On a Thomistic Worry about Scotus's Doctrine of the Esse Christi

Antonianum 84:719-733 (2009)
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Abstract
According to authoritative Christian teaching, Jesus Christ is a single person existing in two natures, divinity and humanity. In attempting to understand this claim, the high-scholastic theologians often asked whether there was more than one existence in Christ. John Duns Scotus answers the question with a clear and strongly-formulated yes, and Thomists have sometimes suspected that his answer leads in a heretical direction. But before we can ask whether Scotus‘s answer is acceptable or not, we have to come to a clear understanding of what his answer is. And before we can ask what his answer is, we have to come to a clear understanding of what question or questions he is trying to answer. In this paper I begin by explaining that the question about Christ‘s existence is ambiguous, i.e., that there are actually two questions hidden behind one formulation. Next I look at Scotus‘s writings on the topic in order to determine which question he is really trying to answer, and I argue that he is trying to answer both of them, even though he does not make this clear. Third, I provide an initial look at the answers that he gives. Fourth, I explain why these answers might seem problematic, especially from a Thomistic perspective. Fifth, I explain Scotus‘s answers in more detail and show that they are not problematic in the way that some Thomists have held. Indeed, at least some of Scotus‘s ideas are the very same ideas that Thomas spells out in one of his works.
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