In order correctly to understand Thomas' treatise on Trinitarian theology in the Summa Theologiae, one has to begin by paying attention to the broad underlying intention in his presentation of the treatise. Thomas does not launch his treatise with epistemological and methodological prologues, describing his intention. He refines it in the course of his research, when particular questions come up, following the procedure which one can see in other parts of the Summa: the epistemological elements appear in the main body of the theological investiga-tion.1 In practice, our knowledge of a reality does not just depend on our own faculties, but on the reality itself: so one needs to clarify what the object of study is before one can adequately assess the knowledge we can have of it.
One cannot get a true idea of the Trinitarian teaching in Thomas' synthesizing texts without perceiving their animating intention. Some popular misconceptions can set the interpretation of the treatise off on the wrong track. This is why, without proposing to reverse the order of the questions which Thomas adopted, we will take the opportunity to tackle some of these topics at the beginning. To read the treatise on the Trinity in the Summa Theologiae correctly, it is not enough to raise the question of the method and content of Trinitarian theology; one also has to answer the question: What does speculative study of the Trinity intend to achieve? This question will make us reflect on how theology draws on revelation when, with the help of human intelligence, it seeks to present our faith.
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