Summa Theologica

Discussion in 'Lingua Latina (Latin)' started by fred_smith, Apr 22, 2011.

  1. fred_smith New Member

    English - Britain
    As you are probably aware, there is a book by Thomas Aquinas called "Summa Theologica".

    How would you translate this phrase into English?
  2. relativamente Senior Member

    catalan and spanish
  3. fred_smith New Member

    English - Britain
    Thanks for the link.

    If you were to translate the phrase "Summa Theologica" into English, how would you translate it?

    My guess is: "A Treatise on Theology". Is this accurate?
  4. relativamente Senior Member

    catalan and spanish
    In my view if you are adressing a general public maybe "A Treatise on Theology". is a good choice, but if you are speaking to scholars or learned listeners it is better not to translate this title at all. Just "Summa Theologica"
  5. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    A summa in this context could be translated as a digest; thus Theology Digest. Wikipedia suggests Compendium of Theology.

    Still, Aquinas' work is probably best known in English as the Summa, or Summa Theologica.
  6. fred_smith New Member

    English - Britain
    Thank you very much for your insights.

    As someone implied, it is almost always referred to by the Latin title. The frustrating thing is: no one ever actually says what this means! They just assume you know! So it is good to have an Enlgish translation.
  7. Quiviscumque

    Quiviscumque Moderator

    Ciudad del paraíso
    Merriam-Webster on line says that you have the very word "summa" in English:

    1. a comprehensive treatise; especially : one by a scholastic philosopher
    2. a synthesis or summary of any subject

    So, "Summa Theologica" (Latin) is just "Theologic Summa" (English).
  8. Secco Banned

    italiano portugues
    Here you find the translation of summa (latin)
  9. Condessa

    Condessa Member

    Bogotá, Colombia
    Colombia, Español
    This is a really old thread, but it's never late to make clear the Compendium is a different work by Aquinas. The Summa was intended to be a synthesis, but the Compendium is waaaay shorter.
  10. bearded

    bearded Senior Member

    Normally, 'summa' means synthesis, but the title 'Summa Theologica' also contains an ancient 'play on words' that I will try to explain as follows:
    there is an adjective 'summus' meaning highest (from: supra=above, comp. superior=higher, superl. summus=highest), and the ending in -a can also be neuter plural, so that Summa Theologica can mean both
    - theological synthesis
    - the highest possible theological things (contents).
  11. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    A few corrections, perhaps, to the last posting.

    Summa in this context is not the neuter plural of summus but a fem. sing. noun summa, etymologically summa res “the highest thing”. Besides meaning “highest thing, high point”, summa also means “sum” (as we say in English), and in particular a sum of money. It does not mean “synthesis”. So summa theologica means either “the pinnacle of theological knowledge” of “the sum total of theological knowledge”; not, I think, all that different.
  12. bearded

    bearded Senior Member

    Thank you ,fdb, for your accurate explanation. In as much as you give us the classical interpretation, summa is certainly a singular feminine noun, and you are quite right. But the reason why I was talking about a hidden 'play on words', is that the (mis)interpretation of it as a plural neuter did exist - in Italy at least - for many centuries. ((It appears that my 'context' is a bit less serious than yours:))). Since also the feminine 'summa' can mean pinnacle, though, I am glad to see that the final result of our Latin disquisitions is that you, too, admit that, be it feminine or pl.neuter(ok incorrect), that title can mean both
    - the sum of theol.knowledge (I wrote synthesis, but I can as well write summary - from sum...)
    - the 'pinnacle' of it (highest contents..) ,
    just (or approximately) as I had written.
    With friendly regards,
  13. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    I think that is a reasonable compromise.
  14. djmc Senior Member

    English - United Kingdom
    While Summa theologiae is better known, Aquinas also wrote summa contra gentiles.

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