Code of Justinian

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The Codex Justinianus (Code of Justinian) was the first of four parts of the Corpus Juris Civilis to be completed, on April 7, 529 A.D. Emperor Justinian I achieved lasting influence for his judicial reforms via the summation of all Roman law in the Corpus Juris Civilis ("Body of Civil Law"), a collection of fundamental works in jurisprudence, issued from AD 529 to 534 by his order. The Codex Justinianus was basically a revision of the Theodosian Code. Justinian's supplements to it consisted of his:

  • "Digesta" (or Pandectae), a synopsis of passages from juristic books and law commentaries of the classical period, mostly dating back to the second and third centuries.
  • "Institutiones", a modified codification of the celebrated Roman jurist Gaius' legislation. And the
  • "Novellae", a number of new constitutions.

All four of these together formed Justinian's Corpus of Civil Law which deeply influenced the Canon Law of the Western Church and the civil law of Medieval Europe. The Code's underlying claim that the emperor's will was supreme in all things made imperial control of the Church legal and thus deeply influenced the subsequent development of the Byzantine Church.

It remains influential to this day. By way of the Napoleonic Code (AD 1804), the Justinian Code reached Canada in the Province of Quebec, and was later introduced by French immigrants to Louisiana in the United States.[1]

Codex Justinianus

The Codex collects the constitutiones of the Roman Emperors. The earliest statute preserved in the code was enacted by Emperor Hadrian; the latest came from Justinian himself. The compilers of the code were able to draw on earlier works such as the official Codex Theodosianus and private collections like the Codex Gregorianus and the Codex Hermogenianus.

Legislation about religion

Numerous provisions serve to secure the status of Orthodox Christianity as the state religion of the empire, uniting Church and state, and making anyone who was not connected to the Christian church a non-citizen.

Laws against heresy

The very first law in the Codex requires all persons under the jurisdiction of the Empire to hold the holy Orthodox (Christian) faith. This was primarily aimed against heresies such as Arianism. This text later became the springboard for discussions of international law, especially the question of just what persons are under the jurisdiction of a given state or legal system.

Laws against paganism

Other laws, while not aimed at pagan belief as such, forbid particular pagan practices. For example, it is provided that all persons present at a pagan sacrifice may be indicted as if for murder.

Laws against Judaism

The principle of "Servitude of the Jews" (Servitus Judaeorum) was established by the new laws, and determined the status of Jews throughout the Empire for hundreds of years. The Jews were disadvantaged in a number of ways. They could not testify against Christians and were disqualified from holding a public office. Jewish civil and religious rights were restricted: "they shall enjoy no honors". The use of the Hebrew language in worship was forbidden. Shema Yisrael, sometimes considered the most important prayer in Judaism ("Hear, O Israel, YHWH our God, YHWH is one") was banned, as a denial of the Trinity. A Jew who converted to Christianity was entitled to inherit his or her father's estate, to the exclusion of the still-Jewish brothers and sisters. The Emperor became an arbiter in internal Jewish affairs. Similar laws applied to the Samaritans.

See also


  1. Rev. Dr. Nicon D. Patrinacos (M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon)). A Dictionary of Greek Orthodoxy - Λεξικον Ελληνικης Ορθοδοξιας. Light & Life Publishing, Minnesota, 1984. pp.221.


  • Rev. Dr. Nicon D. Patrinacos (M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon)). A Dictionary of Greek Orthodoxy - Λεξικον Ελληνικης Ορθοδοξιας. Light & Life Publishing, Minnesota, 1984. pp.221
  • Corpus Juris Civilis at Wikipedia.