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Peter Lombard's Sentences

The Sentences Book 1: The Mystery of the Trinity by Peter Lombard and Giulio Silano (Mediaeval Sources in Translation: PIMS)

The Sentences Book 2: On Creation by Peter Lombard and Giulio Silano (Mediaeval Sources in Translation: PIMS)

The Sentences Book 3: Incarnation of the Word by Peter Lombard and Giulio Silano (Mediaeval Sources in Translation: PIMS)

The Sentences, Book 4: On the Doctrine of Signs by Peter Lombard and Giulio Silano (Mediaeval Sources in Translation: PIMS)

Despite the centrality of Peter Lombard's work in the history of the Western academic tradition, very little is known about his life. The earliest unimpeach­able reference occurs in a letter of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, of around 1138— 1140, introducing him to the abbot of St. Victor in Paris. By 1144, a poet in far-off Bavaria could list him as one of the theological luminaries of the Parisian schools. His major work, the four books of the Sentences, was written in the mid twelfth century, and as early as the 1160s, the text was glossed and commented on in the schools. There is hardly a theologian of note throughout the rest of the Middle Ages who did not write a commentary on it.

Yet in spite of its importance in Western intellectual history and its capa­city to excite many generations of students and teachers, the Sentences has received little attention in more recent times. Indeed, it has been called 'one of the least read of the world's great books.' The form of the work has proved misleading, not least to modern readers. One recurring question is whether Peter could be called an author at all, since he seems to be a mere compiler of the works of the Fathers and other universally accepted ecclesiastical writers. But it would be misleading to describe Peter's efforts as mere anthologizing. Rather, his Sentences can be likened to a modern legal casebook and the patristic citations in it to legal precedents. In other words, they serve as the binding authorities which collectively provide the matter for the normative elaboration of the Christian faith. This laborious activity of collecting sentences from ancient works and framing new ones occurred in the classroom. In short, the effort to identify and point out the coherence of the Christian tradition was inseparable from the work of teaching. Technique, rationality, and dialectic were emphasized, not for their own sake, but to bring the tradition alive and make it relevant to students and the larger communities they would serve.

Peter Lombard's major work, the four books of the Sentences, was written in the mid twelfth century, and as early as the 1160s, the text was glossed and commented on in the schools. There is hardly a theologian of note throughout the rest of the Middle Ages who did not write a commentary on the. Sentences. Yet in spite of its impor­tance in Western intellectual history and its capacity to excite many generations of students and teachers, the Sentences has received little attention in more recent times. Indeed, it has been called 'one of the least read of the world's great books.'

Volume One makes available for the first time in English a full translation of Book 1 of the Sentences. It consists of forty-eight Distinctions, the bulk of which deal with God in his transcendence and with the mystery of the Trinity. The person of God the Father is the topic in Distinction iv, that of God the Son in v—ix, that of God the Holy Spirit in x—xviii. Distinctions xix—xxxiv are deeply concerned with the language that can be used in describing the Trinity and the relations among the divine persons. The remaining distinctions deal with the divine attributes as they become manifest in God's action "toward creatures. An important concern is the preservation of God's sovereign freedom and the avoidance of any confusion regarding the absolute transcendence of God, despite his graceful self-disclosure in creation and revelation.

Volume Two makes available for the first time in English a full translation of the forty-four Distinctions of Book 2. In the first Peter sets out a definition of creation and ponders the reasons which God may have had for engaging in it. Angels, their creation, nature, fall, ranks, and ministries are the subject of Distinctions 2-11. Distinctions 12-15 set out an hexaemeron, or an account of the six days of creation as described in Genesis. The next five Distinctions concentrate on the creation of man and woman and the state of human beings before their sinful fall, including their manner of procreation. Distinctions 21-29, organized around the fall, are de­voted to human psychology, freedom of choice, and grace. In Distinctions 30-33 the focus is on original sin, its transmission by the current mode of procreation, its remission in baptism. And the Book concludes in Distinctions 34-44 with a de­tailed analysis of actual sin and how it occurs by free choice in the diminished condition of human freedom after the fall.

Volume Three makes available for the first time in English a full translation of Book 3 of the Sentences. The first twenty-two of its forty Distinctions deal with the mystery of the Word made flesh: Christ's incarnation, passion, and death, and the consequent restoration of humankind. With the question of whether Christ had the virtues of faith, hope, and charity, a transition is made from Chris­tology to a consideration of the virtues; these belong in this Book principally be­cause the Christian is called to live them in imitation of Christ, who embodies all of them perfectly. The last four Distinctions outline the Decalogue in the context of the two commandments given by Christ regarding the love of God and neighbour. The Book closes by asserting the superiority of the Gospel over the Law of the Old Testament.

Volume Four:  Peter Lombard's major work, the four books of the Sentences, was written in the mid twelfth century and, as early as the 1160s, the text was glossed and commented on in the schools. There is hardly a theologian of note throughout the rest of the Middle Ages who did not write a commentary on the Sentences. Yet in spite of its importance in Western intellectual history and its capacity to excite generations of students and teachers, the Sentences has received little attention in recent times. Indeed, it has been called 'one of the least read of the world's great books.'

Book 3 closed with a reflection on the relative inadequacy of the Old Law, because what it commanded could not be done well or easily in the absence of grace. While the sacraments of the Old Law were only signs, the sacraments of the Church are also the principal instruments of that grace now freely available to Christians. These sacraments are the main subject of Book 4, taking up forty-two of its fifty Distinctions: Baptism is treated in Distinctions 2-6, confirmation in 7, the Eucharist in 8-13, penance in 14-22, extreme unction in 23, sacred orders in 24 and 25, and marriage in 26-42. The Book concludes with eight Distinctions on the last things - the resurrection of the body, purgation, hell, the last judgement, and eternity.

This last volume contains an introduction to Book 4, a list of the major chapter headings, a bibliography, and an index of scriptural, patristic, and canonical authorities.

In the first three Books of his work, Peter introduced his readers to what the Christian tradition had had to say regarding the mysteries of God's nature, the creation and fall of angels and humankind, the mystery of Christ's incarnation and the restoration of fallen man, and the virtues and precepts that the Christian ought to cultivate and observe in the attempt to imitate Christ. Book 3 closed with a reflection on the relative inadequacy of the Old Law because what it commanded could not be done well or easily in the absence of grace. This same grace now abounds in the Gospel because of Christ's redeeming work (dist. 40 cc1-2). And while the sacraments of the Law were only signs, the sacraments of the Church are not only the principal signs, but also instruments of that grace now freely available to Christians (c3). It is these signs that are the main subject of Book 4, taking up forty-two of the fifty Distinctions into which the Book is divided.

Book 4 opens, in Distinction 1, with a reference to the distinction of things and signs, before proceeding to offer a definition of sacrament; it then sets out some general questions regarding the sacraments and returns briefly to the nature and role of the sacraments of the Old Law. Baptism is treated in Distinctions 2-6, confirmation in Distinction 7, the Eucharist in Distinctions 8-13, penance in Distinctions 14-22, extreme unction in Distinction 23, sacred orders in Distinctions 24 and 25. Marriage, with regard to which the Lombard's consensual theory was to prove extremely influential, is the subject of a very extended treatment, taking up Distinctions 26-42. The last things occupy the rest of the Book, with the bodily resurrection being the subject of Distinctions 43 and 44, purgation of Distinction 45, hell of Distinction 46, the last judgment of Distinctions 47 and 48, and eternity of Distinctions 49 and 50. The Book closes with a reference to a text of Isaias as an allegory of the function and purposes of the Sentences as a whole.

The organizing principle to which Peter appeals at the beginning of Book 4 is the doctrine of things and signs which he had set out early in Book 1 (dist. 1 c 1 n3 and c2). Here, he claims that that doctrine has been a guiding principle throughout the work, and that he has proceeded in accordance with the distinction of things as those to be enjoyed (God), those to be used (all created things, apart from rational creatures), and those to be enjoyed and used (rational creatures); it remains to treat of signs, and that is the aim of this last Book (dist. 1 before c1).

