Thomas Aquinas was a brilliant biblical exegete whose theological writings work outward from the Sacred Text. In Thomas’ Summa Theologiae, we find a comprehensive summation of biblical theology. Unfortunately, Thomas’ biblical commentaries have gathered dust while his Summa has become a primary textbook. This oversight not only prevents one from appreciating Thomas, but it also would shock the Angelic Doctor since his primary textbook was the Bible.
And yet he knew that Scriptural truth spans across human thought. Theology comprehensively guides all of life. On the basis of the biblical text, Thomas tried to understand God, Christ, and humanity’s purpose in God’s economy.
One key demand of Scriptural revelation is to “be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom 12:2). And Thomas attempted to do that through his discussions on Virtue Ethics in the Summa and elsewhere.
His arguments sometimes seem complex and difficult to understand. He may be surprised to hear that, however, since he wrote the Summa Theologiae as a guide for theological students as they worked through their primary textbook, the Holy Scripture.
But the theological and intellectual world of the 13th century seems foreign to us, and we struggle to understand basic assumptions of that age about the universe, metaphysics, and ethics. We need a reliable guide to understand Thomas in his theological and historical and philosophical contexts.
Budziszewski provides that valuable guide in his Commentary on Thomas Aquinas’ Virtue Ethics. He cites a common English translation of Thomas’ discussion in his Summa and adds to it a brilliant paraphrase for added clarity. After that, he comments on the text to elucidate the text’s meaning.
He does a brilliant job of it. My only wish is that Budziszewski would have provided the Latin text next to his paraphrase instead of a standard translation. (Adding a third column with Latin would overcrowd the book at Budziszewski admits on page xxii). Yes, I know that this will only please those who can read Latin—yet it would have provided a valuable tool for those who want to dive deeper. At the same time, Budziszewski does comment on the Latin when important for understanding.
One outstanding feature of the commentary is that it uses sources that are in the public domain, allowing many people to follow up and pursue discussions in the commentary.
I recommend this commentary to anyone interested in discerning right from wrong, virtue ethics, and human flourishing. I also recommend it to anyone desiring to gain insight into the thought of one of the most brilliant minds the church has produced.
Disclaimer: CUP provided me with a review copy of this book.