Duns Scotus's Lost Island

As is well known Aquinas opposes the forced baptism of Jewish children because it would constitute a violation of “natural justice” (ST III, 68, 10 c). I knew that Duns Scotus encourages forced baptism, arguing that, while private persons such as the parents may not do so, a public person, in the form of a prince, under whose dominion the parents live, has a higher obligation to God and hence the prince has a duty to override the parental rights (… per consequens non solum licet, sed debet Princeps auferre parvulos a dominio parentum volentium eos educare contra cultum Dei, qui est supremus et honestissimus dominus, et debet eos applicare cultui divino, In Sent. IV, d. 4, q. 9, ed. Vivès, t. 16, p. 487b) (I wasn’t able to consult at this time the critical edition of these questions, which was published by the Scotist Commission in 2010).

With this position Scotus runs into difficulty with the view that, based on Rom. 9,27 (“… reliquiæ salvæ fient”) and Psalm 59,12 (“ne occidas eos, nequando obliviscantur populi mei.”), there should be a continued Jewish presence, even within a Christian society (see for instance Augustine, De civitate Dei, 18,46, ed. CCSL 48, pp. 644-645). Scotus himself recognizes this because, after quoting Rom. 9,27 he writes: “ideo Judaeos non oportet cogere totaliter ad Baptismus scipiendum et relinquendum legem suam” (ed. Vivès, t. 16, p. 489b).

At this point Scotus comes up with the outlandish idea of placing a small group of Jews on an island, allowing them to practice their faith.

“Et si dicas, quod visa destructione Antichristi, illi qui sibi adhaeserant, convertentur, dico pro tam paucis, et sic tarde convertendis, non oporteret tot Judaeos, in tot partibus mundi, tantis temporibus sustinere in lege sua persistere, quia finalis fructus de eis Ecclesiae est, et erit modicus. Unde sufficeret aliquos paucos in aliqua insula sequestratos permitti legem suam servare, de quibus tandem illa prophetia Isaeiae impleretur.” (ed. Vives, t. 16, p. 489b).

The Princeps Thomistarum, Johannes Capreolus, naturally discusses these views in his Defensiones theologiae. He rejects Scotus’ view on the role of the prince, arguing that “baptizari et credere non pertinet ad ius humanum vel civile, sed ad naturale vel divinum.” (ed. Paban/Pègues, t. 6, p. 119a).

He quotes exetensively from Petrus de Palude and concludes: “nec Imperator nec Papa debet filios infidelium ipsis invitis baptizare, quamdiu pueri ex jure divino vel naturali subsunt curae parentum. Et principalis ratio est: quia Deus prohibet ne infideles, aut eorum filii ante usum rationis, cogantur ad suscipiendum fidel vel baptismum. Sed specialis ratio est de parvulus: quia, hoc faciendo, fieret injuria parentibus, et contra jus naturale.” (ed. cit. 121b).

What about the outlandish idea of an island for Jews?

“Quinto, dicitur quod, quia divina praescientia et revelatio prophetica habet Judaeos per Antichristum fore pervertendos, et ad praedicationem Eliae convertendos, hoc solum debet sufficere ad propositum, quod scilicet non sunt cogendi in totum ad fidem, quia hoc esset frustra niti contra divinum praescientiam et revelationem; et, eadem ratione, neque in partem; et sic reclusio et sequaestratio illorum in quadam insula parum valeret.” (122a).

It would be interesting to know whether Scotus changed his mind and whether other Thomists responded to Scotus’ idea. So far as I know Cajetan does not mention this idea in his commentary on ST III, 68, 10.

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Jörgen Vijgen

DR. JÖRGEN VIJGEN holds academic appointments in Medieval and Thomistic Philosophy at several institutions in the Netherlands. His dissertation, “The status of Eucharistic accidents ‘sine subiecto’: An Historical Trajectory up to Thomas Aquinas and selected reactions,” was written under the direction of Fr. Walter Senner, O.P. at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome, Italy and published in 2013 by Akademie Verlag (now De Gruyter) in Berlin, Germany.