Category Archives: Summa III

The Third Part of the Summa Theologica

Question 15. The defects of soul assumed by Christ

Article 1. Whether there was sin in Christ?

No.  Christ assumed our human nature, with its possibility of corruption, as material, and therefore the possibility of physical evil.  However, moral evil in no way was assumed or even possible.

Article 2. Whether there was the “fomes” of sin in Christ?

Christ, by the Holy Spirit, had the fullness of grace and all the virtues most perfectly. Likewise, His body was completely subject to His soul, and in no way the slave of it, as can be said of us in our fallen state.  He had perfect control of His passions, by perfect virtue.

Article 3. Whether in Christ there was ignorance?

“He came to enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79). The fullness of infused knowledge leaves no room for ignorance in Christ, just as the fullness of virtue leaves no room for the “fomes” of sin.

Article 4. Whether Christ’s soul was passible?

Christ assumed a true human nature.  Therefore, the body, by nature, is corruptible and mortal.  Even in our created state, Adam was not given the preternatural gifts then he too would have been, by his natural material body, mortal.  This is not a moral evil, and Christ took on this passible, mortal nature in His body.

Article 5. Whether there was sensible pain in Christ?

“Surely He hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows.”

Christ’s body was able to be hurt, since it was passible and mortal, as above stated. In a real body/soul relationship, the mortal body, when damage is inflicted upon it, feels sensible pain.  It is one part of our nature that we recognize all too well.

Article 6. Whether there was sorrow in Christ?

“My soul is sorrowful even unto death.”

There is a true correlation between pain and sorrow. In psychology, aversion is a repugnance to an evil presenting itself.  Sorry follows this, if the evil actually afflicts the knowing subject.  As Christ was able to feel pain in His body and experience evil (in others, such as the sins of His disciples, etc) in His soul, He likewise felt sorrow.

Article 7. Whether there was fear in Christ?

It is written (Mark 14:33): Jesus “began to fear and to be heavy.”

As sorrow is caused by the apprehension of a present evil, so also is fear caused by the apprehension of a future evil (again this is basic Aristotelian psychology).

It is worth simply quoting Thomas in full here: “Now the apprehension of a future evil, if the evil be quite certain, does not arouse fear. Hence the Philosopher says that we do not fear a thing unless there is some hope of avoiding it. For when there is no hope of avoiding it the evil is considered present, and thus it causes sorrow rather than fear. Hence fear may be considered in two ways. First, inasmuch as the sensitive appetite naturally shrinks from bodily hurt, by sorrow if it is present, and by fear if it is future; and thus fear was in Christ, even as sorrow. Secondly, fear may be considered in the uncertainty of the future event, as when at night we are frightened at a sound, not knowing what it is; and in this way there was no fear in Christ.”

Article 8. Whether there was wonder in Christ?

As we spoke of earlier regarding Christ’s knowledge, both in its perfection and in His empirically learned knowledge through true human experience, the answer to the question of wonder is based on empirical knowledge experience as part of having a true human intellect: “things could be new and unwonted with regard to His empiric knowledge, in regard to which new things could occur to Him day by day…and He assumed this affection for our instruction, i.e. in order to teach us to wonder at what He Himself wondered at.”

Augustine says “Our Lord wondered in order to show us that we, who still need to be so affected, must wonder. Hence all these emotions are not signs of a disturbed mind, but of a master teaching.”

Article 9. Whether there was anger in Christ?

Anger is the movement towards an evil that is hard to overcome for the sake of avoiding it. It is an effect of sorrow There arises within a person a desire to repel this injury brought upon himself or others. Christ certainly had anger, as God hates sin.  Obviously, there was not sin in this anger, as there often is in us, but a mere passion for the destruction of evil and upholding of justice. Christ, we may say, had a righteous indignation, seeking the glory of God and the overcoming of evil.

Augustine says that “he is eaten up by zeal for the house of God, who seeks to better whatever He sees to be evil in it, and if he cannot right it, bears with it and sighs.”

Article 10. Whether Christ was at once a wayfarer and a comprehensor?

“Why wilt Thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man turning in to lodge?” (Jeremiah 14:8)

A man is called a wayfarer from tending to beatitude, and a comprehensor from having already obtained beatitude. Christ was at the same time both, for He as a Divine Person never lacked the beatific vision, but as human, mortal and passible as we said, and having His passion, death, and resurrection still in front of Him, still awaited final glory. In this way, He was still tending toward beatitude.



Question 14. The defects of body assumed by the Son of God

Article 1. Whether the Son of God in human nature ought to have assumed defects of body?

His soul had every perfection, even as human.  Ought not His body, then, have the same? Is not the pain and mortality of the body the result of sin?

It was fitting for the body assumed by the Son of God to be subject to human infirmities and defects; and especially for three reasons.”

