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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 302

Summa Theologica is a lengthy religious treatise by Thomas Aquinas, a Franciscan friar who completed this vast tract while teaching at the University of Paris. It is a longer, more comprehensive work of his Summa Contra Gentiles. Aquinas wrote during the High Middle Ages and his treatise was intended for those new to studying Christianity.

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It is unique in bringing together Church doctrine and philosophy. It is divided into three parts, but the first part is divided into two parts, and the third part has a supplement, with the result that there are five de facto sections of varying lengths, arranged by subject. Each part is in turn divided into several articles. The articles are phrased as Socratic-style questions, which have objections submitted in reply to them in order to arrive at a conclusion on each point.

The major principles treated and conclusions reached in the first part of Thomas Aquinas' Summa is that God is coeternal with the Son and Holy Ghost, and that man is endowed with a soul that is immaterial and unique to each individual.

His second part address seven virtues (three theological and four cardinal): Faith, Hope, Charity, Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. He expounds on each of these, their opposite vices, and how they are featured in acts of martyrdom.

The third part talks about the sacraments, including Baptism and Confirmation. To Aquinas the sacraments are not symbolic, they impart grace in their practitioners.

His appendix discusses souls after death (on which he states that souls go to different places depending on their level of nobility), institutions of marriage (a cure of concupiscence), and indulgences (which are not sufficient to redeem sin).

Aquinas quotes heavily from Scripture, and also asserts that sacred doctrine is not a science, as it requires Faith, and cannot be fully tested.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 849

When Pope Leo XIII in 1879 issued his encyclical Aeterni Patris (on the restoration of Christian philosophy) urging that the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas be promoted and taught within the Roman Catholic Church, he ratified a view of Aquinas already held by many: that Aquinas is not only the supreme medieval and Roman Catholic theologian and philosopher but also one of the greatest philosophers of all time. Aquinas’s synthesis of biblical teachings with the philosophies of Aristotle and of Neoplatonism reaches its best-known expression in his final major work, the Summa Theologica. Despite its daunting size, intricate structure, and occasionally difficult ideas, this “summary of theology” was actually intended as an introductory text for students.

The summa, or summary form, was quite common in Aquinas’s time; many theologians and philosophers wrote in this encyclopedic, systematic style, and Aquinas himself had previously completed the Summa contra gentiles (c. 1258-1264; English translation, 1923). The Summa Theologica is divided into three principal parts (the second part has two sections): Prima Pars, Prima Secundae Partis, Secunda Secundae Partis, and Tertia Pars. Tertia Pars, left only about half done by Aquinas at his death (up through question 90), was supplemented by his followers with additional material based on one of Aquinas’s previously written philosophical commentaries. Each part is divided into treatises on various subjects, such as the “Treatise on Law” or the “Treatise on Man,” which are themselves divided into several numbered questions (extensive essays). Each question is further divided into articles. These articles deal with a single yes-or-no question, such as whether God exists. Aquinas begins each article with a series of theological and philosophical objections to the yes-or-no answer he has in mind. He follows...

(The entire section contains 1151 words.)

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