November 30, 2010
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v2.1 Reference

Light and Glory

The Transfiguration of Christ in Early Franciscan and Dominican Theology

The story of Jesus's transfiguration, as recorded in the synoptic gospels, has proved to be a fruitful source of theological reflection since the time of the Early Church. Although Christ's luminous and glorious transformation is the central event, the transfiguration story possesses a number of other interesting facets, including the role of the Trinitarian Persons, the transformation of the disciples, and the presence of Moses and Elijah. The story also raises a number of Christological issues, including the relationship between Christ's divinity and humanity and the nature of His body before and after His resurrection. The narrative placement of this event before Christ's passion, death, and resurrection invites reflection on soteriological and eschatological themes as well. This fairly brief episode in Christ's life thus unites a number of closely related themes in a short, dense, and very rich narrative.

Light and Glory offers an engaging comparison of the teachings of seven thirteenth-century theologians — three Franciscans and four Dominicans — on the subject of the transfiguration of Christ. The Franciscan authors discussed are Alexander of Hales, John of La Rochelle, and Bonaventure. The Dominicans examined are Hugh of St. Cher, Guerric of St. Quentin, Albert the Great, and, finally, Thomas Aquinas. Given the roughly chronological nature of the book's discussion, the influence of earlier writers in the group is shown on the later writers. Development within a particular author's understanding of the transfiguration is noted, as well as the influence of each author's thought on others.

Through their teachings and writings, these seven theologians created a profound scholastic expression of what Christ's transfiguration was and what it meant for Christians in their day.


Aaron Canty is associate professor of religious studies at Saint Xavier University.


"Although there is considerable literature on Eastern readings of the Transfiguration, and in patristic authors, there has been little meaningful study of the transfiguration in the high medieval authors. Canty makes available a period of development of doctrine that has otherwise passed into obscurity."—John Cavadini, chair, Department of Theology, University of Notre Dame

"Lucidly organized and clearly written, this book is a marvelous and perceptive study of seven reflections on the transfiguration of Christ during the roughly four decades that separate the first mendicant friars from Thomas Aquinas. Canty deftly puts this conversation in patristic context, and draws lines of continuity from the Early Church to the high medieval discussion. Drawing on a range of sources, including biblical commentaries, commentaries on Peter Lombard's Sentences, disputed questions, and summae, Canty successfully proves that the friars, themselves highly influenced by ancient thought on this key episode in the gospels, made their own unique contribution to its interpretation. "—Kevin Madigan, Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Harvard Divinity School

"Time and again, theologians and spiritual authors were intrigued by the story of the transfiguration of Christ, its theological implications and its rich symbolism. Canty's thorough study unveils how the masterminds of the thirteenth century confronted the familiar account with unexpected questions and startling interpretations. Fascinated by the person of Jesus Christ, the early mendicant theologians produced a theologically rich and unique blend of biblical exegesis and systematic christology, meaningful beyond the boundaries of its medieval setting. "—Thomas Prügl, Professor of Church History, University of Vienna

About the Author

Aaron Canty is associate professor of religious studies at Saint Xavier University.


"Canty is sensitive to the ways in which exegetical literature begs to be read in a different light than other Scholastic writing, but he shows clearly that he has the theological and philosophical chops to deal with the substantive metaphysical and epistemological questions with due Scholastic rigor."—Kevin L. Hughes, The Thomist
The Catholic University of America Press
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