Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Laws from Charlemagne's "Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae" (Theonomy Applied)

Charlemange, also known as "Charles the
Charlemagne (742-814), or "Charles the Great," King of the Franks from 771-814 and Roman Emperor from 800-814, issued in 782 a body of laws for Saxons called Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae. Below are several more or less theonomic laws from that code.  

Law against falsely accusing someone of being a witch and burning or eating him:

If any one deceived by the devil shall have believed, after the manner of the pagans, that any man or woman is a witch and eats men, and on this account shall have burned the person, or shall have given the person's flesh to others to eat, or shall have eaten it himself, let him be punished by a capital sentence. (Law no. 6)

Law against human sacrifices to the devil:

If any one shall have sacrificed a man to the devil, and after the manner of the pagans shall have presented him as a victim to the demons, let him be punished by death. (Law no. 9)

Law against scheming against Christians:

If any one shall have formed a conspiracy with the pagans against the Christians, or shall have wished to join with them in opposition to the Christians, let him be punished by death; and whosoever shall have consented to this same fraudulently against the king and the Christian people, let him be punished by death. (Law no. 10)

Law against Sabbath breaking:

That on the Lord's day no meetings and public judicial assemblages shall be held, unless perchance in a case of great necessity or when war compels it, but all shall go to the church to hear the word of God, and shall be free for prayers or good works. (Law no. 18a)

Law against idolatry:

If any one shall have made a vow at springs or trees or groves, or shall have made any offering after the manner of the heathen and shall have partaken of a repast in honor of the demons, if he shall be a noble 60 solidi, if a freeman 30, if a litus 15. If, indeed, they have not the means of paying at once, they shall be given into the service of the church until the solidi are paid. (Law no. 21)

Law against perverting justice:

Concerning presents and gifts: let no one receive gifts to the detriment of an innocent person; and if any one shall have presumed to do this, he shall pay our ban. And if perchance the count shall have done this (may it not happen!) he shall lose his office. (Law no. 28) [1] 


     [1] Dana Carleton Munro, Selections from the Laws of Charles the Great ( Kessinger Publishing, 2004), 2-5.

Note about the Theonomy Applied Series: In quoting any particular law, we do not necessarily endorse every aspect of that law as biblical, whether it be the prohibition, sanction, court procedure, etc. Rather, we are merely showing the more or less attempt to apply biblical law in history, whether or not that application was fully biblical. Moreover, in quoting any particular law, we do not necessarily consider those who passed and/or enforced such a law as being fully orthodox in their Christian theology. Professing Christian rulers in history have ranged in their theology from being orthodox (that is, Reformed Protestants) to heretical (for example, Roman Catholics). 


Durandal said...

I think that Charlemagne, like Constantine the Great, was a tool of God in our civilization's history, but that they were not themselves regenerated. Constantine's last "faith act" was his baptism by an Arian bishop (Eusebius of Nicomedia), and Charlemagne had five wives and as many concubines in his life span.

Anyways, the recent book "Defending Constantine - The Dawn of an Empire and the Rise of Christendom" by Peter Leithart
provides a good review of Constantin's effort to christianize Roman Law.

Durandal said...

I see that you identify Peter Leithart as a proponent of "Federal Vision" on your forum page.

As I quickly scrolled the web I learned that Leithart had some trouble with the ecclesiastical discipline of his presbyterian church in the U.S., because he was accused, among other things, to teach that all baptised people are saved. I understand that this may be the explanation of why he oddly seemed to imply that Constantine was saved in his book I mentioned in my earlier post.

What is this "Federal Vision" controversy anyways ? I know you posted many lenghtly audios on YouTube but could you sum it up in a couple of lines for the uninitiated please ? Thanks.

Steve C. Halbrook said...

Hi Durandal,
Thanks for the resource--I imagine it might have some info on Constatine's theonomic-leaning laws, which I have been searching for.

Yes, Leithart is unfortunately a dangerous heretic. Here is some Federal Vision info

Let me know if you have further questions.

Durandal said...

Roughly, Constantine's theonomic-leaning legislation includes :

--- Restrictions on torture
--- Reforms of mariage laws and more help for women who have ungodly husbands
--- Prohibition of prostitution
--- First Roman magistrate to legislate against rape
--- Extended protection for slaves
--- Discouragement of glatiator's spectacles
--- Prohibition for hight-ranking officials to participate in heathen sacrifices within their functions
--- Extended liberty in heritages (testaments)
--- Protection of the poor against overtaxation by the wealthy & powerfull
--- Reforms of the ultra-corrupt judiciary system (by forbidding fiscal bribery, over-pricing, and the illegal blocking of appeals)
--- Discouragement of infanticide
--- Creation of a perpetual "justinium" (public day of rest) each "dies solis" (sunday)
--- Gnostics and Manicheans were outlawed
--- Pagan shrines in Judea were closed, as well as homosexual priesthoods in Egypt
--- Maintains the anterior prohibition of private divination
--- Jews cannot circumcise non-Jews

Clericocracy-leaning laws of Constantine include :

--- Episcopal seats became civil judicial courts (bishops were made judges, not simply advisers like in the OT)
--- State financing of the Christian ministers (which made them dependent upon the subsequent arian/pagan emperors)

Overall I am ready to say that Constantin's politics was a good step foward, but they surely weren't fully biblical. Pierre Viret himself, in his Instruction Chrétienne, said that we must allways prefer the Holy Scripture when it contradicts the Theodosian Code or the Justinian Code. Some of Constantine's laws were very awkward. For example he forbade adultery but since in Roman mentality that included only the sexual relation of two married persons that were not married together, a man visiting the brothel was not legally guilty of adultery.

P.S. I also helped myself with Paul Veyne, Quand notre monde est devenu chrétien (312-394), Albin Michel, 2007, 320 p.

Steve C. Halbrook said...

Thanks for that excellent material! Really appreciate it. I hope to sometime have one or more posts on Constantine's theonomic-leaning views. Is this the English version of the book you mentioned?

Durandal said...

Yes, that's the English translation. Paul Veyne is a specialist of greco-latin culture.

He thinks that Constantine was a genuine Christian. He is an agnostic so he doesn't distinguish between Arian and Nicean, and moreover he thinks that anybody can become Christian on his own initiative.

Veyne rants a little bit against the Trinity, for his own short-lived amusement.

Apart from that, Veyne destroys multiple myths. He explains in a scholarly manner what common sens teaches : despite postmodern belief, it was not politically advantageous for Constantine to adopt the Christian banner in 312 AD ; and Constantine was not a secret worshipper of the Sol Invictus, he simply put this symbol on his money because it was a dynastic emblem that reinforced his legitimacy.

Veyne also spends a whole chapter explaining that Christianity is, from an agnostic standpoint, theologically superior to polytheism, something Rodney Starck had already said in The Rise of Christianity (1996).

A last word on Leithart's "Defenfing Constantine", it is demonstrated in one chapter that the Early Church was not all pacifist & pietist. If Tertullian and Origen complained about Christians joining the legions, it was mostly because legionaries were obliged to sacrifice to Caesar The fact that these authors discussed this matter is in itself a proof that there was no consensus, that Early Christians didn't all believe that the military is demonic. Actually we have evidence from tomb stones that early Christians honored the members of their communities that served in the army to defend the Empire.