The church law and the civil law in Byzantium: two parts of one legal order (legal schools)

The church law and the civil law in Byzantium: two parts of one legal order (legal schools)

By Dilian Nikoltchev

IUS CANONICUM, Vol.42, No.84 (2002)


Introduction: During the first three centuries of its history the Church existed completely independent from the state. As a result of this the juridical rules of the church life, i.e. the canons, also represented entirely independent sphere of the jurisprudence. They developed separately from the secular legislation. But in the course of time, with the recognition of the Church as a public corporation (corpus christianorum) by Constantine the Great, the canonical and the civil legislation had, in certain sense, to stand one to the other and to advance to one or another interaction.

Actually the ecclesiastical and the civil jurisprudence «permeated» through each other. According to Pitsakis, the state law (Byzantium) and the church law were only the two parts of one and the same legal order. In fact, in the theory and the political ideology of Byzantium the existence of different juridical practices was impossible in that public and social reality. It did not refer to separate institutions (in the broad sense of the word), but to two aspects of the term church — one and inseverable, and to the Christian empire— an earthly image of the Kingdom of God. These were two inseparable aspects in the political and the theological thinking of the Byzantines.

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