On Lying: A Moral Guide Based Upon Lombard’s Sentences. Part II: The Context
Book III of the Sentences is Lombard’s Christological treatise; the virtues are brought up within the context of how they exist in Christ: Lombard wants to explore how one is to understand that Christ is said to possess love (charity). In his discourse, he says that the whole of the law and prophets can be summed up as a focus on caritas. This means virtues will only be fulfilled out of love, and not out of fear, such as the fear of punishment. To support his claim, Lombard focuses upon Jesus words in Matthew 22:37 -40, and, how Augustine employs them in On Christian Doctrine, The Enchiridion, Sermo 350 and a letter he calls To Anastasius. From this, Lombard proposes to interpret the Ten Commandments, to show how their positive affirmation can be found from these rules of love. “And just as all the rest of the commandments are referred to the ten of the Decalogue, so these ten are referred to the two commandments of charity.” The first three commandments are about the love we are to have for God, and the last seven are about the love we are to have for our neighbor.
It’s of great importance to see how this constitutes a reorientation of the moral condition, when morality is put upon the level of caritas instead of as being an imperative based upon the most literal interpretation of the words used to describe the Law. In other words, the problem with legalism is that it does not understand the underlying spirit of the Law, which is love. In the revelation of the Trinity, in the revelation of God as love, the Law, understood merely as a tool to dictate what we ought and ought not to do, preserving God’s sovereign authority over humanity, is shown to be less than God’s true intent for it. The Law is not meant to be a thing of external control, but of inner guidance, to lead us to our own betterment, to help us achieve our proper end (theosis). Thus, what Jesus said about the Sabbath, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,”(Mark 2:27) makes sense when the Law is understood within the revelation of love, for we can understand how the Law’s essence is found in its teleological goal, which must always transcend the Law itself, while the legalist finds its essence is in its letter, removing its transcendental character. “Thus the Law is rendered old and obsolete by the letter and becomes useless, but it is made young and thoroughly active by the Spirit.”
Lombard brings up the question of lies within an examination of the fifth commandment of the “second tablet” of the Decalogue, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Ex. 20:16). Initially, this might seem to be quite restrictive, for it would seem that many things which we consider to be a lie could not be said to be said against our neighbor; indeed, at times we might even lie because we think it would be better for them to hear the lie than to be told the truth, such as what happens when we tell a so-called “white lie.” His assertion that this commandment speaks against perjury makes sense, because one gives testimony under oath in order to provide information which will have a concrete affect upon the lives of one or more people (as is also the case when one swears under oath for some kind of pact). But what are we to make of other kinds of lies? If one believes the whole moral law is contained within the Decalaogue, then this is the most likely place to bring up a discussion of lies. But would this make a deceitful speech said without any intent to be said against our neighbor, without any intent to harm them, not a lie? What he quotes from Augustine’s Quaestiones in Heptateuchum does not provide us any answer, but rather explains why one needs to examine the notion of the lie properly, for, as Augustine says, the topic is great and cannot be gone through hastily.
Therefore, before we explore Lombard further, we need to briefly answer this question, and it can help serve as a hermeneutic to engage the rest of Lombard’s text. Any lie must, to be a lie, contain some element of harm to one’s neighbor, however slight it might be. The objective evil produced will depend in part upon how great the actual harm is in the lie. The interdependent nature of the world shows us the world is set up with an intricate system of relationships; just a small misappropriation of those relationships can affect the way one interacts with the world, causing harm because of that error. To purposefully misrepresent those bonds, even if it appears for the greater good (as in a white lie) will nonetheless willfully lead someone to misperceive their place in the world, and their actions will be affected and harmful to them in accordance to the quality of the misinformation given them. In this way, any lie must be said to be an act against charity, even if one believes they are being charitable by lying (it is, one can say, the same error which lies with any wrong act of the will – the misappropriation of a particular good outside of its rightful place). For the most part, when one finds oneself in a situation where they feel “what harm can it be to lie here, won’t it help them to hear this lie?” one is in a situation when one does not have to speak, and silence would be more appropriate than speech. But, if, for some reason, silence is not possible, then one must understand that proper speech will always be best, and to speak wisely so as to do the least harm in one’s speech, so that what is said can lead to a firm foundation, and not one of sand (cf. Matt 7:26).
 See Peter Lombard, The Sentences. Book III. Trans. Giulio Silano (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2008) Dist XXVII, c3.
 “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.’”
 Bk. I, c35 n39.
 Letter 145, n4.
 St. Bonaventure, following through with this interpretation of the Ten Commandments in his Collations, points out that this rule of love must be seen as what makes for justice: “And it should be noted that the whole of the Law commands nothing but justice. For the Law is the rule of justice. Moreover, justice is that which orders the human person to God and to his neighbor. And so there is a twofold justice; one by which we are ordered to God, and the other by which we are ordered to our neighbor.” St. Bonaventure, Collations On the Ten Commandments. Trans. Paul J. Spaeth (St. Bonaventure, New York: The Franciscan Institute, 1995), 26.
 Peter Lombard, The Sentences. Book III, dist XXVII, c3
 St Bonaventure, following Lombard and Augustine, says, ”And so two tablets were given to Moses: On the first are contained the commandments ordering us to God; on the second the commandments ordering us to our neighbor,” St. Bonaventure, Collations on the Ten Commandments, 26. See also Peter Lombard, The Sentences. Book III, dist. XXXVII, c1.
 St Maximus the Confessor, “Chapters on Knowledge,” pgs. 129 – 180 in Maximus Confessor: Selected Writings. Trans. George C. Berthold (New York: Paulist Press, 1985), 145 – n.I-89.
 Cf. Augustine, Quaestiones in Heptateuchum, bk 2 q71.