The Threefold Division Of The Law In The Thought Of Aquinas

Stephen J. Casselli *

Westminster Theological Journal 61:2 (Fall 1999): 175-207.

* Stephen J. Casselli is pastor of Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church, Tampa Florida.

I. Introduction

Since the time of the apostles the law has been a problem. Immediately following the birth of Christianity one finds controversies swirling about the status of the law of God as a new sect of Judaism began to take shape.1 That controversy continued into the earliest generations of the Christian church with the rise of the Marcionites, and a variety of other antinomian currents within the fledgling movement. Centuries later, one of the major theological problems in the English Reformation was the corresponding rise of Antinomianism.2 The late twentieth-century has also witnessed a wholesale reevaluation of the biblical teaching on the law beginning with the monumental work of E. P. Sanders Paul and Palestian Judaism.3 Every generation of the Christian church has had to wrestle with these same issues.


A complex web of theological, hermeneutical and exegetical problems surround any consideration of the law, but the fundamental question concerns the relation of the church to OT law. Most Christians recognize that in Jesus Christ a decisive transition in redemptive history occurred that affects the church's relationship to the law of God. The question then becomes how does one properly formulate that transition while negotiating the dangers of legalism on one side and antinomianism on the other. There are some NT texts that appear to teach clearly and simply that the law of the OT has been totally abrogated (i.e., Romans 7, Galatians 3). On the other hand there are statements of Jesus himself to the opposite effect (Matt 5:17–48); and there is the ethical teaching of the apostle Paul that freely borrows from the law of the OT. Every generation of Christian theologians has made some attempt to explain and account for these apparent discrepancies with some coherent theology of law. Perhaps the most comprehensive effort in the history of the church is found in the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274).

Aquinas' teaching on the law provides a monumental attempt to synthesize more that 1200 years of Christian reflection on the law. His analysis has also had an enduring influence on the way in which the doctrine of the law is understood and articulated by Christian theologians down to the present day. Because Thomas' teaching on the law is varied and complex (to say nothing of its length), it is outside the scope of this essay to discuss it completely. The purpose of this study, therefore, is twofold. First, a brief description of his whole theory of the law is in order.4 Any one part of his doctrine of the law is better understood in light of the whole. Thus, the first section of this essay will be merely descriptive. Second, attention will be focused on Aquinas' threefold division of what he calls the Old Law. Here, in addition to describing his division of the law into moral, ceremonial, and judicial categories, some attempt will be made to give an account for his development of this classification. His threefold division is worthy of some attention given its enduring character. This structure of thought has taken on confessional status in the Westminster Standards, and continues to be


defended by Reformed biblical scholars.5 I will attempt to demonstrate that Aquinas is both an independent and original thinker, while at the same time a catholic theologian working within already established patterns of Christian teaching. Thus, his contribution to the development of the so-called "threefold division of the law," is one of synthesis and clarification. In an unprecedented way Thomas was able to employ simultaneously traditional thought forms, and under the aegis of Aristotelian philosophy, to bring fresh clarity to that tradition. His extraordinary powers of mind enabled him to bring together various patterns of thought already resident in the Christian church and to organize them under the influences of his great secular learning.

II. Thomas' General Theology of Law

Aquinas begins his discussion by carefully crafting a three-part definition of law in general. He first establishes that law is something pertaining to human reason. This is true because reason is "the first principle of human acts."6 As Etienne Gilson explains, "if there exists an end common to all our acts, that end constitutes the first principle on which all the decisions of practical reason depend."7 For Thomas that end is the common good. The second aspect of his definition develops this teleological definition of law as directed to the common good. It is not enough for law to be directed to the good of the individual. He quotes Isidore approvingly who says that, "laws are enacted for no private profit, but for the common benefit of the citizens." With this both Aristotle and Aquinas concur.8 In the final part of his definition he develops the notion that essential to a law is its promulgation. He explains, "Now a rule or measure is imposed by being applied to those who are to be ruled and measured by it.... Such application is made by its being notified to them by promulgation." Thus, his complete definition of law is, "nothing else than an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated."9

He then breaks out his discussion of the law into five general headings: eternal law, natural law, human law, Old Law and New Law. Each of these will be discussed briefly.


"The whole community of the universe is governed by Divine Reason," explains Aquinas.10 This notion of government by Divine Reason has "the nature of a law" and is therefore rightly called the eternal law. It is the type that serves as the source and exemplar of all other law, whether divine, natural or human.11 He explains that, "Just as in every artificer there pre-exists a type of things that are made by his art, so too in every governor there must pre-exist the type of the order of those things that are to be done by those who are subject to his government." God is the divine governor of the universe who rules by divine wisdom or reason. Thus, he defines the eternal law as, "nothing else than the type of Divine Wisdom, as directing all actions and movements."12 Eternal law is, as one writer put it, "the blue-print for the universe existing in the mind of God."13 All law, he can therefore argue, is based upon reason; reason measured by this ultimate standard of divine reason.

It is by his providence that this divine plan in the mind of God is worked out in human history. This eternal law determines the universal principles and goal to which history moves. It is the divine reason that rules the universe. All things, therefore, participate in the eternal law. Aquinas explains, "it is evident that all things partake somewhat of the eternal law, in so far as, namely, from its being imprinted on them, they derive their respective inclinations to their proper acts and ends."14 There is a fitness to the way things are and act, and their right behavior is determined by the eternal law of the creator. The "natural" inclination of things is grounded in the divine wisdom that orders them. There is, however, a difference in the way in which rational and irrational creatures experience the eternal law. "Irrational creatures," he explains, "are subject to the eternal law, through being moved by Divine providence; but not, as rational creatures are, through understanding the Divine commandment."15 The difference is being subject to the eternal law by "way of knowledge" or "by way of inward motive principle."16 The type of the divine mind is the canon of truth. Unlike the types of the human intellect, which are measured by their consonance with things, "the Divine intellect is the measure of things: since each thing has so far truth in it, as it represents the Divine intellect."17 Because it is a "sovereign type" existing in the mind of God, human beings have no direct access to a knowledge of the eternal law. We know it, and everyone has some idea of it, only by its effects.


It is important to note that Aquinas is thoroughly theological in the development of this teaching. Without the eternal law there is no foundation for any other law in the universe. The theological precedes and is the ground of the being of the anthropological. If there is no God and no eternal law in the mind of God, then there is no law. The divine essence itself is the eternal law of the universe. The reasonableness of law is not measured by philosophical speculation or by social convention, it is measured by its conformity to the divine mind. This is very important to keep in mind as we turn to a discussion of his teaching on "natural law."

There is certainly no other single aspect of Aquinas' teaching on the law that is more discussed and debated than his teaching on natural law. Literature related to Aquinas' doctrine of natural law abounds.18 His teaching can be summarized in several key principles. First, the natural law is grounded in the eternal law. Natural law is simply put a "participation of the eternal law in the rational creature." He explains,

it is evident that all things partake somewhat of the eternal law, in so far as, namely, from its being imprinted on them, they derive their respective inclinations to their proper acts and ends. Now among all others, the rational creature is subject to Divine providence in the most excellent way, in so far as it partakes of a share of providence, by being provident both for itself and for others. Wherefore it has a share of the Eternal Reason, whereby it has a natural inclination to its proper act and end: and this participation of the eternal law in the rational creature is called the natural law.

Second, natural law is eminently reasonable. Rational creatures can and do grasp a portion of the eternal law and he calls this the "light of natural reason." He explains, "the light of natural reason, whereby we discern what is good and what is evil, which is the function of the natural law, is nothing else than an imprint on us of the Divine light."19

This is the ground for his anthropological optimism. Man has the imprint of the divine stamped indelibly upon his soul and is therefore assumed to move in a godward direction by design. He says plainly, "there is in man an inclination to good, according to the nature of his reason, which nature is proper to him: thus man has a natural inclination to know the truth about God, and to live in society: and in this respect, whatever pertains to this


inclination belongs to the natural law."20 He goes on to explain that because all things act in a way suited to their form, and the form of man is fundamentally rational, there is in man "a natural inclination to act according to reason." And where does reason lead? "Each one's reason" he answers, "naturally dictates to him to act virtuously."21 All the acts of virtue are thus prescribed by the natural law of reason. 22 This does not mean that autonomous human reason is the final standard by which morality is judged. It is, however, a proximate measure. Aquinas explains,

Now in those things that are done by the will, the proximate rule is the human reason, while the supreme rule is the Eternal Law. When, therefore, a human action tends to the end, according to the order of reason and of the Eternal Law, then that action is right: but when it turns aside from that rectitude, then it is said to be a sin.23

Human reason is only a sound basis for natural law as it conforms to its participation in the eternal law.

Third, natural law is found in a graduated structure of general principles of action (moralia). It is, "by using our reason and reflecting on our nature as people," explains Brian Davies, that "we can come to formulate general principles of action."24 It does not, however, include what Aquinas calls "the particular determinations of individual cases."25 These general principles will, of course, lead us to act for the common good. The first and fundamental principle stamped upon the human heart is that "good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided. All other precepts of the natural law," he goes on to explain, "are based upon this."26 In addition to this general principle grasped by all, there are more specific principles that virtually everyone understands. These principles are summarized in the Decalogue.27 There is a third level of natural law, however, that consists of even more particular principles that only the wise are able to determine.28

Fourth, natural law is universal moral law. The identification of the moral law with natural law is not unique to Thomas. As Hood explains,


second- and third-century struggles with the Manicheans and Antinomians. What is original in Thomas's account is the sophistication of his natural law theory and the ingenious way he integrated the moralia into it.29

Because, "The natural law directs man by way of certain general precepts, common to both the perfect and the imperfect," explains Aquinas, "it is one and the same for all."30 It is a universal law of nature accessible to all rational creatures. Aquinas supports the universality of natural law from both Isidore and Aristotle who agree that "truth or rectitude is the same for all, and is equally known by all." This is the case because "it is right and true for all to act according to reason."31 Thus, the natural law in its first principles is "altogether unchangeable,"32 and ineradicable. "As to those general principles," Aquinas explains, "the natural law, in the abstract, can nowise be blotted out from men's hearts."33 Here he appeals to Rom 2:14, 15 and to the teaching of Augustine's Confessions for support. This natural law is no arbitrary moral principle, explains Gilson, "it is merely to read a natural law which is written in the very substance of beings and to bring to light the hidden spring of all their operations. We have to do it, because it is our nature to do it.34 The eternal law of God is written on the heart of all and even after the fall it remains, though men may act irrationally and inconsistently with what they know to be true and right. This explains the need for human law.

