Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Natural Law as Briyth 'Owlam, ברית עולם

Isaiah 24:5 reads: "And the earth is infected by the inhabitants thereof: because they have transgressed the laws, they have changed the ordinance, they have broken the everlasting covenant." Et terra interfecta est ab habitatoribus suis quia transgressi sunt leges mutaverunt ius dissipaverunt foedus sempiternum. The Hebrew reads:

וְהָאָרֶץ חָנְפָה תַּחַת יֹשְׁבֶיהָ כִּי־עָבְרוּ תֹורֹת חָלְפוּ חֹק הֵפֵרוּ בְּרִית עֹולָם

Isaiah therefore speaks of how the earth or the nations (ארץ, 'erets) are infected, morally soiled, infected, and corrupt (חנף, chaneph). This corruption or chaneph is the end result, the natural culmination, of the violation of--literally the "crossing over" (אבר, 'abar) of--the boundaries set by the law (תּוֹרָה, towrah), the ordinances (חק, choq), and the eternal covenant, the briyth 'owlam (ברית, briyth; עולם, 'owlam).

According to St. Thomas, the foedus sempiternum, the briyth 'owlam, the everlasting covenant referenced in Isaiah is the natural law or ius naturale. This everlasting covenant is the foundation underlying the Mosaic Law and its ordinances, and it is the covenant that God has made with all mankind. As St. Thomas states in his Summa Theologica, the Natural Law is the Eternal Law communicated to man. (see John Finnis, Aquinas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 309 n. 68, referencing Rom. 1, 8 ad. v. 26[149] 1 Cor. 11.3 ad. v. 13 [619]).

St. Thomas mentions this in his commentary on St. Paul's epistle to the Romans, and his epistles to the Corinthians, specifically, in his discussion of Rom. 1:8, and 1 Cor. 11:3.

In his Commentary on Romans 1:8, St. Thomas, quotes Isaiah 24:5, "They have transgressed the laws, broken the everlasting covenant," and he identifies the "everlasting covenant" with the Natural Law (ius naturale).

In his Commentary on Corinthians, St. Thomas comments on 1 Cor. 11:3: "'Does not nature itself teach you?' By 'nature' he [St. Paul] means the 'natural inclination in women to take care of their hair, which is a natural covering, but not in men. This inclination is shown to be natural, because it is found in the majority. But it is taught by nature, because it is a work of God; just as in a picture one is instructed about the skill of the artist. Therefore, Isaiah (24:5) says against certain people: 'They have transgressed the law, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant,' i.e., the natural law."

The commentaries (translated) are available by clicking here:
St. Thomas on Romans
St. Thomas on Corinthians


  1. Thank you for sharing this. Very interesting. In Romans 1, does Thomas use ius naturale or lex naturalis?

  2. Taylor:
    In his commentary on St. Paul's letter to the Romans, Thomas uses the term ius naturale. The quote is "mutaverunt ius, dissipaverun foedus sempiternum, id est, ius naturale."