Like the doctrine of things and signs, the story of the Good Samaritan seems to have had a singularly powerful hold on Peter. He had referred to it at the opening of the Prologue to the Sentences as a moving invitation to hope for his own work; he had mentioned it again in Book 2, in which sins were compared to the thieves who leave the beneficiary of the Samaritan's charity half-dead (dist. 35 c4 n2). The same story is now invoked to illustrate the use of the sacraments:

For the Samaritan, assuming responsibility for the wounded man, applied the bindings of the sacraments to care for him, because God instituted the remedies of the sacraments against the wounds of original and actual sin (dist. 1 cl n1).

With this vivid image of God as the Good Samaritan who binds the wounds of sin by means of the sacraments, the reader ought .to be in an appropriate state of mind to consider the four important questions which are preliminary to an examination of the Church's sacraments, namely the nature of a sacrament, the reason for its institution, its composition, and the difference between the sacraments of the Old Testament and those of the New (c 1 n2).

To define sacrament, Peter first presents us with a variety of assertions by Augustine which describe the sacrament as a sacred thing, a 'sacred secret,' a sacrament of the Godhead, a visible form of an invisible grace (c2). And since signs have been mentioned, it is useful to note that "a sign is a thing which, over and above the form which it impresses on the senses, causes something else to come into the mind through itself' (c3). Furthermore, signs can be natural or conventional, and not all conventional signs are sacraments (c4 n1). It is of the essence of a sacrament that it be in some way like the thing which it signifies; in the absence of such likeness, one ought not to use the term sacrament (c4 n1).

With these terms in place, Peter has readied his readers to hear his own definition of sacrament, which takes all that has been said into account:

For a sacrament is properly so called because, it is a sign of God's grace and a form of invisible grace in such manner that it bears its image and is its cause. And so the sacraments were not instituted only for the sake of signifying, but also to sanctify (c4 n2).

Given this definition, it would be better to refer to the sacraments of the Old Law as signs, despite even scriptural usage to the contrary, since they signify, but cannot confer the grace that justifies (c4 n3), and were instituted as a burden (c4 n4).

In his utter freedom, God could have chosen to confer his grace in any way he pleased, so the question arises as to why he chose the sacraments as the means of this conferral. Peter identifies three reasons: humiliation, instruction, and exercise (c5 n1). The humiliation consists in man's submission to insensible things, lower than himself, out of obedience to God who chooses to work through them. This obedience pleases God and gains merit (c5 n2). As for instruction, the use of visible signs is necessary for men, weakened by sin, to perceive divine things; the visible species of each sacrament instructs the mind as to the invisible power at work in it (c5 n3). The exercise involved is the practice of the sacraments as a remedy to human restlessness; since restless man is incapable of being idle, the sacraments provide him with occasions to do something useful so as to avoid pernicious activities (c5 n4).

God can, of course, confer his grace in any other way that may please him, but, by his gracious reassurance, this conferral is always available in the sacraments which he instituted (c5 n5). As for the composition of these means of grace, they all consist of "two elements, namely words and things: words, such as the invocation of the Trinity, and things, such as water, oil, and suchlike" (c5 n6).

Before discussing the significance of circumcision, Peter reiterates the difference between the sacraments of the Old Law, "sacred things, such as sacrifices, oblations, and suchlike" (c6), which promised and signified the new sacraments that confer salvation, and those of the New. But is this true even of circumcision, if it can be said to have "conferred the same remedy against sin as baptism does now"? (c7). For there are clear authorities asserting "that through circumcision, from the moment of its institution, remission of original and actual sin was granted by God to children and adults, just as it is now granted through baptism" (c7). Peter is not convinced, however, that circumcision plays a unique and irreplaceable role, in part because such a remedy against sin would not have been available to women. The view which he prefers is that the men who issued from Abraham were justified by circumcision, and the women by faith and good work, either their own, if they were adults, or their parents', if they were little. As for those who lived before circumcision, children were justified by the faith of their parents, and parents by the power of sacrifices, namely the power which they perceived spiritually in those sacrifices (c8).

Baptism and Confirmation

As for the sacraments of the New Law, there are seven of them: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, extreme unction, orders, marriage. Although these are all sacraments, they can be functionally differentiated because "some offer a remedy against sin and confer helping grace, like baptism; others are only a remedy, like marriage; others fortify us with grace and virtue, like the Eucharist and orders" (dist. 2 c 1 n1).

God could have instituted these sacraments of justice and salvation immediately after the fall, but he did not because "the sacraments of grace were not to be given before the coming of Christ, who brought grace; it is from his death and passion that they acquired their power" (c1 n2). Moreover, it made pedagogical sense that Christ should not come until men had become convinced that the natural and the written laws were not sufficient to assist them. Marriage is a special case: it existed in great dignity even before the fall; after sin, it became a remedy against concupiscence (c1 n3).

With regards to baptism, the first question to arise is the nature of the baptism administered by John the Baptist. It worked for penance, but it did not confer remission of sin, as does Christ's baptism (cc2-3). The utility of John's baptism lay in preparing men for Christ's baptism, and so it was from God, even if it did not confer inward grace (c4). It may even be called a sacrament in the same way as the signs of the Old Law (c5). And yet it is not quite like those signs because it was given in the name of Christ who was to come, and so those who received it with faith in the Trinity did not need to be baptized again with Christ's baptism; it was sufficient that they receive the Holy Spirit by the imposition of the Apostles' hands (c6 n3). But those who had received John's baptism without knowledge of the Holy Spirit were afterwards re-baptized in Christ's name (c6 n2).

These preliminary considerations set the stage for the definition of Christ's baptism, which is first defined in the most general terms as "an exterior washing of the body made under a prescribed form of words" (dist. 3 cl n2). If either of these two elements is lacking, there is no baptism; other ceremonies and observances, on the other hand, do not pertain to the essence of the sacrament and have only been added for solemnity (el nn2-3).

The preferred form of words for the celebration of Christian baptism is that which Christ himself gave to the disciples, commanding them to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (c2). But the Apostles at times baptized only in the name of Christ; this will do, if the Trinity is thereby understood (c3). It may be that baptism is also properly conferred, if only the Father or the Holy Spirit is named, so long as the Trinity is thereby understood (c4 nnl-3). But this is true only if the one baptizing does not hold perverse beliefs and has no intention of fomenting error, otherwise the person is taken to have no intention to baptize (c4 nn3-4). Given the possible difficulties and uncertainties, it is safest to use the Trinitarian formula, with care being exercised not to say 'in the names' (c4 n5). This last flaw is sufficient to invalidate the baptism.

The Eucharist

Confirmation could be dispatched briefly, in part because the problems which might have been raised in connection with it had already been discussed under baptism, to which confirmation is connected especially closely as a sacrament of initiation. Although no less closely tied to baptism, the Eucharist had been the subject of much speculation in its own right, and that is one reason why it will receive a much richer treatment in Distinctions 8-13. But a more important reason for this richness is that Peter regards the Eucharist as the summit of Christian life and the occasion for the closest union of the believer with Jesus in this world. The very opening of his discussion of the Eucharist points out both this sac-. rament's link to baptism and its own great excellence in perfecting what is received at baptism:

We are cleansed by baptism; we are perfected in the good by the Eucharist. Baptism extinguishes the ardour of the vices; the Eucharist restores us spiritually. And so it is excellently called 'Eucharist,' that is, good grace, because in this sacrament not only is there an increase of virtues and grace, but he who is the fount and origin of all grace is wholly received (dist. 8 cl).

Like baptism, the Eucharist was prefigured in the Old Testament. The manna which fed the Hebrews in the desert, the blood of the Easter lamb, the bread and wine which Melchisedech gave to Abraham were all prefigurations of the Eucharist (c2). In particular, the blood of the lamb and the blood and water flowing from the side of Christ on the cross. This redeeming blood and cleansing water that free us from the devil and sin continue their work in the Eucharist (c2 n3). And the case of Melchisedech shows that Christian sacraments came before those of the Jews (c2 n4).

