(from the Latin præcipere
, to teach) is a commandment, instruction, or order intended as an authoritative
rule of action.
, precepts are usually commands respecting moral
The term is encountered frequently in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures
- Thou hast commanded thy precepts to be kept diligently. O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping thy statutes! (Psalm 119(118):4-5, RSV).
The term given in the RSV as "precepts" corresponds with the reading in the Hebrew Bible. The LXX/Septuagint (Samuel Rengster edition) has Greek entolas, which, too, may be rendered with precepts. Roman Catholic Canon law, which is based on Roman Law, makes a distinction between precept and law in Canon 49:
- "A singular precept is a decree which directly and legitimately enjoins a specific person or persons to do or omit something, especially in order to urge the observance of law."
, the fundamental code of ethics is known as the Five Precepts
in Sanskrit, or Pañcasīla
in Pāli), practiced by laypeople, either for a given period of time or for a lifetime. There are other levels of precepts, varying amongst traditions. In Theravadan
tradition there are Eight Precepts
, Ten Precepts
and the Patimokkha
. Eight Precepts are a more rigorous practice for laypeople. Ten Precepts are the training-rules for samaneras
(male) and samaneris
(female), novice monks
. And the Patimokkha
is the basic Theravada code of [monastic] discipline, consisting of 227 rules for monks (bhikkhus
) and 311 for nuns (bhikkhunis
In secular law
, a precept is a command in writing; a species of writ
issuing from a court or other legal authority. It is now chiefly used of an order demanding payment. The Latin form praecipe
, enjoin, command) is used of the note of instructions delivered by a plaintiff
or his lawyer
to be filed by the officer of the court, giving the names of the plaintiff and defendant
"this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of man." (v. 13). Isaiah 29:13
taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible.
Princeton University uses the term precept to describe what many other universities refer to as recitations
: large classes are often divided into several smaller discussion sections called precepts, which are led by the professor or graduate teaching assistants. These precepts meet once a week to supplement the lectures and provide a venue for discussion of the course material.
- Article entolē in Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, H. Balz and G. Schneider (ed.), Edinburgh 1990, Vol. I, p.459-60, which also cites sources for a discussion of the term's distinction from Greek nomos/"law".
- The Code of Canon Law, 1983, in the English translation prepared by the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland
- The Oxford English Dictionary lists the origen of precept as from the Latin roots of pre-septum. Thus precept is a pre coming-together/closure.