A conversation with a colleague turned to the topic of the texts we assign for our introductory courses on Thomas, he for his philosophy course and me for my theology course. I mentioned my love of Anton Pegis’ Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas for its extensive content and its low price; he then broke the bad news that it has gone out of print. In disbelief that this long-time standard in my classroom would no longer be available, I checked and confirmed that this text with its 1945 copyright date is no longer available new from any sources.
As I gradually worked through the five stages of dealing with your favorite text for a class going out of print, I thought of what other texts I might use for teaching my Theology of Thomas Aquinas course that would provide ample texts of Thomas but not drive my students into bankruptcy.
The most obvious source for cost-effective texts of Thomas, of course, would be the online versions of his work, especially the exceedingly user-friendly version of the English Dominican translation of the Summa Theologiae hosted on op.org itself:
I am a firm believer, however, that the printed page is a superior technology for both study and classroom use, and having students print reams of questions from any website becomes impractical.
I have already supplemented Pegis in my classroom with Fritz Bauerschmidt’s Holy Teaching: Introducing the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas from Brazos Press. I highly recommend this text for introductory courses such as mine; it provides useful selections from the Summa, but I find its real strength to be the extensive footnotes accompanying the selections, which constitute in themselves textbook on the theology of Thomas. This is probably the best selection of primary texts for a theology course, as Bauerschmidt includes samples of all the distinctively theological questions that selections of Thomas with a philosophical focus, even Pegis, often omit.
The next candidate, which I have considered adding in the past, is Ralph McInerny’s Thomas Aquinas: Selected Writings in the Penguin Books paperback edition. It is extremely affordable, and has the unique virtue of providing selections from an array of different genres of Thomas’ writings beyond the standard disputational format, including sermons, commentaries and treatises. The selections are putatively arranged in chronological order, but with the chosen topics of those selections proceeding with some resemblance to the systematic progression of the Summa Theologiae. The texts themselves are McInerny’s own translations, each preceded by a brief introduction. The entire work opens with a strong introduction to Thomas’ thought, and though the stated focus of the work is philosophical, there is substantial amount of content useful for an introduction to Thomas’ theology.
The text I’ve regularly assigned as an accompanying secondary-source has been Michael Dauphinais and Matthew Levering’s Knowing the Love of Christ: An Introduction to the Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas from Notre Dame Press. The majority of students in my Thomas class are non-majors with little or no background in theology, and they find this work very clear and accessible. Coupled with Bauerschmidt’s deeper expositions of the primary texts, I find enough here to guide students to a fruitful understanding of Christian theology through the primary texts of Thomas Aquinas.
I was wondering, however, whether there are any other gems out there used by blog-readers that are both affordable and useful for teaching. Or in other words, what texts would you assign for your introduction to the philosophy or theology of Thomas Aquinas if you wanted to keep the total book-budget for your course under $50. I would be interested to hear suggestions from readers of this blog, either in the comments section or in the new Forums available at the top of this page.