QUESTION 104: OF THE JUDICIAL PRECEPTS
We must now consider the judicial precepts: and first of all we shall
consider them in general; in the second place we shall consider their
reasons. Under the first head there are four points of inquiry:
(1) What is meant by the judicial precepts?
(2) Whether they are figurative?
(3) Their duration;
(4) Their division.
Article 1: Whether the judicial precepts were those which directed man in relation to his neighbor?
Objection 1: It would seem that the judicial precepts were not those which
directed man in his relations to his neighbor. For judicial precepts take
their name from "judgment." But there are many things that direct man as
to his neighbor, which are not subordinate to judgment. Therefore the
judicial precepts were not those which directed man in his relations to
Objection 2: Further, the judicial precepts are distinct from the moral
precepts, as stated above (Question , Article ). But there are many moral
precepts which direct man as to his neighbor: as is evidently the case
with the seven precepts of the second table. Therefore the judicial
precepts are not so called from directing man as to his neighbor.
Objection 3: Further, as the ceremonial precepts relate to God, so do the
judicial precepts relate to one's neighbor, as stated above (Question , Article ; Question , Article ). But among the ceremonial precepts there are some which
concern man himself, such as observances in matter of food and apparel,
of which we have already spoken (Question , Article , ad 1,6). Therefore the
judicial precepts are not so called from directing man as to his neighbor.
On the contrary, It is reckoned (Ezech. 18:8) among other works of a
good and just man, that "he hath executed true judgment between man and
man." But judicial precepts are so called from "judgment." Therefore it
seems that the judicial precepts were those which directed the relations
between man and man.
I answer that, As is evident from what we have stated above (Question , Article ; Question , Article ), in every law, some precepts derive their binding force
from the dictate of reason itself, because natural reason dictates that
something ought to be done or to be avoided. These are called "moral"
precepts: since human morals are based on reason. At the same time there
are other precepts which derive their binding force, not from the very
dictate of reason (because, considered in themselves, they do not imply
an obligation of something due or undue); but from some institution,
Divine or human: and such are certain determinations of the moral
precepts. 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 relations to
other men, they are called "judicial" precepts. Hence there are two
conditions attached to the judicial precepts: viz. first, that they refer
to man's relations to other men; secondly, that they derive their binding
force not from reason alone, but in virtue of their institution.
Reply to Objection 1: Judgments emanate through the official pronouncement of
certain men who are at the head of affairs, and in whom the judicial
power is vested. Now it belongs to those who are at the head of affairs
to regulate not only litigious matters, but also voluntary contracts
which are concluded between man and man, and whatever matters concern the
community at large and the government thereof. Consequently the judicial
precepts are not only those which concern actions at law; but also all
those that are directed to the ordering of one man in relation to
another, which ordering is subject to the direction of the sovereign as
Reply to Objection 2: This argument holds in respect of those precepts which
direct man in his relations to his neighbor, and derive their binding
force from the mere dictate of reason.
Reply to Objection 3: Even in those precepts which direct us to God, some are
moral precepts, which the reason itself dictates when it is quickened by
faith; such as that God is to be loved and worshipped. There are also
ceremonial precepts, which have no binding force except in virtue of
their Divine institution. Now God is concerned not only with the
sacrifices that are offered to Him, but also with whatever relates to the
fitness of those who offer sacrifices to Him and worship Him. Because men
are ordained to God as to their end; wherefore it concerns God and,
consequently, is a matter of ceremonial precept, that man should show
some fitness for the divine worship. On the other hand, man is not
ordained to his neighbor as to his end, so as to need to be disposed in
himself with regard to his neighbor, for such is the relationship of a
slave to his master, since a slave "is his master's in all that he is,"
as the Philosopher says (Polit. i, 2). Hence there are no judicial
precepts ordaining man in himself; all such precepts are moral: because
the reason, which is the principal in moral matters, holds the same
position, in man, with regard to things that concern him, as a prince or
judge holds in the state. Nevertheless we must take note that, since the
relations of man to his neighbor are more subject to reason than the
relations of man to God, there are more precepts whereby man is directed
in his relations to his neighbor, than whereby he is directed to God. For
the same reason there had to be more ceremonial than judicial precepts in
Article 2: Whether the judicial precepts were figurative?
Objection 1: It would seem that the judicial precepts were not figurative.
