Depends morality on God 1

Preface

introduction

0.1. A world that seeks answers
0.2. Our goals
0.3. Basic lines for understanding the orientation of the document

0.3.1. The key phrase: "revealed morality"
0.3.2. The unity of the two wills

0.4. The addressees of the document

FIRST PART - AN REVEALED MORAL: DIVINE GIFT AND HUMAN ANSWER

1. The gift of creation and its importance for morality

1.1. The gift of creation

1.1.1. At the beginning of the book of Genesis
1.1.2. In some psalms
1.1.3. Basic data of human existence

1.2. Man made in the image of God and his moral responsibility

1.2.1. In the creation stories
1.2.2. In the psalms
1.2.3. Conclusion: in the footsteps of Jesus

2. The gift of the covenant in the Old Testament and the norms for human action

2.1. The progressive perception of the federal government (historical approach)

2.1.1. A first and fundamental experience: a common path to freedom
2.1.2. A first intuition and theological interpretation
2.1.3. A basic theological term that expresses intuition: the covenant

2.2. The various expressions of the covenant (canonical approach)

2.2.1. The covenant with Noah and with "all flesh"
2.2.2. The Abrahamic covenant
2.2.3. The covenant with Moses and the people of Israel

2.2.3.1. The Decalogue
2.2.3.2. The collections of laws
2.2.3.3. The moral instruction of the prophets

2.2.4. The covenant with David
2.2.5. The "new covenant" according to Jeremiah
2.2.6. The moral teaching in the wisdom writings

3. The new covenant in Jesus Christ as the last gift of God and its consequence for morality

3.1. The Coming of the Kingdom of God and its Consequences for Morality

3.1.1. The kingdom of God: main theme of the proclamation of Jesus to the synoptics
3.1.2. The proclamation of the kingdom of God and its consequences for morality

3.2. The gift of the son and its consequences for morality according to John

3.2.1. The gift of the son, an expression of the father's salutary love
3.2.2. The Son's Behavior and Its Consequences for Morality


3.3. The gift of the son and its consequences for morality according to the Pauline and other letters

3.3.1. The gift of God according to Paul
3.3.2. The moral instruction of Paul
3.3.3. Following Christ according to the letters of James and Peter

3.4. The new covenant and its moral consequences according to the letter to the Hebrews

3.4.1. Christ as Mediator of the New Covenant
3.4.2. What the New Covenant Gift Requires

3.5. Covenant and commitment of Christians: the view of the Revelation of John

3.5.1. A bond in history
3.5.2. The Christian Commitment

3.6 The Eucharist as the epitome of the New Covenant

3.6.1. The gift of the Eucharist
3.6.2. The consequences of the Eucharist for the community

4. From gift to forgiveness

4.1. The forgiveness of God according to the Old Testament
4.2. The forgiveness of God according to the New Testament

5. The eschatological perfection as the horizon of moral action

5.1 The completed kingdom and God all in all: Paul's message
5.2. The goal according to Revelation: mutual intimacy with Christ and with God
5.3. graduation

 

PART TWO - SOME BIBLICAL CRITERIA FOR MORAL REFLECTION

introduction

1. Fundamental criteria

1.1 First fundamental criterion: conformity with the biblical understanding of man

1.1.1. Explanation of the criterion
1.1.2. Biblical dates
1.1.3. Orientations for today

1.2. Second fundamental criterion: agreement with the example of Jesus

1.2.1. Explanation of the criterion
1.2.2. Biblical dates
1.2.3. Orientations for today

1.3. Conclusion on the basic criteria

2. Special criteria

2.1. First special criterion: conformity

2.1.1. Biblical dates
2.1.2. Orientations for today

2.2. Second special criterion: opposition

2.2.1. Biblical dates
2.2.2. Orientations for today

2.3. Third special criterion: increase

2.3.1. Biblical dates
2.3.2. Orientations for today

2.4. Fourth special criterion: the community dimension

2.4.1. Biblical dates
2.4.2. Orientations for today

2.5. Fifth special criterion: finality

2.5.1. Biblical dates
2.5.2. Orientations for today

2.6. Sixth special criterion: distinction

2.6.1. Biblical dates
2.6.2. Orientations for today

 

ENOUGH

1. Original elements
2. Prospects for the future


[1] Translation from the Italian by P. Klemens Stock S.J.

 


PONTIFICAL BIBLE COMMISSION

 

BIBLE AND MORAL

BIBLICAL ROOTS OF CHRISTIAN ACTING

  

 

Exodus 20: 2-17

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the slave house. You shall have no other gods besides me. You shall not make yourself an image of God or any representation of anything in the sky above, on the earth below, or in the water below the earth. You should not prostrate yourself to other gods or commit yourself to serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God: with those who are enemies of me, I persecute the debt of the fathers to the sons, to the third and fourth generations; with those who love me and keep my commandments, I show my graces to thousands.

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the Lord does not leave him unpunished who misuses his name.

Remember the Sabbath: keep it holy! You can create for six days and do any work. The seventh day is a day of rest, consecrated to the Lord your God. You are not allowed to do any work on him: you, your son and daughter, your slave and your slave girl, your cattle and the stranger who has the right to live in your urban areas. For in six days the LORD made heaven, earth, and sea, and all that belonged to them; on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.

Honor your father and your mother, that you may live long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

You shouldn't murder.

You shouldn't commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shouldn't testify wrongly against your neighbor.

You shall not ask for your neighbor's house.

You shall not long for your neighbor's wife, his slave, his ox or his donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Matthew 5: 3-12

Blessed are the poor before God; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are the mourners; for they will be comforted.

Blessed are they who do not use force; for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; because they will be full.

Blessed are the merciful; for they will find mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart; for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers; for they will be called sons of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when you are insulted and persecuted and slandered in all possible ways for my sake. Rejoice and rejoice: your reward in heaven will be great. For this is how the prophets were persecuted before you.

 


 

FOREWORD

The longing for happiness, the longing for a fulfilled life, has always been deeply rooted in the human heart. It depends largely on our own actions and on the relationships between us humans whether this wish is realized. But what is this action that leads individuals, communities and peoples to a truly successful life, to happiness? How can it be determined?

For Christians, Scripture is not only the source of revelation and the basis of their faith, but also the indispensable point of reference for morality. Christians are convinced that they will find hints and norms in the Bible for right action and thus the way to the fullness of life.

Various difficulties arise against this belief. A first is that it is innate in humans to reject norms, duties, and commandments, and this tendency is strong today. In many cases, the desire for perfect happiness and the desire for unlimited freedom, with which it is possible to act entirely as you wish and without any norm, are equally alive. Not infrequently, this freedom without limits is seen as essential to happiness. According to this view, the dignity of the human person requires that he not accept a norm that is imposed on his or her from outside, but that he himself freely and autonomously decide what he considers valid and right. It is only consistent that the norms of the Bible and the interpretation and concretization given to them by the tradition and the magisterium of the Church then appear as an obstacle to happiness and are ignored.

Another difficulty comes from the Bible itself. Its writings are written at least a thousand nine hundred years ago, in distant times when living conditions were very different from today. Many situations and problems today are simply unknown to the biblical scriptures; therefore the Bible does not seem to be able to give any help or answers for them either. Quite a few who fundamentally recognize the value of the Bible as an inspired and normative text therefore come to the view that the Bible is of little use in finding solutions to today's problems. There are many difficult moral questions that we are faced with. Even believing Christians can have the impression that some things that used to be certain no longer apply today. In many areas: terrorism, war, immigration, distribution of goods, protection of nature, sexuality, genetic research, etc., new questions arise. In this situation the Bible is marginalized. The motive is different, but the result is similar to the first case: the Bible is left out of the picture; one tries in other ways to find solutions to the great and pressing problems of today.

