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(Trans. Alfred J. Freddoso)


The Old Law



Was the Old Law from God?


It seems that the Old Law was not from God:


Objection 1:  Deuteronomy 32:4 says, “The works of God are perfect.”  But as was explained above (a. 1), the Old Law was imperfect.  Therefore, the Old Law was not from God.


Objection 2:  Ecclesiastes 3:14 says, “I have learned that all the works which God has made persevere forever.”  But the Old Law did not persevere forever; for in Hebrews 7:18 the Apostle says, “There is indeed a setting aside of the former commandment, because of its weakness and unprofitableness.”  Therefore, the Old Law was not from God.


Objection 3:  It is a function of the lawmaker’s wisdom to remove not only evils but the occasions of evil.  But as was explained above (a. 1), the Old Law was an occasion of sin.  Therefore, it was inappropriate that God—who, as Job 36:22 puts it, “is such that none is like Him among the lawmakers”—should hand down such a law.


Objection 4:  1 Timothy 2:4 says, “God wills all men to be saved.”  But as was explained above (a. 1), the Old Law did not suffice for the salvation of men.  Therefore, it was inappropriate for God to make such a law.  Therefore, the Old Law is not from God.


But contrary to this:  In Matthew 15:6 Our Lord, in speaking to the Jews, to whom the Old Law had been given, says, “You have made void the commandment of God because of your traditions.”  And just before this we find, “Honor your father and your mother,” which is clearly contained in the Old Law (cf. Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16).  Therefore, the Old Law is from God.


I respond:  The Old Law was given by the good God, who is the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  For the Old Law ordered men toward Christ in two ways.
First, it ordered men toward Christ by bearing witness to Christ.  Hence, in the last chapter of Luke, verse 44, He Himself says, “All things must needs be fulfilled which have been written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and in the psalms,.”  And in John 5:46 He says, “If you believed Moses, you would perhaps believe me also; for he wrote about me.”
Second, the Old Law ordered men toward Christ in the manner of a disposition, since by drawing men back from idolatry, it enveloped them within the worship of the one God by whom the human race was to be saved through Christ.  Hence, in Galatians 3:23 the Apostle says, “Before the faith came, we were guarded under the Law, enclosed for that faith which was to be revealed.”  But, clearly, the one who disposes things to the end is the same as the one who leads them to the end, and by ‘the same’ I mean either through himself (per se) or through what is subject to him (per suos subiectos).  For the devil would not have given a law by means of which men might be led to Christ, through whom he himself was going to be cast out—this according to Matthew 12:26 (“If Satan casts out Satan, then his kingdom is divided”).  And so the Old Law was given by the same God by whom the salvation of men was effected through the grace of Christ.


Reply to objection 1:  Nothing prevents a thing from being imperfect absolutely speaking and yet  perfect with respect to a given time.  For instance, a boy is not said to be perfect absolutely speaking, but is said to be perfect for his age (secundum temporis conditionem).  So, too, precepts that are given to children are perfect for the condition of those to whom they are given, even if those precepts are not perfect absolutely speaking.  The precepts of the Old Law were like this.  Hence, in Galatians 3:24 the Apostle says, “The Law was our teacher (paedagogus) in Christ.”


Reply to objection 2:  The works of God that persevere forever are the ones which God made in such a way that they should persevere forever, and these are the ones that are perfect.  By contrast, the Old Law was set aside at the time of the perfection of grace—not as something bad, but as something weak and unprofitable for that time.  For as is added [in the cited passage], “The law did not bring anything to perfection.”  Hence, in Galatians 3:25 the Apostle says, “Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the teacher.”


Reply to objection 3:  As was explained above (q. 79, a. 4), God at times allows some men to fall into sin in order that they might thereby be made humble.  So, too, He willed to a give a Law that men could not fulfill by their own power in order that men, while relying on themselves, might discover themselves to be sinners and, having been humbled, might have recourse to the assistance of grace.


Reply to objection 4:  Even though the Old Law did not suffice for the salvation of man, there was nonetheless another sort of assistance which God offered to men along with the Law and by which they were able to be saved, viz., faith in the Mediator—a faith through which the ancient patriarchs were justified in the same way that we ourselves are justified.  And so God did not remove Himself from men in the sense of not giving them the means to salvation.





I-II, q. 90, The Essence of Law

I-II, q. 91, The Different Kinds of Law

I-II, q. 92, The Effects of Law


Eternal law

I-II, q. 93, Eternal Law

Natural law

I-II, q. 94, The Natural Law

Human law

I-II, q. 95, Human Law

I-II, q. 96, The Force of Human Law

I-II, q. 97, Changes in Human Law

The old law

I-II, q. 98, The Old Law

I-II, q. 99, The Precepts of the Old Law

I-II, q. 100, The Moral Precepts of the Old Law

I-II, q. 101, The Ceremonial Precepts of the Old Law in Themselves

I-II, q. 102, The Causes of the Ceremonial Precepts

I-II, q. 103, The Duration of the Ceremonial Precepts

I-II, q. 104, The Judicial Precepts of the Old Law

I-II, q. 105, The Nature of the Judicial Precepts

The new law

I-II, q. 106, The Law of the Gospel, called the New Law, in Itself

I-II, q. 107, The Relation between the Old Law and the New Law

I-II, q. 108, The Contents of the New Law