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The Meaning of “Doctrina” in St. Thomas’ Summa Theologiae

The second objection to the first article of the first question of St. Thomas’ Summa Theologiae begins thus: “Doctrina non potest esse nisi de ente: nihil enim scitur nisi verum, quod cum ente convertitur.” In his translation of the Summa the late Fr. Laurence Shapcote, OP translates doctrina as “knowledge.” The newer edition of the Summa from the Aquinas Institute revises this translation from “knowledge” to “teaching.”

So what is doctrina and what does it mean?

St. Jerome uses doctrina to translate a host of words in the Vulgate: e.g., מְלָאכָה (Exodus 35:31), אוּרִים (Leviticus 8:8), דַּעַת (Proverbs 24:4; 1 Kings 7:14; Ecclesiastes 2:21), שִׂכְלוֹ (Proverbs 12:8), מוּסַר (Proverbs 13:1; Isaiah 26:16; Jeremiah 10:8), שֵֽׂכֶל (Proverbs 13:15), דְּעֶה (Proverbs 24:14), παιδεία (Sirach 4:29, 21:22), δῐδᾰχή (Matthew 7:28 et passim; Mark 4:2 et passim; Luke 4:32; John 7:17 et passim), δῐδασκᾰλία (Romans 12:7; Titus 2:7), or διδακτός (1 Corinthians 2:13). In all it appears 113 times in the Vulgate and frequently in works like the Venerable Bede’s Historiam ecclesiasticam gentis Anglorum and Cicero’s dialogue De Oratore. The sense of the word tends to be, as Lewis & Short put it, “the knowledge imparted by teaching” or “the habit produced by instruction.”

A Lexicon of Saint Thomas Aquinas defines it this way: doctrīna, ae, f., (1) instruction in the active sense of the word, teaching, informing, synonym of doctio and doctrinatio, the opposite of disciplina, (2) instruction in the passive sense of the word, synonym of disciplina, (3) doctrine, dogma, (4) profession of teaching, branch of learning, science, synonym of disciplina.

Which is to say, the Aquinas Institute’s revision is right and good.

Verbum’s Christmas Sale Continues!


The Christmas season just started, and our Advent & Christmas sale continues through January 10th. Save on a host of Catholic resources!

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Venite, venite in Bethlehem

Adeste fideles læti triumphantes,
Venite, venite in Bethlehem.
Natum videte
Regem angelorum:
Venite adoremus

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on the Oldest Surviving Christmas Tree

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to see the oldest surviving Christmas tree in the world, which forms a kind of reredos behind the high altar in the church at Christkindl near Steyr. The history of this tree takes us back to the year 1694. At that time, Steyr had a new sacristan and choirmaster who suffered from epilepsy—or, as the chronicle innocently puts it, “the sickness where one falls down”. He came from Melk, where he had become acquainted with the devotion to the child Jesus. He placed a picture of the Holy Family in the hollow of a medium-sized pine, and he found strength and consolation as he said his prayers before this picture. Then he heard of an image of the Christ child that had healed a paralyzed nun, and after some time he succeeded in obtaining an exact copy, a waxen Christ child holding a cross in one hand and the crown of thorns in the other. He brought this image to the tree and said his prayers before it, sensing that a healing power radiated from the image. Gradually, people heard about this, and they began to make pilgrimages to the Christ child in the tree. The Church authorities in Passau were slow to approve of this popular devotion, but the local people were finally given permission to erect a little church around this tree, and the foundation stone of the Christkindl church was laid in 1708. It was built by the most celebrated Austrian architects of the time, on the model of Santa Maria Rotonda in Rome. One might say that it has become a precious husk around the tree, out of which the altar and the tabernacle grow. The tree still bears the little waxen Christ child. He wears a crown, and rays go forth from the figure, giving an assurance of faith and hope to many people.

 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI – The Blessing of Christmas

Four Catholic Quotations for Christmas


Brothers, see Jesus in the manger, see him in the lap of his virgin mother, see him sucking at her breasts, crying in the cradle, see him wrapped in swaddling clothes; see him also, if I am not mistaken, surrounded by the hay in the stable. This is spiritual milk; these are the banquet foods I promised you for this our feast day. Suck on them sweetly; think on them with tenderness. Nourish yourselves interiorly with a drink of this milk. But this is for children. What may we do for the youth, what for the elders? The youth are strong; elders have lost the heat of the flesh. If therefore you are a child, suckle on Jesus in the stable. If you are strong, imitate Jesus on the gibbet of the cross.

