Summa Theologica

Summa-Peter SchöfferSumma Theologiæ, Pars secunda, prima pars. (copy by Peter Schöffer, 1471)

The Summa Theologiæ (written 1265–1274 and also known as the Summa Theologica or simply the Summa) is the best-known work of Thomas Aquinas (c.1225–1274). Although unfinished, the Summa is “one of the classics of the history of philosophy and one of the most influential works of Western literature.”[1] It is intended as an instructional guide for moderate theologians, and a compendium of all of the main theological teachings of the Catholic Church. It presents the reasoning for almost all points of Christian theology in the West. TheSumma’s topics follow a cycle: theexistence of God; Creation, Man; Man’s purposeChrist; the Sacraments; and back to God.

Among non-scholars the Summa is perhaps most famous for its five arguments for the existence of God known as the “five ways” (Latin: quinque viae). The five ways occupy one and a half pages of the Summa’s approximately three thousand five hundred pages.

Throughout the Summa Aquinas citesChristianMuslimHebrew, and Pagansources including but not limited to Christian Sacred Scripture, AristotleAugustine of HippoAvicennaAverroesAl-Ghazali,BoethiusJohn of DamascusPaul the ApostleDionysius the Areopagite,MaimonidesAnselm, Plato, Cicero, andEriugena.

The Summa is a more structured and expanded version of Aquinas’s earlier Summa contra Gentiles, though these works were written for different purposes, the Summa Theologiæ to explain the Christian faith to beginning theology students, and the Summa contra Gentiles to explain the Christian faith and defend it in hostile situations, with arguments adapted to the intended circumstances of its use, each article refuting a certain belief of a specific heresy.[2]

Aquinas conceived the Summa specifically as a work suited to beginning students: “Because a doctor of catholic truth ought not only to teach the proficient, but to him pertains also to instruct beginners. as the Apostle says in 1 Corinthians 3: 1-2, as to infants in Christ, I gave you milk to drink, not meat, our proposed intention in this work is to convey those things that pertain to the Christian religion, in a way that is fitting to the instruction of beginners.”[3]

It was while teaching at the Santa Sabinastudium provinciale, the forerunner of theSanta Maria sopra Minerva studium generaleand College of Saint Thomas which in the 20th century would become the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas,Angelicum, that Aquinas began to compose the Summa. He completed the Prima Pars in its entirety and circulated it in Italy before departing to take up his second regency as professor at the University of Paris (1269–1272).[4]


The Summa is composed of three major parts, each of which deals with a major subsection of Christian theology.

  • First Part (in Latin, Prima Pars): God’s existence and nature; the creation of the world; angels; the nature of man
  • Second Part:
  • First part of the Second Part (Prima Secundae, often abbreviated Part I-II): general principles of morality (including a theory of law)
  • Second part of the Second Part (Secunda Secundae, or Part II-II): morality in particular, including individual virtues and vices
  • Third Part (Tertia Pars): the person and work of Christ, who is the way of man to God; the sacraments; the end of the world. Aquinas left this part unfinished.[5]

Each part contains several questions, each of which revolves around a more specific subtopic; one such question is “Of Christ’s Manner of Life.”[6] Each question contains several articles phrased as interrogative statements dealing with specific issues, such as “Whether Christ should have led a life of poverty in this world?”[7]The Summa has a standard format for each article.

  • A series of objections to the (yet to be stated) conclusion are given; one such objection, for example, is that “Christ should have embraced the most eligible form of life…which is a mean between riches and poverty.”[7]
  • A short counter-statement, beginning with Leia mais deste post
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