Selected Questions on Law and Justice
Thomas Aquinas (~1225-1274)
Of the Causes of the Ceremonial Precepts
Whether there was any cause for the ceremonial precepts?
Objection 1. It would seem that there was no cause for the ceremonial precepts. Because on Eph. 2:15, “Making void the law of the commandments,” the gloss says, (i.e.) “making void the Old Law as to the carnal observances, by substituting decrees, i.e. evangelical precepts, which are based on reason.” But if the observances of the Old Law were based on reason, it would have been useless to void them by the reasonable decrees of the New Law. Therefore there was no reason for the ceremonial observances of the Old Law.
Objection 2. Further, the Old Law succeeded the law of nature. But in the law of nature there was a precept for which there was no reason save that man’s obedience might be tested; as Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. viii, 6,13), concerning the prohibition about the tree of life. Therefore in the Old Law there should have been some precepts for the purpose of testing man’s obedience, having no reason in themselves.
Objection 3. Further, man’s works are called moral according as they proceed from reason. If therefore there is any reason for the ceremonial precepts, they would not differ from the moral precepts. It seems therefore that there was no cause for the ceremonial precepts: for the reason of a precept is taken from some cause.
On the contrary, It is written (Ps. 18:9): “The commandment of the Lord is lightsome, enlightening the eyes.” But the ceremonial precepts are commandments of God. Therefore they are lightsome: and yet they would not be so, if they had no reasonable cause. Therefore the ceremonial precepts have a reasonable cause.
I answer that, Since, according to the Philosopher (Metaph. i, 2), it is the function of a “wise man to do everything in order,” those things which proceed from the Divine wisdom must needs be well ordered, as the Apostle states (Rm. 13:1). Now there are two conditions required for things to be well ordered. First, that they be ordained to their due end, which is the principle of the whole order in matters of action: since those things that happen by chance outside the intention of the end, or which are not done seriously but for fun, are said to be inordinate. Secondly, that which is done in view of the end should be proportionate to the end. From this it follows that the reason for whatever conduces to the end is taken from the end: thus the reason for the disposition of a saw is taken from cutting, which is its end, as stated in Phys. ii, 9. Now it is evident that the ceremonial precepts, like all the other precepts of the Law, were institutions of Divine wisdom: hence it is written (Dt. 4:6): “This is your wisdom and understanding in the sight of nations.” Consequently we must needs say that the ceremonial precepts were ordained to a certain end, wherefrom their reasonable causes can be gathered.
Reply to Objection 1. It may be said there was no reason for the observances of the Old Law, in the sense that there was no reason in the very nature of the thing done: for instance that a garment should not be made of wool and linen. But there could be a reason for them in relation to something else: namely, in so far as something was signified or excluded thereby. On the other hand, the decrees of the New Law, which refer chiefly to faith and the love of God, are reasonable from the very nature of the act.
Reply to Objection 2. The reason for the prohibition concerning the tree of knowledge of good and evil was not that this tree was naturally evil: and yet this prohibition was reasonable in its relation to something else, in as much as it signified something. And so also the ceremonial precepts of the Old Law were reasonable on account of their relation to something else.
Reply to Objection 3. The moral precepts in their very nature have reasonable causes: as for instance, “Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal.” But the ceremonial precepts have a reasonable cause in their relation to something else, as stated above.
Whether the ceremonial precepts have a literal cause or merely a figurative cause?
Objection 1. It would seem that the ceremonial precepts have not a literal, but merely a figurative cause. For among the ceremonial precepts, the chief was circumcision and the sacrifice of the paschal lamb. But neither of these had any but a figurative cause: because each was given as a sign. For it is written (Gn. 17:11): “You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, that it may be a sign of the covenant between Me and you”: and of the celebration of the Passover it is written (Ex. 13:9): “It shall be as a sign in thy hand, and as a memorial before thy eyes.” Therefore much more did the other ceremonial precepts have none but a figurative reason.
Objection 2. Further, an effect is proportionate to its cause. But all the ceremonial precepts are figurative, as stated above (101, 2). Therefore they have no other than a figurative cause.
Objection 3. Further, if it be a matter of indifference whether a certain thing, considered in itself, be done in a particular way or not, it seems that it has not a literal cause. Now there are certain points in the ceremonial precepts, which appear to be a matter of indifference, as to whether they be done in one way or in another: for instance, the number of animals to be offered, and other such particular circumstances. Therefore there is no literal cause for the precepts of the Old Law.
On the contrary, Just as the ceremonial precepts foreshadowed Christ, so did the stories of the Old Testament: for it is written (1 Cor. 10:11) that “all (these things) happened to them in figure.” Now in the stories of the Old Testament, besides the mystical or figurative, there is the literal sense. Therefore the ceremonial precepts had also literal, besides their figurative causes.
I answer that, As stated above (1), the reason for whatever conduces to an end must be taken from that end. Now the end of the ceremonial precepts was twofold: for they were ordained to the Divine worship, for that particular time, and to the foreshadowing of Christ; just as the words of the prophets regarded the time being in such a way as to be utterances figurative of the time to come, as Jerome says on Osee 1:3. Accordingly the reasons for the ceremonial precepts of the Old Law can be taken in two ways. First, in respect of the Divine worship which was to be observed for that particular time: and these reasons are literal: whether they refer to the shunning of idolatry; or recall certain Divine benefits; or remind men of the Divine excellence; or point out the disposition of mind which was then required in those who worshipped God. Secondly, their reasons can be gathered from the point of view of their being ordained to foreshadow Christ: and thus their reasons 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.
Reply to Objection 1. Just as the use of metaphorical expressions in Scripture belongs to the literal sense, because the words are employed in order to convey that particular meaning; so also the meaning of those legal ceremonies which commemorated certain Divine benefits, on account of which they were instituted, and of others similar which belonged to that time, does not go beyond the order of literal causes. Consequently when we assert that the cause of the celebration of the Passover was its signification of the delivery from Egypt, or that circumcision was a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham, we assign the literal cause.
Reply to Objection 2. This argument would avail if the ceremonial precepts had been given merely as figures of things to come, and not for the purpose of worshipping God then and there.
Reply to Objection 3. As we have stated when speaking of human laws (96, A1,6), there is a reason for them in the abstract, but not in regard to particular conditions, which depend on the judgment of those who frame them; so also many particular determinations in the ceremonies of the Old Law have no literal cause, but only a figurative cause; whereas in the abstract they have a literal cause.
Whether a suitable cause can be assigned for the ceremonies which pertained to sacrifices?
Objection 1. It would seem that no suitable cause can be assigned for the ceremonies pertaining to sacrifices. For those things which were offered in sacrifice, are those which are necessary for sustaining human life: such as certain animals and certain loaves. But God needs no such sustenance; according to Ps. 49:13: “Shall I eat the flesh of bullocks? Or shall I drink the blood of goats?” Therefore such sacrifices were unfittingly offered to God.
Objection 2. Further, only three kinds of quadrupeds were offered in sacrifice to God, viz. oxen, sheep and goats; of birds, generally the turtledove and the dove; but specially, in the cleansing of a leper, an offering was made of sparrows. Now many other animals are more noble than these. Since therefore whatever is best should be offered to God, it seems that not only of these three should sacrifices have been offered to Him.
Objection 3. Further, just as man has received from God the dominion over birds and beasts, so also has he received dominion over fishes. Consequently it was unfitting for fishes to be excluded from the divine sacrifices.
Objection 4. Further, turtledoves and doves indifferently are commanded to be offered up. Since then the young of the dove are commanded to be offered, so also should the young of the turtledove.
Objection 5. Further, God is the Author of life, not only of men, but also of animals, as is clear from Gn. 1:20, seqq. Now death is opposed to life. Therefore it was fitting that living animals rather than slain animals should be offered to God, especially as the Apostle admonishes us (Rm. 12:1), to present our bodies “a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God.”
Objection 6. Further, if none but slain animals were offered in sacrifice to God, it seems that it mattered not how they were slain. Therefore it was unfitting that the manner of immolation should be determined, especially as regards birds (Lev. 1:15, seqq.).
Objection 7. Further, every defect in an animal is a step towards corruption and death. If therefore slain animals were offered to God, it was unreasonable to forbid the offering of an imperfect animal, e.g. a lame, or a blind, or otherwise defective animal.
Objection 8. Further, those who offer victims to God should partake thereof, according to the words of the Apostle (1 Cor. 10:18): “Are not they that eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?” It was therefore unbecoming for the offerers to be denied certain parts of the victims, namely, the blood, the fat, the breastbone and the right shoulder.
Objection 9. Further, just as holocausts were offered up in honor of God, so also were the peace-offerings and sin-offerings. But no female animals was offered up to God as a holocaust, although holocausts were offered of both quadrupeds and birds. Therefore it was inconsistent that female animals should be offered up in peace-offerings and sin-offerings, and that nevertheless birds should not be offered up in peace-offerings.
Objection 10. Further, all the peace-offerings seem to be of one kind. Therefore it was unfitting to make a distinction among them, so that it was forbidden to eat the flesh of certain peace-offerings on the following day, while it was allowed to eat the flesh of other peace-offerings, as laid down in Lev. 7:15, seqq.
Objection 11. Further, all sins agree in turning us from God. Therefore, in order to reconcile us to God, one kind of sacrifice should have been offered up for all sins.
Objection 12. Further, all animals that were offered up in sacrifice, were offered up in one way, viz. slain. Therefore it does not seem to be suitable that products of the soil should be offered up in various ways; for sometimes an offering was made of ears of corn, sometimes of flour, sometimes of bread, this being baked sometimes in an oven, sometimes in a pan, sometimes on a gridiron.
Objection 13. Further, whatever things are serviceable to us should be recognized as coming from God. It was therefore unbecoming that besides animals, nothing but bread, wine, oil, incense, and salt should be offered to God.
Objection 14. Further, bodily sacrifices denote the inward sacrifice of the heart, whereby man offers his soul to God. But in the inward sacrifice, the sweetness, which is denoted by honey, surpasses the pungency which salt represents; for it is written (Sirach 24:27): “My spirit is sweet above honey.” Therefore it was unbecoming that the use of honey, and of leaven which makes bread savory, should be forbidden in a sacrifice; while the use was prescribed, of salt which is pungent, and of incense which has a bitter taste. Consequently it seems that things pertaining to the ceremonies of the sacrifices have no reasonable cause.
On the contrary, It is written (Lev. 1:13): “The priest shall offer it all and burn it all upon the altar, for a holocaust, and most sweet savor to the Lord.” Now according to Wis. 7:28, “God loveth none but him that dwelleth with wisdom”: whence it seems to follow that whatever is acceptable to God is wisely done. Therefore these ceremonies of the sacrifices were wisely done, as having reasonable causes.
I answer that, As stated above (2), the ceremonies of the Old Law had a twofold cause, viz. a literal cause, according as they were intended for Divine worship; and a figurative or mystical cause, according as they were intended to foreshadow Christ: and on either hand the ceremonies pertaining to the sacrifices can be assigned to a fitting cause.
For, according as the ceremonies of the sacrifices were intended for the divine worship, the causes of the sacrifices can be taken in two ways. First, in so far as the sacrifice represented the directing of the mind to God, to which the offerer of the sacrifice was stimulated. Now in order to direct his mind to God aright, man must recognize that whatever he has is from God as from its first principle, and direct it to God as its last end. This was denoted in the offerings and sacrifices, by the fact that man offered some of his own belongings in honor of God, as though in recognition of his having received them from God, according to the saying of David (1 Paral. xxix, 14): “All things are Thine: and we have given Thee what we received of Thy hand.” Wherefore in offering up sacrifices man made protestation that God is the first principle of the creation of all things, and their last end, to which all things must be directed. And since, for the human mind to be directed to God aright, it must recognize no first author of things other than God, nor place its end in any other; for this reason it was forbidden in the Law to offer sacrifice to any other but God, according to Ex. 22:20: “He that sacrificeth to gods, shall be put to death, save only to the Lord.” Wherefore another reasonable cause may be assigned to the ceremonies of the sacrifices, from the fact that thereby men were withdrawn from offering sacrifices to idols. Hence too it is that the precepts about the sacrifices were not given to the Jewish people until after they had fallen into idolatry, by worshipping the molten calf: as though those sacrifices were instituted, that the people, being ready to offer sacrifices, might offer those sacrifices to God rather than to idols. Thus it is written (Jer. 7:22): “I spake not to your fathers and I commanded them not, in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning the matter of burnt-offerings and sacrifices.”
Now of all the gifts which God vouchsafed to mankind after they had fallen away by sin, the chief is that He gave His Son; wherefore it is written (Jn. 3:16): “God so loved the world, as to give His only-begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in Him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.” Consequently the chief sacrifice is that whereby Christ Himself “delivered Himself . . . to God for an odor of sweetness” (Eph. 5:2). And for this reason all the other sacrifices of the Old Law were offered up in order to foreshadow this one individual and paramount sacrifice–the imperfect forecasting the perfect. Hence the Apostle says (Heb. 10:11) that the priest of the Old Law “often” offered “the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but” Christ offered “one sacrifice for sins, for ever.” And since the reason of the figure is taken from that which the figure represents, therefore the reasons of the figurative sacrifices of the Old Law should be taken from the true sacrifice of Christ.
Reply to Objection 1. God did not wish these sacrifices to be offered to Him on account of the things themselves that were offered, as though He stood in need of them: wherefore it is written (Is. 1:11): “I desire not holocausts of rams, and fat of fatlings, and blood of calves and lambs and buckgoats.” But, as stated above, He wished them to be offered to Him, in order to prevent idolatry; in order to signify the right ordering of man’s mind to God; and in order to represent the mystery of the Redemption of man by Christ.
