Thomas Aquinas, by Denys Turner

The many biographies of Thomas Aquinas range from the popular and hagiographic to the scholarly. But all writers on the saint agree that Thomas was notoriously reticent about his own life. Almost never in his voluminous writings did he reveal a personal voice. It was thus brave of Denys Turner to subtitle his wonderful book “A Portrait.”

Turner recognizes the problem of Thomas’s taciturnity but thinks that one can find the person behind his writings in much the same way a keen listener can hear the silence behind music. Turner opens his book by saying—correctly—that the key to Thomas’s life and work is to be found in his life as a Dominican friar whose primary task was preaching. Thomas spent his entire adult life as a friar teaching younger friars who were preparing for the apostolate. In fact, as Turner notes, Thomas’s Summa Theologica was meant to serve as a model of theological instruction for that precise purpose.

 

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