What does Roman Law mean in the Bible?

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Holman Bible Dictionary - Roman Law
The broad category of Roman law stands behind an adequate understanding of the New Testament and its world. The might of the Roman Empire dominated the Ancient Near East, including Palestine and the Mediterranean world in which Christianity was born. Roman law developed over a period of one thousand years, from the publication of the XII Tables in 451-50 B.C. to Emperor Justinian's codification in A.D. 529-34. The points of major relevance of Roman law for interpreting the New Testament cluster around several categories, particularly Roman citizenship, the influence of Roman law upon family life and roles, and Roman criminal jurisprudence.
Roman Citizenship The Book of Acts depicts Paul as a Roman citizen from birth (Acts 22:28 ) whose citizenship proved advantageous during his missionary travels. Roman citizenship could be obtained by one of several means, the most preferred of which was by inheriting it at birth from parents who were citizens. The New Testament is silent as to how Paul's family had acquired citizenship. The state could grant citizenship for one of several types of service to the empire, either civil or military, particularly the latter. Citizenship could be obtained by purchase (Acts 22:28 ).
The evidence is unclear as to how citizens were able to document their citizenship. Presumably they carried the ancient equivalent of the modern-day passport, a certificate made either of metal or wood. False claims to citizenship were punishable by death. In Acts 22:27 , Paul's merely claiming citizenship seems to have sufficed without having to produce official papers.
Citizenship bestowed certain rights. These included the right to vote for magistrates, the right to be elected as a magistrate, the right to contract a legal marriage, the right to hold property in the Roman community, and the right to appeal to the people, and in later times to the emperor, against the sentences passed by magistrates or other officials of rank.
Paul's citizenship surfaced in several details of his missionary activity in Acts. Acts 16:39 records the consternation of either the lictors or magistrates in Philippi upon discovering that Paul was a Roman citizen. They realized that they had punished him without trial. By law, citizens could not be bound or scourged (compare Acts 22:24-29 ). Most important of all is the right of “appeal to Caesar” and trial at Rome (Acts 25:10-12 ).
Roman Law and Family Life The New Testament “House Codes” (Ephesians 5:21-6:9 ; Colossians 3:18-4:1 ; and 1 Peter 2:18-3:7 ) should be interpreted against the background of the status of the family and the power of the head of the household in Roman society. If Greek society looked to belonging in one's city as the chief unit of society, Roman society, both legally and culturally, looked to the family as the primary unit of society. In early Roman law, and to a significant though diminishing extent throughout the Roman period, the paterfamilias (head of the household) was the only fully legal person in the family. The “family” included what today would be termed the “extended” family, crossing generational lines and including the wife, all unmarried sons and daughters, married sons and their families, those persons adopted into the family, and slaves. All of these persons lived under the patria potestas , or “absolute power,” of the patriarchal head of the household. The patria potestas of the paterfamilias extended even to matters of life and death, limited only by the constraints of the habit of consulting a family council or by the restraints of certain laws. The father, for example, was the person who decided whether or not to allow a newborn infant to die. That such power flourished in the New Testament era is born out by the fact that one father had his son executed for his part in the Catiline Conspiracy of 62 B.C. In early Roman times fathers could sell their children just as they could any other property. This absolute power of the Roman father included not only the persons directly descended from him but also their personal property. Persons living under another's patria potestas in actuality owned nothing. Upon their marriage, daughters passed into the power of another family's patria potestas . Upon the death of the paterfamilias , as many new families were created as there had been sons living under his power (or grandsons, in the event their fathers had died).
Against such a background, Paul's command to be subject to one another (Ephesians 5:21 ) was a revolutionary word spoken to a society in which all were subject to the paterfamilias.
Roman Jurisprudence While Roman civil law relates to the New Testament only in incidental ways, Roman criminal law casts much light upon the trial of Jesus. The representative and executor of Roman law in the Gospels is, of course, Pontius Pilate, who served as the Roman procurator, or governor, of Judea during the years A.D. 26-36. Procurators, while lacking the full status and prestige of a Roman proconsul or imperial legate, were Roman “knights” of nonsenatorial rank and were invested with the same powers of higher officials. In modern-day terminology, Pilate was a “military governor” overseeing a province known as a seed-bed of rebellion.
As the chief Roman administrator in the province, Pilate held the imperium , the supreme, administrative life-or-death power over the subjects in a province. The imperium extended particularly over the peregrini , or non-Roman citizens such as Jesus living in an occupied state. While Roman citizens possessed the right of appeal to Caesar, provincial subjects had little to protect them against abuses of the life and death power wielded by proconsuls and lesser governors such as Pilate. Pilate would have held the total power of Roman administration, jurisdiction, defense, and maintenance of law and order in the province of Judea. In the eyes of his superiors, Pilate's first priority was public order, not the execution of justice. They would not have categorized his conduct of the trial of Jesus as irresponsible. If an innocent Galilean peasant was the focal point of a civil disturbance, the quelling of the disturbance, and not justice for the peregrinus involved, was the uppermost concern for Roman officials fearful of revolts in occupied provinces.
