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 sixth part, I would like to finish 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. This post will be the final one going through the data from those 36 books. A seventh post will look at some of the mentions of Aquinas in Owen’s “Biblical Theology”, which will be relevant to some of the current discussions.

Mentions of Aquinas in An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Vol. 3

This first quote has Owen listing Aquinas among some other “expositors of the Roman church.” It is also interesting that they’re listed as departing from the Vulgate.

Hebrews 1:3: The Vulgar Latin renders these words, “Purgationem peccatorum faciens,” not without sundry mistakes. For, first, these words, διʼ ἑαυτοῦ, “by himself‚” and ἡμῶν, “our,” are omitted; and yet the emphasis and proper sense of the whole depend upon them. Secondly, ποιησάμενος, “having made,” is rendered in the present tense, “making;” which seems to direct the sense of the words to another thing and action of Christ than what is here intended. And therefore the expositors of the Roman church, as Thomas, Lyranus, Cajetan, Estius, Ribera, à Lapide, all desert their own text, and expound the words according to the original. The ancients, also as Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Oecumenius, lay the chief weight of their whole exposition of this place on the words omitted in that translation.

Here is a discussion about the “again” in Hebrews 1:6 and what it could mean. It seems from the ensuing context that Owen agrees that it refers to the Second Coming.

Hebrews 1:6: We must also inquire what is the introduction or bringing in here intended, how and when performed; as also what is the world where-into he was brought. The difficulties about all which must be severally considered.

1. Πάλιν, “again,” may be joined with εἰσαγάγῃ, and then the sense of the words must run as above intimated,—namely, “When he bringeth in again the first-born into the world.” And it is evident that most expositors, both ancient and modern, embrace this sense. So do Chrysostom, Theodoret, Ambrose, Oecumenius, Thomas, Lyra, Cajetan, Ribera, Cameron, Gomarus, Estius, à Lapide, our Mede, with many others. But about what this bringing in again, or second bringing in, of the first-born into the world should be, they are greatly divided.

The ancients refer it to his incarnation; affirming, somewhat harshly, that he was brought before into the world, when all things were made by him.

Here, Aquinas is included in a list of a few others along with “sundry of the schoolmen” who saw in Hebrews 1:14 a certain division of Angels into those ministering to God and others just standing before him. Owen disagrees with this assertion.

Hebrews 1:14: And this some of the later Jews have retained the tradition of; whence is that of Maimonides, More Nebuch. part. ii cap. vi., which he citeth out of the Talmud: אין הקבה עושה דבר עד שנמלר בפמליא של מעלה;—”The holy, blessed God doth nothing unless he consult with his superior family.” Only, not knowing the rise of the word פמליא, nor what it should signify, he tells us, פמליא הוא המחנה בלשין יוון, “that in the Greek tongue it signifies a host;” whereas it is purely the Latin “familia,” without the least alteration. And the description of this superior part of the family of God is given us, Dan. 7:10, “Thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.” In which words Pseudo-Dionysius, Gregory, and Aquinas, with sundry of the schoolmen, have coined a distinction of angels, into “ministrantes,” those that minister unto God, and “assistentes,” those that stand before him; whereas the whole intendment of the expression is, that all the angels stood ministering before him, as John declares the matter, Rev. 5:11. And therefore the apostle expressly here affirms that they are “all ministering spirits,” cutting off one member of their distinction. Neither is there more intended in the ministry of that upper part of the family of God than is expressed concerning the lower part of it of old: Deut 18:5, God chose the priests and the Levites לַעֲמדֹ לְשָׁרֵת,”—”to stand and to minister in the name of the LORD.” The same persons were both “assistentes” and “ministrantes;” they stood to minister before the Lord.

Mentions of Aquinas in An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Vol. 4

Aquinas is cited here as stating that Hebrews 4:16 means the throne of Christ. Owen says that this is a “woeful mistake” that Thomas and others have fallen into when they did not consult the original but relied upon the Vulgate translation.

Hebrews 4:16: I cannot omit one argument that is used by Primasius, Haymo, and Ludovicus de Tena, on this place, to prove that it is the throne of Christ that is here intended. And this is because it is called a “throne of grace;” ‘that is,’ say they, ‘of Christ, for so is he called by our apostle, chap. 2:9.’ For, following the Vulgar translation, and reading the words, “ut gratia Dei gustaret mortem pro omnibus,” they say “gratia” is of the nominative and not of the ablative case,—that “the Grace of God should taste of death for all.” And herein Tena urgeth the consent of Thomas and the ordinary gloss. Such woful mistakes do men, otherwise wise and learned, fall into, who undertake to expound the Scriptures without consulting the original, or an ability so to do. The “throne of grace,” therefore, is unto us, God as gracious in Christ, as exalted in a way of exercising grace and mercy towards them that through the Lord Jesus believe in him and come unto him.

