Angelic Creation in the High Middle Ages

The previous post noted the shift from first- and second-century Jewish and Christian commentators, according to whom the us in “let us make man in our image” referred to God and his putative angelic helpers in creation, to the later Patristic interpretation of this same passage in more Trinitarian terms. However, with the later medieval renewal of interest in Platonic and Neoplatonic origin myths, especially in the school of Chartres, along with the recovery of Aristotle’s cosmological writings in the West beginning in the twelfth century, the question of angelic creation and governance once again came to the fore.[1]

One especially important position articulated on the issue was the one formulated by Peter Lombard in his Book of Sentences, a work that became the standard theological textbook for the next several centuries, and thus the context in which subsequent thinkers such as Aquinas were introduced to the question of angelic creation.[2] In his treatment of the subject, Lombard cites as definitive Augustine’s opinion in his Literal Commentary on Genesis that neither good nor evil angels create but at most help in the “making” of things.[3] Curiously, however, in his later discussion of the power of baptism granted by God to his ministers, Lombard draws an analogy between the way in which God bestows the power to forgive sins to his ministers to the power of creation which God is supposedly able to communicate to his creatures.[4]

[1] Keck, Angels and Angelology in the Middle Ages, 18-21. On late medieval angelology, see also Colish, “Early Scholastic Angelology.” On the medieval reception of Plato, see Gersh, ed., Platonic Tradition in the Middle Ages: A Doxographic Approach.

[2] On the history of Lombard’s Book of Sentences, see Rosemann, The Story of a Great Medieval Book: Peter Lombard’s “Sentences.

[3] Lombard, Sententiae in IV Libris Distinctae 2.7.8.

[4] Ibid. 4.5.3.

1 thought on “Angelic Creation in the High Middle Ages

  1. Pingback: Aquinas: for then against Angelic Creation | The Flame Imperishable

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