Roman governors normally looked to a number of detailed statutes to define major offenses or felonies against persons, society, and government. The entire system, known as the ordo iudiciorum publicoum , perhaps is best translated as “the list of national courts.” This ordo contained a list of crimes and punishments with the maximum and minimum penalties that could be exacted against Roman citizens. A Roman citizen who felt that the ordo was misapplied could appeal to Caesar. Common offenses, and rare ones such as arson, were dealt with by magistrates extra ordinem (“outside the list”). In any case involving a peregrinus , a Roman governor such as Pilate would have been free to proceed based upon his imperium and his own good judgment. He functioned as prosecuting attorney, judge, and jury. He would have been free to adopt the rules and guidelines of the ordo if appropriate, but he would also have been free to be as harsh and arbitrary as he preferred. A good first century procurator would, however, have tended more and more to judge a peregrinus by the ordo .
Roman trial proceedings were public, before the tribune (compare Matthew 27:19 ). Interested parties brought formal charges, which had to be specific (compare Matthew 27:12 ). In the Gospels, Jesus was charged before Pilate with a political crime. The Romans would never execute someone simply on religious grounds. Roman criminal trials included the cognitio , or the questioning of the accused. After A.D. 50 enlightened officials gave accused persons three opportunities to respond to charges made against them. Interestingly enough, Pilate does this very thing in the trial account as we find it in John (compare John 18:33 ,John 18:33,18:35 ,John 18:35,18:37 ), following the most enlightened possible juridical rules of the day. Failure to respond to the charges resulted in conviction by default. When Jesus remained silent and made no defense, under the Roman system, Pilate had no other option but to convict. Following the cognitio , the governor would then render his verdict in the form of a sentence to a particular punishment.
The trial of Jesus in the Gospels conforms in many of its particulars to the fine points of Roman criminal procedure. For example, it was not unknown to transfer jurisdiction to the accused's place of origin (compare Pilate's sending Jesus to Herod in Luke 23:6-7 ). Similarly, according to John 18:28 , the trial of Jesus took place early in the day, an odd hour to modern minds, but precisely at the time when ancient Roman officials were the busiest, ordinarily arising early to work even before breakfast. To modern thought, it might also seem strange that Pilate consulted with his wife (Matthew 27:19 ) concerning Jesus. Far from some unseemly intrusion by her into official affairs of state, Roman women normally shared the responsibilities of husbands serving as career diplomats. They often were the husband's best advisor.
The Roman system of criminal justice distinguished between public and private penalties. The private penalty consisted of a sum of money paid to the person wronged as a substitute for private retaliation. Public penalties ranged from light beatings to the infliction of the death penalty, which could take various forms, with decapitation, gallows or crucifixion, burning, and drowning in a sack being the most common. Imprisonment as a penalty for a crime was unknown in Roman times. In the later empire, banishment to hard labor in mines or public works projects appeared as a penalty for wrongdoing.
The appearances of Paul before governmental officials and his trials in Acts also accord with what we know elsewhere of Roman trial procedure and custom. Perhaps most notable is the fact that in Acts 24:18-19 Jews make the original charges against Paul, but later disappear from the case. Before Felix ( Acts 24:19 ), Paul objected that his accusers ought to be present. Roman law was strongly inclined against persons who made accusations and then abandoned them. Acts closes (Acts 28:30 ) by giving the tantalizing detail that Paul remained under “house arrest” in Rome for two years awaiting trial. This perplexing delay could be explained by a congested court list, the failure of his accusers to appear to lodge their charges, or the upheaval that characterized Nero's reign. Also noteworthy is the fact that Acts twice links Paul with Roman proconsuls (Sergius Paulus on Cyprus in Acts 13:6-12 and Annius Gallio at Corinth in Acts 18:12-17 ). See Trial of Jesus ; Citizen, Citizenship ; Marriage and Family; and Pilate, Pontius .
Mike Fuhrman
Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Roman Law in the nt
The student of Christian origins cannot neglect the influence which the law of the Roman Empire had on the infant Church. The marvellous talent of the Roman authorities for organization, and especially their wise adaptability, which saved them from enforcing a rigid uniformity in legal details in all the countries which they conquered, were to a large degree instrumental, under Divine providence, in furthering Christianity throughout the Empire, Though the Emperors and their officials became, at a comparatively late date (see below, 4) persecutors, yet there can be no doubt that the Roman system of law and organization was a most powerful help to the apostles in preaching the gospel. In this article we may trace the various direct and indirect allusions to that system in the Christian literature of the apostolic period.
1. Administrators of the law.-The greater part of the Roman world was divided into provinces, which were either senatorial, i.e. under the rule of the Roman Senate, or imperatorial, i.e. under the direct rule of the Emperor. The older and settled provinces usually came under the former head, and those in which there was danger from external enemies usually under the latter; but there were not infrequent exchanges between Emperor and Senate, and a province might be at one date senatorial and at another imperatorial. It is therefore a good test of accuracy in a historical writer to examine whether he names the Roman governor rightly in any given incident (see below).