  1. It was in order to satisfy for the sin of the human race that the Son of God came into the world. One satisfies for another’s sin by taking on himself the punishment due to the sin of the other. Isaiah 53:4says “Surely He hath borne our infirmities.”
  2. Secondly, in order to cause belief in Incarnation. Human nature is understood by men only as it is subject to these defects. Philippians 2:7: “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men.”
  3. Thirdly, in order to show us an example of patience against passibility and defects. Hebrews 12:3 says He “endured such opposition from sinners against Himself, that you be not wearied.”

Article 2. Whether Christ was of necessity subject to these defects?

Romans 8:3 says that God sent “His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.” Now it is a condition of sinful flesh to be under the necessity of dying, and suffering other like passions. Therefore the necessity of suffering these defects was in Christ’s flesh.

Of course, it was not a necessity of “constraint,” brought about by an external agent.  Nothing over God (since this cannot exist) forced this as an absolute necessity. However, it was a “natural” necessity, resulting from the natural principles of a human body composed of matter and form. It is likewise not necessary (constraint) that God make a circle, but if He does make a circle, it is necessary (by nature) that it be round, have no straight lines, and no corners, etc.

Article 3. Whether Christ contracted these defects?

The cause of death and such like defects in human nature is sin, since “by sin death entered into this world,” (Romans 5:12). Effects follow cause. Contracting defects would be the effect, and sin would be the cause.  Obviously, this cannot be the case for Christ.

It is interesting to note here something Thomas says: The flesh of the Virgin was conceived in original sin, and therefore contracted these defects. But from the Virgin, Christ’s flesh assumed the nature without sin, and He might likewise have assumed the nature without its penalties.

Some have taken this to be a Thomist rejection of the immaculate conception.  However, Thomas also believed in Mary’s sinlessness.  How is this?  In short, at the time, many thought that the soul was infused in the body at 40 days after conception.  This was not a taught “fact” but an admitted speculation. (We have seen such “theologians” as Nancy Pelosi try to show that St. Thomas would have been pro-first trimester abortion by this, a fanciful idea, for sure).  And so, Mary’s body, before receiving her soul, would have contracted this original sin.  However, when her soul was united to the body (and this would be the first moment of there being a “person” Mary) she was protected from all sin, saved from it by the merits of her son. This is a brief look at a much more complex topic, but worth noting here.

Article 4. Whether Christ ought to have assumed all the bodily defects of men?

He did not, for this was by nature impossible, since some infirmities are contrary to each other, being caused by contrary principles, and it could not be that Christ assumed all human infirmities. There are some defects that are incompatible with the perfection of knowledge and grace, as ignorance, a proneness towards evil, and a difficulty in well-doing. Some other defects do not flow from the whole of human nature in common on account of the sin of our first parent, but are caused in some men by certain particular causes, as leprosy, epilepsy, etc. Basically, Christ had to take on what was a given in our nature as fallen, but not all possibilities of physical evil.

For example, how could He have been both quadriplegic and at the same time have a malformed hand and clubbed feet? In other words, it is simply not necessary that Christ take on every possible infirmity, but those that are material to the salvation of us by His becoming true man, capable of suffering as we do.

He assumed our defects economically, in order to satisfy for our sin, and not that they belonged to Him of Himself. Hence it was not necessary for Him to assume them all, but only such as sufficed to satisfy for the sin of the whole nature.”

The Eucharist (Feast of Corpus Christi update)

CCC 1324 The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.””The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.”

The chalice of benediction, which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread, which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all that partake of one bread. (1 Cor 10:16-17)

The Eucharist considered as a Passover, the matters used in the Eucharist, and the meaning of wheat bread and of grape wine

The Eucharist is the fulfillment of the Passover.  Christ is our paschal lamb, and He is the one sacrifice that is acceptable to the Father. He is perfect man, and offered Himself in perfect love, and now makes intercession for us to the Father in Heaven, “For he testifieth: Thou art a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech…Whereby he is able also to save for ever them that come to God by him; always living to make intercession for us.” (Heb 7:17, 25)

At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ’s Body and Blood. Faithful to the Lord’s command the Church continues to do, in his memory and until his glorious return, what he did on the eve of his Passion: “He took bread. . . .” “He took the cup filled with wine. . . .” The signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ; they continue also to signify the goodness of creation. Thus in the Offertory we give thanks to the Creator for bread and wine, fruit of the “work of human hands,” but above all as “fruit of the earth” and “of the vine” – gifts of the Creator. The Church sees in the gesture of the king-priest Melchizedek, who “brought out bread and wine,” a prefiguring of her own offering. (CCC 1333)

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “The necessity of wheaten bread is deduced immediately from the words of Institution: “The Lord took bread” (ton arton), in connection with which it may be remarked, that in Scripture bread (artos), without any qualifying addition, always signifies wheaten bread.” (

We see St. Ignatius of Antioch, at the beginning of the second century and on the way to his martyrdom, use this vivid imagery:

