Home About International University Project Conferences Courses Lectures Projects Publications Readings Contribute Contact      

home \ projects \ step \ on the law \ question 99 \ article 5

STEP home

Treatise on Law




Related links



STEP - St. Thomas Education Project
<<<   ARTICLE   >>>







(Trans. Alfred J. Freddoso)


The Precepts of the Old Law



Are there any precepts contained in the Old Law in addition to

the moral, ceremonial, and judicial precepts?


It seems that there are precepts contained in the Old Law in addition to the moral, ceremonial, and judicial precepts:


Objection 1:  The judicial precepts have to do with the act of justice, which is between man and man, whereas the ceremonial precepts have to do with the act of religion, by which God is worshipped.  But as was explained above (q. 60, a. 5), there are many other virtues besides these two, e.g., temperance, fortitude, generosity, and many others.  Therefore, the Old Law contains many other precepts in addition to those mentioned above.


Objection 2:  Deuteronomy 11:1 says, “Love the Lord your God and observe His precepts and ceremonies, His judgments and mandates.”  But as has been explained (a. 4), ‘precepts’ (praecepta) refers here to the moral precepts.  Therefore, besides the moral, judicial, and ceremonial precepts, there are still other precepts contained in the Law, and these are called ‘mandates’ (mandata).


Objection 3:  Deuteronomy 6:17 says, “Keep the precepts of the Lord your God, and the testimonies and ceremonies which I have commanded you.”  Therefore, in addition to all the other precepts mentioned above, there are also testimonies (testimonia) contained in the Law.


Objection 4:  Psalm 118:93 says, “I will never forget Your justifications (iustificationes),”  Therefore, the precepts of the Old Law include not only the moral, ceremonial, and judicial precepts, but justifications as well.


But contrary to this:  Deuteronomy 6:1 says:  “Here are the precepts, and ceremonies, and judgments which the Lord your God commanded you.”  And these three are set forth at the beginning of the Law.  Therefore, all the precepts of the Law are included in them.


I respond:  Certain things are posited in the Law as precepts, whereas others are posited as ordered toward the fulfillment of the precepts.  The precepts concern things that are to be done.  For the fulfillment of these precepts man has two inducements, viz., (a) the authority of the one commanding and (b) the advantage associated with the fulfillment, i.e., the acquisition of some useful, pleasurable, or noble good, or the avoidance of some contrary evil.
Therefore, certain things had to be proposed in the Old Law which would indicate the authority of God commanding, e.g., Deuteronomy 6:4 (“Hear, O Israel, the Lord God your God is one”) and Genesis 1:1 (“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”).  These are called testimonies (testimonia).
Again, certain things had to be proposed as rewards for those who observed the law and punishments for those who transgressed it, as is clear from Deuteronomy 28:1 (“If you will listen to the voice of the Lord your God, He will make you higher than all the nations .....”).  And these are called justifications (iustificationes), insofar as God justly punishes some or rewards others.
Now things that are to be done fall under a precept only insofar as they have something of the character of what is owed.  But there are two kinds of debts, one having to do with the rule of reason and the other having to do with the rule of a specifying law—just as the Philosopher in Ethics 5 distinguishes two modes of the just, viz., the morally just and the legally just.
There are two kinds of moral debts.  For reason dictates that a thing is to be done either (a) as something necessary, without which the order of virtue cannot exist, or (b) as something useful for preserving the order of virtue in a better way.  Accordingly, certain things pertaining to what is moral are either precisely commanded or precisely forbidden in the Law—e.g., “You shall not kill” and “You shall not steal.”  And these are called precepts (praecepta) in the proper sense.
On the other hand, certain things are commanded or forbidden not as precisely owed, but for the sake of what is better.  And these can be called mandates (mandata), since they contain a certain inducement and persuasiveness—e.g., Exodus 22:26 (“If you take a garment from your neighbor in pledge, you should return it to him before sunset”) and others of this sort.  This is why Jerome says that there is justice in the precepts and charity in the mandates.
Now debts arising from a specification of law have to do with the judicial precepts in human matters and with the ceremonial precepts in divine matters—although those having to do with punishments and rewards can also be called testimonies, insofar as they are declarations of divine justice.  On the other hand, all the precepts of the Law can be called justifications, insofar as they are executions of legal justice.
In addition, there is alternative way to distinguish mandates from precepts, viz., what are called precepts are such that God issues them through Himself, whereas mandates are such that He gives them through others, as the name ‘mandate’ seems to suggest.
From all of this it is clear that all the precepts of the Law are included among the moral, ceremonial, and judicial precepts, whereas the other things do not have the character of precepts, but instead, as has been explained, are ordered toward the observance of the precepts.


Reply to objection 1:  Justice alone, among the other virtues, implies the notion of what is owed.  And so the moral is specifiable by law to the extent that it pertains to justice, a certain part of which is religion, as Tully says.  Hence, legal justice cannot include anything except besides the ceremonial precepts and judicial precepts.


Reply to objection 2 and objection 3 and objection 4:  The replies to the other objections are clear from what has been said.





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