(a) Senatorial provinces.-Such a province was governed by a proconsul (ἀνθύπατος, Acts 13:7 f., Acts 13:12, Acts 19:38; cf. Acts 18:12, ἀνθυπατεύοντος). St. Luke rightly calls Sergius Paulus in Cyprus a proconsul (Acts 13:7), for shortly before St. Paul visited the island it became a senatorial province, though it ceased soon afterwards to be such. An inscription found in N. Cyprus by Cesnola has ‘in the proconsulship of Paulus’ (Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, p. 74, who quotes D. G. Hogarth, Devia Cypria, London, 1889, p. 114). St. Luke also rightly speaks of Gallio as proconsul of Achaia (Acts 18:12). This province had gone through many changes: having been at one time a separate province, at other times joined to Macedonia, it had from a.d. 15 been a joint imperatorial province, but in a.d. 44, before St. Paul came to Corinth, had again been disjoined from Macedonia and had become senatorial (Ramsay, Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) i. 23). The senatorial provinces mentioned in the NT are: Macedonia (senatorial after the time of Claudius); Achaia; Asia (the western part of Asia Minor); Bithynia-Pontus, a united province in NT times (part of ancient Pontus was joined to Galatia, part given to the Polemonian kingdom; see below, c); Cyprus (see above); Crete-Cyrene, a joint province. In Acts 19:38 the plural ἀνθύπατοι is used; the meaning is not that there were more than one proconsul at Ephesus at a time, or that the proconsul’s counsellors were called by this name (a conjecture for which there is no evidence), but that ‘there are such things as proconsuls.’
(b) Imperatorial provinces.-Such a province was ordinarily governed by a propraetor (in full, legatus Augusti pro praetore; in Greek, ἀντιστράτηγος or πρεσβευτής), Neither of these Greek names is found in the NT, but several imperatorial provinces are there named: Syria-Cilicia-Phenice, a joint province; [1] Galatia; Illyricum (Ἰλλυρικόν), [2] N.W. of Macedonia and W. of the provinces of Mcesia Superior and Thracia, which are not referred to in the NT, and do not contain any of the places there mentioned; Pamphylia; Lycia. (The last two were joined together in a.d. 74: Lycia is mentioned in Acts 27:5 as a separate province [3]; Patara [4] was within it.)
Some imperatorial provinces were governed by procurators, such as Judaea (when it was not a dependen kingdom) and Cappadocia, though Judaea was not perhaps strictly a ‘province’; the governor of Egypt was called a prefect. Both these names are used in other senses. A procurator (ἐπίτροπος or διοικητής, in the NT more loosely ἡγεμών, Matthew 27:2, Acts 23:24; Acts 24:1; Acts 26:30, etc., and so Josephs, Ant. XVIII. iii. 1, though this word is used generally of Roman governors [5] as contrasted with semi-independent ‘kings’ in Mark 13:9 and Matthew 10:16, Luke 21:12; cf. 1 Peter 2:14) was of a rank inferior to that of a propraetor. He was in most respects vested with full power, but was in some degree in a subordinate relation to a neighbouring governor; thus, Judaea was more or less under Syria, Cappadocia under Galatia.
(c) Subject kingdoms, etc.-In addition to the Roman provinces, there were in apostolic times a considerable number of semi-independent kingdoms, and also of petty princedoms or ‘tetrarchies’-this word having lost its original meaning of ‘rule over a fourth part.’ Of the former class we notice the dominions of Herod the Great and of his grandson Herod Agrippa I. (who died a.d. 44, Acts 12:23); these were kings of all Palestine. Another such kingdom was that of Polemo (Πολέμων) to the east of Pontus; this kingdom existed up to a.d. 63; one of the Polemos married Berenice or Bernice (Acts 25:13). A third such kingdom was Lycaonia Antiochi (between Galatia and Cilicia), which is indirectly alluded to in Acts 18:23, where St. Paul is said to have gone through τὴν Γαλατικὴν χώραν καὶ Φρυγίαν, i.e. he visited first that part of Lycaonia which was not part of the subject kingdom but was incorporated in the province Galatia, and then he went through Phrygia or ‘the Phrygian’ [6] (ct. 161883435318 Acts 16:6, τὴν Φρυγίαν καὶ Γαλατικὴν χώραν, which by the grammatical construction must mean ‘the region which was both Phrygian and Galatic,’ i.e. that part of Phrygia which was incorporated in the province Galatia; cf. Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 210). Herod Agrippa II. was king (or tetrarch) of Chalcis in CCEle-Syria (the Lebanon), and afterwards of Northern Palestine; in Acts 25:13 he is called ‘Agrippa the king,’ and the word ‘king’ is emphasized in these chapters; he died a.d. 100. Herod Antipas was also popularly called ‘king’ (Mark 6:25, Matthew 14:9), but he was really tetrarch (Matthew 14:1) of Galilee (Luke 3:1, τετρααρχοῦντος) and Peraea (Jos. Ant. XVII. viii. 1). Archelaus succeeded his father Herod the Great in Judaea and Samaria as ‘ethnarch,’ without the title of king, though St. Matthew uses the verb βασιλεύειν of him (Acts 2:22). Herod Philip was tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias of Abilene (Luke 3:1). The existence of these kings and tetrarchs was due to the wise tolerance of the Romans, and it paved the way for direct Roman rule, and indirectly for the spread of Christianity.
Against the decisions of both governors and kings there lay an appeal to the Emperor. That of St. Paul is recorded in Acts 25:11 f. (cf. Acts 28:19), but it is disputed whether it was from the Sanhedrin to the Roman tribunal or from Festus to Caesar. The latter view seems best to suit the circumstances of the case. The appeal need not necessarily have boon granted; but as we see from Agrippa’s remark in Acts 26:32, once it was allowed, the prisoner could not be released.