“I am writing to all the Churches and I enjoin all, that I am dying willingly for God’s sake, if only you do not prevent it. I beg you, do not do me an untimely kindness. Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God’s wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ.” (Epistle to the Romans)

In speaking of the wine to be used, St. Thomas says

This sacrament can only be performed with wine from the grape. First of all on account of Christ’s institution, since He instituted this sacrament in wine from the grape, as is evident from His own words, in instituting this sacrament (Matthew 26:29): “I will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine.” (ST III, Q. 74)

We see the connection between the wine and the blood throughout Scripture.  A few examples shall suffice:

“Tying his foal to the vineyard, and his ass, O my son, to the vine. He shall wash his robe in wine, and his garment in the blood of the grape.” (Gen 49:11)

“I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the Gentiles there is not a man with me: I have trampled on them in my indignation, and have trodden them down in my wrath, and their blood is sprinkled upon my garments, and I have stained all my apparel.” (Isaiah 63:3)

And the angel thrust in his sharp sickle into the earth, and gathered the vineyard of the earth, and cast it into the great press of the wrath of God: And the press was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a thousand and six hundred furlongs. (Rev 14:19-20)

Thanks be to God for the most precious gift of His Body and Blood, which unites us in our created and earthly state to our Lord in Heaven, who takes common things and raises them up, as He takes fallen man and offers him divine and eternal life.

“Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life.”

“Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink.”

The Eucharist as a sacrifice in the Council of Trent and in Vatican II and the Real Presence

The Eucharist is called The Holy Sacrifice, because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Savior and includes the Church’s offering. The terms holy sacrifice of the Mass, “sacrifice of praise,” spiritual sacrifice, pure and holy sacrifice are also used,150 since it completes and surpasses all the sacrifices of the Old Covenant. (CCC 1330)

“…the celebration of this sacrament is called Christ’s sacrifice. Hence it is that Ambrose, in commenting on Hebrews 10:1, says: “In Christ was offered up a sacrifice capable of giving eternal salvation; what then do we do? Do we not offer it up every day in memory of His death?” Secondly it is called a sacrifice, in respect of the effect of His Passion: because, to wit, by this sacrament, we are made partakers of the fruit of our Lord’s Passion.” (ST III, Q.83)

A priest is only a priest if He offers sacrifice.  And there is only an altar if there is a sacrifice to be offered.  Our High priest is Christ, who “offered Himself once” on the altar of the Cross, yet continually offers this same Sacrifice as in intercession for us (“Whereby he is able also to save for ever them that come to God by him; always living to make intercession for us.” Heb 7:25) In fact, in the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord tells us “If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath any thing against thee; Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother: and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift” (Matt 5:23-24).

There is to be an altar, and to be a Sacrifice, offered forever (see also Malachi 1:11) to God.  This Sacrifice, pleasing to God, can only be the one Sacrifice of Jesus Himself.  As Johannes H. Emminghaus says well in his book The Eucharist, “Time is, after all, only relative; that is, it is simply a quality of our created order (according to place and time) existing in the succession of events. God’s action transcends and surpasses time.  In the ritual symbol, therefore, Christ’s action is really and continually present” (pg. xvii, introduction).

Christ is truly present, in a unique and substantial way, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  His once for all Sacrifice is constantly offered on behalf of His creatures who live in time. He is the Bread of Life, and whoever eats His Body and Drinks His Blood has Zoe, that is, divine life.  It is thus that we become “partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4)” and come to eternal life.

The Councils and the Magisterium reaffirm His real and substantial presence in the Eucharist:

First of all, the holy council teaches and openly and plainly professes that after the consecration of bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man, is truly, really and substantially contained in the august sacrament of the Holy Eucharist…For there is no repugnance in this that our Savior sits always at the right hand of the Father in heaven according to the natural mode of existing, and yet is in many other places sacramentally present to us in His own substance by a manner of existence which, though we can scarcely express in words, yet with our understanding illumined by faith, we can conceive and ought most firmly to believe is possible to God. (Trent, Session XIII)

In these words are highlighted both the sacrifice, which pertains to the essence of the Mass which is celebrated daily, and the sacrament in which the faithful participate in Holy Communion by eating the Flesh of Christ and drinking His Blood, receiving both grace, the beginning of eternal life, and the medicine of immortality. According to the words of Our Lord: “The man who eats my flesh and drinks my blood enjoys eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (Mysterium Fidei)

“Through him, with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.”

So much is left unsaid in this brief treatment of the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but I pray you will wait patiently with me until I can treat of it more deeply…

On second thought, I do not pray you wait patiently but, rather, seek to learn on your own; there are great books and many Scriptures that can build our understanding of the Eucharist, but I recommend above all else that you present yourself to the Lord in Eucharistic adoration and ask Him, who is our one Master, our one Teacher.