Because it seems proper to the ceremonial precepts to be instituted as
figures of something else. Therefore, if the judicial precepts are
figurative, there will be no difference between the judicial and
Objection 2: Further, just as certain judicial precepts were given to the
Jewish people, so also were some given to other heathen peoples. But the
judicial precepts given to other peoples were not figurative, but stated
what had to be done. Therefore it seems that neither were the judicial
precepts of the Old Law figures of anything.
Objection 3: Further, those things which relate to the divine worship had to
be taught under certain figures, because the things of God are above our
reason, as stated above (Question , Article , ad 2). But things concerning our
neighbor are not above our reason. Therefore the judicial precepts which
direct us in relation to our neighbor should not have been figurative.
On the contrary, The judicial precepts are expounded both in the
allegorical and in the moral sense (Ex. 21).
I answer that, A precept may be figurative in two ways. First,
primarily and in itself: because, to wit, it is instituted principally
that it may be the figure of something. In this way the ceremonial
precepts are figurative; since they were instituted for the very purpose
that they might foreshadow something relating to the worship of God and
the mystery of Christ. But some precepts are figurative, not primarily
and in themselves, but consequently. In this way the judicial precepts of
the Old Law are figurative. For they were not instituted for the purpose
of being figurative, but in order that they might regulate the state of
that people according to justice and equity. Nevertheless they did
foreshadow something consequently: since, to wit, the entire state of
that people, who were directed by these precepts, was figurative,
according to 1 Cor. 10:11: "All . . . things happened to them in figure."
Reply to Objection 1: The ceremonial precepts are not figurative in the same way
as the judicial precepts, as explained above.
Reply to Objection 2: The Jewish people were chosen by God that Christ might be
born of them. Consequently the entire state of that people had to be
prophetic and figurative, as Augustine states (Contra Faust. xxii, 24).
For this reason even the judicial precepts that were given to this people
were more figurative that those which were given to other nations. Thus,
too, the wars and deeds of this people are expounded in the mystical
sense: but not the wars and deeds of the Assyrians or Romans, although
the latter are more famous in the eyes of men.
Reply to Objection 3: In this people the direction of man in regard to his
neighbor, considered in itself, was subject to reason. But in so far as
it was referred to the worship of God, it was above reason: and in this
respect it was figurative.
Article 3: Whether the judicial precepts of the Old Law bind for ever?
Objection 1: It would seem that the judicial precepts of the Old Law bind for
ever. Because the judicial precepts relate to the virtue of justice:
since a judgment is an execution of the virtue of justice. Now "justice
is perpetual and immortal" (Wis. 1:15). Therefore the judicial precepts
bind for ever.
Objection 2: Further, Divine institutions are more enduring than human
institutions. But the judicial precepts of human laws bind for ever.
Therefore much more do the judicial precepts of the Divine Law.
Objection 3: Further, the Apostle says (Heb. 7:18) that "there is a setting
aside of the former commandment, because of the weakness and
unprofitableness thereof." Now this is true of the ceremonial precept,
which "could [Vulg.: 'can'] not, as to the conscience, make him perfect
that serveth only in meats and in drinks, and divers washings and
justices of the flesh," as the Apostle declares (Heb. 9:9,10). On the
other hand, the judicial precepts were useful and efficacious in respect
of the purpose for which they were instituted, viz. to establish justice
and equity among men. Therefore the judicial precepts of the Old Law are
not set aside, but still retain their efficacy.
On the contrary, The Apostle says (Heb. 7:12) that "the priesthood being
translated it is necessary that a translation also be made of the Law."
But the priesthood was transferred from Aaron to Christ. Therefore the
entire Law was also transferred. Therefore the judicial precepts are no
longer in force.
I answer that, The judicial precepts did not bind for ever, but were
annulled by the coming of Christ: yet not in the same way as the
ceremonial precepts. For 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, especially since the promulgation of the Gospel. On
the other hand, the judicial precepts are dead indeed, because they have
no binding force: but they are not deadly. For if a sovereign were to
order these judicial precepts to be observed in his kingdom, he would not
sin: unless perchance they were observed, or ordered to be observed, as
though they derived their binding force through being institutions of the
Old Law: for it would be a deadly sin to intend to observe them thus.
