The Medieval Review 16.02.02

Jones, Chris, ed. John of Paris: Beyond Royal and Papal Power. Disputatio, 23. Turnhout: Brepols, 2015. pp. xiii, 421. €100.00 (hardback). ISBN: 978-503-53280-6 (hardback).

Reviewed by:

Thomas Izbicki
Rutgers University

John of Paris, a Dominican friar, was one of the most controversial teachers at the University of Paris during the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. He is best known for his tract De regia potestate et papali (On Royal and Papal Power). John was once seen as an outright apologist for King Philip IV of France during his struggles with Pope Boniface VIII. That reputation has been challenged, but John's respect for the power of kings remains unquestioned. In addition, he wrote on controversial topics like the defense of Thomas Aquinas against his Franciscan critics, apocalypticism, the hearing of confessions by friars and the proper understanding of the Real Presence in the Eucharist. It was his interpretation of transubstantiation which cost John of Paris his place as a university master, and he died in 1306 while seeking rehabilitation by Pope Clement V. This collection of essays focuses most on the De regia potestate, but other works receive some attention.

Apart from the acknowledgements and the note concerning citation of the De regia potestate, the collection begins with an introduction with the remainder divided into sections: "Power and Authority; Dominican Theologian," "Concepts and Ideas," and "Reception and Legacy." Each article has its own list of works cited. One notes, looking through these lists, that the De regia potestate has been edited as well as translated into English, while other writings have been edited or studied in detail. There is not, however, any index to the whole collection.

Chris Jones inaugurates the collection with a summary of what we know about John of Paris or Jean Quidort. John belonged to the Order of Preachers and apparently attended the lectures of Peter of Tartentaise, the future Pope Innocent V, in Paris during the period 1267-1269. He may have joined the order after becoming a master of arts. His place in Paris put John at the center of debates pitting mendicants against seculars, as well as Franciscans against Dominicans, especially after Bishop Étienne Tempier condemned certain doctrines, some identifiable with the teachings of Aquinas, in 1270 and 1277. John continued in Paris, teaching theology, until he was removed from his position for holding controversial opinions on the Eucharist. One of the sure dates of this career was John's signing of a petition against Pope Boniface we know was promoted in university circles by the royal court on 26 June 1303, a fact which had led some to presume the friar was an apologist for the Capetian crown. Jones examines briefly the early reputation of John of Paris before pointing to newer approaches permitting other interpretations of his thought on spiritual and temporal power.

The section "Power and Authority" begins with an essay by Joseph Canning on the thought of John of Paris about ecclesiastical authority. He focuses especially on the governing power of jurisdiction. Canning underlines the human origin of jurisdiction, including the ability of human beings to choose those, lay or clerical, who exercised this power. This included the election of the pope by the cardinals, at least partly responding to the resignation of Pope Celestine V in 1294. The laity also possessed property without the possibility that they owed this to the papacy. However, because this natural power of jurisdiction came from God, there was no absolute division of spiritual and temporal powers outside the clerical role in the sacraments. This permitted one power to intervene in the other's realm in a case of extreme necessity. Bettina Koch looks at a larger context in political thought, looking at John's defense of territorial political regimes in comparison with the writings of Dante and Marsilius of Padua. Koch points out that John did not regard the lay and clerical powers as reducible to one of them. His respect for both powers was not shared by the other writers. Dante argued for the supremacy of the Empire, especially in the time of the intervention of Henry VII in Italy. Marsilius took a more radical tact, assigning all coercive power to the lay power. John's preference for regional kingship is explained as deriving from certain lines of reasoning. Human nature required regimes adjusted to the particular time and place. No one could rule the whole world effectively. The spiritual power could more easily be exercised effectively everywhere because of the necessity of uniting the faithful for the good of their souls. Thus the papacy remained necessary. Koch also notes that John retained a certain respect for the Empire without assigning it universal power in temporal affairs. The friar retained enough of the idea of the belief in mutual support of the spiritual and temporal powers to deny absolute independence to the secular ruler in a Christian society.

