Sunday, October 25, 2009


Read this in light of what our nation prides itself for. The rule of law and what we as humans determine to be just.

"Pilate represents Roman authority and applies Roman law. Now, I concede that no civilization ever created so well-developed a law or could give such decisions in trials, debates, and conflicts. I say this without irony. I taught Roman law for twenty years and discovered all the nuances and all the skill of jurists whose one aim was to say what was right. They defined law as the art of the good and the equitable, and I can guarantee that in hundreds of concrete cases they rendered decisions which showed that they were in effect dispensing justice. The Romans were not in the first instance ferocious fighters and conquerors, as they are often described. Their chief achievement was Roman law. A little problem which virtually no one considers is that their army, strictly speaking, was never large. At most it seems to have had 120 legions, and these were nearly all stationed on the frontiers of the empire. They came into the interior only when there was a rebellion. The order of the empire was not a military order. It was through administrative skill and through the equilibrium established by skillful and satisfying legal measures that the empire endured for five centuries. We have to bear this in mind in evaluating what the accounts of the trial tell us.

The law of which the Romans were so proud and which provided the justest solutions---what did it accomplish in this instance? It allowed a Roman procurator to yield to the mob and to condemn an innocent man to death for no valid reason (as Pilate himself recognized!) This, then, is what we can expect from an excellent legal system! The fact that Jesus submits to the trial is not in these circumstances a recognition of the legitimacy of the authority of government. On the contrary, it is an unveiling of the basic injustice of what purports to be justice. This is what is felt when it is said that in the trial of Jesus all those who were condemned to death and crucified by the Romans are cleared. We thus find here once again the conviction of the biblical writers that all authority is unjust. We catch an echo of the saying in Ecclesiastes 3:16 that "where the seat of justice is found, there is wickedness." Jaques Ellul Anarchy and Christianity

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