In 2002 the Pontifical Biblical Commission was entrusted with the subject of "Bible and Morals" by its then President, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. She was confronted with the question: What is the value and meaning of the inspired text for morality in our time, in which the difficulties mentioned above are present?

In the Bible we find many norms, commandments, collections of laws, etc. However, careful study finds that these norms are never isolated and never stand in themselves, but always belong to a certain context. For biblical anthropology, first and foremost is the action of God; God's gracious gifts and his invitation to community always precede human action. The norms follow from the gifts; they want to show man how he should accept and live the gifts of God appropriately. This view is based on the biblical view of man. Man is created by God; therefore he is never an isolated, autonomous being, detached from everything and everyone, but has a radical and essential relationship with God and the community of his brothers and sisters. God created man in his own image. Existence itself is the first and fundamental gift that every human being has received from God. From a biblical point of view, the norms can never be viewed and evaluated in themselves, but only in connection with the biblical understanding of human existence.

The first part of the document aims to demonstrate this biblical view in which anthropology and theology interpenetrate. According to the arrangement of the biblical canon, man appears first as a creature of God, who first received life from God as a gift, then as a member of the chosen people with whom God has made a special covenant, and finally as brother and sister of Jesus , the incarnate Son of God.

The second part shows that the Scriptures do not offer direct solutions to today's problems, but that they contain criteria that are very helpful in finding such solutions. Two basic criteria are mentioned: conformity with the biblical view of man and conformity with the example of Jesus. Six special criteria follow, which take up the essential orientations of biblical revelation and help to arrive at solid moral decisions: 1. Openness to the different cultures and thus a certain ethical universalism (criterion of agreement); 2. Decisive position against wrong evaluations (criterion of contradiction); 3. The process of refining conscience, which is found in both Testaments and is particularly evident in the relationship between the Old and New Testaments (criterion of enhancement); 4. Correction of the tendency, which is not uncommon today, to assign moral decisions to the subjective sphere alone (criterion of community); 5. Openness to an absolute future of the world and history, which in the real sense shows the goal and the motive of moral action (criterion of finality); 6. Careful determination of the relative or absolute value of moral principles and regulations (criterion of distinction).

All of these criteria, the list of which is representative and not exhaustive, are deeply rooted in the Bible and incorporate essential points of biblical revelation. Its application can help us today in the difficult task of making right moral decisions.

I thank the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission for their patience and commitment in working together on this topic. It is my wish that the present text will help to discover more and more the fascinating values ​​of the real Christian life and at the same time the Bible as an inexhaustible and always fresh source for right action; A successful life and the happiness of individuals and the whole community of people depend on it.

 

            William Cardinal Levada
            president

High Pentecost
May 11, 2008

 

introduction[1]

1. Man has always been in search of happiness and meaning. Saint Augustine says this aptly: "Man wants to be happy even if he lives in a way that he is not" (De civitate Dei, XIV, 4). This statement already shows the tension between the deep yearning of man and his more or less conscious moral options. Pascal expresses the same tension as follows: “If man is not made for God, why can he only be happy in God? If man was created for God, why does he stand so much against God? "(Pensées, II, 169).

The Biblical Commission would like to consider the difficult subject of the relationship between the Bible and morals as carefully as possible. It makes two basic prerequisites: 1. For every believer and for every human being, God is the ultimate answer to the search for happiness and meaning. 2. On the basis of the Holy Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments, a valid and useful dialogue on moral questions can still be conducted today.

0.1. A world that seeks answers

2. When we tackle this task, we cannot ignore the situation today. In the age of globalization, a rapid change in ethical decisions can be observed in many societies; this happens under the strong impact of the great population shifts, the increasingly complex social relationships and scientific advances, especially in the fields of psychology, genetics and communication technology. All of this deeply determines the moral consciousness of many people and groups, so much so that a culture develops that is based on relativism, tolerance and openness to everything new and whose theological and philosophical foundations are not always sufficiently clarified. For many Catholics, too, this culture of tolerance is associated with a growing mistrust, indeed with a decided intolerance, of certain contents of morality which is taught by the Church and which is deeply rooted in the Holy Scriptures. How can a balance be achieved?

0.2. Our goals

3. In this document the reader will not find a complete biblical moral theology and, still less, recipes or ready-made answers to the moral problems, old and new, that are discussed everywhere today, including in the mass media. Our work does not want to replace that of philosophers and moral theologians. In order to deal appropriately with the concrete problems of morality, a rational deepening and the inclusion of the human sciences would be required; that is beyond our competence. Our aim is more modest and twofold:

1. This aim is above all that we should place Christian morality under the broader horizon of biblical anthropology and theology.This will help from the very beginning to make their peculiarity and originality visible in comparison on the one hand with the ethics and moral systems based on human experience and reason, and on the other hand with the moral teachings presented by other religions.

2. The second goal is in some ways more practical. It is not easy to use the Bible appropriately when seeking light to deepen a moral reflection, or elements of an answer to difficult moral problems and situations. However, the Bible itself provides the reader with methodological criteria to facilitate this search.

This dual aim explains the division of the document into two parts. The first part is entitled: “A revealed morality: divine gift and human response”; and the second part: "Some Biblical Criteria for Moral Reflection".

As far as the method is concerned, for the purposes of our presentation it seemed useful to us to prefer the canonical interpretation of Scripture, without, however, leaving aside the historical-critical method, which is indispensable for various reasons (cf.Pontifical Biblical Commission, Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, I, C, 1).

0.3. Basic lines for understanding the orientation of the document

0.3.1. The key phrase: "revealed morality"

4. First, we introduce the probably unusual term "revealed morality" in fidelity to a fundamental orientation of all of Scripture. It is a key concept for our presentation. In order to speak of “revealed morality” we have to get rid of some preconceptions. As long as one reduces morality to a code of individual and collective behavior, to a set of virtues that are to be practiced, or to the imperatives of a natural law that is held to be universal, one can maintain the peculiarity, goodness and permanent topicality of the biblical Insufficiently aware of morality.

We would like to immediately introduce two basic ideas, which we shall elaborate on later: 1. Morality, without being less important, comes second. First and foremost is the initiative of God, which we will express theologically in the term 'gift'. From a biblical point of view, morality is rooted in the previous gift of life, intelligence and free will (creation) and above all in the completely undeserved offer of a preferred, inner relationship between man and God (covenant). Morality is not primarily a response of man, but a revelation of the plan and gift of God. In other words, for the Bible, morality comes after the experience of God, more precisely after the experience that God allows man to have as an entirely undeserved gift. 2. Seen from here, the law itself is an integral part of the covenant, is a gift from God. Originally, 'law' is not a legal term that is geared towards behavior and attitudes, but a theological term that the Bible itself best describes with the word "way" (Hebrew derek, Greek hodos): a path that is offered.

In today's context, this view of the Bible is particularly important. Moral instruction is certainly an essential part of the Church's mission, but it is second to none in relation to the task of asserting the gift of God and spiritual experience; we sometimes find it difficult today to properly perceive and understand this.

