HOUSMAIL HM#076 - THE JUSTINIAN CODE                                                             30 June 2001

The Council of Nicea is best remembered for its introduction of the first version of the Nicean Creed, which was written in an attempt to resolve the Arian controversy. However, it was also the source of another less known, but amazing development in the history of the Church! For the first three centuries of its existence, the Church had endured regular outbreaks of fierce persecution for its faith. At Nicea it gained a measure of political influence, (and a seared conscience!) which allowed it to employ "legal" persecution as a measure to protect the "faith" -- such as it had become. Down through the centuries countless thousands have been persecuted and martyred, for their refusal to pay dishonest lip service to the Creeds of the Mainstream Church.

Despite vigorous attempts to eliminate them, Arian beliefs survived, mainly in the northern regions of the Empire, for several centuries afterwards. They were still a force to be reckoned with, when the Emperor Justinian came to the throne in the sixth century AD.

It is not surprising therefore, that when Justinian commissioned a review of Roman Law, harsh measures against anti-trinitarianism came to be written into the Civil Laws of the Empire.

In the interest of accuracy, it should be recognised that the Code of Justinian was NOT primarily written for this reason. Its major purpose was a massive overhaul of the Roman Civil Law, which at that time it was in a very disorganised condition. It was so costly to reproduce the entire mass of laws promulgated over previous centuries, that even public libraries did not contain complete collections.

Justinian appointed a Commission of 16 eminent lawyers to undertake the task of compiling, clarifying and simplifying. The results were published in 533AD in 50 books. Over the following years, until his death in 565AD, Justinian issued a great number of new ordinances, some of which seriously altered previous laws. All of this work is collectively known as the "Corpus Juris Civilus".
(Source Encyclopedia Britannica 1999, CD-ROM Standard Version.)

Although enforcing Christianity as the State Religion was not the only concern, "heresy" did appear high on the list of "crimes" which incurred severe penalties, and Church authorities were not slow to invoke them. These same attitudes were also adopted into the laws of other countries. In England, the last public execution for anti-trinitarianism took place in Edinburgh, in 1697.

"The Imperial law code from Justinian's time (A.D. 529) on,
made rebaptism one of the two heresies penalized by death,
the other being Anti-Trinitarianism."
Quoted from - http://www.anabaptists.org/history/mennoen1.html
(From the Mennonite Encyclopedia)

The following extracts are taken from Book 1 of the Justinian Code. They reveal the hearts of men who thought Religious Conviction could be imposed by force! But, how very far they are from the heart of the Jesus revealed in the Gospels, whose teaching made obedience conditional on LOVE! (John 14:15)

They can be found on-line at - http://www.aloha.net/~mikesch/jus-code.htm


"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."

"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."

"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."

"Moreover, he who is an adherent of the Nicene Faith, and a true believer in the Catholic religion, should be understood to be one 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 amounsioV . These things, indeed do not require further proof, and should be respected."

"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 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."

"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."

END QUOTE_______________________________________________________________

This is an unpalatable aspect of history which is largely unknown, or ignored, by the current generation of the Abrahamic Faith. However, those of an older generation, will know that the lasting effects of the Code of Justinian, still influence current attitudes of mainstream Church leaders against anti-trinitarians. And although execution of heretics is no longer permitted by law, many of us have been subjected to verbal abuse and the "religious exile", still practised in many parts of the Mainstream Church.


This is a record of history. It records the deeds of a Church which lost its way, and in past centuries, murdered many of our brethren. BUT it is NOT an incitement to hatred, or bitterness, against any who persecute us!

It is however, a reminder of the WARNING from John that we should not extend fellowship to those who say that Jesus is not a REAL man. Nor should we participate in, or support, their "ministries".
(2 John 10-11)

For those of us who profess Biblical Unitarian Faith in the one who Jesus Himself says is alone truly God, (John 17:3) the Gospel Challenge is to accept persecution joyfully, (Matt 5:11-12) without hating the persecutors.

We are to love those who make themselves our enemies on account of our faith in Jesus. And we are to pray for them. (Matt 5:44)