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A Life of Savory Knowing

A Feature Review of

Thomas Aquinas’s Summa theologiae: A Biography

Bernard McGinn

Hardback: Princeton University Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Alden Lee Bass

“If Thomas Aquinas were alive today, he’d be a holy-roller,” I recently heard a Catholic professor explain. Looking at a few of the many paintings of St. Thomas made by his admirers, one does not get the impression that he ever broke into holy laughter, or laughter at all for that matter. Which just goes to show how diverse the reception of Aquinas has been over the centuries since his death, and by his most influential and representative writing, the Summa theologiae.
Thomas published a great deal more than the Summa in his short lifetime (he died at age 49). He wrote many beautiful commentaries on scripture, for instance, as well as commentaries on existing theological texts such as the Sentences of Peter Lombard. He also generated a large number of philosophical and theological treatises on such questions as: What is truth? What is evil? What is the soul? Though Thomas is mostly remembered as a man of sky-scraping intellect, in his own day his works were read widely by laymen and people of modest intelligence.

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