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Summa Theologica

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The Summa Theologica , St. Thomas Aquinas' brilliant synthesis of Christian thought, has had a decisive and permanent impact on philosophy and religion since the thirteenth century. As the title indicates, is a summing up of all that can be known about God and humanity's relations with God. Divided into three parts, the work consists of 38 tracts, 631 questions, about 3000 articles, 10,000 objections and their answers. This complete edition of the work, published in five volumes, was translated into English by the Fathers of the Dominican Province and first appeared in 1911. A revised edition was published in London in 1920, and in America in 1947. The Christian Classics edition is a reproduction of the 1947 Benziger Brothers edition.

3020 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1274

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Thomas Aquinas

1,207 books841 followers
Philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican friar and theologian of Italy and the most influential thinker of the medieval period, combined doctrine of Aristotle and elements of Neoplatonism, a system that Plotinus and his successors developed and based on that of Plato, within a context of Christian thought; his works include the Summa contra gentiles (1259-1264) and the Summa theologiae or theologica (1266-1273).

Saint Albertus Magnus taught Saint Thomas Aquinas.

People ably note this priest, sometimes styled of Aquin or Aquino, as a scholastic. The Roman Catholic tradition honors him as a "doctor of the Church."

Aquinas lived at a critical juncture of western culture when the arrival of the Aristotelian corpus in Latin translation reopened the question of the relation between faith and reason, calling into question the modus vivendi that obtained for centuries. This crisis flared just as people founded universities. Thomas after early studies at Montecassino moved to the University of Naples, where he met members of the new Dominican order. At Naples too, Thomas first extended contact with the new learning. He joined the Dominican order and then went north to study with Albertus Magnus, author of a paraphrase of the Aristotelian corpus. Thomas completed his studies at the University of Paris, formed out the monastic schools on the left bank and the cathedral school at Notre Dame. In two stints as a regent master, Thomas defended the mendicant orders and of greater historical importance countered both the interpretations of Averroës of Aristotle and the Franciscan tendency to reject Greek philosophy. The result, a new modus vivendi between faith and philosophy, survived until the rise of the new physics. The Catholic Church over the centuries regularly and consistently reaffirmed the central importance of work of Thomas for understanding its teachings concerning the Christian revelation, and his close textual commentaries on Aristotle represent a cultural resource, now receiving increased recognition.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 138 reviews
Profile Image for Bojan Tunguz.
407 reviews149 followers
January 9, 2013
A few weeks ago, after nearly three and a half years of on and off reading, I finally finished St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. It is a monumental work, which in printed form extends over five volumes and three thousand densely printed pages. So it is not surprising that it took me this long to finish it. The fact is, though, that I probably would have never ventured into reading it cover to cover in the first place were it not for electronic publishing. The printed version costs $150, which is not actually much considering that most college textbooks these days can cost up to twice that much – if not more. The Kindle edition, on the other hand, costs 99 cents. Yes, it costs less than a dollar. However, it wasn’t the price that made me buy it and read it, it was the convenience of electronic form, which made it incredibly portable and accessible. Over the years I would be reading Summa on my Kindle, iPhone, iPad, and in all sorts of common and unlikely places – my desk, my bed, while waiting for my haircut, while waiting for the plane to take off, on the elliptical machine in the gym, while listening to a boring lecture, and sometimes even while waiting for the light to turn green at the traffic stop. (I know, I know.)

Summa is not an easy read by any stretch of imagination. It is a densely argued treatise on almost all topics of Christian theology. It is also written in terms of concepts and categories derived form Aristotelian and Medieval philosophy, which are largely unfamiliar to the modern readers. Reading it can oftentimes feel like going through a large advanced mathematics textbook, with all the proofs and carefully precise reasoning that this entails. I knew all of this fully well before taking this plunge, but it did not deter me. I can’t say that I carefully thought out all the arguments that were laid out, and probably not much of it stuck with me in the end. However, at the end of it all I believe it was a more than worthwhile endeavor.

First of all, it made me renew and deepen my appreciation for the Catholic Theology. It reminded me of the old saw that the Catholic Church is much bigger from within than form without. Catholic Theology is a vast repository of knowledge and insight that is well worth exploring throughout your whole lifetime.

