Theology Professor Awarded Fellowship

St. Bonaventure University theology professor Oleg Bychkov, Ph.D., has been awarded a national fellowship that will significantly advance work in the areas of the history of medieval philosophy and theology.

Bychkov, professor of theology and chair of the Department of Theology, won a one-year National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship to continue his edition-translation of the student report (version “A”) of John Duns Scotus’ (1265-1308) Parisian Lectures on Peter Lombard’s Sentences, to be published by the Franciscan Institute Press.

The project was started in the late 1990s by the late Fr. Allan Wolter, O.F.M., a foremost North American scholar of Duns Scotus. The project was continued in the early 2000s by Bychkov, first in his role as an assistant and collaborator of Fr. Wolter, and after 2003 on his own.

To date, the project has resulted in the publication of a Latin text (without a critical apparatus) and an English translation of Book One (two volumes totaling some 2,500 pages, Franciscan Institute Publications, 2004 and 2008).

The next stage of the project, supported by the NEH grant, is to edit and translate Book Four of the Paris lecture course (of approximately the same length as Book One), following the sequence of Scotus’ lecturing in Paris.

Bychkov’s fellowship “is a well-deserved recognition of his scholarship,” said Br. Edward Coughlin, O.F.M., vice president for Franciscan Mission and interim director of the Franciscan Institute at St. Bonaventure.


“It also demonstrates the Endowment’s appreciation of the contemporary significance of the thought of John Duns Scotus. The edited translation of Book IV of the Sentences is of particular importance for understanding Scotus’ vision of human perfection, the larger context for understanding the significance of his ethical theory and nature of human freedom in particular. I also have no doubt that the late Fr. Wolter, who dedicated his life to retrieving and editing the work of Scotus, would be deeply grateful to Oleg for his ongoing effort to bring to completion yet another piece of his dream. Finally, the publication of this work will mark another significant moment in the Franciscan Institute’s storied contribution to medieval studies,” said Coughlin.

The significance of Duns Scotus, and in particular of his Parisian lecture course, was recently underscored by an international Quadruple Congress on Scotus (2007-2009), which celebrated the 700th anniversary of his death, as well as by several publications. In his letter from Oct. 28, 2008, to Cardinal Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne, Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “we think that the doctrine of the blessed [Duns Scotus] ... in our times should be researched and taught with utmost diligence.” The publications included a commemorative volume of Franciscan Studies (2008), for which the commemorative section on Scotus was edited by Bychkov, and four volumes of proceedings from the Quadruple Congress.

Duns Scotus’ thought can be rivaled in its influence, among medieval thinkers, only by that of Thomas Aquinas. Although it is Aquinas’ thought that is more widely known to the present-day general public, many theological and philosophical discussions in the 20th century in the Catholic circles revolved around comparing Thomism with Scotism in discussing such important topics as the nature of God, being, human knowledge, etc., Bychkov said. Scotus was commonly presented as a forerunner of modern German Idealist philosophy and even of some trends in 20th century phenomenology, and influenced several important contemporary thinkers, such as Heidegger.

Scotus’ Paris course of lectures is significant for several reasons, Bychkov says. For example, Book One of the Paris lectures postdates Scotus’ magisterial Oxford lectures and reflects his most mature thought, and Book Four has served as the basis for Book Four of the Oxford lectures. The added advantage of the Paris course of lectures is its concise nature, which makes for a more palatable reading of the difficult thought of the Subtle Doctor. Since neither the Paris nor the Oxford lectures of Scotus is available in English in their entirety, and the Paris lectures not even in a Latin edition, the current project will significantly advance work in the areas of the history of medieval philosophy and theology.

This past year has been productive for Bychkov in other respects. In addition to winning the Fellowship, presenting a conference paper, authoring a couple of essays in collected volumes and reviewing a book and several submissions to scholarly journals, three of his books were published:

· a monograph (“Aesthetic Revelation,” Catholic University of America Press) on the work of leading Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar and his analysis of ancient and medieval texts;

· a co-edited volume of new translations of ancient Greek and Latin texts, Greek and Roman Aesthetics (Cambridge University Press); and

· a co-edited collection of essays, John Duns Scotus, Philosopher (Aschendorff).

“Dr. Bychkov is one of our University’s most prolific and highly regarded scholars,” said Dr. Wolfgang Natter, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at St. Bonaventure. “The National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship is one of the most prestigious, sought after, and rigorously peer reviewed awards given by that agency. Oleg’s award of it offers further testimony to his recognition among his peers, not only for the present project, but for an entire body of work. Oleg’s award of the Fellowship is something all of us in the St. Bonaventure community have reason to celebrate.”

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