Catholic Medical Quarterly

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Book Review

Thomas Aquinas's Summa theologiae: A Biography

Bernard McGinn
Princeton University Press
ISBN 978-0-691-15426-8

Book coverThis is really a biography of a theological masterpiece which has a been a major influence in Catholic moral thinking from its beginning. McGinn, a historical theologian, begins by examining the culture into which the Summa was born. He then gives the reader a tour of the Summa followed by the manner in which it was received.

The author notes that Aquinas was firstly and foremost a teacher and the Summa is most importantly a teaching aid. Aquinas firmly believed that all believers are called to study theology in order to gain in wisdom. There is unity in the structure of the Summa because all of it relates to God. The Summa is also profoundly scriptural.

A survey of the recent Thomistic schools is particularly helpful. There was the traditional Thomism of Garrigou Lagrange and the historical Thomism of Chenu. McGinn, who dissented from Church teaching in the sixties when it became fashionable to do so, appears not to favour the great anti-modernist Garrigou. The differences between the Thomism of Maritain and Gilson are discussed and, given their importance, was very useful.

This is a good, solid work  and is recommended to readers who wish to know more about a truly monumental work.