The closeness of Easter lamb and Eucharist is confirmed by the fact that Jesus instituted the sacrament at the Last Supper, "when, after the prefigurative lamb, he offered his body and blood to his disciples at supper" (c3). The form of the sacraments are Christ's very words: This is my body; this is my blood. As soon as these words have been said, "the change of the bread and wine into the substance of the body and blood of Christ occurs; the rest is said to the praise of God" (c4).

In the Church, the Eucharist is received while fasting, but Christ gave it to his disciples after the eating of the Easter lamb. This does not contradict the practice of fasting. Christ gave it as he did in order to show that the sacraments of the Old Law were coming to an end, to be replaced by those of the new, "principal among which is the mystery of the Eucharist" (c5 n1). But Christ left the Church free to decide whether to require fasting for subsequent celebrations of the sacrament, and the universal Church now thinks it best to require fasting so that this food should be distinguished from all other food (c5 n2).

In the sacrament of the Eucharist, the visible sign are the species of the bread and the wine, which retain their form even after the consecration (c6). A second element of this sacrament is Christ's very flesh because, under the species of bread and wine, "the thing contained and signified is the flesh of Christ, which he derived from the Virgin, and the flood, which he shed for us" (c7 n1). A third element, signified and not
contained within the species, is Christ's mystical body, the Church of
"those who are predestined, called, justified, and glorified" (c7 n1). The species of bread and wine signify and have the likeness of both bodies, "for just as bread restores and sustains the body more than other foods, and wine gives joy to and inebriates a man, so the flesh of Christ, more than other graces, spiritually restores and nourishes the interior man" (c7 n2). Similarly, as many grains make up the one bread and many grapes the wine, many faithful make up the one Church (c7 nn2-4).

Outwardly, all who approach the Eucharist, whether they are good or wicked, appear to receive the same thing, but inwardly it is not so; hence, there are said to be two ways of eating the Eucharist. Both the good and the wicked eat it sacramentally, but only the good eat it spiritually (dist. 9 cl n1). Worthy spiritual reception of the Eucharist requires that one be in the unity and concord of the Church. Loving belief and fellowship are inherent to the Eucharist; if the sacrament is received without them, it is received to one's own condemnation (c 1 nn2-4).

The distinction between sacramental and spiritual reception of the Eucharist can make for the erroneous conclusion that, in the case of the wicked, the body and blood of Christ somehow are absent from the Eucharist. Such a conclusion is firmly to be rejected; even the wicked receive "the flesh of Christ derived from the Virgin, and the blood shed for us, but not the mystical flesh, which pertains only to the good" (c2 n1). Of course, the reception of the same Eucharist has different effects for the good and the wicked since it is received "by the good for salvation, and by the wicked for ruin" (c3 n3).


There is a certain counterintuitive elegance in ending reflection on the Eucharist with a consideration of heresy. If the Eucharist particularly is the sacrament of unity, and heresy is the cultivation of division, then Peter is completing his exposition of the Eucharist by a sort of negative definition of the same. Furthermore, since heresy is the ultimate breach of the discipline which the Church's penitential practices are meant to foster, this brief consideration of it suitably introduces the large topic of penance, which will occupy Peter for the next nine Distinctions. That Peter's treatment of penance should be so extensive reflects both the complex richness of the tradition which he inherits, and the importance which the practice of penance had acquired in Christian life in the course of Christian time.

The centrality of penance/repentance (the term poenitentia means both) in the Christian Gospel is hard to escape. As Peter points out, Christ's ministry is prepared by John the Baptist's relentless preaching of penance, and itself begins with the proclamation of the necessity for repentance (dist. 14 c1 n3).4 But it is possible to read these proclamations of repentance as regarding the conversion of life which is to precede and find its perfection in baptism. The possibility of a formal practice of penance after baptism, especially on the part of Christians who had lapsed during persecution, had divided the early Church. The long and acrimonious debate on this topic had lead to the establishment of a well-defined practice by which a believer who had committed a wrong as heinous as apostasy might be allowed to make a public procla mation of his guilt and repentance, and to enter the state of penitent for a number of years, or even the rest of his life. Aided by the Church's prayers and penitential practices, he might eventually be restored to communion by the bishop. The same process might be followed for the public commission of wrongs such as adultery and homicide. More tangled is the question of what was required of a sinner who had committed these wrongs secretly. Statements regarding the latter situation would eventually constitute authorities for connecting the practice of private confession to the older statements and practice pertaining to public penance.

It seems probable that private penance (an unhappy expression, liable to be misunderstood!) owes much to the spread of monasticism and the originally voluntary practice of making known one's difficulties and sins to a venerable person who was recognized to have the gift of discernment of spirits. It is not infrequent in the history of Christian piety that practices which first develop among 'specialists' are eventually extended to the whole Christian people. The practice of confession is one of the more noteworthy examples of this phenomenon.

By the Lombard's day, the reflection of the early Church on penance had been passed down along with the twin concern not to make for despair by denying the possibility of forgiveness of sin after baptism, nor to make for easy confidence of remission and encouragement of sin by the repetition of penance. The actual practice of public penance, however, although preserved in some liturgical observances in some of the Churches, had largely disappeared. The practice of private confession, on the other hand, had become widespread, presenting the learned expert with the task of answering how it related to older concerns and practices. How was one to accommodate its emphasis on introspection for the sake of ascetical progress with the older, and still pressing, concerns for the regulation of scandalous behaviour? And what of ancient prohibitions against the repetition of penance? And what about those who would delay penance until the last possible moment? And, perhaps most troublesome of all what about the role of the minister of penance? All these questions had become more pressing as the schoolmasters had increasingly come to the awareness that the practice of penance presented a particularly privileged occasion for the inculcation of truth as well as a testing-ground of their efforts to provide better instruction for the whole Christian people. Here was the forum where their teaching could most directly meet life and make for conversion.

The pastoral concern underlying the discussion of penance is well-expressed by Peter with the pithy introductory statement: "Penance is necessary for those who are far away, so that they may draw near" (c1 n1). The expression well conveys the humble reticence with which one ought to return from the ancientness of sin to take up once again the newness of life which baptism had originally conferred. As baptism is the plank which enables one to survive the shipwreck caused by Adam's sin, penance is the second plank allowing one to recover from the shipwreck of one's own sin after baptism; as the baptized tend to fall more than once, but cannot be baptized more than once, they are allowed the use of this second plank as often as necessary.

Although penance is obviously linked to baptism and dependent on it, there is a hint that penance is in some sense superior to baptism because "baptism is a sacrament only, but penance is called both a sacrament and a virtue of the mind. For there is an inner penance, and an outward one. The exterior one is the sacrament; the interior one is the virtue of the mind; and each of these is a cause of justification and salvation" (c1 n2).

The distinction between inner and outward penance which Peter is outlining here can be rendered by the difference in meaning between penance and repentance, where the latter is, in effect, synonymous with contrition. This distinction makes the point that, while baptism can be conferred on a passive recipient (e.g. a child), penance is pointless, if the one who receives this sacrament has not already experienced and practiced contrition for sin in his own heart. To place this distinction at the beginning of the extended discussion of penance also makes clear immediately the ascetical concern for progress in the spiritual life which has come to characterize reflection on penance.'

The virtue of penance has its beginning in a salubrious fear which leads to a desire to punish the wrongs one has committed so as to make progress toward salvation (c2 n1). This punishment, to be authentic in its concern for salvation, must include the intention not to commit the same wrong again (c2 n2). An immoderate view of this last requirement has led some to conclude that anyone who fails to abide by the purpose not to sin again never truly had that purpose and so never did true penance (c2 n3). Those who reach this conclusion do not seem to lack for authorities, which Peter duly sets out (c2 nn4-6). Remarkably, this little dossier of texts condemning the repetition of sins which one has already repented concludes with an ill-fitting assertion by Ambrose: "It is of great profit to have renounced error: to correct souls imbued with vices and draw them away from these pertains to perfect virtue and heavenly grace" (c2 n7)...

