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John Capreolus

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Capreolus, JOHN, theologian, b. towards the end of the fourteenth century (about 1380) in the Diocese of Rodez, France; d. in that city, April 6, 1444. He has been called the “Prince of Thomists”, but only scanty details of his personal history are known. He was a Dominican affiliated to the province of Toulouse, and a general chapter of his order at Poitiers in 1407 assigned him to lecture on “The Sentences” in the University of Paris. He began in 1408 and achieved success. The following year he finished the first part of his celebrated defensive commentary on the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. He passed examinations for degrees at the Sorbonne in 1411 and in 1415. After serving for some time as regent of studies at Toulouse, he repaired to Rodez, where he labored assiduously at his commentaries, completing the three remaining parts in 1426, 1428, and 1433. In the preface of a compendium of Capreolus’s work by Isidore de Isolanis, it is stated that these MSS. once narrowly escaped destruction by fire, a lay brother having saved them, to the joy of the author, who was then advanced in years. The same authority describes the erudite commentator as having cherished through life a tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Though following the order of “The Sentences”, the commentaries of Capreolus are a calm, learned, and penetrating exposition of the teachings of St. Thomas, as well as a comprehensive defense against sundry opponents and critics, including Scotus, Henry of Ghent, John of Ripa, Guido (the Carmelite), Aureolus, Durandus, Gregory of Rimini, William of Ockham, and other Nominalists. Copious and apt citations show that the author had mastered Aristotle and his Arabic commentator, Averroes; but a scrupulous fidelity to the Angelical Doctor, that earned for him the extraordinary appellation of “Soul of St. Thomas”, is his chief characteristic.

There is nothing in the wide field of the doctrinal discussions of his time that Capreolus did not study and elucidate with precision of insight and reasoning, and express in a style so terse and vigorous that his work is rightly given a place among the most enduring achievements of the golden age of Scholasticism. The commentaries, bearing slightly variant titles, were published in four folio volumes at Venice, 1483, 1514, 1519, 1589. In 1881, Bishop Bourret of Rodez, who had made the life and works of Capreolus the object of considerable research, suggested a critically revised edition of the commentaries, which was at length undertaken by two Dominicans. Its publication was begun at Tours in 1900 and is now (1907) nearly completed in the seventh volume, under the title: “Johannis Capreoli Tholosani, Ordinis Prsedicatorum, Thomistarum principis, Defensiones Theologise Divi Thomae Aq. de novo editse cura et studio RR. PP. Ceslai Paban et Thome Pegues”. Early compendiums of the work by Paul Soncinas and by Sylvester Prierias were much used in their day.


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