Tomorrow, January 28 is the Feast Day of St. Thomas Aquinas…
In honor of the occasion, we offer an introduction to his most important work, the Summa Theologica,
This introduction was written by D.J. Kennedy, O.P. and appeared in his 1919 book, St. Thomas Aquinas and Medieval Philosophy [ Download the book in full from Google Books ]
[ BACKGROUND ] [ OVERVIEW ] [ ASSESSMENT ]
Background of the Book
A Summa Theologica is, broadly speaking, a compendium, summary, or manual of theology. There is not in the English language an exact equivalent of the Latin word Summa as it was used by medieval writers. Perhaps the words “Complete Manual” would best convey to people using our language the idea which was in the minds of those who invented the Latin term. We always think of a compendium, or summary, as of a book or Excerpta, in which many things are omitted, some of these being either necessary or important. In a Summa there must be no such omissions. Things may be left out which properly would find a place only in a compete elucidation and development of a subject considered in all its aspects; but the Summa must contain a statement, explanation and proof of all that is necessary for the comprehension of the subject as a whole and in all its essential parts. Some latitude is allowed in the choice of divisions, arguments and illustrations. Summae composed by different men treating the same subject may not be similar in all respects. In all cases, however, the doctrine must be complete, briefly stated, sufficiently proved, illustrated and defended. Many such books were composed in the Middle Ages, some dealing with history, some with philosophy, some with theology or kindred subjects, the best known and most important of these being the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas (see Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. Summae).