Furthermore, anyone who ever reads even a fraction of Summa could not in good faith ever resort to using the term “medieval” in a derogatory and pejorative sense. The erudition, the intellectual firepower, and the appreciation of human knowledge in all of its forms and all of its extent is clearly at display in this monumental work. St. Thomas spent most of his professional life at the University of Paris, and the university system that we have to this day has been formed throughout the Catholic Europe around this time. This system fostered and sustained scholarship and research in all branches of human knowledge. All of us, whatever our field of expertise, owe a huge debt of gratitude to these efforts. Modern world without this strong foundation would never have gotten into the existence. At the heart of this system, and at the etymological root of the very term University, is the ideal of universality of all knowledge. This idea shines brightly in Summa. Unfortunately in recent times we have diverged from this ideal. Perhaps going back to Summa would be exactly the medicine for what ails the modern University.

Finally, for me reading any type of good theological work is never just an intellectual exercise. It is, foremost in fact, a form of devotion. I’ve read Summa oftentimes early in the morning at the start of a new day. I’ve read it in conjunction with, or sometimes instead of, my scripture readings. Theology for me is the place where I can fully and completely love my God with all my heart, all my soul, and all my mind. I am grateful to St. Thomas for leaving us this great book that can help us in our Christian vocation. More than that could not be asked from anyone.

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.
Profile Image for Conor.
259 reviews
Currently reading
February 28, 2011
I started to read the Summa from the first question yesterday. I should finish by the age of 75.
48 reviews2 followers
October 14, 2013
One of my favorite books. I am reading it for the second time now. Aquinas is incredibly important but ill-suited to our microwave and fast-food culture: he must be digested slowly, not scarfed down on one’s tailgate in the stadium parking lot :-)

Prospective readers should really have at least a minimal grasp of Aristotle. They should also possess the minimal intellectual virtue required to focus on something other than their own obsessions with pelvic issues, if they have them. I am dismayed by the number of people who disparage Aquinas or his work without even bothering to take the time to read him, to say nothing of understanding him. How can you reasonably criticize a book you haven’t even fully read or understood???
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 29 books13.6k followers
Want to read
September 3, 2021
I just read in the First Response to Descartes's Méditations métaphysiques that Tommaso d'Aquino, as our Italian friend Sabina likes to call him, not only claimed in the Summa to have refuted the Ontological Proof for the Existence of God, but, to add insult to injury, failed even to cite Anselm.

Ouch. You see how vicious the academic world is? And speaking from personal experience, it's worse when neither of the parties involved is a saint.
Profile Image for Daniel Wright.
606 reviews74 followers
April 12, 2017
204 days. It's done. Well, I say it's done - I did skip or lightly skim over large swathes of it, and after about a third of the way through I started just ignoring the objections/replies as I found them confusing. Some parts made me cry 'Amen, brother' aloud; some parts were a real challenge to me personally; some parts caused serious head-desk collisions ('how could you possibly think that??', etc); other parts were just boggling. Still, I can now say I've done it, which not many people can.
Profile Image for Vagabond of Letters, DLitt.
594 reviews268 followers
September 18, 2020
Aquinas can do more in one laconic section than most modern theologians, even analytics, can do in 200 pages. If this were written with the self-consciousness of philosophers after the epistemic turn, it would probably be 100,000 pages or more long - and that's what you're getting. The roughly 7,000 pages (the 3020 page edition is in double column) of the ST is an entire library, exceeding even the Bible. It doesn't seem entirely unjust to say that God inspired the Bible for the purpose of inspiring the Sanctissimae Thomae Aquinitatis to write this.

