Thomas on Scripture

Dear readers, a little update, since I’ve been away so much.

I’ve already written a Christmas reflection, on how sometimes the Word takes flesh more in the chaos of family life than in brilliant meditations on Scripture. That’s been continuing in my life: I finally finished a comedy-of-errors plumbing fiasco. As I was finishing, two weeks ago, we got the flu.

I was standing inside a wall, taking a Sawzall to a thick iron pipe through the flooring way above me–a ridiculous position–and found myself quaking. Gosh, I thought, either I’m working harder than I thought, or I’m really getting stressed out about the magnitude of this project. But as soon as I had the pipe cut–and before I had the chance to replace it–I swooned on the couch, my fever spiked, and I was flat on my back for a couple of days, with the worst flu we can remember. Maybe it wasn’t the project that made me tremble, but the oncoming fever!

But such is life. And there’s so much richness just in being able to smile and count suffering and various forms of “passive diminishment” as part of living the Gospel. Just as there is so much joy, such richness in our faith, in being able to face financial frustration and rejoice to meet Lady Poverty, to find the joy of Holy Obedience in frustration at work, (even a taste of Holy Celibacy in times of separation) and abandonment to divine providence when life is too much for us. The Gospel of suffering is good news.

And that’s why I didn’t write two weeks ago.


But last weekend, it was a much different challenge. I want to share with you readers, just briefly, about a wonderful conference I attended, on Thomas Aquinas and the Bible. (It’s worth clicking through, just to see the titles of the talks.)

So many things I could say, but I just want to say something simple: there were I think sixty-nine papers given, by people who really know their stuff, on Thomas Aquinas’s love of the Bible.

Okay, a couple details: Maybe my favorite paper was by Brant Pitre, a Bible scholar and friend of Scott Hahn’s. He got into some very technical questions about the dating of the Last Supper: in short, John’s Gospel seems to say Passover didn’t start till the next night, Friday night, but Matthew, Mark, and Luke seem to say Passover started Thursday night, and it’s pretty hard to figure out how to fit them together. Most Bible scholars just throw up their hands and say obviously the Gospels don’t care much about historical details, they contradict one another, they must be wrong.

Well, here’s what we learned about Thomas Aquinas in that paper: a) He believes the Gospels are accurate history, and that the history of the Gospels is really important to our faith, b) he thought really hard even about these very technical questions of Biblical interpretation, not because they have big philosophical significance, but because he loves the page of the Gospel, c) he read both the New Testament and some pretty obscure passages of the Old Testament a lot more carefully than any modern scholar, and found ways to solve this problem based just on knowing the Bible really really well.

There were lots of other papers that talked about, for example, Thomas’s deep insights into the theology of St. Paul, the interpretation of the Psalms (where he finds Christ on every page), and John’s Gospel, which he reads with exquisite depth.

The point of all these examples is simply this: Thomas Aquinas loved the Bible. You should know that.

I’m sorry I missed writing a post while I was at that conference. But it affirmed the most basic insight of this web page, which is that the deepest Catholic theology comes from meditation on Scripture, and the best preparation for reading Scripture is a deep understanding of Catholic theology. I’m proud to have a small place in that project: on this page, at the conference, and I hope in all my teaching and research–and my life. Thomas Aquinas and Scripture!