“Aquinas the Biblical Theologian” at Ave Maria University

Following last year’s conference on Aquinas and the Greeks, the Aquinas Center at Ave Maria University (Florida), together with the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, founded by Scott Hahn, organized from February 7-9, 2019 another conference on Aquinas, entitled “Aquinas the Biblical Theologian”. The conference brought together more than seventy scholars from all parts of the United States, testifying to the importance of what is being called ‘Biblical Thomism’, the view that Aquinas’ Scriptural exegesis constitutes the soul of his theology and consequently is of vital importance for doing theology today. Or as John Boyle and Scott Hahn noticed in their lectures, such a gathering of scholars working on Aquinas’ biblical exegesis would not have been possible a few decades ago.

This large number of scholars, many of them PhD students and young academicians, analyzed virtually every aspect of Aquinas’ biblical exegesis in all of his biblical commentaries such as the meaning of revelation, prophecy, inspiration, the literal sense, etc. Many topics in theology were also covered such as Christ’s priesthood, the hypostatic union, the Eucharist, sin, creation, etc.

The plenary addresses were given by Michael Dauphinais (Ave Maria University) on the role of Christ in Thomas’ doctrine on revelation, Jörgen Vijgen (Nicolaus Copernicus University) on the use of Scripture to refute heretics, Michael Sirilla (Franciscan University of Steubenville) on the reading of Scripture in his theology and preaching, Randall Smith (University of St. Thomas, Houston) on the influence of biblical exegesis on Aquinas’ preaching, Steven Long (Ave Maria University) on predestination and reprobation, John Boyle (University of St. Thomas, Minnesota) on carnal and spiritual readings of the Bible, Michael Waldstein (Franciscan University of Steubenville) on Aquinas’ division of Scripture and Brant Pitre (The Augustine Institute), arguing that Aquinas’ solution to the question of the date of the Last Supper is congruent with contemporary insights.

The keynote lectures were given by Matthew Levering (Mundelein Seminary), stressing the importance of St. Paul’s and St. Thomas’ insights on sin for the life of the Church today, and Scott Hahn (Franciscan University of Steubenville), emphasizing, on the basis of Thomas’ commentary on Romans, how Aquinas’ thoroughly biblical theology can shape our understanding of the faith.

The many parallel sessions forced one to make difficult choices. Particularly insightful were Mark Foudy’s analysis of Aquinas’ often overlooked commentary on Lamentations, Marcus Peters’ analysis of Christ’s priesthood in his commentary on Hebrews, Veronica Arntz analysis of the biblical sources of the hymn ‘Pange lingua gloriosi’, Michael Hahn’s analysis of the influence of Augustine’s Contra Faustum regarding Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Law, etc.

During the conference the spirit and zeal to work with St. Thomas for the good of the Church was palpable and for this only the organizers at Ave Maria and the St. Paul Center are to be highly commended. Undoubtedly such events are a stimulus for all scholars to continue this line of research. It is to be hoped that a selection of the papers will be published.

Jörgen Vijgen