Gilson explains, "Between the universal principles of natural law and the infinitely complex detail of the particular acts which should be in conformity with it, an abyss opens up which no individual reflection can cross by itself and which it is the particular mission of human law to close."35 It should be apparent at the outset that for Aquinas human law has no principle of its own to invoke. It is in no way autonomous law. Human law is derivative, or should be, from the natural law, which is in turn dependent upon the eternal law. William Cannon explains, "Every human law is law to the degree that it is derived from the law of nature; when it deviates from natural law, it is not law but the perversion of law."36 It is the particular application of the general principles of natural law to the vicissitudes of life. It does not exist to replace natural law or to change it but, "to supplement it by more definite determinations."37 Natural law must be applied in


various cultures in a variety of ways. When governors rule they do so according to the dictates of natural law but also as the demands of their particular society warrant. Aquinas explains, "The general principles of the natural law cannot be applied to all men in the same way on account of the great variety of human affairs: and hence arises the diversity of positive laws among various people." Human law is derived from natural law in one of two ways, explains Thomas:

Some things are therefore derived from the general principles of the natural law, by way of conclusions; e.g. that one must not kill may be derived as a conclusion from the principle that one should do harm to no man: while some are derived therefrom by way of determination; e.g. the law of nature has it that the evil-doer should be punished; but that he be punished in this or that way, is a determination of the law of nature.38

The justice of human law is measured by conformity to natural law and reason. Gilson explains, "Human laws aim at prescribing particular acts which natural law imposes upon individuals for the common good, and they only bind in the measure in which they are just, that is, to the extent they satisfy their own definition."39 Ultimately, of course, this means that human law, as far as it is just, is derived from the eternal law itself, and is therefore binding. Thomas says of human laws, "If they be just, they have the power of binding in conscience, from the eternal law whence they are derived." 40 He also acknowledges the malleable character of human beings, and therefore of human law as well. "The reason of man is changing and imperfect," he says, "wherefore his law is subject to change."41 Proper human law, like all law, is based upon reason as well. Aquinas says, "All law proceeds from the reason and will of the lawgiver; the Divine and natural laws from the reasonable will of God; the human law from the will of man, regulated by reason."42

Human law, just because it is human law, is also limited. It does not prohibit all vices or command all virtues. Aquinas explains, "Human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained."43 Thus, any law that is contrary to the common good is not binding. This human law is available to believer and unbeliever alike since it is based upon human reason. The divine law, however, is for the church only.


Just as there is human law directed to the temporal good of men, so there is divine law directed to the eternal good of the church. Human law is for the end of the common good, but "the end of the Divine law is to bring man to that end which is everlasting happiness."44 Thomas gives four reasons why this divine law, in addition to human law, is necessary. First, because "man is ordained to an end of eternal happiness which is inproportionate to man's natural faculty." Neither natural law, nor human law will bring man to this highest good. Only divine law can so direct man. The divine law is also needed "on account of the uncertainty of human judgment." In order for men to be confident regarding right and wrong they need a sure word from God himself. Third, men cannot properly judge "interior movements" but only exterior acts. Thus, "human law could not sufficiently curb and direct interior acts." In other words, God alone is lord of the conscience. Human law can only address outward conduct. Finally, "human law cannot punish or forbid all evil deeds."45 Divine law was needed for a comprehensive guide to good and evil. Divine law forbids all sins.

If natural and human law is available to all by way of "nature," then divine law is only available to the church by "grace." It is a supernatural revelation. Knowledge of God is not necessary for the proper acting of natural law in human law. But because man has a higher ultimate purpose or end, a supernatural aspect to his existence, he needs a supernatural law to aid him in achieving his ultimate end or happiness. Those who have access to this law will achieve inward motives that conform to their external actions. This divine law is subdivided into the Old Law and the New Law.

The end for which the divine law was given is union with God in eternal happiness. Thomas says, "the end of the Divine law is to bring man to that end which is everlasting happiness."46 The only means by which eternal happiness can be attained is through "faith in the Mediator" whom God would send.47 Thus, the whole of the Old Law is designed to reveal Christ. For reasons we will examine in what follows, Aquinas has a twofold approach to understanding the Old Law. On the one hand it served as a help to the people of God when they were faltering and unable to apply the precepts of the natural law effectively in their circumstances. The Old Law is not identical to the natural law that can be derived purely from human reason, but it is a particular determination of the natural law for the people of Israel. "The Old Law is distinct from the natural law," he explains, "not as being altogether different from it, but as something added thereto. For just as grace presupposes nature, so must the Divine law presuppose the natural law."48 The Old Law does show forth the precepts of the natural law, therefore, it was in part binding on all people. Thomas explains, "as to


those precepts of the natural law contained in the Old Law, all were bound to observe the Old Law; not because they belonged to the Old Law, but because they belonged to the natural law."49 Included in the natural law are general, universal principles that "need no further promulgation after being once imprinted on the natural reason to which they are self-evident." Included here is the first principle that one should do good and avoid evil. "All the precepts of the decalogue," Aquinas concludes, "are referred to these, as conclusions to general principles."50 It is the moral principles of the Old Law that are universally binding.

He then makes a further distinction between those moral precepts that "belong to the law of nature absolutely," and are universally known; and those which are known "after more careful consideration" by wise men only.51 To the former belong the precepts of the Decalogue, while other principles of wisdom belong to the latter.

These distinctions then become the logical basis for his threefold division of the Old Law (moral, ceremonial, judicial). It also becomes clear that in his theology of law, the ceremonial and judicial laws are dependent upon and derived from the moral law. He explains, "all the moral precepts of the Law belong to the law of nature... . The moral precepts, distinct from the ceremonial and judicial precepts, are about things pertaining of their very nature to good morals."52 He says plainly, "the moral precepts are not reducible to the ceremonial precepts, but rather vice versa." He goes on to explain that, "all the precepts of the Law are so many parts of the precepts of the decalogue."53

The Old Law also added precepts of its own that "were not binding on any save the Jewish people alone."54 Two types of precepts were added, the ceremonial and judicial. The cultic system of Israel and the civil code of the nation were additions to the determinations of the natural law found in the Old Law and summarized in the Decalogue.55 Neither the ceremonial nor the judicial precepts can be derived directly from rational reflection or natural law. They are particularizations of those general precepts that can be discovered by rational reflection, the natural law. Aquinas explains, "Accordingly just as the determination of the universal principle about Divine worship is effected by the ceremonial precepts, so the determination of the general precepts of that justice which is to be observed among men


is effected by the judicial precepts."56 This leads him to the conclusion that "we must distinguish three kinds of precept in the Old Law; viz., moral precepts, which are dictated by the natural law; ceremonial precepts, which are determinations of the Divine worship; and judicial precepts, which are determinations of the justice to be maintained among men."57 The three aspects of law are distinguishable but interrelated, both the ceremonial and judicial being derived from the moral. Aquinas explains, "When therefore the moral precepts are fixed by Divine institution in matters relating to man's subordination to God, they are called ceremonial precepts: but when they refer to man's relation to other men, they are called judicial precepts." The moral precepts derive their binding force from reason "quickened by faith." Both ceremonial and judicial precepts, however, derive their binding force "not from reason alone, but in virtue of their institution."58 Aquinas finds textual support for this threefold division in Deut 6:1 that mentions commandments (moral), statutes (ceremonial), and judgments (judicial); and in Rom 7:12 that describes the law as holy (ceremonial), righteous (judicial), and good (moral).

The Old Law was needed in part because after the fall people were prone to sin and therefore liable to fail in the proper application of natural law. Although human reason "could not go astray in the abstract" as to the universal principles of the natural law, "through being habituated to sin, it became obscured in the point of things to be done in detail."59 There was the need for the revelation of divine law to help sinful people live properly before God. The law was "given to them as a help; which was most needed by the people, at the time when the natural law began to be obscured on account of the exuberance of sin."60 The Old Law was given for Israel at a particular time in a particular historical situation. It was designed to address the specific needs of God's wayward people.

The Old Law, thus, served a dual purpose. First, it was given for the proper government of the nation of Israel (literal sense). The ceremonial law governed right worship while the judicial law was intended to create a perfectly just political society. Second, it was given to prepare a people for the coming of Christ (spiritual sense). He says that the Old Law was "given to the Jewish people, that it might receive a prerogative of holiness, in reverence for Christ Who was to be born of that people."61(61) In this sense the Old Law is imperfect. Because it points forward to the coming of Christ, it is inadequate in and of itself apart from its telos in the messiah.


The Old Law is incomplete without the New Law or the Law of the Gospel. In the coming of Christ and the Spirit there is a decisive transition in redemptive history. Grace is made available in a way that was not possible under the Old Law. "The New Law," according to Aquinas, "consists chiefly in the grace of the Holy Ghost, which is shown forth by faith that worketh through love. Now men become receivers of this grace through God's Son made man, Whose humanity grace filled first, and thence flowed forth to us."62 The Old Law was a written code, whereas the New Law is "in the first place a law that is inscribed on our hearts." It is a gracious addition to the natural law given to all. He explains, "There are two ways in which a thing may be instilled into man. First, through being part of his nature, and thus the natural law is instilled into man. Secondly, a thing is instilled into man by being, as it were, added on to his nature by a gift of grace."63 One can clearly recognize here his application of a strong nature/grace dualism to his development of his theology of the law.

Aquinas acknowledges, however, that there is both continuity and discontinuity between the Old and New Law. The New Law, he argues, was contained in the Old. It is contained in the Old Law as "a seed contains the whole tree, virtually." The precepts of the New Law are more explicitly set forth, but their substance is to be found in the Old Law as well. Here he points to the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5. He quotes Augustine approvingly when the latter comments that, "nearly all Our Lord's admonitions or precepts, where He expressed Himself by saying: ‘But I say unto you,' are to be found also in those ancient books."64 It is precisely in the principles of the moral law, summarized by the Ten Commandments, that continuity is found. The discontinuity lies in the fulfillment of the ceremonial law in Christ. The judicial law is also made void by the transformation of the political kingdom of Israel, because where there is a change in the form of government, there must also be a change in the law that regulates that society.