Go to our Lord

This is a traditional English translation of the “Pange Lingua” written by St. Thomas Aquinas for the Feast of Corpus Christi.

Pange Lingua

Sing, my tongue, the Savior’s glory,
of His flesh the mystery sing;
of the Blood, all price exceeding,
shed by our immortal King,
destined, for the world’s redemption,
from a noble womb to spring.

Of a pure and spotless Virgin
born for us on earth below,
He, as Man, with man conversing,
stayed, the seeds of truth to sow;
then He closed in solemn order
wondrously His life of woe.

On the night of that Last Supper,
seated with His chosen band,
He the Pascal victim eating,
first fulfills the Law’s command;
then as Food to His Apostles
gives Himself with His own hand.

Word-made-Flesh, the bread of nature
by His word to Flesh He turns;
wine into His Blood He changes;
what though sense no change discerns?
Only be the heart in earnest,
faith her lesson quickly learns.

Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail;
Lo! o’er ancient forms departing,
newer rites of grace prevail;
faith for all defects supplying,
where the feeble senses fail.

To the everlasting Father,
and the Son who reigns on high,
with the Holy Ghost proceeding
forth from Each eternally,
be salvation, honor, blessing,
might and endless majesty. Amen.


Acts 10:38 “I take it you know what has been reported all over Judea about Jesus of Nazareth, beginning in Galilee with the baptism John Preached, of the way God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing.”

The sacrament of confirmation presupposes the mark of baptism, and cannot be given without it. The character of Confirmation, of necessity supposes the baptismal character: so that, in effect, if one who is not baptized were to be confirmed, he would receive nothing, but would have to be confirmed again after receiving Baptism. (ST III, 72)

Confirmation makes us soldiers of God.  It has been variously designated a making fast or sure, a perfecting or completing, as it expresses its relation to baptism.It is, after baptism, the next Sacrament of Initiation.  But what does it do?  Again, we listen to St. Thomas:

“Now it has been said above (1; 65, 1) that, just as Baptism is a spiritual regeneration unto Christian life, so also is Confirmation a certain spiritual growth bringing man to perfect spiritual age. But it is evident, from a comparison with the life of the body, that the action which is proper to man immediately after birth, is different from the action which is proper to him when he has come to perfect age. And therefore by the sacrament of Confirmation man is given a spiritual power in respect of sacred actions other than those in respect of which he receives power in Baptism. For in Baptism he receives power to do those things which pertain to his own salvation, forasmuch as he lives to himself: whereas in Confirmation he receives power to do those things which pertain to the spiritual combat with the enemies of the Faith.” (Summa III, Q.72)

“There has been much discussion among theologians as to what constitutes the essential matter of this sacrament. Some, e.g. Aureolus and Petavius, held that it consists in the imposition of hands. Others, with St. Thomas, Bellarmine, and Maldonatus, maintain that it is the anointing with chrism.” ( However, both are always present when the sacrament is given. Only the bishop may consecrate the oil, and it is preferred that it always be the bishop that administers the sacrament itself, because it symbolizes communion with fullness of apostolic ministry and origins of the Church.

St. Thomas, quoting the letter of an early pope in the Summa Theologica,  puts it as straight forward as possible:

Pope Eusebius says: “The sacrament of the imposition of the hand should be held in great veneration, and can be given by none but the high priests. Nor is it related or known to have been conferred in apostolic times by others than the apostles themselves; nor can it ever be either licitly or validly performed by others than those who stand in their place. And if anyone presume to do otherwise, it must be considered null and void; nor will such a thing ever be counted among the sacraments of the Church.” Therefore it is essential to this sacrament, which is called “the sacrament of the imposition of the hand,” that it be given by a bishop.(Summa III, Q.72)

Besides sanctifying grace, the sacrament also confers the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.  These are, according to Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.(CCC 1831)


Christian initiation is accomplished by three sacraments together: Baptism which is the beginning of new life; Confirmation which is its strengthening; and the Eucharist which nourishes the disciple with Christ’s Body and Blood for his transformation in Christ.(CCC 1275)

In the next few posts, I intend to make a few brief remarks about the Sacraments of initiation.  At a later date, I will, of course, expand greatly upon these, Biblically and historically, and, God willing, we will explore the Summa Theologica, Part III as it deals with the Sacraments in depth, much as we are currently doing with the Incarnation.


“Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he can not enter into the Kingdom of God.”

It is clear from Scripture that it is Christ Himself who instituted baptism, although exactly when is disputed. In the third part of his Summa, Question 66, article 2, Thomas Aquinas tells us that:

“Sacraments derive from their institution the power of conferring grace. Wherefore it seems that a sacrament is then instituted, when it receives the power of producing its effect. Now Baptism received this power when Christ was baptized. Consequently Baptism was truly instituted then, if we consider it as a sacrament. But the obligation of receiving this sacrament was proclaimed to mankind after the Passion and Resurrection.”

