Adeodatus presents some history of Christianity
Adeodatus responds to a reader of this blog...
I think you have some misconceptions about Christians and Christianity. It also sounds like you agree with the Pope’s speech but perhaps you’ve not read it in its entirety?
Let me address misconceptions. First of all, the majority of Christians around the world are Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. There were no other Christians for most of Western history (Martin Luther was born in the latter half of the fifteenth century) and this is the tradition that’s really relevant in shaping the culture of Europe. On the other hand, you seem to ascribe to Christianity several myths of protestant Christianity and some that represent relatively recent and minor (if strident) trends within Protestantism.
Thus, regarding the development of rights and the law, your perception is a very protestant one and probably borne of an upbringing in an Anglo-Saxon or Germanic country; one of the things that Martin Luther rejected was canon law and he unceremoniously put a copy of the Corpus Iuris Canonici (inclusive of Gratian’s Decretum) in the flames. In fact, the Church has been driving law and due process in society – it could not be otherwise given the influence that Roman culture had on Her development.
By the ninth century, pseudo isidorian texts attributed to Pope Callistus required that nobody be tried or convicted unless summoned and present. Tenth and eleventh century canonical collections emphasize the importance of summoning for juridical procedure.
In mid twelfth century (i.e. within 50 years of Jerusalem’s first liberation) Paucapalea (a student of Gratian’s) linked court procedures with the Biblical model of the trial of Adam and Eve. His point was powerful: God is omniscient yet he did not simply cast Adam (and Eve) out of Paradise. God summoned Adam (“Adam, where are you”). God then asked Adam what he’d done and listened to Adam’s defence. When Eve was accused by Adam, God Brought Eve into the trial (we call this joinder in modern civil procedure). Finally, after the serpent was joined as well, and all defences were heard, God issued a sentence. Note that this was revolutionary and innovative. Roman law did not require such procedure for a defendant caught in flagrante delicto – that is, clearly and provably caught in the crime. Romans would’ve just sentenced. By finding that God, in spite of His omniscience, would grant such rights to Adam, Paucapalea argued that surely all men are entitled to such protections when accused by more fallible judges and prosecutors.
Paucapalea’s work was furthered by Stephen of Tournai. Based on his glossing of the Decretum additional procedural requirements were introduced: summoning had to happen with at least three formal edicts, multiple credible witnesses had to be produced to secure a conviction, sentences and penalties had to be communicated in writing and recorded, etc. We’re talking late twelfth century here.
Again, there’s much interesting work in this field; in fact, discovery of recent manuscripts and modern analysis have shed new light on some of the subtleties of medieval law. The reformation warped perceptions of legal history and even most lawyers don’t study significant (or rigorous) legal history. The middle ages were not as dark as generally portrayed. A couple of great web-sites to browse through if you’re interested in this field are those of Anders Winroth (professor, Yale University, his bio is at http://www.yale.edu/history/faculty/winroth.html) who maintains a web site dedicated to Gratian located here: http://pantheon.yale.edu/~haw6/gratian.html
Anders is a great scholar, and I’ve listened to him speak, but I don’t fully buy into his hypothesis about the “two Gratians”. If you get that deep into it, I’ll send you a paper I wrote (unpublished) tracing the history of natural law interpretation and rejecting that view. You mentioned you’d like to read my dissertation: you and me both. It’s a work in progress.
Another great scholar is Ken Pennington, professor of legal history at Catholic University. His web site, filled with articles, histories, notes, facts, and bibliography (although a bit overwhelming to navigate) is located here: http://faculty.cua.edu/pennington/
Another misunderstanding you seem to have relates to the history of biblical interpretation in Christianity. Neither a Christian nor a Jew would doubt that God inspired the Prophets or (for the Christians) the writers of the New Testament – the writers (and co-authors with God) of the Bible. The difference is that Jews and Christians don't take the men who wrote the bible to have been mere scriveners. God was not reading into a Dictaphone but rather inspired men to write His revelation using their language steeped in their culture and in pursuit of specific needs. God assured that the writing would be free of error related to salvation. If you're interested in some work on Christian exegesis, I would highly recommend the Vatican II dogmatic constitution on scripture Dei verbum; it’s available online.
