Creation, Beginning and Time in the Summa Theologiae: Why Creation does not Imply the Beginning of the Universe?


The book of Genesis opens with the narrative of the creation of the universe and of the world. Beginning and time are crucial in this account. Applying his method of philosophical inquiry, Aquinas – who was targeted by the condemnations of Étienne Tempier – concluded that creation does not imply the beginning of the universe. In the Summa Theologiae, he expounded on this theme and put forward a theory as to why this is so. This article attempts to re-read this mediaeval debate, characterized by two antagonistic cosmogonic views – philosophical and doctrinal – through calculus, notably through the introduction of the limit notion, to which, in fact, Thomas does not adhere, but rather adopted an intermediate position. Grounded in contemporary cosmology, which endorses the beginning of the universe, the Biblical age of the world based on the genealogies contained therein tends to absolute present – a fact and not an act of faith – in terms of the actual age of the universe. Aquinas not only provided a position of ‘modus vivendi’ between philosophy and theology, but addressed a fundamental issue in the philosophy of science of cosmology.

Keywords: Aquinas, Genesis, eternity, philosophy, religion, universe, calculus

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