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Robert Holcot$

John T. Slotemaker and Jeffrey C. Witt

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199391240

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199391240.001.0001

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Appendix A: Holcot’s Commentary on the Sentences

Appendix A: Holcot’s Commentary on the Sentences

Robert Holcot

John T. Slotemaker

Jeffrey C. Witt

Oxford University Press

(p.261) Robert Holcot’s commentary on the Sentences presents a challenge because the early modern printings of the text are unreliable1 and the manuscript tradition preserves the individual questions of the work in different orders. The manuscripts consulted in preparation for the book have preserved various orderings of the questions. Because of this situation—and in order to establish a workable method of citation—we offer a table of questions based on the more accessible Lyon 1518 edition with references to other possible orderings.

Until a critical edition of Holcot’s commentary on the Sentences is completed, many of the questions concerning the relationships between the various manuscripts will remain undetermined. However, for purely practical purposes an order of the questions had to be adopted. One’s first inclination is to follow the historical order of the lectures. However, identifying this order has proved difficult because of the varied state of the manuscript witnesses. Paul Streveler and Katherine Tachau have attempted to provide a historical reconstruction of the questions.2 While this reconstruction has proved useful for identifying the principial questions often excluded from surviving witnesses of the commentary, there are reasons this list cannot be taken as final. The most important of these is that internal references within the manuscript tradition suggest that Holcot probably lectured on book 3 after book 4; therefore, in this respect Streveler and Tachau’s list needs to be adjusted.3

(p.262) The most important evidence for the reordering of book 3 and book 4 is the presence of internal references within book 3, q.1 that implicitly refer to and depend on book 4. As scholars have noted,4 book 3 begins an engagement with Holcot’s socius William Chitterne. The later articles of book 3, q.1—which demonstrate dependence on earlier discussions in the Six Articles and even earlier in book 1—have been the primary interest. It is these references that prompted scholars to see the Six Articles as being given at the end of Holcot’s first year of lecturing (during the summer after completing his lectures on book 2 and before lecturing on books 3 and 4).5 However, less attention has been given to book 3, q.1, aa.1–4. Articles 1 through 4 focus on a selection of seemingly unrelated issues: article 1 examines the difference between a vow and an oath; articles 2 and 3 consider whether it is possible for people to will their own annihilation; and article 4 asks whether it is licit for an unjustly condemned prisoner to flee from prison. Each of these discussions is clearly a response to the criticisms of the socius who in turn is responding to an initial position of Holcot. The question, however, is where? Unlike the later articles—which refer to discussions that can be identified in book 1 and the Six Articles—Holcot’s references to his previous arguments cannot be found there.

These questions are found in book 4, q.7 of Lyon 1518, which asks “Whether it is possible for a sinner to make satisfaction for a mortal sin.” In Streveler and Tachau’s list, this is book 4, q.5 and is positioned after book 3. This question contains extended principal arguments, and it is here we find discussions paralleling those in book 3: the second principal argument focuses on the difference between vows and oaths; the fifth principal argument raises issues about the ability to will one’s annihilation; the third principal argument asks the question of whether it is licit for someone justly condemned to flee from prison. Each of these discussions gets referenced and alluded to in the corresponding passages in book 3, showing clearly that these discussions in book 3 follow the discussions taking place within book 4. The most striking parallels can be found in the discussion of oaths and vows in book 4, q.7, arg.2 and resumed in book 3, q.1, a.1.

In book 3, q.1, a.1 Holcot says that he will recite some arguments of a socius. However, it is only in the body of this article that we gain any real confirmation that Holcot is picking up in the middle of an ongoing debate with the socius. Here Holcot argues that vows and oaths require equal deliberation and consent, such that a vow by itself does not oblige one more than an oath does.6 At this point he references a prior discussion not found in books (p.263) 1 or 2 or in the Six Articles. He writes that he already defended this position with four distinct arguments, but someone has gone on to add new arguments.7 Here it is evident that the socius has responded to Holcot’s previous four arguments, and now Holcot turns to address the matter a second time.

The original four arguments are found in book 4, q.7. But can we be sure that these four arguments are the same ones he is referring to in book 3? The discussion in book 3 offers some clarification. After listing and responding to nine new arguments in book 3, Holcot returns to review at least three of the initial arguments that he developed previously in book 4, noting explicitly that he would like “to reintroduce” (reducere) his arguments.8 The textual parallels between the questions from book 4 and book 3 can be seen in the following. Notice the uses of the past tense in the passages from book 3 (i.e., arguebam and arguebatur) suggesting that these are arguments Holcot has already made.

Book 4, q.7, arg.2 (L)

Book 3, a.1, a.3 (L)

1. Sed contra arguitur sic, tota ratio obligationis quae est in voto, est in iuramento, aliqua est in iuramento, quae non est in voto, ergo obligatio iuramenti est fortior (L p.6va; O 199va).

