Peter Lombard (ca. 1095 – 1160), also known as the "Master of the Sentences" or "the Lombard", was a
scholastic theologian and bishop of the 12th century. Lombard was born in Lumellogno, near Novara, Italy, to a poor family. He must have begun his education in Italy, most likely at the cathedral schools of Novara and Lucca.
The patronage of Otto, bishop of Lucca, and of St. Bernard allowed him to leave Italy and further his studies at Reims and Paris. In Paris, he came into contact with Peter Abelard and Hugh of St. Victor, who were among the leading theologians of the
time. Around 1145, Peter became a "magister," or professor, at the cathedral school of Notre Dame in Paris.
In 1159, he was named bishop of Paris.
"Book of Sentences"
He is best known for his Four Books of Sentences, written between 1147-1151. The book is a compilation of extracts from the
Augustine), and other sources of authority that touches on the entire field of Christian theology. Peter Lombard's genius consisted in the selection of passages, his attempt to reconcile them where they appeared to defend
different viewpoints, and his arrangement of the material in a systematic order. Thus, the "Book of Sentences" starts with the
Trinity in Book I, then moves on to
creation in Book II, treats
Jesus, the savior of the fallen creation, in Book III, and deals with the sacraments, which mediate Christ's grace, in Book IV.
After its composition it "became a standard work of theology throughout the Middle Ages in Europe. Almost every ambitious young theological scholar had to write a commentary on it" (Olson,
The Story of Christian Theology, p. 350). It can been said that there is no work of Christian literature, except for the
Bible itself, that has been commented upon more frequently. All the major medieval thinkers, from
Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas to
William of Ockham and
Gabriel Biel, were influenced by it. Even the young
Martin Luther still wrote glosses on the "Sentences."
Peter Lombard's most famous and most controversial
doctrine in the "Sentences" was his identification of charity with the
Holy Spirit in Book I, distinction 17. According to this doctrine, when we love God and neighbor, this love literally is God; we become divine and are taken up into the life of the Trinity. This idea was never
declared unorthodox, but few theologians have been prepared to follow Peter Lombard in his audacious teaching.
Lastly, Peter Lombard was the first to give what is now the standard Roman Catholic list of seven sacraments. During Lombard's time, anywhere from two to twelve had been proposed, but once Lombard proposed seven - a 'perfect
number' - it was rapidly accepted though not all chose the same seven as he did. His list was later defined as orthodoxy by the
Council of Florence in 1439 (Lane, Exploring Christian Thought, p. 94).
- The Sentences, Book One: The Mystery of the Trinity. PIMS, 2007.
- The Sentences, Book Two: On Creation. PIMS, 2008.
- Roger Olson, The Story of Christian Theology. IVP, 1999.
- Peter Lombard (Wikipedia)
- Tony Lane, Exploring Christian Thought. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996.
- Peter Lombard (theologicalstudies.org)
- Peter Lombard - a list of many links to biographies and articles (including his "Book of Sentences")