St. Thomas Aquinas on Fulfillment of the Law

Summa Theologica

Here from Wikipedia is an explanation of Summa Thrologica :

The Summa Theologiae (written 1265–1274 and also known as the Summa Theologica or simply the Summa) is the best-known work of Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274). Although unfinished, the Summa is “one of the classics of the history of philosophy and one of the most influential works of Western literature”.[1] It was intended as an instructional guide for theology students, including seminarians and the literate laity. It was a compendium of all of the main theological teachings of the Catholic Church. It presents the reasoning for almost all points of Christian theology in the West. The Summa‘s topics follow a cycle: God; Creation, Man; Man’s purposeChrist; the Sacraments; and back to God.

Aquinas on Fulfillment of the Law

I copied and posted that explanation of the St. Aquinas’s book because in it is Question 107 which deals directly with the issue we were discussing Wednesday morning, OT vs. NT, Law vs. Gospel, destruction vs. fulfillment, Etc. Here is a link to that section of Summa Theologica.

Article Two under that section addresses the question of whether Jesus told the truth when he said he came to fulfill the Law. Aquinas first presents four reasons to doubt the words of Jesus and then destroys those reasons with logic and scripture. I guess one thing St. Aquinas had was time for philosophizing and writing though he apparently ran out of it before finishing Summa Theologica.

Aquinas’s Straw Men

Just as a teaser to get you to look at the Aquinas responses in Article 2, here is a screen shot of the objections he addresses:

Screen Shot 2018-06-15 at 10.53.43 AM

Later: I realized the clip above is not very readable so here is a copy/paste version of the four objections:

Objection 1. It would seem that the New Law does not fulfil the Old. Because to fulfil and to void are contrary. But the New Law voids or excludes the observances of the Old Law: for the Apostle says (Galatians 5:2): “If you be circumcisedChrist shall profit you nothing.” Therefore the New Law is not a fulfilment of the Old.

Objection 2. Further, one contrary is not the fulfilment of another. But Our Lord propounded in the New Law precepts that were contrary to precepts of the Old Law. For we read (Matthew 5:27-32): You have heard that it was said to them of old: . . . “Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you that whosoever shall put away his wife . . . maketh her to commit adultery.” Furthermore, the same evidently applies to the prohibition against swearing, against retaliation, and against hating one’s enemies. In like manner Our Lord seems to have done away with the precepts of the Old Law relating to the different kinds of foods (Matthew 15:11): “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth the man: but what cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” Therefore the New Law is not a fulfilment of the Old.

Objection 3. Further, whoever acts against a law does not fulfil the law. But Christ in certain cases acted against the Law. For He touched the leper (Matthew 8:3), which was contrary to the Law. Likewise He seems to have frequently broken the sabbath; since the Jews used to say of Him (John 9:16): “This man is not of God, who keepeth not the sabbath.” Therefore Christ did not fulfil the Law: and so the New Law given by Christ is not a fulfilment of the Old.

Objection 4. Further, the Old Law contained precepts, moral, ceremonial, and judicial, as stated above (I-II:99:4). But Our Lord (Matthew 5) fulfilled the Law in some respects, but without mentioning the judicial and ceremonial precepts. Therefore it seems that the New Law is not a complete fulfilment of the Old.

On the contrary, Our Lord said (Matthew 5:17): “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil”: and went on to say (Matthew 5:18): “One jot or one tittle shall not pass of the Law till all be fulfilled.”

Examples from OT and NT

And here is some of that OT Law some want to discount. Note especially verses 17-18. It seems to me there is a big gap, not between the OT and NT, but between the OT Law and the things the people believed God told them to do to their neighbors. I wonder sometimes if they were just hearing what they wanted to hear, maybe the commonest of all sins.

Leviticus 19:9-18 English Standard Version (ESV)

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.

11 “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.

13 “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. 14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life[a] of your neighbor: I am the Lord.

17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

And some law from the NT. John 14:14 – 15:10. Note the underlined verses.

John 14:14-15:10 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

14 If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.

The Advocate. 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate[a] to be with you always,17 the Spirit of truth,[b] which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.[c] 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” 22 Judas, not the Iscariot,[d] said to him, “Master, [then] what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.

25 “I have told you this while I am with you. 26 The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you. 27 Peace[e] I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. 28 [f]You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe. 30 I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world[g] is coming. He has no power over me, 31 but the world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me. Get up, let us go.

Chapter 15

The Vine and the Branches. [h]“I am the true vine,[i] and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes[j] so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. [k]Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.

As is the case in many theological arguments, the answer is not “either-or” but “both-and.”

Appendix – Extra Credit



And here is more than you would ever want to know about the sacred scriptures of the Jewish people and why they are in our Bible…straight from the Vatican.  Look over the topics. Maybe one will catch your eye.                                                                                                                                




A. The New Testament recognizes the authority of the Sacred Scripture of the Jewish people

1. Implicit recognition of authority
2. Explicit recourse to the authority of the Jewish Scriptures

B. The New Testament attests conformity to the Jewish Scriptures

1. Necessity of fulfilling the Scriptures
2. Conformity to the Scriptures
3. Conformity and Difference

C. Scripture and Oral Tradition in Judaism and Christianity

1. Scripture and Tradition in the Old Testament and Judaism
2. Scripture and Tradition in Early Christianity
3. Relationships between the two perspectives

D. Jewish Exegetical Methods employed in the New Testament

1. Jewish Methods of Exegesis
2. Exegesis at Qumran and in the New Testament
3. Rabbinic Methods in the New Testament
4. Important Allusions to the Old Testament

E. The Extension of the Canon of Scripture

1. In Judaism
2. In the Early Church
3. Formation of the Christian Canon

A. Christian Understanding of the relationships between the Old and New Testaments

1. Affirmation of a reciprocal relationship
2. Re-reading the Old Testament in the light of Christ
3. Allegorical Re-reading
4. Return to the Literal Sense
5. The unity of God’s Plan and the Idea of Fulfilment
6. Current Perspectives
7. Contribution of Jewish reading of the Bible

B. Shared Fundamental Themes

1. Revelation of God
2. The Human Person: Greatness and Wretchedness
3. God, Liberator and Saviour
4. The Election of Israel
5. The Covenant
6. The Law
7. Prayer and Cult, Jerusalem and Temple
8. Divine Reproaches and Condemnations
9. The Promises

C. Conclusion

1. Continuity
2. Discontinuity
3. Progression

A. Different viewpoints within post-exilic Judaism

1. The last centuries before Jesus Christ
2. The first third of the first century A.D. in Palestine
3. The second third of the first century
4. The final third of the first century

B. Jews in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles

1. The Gospel according to Matthew
2. The Gospel according to Mark
3. The Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles
4. The Gospel according to John
5. Conclusion

C. The Jews in the Pauline Letters and other New Testament Writings

1. Jews in the undisputed Pauline Letters
2. Jews in the other Letters
3. Jews in the Book of Revelation

A. General Conclusion
B. Pastoral Orientations




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