The term “revealed morality” is neither classic nor common. Nevertheless, it corresponds to the horizon that the Second Vatican Council showed in the Dogmatic Constitution on divine revelation: "The revelation event takes place in deed and word, which are internally linked: namely the works that God works in the course of salvation history, reveal and affirm doctrine and the realities indicated by the words; the words proclaim the works and reveal the mystery they contain ”(Dei Verbum, I, 2). All acts with which God reveals himself have a moral dimension because they call people to make their thoughts and actions equal to the divine example: "Be holy, for I, the LORD your God, am holy" (Lev 19.2); "So you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5,48).

0.3.2. The unity of the two wills

5. The whole of revelation - i.e. the plan of God, who wants to be known and wants to open a way to salvation for all - is directed towards Christ. In the heart of the old covenant, the “way” denotes both an excerpt (the fundamental event of liberation) and a doctrinal content, the Torah. In the heart of the New Covenant, Jesus says of himself: "I am the way, the truth and the life" (Joh 14.6). So in his person and in his mission he unites the whole liberating dynamic of God and also, in a certain sense, all of morality, insofar as it is understood theologically as a gift from God, that is, as a path that leads to eternal life, to communion with him . From here one can understand the deep unity of the two testaments. Hugo von St. Viktor aptly expresses this insight: "All divine scriptures are one book and this one book is Christ" (De arca Noe, II, 8).

Care must therefore be taken not to juxtapose the Old and New Testaments, in the area of ​​morality as in any other area. The preceding document of the Pontifical Biblical Commission can provide useful information on this when it describes the relationship between the two wills with the expressions: continuity, discontinuity and progression (The Jewish people and their holy writings in the Christian Bible, No. 40-42).

0.4. The addressees of the document

6. We are aware that the believers in the first place can follow our explanations, and for them they are first intended. But we also wish for a more extensive dialogue between people of good will who belong to different cultures and religions and who are looking for a way to happiness and meaning beyond the everyday affairs.

 

FIRST PART

 AN OPEN MORAL: DIVINE GIFT AND HUMAN ANSWER

 

7The relationship between divine gift and human response, between God's previous action and the task of man is decisive for the Bible and the morality revealed in it. Beginning with creation, we try to describe the gifts of God, according to the various phases of his action for humanity and the chosen people, and we also always name the tasks that God has associated with his gifts.

In addition to the relationship we just described, two other factors are fundamental to biblical morality. It is not characterized by an implacable moralism, but the forgiveness given to those who have failed is part of the gift of God. And as it is clearly shown in the New Testament, earthly action takes place before the horizon of eternal life, the gift through which God completes his giving.  

 

1. THE GIFT OF THE CREATION AND ITS MEANING FOR MORAL

1.1. The gift of creation

8. The Bible shows us God as the Creator of all that exists; this happens especially in the first chapters of Genesis and in a number of Psalms.

1.1.1. At the beginning of the book of Genesis

The large narrative circle that unfolds in the Pentateuch is introduced by two narratives from the origins (gene 1-2).

Seen canonically, the divine act of creation is the first in the biblical narrative. This initial creation includes "heaven and earth" (gene 1.1). This asserts that everything owes itself to divine destiny and is a free gift from God the Creator. For Israel, the recognition of God as the Creator of everything is not the beginning of his knowledge of God, but the fruit of his experience with God and his history of faith.

The special gift of the Creator for man consists in the fact that God created him in his image: "Let us make people in our image, like us" (gene 1.26). In the narrative (gene 1: 1-31) man appears as the goal of God's creation. In gene 1.26-28, man is described as God's representative in such a way that he relates to his creator and that he - invisible and without image - refers to his creature, man. This shows a program of theological anthropology in the strict sense, insofar as only he can speak of God who speaks of man, and conversely, only he who speaks of God can speak of man.

If we determine it in more detail, man is the "image" of God on the basis of at least six characteristics:

1. Rationality, i.e. the ability and duty to recognize and understand the created world,

2. the freedom, which includes the ability and the duty to decide and the responsibility for the decisions made (Gen 2),

3. a mandate to rule, which is by no means absolute, but is under the rule of God,

4. the ability to act in accordance with what man is or imitate God,

5. the dignity of being a person, a 'relational' being able to have personal relationships with God and with other people (gene 2)

6. the sanctity of human life.

1.1.2. In some psalms

9.  The Psalms are the part of the Bible in which there is much talk of God as the Creator (e.g. 8; 19; 139; 145; 148). They show a soteriological understanding of creation, as they see a connection between God's action in creation and his action in salvation history. They describe creation not in a scientific but in a symbolic language; they do not even contain pre-scientific considerations about the world, but they express praise of the Creator through Israel.

The transcendence and pre-existence of the Creator is asserted, who exists above all created things: "Before the mountains were born, the earth came into being and the universe, you are, O God, for ever and ever" (Ps 90.2). On the other hand, the world is characterized by time and history, by arising and passing away. God does not belong to the world and is not part of it. On the other hand, the world exists only because God created it, and it continues to exist only because God keeps it in existence at every moment. The Creator ensures that every creature has what it needs: “All eyes are waiting for you, and you give them food at the right time. You open your hand and satiate everything that lives as you please "(Ps 145,15-16).

The universe is not a self-contained whole that supports itself. On the contrary, human beings, along with all other creatures, are constantly and radically dependent on their Creator. It is God who, through the preservation of the world (creatio continua) Gives life force and maintains it in existence. While Gen 1 speaks of God and the work of creation, in Ps 104 someone who has experienced the wonderful goodness of creation turns to God, the Creator, in prayer and states their constant dependence on God: “You hide your face , they are disturbed; if you take their breath away, they disappear and return to the dust of the earth. If you send out your spirit, they will all be created and you will renew the face of the earth ”(104: 29-30).

Israel expects help from the same God who created and maintains everything: "Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth" (Ps 124.8; cf. 121.2). The power of this God is not limited to Israel, but includes the whole world and all peoples: “All the world fear the LORD; all who inhabit the world shall tremble before him "(Ps 33.8). The invitation to praise the Creator is addressed to everything created: heaven and earth, sun and moon, monsters of the seas and wild animals, kings and peoples, young and old (Ps 148). The rulership of God encompasses everything.

The Creator assigned a special position to man. Despite the human weakness and impermanence, the psalmist says with astonishment: “You made him only a little inferior to God, you crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the work of your hands, you laid everything at his feet "(Ps 8.6-7). "Glory" and "honor" are royal attributes; it gives man a royal position in God's creation. This status brings people closer to God, who in turn is characterized by “glory” and “honor” (cf. Ps 29.1; 104.1), and places him above the rest of the created. He calls him to rule in the created world, but with responsibility and in the wise and benevolent manner that characterizes the royal rule of the Creator himself.

1.1.3. Basic data of human existence

10. To be God's creature, to have received everything from God, to be essentially and inwardly a gift from God - that is the fundamental date of human existence and therefore also of human activity. This relationship with God is not added to human existence as a secondary and temporary element, but constitutes its permanent and irreplaceable foundation. According to this biblical view, nothing comes from itself, in a kind of creation of itself, and nothing is caused by chance, but is fundamentally determined by the will and the creative power of God. This God is transcendent and not part of the world. But the world and man in the world are not without God, they depend radically on God. Man cannot really understand the world and himself without God, without recognizing his total dependence on God. The gift of the beginning is fundamental; it remains and is not canceled by the following acts and gifts of God, but perfected.

