Abelard, Peter

(1079–1142)
   Theologian.
   Abelard was born at Pallet, near Nantes in France. He attracted large audiences to his theological lectures at the Cathedral Schools of Paris. After his love affair with Héloïse, the niece of Fulbert, Canon of Notre Dame, he was forced to retire, initially to the monastery of St Denis. His book Theologia Summi Boni (c. 1120) was condemned at the Council of Soissons in 1121, but by 1136 he was teaching again in Paris. In 1140 some of his doctrines were condemned at the Council of Sens, St bernard of clairvaux leading the movement against him. Abelard immediately appealed to Innocent II, but the Pope confirmed the Council’s decision. Subsequently Abelard withdrew, and he died at the Priory of St Marcel, Chalon-sur- Saône. Abelard’s other works include his defence Theologia Christiana (c. 1124), his own history Historia Calamitatum, his ethical treatise Scito Te Ipsum and his dialectical anthology Sic et Non. He is remembered for his tragic personal life and for his doctrine of the atonement, which he expounded in his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. He argued that Jesus’s death effected atonement not because it was a ransom paid to the devil or the repayment of a debt due to God, but because it inspired love in the sinner. Thus its value was exemplary rather than propitiatory.
   ■ B. Radice (ed.), The Letters of Abelard and Heloise (1974);
   ■ D.E. Luscombe, The School of Peter Abelard (1969).

Who’s Who in Christianity . 2014.

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