The end of every law is to make men righteous and virtuous. The end of the Old Law was, therefore, the justification of men. In and of itself, however, it could not accomplish this "but foreshadowed it by certain ceremonial actions, and promised it in words." It must then, point to Christ. The New Law, however, justifies men "through the power of Christ's Passion." The New Law "gives what the Old Law promised ... it fulfills what the Old Law foreshadowed ... the reality is found in Christ." In his words and work Christ fulfills the law. Aquinas goes on to explain that in his doctrine Christ fulfilled the law in three ways. First, "by explaining the true sense of the law." Second, "by prescribing the safest way of complying with the statutes of the Old Law." Third, "by adding some counsels of perfection."


Because the ceremonial precepts were shadows of what was to come, they are abolished in the work of Christ. He says, "the promise of a future gift holds no longer when it has been fulfilled by the presentation of the gift. In this way the legal ceremonies are abolished by being fulfilled."65

Likewise, the judicial precepts pass away with the coming of Christ and the new law. The reason for this is that just like the ceremonial precepts the judicial precepts were given to foreshadow Christ. "They did foreshadow something," he explains, "since, to wit, the entire state of that people, who were directed by these precepts, was figurative, according to 1 Cor x. 11: All ... things happened to them in figure." The entire state of Israel "had to be prophetic and figurative." He goes on to say that, "For this reason even the judicial precepts that were given to this people were more figurative than those which were given to other nations."6(66) Israel is not like other nations. Their entire history is bound up with their purpose to reveal the Messiah. When the Messiah comes all things are made new, "therefore the judicial precepts are no longer in force." Aquinas explains, "the judicial precepts were not instituted that they might be figures, but that they might shape the state of that people who were directed to Christ. Consequently, when the state of that people changed with the coming of Christ, the judicial precepts lost their binding force: for the Law was a pedagogue, leading men to Christ." This is because, "when the state or nation pass to another form of government, the laws must needs be changed." This is different from the abolition of the ceremonial law in that, "the ceremonial precepts were annulled so far as to be not only dead, but also deadly to those who observe them since the coming of Christ ... on the other hand, the judicial precepts are dead indeed, because they have no binding force: but they are not deadly."67


The New Law, unlike the Old, is concerned first with "internal acts." Where the Old Law was given primarily to regulate external actions, the New is focused on the transformation of the heart. Aquinas says, "Since then the grace of the Holy Ghost is like an interior habit bestowed on us and inclining us to act aright, it makes us do freely those things that are becoming to grace."68 Likewise, those external regulations for worship are turned to an inward spiritual reality in the New Law. Jesus "makes it clear that the entire bodily worship which was fixed by the Law, was to be changed into a spiritual worship."69 There is a sense, then, in which the Old Law was concerned with temporal-earthly matters, whereas the New is concerned with eternal-heavenly matters. The Old Law motivated obedience by fear of punishment, and the New Law motivates by love poured into the heart by grace. The Old Law is for the immature and imperfect before Christ. The New Law is for the mature church under the Gospel. What Aquinas provides, in short, perhaps for the first time in the history of the church since Paul, is a comprehensive, integrated theology of law.

III. The Development of Thomas' Threefold Division of the Old Law

Having described Aquinas' doctrine of the law, we now turn to the origins of one aspect of his teaching. Biblical scholars often acknowledge that the common division of the Old Law into three aspects (moral, ceremonial, and judicial) goes back at least to Aquinas. The question then becomes, how did Aquinas arrive at this scheme? Beryl Smalley rightly observes that, "In order to understand medieval Bible study one must live there long enough to slip into their ways and appreciate the logic of their strict, elaborately fantastic conventions."70 Exegesis of the medieval period is in no way an independent project. It stands in the flow of a complex history of developing patterns in biblical interpretation. It is necessary, therefore, to place Medieval developments, and the work of Aquinas in particular, in their proper historical context. Because the history of biblical hermeneutics is complex and demanding, we can only provide a cursory survey of the major developments relevant for and leading up to the work of Aquinas.71

Early Christianity was originally perceived as a sect of Judaism. It was in an effort to define itself over against traditional Judaism that a distinct religion began to take shape. In addition to the struggle with Judaism on the outside, came the internal conflicts with heretics within the fledgling movement.72 There is clear evidence of this struggle throughout the record of the NT itself.73 Because the law/Torah was central to every form of Judaism in the first century, debates over its status in the church were inevitable.74 Thus the Apologists of the early church were struggling to


articulate a Christian view of the OT with the Jews on one side and the Marcionites on the other.75 The basic pattern of argumentation that began to take shape was purposed for the defense of the OT as a Christian book with universal application. Increasingly Christians agreed that it must, however, be interpreted typologically or allegorically in order to be properly Christianized. Origen warned,

If anyone wants to hear and understand these things strictly literally, he ought to address himself to the Jews rather than to the Christians, but if he wants to be a Christian and a disciple of Paul, let him hear him saying "For the Law is spiritual," and when he speaks of "Abraham" and his "wife" and "sons," let him pronounce these to be allegorical.76

It would be beneath the Christian interpreter to stop at the literal-historical sense, without going on to uncover Christ and the Christian gospel in the text by way of allegory. Without the OT, however, it would be impossible to fully appreciate and understand the work and mission of the messiah. The exegesis of this period is thoroughly typological and christological in orientation.77

1. The Church Fathers

Medieval hermeneutics was largely under the spell of ancient methods of interpretation, one of the primary being a letter-spirit dualism.78 Among the ancient Fathers of the church it was commonplace to divide the text of Scripture between letter and spirit. The text of Scripture, like man has a body and a soul. The body is the letter with its literal meaning; the soul is the spiritual sense. Scripture, especially the Old Law, is given in a historical


context in which it is literally binding on the Jewish nation. It also contains within it a deeper, inner, spiritual meaning that must be expounded for the church after Christ.

This basic dualistic and allegorical approach to the study of Scripture has its roots in the schools of Alexandria. The allegorical tradition was developed in both Jewish and Christian thinkers influenced by Platonic philosophy. Philo is the great allegorist of the Jewish tradition, while Clement and Origen are representative Christians from this school.79 This basic approach harmonized well with the generally Neoplatonic outlook of the Christian church at this time. The dependence upon a Platonic (or Neo-Platonic) dualism (formatter; ideal/real) is unmistakable within this approach. The visible things of the world (the text in this case) point to deeper, spiritual realities that are invisible. The end result was an approach to biblical interpretation that drifted into excess once meaning lost its moorings in the historicity of the text, and was understood to be hidden in its linguistic features.

In reaction to the extremes growing out of the allegorical school of Alexandria, the Antiochene School developed, largely under the work of Theodore of Mopsuestia.80 "The Antiochene school," explains Smalley, "under the influence of Aristotle, concentrated on the historical sense and its definition."81 Their emphasis was on the "literal" meaning of the text in its historical context. This meaning might include metaphor, type, and figure as well as spiritual significance; all of these, however, are grounded in its historical sense. The tendency in this school was to limit typology to those types that the New Testament explicitly mentions. The basic difference between the two schools was that,

whereas the Alexandrians devised a hermeneutic which enabled them to apply to Christ Old Testament passages that did not seem at all likely to have such an application, the Antiochenes first identified a number of Old Testament passages which were much more self-evidently ‘fulfilled' by Christ, and then devised a hermeneutic to explain the correspondences.82

The entire history of biblical interpretation can, at the risk of gross over simplification, be understood as the ebb and flow of the competition between these two basic approaches, with a variety of mediating positions notable. Smalley says, "The vogue for allegorical interpretation of sacred texts has gone in waves. Each crest has been followed by reaction and ‘debunking.' Yet it has always survived criticism."83 What is important to note for the present study is that those who exert the most significant influence over


Aquinas, as we will see, belong mainly to the Antiochene School with its emphasis on literal interpretation.

Several of the church fathers in particular exercised an especially significant influence on Thomas. One such figure was the "golden tongued" Chrysostom (A.D. 347-407).84 He gained the sobriquet "golden tongue" because of his renown as a preacher. The great emphasis in his preaching was the practical application of the word to the contemporary needs of the church.85 John Chrysostom was a significant representative of the Antiochene reaction to the allegorists of Alexandria. Riddle explains that, "The position held by Chrysostom in the history of exegesis is remarkable. Owing to a peculiar combination of circumstances he, more than any of the Fathers, was enabled to avoid the errors alike of the allegorizing and dogmatic tendencies... . Chrysostom represents the Antiochian reaction against the allegorizing method." He continues, "The most marked peculiarity of Chrysostom as an exegete is his comparative freedom from the allegorizing tendency that prevailed in the early Christian centuries."86Though the allegorical approach was not totally rejected by Chrysostom, his interpretations were controlled and moderate, much like the work of Aquinas.

A second great influence on Aquinas was the work of Jerome (A.D. 347-420). Again, for the most part a representative of the Antiochene School, the exegetical methods of Jerome were complex and uneven.87 Initially he appears to have been attracted to the allegorical/Alexandrian approach; however, his interests changed and developed over time. Later in his career, "the Origenist controversy warned him of an exaggerated use of allegory, and his own studies in Hebrew increased his interest in the letter."88 He never totally abandoned the allegorical approach, though his use of it was greatly tempered by a careful study of the text in its historical context. Jerome was unique among the Fathers in that he was trilingual, possessing a knowledge of Latin, Greek and Hebrew.89 Like all the Fathers he interpreted the Old Testament christologically and "spiritually." He interpreted many of the Psalms in light of Christ, and his masterful commentary on Daniel is thoroughly christocentric. Jerome,

combined what was best in both the Alexandrian and Antiochene schools. He made it clear to his successors that the Old Testament was an oriental book written in an oriental language and set in the oriental past. At the same time he


fervently expressed his belief that the coming of Jesus showed that the Old Testament was a book of illumination and hope for all mankind.90

The great Augustine (A.D. 354-430) was undoubtedly the most important influence on Medieval expositors in general, and on Aquinas in particular. Pelikan rightly points out that, "In a manner and to a degree unique for any Christian thinker outside the New Testament, Augustine has determined the form and the content of church doctrine for most of Western Christian history."91 For this reason it is important to give some attention to his approach to the study of the Bible and to his theology of the law.