This gift is determined by the creative will of God; therefore man cannot treat or use it in an arbitrary way, but must discover and respect the characteristic properties and structures that the Creator has given his creature.

1.2. Man made in the image of God and his moral responsibility

11.  When we have understood that the whole world was created by God and is a gift that constantly and inwardly depends on God, we must earnestly strive to discover the modes of action that God has written in man and in all of his creation.

1.2.1. In the creation stories

Each of the qualities that belong to man as the "image" of God has important consequences for morality:

1. Knowing and differentiating belong to the gift of God. Man is able and, as a creature, obliged to research God's intention; he should seek to grasp God's will in order to be able to act in the right way.

2. Because of the freedom that has been given to him, man is called to moral discernment, choice and decision. In Gen 3:22, after the sin of men and their punishment, God says: “Look, man has become like us; he knows good and bad. ”The text is not easy to explain. There are indications that the claim also has an ironic undertone, since man, despite the divine prohibition, put his hand to the fruit with his own strength and did not wait until God would give it to him at the right time. On the other hand, the meaning of the tree of total knowledge - this is how the biblical expression 'good and bad' is to be understood - is not limited to the moral aspect, but also includes the knowledge of good and bad fortunes, i.e. the future and fate the rulership of time, which is the exclusive jurisdiction of God. As far as human moral freedom is concerned, it does not mean simple self-regulation and self-determination, since its point of reference is neither the I nor the you, but God himself.

3. The mandate to rule that is entrusted to man requires responsible and ready-to-act action and management. It is also up to man to shape the world that God created in a “creative” way. He should accept this responsibility, also because creation cannot be preserved in a certain state, but is in the process of development and man, as a being in which nature and culture are connected, belongs to creation.

4. This responsibility is to be exercised in a wise and benevolent manner, following the example of God's lordship over his creation. People can conquer nature and explore the vastness of space. The extraordinary scientific and technological advances of our time can be seen as the fulfillment of the task given by the Creator to man; but man must also respect the limits set by the Creator. Otherwise the earth will become a place of abuse that destroys the fine balance and harmony of nature. It would certainly be naïve if we wanted to find a solution to today's ecological crisis in Ps 8. However, in the context of the entire creation theology of Israel, he questions current modes of action and demands a new sense of responsibility for the earth. God, humanity and the world are interconnected and therefore theology, anthropology and ecology are also connected. If God's claim to us humans and the world is not recognized, human rule quickly degenerates, turns into unrestrained violence and abuse, and leads to ecological catastrophe.

5. The dignity that people have as 'relational' beings invites them and obliges them to seek and live the right relationship with God - with him, to whom they owe everything. Gratitude is fundamental to the relationship with God (see No. 12 below). This dignity brings with it a dynamic of shared responsibility, respect for the other and the constant search for a balance not only between the sexes, but also between the individual and the community (between individual and social values).

6. The holiness of human life requires that it be fully respected and protected, and forbids the shedding of human blood, "for as the image of God he made man" (gene 9,6).

1.2.2. In the psalms

12. The recognition of God as the Creator leads to praise and worship of God, as creation testifies to his wisdom, power and faithfulness. When we, together with the psalmist, praise God for the splendor, order and beauty of creation, we are called to a deep respect for the world to which we humans belong. Man is the peak of creation because only he is able to have a personal relationship with God and to express the praise of God, also as a representative of other creatures. Through human beings and through their communal worship, all creatures praise their Creator (cf. Ps 148). The creation psalms also lead to an appropriate and positive evaluation of the present world, since life in this world is basically good. In the past, it could happen that the Christian tradition was so preoccupied with the eternal salvation of man that it failed to pay due attention to the natural world. The cosmic dimension of belief in creation, which is expressed in the Psalms, demands attention to nature and history, to the human and the extra-human world, and at the same time connects cosmology, anthropology and theology.

The Psalms deal with the inevitable themes of human existence in a mysterious, uncertain and threatening world (cf. the Psalms of Lament). However, they hold high trust in the benevolent Creator who ceaselessly cares for his creatures. This leads to an uninterrupted hymn of praise and thanksgiving: "Thank the Lord, for he is good, for his grace endures forever!"Ps 136,1)

 

1.2.3. Conclusion: in the footsteps of Jesus

13. The New Testament takes over the creation theology of the Old Testament in full and adds a determining christological dimension to it (e.g. Joh 1,1-18; Col 1.15-20). Obviously this has moral consequences. Jesus abolishes the earlier prescriptions about clean and unclean (Mk 7: 18-19) and recognizes, in accordance with the Book of Genesis, that all things created are good. Paul is going in exactly the same direction (Rom 14.14; see 1 Tim 4,4-5). As far as the key term "image of God" is concerned, the Pauline writings apply it not only to Christ, the "firstborn of all creation" (Col 1:15), but on every human being (1 Cor 11,7; Col 3.10). It is not surprising that the letters include the properties included in this term, combined with the moral aspect: rationality ("the law that is written in the heart", "the law of reason": Rom 2.15; 7.23), freedom (1 Cor 3,17; Gal 5.1.13), holiness (Rom 6,22; Eph 4:24), etc. We will later have the opportunity to discuss the dimension of the relationship, especially as regards the establishment of marriage (cf. gene 1.27 "male and female he created them").

 

2. THE GIFT OF THE Covenant IN THE OLD TESTAMENT AND THE NORMS FOR HUMAN ACTIVITIES

14. Creation and its moral consequences are the initial gift and remain the fundamental gift of God, but they are not his only and final gift. Beyond creation, God has shown his infinite goodness and has turned himself to his creature, man, especially in the election of the people of Israel and in the covenant that he made with this people and through which he at the same time found the right path for the human Action has shown.

In order to reveal the full richness of the biblical subject of the covenant, it is appropriate to look at it from two angles: the progressive perception of this reality in the history of Israel and its narrative account, which is found in the final editing of the Bible.

2.1. The progressive perception of the federal government (historical approach)

2.1.1. A first and fundamental experience: a common path to freedom

15. The emergence of Israel as a people is consistently ascribed to the time of Moses. More precisely, from a biblical theological perspective, the decisive and fundamental historical event in the Exodus from Egypt is seen.

Only later, and on the basis of this fundamental event, were the oral traditions recorded and reinterpreted about the ancestors of the patriarchal era, and the origins of mankind were presented in predominantly theological and symbolic narratives. In essence, we can count the events told in the book of Genesis as part of the prehistory of the people of Israel.

2.1.2. A first intuition and theological interpretation

16. According to a theological interpretation of the exodus from Egypt, Israel was established as an independent people through this event; This interpretation was in the bud from the beginning. It can be summarized as the awareness of the presence and work of a God who protects the group that goes out under the guidance of Moses. This presence and this work can be perceived in an impressive way in the fundamental event of the passage through the sea, which was experienced as a miracle.

This is attested in the symbolic name that this patron god gives himself and in which he reveals himself (Ex 3.14). The Hebrew Bible will use this name many times in the form YHWH, or in the abbreviated form YH. Both are difficult to translate, but philologically include a dynamic and effective presence of God in the midst of his people. The Jews do not pronounce this name and the Greek translators of the Hebrew text translated it with the word 'Kyrios', the Lord. With the Christian tradition we follow this custom and to remember the presence of YHWH in the Hebrew text we will write the Lord.

