Thomas Aquinas and Irenaeus on the Divine and Natural Law

Randall B. Smith



Thomas’s account of the natural law owes a large debt to Aristotle and other early Greek philosophers back to Heraclitus. This debt has long been known and discussed. Largely unrecognized, however, are the crucial influences of the early Greek Fathers of the Church who mediated this classical philosophical heritage to the Christian world. They were the first to set out the relationship between the natural law, the Old Law, and grace which would have a decisive influence on Aquinas’s famous “treatise on law” in the Summa of Theology. In this paper, I analyze Thomas’s mature work on the natural law in STh I–II, qq. 90–108 and show how the roots of this view can be traced to the earliest Church, especially in the writings of the second century bishop and martyr, St. Irenaeus of Lyons. Of special interest is how Irenaeus transformed the Greek-Aristotelian notion of physis and “natural law” within the context of his discussion of the goodness of creation and the Mosaic Law, contrary to the popular Gnostic views of his day.

Słowa kluczowe

Thomas Aquinas; Ireneaus; natural law; divine law; Mosaic Law; Old Law; Adversus Haereses

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ISSN (online) 2450-7059

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