Reply to Objection 2. In all the respects mentioned above (ad 1), there was a suitable reason for these animals, rather than others, being offered in sacrifice to God. First, in order to prevent idolatry. Because idolaters offered all other animals to their gods, or made use of them in their sorceries: while the Egyptians (among whom the people had been dwelling) considered it abominable to slay these animals, wherefore they used not to offer them in sacrifice to their gods. Hence it is written (Ex. 8:26): “We shall sacrifice the abominations of the Egyptians to the Lord our God.” For they worshipped the sheep; they reverenced the ram (because demons appeared under the form thereof); while they employed oxen for agriculture, which was reckoned by them as something sacred.
Secondly, this was suitable for the aforesaid right ordering of man’s mind to God: and in two ways. First, because it is chiefly by means of these animals that human life is sustained: and moreover they are most clean, and partake of a most clean food: whereas other animals are either wild, and not deputed to ordinary use among men: or, if they be tame, they have unclean food, as pigs and geese: and nothing but what is clean should be offered to God. These birds especially were offered in sacrifice because there were plenty of them in the land of promise. Secondly, because the sacrificing of these animals represented purity of heart. Because as the gloss says on Lev. 1, “We offer a calf, when we overcome the pride of the flesh; a lamb, when we restrain our unreasonable motions; a goat, when we conquer wantonness; a turtledove, when we keep chaste; unleavened bread, when we feast on the unleavened bread of sincerity.” And it is evident that the dove denotes charity and simplicity of heart.
Thirdly, it was fitting that these animals should be offered, that they might foreshadow Christ. Because, as the gloss observes, “Christ is offered in the calf, to denote the strength of the cross; in the lamb, to signify His innocence; in the ram, to foreshadow His headship; and in the goat, to signify the likeness of ‘sinful flesh’ [An allusion to Col. 2:11 (Textus Receptus)]. The turtledove and dove denoted the union of the two natures”; or else the turtledove signified chastity; while the dove was a figure of charity. “The wheat-flour foreshadowed the sprinkling of believers with the water of Baptism.”
Reply to Objection 3. Fish through living in water are further removed from man than other animals, which, like man, live in the air. Again, fish die as soon as they are taken out of water; hence they could not be offered in the temple like other animals.
Reply to Objection 4. Among turtledoves the older ones are better than the young; while with doves the case is the reverse. Wherefore, as Rabbi Moses observes (Doct. Perplex. iii), turtledoves and young doves are commanded to be offered, because nothing should be offered to God but what is best.
Reply to Objection 5. The animals which were offered in sacrifice were slain, because it is by being killed that they become useful to man, forasmuch as God gave them to man for food. Wherefore also they were burnt with fire: because it is by being cooked that they are made fit for human consumption. Moreover the slaying of the animals signified the destruction of sins: and also that man deserved death on account of his sins; as though those animals were slain in man’s stead, in order to betoken the expiation of sins. Again the slaying of these animals signified the slaying of Christ.
Reply to Objection 6. The Law fixed the special manner of slaying the sacrificial animals in order to exclude other ways of killing, whereby idolaters sacrificed animals to idols. Or again, as Rabbi Moses says (Doct. Perplex. iii), “the Law chose that manner of slaying which was least painful to the slain animal.” This excluded cruelty on the part of the offerers, and any mangling of the animals slain.
Reply to Objection 7. It is because unclean animals are wont to be held in contempt among men, that it was forbidden to offer them in sacrifice to God: and for this reason too they were forbidden (Dt. 23:18) to offer “the hire of a strumpet or the price of a dog in the house of . . . God.” For the same reason they did not offer animals before the seventh day, because such were abortive as it were, the flesh being not yet firm on account of its exceeding softness.
Reply to Objection 8. There were three kinds of sacrifices. There was one in which the victim was entirely consumed by fire: this was called “a holocaust, i.e. all burnt.” For this kind of sacrifice was offered to God specially to show reverence to His majesty, and love of His goodness: and typified the state of perfection as regards the fulfilment of the counsels. Wherefore the whole was burnt up: so that as the whole animal by being dissolved into vapor soared aloft, so it might denote that the whole man, and whatever belongs to him, are subject to the authority of God, and should be offered to Him.
Another sacrifice was the “sin-offering,” which was offered to God on account of man’s need for the forgiveness of sin: and this typifies the state of penitents in satisfying for sins. It was divided into two parts: for one part was burnt; while the other was granted to the use of the priests to signify that remission of sins is granted by God through the ministry of His priests. When, however, this sacrifice was offered for the sins of the whole people, or specially for the sin of the priest, the whole victim was burnt up. For it was not fitting that the priests should have the use of that which was offered for their own sins, to signify that nothing sinful should remain in them. Moreover, this would not be satisfaction for sin: for if the offering were granted to the use of those for whose sins it was offered, it would seem to be the same as if it had not been offered.
The third kind of sacrifice was called the “peace-offering,” which was offered to God, either in thanksgiving, or for the welfare and prosperity of the offerers, in acknowledgment of benefits already received or yet to be received: and this typifies the state of those who are proficient in the observance of the commandments. These sacrifices were divided into three parts: for one part was burnt in honor of God; another part was allotted to the use of the priests; and the third part to the use of the offerers; in order to signify that man’s salvation is from God, by the direction of God’s ministers, and through the cooperation of those who are saved.
But it was the universal rule that the blood and fat were not allotted to the use either of the priests or of the offerers: the blood being poured out at the foot of the altar, in honor of God, while the fat was burnt upon the altar (Lev. 9:9,10). The reason for this was, first, in order to prevent idolatry: because idolaters used to drink the blood and eat the fat of the victims, according to Dt. 32:38: “Of whose victims they eat the fat, and drank the wine of their drink-offerings.” Secondly, in order to form them to a right way of living. For they were forbidden the use of the blood that they might abhor the shedding of human blood; wherefore it is written (Gn. 9:4,5): “Flesh with blood you shall not eat: for I will require the blood of your lives”: and they were forbidden to eat the fat, in order to withdraw them from lasciviousness; hence it is written (Ezech. 34:3): “You have killed that which was fat.” Thirdly, on account of the reverence due to God: because blood is most necessary for life, for which reason “life” is said to be “in the blood” (Lev. 17:11,14): while fat is a sign of abundant nourishment. Wherefore, in order to show that to God we owe both life and a sufficiency of all good things, the blood was poured out, and the fat burnt up in His honor. Fourthly, in order to foreshadow the shedding of Christ’s blood, and the abundance of His charity, whereby He offered Himself to God for us.
In the peace-offerings, the breast-bone and the right shoulder were allotted to the use of the priest, in order to prevent a certain kind of divination which is known as “spatulamantia,” so called because it was customary in divining to use the shoulder-blade [spatula], and the breast-bone of the animals offered in sacrifice; wherefore these things were taken away from the offerers. This is also denoted the priest’s need of wisdom in the heart, to instruct the people–this was signified by the breast-bone, which covers the heart; and his need of fortitude, in order to bear with human frailty–and this was signified by the right shoulder.
Reply to Objection 9. Because the holocaust was the most perfect kind of sacrifice, therefore none but a male was offered for a holocaust: because the female is an imperfect animal. The offering of turtledoves and doves was on account of the poverty of the offerers, who were unable to offer bigger animals. And since peace-victims were offered freely, and no one was bound to offer them against his will, hence these birds were offered not among the peace-victims, but among the holocausts and victims for sin, which man was obliged to offer at times. Moreover these birds, on account of their lofty flight, while befitting the perfection of the holocausts: and were suitable for sin-offerings because their song is doleful.
Reply to Objection 10. The holocaust was the chief of all the sacrifices: because all were burnt in honor of God, and nothing of it was eaten. The second place in holiness, belongs to the sacrifice for sins, which was eaten in the court only, and on the very day of the sacrifice (Lev. 7:6,15). The third place must be given to the peace-offerings of thanksgiving, which were eaten on the same day, but anywhere in Jerusalem. Fourth in order were the “ex-voto” peace-offerings, the flesh of which could be eaten even on the morrow. The reason for this order is that man is bound to God, chiefly on account of His majesty; secondly, on account of the sins he has committed; thirdly, because of the benefits he has already received from Him; fourthly, by reason of the benefits he hopes to receive from Him.
Reply to Objection 11. Sins are more grievous by reason of the state of the sinner, as stated above (73, 10): wherefore different victims are commanded to be offered for the sin of a priest, or of a prince, or of some other private individual. “But,” as Rabbi Moses says (Doct. Perplex. iii), “we must take note that the more grievous the sin, the lower the species of animals offered for it. Wherefore the goat, which is a very base animal, was offered for idolatry; while a calf was offered for a priest’s ignorance, and a ram for the negligence of a prince.”
Reply to Objection 12. In the matter of sacrifices the Law had in view the poverty of the offerers; so that those who could not have a four-footed animal at their disposal, might at least offer a bird; and that he who could not have a bird might at least offer bread; and that if a man had not even bread he might offer flour or ears of corn.
The figurative cause is that the bread signifies Christ Who is the “living bread” (Jn. 6:41,51). He was indeed an ear of corn, as it were, during the state of the law of nature, in the faith of the patriarchs; He was like flour in the doctrine of the Law of the prophets; and He was like perfect bread after He had taken human nature; baked in the fire, i.e. formed by the Holy Ghost in the oven of the virginal womb; baked again in a pan by the toils which He suffered in the world; and consumed by fire on the cross as on a gridiron.
Reply to Objection 13. The products of the soil are useful to man, either as food, and of these bread was offered; or as drink, and of these wine was offered; or as seasoning, and of these oil and salt were offered; or as healing, and of these they offered incense, which both smells sweetly and binds easily together.
Now the bread foreshadowed the flesh of Christ; and the wine, His blood, whereby we were redeemed; oil betokens the grace of Christ; salt, His knowledge; incense, His prayer.
Reply to Objection 14. Honey was not offered in the sacrifices to God, both because it was wont to be offered in the sacrifices to idols; and in order to denote the absence of all carnal sweetness and pleasure from those who intend to sacrifice to God. Leaven was not offered, to denote the exclusion of corruption. Perhaps too, it was wont to be offered in the sacrifices to idols.
Salt, however, was offered, because it wards off the corruption of putrefaction: for sacrifices offered to God should be incorrupt. Moreover, salt signifies the discretion of wisdom, or again, mortification of the flesh.
Incense was offered to denote devotion of the heart, which is necessary in the offerer; and again, to signify the odor of a good name: for incense is composed of matter, both rich and fragrant. And since the sacrifice “of jealousy” did not proceed from devotion, but rather from suspicion, therefore incense was not offered therein (Num. 5:15).
Whether sufficient reason can be assigned for the ceremonies pertaining to holy things?
Objection 1. It would seem that no sufficient reason can be assigned for the ceremonies of the Old Law that pertain to holy things. For Paul said (Acts 17:24): “God Who made the world and all things therein; He being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made by hands.” It was therefore unfitting that in the Old Law a tabernacle or temple should be set up for the worship of God.
Objection 2. Further, the state of the Old Law was not changed except by Christ. But the tabernacle denoted the state of the Old Law. Therefore it should not have been changed by the building of a temple.
Objection 3. Further, the Divine Law, more than any other indeed, should lead man to the worship of God. But an increase of divine worship requires multiplication of altars and temples; as is evident in regard to the New Law. Therefore it seems that also under the Old Law there should have been not only one tabernacle or temple, but many.
Objection 4. Further, the tabernacle or temple was ordained to the worship of God. But in God we should worship above all His unity and simplicity. Therefore it seems unbecoming for the tabernacle or temple to be divided by means of veils.
Objection 5. Further, the power of the First Mover, i.e. God, appears first of all in the east, for it is in that quarter that the first movement begins. But the tabernacle was set up for the worship of God. Therefore it should have been built so as to point to the east rather than the west.
Objection 6. Further, the Lord commanded (Ex. 20:4) that they should “not make . . . a graven thing, nor the likeness of anything.” It was therefore unfitting for graven images of the cherubim to be set up in the tabernacle or temple. In like manner, the ark, the propitiatory, the candlestick, the table, the two altars, seem to have been placed there without reasonable cause.
Objection 7. Further, the Lord commanded (Ex. 20:24): “You shall make an altar of earth unto Me”: and again (Ex. 20:26): “Thou shalt not go up by steps unto My altar.” It was therefore unfitting that subsequently they should be commanded to make an altar of wood laid over with gold or brass; and of such a height that it was impossible to go up to it except by steps. For it is written (Ex. 27:1,2): “Thou shalt make also an altar of setim wood, which shall be five cubits long, and as many broad . . . and three cubits high . . . and thou shalt cover it with brass”: and (Ex. 30:1,3): “Thou shalt make . . . an altar to burn incense, of setim wood . . . and thou shalt overlay it with the purest gold.”
Objection 8. Further, in God’s works nothing should be superfluous; for not even in the works of nature is anything superfluous to be found. But one cover suffices for one tabernacle or house. Therefore it was unbecoming to furnish the tabernacle with many coverings, viz. curtains, curtains of goats’ hair, rams’ skins dyed red, and violet-colored skins (Ex. 26).
Objection 9. Further, exterior consecration signifies interior holiness, the subject of which is the soul. It was therefore unsuitable for the tabernacle and its vessels to be consecrated, since they were inanimate things.
Objection 10. Further, it is written (Ps. 33:2): “I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall always be in my mouth.” But the solemn festivals were instituted for the praise of God. Therefore it was not fitting that certain days should be fixed for keeping solemn festivals; so that it seems that there was no suitable cause for the ceremonies relating to holy things.
On the contrary, The Apostle says (Heb. 8:4) that those who “offer gifts according to the law . . . serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things. As it was answered to Moses, when he was to finish the tabernacle: See, says He, that thou make all things according to the pattern which was shown thee on the mount.” But that is most reasonable, which presents a likeness to heavenly things. Therefore the ceremonies relating to holy things had a reasonable cause.
I answer that, The chief purpose of the whole external worship is that man may give worship to God. Now man’s tendency is to reverence less those things which are common, and indistinct from other things; whereas he admires and reveres those things which are distinct from others in some point of excellence. Hence too it is customary among men for kings and princes, who ought to be reverenced by their subjects, to be clothed in more precious garments, and to possess vaster and more beautiful abodes. And for this reason it behooved special times, a special abode, special vessels, and special ministers to be appointed for the divine worship, so that thereby the soul of man might be brought to greater reverence for God.
