Power and the “Powers” in Thomas Aquinas’ Lectura ad Ephesios by Eric Covington

May 7, 2020

Power and the “Powers” in Thomas Aquinas’ Lectura ad Ephesios

Eric Covington

Eric Covington (Ph.D, University of St. Andrews) is Assistant Professor of
Christian Studies at Howard Payne University

Abstract: In his medieval commentary on Ephesians, Thomas Aquinas interprets the various terms that refer to the “powers” throughout the letter as references to specific tiers within hierarcies of both benevolent and malevolent spiritual beings. Intriguingly, Aquinas interprets the “powers” of Ephesians 1:21 and Ephesians 3:10 as references to the benevolent, angelic hierarchy, while he interprets the “powers” of Ephesians 2:2 and Ephesians 6:12 as references to the malevolent, demonic hierarchy. This chapter will examine Aquinas’ interpretation of these terms in each of these verses and will conclude by examining the theological significance of this identification for Aquinas’ reading of Ephesians. Ultimately, Aquinas sees Christ as
the form and exemplar of true divine power, which is most fully expressed in Christ’s resurrection and exaltation over all spiritual beings. Thus, while Aquinas does not contradict modern scholarship’s focus on the subjugation of malevolent forces, he dramatically reorients the discussion around Ephesians’ presentation of Christ as the exalted one through whom the appropriate divine power extends to every creature— physical and spiritual.

Key Words: Divine Power; Angelic Hierarchy; Demonic Hierarchy; Spiritual Beings; Thomas Aquinas

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