On the Justinian Code

Dear Ed,
I read your article on Calvin and Geneva. I think I understand your intent, but as a “historian”, you failed to relay to your visitors that both religious and secular states in 16th century had a very underdeveloped division of church and state. If I recall, the ancient Rome of Augustus was also not a model of a modern democratic state. I guess that suggests Roman culture and the later code of eastern Justitian, the basis for many modern European law codes, is to be despised. Also, the jurisprudence of Blackstone, the father of British common law-and American jurisprudence- being influenced by the Bible - must be despised in kind too. Thanks for your even handed “enlightenment” on the subject. Take a historiography course.

Ted Smith

On the Justinian Code


The only thing I “despise” are religionʼs undemocratic tendencies as evidenced in history and the religious addiction to “infallibility.” Itʼs not a mere coincidence that democracy arose only after religion had been “defanged” and increasingly separated from the political sphere, i.e., after the Thirty Yearsʼ War of Protestants and Catholics in Europe proved that one religion could not conquer all the rest, which was soon followed by the Enlightenment and the diminution of witchcraft trials, heresy hunts, and slavery (the last being something that “Biblical” Christians continued to support for quite some time especially in the Southern U.S.), followed by the incessant splintering of “Christianities,” and the blossoming of Deism and the Bill of Rights in America that raised the First Amendment (“Freedom of religion”) above the First Commandment (“Thou shalt have no other gods before me”). (I have a multitude of quotations from Christian historians that I am currently editing into a long article that discuss exactly what I have said above.)

The Justinian Code (that you misspelled in your email) was formulated by Christians (who shared something analogous to todayʼs “fundamentalist mindset”). The Justinian Code incorporated the earlier Theodosian Code from the century before that legalized and institutionalized intolerance of Thought for centuries, something even the Romans had never done (they restricted their intolerance to rituals, not thought). Calvin and Luther and the Catholics all cited the Theodosian (and subsequent Justinian which incorporated the Theodosian) code of laws regarding religious differences in thought, to justify their own intolerant excesses in the realm of religious belief, like executing people, most prominently, the Anabaptists and members of smaller Christian sects that were neither Calvinist nor Lutheran. As for the other laws of both of those Christian codes, the basic laws that regulate interpersonal relations, they were already in use by the Romans, and many of them resembled common sense laws and restrictions from other civilizations on earth in the past and present.

I have learned by historiography, by all means learn yours and Read some of the Justian Code too. Here is how it begins…

The Code Of Our Lord The Most Sacred Emperor Justinian. Second Edition. Book 1. Title 1. Concerning The Most Exalted Trinity And The Catholic Faith And Providing That No One Shall Dare To Publicly Oppose Them.

  1. The Emperors Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius to the people of the City of Constantinople.
    We desire that all peoples subject to Our benign Empire shall live under the same religion that the Divine Peter, the Apostle, gave to the Romans, and which the said religion declares was introduced by himself, and which it is well known that the Pontiff Damascus, and Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic sanctity, embraced; that is to say, in accordance with the rules of apostolic discipline and the evangelical doctrine, we should believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit constitute a single Deity, endowed with equal majesty, and united in the Holy Trinity.

    1. We order all those who follow this law to assume the name of Catholic Christians, and considering others as demented and insane, We order that they shall bear the infamy of heresy; and when the Divine vengeance which they merit has been appeased, they shall afterwards be punished in accordance with Our resentment, which we have acquired from the judgment of Heaven. Dated at Thessalonica, on the third of the Kalends of March, during the Consulate of Gratian, Consul for the fifth time, and Theodosius.

  2. The Same Emperors to Eutropius, Praetorian Prefect. Let no place be afforded to heretics for the conduct of their ceremonies, and let no occasion be offered for them to display the insanity of their obstinate minds. Let all persons know that if any privilege has been fraudulently obtained by means of any rescript whatsoever, by persons of this kind, it will not be valid. Let all bodies of heretics be prevented from holding unlawful assemblies, and let the name of the only and the greatest God be celebrated everywhere, and let the observance of the Nicene Creed, recently transmitted to Our ancestors, and firmly established by the testimony and practice of Divine Religion, always remain secure.

    1. Moreover, he who is an adherent of the Nicene Faith, and a true believer in the Catholic religion, should be understood to be one [pg. 10] who believes that Almighty God and Christ, the son of God, are one person, God of God, Light of Light; and let no one, by rejection, dishonor the Holy Spirit, whom we expect, and have received from the Supreme Parent of all things, in whom the sentiment of a pure and undefiled faith flourishes, as well as the belief in the undivided substance of a Holy Trinity, which true believers indicate by the Greek word These things, indeed do not require further proof, and should be respected.