In like manner the state of the Old Law, as observed above (2; 100, 12; 101, 2), was instituted that it might foreshadow the mystery of Christ. Now that which foreshadows something should be determinate, so that it may present some likeness thereto. Consequently, certain special points had to be observed in matters pertaining to the worship of God.
Reply to Objection 1. The divine worship regards two things: namely, God Who is worshipped; and men, who worship Him. Accordingly God, Who is worshipped, is confined to no bodily place: wherefore there was no need, on His part, for a tabernacle or temple to be set up. But men, who worship Him, are corporeal beings: and for their sake there was need for a special tabernacle or temple to be set up for the worship of God, for two reasons. First, that through coming together with the thought that the place was set aside for the worship of God, they might approach thither with greater reverence. Secondly, that certain things relating to the excellence of Christ’s Divine or human nature might be signified by the arrangement of various details in such temple or tabernacle.
To this Solomon refers (3 Kgs. 8:27) when he says: “If heaven and the heavens of heavens cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built” for Thee? And further on (3 Kgs. 8:29,20) he adds: “That Thy eyes may be open upon this house . . . of which Thou hast said: My name shall be there; . . . that Thou mayest hearken to the supplication of Thy servant and of Thy people Israel.” From this it is evident that the house of the sanctuary was set up, not in order to contain God, as abiding therein locally, but that God might be made known there by means of things done and said there; and that those who prayed there might, through reverence for the place, pray more devoutly, so as to be heard more readily.
Reply to Objection 2. Before the coming of Christ, the state of the Old Law was not changed as regards the fulfilment of the Law, which was effected in Christ alone: but it was changed as regards the condition of the people that were under the Law. Because, at first, the people were in the desert, having no fixed abode: afterwards they were engaged in various wars with the neighboring nations; and lastly, at the time of David and Solomon, the state of that people was one of great peace. And then for the first time the temple was built in the place which Abraham, instructed by God, had chosen for the purpose of sacrifice. For it is written (Gn. 22:2) that the Lord commanded Abraham to “offer” his son “for a holocaust upon one of the mountains which I will show thee”: and it is related further on (Gn. 22:14) that “he calleth the name of that place, The Lord seeth,” as though, according to the Divine prevision, that place were chosen for the worship of God. Hence it is written (Dt. 12:5,6): “You shall come to the place which the Lord your God shall choose . . . and you shall offer . . . your holocausts and victims.”
Now it was not meet for that place to be pointed out by the building of the temple before the aforesaid time; for three reasons assigned by Rabbi Moses. First, lest the Gentiles might seize hold of that place. Secondly, lest the Gentiles might destroy it. The third reason is lest each tribe might wish that place to fall to their lot, and strifes and quarrels be the result. Hence the temple was not built until they had a king who would be able to quell such quarrels. Until that time a portable tabernacle was employed for divine worship, no place being as yet fixed for the worship of God. This is the literal reason for the distinction between the tabernacle and the temple.
The figurative reason may be assigned to the fact that they signify a twofold state. For the tabernacle, which was changeable, signifies the state of the present changeable life: whereas the temple, which was fixed and stable, signifies the state of future life which is altogether unchangeable. For this reason it is said that in the building of the temple no sound was heard of hammer or saw, to signify that all movements of disturbance will be far removed from the future state. Or else the tabernacle signifies the state of the Old Law; while the temple built by Solomon betokens the state of the New Law. Hence the Jews alone worked at the building of the tabernacle; whereas the temple was built with the cooperation of the Gentiles, viz. the Tyrians and Sidonians.
Reply to Objection 3. The reason for the unity of the temple or tabernacle may be either literal or figurative. The literal reason was the exclusion of idolatry. For the Gentiles put up various times to various gods: and so, to strengthen in the minds of men their belief in the unity of the Godhead, God wished sacrifices to be offered to Him in one place only. Another reason was in order to show that bodily worship is not acceptable of itself: and so they restrained from offering sacrifices anywhere and everywhere. But the worship of the New Law, in the sacrifice whereof spiritual grace is contained, is of itself acceptable to God; and consequently the multiplication of altars and temples is permitted in the New Law.
As to those matters that regarded the spiritual worship of God, consisting in the teaching of the Law and the Prophets, there were, even under the Old Law, various places, called synagogues, appointed for the people to gather together for the praise of God; just as now there are places called churches in which the Christian people gather together for the divine worship. Thus our church takes the place of both temple and synagogue: since the very sacrifice of the Church is spiritual; wherefore with us the place of sacrifice is not distinct from the place of teaching. The figurative reason may be that hereby is signified the unity of the Church, whether militant or triumphant.
Reply to Objection 4. Just as the unity of the temple or tabernacle betokened the unity of God, or the unity of the Church, so also the division of the tabernacle or temple signified the distinction of those things that are subject to God, and from which we arise to the worship of God. Now the tabernacle was divided into two parts: one was called the “Holy of Holies,” and was placed to the west; the other was called the “Holy Place” [Or ‘Sanctuary’. The Douay version uses both expressions], which was situated to the east. Moreover there was a court facing the tabernacle. Accordingly there are two reasons for this distinction. One is in respect of the tabernacle being ordained to the worship of God. Because the different parts of the world are thus betokened by the division of the tabernacle. For that part which was called the Holy of Holies signified the higher world, which is that of spiritual substances: while that part which is called the Holy Place signified the corporeal world. Hence the Holy Place was separated from the Holy of Holies by a veil, which was of four different colors (denoting the four elements), viz. of linen, signifying earth, because linen, i.e. flax, grows out of the earth; purple, signifying water, because the purple tint was made from certain shells found in the sea; violet, signifying air, because it has the color of the air; and scarlet twice dyed, signifying fire: and this because matter composed of the four elements is a veil between us and incorporeal substances. Hence the high-priest alone, and that once a year, entered into the inner tabernacle, i.e. the Holy of Holies: whereby we are taught that man’s final perfection consists in his entering into that (higher) world: whereas into the outward tabernacle, i.e. the Holy Place, the priests entered every day: whereas the people were only admitted to the court; because the people were able to perceived material things, the inner nature of which only wise men by dint of study are able to discover.
But regard to the figurative reason, the outward tabernacle, which was called the Holy Place, betokened the state of the Old Law, as the Apostle says (Heb. 9:6, seqq.): because into that tabernacle “the priests always entered accomplishing the offices of sacrifices.” But the inner tabernacle, which was called the Holy of Holies, signified either the glory of heaven or the spiritual state of the New Law to come. To the latter state Christ brought us; and this was signified by the high-priest entering alone, once a year, into the Holy of Holies. The veil betokened the concealing of the spiritual sacrifices under the sacrifices of old. This veil was adorned with four colors: viz. that of linen, to designate purity of the flesh; purple, to denote the sufferings which the saints underwent for God; scarlet twice dyed, signifying the twofold love of God and our neighbor; and violet, in token of heavenly contemplation. With regard to the state of the Old Law the people and the priests were situated differently from one another. For the people saw the mere corporeal sacrifices which were offered in the court: whereas the priests were intent on the inner meaning of the sacrifices, because their faith in the mysteries of Christ was more explicit. Hence they entered into the outer tabernacle. This outer tabernacle was divided from the court by a veil; because some matters relating to the mystery of Christ were hidden from the people, while they were known to the priests: though they were not fully revealed to them, as they were
subsequently in the New Testament (cf. Eph. 3:5).
Reply to Objection 5. Worship towards the west was introduced in the Law to the exclusion of idolatry: because all the Gentiles, in reverence to the sun, worshipped towards the east; hence it is written (Ezech. 8:16) that certain men “had their backs towards the temple of the Lord, and their faces to the east, and they adored towards the rising of the sun.” Accordingly, in order to prevent this, the tabernacle had the Holy of Holies to westward, that they might adore toward the west. A figurative reason may also be found in the fact that the whole state of the first tabernacle was ordained to foreshadow the death of Christ, which is signified by the west, according to Ps. 67:5: “Who ascendeth unto the west; the Lord is His name.”
Reply to Objection 6. Both literal and figurative reasons may be assigned for the things contained in the tabernacle. The literal reason is in connection with the divine worship. And because, as already observed (ad 4), the inner tabernacle, called the Holy of Holies, signified the higher world of spiritual substances, hence that tabernacle contained three things, viz. “the ark of the testament in which was a golden pot that had manna, and the rod of Aaron that had blossomed, and the tables” (Heb. 9:4) on which were written the ten commandments of the Law. Now the ark stood between two “cherubim” that looked one towards the other: and over the ark was a table, called the “propitiatory,” raised above the wings of the cherubim, as though it were held up by them; and appearing, to the imagination, to be the very seat of God. For this reason it was called the “propitiatory,” as though the people received propitiation thence at the prayers of the high-priest. And so it was held up, so to speak, by the cherubim, in obedience, as it were, to God: while the ark of the testament was like the foot-stool to Him that sat on the propitiatory. These three things denote three things in that higher world: namely, God Who is above all, and incomprehensible to any creature. Hence no likeness of Him was set up; to denote His invisibility. But there was something to represent his seat; since, to wit, the creature, which is beneath God, as the seat under the sitter, is comprehensible. Again in that higher world there are spiritual substances called angels. These are signified by the two cherubim, looking one towards the other, to show that they are at peace with one another, according to Job 25:2: “Who maketh peace in . . . high places.” For this reason, too, there was more than one cherub, to betoken the multitude of heavenly spirits, and to prevent their receiving worship from those who had been commanded to worship but one God. Moreover there are, enclosed as it were in that spiritual world, the intelligible types of whatsoever takes place in this world, just as in every cause are enclosed the types of its effects, and in the craftsman the types of the works of his craft. This was betokened by the ark, which represented, by means of the three things it contained, the three things of greatest import in human affairs. These are wisdom, signified by the tables of the testament; the power of governing, betokened by the rod of Aaron; and life, betokened by the manna which was the means of sustenance. Or else these three things signified the three Divine attributes, viz. wisdom, in the tables; power, in the rod; goodness, in the manna–both by reason of its sweetness, and because it was through the goodness of God that it was granted to man, wherefore it was preserved as a memorial of the Divine mercy. Again, these three things were represented in Isaias’ vision. For he “saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and elevated”; and the seraphim standing by; and that the house was filled with the glory of the Lord; wherefrom the seraphim cried out: “All the earth is full of His glory” (Is. 6:1,3). And so the images of the seraphim were set up, not to be worshipped, for this was forbidden by the first commandment; but as a sign of their function, as stated above.
The outer tabernacle, which denotes this present world, also contained three things, viz. the “altar of incense,” which was directly opposite the ark; the “table of proposition,” with the twelve loaves of proposition on it, which stood on the northern side; and the “candlestick,” which was placed towards the south. These three things seem to correspond to the three which were enclosed in the ark; and they represented the same things as the latter, but more clearly: because, in order that wise men, denoted by the priests entering the temple, might grasp the meaning of these types, it was necessary to express them more manifestly than they are in the Divine or angelic mind. Accordingly the candlestick betokened, as a sensible sign thereof, the wisdom which was expressed on the tables (of the Law) in intelligible words. The altar of incense signified the office of the priest, whose duty it was to bring the people to God: and this was signified also by the rod: because on that altar the sweet-smelling incense was burnt, signifying the holiness of the people acceptable to God: for it is written (Apoc. 8:3) that the smoke of the sweet-smelling spices signifies the “justifications of the saints” (cf. Apoc. 19:8). Moreover it was fitting that the dignity of the priesthood should be denoted, in the ark, by the rod, and, in the outer tabernacle, by the altar of incense: because the priest is the mediator between God and the people, governing the people by Divine power, denoted by the rod; and offering to God the fruit of His government, i.e. the holiness of the people, on the altar of incense, so to speak. The table signified the sustenance of life, just as the manna did: but the former, a more general and a coarser kind of nourishment; the latter, a sweeter and more delicate. Again, the candlestick was fittingly placed on the southern side, while the table was placed to the north: because the south is the right-hand side of the world, while the north is the left-hand side, as stated in De Coelo et Mundo ii; and wisdom, like other spiritual goods, belongs to the right hand, while temporal nourishment belongs on the left, according to Prov. 3:16: “In her left hand (are) riches and glory.” And the priestly power is midway between temporal goods and spiritual wisdom; because thereby both spiritual wisdom and temporal goods are dispensed.
Another literal signification may be assigned. For the ark contained the tables of the Law, in order to prevent forgetfulness of the Law, wherefore it is written (Ex. 24:12): “I will give thee two tables of stone, and the Law, and the commandments which I have written: that thou mayest teach them” to the children of Israel. The rod of Aaron was placed there to restrain the people from insubordination to the priesthood of Aaron; wherefore it is written (Num. 17:10): “Carry back the rod of Aaron into the tabernacle of the testimony, that it may be kept there for a token of the rebellious children of Israel.” The manna was kept in the ark to remind them of the benefit conferred by God on the children of Israel in the desert; wherefore it is written (Ex. 16:32): “Fill a gomor of it, and let it be kept unto generations to come hereafter, that they may know the bread wherewith I fed you in the wilderness.” The candlestick was set up to enhance the beauty of the temple, for the magnificence of a house depends on its being well lighted. Now the candlestick had seven branches, as Josephus observes (Antiquit. iii, 7,8), to signify the seven planets, wherewith the whole world is illuminated. Hence the candlestick was placed towards the south; because for us the course of the planets is from that quarter. The altar of incense was instituted that there might always be in the tabernacle a sweet-smelling smoke; both through respect for the tabernacle, and as a remedy for the stenches arising from the shedding of blood and the slaying of animals. For men despise evil-smelling things as being vile, whereas sweet-smelling things are much appreciated. The table was place there to signify that the priests who served the temple should take their food in the temple: wherefore, as stated in Mt. 12:4, it was lawful for none but the priests to eat the twelve loaves which were put on the table in memory of the twelve tribes. And the table was not placed in the middle directly in front of the propitiatory, in order to exclude an idolatrous rite: for the Gentiles, on the feasts of the moon, set up a table in front of the idol of the moon, wherefore it is written (Jer. 7:18): “The women knead the dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven.”
