Aquinas's Shorter Summa: Saint Thomas's Own Concise Version of His Summa Theologica Paperback – 1 Apr 2002
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"An invaluable introduction to St. Thomas's wisdom and insight." -- Archbishop Edward Cardinal Egan "Personal Endorsement"
"Thomas Aquinas at his clearest and best.
A treasure." -- Ralph McInerny, Author "First Glance at Thomas Aquinas" "Personal Endorsement"
From the Inside Flap
Two years before he died, St. Thomas Aquinas probably the greatest teacher the Church has ever known was asked by his assistant, Brother Reginald, to write a simple summary of the Faith of the Catholic Church for those who lacked the time or the stamina to tackle his massive Summa Theologica.
In response, the great saint quickly set down in language that non-scholars can understand his peerless insights into the major topics of theology: the Trinity, Divine Providence, the Incarnation of Christ, the Last Judgment, and much more.
Here, then, is not only St. Thomas's concise statement of the key elements of his thought, but a handy reference source for the essential truths of the Catholic Faith.See all Product Description
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This book was intended to be a literal "hand book," a one -volume summation of Aquinas' rather bulky Summa Theologica. It follows a deceptively simple format of three parts: Faith, Hope, and Charity. At first blush, this seems to roughly correspond to II-II of the Summa. However, Aquinas restated his arguments for God's existence, and covers in a nutshell the main points of the entire I-I and I-II of the Summa.
It is a rare thing to find someone who can sum up a complex idea, or a string of complex ideas and concepts, but "The Dumb Ox" characteristically pulls it off. I wish more public speakers and politicians could develop this talent, since we get off on so many intellectual rabbit trails, and miss the great Yellow Brick Road. He does have a point to what he says, and he does stick on topic. Hence, his enduring power.
The translation is an easy read, and nothing really spectacular jumps out pro or con. As is stated in the introduction, this translation was to be a crutch, and the true student is encouraged to go to the original Latin for any hair-splitting nuances and so forth. The standard numeration is followed, so we can easily compare the translations. I hate translators/publishers who play God and reinvent the wheel in these matters.
I feel that this book should be used in conjunction with Kreeft's "Summa of the Summa." They are about the same size, but each book has its strengths and weaknesses. "The Shorter Summa" has the benefit of being Aquinas speaking for himself, and him telling you what he thinks is important, with the only disadvantage being that it is incomplete. The "Summa of the Summa" has the benefit of Kreeft's commentary and illustrations, and is (mostly) a good summery of Thomism, but it is Kreeft's-and I say this will an infinity of charity and respect for a great man-"spin" on Aquinas. So my advice is to split the difference and to get both books.
The only real objection I have is that the picture of Aquinas is rather unusual. He looks like one of the extra-terrestrial "Greys" that Art Bell talks about. Aquinas is a genius, and a human computer, but he isn't a Vulcan, and he never made a crop circle. G. K. Chesterton speaks of a portrait of Aquinas with piercing eyes. The only clue we have is the starburst design, but it would be nice for a Chesterton scholar to try and track down this portrait, and start using it. Or at least stick with the traditional Medieval sketch that graces the covers of most of the current Aquinas Anthologies.
I did however find in this work answers to many of the questions so many people ask regarding judicial, political and historical issues these days and yes even a few to fill the gaps left in a lifetime of research into the basic philosophies of other great and important historical figures.
I believe that if one really wants to understand our own country and it's founding fathers and mothers and their philosophies and where their belief systems came from a study of this work would be an essential addition to many others that they used to formulate their ideals and ideologies.
Many passages from Aquinas will stay with me for the rest of my days but the two I have chosen below will be kept readily avqailable for future consideration and contemplation.
"God alone can create. Consequently the rational soul is produced by God alone."
And, "A man's happiness or beautitude consist in the vision whereby he sees God in his essence."
One could spend a lifetime just pondering and trying to live up to just these two and it would not be in vain.
This is a book journey that every American should take. It is not the most easily understandable work, unless you take the time to really read it, not just skim it's pages.
One must begin with a committment and determination to stay engaged at all times or a great deal of it's wisdom will pass before the minds eye unnoticed.
An excellent work.
