Peter Lombard

c.1095-1169. Known as “the Master of the Sentences.” Born in Lombardy, he was educated at Bologna and went to Paris, where by 1141 he had written a commentary on the Psalms and a gloss on Paul and had become a canon at Notre Dame. In 1159 he was elected bishop of Paris. His fame rests chiefly upon his Book of Sentences (Libri Quatuor Sententiarum), finished in 1157 or 1158. The book is basically a compilation with numerous citations to the Church Fathers and to near contemporaries such as Anselm of Laon,* Peter Abelard,* Hugh of St.-Victor,* the Decretum of Gratian,* the anonymous Summa Sententiarum, and the canons of Ivo of Chartres.* Lombard's great achievement was in organizing these materials into a sound, brief, objective summary of doctrine.

The work is divided into four books: (1) “On the mystery of the Trinity”; (2) “Concerning the creation and formation of corporal and spiritual things and many other items pertaining thereto”; (3) “Concerning the incarnation of the word and other matters pertaining thereto”; (4) “Concerning the sacraments and sacramental signs.” He showed originality in arranging his texts, in using various currents of thought, in avoiding extremes between authoritarians and dialecticians, and in presenting the theology of the sacraments. He was one of the first to insist on the number seven as the proper group of sacraments, to distinguish them from sacramentals, and to state that they are not merely “visible signs of invisible grace” but also “the cause of the grace it signifies.”

Lombard's work marked the culmination of a long tradition of theological pedagogy. By 1222 Alexander of Hales* had introduced it into his theological course as the standard text, and from here it passed into the curriculum of other universities in Europe to such an extent that all candidates in theology were required to comment on it as preparation for the doctoral degree.

The work continued to be used and commented upon (there were 180 commentaries written on it in England alone) until well into the seventeenth century, when it was finally replaced by the work of Thomas Aquinas* as amplified by Cajetan.* Despite the wide acceptance there were those who opposed Lombard's teachings both during and after his lifetime. Contemporaries such as Robert of Melun* criticized his apparent acceptance of Abelard's* teaching that, in Christ, God is not man, but has humanity. This understanding, called “christological nihilism,” was condemned by Pope Alexander III* (1177). In the latter part of the twelfth century Lombard's Trinitarian teaching was opposed by Gilbert de la Porrée and Joachim of Fiore.* Efforts to have his work condemned were unsuccessful, and at the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) Joachimism was anathematized and Lombard was acknowledged as orthodox. There were still disputes, however, and from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries there remain lists of “articles in which the Master of the Sentences is not commonly held by all.”

E.F. Rogers, Peter Lombard and the Sacramental System (1917); S.J. Curtis, “Peter Lombard, a Pioneer in Educational Methods,” Miscellanea Lombardiniana (1957); P. Delhaye, Pierre Lombard, sa vie, ses oeuvres, sa morale (1961); also, there are many fine articles in the review Pier Lombardo which appeared between 1957 and 1962.