(d) In Acts 19:31 the Asiarchs, officials in the province of Asia, are mentioned. But the Asiarch was not, strictly speaking, an administrator of the law. In the provinces there were organized associations of cities, having to a great extent a religious character, though having also some relation to the law. Such an association was called ‘commune’ (τὸ κοινόν). Each ‘commune’ was presided over by an officer named after the province; thus he was called Asiarch in Asia, Galatiarch in Galatia, etc. He was president of the games, and had an undefined influence in civil affairs. The plural ‘Asiarchs’ in Acts 19:31 perhaps implies that past holders of the office retained the title. For these offices see the Martyrdom of Polycarp, xii., and Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, pt. ii., ‘Ignatius’2, London, 1889, iii. 404 ff.
2. Administration of the law.-The Romans did not enforce a rigid uniformity of law throughout the Empire. When they conquered a country and incorporated it as a Roman province, they found in many cases an excellent system of law in force, and they retained much of it. This was especially the case in Greek cities, and above all in Asia Minor, where the people were particularly tenacious of old customs. Just as the Romans did not force the Latin language on Greek countries, but recognized the Greek language and made use of it, reserving Latin for State occasions, so they used much of pre-existing Greek law and custom. Thus at Ephesus, a ‘free’ city, we find, in addition to the Roman proconsulship, a Greek constitution. There was a senate (βουλή), and also the popular assembly (δῆμος, Acts 19:30; also called ἐκκλησία, Acts 19:32; Acts 19:41) which met regularly three times a month and (when inquired) in extraordinary session; and this popular assembly had its clerk (γραμματεύς), a very important official, whose influence over it was great, as this chapter shows (Acts 19:35-41). Inscriptions of Roman date in Greek cities show the continuance of Greek institutions (for these statements see Rackham, Acts, p. 362 ff., and Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 131 ff., Gal., pp. 132 ff., 181 f.). At Athens, also a ‘free’ city, we find a Greek institution, the court of the Areopagus (Acts 17:19; Acts 17:22), the members of which were called ‘Areopagites’ (Acts 17:34). This, however, was not a court of law, and St. Paul was not on his trial before it on a criminal charge. It was rather a University court, ‘in the midst of’ which (Acts 17:22) the Apostle made his defence as a teacher. The scene has been token by F. C. Conybeare (Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) i. 144) and others, with the Authorized Version text in Acts 17:22 (but not AVm [8] ), to have been on Mars’ Hill outside the city, whence the court derived its name, but Ramsay with more probability (St. Paul, p. 244 f.) places it in the city itself, in or near the Agora or market-place. ‘In the midst of Mars’ Hill’ as a topographical expression would hardly be possible.
In non-Greek countries which passed under Roman rule, Roman law and organization were more speedily adopted, as there was less of previous civilization to withstand them. But in Palestine, as in the Hellenized districts, local law survived to a considerable extent, even when Roman procurators had displaced native kings. Power was left to the Sanhedrin in Judaea , and, though that body had no jurisdiction in Galilee and Samaria, local synagogues outside Judaea were allowed by the civil authorities to exercise a good deal of authority over their members (C. Bigg, International Critical Commentary , ‘St. Peter and St. Jude,’ Edinburgh, 1901, p. 25). This Sanhedrin could not inflict capital punishment without leave of the procurator (John 18:31), but the latter often applied Jewish law, and this seems to be the meaning of Festus’ proposal to send St. Paul to Jerusalem, to be tried in his presence indeed, but by Jewish law (Acts 25:9). The sentence would be the procurator’s, and the appeal would be from him to the Emperor (see above, 1 (c)). The stoning of Stephen was no doubt an illegal murder (Acts 7:58), and other deaths of Christians would fall under the same head (Acts 5:33, Acts 22:4, Acts 26:10); but the Sanhedrin could arrest persons, and inflict imprisonment and flogging (Acts 5:18; Acts 5:40, Acts 22:4, Acts 26:10; cf. 2 Corinthians 11:24 f., Matthew 5:22). In Acts 9:2, Acts 26:13 the synagogue at Damascus is requested by the Sanhedrin to exercise its powers (cf. Acts 22:19, Mark 13:9). In the semi-independent kingdoms Roman law found its way less speedily, and only as the local kings deemed it practicable to spread Western ideas. The position of Herod the Great in this respect is well drawn by Ramsay (Was Christ born at Bethlehem?, London, 1898, ch. ix.), who suggests that the king was allowed to carry out the enrolment which took place at the time of our Lord’s birth in such a way as to conciliate Jewish prejudices, by giving it a tribal character which it did not possess in the other parts of the Empire.