In the court outside the tabernacle was the altar of holocausts, on which sacrifices of those things which the people possessed were offered to God: and consequently the people who offered these sacrifices to God by the hands of the priest could be present in the court. But the priests alone, whose function it was to offer the people to God, could approach the inner altar, whereon the very devotion and holiness of the people was offered to God. And this altar was put up outside the tabernacle and in the court, to the exclusion of idolatrous worship: for the Gentiles placed altars inside the temples to offer up sacrifices thereon to idols.
The figurative reason for all these things may be taken from the relation of the tabernacle to Christ, who was foreshadowed therein. Now it must be observed that to show the imperfection of the figures of the Law, various figures were instituted in the temple to betoken Christ. For He was foreshadowed by the “propitiatory,” since He is “a propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 2:2). This propitiatory was fittingly carried by cherubim, since of Him it is written (Heb. 1:6): “Let all the angels of God adore Him.” He is also signified by the ark: because just as the ark was made of setim-wood, so was Christ’s body composed of most pure members. More over it was gilded: for Christ was full of wisdom and charity, which are betokened by gold. And in the ark was a golden pot, i.e. His holy soul, having manna, i.e. “all the fulness of the Godhead” (Col. 2:9). Also there was a rod in the ark, i.e. His priestly power: for “He was made a . . . priest for ever” (Heb. 6:20). And therein were the tables of the Testament, to denote that Christ Himself is a lawgiver. Again, Christ was signified by the candlestick, for He said Himself (Jn. 8:12): “I am the Light of the world”; while the seven lamps denoted the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost. He is also betokened in the table, because He is our spiritual food, according to Jn. 6:41,51: “I am the living bread”: and the twelve loaves signified the twelve apostles, or their teaching. Or again, the candlestick and table may signify the Church’s teaching, and faith, which also enlightens and refreshes. Again, Christ is signified by the two altars of holocausts and incense. Because all works of virtue must be offered to us to God through Him; both those whereby we afflict the body, which are offered, as it were, on the altar of holocausts; and those which, with greater perfection of mind, are offered to God in Christ, by the spiritual desires of the perfect, on the altar of incense, as it were, according to Heb. 13:15: “By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise always to God.”
Reply to Objection 7. The Lord commanded an altar to be made for the offering of sacrifices and gifts, in honor of God, and for the upkeep of the ministers who served the tabernacle. Now concerning the construction of the altar the Lord issued a twofold precept. One was at the beginning of the Law (Ex. 20:24, seqq.) when the Lord commanded them to make “an altar of earth,” or at least “not of hewn stones”; and again, not to make the altar high, so as to make it necessary to “go up” to it “by steps.” This was in detestation of idolatrous worship: for the Gentiles made their altars ornate and high, thinking that there was something holy and divine in such things. For this reason, too, the Lord commanded (Dt. 16:21): “Thou shalt plant no grove, nor any tree near the altar of the Lord thy God”: since idolaters were wont to offer sacrifices beneath trees, on account of the pleasantness and shade afforded by them. There was also a figurative reason for these precepts. Because we must confess that in Christ, Who is our altar, there is the true nature of flesh, as regards His humanity–and this is to make an altar of earth; and again, in regard to His Godhead, we must confess His equality with the Father–and this is “not to go up” to the altar by steps. Moreover we should not couple the doctrine of Christ to that of the Gentiles, which provokes men to lewdness.
But when once the tabernacle had been constructed to the honor of God, there was no longer reason to fear these occasions of idolatry. Wherefore the Lord commanded the altar of holocausts to be made of brass, and to be conspicuous to all the people; and the altar of incense, which was visible to none but the priests. Nor was brass so precious as to give the people an occasion for idolatry.
Since, however, the reason for the precept, “Thou shalt not go up by steps unto My altar” (Ex. 20:26) is stated to have been “lest thy nakedness be discovered,” it should be observed that this too was instituted with the purpose of preventing idolatry, for in the feasts of Priapus the Gentiles uncovered their nakedness before the people. But later on the priests were prescribed the use of loin-cloths for the sake of decency: so that without any danger the altar could be placed so high that the priests when offering sacrifices would go up by steps of wood, not fixed but movable.
Reply to Objection 8. The body of the tabernacle consisted of boards placed on end, and covered on the inside with curtains of four different colors, viz. twisted linen, violet, purple, and scarlet twice dyed. These curtains, however, covered the sides only of the tabernacle; and the roof of the tabernacle was covered with violet-colored skins; and over this there was another covering of rams’ skins dyed red; and over this there was a third curtain made of goats’ hair, which covered not only the roof of the tabernacle, but also reached to the ground and covered the boards of the tabernacle on the outside. The literal reason of these coverings taken altogether was the adornment and protection of the tabernacle, that it might be an object of respect. Taken singly, according to some, the curtains denoted the starry heaven, which is adorned with various stars; the curtain (of goats’ skin) signified the waters which are above the firmament; the skins dyed red denoted the empyrean heaven, where the angels are; the violet skins, the heaven of the Blessed Trinity.
The figurative meaning of these things is 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: for “the twisted linen,” as the gloss observes, “signifies the flesh refulgent with purity; violet signifies the mind desirous of heavenly things; purple denotes the flesh subject to passions; the twice dyed scarlet betokens the mind in the midst of the passions enlightened by the love of God and our neighbor.” 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 and rain, as the gloss observes.
Reply to Objection 9. The literal reason for the sanctification of the tabernacle and vessels was that they might be treated with greater reverence, being deputed, as it were, to the divine worship by this consecration. The figurative reason is that this sanctification signified the sanctification of the living tabernacle, i.e. the faithful of whom the Church of Christ is composed.
Reply to Objection 10. Under the Old Law there were seven temporal solemnities, and one continual solemnity, as may be gathered from Num. 28,29. There was a continual feast, since the lamb was sacrificed every day, morning and evening: and this continual feast of an abiding sacrifice signified the perpetuity of Divine bliss. Of the temporal feasts the first was that which was repeated every week. This was the solemnity of the “Sabbath,” celebrated in memory of the work of the creation of the universe. Another solemnity, viz. the “New Moon,” was repeated every month, and was observed in memory of the work of the Divine government. For the things of this lower world owe their variety chiefly to the movement of the moon; wherefore this feast was kept at the new moon: and not at the full moon, to avoid the worship of idolaters who used to offer sacrifices to the moon at that particular time. And these two blessings are bestowed in common on the whole human race; and hence they were repeated more frequently.
The other five feasts were celebrated once a year: and they commemorated the benefits which had been conferred especially on that people. For there was the feast of the “Passover” in the first month to commemorate the blessing of being delivered out of Egypt. The feast of “Pentecost” was celebrated fifty days later, to recall the blessing of the giving of the Law. The other three feasts were kept in the seventh month, nearly the whole of which was solemnized by them, just as the seventh day. For on the first of the seventh month was the feast of “Trumpets,” in memory of the delivery of Isaac, when Abraham found the ram caught by its horns, which they represented by the horns which they blew. The feast of Trumpets was a kind of invitation whereby they prepared themselves to keep the following feast which was kept on the tenth day. This was the feast of “Expiation,” in memory of the blessing whereby, at the prayer of Moses, God forgave the people’s sin of worshipping the calf. After this was the feast of “Scenopegia” or of “Tents,” which was kept for seven days, to commemorate the blessing of being protected and led by God through the desert, where they lived in tents. Hence during this feast they had to take “the fruits of the fairest tree,” i.e. the citron, “and the trees of dense foliage” [Douay and A. V. and R. V. read: ‘Boughs of thick trees’], i.e. the myrtle, which is fragrant, “and the branches of palm-trees, and willows of the brook,” which retain their greenness a long time; and these are to be found in the Land of promise; to signify that God had brought them through the arid land of the wilderness to a land of delights. On the eighth day another feast was observed, of “Assembly and Congregation,” on which the people collected the expenses necessary for the divine worship: and it signified the uniting of the people and the peace granted to them in the Land of promise.
The figurative reason for these feasts was that the continual sacrifice of the lamb foreshadowed the perpetuity of Christ, Who is the “Lamb of God,” according to Heb. 13:8: “Jesus Christ yesterday and today, and the same for ever.” The Sabbath signified the spiritual rest bestowed by Christ, as stated in Heb. 4. The Neomenia, which is the beginning of the new moon, signified the enlightening of the primitive Church by Christ’s preaching and miracles. The feast of Pentecost signified the Descent of the Holy Ghost on the apostles. The feast of Trumpets signified the preaching of the apostles. The feast of Expiation signified the cleansing of the Christian people from sins: and the feast of Tabernacles signified their pilgrimage in this world, wherein they walk by advancing in virtue. The feast of Assembly or Congregation foreshadowed the assembly of the faithful in the kingdom of heaven: wherefore this feast is described as “most holy” (Lev. 23:36). These three feasts followed immediately on one another, because those who expiate their vices should advance in virtue, until they come to see God, as stated in Ps. 83:8.
Whether there can be any suitable cause for the sacraments of the Old Law?
Objection 1. It would seem that there can be no suitable cause for the sacraments of the Old Law. Because those things that are done for the purpose of divine worship should not be like the observances of idolaters: since it is written (Dt. 12:31): “Thou shalt not do in like manner to the Lord thy God: for they have done to their gods all the abominations which the Lord abhorreth.” Now worshippers of idols used to knive themselves to the shedding of blood: for it is related (3 Kgs. 18:28) that they “cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till they were all covered with blood.” For this reason the Lord commanded (Dt. 14:1): “You shall not cut yourselves nor make any baldness for the dead.” Therefore it was unfitting for circumcision to be prescribed by the Law (Lev. 12:3).
Objection 2. Further, those things which are done for the worship of God should be marked with decorum and gravity; according to Ps. 34:18: “I will praise Thee in a grave [Douay: ‘strong’] people.” But it seems to savor of levity for a man to eat with haste. Therefore it was unfittingly commanded (Ex. 12:11) that they should eat the Paschal lamb “in haste.” Other things too relative to the eating of the lamb were prescribed, which seem altogether unreasonable.
Objection 3. Further, the sacraments of the Old Law were figures of the sacraments of the New Law. Now the Paschal lamb signified the sacrament of the Eucharist, according to 1 Cor. 5:7: “Christ our Pasch is sacrificed.” Therefore there should also have been some sacraments of the Old Law to foreshadow the other sacraments of the New Law, such as Confirmation, Extreme Unction, and Matrimony, and so forth.
Objection 4. Further, purification can scarcely be done except by removing something impure. But as far as God is concerned, no bodily thing is reputed impure, because all bodies are God’s creatures; and “every creature of God is good, and nothing to be rejected that is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:4). It was therefore unfitting for them to be purified after contact with a corpse, or any similar corporeal infection.
Objection 5. Further, it is written (Sirach 34:4): “What can be made clean by the unclean?” But the ashes of the red heifer [Cf. Heb. 9:13 which was burnt, were unclean, since they made a man unclean: for it is stated (Num. 19:7, seqq.) that the priest who immolated her was rendered unclean “until the evening”; likewise he that burnt her; and he that gathered up her ashes. Therefore it was unfittingly prescribed there that the unclean should be purified by being sprinkled with those cinders.
Objection 6. Further, sins are not something corporeal that can be carried from one place to another: nor can man be cleansed from sin by means of something unclean. It was therefore unfitting for the purpose of expiating the sins of the people that the priest should confess the sins of the children of Israel on one of the buck-goats, that it might carry them away into the wilderness: while they were rendered unclean by the other, which they used for the purpose of purification, by burning it together with the calf outside the camp; so that they had to wash their clothes and their bodies with water (Lev. 16).
Objection 7. Further, what is already cleansed should not be cleansed again. It was therefore unfitting to apply a second purification to a man cleansed from leprosy, or to a house; as laid down in Lev. 14.
Objection 8. Further, spiritual uncleanness cannot be cleansed by material water or by shaving the hair. Therefore it seems unreasonable that the Lord ordered (Ex. 30:18, seqq.) the making of a brazen laver with its foot, that the priests might wash their hands and feet before entering the temple; and that He commanded (Num. 8:7) the Levites to be sprinkled with the water of purification, and to shave all the hairs of their flesh.
Objection 9. Further, that which is greater cannot be cleansed by that which is less. Therefore it was unfitting that, in the Law, the higher and lower priests, as stated in Lev. 8 [Cf. Ex. 29, and the Levites, according to Num. 8, should be consecrated with any bodily anointing, bodily sacrifices, and bodily oblations.
Objection 10. Further, as stated in 1 Kgs. 16:7, “Man seeth those things that appear, but the Lord beholdeth the heart.” But those things that appear outwardly in man are the dispositions of his body and his clothes. Therefore it was unfitting for certain special garments to be appointed to the higher and lower priests, as related in Ex. 28 [Cf. Lev. 8:7, seqq.]. It seems, moreover, unreasonable that anyone should be debarred from the priesthood on account of defects in the body, as stated in Lev. 21:17, seqq.: “Whosoever of thy seed throughout their families, hath a blemish, he shall not offer bread to his God . . . if he be blind, if he be lame,” etc. It seems, therefore, that the sacraments of the Old Law were unreasonable.
On the contrary, It is written (Lev. 20:8): “I am the Lord that sanctify you.” But nothing unreasonable is done by God, for it is written (Ps. 103:24): “Thou hast made all things in wisdom.” Therefore there was nothing without a reasonable cause in the sacraments of the Old Law, which were ordained to the sanctification of man.
I answer that, As stated above (101, 4), the sacraments are, properly speaking, things applied to the worshippers of God for their consecration so as, in some way, to depute them to the worship of God. Now the worship of God belonged in a general way to the whole people; but in a special way, it belonged to the priests and Levites, who were the ministers of divine worship. Consequently, in these sacraments of the Old Law, certain things concerned the whole people in general; while others belonged to the ministers.
