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(Trans. Alfred J. Freddoso)


The Old Law



Were all men obliged to observe the Old Law?


It seems that all men were obliged (obligarentur) to observe the Old Law:


Objection 1:  Anyone who is subject to a king must be subject to that king’s law.  But the Old Law was given by God, who is “the king of all the earth,” as Psalm 46:8 puts it.  Therefore, all the inhabitants of the earth were obliged (tenebantur) to observe the Law.


Objection 2:  The Jews were unable to be saved unless they observed the Old Law; for Deuteronomy 27:26 says, “Cursed be he that abides not in the words of this Law, and fulfills them not in his works.”  Therefore, if other men were able to have been saved without observing the Old Law, then the Jews’ situation would have been worse than that of other men.


Objection 3:  Gentiles were admitted to the Judaic rites and to the observance of the Law; for Exodus 12:48 says, “If any stranger is willing to dwell among you, and to keep the Phase of the Lord, all his males shall first be circumcised, and then shall he celebrate it ritually, and he shall be like one that is born in the land.”  But it would have been useless for the foreigners admitted by God’s ordinance to observe the Law if they could have been saved without observing the Law.  Therefore, no one was able to be saved unless he observed the Law.


But contrary to this:  In De Caelesti Hierarchia, chap. 9, Dionysius says that many Gentiles were led to God by the angels.  But it is clear that the Gentiles did not observe the Law.  Therefore, some were able to be saved without observing the Law.


I respond:  The Old Law made manifest the precepts of the law of nature and added certain precepts of its own.
Therefore, as regards the precepts of the law of nature that were contained in the Old Law, all men were obliged to observe the Old Law—not because these precepts belonged to the Old Law, but because they belonged to the law of nature.
However, as regards what the Old Law added to the law of nature, the only ones obliged to observe the Old Law were the Jewish people.  The reason for this is that, as has been explained (a. 4), the Old Law was given to the Jewish people in order that they might acquire a certain privilege of holiness out of reverence for the Christ, who was to born of that people.  But statutes established for the special sanctification of certain people oblige no one but them.  For instance, clerics, who are set aside for divine ministry, have certain obligations that lay people do not have; similarly, religious are bound by their profession to certain works of perfection that seculars are not bound to.  In the same way, the Jewish people had certain special obligations that other people did not have.  Hence, Deuteronomy 18:13 says, “You shall be perfect and without stain before the Lord your God.”  It is for this reason that they made use of a type of profession, as is clear from Deuteronomy 26:3 (“I profess this day before the Lord your God .....”).


Reply to objection 1:  If someone is subject to a king’s rule, then he is obliged to observe the law that the king proposes for everyone in general.  But if the king institutes certain laws to be observed by his closest ministers, then the others are not obliged to observe these laws.


Reply to objection 2:  The more a man is conjoined to God, the better his situation becomes.  And so to the extent that the Jewish people were bound more closely to the worship of God, they were better off than other peoples.  Hence, Deuteronomy 4:8 asks, “What other nation is there so renowned that has ceremonies, and just judgments, and the whole of the Law?”  Similarly, on this score clerics are in a better situation than lay people, and religious are in a better situation than seculars.


Reply to objection 3:  Gentiles attained salvation more completely and more surely under the observances of the Old Law than under the natural law alone, and that is why they were admitted to these observances.  So, too, even now lay people pass into the clerical state and seculars pass into the religious state, even though they can be saved without doing this.





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