Early Franciscan Theology

Oleg Bychkov and Lydia Schumacher (eds.), A Reader in Early Franciscan Theology: The Summa Halensis (Fordham University Press 2022)

A Reader in Early Franciscan Theology presents for the first time in English key passages from the Summa Halensis, one of the first major installments in the summa genre for which scholasticism became famous. This systematic work of philosophy and theology was collaboratively written mostly between 1236 and 1245 by the founding members of the Franciscan school, such as Alexander of Hales and John of La Rochelle, who worked at the recently founded University of Paris.

Modern scholarship has often dismissed this early Franciscan intellectual tradition as unoriginal, merely systematizing the Augustinian tradition in light of the rediscovery of Aristotle, paving the way for truly revolutionary figures like John Duns Scotus. But as the selections in this reader show, it was this earlier generation that initiated this break with precedent. The compilers of the Summa Halensis first articulated many positions that eventually become closely associated with the Franciscan tradition on issues like the nature of God, the proof for God’s existence, free will, the transcendentals, and Christology. This book is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the ways in which medieval thinkers employed philosophical concepts in a theological context as well as the evolution of Franciscan thought and its legacy to modernity.

A Reader in Early Franciscan Theology is available from the publisher on an open-access basis here.