I'm only done with the first 27 questions, though I've probably read two volumes' worth of extracts over my life.
Profile Image for Linette Soberay.
11 reviews12 followers
March 26, 2012
I read selections from the summa (Aquinas on Nature and Grace, A. M. Fairweather), and while at times I found it confusing, I thought it was mostly absolutely illuminating. By reading this book I was not only able to understand better who God is, but what He did for us.
Profile Image for Seth Kenlon.
Author 8 books12 followers
October 27, 2008
St. Thomas Aquinas is one of the greatest philosophers I have read. His structured writing and rational methodology will do incredible things to your mind.
Profile Image for Kim.
5 reviews
December 3, 2009
obviously i have not read all the volumes, but everytime i open them i am astoished at the depth and insights that he had. he is honestly on of my heros
Profile Image for Tom.
44 reviews3 followers
January 19, 2015
I've seen this work described as "encyclopaedic," but I don't think that does it justice. While I don't remember it addressing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin (and I may very well have forgotten given that it's taken sixteen or so months of fairly consistent reading to get through), it covers just about any theological question you might think of and many, many more that would not have occurred to you from a 21st century vantage point.

Admittedly, my interest in this work was primarily a result of its importance in the history of philosophy. It's one thing to be told that Aquinas sought to reconcile Aristotle with Christian theology and quite another to see how he does it. Going in, I thought I'd be most fascinated by the cosmological discussions in the First Part; it turned out that the ethical discussions of the Second Parts- especially as informed by Aristotle's model of human psychology- were most interesting. Aquinas did have to do some gymnastics to square the idea that goodness is a mean with some things that seem proscribed arbitrarily. But for the most part it became clear just how easy Aquinas made it for the Church to find purely secular justification for many beliefs with only a scriptural basis.

There are also several discussions that put me in mind of George Carlin's routine on growing up Catholic where he talks about coming up with trick questions for the priest. For instance, did Adam and Eve actually excrete in the Garden of Eden? This is addressed in FP Q.97, A.3 Obj. 4. Or how about what happens if someone poisons the Eucharistic chalice after the wine has been consecrated? See TP Q.83, A.6 Obj. 3.

A rating for this kind of work is somewhat pointless. Three stars seems suitable for various reasons.
Profile Image for Philip Jordan.
18 reviews20 followers
April 23, 2011
St. Thomas Aquinas was a beautiful human being, and his approach to Socratic Philosophy (which dominated the minds of his counterparts) blended with Unique Spiritual incite is breath-taking. I recommend it to the world... especially if you're looking for a pure (if slightly slanted) view on Life, Love & the Divine. Cheers to You and Your Road through this Life! :)
Profile Image for Nate.
6 reviews25 followers
September 25, 2012
A collection of Christian books is incomplete without Summa Theologica. St. Thomas Aquinas clearly structured this masterpiece with a humble consideration of potential readers. With each chapter broken down into specific subjects, and each .......
Profile Image for Jacob Aitken.
1,581 reviews266 followers
June 8, 2020
This is one of the great books of all time. It is basically a Q&A on various masters' theses. It is relentless in its pursuit of logical questions (and of apparently inane tangents). The great thing about Thomas is that you can't take anything for granted. The small proof 400 pages ago will be the key to a subtle argument.

Thomas was a victim of his own success. Few read him beyond the 5 Proofs, and I suspect those proofs weren't all that interesting for him and his audience.

On God

Thomas: each thing has its own act of being; real apart from the distinct acts of existence.
God: existence as necessary being; his act of existence needs no cause of existence. Pure act of being.

As Qui Est God has no genus, otherwise he would have an essence distinct from his act of being. For God, to be is to be good. His being and goodness are identical.
God knows himself perfectly and he knows himself immediately.
Does God know possibles?
Concerning what might have been, he knows them by simple intelligence.
God’s intelligence. Will proceeds from intelligence.
The immediate object of divine intelligence is God. He wills all other things by willing himself. God’s willing of possibles doesn’t necessarily create them.
a will is an action completely interior to the one willing.
God doesn’t necessarily create existence by “willing,” but only through one of the divine actions whose terminus is an effect exterior to God
Treatise on Law

Thomas only devotes one question specifically about natural law in the middle of 19 questions. More importantly, Thomas never abstracts natural law (which is usually exactly what his critics and defenders do). Natural law is oriented back to the eternal law and the divine providence (ST 1-2. 90).

A short definition: “Law (lex) is something rational (aliquid rationes) directed to the common good by those who are responsible for that community” (Kerr 105).
(2)-(4) are how the eternal law is worked out in providence. You can’t separate natural law from discussions of God.


