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Intellectual tradition and misunderstanding: the development of academic theology on the Trinity in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries

Robb, F; (1994) Intellectual tradition and misunderstanding: the development of academic theology on the Trinity in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Doctoral thesis, University of London. Green open access

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Abstract

This study is concerned with the development of a distinct and coherent tradition of thought on the Trinity in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The strength of this tradition was such that, in a significant number of cases, it actually prevented theologians from being able to see the real issues before them. When theologians in the thirteenth century come to put forward their interpretations of the statement on the Trinity issued by the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, they are severely hampered in their ability to do so because of their preoccupation with an argument about the divine essence which is, at the most, tangential in the Lateran decree itself. Their interpretations are so wide of the mark as to constitute nothing less than a case of collective misunderstanding. This raises questions about rationality and hermeneutics which are not as easily answerable as they first appear. The difficulty arises because it is just possible to discern a conceptual link between the skewed interpretation offered by these theologians and the issues addressed in the Lateran decree as they appear to us today. It is almost as if theologians considered their version to be legitimate because they saw an intrinsic link between the issues of divine unity and divine generation, the main concerns of the decree and academic theologians respectively. What gives credence to this possibility is that these issues were themselves often inseparable in the development of trinitarian theology in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Much of the coherence of the tradition of academic theology of the Trinity derived from a recurrent preoccupation with the question of whether the divine essence begets. In certain crucial instances, the answer to this question was determined with reference to the doctrine of divine unity. The idea was that the generation of the essence would impair irretrievably the absolute unity of essence which was beginning to emerge as the dominant view of divine unity. The Lateran Council's statement on the doctrine can only be understood within this wider theological context. It is no longer possible to attribute this statement to Pope Innocent III's wish to bolster the authority of Peter Lombard. Innocent himself borrowed from Joachim's trinitarian theology, making it almost inconceivable that he would have later wished to condemn the same theologian. Only by giving less attention to the personalities involved and more to the issues themselves can we realise the full significance of the theological controversies of this period.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Intellectual tradition and misunderstanding: the development of academic theology on the Trinity in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
Additional information:Thesis digitised by British Library EThOS
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > History

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