The initial theological intuition is concretized in four main lines: the God of Israel accompanies, liberates, gives and collects.

1. He accompanies: He shows the way in the desert by virtue of his presence, which is symbolized, depending on the traditions, through the angel who guides or through the cloud that reminds of the impenetrable mystery (Ex 14.19-20 etc.).

2. He frees from the yoke of oppression and death.

3. He gives twice: on the one hand, he gives himself as God of the developing people; on the other hand he gives this people the “way” (Hebrew derek), i.e. the means to enter into the relationship with God and to remain in it, i.e. to give oneself to God in return.

4. He gathers the developing people around a common project, namely 'to live together' (a qahal to form, Greek ekklesia).

 

2.1.3. A basic theological term that expresses intuition: the covenant

17.  How did Israel express in its Holy Scriptures this relationship that exists between itself and the God who accompanies it from the beginning, liberates it, gives itself to it and gathers it?

a. From human alliances to the theological covenant

At a moment that is difficult to pinpoint, the theologians of Israel have offered a comprehensive main concept of interpretation: the concept of the covenant.

The subject has become so important that from the beginning, at least in retrospect, it has determined the understanding of the relationship between God and his chosen people. In the biblical narrative, the basic historical event is immediately followed by a covenant: "in the third month after the exodus from Egypt" (Ex 19.1) - symbol for a divine time and for a beginning. That means: the basic event in its metahistorical meaning includes the covenant at Sinai so much that the initial event can be described from the standpoint of a diachronic biblical theology in the terms of excerpt and covenant.

In addition, this interpretive term, which is applied to the events of the Exodus from Egypt, is aetiologically extended retrospectively to the past. It can already be found in the book of Genesis. The idea of ​​the covenant is used to describe the relationship between the LORD God and Abraham the ancestor (gene 15; 17) to describe, yes even, in an even more distant and mysterious past for the relationship between the LORD God and all living beings who survived the Flood in the "time" of Noah, the Patriarch (gene 9,8-17).

In the ancient Near and Middle East there were alliances between human partners in the form of leagues, contracts, conventions, marriages and friendships. And protective gods had the role of witnesses and guarantors in making these human connections. The Bible also knows alliances of this kind.

But, until proven otherwise - and no archaeological document has been found to refute this claim - the theological translation of the idea of ​​the covenant can only be found in the Bible. Only in it is there the concept of an actual covenant between a divine partner and one or more human partners.

b. The bond between unequal partners

18.  It is certain that in its beginnings Israel could not even dream of expressing its preferred relationship with God, the Totally Other, the Transcendent, the Almighty, according to the scheme of horizontal equality

God ↔ Israel

At the moment when the theological idea of ​​the covenant was introduced, one can spontaneously only think of contracts between unequal partners who, extra-biblically, were well known in the diplomatic and legal practice of the ancient Orient: the famous vassal contracts.

It can hardly be completely ruled out that the political figure of vassalage has influenced the theological conception of the covenant. The intuition of a divine partner who takes and maintains the initiative for all federal events is the background for almost all major federal texts in the Old Testament

God

Israel

In this type of relationship between partners, the sovereign commits himself to the vassal and commits himself to the vassal. In other words, he commits himself to the vassal in the same way that he commits himself to the vassal. In the process of federal agreements, only the sovereign has a say; the vassal remains mute at this stage.

This twofold movement is expressed in two main themes in the theological field: grace (the LORD obliges himself) and the law (the LORD obliges the people who become his "property": gene 19.5-6). In this theological framework, grace can be understood as the gift in which God gives himself. And the law is the gift of God to people, through which he gives them a means, an instrument, an ethical-cultic "way" (derek) that allows them to enter and remain in the “covenant situation”.

At a later stage, the covenant dynamic was captured in a fixed phrase commonly referred to as the "covenant formula": "I will be your God and you will be my people" or something similar. It can be found almost everywhere in the two wills, especially in the context of the “new covenant” announced by Jeremiah (31: 31-34) - a clear sign that it is a main theme, a constant.

A similar scheme is applied to David and his descendants: "I will be a father to him and he will be a son to me" (Ex Sam 7,14).

c. The place of human freedom

19. In this theological framework, human moral freedom does not appear as a yes, which is necessary and essential for the covenant - it would then be a covenant between equal partners. Freedom comes into play later, as a consequence, when the whole covenant process is completed. All relevant biblical texts distinguish on the one hand the content of the covenant and on the other hand the rite and ceremony that follows the gift of the covenant. The obligation of the people, in the form of an oath, is not part of the conditions or clauses of the covenant, but only one of the elements of a legal guarantee in the context of a cultic celebration.

In this way the revealed morality comes about, the "morality in the covenant situation": a gift from God, quite undeserved, which, once offered, calls human freedom to a full yes, to a comprehensive acceptance; Any postponement of yes would be tantamount to rejection. This revealed morality, expressed in the theological framework of the covenant, represents an absolute novelty in comparison with the ethical and cultic codes that regulated the life of the neighboring peoples of Israel. In its essence it is an answer, it follows grace, God's self-commitment.

d. Consequences for morality

20.  So it is clear that morality is much more than a code of attitudes and behavior. It appears as a revealed and given "way" (derek): a leitmotif that is further developed in Deuteronomy, the prophets, wisdom literature and the teaching psalms.

Two elements of a synthesis are to be considered above all:

1. According to the biblical view, this “way” is to be understood from the beginning and above all in a global sense, according to its deep theological meaning. He describes the law as a gift from God, the fruit of the exclusive initiative of a sovereign God who commits himself in a covenant and commits his human partner. This law is different from the many laws in which it is expressed and which are written on stone, parchment, papyrus, or otherwise.

2. This moral "path" does not come suddenly. In the Bible it belongs to a historical path of salvation, of liberation, which has an original and fundamental character. From this statement we must draw an extremely important consequence: the revealed morality does not take first place, it is rather derived from an experience of God, from a "knowledge" in the biblical sense, which is rooted in the initial event. The revealed morality continues, so to speak, the process of liberation that began with the exodus as the archetype: it secures and guarantees its constancy. In short: originating from the experience of the freedom given, the “morality in the federal situation” seeks to preserve and develop this freedom internally and externally in everyday life. The moral of the believer presupposes a personal experience of God, even if this is nameless and more or less unconscious.

2.2. The various forms of expression of the covenant (canonical approach)

21. Let us look at the subject of the covenant as it appears in the canonical order of the Bible.

2.2.1. The covenant with Noah and with "all flesh"

a. Punishment and covenant

The word "covenant" appears in the Old Testament for the first time in the Flood talegene 6.18; 9.8-17). In this theological tradition, the undeserved and unconditional character of divine initiative is very strongly emphasized.

The punishment, which has cosmic proportions, corresponds to the equally comprehensive state of things: “The earth was corrupted in God's eyes, it was full of violence. God looked at the earth: it was corrupt; for all fleshly beings on earth lived corrupted. Then God said to Noah: I see the end of all beings of flesh is here "(Gen 6: 11-13).

But immediately the plan for the federal government appears.As far as the partners are concerned, the covenant is laid out in concentric circles, ie at the same time with Noah himself (6.18), with his family and his future descendants (9.9), with "all flesh", ie with everything that is "breath of life" has (9,10-17) and even with "the earth" (9,13). So one can speak of a covenant with cosmic proportions, corresponding to the extent of depravity and punishment.

