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Onasander

Nomophylax

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I came across two coincidences of law men becomming Bishops, one a patriarch, in the last day.....

 

One is in the Biography of the Roman Philosopher Michael Psellos:

 

"Among his fellow teachers and close friends one should include Ioannes Xiphilinos, who specialized in law. Around 1045, Monomachos conferred on Xiphilinos a new office, nomophylax, in an act drafted by Mauropous. Later, he too became patriarch (Pope of Constantinople)."

 

That is from Stratis Papaioannou's "Michael Psellos", from the free sample portion you can download from kindle, loc 453

 

Last night, I find in Philip Schaff's Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 6, again on the free portion provided by kindle, the commentary on Gregory Thaumaturgus, that he studied to become a lawyer first, met Origin, studied both pagan and christian philosophy under him, and later theology, and the converted. He returned home to Pontus, apparently completely oblivious to the Flavians having concocted Christianity :) , and settled down to do some lawyering..... when he was tricked into becomming Bishop. After playing a few rounds of really bad knock knock jokes with invading Goths, he left his mountain hideout with his flock and returned to pontus, the vast majority of the pagans having since converted under his leadership.

 

So..... outside of it being a actual imperial appointment, within his immediate court, how would gregory as a lawyer priest differ from, say the former? Was this a pagan tradition of local leaders being both lawyer and priest? Is there a tradition of making lawyers or canonists into bishops, popes, or pagan priests?

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Rome had different kinds of priests. The pontifices were actually lawyers: they were experts of ius sacrum, which was a part of ius publicum (and originally, like before the Twelve Tables, they were experts of law altogether, since the whole of the law was not a secular matter).

The ius sacrum continued to exist for long as a part of the ius publicum: still Constantine would found Constantinople by following the rites of consecratio which were regulated by the ius publicum / sacrum. But I would doubt that ius sacrum, at that point, was still prerogative of priests, for the simple reason that law was heavily secularized already since a while, so you would not need specialized priests for whatever rites still held in public law. Of course you'd still need priests to perform them (Constantine himself was pontifex maximus like any emperor up to Gratian), but that's nothing like the late republican age.

On the other hand, I am not aware that the priests of the state cult needed any extensive legal training, and I don't see why they would.

 

All in all, bishops inherited some of their functions from pagan priests, but I think that their education comes from another element of their role in the Christian empire. Like some scholars pointed out (I'm thinking particularly of Peter Brown), bishops replaced the (secular) urban elites in the management of local administration. Law must have been an appealing career for that kind of social class, whether they became bishops or not.

Edited by Number Six

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From my understanding from questionable secondary sources, the Bishops only held municipal power for a short time in the 5th century given a lapse of capacity in the Constantine Dynasty to continue to police the cities and collect taxes... Bishops were the only ones around. They couldn't control the self defence gangs turned vice patrols that survived.... there is always a militant faction in every society, and these boys had a understandable grudge, and were often ignorant (see the movie Agora). A Christian Bishop usually isn't a Caliph.... a martial theocracy, and so we're in a pickle in terms of how to deal with these zealots. I don't think legal thinking was much a factor in this era, not at least until the Eastern Empire got its fortunes back under control and took back control.

 

I recall in Greece, a Pagan Philosopher was drafted into the position of Christian Bishop..... the government collapsed, he was the only intellectual around and so did it for the good of the Empire. It's only one of two times I am aware of that a open Pagan was given the rank of Bishop, the other during the final collapse a thousand years later.

 

I assumed mass secularization myself. I've started putting law questions in the religious section of this site for this reason, but assumed the middle and late imperial era had secularized the law profession. It was hereditary for a while there.

Edited by Onasander

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I don't think legal thinking was much a factor in this era, not at least until the Eastern Empire got its fortunes back under control and took back control.

 

Depends on what period are we talking about. The third century was still a learned era. Just think of personalities like Origen. A contemporary of Origen was Modestinus, the last of the great jurists of the late Roman Empire: when Gregorius flourished, before the end of the third century, law studies still meant something.

 

On the other hand, if we consider the two following centuries, which is when legal knowledge went largely lost before the brief Iustinianian revival, we find that bishops were appointed for all kind of offices in the public administration, and held functions that dealt with trials: for example, according with CTh 16, 11, 1 (399 CE) trials de religione would have bishops as prosecutors.

Edited by Number Six

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Ummm..... I did not say there were no learned men anywhere, just in the particular of the pagan becoming Bishop. They largely fled, as anyone with a combination of knowledge and wits would, to more secure locations.

 

I am of the understanding the legal schools remained intact during this era in Palestine. Its from a commentary on Justinians' Laws I read long ago.

 

Just, such men are rather useless when the imperial administration essentially evaporates. Bishops had much influence and leadershicleadershipcapacity, but honestly, were they trained in their traditions to consider police actions, run the courts, collect taxes beyond voluntary tithes, punish criminals, etc?

 

There are elements beyond merely being a bishop necessary to rule a city. Especially ones with a constitutional tradition, and a threat of invasion. Bishops are highly intelligent, but also at the same time specialists. Its not a matter of a dark age lead by stupid men, but of the unexpected wrong kind of intelligent men suddenly gaining power.

 

Now.... can you have a competent Bishop who knows statecraft? Yes, but at first they will be few and far between. Its not unknown even imodern eras for this to happen, such as Cyprus. But its not natural via the Christian tradition.

 

I doubt lawyers had much of a role for this reason. What use could they be to a wide eyed Bishop uncertain with the sudden reality of administrative power? They lack a powerbase, coups and assassination a constant possibility.... stuff is not working despite ordering it fixed..... someone with a understanding of old legal customs is superfluous under such circumstances.

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