Medieval languages

steve51885's picture

Hi all-

I am interested in learning more about medieval ideas and wanted to know more about the languages spoken in the Holy roman empire, although it was mostly german. So far I have found out that Latin was an official language for a long time, but the last 200 years german was more dominant. I tend to think that the reformation had something to do with the language change. I don't know if I have time to learn both latin and german (or desire!), but I think that to understand what the monks were learning at that time would be invaluable to Christians. Thanks for your help!


tomgroeneman's picture

the heritage of the saints

I agree that many Protestant Christians deprive themselves unnecessarily of the rich theological and historical works of the Church because they have been-up until the reformation-produced under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church which incidentally was the only Church of Christ for many centuries. Catholics also miss out on the Biblical works of Protestants because of the same kind of prejudice. Fortunately, there are sources like CCEL that provide the whole enchilada without discriminating either way.

Among the works available at CCEL are those of Aquinas and Kierkegaard who explore the topic of ontology (being) extensively. Aquinas was a leader in the medieval movement known as scholasticism which attempted rather successfully to combine the best of classical learning with the theology of the Church. Much of Aquinas' 'Summa Theologica' is heavily influenced by the thought of Aristotle (comparatively, Augustine's theory is very Platonic). Kierkegaard was a later German existentialist philosopher whose work is characteristic of the type of German learning you described.

It would be a major undertaking to become conversant in the larger encyclopedic anthologies you mentioned but I have been able to slowly familiarize myself with Aquinas and Kierkegaard and I have grown to appreciate their faith immensely. The reality is that along with the shift in academia away from the humanities or liberal arts, there has been an ignorance of classical learning that for centuries was foundational in a person's education. It is virtually impossible to read Milton or Goethe without some familiarity with the ancient Roman and Greek authors. To study western literature without a classical education is an incomplete exercise.

My main area of interest is theology and Biblical studies and any knowledge of the classics that I have accumulated over the years has been very helpful. Besides the axiom that faith and reason go together I believe that the study of philosophy is the sister of theology. Sadly, with the enlightenment, philosophers tended to lose God as the center of their thinking and so the scholasticism of the middle ages is a time tested approach that encourages Biblical faith and does not undermine sound Christian doctrine and theology.

The Church is the steward of the truth and the universities were outgrowths of the teaching office of the Church. Aquinas was a priest in the Dominican order which is dedicated to the study and learning and teaching of the Christian faith. He studied at the university of Paris which in his day was the center of higher learning in Europe. I would love to hear from him what he thinks is a good bibliography of the type you are asking about Steve. I am currently involved with the study of the book of Genesis here at CCEL but at some point in the future, would you be interested in a study group dedicated to Aquinas' 'Summa Theologica'? It has been a pleasure being in dialog with you. Looking forward to your response.

Submitted as a poster,

Tom Groeneman