For this covenant God gives a "sign", obviously a cosmic sign: "I put my bow in the clouds ..." (9: 13-16). At first glance, one has the impression that the term simply refers to the rainbow, which occurs as a weather phenomenon. But, with great probability, the military significance cannot be ruled out, since God says “my bow” and there “bow” (from Ez 1.28 apart) always denotes the weapon of war and not the rainbow. From a symbolic point of view, it is worth paying attention to two details here. First of all, the shape itself that the arch has - it is no longer turned towards earth but towards heaven - suggests the idea of ​​peace. This is the fruit of the exclusive and undeserved initiative of God; from this position no arrow can be pointed at the earth. Furthermore, the arch, which touches heaven, rests on earth and has the shape of a bridge, symbolizes the renewed connection between God and the "born again", saved humanity.

b. Consequences for morality

22. Today's reader reveals three aspects in particular:

1. From the ecological point of view: The depravity and violence of the people have serious effects on the environment (6:13). They bring with them the danger of turning God's work of creation into chaos again.

2. From the point of view of anthropology: Even in a corrupt world, man retains his dignity as the “image of God” (9.6; cf. 1.26-27). A dam must be erected against evil so that man who experiences God's salvation can carry out his mission to fertility (9: 1, 7).

3. From the point of view of the administration of goods: Man is assigned a certain power over the life of animals (compare 9.3 and 1.29). Nevertheless, he must respect every life as something mysterious (9.4). The extension of the covenant to all living beings and to the whole earth emphasizes the position of man as companion of all creatures. In this context it deserves attention to see how the admonition to Noah, the new Adam, has been changed. It no longer says: “Be fruitful and multiply, populate the earth, submit to it and rule ...” (1.28), but only: “Be fruitful and multiply, populate the earth and multiply on it ! ”(9.7). But animals are “given into the hands” of man so that he can use them for his food (9: 3). The concrete experience of evil, the “act of violence” seems to have cast a shadow on the ideal mission of man, which was entrusted to him in the initial act of creation: the role of administration and management with regard to his environment seems to be somewhat relativized. But the explicit reference from Gen 9: 1-2 to Gen 1, 26-27 shows that the moral horizon of Gen 1 is not canceled. It remains the main point of reference for readers of the Book of Genesis.

2.2.2. The Abrahamic covenant

a. The stories about Abraham-Isaac and Jacob

23.  The "Abraham-Isaac Cycle" (gene 12.1-25.18; 26: 1-33) is closely related to the "Jacob Cycle" from a literary point of view (gene 25.19-34; 26.34 - 37.1). The stories about Abraham-Isaac and those about Jacob are similar in every detail. Abraham and Jacob walk the same routes, cross the country from north to south and follow the same ridge. These topographical details define the framework for the literary block of Gen 12-36 (cf. gene 12.6-9 and gene 33.18-35.27). The literary data invite you to read the stories about Abraham in the broader context of Abraham-Isaac and Jacob.

b. Covenant, blessing and law

The covenant that the Lord gives has three aspects: promise, responsibility, law:

1. The promise concerns the land (gene 15.18; 17.8; 28:15) and the posterity and it is addressed to Abraham, then to Isaac and finally to Jacob (cf. gene 17.15-19; 26.24; 28.14). The topic is later spiritualized (cf.Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Jewish people and their scriptures in the Christian Bible, No. 56-57).

2. The responsibility entrusted to Abraham applies not only to his own clan, but to all peoples. The Bible expresses this responsibility with the word "blessing". Abraham is to become a great and mighty people and all the peoples of the earth are blessed in him (Hebrew barak) become (gene 18.18). His advocacy for Sodom, which follows immediately in the narrative, shows Abraham's role as mediator. Thus, the covenant not only leads to inheriting the gift of God (descendants and land), but also gives a commission at the same time.

3. Abraham's commitment to the covenant is shown by his obedience to the law: "For I have chosen him to charge his sons and his house after him to keep the way of the Lord and to do what is good and right" (gene 18,19).

c. Consequences for morality

1. The theological connection that exists in the Abrahamic cycle between covenant and universal responsibility makes it possible to define the special calling of God's people more precisely: chosen by a special covenant, they therefore inherit a unique responsibility towards the peoples for whom they are mediators of Will blessings of God. This theological lead seems promising when it comes to describing the particular dimension and universal validity of biblical morality.

2. The Abraham and Jacob cycles emphasize the historical dimension of moral life. Both Abraham and Jacob follow a path of conversion that the narrative seeks to describe in detail. The covenant that God offers meets people's resistance. The biblical narrative here takes account of time, lag, and growth in covenant fidelity and obedience to God.

2.2.3. The covenant with Moses and the people of Israel

24. When we set out the development of federal events, we highlighted some essential features. The basic experience with the covenant occurs on Sinai. It is represented in a historical founding process. He is fully a gift of God, the fruit of his total initiative, and he obliges both God (grace) and man (law). He gives the newborn Israel the status of a people with all rights. Once closed, it demands a free answer from people, which is to be understood in a first step as the acceptance of a “way of life” (the law in the theological sense) and only then as the observation of precise provisions (the laws). We do not want to present this answer according to its comprehensive, theological and unchangeable aspect (the law), but according to the other side, which is about multiplicity, details and possibly also about adaptation to the circumstances (the laws).

A number of norms are associated with the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai. The Decalogue has a special place among them. We will study the Decalogue first, and then turn to the codes of law and the moral instruction of the prophets.

2.2.3.1. The Decalogue

25.  Every new people must first and foremost create a constitution. That of Israel reflects the simple life of the semi-nomadic clans that made it up in the beginning. By and large, if one disregards modifications and additions, “the ten words” testify fairly well to the essential content of the Basic Law of Sinai.

Its editorial location (Ex 20.1-17) directly in front of the federal book (Ex 20.22-23.19) and its repetition (Dtn 5,6-21), with variants, at the beginning of the "Deuteronomic Law" (Dtn 4,44-26,19) already refers to its extraordinary importance in the totality of the "Torah". In Hebrew this word means "instruction, instruction"; so it has a much broader and deeper meaning than our word “law”, which is used by almost all translators.

Paradoxically, the Decalogue in its original wording shows an ethic of the beginning that at the same time has a rich potential.

a. An ethic from the beginning

26. The limits are to be determined from three points of view: the moral demand is formulated for the external area, for the community and mostly negatively.

1. In search of the literal meaning, the majority of exegetes emphasize that every prohibition originally concerned external actions that one can see and determine - that too hamad (desire), with which the two final bids after Ex Begin 20.17; this does not express a thought or an ineffective intention that remains entirely within (“desire”), but a concrete plan to realize the evil intention (“desire expressed in actions”, “going out”, “ get ready for it ”).

2. After leaving Egypt, the liberated people urgently needed precise rules to organize community life in the desert. The Decalogue essentially meets this need; one can see in it a basic law, a primitive national constitution.

3. Eight of the ten commandments are worded negatively, are prohibitions, and have the function of bridge railings. Only two have a positive formulation, are regulations that have to be met. So the emphasis is on avoiding socially harmful behavior. Of course, this does not exhaust the tasks and possibilities of morality; it basically has the goal of guiding human action to do what is good.

b. A potentially very rich ethic

27. However, three other properties make the Decalogue the irreplaceable foundation of a stimulating morality that appeals to our present-day feeling: its virtually universal meaning, its belonging to the theological framework of the covenant and its roots in the historical context of liberation.