1. Arguebam enim sic: omnis ratio obligationis quae est in voto, est in iuramento et non econtrario, quia aliqua est in iuramento quae non est in voto, ergo iuramentum est maioris obligationis (L m.2vb; O 172vb).

2. Praeterea plus de irreverentia fit Deo in periurio quam in transgressione voti simplicis, quia sponte transgrediens iuramentum licitum, imponit Deo quantum in ipso est crimen falsitatis, et hoc est interpretative blasphemare Deum et significare Deum falsum esse quia factum hominis habet suam significationem veritatem et falsitatem sicut verba, sicut docet Anselmus De veritate, c. IX … (L p.6va; O 199va).

2. Secundo arguebam9 sic: plus irreverentiae fit Deo in transgressione iuramenti quam in trangressione voti privati, nam talis interpretative est blasphemus, quia quantum in eo est falsificat seipsum et Deum, transgressor voti non nisi se, ergo maiorem facit Deo irreverentiam (L m.2vb–m.3ra; O 172vb).

4. Quarto sic: votum non obligat nisi quia ex veritate humana, sed iuramentum obligat ex veritate divina et humana, ergo plus obligat et hoc nunc apparet mihi verum (L p.6vb; O 199va).

3. Tertio arguebatur sic: iuramentum ligat ex veritate et divina et humana, votum tantum ex veritate humana (L m.3ra; O 172vb).

(p.264) Similar parallels can be found on the subject of willing one’s own annihilation in book 4, q.7, arg.5 (L p.7ra–rb; O 199vb) and book 3, q.1, aa.2–3 (L m.3va–m.7rb; O 173ra–175ra). Likewise, one can see parallels in the discussion of whether it is licit for an unjustly condemned person to flee from prison in book 4, q.7, arg.3 (L p.6vb; O 199va) and book 3, q.1, a.4 (L m.7rb; O 175ra).10

This textual evidence for dating book 3 prior to book 4 is corroborated by a few other factors. First, as William Courtenay and Chris Schabel observe, it was common in the first half of the fourteenth century for bachelors to lecture on the Sentences out of order, such that the sequence 1, 4, 2, 3 was common.11 Second, Pascale Farago-Bermon—in her survey of the seven manuscripts at the Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris)—notes that six witnesses place book 4 before book 3.12 To her list should be added Troyes 634, Merton 113, and perhaps others. Finally, the peculiar nature of book 3 (it is a single question, with eight diverse articles only tangentially related to the explicit question) is consistent with the notion that Holcot was giving lip service to the requirement to lecture on book 3 at the end of the second year of lecturing, when the schedule was becoming increasingly tight and he simply wanted to follow up on previous discussions.

Given the present state of research and the fact that a historical ordering of the questions awaits further inquiry, for purely practical reasons we follow the order of the Lyon 1518 edition. In the table S-T refers to the order presented by Streveler-Tachau.

L Question Number

L Folio


S-T Question Number

S-T Order

I, q.1


Utrum quilibet viator existens in gratia, assentiendo articulis fidei, mereatur vitam aeternam.

I, q.1


I, q.2


De obiecto actus credendi: utrum sit ipsum complexum an res significata per complexum.

Principia 1


I, q.3


Utrum voluntas creata in utendo ut fruendo sit libera libertate contradictionis.

I, q.2


I, q.4


Utrum viator tenatur frui soli Deo.

I, q.3


I, q.5


Utrum Deus sit tres personae distinctae.

I, q.4


I, q.5


Utrum aliqua res simpliciter simplex sit in genere.

I, q.5


II, q.1


Utrum creator generis humani iuste gubernat genus humanum.

II, q.1


II, q.2


Utrum Deus ab aeterno sciverit se producturum mundum.

II, q.2


II, q.3


Utrum daemones libere peccaverunt.

II, q.4


II, q.4


Utrum angelo confirmato conveniat deputari ad custodiendum hominem viatorem.

II, q.3


III, q.un


Utrum filius Dei incarnari potuit.

III, q.un


IV, q.1


Utrum baptismus rite susceptus conferat gratiam baptizato.

IV, q.1


IV, q.2


Utrum confirmatio sit sacramentum.

IV, q.313


IV, q.3


Utrum in sacramento eucharistiae sub speciebus panis vere et realiter existat corpus Christi.

IV, q.4


IV, q.4


Utrum confessio sacerdoti facienda sit homini necessaria ad salutem.

IV, q.7


IV, q.5


Utrum poenitenti et confesso non proprio sacerdoti, habenti tamen commissionem generalem audiendi confessiones necesse sit eadem peccata iterum confiteri proprio sacerdoti.