In regard to both, three things were necessary. The first was to be established in the state of worshipping God: and this institution was brought about–for all in general, by circumcision, without which no one was admitted to any of the legal observances–and for the priests, by their consecration. The second thing required was the use of those things that pertain to divine worship. And thus, as to the people, there was the partaking of the paschal banquet, to which no uncircumcised man was admitted, as is clear from Ex. 12:43, seqq.: and, as to the priests, the offering of the victims, and the eating of the loaves of proposition and of other things that were allotted to the use of the priests. The third thing required was the removal of all impediments to divine worship, viz. of uncleannesses. And then, as to the people, certain purifications were instituted for the removal of certain external uncleannesses; and also expiations from sins; while, as to the priests and Levites, the washing of hands and feet and the shaving of the hair were instituted.
And all these things had reasonable causes, both literal, in so far as they were ordained to the worship of God for the time being, and figurative, in so far as they were ordained to foreshadow Christ: as we shall see by taking them one by one.
Reply to Objection 1. The chief literal reason for circumcision was in order that man might profess his belief in one God. And because Abraham was the first to sever himself from the infidels, by going out from his house and kindred, for this reason he was the first to receive circumcision. This reason is set forth by the Apostle (Rm. 4:9, seqq.) thus: “He received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the justice of the faith which he had, being uncircumcised”; because, to wit, we are told that “unto Abraham faith was reputed to justice,” for the reason that “against hope he believed in hope,” i.e. against the hope that is of nature he believed in the hope that is of grace, “that he might be made the father of many nations,” when he was an old man, and his wife an old and barren woman. And in order that this declaration, and imitation of Abraham’s faith, might be fixed firmly in the hearts of the Jews, they received in their flesh such a sign as they could not forget, wherefore it is written (Gn. 17:13): “My covenant shall be in your flesh for a perpetual covenant.” This was done on the eighth day, because until then a child is very tender, and so might be seriously injured; and is considered as something not yet consolidated: wherefore neither are animals offered before the eighth day. And it was not delayed after that time, lest some might refuse the sign of circumcision on account of the pain: and also lest the parents, whose love for their children increases as they become used to their presence
and as they grow older, should withdraw their children from circumcision. A second reason may have been the weakening of concupiscence in that member. A third motive may have been to revile the worship of Venus and Priapus, which gave honor to that part of the body. The Lord’s prohibition extended only to the cutting of oneself in honor of idols: and such was not the circumcision of which we have been speaking.
The figurative reason for circumcision was that it foreshadowed the removal of corruption, which was to be brought about by Christ, and will be perfectly fulfilled in the eighth age, which is the age of those who rise from the dead. And since all corruption of guilt and punishment comes to us through our carnal origin, from the sin of our first parent, therefore circumcision was applied to the generative member. Hence the Apostle says (Col. 2:11): “You are circumcised” in Christ “with circumcision not made by hand in despoiling of the body of the flesh, but in the circumcision of” Our Lord Jesus “Christ.”
Reply to Objection 2. The literal reason of the paschal banquet was to commemorate the blessing of being led by God out of Egypt. Hence by celebrating this banquet they declared that they belonged to that people which God had taken to Himself out of Egypt. For when they were delivered from Egypt, they were commanded to sprinkle the lamb’s blood on the transoms of their house doors, as though declaring that they were averse to the rites of the Egyptians who worshipped the ram. Wherefore they were delivered by the sprinkling or rubbing of the blood of the lamb on the door-posts, from the danger of extermination which threatened the Egyptians.
Now two things are to be observed in their departure from Egypt: namely, their haste in going, for the Egyptians pressed them to go forth speedily, as related in Ex. 12:33; and there was danger that anyone who did not hasten to go with the crowd might be slain by the Egyptians. Their haste was shown in two ways. First by what they ate. For they were commanded to eat unleavened bread, as a sign “that it could not be leavened, the Egyptians pressing them to depart”; and to eat roast meat, for this took less time to prepare; and that they should not break a bone thereof, because in their haste there was no time to break bones. Secondly, as to the manner of eating. For it is written: “You shall gird your reins, and you shall have shoes on your feet, holding staves in your hands, and you shall eat in haste”: which clearly designates men at the point of starting on a journey. To this also is to be referred the command: “In one house shall it be eaten, neither shall you carry forth of the flesh thereof out of the house”: because, to wit, on account of their haste, they could not send any gifts of it.
The stress they suffered while in Egypt was denoted by the wild lettuces. The figurative reason is evident, because the sacrifice of the paschal lamb signified the sacrifice of Christ according to 1 Cor. 5:7: “Christ our pasch is sacrificed.” The blood of the lamb, which ensured deliverance from the destroyer, by being sprinkled on the transoms, signified faith in Christ’s Passion, in the hearts and on the lips of the faithful, by which same Passion we are delivered from sin and death, according to 1 Pt. 1:18: “You were . . . redeemed . . . with the precious blood . . . of a lamb unspotted.” The partaking of its flesh signified the eating of Christ’s body in the Sacrament; and the flesh was roasted at the fire to signify Christ’s Passion or charity. And it was eaten with unleavened bread to signify the blameless life of the faithful who partake of Christ’s body, according to 1 Cor. 5:8: “Let us feast . . . with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” The wild lettuces were added to denote repentance for sins, which is required of those who receive the body of Christ. Their loins were girt in sign of chastity: and the shoes of their feet are the examples of our dead ancestors. The staves they were to hold in their hands denoted pastoral authority: and it was commanded that the paschal lamb should be eaten in one house, i.e. in a catholic church, and not in the conventicles of heretics.
Reply to Objection 3. Some of the sacraments of the New Law had corresponding figurative sacraments in the Old Law. For Baptism, which is the sacrament of Faith, corresponds to circumcision. Hence it is written (Col. 2:11,12): “You are circumcised . . . in the circumcision of” Our Lord Jesus “Christ: buried with Him in Baptism.” In the New Law the sacrament of the Eucharist corresponds to the banquet of the paschal lamb. The sacrament of Penance in the New Law corresponds to all the purifications of the Old Law. The sacrament of Orders corresponds to the consecration of the pontiff and of the priests. To the sacrament of Confirmation, which is the sacrament of the fulness of grace, there would be no corresponding sacrament of the Old Law, because the time of fulness had not yet come, since “the Law brought no man [Vulg.: ‘nothing’] to perfection” (Heb. 7:19). The same applies to the sacrament of Extreme Unction, which is an immediate preparation for entrance into glory, to which the way was not yet opened out in the Old Law, since the price had not yet been paid. Matrimony did indeed exist under the Old Law, as a function of nature, but not as the sacrament of the union of Christ with the Church, for that union was not as yet brought about. Hence under the Old Law it was allowable to give a bill of divorce, which is contrary to the nature of the sacrament.
Reply to Objection 4. As already stated, the purifications of the Old Law were ordained for the removal of impediments to the divine worship: which worship is twofold; viz. spiritual, consisting in devotion of the mind to God; and corporal, consisting in sacrifices, oblations, and so forth. Now men are hindered in the spiritual worship by sins, whereby men were said to be polluted, for instance, by idolatry, murder, adultery, or incest. >From such pollutions men were purified by certain sacrifices, offered either for the whole community in general, or also for the sins of individuals; not that those carnal sacrifices had of themselves the power of expiating sin; but that they signified that expiation of sins which was to be effected by Christ, and of which those of old became partakers by protesting their faith in the Redeemer, while taking part in the figurative sacrifices.
The impediments to external worship consisted in certain bodily uncleannesses; which were considered in the first place as existing in man, and consequently in other animals also, and in man’s clothes, dwelling-place, and vessels. In man himself uncleanness was considered as arising partly from himself and partly from contact with unclean things. Anything proceeding from man was reputed unclean that was already subject to corruption, or exposed thereto: and consequently since death is a kind of corruption, the human corpse was considered unclean. In like manner, since leprosy arises from corruption of the humors, which break out externally and infect other persons, therefore were lepers also considered unclean; and, again, women suffering from a flow of blood, whether from weakness, or from nature (either at the monthly course or at the time of conception); and, for the same reason, men were reputed unclean if they suffered from a flow of seed, whether due to weakness, to nocturnal pollution, or to sexual intercourse. Because every humor issuing from man in the aforesaid ways involves some unclean infection. Again, man contracted uncleanness by touching any unclean thing whatever.
Now there was both a literal and a figurative reason for these uncleannesses. The literal reason was taken from the reverence due to those things that belong to the divine worship: both because men are not wont, when unclean, to touch precious things: and in order that by rarely approaching sacred things they might have greater respect for them. For since man could seldom avoid all the aforesaid uncleannesses, the result was that men could seldom approach to touch things belonging to the worship of God, so that when they did approach, they did so with greater reverence and humility. Moreover, in some of these the literal reason was that men should not be kept away from worshipping God through fear of coming in contact with lepers and others similarly afflicted with loathsome and contagious diseases. In others, again, the reason was to avoid idolatrous worship: because in their sacrificial rites the Gentiles sometimes employed human blood and seed. All these bodily uncleannesses were purified either by the mere sprinkling of water, or, in the case of those which were more grievous, by some sacrifice of expiation for the sin which was the occasion of the uncleanness in question.
The figurative reason for these uncleannesses was that they were figures of various sins. For the uncleanness of any corpse signifies the uncleanness of sin, which is the death of the soul. The uncleanness of leprosy betokened the uncleanness of heretical doctrine: both because heretical doctrine is contagious just as leprosy is, and because no doctrine is so false as not to have some truth mingled with error, just as on the surface of a leprous body one may distinguish the healthy parts from those that are infected. The uncleanness of a woman suffering from a flow of blood denotes the uncleanness of idolatry, on account of the blood which is offered up. The uncleanness of the man who has suffered seminal loss signifies the uncleanness of empty words, for “the seed is the word of God.” The uncleanness of sexual intercourse and of the woman in child-birth signifies the uncleanness of original sin. The uncleanness of the woman in her periods signifies the uncleanness of a mind that is sensualized by pleasure. Speaking generally, the uncleanness contracted by touching an unclean thing denotes the uncleanness arising from consent in another’s sin, according to 2 Cor. 6:17: “Go out from among them, and be ye separate . . . and touch not the unclean thing.”
Moreover, this uncleanness arising from the touch was contracted even by inanimate objects; for whatever was touched in any way by an unclean man, became itself unclean. Wherein the Law attenuated the superstition of the Gentiles, who held that uncleanness was contracted not only by touch, but also by speech or looks, as Rabbi Moses states (Doct. Perplex. iii) of a woman in her periods. The mystical sense of this was that “to God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike” (Wis. 14:9).
There was also an uncleanne>objection 6.ss of inanimate things considered in themselves, such as the uncleanness of leprosy in a house or in clothes. For just as leprosy occurs in men through a corrupt humor causing putrefaction and corruption in the flesh; so, too, through some corruption and excess of humidity or dryness, there arises sometimes a kind of corruption in the stones with which a house is built, or in clothes. Hence the Law called this corruption by the name of leprosy, whereby a house or a garment was deemed to be unclean: both because all corruption savored of uncleanness, as stated above, and because the Gentiles worshipped their household gods as a preservative against this corruption. Hence the Law prescribed such houses, where this kind of corruption was of a lasting nature, to be destroyed; and such garments to be burnt, in order to avoid all occasion of idolatry. There was also an uncleanness of vessels, of which it is written (Num. 19:15): “The vessel that hath no cover, and binding over it, shall be unclean.” The cause of this uncleanness was that anything unclean might easily drop into such vessels, so as to render them unclean. Moreover, this command aimed at the prevention of idolatry. For idolaters believed that if mice, lizards, or the like, which they used to sacrifice to the idols, fell into the vessels or into the water, these became more pleasing to the gods. Even now some women let down uncovered vessels in honor of the nocturnal deities which they call “Janae.”
The figurative reason of these uncleannesses is that the leprosy of a house signified the uncleanness of the assembly of heretics; the leprosy of a linen garment signified an evil life arising from bitterness of mind; the leprosy of a woolen garment denoted the wickedness of flatterers; leprosy in the warp signified the vices of the soul; leprosy on the woof denoted sins of the flesh, for as the warp is in the woof, so is the soul in the body. The vessel that has neither cover nor binding, betokens a man who lacks the veil of taciturnity, and who is unrestrained by any severity of discipline.