    2. Let those who do not accept those doctrines cease to apply the name of true religion to their fraudulent belief; and let them be branded with their open crimes, and, having been removed from the threshold of all churches, be utterly excluded from them, as We forbid all heretics to hold unlawful assemblies within cities. If, however, any seditious outbreak should be attempted, We order them to be driven outside the the walls of the City, with relentless violence, and We direct that all Catholic Churches, throughout the entire world, shall be placed under the control of the orthodox bishops who have embraced the Nicene Creed.
      Given at Constantinople, on the fourth of the ides of January, under the Consulate of Flavius Eucharius and Flavius Syagrius. Source: Corpus Juris Civilis (The Civil Law, the Code of Justinian), by S.P. Scott, A.M., published by the Central Trust Company, Cincinnati, copyright 1932, Volume 12 [of 17], pages 9-12, 125.

The Theodosian Code And Paganism (By Noted Christian Historian Peter Brown)

In 436, the lawyers of Theodosius II (408-450), the grandson of Theodosius I, met in Constantinople to bring together the edicts of his Christian predecessors in a single book. The subsequent Theodosian Code appears in 438.

When early medieval Christians looked back to Rome, what they saw, first and foremost, was not the “Golden Age” of classical Rome (as we would tend to do). The pagan empire did not impress them. It was the Theodosian Code that held their attention and esteem. It was the official voice of the Roman Empire at its greatest, that is, when it was the Roman empire as God always intended it to be — a Christian empire. The Code ended with a book On Religion. This book, in itself, signaled the arrival of a new attitude to religion. Religious belief as such was not treated as a subject for legislation. As we have seen, Roman had always been concerned with the correct performance of religions, with the maintenance of traditional rites. But this attitude had been replaced by the new definition of “religion” which, was we saw, had emerged in the course of the third century A.D. Now it was “thought-crime” itself — wrong view on religion in general, and not simply failure to practice traditional rites in the traditional manner — which was disciplined. In the Theodosian Code, extracts from the laws issued from the reign of Constantine to that of Theodosius II were arranged in chronological order. They communicated a rising sense of governmental certainty. There was to be little place, in the new Roman order, for heresy, schism, or Judaism, and no place at all for “the error of stupid paganism.”
- Peter Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom, 2nd Ed., (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), p. 75

More Information On The Christian Emperor Justinian And His Code-Making Predecessor, Theodosius

The School of Athens was closed by the decree of the Christian Roman Emperor Justinian.

The Emperor Justinian enacted measures to win back the Egyptians to Christian orthodoxy. But that only infuriated them more, and, when the Arabs invaded Egypt the Egyptians received them as deliverers, and fell in fury on their Greek defenders, and drove them into the sea. One Egyptian Christian said to Amrou, the Saracen general, “With the Greeks I desire no communion, either in this world or the next, and I adjure forever the Byzantine tyrant, and his Christian synod of Chalcedon.”

Justinianʼs precursor was the Emperor Theodosius, and under Theodosius was formulated the first great Christian Code of Laws, the Theodosian Code, that was a model for the Justinian Code. The Justian Code was written about a century after the Theodosian Code and incorporated the latter into it.

The Emperor Theodosius of Theodosian Code fame, banned Arianism and officially declared Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire. In his edict of 378, Theodosius issued an order compelling all people under his rule to embrace the Catholic faith. (Codex Theodosianus XVI, I, 2) Any doctrines deviating from the Churchʼs teachings were declared criminal, those responsible for such doctrines deserving punishment.
- Gustav Mensching, Tolerance and Truth in Religion, trans., Hans-J. Klimkeit (Alabama: The University of Alabama Press, 1971), p. 44.

And in 380 A.D. a decree from Theodosius read: “We shall believe in the Holy Trinity. We command that those persons who follow this rule shall embrace the name of Catholic Christians. The rest, however, whom We adjudge demented and insane, shall sustain the infamy of heretical dogmas, their meeting places shall not receive the name of churches, and they shall be smitten first by divine vengeance and secondly by the retribution of Our own initiative, which We shall assume in accordance with the divine judgment.”
- J. N. Hillgarth, The Conversion of Western Europe] That decree from Theodosius was written into the Justian Code, as you can see if you scoll upward to the extract from the Justinian Code.