To be sure, there are passages in the Bible that are considered literal, yet complete literal interpretation of biblical text is a consistent error in Christian exegetical studies. The Church’s efforts to correct these errors have been Herculean and trace all the way back to the dawn of Christianity – it’s not a new thing and it’s been vigorously corrected. For example, consider that Matthew 19 contains a line that exhorts men to make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of God. Given the context of the line most Christians early on thought that it was an exhortation to forsake marriage for the sake of the kingdom of God. Some, however, took it literally and Origen (one of the great early Church fathers and heresiarchs at the same time!) emasculated himself on this basis. The problem was sufficiently wide-spread that the Church had to take action. The very first canon issued by the very first post-Apostolic ecumenical council at Nicaea addressed this very point and prohibited men who’d castrated themselves (or hired physicians to do same) from being admitted to the clergy. We’re talking about 325 AD – early stuff.
Regarding terminology…heresy is a technical term and is one of three delicts (crimes) in the Church against the teaching office (the others are apostasy and schism). Heresy is defined in canon 751 of the current law as: “obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith”. “Divine and Catholic faith” is also technical and refers to the deposit of Faith, which is itself technical. Without going into detail, let me say that I think you did mean “heresy” and not “anathema” (which is a public denouncement or banishment). Anathemas were cast upon heretics in the past; today, the default penalty for notorious heresy is excommunication, considered a medicinal penalty (although, in my opinion, it’s not applied nearly enough). Thus, I think you meant heresy, not anathema.
You claim there are scores of men put to death for their science. I’m not aware of any. Popular culture ascribes punishment (which in any case was not death) for scientific research to Galileo. This is not correct. Galileo’s science was revered; he got into trouble for his theology. What cases are you aware of? I don’t doubt it may have happened as an aberration, but it’s certainly never been policy.
Regarding the historic context of faith and reason, I was reading some of my notes recently and found some quotes by St. John Chrysostom who argued (similar argument I’ve heard Ross make) that reason (instead of faith) could be used to reach conclusions with the Pagans regarding the existence and precepts of natural law.
I confess I am not very familiar with Sufi Muslims. I have a number of friends who are Shia or Sunni and I constantly challenge them that they are not very religious or they would not have befriended me. You are right that Muslim religious leaders interpret the Koran. However what they interpret is not the literal meaning, as much as the effect. I'll give you an example of this difference....A Christian (again, a properly educated Christian of the majority -- either Catholic or Eastern Orthodox) would interpret the fact that God created man "in His image" as referencing the fact that we are created with reason and free will. A Muslim would go literal and interpret that (if there were a similar line in the Koran) to mean that man looks like God. The range of interpretation is thus limited to shades of meaning in the words and in the effect of those words (and the sequence, since Mohamed's revelation was sequential). Cardinal Pell’s take on this (in Ross’ blog) is very good and I’d encourage you to read it.
With respect to the Ottomans...you ask for my opinion, so...They are a brutal people. I lived several years in Athens (Greece, not Georgia :-) and I assure you that the scars are deep. To this day, the Greeks have not recovered from the oppression. As I noted in another of Ross' blog entries, it's possible that the Ottomans are the ones who prevented Islam from maturing; I emphasize it's only possible because I still think Islam labours under a severe handicap which is its literal scriptural basis. Nevertheless, I think the nature of the Ottoman rule is forgotten when people talk of the crusades. I put a reply to another note in Ross' blog regarding this. The first crusade was, in my opinion, a truly just war. The details of the brutality that the Jews and Christians were put through when the Ottomans arrived are blood curdling. The war was clearly a war of liberation. The subsequent crusades included other objectives, although that element remained.
To be sure, the crusades were not religious wars, the way modernity has tried to present them. The objective was not converting. The objective was not to spread Christianity. The objective was freeing Christians from oppression (in the first instance), securing a safe route for pilgrims to the Holy Land (in the second instance) and political gain (in the third instance). There is no question that the crusaders themselves engaged in abuses and brutal conduct along the way. But this was hardly motivated by religion; in fact the worst instance of this abuse was the sack of Constantinople (a Christian city) by the Franks on Venetian passage, an event which led Pope Innocent III to begin weeping in public when told of it. Such behaviour is reprehensible today but it must not be examined with modern eyes and the perspective of modern warfare.
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