On the other hand, the Romans founded colonies in various parts of the Empire, chiefly for military reasons; their inhabitants were Roman citizens, and Roman law was observed in them more strictly; the city officials were named in Roman fashion duoviri, quaestores, CEdiles, praetores (the magistrates in Greek cities were called στρατηγοί or ἄρχοντες, and in Acts 16:20; Acts 16:22; Acts 16:35 f. St. Luke gives the former as the translation of ‘praetores’ at Philippi, a Roman colony), in colonies there was no Senate (βουλή), but there were decuriones (Ramsay, Gal., pp. 117, 182); the language used in the municipal deeds is shown by inscriptions to have been Latin (ib.). The colonics mentioned in the NT are; Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:14), Lystra (Acts 14:6), Philippi (Acts 16:12, where alone of NT passages κολωνία is found), Corinth (Acts 18:1), Ptolemais (Acts 21:7). Iconium (Acts 13:51) did not become a colony till Hadrian’s time (Ramsay, Gal., pp. 123, 218). Here it may he remembered that Roman law gave special privileges to ‘citizens.’ Citizenship (πολιτεία, Acts 22:28) was not conferred on all the inhabitants of the Empire till a.d. 212. Even the inhabitants of ‘free’ cities were not Roman citizens, or ‘Romans,’ as citizens proudly and tersely called themselves (Acts 16:21, Acts 22:25 ff.); but citizenship might be acquired by purchase, in the corrupt times of the Emperor Claudius, though at a high price (Acts 22:28), or by birth, as in St. Paul’s case (ib.). The law protected citizens from flogging, and St. Paul asserts this right in Acts 16:37, Acts 22:25; it exempted Jews who were also Roman citizens from the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrin and of the synagogues, though St. Paul did not always assert his exemption (2 Corinthians 11:24 f.), and it gave them an appeal from a death sentence by a provincial governor (Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) iv. 292). In Acts 16:37; Acts 22:25 the word ἀκατάκριτος (‘uncondemned’) does not imply that the Apostle could have been flogged after trial, which is not the case; the want of trial merely suggests the possible excuse of ignorance which the officials might have urged: St. Paul says that they ought to have investigated. Ramsay (St. Paul, p. 225) suggests that the Apostle spoke in Latin and used the phrase re incognita (‘without investigating our case’), and that St. Luke rendered it loosely by ἀκατάκριτος.
3. Illustrations in the NT drawn from Roman or Roman-Greek law.-The following illustrations have been gathered from Galatians by Ramsay, though his conclusions have not in all cases been universally accepted. In particular, his deductions from a Roman-Syrian law-book of the 5th cent, of our era have been objected to, because of its date. But the deductions agree well with the NT, and it is highly probable that the law-book, which is of the nature of a compilation, re-echoes in a large degree the old Seleucid law.
(a) Roman and Greek wills.-The Greek will once properly executed and recorded-the recording took place in the testator’s lifetime-was irrevocable, and so it is in Galatians 3:15, where St. Paul applies the custom to the Jewish covenant or testament, while at that time a Roman will was revocable by the testator, for it was a secret document and was not recorded (Lightfoot denies that a will is intended in Galatians 3:15, and translates ‘covenant’). In Hebrews 9:16 f. the will is of the Roman kind; it can take effect only after the death of the testator. The inference is that among those to whom Galatians is addressed the Romans left the older local (Greek) law on the subject untouched, and that the persons addressed therefore lived in a district that was highly Hellenized; while the persons addressed in Hebrews (Jewish Christians in Palestine, or possibly in Rome?) had received Roman, law in this respect (Ramsay, Gal., pp. 350ff., 364 ff.). See also Adoption, 2; Heir, 2.
(b) Law as to coming of age.-Here, again, Greek and Roman law differed. In Galatians 4:2 the father names the date at which the heir comes of age. In Roman law a child was under a ‘tutor’ till he was 14 years old, when he could make a will and dispose of his own property; then under a ‘curator,’ who managed the properly, till he was 25. The distinction was not known at Athena, but it is found in provincial Greek cities. In Galatians 4:2 the ‘tutor’ (ἐπίτροπος) and the ‘curator’ (οἰκονόμος) are both mentioned. But though in this respect Galatia followed Rome, it did not do so in the other respect, for the father is said to appoint (i.e. by will) the term during which these officers should have authority over his son (Ramsay, Gal., p. 391 ff.). See Heir, 2.
(c) Law as to the position of children.-In this matter the Greek and the Roman law agreed, but they differed from the Hebrew law. A son of the master of the house by a slave mother was, by Greek and Roman law alike, a slave; but, according to Hebrew law, the status of the father ennobled the child, who was free. Thus Dan and Asher were not slaves, though their mothers were. Hence the illustration of Galatians 4:21-31 about the two sons of Abraham, the son of Hagar being born ‘unto bondage,’ would appeal to the Galatians, who lived under Roman-Greek law, while it would not appeal in the same way to one who was brought up without reference to that law (Ramsay, Gal., p. 434).