(1) For Thomas grace is two things: the work of God upon the soul and the effect of that action.

Two things are considered in the soul: the essence of the soul and the work of its powers. The form of the soul is intellectual in orientation

The Subsistence of the Soul

Thomas: Nothing acts so far as it is in act, and nothing acts except that whereby it is in act. The soul is the form of the thing. The soul’s powers are its mind and will.

(2) Form is the act in which a thing has its being and subsistence.

For Aquinas justification, in short, will consist of reorienting the intellect back to God’s proper order. It is important to keep in mind that the soul is a spiritual substance that is intellectual in character (and this isn’t unique to Aquinas. This is roughly the historic Christian position).

(3) Grace finds its seat in the essence of the soul, not in the powers.

What metaphor does Aquinas use to explain the nature of this grace infused into the soul? Light. Light, however, suggests an intellectual range. This would place grace somewhere else than the essence of the soul--some place like the intellectual powers of mind and will.

In short, God moves all things (in justification) according to the proper mode of each. It looks like this:

Infusion of justifying grace → a movement of free choice → forgiveness of sin

Part 2 of Second Part

Scope: This is Thomas’s course on virtue ethics. Much is good, much bad.

The glory of the soul, which is the enjoyment of God, is the principle object, not the glory of the body (II.2.18.2). True to an extent, but it’s not clear why Thomas needs the resurrection for this.

On Charity

There is a kind of friendship based on the communication between God and man (II.2.23.1).

Human acts are good as they are regulated by their due rule and measure (23.4).

Charity is infused in us (24.2). Every act of charity merits everlasting life (II.2.24.6). Mortal sin destroys charity entirely (24.10, 12). The spiritual life is an effect of charity. Mortal sin destroys that.

Charity is capable of reflecting on itself. The intellect reflects on the universal good, and since to will is a good, man can will himself to will. Love, therefore, is a spontaneous movement of the lover to the thing loved (25.2).

While we are obligated to love our enemies, we are not obligated to show them all effects of love (25.9).

Key point: One’s obligation to love another is proportionate to the gravity of the sin one commits in acting against that love (2.26.6).

On Giving Alms

* Some are punished eternally for not giving alms (2.32.5). By contrast, “almsdeeds deserve to be rewarded eternally through the merit of the recipient, who prays for the giver” (2.32.9).
* God gives us ownership of temporal goods but the use of them is directed to helping our neighbor).

Just War

Standard Augustinian stuff. Thomas gives several conditions: a) authority of the sovereign or leader waging it; b) just cause; c) right intentions. Tyrannical governments are not just because they threaten the common weal (2.42.2).

The Glory of Monastic Life

It’s possible to go to heaven without being a monk, but it’s a lot harder. Thomas speaks of being perfect. He doesn’t mean sinless. A thing’s perfection, rather, relates to charity, the consequences from charity, etc (2.186.3).

Various Nota Bene

* The church can compel secular power with regard to heresy and schism (2.39.4).
* Married sex increases concupiscence and is the contrary of the passage “cleansing ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit” (2.186.4). He quotes Augustine to the effect that when married people caress one another they are “cast down from manly mind” (Solil. 1.10). Sorry, Reformed Thomists, but this is where the Reformation is a clear improvement. Indeed, Thomas goes on to say that “perpetual continence is required for religious perfection.”
* Contrary to claims by Dutch Calvinists, there is no cultural activity in heaven (2.181.4).

Thomas’s Linguistic Fallacies

This type of thinking was quite common until recently. It’s still painful to read, though. For example, wisdom (sapientia) connotes sweetness because it comes from the word “saporem” (2.45.2).

Further, Thomas commits the word = concept fallacy. For Thomas “religion” means “religious orders.” Therefore, when James talks about “religion pure and undefiled,” this gives the sanction for man entering into religious orders (2.188.2).

A virtue is an operative habit (I-II, q.55, a2).

The Order of Love

Wherever there is a principle, there is an order. Charity is of a “last end.” Therefore, it has reference to a “First Principle” (26.1).

Christology: On Person and Nature

Nature designates the essence of the species. A suppositum is the whole which includes the nature as “its formal part” (III.2.2).