The Christian Emperor, Theodosius, even had children executed, because they had been playing with remains of pagan statues.
- K. Deschner, Abermals krähte der Hahn, (Stuttgart 1962), p. 466, 468-469

Theodosius I (379-395) progressively forbade public [pagan] sacrifices, closed temples, and colluded in frequent acts of local violence by Christians against major cult sites — of which the destruction of the gigantic Serapeum of Alexandria, in around 392, was only the most spectacular.
- Peter Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom, 2nd Ed., (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), p. 73-74

[During the reign of Christian Emperor Theodosius] bands of wandering monks attacked synagogues, pagan temples, hereticsʼ meeting places, and the homes of wealthy non-believers in Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt, Palestine, and North Africa. The bishop of Alexandria incited local vigilantes to destroy the Temple of Serapis [also known as the Serapeum], one of the largest and most beautiful buildings in the ancient world that also housed a library donated by Cleopatra. Alexandrian Christians whipped up by Bishop Cyril rioted against the Jews in 415, and then murdered Hypatia, a wise and beloved Platonic philosopher.
- Richard E. Rubenstein, When Jesus Became God: The Epic Fight over Christʼs Divinity in the Last Days of Rome, p.226-227

In 430 Honorius passed the death sentence on Donatists for their “criminal audacity in meeting in public.” [Donatist were orthodox Christian believers who wanted to start their own “free” churches and baptize adult believers into them instead of having babies all baptized into the one state church of Catholicism.] In 413 he and Theodosius: “Anyone who baptizes someone the second time [as the Donatists were doing, baptizing people into the Donatist Christian church], he together with him who induced him to do this shall be condemned to death.” (Samuel Scott, trans. and ed. The Civil Code [Cincinnati: Central Trust, 1932], XII, 72.)

Finally in 514 Honorius threatened with death all those who dared celebrate the Donatist religious rites. (William K. Boyd, The Ecclesiastical Edicts of the Theodosian Code [“Studies in History, Economics, and Public Law,” edited by the political science faculty of Columbia University, Vol. XXIV, Nr. 2 (New York, 1905)], p. 55.)

In one day the Christians murdered more of their brethren than the pagans can be positively proved to have martyred in three centuries, and the total number of the slain during the fight for the papal chair (in which the supporters of Pope Damasus literally cut his way, with swords and axes, to the papal chair through the supporters of the rival candidate Ursicinus) is probably as great as the total number of actual martyrs. If we add to these the number of the slain in the fights of the Arians and Trinitarians in the east and the fights of Catholics and Donatists in Africa, we get a sum of “martyrs” many times as large as the genuine victims of Roman law; and we should still have to add the massacre by Theodosius at Thessalonica, the massacre of a regiment of Arian soldiers, the lives sacrificed under Constantius, Valentinian, etc.

This frightful and sordid temper of the new Christendom is luridly exhibited in the murder of Hypatia of Alexandria in 415. Under the “great” Father of the Church, Cyril of Alexandria, a Christian mob, led by a minor cleric of the church, stripped Hypatia naked and gashed her with oyster shells until she died [though I have read that she was clubbed to death before her flesh was stripped off her bones — E.T.B.]. She was a teacher of mathematics and philosophy, a person of the highest ideals and character. This barbaric fury raged from Rome to Alexandria and Antioch, and degraded the cities with spectacles that paganism had never witnessed.

Salvianus, a priest of Marseilles of the fifth century, deplores the vanished virtue of the pagan world and declares that “The whole body of Christians is a sink of iniquity.” “Very few,” he says, “avoid evil.” He challenges his readers: “How many in the Church will you find that are not drunkards or adulterers, or fornicators, or gamblers, or robbers, or murderers — or all together?” (De Gubernatione Dei, III, 9) Gregory of Tours, in the next century, gives, incredible as it may seem, an even darker picture of the Christian world, over part of which he presides. You cannot read these truths, unless you can read bad Latin, because they are never translated. It is the flowers, the rare examples of virtue, the untruths of Eusebius and the Martyrologies, that are translated. It is the legends of St. Agnes and St. Catherine, the heroic fictions of St. Lawrence and St. Sebastian that you read. But there were ten vices for every virtue, ten lies for every truth, a hundred murders for every genuine martyrdom.
- Joseph McCabe, How Christianity Triumphed

Pagans had not been clear or unanimous in their belief in an afterlife, but those who credited it looked to mystery cults for insurance in their future. Christians were much more positive. The Christians united ritual and philosophy and brought the certainty of God and history to questions whose answers eluded the pagan schools. Whereas pagan cults won adherents, Christianity aimed, and contrived, to win converts.

Paganism was reclassified as a demonic system. If Satan was the source of error and evil, false teaching and wrongdoing were not merely mistaken: they were diabolic. The division between a Christian “community of goodness” and an “outer world of evil” could easily become too pronounced. The idea of Satan magnified the difference between “true” and “false” Christians and between Christian sinners and saints.

