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We must now consider the causes of the ceremonial precepts: under which
head there are six points of inquiry:
(1) Whether there was any cause for the ceremonial precepts?
(2) Whether the cause of the ceremonial precepts was literal or
(3) The causes of the sacrifices;
(4) The causes of the sacrifices;
(5) The causes of the sacred things;
(6) The causes of the observances.
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Question: 102 [<< | >>]
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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
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
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.
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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
Objection 2: Further, an effect is proportionate to its cause. But all the
ceremonial precepts are figurative, as stated above (Question , Article ).
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 (Article ), 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 (Question , Articles ,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.
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Question: 102 [<< | >>]
Article: 3 [<< | >>]
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
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
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 1:: 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 1:: 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 1:: 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 1:: 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 1:: 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 (Ecclus. 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 (Article ), 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
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
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
Reply to Objection 1:: 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 1:: Sins are more grievous by reason of the state of the
sinner, as stated above (Question , Article ): 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 1:: 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 1:: 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 1:: 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).
Index [<< | >>]
First Part of the Second Part [<< | >>]
Question: 102 [<< | >>]
Article: 4 [<< | >>]
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
Objection 1:: 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
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 (Article ; Question , Article ; 2, Article ), 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
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
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
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
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
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 1:: 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
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.
Index [<< | >>]
First Part of the Second Part [<< | >>]
Question: 102 [<< | >>]
Article: 5 [<< | >>]
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 (Ecclus. 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 1:: 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
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 (Question , Article ), 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
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
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
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 uncleanness 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
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 Objection 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
Reply to Objection 1:: As already stated (Article ), 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
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.
Index [<< | >>]
First Part of the Second Part [<< | >>]
Question: 102 [<< | >>]
Article: 6 [<< | >>]
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
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
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 1:: 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 1:: 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 (Article ), 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 (Article , 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
(Article , 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 (Article , 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
Reply to Objection 6: It is said of a man in Ecclus. 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 1:: [*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 1:: 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.