Sacred Scripture and law according to Villey: “Man, who made Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (Luke 12, 14)


  • Micael Martins Teixeira FCT Scholarship, CEDIS (Research Center on Law and Society), Nova Law School, Universidade Nova de Lisboa



Michel Villey, Sacred scripture, law, virtue, human reason


One of the most interesting aspects of Villey’s work is the quest to find the proper scope of application of the Gospel message vis-à-vis the legal order. The Gospel is directed at the internal dispositions on men, given that Jesus’ commands are not translatable into concrete written commands but are rather only grasped by the command of love of God and of neighbor as oneself. This is the “fulfillment of the law” proclaimed by Christ and dependent on God’s grace (Holy Ghost), manifested in the theological virtues. Yet, the need to establish order in any society, accomplished by stating rights and duties between man and neighbor, implies the proclamation of such statements. These exist in the Old Testament but not in the New: “judicialia praecepta (…) sunt evacuata per adventum Christi” (ST, I, II, 104, 3, co.). Moreover, formulating rights and duties, moral and legal, is a matter of properly exercising the cardinal virtues, common to all men — as they are based in natural human reasoning —, regardless of the fact that they are the recipients of God’s grace. As such, these matters are left to human judgement and cannot be based on the Gospel: “non cadunt sub praecepto novae legis sed relinquuntur humano arbitrio” (ST, I, II, 108, 2, co.). This understanding has a clear gospel basis, specially in Christ’s answer to the man who asked Him to order his brother to divide the inheritance: “Man, who made Me a judge or arbitrator over you?”.