The reason for this difference may be gathered from what has been said
above (Article ). For it has been stated that the ceremonial precepts are
figurative primarily and in themselves, as being instituted chiefly for
the purpose of foreshadowing the mysteries of Christ to come. On the
other hand, 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, as stated in
Gal. 3:24. Since, however, these judicial precepts are instituted, not
for the purpose of being figures, but for the performance of certain
deeds, the observance thereof is not prejudicial to the truth of faith.
But the intention of observing them, as though one were bound by the Law,
is prejudicial to the truth of faith: because it would follow that the
former state of the people still lasts, and that Christ has not yet come.
Reply to Objection 1: The obligation of observing justice is indeed perpetual.
But the determination of those things that are just, according to human
or Divine institution, must needs be different, according to the
different states of mankind.
Reply to Objection 2: The judicial precepts established by men retain their
binding force for ever, so long as the state of government remains the
same. But if the state or nation pass to another form of government, the
laws must needs be changed. For democracy, which is government by the
people, demands different laws from those of oligarchy, which is
government by the rich, as the Philosopher shows (Polit. iv, 1).
Consequently when the state of that people changed, the judicial precepts
had to be changed also.
Reply to Objection 3: Those judicial precepts directed the people to justice and
equity, in keeping with the demands of that state. But after the coming
of Christ, there had to be a change in the state of that people, so that
in Christ there was no distinction between Gentile and Jew, as there had
been before. For this reason the judicial precepts needed to be changed
Article 4: Whether it is possible to assign a distinct division of the judicial precepts?
Objection 1: It would seem that it is impossible to assign a distinct division
of the judicial precepts. Because the judicial precepts direct men in
their relations to one another. But those things which need to be
directed, as pertaining to the relationship between man and man, and
which are made use of by men, are not subject to division, since they are
infinite in number. Therefore it is not possible to assign a distinct
division of the judicial precepts.
Objection 2: Further, the judicial precepts are decisions on moral matters.
But moral precepts do not seem to be capable of division, except in so
far as they are reducible to the precepts of the decalogue. Therefore
there is no distinct division of the judicial precepts.
Objection 3: Further, because there is a distinct division of the ceremonial
precepts, the Law alludes to this division, by describing some as
"sacrifices," others as "observances." But the Law contains no allusion
to a division of the judicial precepts. Therefore it seems that they have
no distinct division.
On the contrary, Wherever there is order there must needs be division.
But the notion of order is chiefly applicable to the judicial precepts,
since thereby that people was ordained. Therefore it is most necessary
that they should have a distinct division.
I answer that, Since law is the art, as it were, of directing or
ordering the life of man, as in every art there is a distinct division in
the rules of art, so, in every law, there must be a distinct division of
precepts: else the law would be rendered useless by confusion. We must
therefore say that the judicial precepts of the Old Law, whereby men were
directed in their relations to one another, are subject to division
according to the divers ways in which man is directed.
Now in every people a fourfold order is to be found: one, of the
people's sovereign to his subjects; a second of the subjects among
themselves; a third, of the citizens to foreigners; a fourth, of members
of the same household, such as the order of the father to his son; of
the wife to her husband; of the master to his servant: and according to
these four orders we may distinguish different kinds of judicial precepts
in the Old Law. For certain precepts are laid down concerning the
institution of the sovereign and relating to his office, and about the
respect due to him: this is one part of the judicial precepts. Again,
certain precepts are given in respect of a man to his fellow citizens:
for instance, about buying and selling, judgments and penalties: this is
the second part of the judicial precepts. Again, certain precepts are
enjoined with regard to foreigners: for instance, about wars waged
against their foes, and about the way to receive travelers and strangers:
this is the third part of the judicial precepts. Lastly, certain precepts
are given relating to home life: for instance, about servants, wives and
children: this is the fourth part of the judicial precepts.
Reply to Objection 1: Things pertaining to the ordering of relations between one
man and another are indeed infinite in number: yet they are reducible to
certain distinct heads, according to the different relations in which one
man stands to another, as stated above.
Reply to Objection 2: The precepts of the decalogue held the first place in the
moral order, as stated above (Question , Article ): and consequently it is
fitting that other moral precepts should be distinguished in relation to
them. But the judicial and ceremonial precepts have a different binding
force, derived, not from natural reason, but from their institution
alone. Hence there is a distinct reason for distinguishing them.
Reply to Objection 3: The Law alludes to the division of the judicial precepts in
the very things themselves which are prescribed by the judicial precepts
of the Law.