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Thomas of Strasburg

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A fourteenth-century scholastic of the Augustinian Order, born, according to some writers, at Hagenau in Alsace, according to others, at Strasburg ; died 1357. It was probably at Strasburg that he entered the Augustinian Order, and there he began his career as a teacher. About the year 1341 he went to Paris and became famous as a teacher in the university. In 1345 he was elected general of his order, a position which he held until his death. As general, he undertook the revision of the constitution of his order, and published the revised statutes under the title "Constitutiones Ordinis Sui". He interested himself also in the promotion of study among the members of his order, and was instrumental in founding at Verona in 1351 a studium generale , or university, for the study of logic, philosophy, and theology. His best known work is a commentary on the Books of Sentences of Peter the Lombard, published at Strasburg in 1490 (other editions: Venice, 1564 and 1588; Genoa, 1585; Geneva, 1635). He was also the author of sermons, meditations, and letters, still unpublished.

As a teacher and commentator he adhered closely to the doctrines of Giles of Rome (Ægidius Romanus, or de Columna), who since 1287 had been recognized as the doctor ordinis of the Augustinians. He opposed the innovations of Henry of Ghent and the abstruse distinctions of the Scotists. For example, on the question of the distinction between the nature of God and the Divine attributes, he taught that there can be no formal distinction, nor any distinction of any kind except by comparison of the external effects of those attributes. Similarly there is, he maintained, no formal distinction between God and the Divine ideas ; whatever distinction exists among the ideas themselves or between the ideas and the Divine essence is the work of the Divine intellect. In regard to the origin of the universe, he maintained that the doctrine of creation can be proved by strict demonstrations, the starting-point of the proof being the fact that the power of God, being unlimited, could not postulate a material as a necessary condition of action: just as the existence of God does not postulate any other being, so the Divine action does not postulate a material on which to act. This refers, however, to creation in general. Whether the material universe was created in time or with time, or, on the contrary, was created ab aeterno , is a question which, he believed, the human mind cannot solve without the aid of revelation.

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