Thomas Aquinas and the gospels

Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) was an Italian Catholic priest and Doctor of the Church. He was an immensely influential philosopher, theologian, and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism.

The Catholic Church reveres Thomas Aquinas as a saint and regards him as the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood. Aquinas is considered one of the Catholic Church’s greatest theologians and philosophers – if not the greatest. In one of his works he observed the way Jesus is portrayed in the four gospels:

Even from before the rise of Biblical scholarship attentive readers of the gospels noticed some interesting features. The earliest three gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke) portray Jesus as just a man to whom authority had been given by God. St Thomas Aquinas cites an specially interesting example to illustrate this fact, Matthew 9:8:

‘And just then some people were carrying a paralysed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’ 3 Then some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ 4 But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and walk”? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he then said to the paralytic—‘Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.’ 7 And he stood up and went to his home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.’

The same story in Mark does not have verse 8 above. And the version in Mark is what Christian apologists will always quote because they think it suggests that Jesus is God. But Matthew explains via the pious Jews that Jesus was a man to whom authority had been given by God, and therefore was not God Himself.

Now don’t get me wrong. Of course Aquinas believed Jesus was God. The last gospel to be written (John) clearly presents Jesus as a preexistent divine figure. But the earliest gospels do not tell us this.

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Categories: Bible, Biblical scholarship, Christianity, God

1 reply

  1. It’s interesting to note how some Christians often point to the 4 “witnesses” model to get a “stereoscopic view” of the Gospel. Yet when they come across a verse like the one above, they instead prefer to pick and choose from the specific Gospel (in this instance Mark) which most closely resembles their own theology, while ignoring the additional verse in another Gospel (Matthew 9:8) that puts that theological belief into question. They can’t have it both ways.

    Liked by 2 people

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