Something’s “assumption” includes the principle and term of the act (3.3.1). The principle of the assumption is the divine nature itself. The term is the Person in whom it is considered to be. The act of the assumption proceeds from the divine power, which is common to the three persons. The term of the assumption, being the second person, isn’t common to the three.

Thomas argues that Christ didn’t assume a generic human nature, since human nature cannot be apart from sensible matter (3.4.4).

Now to Christology proper. The person of the Son of God is the suppositum of human nature. For the most part, suppositum functions similar to hypostasis, so why doesn’t Thomas call it hypostasis? I think his using “suppositum” allows him to affirm “one person” of the Son, pace Nestorius, yet acknowledge a human dimension to the Son’s person. A suppositum is the existing hypostasis.

Why is this important? If we take phrases like “Christ is God” or “this Man is God,” then strictly speaking it isn’t true. By “Christ” do we mean the eternal Son, the human nature, both, neither? Therefore, by understanding the hypostasis as a suppositum of the Second Person, we can say the above propositions.

A hypostasis is that which has being. A nature is that by which it has being.

Treatise on the Sacraments

A sacrament is ordained to signify our sanctification (III.60.3). The cause of our sanctification is Christ’s passion. The form is grace and the virtues. The End is eternal life.

Do the sacraments cause grace? Thomas says they do by distinguishing a principal cause and an instrumental cause (III.62.1). The principal cause works by the power of the form. The instrumental is the cause by which it is moved.

The soul’s powers flow from its essence, “so from grace there flow certain perfections into the powers of the soul, which are called virtues and gifts” (III.62.2). Grace, accordingly, is in the sacrament as an instrumental power.

Sacramental grace: the principal efficient cause is God himself. This grace is to take away defects consequent on past sins, which hinder divine worship.

The sacraments, especially Orders, imprint a character on the soul. (Thomas then has some horrendous exegesis of Hebrews 1, where he reads medieval Latin understandings of “character” into the koine Greeek.) The important part is that Thomas equates character and sealing of the Holy Spirit (cf. Schaff on this point; I think volume on Nicene Christianity).

The inward effect of all sacraments is justification (III.64.1).


The Empyrean heaven is a corporeal place (Supp. III.69.1). It will have the souls of the righteous. Venial sin is cleansed in purgatory. Some souls can come and visit.

Thomas gives the standard medieval arguments for praying for the dead, and in reverse the saints can pray for us. Here is where it gets tricky. In response to the question, “Why can’t we just go to God?” Thomas answers, “There is a divine order where ‘the last should be led to God by those that are midway between’” (quoting Ps. Dionysius, Supp. III.72.2). If pressed strictly, Thomas must admit there is no logical reason for us ever to pray to God. He doesn’t forbid it, but given the above ontology we shouldn’t. Indeed, he goes on to say that the “perfection of the universe demands” we go through saints.

Here’s the next problem: by what standard do I know that a deceased is a saint and not in Purgatory? Presumably he would say the Church has decreed it. Okay, where did the church gain that access to knowledge?

In terms of the signs preceding the End Times, he follows Augustine.

Notes of Interest

When Mary gave birth, Jesus didn’t break through her birth canal and damage the virginal purity (Supp. III.83.3).

On Hell

The saints see perfectly the sufferings of the damned (Supp. III.94.3). Divine justice and their own deliverance will indeed by a direct cause of the saints Joy at seeing the sufferings of the damned.


This book will change you. It won’t necessarily change your theology, but you will grow in intellectual virtue by reading through it. Thomas forces you to always work with the implications and connections.
Profile Image for Aleksandar Janjic.
131 reviews21 followers
February 12, 2020
Можда некад напишем коментар, ал сад ми је мрско и поспан сам.
Profile Image for Scott.
473 reviews68 followers
December 21, 2016
Much can be said about the Angelic Doctor, Thomas Aquinas. The Summa Theologiae is, without a doubt, one of the finest treatments of theology given to the church. One cannot simply do justice to such a work in an Goodreads review.

However, I want to focus, in this review, on this edition of the Summa, published by the great folks at The Aquinas Institute. My short review is this: if you are going to get one copy of the Summa Theologiae, make it this one.