1. On closer inspection, all the commandments have a meaning that definitely goes beyond the boundaries of a single people, also about those of God's chosen people. The values ​​they are concerned with can be applied to all humanity of all zones and all times. We will see that even the first two prohibitions, in spite of the particularity that they speak of "the Lord God of Israel", demonstrate a universal value.

2. Because the Decalogue belongs to the theological framework of the covenant, the ten words, as they are called, become the concept of Subordinated to the law, which is understood as a gift, an undeserved gift from God, as a “path”, as a clearly paved road; in this way it is made possible and easier for mankind to orientate oneself fundamentally towards God, towards familiarity and solidarity with him, towards happiness and not towards misery, towards life and not towards death (cf. Dtn 30,19f).

3. In the introduction to the Decalogue, the LORD essentially recalls his act of liberation: he led his own people out of a “house” in which they were “enslaved” (Ex 20.2). But a people who want to be free from a suffocating outer yoke and who have just reached this goal must take care that they avoid an inner yoke, which is just as enslaved and constricting their breath. The Decalogue broadly opens the way to a moral of social liberation. This appreciation of freedom goes so far in Israel that it even includes the land, the arable land: every seventh year (sabbath year) and even more after forty-nine years (jubilee year) there is the duty to leave the land alone, free from all violence , safe from all hoes and plows (cf. Lev 25,1-54).

c. Consequences for morale today

28. Can the Decalogue actually serve as the basis for a moral theology and moral catechesis that corresponds to the needs and feelings of humanity today?

1) Apparent difficulties

The initial ethics of Israel are external and community based and formulated mostly negatively. Hence, the Decalogue, if simply repeated as such, is less apt to adequately express the ideal of moral life which the Church puts forward today.

1. Today's human being, who is shaped by the results of psychology, emphasizes the inner, even unconscious, origin of his outer actions, which come from thoughts, desires, obscure motives and impulses that are difficult to control.

2. He is aware of the demands of community life, but he also tends to oppose the demands of globalization, and he discovers all the more the importance of the individual, the ego, the desires for personal development.

3. In quite a few societies, a kind of allergy to every form of prohibition has developed over the last few decades: all prohibitions are understood as limitations and shackles of freedom.

2) The real benefits

29. On the other hand, the basically universal meaning of biblical morality, its belonging to the theological framework of the covenant and its roots in the historical context of liberation can have an attractive effect today.

1. Who does not want a system of values ​​that transcends the boundaries of nationalities and cultures and connects them with one another?

2. Emphasizing a theological orientation, rather than a large number of compulsory behaviors, can generate greater interest in the fundamentals of biblical morality in those who are allergic to laws that appear to restrict freedom.

3. Knowledge of the historical circumstances in which the Decalogue was formed can show even more how much this fundamental text seeks not to restrict and suppress, but to serve human freedom - both individually and collectively.

3) Discover the values ​​in the duties

30. The Decalogue contains all the elements necessary to establish a moral reflection that is balanced and corresponds to our time. It is not enough, however, to simply translate it from Hebrew into a modern language. In its canonical formulation it has the form of apodictic laws and belongs to a morality of duties (doctrine of duties).

Nothing prevents us from translating the basic order of Israel in another way, but no less faithfully, with the concepts of a morality of values ​​(value theory). It turns out that this translation makes the Decalogue much clearer and more appealing for our time. In fact, nothing is lost, but a lot of depth is gained. Taken on its own, the prohibition focuses on behaviors that are to be avoided and encourages morality that, in extreme cases, acts like an emergency brake (e.g. avoiding adultery by not courting the other's wife ). The commandment, in turn, can lead to being content with a few actions and attitudes in order to have a good conscience and, in extreme cases, favors a minimum morality (e.g. someone thinks they are keeping the Sabbath if they do one a week Hour dedicated to worship). Committing to a value, on the other hand, is like a construction site that is always open, where you never come to an end and are always called to do more.

Translated into values, the precepts of the Decalogue lead to the following list: the absolute, religious reverence, time, family, life, the consistency of marriage between man and woman, freedom (the Hebrew word gave also means 'kidnapping', and not just 'theft of material objects'), marriage, the house and the people who belong to it, the house and material goods.

Each of these values ​​opens up a 'program', i.e. a moral task that is never fully fulfilled. The following sentences illuminate the dynamics that develop in those who seek to realize these values.

Three vertical values ​​(they concern man's relationship with God):

1. To worship a single Absolute

2. Respect the presence and mission of God in the world (what the "name" symbolizes)

3. Appreciate the sacred dimension of time

Seven horizontal values ​​(they concern relationships between people)

4. Honor the family

5. Promote the right to life

6. maintain the unity of the spouses

7. Defend the right for every person to have his freedom and dignity of all

is respected

8. uphold the honor of others

9. Respect the people (who belong to a house, a family, a company)

10. Let the other person's material property

If one examines the ten values ​​found in the Decalogue, one finds that they follow a descending order (from the first to the less important value): God comes first and material things last; within human relationships at the top of the list are: family, life, stable marriage.

A human race that almost breathlessly seeks to increase its autonomy is thus offered a moral basis that can prove to be fruitful and lasting; In today's context, however, it is not easy to convey, since our world has a different and biblical order of values: first man and then God, and even at the topmost material values, i.e., in a certain sense, the economy. When, more or less openly, a political or social system is based on false topmost values ​​(or on a competition between the topmost values), for example when the exchange of material goods and their consumption are more important than a just order between people such a system is fundamentally corrupt and sooner or later it will fail.

The Decalogue, on the other hand, opens the way to a liberating morality: giving first place to God's sovereignty over the world (value nos. 1 and 2), giving everyone the opportunity to have time for God and to deal with his time in a constructive way ( No. 3), giving special space to family life (No. 4), life, including the suffering and apparently unproductive, protect against all arbitrary decisions of the system and against the finely woven manipulations of public opinion (No. 5), the connectedness of Spouses, who in our time are particularly fragile, encourage in every way and protect them from the germs of division (No. 6), prevent all forms of exploitation of body, heart, spirit (No. 7), the person against attacks protect their honor (No. 8) and against all forms of fraud, exploitation, abuse and coercion (No. 9 and 10).

4) A legal consequence

31. With a view to realizing them, these ten values ​​contained in the Decalogue clearly lay the foundation for a charter of rights and freedoms that applies to all humanity:

1. Right to a religious relationship with God

2. Right to respect for religious beliefs and symbols

3. Right to free religious practice and, secondly, to rest, leisure and quality of life

4. Right of families to fair and supportive political measures, right of children to support from their parents and to good socialization, right of elderly parents to respect and help from their children

5. Right to life (to be born), to respect for life (to grow up and die naturally), to education

6. Right of the person to free choice of spouse, right of the couple to respect and support from the state and society in general, right of the child to stability (emotional, affective, financial) from the parents

7. Right to respect for civil liberties (physical integrity), choice of status and career, freedom to move and express oneself)

8. Right to honor and, secondly, to respect for private life and to unadulterated information

9. Right to security and tranquility at home and at work and, secondly, the right to freedom of action

10. Right to private property (including state protection of material goods).

From the point of view of "revealed morality", however, these inalienable human rights are absolutely subordinate to divine law, i.e. the universal sovereignty of God. The Decalogue begins: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt" (Ex 20: 2; Dtn 5.6). As already shown in the founding event of the Exodus, God does not exercise his sovereignty in an authoritarian and despotic way, as is often the case with human dealings with rights and freedoms, but for the liberation of human persons and communities. The sovereignty of God demands from man, among other things, an exclusive cult, time devoted to personal and common prayer, the recognition of the ultimate power and jurisdiction of God, to order the life of his creatures, to rule people and peoples and to hold judgment . The biblical view of God's sovereignty includes an understanding of the world, according to which not only the church, but the cosmos, the entire environment and all the goods of the earth are God's property (cf. Ex 19,5).