The section "Dominican Theologian" begins with Chris Jones's examination of the use of history by John of Paris. He argues that the respect John gave the emperor was intended to reconcile his historical sources with an Aristotelean view of local polities. The most important sources used by John in De regia were primarily the writings of Dominicans, Vincent of Beauvais and Martinus Polonus. Each had his own political slant. Vincent had ties to the Capetians, while Martinus leaned toward the papacy. These sources were used selectively, together with the tract of Giles of Rome on the resignation of Pope Celestine, to demonstrate that popes could be deposed. John's use of history also undermined the pretensions of the emperors and their apologists. Nonetheless, John departed from his Dominican sources when they departed from his line of argument.

Anna Milne-Tavendale examines John's Tractatus de Antichristo, a reaction to the controversial opinions of Arnold of Villanova, which he had presented to the university in 1300. Arnold claimed insights into the date of the Antichrist's coming denied to the university's masters. The friar attempted to find middle ground between Arnold and the Parisian condemnation of his ideas. The Tractatus de Antichristo, defends the authority of theologians in interpreting Scripture and adopted a cautious approach to apocalypticism typical of the Friars Preachers. The tract examines not just biblical texts but post-biblical prophecies. John's cautious interpretation of those texts allowed him to underline the importance of the friars as means of salvation with a significant role in the End Times.

Andrew A. K. Theng addresses the question why John of Paris wrote De regia potestate et papali. Was it motivated by the clash of France with the papacy? Did John have personal motives in writing the tract? Theng examines the text closely for internal clues to its date and origin. He places the date between the ascension of Boniface VIII to the papal throne and the appearance of the bull Unam sanctam in late 1302, allowing for multiple stages of composition. The possibility that the text responds to the De ecclesiastica potestate of Giles of Rome with arguments used by one author answered by the other is treated with caution. Theng also takes into account Boniface VIII's bull Ausculta fili, which was part of his first clash with King Philip. Theng concludes that John responded to the crisis but was exploring the implications of Aristotelianism for political ideas rather than simply defending the French crown. In fact, John of Paris allowed for limits on royal power, as he did for limits on the pope's authority. His argument that John also was treating the divisions within the Franciscan order over dominium is less credible. The Observant and Conventual Minorites fought bitterly, but not in terms of papal temporal power over kings.

Holly Hamilton-Bleakley treats John's ideas about the will. This issue arose in the Correctores Controversy, pitting Franciscans against Dominicans, the latter defending the teaching of Thomas Aquinas. John wrote the Correctorium corruptoria "Circa" in response to William de la Mare. In both his Correctorium and his commentary on the Sentences, John of Paris, following Thomas Aquinas, treated reason as primary in free choice, whereas Henry of Ghent and others had emphasized the will. John claimed that Thomas did not believe reason necessitated acts of the will. The friars said that reason could determine will in a particular moment. This is done by a "practical syllogism." Brutish appetite, however, may follow the senses in choosing a perceived good; but it is reason, not sensation, which influences the will. Intellect can err, causing the will to opt for something bad. Intellect can err through ignorance or deception, thus leading to bad choices. Consequently, will is a rational appetite even when it errs in choices.

In the section "Concepts and Ideas," Gerson Moreno-Riaño briefly addresses John's ideas about property. John was a theologian who sawdominium over temporal things as falling between extremes, neither belonging to the pope or entirely outside the realm of faith. Royal power, moreover, had a duty of promoting moral goodness as part of the common good. Individual owners also had dominium over their goods as long as no others were injured in its exercise. These ideas were articulated in a particular historical context, which must be understood. This historical understanding is not some anachronistic effort to address modern concerns like capitalism but a true understanding of John and his contemporaries.

