2007 Archive Edition - See the Archive Notice on the Project Homepage for more information.
Peter Lombard, author of Sentences in Four Books, was born in Novara, Lombardy, c. 1095/1100 and studied at Bologna or Vercelli. With the recommendation of Bernard of Clairvaux, Peter continued his studies at Rheims and St-Victor, after which he became an instructor at the cathedral school in Paris. He became a canon c. 1144/45, and he wrote commentary on the psalms and Pauline epistles. The Council of Rheims asked him to ascertain the orthodoxy of the work of Gilbert de la Porrée, whose Christology Peter found insufficient. (Peter was later accused of emphasizing the divinity of Christ over His humanity.) On a trip to Rome in 1154, Peter read the works of John of Damascus in Latin translation. Popular in the east, they were then barely known in the west; St. John is, with St. Augustine, one of the most quoted fathers in the Sentences. This book, which became the standard theology textbook for the next four centuries, took its final form c. 1157/58. Peter died in 1160, the year after his election as archbishop of Paris.
Sentences, which presents quotes from the Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers grouped around topics, was attacked, in spite of its popularity, by Walter of St-Victor, who did not like its method, and Joachim of Fiore (c. 1130/35-1201), who questioned its teachings on the Trinity. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) upheld the orthodoxy of the book and its author.
Peter arranges the passages from the Bible and the Fathers in books by general topics and within books by questions related to the main concern. Book I presents thought on God and the Trinity, with questions about divine guidance, evil, and predestination. The topic of Book II is the bodiless powers, angels and demons, and treats questions about the fall of man, grace, and sin. Incarnation is the subject of Book III and addresses concerns about redemption, the virtues, and the Ten Commandments. Book IV discusses the sacraments and the Apocalypse, as well the related questions about death, judgement, heaven and hell.
In addition to drawing on the thought of Augustine and John of Damascus, Peter relies heavily on other fathers, such as Ambrose of Milan and Hilary of Poitiers. Peter takes quotes also from his contemporaries, like Anselm of Laon and Hugh of St-Victor. Peter poses the question and presents quotes which answer the question. He then analyzes the language of the argument and states his own conclusion. Although Aquinas' Summa has since overshadowed the Sentences, Peter's book remained the standard theology textbook in European universities until the XVI Century. (In the XIII Century, Roger Bacon complained that many students read Sentences instead of the Scriptures.)
Peter Lombard was the first to number the sacraments, but since the Renaissance, thinkers have considered him unoriginal and praise the arrangement and comprehensiveness of his work.
Karen Rae Keck
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