NOTES on Dante’s PARADISE, Canto 13: Sun — Saint Thomas Aquinas Discusses Solomon


St. Thomas is aware that Dante believes that God’s light shone brightest in Adam, the first man, and in Jesus Christ.

And so Saint Thomas is also aware that Dante is wondering what Saint Thomas meant when he said that Solomon had no equal in wisdom.

St. Thomas says that both he and Dante believe correctly. What Saint Thomas believes and what Dante believes are not contradictory.

St. Thomas says that when God acts directly, as when he created Adam and as when Christ was conceived, the result is perfect:

“If then the fervent Love, the Vision clear,

Of primal Virtue do dispose and seal,

Perfection absolute is there acquired.”

(Longfellow 13.79-81)

Solomon was without equal in the gift of wisdom that he received from God. Solomon asked for wisdom to rule well as a King, and he received it.

St. Thomas says,

“So, when I talked of unmatched wisdom then,

royal prudence was the wisdom upon which

I had my arrow of intention drawn.”

(Musa 13.103-105)

So Solomon was the wisest of all kings, of whom there are many, but of whom few are good.



St. Thomas warns against making hasty judgments:

“Nor should one be too quick to trust his judgment;

be not like him who walks his field and counts

the ears of corn before the time is ripe,

for I have seen brier all winter long

showing its tough and prickly stem, and then

eventually produce a lovely rose,

and I have seen a ship sail straight and swift

over the sea through all its course, and then,

about to enter the harbor, sink.”

(Musa 13.130-138)

We can correct mistakes. Briers can produce roses.

We can make mistakes. A ship can make a long voyage and then sink in its home harbor.

Partly, this means that when we judge a life, we need to judge an entire life. An evil man can repent at the last minute, just as a brier eventually produces a rose. A good person can become evil at the end of his life, just as a ship that has made a long voyage ends up sinking in its home harbor.

Aristotle said that in order to determine whether a man was happy, we need to look at the whole of that man’s life. After he has died, we will be able to tell if he was happy.

St. Thomas says,

“No Mr. or Miss Know-It-All should think,

when they see one man steal and one give alms

that they are seeing them through God’s own eyes,

for one may yet rise up, the other fall.”

(Musa 13.139-142)

God sees the whole picture — we don’t. God knows the end of a person’s life and whether or not they repented.

Chances are, we will be surprised by some of those who make it to Paradise, and by some of those who end up in the Inferno.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved



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