Research Programs: Summer Stipends

Period of Performance

5/1/2012 - 6/30/2012

Funding Totals

$6,000.00 (approved)
$6,000.00 (awarded)

Thomas Aquinas's Biblical Commentaries and the U.S. Supreme Court

FAIN: FT-59482-12

Eugene F. Rogers
University of North Carolina, Greensboro (Greensboro, NC 27412-5068)

Rival accounts of what's 'natural' for human morality still cite the 13th C. system of Thomas Aquinas--even on the Supreme Court. But all accounts ignore his biblical commentaries, which reveal something far stranger: the commentaries embed all law, even natural law, in a sexually charged story of decline by specific ethnic groups Jews and Gentiles--gendered in changing ways. The courts need natural law to be unchanging, universal, and neutral on ethnicity, gender, and religion. Aquinas's own commentaries make it none of those. My method is simple, but has hardly been tried: When Aquinas's systematic works quote the Bible, I read his own commentary on the verses he cites. With an NEH, I would draw eight essays into a coherent book--under advance contract from Blackwell--with wide implications for lawyers, judges, and scholars in humanities and law. Each chapter reads the commentaries to make Aquinas's natural law reasoning more difficult for secular courts to use.

Media Coverage

Eugene F. Rogers, Jr.: Aquinas and the Supreme Court: Race, Gender, and the Failure of Natural Law in Thomas's Biblical Commentaries (Review)
Author(s): D. McIlroy
Publication: Studies in Christian Ethics
Date: 9/30/2015
Abstract: "It is essential reading for any theologian engaging with Aquinas’s ethics and for any lawyer who wants to reflect on their calling after Aquinas."

Aquinas--And His Exploiters (Review)
Author(s): Duncan Dormer
Publication: Church Times
Date: 1/17/2014
Abstract: “A “must” for the theological-college library, this is not a book that can be ignored by anyone interested in this fascinating and deeply influential Dominican.”

Eugene F. Rogers--Aquinas and the Supreme Court (Review)
Author(s): Myles Werntz
Publication: Englewood Review of Books
Date: 7/19/2013
Abstract: Rogers makes the breathtaking argument that Thomas Aquinas does not, in fact, say what you think he says on the topic of natural law, nature, and what is appropriate to humans as natural.
URL: http://

Associated Products

Aquinas and the Supreme Court: Race, Gender, and the Failure of Natural Law in Thomas’s Biblical Commentaries (Book)
Title: Aquinas and the Supreme Court: Race, Gender, and the Failure of Natural Law in Thomas’s Biblical Commentaries
Author: Eugene F. Rogers, Jr.
Abstract: This book critiques turn-of-the-21st-Century natural law theory by its founding text, using Aquinas's own commentaries on the Bible. Exploring newly translated or untranslated commentaries, Rogers compares the passages where Aquinas's systematic works quote the bible with Aquinas's own biblical commentaries on the passages he cites. Avery different understanding of natural law emerges, in which Aquinas embeds all law, even the law of nature, not in a particular logic, but in a particular story. Aquinas places natural law in a narrative of God's dealings with Jews and gentiles. The narrative uses sexual metaphors to explain, not how natural law would work, but why it fails. The commentaries describe a nature that differs by ethnicity, varies over time, and changes sexuality by God's decree. This challenges current uses of Aquinas's natural law from both sides of several debates, both liberal and conservative.
Year: 2013
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: WorldCat--find it in a library
Secondary URL:
Secondary URL Description: Amazon--buy it
Access Model: It's a book. You can buy the book or get it from a library. The publisher also allows electronic access to individual chapters.
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 978-1-118-3911
Copy sent to NEH?: No