St. Aelred of Rievaulx – The Liturgical Sermons

When the Maker of time, the Word of the Father, was made flesh, He gave us His birthday in time; and He without whose divine bidding no day runs its course, in His Incarnation reserved one day for Himself. He Himself with the Father precedes all spans of time; but on this day, issuing from His mother, He stepped into the tide of the years. Man’s Maker was made man, that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breasts; that the Bread might be hungry, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired from the journey; that the Truth might be accused by false witnesses, the Judge of the living and the dead be judged by a mortal judge, Justice be sentenced by the unjust, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Vine be crowned with thorns, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might be made weak, that He who makes well might be wounded, that Life might die. He was made man to suffer these and similar undeserved things for us, that He might free us who were undeserving; and He who on account of us endured such great evils, merited no evil, while we who through Him were so bountifully blessed, had no merits to show for such blessings. Therefore, because of all this, He who before all ages and without a beginning determined by days was the Son of God, saw fit in these latter days to be the Son of man; and He, who was born of the Father but not made by the Father, was made in the mother whom He had made, that He might sometime be born here on earth of her who could never have been anywhere except through Him.

St. Augustine – Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany

The Gelasian and Gregorian Sacramentaries give three Masses to this feast (of Christmas), and these, with a special and sublime martyrology, and dispensation, if necessary, from abstinence, still mark our usage. Though Rome gives three Masses to the Nativity only, Ildefonsus, a Spanish bishop, in 845, alludes to a triple mass on Nativity, Easter, Whitsun, and Transfiguration (P.L., CVI, 888). These Masses, at midnight, dawn, and in die, were mystically connected with aboriginal, Judaic, and Christian dispensations, or (as by St. Thomas, Summa Theologica III:83:2) to the triple “birth” of Christ: in Eternity, in Time, and in the Soul. Liturgical colours varied: black, white, red, or (e.g. at Narbonne) red, white, violet were used (Durand, Rat. Div. Off., VI, 13). The Gloria was at first sung only in the first Mass of this day.

The Catholic Encyclopedia

Though coming in the form of man, yet not in every thing is He subject to the laws of man’s nature; for while His being born of a woman, tells of human nature; virginity becoming capable of childbirth betokens something above man. Of Him then His mother’s burden was light, the birth immaculate, the delivery without pain, the nativity without defilement, neither beginning from wanton desire, nor brought to pass with sorrow. For as she who by her guilt engrafted death into our nature, was condemned to bring forth in trouble, it was meet that she who brought life into the world should accomplish her delivery with joy. But through a virgin’s purity He makes His passage into mortal life at a time in which the darkness was beginning to fail, and the vast expanse of night to fade away before the exceeding brightness of the light. For the death of sin had brought an end of wickedness which from henceforth tends to nothing by reason of the presence of the true light which has illuminated the whole world with the rays of the Gospel.

St. Gregory of Nyssa quoted in St. Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke

How to Do Original Language Study

Fr. Andrew explains how to use Verbum 9 for original language study, even if you don’t know Greek, Latin, or Hebrew yet.

Verbum 360 Training: Study a Bible Passage

In these videos Fr. Devin Roza shows how to study a Bible passage using Verbum 9. The first video demonstrates Passage Study Layouts; the second, the Passage Guide.

New Training Videos

Fr. Andrew Dalton and Fr. Devin Roza at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome just finished a new series of training videos for Verbum 9.

You can watch the whole training series on Youtube. It’s also available within Verbum for anyone who purchased Verbum 9. We’ll be highlighting individual videos here on the blog over the coming weeks. Even longtime users of Verbum report learning something new, so don’t miss these!

A Biblical Feast

by Sonja Corbitt, the Bible Study Evangelista

Studying the Bible, for me, is a lot like cooking a fine dinner for family and friends. You consider the occasion, nutrition, preferences of those you’re serving, amount of labor involved, and ingredients; you balance one proportion of meat to two or more vegetables; and as my mother maintained, “You must always serve something green with every meal.” But the ultimate advantage of being the cook is choosing and preparing what one likes to eat, oneself!

Inherently nourishing myself and those I serve is my usual approach to Bible study. It is altogether a hobby, spiritual gift, and second vocation. I don’t just read and study the Bible for pleasure—I read and study the Bible because it is as necessary as eating. I must. After all, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Indeed, the Catechism tells us that the “one table” of the Lord is both the Eucharist and the Scriptures (CCC 103).