Takashi Shogimen addresses the idea of peace in John's time. The relationship of spiritual to temporal powers must be understood alongside ideas of peace. They were not limited to the controversial ideas of Marsilius of Padua. John of Paris included a concept of peace in De regia, basing it on his belief that human diversity require varying local regimes to promote the common good. God established a universal spiritual regime under the pope, but temporal regimes have to give attention to the temporal good in regional contexts. Unlike Dante, John saw this variety as good, not an obstacle to be overcome. De regia treats an empire as insufficient for these needs. Property must be judged by local rulers, whereas sins must be judged by the clergy according to divine norms. A multicentric idea of peace permits John of Paris to critique universal claims for Empire or papacy; but his idea of worldly peace seems optimistic, presuming that true peace would emerge when these pretensions to temporal supremacy were defeated.

Karl Ubl's contribution might belong in the section on "Reception and Legacy." He questions Brian Tierney's explanation why John of Paris was an ancestor of Conciliarism. Ubl discusses the claim of the papacy of immunity from charges of simony and John's decision to reject this line of argument in De regia after accepting it in his commentary on the Sentences. This opened the pope to rebuke or removal by ecclesiastical or even lay authority. Likewise, the papal claim to plenitude of power vanishes from De regia. Ubl divorces John's critique of papalism from many of Tierney's arguments, emphasizing the friar's novel theory of consent but also treating John's knowledge of the Decretalist thought as minimal, grounded mostly in a single work by Geoffrey of Trani. What Ubl does not do is look for consistency or inconsistency between John's ideas of jurisdiction in De regia and in De confessionibus audiendis.

The section on "Reception and Legacy" begins with an article by Lidia Lanza and Marco Toste. The article begins with a brief look at fifteenth century uses of De regia by writers like Jean Gerson. The bulk of this contribution deals with the role of Aristotle's four causes in tracts on papal power. These writers looked less at the establishment of regimes than at the relationship of the spiritual and temporal powers. The authors look especially at the very different arguments made and conclusions reached by James of Viterbo and John of Paris. They shared a common heritage of ideas and texts but reached very different conclusions. John denied that the pope was the efficient cause of temporal regimes. God gave the world a single ecclesiastical regime but many lay powers pursuing their own ends, their final causes. Each had its own means of pursuing those ends. The spiritual power's higher end is denied a role in reducing the world regimes to a single hierarchic order, as James and others did.

Martin J. Cable treats the writing career of the Franciscan Ludovic of Strassoldo. He made use of the humanist's favored genre, the dialog. Among his dialogs is one which largely restates the De regia, using large blocks of text coped verbatim. Ludovic was acquainted with many scholars in Italy, and he was an avid collector of books. His compositions were adjusted in specific style, but they were intended to be appreciated by his learned friends. In the background, however, was his contentious family, as well as the increasing power of Venice in his native Friuli.

The book concludes with Gianluca Briguglia's examination of John's ideas on the Eucharist. This contribution might better be placed with the others about the friar as theologian. It was an effort to resolve disagreements over how transubstantiation occurred during the mass which cost him his place as a teacher of theology in Paris. This ongoing debate was tied to the entry of Aristotle's texts into Parisian academic circles. The ideas of Thomas Aquinas and Giles of Rome remained very much in play, treating questions like how the accidents of bread and wine remained when their substance was transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. The dimensions of the debate were Christological as well, treating the Incarnation alongside the sacramental presence. John argued that a substratum of breadness mediate the transformation of the elements into the sacrament. Briguglia draws a connection between John's thought on mediated transubstantiation and the respect the friar gave the temporal power apart from the role of the papacy on earth. This lay role was tied to the humanity of Christ as that of the church was tied to his divinity. This hypothetical link of sacramental theology to political thought makes Briguglia's article an intriguing conclusion to the whole collection.

Overall, this is a rich collection with many intriguing ideas on John of Paris, not just his political thought but also his engagement with the theological issues of his day. The articles can be read in a very different order than the one printed by Brepols, allowing readers to make their own connections between the issues raised by the authors. We are left, however, to wonder whether John's engagement with the political and academic issues of his day should be treated as an effort to resolve several issues in a single system with places for both powers and for their interactions in emergency situations, as well as for the intermediation of breadness, something material, temporal, in bringing Christ's presence to the altar during the mass.

Copyright (c) 2016 Thomas Izbicki

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