Peter Abelard: on Aliquid by Roland, Pope Alexander III (12th century A.D.); translator: Dr Carolinne White
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Translated for abelard from the original Latin
by Dr. Carolinne White
(carolinne.white@bodley.ox.ac.uk)

On aliquid [1]
by Roland, Pope Alexander III
(12th century A.D.)

probably based on notes from lectures by
Abelard of Le Pallet

From pp. 171 to 180 of Die Sentenzen Rolands nachmals Papstes Alexander III, with annotations by P. Fr. Ambrosius M. Gietl, O. Pr.
published by Herdersche Verlagshandlung, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1891.

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It is asked whether there were two sons in Christ. It is proved that there are two sons in Christ. For there is in Christ both the Word of the Father which is the natural son of God and the human nature he has assumed which is the natural son of the Virgin, and the Word is not that man, neither part of him or the whole, or the other way round: therefore there are two sons in Christ.

On the contrary: there are not two persons in Christ, therefore there are not two sons particularly since every son is a person. In response we say, there are not two sons in Christ. For Christ is one and the same as the son of God and the son of the Virgin, the son of God according to his existence as God, but the son of the Virgin according to his existence as a human. We utterly dismiss the objection, ‘the Word of the Father is in Christ’, unless it is taken to mean that the Word of the Father is Christ himself. And it is not true that the human nature he assumed is the son of the Virgin, for only the human nature is designated by the word ‘human’. And so this statement, ‘the human nature he assumed is the son of the Virgin’ is utterly false, unless it is interpreted as meaning that he who is a man by the assumption of the Word of God the Father is the son of the Virgin. But if the statement is made about the thing that has been assumed it certainly relies on that truth.

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However there are some people who say that the Word and the assumed man are in Christ and that the Word is the son of God, the man the son of the Virgin; they also say that the Word is not the man nor the man the Word. But surely this does not mean that there are two sons? Certainly not. For if there were two sons there would also be two persons; but since this is not the case one cannot say that there are two sons. Or in another way: for on this question of whether there were to be two sons - the man assumed and the Word - it would be necessary for the word ‘son’ to be predicated with the same meaning. For since the word ‘man’ is predicated in the same meaning with regard to Socrates and Plato, it is then necessary to conclude that they are two men. Similarly if the word ‘son’ were applied to both with the same meaning, there would certainly be two sons. But because it is applied in more than one sense, the ambiguity of the word ‘son’, causes problems. For ‘son’ is applied differently to the Word from the way it is applied to the human nature that has been assumed. For the Word is called the son because it proceeds from eternity from the substance of the Father in an ineffable manner, but the human nature that has been assumed is called the son because it was conceived by the Holy Spirit, in time, in the Virgin's womb from the substance of the Virgin without man's seed in a manner that is contrary to nature. Because the word is used in different ways about the two, it is proved by clear reason that they are not two but only one as is evident from consideration of the following example. The word ‘dog’ can refer both to a sea monster and to a barking animal, but it does not follow from that that there are two dogs. For if there were two dogs either they would be two barking animals or two sea monsters. For every plural at least doubles the number of things specified by its own singular.

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It is asked whether Christ had parts. That he did have parts is proved by the authority of Augustine who says, ‘when he speaks about Christ, the wise and devout reader should note what and according to what it is said. For when it is said, ‘Christ is a man’, it is partly true; when it is said, ‘Christ is God’, it is partly true. This is also proved by reason. The soul and flesh are united in Christ in a union of the person by means of the same kind of union which unites anyone else's soul and body; but the soul and body of anyone else is united in such a way that they constitute the man himself: therefore the soul and body of Christ constitute Christ himself and so they are parts of him. But this does not follow at all. For they are united in a greater union than are the soul and body of anyone else and this superiority of union means that his parts are not constitutive, but rather they could be said to be uniting parts, if that is permissible.

On the contrary: Christ is God but God is without parts: therefore Christ has no parts. Again, there is nothing new, nothing made and there is nothing in the Trinity made or created or composite, but Christ is the third person in the Trinity and so he has no parts. To which we say, Christ, according to his human nature has parts, according to his divine nature is wholly without parts.

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It is asked whether the divine and human nature were parts of Christ. The view that they are is proved by the authority of Athanasius, for he says, ‘just as the rational soul and the body are one man, so God and the human nature form one Christ.’ But the soul and body are man in such a way that they constitute him and they are constitutive parts of him, and so God and the human nature form one Christ in such a way that they constitute him and they are constitutive parts of him. Again Jerome says, ‘just as the axe is made of a handle and a metal blade, so Christ is made of God and man.’ Again Augustine says that just as the sacrament consists of and is made up from the sacrament and the inner reality of the sacrament, so Christ is made from God and man.

On the contrary: Augustine says, ‘Christ is a giant of twofold substance of which no part is either God or man; otherwise before he was man he was not a whole person and when he began to be a man, something was added to him.’

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To this we say that the divine and human nature are definitely not parts of Christ. But the same objection is made as before ‘just as the rational soul’etc. In response to this one must be aware that the word ‘sicut’ is sometimes used to denote all kinds of similarity and sometimes not every kind but only a specific one. All kinds, as when it is said, ‘Socrates is a man like Plato’, and not all kinds but a specific one as in the case of the statement, ‘be perfect, just as your father is perfect, too.’ So here it is not a likeness of all kinds but a specific one that is denoted, that is, ‘like a rational soul and a body’ etc., in other words, just as these two, namely body and soul, are one man, so these two, namely God and man, are one Christ; but the word ‘like’ is not being used in every sense. For those things form the man which constitute the man and they are the constitutive parts, but in the other case they are one Christ, that is, they are united in Christ as persons. Or to put it another way, God and man are one Christ, in other words God possessing human nature is one Christ. The same must be said about Jerome's phrase, ‘just as the axe’ etc. Augustine's statement, ‘just as the sacrament’ etc. is true; just as these two things are found in the sacrament, namely the sacrament and the inner reality of the sacrament, so these two, God and man, are found in Christ, as was stated above.