Thus Christ tells us in Mark 16:16 that “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Furthermore, he instructs the disciples, saying “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt 28:19)

But baptism, like any sacrament, binds us, but not God.  Therefore, He can certainly save those that are not baptized.  I offer here a few examples from the Catechism.  However, this in no way implies that salvation is “universal” and somehow conferred on all.

CCC 1258-1259: The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament. For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.

Nevertheless, the normal way to enter the Church is through baptism, the first sacrament of initiation. Is immersion necessary for a proper baptism?  Again, Thomas tells us:

“Although it is safer to baptize by immersion, because this is the more ordinary fashion, yet Baptism can be conferred by sprinkling or also by pouring, according to Ezekiel 36:25: “I will pour upon you clean water.” (III, Q.66)

One of the earliest Christian documents we have, after those of the New Testament itself, is the Didache. In chapter seven of this short work, it tells us, concerning baptism:

“And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit.”

What, then, is the importance of water?  It symbolizes many things, one being a washing from sin. But more primarily, it is a symbol of death, as in the flood, or the parting of the Red Sea, when wickedness was destroyed.  Paul tells us in Romans 6 what happens in baptism:

“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:3-4)

Question 13. The Power of Christ’s Soul

Did He have omnipotence simply?

No. Omnipotence belongs to the Creator, and not to anything created.  Christ’s soul is created, and omnipotence, which is proper only to God cannot be proper to a human soul, even though that soul exists in the Person of God. We must retain the distinction in natures in the one Person of Christ.

St. Thomas’ words: “Christ’s omnipotence flows from the Divine Nature. Therefore, since the soul of Christ is a part of human nature, it cannot possibly have omnipotence.”

“By union with the Person, the Man receives omnipotence in time, which the Son of God had from eternity; the result of which union is that as the Man is said to be God, so is He said to be omnipotent.” When we get to Question 16, we will be able to better answer what it means to say “Man is God” and “God is Man” when speaking of the Incarnation.

Did He have omnipotence with regard to corporeal creatures?

No.  As stated above (in the actual article, not my summary) omnipotence and perfect knowledge differ.  Christ could know all things yet not have, per His human soul, power over all things, even those created. We must remember the question is about Christ’s human soul, not about His divine Person.

“All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth” He says, but He says this as the Incarnate Person, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.  Again, Question 16 will clarify all this more deeply.

Did He have omnipotence with regard to His own body?

Again, no, because His own body is part of creation, and so there is, in respect to the nature proper to His soul, no substantial difference from the last article (above).  His body is a corporal creature, if you will.

It is written in Hebrews 2:17 that “it behooved Him in all things to be made like unto His brethren.” It belongs to the condition of human nature that the health of the body and its nourishment and growth are not subject to the bidding of reason or will.  Otherwise, for example, if we willed to eat, we would not be hungry. (I am reminded here of the long exposition in the Summa Contra Gentiles III on how this relates to our end as one not primarily of the will, but of the intellect).

Thomas mentions here that man has three states: innocence, sin, and glory. Often we fail to realize this and think of only two states: one of sin, and one of our unfallen nature, as if after redemption we simply return to this first state.  This is not the place to get into deep discussion of this issue, but it will follow from our redemption and state of eternal glory.

As the liturgy say, “oh happy fault,” and this would be pointless if we merely returned to what we should have already had by nature at our original creation. (again, I digress)

Did He have omnipotence as regards the execution of His own will?

In answering, it is best here to simply quote St. Thomas verbatim: “Christ’s soul willed things in two ways. First, what was to be brought about by Himself; and it must be said that He was capable of whatever He willed thus, since it would not befit His wisdom if He willed to do anything of Himself that was not subject to His will. Secondly, He wished things to be brought about by the Divine power, as the resurrection of His own body and such like miraculous deeds, which He could not effect by His own power, except as the instrument of the Godhead.”

Again, we must always remember the question we are answering, whether it pertains to Christ as man, Christ as God (by nature) or the One Person.  I wonder at times why Question 16 was not presented earlier in the Summa, but I will humbly say it must be that I do not yet understand Thomas’ order, and not that he got it wrong.  After all, the St. has said in the beginning of the Summa Contra Gentiles, (and quoting Aristotle) that “among other things that men have conceived about the wise man, the Philosopher includes the notion that ‘it belongs to the wise man to order.’”

Certainly he did such in his masterpiece.

Question 12. The Acquired or Empiric Knowledge of Christ’s Soul

Did Christ know all things by this knowledge?

Acquired knowledge is held to be in Christ’s soul, as was said above (9, 4), by reason of the active intellect. Now as the passive intellect is that by which “all things are in potentiality,” (the passive intellect is a blank slate, starting as nothing but potentially everything) so the active intellect is that by which “all are in act,” as Aristotle says. The soul of Christ knew by infused knowledge all things to which the passive intellect is in any way in potentiality, so by acquired knowledge it knew whatever can be known by the action of the active intellect.