In short, if it is based on the fundamental values ​​of the Decalogue, moral theology and the catechesis derived from it can offer a balanced ideal of human action; this does not favor rights at the expense of duties and not vice versa, and a purely secular ethic that disregards man's relationship with God is avoided.

5) Conclusion: in the footsteps of Jesus

 32. If we envision the Decalogue as the permanent foundation of a universal morality, we can achieve three important goals: to open the treasure of the Word of God, to show its worth, to use a language that can reach the people of today.

When we read the Basic Law of Sinai from the values ​​that are included in it, we do nothing other than follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Here are a few examples.

1. In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus takes up some of the precepts of the Decalogue, but leads to a much more precise understanding of their meaning, and this in three ways: as deepening, as internalization, as exceeding himself towards an almost divine perfection (Mt 5,17-48).

2. In discussing clean and unclean, Jesus shows that man becomes really unclean through what comes from within, from his heart, and what drives him to act against the Decalogue (Mt 15,19).

3. The encounter with the rich young man (Mt 19: 16-22) makes it easy to understand this 'more' that Jesus demands. From a morality of the minimum, which is essentially collective and formulated as a prohibition (v. 18-19), it leads to a personalized morality which has a program and which consists primarily of following Jesus; this morality is focused on distance from things, on solidarity with the poor and on a dynamic of love that originates in heaven (v. 21).

4. When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus highlighted two scriptural precepts that are based on value - the most important, love - and which include a program of action that we will never fully comply with (Mt 22: 34-40 and parallels). Jesus takes up the best in the two great legal traditions of the Old Testament (Deuteronomy, Priestly Scripture) and wonderfully sums up the multitude of laws that are symbolized by the number of the "ten commandments". In the field of symbols, 'three' usually means the totality in the divine, invisible order, 'seven' the same in the visible order. The value “love of God” sums up the first three commandments of the Decalogue and “love of neighbor” the last seven.

5. Paul follows Jesus; he quotes the provisions of the Decalogue and sees in charity "the full fulfillment of the law" (Rom 13.8-10). He cites the Decalogue again (Rom 2: 21-22) and asserts in a broad discussion that God judges by the same standard the Jews who are instructed in the law and the Gentiles who "naturally do what is required by the law" (Rom 2,14).

2.2.3.2. The collections of laws

 33. As such, the Federal Book (Ex 21.1-23.33), the law of holiness (Lev 17.1-26.46) and the Deuteronomic Law (Dtn 4.44-26.19). They are closely connected with the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai and concretize, together with the Decalogue, the “way of life”, which was revealed and offered there. Let us set out three issues of morality that are highlighted in these collections.

a. The poor and social justice

 The apodictic laws of the three collections agree that they prescribe measures to avoid the slavery of the poorest and to consider periodic debt relief. These decrees sometimes have a utopian dimension, like the law on the sabbath year (Ex 23.10-11) or about the jubilee year (Lev 25.8-17). They set the Israelite society the task of fighting and conquering poverty and they see the difficulties of this struggle quite realistically (cf. Dtn 15.4 and Dtn 15.11). The fight against poverty presupposes an honest and impartial judiciary (cf. Ex 23: 1-8; Dtn 16: 18-20). It is practiced in the name of God. Various theological considerations endeavor to justify it. The apodictic laws of the covenant incorporate the prophetic intuition that God is especially close to the poorest. Deuteronomy emphasizes the special character of the land that God has entrusted to the Israelites. Israel, on which the blessing of God rests, is not the owner of the land, but only its beneficiary (cf. Dtn 6.10-11). Hence the realization of social justice appears as a believing response from Israel to the gift of God (cf. Dtn 15: 1-11): the law regulates the use of the gift and reminds us of God's sovereignty over the land.

b. The stranger

34. The Hebrew Bible uses a differentiated vocabulary to denote the foreigner: the word ger denotes the stranger who lives permanently with Israel. The expression nokri means a stranger who comes by while the words toschab and sakir designate foreign wage workers in the law of holiness. Care for the ger is shown continuously in the legal texts of the Torah: purely human care in Ex 22.20; 23: 9 and concern based on the memory of slavery in Egypt and deliverance by God, in Dtn 16.11-12. It is the law of holiness that formulates the most courageous provisions with regard to the stranger: the ger is no longer just the "object" of the law, but becomes its "subject", who is responsible for the sanctity and purity of the land with the locals. The "natives" and the "strangers" are connected by a shared responsibility and by a bond that is described with the vocabulary of love (cf. Lev 19.33-34). So the law of holiness provides procedures for the strangers - at least the gerim - to integrate into the community of the sons of Israel.

c. Cult and Ethics

35. Prophetic literature was certainly the first to look at the relationship between cult for God and respect for law and justice. The sermon of Amos (cf. At the 5.21) and from Isaiah (cf. Isa 1: 10-20) are particularly representative of this theological insight.

On the one hand, the Deuteronomic Law places cult laws and regulations of social ethics side by side: the laws that concern the uniqueness of the sanctuary for God and idolatry (cf. Dtn 12-13), precede the social laws (Deut 14,22-15,18); on the other hand, it connects ritual and ethical imperatives very closely. The tithe, which has to be paid every three years and was originally a levy for the cult, has a new function with the centralization of the sanctuary in Jerusalem: it is supposed to serve the maintenance of widows, orphans, strangers and Levites (Dtn 14.28-29; 26.12-15). The poorest should also take part in the pilgrimages to the festivals (Dtn 16: 11-12.14): the cult that is shown to God in the temple in Jerusalem is valid if it includes an ethical endeavor based on the memory of slavery in Egypt, the liberation of Israel and the Gift of the land through God. The laws of the Torah draw their readers' attention to the ethical implications of every cultic celebration and also to the theological dimension of social ethics.

What we have said here about moral instruction shows that the Torah codes of law pay particular attention to social morality. Israel's understanding of their God leads them to pay special attention to the poor and strangers and to justice. Cult and ethics are closely linked: worshiping God and caring for one's neighbor are two inseparable expressions of the same faith

2.2.3.3. The moral instruction of the prophets

36. Correct moral behavior is a major concern of all prophets, but they never deal with it for themselves and never in a systematic way. They deal with ethics always related to the fact that God guides Israel through history. This happens in retrospect: Because God freed Israel from Egyptian slavery and led them into his own country, the Israelites must live according to the commandments that God gave Moses on Sinai (cf. the framework of the ten commandments in Dtn 5.1-6.28-33). But because they did not do that, but adopted the customs of the peoples, God called up foreign invaders against them, so that they devastate the land and exile the people (Hos 2; Jer 2.1-3.5). But it also happens in a foresighted manner: God will save a remnant of the people from the dispersion among the nations and let them return to their country; there they will finally live as a faithful community around the temple and obey the ancient commandments (Isa 4; 43). This fundamental connection between ethics and history (past and future) is in Ez 20, the Magna Charta of the Born Again Israel.