Thomas Aquinas on Hebrews : the excellence of Christ.
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Benesh, Dana Tanner.
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"There is none among the gods like unto Thee, O Lord: and there is none according to Thy works." Ps. 85:8 (Vulgate). Thomas Aquinas uses this statement to open the prologue to his commentary on the letter to the Hebrews—a letter written by Paul, according to Thomas, and in which is revealed the grace of Christ as the head of the Church. In the body of the prologue, Thomas sets forth the theme of Hebrews, which is the excellence of Christ. He addresses both the excellence of Christ's person, comparing him to angels, prophets, and priests, and the excellence of Christ’s works, in regard to creation, illumination, and justification. This work contends that Thomas Aquinas merits attention not only as a theologian and philosopher, but also as an exegete. It examines how Thomas reads Hebrews by first considering his academic background, which is significant given that his Hebrews commentary originated as classroom lectures. It then moves to Thomas' exegetical heritage, with particular interest in biblical exegesis as practiced by the Victorines. After discussing medieval prologues, Thomas' commentary prologues and specifically his prologue to the commentary on Hebrews are considered. The prologue opens with the accessus verse cited above, and takes shape as a combination of the sermonic and Aristotelian prologue forms; all of those elements are examined in detail. The concerns articulated in the prologue shape the next section of this dissertation, in regard to the excellence of Christ's person in and of himself; the comparative excellence of Christ in relation to angels, Moses, and priests; and the excellence of Christ’s threefold work of creation, illumination, and justification. The final chapter reviews what can be seen of Thomas both as a teacher and an exegete through the preceding analysis of his exegesis of Hebrews. Attention is paid to his organizational strategies, dialectical approach, and hortatory comments, as well as his handling of the senses of Scripture and of the comparative argument that drives both Hebrews and his commentary. This work’s aim is to understand and appreciate Thomas' exposition of Hebrews and to place him in regard to medieval exegesis.