Peter approaches the conclusion of his extended treatment of penance by raising the question of the reviviscence of sin. If it is true, as he has repeatedly asserted, that remission of sin occurs as a result of true contrition of heart, before confession or satisfaction, then "it is asked whether the remitted sins return, if one despised to make confession after contrition of heart, or fell into the same or similar sin" (dist. 22 c1 n1). The question is a perplexing one, and there is no lack of authorities which seem to support the view that sins return, if the sinner is contemptuous of the mercy which he has received (el nn1-7). Those who disagree with this view argue that it makes God seem unjust and raises the spectre of double jeopardy (c1 n8). Peter does not regard the last as a serious objection in the absence of worthy satisfaction and perseverance on the sinner's. part (c1 n9). Yet others argue that talk of sins returning is to be read as signifying that, as a result of the sinner's ingratitude, he is made as guilty as he was before (c1 n10). Since these various arguments all enjoy authoritative support, Peter concludes: "I leave the judgement to the judicious reader, adding that it would be safer for me and safer for salvation to eat the crumbs under the masters' table".

With a striking methodological lesson, now that he has canvassed all the minutiae of penance, Peter is willing to offer what one might have expected at the beginning of this protracted discussion, namely a definition of the sacrament of penance. Given the general definition of a sacrament as a sign of a sacred thing, what is the sign and what the sacred thing in penance? (c2 n1). It is the view of some that the sacrament is outward penance, "which is the sign of inner penance, namely of contrition of heart and humiliation" (c2 n2). If one were to accept this view, one would have to conclude that not every sacrament effects that which it signifies, since it is the inner penance which causes the outward one (c2 n3). To this, the proponents of the primacy of outward penance reply that only the sacraments of the New Testament effect that which they signify; this is not true of those sacraments, like marriage and penance, which were instituted with our first parents. Others hold that inward and outward penance jointly constitute the one sacrament of penance. As with the Eucharist, "so also in this sacrament they say that the sacrament alone is one thing, namely outward penance; another is sacrament and thing, namely inward penance; another is thing and not sacrament, namely the remission of sins" (c2 n5). Wonderfully, Peter refuses to make explicitly clear which of these various opinions he regards as the most correct one.

The extensive discussion of penance is followed by the mercifully brief treatment of the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, "which is done at the end of life with oil consecrated by the bishop" (dist. 23 c 1).14 The specific treatment of this sacrament is preceded by a brief reminder that anointing does not occur exclusively in this sacrament, and that one may distinguish three kinds of anointing. The first, "because in it principally is the Paraclete given" (c2), is performed with a mixture of oil and balsam; this mixture alone is to be called chrism. Bishops use chrism in anointing kings and bishops at their consecration; the priest uses chrism in baptism, and the bishop applies it in confirmation. The second anointing is that of catechumens before their baptism. The third anointing is the one "which is called the oil of the sick, of which we now treat" (c2).

On the authority of the Epistle of James, the anointing of the sick is asserted to have been instituted by the Apostles (c3 n1). So long as it is received with faith and devotion, this sacrament serves "for the remission of sins, and for the relief of bodily infirmity" (c3 n2), if it is expedient that the sick person should be so relieved. In a formulation reminiscent of his insistence on the centrality of inward contrition in penance, Peter defines the thing of this sacrament as consisting in the inner anointing "which is brought about by the remission of sins and the increase of virtues" (c3 n3). The outer anointing constitutes the sacrament. Although reception of this sacrament is not compulsory, its omission by contempt or negligence "is dangerous and damnable" (c3 n3).

The most controverted topic regarding this sacrament had been that of its repeatability. Peter reports the various arguments of those who held that it could not be repeated (c4 nnl-2, 4-6). He does not find them compelling. If this anointing is a remedy for illness, then it may be repeated as often as illness occurs (c4 n3).

Sacred Orders"

Peter moves next to treat of the sacrament of ordination, by which clerics are established and distinguished in the Church. Within the clerical state, there are seven "degrees or orders of spiritual offices, as is plainly handed down by the sayings of the holy Fathers and as is shown by the example of our Lord, namely Jesus Christ" (dist. 24 c 1 n2). Christ exemplified each of these orders in the course of his own life and ministry, "and he left the same orders to be kept by his body, which is the Church" (c 1 n2).16 This elegant formulation, in its pithy terms, sets the consideration of orders firmly within the perspective of the imitation of Christ on the part of the clergy. Christ, the head of his body, the Church, is the pattern for the graceful performance of the office which he himself has established for the sake of that body. The pattern cannot be faithfully and fruitfully imitated without the sevenfold grace of the Holy Spirit, which is recalled by the sevenfold distinction of orders. Candidates in whom this grace is not present come to their offices unworthily. But if that grace is present, then, in the reception of orders, they "are believed to receive an increase of that grace in the very act of promotion to the spiritual degree" (c2 n1). With great economy of words, Peter manages here to place orders within a trinitarian context and to present their relevance both to the Church as a whole and to the individual candidate, who takes seriously his call to holiness within the clerical state.

In order that clerics may know their responsibilities and strive to live them in imitation of their Lord, Peter will set down the obligations of each order and point out examples of Christ fulfilling the same responsibilities. This is preceded by the general consideration that it is better to have a few worthy ministers than many unworthy ones. The function of teaching and sanctifying is so important that an unworthy manner of life on the part of clerics cannot but present a grave difficulty (c3 n1).

For Peter, the clerical state is distinguished into seven degrees: doorkeeper, lector, exorcist, acolyte, subdeacon, deacon, and priest (c3 n2). He takes the then unusual position, which will gradually triumph in the Church, that the episcopacy is not a distinct sacred order, but belongs under the priesthood.

Clerics are so named from the Greek word for 'lot,' as if chosen by lot to become the Lord's ministers (c3 n2, c4 n1). They are marked by the shaving of the crown of their head; this 'coronation' signifies their call to be rulers, first of their own selves and then of others in the Church (c4 n1). Their rule is to be undertaken as a service and is to be characterized by their mind being open to God and the divine mysteries; that openness of mind is also symbolized by their tonsure, which points, too, to the heavenly crown that will be theirs, if they hear and understand God's word and carry it out. The practice of tonsure itself is shown to have both Old and New Testament precedents to mark out those set aside for divine service (c4 n2).


Marriage constitutes the social institution and the religious sacrament toward which the attention of twelfth-century schoolmasters seems to have turned most unwaveringly. Their great effort resulted in the formulation of views and practices which have remained at the core of the Western view of marriage into our own times. They are evidence, too, of the thorough-going way in which Western Christianity turned to the task of Christianizing the world outside the monastery and the cloister. This commitment and engagement is reflected in the Lombard's Sentences; seventeen of the Distinctions of Book 4 are devoted to a very detailed consideration of the sacrament of marriage.

peter's presentation of marriage begins with an affirmation of its antiquity and high dignity. The other sacraments were made necessary by in, and would not have been necessary apart from sin, but marriage Was instituted by the Lord even before sin, and yet not for remedy, but for function" (dist. 26 c 1 n1). This original institution of marriage occurred at the creation of woman in paradise, when the man understood that he was called to union with her (el n2). In that original state, human beings "would conceive without ardour and bear without pain" (c2 n1). Marriage was again instituted "after sin, as a remedy, and outside paradise, for the sake of avoiding illicit stirrings; the first, so that nature right be multiplied, and the second so that nature might be rescued and curbed" (c2 n1). Before original sin, sexual union would have happened without lust and would have been a good deed worthy of reward; after sin, this same union does not happen without lust, and so its reprehensible character must be redeemed by the pursuit of the goods of marriage (c2 n3). Before sin, marriage was the fruit of a divine precept; after sin, marriage is allowed by way of indulgence for the avoidance of fornication. Before sin, and at times when the survival of the human race is at stake (e.g. after the Flood), marriage is a precept and meritorious; at other times, it is allowed as a remedy fraught with risk, if one should forget that it needs redemption (c3). But indulgence does not mean the same thing with regard to all the elements of marriage. Marriage itself is one of the lesser goods granted in the New Testament; sexual union even in marriage, if it is moved by incontinence, is a lesser evil which is tolerated (c4).