4. Attitude of the law to the Christian Church.-The Roman law recognized Judaism, though it was not the State religion, as a religio licita; it was tolerated, and no one could be punished for being a Jew. But no religion which was not recognized by the State was lawful, and as Christianity had never been so recognized it was from that fact a religio illicita. It has, however, been disputed when the Roman law in this respect was first actively put into force. Many writers, especially in Germany, treat Trajan as the first real persecutor, maintaining that before his time Christianity was confused with Judaism, and that Nero and Domitian were merely capricious persecutors of individuals. A damaging indictment of this view is made by Lightfoot (op. cit. i. 1-17). There is no doubt that at the very first Christians were looked upon merely as Jews (e.g. Acts 16:20). At Corinth Gallio treats the question before him as one of Jewish law (Acts 18:15). St. Paul could hardly have held his favourable view of the State organization and of its power for furthering the gospel had it been otherwise. But it seems highly probable, if not certain, that at least from the time of Nero Christianity was looked upon as a distinct sect, and therefore as illegal. Tacitus (Ann. xv. 44) clearly treats it as having been a distinct religion in the time of Nero; he mentions its followers as ‘those whom the common people used to call Christians’-the use of the imperfect ‘appellabat’ shows that he is not, as has been alleged, projecting the ideas of his own time into that of the middle of the 1st cent. (he himself was born c. [9] a.d. 55). Suetonius, who was a few years younger than Tacitus, calls Christianity ‘a novel and malignant superstition’ (Nero, 16). Even had there been confusion between the two religions in Nero’s time, by the time of Domitian, when Emperor-worship was enthusiastically pressed, and the Imperial policy thus became directly antagonistic to Christianity, there could be no possibility of confusing the two. The Jews themselves were active in making the distinction manifest to the authorities. In Acts 19:33 the Jews put forward Alexander for this very purpose. And it is inconceivable that they would allow a confusion so injurious to themselves to continue. It was not necessary that a distinct edict against Christianity should have been put out, and it is quite possible that no such edict was issued until Trajan’s time; the very fact that Christianity had never been recognized by the State made it unlawful. Nor is this argument weakened by the fact that there was not a continuous persecution of the Christians on the part of the Roman authorities in the 1st century. The law was there, though it was not always enforced. The same thing happened in th

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Law, Roman - See Roman Law
Canonical Adoption - Under Roman Law legal relationship was established, based on the natural relationship, and it was a bar to marriage. The modification of the Roman Law by the compilation of new codes led to discussions as to what extent this diriment impediment of legal relationship still exists in the eyes of the Church, and the principle was laid down by Benedict XIV that, wherever the elements of the Roman Law are retained in the new codes, the Church recognizes this relationship as a diriment impediment. In Great Britain and the United States legal adoption in the sense of the Roman Law does not exist
Adoption, Canonical - Under Roman Law legal relationship was established, based on the natural relationship, and it was a bar to marriage. The modification of the Roman Law by the compilation of new codes led to discussions as to what extent this diriment impediment of legal relationship still exists in the eyes of the Church, and the principle was laid down by Benedict XIV that, wherever the elements of the Roman Law are retained in the new codes, the Church recognizes this relationship as a diriment impediment. In Great Britain and the United States legal adoption in the sense of the Roman Law does not exist
Mandate - By the Roman Law, it must have been gratuitous
Freedom - Under the Roman Law the "freeman" (ingenuus) was one born free; the "freedman" (libertinus) was a manumitted slave, and had not equal rights with the freeman (Acts 22:28 ; Compare Acts 16:37-39 ; 21:39 ; 22:25 ; 25:11,12 )
Appeal - ) Under the Roman Law the most remarkable case of appeal is that of Paul from the tribunal of Festus at Caesarea to that of the emperor at Rome (Acts 25:11,12,21,25 )
Tetrarch - See Roman Law
Advocate - This use of the word is derived from the fact that the Jews, being largely ignorant of the Roman Law and the Roman language, had to employ Roman advocates in their trials before Roman courts
Will (Testament) - Paul uses the technical terminology of Roman Law with scientific exactness. According to Roman Law a man could make a will, and afterwards either invalidate it or add codicils at his pleasure. Paul’s argument savours more of the Rabbinic school than of the Roman Law-court. ) are explained when we remember that in NT times the general principles of Roman Law were well established and were known throughout the Empire
Husband - subject to) a man," married, and therefore, according to Roman Law under the legal authority of the husband, occurs in Romans 7:2 , "that hath a husband
University of Pavia - It soon became famous excelling in Roman Law, in which it surpassed even Bologna
Censures - The term and idea originated in Roman Law
Caesarius of Arles, Saint - Prior to this he published theramous adaptation of the Roman Law known as the "Breviary of Alaric," which eventually became the civilcode of Gaul
Gratian, Decree of - A collection of canonical decrees and excerpts from the Fathers and from Roman Law, published on his private authority by John Gratian, a monk and professor at the University of Bologna, c1150 Before his time there were many decrees of particular councils in the East, in Africa, Spain, and Gaul
Arles, Caesarius of, Saint - Prior to this he published theramous adaptation of the Roman Law known as the "Breviary of Alaric," which eventually became the civilcode of Gaul
Roman Law - The broad category of Roman Law stands behind an adequate understanding of the New Testament and its world. Roman Law developed over a period of one thousand years, from the publication of the XII Tables in 451-50 B. The points of major relevance of Roman Law for interpreting the New Testament cluster around several categories, particularly Roman citizenship, the influence of Roman Law upon family life and roles, and Roman criminal jurisprudence. ...
Roman Law and Family Life The New Testament “House Codes” (Ephesians 5:21-6:9 ; Colossians 3:18-4:1 ; and 1 Peter 2:18-3:7 ) should be interpreted against the background of the status of the family and the power of the head of the household in Roman society. In early Roman Law, and to a significant though diminishing extent throughout the Roman period, the paterfamilias (head of the household) was the only fully legal person in the family. The representative and executor of Roman Law in the Gospels is, of course, Pontius Pilate, who served as the Roman procurator, or governor, of Judea during the years A. Roman Law was strongly inclined against persons who made accusations and then abandoned them
Colony - These communities possessed the right of Roman freedom, and of holding the soil under Roman Law, as well as exemption from poll-tax and tribute
Symphorianus, Martyr - The judicial investigation is reported in the most exact and technical forms of Roman Law
Adoption - Paul’s use of the term seems to be based on Roman Law. ...
Adoption in Roman Law could be effected by a modified form of the method of sale known as mancipation. Roman Law afforded St
Tutor - Under Roman Law a minor came of age at twenty-five, and was under a tutor till fourteen and a curator till his minority ceased
Robbery - ...
