THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY IN SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS AND SAINT BONAVENTURE

EDWARD JOSEPH BUTTERWORTH, Fordham University

Abstract

This dissertation systematically studies the trinitarian writings of Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure, and compares the theologies that they developed. The dissertation employs the method of studying each system on its own terms according to its own assumptions, principles, and organization. From such a study, it is found that Thomas Aquinas makes the concept of relation central to the doctrine of the Trinity, according it a far greater importance than the concept of procession. Bonaventure, in contrast, gives preeminence to the idea of primacy in God, and to the fecundity and self-diffusiveness that he holds to be implied by that primacy, and accordingly he uses relation as a less central concept.^ The study of Thomas is ordered according to his Summa Theologiae, which reflects his most mature vision in addition to bringing out the importance of relation in his theology. For him relation, and relation alone, constitutes the distinctions among the three persons of the Trinity. While Bonaventure recognizes that the three persons do indeed relate to each other, he does not treat this relation as constitutive of their distinctions. Instead, he holds that distinction to arise from the absolute primacy and unbegottenness of God the Father, which is the foundation of the Father's productiveness. These ideas are treated with particular clarity in Bonaventure's Quaestiones Disputatae de Mysterio Trinitatis, which by virtue of its structure directs attention toward the divine primacy.^ These differences in approach result in Thomas' treating of the distinctions among persons as logically posterior to the divine unity, that distinction being based on relation, which is considered logically subordinate to the unity of the divine essence. Since Bonaventure does not constrain these distinctions to being constituted by relations, he gives them a certain priority even in the context of the unity of the divine essence, and thus he does not give the divine unity a logical priority over the distinctions among the persons.^ In the final chapter, the dissertation considers the implications of this study for current Roman Catholic theology, and discusses the ways in which the thought of Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure can enter into dialogue with modern Orthodox thought. ^

Subject Area

Theology

Recommended Citation

EDWARD JOSEPH BUTTERWORTH, "THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY IN SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS AND SAINT BONAVENTURE" (January 1, 1985). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI8521405.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8521405

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