This is a follow up to the previous posts in this blog series where I will go through the works of John Owen detailing where he has mentioned Thomas Aquinas. I hope that this series is helpful.

In this fifth part, I would like to begin looking at the mentions of Thomas Aquinas in the 7 Volumes of his “Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews”.

As I mentioned previously, there are 20 of the 36 works which do not have any mention of Thomas Aquinas (not even in editorial footnotes). And from the other 16 books there are only 36 mentions of Thomas Aquinas. The first four parts covered 22 of those 36 mentions and this post will cover an additional 6. Including the information in this post, the 28 mentions of Aquinas only span 11 books. Counting the 20 without mentions, this is 31 of the 36 books which we will have covered by the end of this post.

The posts from Hebrews will be in multiple parts and they will be in order of occurrence

Mentions of Aquinas in An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Vol. 1

In this first citation, Owen is discussing the definition and contents of the Canon of Scripture and cites the synod at Laodicea, the deposition of Paulus Samosatenus, Irenaeus, Chrysostom, Augustine and Aquinas. The only thing he states about Aquinas is a basic definition of the Canon.

Section I. The canonical authority of the Epistle to the Hebrews: And he pursues the metaphor of a scale and a measure in many words elsewhere. And thus Aquinas himself confesseth the Scripture is called canonical, because it is the rule of our understanding in the things of God; and such a rule it is as hath authority over the consciences of men, to bind them unto faith and obedience, because of its being given of God by inspiration for that purpose.

Next, and in the same section, Owen mentions how some have objected to the canonical authority of Hebrews because of various things in Chapters 11 and 12 stated as being from the Old Testament but not contained in the Old Testament writings. He brings up a poor solution offered by Aquinas with which Owen disagrees.

Section I. The canonical authority of the Epistle to the Hebrews: The remaining objections are more particular and direct to their purpose by whom they are pleaded; as, first, that the author of this Epistle cites sundry things out of the Old Testament which are not therein contained. Such are many of the stories related in the 11th chapter; and that, in particular, in chap. 12:21, where he affirms that Moses, upon the terror of the sight that appeared unto him, said, “I exceedingly fear and quake.” This place Erasmus supposeth Jerome to have intended when he says that some things are mentioned in this Epistle that are not recorded in the Old Testament. And Aquinas perplexeth himself in seeking for a solution unto this difficulty; for, first, he would refer the place to Moses’ sight of the Angel in the bush, and not to the giving of the law, contrary to the express discourse of the context. And then he adds, “Dixit saltem facto;” though he said not so, yet he did so. And lastly, worst of all, “Vel forte apostolus aliâ utitur literâ quam nos non habemus;”—”Or, it may be, the apostle used another text, that we have not.” But there is no need of any of these evasions. The author quotes no book nor testimony of the Old Testament, but only relates a matter of fact, and one circumstance of it, which doubtless he had by divine revelation, whereof there is no express mention in the place where the whole matter is originally recorded.

The final mention in the first Volume is again a mention of Aquinas alongside other authors. Owen states agreement with this notion if it was meant only that Paul us unskilled in “seducing, enticing rhetoric”.

Section II. Of the penman of the Epistle to the Hebrews: Again, he answers by concession in this place, Εἰ δὲ καὶ ἰδιώτης τῷ λόγῳ,—”Suppose I be (or were) rude or unskilful in speech, doth this matter depend thereon? Is it not manifest unto you that I am not so in the knowledge of the mystery of the gospel?” “He doth not confess that he is so,” saith Austin, “but grants it for their conviction.” And in this sense concur Oecumenius, Aquinas, Lyra, Catharinus, Clarius, and Cappellus, with many others on the place. If, then, by λόγος here, that seducing, enticing rhetoric wherewith the false teachers entangled the affections of their unskilful hearers be intended, as we grant that St Paul, it may be, was unskilful in it, and are sure that he would make no use of it, so it is denied that any footsteps of it appear in this Epistle; and if any thing of solid, convincing, unpainted eloquence be intended in it, it is evident that St Paul neither did nor justly could confess himself unacquainted with it; only he made a concession of the objection made against him by the false teachers, to manifest how they could obtain no manner of advantage thereby.

Mentions of Aquinas in An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Vol. 2

In this first mention, Owen states his agreement with Aquinas on whether Christ would have been made flesh had sin never entered the world. Aquinas, Bonaventure, and Calvin are stated as also being opposed to this notion.

Section XXVI. Of the origin of the priesthood of Christ: And those of this persuasion are of two sorts:—First, Such as acknowledge a pre-existence of the Lord Christ in a divine nature. These affirm that [even] had not sin entered into the world, he should have been so made flesh by the uniting of our nature unto himself in his own person, as now it is come to pass. This some of the ancient schoolmen inclined unto, as Alexander ab Ales., Albertus Magnus, Scotus, Rupertus; as it is opposed by Aquinas, p. 3, q. 3; Bonaventura in Sentent., lib. iii. dist. i. ar. 2, q. 1, and others. Immediately on the Reformation this opinion was revived by Osiander, who maintained that Adam was said to be made in the image of God, because he was made in that nature and shape whereunto the Son of God was designed and destinated. And he also was herein opposed by Calvin, Instit. lib. ii. cap. xii., lib. iii. cap. xi.; by Wigandus de Osiandrismo, p. 23; and Schlusselburgius, lib. vi. Yet some are still of this judgment, or seem so to be.

