Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. E. Rozanne Elder

Second Advisor

Dr. Larry J. Simon

Third Advisor

Dr. Otto Grundler

Fourth Advisor

Dr. David N. Bell


In 1140, William o f St. Thierry, a Cistercian monk and former Benedictine abbot, accused Peter Abelard, the well-known philosopher and theologian, of propagating grave errors concerning Christian doctrine in his theological teachings. William’s accusations resulted in Peter’s condemnation at the Council of Sens in 1140.

This study compares the commentaries on the Episode of St. Paul to the Romans written by William of St. Thierry and Peter Abelard in the mid-1130s, only a few years before William’s accusations. While this conflict has been much studied, no one has previously examined it via these commentaries, which are the only literary genre William and Peter had in common, and which deal directly with many of the Christian doctrines disputed by the two scholars. The study examines their exegetical methods, specifically their citations of Scripture and the Fathers of the Christian church, and their use of spiritual exposition, rhetoric, and dialectic. It also analyzes their statements on key doctrines, including grace, original sin, and the Trinity. It points out both their significant methodological and doctrinal differences and similarities, and shows how their differences may have contributed to their conflict. The study proposes that the conflict can be understood as an argument between a monk committed to the Augustinian program of rhetorical exposition outlined in De doctrina Christiana and a scholar committed to the dialectical methodology of Boethius.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access