In brief, here are a few reasons why I am convinced this is the best edition you can grab.

1) You have both the Latin and the English text side-by-side for quick reference. This is a must especially for theological students and scholars.

2) The construction is simply beautiful. The binding, the page type, the ink, the cover—all of it. They have put together one of the most beautiful book sets I have come across in a world that loves to cut corners on books. Having sat with this for a few weeks now, I am convinced they could be charging double, but instead keep costs low for those looking for an affordable but handsome edition of the Summa. Also, the size of the books is quite large (think tall and wide), but that keeps them remaining quite slim.

3) Thanks to the helpful construction of the book, you are able to read, at any page, with the book open flat. While this might seem silly to some, this in fact is crucial for the student who is wanting to reference while they read. For instance, yesterday I was reading Gilles Emery on Aquinas' Trinitarianism with Ia-27 open in front of me. The ease of reference was superb.

The Aquinas Institute is currently working to publish all of Aquinas' works. You can learn more about them here: theaquinasinstitute.org After you purchase this edition of the Summa, I would also recommend that you get other works. I have one of the John commentaries and it is world-class like the rest of their output.

Profile Image for Walter.
339 reviews20 followers
October 9, 2016
Aside from the Bible itself, the Summa Theologica is perhaps the most informative source of information about the Christian faith than any source ever written. In it, St. Thomas Aquinas tackles pretty much every detail of the Christian faith, incorporating scripture, the writings of the Church Fathers and the writings of the ancient and medieval philosophers into the analysis. The work is divided into three books, the first of which deals with the nature of God, the second of which deals with the nature of man and the third deals with the union of God and man in the incarnation, the Church and the sacraments. Aquinas presents the arguments against each teaching, and then presents the teaching, defends it, and then addresses each of the arguments that he originally made against the doctrine. In this way, Aquinas supplies the Christian apologist enough ammunition to stave off any attack that is reasonably made against the faith. In my mind, if the Summa were more widely understood and studied then many if not most of the misunderstanding of the Christian faith would be eliminated.

My advice to the aspiring Thomist is to approach the Summa as one would approach scripture. Don't try to read it all quickly. Tackle a question or an article each day and take your time in reading it. Reading the Summa too quickly would be like taking a ferry ride across the ocean, rather than deep diving in scuba gear to explore the riches of the depths. Understanding the Summa is a lifetime effort. The use of good commentaries is essential, and if you get into the Summa then you will want to familiarize yourself with the sources that Aquinas uses, such as Aristotle, Augustine, St. Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite and others. The technical philosophical language that St. Thomas uses would be explained in a good commentary, and it would not be a bad idea to identify a Thomist scholar who can help you with your questions.

Overall, I am a huge fan of Aquinas and recommend him to anyone who is brave enough to delve into his works with a view to deepen your faith and your understanding of life itself.
Profile Image for Mike T.
24 reviews1 follower
March 14, 2014
This has been and likely always will be the greatest theological book series I've ever read. I'm still not through it but Aquinas seems to have more philosophy to him than religion in much of his work and in that I can find a huge amount of intrigue. While I'm not generally interested in the argument for why god does or does not exist I find the argument for why man should be great to his fellow man to be maybe the most important question and this book argues for logical reasoning of the highest fashion in regards to morality. For that, this will likely be one of my go to tomes for the rest of my life.
Profile Image for Thomas Crown.
18 reviews15 followers
March 9, 2008
As with most works of this length and breadth, you're better off reading it in the original Latin, even if it means you have to (and I confess I had to) keep an unabridged Latin-English dictionary nearby, and not merely for when you get bogged down with the ethical dative. With that said, Aquinas goes through periods of mild contempt in American Catholic scholastic opinion, yet always survives his critics; and it is actually impossible to understand John Paul II's, and Benedict XVI's, theological works, without first understanding Aquinas.
35 reviews
August 16, 2009
Haven't actually read all of it, but most of it, and its free on-line. Archaic to read, of course, but the use of logic and reason is fantastic. He beat Newton by 400 years on at least one of the Laws of Physics, and described the notions of potential vs kinetic energy.
Profile Image for Rebecca Hicks.
19 reviews6 followers
November 29, 2013
The greatest philosophical/theological work ever written. (Obviously, this isn't counting the Bible) What more can one say?