The other sort are the Socinians, who contend that God would have given such a head unto the creation as they fancy Christ to be; for as they lay no great weight on the first sin, so they hope to evince by this means that the Lord Christ may discharge his whole office without making any atonement for sin by sacrifice. And this, with most of their other opinions, they have traduced from the ancient Pelagians, as an account is given in this particular by Cassianus de Incarnatione, lib. i. p. 1241.

This next citation is several pages later and is on the same topic as above – it’s dealing with “arguments or reasons” put forward by those who think Christ would still have become incarnate even had Adam never sinned. Owen utilized the general outline of the arguments which Aquinas proposed, but Owen thought that the answers of Aquinas were “insufficient in many instances.”

Section XXVI. Of the origin of the priesthood of Christ: Let us, therefore, now consider the arguments or reasons in particular which they plead who maintain this assertion. The principal of them were invented and made use of by some of the ancient schoolmen; and others have since given some improvement unto their conceptions, and added some of their own. Those of the first sort are collected by Thomas, 3 p. q. 1, a. 3, as traduced from the Pelagians. I shall examine them as by him proposed, omitting his answers, which I judge insufficient in many instances.

This final example is also from the same section and just a few pages later. Owen offers a tongue-in-cheek agreement with the assertion by Thomas that we must look for answers to spiritual matters “in so far as they are transmitted in the sacred Scriptures”. Regardless of whether Thomas could have been more consistent in this matter (as Owen stated), in this case he was correct. He then also mentions another argument which Thomas brought forward regarding the “predestination of the man Christ Jesus”. Owen said that modern Scotists had improved upon this as well as “some divines of our own.”

Section XXVI. Of the origin of the priesthood of Christ: But both these things were so ordered, in the wisdom of God, as that they might represent another union, in a state that God would bring in afterwards, namely, of Christ and his church. What Adam spake concerning the natural condition and relation of himself and Eve, that our apostle speaks concerning the spiritual and supernatural condition and relation of Christ and the church, because of some resemblance between them. Aquinas himself determines this whole matter, with an assertion which would have been to his own advantage to have attended unto upon other occasions. Saith he, “Ea quæ ex sola Dei voluntate proveniunt supra omne debitum creaturæ, nobis innotescere non possunt, nisi quatenus in sacra Scriptura traduntur, per quam divina voluntas innotescit. Unde cum in sacra Scriptura ubique incarnationis ratio ex peccato primi hominis assignetur, convenientius dicitur incarnationis opus ordinatum esse a Deo in commodum contra peccatum, quod peccato non existente incarnatio non fuisset.” (As translated from “Those things which proceed from the will of God alone above all the debt of creatures, cannot be known to us, except in so far as they are transmitted in the sacred Scriptures, through which the divine will is known. Hence, when in the Holy Scriptures the reason for the incarnation is everywhere attributed to the sin of the first man, it is more fittingly said that the work of the incarnation was ordained by God for the benefit of sin, for if there had been no sin there would have been no incarnation.“)

17. There is yet another argument mentioned by Aquinas, and much improved by the modern Scotists, insisted on also by some divines of our own, which deserves a somewhat fuller consideration; and this is taken from the predestination of the man Christ Jesus. This the schoolmen consider on that of our apostle, Rom. 1:4, “Concerning Jesus Christ, ὁρισθέντος Υἱοῦ Θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει:” which the Vulgar renders, “Qui prædestinatus est Filius Dei in virtute;”—”Predestinate the Son of God with power,” as our Rhemists. But ὁρισθέντος there is no more than ἀποδεδειχθέντος, “manifested, declared,” as it is well rendered by ours. Nor can expositors fix any tolerable sense to their “predestinate” in this place. But the thing itself is true. The Lord Christ was predestinated or preordained before the world was. We were “redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, προεγνωσμένου πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου” 1 Pet. 1:20,—”foreordained” (“predestinated”) “before the foundation of the world.” Now, it is pleaded that “this predestination of Christ unto the grace of union and glory was the first of God’s purposes and decrees in order of nature, and antecedent unto the predestination of the elect, at least as it should comprise in it a purpose of deliverance from the fall. For God first designed to glorify himself in the assumption of human nature, before he decreed to save the elect by that nature so assumed; for we are said to be ‘chosen in him,’ that is, as our head, Eph. 1:4, whence it necessarily ensues that he was chosen before us, and so without respect unto us. So in all things was he to have the preeminence, Col. 1:19; and thence it is that we are ‘predestinated to be conformed to his image,’ Rom. 8:29. This preordination, therefore, of the Lord Christ, which was unto grace and glory, was antecedent unto the permission of the fall of man; so that he should have been incarnate had that never fallen out.”

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