Nuptials themselves, then, are a good, despite (because of?) the condemnation that some heretics heap upon them (c5 n1). The goodness of marriage itself is evident from its divine institution in Genesis, as also from Christ's presence at the marriage at Cana in Galilee and his concomitant miracle allowing its joyful celebration (c5 n2). Were it not a good thing, Christ would not have forbidden the dismissal of a wife and the Apostle would not have said that it is not a sin; by these authorities, it is established that marriage is a good thing. Otherwise it would not be a sacrament: for a sacrament is a sacred sign" (c5 n2).

The Last Things

With this question, Peter ends his treatment of marriage and of the sacra. ments. His students are now well equipped to handle even the more tech. nical cases that may come before them in whatever capacity they will be called to serve the Church. They will now be able to direct the people for whose souls they will care, and their own selves, to live out their lives in the light of the resurrection, of the judgement, and of the life to come. Reflection on these last things will constitute the conclusion of Peter's monumental work.

These last things have ever been a matter of great curiosity for all sorts of people, but Peter promises only a brief discussion of "the condition of the resurrection, and the manner of the risen, and the quality of judgement and mercy" (dist. 43 c 1 n1). He makes his own Augustine's disclaimer about his ability to satisfy the depth of curiosity on these matters (c1 n2). What cannot be doubted is the Apostle's assertion that, at the angel's trumpet, the Lord will return, the dead in Christ will rise and shall join the living to meet Christ and remain with their Lord. By this certain authority, "both the truth of the resurrection and the cause and order of those who rise again are indicated most clearly" (c 1 n3).

The trumpet signifies Christ's voice, or perhaps an angelic one commissioned to provide this sign and cause of the resurrection (c2 nnl-2). No one should presume to know when this sign will come, except to say that it will come unexpectedly (c3). When it does, the consciences of all shall become manifest to all (c4 n1). Indeed, each one's conscience shall become fully manifest to himself and he will recall all his own works, so that "by its testimony each may be saved or damned" (c4 n2).

Since the recollection of evil deeds and troubles may impair the joy of the elect, it is usual to ask whether they will retain memory of such deeds (c5 nn1-2). Peter thinks it more likely that they will, but that these memories now lack all power to wound and sadden them; indeed, "it will not be for them a pain or a derogation of glory, but an occasion for giving thanks" (c5 n3). On the other hand, Peter does not feel bound to hold that the sins of the saints will be revealed to others. He prefers to think "that those sins which have been revealed and blotted out here through penance, will not be revealed there to others; but other evils will be made public to all" (c5 n4). Could there be a more effective and pressing inducement to penance?

The authorities are uncertain regarding whether those who are alive at Christ's coming will have to die (c6 nn1-5); Peter offers the lapidary reflection that "as to which of these may be more true, it does not pertain to human judgement to define it" (c6 n5). Certainly, the issue is not determined by the assertion that he will come to judge 'the living and the dead'; this expression is capable of other interpretations, such as identifying the just and the unjust (c7 nl).

All will rise with incorruptible bodies, but not impassible ones; the wicked need to be able to suffer, and so "they shall not be clothed in the glory and beauty of impassibility.

Another common question concerns the age and stature the risen bodies will have (dist. 44 c 1 n1). Peter believes that all, both men and women, will have fullness of powers; he doubts that they must all have the same bodily stature. The bodies of the saints shall rise free of all deformity and at the peak of their powers, "nor will anything perish from the substance out of which human flesh is created, but the natural substance of the body shall be restored by the gathering of all its formerly dispersed particles" (c3 n2). It is not equally certain that the bodies of the reprobate shall arise free of deformity (c4), but they shall have bodies capable of burning without being consumed, and they will have souls capable of suffering without dying (c5). Nor are demons exempt from the corporeal fire (c6 n1), but this fire's exact nature is unknowable, except by the illumination of the Holy Spirit (c6 n2).

Do reprobate souls begin to suffer from this fire immediately after death, or only after their bodies have been restored at the resurrection? (c7 nl). Scriptural authority suggests that the soul begins to suffer immediately after death (c7 nn2-3).

Formed and aborted foetuses, as well as those born with monstrous deformities, shall rise again free of all deformity and in the fullness or their powers (c8 nn1-3).

Immediately after death, the saved go to joy and the reprobate to torments; both joy and torment will increase at the resurrection, each in its own place (dist. 45 c 1 nn1-2). But there are those among the dead who are neither so good nor so wicked that they cannot be helped by the suffrages of the living. For these in particular, it is good to observe the practices which the Church makes available for the commendation of the dead (c2 nn1-2). Even the reprobate may be aided by these practices to make their condemnation more bearable (c2 n2). This does not mean that one ought to desire an ostentatious burial; such a thing may help the living, but it does nothing for the dead (c3 n1). And yet to bury the dead remains a work of piety, particularly if it is accompanied by offerings and Prayers (c3 n2).

In an affectionate recollection of Peter Lombard, Pope Benedict XVI, at his last public audience of 2009, referred to the fourth book of the Sentences as "among the most important contributions offered by Peter Lombard to the history of theology." It is heartening to have such an august and acute appreciation of a book on whose translation one has expended so much effort, as also of the exemplarily whole vision of. Christian doctrine which Peter brought to his entire task.

My cohabitation with Peter Lombard has been unexpected, long, and most joyous. To have come to its end cannot be an unmixed pleasure. But it is a pleasure entirely unmixed to consider once more the great debts of gratitude which the project has engendered. At the end, as at the beginning, it is a pious and pleasant duty to invoke the memory of Fr. Ignatius Brady, OFM, whose Herculean labours upon the revisions of the Latin text of the Sentences have made my own work pleasant and easy; my thanks are renewed, too, to his brethren, the Frati Editori di Quaracchi, for the "placet" to translate the Sentences from Fr. Brady's edition. May their great enterprise continue to flourish with the same generosity of spirit and love of their own origins within the great body of the Church.

Theses volumes each contain an introduction to Peter and to the Sentences and its particular book, a list of the major chapter headings, and a bibliography.

Excerpt: A story that was already old by`the end of the Middle Ages had it that there had once been three brothers, born of an adulterous union. Their mother, on her deathbed, confessed her sin, and her confessor, noting its gravity, urged her to much sorrow and penance. The woman acknowledged that adultery is a great sin, but professed an inability to feel compunction, in view of the great good that had come of it, since each of her sons had be­come a luminary in the Church. The confessor agreed that her sons had done much useful work for the Church, but this had been God's gift; her contribution had been the commission of adultery, and for this she ought to sorrow, or at least she ought to sorrow at her inability to feel sorrow. The three brothers born of this unrepented sin were Peter Comestor, Gra­tian, and Peter Lombard.'

The story is charming. Although there is no literal truth to it, and prob­ably there never was meant to be, it makes important I points. The three "brothers" had been twelfth-century contemporaries; acting without insti­tutional authority ("adulterous birth"), they had made signal contributions to the Church, becoming, in turn, "fathers" of the sciences of biblical studies, canon law, and theology. And that there should be relatively little interest in the actual details of their lives was fitting, too, because each of them really stood for a book: Peter Comestor his Scholastic History, Gratian for his Decretum, and Peter Lombard for his Sentences. From the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries and beyond, the study of each of these books would serve to initiate successive generations of practitioners in their respective sciences.

The books and their authors mark the emergence of scholars and schol­arship to a new position of prominence in the Western Church and Western society. They also mark a growing specialization within scholarship and the development of programs and methods of study suitable to the forma­tion of scholars who no longer benefited`from, and were no longer re­strained by, participation in the monastic routine. Although they made monastic learning their own, these scholars felt called not to abandon the world, but to change it. Heirs and beneficiaries of the great debates begun by the reformers of the previous century, they turned with glee to the task of bringing out both the doctrinal coherence and the practical application of the Christian intellectual inheritance.