Extremely long. Few start it, fewer read it all the way through. Only some people can even begin to appreciate it.
30 reviews3 followers
March 14, 2010
no, not saying i read each word of every volume, but have used them all over the past 3 years for research and they are awesome.
Profile Image for Gigi.
132 reviews
August 17, 2011
VERY informative but would almost need to STUDY this book! You could read this for years and still learn new things
Profile Image for Kenneth.
91 reviews
August 11, 2016
Read the vast majority of the five volumes of the Summa over the course of the years. In order to understand the text well a solid background in Catholic history, theology, Greek Philosophy (Aristotle), as well as Scripture is necessary. Otherwise, the Summa is eminently readable for those who have an intellect to comprehend or appreciate.

In terms of an introduction to the material, The Summa of the Summa by Peter Kreeft is helpful. The abridged version provides a picture that is beneficial for understanding the general composition of the entire body of work. Moreover, endless commentaries or journal entries have been written about the Summa. The Roman Catholic Church still considers Thomas Aquinas the official theologian of the Church. The Summa is worth studying (for Catholics especially) even when the reader has no intention of completing the volumes from start to finish.

In sum, the Summa is divided into three general philosophical categories. The First part is concerned with Metaphysics, which is the more abstract subject matter, dense or difficult to read. The famous five proofs of God’s existence are expounded in these sections. “The Nature of God” section is terribly interesting and is still heavily debated amongst academics.

The Second parts are concerned with the subjects of Cosmology, Epistemology or Anthropology. The Summa becomes more accessible, for the most part, in terms of lay readership at this point. The perennial philosophical issues regarding the freedom of the will and predestination, the nature of body and soul, or the existence of evil, all have been provided rigorist treatments here by Aquinas.

Finally, the Third parts deal with the subjects of Ethics and Law. Even though many contemporary individuals rightly reject the “Medieval” or classical political world-view (in general) today, there is still a ton of relevant historical information and/or consistent reasoning about politics contained herein.

The Summa laid an important cornerstone for the major political philosophies that underlie Western civilization. When reading the text, one can easily leave aside the respective aspects of barbarous Medievalism that for us demonstrate impalpable elements of political life. All the same, the Middle Ages were possessed of a particular kind of wisdom that is still highly relevant to certain types of political debate in the modern world, that is, when reconciled with contemporary “historical consciousness” or scholarly methods.

In the end, even denying that there is any relevance to the Catholic Church in the present–age (which is hard to deny), or to the secular politics of the times (which is more debatable), the Summa still is without doubt one of the most important books of theology ever written, historically.

In conclusion, the Summa was written in a scrupulously ordered fashion that makes reading the text quite easy when the basic structure is grasped. There is a learning curve, true, but understanding the text is rewarding nonetheless.

For avid readers of Aquinas, the vision that comprehending the full sweep of the Summa or the theological world that Aquinas gives rise to is analogously akin to appreciating the beauty of a Gothic cathedral.

Interestingly enough, the Summa was actually an introductory text for theologians in the Middle Ages. Aquinas here lays the groundwork for much of what would become contemporary catechesis in the present day Roman Catholic Church. In other words, Aquinas is the foundation for the method of teaching that educates upwards to a billion individuals the world over.
Profile Image for Curtis Runstedler.
121 reviews1 follower
May 30, 2014
Ah, Brother Thomas, where to begin? I read the concise translation, which was elegantly written and (naturally) concise. I would have been interested to see where his discussion of the sacrament of penitence went, but I guess we'll never know. I wonder what really happened to him on that fateful St Nicholas Day. It's a beautiful work, and I think the sections that affected me most were the passages on human emotion and the soul. Summa is a treasure and its title truly explains itself.
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32 reviews6 followers
November 29, 2015
Of course I didn't read the 3020 pages. I only read selected chapters talking about the existence of God and the essence of being. So, I'm not in the right position to rate this book so i'll leave the rating empty.
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