Mentions of Aquinas in An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Vol. 5

Owen includes Aquinas in a list of “expositors of the Roman church” who are tossing chaff up and down in their comments upon Hebrews 6:10.

Hebrews 6:10: The expositors of the Roman church do greatly perplex themselves and others in their comments on this text. They generally agree in an endeavour from hence to prove the merit of works against Protestants, because the council of Trent applies this text to that purpose. …. This sense is opposed by others. For they think those mentioned are justified persons, and the apostle expresseth the merit of their present works, with respect unto the righteousness of God. The reader who desires to see such chaff tossed up and down, may find these things debated in Aquinas, Adamus, Estius, à Lapide, Ribera, Maldonatus, de Tena, and others of them on the place.

Owen includes Aquinas here in a list of some others who were said to have been contradictory to each other in discussing whether Christ’s intercession was of a vocal nature or not.

Hebrews 7:23-25: Expositors, especially those of the Roman church, inquire with many disputes into the external form of the intercession of Christ, as namely, whether it be oral and vocal, or no. And they produce many testimonies out of the ancients upon the one side and the other. And great weight is laid by some on the difference and determination of it. For whereas Ribera grants that the dispute is more about words and the manner of expression, than the matter itself; Tena affirms that what he says is most false. And it is evident that the testimonies produced by themselves out of the ancients, as Chrysostom, Theophylact, Ambrose, Austin, and so to Rupertus and Thomas, are expressly contradictory to one another. Now, although our principal concernment lieth in the internal form and efficacy of the intercession of our high priest, rather than in the outward manner of it, yet, so far as that also is revealed, we may inquire into it. And we shall find that the true stating of it tends unto the encouragement and establishment of our faith. And the things ensuing may be observed unto this purpose:—

Mentions of Aquinas in An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Vol. 7

Again, Owen is critical of interpretations based on the Vulgate rather than the Greek.

Hebrews 11:35-37: All suppose that translator understood not the sense of the Greek word, and so retained it. And Erasmus makes himself very merry in reflecting on Thomas, who gives some wild interpretations of it. Μῆλον is “a sheep.” “In sheep-skins.”

Regarding Hebrews 12:18-29, Owen stated here that Aquinas, along with other Roman Catholics, said the “first born” referred to the apostles and evangelists. However, Owen asserts that this actually refers to all of the elect. Interestingly, if you look at Aquinas’s comments on this verse, he stated “The firstborn saints, who received the gifts of grace first and more abundantly, are the apostles, through whom it flows to others” – his concern was the primacy and “dignity of the apostles” having their names written but that it would “flow to others” through the Apostles. This could be considered part of the Apostolic Succession which Rome teaches.

Hebrews 12:18-29: “Of the first-born, which are written in heaven.” Some late expositors, as Schlichtingius, Grotius, and his follower, confine this unto the apostles and evangelists, with some others of the first Christian assembly. And in the same judgment Aquinas, with some others of the Roman church, went before them. The Greek scholiasts apply the words unto the elect, or all true believers: whom we must follow; for it is evident that not the apostles only are here intended. For, (1.) It may be inquired, whether the apostles themselves, upon their call by the gospel, did not come unto “the assembly of the first-born?” If they did, then are not they themselves alone here intended. (2.) Had the apostles alone their names written in heaven, as these first-born had, they, and none but they, are so written in heaven. But this is untrue, as we shall see. (3.) Are not all elect believers capable of this character? For, [1.] Doth not God call all Israel, who were a type of the spiritual church, his “first-born?” Exod. 4:22. [2.] Are not all believers “the first-fruits of the creatures?” James 1:18; which, as unto dedication unto God, answereth the first-born among men. All redeemed ones are “the first-fruits unto God, and to the Lamb,” Rev. 14:4. [3.] Are they not all of them “heirs of God, and coheirs with Christ?” which is to be the first-born, Rom. 8:17; “heirs of salvation,” Heb. 1:14. [4.] Are they not all “kings and priests unto God?” which compriseth the whole right of the first-born. Wherefore there is no reason to confine this expression unto the apostles; especially since most of them at that time were among “the spirits of just men made perfect.” Wherefore it is elect believers that are intended.

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