Like Satan, the Last Judgment was a force that Christians exaggerated and then claimed to be able to defeat. This teaching was reinforced by an equally powerful ally, the Christian idea of sin. Sin was not just the sin of an action, or even an intention, but also the sin of a thought, even a passing interest in an appealing man or woman. This combination of rarefied sin and eternal punishment was supported, as we shall see, by books of vision and revelation that were probably more widely read than modern contempt for “pseudepigraphic” forgeries allows: acquaintance with the Apocalypse of “Peter” would make anyone think twice before leaving the Church (we happen to know that “Peterʼs vision of hell” was still read as a holy text in the churches in Palestine on Good Friday during the fifth century). If fears for Eternity brought converts to the faith, one suspects that they did even more to keep existing converts in it.
- Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, 1987), p. 326-327, 330-331, 412

Institutions of higher learning had been largely destroyed. The [Christian] emperorsʼ attacks had centered on the chief of them, Athens and Alexandria, in the late fourth century and were turned against them again toward the end of the fifth and in 529 [the year that the School of Athens was closed by the decree of the Christian Roman Emperor Justinian.
— E.T.B.

As to the initiators of the persecution, the [Christian] emperors themselves, a steady decline in their level of cultivation has been noticed. Thus books and philosophy were bound to fade from sight.

After Constantine there existed an empire-wide instrument of education: the church. What bishops, even emperors, made plain, and what could be heard in broader terms from every pulpit, was an agreed upon teaching. Every witness, every listener should know the great danger to his soul in Platoʼs books, in Aristotleʼs, in any of the philosophical corpus handed down from the past. The same danger threatened anyone using his mind according to their manner, with analytical intent, ranging widely for the materials of understanding, and independent of divine imparted teachings.

Another factor that arose specifically out of the ongoing conversion of the empire was the doctrine of demonic causation. The belief in the operation of maleficent forces on a large scale had to await Christianity; and it was of course Christianity that was to form the medieval and Byzantine world.

Satanic agents were to be seen as the cause not only of wars and rebellions, persecution and heresy, storms at sea and earthquakes on land, but of a host of minor or major personal afflictions. So, in consequence, Christians were forever crossing themselves, whatever new action they set about, and painted crosses on their foreheads too, responding to their leadersʼ urging them to do so. It would protect them against all evil.
- Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries

Art, philosophy, literature, the very psychology of Western man, all suffered by the victory of the bishops.
- John Holland Smith, The Death of Classical Paganism

Why Did Christianity Succeed?

Bob [of Tekton Apologetics]:
See my reply

Brian: For an evisceration of your response, and The “No Unique Advantages” Faith.

Final Thought On Christianityʼs “Success”

Before you can even ask “Why Did Christianity Succeed?” you have to answer the prior question of whether it did in fact “succeed” or whether it was doomed from the start to merely evolve into zillions of competing “Christianities” and semi-Christian offshoots, the major “orthodox” sect being the one that won the political, not the religious struggle.
- E.T.B.

From: Edward T. Babinski
To: fineyoungsocialist@yahoo.com
Sent: Thursday, March 04, 2004 12:17 AM
Subject: Ted! Ed here.

Ted: Sir,You lose yourself in detail…

The merit of the Justinian code was the attempt to synthesize previous CIVIL laws into a meaningfully system. That process was complimented by the much later Napoleonic Codes, which borrowing the Justinian premise, “guilty until proven innocent”, is a basis of many modern European (and still democratic) legal systems. In contrast, Blackstoneʼs common law and the notion of “innocent until proven guilty” contributes to modern notions of American jurisprudence. Both systems borrow from Christian, and to some extent Roman traditions.

I restate by premise, for you evade the point: You do not tell your readers that 16th century states had undeveloped notions of division of church and state. The brutality of a fifth century Christian state is not the point and thus moot.

Ed: Ted, I have “lost” nothing in setting forth the details, neither have I “evaded” anything. The brutality is in the Bible, a book that preceded the Christianized Roman Empire and preceded 16th century European Christian nations. Check out the Mosaic Code that Luther, Calvin and the Popes cited, as well as early Christian Emperors. The Bible contains brutal laws, it also advocates kingships, it is undemocratic and uncivil, as were many law codes of its day and age. In those respects it reflected its day and age. The First Commandment says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” and the penalty is death. The very First Article in the Justinian Code stated likewise, “believe or die” (my paraphrase). But the First Amendment by Americaʼs founders says, “Freedom of Religion.” Yes, we have advanced Ted. Study the bloody religious wars of Europe sometime, leading up to the biggest of them all, the Thirty Yearsʼ War — that period ALSO saw the greatest persecution of “witches” and “heretics” that Europe has ever seen before or since, thus peaked the great Ages Of Faith. Deism and doubt soon followed, along with our American Constitution.

