The Catholic University of America

Final Examination of 

Aaron Gies  

for the degree of 

Doctor of Philosophy

 

Abstract 

Alexander of Hales on the Gospel of John: An Epitome of Sacra Doctrina

Director: Joshua C. Benson, PhD
 
 
In his authentic works and in the group-authored Summa Halensis, Alexander of Hales (ca. 1183-1245) defined theology (doctrina theologiae or sacra doctrina) as: “a science about the divine substance which must be cognized through Christ in the work of restoration.”
 
This unusual triadic form, drawn from Ps.-Dionysius’s Celestial Hierarchy, is necessary because of theology’s subject:  “in forms and things separated from material, as is divinity itself and the Trinity of Persons…through activity we arrive at knowledge of power, and through power into knowledge of essence.” The definition is often read as confusing theology with Scripture. However, new evidence from Alexander’s unedited John commentary, the Postilla in Iohannis euangelium (ca. 1230s), where Alexander divides John’s Gospel according to the same triadic form, shows that theology for Alexander is neither Scripture nor human reflection on it, but a unique discipline embracing both. 
Section one surveys the literature: the exegesis of Alexander of Hales has never been published or studied in relation to his systematic works. Section two treats the idea of theology found in systematic Halensian works. Section three introduces the Postilla in Iohannis euangelium. Section four treats the idea of theology worked out in the commentary. Section five synthesizes Alexander’s systematic and exegetical teaching on theology. Section six concludes the dissertation. A text-critical study, working edition of the prefaces and first three chapters of the commentary, and exhaustive division of the text are appended.
For Alexander, theology is divine illumination as refracted through a hierarchy that includes angelic and prophetic speech, the Scriptures and products of human reflection such as exegesis or disputed questions. Instances of theology are images whereby Christ’s activities in himself or in his mystical body are revealed to someone through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to be acts of restoration disclosing God’s hidden power and essence. Whatever the literary genre, theology always proceeds according to the same triadic form to inquire into the same transcendent subject. Theology is essentially “hierarchizing.” In learning it, one is purified in activity, illuminated with knowledge and perfected in order, so that theology and spirituality are always integrally linked.
 
 
More about Gies 
 

Aaron Gies completed his undergraduate degree in Bible and Religion at Montreat College (Montreat, NC) in 2002. While serving as music director at Back Creek Associate Reformed Presbyterian (ARP) Church in Charlotte, NC, he earned an MA in Christian Thought from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in 2007. Since arriving at the Catholic University of America in 2008, he has completed an MA in Medieval Studies from the Catholic University of America’s Center for Medieval and Byzantine Studies and an M.Phil from the School of Theology and Religious Studies. He is currently completing a certificate in Manuscript Studies at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies at the University of Toronto. While at CUA, he served as a ruling elder at Little Falls Presbyterian Church, (USA) in Arlington, VA and as a teaching fellow for the University. He currently resides in Columbia, South Carolina with his wife, Katie, and son, James, where he serves as music director at Grace ARP Church and adjunct instructor in Religion and Philosophy at Limestone College.