Being deeply influenced by Neoplatonism, he naturally put an emphasis on the spiritual sense of scripture over the literal. In two of his important works on biblical interpretation, De Doctrina Christiana and The Spirit and The Letter, he provides us with a summary of his approach to exegesis. He takes seriously the historical sense of scripture, even defending in the preface of De Doctrina Christiana, the use of secular learning as an aid to the study of sacred scripture.92 There is a concrete chronological reality that can be fitted into a Christian philosophy of history, which unifies the OT and NT.93 At the same time the OT is not merely an accurate record of past events, but prophetic history anticipating the coming of salvation by Christ. He takes OT history seriously and yet interprets it spiritually and christocentrically. He says,

Those things in the Old Testament which we do not observe we hold to have been suitable appointments for the time and the people of that dispensation, besides being symbolical to us of truths in which they have still a spiritual use, though the outward observance is abolished; and this opinion is proved to be the doctrine of the apostolic writings.94

Though he takes the literal-historical sense of scripture seriously, the real aim of all biblical study is the twofold (and spiritual) command of Jesus to love God and neighbor. Augustine explains, "Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation on them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbor, does not yet understand them as he ought."95 This is repeated throughout De Doctrina Christiana.96 In a sense he is attempting to steer a course between allegorical and literal interpretation. Smalley says, "He prefers to give both a literal and a spiritual interpretation to the same


text, the one signifying or prefiguring the other."97 Speaking of OT regulations that appear obscure Augustine says, "everything of this nature that is there narrated we are to take not only in its historical and literal, but also in its figurative and prophetical sense, and to interpret as bearing ultimately upon the end of love towards God or our neighbor, or both."98 Thus, for Augustine the usefulness of Scripture is tied to the spiritual sense over and above the literal. His Neoplatonic outlook is unmistakable on this point. The letter is the husk under which the deeper spiritual meaning is hidden.

In the Summa Theologica of Aquinas, and in his discussion of the law in particular, the single work of Augustine most often cited is Contra Faustum Manichaeum (A.D. 400). It is here that one finds patterns of thought emerging in Augustine, relative to the law, later employed by Aquinas. The primary concern in this anti-Manichaen treatise is the status of the OT relative to the Christian church. Augustine argues for the legitimacy of the OT on the basis of typological interpretation. He says, "We receive the Old Testament, therefore, not in order to obtain the fulfillment of these promises, but to see in them predictions of the New Testament; for the Old bears witness to the New."99 Like Aquinas he repeatedly appeals to 1 Cor 10:6, 11 for justification of his interpretive approach.10(100) There the apostle makes it clear that all that took place in the OT "happened to them for an example, and they are written for us on whom the end of the ages are come."

Faustus argues that it is manifestly obvious that all Christians reject the Old Testament, since none of them keep the ceremonial regulations of Israel.101 Augustine responds by explaining that "he displays ignorance of the difference between moral and symbolical precepts."102 He goes on to illustrate the difference between these saying that " ‘Thou shalt not covet' is a moral precept; ‘Thou shalt circumcise every male on the eighth day' is a symbolical precept."103 Later he explains that "if a Jew asks me why I profess to believe the Old Testament while I do not observe its precepts, my reply is this: The moral precepts of the law are observed by Christians; the symbolical precepts were properly observed during the time that the things now revealed were prefigured."10(104) All the ceremonial law was given


as "a shadow of future things," for the purpose of "prefiguring the things now revealed." It is obvious that "now that the things themselves are clearly revealed, the observance of the actions by which these things were prefigured is no longer binding."105 This critical distinction between moral and ceremonial law is fundamental to a Christian theology of the law throughout the history of the church.

In addition to the moral/ceremonial distinction, there are other patterns of thought found in Augustine that are also employed by Aquinas. For example, even Faustus appears to be willing to acknowledge that the precepts of the Decalogue are a sort of natural law. He complains that the Hebrews corrupted the law "promulgated throughout the world ... at the commencement of the present constitution of the world," by "infecting it with the pollution of their disgusting precepts about circumcision and sacrifice."106(106) Both Augustine and his opponent agree that God has written into his creation a natural law, they disagree over the nature of the particular law of Israel. Like Aquinas he also grounds the law of nature in reason. He says, "Again, it is plain that in the order of nature the soul is superior to the body. Moreover, in the soul of man there is reason, which is not in a beast. Therefore, as the soul is superior to the body, so in the soul itself the reason is superior by the law of nature to the other parts which are found also in beasts."

Augustine also makes reference to the "eternal law" of God, which governs the universe. He says, "Sin, then, is any transgression in deed, or word, or desire, of the eternal law. And the eternal law is the divine order or will of God, which requires the preservation of natural order, and forbids the breach of it."107 One can note here the parallel between Augustine and Aquinas. Eternal law is the foundation for natural law. The eternal law "enjoins the preservation of natural order and forbids the breach of it."108 Because Augustine's theology of the law is developed in the context of polemics, he did not have the luxury to develop it in an orderly treatise. We do, however, find trajectories in his thinking that are parallel to, ordered, and developed by Aquinas. It is important to note, in conclusion, that the fathers who most influenced Aquinas can all be identified with the moderate Antiochene approach to biblical interpretation; though all of them to one degree or another embraced a letter-spirit dualism.


2. Medieval Developments

A deep respect for and dependence upon the work of the fathers marked biblical exegesis throughout the medieval period.109 The medieval biblical scholar had the bible in one hand and the Fathers of the church in the other. "Bible study meant the study of the sacred text together with the Fathers," explains Smalley, "the two kinds of authority were inseparable." 110 That this was clearly the case can be seen in the development of the glossa ordinaria. The Gloss was a collection of comments from the fathers (mainly from Jerome, Augustine, Bede, and Gregory) collected alongside the biblical text.111 It contained theological, grammatical, lexical, and historical comments on difficult texts, and was designed to cover "all necessary points briefly, clearly and authoritatively."112 It developed over a period of time and remained fluid throughout its history, indicating that its authority was always a step below the text of sacred Scripture. Anselm of Laon (d. A.D. 1117) was the first to make an effort to standardize the Gloss. It was developed on "the common assumption of the medieval writers that Scripture and tradi tion spoke with one voice and that the meaning of the text had been embodied in the interpretations of the fathers."113 The Gloss became a standard text for biblical instruction from the twelfth century onward. Thus, the Glossa ordinaria would have been a staple in the education of Thomas.

It will be noted that Aquinas was also totally committed to the classical quadriga as it was understood and employed in the glossa ordinaria. Thus, it is important to have some understanding of this fourfold approach to biblical interpretation. The idea that the linguistic features of Scripture contain four senses, dates back to Origen.114 The four senses of the text were understood to be: historia - what actually happened, allegoria - where one thing is understood through another, tropologia - which deals with right moral conduct, and anagoge - relates to the final state of glory. The allegory teaches "things to be believed" (credenda), tropology teaches "things to be loved and done" (agenda), and the anagoge teaches "things to be hoped for" (speranda).115 The relationship between the fourfold method and the dualism


of letter and spirit should not be overlooked. Given the literal-historical meaning, the job of the Christian interpreter is to seek out the spiritual significance of the text by asking three questions: (1) What is the theological (allegorical) meaning of this historical event? (2) What are the moral (tropological) implications for the believer? (3) What is the eschatological (anagogic) meaning?116 These three questions also relate to the three cardinal virtues of faith, hope and love.117 The allegorical points us to what we are to believe (faith). The tropological point us to what we must do (love). The anagogical points us to our ultimate hope. This model of biblical and theological instruction meant that "the line between text and theology was drawn only with difficulty."118

The allegorical and mystical method for interpreting the OT reached its high point in the fifth to ninth centuries. Following this time and through the remainder of the Middle Ages, "there was a renewal of interest in the west in the historical and scientific interpretation of the Old Testament."119 It was under the educational reforms of Charlemagne (d. A.D. 814) that this renewed interest began to develop. Albert the Great and Thomas, however, were "largely responsible for a major shift in the emphasis of medieval exegesis away from Gregorian allegorism toward a greater emphasis on the letter."120

Rogerson, Rowland, and Lindars explain that, "The discussion of the literal meaning of the law, together with a renewed interest in ‘literal' exegesis in general, seems to have typified the 12th and 13th centuries."121 There was also a growing willingness to consult Jewish scholars about the exact meaning of the Hebrew original.122 This interest in the literal-historical meaning was developing in both Jewish and Christian scholarship, and was typified in the school of the Abbey of St. Victor in Paris. The abbey was founded in 1110 and its first great expositor was Hugh, who taught there from 1125 to 1142.123 Smalley says of Hugh, "His great service to exegesis was to lay more stress on the literal interpretation relatively to the spiritual, and to develop the sources for it." Hugh studied Hebrew and interacted extensively with Jewish interpreters. Hugh's great achievement was the rediscovery of the historical sense of the OT based on the original Hebrew text. He did allow for deeper spiritual meanings contained within the literal, but his emphasis was on the meaning of the text in its context. Smalley says that


Hugh of St. Victor "seems to have grasped the Thomist principle that the clue to prophecy and metaphor is the writer's intention; the literal sense includes everything which the sacred writer meant to say." 124 The order of friars to which Thomas belonged was a direct descendent of the Victorine School to which Hugh belonged.125 Thomas no doubt interacted with and was influenced by the literalism of the work of Hugh and the Victorine School.

Given the renewed interest in the literal-historical sense of scripture, and in Hebrew studies, the thirteenth century also witnessed a new openness to interaction with Jewish OT scholarship. One of the most important Jewish thinkers of this period, with whom Aquinas interacted at some length, was the philosopher Moses Maimonides. Maimonides was for the Jews of the middle ages what Aquinas was for the Christians. He reworked Jewish philosophy under the influence of Aristotle.126 One of his most significant works, The Guide to the Perplexed (completed c. 1190), was translated into Latin early in the thirteenth century.127 In the Guide to the Perplexed Maimonides makes a systematic effort to demonstrate that the Mosaic law could be understood as reasonable without positing Christ as its end.128 The Jewish community for whom he wrote was confused by the apparent irrationality of their law. Maimonides made an attempt to defend its reasonability. As Smalley puts it, "The Guide offered reasons to an age in love with reason." 129

His strategy was to lock up the Mosaic law to its literal meaning and find ways to harmonize all its commands. Aquinas' work on the ritual precepts is in large measure a response to this effort by Maimonides. John Hood goes so far as to say that, "when he [Aquinas] is engaged in the detailed exegesis of the Law, it is a Jew, Rabbi Moses Maimonides, who is his principal guide." Aquinas used Maimonides much like he used Aristotle. He did not simply adopt his thought, but adapted it into a decidedly Christian frame work. "His strategy," Hood explains, "was to combine Maimonides' rabbinic


approach with the wisdom of the Christian tradition."130 Thus, the end product is an attempt to find both a literal-historical meaning in the law, often influenced by Maimonides, and a typological-christological meaning.