Reply to Objection 5. As stated above (ad 4), there was a twofold uncleanness in the Law; one by way of corruption in the mind or in the body; and this was the graver uncleanness; the other was by mere contact with an unclean thing, and this was less grave, and was more easily expiated. Because the former uncleanness was expiated by sacrifices for sins, since all corruption is due to sin, and signifies sin: whereas the latter uncleanness was expiated by the mere sprinkling of a certain water, of which water we read in Num. 19. For there God commanded them to take a red cow in memory of the sin they had committed in worshipping a calf. And a cow is mentioned rather than a calf, because it was thus that the Lord was wont to designate the synagogue, according to Osee 4:16: “Israel hath gone astray like a wanton heifer”: and this was, perhaps, because they worshipped heifers after the custom of Egypt, according to Osee 10:5: “(They) have worshipped the kine of Bethaven.” And in detestation of the sin of idolatry it was sacrificed outside the camp; in fact, whenever sacrifice was offered up in expiation of the multitude of sins, it was all burnt outside the camp. Moreover, in order to show that this sacrifice cleansed the people from all their sins, “the priest” dipped “his finger in her blood,” and sprinkled “it over against the door of the tabernacle seven times”; for the number seven signified universality. Further, the very sprinkling of blood pertained to the detestation of idolatry, in which the blood that was offered up was not poured out, but was collected together, and men gathered round it to eat in honor of the idols. Likewise it was burnt by fire, either because God appeared to Moses in a fire, and the Law was given from the midst of fire; or to denote that idolatry, together with all that was connected therewith, was to be extirpated altogether; just as the cow was burnt “with her skin and her flesh, her blood and dung being delivered to the flames.” To this burning were added “cedar-wood, and hyssop, and scarlet twice dyed,” to signify that just as cedar-wood is not liable to putrefaction, and scarlet twice dyed does not easily lose its color, and hyssop retains its odor after it has been dried; so also was this sacrifice for the preservation of the whole people, and for their good behavior and devotion. Hence it is said of the ashes of the cow: “That they may be reserved for the multitude of the children of Israel.” Or, according to Josephus (Antiq. iii, 8,9,10), the four elements are indicated here: for “cedar-wood” was added to the fire, to signify the earth, on account of its earthiness; “hyssop,” to signify the air, on account of its smell; “scarlet twice dyed,” to signify water, for the same reason as purple, on account of the dyes which are taken out of the water: thus denoting the fact that this sacrifice was offered to the Creator of the four elements. And since this sacrifice was offered for the sin of idolatry, both “he that burned her,” and “he that gathered up the ashes,” and “he that sprinkled the water” in which the ashes were placed, were deemed unclean in detestation of that sin, in order to show that whatever was in any way connected with idolatry should be cast aside as being unclean. From this uncleanness they were purified by the mere washing of their clothes; nor did they need to be sprinkled with the water on account of this kind of uncleanness, because otherwise the process would have been unending, since he that sprinkled the water became unclean, so that if he were to sprinkle himself he would remain unclean; and if another were to sprinkle him, that one would have become unclean, and in like manner, whoever might sprinkle him, and so on indefinitely.
The figurative reason of this sacrifice was that the red cow signified Christ in respect his assumed weakness, denoted by the female sex; while the color of the cow designated the blood of His Passion. And the “red cow was of full age,” because all Christ’s works are perfect, “in which there” was “no blemish”; “and which” had “not carried the yoke,” because Christ was innocent, nor did He carry the yoke of sin. It was commanded to be taken to Moses, because they blamed Him for transgressing the law of Moses by breaking the Sabbath. And it was commanded to be delivered “to Eleazar the priest,” because Christ was delivered into the hands of the priests to be slain. It was immolated “without the camp,” because Christ “suffered outside the gate” (Heb. 13:12). And the priest dipped “his finger in her blood,” because the mystery of Christ’s Passion should be considered and imitated.
It was sprinkled “over against . . . the tabernacle,” which denotes the synagogue, to signify either the condemnation of the unbelieving Jews, or the purification of believers; and this “seven times,” in token either of the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, or of the seven days wherein all time is comprised. Again, all things that pertain to the Incarnation of Christ should be burnt with fire, i.e. they should be understood spiritually; for the “skin” and “flesh” signified Christ’s outward works; the “blood” denoted the subtle inward force which quickened His external deeds; the “dung” betokened His weariness, His thirst, and all such like things pertaining to His weakness. Three things were added, viz. “cedar-wood,” which denotes the height of hope or contemplation; “hyssop,” in token of humility or faith; “scarlet twice dyed,” which denotes twofold charity; for it is by these three that we should cling to Christ suffering. The ashes of this burning were gathered by “a man that is clean,” because the relics of the Passion came into the possession of the Gentiles, who were not guilty of Christ’s death. The ashes were put into water for the purpose of expiation, because Baptism receives from Christ’s Passion the power of washing away sins. The priest who immolated and burned the cow, and he who burned, and he who gathered together the ashes, were unclean, as also he that sprinkled the water: either because the Jews became unclean through putting Christ to death, whereby our sins are expiated; and this, until the evening, i.e. until the end of the world, when the remnants of Israel will be converted; or else because they who handle sacred things with a view to the cleansing of others contract certain uncleannesses, as Gregory says (Pastor. ii, 5); and this until the evening, i.e. until the end of this life.
Reply to Objection 6. As stated above (ad 5), an uncleanness which was caused by corruption either of mind or of body was expiated by sin-offerings. Now special sacrifices were wont to be offered for the sins of individuals: but since some were neglectful about expiating such sins and uncleannesses; or, through ignorance, failed to offer this expiation; it was laid down that once a year, on the tenth day of the seventh month, a sacrifice of expiation should be offered for the whole people. And because, as the Apostle says (Heb. 7:28), “the Law maketh men priests, who have infirmity,” it behooved the priest first of all to offer a calf for his own sins, in memory of Aaron’s sin in fashioning the molten calf; and besides, to offer a ram for a holocaust, which signified that the priestly sovereignty denoted by the ram, who is the head of the flock, was to be ordained to the glory of God. Then he offered two he-goats for the people: one of which was offered in expiation of the sins of the multitude. For the he-goat is an evil-smelling animal; and from its skin clothes are made having a pungent odor; to signify the stench, uncleanness and the sting of sin. After this he-goat had been immolated, its blood was taken, together with the blood of the calf, into the Holy of Holies, and the entire sanctuary was sprinkled with it; to signify that the tabernacle was cleansed from the uncleanness of the children of Israel. But the corpses of the he-goat and calf which had been offered up for sin had to be burnt, to denote the destruction of sins. They were not, however, burnt on the altar: since none but holocausts were burnt thereon; but it was prescribed that they should be burnt without the camp, in detestation of sin: for this was done whenever sacrifice was offered for a grievous sin, or for the multitude of sins. The other goat was let loose into the wilderness: not indeed to offer it to the demons, whom the Gentiles worshipped in desert places, because it was unlawful to offer aught to them; but in order to point out the effect of the sacrifice which had been offered up. Hence the priest put his hand on its head, while confessing the sins of the children of Israel: as though that goat were to carry them away into the wilderness, where it would be devoured by wild beasts, because it bore the punishment of the people’s sins. And it was said to bear the sins of the people, either because the forgiveness of the people’s sins was signified by its being let loose, or because on its head written lists of sins were fastened.
The figurative reason of these things was that Christ was foreshadowed both by the calf, on account of His power; and by the ram, because He is the Head of the faithful; and by the he-goat, on account of “the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rm. 8:3). Moreover, Christ was sacrificed for the sins of both priests and people: since both those of high and those of low degree are cleansed from sin by His Passion. The blood of the calf and of the goat was brought into the Holies by the priest, because the entrance to the kingdom of heaven was opened to us by the blood of Christ’s Passion. Their bodies were burnt without the camp, because “Christ suffered without the gate,” as the Apostle declares (Heb. 13:12). The scape-goat may denote either Christ’s Godhead Which went away into solitude when the Man Christ suffered, not by going to another place, but by restraining His power: or it may signify the base concupiscence which we ought to cast away from ourselves, while we offer up to Our Lord acts of virtue.
With regard to the uncleanness contracted by those who burnt these sacrifices, the reason is the same as that which we assigned (ad 5) to the sacrifice of the red heifer.
Reply to Objection 7. The legal rite did not cleanse the leper of his deformity, but declared him to be cleansed. This is shown by the words of Lev. 14:3, seqq., where it was said that the priest, “when he shall find that the leprosy is cleansed,” shall command “him that is to be purified”: consequently, the leper was already healed: but he was said to be purified in so far as the verdict of the priest restored him to the society of men and to the worship of God. It happened sometimes, however, that bodily leprosy was miraculously cured by the legal rite, when the priest erred in his judgment.
Now this purification of a leper was twofold: for, in the first place, he was declared to be clean; and, secondly, he was restored, as clean, to the society of men and to the worship of God, to wit, after seven days. At the first purification the leper who sought to be cleansed offered for himself “two living sparrows . . . cedar-wood, and scarlet, and hyssop,” in such wise that a sparrow and the hyssop should be tied to the cedar-wood with a scarlet thread, so that the cedar-wood was like the handle of an aspersory: while the hyssop and sparrow were that part of the aspersory which was dipped into the blood of the other sparrow which was “immolated . . . over living waters.” These things he offered as an antidote to the four defects of leprosy: for cedar-wood, which is not subject to putrefaction, was offered against the putrefaction; hyssop, which is a sweet-smelling herb, was offered up against the stench; a living sparrow was offered up against numbness; and scarlet, which has a vivid color, was offered up against the repulsive color of leprosy. The living sparrow was let loose to fly away into the plain, because the leper was restored to his former liberty.
On the eighth day he was admitted to divine worship, and was restored to the society of men; but only after having shaved all the hair of his body, and washed his clothes, because leprosy rots the hair, infects the clothes, and gives them an evil smell. Afterwards a sacrifice was offered for his sin, since leprosy was frequently a result of sin: and some of the blood of the sacrifice was put on the tip of the ear of the man that was to be cleansed, “and on the thumb of his right hand, and the great toe of his right foot”; because it is in these parts that leprosy is first diagnosed and felt. In this rite, moreover, three liquids were employed: viz. blood, against the corruption of the blood; oil, to denote the healing of the disease; and living waters, to wash away the filth.
The figurative reason was that the Divine and human natures in Christ were denoted by the two sparrows, one of which, in likeness of His human nature, was offered up in an earthen vessel over living waters, because the waters of Baptism are sanctified by Christ’s Passion. The other sparrow, in token of His impassible Godhead, remained living, because the Godhead cannot die: hence it flew away, for the Godhead could not be encompassed by the Passion. Now this living sparrow, together with the cedar-wood and scarlet or cochineal, and hyssop, i.e. faith, hope and charity, as stated above (ad 5), was put into the water for the purpose of sprinkling, because we are baptized in the faith of the God-Man. By the waters of Baptism or of his tears man washes his clothes, i.e. his works, and all his hair, i.e. his thoughts. The tip of the right ear of the man to be cleansed is moistened with some the blood and oil, in order to strengthen his hearing against harmful words; and the thumb and toe of his right hand and foot are moistened that his deeds may be holy. Other matters pertaining to this purification, or to that also of any other uncleannesses, call for no special remark, beyond what applies to other sacrifices, whether for sins or for trespasses.
Reply to Objections 8 and 9. Just as the people were initiated by circumcision to the divine worship, so were the ministers by some special purification or consecration: wherefore they are commanded to be separated from other men, as being specially deputed, rather than others, to the ministry of the divine worship. And all that was done touching them in their consecration or institution, was with a view to show that they were in possession of a prerogative of purity, power and dignity. Hence three things were done in the institution of ministers: for first, they were purified; secondly, they were adorned [‘Ornabantur.’ Some editions have ‘ordinabantur’–‘were ordained’: the former reading is a reference to Lev. 8:7-9 and consecrated; thirdly, they were employed in the ministry. All in general used to be purified by washing in water, and by certain sacrifices; but the Levites in particular shaved all the hair of their bodies, as stated in Lev. 8 (cf. Num. 8).
With regard to the high-priests and priests the consecration was performed as follows. First, when they had been washed, they were clothed with certain special garments in designation of their dignity. In particular, the high-priest was anointed on the head with the oil of unction: to denote that the power of consecration was poured forth by him on to others, just as oil flows from the head on to the lower parts of the body; according to Ps. 132:2: “Like the precious ointment on the head that ran down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron.” But the Levites received no other consecration besides being offered to the Lord by the children of Israel through the hands of the high-priest, who prayed for them. The lesser priests were consecrated on the hands only, which were to be employed in the sacrifices. The tip of their right ear and the thumb of their right hand, and the great toe of their right foot were tinged with the blood of the sacrificial animal, to denote that they should be obedient to God’s law in offering the sacrifices (this is denoted by touching their right ear); and that they should be careful and ready in performing the sacrifices (this is signified by the moistening of the right foot and hand). They themselves and their garments were sprinkled with the blood of the animal that had been sacrificed, in memory of the blood of the lamb by which they had been delivered in Egypt. At their consecration the following sacrifices were offered: a calf, for sin, in memory of Aaron’s sin in fashioning the molten calf; a ram, for a holocaust, in memory of the sacrifice of Abraham, whose obedience it behooved the high-priest to imitate; again, a ram of consecration, which was a peace-offering, in memory of the delivery form Egypt through the blood of the lamb; and a basket of bread, in memory of the manna vouchsafed to the people.
In reference to their being destined to the ministry, the fat of the ram, one roll of bread, and the right shoulder were placed on their hands, to show that they received the power of offering these things to the Lord: while the Levites were initiated to the ministry by being brought into the tabernacle of the covenant, as being destined to the ministry touching the vessels of the sanctuary.
The figurative reason of these things was that those who are to be consecrated to the spiritual ministry of Christ, should be first of all purified by the waters of Baptism, and by the waters of tears, in their faith in Christ’s Passion, which is a sacrifice both of expiation and of purification. They have also to shave all the hair of their body, i.e. all evil thoughts. They should, moreover, be decked with virtues, and be consecrated with the oil of the Holy Ghost, and with the sprinkling of Christ’s blood. And thus they should be intent on the fulfilment of their spiritual ministry.
Reply to Objection 10. As already stated (4), the purpose of the Law was to induce men to have reverence for the divine worship: and this in two ways; first, by excluding from the worship of God whatever might be an object of contempt; secondly, by introducing into the divine worship all that seemed to savor of reverence. And, indeed, if this was observed in regard to the tabernacle and its vessels, and in the animals to be sacrificed, much more was it to be observed in the very ministers. Wherefore, in order to obviate contempt for the ministers, it was prescribed that they should have no bodily stain or defect: since men so deformed are wont to be despised by others. For the same reason it was also commanded that the choice of those who were to be destined to the service of God was not to be made in a broadcast manner from any family, but according to their descent from one particular stock, thus giving them distinction and nobility.
