In Article 6, St. Thomas asks whether everyone is equally bound to have explicit faith to the same extent. His response reminds me of the opening verses of the Revelation:
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; and he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written therein; for the time is near.
The revelation is handed down through a chain of messengers: God to Jesus to an angel to John to the one reading aloud to the one who hears. (It drives me CRAZY that there are six and not seven members of this chain—but I digress.) St. Thomas takes this as true of revelation in general, that it comes from God through angels to men and through them to other men, as though flowing down from the mountaintop to the plains—St. Thomas’s own metaphor for revelation in his inaugural homily Rigans montes.
This way of seeing revelation makes faith a necessarily ecclesial thing. It can never just be simply private, because if I am one of the minores then I am bound to others by my need of their instruction, while if I am one of the maiores then I am bound to others by a duty of teaching them. And as St. Thomas makes clear in his reply to the third objection, my teaching of others can never just be my own thing, a promulgation of my own ideas, because those I instruct should find in me a reliable witness to the word of God; the stream toward the bottom of the mountain must get its waters from higher up the slopes.
In his parallel treatment in the commentary on the Sentences 126.96.36.199, St. Thomas makes clear that the maiores include priests, prophets, teachers, and preachers. For the purposes of our present project, I want to emphasize that this list includes theologians, whose work is therefore necessarily ecclesial. There is no such thing as a merely private theologian. This seems significant in our quest to define theology.