Thomas was not the first Christian interpreter to interact with Maimonides' Guide. It was William of Auvergne who first unveiled its secrets to the community of Christian scholars;131 and it was via William's De fide et legibus that Thomas became familiar with the work of Maimonides.132 William thus becomes a very important influence on Thomas. In addition to mediating Maimonides to him, we also find other patterns of thought in William that Aquinas later develops.133 Taking his cue from Maimonides, William argued that the law of Israel could be rationally understood based upon its literal-historical sense. Christian commentators too often viewed the Old Law merely as a veil for the deeper spiritual meaning revealed in the New Law. William calls this traditional Christian approach to the law into question. In fact, he turns the argument on its head and demonstrates that the law would have been absurd if it did not have a literal-historical meaning for God's people.134 Though never denying the reality of a spiritual sense to the text, in a unique way for the medieval period, he took the literal sense seriously, and he did so precisely because of his interaction with Maimonides' Guide. Although "William's account of the spiritual interpretation and its relationship to the literal is incomplete and muddled,"135 his work does anticipate the emphasis found in Thomas on the literal sense of the law.

Following on the heels of William of Auvergne came the work of John of La Rochelle. John's Tractatus de praeceptis et legibus (c. 1236–1245), interacts at length with William. His reaction to William's De legibus was simply to return "to the traditional doctrine that legalia had not only a literal, but also a spiritual sense as signs, foreshadowings or figures of the New Law." John then divides the precepts of the Old Law according to their three purposes: "moralia clarified the law of nature; iudicialia repressed evil desires and served as a source for the wicked; ceremonialia signified the law of grace." Thus, we have in John a clear expression of the threefold division of the law just prior to Aquinas. The justification he offers for this division is also very similar to that of Thomas. The moral law is an expression of the natural law. Judicial laws govern men in a particular historical context. And the ceremonial law points to the grace yet to be revealed. John explicitly defends


the typological significance of the Old Law. The ceremonial precepts in particular were given, "ad manifestationem et testimonium futurae gratiae."136 Most of the ceremonial precepts did have a literal sense, though some, he says, could only be understood according to their spiritual signification. John also defends the traditional view that though not all Israel understood the signification of the Old Law, the wise men of Israel certainly did. Here he departs significantly from William who never clearly identified the Christological signification of the Old Law. Thus, in the work of John of La Rochelle we find two important developments. First, he clearly articulates a threefold division of the Old Law. Second, he moderates the literalism of William of Auvergne and Maimonides, defending the necessity of a spiritual sense to the law. It is uncertain whether or not Aquinas read William of Auvergne's De legibus, but it is beyond question that he employed the Tractatus of John in his own work on the law.137 Thus, he was certainly familiar with William through the Tractatus.

3. Philosophical Influence of Aristotle

Finally, we must consider the influence of Aristotle's philosophy on Thomas's approach to biblical hermeneutics. Even a cursory reading of Aquinas' Summa Theologica exposes the influence of Aristotle on his thought patterns. In fact, one writer goes so far as to claim that without Aristotle, "Thomas would be unintelligible."138 The two most frequently referenced authorities in his treatise on the law are Aristotle and Augustine. One of Thomas's great achievements as a scholar was his commentary on the newly available (to the twelfth century scholar) works of Aristotle.139 There is simply no question that "Aquinas is Aristotelian in his philosophy."140 This can be seen in his defense against monism, which is an adaptation of Aristotle;141 his Aristotelian rejection of Plato's formulation of the form atter distinction; and often in his ethical teachings.142 Thomas's famous five proofs for God's existence are in large measure adaptations of Aristotelian arguments.143

In affirming this, however, one must remember that at this point in the history of western thought, philosophy and theology were interdependent


disciplines. Gilson rightly says that, "The theology of St. Thomas is a philosopher's theology; his philosophy is a theologian's." Aquinas was not merely rewriting Aristotle in Christian language. He was attempting to transform Aristotelian thought in such a way that it might be useful for Christian theology. In fact, "he had to transform almost all that he was borrowing in order to organize it into an integral theology."144 Aquinas represents a wholesale attempt to integrate philosophy into sacred science while preserving the unity of each.145 The implications of this approach for his biblical interpretation are far reaching.

Smalley summarizes well the impact of Aquinas' philosophy on his study of sacred scripture. She explains,

The Aristotelian held that substance could only be known through its sensible manifestations. In adapting Aristotle to Christianity, St. Thomas united soul and body much more closely than the Augustinians had done... . Transferring his view of body and soul to ‘letter and spirit', the Aristotelian would perceive the ‘spirit' of Scripture as something not hidden behind or added on to, but expressed by the text. We cannot disembody a man in order to investigate his soul; neither can we understand the Bible by distinguishing letter from spirit and making a separate study of each.146

The exegesis of Scripture increasingly took on the cast of a scientific investigation of the letter. Meaning was more and more tied to the letter as the best means employed to communicate the intention of the writers of Scripture. Universal truths are discovered in and through the particulars of the text.

In his discussion of the law this influence is no less evident. Aristotle's Politics was translated by William of Moerbeke in 1263, a few years before Aquinas began his Summa. Hood explains how Thomas believed, "that by analyzing the ‘judicial' precepts (iudicialia) in terms of Aristotelian political categories he could prove that the Mosaic Law had established a uniquely just constitution or polity." Aquinas had learned from Aristotle that the wise governor frames laws to maximize the common good of his subjects. Because God is the wisest of all rulers, his law should be able to be interpreted in this light. Aquinas was not content to run first to the allegorical meaning of the law as it points to Christ. He believed that we must be able to understand the law of Israel rationally according to their "literal sense." In this way he was "guided by a generally Aristotelian understanding of the function of law in human society." Aquinas' use of Aristotle may have also influenced his development of the threefold division of the Old Law. Regarding this threefold division of the law Hood says,

[p 201]

In each case Aquinas uses a rationalist theory or set of assumptions to frame his interpretation of the Pentateuch. Thus he examines the moralia in light of natural law doctrine; his treatment of the caeremonialia is guided by the presumption that all legislation must be grounded in historical and philosophical considerations; and he analyzes the iudicialia in terms of political categories and notions of distributive and retributive justice drawn from Aristotle.147

Although taken in isolation this statement may exaggerate the impact of Aristotle on Aquinas, it rightly points out the relationship between philosophy and biblical interpretation in the latter's work. Albert Olson well summarizes Aquinas' work as "being in the main Aristotelianism with a Neo-Platonic tinge, interpreted and supplemented by a view of Christian doctrine derived chiefly from Augustine."148 Given the history of Christian theology and exegesis, this statement could well be turned on its head. Aquinas is in the main an Augustinian, who employed unusual intellectual ability, influenced by the powers of Aristotelian analytical categories, to produce a comprehensive synthesis of more than 1200 years of Christian reflection on the law of God.

Smalley summarizes the medieval period of development as follows: "It has two elements: the spiritual interpretation, which conveys mystical and religious feeling and teaching; the literal interpretation, which signifies an interest in biblical history and in the original form and meaning of the sacred text.... The twelfth century rediscovered biblical scholarship; the thirteenth century rediscovered exegesis."149 Aquinas, more than any other figure in the medieval period, embodied these two elements.

IV. Aquinas' Synthesis

Although the late medieval scholastics are often accused of viewing the Bible through dogmatic lenses, with little concern for the literal-historical context; there is no doubt that this is a gross oversimplification.150 Frederick Farrar goes so far as to say that because Aquinas was "imbued with the fatal dream of the fourfold sense," he is "meagre in the explanation of the


literal sense," and therefore, "least successful in the interpretation of Scripture."151 Muller describes this as "the erroneous assumption that the medieval scholastics devalued or ignored the biblical foundation of theology or, as the very least, approached the text so uncritically that theological and philosophical considerations consistently overrode textual and exegetical concerns."152 Undoubtedly, just the reverse is true. The most important influence on the thinking of Aquinas was the text of Holy Scripture. In fact, it is rumored that during a two-year imprisonment intended to discourage him from becoming a Friar, Thomas memorized the entire Vulgate. Though this may be an apocryphal story, it is certainly true that the words of Scripture pour from his pen throughout his works.153

It is also beyond dispute that Aquinas' education would have been centered on biblical study. Biblical studies dominated the academic program of the cathedral schools and monasteries through the 13th century. It was also the case that throughout the 13th century the terms theologia and Sacra Scriptura coalesced in meaning. There was virtually no distinction made between exegesis and theology.154 Thus, Aquinas carried both the title magister sacrae paginae and magister sacrae theologiae during the course of his career. The focus of his labors centered on biblical exposition.155 The number of biblical commentaries Aquinas left behind further evidences this fact.156

Aquinas represents a relative return to the literal-historical emphasis in biblical interpretation. Given his Aristotelianism, his interaction with Jewish scholarship, and his own keen scientific mind, he was able to effect a major shift in the history of biblical hermeneutics. Rogerson, Rowland, and Lindars explain, "It was left to Thomas Aquinas to mediate between the literal and the spiritual senses, and this he did by giving full weight to each, and by carefully setting their proper limits."157 Exegetes of Thomas' day with whom he would have interacted (William of Auvergne for example) had widened the literal sense of Scripture to account for and include simile,


metaphor, parable and comparison. Thomas then, "put forward a theoretical justification for the wider meaning now currently accorded to the literal sense, and distinguished it from the spiritual senses more clearly than had been done before."158 Aquinas was, however, a conservative thinker who did not view his work as in any way a departure from the inheritance left him by his forefathers. Thus, he was also committed to the classical quadriga.

