This month, Brill will release “Order in the Court: Medieval Procedural Treatises in Translation,” by Bruce C. Brasington (West Texas A&M University). The publisher’s description follows:
In Order in the Court, Brasington translates and comments upon the earliest medieval treatises on ecclesiastical legal procedure. Beginning with the eleventh-century
“Marturi Case,” the first citation of the Digest in court since late antiquity and the jurist Bulgarus’ letter to Haimeric, the papal chancellor, we witness the evolution of Roman-law procedure in Italy. The study then focusses on Anglo-Norman works, all from the second half of the twelfth century. The De edendo, the Practica legum of Bishop William of Longchamp, and the Ordo Bambergensis blend Roman and canon law to guide the judge, advocate, and litigant in court. These reveal the study and practice of the learned law during the turbulent “Age of Becket” and its aftermath.
Whatever little I know about the ius commune–continental Europe’s set of perennial legal principles (derived in part from Roman and Canon law) existing in a code-based system of law–I learned from the work of the distinguished medieval legal historian Professor R.H. Helmholz (Chicago). And because it is the 800th anniversary year of King John’s acceptance of the terms of Magna Carta, may I also recommend this podcast wherein Professor Helmholz gives a talk on Magna Carta “from a European perspective” (he begins to speak at just after the 5 minute mark and speaks for about 15 minutes).
Professor Helmholz’s very interesting latest book, Natural Law in Court: A History of Legal Theory in Practice, is being published next month by Harvard University Press. The publisher’s description follows.
The theory of natural law grounds human laws in the universal truths of God’s creation. Until very recently, lawyers in the Western tradition studied natural law as part of their training, and the task of the judicial system was to put its tenets into concrete form, building an edifice of positive law on natural law’s foundations. Although much has been written about natural law in theory, surprisingly little has been said about how it has shaped legal practice. Natural Law in Court asks how lawyers and judges made and interpreted natural law arguments in England, Europe, and the United States, from the beginning of the sixteenth century to the American Civil War.
R. H. Helmholz sees a remarkable consistency in how English, Continental, and early American jurisprudence understood and applied natural law in cases ranging from family law and inheritance to criminal and commercial law. Despite differences in their judicial systems, natural law was treated across the board as the source of positive law, not its rival. The idea that no person should be condemned without a day in court, or that penalties should be proportional to the crime committed, or that self-preservation confers the right to protect oneself against attacks are valuable legal rules that originate in natural law. From a historical perspective, Helmholz concludes, natural law has advanced the cause of justice.
In January, Oxford University Press will release “The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Law” edited by Brent Strawn (Emory University). The publisher’s description follows:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Law (OEBL) provides the most up-to-date and extensive treatment of the Bible and law yet attempted, both updating and expanding the scope of previous scholarship in the field. In comprehensive overviews, scholars at the forefront of biblical studies and law address three foci: biblical law itself–its nature, collections, and genres; the ancient contexts of biblical law, throughout the ancient Mediterranean (ancient Near Eastern, Greco-Roman, and Early Jewish); and the afterlife and influence of biblical law in antiquity and in modern jurisprudence around the world. Essays include treatments of the Book of the Covenant, the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, Greek Law, and the Laws of Hammurapi, but also testimony and witness, property, ritual, rhetoric, gender, and sexual legislation.
This December, Oxford University Press will release “Law, Power and Imperial Ideology in the Iconoclast Era: c. 680-850” by M.T.G. Humphreys (St. John’s College, Cambridge). The publisher’s description follows:
Law was central to the ancient Roman’s conception of themselves and their empire. Yet what happened to Roman law and the position it occupied ideologically during the turbulent years of the Iconoclast era, c.680-850, is seldom explored and little understood. The numerous legal texts of this period, long ignored or misused by scholars, shed new light on this murky but crucial era, when the Byzantine world emerged from the Roman Empire.
Law, Power, and Imperial Ideology in the Iconoclast Era uses Roman law and canon law to chart the various responses to these changing times, especially the rise of Islam, from Justinian II’s Christocentric monarchy to the Old Testament-inspired Isaurian dynasty. The Isaurian emperors sought to impose their control and morally purge the empire through the just application of law, sponsoring the creation of a series of concise, utilitarian texts that punished crime, upheld marriage, and protected property. This volume explores how such legal reforms were part of a reformulation of ideology and state structures that underpinned the transformation from the late antique Roman Empire to medieval Byzantium.
For most church-and-state types, the word “Constantine” is likely to evoke the so-called “Constantinian Compromise,” in which the Christian Church in the late Roman Empire purportedly accepted imperial protection in exchange for subordination. When he wasn’t convening church councils, though, Constantine had other affairs of state to attend to, including the workings of the Roman legal system. John Noël Dillon (University of Exeter) has a new study of Constantine’s contributions to Roman law, The Justice of Constantine: Law, Communication, and Control (University of Michigan Press 2012). The publisher’s description follows.
As the first Christian emperor of Rome, Constantine the Great has long interested those studying the establishment of Christianity. But Constantine is also notable for his ability to control a sprawling empire and effect major changes. The Justice of Constantine examines Constantine’s judicial and Read more
One last pictorial law and religion post from my recent trip to Rome. If you enter the Stanza della Segnatura, one of the Raphael Rooms, in the Vatican Museums, your attention is likely to be absorbed by “The School of Athens.” But on the wall just to the right of it, you would see two frescoed panels placed on opposite sides.
The first is of the Emperor Justinian receiving the Corpus Juris Civilis (the “body of civil law”) from his great jurist, Tribonian. Compiled in the early 6th century AD, the Corpus Juris Civilis represented the first great collection of civil law (and it influenced the development and content of many civil law systems), much of which was drawn from ancient Roman law.
The second panel is of Pope Gregory IX receiving the Decretals from the Dominican St. Raymond de Penafort in the early 13th century. The Decretals were an early organization of the canon law of the Catholic Church which were intended by the Pope to be definitive.
The work of Harold Berman, Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition (recommended and discussed on this site before), is an important place to learn about the relationship and mutual influence of the civil and canon law. Berman’s emphasis is primarily on the latter’s influence on the development of the former, rather than on the revival of Roman law.
One of the earliest works of comparative law was created by an anonymous author in the 4th century AD, the Collatio Legum Mosaicarum et Romanorum, or Collation of the Laws of Moses and the Romans, on the similarities and differences between Roman and Jewish law. Robert M. Frakes (University of Munich) has now published Compiling the Collatio Legum Mosaicarum et Romanorum in Late Antiquity (OUP 2011), which explores the work of this anonymous collator. The publisher’s description of this fascinating book follows.
The expansion of Christianity and the codification of Roman law are two of the most significant facets of late antiquity. The Collatio Legum Mosaicarum et Romanarum, or Collation of the Laws of Moses and the Romans, is one of the most perplexing works of late antiquity: a law book compiled at the end of the fourth century by an anonymous editor who wanted to show the similarity between laws of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, and Roman law. Citing first laws from the Hebrew Bible – especially from Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy which he believed were written by Moses – the anonymous Collator then compared corresponding passages from Roman jurists and from Roman laws to form discussions on sixteen topics such as homicide, adultery, homosexuality, incest, and cruelty towards slaves. While earlier scholars wrestled with dating the Collatio, the religious identity of the Collator, and the purpose of the work, this book suggests that the Collator was a Christian lawyer writing in the last years of the fourth century in an attempt to draw pagan lawyers to seeing the connections between the law of a monotheistic God and traditional Roman law.
Frakes’s volume presents a five-chapter historical study of the Collatio with a revised Latin text, new English translation, and a historical and juristic commentary.