Monday, February 20, 2012

Alfred the Great's Capital Sanctions (Theonomy Applied)

King Alfred the Great implemented
the Code of Alfred, which bases much
of its law on the Old Testament
(credit: Odejea / CC BY-SA 3.0)
King Alfred (849-901 AD) the Great, Ruler of England from 871-901, implemented in around 890 the Code of Alfred. This code bases much of its law on the Old Testament. 

Here we list the Code's capital sanctions, along with the Scriptures they are based on (the ones we added are in brackets, the others are added by Francis Nigel Lee in his scholarly work King Alfred the Great and our Common Law, our source for the Code of Alfred).

Sacrificing to false gods:

"Also let him who offers sacrifices to the gods — except to God alone — suffer 
death!" [Exodus 18:20]


"Don't let women live who are wont to receive enchanters and conjurers and witches!" 
See: Exodus 22:18.

Striking one's parents:                                           
"He who smites his father or his mother — shall suffer death!" [Exodus 21:15]


"He who steals a Freeman and sells him, and it be proved against him, so that he 
cannot clear himself — let him suffer death!" [Exodus 21:16]                                        

"Let him who has intercourse with cattle, suffer death!" See: Exodus 22:19


"The man who intentionally slays another man — let him suffer death
! He, however, who slay him out of necessity or unwillingly or involuntarily — as when God may have sent him into his power, and when he had not lain in wait for him — he is worthy of his living and lawful fine, if he [the involuntary manslaughterer] seeks asylum. But if any one presumptuously and wilfully slays his neighbour through guile — drag him from My altar, so that he should suffer death!" See: Numbers 35:11-33, Genesis 9:5-6.

Murdering one's servant

"He who smites his own bondservant or bondswoman — if he or she does not die the 
same day but still lives for two or three nights — he is not at all so guilty [of death]: for it was his own chattel. However, if he or she die the same day — put the guilt upon him [the overlord]!" See: Exodus 21:20-21.

Murdering a thief

"If a thief breaks into a man's house at night, and he be slain there — he [the slayer] is 
not guilty of manslaughter! If he does this after sun-rise, he is guilty of manslaughter; and he himself shall then die — unless he slew out of necessity! If he [the thief] be caught red-handed with what he previously stole — let him pay twofold for it!" See: Exodus 22:2-4. 

Killing a pregnant woman:

"If anyone, while fighting, hurt a pregnant woman — let him pay a fine for the hurt, 
as the evaluators determine! If she die — let him pay soul with soul!" See: Exodus 21:22-23.


     [1] Francis Nigel Lee, King Alfred the Great and our Common Law (Brisbane, Australia: Queensland Presbyterian Theological Seminary, 2000), 10-12.

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...

In this video a layer traces the "Castle Doctrine" back to the Bible :

He mentions the Canadian Criminal Code and a 17th century English Law, but omits to speak of Alfred the Great.

Steve C. Halbrook said...

Thanks, Durandal--always appreciate your feedback. Plan to check this out soon. By the way, I wanted to get in touch--could you email me your email address at