Also read about that other republic that preceded Americaʼs, the one in the Netherlands, the first republic in Europe that really worked (Poland had an extremely short-lived Republic before the Netherlands), and that practiced religious freedom, and gave the peasants more rights than in any other country in Europe. The Netherlands also became a publishing capital, publishing the books by the Jewish philosopher of religion and politics, Spinoza, along with Hobbesʼ Leviathan. The Netherlandsʼ republic arose prior to the American republic, but Calvinists squashed it. Read about THAT history in chapter two of Leaving The Fold: Testimonies Of Former Fundamentalists, avail. at Amazon. America was inspired by that first successful experiment in a republican form of government. Americaʼs founders were also well aware of Europeʼs religious wars. Hence, the American First Amendment, “Freedom of Religion.” And the founders of America also Deliberately chose to NOT invoke “God” in the constitution of their new nation. The preachers of that day and age in America were scandalized that no invocation of “God” had been made in Americaʼs Constitution. But the decision was Deliberate on the part of Americaʼs founders. In fact, even when Franklin rose and suggested public prayers at Americaʼs Constitutional Convention, the notion was Voted On And Rejected. The men at Americaʼs Constitutional Convention were not atheists, they trusted God, but knew full and well that all the nations before them had “invoked God” and got embroiled in conflicts regarding “whose God,” and tore each othersʼ Christian nations to bits. (Oh, and later, when the Southern pro-slavery states seceded from the U.S. and formed their own confederacy and drew up their Own Constitution, one of the first things they included at its beginning was an invocation to “God,” and you know how that story ended.)

By the way, have you seen the liquor bill of the attendees of Americaʼs Constitutional Convention? Those guys could really put away the beer and wine.

Meanwhile, Americaʼs Puritans and their close knit little witch-hanging towns simply became defunct, absorbed into the general Colonial milieu. (They became Presbyterians.) Harvard was founded as a conservative seminary, but due to its growing “theological excesses,” Yale was founded by reactionary conservatives. Today, Yale is as liberal as Harvard. Even in Calvinʼs Academy in Geneva, though it began with highly conservative teachings, two hundred years later it had professors who doubted the Trinity, and even doubted Satan. Yes, the wars of religion and witch hunts of the previous two centuries had disillusioned many concerning the “benefits of Christian orthodoxy.”

Ted: Or conversely, your litany of facts makes my point:

Your historiography suggest ancient political models are relevant to (most. if not all?) Christians active in todayʼs politics. Thus your tedious survey of 5th century brutalities argues implicitly for the “threat” of the modern Christian who is active in todayʼs political arena. Accordingly, you seem to despise modern democratic notions of pluralism, where by various interests (in this case, contemporary American citizens, who are Christians) compete with opposing groups for influence in our political system.

Ed: Ted, your presumptions above are your own. People can work together, people of all religions and also the non-religious. I am also aware of differences between Christians, even between individual Christians of the same denomination.

Ted: In that sense, your historiography (philosophy of historical interpretation) seems woefully underdeveloped, or simply intolerant. I again suggest you enroll in a freshman level historiography course. By the way, I am humbled by your correction of my spelling of the word “Justinian”, which seems to imply you love detail (but perhaps misunderstand context, perhaps historical context, in this case?)

Ed: *Laughs* at “you love detail.” Well, I certainly did not correct your spelling because I “hate” detail. I admit I misspell words as often as the next parson. Just do me a favor if you wish to continue writing me and lighten up on the adverbs. One lesson in dialoguing that I recall reading about was how adding derogatory adverbs (one of those words that ends in “ly”) only pours fuel on the fire of misunderstandings. Like the way you wrote, “woefully underdeveloped,” instead of just “underdeveloped.” Or like the way you wrote, “simply intolerant,” instead of just “intolerant.” I am neither, however. Think of me as if I was you. Iʼm sure you see yourself as a fair minded person with a good sense of humor who loves their fellow human beings — but we just have different thoughts about some things.

Ted Smith
“Personal Conviction, Pluralism, and Unity.”

From: citizenFine
To: Edward T. Babinski
Subject: Re: Ted! Ed here.
Date: Wed, 3 Mar 2004 22:08:03 -0800 (PST)

Well enough sir,
I hope you post my responce and your reply on your site
Ted Smith

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