The means by which Aquinas makes his defense of the traditional approach (letter and spirit) is to focus attention on the dual authorship of Scripture, human and divine. There are two senses in Scripture, each dependent upon the intention of its author. The literal sense is found in the intention of the human author, "all the writer intended." The spiritual meaning is found in the intention of the divine author. Aquinas explains,

The author of Holy Writ is God, in whose power it is to signify His meaning, not by words only (as man also can do), but also by things themselves.... Therefore that first signification whereby words signify things belongs to the first sense, the historical or literal. That signification whereby things signified by words have themselves also a signification is called the spiritual sense, which is based on the literal, and presupposes it.159

Elsewhere he explains that,

the principal Author of Holy Scripture is the Holy Spirit, Who in any one expression of Scripture meant far more than any expositor can expound or discover. At the same time there is nothing repugnant in the notion that man, who is the instrumental cause of Holy Scripture, should in one expression mean several things. For the Prophets, as St. Jerome says on Osee, so spoke of the present facts as to intend thereby to signify future things. Consequently it is not impossible to mean several things at once, when, that is, one is a figure of another.160

There is at work simultaneously the divine and the human mind, the latter being the instrument of the former. The individual human characteristics of individual authors must, therefore, be given their due. This is also the basis for two meanings, the divine and human, in scripture.


This fundamental dualism clearly informs his doctrine of the law. Based upon the dual authorship of Scripture, the law must be interpreted according to both its literal and spiritual senses. He does so by employing the quadriga. He explains that,

so far as the things of the Old Law signify the things of the New Law, there is the allegorical sense; so far as the things done in Christ, or so far as the things which signify Christ, are types of what we ought to do, there is the moral sense. But so far as they signify what relates to eternal glory, there is the anagogical sense. Since the literal sense is that which the author intends, and since the author of Holy Writ is God, Who by one act comprehends all things by His intellect, it is not unfitting, as Augustine says (Confess. xii), if, even according to the literal sense, one word in Holy Writ should have several senses.

It is in this context that he can say, "all the senses are founded on one - the literal ... nothing necessary to faith is contained under the spiritual sense which is not elsewhere put forward by Scripture in the literal sense."161 Understanding the various senses is the key to Thomas' exegetical work and establishes his connection with the broader medieval exegetical tradition.

Perhaps the clearest illustration of his method is found in his treatment of the caeremonialia. Thomas has a keen interest in the literal sense of the caeremonialia often informed by Maimonides' Guide. However, in the end he defends the traditional figurative sense. The caeremonialia regulated divine worship at the time it was given, but it also prefigured Christ. In fact, their principle reason for being instituted was the later. In this way the caeremonialia can be distinguished from the iudicialia the latter only being understood as figurative in the way that the whole history of Israel was figurative.

The ceremonial precepts were "ordained to foreshadow Christ." Thus the reasons for them are,

figurative and mystical: whether they be taken from Christ Himself and the Church, which pertains to the allegorical sense; or to the morals of the Christian people, which pertains to the moral sense; or to the state of future glory, in as much as we are brought thereto by Christ, which refers to the anagogical sense.162

Later, in responding to the claim by Maimonides in his Guide to the Perplexed that the law could be fully understood according to the literal sense, Aquinas asserted the need for typological interpretation as well. Maimonides taught that the ceremonial precepts "are those for which there is no evident reason." Aquinas responds by saying that, "This explanation of the ceremonial precepts has a certain amount of probability ... since the precepts referring to the Divine worship must needs be figurative ... the consequence is that the reason for them is not so very evident."163 In fact, the reasonability of


the ceremonial precepts can only be fully appreciated in light of their typological purpose.164

Aquinas then offers a detailed analysis of both the literal-historical and spiritual-typological meaning of the ceremonial law. He does so by dividing the mass of relevant material into four broad categories. Sacrifice is the basic category. All other ceremonial laws are divided into three sub-categories related to sacrifice: sacred things, purification rites, and dietary regulations.165 This section of the Summa is lengthy and tedious. His literal-historical interpretation often parallels that of Maimonides.166 The typological interpretations are classically medieval. There is an effort to find parallels to Christ and the church throughout. At times these interpretations appear wildly allegorical, even for the conservative Thomas. Illustrations could be multiplied, but one will suffice. In explaining the figurative meaning of the tabernacle, he explains that,

The boards of which the tabernacle was constructed signify the faithful of Christ, who compose the Church. The boards were covered on the inner side by curtains of four colors: because the faithful are inwardly adorned with the four virtues.... The coverings of the building designate prelates and doctors, who ought to be conspicuous for their heavenly manner of life, signified by the violet colored skins: and who should also be ready to suffer martyrdom, denoted by the skins dyed red; and austere of life and patient in adversity, betokened by the curtains of goats' hair, which were exposed to wind rain, as the gloss observes.167

Smalley summarizes Aquinas' contribution well saying,

He produced a more convincing justification of the figurative meaning of the caeremonialia than had been offered previously ... he understood and allowed for the new enthusiasm for discovering a literal reason in the precepts. He both satisfied critics and upheld the traditional view of ceremonies as figurative. A moderate position, clearly argued, will often win acceptance.168

V. Conclusion and Evaluation

What, in the end does Aquinas contribute to our understanding of the Law of God? Smalley says, "He thought out the traditional doctrine and put his learning at its disposal."169(169) In other words, Aquinas is not breaking new ground with his threefold division of the Old Law, but he is clarifying and organizing disparate streams of thought found throughout the history


of the early and medieval church. Hood says, "in a tour de force of scholastic analysis, Aquinas employed all his organizational and logical skills in an effort to bring order to the unwieldy mass of legal material contained in the Pentateuch."170 I would add to this that he has also employed all his abilities to organize an unwieldy mass of teaching on the law found in the history of the church as well.

Because of his remarkable intellectual ability, Aquinas was able to bring together in a coherent unity four areas of thought. First, he relied on the historical teaching of the church, the fathers in particular. The trajectories of his theology of the law can be found throughout the course of church teaching. Second, he employs traditional methods of biblical interpretation. His hermeneutic of letter and spirit (the quadriga), can again be traced back to the fathers. Although his emphasis is on the literal-historical sense of Scrip ture, he finds continuity between OT and NT in the spiritual-christological sense based upon the dual authorship of the text. Third, his understanding of the law is deeply influenced by his theology of nature and grace. Nature and grace, reason and revelation meet in the moral law, which is accessible to all people by way of natural law. All other determinations of law flow from this universal moral law. Fourth, his philosophical training, with its emphasis on the powers of classification, enable him at the same time to divide and synthesize the whole of the Bible's teaching on the law. Thus, unlike any other Christian thinker, Aquinas was able to pull together history, theology, exegesis and philosophy into a coherent, comprehensive, and enduring theory of the law of God. It should come as no surprise, then, that the name of Aquinas is often pinned to the threefold division of the law. For as Smalley well states, "St. Thomas's genius took its toll, as genius will, in making men forget his predecessors."171

Although Thomas' theory is ingenious it is not without its flaws. Thomas has not been able to employ his Greek philosophy without first being infected by it. His entire theory of law is dependent upon the traditional notion of the scale of being. He assumes that the categories of law can be applied univocally between God and man. God's rational law and man's are found existing in continuity with one another. Man can know the mind of God univocally. This critical flaw leads to his general anthropological optimism. For a thinker so engaged with the biblical text, it is hard to imagine how he could overlook the biblical teaching on the noetic effects of sin. One never finds in Thomas the Pauline descriptions of humanity in constant rebellion against the creator, always suppressing the truth of God. Aquinas has all men seeking to know God and being naturally driven to the good. He believes all rational creatures, apart from revelation, can come to a sympathetic knowledge of both God and his law. His Greek metaphysic at this point leads him into an unchristian epistemology.


Thomas' Greek philosophical dualism also infects his basic hermeneutic of letter and spirit. Though he did much to guard against raw allegorism, Thomas' letter-spirit dualism is not yet fully historical. He still tends to flatten the progress of revelation in history and find the spiritual meaning in the linguistic features of the text. Thus, his interpretation from our vantage point still at times appears to be wildly allegorical. The spiritual meaning for Aquinas is hidden in the letter, not in the unfolding acts of God in history of which the text is an interpretive record. There is not yet in the history of interpretation a historical consciousness that provides a more rigorous control over a legitimate spiritual sense to the text. An emphasis on the progressive revelation of God's works in history, and the text as an interpretive record of those acts, would have to wait until the nineteenth century.172 This, however, may admittedly be faulting him anachronistically. In the main his teaching on the law is valuable. The threefold division of the Old Law as expounded by Thomas has yet to be replaced by a more coherent historical consensus.


1 See Rom 3:8, 31; 6:1, 15; 7:7, 13; 9:14, 19-29; 1 Cor 5:15; 10:23-33; cf. other New Testament texts that hint at a nascent antinomianism: i.e., Eph 5:6; 2 Pet 2; Jude; Rev 2:6, 14, 15.

2 For helpful discussions of antinomianism in general see: Ernest F. Kevan, The Grace of Law (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1965); F. L. Cross, ed., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 62; Sinclair Ferguson et al., eds, The New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarstiy, 1988), 379-80; R. D. Linder, 2Antinomianism," in Walter Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 57-59; A. H. Newman, "Antinomianism," in Samuel Macauley Jackson, ed., The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1952); William Young, "Antinomianism," in Edwin Palmer, ed., The Encyclopedia of Christianity (Wilmington: The National Foundation for Christian Education, 1964), 27078; Christopher Hill, "Antinomians," in The Collected Essays of Christopher Hill, vol. 2 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1986), 162-84.

3 Stemming from E. P. Sanders' ground breaking reevaluation of the historical context in which the apostle Paul developed his theology of justification (cf. Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A comparison of patterns of religion [London: SCM, 1977]; and his, Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1983]), there has been a large scale reconsideration of Paul's theology of the Law of God. This has led many modern biblical scholars, in a variety of ways, to deny the moral law to be a rule of life for the Christian today. For helpful summaries of the issues involved in the current discussion, see John M. G. Barclay, "Paul and the Law: Observations on Some Recent Debates," Themelios 12/1 (1986) 5-15; Douglas Moo, "Paul and the Law in the Last Ten Years," SJT 40 (1986) 287-307; Knox Chamblin, "The Law of Moses and the Law of Christ," in John Feinberg, ed., Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments (Westchester: Crossway Books, 1988), 181-202; and in the same volume, Douglas J. Moo, "The Law of Moses or the Law of Christ," 203-20; Stephen Westerholm, Israel's Law and the Churchs Faith (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998); Frank Thielman, Paul and the Law: A Contextual Approach (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1994), 14-47; and his article "Law," in The Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, ed. Gerald Hawthorne & Ralph Martin, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1993), 529-43.