This task was carried out in a great variety of intellectual centres across the breadth of Christian Europe. For the crucial discipline of theology, Paris, in the first half of the twelfth century, seized the preeminence which it was to retain throughout the rest of the Middle Ages and beyond. It was there that, in those years, a rapid development brought together a body of independent masters following essentially the same method of elucidating different areas of the learned work of the past, and instructing pupils who would carry on the task of elaborating a complete system of knowledge about Nature and the purpose of God in creating the world; about the varied disciplines which would lead to the redemption of fallen humanity as a result of the Incarnation and the establishment of the Church; and which ultimately would embrace every aspect of the supernatural and natural worlds in the light of the divine pur­pose and in relation to all aspects of human life.

One of these independent masters was Peter Lombard. He made several signal contributions to this great task, the most lasting of which was the compilation of the Sentences. In it, the advances in the disciplined study of the Christian tradition of the previous decades found their most influ­ential deployment.

The work and treasure which would win Peter a place in Dante's Paradise is the Sentences." It is, as de Ghellinck so well puts it, one of the para­mount achievements of a theological movement that had lasted for almost a century, and one that would mark all subsequent theological teaching.".

The composition of the Sentences was probably protracted, and may well have occupied most of Peter's teaching activity. Its most ancient manuscript is dated by its scribe to 1158, and its redaction has been vari­ously dated to the early to middle 1150s.' In an eloquent prologue, the Lombard sets out the reasons and purposes which have engaged him in this great labour. Given that this is one of the few places in which Peter speaks forthrightly more or less in the first person, it seems worthwhile to pay close attention to it in order to discern what he thought he had achieved in the Sentences and for what ends.

But before we examine the prologue, a fundamental methodological question ought to be addressed. It is not uncommon for contemporary scholars to reject prologues as useless and unreliable rhetorical exercises, comprised, as they often are, of topoi, or traditional commonplaces, which have little to say that is true or revealing of the author's real skills and intentions. Such a view seems absurdly reductionist. The supply of topoi to which a skilled writer can have recourse is large, and the very choice of some commonplaces over others can be instructive. In any case, recourse to such rhetorical devices relies on the view that their validity is widely shared, and so, at the very least, is a witness to what the broad consensus of a specific age regarded as obvious truths. It follows that one ought to ap­proach such statements of intention and achievement with attentiveness.

With an image which Dante was to find powerful 150 years later," Peter describes the Sentences as analogous to the offering which the Gos­pels depict a poor widow as making to the Temple treasury (Prologue, §1, below, p. 3). If Peter stresses his supposed limitations ("poverty") by this evangelical allusion, he also tacitly emphasizes his generosity in offering a seemingly poor work, which, he is certain, Christ will regard more kind­ly than the more showy donations of other masters. And when the task had proved too demanding, Peter sustained himself with the reflection that, just as the Good Samaritan had promised to repay the innkeeper in whose care he had entrusted the half-dead traveller, so God would reward Peter for his efforts (Prol. § 1, p. 3). One wishes that Peter had clarified who, in his reading, is the half-dead traveller; the most likely candidates seem to be Peter's students, and anyone else who would draw profit from the Sen­tences, or from the ministry of those who will have read the book to be­come more effective in the pastoral care. Dante was right: it was to the Church's treasury that Peter was making an offering of his Sentences, just as it was "the zeal for the house of God" (Prol. §1, p. 3) which had allowed him to overcome moments of discouragement in the long effort to complete his work.

Even the brief first paragraph of the prologue to the Sentences, upon careful reading, seems to be much more than a conventional profession of humility by means of topoi. Peter is making the bold assertion that he has completed a work which had seemed nearly impossible because of its great scope and depth. It has tested its author to the limits, but holds enor­mous promise for all who have been left half-dead in the Church. Though the form of the work is deceptively poor, its substance is more welcome to Christ than that of any other work of its kind.

Burning with love for the Church, Peter goes on to assert, he has set out to "protect with the bucklers of David's tower 'our faith against the errors of carnal and brutish men,' or rather, we wish to show that it is already so protected" (Prol. §2, p. 3). This over-arching project to demonstrate how well-protected the Church's faith is carries with it the attempt "to reveal the hidden depths of theological investigations and to an understanding of the Church's sacraments" (Prol. §2, p. 3).

Peter claims to have been moved to this complex undertaking by his inability "legitimately to resist the desire of our brethren devoted to study, who beg us to assist their praiseworthy studies in Christ with our tongue and pen" (Prol. §2, p. 3).

In his commentary on this part of Peter's prologue, Aquinas points that the first two paragraphs are meant to elicit the reader's goodwill by setting out the three motivating causes for undertaking this work:

The first is taken on his own part, namely the desire to be of service in the Church; the second on God's part, namely the promise reward, namely the urgency of the requests of his the third on his neigbour's part students.

Thomas further points out that David here stands for Christ, David's tower is the faith or the Church, and the bucklers of that tower are the authorities of the saints. And the reason why the faith or the Church is said to be already well-protected, asserts Thomas, is that Peter did had not already been discover the reasons which he sets forth, but compiled those that found by others. This is confirmed, according to Thomas, by Peter's use of the expression 'we have put together' to describe his activity in producing the Sentences.

That Peter composed the Sentences at the request of his students has not been universally accepted. Peter's profession of his inability "legitimately to resist the desires of our brethren devoted to study" has sometimes been taken to refer to his colleagues." Such a reading—relying on the unlikelihood of a teacher referring to his students as brethren—betrays an exces­sively hierarchical understanding of the master-student relationship, which may well fit other periods and contexts, but fails to acknowledge the ex­tent to which, in the twelfth-century schools, that relationship could be an intimate and affectionate one. Aquinas had no difficulty in reading fratres as referring to Peter's socii, the classic twelfth-century term by which mas­ters refer to their students.' And we know that Peter took the requests of his students seriously, since, in 1158-1159, having just completed his mas­sive work, he gave up the opportunity to teach it, and yielded instead to his students' wish to study exegetical works that year."

If I have examined the use of the word 'brethren' in depth, it is because the interpretation of that term will affect how one reads the rest of Peter's prologue and how one views the nature and purposes of the Sentences. The reading of fratres as colleagues tends to reinforce the view that Peter composed his work in order to respond effectively to challenges to faith inside and outside the schools and the Church.' Although the Sentences, like so much else that is written by the masters of the twelfth and thir­teenth centuries, can also be used that way, it seems unwarranted and re­ductive to restrict the work to such instrumental and contingent purposes. Such readings of medieval Christian reflection are not infrequent, and end up reducing the whole rich enterprise to one protracted anti-heretical spasm. Without wishing to minimize the concern with heresy, which has at various times legitimately been a prominent one for Christian teachers and other bearers of Church authority, it also seems important not to ap­peal to it as the deus ex machina which explains all Christian history and reflection upon it. A more pressing and ubiquitous concern must surely have been the effective transmission of the Christian faith and tradition to each new generation of believers, and particularly of their prospective leaders. This appears to be a potentially more fruitful approach to the his­tory of Christian reflection in general, and Peter's Sentences in particular.

With these considerations in mind, we can try to make sense of the next section of Peter's prologue, which consists entirely of an extended citation of Hilary of Poitiers (Prol. §3, pp. 3-4). It opens by noting that all human assertions tend to be met with calumny and envious opposition. The cause of this deplorable state of things resides in the human will. Even wholly truthful statements clash with the willful desires of others and are impious­ly resisted or misconstrued. The remedy for this problem is the submission of the will to reason, and the study of doctrine. But the impious pervert the remedy itself because they cut the words of wisdom down to the measure of their own imaginings. They prefer their own opinions and seek to de­fend them rather than to try to understand the truth. Furthermore, with damnable hypocrisy, they cloak their willful teaching in the words of truth, so that they may seem pious, even as they impiously teach whatever pleases them. "Eager for controversy, they struggle without restraint against the truth. For there is an unceasing battle between the assertion of the truth and the defense of opinion, for so long as truth remains firm and the will to err persists" (Prol. §3, p. 4).

