Were all men obliged to observe the
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.
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.
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 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
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.