In order that they might be revered, special ornate vestments were appointed for their use, and a special form of consecration. This indeed is the general reason of ornate garments. But the high-priest in particular had eight vestments. First, he had a linen tunic. Secondly, he had a purple tunic; round the bottom of which were placed “little bells” and “pomegranates of violet, and purple, and scarlet twice dyed.” Thirdly, he had the ephod, which covered his shoulders and his breast down to the girdle; and it was made of gold, and violet and purple, and scarlet twice dyed and twisted linen: and on his shoulders he bore two onyx stones, on which were graven the names of the children of Israel. Fourthly, he had the rational, made of the same material; it was square in shape, and was worn on the breast, and was fastened to the ephod. On this rational there were twelve precious stones set in four rows, on which also were graven the names of the children of Israel, in token that the priest bore the burden of the whole people, since he bore their names on his shoulders; and that it was his duty ever to think of their welfare, since he wore them on his breast, bearing them in his heart, so to speak. And the Lord commanded the “Doctrine and Truth” to be put in the rational: for certain matters regarding moral and dogmatic truth were written on it. The Jews indeed pretend that on the rational was placed a stone which changed color according to the various things which were about to happen to the children of Israel: and this they call the “Truth and Doctrine.” Fifthly, he wore a belt or girdle made of the four colors mentioned above. Sixthly, there was the tiara or mitre which was made of linen. Seventhly, there was the golden plate which hung over his forehead; on it was inscribed the Lord’s name. Eighthly, there were “the linen breeches to cover the flesh of their nakedness,” when they went up to the sanctuary or altar. Of these eight vestments the lesser priests had four, viz. the linen tunic and breeches, the belt and the tiara.
According to some, the literal reason for these vestments was that they denoted the disposition of the terrestrial globe; as though the high-priest confessed himself to be the minister of the Creator of the world, wherefore it is written (Wis. 18:24): “In the robe” of Aaron “was the whole world” described. For the linen breeches signified the earth out of which the flax grows. The surrounding belt signified the ocean which surrounds the earth. The violet tunic denoted the air by its color: its little bells betoken the thunder; the pomegranates, the lightning. The ephod, by its many colors, signified the starry heaven; the two onyx stones denoted the two hemispheres, or the sun and moon. The twelve precious stones on the breast are the twelve signs of the zodiac: and they are said to have been placed on the rational because in heaven, are the types [rationes] of earthly things, according to Job 38:33: “Dost thou know the order of heaven, and canst thou set down the reason [rationem] thereof on the earth?” The turban or tiara signified the empyrean: the golden plate was a token of God, the governor of the universe.
The figurative reason is evident. Because bodily stains or defects wherefrom the priests had to be immune, signify the various vices and sins from which they should be free. Thus it is forbidden that he should be blind, i.e. he ought not to be ignorant: he must not be lame, i.e. vacillating and uncertain of purpose: that he must have “a little, or a great, or a crooked nose,” i.e. that he should not, from lack of discretion, exceed in one direction or in another, or even exercise some base occupation: for the nose signifies discretion, because it discerns odors. It is forbidden that he should have “a broken foot” or “hand,” i.e. he should not lose the power of doing good works or of advancing in virtue. He is rejected, too, if he have a swelling either in front or behind [Vulg.: ‘if he be crook-backed’]: by which is signified too much love of earthly things: if he be blear-eyed, i.e. if his mind is darkened by carnal affections: for running of the eyes is caused by a flow of matter. He is also rejected if he had “a pearl in his eye,” i.e. if he presumes in his own estimation that he is clothed in the white robe of righteousness. Again, he is rejected “if he have a continued scab,” i.e. lustfulness of the flesh: also, if he have “a dry scurf,” which covers the body without giving pain, and is a blemish on the comeliness of the members; which denotes avarice. Lastly, he is rejected “if he have a rupture” or hernia; through baseness rending his heart, though it appear not in his deeds.
The vestments denote the virtues of God’s ministers. Now there are four things that are necessary to all His ministers, viz. chastity denoted by the breeches; a pure life, signified by the linen tunic; the moderation of discretion, betokened by the girdle; and rectitude of purpose, denoted by the mitre covering the head. But the high-priests needed four other things in addition to these. First, a continual recollection of God in their thoughts; and this was signified by the golden plate worn over the forehead, with the name of God engraved thereon. Secondly, they had to bear with the shortcomings of the people: this was denoted by the ephod which they bore on their shoulders. Thirdly, they had to carry the people in their mind and heart by the solicitude of charity, in token of which they wore the rational. Fourthly, they had to lead a godly life by performing works of perfection; and this was signified by the violet tunic. Hence little golden bells were fixed to the bottom of the violet tunic, which bells signified the teaching of divine things united in the high-priest to his godly mode of life. In addition to these were the pomegranates, signifying unity of faith and concord in good morals: because his doctrine should hold together in such a way that it should not rend asunder the unity of faith and peace.
Whether there was any reasonable cause for the ceremonial observances?
Objection 1. It would seem that there was no reasonable cause for the ceremonial observances. Because, as the Apostle says (1 Tim. 4:4), “every creature of God is good, and nothing to be rejected that is received with thanksgiving.” It was therefore unfitting that they should be forbidden to eat certain foods, as being unclean according to Lev. 11 [Cf. Dt. 14.]
Objection 2. Further, just as animals are given to man for food, so also are herbs: wherefore it is written (Gn. 9:3): “As the green herbs have I delivered all” flesh “to you.” But the Law did not distinguish any herbs from the rest as being unclean, although some are most harmful, for instance, those that are poisonous. Therefore it seems that neither should any animals have been prohibited as being unclean.
Objection 3. Further, if the matter from which a thing is generated be unclean, it seems that likewise the thing generated therefrom is unclean. But flesh is generated from blood. Since therefore all flesh was not prohibited as unclean, it seems that in like manner neither should blood have been forbidden as unclean; nor the fat which is engendered from blood.
Objection 4. Further, Our Lord said (Mt. 10:28; cf. Lk. 12:4), that those should not be feared “that kill the body,” since after death they “have no more that they can do”: which would not be true if after death harm might come to man through anything done with his body. Much less therefore does it matter to an animal already dead how its flesh be cooked. Consequently there seems to be no reason in what is said, Ex. 23:19: “Thou shalt not boil a kid in the milk of its dam.”
Objection 5. Further, all that is first brought forth of man and beast, as being most perfect, is commanded to be offered to the Lord (Ex. 13). Therefore it is an unfitting command that is set forth in Lev. 19:23: “when you shall be come into the land, and shall have planted in it fruit trees, you shall take away the uncircumcision [‘Praeputia,’ which Douay version renders ‘first fruits’] of them,” i.e. the first crops, and they “shall be unclean to you, neither shall you eat of them.”
Objection 6. Further, clothing is something extraneous to man’s body. Therefore certain kinds of garments should not have been forbidden to the Jews: for instance (Lev. 19:19): “Thou shalt not wear a garment that is woven of two sorts”: and (Dt. 22:5): “A woman shall not be clothed with man’s apparel, neither shall a man use woman’s apparel”: and further on (Dt. 22:11): “Thou shalt not wear a garment that is woven of woolen and linen together.”
Objection 7. Further, to be mindful of God’s commandments concerns not the body but the heart. Therefore it is unsuitably prescribed (Dt. 6:8, seqq.) that they should “bind” the commandments of God “as a sign” on their hands; and that they should “write them in the entry”; and (Num. 15:38, seqq.) that they should “make to themselves fringes in the corners of their garments, putting in them ribands of blue . . . they may remember . . . the commandments of the Lord.”
Objection 8. Further, the Apostle says (1 Cor. 9:9) that God does not “take care for oxen,” and, therefore, neither of other irrational animals. Therefore without reason is it commanded (Dt. 22:6): “If thou find, as thou walkest by the way, a bird’s nest in a tree . . . thou shalt not take the dam with her young”; and (Dt. 25:4): “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out thy corn”; and (Lev. 19:19): “Thou shalt not make thy cattle to gender with beasts of any other kind.”
Objection 9. Further, no distinction was made between clean and unclean plants. Much less therefore should any distinction have been made about the cultivation of plants. Therefore it was unfittingly prescribed (Lev. 19:19): “Thou shalt not sow thy field with different seeds”; and (Dt. 22:9, seqq.): “Thou shalt sow thy vineyard with divers seeds”; and: “Thou shalt not plough with an ox and an ass together.”
Objection 10. Further, it is apparent that inanimate things are most of all subject to the power of man. Therefore it was unfitting to debar man from taking silver and gold of which idols were made, or anything they found in the houses of idols, as expressed in the commandment of the Law (Dt. 7:25, seqq.). It also seems an absurd commandment set forth in Dt. 23:13, that they should “dig round about and . . . cover with earth that which they were eased of.”
Objection 11. Further, piety is required especially in priests. But it seems to be an act of piety to assist at the burial of one’s friends: wherefore Tobias is commended for so doing (Tob. 1:20, seqq.). In like manner it is sometimes an act of piety to marry a loose woman, because she is thereby delivered from sin and infamy. Therefore it seems inconsistent for these things to be forbidden to priests (Lev. 21).
On the contrary, It is written (Dt. 18:14): “But thou art otherwise instructed by the Lord thy God”: from which words we may gather that these observances were instituted by God to be a special prerogative of that people. Therefore they are not without reason or cause.
I answer that, The Jewish people, as stated above (5), were specially chosen for the worship of God, and among them the priests themselves were specially set apart for that purpose. And just as other things that are applied to the divine worship, need to be marked in some particular way so that they be worthy of the worship of God; so too in that people’s, and especially the priests’, mode of life, there needed to be certain special things befitting the divine worship, whether spiritual or corporal. Now the worship prescribed by the Law foreshadowed the mystery of Christ: so that whatever they did was a figure of things pertaining to Christ, according to 1 Cor. 10:11: “All these things happened to them in figures.” Consequently the reasons for these observances may be taken in two ways, first according to their fittingness to the worship of God; secondly, according as they foreshadow something touching the Christian mode of life.
Reply to Objection 1. As stated above (5, ad 4,5), the Law distinguished a twofold pollution or uncleanness; one, that of sin, whereby the soul was defiled; and another consisting in some kind of corruption, whereby the body was in some way infected. Speaking then of the first-mentioned uncleanness, no kind of food is unclean, or can defile a man, by reason of its nature; wherefore we read (Mt. 15:11): “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but what cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man”: which words are explained (Mt. 15:17) as referring to sins. Yet certain foods can defile the soul accidentally; in so far as man partakes of them against obedience or a vow, or from excessive concupiscence; or through their being an incentive to lust, for which reason some refrain from wine and flesh-meat.
If, however, we speak of bodily uncleanness, consisting in some kind of corruption, the flesh of certain animals is unclean, either because like the pig they feed on unclean things; or because their life is among unclean surroundings: thus certain animals, like moles and mice and such like, live underground, whence they contract a certain unpleasant smell; or because their flesh, through being too moist or too dry, engenders corrupt humors in the human body. Hence they were forbidden to eat the flesh of flat-footed animals, i.e. animals having an uncloven hoof, on account of their earthiness; and in like manner they were forbidden to eat the flesh of animals that have many clefts in their feet, because such are very fierce and their flesh is very dry, such as the flesh of lions and the like. For the same reason they were forbidden to eat certain birds of prey the flesh of which is very dry, and certain water-fowl on account of their exceeding humidity. In like manner certain fish lacking fins and scales were prohibited on account of their excessive moisture; such as eels and the like. They were, however, allowed to eat ruminants and animals with a divided hoof, because in such animals the humors are well absorbed, and their nature well balanced: for neither are they too moist, as is indicated by the hoof; nor are they too earthly, which is shown by their having not a flat but a cloven hoof. Of fishes they were allowed to partake of the drier kinds, of which the fins and scales are an indication, because thereby the
moist nature of the fish is tempered. Of birds they were allowed to eat the tamer kinds, such as hens, partridges, and the like. Another reason was detestation of idolatry: because the Gentiles, and especially the Egyptians, among whom they had grown up, offered up these forbidden animals to their idols, or employed them for the purpose of sorcery: whereas they did not eat those animals which the Jews were allowed to eat, but worshipped them as gods, or abstained, for some other motive, from eating them, as stated above (3, ad 2). The third reason was to prevent excessive care about food: wherefore they were allowed to eat those animals which could be procured easily and promptly.
With regard to blood and fat, they were forbidden to partake of those of any animals whatever without exception. Blood was forbidden, both in order to avoid cruelty, that they might abhor the shedding of human blood, as stated above (3, ad 8); and in order to shun idolatrous rite whereby it was customary for men to collect the blood and to gather together around it for a banquet in honor of the idols, to whom they held the blood to be most acceptable. Hence the Lord commanded the blood to be poured out and to be covered with earth (Lev. 17:13). For the same reason they were forbidden to eat animals that had been suffocated or strangled: because the blood of these animals would not be separated from the body: or because this form of death is very painful to the victim; and the Lord wished to withdraw them from cruelty even in regard to irrational animals, so as to be less inclined to be cruel to other men, through being used to be kind to beasts. They were forbidden to eat the fat: both because idolaters ate it in honor of their gods; and because it used to be burnt in honor of God; and, again, because blood and fat are not nutritious, which is the cause assigned by Rabbi Moses (Doct. Perplex. iii). The reason why they were forbidden to eat the sinews is given in Gn. 32:32, where it is stated that “the children of Israel . . . eat not the sinew . . . because he touched the sinew of” Jacob’s “thing and it shrank.”