Continental Breakfast

From the Magnificat magazine, Laudate app, or Universalis, I lectio (LOVE the Word®–Listen, Observe, Verbalize, Entrust) with the daily readings every morning for daily guidance, readings set out conveniently by the Holy Spirit through and for the whole Church like a continental breakfast. It sets my spiritual metabolism in motion and is the most important meal of the day.

But my approach to later meals is serious in a different way, extraordinarily flavorful, adventurous, and substantial. And this is why I use Verbum almost exclusively for study.

Second Breakfast, Elevensies, Afternoon Tea, Dinner, Supper

I study because I am researching content for my weekly radio show, podcast, and RCIA classes; preparing talks for a conference, event, or episodes of my CatholicTV show; or writing a book. But I have these outlets to share the nourishment with which I myself have been nourished because I need to study God’s Word as the “solid food” to which St. Paul refers (1 Corinthians 3:2).

Our own need to eat comes first, as it does for everyone, whether or not we ever offer a similar meal to others. Without eating ourselves, we lack the spiritual nourishment required to feed our neighbors. But what we receive from God is so plentiful, it automatically provides for them as well, and it is our duty to provide such hospitality to others. At any given time, I am often studying for all of these reasons at once, so it is important to combine themes and subjects wherever they potentially overlap.

I keep a running list of topics, questions, and areas of interest for future study and frequently schedule series a year ahead to give myself plenty of time to lose myself in the furious disarray of study because just as cooking a fine meal throws one’s kitchen into a wild mess—with spills and splatters, piles of dirty dishes and utensils, and discarded bits and ends of ingredients—preparing a Bible series begins carefully but descends into something of a chaotic jumble before emerging into something measured and consumable. And that’s the fun for me; I often discover fascinating new avenues of possible study while mucking around in the mess for days and days.

Currently, I am offering a Bible study series on the O Antiphons for Advent. For each episode, or meal, I select a word or phrase from the antiphon to study in more depth that carries the whole theme; these are the main course of each meal. Then I click open the Verbum pantry to begin assembling ingredients. I type in a passage reference or key word, and oh! The variety of color, texture, packaging, and aroma that explodes from the shelves of this larder is enough to make me swoon with excitement!

I take a little of everything that captures my attention. For the side dishes, the translation and reference staples. I use eight or so translations the most for comparing passages; three favorite dictionaries; two encyclopedias; and the Catechism. Then the wine and oil of Church Fathers’ Nicene and Ante-Nicene commentaries and Aquinas’ Golden Chain. Perhaps a dash of Lapide if he looks good.

Then the real fun begins with selecting herbs and spices. Verbum contains a stunning array of encyclicals, Church documents, and a plethora of other writings that are all searchable and referenced using keywords or chapter and verse numbers. You can right-click for word studies and pull up a passage and explore the hover-over pop-up notes. There is so much to choose from and so many exotic possibilities with which to season your dishes that you should keep an eye on the timer so the pots don’t boil over and the bread doesn’t burn.

Baking the Bread

Speaking of bread, a favorite study method of mine that most people don’t realize has produced what they consider my warmest, flakiest melt-in-your-mouth loaves: to research every use of a single word in the entire Bible.

Using the concordance, I look up every verse, write a note or two of context, then group the verses into similar batches to rise, like dough. Verbum makes this convenient with its highlight, copy, and paste capabilities in the handout and document builder and managers. Then I knead and punch down the themes with the Holy Spirit and listen for his wisdom and order, place them in pans, and pop them into the word-processing oven for a delectable complement to the meal.

In using Verbum, you’ll always run across a sweet tidbit, something surprising and tasty that you simply have to include as dessert. Malcolm Gladwell calls this part of the work the “candy.” Perhaps it’s the archaeological information you stumbled over or the fascinating pie chart of the frequency of different translations of the same word or the sweet explosion of a piece of history trivia you never knew before. I like to add that as a surprise in every Scripture meal I offer.

A Full Menu

Whether you study the Bible for yourself at home or more formally for others, are a home cook or a professional, hobbyist, or aficionado, Verbum provides training, tools, and recipes that equip you to enjoy and offer a biblical feast of extraordinary variety. No one looks up from the Verbum menu thinking he’s in the wrong restaurant or that he’s paid too much. Rather, his mouth waters with anticipation of all he will sample next, and he knows the food he’s about to eat and serve leads to eternal life.

Don’t Miss Verbum’s Black Friday Sale

Today and through the weekend save on Catholic resources in Verbum’s annual Black Friday sale.

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