(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Peter Lombard’s Four Books of Sentences treat many individual questions about Christian doctrine. The four books have different themes: the first examines God and the Trinity, providence, predestination, and evil; the second, the creation of the universe and the fall of humankind; the third, the Incarnation, the Redemption, and the Ten Commandments; and the fourth, the Sacraments and the four last things, death, judgment, hell, and heaven.

Book 1 of the Four Books of Sentences, while acknowledging that there is a definite limit to human reason in its attempt to know divine things, treats the doctrine of the Trinity as a truth approachable in part by human reason, because God deigned to reveal something of his nature as Trinity. To introduce this major theme, Lombard adopted the technical vocabulary and line of reasoning set forth in Saint Augustine’s De doctrina Christiana (books 1-3, 396-397, book 4, 426; On Christian Doctrine, 1875): All teaching consists of two parts, things and signs regarding things. They can be distinguished according to another division: things that are used and things that are enjoyed. Lombard set forth these dichotomies because Augustine, after doing the same thing, categorically claimed: “The things to be enjoyed are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the very Trinity, one particular thing, the highest of things, the same to all who enjoy it.”

From this point of departure, book 1 examines the doctrine of the One God in three distinct persons. It discusses the relationship of the person of the Son to the Father as coeternal Son, begotten not made, and examines the procession of the Holy Spirit. Lombard defends the Western teaching of the procession of the Holy Spirit from Father and Son (Filioque) in contrast to the Nicene creedal formula that states that the Spirit proceeded...

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Four Books of Sentences Bibliography

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Colish, Marcia L. Peter Lombard. 2 vols. Leiden, the Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1994. Attempts to show Lombard as a competent, systematic theologian in control of his sources and displaying a combative but principled spirit.

Pelikan, Jaroslav. The Growth of Medieval Theology (600-1300). Vol. 3 of The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978. Describes the theological aftermath of the patristic period in the West, especially the reconsideration of doctrine, the application of Aristotelian philosophy, and the rise of the Roman papacy.

Rosemann, Philipp W. Peter Lombard. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Presents a detailed description of the Four Books of Sentences, arguing that Lombard’s method of inquiry is rooted not only in the traditions of the church fathers but also in Scripture.