The figurative reason for these things is that all these animals signified certain sins, in token of which those animals were prohibited. Hence Augustine says (Contra Faustum iv, 7): “If the swine and lamb be called in question, both are clean by nature, because all God’s creatures are good: yet the lamb is clean, and the pig is unclean in a certain signification. Thus if you speak of a foolish, and of a wise man, each of these expressions is clean considered in the nature of the sound, letters and syllables of which it is composed: but in signification, the one is clean, the other unclean.” The animal that chews the cud and has a divided hoof, is clean in signification. Because division of the hoof is a figure of the two Testaments: or of the Father and Son: or of the two natures in Christ: of the distinction of good and evil. While chewing the cud signifies meditation on the Scriptures and a sound understanding thereof; and whoever lacks either of these is spiritually unclean. In like manner those fish that have scales and fins are clean in signification. Because fins signify the heavenly or contemplative life; while scales signify a life of trials, each of which is required for spiritual cleanness. Of birds certain kinds were forbidden. In the eagle which flies at a great height, pride is forbidden: in the griffon which is hostile to horses and men, cruelty of powerful men is prohibited. The osprey, which feeds on very small birds, signifies those who oppress the poor. The kite, which is full of cunning, denotes those who are fraudulent in their dealings. The vulture, which follows an army, expecting to feed on the carcases of the slain, signifies those who like others to die or to fight among themselves that they may gain thereby. Birds of the raven kind signify those who are blackened by their lusts; or those who lack kindly feelings, for the raven did not return when once it had been let loose from the ark. The ostrich which, though a bird, cannot fly, and is always on the ground, signifies those who fight God’s cause, and at the same time are taken up with worldly business. The owl, which sees clearly at night, but cannot see in the daytime, denotes those who are clever in temporal affairs, but dull in spiritual matters. The gull, which flies both in the air and swims in the water, signifies those who are partial both to Circumcision and to Baptism: or else it denotes those who would fly by contemplation, yet dwell in the waters of sensual delights. The hawk, which helps men to seize the prey, is a figure of those who assist the strong to prey on the poor. The screech-owl, which seeks its food by night but hides by day, signifies the lustful man who seeks to lie hidden in his deeds of darkness. The cormorant, so constituted that it can stay a long time under water, denotes the glutton who plunges into the waters of pleasure. The ibis is an African bird with a long beak, and feeds on snakes; and perhaps it is the same as the stork: it signifies the envious man, who refreshes himself with the ills of others, as with snakes. The swan is bright in color, and by the aid of its long neck extracts its food from deep places on land or water: it may denote those who seek earthly profit though an external brightness of virtue. The bittern is a bird of the East: it has a long beak, and its jaws are furnished with follicules, wherein it stores its food at first, after a time proceeding to digest it: it is a figure of the miser, who is excessively careful in hoarding up the necessaries of life. The coot [Douay: ‘porphyrion.’ St. Thomas’ description tallies with the coot or moorhen: though of course he is mistaken about the feet differing from one another.] has this peculiarity apart from other birds, that it has a webbed foot for swimming, and a cloven foot for walking: for it swims like a duck in the water, and walks like a partridge on land: it drinks only when it bites, since it dips all its food in water: it is a figure of a man who will not take advice, and does nothing but what is soaked in the water of his own will. The heron [Vulg.: ‘herodionem’], commonly called a falcon, signifies those whose “feet are swift to shed blood” (Ps. 13:3). The plover [Here, again, the Douay translators transcribed from the Vulgate: ‘charadrion’; ‘charadrius’ is the generic name for all plovers.], which is a garrulous bird, signifies the gossip. The hoopoe, which builds its nest on dung, feeds on foetid ordure, and whose song is like a groan, denotes worldly grief which works death in those who are unclean. The bat, which flies near the ground, signifies those who being gifted with worldly knowledge, seek none but earthly things. Of fowls and quadrupeds those alone were permitted which have the hind-legs longer than the forelegs, so that they can leap: whereas those were forbidden which cling rather to the earth: because those who abuse the doctrine of the four Evangelists, so that they are not lifted up thereby, are reputed unclean. By the prohibition of blood, fat and nerves, we are to understand the forbidding of cruelty, lust, and bravery in committing sin.
Reply to Objection 2. Men were wont to eat plants and other products of the soil even before the deluge: but the eating of flesh seems to have been introduced after the deluge; for it is written (Gn. 9:3): “Even as the green herbs have I delivered . . . all” flesh “to you.” The reason for this was that the eating of the products of the soil savors rather of a simple life; whereas the eating of flesh savors of delicate and over-careful living. For the soil gives birth to the herb of its own accord; and such like products of the earth may be had in great quantities with very little effort: whereas no small trouble is necessary either to rear or to catch an animal. Consequently God being wishful to bring His people back to a more simple way of living, forbade them to eat many kinds of animals, but not those things that are produced by the soil. Another reason may be that animals were offered to idols, while the products of the soil were not.
The Reply to the Third Objection is clear from what has been said (ad 1).
Reply to Objection 4. Although the kid that is slain has no perception of the manner in which its flesh is cooked, yet it would seem to savor of heartlessness if the dam’s milk, which was intended for the nourishment of her offspring, were served up on the same dish. It might also be said that the Gentiles in celebrating the feasts of their idols prepared the flesh of kids in this manner, for the purpose of sacrifice or banquet: hence (Ex. 23) after the solemnities to be celebrated under the Law had been foretold, it is added: “Thou shalt not boil a kid in the milk of its dam.” The figurative reason for this prohibition is this: the kid, signifying Christ, on account of “the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rm. 8:3), was not to be seethed, i.e. slain, by the Jews, “in the milk of its dam,” i.e. during His infancy. Or else it signifies that the kid, i.e. the sinner, should not be boiled in the milk of its dam, i.e. should not be cajoled by flattery.
Reply to Objection 5. The Gentiles offered their gods the first-fruits, which they held to bring them good luck: or they burnt them for the purpose of secrecy. Consequently (the Israelites) were commanded to look upon the fruits of the first three years as unclean: for in that country nearly all the trees bear fruit in three years’ time; those trees, to wit, that are cultivated either from seed, or from a graft, or from a cutting: but it seldom happens that the fruit-stones or seeds encased in a pod are sown: since it would take a longer time for these to bear fruit: and the Law considered what happened most frequently. The fruits, however, of the fourth year, as being the firstlings of clean fruits, were offered to God: and from the fifth year onward they were eaten.
The figurative reason was that this foreshadowed the fact that after the three states of the Law (the first lasting from Abraham to David, the second, until they were carried away to Babylon, the third until the time of Christ), the Fruit of the Law, i.e. Christ, was to be offered to God. Or again, that we must mistrust our first efforts, on account of their imperfection.
Reply to Objection 6. It is said of a man in Sirach 19:27, that “the attire of the body . . . ” shows “what he is.” Hence the Lord wished His people to be distinguished from other nations, not only by the sign of the circumcision, which was in the flesh, but also by a certain difference of attire. Wherefore they were forbidden to wear garments woven of woolen and linen together, and for a woman to be clothed with man’s apparel, or vice versa, for two reasons. First, to avoid idolatrous worship. Because the Gentiles, in their religious rites, used garments of this sort, made of various materials. Moreover in the worship of Mars, women put on men’s armor; while, conversely, in the worship of Venus men donned women’s attire. The second reason was to preserve them from lust: because the employment of various materials in the making of garments signified inordinate union of sexes, while the use of male attire by a woman, or vice versa, has an incentive to evil desires, and offers an occasion of lust. The figurative reason is that the prohibition of wearing a garment woven of woolen and linen signified that it was forbidden to unite the simplicity of innocence, denoted by wool, with the duplicity of malice, betokened by linen. It also signifies that woman is forbidden to presume to teach, or perform other duties of men: or that man should not adopt the effeminate manners of a woman.
Reply to Objection 7. As Jerome says on Mt. 23:6, “the Lord commanded them to make violet-colored fringes in the four corners of their garments, so that the Israelites might be distinguished from other nations.” Hence, in this way, they professed to be Jews: and consequently the very sight of this sign reminded them of their law.
When we read: “Thou shalt bind them on thy hand, and they shall be ever before thy eyes [Vulg.: ‘they shall be and shall move between thy eyes’], the Pharisees gave a false interpretation to these words, and wrote the decalogue of Moses on a parchment, and tied it on their foreheads like a wreath, so that it moved in front of their eyes”: whereas the intention of the Lord in giving this commandment was that they should be bound in their hands, i.e. in their works; and that they should be before their eyes, i.e. in their thoughts. The violet-colored fillets which were inserted in their cloaks signify the godly intention which should accompany our every deed. It may, however, be said that, because they were a carnal-minded and stiff-necked people, it was necessary for them to be stirred by these sensible things to the observance of the Law.
Reply to Objection 8. Affection in man is twofold: it may be an affection of reason, or it may be an affection of passion. If a man’s affection be one of reason, it matters not how man behaves to animals, because God has subjected all things to man’s power, according to Ps. 8:8: “Thou hast subjected all things under his feet”: and it is in this sense that the Apostle says that “God has no care for oxen”; because God does not ask of man what he does with oxen or other animals.
But if man’s affection be one of passion, then it is moved also in regard to other animals: for since the passion of pity is caused by the afflictions of others; and since it happens that even irrational animals are sensible to pain, it is possible for the affection of pity to arise in a man with regard to the sufferings of animals. Now it is evident that if a man practice a pitiful affection for animals, he is all the more disposed to take pity on his fellow-men: wherefore it is written (Prov. 11:10): “The just regardeth the lives of his beasts: but the bowels of the wicked are cruel.” Consequently the Lord, in order to inculcate pity to the Jewish people, who were prone to cruelty, wished them to practice pity even with regard to dumb animals, and forbade them to do certain things savoring of cruelty to animals. Hence He prohibited them to “boil a kid in the milk of its dam”; and to “muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn”; and to slay “the dam with her young.” It may, nevertheless, be also said that these prohibitions were made in hatred of idolatry. For the Egyptians held it to be wicked to allow the ox to eat of the grain while threshing the corn. Moreover certain sorcerers were wont to ensnare the mother bird with her young during incubation, and to employ them for the purpose of securing fruitfulness and good luck in bringing up children: also because it was held to be a good omen to find the mother sitting on her young.
As to the mingling of animals of divers species, the literal reason may have been threefold. The first was to show detestation for the idolatry of the Egyptians, who employed various mixtures in worshipping the planets, which produce various effects, and on various kinds of things according to their various conjunctions. The second reason was in condemnation of unnatural sins. The third reason was the entire removal of all occasions of concupiscence. Because animals of different species do not easily breed, unless this be brought about by man; and movements of lust are aroused by seeing such things. Wherefore in the Jewish traditions we find it prescribed as stated by Rabbi Moses that men shall turn away their eyes from such sights.
The figurative reason for these things is that the necessities of life should not be withdrawn from the ox that treadeth the corn, i.e. from the preacher bearing the sheaves of doctrine, as the Apostle states (1 Cor. 9:4, seqq.). Again, we should not take the dam with her young: because in certain things we have to keep the spiritual senses, i.e. the offspring, and set aside the observance of the letter, i.e. the mother, for instance, in all the ceremonies of the Law. It is also forbidden that beast of burden, i.e. any of the common people, should be allowed to engender, i.e. to have any connection, with animals of another kind, i.e. with Gentiles or Jews.
Reply to Objection 9. All these minglings were forbidden in agriculture; literally, in detestation of idolatry. For the Egyptians in worshipping the stars employed various combinations of seeds, animals and garments, in order to represent the various connections of the stars. Or else all these minglings were forbidden in detestation of the unnatural vice.
They have, however, a figurative reason. For the prohibition: “Thou shalt not sow thy field with different seeds,” is to be understood, in the spiritual sense, of the prohibition to sow strange doctrine in the Church, which is a spiritual vineyard. Likewise “the field,” i.e. the Church, must not be sown “with different seeds,” i.e. with Catholic and heretical doctrines. Neither is it allowed to plough “with an ox and an ass together”; thus a fool should not accompany a wise man in preaching, for one would hinder the other.
Reply to Objection 10. [The Reply to the Tenth Objection is lacking in the codices. The solution given here is found in some editions, and was supplied by Nicolai.] Silver and gold were reasonably forbidden (Dt. 7) not as though they were not subject to the power of man, but because, like the idols themselves, all materials out of which idols were made, were anathematized as hateful in God’s sight. This is clear from the same chapter, where we read further on (Dt. 7:26): “Neither shalt thou bring anything of the idol into thy house, lest thou become an anathema like it.” Another reason was lest, by taking silver and gold, they should be led by avarice into idolatry to which the Jews were inclined. The other precept (Dt. 23) about covering up excretions, was just and becoming, both for the sake of bodily cleanliness; and in order to keep the air wholesome; and by reason of the respect due to the tabernacle of the covenant which stood in the midst of the camp, wherein the Lord was said to dwell; as is clearly set forth in the same passage, where after expressing the command, the reason thereof is at once added, to wit: “For the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thy enemies to thee, and let thy camp be holy [i.e. clean], and let no uncleanness appear therein.” The figurative reason for this precept, according to Gregory (Moral. xxxi), is that sins which are the fetid excretions of the mind should be covered over by repentance, that we may become acceptable to God, according to Ps. 31:1: “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.” Or else according to a gloss, that we should recognize the unhappy condition of human nature, and humbly cover and purify the stains of a puffed-up and proud spirit in the deep furrow of self-examination.
Reply to Objection 11. Sorcerers and idolatrous priests made use, in their rites, of the bones and flesh of dead men. Wherefore, in order to extirpate the customs of idolatrous worship, the Lord commanded that the priests of inferior degree, who at fixed times served in the temple, should not “incur an uncleanness at the death” of anyone except of those who were closely related to them, viz. their father or mother, and others thus near of kin to them. But the high-priest had always to be ready for the service of the sanctuary; wherefore he was absolutely forbidden to approach the dead, however nearly related to him. They were also forbidden to marry a “harlot” or “one that has been put away,” or any other than a virgin: both on account of the reverence due to the priesthood, the honor of which would seem to be tarnished by such a marriage: and for the sake of the children who would be disgraced by the mother’s shame: which was most of all to be avoided when the priestly dignity was passed on from father to son. Again, they were commanded to shave neither head nor beard, and not to make incisions in their flesh, in order to exclude the rites of idolatry. For the priests of the Gentiles shaved both head and beard, wherefore it is written (Bar 6:30): “Priests sit in their temples having their garments rent, and their heads and beards shaven.” Moreover, in worshipping their idols “they cut themselves with knives and lancets” (3 Kgs. 18:28). For this reason the priests of the Old Law were commanded to do the contrary.
The spiritual reason for these things is that priests should be entirely free from dead works, i.e. sins. And they should not shave their heads, i.e. set wisdom aside; nor should they shave their beards, i.e. set aside the perfection of wisdom; nor rend their garments or cut their flesh, i.e. they should not incur the sin of schism.