4 The most helpful discussions of his doctrine of the law to date are: Etienne Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas (New York: Random House, 1966), 26470; Norman L. Geisler, Thomas Aquinas: An Evangelical Appraisal (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), 16375; Brian Davies, The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992), 244-61; Albert Henry Olson, "The Concept of Law According to St. Thomas Aquinas," Anglican Theological Review 33 (1951) 149-57; William R. Cannon, "Law in Thomas Aquinas," Religion in Life 31 (1961-62) 219-27; Jean Tonneau, "The Teaching of The Thomist Tract on Law," The Thomist 34 (1970) 13-83; and Richard T. A. Murphy, "The Law, Old and New," in St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica, vol. 3 (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1943), 3252-62; Patrick M. J. Clancy, "St. Thomas on Law," in Ibid., 3270-76.

5 See for example The Westminster Confession of Faith, XIX.3; and Bruce Waltke, "Theonomy in Relation to Dispensational and Covenant Theologies," in William S. Barker and W. Robert Godfrey, eds., Theonomy: A Reformed Critique (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 59-88.

6 Summa Theologica, 1a2ae. 90, 1, 3. Throughout I have used the translation of the Fathers of the English Dominican Province (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1947).

7 Summa Theologica, 1a2ae. 90, 2.

8 Ibid., 1a2ae. 90, 4.

9 Ibid., 1a2ae. 91, 1.

10 Ibid., 1a2ae. 93, 3.

11 Ibid., 1a2ae. 93, 1.

12 Albert Henry Olson, "The Concept of Law According to St. Thomas Aquinas," 149-57; cf. Geisler, Thomas Aquinas, 164-65; William R. Cannon, "Law in Thomas Aquinas," 223.

13 Summa Theologica, 1a2ae. 91, 2.

14 Etienne Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas (New York: Random House, 1966), 265.

15 Ibid., 1a2ae. 93, 5.

16 Ibid., 1a2ae. 93, 6.

17 Ibid., 1a2ae. 93, 1.

18 See for example, P. M. Farrell, "Sources of St. Thomas Concept of Natural Law," The Thomist 20 (1957) 237-94; Henry Veatch, "On the Metaphysical Status of Natural Law," Anglican Theological Review 47 (1965) 170-180; Leon Thiry, "Ethical Theory of Saint Thomas Aquinas: Interpretations and Misinterpretations," Journal of Religion 50 (1970) 169-85; Marvin Fox, "Maimonides and Aquinas on Natural Law," in Jacob I. Dienstag, Studies in Maimonides and St. Thomas Aquinas (Ktav Publishing House, 1975) 75-106; Jean Tonneau, "The Teaching of The Thomist Tract on Law," The Thomist 34 (1970) 13-83; Pamela Hall, "Narrative and the Natural Law: An Interpretation of Thomistic Ethics," Theological Studies 56 (1995) 820-21; Paul Rooney, "Divine Commands, Natural Law and Aquinas," Scottish Journal of Religious Studies 16 (1995) 117-40.

19 Ibid., 1a2ae. 91, 2.

20 Ibid., 1a2ae. 94, 2.

21 Ibid., 1a2ae. 94, 3.

22 The Greeks, Aristotle in particular, at this point inform his understanding of virtues. See Nichomachean Ethics, Books II-III.

23 Summa Theologica, 1a2ae. 21, 1.

24 Brian Davies, The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993), 245.

25 Summa Theologica, 1a2ae. 91, 3.

26 Ibid., 1a2ae. 94, 2.

27 Ibid., 1a2ae. 100, 3. He includes here the Sabbath command saying, "The precept of the Sabbath observance is moral in one respect, in so far as it commands man to give some time to the things of God.... In this respect it is placed among the precepts of the decalogue: but not as to the fixing of the time, in which respect it is a ceremonial precept."

28 Ibid., 1a2ae. 100, 11.

29 John Y. B. Hood, Aquinas and the Jews (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995), 48.

30 Summa Theologica, 1a2ae. 91, 5.

31 Ibid., 1a2ae. 94, 4.

32 Ibid., 1a2ae. 94, 5.

33 Ibid., 1a2ae. 94, 6.

34 Gilson, Philosophy of Aquinas, 266.

35 Ibid., 267.

36 Cannon, Law in Thomas Aquinas, 224.

37 Walter Farrell, A Companion to the Summa Theologica vol. 2 (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1938), 18.

38 Summa Theologica, 1a2ae. 95, 2.

39 Gilson, Philosophy of Aquinas, 268.

40 Summa Theologica, 1a2ae. 96, 4.

41 Ibid., 1a2ae. 97, 1.

42 Ibid., 1a2ae. 97, 3.

43 Ibid., 1a2ae. 96, 2.

44 Ibid., 1a2ae. 98, 1.

45 Ibid., 1a2ae. 91, 4.

46 Ibid., 1a2ae. 98, 1.

47 Ibid., 1a2ae. 98, 2.

48 Ibid., 1a2ae. 99, 2.

49 Ibid., 1a2ae. 98, 5.

50 Ibid., 1a2ae. 100, 3.

51 Ibid., 1a2ae. 100, 1.

52 Ibid., 1a2ae. 100, 1.

53 Ibid., 1a2ae. 100, 3.

54 Ibid., 1a2ae. 98, 5.

55 It is important to note here that determinatio is a technical term for Aquinas. John Hood says, "In Aquinas's terminology, this process of specifying the requirements of natural law by choosing among a number of licit options is called determinatio" (John Hood, Aquinas and the Jews, 46).

56 Summa Theologica, 1a2ae. 99, 4.

57 Ibid., 1a2ae. 99, 5. His justification and defense of this threefold division of the law is developed most clearly in Summa Theologica, 1a2ae. 99, 35.

58 Ibid., 1a2ae. 104, 1.

59 Ibid., 1a2ae. 99, 2.

60 Ibid., 1a2ae. 99, 6.

61 Ibid., 1a2ae. 98, 5.

62 Ibid., 1a2ae. 108, 1.

63 Ibid., 1a2ae. 106, 1.

64 Ibid., 1a2ae. 107, 3.

65 Ibid., 1a2ae. 107, 2.

66 Ibid., 1a2ae. 104, 2.

67 Ibid., 1a2ae. 104, 3.

68 Ibid., 1a2ae. 108, 1. Here we find an echo of Augustine's famous prayer for God to give what he commands (Confessions, X, 40).

69 Ibid., 1a2ae. 108, 3.

70 Beryl Smalley, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages (Oxford: Clarendon, 1941), 3.

71 For detailed studies of the history of biblical interpretation see, Frederic W. Farrar, History of Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1961 reprint from 1886 edition); John Rogerson, Christopher Rowland, and Barnabas Lindars, The Study and Use of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988); Werner Georg Kümmel, The New Testament: The History of the Investigation of Its Problems (New York: Abingdon, 1970); Moisés Silva, Has the Church Misread the Bible? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987); and the helpful little summary by Dan McCartney and Charles Clayton, Let the Reader Understand (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1994), 85-111.

72 See the discussion by Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 68-120; and John Hood, Aquinas and the Jews, 1-18.

73 Rogerson, Rowland, and Lindars, Study and Use of the Bible, 313.

74 Simeon the Just said, "Upon three things the world is based: upon the Torah, upon the temple service, and upon the deeds of loving-kindness" (m. 'Abot I:2; cf. 2 Chron 31:21). Although this statement is relatively late, it is certainly representative of long standing traditions. Urbach summarizes, "The study of the Torah is one of the pillars of the world. Torah alone is the covenant between God and His people, and the presence of the Shekinah among His people depends on the fulfillment and study of the Torah" (The Sages [Jerusalem: Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1979], 287). And Jacob Neusner who wants to accent the distinctive variety of Judaisms says, "Scripture is the ultimate authority in Judaism, in all its versions," (Approaches to Ancient Judaism, 2 vols. [Chico: Scholars, 1980], 173). The Jewish people were/are a "people of the book" par excellence.

75 Rogerson, Rowland, and Lindars, Study and Use of the Bible, 1427.

76 Origen, Homily in Genesim, 6.1ff, quoted by G. R. Evans, The Language and Logic of the Bible: The Earlier Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 115. Origen's basic strategy was to urge upon Jews and pagans alike the absurdity of the law understood literally. It is irrational and incomprehensible, he argued, apart from the allegorical-spiritual meaning. This was a common apologetic for the necessity of the allegorical approach to the law throughout the medieval period as well (see discussion by Smalley, "William of Auvergne, John of La Rochelle and St. Thomas Aquinas on the Old Law," in Beryl Smalley, ed., Studies in Medieval Thought and Learning: From Abelard to Wyclif [London: Hambledon, 1981], 121-36).

77 For examples of early defenses of the Christian position with regard to the Old Testament see Justin Martyr, The Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, trans. A. Lukyn Williams (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1930); Turtullian's Adversus Marcionem, trans. Ernest Evans (Oxford: Clarendon, 1972); and the discussion of Philip Carrington, Christian Apologetics of the Second Century (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1921), 4462.

78 See, for example, Augustine, "The Spirit and the Letter," in Augustine: Later Works, ed., John Burnaby, The Library of Christian Classics (London: SCM, 1955), 182250.

79 See the discussion of this period in Rogerson, Rowland, and Lindars, The Study and Use of the Bible, 28-40.

80 McCartney and Clayton, Let the Reader Understand, 89-90.

81 Smalley, Study of the Bible, 6.

82 Rogerson, Rowland, and Lindars, Study and Use of the Bible, 40.

83 Smalley, William of Auvergne, 156.

84 See discussion by Hood, Aquinas and the Jews, 17-18.

85 Rogerson, Rowland, and Lindars, Study and Use of the Bible, 259. For a detailed study of the life and theology of Chrysostom see W. R. W. Stephens, Saint Chrysostom His Life and Times (London: John Murray, 1872).

86 M. B. Riddle, "St. Chrysostom as an Exegete," vol. 10 of Philip Schaff, ed., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), xvii-xviii.

87 See the helpful discussions of Jerome's work by H. F. D. Sparks, "Jerome as Biblical Scholar," in The Cambridge History of the Bible (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), 510-40; and Rogerson, Rowland, and Lindars, Study and Use of the Bible, 41-46.

88 Smalley, Study of the Bible, 8.

89 Sparks, "Jerome as Biblical Scholar," 517.

90 See the comments by Rogerson, Rowland, and Lindars, Study and Use of the Bible, 44-46.

91 Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition, 293.

