Aquinas’ "De unione verbi incarnati": An Interview with Dr. Klaus Obenauer, part 1.

On Wednesday, July 27th we posted an announcement about a new volume on Aquinas’ disputed question, De unione verbi incarnati.  Below is the first installment of an interview with the author, translator, and editor of the volume, German scholar Prof. Dr. Klaus Obenauer. tell us a little bit about yourself, your education, research interests, and your teaching.

Dr. Obenauer: I am a so called Research Assistant at the Faculty for Catholic Theology of the University of Bonn. This position is sustained by the “German Research Society” (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft [DFG]).  

I teach Dogmatic Theology in Bonn and (temporarily) in Cologne.

My primary field of research is what we call the “Constitutional-Christology” of St. Thomas and his School. My specific projects in this area include: St. Thomas’ De unione (now completed and published in the volume that we discuss below).  Currently I am researching the contributions of a few select great Thomists: Bernhard of Auvergne, Capreolus, Cajetan, Bánez, and The Salmanticenses.

As a systematic theologian I am drawn to a thomistically “orientated” metaphysics: the possibility of a critical foundation of such a metaphysics (with some free adaptation and personal development of the Continental Transcendental Thomism) was the subject of my second thesis, what we call here the “habilitation thesis.” How did you become interested in the De unione project?

Dr. Obenauer: Potius casu et fortuna. - And: After having worked on Aquinas’ metaphysics in my habilitation thesis, my interests became focused on the crucial problems of Constitutional Christology. Tell us a little bit about the preparation of the critical edition of the Latin text.

Dr. Obenauer: Apart from the concrete (and final) redaction which always entails that difficult judgments be made, the preparation of the Latin text was in no way based solely on my merits. I am in deep gratitude to Fr. Adriano Oliva, Ph.D., who is currently head of the Leonine Commission. Fr. Oliva gave me access to copies of the manuscripts that the members and cooperators of the Commission deemed most important.

The critical Latin text included in my volume on the De unione is the result of a process of collaboration, in which Fr. Walter Senner, Ph.D., who teaches at the Angelicum in Rome and who is a former member of Leonine Commission, along with his assistant, had the principal role in evaluating the manuscripts.  We met for a series of sessions in which the manuscripts were collated for critical evaluation. Do you know anything about the current status of the Leonine Commission’s work on the De Unione? And, will there be any relationship between your text and the work of the Commission on the De Unione?

Dr. Obenauer: As I noted in the previous question, Frs. Oliva and Senner were extremely helpful in my work on the De unione, but there is no formal relationship between my text and the Commission.  Furthermore, as you probably understand, it would be indiscreet for me to say more than that I am aware of existing preparatory works on the text by the Commission. And, I think that a Leonine Edition of De unione is not to be expected, at least in the next several years. Can you mention one or two aspects of the Latin text in your volume that you think scholars and students of Aquinas will find particularly interesting?

Dr. Obenauer: Apart from the supplementary passages in DU 1 ad15 - presented already by Deloffre in her volume on the De unione (Paris: Vrin, 2000), which I discuss more in part 2, - the most surprising fact is that the 13th and 14th-century manuscripts, which we consulted, with respect to article 4 use “sustentificare” instead of “substantificare.” This is a significant change, say, from the common text published in the Marietti edition.  It appears three times in the third paragraph of the body of article 4.  In this group of manuscripts there is but one exception to this usage.

The only parallel, known up to now with regard to the critical editions, is the Qu. quodl. 3,2,2(/4) arg/ad1 (also christological context!).  In addition: It´s also not completely impossible that the respective preliminary passage in the corpus of article 3 has to be improved in favour of “vel secundum formam accidentalem vel secundum substantiam,” instead of  “substantia-lem”.

The second part of this interview is forthcoming.