It is difficult not to wish that Peter had chosen an author less opaque than Hilary to convey the concerns at the heart of his enterprise. And yet it seems clear enough that Peter is using Hilary's text to set out the central drama in any effort to educate or to learn, namely the tension between one's opinions and ambitions and the requirements for self-denial which the transmission and reception of any tradition impose. For both teacher and student, education is, or ought to be, a discipline, but an active discipline. If either participant fails to bring to the exercise existential concerns of his own, then the process is likely to prove sterile or worse. But if these personal concerns are allowed to grow too luxuriantly, they undermine the effort to convey and receive a tradition. We tend to class the problems involved under terms like relevance, bias, or prejudice; more shrewdly and profoundly, Peter identifies the problem as residing in the very nature of our will.

This section of the prologue opens with the harsh chastisement of those who have entirely yielded to the desires of their depraved will and have devised a manner of teaching and being which revolves around the legal­istic or Pharisaical insistence that one's desires and the truth are one and the same. But, as the final sentence of the paragraph makes clear, the temptation to do so affects everyone. The risk of confusing truth and one's own desires has to be run by all. The risk can be minimized, but it cannot be avoided, if education is to occur. It is as a way of minimizing this risk in the course of theological education that the Sentences are offered.

The principal way in which it does so is by not putting the author first. Instead, the form of the work privileges "the witnesses of truth established for all eternity, ... the precedents and teaching of our ancestors" (Prol. §4, p. 4). This is its main advantage and utility: that all one needs to engage in what is coming to be called theology has been culled from the previous thousand years and more of Christian reflection and has been made availa­ble in one place. Because the positive assertion of the faith enshrined in these witnesses and precedents exposes the falsehood of a deceptive man­ner of teaching and offers safeguard from the risk of impiety, Peter is freed to speak in the first person, whenever he finds it necessary. The promise and invitation is for the reader to do the same. By mastering the tradition which Peter has so usefully put together, the reader can become a ques­tioner and a participant in the endless process of describing what the Chris­tian tradition has been in the past, what it is in the present, and what it may become in the future.

Our reading of Peter's prologue has suggested a number of things. In deep humility before God, Peter claims to have composed a difficult and important work, whose form may mislead the reader about its greatness and utility. The work has been produced for the sake of the Church, in or­der to provide a necessary instrument for the education of its prospective ministers and leaders. Experience has shown that such education is risky, as it necessarily must be, since it entails a conversion of the will on the part of teachers and students. But the risk is necessary and manageable, if one has an adequate method to bring to the educational enterprise. The Sentences are proposed as the embodiment of such a method because they combine the necessary piety and respect for what has gone before with a balanced conviction about the necessity for freedom and the dignity of the questioner in the present.

The form of the work has indeed proved misleading, not least to modern readers. As a result, one recurring question has concerned whether Peter could be called an author at all, since he seems to be a mere compiler. More recently, the question has taken the form of whether Peter made a contribution at all, let alone an indispensable one, to the formation of sys­tematic theology. In its earlier form, the question was already widespread at the time that Bonaventure wrote his Summa on the Sentences. Bonaven­ture's answer to such criticism is that Peter compiled authorities in order to buttress his own arguments, and so is truly an author. His view does not seem to be shared widely by those who have turned to Peter's work in more recent times.

It must be said that much of the scholarly discussion about the nature of Peter's enterprise, authorship, and originality seems to be beside the point. More often than not, these discussions, like that of Bonaventure himself (who had a better excuse for it), appear to proceed from the vantage-point of the certainties of the mid-thirteenth century. Let it be granted without compunction that Peter's Sentences do not bear comparison with the great summae of the thirteenth century, if those summae are regarded as the standard by which theological achievement is to be measured. But they could not have been written without the Sentences and, insofar as they sidestep the problems which had troubled Peter, they may well fail to meet the aims which Peter had regarded as crucial to Christian learning and life. It may at least be wondered whether the eventual and current irrelevance of much theology, even in the life of the Church, is not tied to a turn toward synthesis and an excessive concern with making one's original mark on the discipline in the eyes of one's professional colleagues. These were some of the very pitfalls which Peter's approach was meant to avoid.


It may be that the attempt to understand Peter and his Sentences is hin­dered, if one regards his work as a theology book and examines it by comparison to later theological books, whether medieval or modern. If comparisons must be made, then, perhaps, it might be fruitful to take a legal casebook as a modern analogy that can illuminate the nature and purposes of the Sentences. The author of a modern legal casebook is not in doubt about the relevance of his discipline. Since the evidence is all around him that jurisprudence is of crucial importance in the life of his society and culture, he will not spend much time in the exposition of large syntheses and apologies for his work. Nor will he doubt that the task of initiating young people in the mysteries of jurisprudence is one of great dignity. This process of initiation does not aim to have the young person memorize and spout back the author's views, nor is it desirable that the student master 'black letter' law. Indeed, if the author is worth his salt, the student will have some difficulty discerning what the author's view on many subjects may be.

At the core of the casebook will be not the author's desiderata regarding the law, but the authorities. Statute law will have its niche, but pride of place will belong to judicial decisions, largely because these are less clear and synthetic than statute law and so better exemplify the seemingly contradictory goods that must be balanced in legal reasoning. Deciding which judicial decisions are sufficiently significant and instructive to become the source of legal doctrine is not a straightforward process. It is not simply a matter of the place of the deciding tribunal in the judicial hierarchy, since the decisions of courts of first instance stand more or less on an equal footing with those of the most exalted Supreme Courts. More puzzling still, the opinions of one losing dissenters can stand next to the unanimous decisions of great tribunals, and sometimes come back to carry the day.

The author of a good casebook is humbly reticent. It is not for him to trumpet his own views on all sorts of legal topics, and yet he claims and exercises the great authority to decide which, of the endless number of judicial decisions that are published every day, have important jurispru­dential implications and should be taken to exemplify some issue or prob­lem in the law from whose study students and judges can profit.

Behind this magisterial activity stands the conviction that the law, as it has developed and as it continues to develop, makes sense, at times in a peculiar way all its own. The author of the casebook claims to have grasped the logic of the system and so to be able to discern which deci­sions, old and new, best exemplify that logic. In the comments which he will intersperse in his casebook, he will strive to make clear the import of each authority and, if his choices are not too eccentric, he will be able to point to other learned persons who share his views regarding its meaning and weight. At times, he may find himself in the minority, or even alone, and then, if he is truly convinced of the soundness of his own position, he will have to let his own voice ring out and make the case that others are wrong and he is right.

If the casebook is any goodl the student will become an active partici­pant in the exercise almost immediately. After having introduced the basic attitudes and skills required of those who would engage in legal reasoning, the casebook will present a sufficiently complex and problematic array of views on any given issue that the student will quickly gain some sense of how the current law on some issue has developed, against what other claims, and at the cost of what other possibilities. If the student eventually becomes a legal practitioner, these considerations may move into the back­ground and his attention might focus more narrowly on the law currently in force, but the problem-based approach to issues will remain. As the cultivation of this approach has been the principal aim of education in the law, it will also be appreciated by those who regard legal training as good preparation for social, political, and cultural engagements of all kinds.


The Sentences are divided into four books. Book 1 treats of God as Trinity; Book 2 is concerned with creation, the angels, the fall, and grace; Book 3 addresses the reparation of fallen humankind by the Incarnation of the Word, as well as the virtues, vices, and commandments; Book 4 presents the sacraments and the last things. Apart from this division into books, the Sentences, as it left Peter's hand, appears only to have been subdivided in­to chapters and to have contained rubrics. The division into Distinctions was devised in the early thirteenth century in response to the needs of in­struction in the schools, and even in the middle of the thirteenth century there was no unanimity on where some of the Distinctions should end and others begin. Additional authorities were occasionally added some apparently by Peter, others not in a process of gradual accretion that is not untypical of important school texts. There is, in other words, a certain open-endedness about the work, even in its formal structure, which may be one of the reasons for its success.

