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§ 101. Younger Contemporaries of Abaelard.


Literature: For Gilbert (Gislebertus) of Poictiers. His Commentaries on Boethius, De trinitate are in Migne, 64. 1266 sqq. T he De sex principiis, Migne, 188. 1250–1270. For his life: Gaufrid of Auxerre, Migne, 185. 595 sqq.—Otto of Freising, De gestis Frid., 50–57.—J. of Salisbury, Hist. pontif., VIII.—Poole, in Illustr. of the Hist. of Med. Thought, pp. 167–200. Hefele, V. 503–508, 520–524.—Neander-Deutsch, St. Bernard, II. 130–144.

For John of Salisbury, Works in Migne, vols. 190, 199, and J. A. Giles, Oxford, 1848, 5 vols.—Hist. pontificalis romanus, in Mon. German., vol. XX.—Lives by Reuter, Berlin, 1842.—*C. Schaarschmidt, Joh. Saresbriensis nach Leben und Studien, Schriften und Philosophie, Leip., 1862, and art. in Herzog, IX. 313–319.—Denimuid, Paris, 1873.—Schubert: Staatslehre J. von Sal., Berlin, 1897.—Stubbs, in Study of Med. and Mod. Hist., Lectt. VI., VII.—Poole, in Illustr. etc., pp. 201–226, and Dict. of Natl. Biogr., XXIX. 439–446.


Among Abaelard’s younger contemporaries and pupils were Gilbert of Poictiers, John of Salisbury, and Robert Pullen, theologians who were more or less influenced by Abaelard’s spirit of free inquiry. Peter the Lombard, d. 1164, also shows strong traces of Abaelard’s teaching, especially in his Christology.13921392    Denifle includes the Lombard in the theological school of Abaelard. See his Abaelard’s Sentenzen und d. Bearbeitungen seiner Theologie, Archiv, 1885, pp. 613-624.

Gilbert of Poictiers, 1070–1154, is better known by his public trial than by his writings, or any permanent contributions to theology. Born at Poictiers, he studied under Bernard of Chartres, William of Champeaux, Anselm of Laon, and Abaelard. He stood at the head of the cathedral school in Chartres for ten years, and in 1137 began teaching in Paris. In 1142 he was made bishop of Poictiers. His two principal works are De sex principiis, an exposition of Aristotle’s last six categories, which Aristotle himself left unexplained, and a commentary on the work on the Trinity, ascribed to Boethius. They occupy only a few pages in print.

Gilbert’s work on the Trinity involved him in a trial for heresy, in which Bernard was again a leading actor.13931393    Neander-Deutsch, St. Bernard, II. 131. Poole, p. 181, calls Gilbert’s exposition of the Trinity "one of the subtlest and most elaborate contributions to theological metaphysics the Middle Ages produced."use mode of statement and intense realism that exposed him to the accusation of unorthodoxy.

Some of Gilbert’s pupils were ready to testify against him, but sufficient evidence of tritheism were not forthcoming at Paris and the pope, who presided, adjourned the case to Rheims. At Rheims, Bernard who had been appointed prosecutor offended some of the cardinals by his methods of conducting the prosecution. Both Otto of Freising and John of Salisbury13941394    Hist. pontif., VIII.; Migne, pp. 522 sqq. One of the accusers was Adam du Petit Pont, an Englishman, afterwards bishop of St. Asaph. He got his name from the school he set up on a little bridge connecting Paris with the Latin quarter. Schaarschmidt, p. 13.he good sense of pope Eugenius.

To the pope’s question whether Gilbert believed that the highest essence, by virtue of which, as he asserted, each of the three persons of the Trinity was God, was itself God, Gilbert replied in the negative.13951395    Otto of Freising states the four detailed charges as follows: 1. divina essentia non est deus. 2. proprietates personarum non sunt ipsae personae. 3. theolog. personae in nulla praedicantur propositione. 4. dimna natura non est incarnata. Gaufried, Migne, 185. 617, states the first three a little differently. the assembly by his thorough acquaintance with the Fathers. The charge was declared unproven and Gilbert was enjoined to correct the questionable statements in the light of the fourth proposition brought in by Bernard. The accused continued to administer his see till his death. Otto of Freising concludes his account by saying, that either Bernard was deceived as to the nature of Gilbert’s teaching as David was deceived by Mephibosheth, 2 Sam. 9:19 sqq., or that Gilbert covered up his real meaning by an adroit use of words to escape the judgment of the Church. With reference to his habit of confusing wisdom with words Walter of St. Victor called Gilbert one of the four labyrinths of France.

John of Salisbury, about 1115–1180, was the chief literary figure and scholar among the Englishmen of the twelfth century, and exhibits in his works the practical tendency of the later English philosophy.13961396    Stephens calls him "by far the most distinguished English scholar of his century."Hist. of the Engl. Ch., pp. 320 sqq. spent ten or twelve years in "divers studies" on the Continent, sat at the feet of Abaelard on Mt. Genevieve, 1136, and heard Gilbert of Poictiers, William of Conches, Robert Pullen, and other renowned teachers. A full account of the years spent in study is given in his Metalogicus. Returning to England, he stood in a confidential relation to archbishop Theobald. At a later time he espoused Becket’s cause and was present in the cathedral when the archbishop was murdered. He had urged the archbishop not to enter his church. In 1176 he was made bishop of Chartres. He says he crossed the Alps no less than ten times on ecclesiastical business.

By his reminiscences and miscellanies, John contributed, as few men did, to our knowledge of the age in which he lived. He had the instincts of a Humanist, and, had he lived several centuries later, would probably have been in full sympathy with the Renaissance. His chief works are the Metalogicus, the Polycraticus, and the Historia pontificalis. The Polycraticus is a treatise on the principles of government and philosophy, written for the purpose of drawing attention away from the trifling disputes and occupations of the world to a consideration of the Church and the proper uses of life.13971397    Schaarschmidt calls it "the first great theory of the state in the literature of the Middle Ages." In view of the variety of its contents, Poole, p. 218, says that "it is to some extent an encyclopaedia of the cultivated thought of the middle of the twelfth century."otations from the Scriptures and classical writers, and shows that the Church is the true conservator of morality and the defender of justice in the State. He was one of the best-read men of his age in the classics.13981398    Poole says, "No writer of his age can be placed beside him in the extent and depth of his classical reading."Dict. of Natl. Biog., XXIX. 441. Schaarschmidt speaks of his marvellous acquaintance with the classics—eine staunenswerthe Vertrautheit.

In the Metalogicus, John calls a halt to the casuistry of Scholasticism and declares that the reason is apt to err as well as the senses. Dialectics had come to be used as an exhibition of mental acumen, and men, like Adam du Petit Pont, made their lectures as intricate and obscure as possible, so as to attract students by the appearance of profundity. John declared that logic was a vain thing except as an instrument, and by itself as useless as the "sword of Hercules in a pygmy’s hand." He emphasized the importance of knowledge that can be put to use, and gave a long list of things about which a wise man may have doubts, such as providence and human fortune, the origin of the soul, the origin of motion, whether all sins are equal and equally to be punished. God, he affirmed, is exalted above all that the mind can conceive, and surpasses our power of ratiocination.13991399    Metalog., VII. 2.

The Historia pontificalis is an account of ecclesiastical matters falling under John’s own observation, extending from the council at Rheims, 1148, to the year 1152.



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