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, December 26, 2009

Girolamo Zanchi: The Eternal Law

GIROLAMO (JEROME) ZANCHI (1516-90), an Italian Reformer, is an important figure in the Protestant natural law tradition. As Grabill summarizes it, "Zanchi's contribution to the development of the Protestant natural-law tradition is immense . . . ." Grabill, 133. Contrary to both Calvin (1509-64) and Vermigli (1499-1562), however, Zanchi provided a more synthetic view of the natural law, and its relationship to the eternal law, divine law, and human law. His most exhaustive treatment of law is found in Chapter 10 of the fourth volume of his Operum theologicum, called "On the Law in General." Zanchi's exhaustive and synthetic treatment of the natural law within the scope of his Protestant "Summa," and his reliance upon Thomistic methodology and philosophy in crafting it, is what made Patrick Donnelly, S.J., refer to him as "Calvinist Thomist." Grabill, 134 (citing "Calvinist Thomism," Viator: Medieval and Renaissance Studies 7 (1976), 444).

Thankfully, Zanchi's "On the Law in General" has been translated Jeffrey J. Veenstra, and is readily available from the Acton Institute. Quotes from Zanchi's "On the Law in General" will be from this translation found in Volume 6, No. 1 (Spring 2003) 305-98 of the Acton's Institute's Journal of Markets & Morality. Zanchi's work is organized in a series of Theses, which are supported or amplified by discussion.

In the next series of blog postings, we will discuss Zanchi's view on the eternal law, and its expressions in the natural law, divine law, and human law.

At the outset of his treatment on law, Zanchi, following St. Paul's teaching in Romans 3:20, observes that law has different functions, and that, in addition to providing for desert and punishment, it has the "chief and essential function" of "teaching what should be done or what should be avoided, and commanding and obligating that these things are done or avoided." (318) These purposes of the law--to teach and to obligate--are suggested by the very terms for law in Hebrew and in Italian. In Hebrew, the law is torah, which means teaching. In Italian, the word for law is áligando, which means something which binds or obligates.

At its most basic, law aims toward justice which, following Justinian's Digest, is the constant and consistent desire to give fairly to all what they deserve. This includes God first, and then our neighbors. This was Christ's teaching. (319) Any act or omission that does not result in justice to God or neighbor is sin. The principal end of law, like that of all human acts or institutions, is to glorify God. (319-20) The second end of law is to further our good, the good of our neighbor, and the common good of the church and all men. (320). For Zanchi, then, "the primary goal of all good laws , which is first and foremost the glory of God, and then secondarily the good of one's neighbor understood both privately and publicly." Grabill, 135.

Quoting St. Augustine's On the Free Will (1.1, 2.93.3), and observing that the pagan Cicero concluded likewise, Zanchi maintains: "All laws have flowed from the eternal law of God." (320) A good law is one that reveals God will, is promulgated by magistrates with authority from God, and one that conforms to "reason and common sense" and "wisdom," which are likewise gifts from God. (320-21) Zanchi therefore teaches that "all good laws must ultimately participate in the divine wisdom, even though their moral content may be proximately derived from right reason." Grabill, 136. Because the ultimate authority and content of a good law is from God, St. James is correct: "'There is one lawgiver . . . who is able to save and to destroy.' (James 4:12) All other lawgivers derive from this one; thus every law has its origin in God." (321) So to Zanchi, "God must be seen as the primary (but not necessarily proximate) origin and source of good laws." Grabill, 135.

This is also the conclusion that is reached from the notion that the world is governed by Divine Providence:
Augustine, and later, Aquinas, concluded that at first and eternal law dwelt in God who is the most perfect embodiment of reason, and by this reason, God rules the world and thus is the reason for all things that happen. They, they argue, this reason was imparted to human beings and by it we rule our own activities, and from it flow out our laws.
(321) In keeping with his philosophical realism, and contrary to many of the reformers such as Luther and Calvin, Zanchi maintains the existence of an eternal law, something "in step with the Augustinian via antiqua tradition," Grabill, 136: "Law was established as the eternal will and rule for what must be done or avoided for God's glory and for the good of each individual privately and of the entire human race . . . ." (321) "From this analysis," Grabill observes, "it should be clear that Zanchi accepts the metaphysical and epistemological parameters of the realist natural-law tradition . . . ." Grabill, 136.

The eternal law of God is revealed in various ways. "He . . . inscribe[s] his will on the hearts of all people in his own way," the publishes it verbally to Adam, the patriarchs, the prophets, the apostles, on occasion through angels or miracles, even through "ordinary persons." (322) God spoke in written form in Moses, the prophets, and the apostles. Even to nations outside of the Jews, God has spoken, through a sort of divine inspiration, or through scholars and teachers and lawgivers such as Solon, Lycurgus, Romulus, and Numa.* It is through the various ways that God's eternal law has been made manifest that allows for the division of the eternal law into natural law, divine law, and human law. It is usually through a combination of divine law, natural law, and human law that God's eternal law is made known. "Even if, in fact, all just laws come from God, and have been established by the eternal reason of his will and even if in this respect, they are all divine, still because of the variety of people and of methods by which they have been revealed and spread, they occur in three types: natural law, human laws, and divine laws." (323 (Thesis 7)). "It is important," Grabill reminds us, "to keep in mind the differences between people to whom God's will was revealed and the methods God used to reveal his will," Grabill, 137, as these differences are what Zanchi relies on in coming to his further distinctions.

In our next blog posting, we will review Zanchi's view on the natural law.

*Solon (638 BC–558 BC) was the famed lawgiver of the Athenians. Lycurgus (ca. 800-730 BC) played an analogous role with the Spartans. Romulus (traditionally c. 771 - c. 717 BC) and Numa Pomplius (753-673 BC) were the first and second kings of Rome, respectively.

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