Christ, although He did not experience all things in particular, came to the knowledge of all things, from what He did experience. Particulars of past, present, and future, however, He knew by infused knowledge.

Did He advance in this knowledge?

It would be objected, then, that Christ could not advance in knowledge, if He knew all things.  After all, to advance, or improve, belongs only to what is imperfect.

But after His being found by Mary and Joseph in the Temple, the Scriptures are clear that “Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace with God and men.” What do we make of this?

Christ did not advance in knowledge in essence, but rather in effect.  He demonstrated His knowledge more and more. As His age increased He wrought greater deeds, and showed greater knowledge and grace, all the way to His crowning point of the Passion and Resurrection.

But as regards His habit of infused knowledge, this did not and could not increase, since from the beginning He had perfect infused knowledge of all things, as we have already made clear.

This, again, is a place where Thomas changed his position from his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, where he had not recognized in Christ any acquired knowledge. He says, therefore, in this article that “because it seems unfitting that any natural intelligible action should be wanting to Christ, and because to extract intelligible species from phantasms is a natural action of man’s active intellect, it seems becoming to place even this action in Christ.”

Did He learn anything from man?

“They found Him in the temple in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions.”

Thomas answers that “a master is not taught, but teaches. Therefore Christ did not receive any knowledge by the teaching of any man.” Christ is God, and God is the first mover, even of all intellects.  One cannot be both first unmoved mover and also moved.

“For this was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth.” (John 18:37):  And thus it did not befit His dignity that He should be taught by any man, for He came to teach and not to be taught. He asked questions as a teaching method, not to obtain answers He did not have.

We learn by signs.  Objects themselves are natural signs, made by God.  Words are conventional signs, made by man.  Christ, as man, would be more fitted to learn by the signs made by God than the signs made by man.

It is interesting that, according to Thomas, when Jesus was very young and heard adults speaking and no doubt would have learned something from this just in its hearing, that Jesus simplydid not give ear to hearing the lessons of doctrine until such time as He was able to have reached that grade of knowledge by way of experience.” No doubt Thomas came to this conclusion to protect the teaching of Christ not being “taught by man,” and we would do well to ponder it rather than simply outright reject it, as odd as it may at first sound.

Did He receive anything from angels?

St. Thomas quotes Dionysius, who says that “the highest angels question Jesus, and learn the knowledge of His Divine work, and of the flesh assumed for us; and Jesus teaches them directly.” So in short, no, Jesus did not learn from the angels.  Again, angels, although their intellect are beyond that of all men, including in that way the soul of Christ, as we said earlier, they are inferior to Him, for the Person is Divine and uncreated.

Rather, as Augustine comments in his Literal Commentary on Genesis, it was the Word that taught the angels.

Lastly, although His body was rightly subject to the impression of heavenly bodies, His soul was not subject to the impression of heavenly spirits.

Question 11. The Knowledge Imprinted or Infused in the Soul of Christ

Without an understanding of Aristotelian psychology, the following will be difficult to follow.  A grasp of Aristotle’s de Anima (On the Soul), especially as regards the intellect and the process of coming to knowledge of the external world, should be had if one expects to understand the terminology employed by Thomas.

Does Christ know all things by this knowledge?

The knowledge of all Divine things belongs to wisdom, the knowledge of all immaterial things to understanding, the knowledge of all conclusions to knowledge [scientia], the knowledge of all practical things to counsel. Christ had the knowledge of all things.

As was said above (Question 9, Article 1), it was fitting that the soul of Christ should be wholly perfected by having each of its powers reduced to act. (Note: it is always good to remember that the Scholastic and philosophical term “reduce” has a very different connotation than we would apply to the word in ordinary speech, and has nothing to do with something’s lessening in a belittling way). The soul of Christ knew: First, whatever can be known by force of a man’s active intellect and secondly, by this knowledge Christ knew all things made known to man by Divine revelation. So the intellectual virtues, both acquired and infused, were in Him perfect.

Could He use this knowledge by turning to phantasms?

The soul of Christ knew certain things which could not be known by the senses, for He had the beatific vision and did not have the lack of “vision” that we have while limited by the earthly body. Therefore it could understand without turning to phantasms.

In the state before His Passion Christ was at the same time a wayfarer like and a comprehensor, having the vision of God. After the resurrection glory will flow from the soul to the body, rather than here where it seems our soul is more dependant and limited by, rather than master of, the body.

Although His soul could understand without turning to phantasms it could also understand by turning to phantasms, so His soul’s senses were not useless.

Was this knowledge collative or discursive?

Christ had a rational soul, and the proper operation of a rational soul consists in comparison and discursion from one thing to another, so He had this type of knowledge.

