Did Jesus enjoy the beatific vision of God on earth that Christians hope to enjoy only in heaven? This important question is related to a whole series of questions about Jesus, his knowledge and self-consciousness. Did he know he was God’s Son? What did he know of his saving mission? These issues are linked to a fundamental question: Is the Saviour we need one who is altogether like us or one who is in some ways unlike us? This book argues that God gave us a Saviour with beatific knowledge, and who in this respect is very unlike us indeed.
The answer commonly given by Catholic theologians to this question underwent a dramatic shift in the middle of the 20th century. Previously there had been a general unanimity based on the teaching of Thomas Aquinas that the answer was ‘Yes’: the earthly Christ did indeed possess heavenly knowledge. The theological situation was then radically altered to one where the answer ‘No’ became predominant. Theologians preferred to treat Christ’s knowledge in terms of self-consciousness, ordinary human knowing, faith, prophecy and mysticism, not the beatific vision. This book addresses the reasons why theologians abandoned Aquinas’s thesis, arguing it has been too easily dismissed. Considering the evidence of Scripture and Tradition, and then moving from Christ’s extraordinary knowledge through his ordinary knowledge, to his will, emotions and bodily life, the book sketches an outline of the extraordinary Saviour God has in fact given us and who is indeed the Saviour humanity truly needs.
This eye-opening book exemplifies how to do Catholic theology in attunement with the development of doctrine, rooted in the Scriptures as interpreted by the Fathers of the Church. Gaine’s exposition of Aquinas’s theology of the beatific vision, in response to the full range of contemporary objections (as well as to a number of standard Thomistic interpretations), is serene and masterful. This was a topic that I thought I knew, but Gaine delivers fresh insights that prove deeply satisfying. Here is contemporary Christology at its very best.
—Matthew Levering, Mundelein Seminary, USA
In the Christian religion what people believed long ago usually turns out to be much more revolutionary than what modern ideas about things would allow us to think. Drawing on his deep knowledge of Thomas Aquinas, his eminent predecessor in the Dominican order, Gaine mounts the case for holding that, according to the doctrine of the Incarnation, Jesus of Nazareth must have been blessed with the vision of God throughout his earthly historical life—a challenging claim, which could not be more persuasively expounded than in this rigorously argued and very readable book
—Fergus Kerr, University of Edinburgh, UK
This book reflects Gaine’s deep grasp of Catholic thought and its tradition of theological interpretation. Additionally, the meticulous development of his argument means that students should find Gaine's work accessible while the layers of original thought should keep even the most senior scholar engaged ... What Gaine has accomplished here is truly a model of theological research.
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Simon Francis Gaine OP is the Regent of Blackfriars, Oxford, UK