God and Natural Law: Reflections on Genesis 22

  • Matthew LeveringEmail author
Part of the Ius Gentium: Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice book series (IUSGENT, volume 22)


Genesis 22 is of interest for natural law doctrine because God’s command that Abraham sacrifice his son Isaac appears to be a divine violation of natural law. Various thinkers, including Immanuel Kant and John Thiel, have recognized the difficulty here. This essay focuses in particular on the approaches to this problem offered by Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus. For Scotus, Genesis 22 and similar biblical texts show that the Decalogue is changeable as regards the human-to-human laws. On this view, only the human-to-God laws are unchangeable. By detaching the human-to-human laws from the human-to-God laws, however, this position establishes the conditions for the autonomy of the human-to-human laws and undermines their status as real natural law. Thomas Aquinas’s approach is preferable: he argues that the natural law is unchangeable, but that as the lawgiver, God can accomplish its ends directly. This essay shows how developments in natural law doctrine are related to the interpretation of Scripture.


Innocent Victim Divine Command Corporeal Life Secondary Principle Biblical Passage 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of TheologyUniversity of DaytonDaytonUSA

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