The more important reason for its influence is its 'debates which as it have attempts to provide balanced syntheses of theological  preceded it. The selection of topics, the reports on the consensus and dissensions of the masters regarding one topic or another, serve as a quick overview of the discipline of theology in one of its most formative periods, and, as we have already remarked, invite the student to become a participant in these debates almost as soon as he begins his studies.' The concomitant choice to privilege the sentences, or selections from the Fathers, in part dictated as it may have been by the debates of the dialecticians within the discipline, does also have the effect of moderating the importance of these same dialecticians. In the end, it is the Fathers and the doctors of old who are presented as the yard-stick against which contemporary debates must measure themselves. There is a willingness on Peter's part, to say that some topics will prove for rational investigation.

For all the formal preeminence of the Fathers in the Sentences, Peter's selection of their texts does not appear to reading of their texts ex novo and in their integrity: that would have been too eccentric. The texts which Peter presents are largely those which the schoolmen have already designated as the significant ones. Abelard's Sic et non and Graban's Decretum are two of the great collections mined by the Lombard in his production of his own patristic anthology. This process of composition may have helped in establishing, or keeping, Augustine (together with pseudo-Augustine) as the single most important voice to be heard over and over again; it can be said with some justification that the Sentences consist of Augustinian texts.  And this, too, is a mark of the `middleness' of Peter's work and a reason for its influence.' But the greatest such cause is the usefulness of the work. Even if, despite its author's assertion, it would not quite make recourse to other books unnecessary, it did present a brief and clear summary of Christian doctrine, and it collec­ted in one place most of the texts which everyone had come to regard as crucial in the development of that doctrine. The Sentences also presented a very comprehensive collection of the questions which school masters raised, discussed, and settled or failed to settle in their classrooms." Although it may seem to us surprising that a mistrust of indiscreet curios­ity should go hand in hand with a profound sense of the open-endedness of the theological enterprise, that is what the book claimed, and that is the reason it was successfully used in the schools for many generations, to the point that the basic theological course of Faculties of Theology almost into the 1960s would still be marked by the division of topics devised in the Sentences.

As we do not tire of saying, the early success of the work may also have owed much to Peter's qualities as a teacher and as a man; nebulous as these may be to us, they must have been there to explain the unusual elec­tion of an Italian to the bishopric of Paris and the loyalty which Peter enjoyed from his former students even long after his death. And yet the work was not without its opponents and its success was not immediately complete. Although the opposition to the work was probably grounded in differences of opinion as to the best method to teach theology, it found vociferous expression with regard to the orthodoxy of some of Peter's views. In particular, Peter's Christological views came under attack, be­cause of the question of 'whether Christ, according to his being a man, is a person or anything.' The issue of the orthodoxy of Peter's views in this regard became the subject of animated discussion at a very large council held at Tours by Pope Alexander III in 1163. Although no decision was then reached, on 24 December 1164, after convening an assembly at Sens of more, it is said, than 3,000 schoolmen, Pope Alexander published a prohibition of the discussion of 'undisciplined questions in theology,' and he charged the bishop of Paris with seeing that the prohibition was enforced throughout France. Then, on 2 June 1170, he wrote several French bishops, asking them to stop the propagation of terror.  `Christ, according to his being a man, is not anything.' Alexander’s the condemnation of this view in 1177, in a letter to the archbishop of Rheims which then made it into the Decretals of Gregory IX.

The Sentences continued to find enemies throughout the rest of the twelfth century; the enmity culminated with the attack on the orthodoxy of Peter's teaching on the Trinity by Joachim of Fiore. It was this attack eventually occasioned a most significant triumph for the Sentences. The Council Lateran IV, in 1215, was requested to adjudicate the accusation; it declared that it believed and confessed the same was Trinitarian faith as hence forth Peter Lombard. With such a seal of approval the work became unassailable. Although the masters in the schools eventually agreed that some of Peter's positions are not tenable, no further reflection was cast on the orthodoxy of Peter and his work.'

The vindication of Peter Lombard's faith at Lateran IV was a resounding confirmation of the pervasive presence which the Sentences achieved almost from the moment of their publication. As early as 1158, the work had been copied at Clairvaux and it is known to have been among the holdings of several monastic libraries in the latter half of the twelfth cen­tury. As early as the 1160s, the text was glossed and commented on in the schools; it was also soon excerpted, abbreviated, and versified."

Even more striking and important is the fact that, beginning in the 1170s, teachers like Peter of Poitiers start to comment formally on the Sentences as an authoritative text, while others, like Peter the Chanter, presuppose a thorough knowledge of the work for an understanding of their own teach­ing. By the 1260s, the religious orders established chairs to be held by commentators on the Sentences, and there is hardly a theologian of note throughout the rest of the Middle Ages who did not write a commentary on the Sentences. Its dominance over theological education was to be almost entirely unchallenged until, in the later fifteenth century, the move began to substitute Aquinas' Summa theologiae—a move which would be far from complete for more than another century. At least nineteen editions of Peter's work were printed before 1500, and dozens more in the course of the next century, while new commentaries on it were still being pro­duced in the eighteenth century. Even when it was replaced as the authori­tative text on which lectures were to be based, the book remained the foundation upon which its substitutes had been raised.'

All this makes evident the important role which the Sentences played in Western intellectual history and its capacity to excite many generations of students and teachers. But it leaves one wondering why the book has re­ceived little attention in more recent times, to the point of becoming "one of the least read of the world's great books.

The relative neglect of Lombard's great book has been explained in a variety of ways, ranging from its being a victim of a visceral antipathy toward scholasticism to a lack of creativity on the part of its author.' As we have more than hinted already, the reason that seems most plausible is that our view of authorship has changed. We tend to like authors who self-assertively speak in the first person singular and who tell us with some de­gree of brazenness how original they are. If this becomes what we require in the books we read, then what were regarded as the virtues of works like Peter's (and, indeed, Gratian's) become vices. If we cannot overcome this odd censoriousness of ours, we will not be able to recapture the sense of satisfaction and enjoyment, even of excitement, that could be engendered in so many students over so many centuries by Peter's invitation to be­come participants in a dialogue that included not only himself, but the best of the interlocutors whom he had been able to find in the whole tradition.

The Story of a Great Medieval Book: Peter Lombard's 'Sentences by Philipp W. Rosemann (Rethinking the Middle Ages: The Story of a Great Medieval Book will be of great interest to students of the history of theology as well as for those interested in intellectual history more generally. In this broadly conceived and accessibly written book, Philipp W. Rosemann surveys the legacy of Peter Lombard in representative commentaries on his Sentences from the twelfth to the early sixteenth century, charting shifts in their literary form and in the commentators' changing views of the theological enterprise itself. As lucid as it is learned, his study succeeds admirably in introducing newcomers to this subject while at the same time mapping the terrain for future research. A distinguished and innovative contribution to the Rethinking the Middle Ages series.

Peter Lombard, a twelfth-century theologian, authored one of the first Western textbooks of theology, the Book of Sentences. Here, Lombard logically arranged all of the major topics of the Christian faith. His Book of Sentences received the largest number of commentaries among all works of Christian literature except for Scripture itself. Now, notable Lombard scholar Philipp W. Rosemann examines this text as a guiding thread to studying Christian thought throughout the later Middle Ages and into early modern times.

Mediaeval Commentaries on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, Volume 2 by Philipp W. Rosemann (Brill Academic) Continuing a project begun in 2002, with the publication of volume 1 of Mediaeval Commentaries on the “Sentences” of Peter Lombard, this volume fills some major lacunae in current research on the standard textbook of medieval theology. Twelve chapters study the tradition of the Sentences, from the first glosses of the twelfth century through Martin Luther’s marginal notes. The questions addressed in these chapters throw light on the history of the Sentences literature as a whole, focusing on changes in literary structure and methodology as much as on matters of textual transmission and doctrinal content. The conclusion synthesizes the individual contributions, succinctly presenting the current state of our knowledge of the main structures that characterize the tradition of the Sentences.



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