During the New Testament period, robbery was the jurisdiction of Roman Law
Chains - ...
Under the Roman Law, vincula, was a form of punishment, or of safe custody
Beating - In defiance of the Roman Law, which exempted every citizen from the disgrace of being scourged with rods or whips, the duumvirs at Philippi subjected St
Gallio - He elicited the true nature of their complaint, and, cutting short the trial, he abruptly dismissed the case as referring only to interpretations of Jewish law, not to any civil wrong or any moral outrage of which Roman Law took cognizance. Paul a new idea of the protection he could gain from the Roman Law
Roman Law in the nt - ...
In non-Greek countries which passed under Roman rule, Roman Law and organization were more speedily adopted, as there was less of previous civilization to withstand them. In the semi-independent kingdoms Roman Law found its way less speedily, and only as the local kings deemed it practicable to spread Western ideas. ...
On the other hand, the Romans founded colonies in various parts of the Empire, chiefly for military reasons; their inhabitants were Roman citizens, and Roman Law was observed in them more strictly; the city officials were named in Roman fashion duoviri, quaestores, CEdiles, praetores (the magistrates in Greek cities were called στρατηγοί or ἄρχοντες, and in Acts 16:20; Acts 16:22; Acts 16:35 f. Here it may he remembered that Roman Law gave special privileges to ‘citizens. -Here, again, Greek and Roman Law differed. In Roman Law a child was under a ‘tutor’ till he was 14 years old, when he could make a will and dispose of his own property; then under a ‘curator,’ who managed the properly, till he was 25. -In this matter the Greek and the Roman Law agreed, but they differed from the Hebrew law. A son of the master of the house by a slave mother was, by Greek and Roman Law alike, a slave; but, according to Hebrew law, the status of the father ennobled the child, who was free. -The Roman Law recognized Judaism, though it was not the State religion, as a religio licita; it was tolerated, and no one could be punished for being a Jew. It has, however, been disputed when the Roman Law in this respect was first actively put into force
Catacombs, Roman - According to Roman Law places of burial were sacred
Tertullus - The term ‘orator’ indicates that the man belonged to the class of hired pleaders often employed in the provincial courts by those ignorant alike of Roman Law and of the Latin tongue, in which as a rule all judicial procedure was carried on (but see Lewin, St
Roman Catacombs - According to Roman Law places of burial were sacred
Incest - "The Levitical law, which is received in this country, and from which the rule of the Roman Law differs very little, prohibits marriage between relations within three degrees of kindred; computing the generations not from but through the common ancestor, and accounting affinity the same as consanguinity
Law - ) Collectively, the whole body of rules relating to one subject, or emanating from one source; - including usually the writings pertaining to them, and judicial proceedings under them; as, divine law; English law; Roman Law; the law of real property; insurance law
Stephen - This defence provoked the Jews so much that they cast Stephen out of the city and stoned him undoubtedly an illegal murder, not sanctioned by the Roman Law
Incest - The Levitical law, which is received in this country, and from which the rule of the Roman Law differs very little, prohibits marriages between relations within three degrees of kindred; computing the generations, not from, but through, the common ancestor, and accounting affinity the same as consanguinity
Philippi - See Paul ; Roman Law ; Philippians
Middle Ages - Brown proves in "The Achievement of the Middle Ages"; or, as shown in "The Legacy of the Middle Ages," in preparing for the modern age a legacy of Christian life, art in all its forms, particularly architecture, literature, philosophy, education, law growing out of sacred customs, civiland Roman Law also, the dignification of womanhood, economit activity and political thought, organization of government, peace, union of Christendom
Pilate, Pontius - The Gospel writers sought to demonstrate that Jesus was innocent from the standpoint of Roman Law and that consequently Christianity in their day was not a threat to the Roman political and social order
Ages, Middle - Brown proves in "The Achievement of the Middle Ages"; or, as shown in "The Legacy of the Middle Ages," in preparing for the modern age a legacy of Christian life, art in all its forms, particularly architecture, literature, philosophy, education, law growing out of sacred customs, civiland Roman Law also, the dignification of womanhood, economit activity and political thought, organization of government, peace, union of Christendom
Festus - Buss, Roman Law and History in the NT, 1901, p
Crucified - "...