The importance Plato had for Saint Augustine, Aristotle had for Thomas Aquinas, who respectfully called him "The Philosophus" (sic) or the "Commentator" (sic). The Summa Theologica is an attempt by Aquinas to solve the most troublesome points in doctrine, a monumental task tried before by many, who attempted to conciliate the Greek Church cannons to the Roman Church rulings, to the then powerful philosophical Arabic influence, being the Arabic philosophers the first who rescued Aristotle from the ashes of Augustianism, to the efforts of Albertus Magnus - who was Aquinas' master and first tried to evolve science from Alchemy, etcetera.
Using primarily an Aristotelian toolbox and terminology, but always faithfull to the Holy Scripture - and thus entangled in a rather wry explanation of the existence of things trough creationism - being the Bible authoritative enough to him as the own word of God, Aquinas establishes a rather apt hierarchical order in the world between all being (ens) and creatures (creaturae), some of them only possesed of material substance, some immaterial (angelus), and some with intermediate properties, being both material and immaterial (man). To him, the soulless (sine animae) material being was always oriented to the soulful material being and then to the immaterial as its superior, e.g., stone to plants, plants to irrational animals and the latter to the rational ones, that is, to human beings, who by means of his intelect could reach na understanding of God trough His output (effects), that is, the created world.
Being both material and immaterial, homo naturaliter orientatur ist ad superiorem in the hierarchical order (ordo) that is, to the angels, who were the supreme creatures of God. But what is God? According to Aquinas, there is no possible answer to this question and we only know (trough his effects) that He exists (quid est) , but never know what He is (qui est), being the final contemplation of God the Supreme Good (sumum bonum) and the final goal of man. His explanation of good (bonum) as created by God and evil (malum) as a deprivation of good instead of its antipodal opposite, thus making man responsible for his acts via liber arbitrium, and thus quenching Manicheism - who affirmed that God created the immaterial beings and goodness in them, and the Devil the material ones and evil - is magistral and is worthy the effort of reading a so difficult and voluminous book. His explanation of God as an « ens » composed of three coeternal persons under in just one substance and living out of time (per se subexistente, a tempori non mensuratur) gives the reader sheer ecstasy in getting contact with one of the most prodigious philosophers of all times, no matter what the reader's creed. The sheer independence (but not indiference) of God as regarding human beings, because God loves himself preeminently (quia Dominus seipsum amat et hominis non careabat) is also notewhorthy.
To sum it up, what you have in your hand is the work of the most genial man of his time, who sent rippling waves of influence troughout the world as no other philosopher did for many centuries to come. I hope you enjoy the reading as much as I did.
The Shorter Summa was authored by St. Thomas Aquinas himself in response to a request that I believe was from his secretary to provide a distillation of the Summa Theologica. St. Thomas died (at age 50) only 10 chapters into Part II, "Hope." Part I, "Faith" is therefore the main theme of this work. There was to be a third part - you guessed correctly, "Charity." The unfinished nature, however, is by no means a reason to pass this by. After finishing it, I understand why it also goes by a third published name, "Light of Faith."
Shortly after beginning I was tempted to stop and get some primers on Aristotle, basic philosophy, and theology. Instead, I decided to web search the concepts and terms I didn't understand as I went along, and in short order I felt up to the challenge. I'm glad I persisted because it was a delight to have St. Thomas as my instructor.
Each chapter builds on the teachings in previous chapters, so read them slowly. Re-read them, if need be, until the ideas crystallize, especially early on. Don't sell yourself short; it takes a bit of doing, but the reward is enormous. The teaching on the Trinity in chapters 37-50 was one of my favorite parts. Using the "light of reason" - a term itself you will understand better after St. Thomas - you will have new appreciation of why Jesus Christ is the Word of God.
Among the great services St. Thomas does in his writing is to show us how Christianity is truly a philosophy of Reason. Modernists, rationalists, and atheists who claim that religion in general and Christianity in particular is not reasonable are in truth the ones at odds with Reason. The Thomistic view is predicated on the fact of existence; it accepts creation, and the fact that there is a real world that we can experience through our senses. It also, of course, explains that there is much more beyond what our senses can experience.
The modern academic mind can't seem to get beyond "to be or not to be." Aquinas shouts to us the answer down through the centuries: "To be!"
This edition is sprinkled with helpful footnotes to cited bible verses, Church Fathers (St. Augustine prominent among them), and philosophers (Aristotle of course very prominent among these.) Cyril Vollert's translation is in very easy to understand English, and for a paperback, this volume is pretty sturdy. This was a wonderful choice for my first foray into Scholasticism and my first encounter with the Angelic Doctor.