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It is asked whether Christ is the third person in the Trinity. This can be proved in the following way: as Augustine says, ‘Christ is nothing other than the Word possessing human nature,’ but the Word is the third person in the Trinity, therefore Christ is the third person in the Trinity. Similarly Augustine says, ‘The Word assumed the man and in this way the assumption made the assumed and the assumer one and the same person.’ And so, since the assumer and the assumed one is Christ and they are one and the same person, the assumer is also the third person in the Trinity; therefore Christ is the third person in the Trinity.


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On the contrary: Christ is a creature and was mortal, visible and able to suffer; but there is no person in the Trinity which is not the creator and a creature; and each one is also immortal, invisible and unable to suffer: therefore Christ is not the third person in the Trinity. Again, Christ has parts, but each of the persons in the Trinity is a being of the utmost simplicity and lacks parts: therefore Christ is not the third person in the Trinity. To which we say that Christ is the third person in the Trinity but according to his divine nature and not according to his human nature, especially since according to his human nature he is not a person, and so that we may speak more truthfully and not lie, he is not anything, either. For he cannot be said to be anything as a result of the fact that Christ is man but rather, if it is allowed, of some kind. The statement, ‘Christ is a creature’ etc. is completely true of him according to his human nature and he himself according to his human nature is not any of those persons. The statement, ‘He has parts’ etc. is to be understood of him according to his human nature. But when Augustine states in support of the other viewpoint, ‘the assumed and the assumer are one and the same person in the Trinity’, he does not mean by this that the thing assumed by the Word becomes a person of the Word, but he says this to destroy the error of those people who say that there are two persons in Christ, one assuming and the other assumed. The meaning is that the assumed and the assumer are one and the same person in the Trinity, in other words, the assumed one is united in a union of the person to the thing which assumes, that is, the Word, which is the third person in the Trinity.

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It is asked whether Christ is Word or man, or Word and man. It is proved that Christ is the Word. Christ is God; therefore he is the Father or the Word or the Holy Spirit, but he is not the Father or the Spirit and so he is the Word. Again, that he is man and the Word is proved by the authority of Augustine who speaks of Christ in connection with the Epistle to the Romans. For he says, ‘So great is the union of both natures, that he is said to be wholly God and wholly man and interchangeably God-man and man-God.’ It is therefore clear that he is God and man.

On the contrary: it is proved that Christ is not the Word. The Word is in Christ; therefore the Word is not Christ. For nothing, according to the authority, is that in which it is. If the Word is not Christ, then, by a simple reversal, Christ is not the Word, either. Again, it is proved that Christ is not a man. He is not the man assumed nor is he another man, and so he is not a man. It is clear that he is not another man. It is proved that he is not the man assumed: the man assumed is not a man, for if it were a man it would also be a person. Therefore Christ is not a man.

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To which we say that Christ is true man and true God according to this statement, ‘Perfect God, perfect man’ etc. In the case of the statement, ‘The Word is in Christ, therefore Christ is not the Word’, this does not follow. It is certainly true in the case of natural things, as for example, if whiteness or something of this kind is in Socrates, then it is not Socrates, but when the discussion concerns heavenly theology, arguments of this kind definitely have no place. So that if it is stated,’ Justice is in God, therefore justice is not God’, this does not follow. For justice itself is God and God is justice itself. And so although the Word is said to be in Christ, the Word is still Christ and Christ is the Word. Or let us say that this phrase, namely, ‘the Word is in Christ’ is wrong, just like that one: ‘justice is in God.’ For justice is said to be in us in a different way from the way it is in God. For in us justice exists in such a way that we are different because of this justice. But in God justice is said to exist because he himself is justice and so that phrase in which it is stated, ‘justice is in God’ is wrong, for it would only be legitimate if it meant that justice is God or the other way round. And the same is true of the statement that, ‘The Word is in Christ, in other words, Christ is the Word’. But the statement, ‘he is not man because he is not the man assumed’ etc. is a false proposition. For it claims that the man assumed, that is the human nature, is the man, although it is not the man. And so we must not accept the statement, ‘he is not a man because he is neither the man assumed nor another man’, because that is a false proposition and it is true that Christ is a man.


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Related further reading

marker at abelard.org Pierre (Peter) Abelard, introduction and short biography
marker at abelard.org the logic of ethics, including Pierre (Peter) Abelard on ethics
marker at abelard.org Abelard of Le Pallet on theology: “Logic has made me hated amongst men”
marker at abelard.org Le Pallet, birthplace of Pierre Abelard link to related photos for Pierre Abelard
For further background:
marker at abelard.org The rise and fall of the Church of Rome
marker at abelard.org ‘Heresy’, authority, quarrels and words

Endnote

1

The Latin word aliquid roughly translates to mean, “or otherwise”. Thus, much medieval theological discussion on the ‘trinity’ revolved around whether ‘christ’ was part of ‘god’, or he was a man, “or otherwise”. These discussions have become further mired by changing meanings of the word person, both in Latin and in English.

This document is provided as background information for analysis of the linkage between Aristotelian logic and authoritarianism. It forms background to the aliquid section in ‘heresy’, authority, quarrels and words.

This analysis, including the aliquid issue, is developed further in “Logic has made me hated among men”. That document treats the remainder of the charges against Abelard, made at Sens in 1141, charges related primarily to Abelard’s logical probing of medieval ‘theology’. (The first part of this analysis can be found at the logic of ethics).

 

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