Did the Divine Law exist before Moses? This a great question from a reader named John David.
Just to clarify, Saint Thomas Aquinas describes five species of law:
- Eternal law
- Natural law
- Human law (for example, stop your car at a red light)
- Divine law (subdivided as Old Law and New Law or Old Testament and New Testament)
- Law of sin (concupiscence, the tendency in us toward sin)
Usually, we speak of the Old Law coming through Moses. Thus, John David’s question is a good one.
Was there Divine Law before Moses?
Yes, Divine Law existed before Moses. Namely, the Adamic covenant, the Noahic covenant, and the Abrahamic covenant.
[You may want to read this article: Do you know the covenants of the Bible? (and How Christ fulfills the Covenants to freshen up on this topic.]
Divine law is any time God breaks into history and gives commands or instructions. He did this with Adam and Eve, Noah, and Abraham. So divine law was around before Moses.
For example, the divine decree to circumcise males on the eighth day was part of divine law (Abrahamic).
St Thomas Aquinas, however, notes that the divine law prior to Christ (Old Law) was more like “heightened natural law” clarified for sinners.
Only the New Law is inward and transformative because the New Law includes the Holy Spirit in our souls.
St Paul also teaches that the Divine Law of the Old Law was shadowy and mediated by angels – thus inferior. In Christ is the fulness.
Question: A blog post for another time is why would God reveal inferior law at all. Why not give the gold from the beginning? Why not have Christ come right away? You can leave a comment by clicking here.