Scriptum super “Libros sententiarum,” 1252-1256 (English translation, 1923)
Summa contra gentiles, c. 1258-1264 (English translation, 1923)
Summa theologiae, c. 1265-1273 (Summa Theologica, 1911-1921)
Thomas Aquinas (TAHM-uhs uh-KWI-nuhs) is generally agreed to be the towering figure in medieval theology, and to him goes the principal credit for applying the philosophical doctrines of Aristotle to Christianity. The joining of these seemingly divergent streams of thought in the philosophical movement known as Scholasticism has had tremendous influence on subsequent theological and philosophical thinking.
Thomas was well prepared by his background for the work that was to engage far and away the major portion of his efforts. Born at Roccasecca, near Aquino, Italy, in 1224 or 1225, the son of Count Landolfo of Aquino, he was raised in an atmosphere of ease. Having studied at the Abbey of Monte Cassino, he went from there, in 1239, to Naples to study the liberal arts. He then entered the Order of St. Dominic (c. 1243), abandoning his life of privilege to become a “begging friar.”
Thomas was fortunate to be able to study under Albert the Great (Albertus Magnus) in Paris from 1245 to 1248. While with Albert in Cologne, after his studies in Paris, he was ordained to the priesthood. Shortly thereafter he received advanced degrees in theology. He spent the rest of his life teaching and writing his great treatises–such as his commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard (c. 1100-c. 1160)–in Rome, Paris, and Naples.
Of his works, the two most important are his Summa contra gentiles, which defends Christianity in the area of natural theology, and Summa Theologica, a work whose three divisions are related to God, Man, and Christ and in which Thomas attempted to summarize all human knowledge. This monumental treatise was left unfinished when he died of a sudden illness on March 7, 1274, at Fossanova, Italy, while traveling to the General Council of Lyons. St. Thomas Aquinas, canonized in 1323, remains a central thinker in Christian theology because of his synthesization of past knowledge and his application of the principles of scholastic reasoning to religion.