As crucifixion was not only the most painful but the most disgraceful of all deaths, the Roman Law never allowed a Roman, be his crime whatever it might, to be thus degraded
Felix - Buss, Roman Law and History in the NT, 1901, p
Teach - This burden, plus the legalism of Roman Law, forms the background of the New Testament tradition of law, especially as Paul struggles with it in his Letter to the church at Rome
Philippi - Gellius, 16:13); its inhabitants had Roman citizenship, the right of voting in the Roman tribes, their own senate and magistrates, the Roman Law and language
Economics - The Law of Nations, the common element in the laws of all nations foreign to Rome, an element recognized by Roman Law as expressive of the common consent of peoples generally, was looked upon as the Law of Nature
Heir Heritage Inheritance - According to Roman Law, sons must inherit, and a will leaving property away from sons was invalid (Ramsay, op. Ramsay draws out the differences between strictly Roman Law and the law in hellenized countries conquered by Rome, which was founded on Greek law: the Romans left much of the latter in force. See Roman Law
Corinth - Paul’s preaching was thus declared to he in no way an offence against Roman Law, and in future he relied more on his relation to the State, against the enmity of the Jews
First-Born First-Begotten - Ishmael, the eldest son of Abraham, had not the birthright because he was the son of a slave woman (Genesis 21:10), though he was not, according to Hebrew ideas, a slave (see Roman Law)
Adoption - By the Roman Law of adoption, which required a due legal form, the adopted child was entitled to the father's name, possessions, and family sacred rights, as his heir at law
Trial of Jesus - See Annas ; Caiaphas ; Pontius Pilate ; Roman Law ; Sanhedrin
Inheritance - While Jewish inheritance customs were linked to family blood lines, Greek and Roman Laws also provided for the disposition of family possessions through the adoption of an heir. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament
Justice - According to Roman Law, when a Roman citizen was accused of anything, the magistrate could fix any time that suited him for the trial; however long the trial might be postponed, the accused was nevertheless imprisoned for the whole time. But there were different kinds of imprisonment recognized by Roman Law, and it lay within the magistrate’s power to decide which kind the prisoner should suffer
Adoption - Ramsay has endeavoured to show that, in so far as these differed from one another in the matter under discussion, it is to Greek custom rather than to ‘the Roman Law of adoption in its original and primitive form’ that the Apostle refers in dealing with Galatians 3:6 ff. , but that he uses a metaphor dependent on Roman Law when writing to the Romans in Romans 4:11 (ib
Pilate - Pilate sending up (anepempsen ; Luke 23:7) Jesus to Herod is the Roman Law term for referring a prisoner to the jurisdiction of the judge of his country
Caesarius, Bishop of Arles - ; a document of some interest for the student of Roman Law, but thought by Brugsch (archives of the Society of Ancient History) to be a forgery of Hincmar of Rheims
Acts, Book of - Christianity was not an illegal religion according to Roman Law
Corinthians, First Epistle to the - ]'>[2] 110) supposes the Apostle to mean that the Roman Law forbade such marriage. The Roman Law of affinity was undoubtedly very strict, and Corinth, as a colony, would be familiar with Roman Law; though the law was not usually put in force
Christian - Previously the two classes had been confounded; and the confusion was advantageous to Christians in many respects, as the Jews were a privileged nation before the Roman Law
Joseph (2) - According to Roman Law, the relatives could claim the body of a person executed (Digest, xlviii
Covenant - 321–330), this representation is based on Roman Law, according to which a testament has no force until the death of the testator
Slave, Slavery - The mass of laws dealing with slavery was immense (see Buckland, The Roman Law of Slavery). Buckland, The Roman Law of Slavery, Cambridge, 1908; L
Liberty - There may be here the underlying thought that the ‘freedmen’ of Christ stand related to Him somewhat as the liberti stood to their patron, to whom they were bound to render, in the language of Roman Law, obsequium et officium
Crimes And Punishments - Retaliation , the jus talionis of Roman Law, received its classical expression in the oldest Hebrew code: ‘thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe’ (BC 21:23f
Church - ...
(b) Roman Law had become almost co-extensive with the civilized world. Tribal and national ideas, often irrational and debasing, had given place to principles of natural right and justice, Roman Law, like the Mosaic Law, was a παιδαγωγός to lead men to Christ
Philippi - Luke is characteristically careful to make it clear that the majesty of Roman Law might have been invoked against the Philippian authorities and on behalf of the apostles
Woman - Nor must we forget that the just rights of married women were much more fully recognized by Roman Law than by the ecclesiastical law which replaced it: ‘it is by the tendency of their doctrines to keep alive and consolidate the former [1], that the expositors of the Canon Law have deeply injured civilisation’ (H
Dispersion - In Roman Law, Jewish societies were collegia licita, privileged clubs or gilds
Dispersion - In Roman Law, Jewish societies were collegia licita, privileged clubs or gilds
Paul - See Rome; Roman Empire; Roman Law
Government - Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament ; W
Gregorius Thaumaturgus, Bishop of Neocaesarea - His mother having suggested the pursuit of rhetoric, he was advised to study specially Roman Law and become an alumnus of the celebrated school of jurisprudence at Berytus in Syria
Wandering Stars - Buss, Roman Law and History in the NT, London, 1901, p
Boyhood of Jesus - a Roman governor had been appointed over Judaea, and Roman Law and justice, however defective at times, at least ensured safety for the Boy who had been sought for ten or eleven years before as an Infant
Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs - ’ The use of the word διαθήκη in our present Greek text does not, as was once thought, imply a late date and a conception borrowed from Roman Law
Trial-at-Law - -The trial of Jesus conformed to the letter, at least, of Roman Law by its final appeal to Pilate
Jesus Christ - His influence ranks with Greek culture and Roman Law as one of the three most valuable elements in the heritage from the ancient world, while it surpasses these other factors in the spiritual quality of its effects
Paul - Paul laboured, or by fresh knowledge of Roman Law, either in general or in special application to the Jews
Art - At a time when not the buildings only, but the very books of the Christians were destroyed, it was in the burial-places—immune by Roman Law from molestation, and hidden away from the ravages of sun and air, and of barbarians ancient and modern—that works of art survived; and to the Catacombs we must turn for our evidence
Tertullianus, Quintus Septimius Florens - Possibly destined for state-official life, he was celebrated for his knowledge of Roman Law (Eus