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Scholasticism

The Early Middle Ages

The writings of the church fathers were soon subjected to the same synthesizing approach that they themselves had applied to Scripture. From the fifth century onward, Christian thinkers garnered sententiae—"sentences" or authoritative quotations—from the writings of their predecessors. The resulting sentence collections gave rise to two challenges that were crucial in honing the emerging Scholastic method: first, the task of reconciling the often divergent teachings of one or several church fathers on a given theological topic, and of doing so in light of the scriptural texts upon which these teachings were built; and second, the task of arranging the theological topics in a meaningful order.

In subsequent centuries, the textual basis upon which this method was brought to bear became even broader; this increased breadth in turn called for improved strategies of structuring the material. Thus, the Carolingian era saw the introduction of Eastern theology into the Christian West, especially through the writings of John Scottus Eriugena (c. 810–c. 877). But around the same time, Christian thinkers also began an ambitious project of systematically elucidating the whole of Scripture with pertinent quotations lifted from authoritative writers of the tradition. In the Glossa ordinaria, or "Standard Gloss," the text of the Bible was presented with interlinear notes to explain difficult words and phrases, while marginal annotations helped the reader understand the theological content of key passages. The Glossa ordinaria constituted a central step in the Scholastic project of translating the "stories" of Scripture into a theological system. It continued to be improved by successive generations of theologians, reaching its definitive shape only in the twelfth century.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Jean-Paul Sartre Biography to Seminiferous tubulesScholasticism - Biblical And Patristic Roots, The Early Middle Ages, The Twelfth And Thirteenth Centuries, The Waning Of Scholasticism