92 De Doctrina Christiana, preface, 4.

93 See the comments by Rogerson, Rowland, and Lindars, Study and Use of the Bible, 48.

94 Contra Faustum, XXXII.8. See Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 4, 155-345.

95 De Doctrina Christiana, I.38.36.

96 Ibid., I.22.21; II.7.10; II.9.14; III.10.14; III.12.20; III.15.23.

97 Smalley, Study of the Bible, 11.

98 De Doctrina Christiana, III.12.20.

99 Contra Faustum, IV.1; cf. "The Spirit and The Letter," in Augustine: Later Works, 23 (212). All references here will include the paragraph number from The Spirit and The Letter, followed by the page number(s) of the above edition in parenthesis.

100 See for example, Summa Theologica, 1a2ae. 104, 2.

101 This same charge is made by Faustus repeatedly. See Contra Faustum IV.1; VI.1; VIII.1; XXII.2; XXXII.1-2.

102 We find this same distinction in The Spirit and The Letter, 21 (211); 23 (212); 24 (214); 36 (221). 1

103 Contra Faustum, VI.2.

104 Ibid., X.2

105 Ibid. VI.2; cf. VI.5, 9.

106 Contra Faustum, XXII.2.

107 Ibid., XXII.27. The same lines of thought can be traced throughout Augustine's City of God as well. He employs the categories of eternal law (IX.5, 22; XVI.6; XVIX.13, 14), divine law (I.1; XVII.22; XV.16), natural law (XXI.8; XIII.15; XV.2; XVIX.14, 15), human law (XV.16; XXI.13, 27), Old Law (X.5; XVI.43; XVIII.11; XX.21, 26; XXI.27).

108 Ibid.; again, the same pattern of thought is found in The Spirit and The Letter, 49-50 (232-34).

109 For a thorough study of biblical interpretation in the Medieval period see Henri De Lubac, Exegese Medievale: Les Quatre Sens De L'Ecriture (Aubier, 1959).

110 Smalley, The Study of the Bible, 24. 1

111 See the discussion of the Gloss by Rogerson, Rowland, and Lindars, Study and Use of the Bible, 65. And Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), 14-18; and his "Biblical Interpretation in the Era of the Reformation: The View from the Middle Ages," in Richard Muller and John L. Thompson, eds., Biblical Interpretation in the Era of the Reformation, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 3-22; Evans, The Earlier Middle Ages, 37-47; and R. E. McNally, "Exegesis, Medieval," in The New Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: McGraw-Hill), 710-11.

112 Evans, The Earlier Middle Ages, 38.

113 Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, 14.

114 McCartney and Clayton, Let the Reader Understand, 87-91.

115 Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, 17-18. See also Evans, The Earlier Middle Ages, 47, 114-22.

116 See McNally, "Exegesis, Medieval," 707-12.

117 See Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana, I.xxxviii.37.

118 Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, 15.

119 Rogerson, Rowland, Lindars, Study and Use of the Bible, 62.

120 Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, 18.

121 Rogerson, Rowland, Lindars, Study and Use of the Bible, 67.

122 Evans, The Earlier Middle Ages, 39.

123 Rogerson, Rowland, and Lindars, Study and Use of the Bible, 67. See also the helpful discussion of Hugh of St. Victor in Evans, The Earlier Middle Ages, 28-33; and Smalley, "William of Auvergne, John of La Rochelle, and St. Thomas Aquinas," 124-25.

124 Smalley, The Study of the Bible, 76-80.

125 Ibid., 219.

126 See the discussion of Maimonides work in Smalley, Study of the Bible, 23034; her "William of Auvergne, John of La Rochelle, and St. Thomas Aquinas," 133-136; and Isaac Husik, "An Anonymous Medieval Christian Critic of Maimonides," in Jacob I. Dienstag, ed., Studies in Maimonides and St. Thomas Aquinas (New York: Ktav, 1975), 50-57.

127 Smalley argues that it would have reached Paris in Latin not long before 1227. See her arguments for this opinion in, "William of Auvergne, John of La Rochelle, and St. Thomas Aquinas," 135.

128 Maimonides repudiates any form of natural-law teaching. The only proper source for absolute law is the revelation of God in Scripture. Thus, he does not, with Aquinas, believe that all people by means of rational reflection can come to a knowledge of the law. Given the revelation of law in Scripture, he will then argue for its reasonability; but it is not rationally demonstrable. In this way Aquinas and Maimonides doctrine of natural law are diametrically opposed to one another. See the discussion of this issue by Marvin Fox, Maimonides and Aquinas on Natural Law, in "Studies in Maimonides and Aquinas," 75-106.

129 Smalley, "William of Auvergne, John of La Rochelle, and St. Thomas Aquinas," 134.

130 See Hood, Aquinas and the Jews, 41-45.

131 For a detailed study of the life and work of William see Smalley, "William of Auvergne, John of La Rochelle, and St. Thomas Aquinas," 137-56.

132 Not having access to William's De fide et legibus, I am dependent here upon the translation and explanation provided by Smalley.

133 For example, he begins with a doctrine of natural law and deduces legal precepts from this law of nature. The Jewish legalia echoed the law of nature. He, like Thomas, also argues that good human law will be properly and reasonably derived from this natural law.

134 Smalley, "William of Auvergne, John of La Rochelle, and St. Thomas Aquinas," 147.

135 Ibid., 156.

136 I am again dependent here upon the work of Smalley, "William of Auvergne," 157-61.

137 Smalley demonstrates this convincingly by detailing the parallels between the Tractatus and Thomas' treatise in the law in his Summa Theologica (ibid., 167-69).

138 Ralph McInerny, St. Thomas Aquinas (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1982), 30.

139 Under the aegis of Archbishop Raymond in Spain, during the twelfth century, the works of Aristotle were first translated into the vernacular Spanish and then into Latin (ibid., 30-31).

140 Geisler, Thomas Aquinas, 121.

141 Ibid., 95-101.

142 See the discussion of form and matter in Davies, The Thought of Thomas Aquinas, 45-49; and on ethics 238-39; 289-90; and in McInerny, St. Thomas Aquinas, 3850.

143 Ibid., 25-39. See also the helpful analysis by Gilson, Christian Philosophy, 59-83.

144 Ibid., 8.

145 For a detailed discussion of the relationship between philosophy and theology, faith and reason, see Gilson, Christian Philosophy, 1-25; and Geisler, Thomas Aquinas, 57-70.

146 Smalley, The Study of the Bible, 229.

147 Hood, Aquinas and the Jews, 41-57 (quotation from 43).

148 Olson, "Concept of Law in Aquinas," 157.

149 Smalley, "William of Auvergne," 266-67.

150 See the comments by Hugh Pope, "St. Thomas as an Interpreter of Holy Scripture," in St. Thomas Aquinas: Papers read at the Sixth Centenary of the Canonization of St. Thomas Aquinas (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1925), 111-12; the deeply disparaging comments of Frederic W. Farrar, History of Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1961), 245-46; 269-72; and the analysis of Werner Georg Kümmel, The New Testament: The History of the Investigation of Its Problems (New York: Abingdom Press, 1970), 13-19. There is, however, no question that he worked closely with the history of theology. His mastery of both the biblical text and the history of interpretation is seen in his production of the Catena Aurea or Golden Chain. The Catena Aurea is a collection of texts of the Fathers commenting on the Gospels. It is his own Glossa related to the Gospels alone (See the description of J. Van der Ploeg, "Holy Scripture in the Theology of St. Thomas," 400).

151 Farrar, History of Interpretation, 269. He summarizes his discussion of Aquinas commentary work on Paul with the following less than charitable conclusion:

It would be difficult to conceive anything more ingeniously misleading, more historically groundless, more essentially partial, inadequate, and mistaken, than this celebrated scheme of the Epistles in which every critical and historical consideration, as well as every human element in the origin of the Epistles is fatally ignored in order that they may be symmetrically arranged into an artificial diagram of abstract doctrines (Ibid., 271).

152 Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, 2.11, cf. 13.

153 Pope points out that in his lectures on Romans Thomas references no less than two hundred and eighty-three passages; he quotes fifty-three books, thirty-one from the Old Testament and twenty-two from the New (Pope, "Thomas as Interpreter," 114).

154 See the discussion by McNally, "Exegesis, Medieval," 709.

155 For a detailed description of Aquinas education and his academic labors see Van der Ploeg, "The Place of Holy Scripture in the Theology of St. Thomas," 398-422.

156 In the last seventeen years of his life he wrote commentaries on Isaiah, Canticles, Lamentations, Jeremiah, Job, Psalms, Matthew, John and the Pauline epistles.

157 Rogerson, Rowland, and Lindars, Study and Use of the Bible, 70; see also Hugh Pope, "Thomas as Interpreter," 136-39.

158 Smalley, "William of Auvergne, John of La Rochelle, and St. Thomas Aquinas," 162.

159 Summa Theologica, 1a, 10. Smalley summarizes his approach well saying,

His Summa opens with a statement of the whole problem of the literal and spiritual senses and their relationship. He takes the familiar distinction between words and things from the De Doctrina Christiana, and fits it into an Aristotelian framework. God is the principal author of Holy Scripture. Human writers express their meaning by words; but God can also express his meaning by 'things,' that is by historical happenings. The literal sense of Scripture, therefore, is what the human author expressed by his words; the spiritual senses are what the divine author expressed by the events which the human author related. Since the Bible is the only book which has both a divine and a human authorship, only the Bible can have both a literal and a spiritual sense (Smalley, Study of the Bible, 234).

160 Quodl. VII. 14 ad 5m. Quoted in Hugh Pope, "Thomas as Interpreter," 131-32.

161 Summa Theologica, 1a. 10.

162 Ibid., 1a2ae. 102, 2.

163 Ibid., 1a2ae. 101, 1 obj. 4; cf. Guide to the Perplexed, III.20.

164 Summa Theologica, 1a2ae. 102, 1.

165 Ibid., 1a2ae, 102.3-6.

166 See discussion by John Hood, "Aquinas and the Jews," 52-54.

167 Summa Theologica, 1a2ae. 102, 4.

168 Smalley, The Study of the Bible, 174 (emphasis added).

169 Smalley, "William of Auvergne, John of La Rochelle and St. Thomas Aquinas," 177.

170 Hood, Aquinas and the Jews, 40.

171 Smalley, "William of Auvergne," 178.

172 See especially the work of Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948).

© 1999 Westminster Theological Seminary. Reproduced by permission.

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