Aquinas and the Jews Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1406 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

AQUINAS

THOMAS AQUINAS and the JEWS

Thomas Aquinas was now an established theologian but this conclusion has been the result of extensive work in which he was sometimes categorized as a philosopher and at others as specially a Christian philosopher. But close study of scholarly works on Thomas Aquinas including those produced by Gilson, Chenu, Weisheipl, Pesch, Torrell, and others reveal that Aquinas has never been anything other than a philosopher. As Ulrich Kuhn explains, "One misunderstands Thomas from the ground up if one tries to describe him as a philosopher who, in an ancillary way, also tried his hand at revealed theology."(1) Aquinas thus has a lasting influence on theology and no one appears to have had a more profound impact of Christian theology than Aquinas. His most popular work was Summa Theologiae which was highly regarded in Christian circles and was even considered as important or influential as the bible itself. While we know a great deal about Aquinas' views on various Christian issues, not much is known about his views on Jews. For some odd reason, this subject has not been as extensively explored or exhausted as it should have been.

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When discussing this subject, there are some questions that appear pertinent and must be answered. The first being what were Aquinas' views on the Jewish religion and people. The second one would be how Aquinas constructed his views and what exactly were his sources and the how did his views affects persecution of Jews around the world particularly in Europe.

Aquinas, contrary of what some critics might say, appeared sympathetic towards Jews on some occasions. This is clear from his replies to various objections raised by people regarding Old Law, salvation and Jewish people allegedly being the chosen people. For example in reply to the objection that:

TOPIC: Term Paper on Aquinas and the Jews Assignment

Jews could not be saved without observing the Old Law; for it is written (Deut. xxvii. 26): Cursed be he that abideth not in the words of this law, and fulfilleth them not in work. if, therefore, other men could be saved without the observance of the Old Law, the Jews would be in a worse plight than other men. (Aquinas: 813)

Aquinas argued:

The more a man is united to God, the better his state becomes; and so the more the Jewish people were bound to the worship of God, the greater their excellence over other peoples. Hence it is written (Deut. iv. 8): What other nation is there so renowned that hath ceremonies and just judgments, and all the law? In like manner, from this point-of-view, the state of clerics is better than that of the laity, and the state of religious than that of the secular clergy. (Aquinas: 814)

The works of Saint Augustine were one of the major sources for Aquinas' writings. His views on Jews are largely a response to Augustine's arguments. Thus we must not deny the influence of other thinkers and philosophers on Aquinas' work but we must also admit that his work bore a distinctive mark that indicated originality and independent thinking. Aquinas was particularly interested in a certain sect of Jews called Pharisee. This sect was responsible for calling Christ a Samaritan. Aquinas comes to their defense saying that Pharisee had their reasons for making this accusation. He argued that Samaritans were those who followed the Law in certain things but ignored it on other occasions. And since according to Aquinas, this is what Christ would do, thus he was termed a Samaritan.

Similarly Aquinas has defended Jews on many occasions and has tried to improve their image by responding to age-old issues in a responsible manner. For example to the objection that:

It would seem that the Old Law should not have been given to the Jews alone. For the Old Law disposed men for the salvation which was to come through Christ, as was stated above. But that salvation was to come, not to the Jews alone, but to all nations, according to Isa. xlix. 6: It is a small thing that thou shouldst be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to convert the dregs of Israel. Behold I have given thee to be the light of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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