As is so often the case, a distinction must be made to properly understand this teaching. Knowledge may be discursive or collative in two ways. First, in the acquisition of the knowledge, as happens to us, but this is not so for Christ.

But knowledge may be called discursive or collative in use, and in this way, because of His humanity, Christ’s soul could be collative or discursive.

The comparison of this knowledge with the angelic knowledge

Because angels are pure intellect, far beyond men in vision, one must ask if Christ’s human soul had knowledge in some way less than that of angels, being a true human soul and sharing this lower nature with us. Again, the answer will depend upon an important distinction.

As regards what it has from the inflowing cause, it is more perfect than the angels, but as regards what it has from the subject receiving it (His very human soul) the knowledge imprinted on the soul of Christ is less than the angelic knowledge, in the manner of knowing that is natural to the human soul. This manner of knowing is by way of phantasms and then discursive reasoning, as mentioned above.

Was it a habitual knowledge?

For Thomas, the term habit goes beyond that of our current usage of the word.  This is not the place to discuss it in depth, but one should know that habitus is more than mere repetition so that similar actions become simply something mechanically automatic.  Likewise, an understanding of habitual knowledge, as taught by the scholastics, should be grasped. Psychologically, habit signifies the acquired facility of conscious processes.

The knowledge of Christ we are now speaking about was univocal with our knowledge, even as His soul was of the same species as ours. But our knowledge is in the genus of habit. Therefore the knowledge of Christ was habitual.

Basically, we do not want to say that Christ’s knowledge, as One with a human intellect, was merely equivocal or analogical to ours, but must be univocal; otherwise, it would not be a true human soul. As such, His soul shares in our nature, and operations go with the natures that they are attached to. Such was Christ’s knowledge.

As stated above (under Comparison of this knowledge with the angelic), the mode of the knowledge impressed on the soul of Christ befitted the subject receiving it. For the received is in the recipient after the mode of the recipient. We have seen this phrase before and we shall see it often in the thought of Thomas. We must remember that Jesus is God, and in this respect, the giver, but also, as man, He is the receiver.  We must realize that Christ is one person, but we often speak of Christ as man or as God in careful distinction.

Was it distinguished by various habits?

It is objected that in the soul of Christ there was only one habit of knowledge because the more perfect knowledge is, the more united it is, and Christ’s knowledge was most perfect and therefore one and not distinguished by several habits.

However, as stated above (4,5), the knowledge imprinted on Christ’s soul has a mode connatural to a human soul (according to the mode of the receiver). This means it won’t be received in the universal mode that angels receive knowledge, but in like manner to how we have knowledge of various things, because there are different classes of knowable things, inasmuch as what are in one genus are known by one type of habit or another.

Christ’s soul is most perfect, and exceeds the knowledge of angels with regard to what is in it on the part of God’s gift; but it is below the angelic knowledge as regards the mode of the recipient.

What is received is received according to the mode of the receiver.

Question 10. The Beatific Knowledge of Christ’s Soul


Did the soul of Christ comprehend the Word or the Divine Essence?

The Divine Essence is not finite with respect to the soul of Christ, since It infinitely exceeds it. Therefore the soul of Christ does not comprehend the Word. As always, we reaffirm the true humanity of Christ.  And a human sol cannot comprehend the infinite.  Only the infinite can comprehend the infinite, and so the human soul, created as it is, cannot do this.

We must not confuse, we must not “mix” the natures in Christ.  He is not part man, part God.  He is fully man and fully God.  And man cannot comprehend the infinite God.  His soul then, has human limits, or it would not truly be human.

Did it know all things in the Word?

This to me is one of the most difficult of questions. St. Thomas says yes, if we are asking if He knew “all that in any way whatsoever is, will be, or was done, said, or thought, by whomsoever and at any time. In this way it must be said that the soul of Christ knows all things in the Word.” Still, Thomas insists, as he had just said above, that the intellect of the man Jesus cannot comprehend God.

Thomas does not fail to address that ultimate question, pertaining to Christ’s saying “But of that day or hour no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but the Father.” He answers that “He is said, therefore, not to know the day and the hour of the Judgment, for that He does not make it known, since, on being asked by the apostles (Acts 1:7), He was unwilling to reveal it.”

“The soul of Christ knows all things that God knows in Himself by the knowledge of vision, but not all that God knows in Himself by knowledge of simple intelligence; and thus in Himself God knows many more things than the soul of Christ.”

To me, it is hard to see that this is conclusive, but I also do not doubt that Thomas pondered this mystery much before stating this.  We should do likewise, and know that we should never try to remove all mystery from revelation.

In reply to a later objection, but helpful here also, he also says “Therefore, although the knowledge of the soul of Christ which He has in the Word is equal to the knowledge of vision as regards the number of things known, nevertheless the knowledge of God infinitely exceeds the knowledge of the soul of Christ in clearness of cognition.”