IV, q.8


IV, q.6


Utrum quilibet sacerdos posset quemlibet absolvere a quocumque peccato.

IV, q.6


IV, q.7


Utrum peccator possit satisfacere Deo pro peccato mortali.

IV, q.5


IV, q.8


Utrum finale praemium boni viatoris sit aeterna beatitude.

IV, q.9



Sex Articuli


Sex sunt articuli quos in diversis materiis dixi.


Circa principium secundi libri in quo arguitur de causalitate Dei respectu creaturae, quaero istam quaestionem: utrum Deus sit causa effectiva omnium aliorum a se.

Principia 2


Utrum stellae sint creatae ut per lumen et motuum sint in signa et tempora.

II, q.5


Utrum Filius Dei assumpsit naturam humani in unitatem suppositi or Utrum viae vivendi, quas Christus docuit, sint meritoriae vitae aeternae.15

Principia 3


Utrum viator existens in gratia ordinate utendo et fruendo posset vitare omne peccatum or Utrum cum omni sacramento debito modo suscepto recipienti sacramentum informans gratia conferatur.16

Principia 4


Sermo finalis: ‘Cursum consummavi, fidem servavi,’ Tim. 4. Sollicitudo scolastica studiosissima circa sacrae theologiae notitiam adquirendam comparatur amicitae amatoris qui per laboriosam militiam nititur quaerere sibi sponsam.

Sermo finalis


(p.265) (p.266)


(1.) The difficulty with the manuscripts was evident to the Augustinian Hermit Augustinus de Ratispona (who edited L1). Augustinus writes in the preface: “Subtilissimas dico Magister Roberti de Holkot Super libros Sententiarum disquisitiones … Incredibili siquidem labore fere ab interitu redemptae sunt.” Further, at several points Augustinus notes textual problems. See Sent. I, q.1, a.4 (L1 a.4ra): “Nota quod iste articulus est diminutus et incompletus. …”. Streveler-Tachau-Courtenay-Gelber (1995), 36–38, list 48 manuscripts of Holcot’s Sentences commentary, to which BA2 must be added (we have been able to consult BA2, BA4, CC, M, O, and T).

(2.) Tachau (1995), 197–199.

(3.) Streveler and Tachau also skipped number 2 when ordering the questions in book 4, such that their list reads, Q1, Q3, Q4, etc. Tachau (1995), 199.

(5.) Gelber notes that book 3 is primarily a response to a socius and relies on some of the discussion of the Six Articles—therefore, she positions the Six Articles in the summer after lecturing on books 1 and 2 and before lecturing on 3 and 4. However, she still seems to follow Streveler-Tachau-Courtenay-Gelber by seeing book 3 as preceding book 4. She writes: “The debate betweeen Chitterne and Holcot did not end with the Sex articuli. Chitterne continued to object to Holcot’s views, and during the fall of 1332, in his Sentences commentary, book 3, q.1 Holcot again addressed the objections of his socius” (Gelber [2004], 303). By locating this response in the fall, Gelber suggests that his lectures on book 3 were delivered prior to book 4.

(6.) Note that in the Mazarine (M) 55vb, this position is recorded as “dixi sic: sit aequalis deliberatio et aequalis consensus et circumstantiae …” The perfect tense of dixi once again confirms that Holcot is jumping into an ongoing conversation.

(7.) Holcot, Sent. III, q.1 (L m.1rb; O 172ra): Sicut nitebar persuadere per quatuor rationes… Sed contra istam conclusionem …

(8.) The third argument introduced in book 4 does not seem to have a parallel, while book 3 adds a fourth and fifth argument that were not present in book 4. This is corroborated by the fact that arguments 1 through 3 in book 3 begin in the imperfect tense while arguments 4 and 5 do not. Likewise, after finishing the third argument, Holcot writes: “ad hoc nihil dictum est” (O m.3ra; (p.328) L 172vb) suggesting that he is reintroducing three of the original arguments that his socius ignored.

(9.) arguebam O, arguo L.

(10.) For a further discussion of these passages see chapter 9.

(11.) Courtenay (1994), 325–350; Schabel (2009), 150.

(13.) Note that Streveler-Tachau-Courtenay-Gelber do not list Q2 and move directly to Q3.

(14.) Gelber, following Schepers, explains that the Six Articles were written during the summer between lecturing on books 1 and 2 and books 3 and 4. See Gelber (2004), 296–297. Thus they should probably be placed betweeen Streveler and Tachau’s 12 and 13.

(15.) This question is also found in B4 101ra–110rb and R 89vb–98vb (note that the question lists in B4 and R are identical for all four books, as is the inclusion of four of the Six Articles).

(16.) This question is also found in B4 110rb–120ra and R 98vb–108vb.