independence and originality to an unusual degree—which was not always welcomed with open arms. Grosseteste never followed the usual scholastic paradigm. He was not one who examined the body of existing commentary, followed by a systematic effort to compare, analyze, and reconcile their confused and often contradictory conclusions. Grosseteste was not one to stand on the “shoulders of the past” in an attempt to see further . Grosseteste did take his pastoral responsibilities extraordinarily seriously and set a significantly rigorous standard for proper pastoral behavior; he knew his responsibilities as explained in the gospel, and he could not imagine doing otherwise or, accepting less from others. He was intensely practical,
Hester, 2. Lahey, 160.
Terrell 88 sharply direct in his dealings with his fellows, and prepared to give everyone advice, as befitting a shepherd of a human flock. 181 Perhaps Grosseteste’s appeal as a preacher grew out of his use of phrases rich in personal feelings, scriptural insights, and practical wisdom, rather than the grave, formal language used by the scholastic theologian. Therefore, it is essential to realize that Wycliff was not unique in his respect for Grosseteste, or in his inclusion of entire paragraphs of Grosseteste’s work in his Sermons and tracts. Grosseteste was the exemplar for Oxford-educated preachers until the mid-15th century. Wycliff’s regular references to Grosseteste were no departure from the norms of the time . 182 Wycliff discovered Grosseteste while at Oxford from the early 1350s through the 1370s. He closely identified with Grosseteste’s desire to know the truth for himself, his wide reading program as exemplified by the substantial personal library donated to the university, and his effort to learn new languages when quite aged. Wycliff read Grosseteste’s annotated works, seeking out the hints that lent him insight into the workings of Grosseteste’s mind; and, Wycliff came to admire his willingness to read broadly, examine all information which interested him, and create his own conclusions, expressing them with courage, in spite of any trepidation. Lahey indicates that Wycliff was most sympathetic to Grosseteste’s emphasis upon Christ’s centrality to the Bible, which emerged when Grosseteste traced “the evolution of God’s covenant with humanity.”183 The conceptualization of Justice and Mercy is at the center of this covenant, traceable to Jehovah’s covenant with Abram [Gen. 15], which instituted the agreement making Abraham’s children the “Chosen People”; later modified by extension to include all humanity [Acts 10 & 11].
181 182 183
Southern, 318. Lahey, 160. Lahey, 139.
Terrell 89 Wycliff would find in Grosseteste’s letters a conceptualization of Justice and Mercy that would help him reconcile the “ideas of consolation and severity, tolerance and rigor, freedom and control”184 that concerned him. Grosseteste encouraged his readers, including Wycliff, to use Christ as an exemplar. Through suffering, one could discern the Elect from the Reprobate from comparing their response to the example of Christ or of Job. Grosseteste assured his fellow shepherds and his flock that they were, through suffering, being prepared against the Last Judgment; and if they would make proper use of repentance, they would be happy with the Last Judgment. Wycliff read, learned and, in his turn, taught others similarly. Wycliff’s continuation of Grosseteste’s teachings contributed to the substantial change in the conceptualization of Justice and Mercy that lead towards the Reformation by forcing theologians to reassess the role merit and morality played with regard to salvation; an idea previously thought firmly decided. The Grossetestean balance between Justice and Mercy, “between compassion and strictness, between liberating Gospel and commanding Law” 185 influenced Wycliff, and through him, continued to influence those preaching to Christians in northern Europe. Hester asserts that Gregory was prominent in the history of ideas moving from late antiquity into their early medieval period. 186 As a link on the same chain, Grosseteste appears to have absorbed Gregory’s theology and incorporated it into his writing; where Wycliff found it and safely passed it to others, important in the later Protestant Reformation. It is said that Gregory was no original theologian, that his gift was an understanding of earlier ideas and
184 185 186
Hamm, 86. Hamm, 86. Hester, 6.
Terrell 90 expressing them an updated language. It appears that Grosseteste and Wycliff were similarly gifted, and respectively passed their ideas several centuries further into their futures. So, remembering what the apostle says – If we judged ourselves, we would not thus be judged – let each one of you himself judge whether he has faithfully discharged his duty in this affair. Otherwise he will perhaps be found on the last day not to have paid what he owed, and bound hand and foot he will be thrown into prison or the darkness outside [Mt. 22: 13], and he will not come out until he has paid the last penny [Mt 5:26]. Farewell. 187
Grosseteste, Letters, 306. The closing of a letter written to the dean and chapter of Lincoln Cathedral in late 1240 or early 1241, criticizing and correcting their conduct related to a royal prohibition forbidding ecclesiastical judges from deciding matters between Grosseteste and the Kings Court.
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