Did the soul of Christ know the infinite in the Word?

Objection: The knowledge of the infinite is infinite. But the knowledge of the soul of Christ cannot be infinite, because its capacity is finite, since it is created. Therefore the soul of Christ cannot know the infinite. (Was this not Thomas’ position above?)

“In the power of the creature there is an infinite number of things, it knows the infinite, as it were, by a certain knowledge of simple intelligence, and not by a knowledge of vision.”

We must ponder the infinite for a moment.  The infinite, according to Aristotle, is always possible in potential (we can always add one more) but never in act (if it was, we couldn’t add one more). In the respect of the possible, even as humans we can contemplate the infinite, but not infinite in actual act (which is God, and as we said before, we cannot comprehend God).

To state something similar in Thomas own words: “If there were an infinite number of men, they would have a relative infinity, i.e. in multitude; but, as regards the essence, they would be finite, since the essence of all would be limited to one specific nature. But what is simply infinite in its essence is God.”

This second and actually existing infinite essence is unknowable and not comprehendible to anything created, including man, angels, and the human soul of Christ.

Ponder this example as an exercise in contemplating infinity:

We observe this (a “greater” infinity in multiple infinite things than in a singular) in numbers also, for the species of even numbers are infinite, and likewise the species of odd numbers are infinite; yet there are more even and odd numbers than even.

Did it see the Word or the Divine Essence clearer than did any other creature?

God has set Christ “on His right hand in the heavenly places, above all principality and power and virtue and dominion and every name that is named not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.”

If we return to Question 2, we are well reminded that the union of the human nature to the Son of God is the greatest of unions.  It is in and because of this union that the soul of Christ can see the divine essence better than any creature, be they an angel or a human who has obtained the beatific vision.

The degree of this vision depends on the order of grace in which Christ is supreme, rather than on the order of nature, in which the angelic nature is placed before the human.

Question 9. Christ’s Knowledge in General

Question 9. Christ’s Knowledge in General

  1. Did Christ have any knowledge besides the Divine?
  2. Did He have the knowledge which the blessed or comprehensors have?
  3. Did He have an imprinted or infused knowledge?
  4. Did He have any acquired knowledge?

Article 1. Whether Christ had any knowledge besides the Divine?

“God assumed the perfection of human nature in the flesh; He took upon Himself the sense of man…” But created knowledge pertains to the sense of man. Therefore in Christ there was created knowledge.

The Son of God assumed an entire human nature, to include a rational soul. Now what is in potentiality is imperfect unless reduced to act, and in keeping with our defense of the perfection and at the same time the true human nature of Christ, it is only fitting that He have human knowledge.

If there had been no human knowledge in the soul of Christ, it would have known nothing and would have been assumed for no purpose.

Article 2. Whether Christ had the knowledge which the blessed or comprehensors have?

According to John 8:55: “I do know Him, and do keep His word.” Therefore in Christ there was the knowledge of the blessed.

Men are brought to the end of beatitude by the humanity of Christ, and it was necessary that the beatific knowledge, which consists in the vision of God, should belong to Christ pre-eminently, since an effect cannot be greater than its cause.

In the soul of Christ, which is a part of human nature, and through the light participated from the Divine Nature, He has  perfect beatific knowledge whereby He sees God.

In the Reply to Objection 3, we see the truth of the statement from Fr. Mullady’s Nature and Grace lectures: “Man is called to an end by nature that he cannot attain by nature, but only by grace because of the exalted character of the end.”

Article 3. Whether Christ had an imprinted or infused knowledge?

In Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

The Word of God should not be imperfect. But the passive intellect of man is in potentiality to all intelligible things. and it is reduced to act by intelligible species, hence we must admit in the soul of Christ an infused knowledge, inasmuch as the Word of God is imprinted upon the soul of Christ, whereby He knows things in their proper nature proportioned to the human mind.

In his replies to the objections, it is reaffirmed that Christ did not have the virtue of faith, because He has the beatific vision.  However, as human He does not lose the demonstration leading to knowledge simply because He has the obtained knowledgesince he who knows the cause is thereby enabled the better to understand the probable signs from which dialectical syllogisms proceed.” Further, again understanding Christ as true man, He has, in His rational mind, the intelligible species, proportioned to His human nature.

Article 4. Whether Christ had any acquired knowledge?

Indeed, He did. Nothing in the soul of Christ is there in vain. But He has, as human, an active intellect. What has no proper operation is useless,and the proper operation of the active intellect is to abstract intelligible species from phantasms. We would dive deep into the Thomistic understanding of psychology (in its true form: study of the soul) to understand him here, and his point is to once again show that Christ was true man, with all the operations proper to man. Interestingly, Thomas here shows he has developed in his thought and is correcting his opinion from his youth.

The habit of infused knowledge is of a different nature, as coming down to the soul from on high, and not from phantasms. And hence there is no parity between these habits.