Erosion of Law: 'Privilegia Ecclesiastica'

Christianity Wrecks Civilization

Jesus Never Existed – The Christianizing of the Roman Empire

email the author
Kenneth Humphreys



Home       Section      Complete list of articles         Search    





Bringing the ungodly to Christ




"More numerous, than the legions "

The cohorts of salvation.

Papal appointments were extremely lucrative and for centuries were sold at auction.

The monkish orders, no less parasitic, were frequently founded anew, beginning with the ethics of an austere self-sacrifice ('the poverty of Christ'), and degenerating rapidly into a privileged and pampered fraternity living on the backs of the peasantry.

Thus the Benedictine Order (c. 515) was followed by the Cluniac (910), followed by the Carthusian (1084), followed by the Cistercian (1098), followed by the Franciscan (1210), followed by the Dominican (1216), followed by the Camelite (1220) – plus the military orders of 'Hospitallers' and 'Templars' (1120).

Intense rivalry existed between these 'corporations' for sinecures, patronage and gifts.

With perhaps half of Europe's manpower 'serving God' human progress came to a halt.




Slavery? – That will do nicely

Slaves should not desire their freedom – not according to the Bible. The Church never moved to abolish slavery, and indeed was itself a slave-owner.

"Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.

For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant."

–1 Corinthians 7:21,22



Hard Times

"In the new Empire of Diocletian and Constantine, slavery and poverty had greatly increased; life inside this Empire was harder than it had ever been before."

– Romer (Testament, p219)




Fashionable headwear for heretics







Bending the Knee

"That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Philippians 2.9,11




Fashion accessory for heretics




The Gorgeous End of Law

"As the emperor's laws become weaker, the ceremony surrounding them becomes more baroque.

In the last days, the Divine One's edict is written in gold on purple paper, received with covered hands in the fashion of a priest handling sacred vessels, held aloft for adoration by the assembled throng, who prostrate themselves before the law – and then ignore it."

– T, Cahill (How the Irish Saved Civilization, p60)




Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust













Early in the 1st century AD, Emperor Augustus established a Roman colony at Berytus (modern Beirut). Here he stationed two legions to keep an eye on a Greco-Semitic province which had sided with his old enemies Antony and Cleopatra. But he also commenced a lavish building program in the city.

Two hundred years later, and having grown into a major port, Berytus was renowned for its school of Roman Law. The school had been founded in 200 AD by the Emperor Septimius Severus, a monarch who appreciated legal reasoning and nurtured its development.

His marriage to the formidable Julia Domna had forged an imperial link to a prominent family of the nearby Syrian city of Emesa. Berytus was the first school of Roman Law in the eastern Empire and reached its apogee in the 3rd century with the professorship of its two most famous jurists (both natives of Phoenicia): Papinian (died 212) and Ulpian (died 228). Both served as imperial advisors.

The Law School continued to furnish the eastern provinces of the empire with jurists and magistrates for three hundred years. The decline of the school – and of Law within the Roman Empire – went hand-in-hand with the rise of the Christian Church.


A Privileged Class of Priestly Parasites

"The Emperor might be saluted as the father of his people, be he owed a filial duty and reverence to the fathers of the church; and the same marks of respect which Constantine had paid to the persons of saints and confessors were soon exacted by the pride of the episcopal order ... a new and perpetual order of ecclesiastical ministers, always respectable, sometimes dangerous, was established in the church and state" (Gibbon, ch.20)

Paganism had no need of leaders and Roman religion had no priestly class. Its priests (haruspices) were elected or co-opted from prominent citizens, laymen not 'experts', whose chief function was to propitiate the relevant gods to ensure continued good fortune. Belief did not really come into it; correctness of ceremony was paramount.

Christianity introduced structure into religion. Indeed it offered a way to wealth and career outside of the only real alternative – the army.

"The whole body of the catholic clergy, more numerous, perhaps, than the legions ... The cathedrals of Constantinople and Carthage maintained their peculiar establishment of five hundred ecclesiastical ministers ... 60 presbyters or priests, 100 deacons, 40 deaconesses, 90 sub-deacons, 110 readers, 25 chanters, and 100 door-keepers ... The clerical name and privilege were extended to many pious fraternities ... 600 parabolani , or adventurers, visited the sick at Alexandria; 1100 copiatae, or gravediggers, buried the dead at Constantinople; and the swarms of monks, who arose from the Nile, overspread and darkened the face of the Christian world." (Gibbon, ch. 20)

The revolution of Constantine transformed the Church beyond recognition. Bishops and priests, no longer elected or 'acclaimed' by the brethren but members of a self-perpetuating 'order', enjoyed exemption from taxation and all other public service. As state officials they received generous stipends; and as a custodians of 'the Church', bequests from those who died. Whilst they might not 'own' church property, theirs was a privileged and exclusive use of ever-grander riches and properties during their own earthly presence.

But in 321 Constantine went further and began the process by which the clergy were exempted from the jurisdiction of civil law and the decisions of bishops became binding on civil magistrates.

"Even in a capital accusation, a synod of their brethren were the sole judges of their guilt or innocence ... Constantine was satisfied that secret impunity would be less pernicious than public scandal, and the Nicene council was edified by his public declaration, that, if he surprised a bishop in the act of adultery, he should cast his Imperial mantle over the episcopal sinner." (Gibbon, ch.20)

Inexorably, the ecclesiastical arm of government gained control of the secular, though not without resistance (as, for example, in Egypt). Answerable only to their own self-appointed 'Ecclesiastic Courts' (and God, of course!), the priests had free licence to brutalise, abuse and profiteer on a monumental scale. Given the level of paedophilia and corruption within the Church in our own enlightened age, the suffering of humanity through the dark centuries which followed beggars belief.


Hang the TV!

The Taliban regime in Afghanistan showed what happens when the 'agents of God' gain control – education withers and dies and the only valued technology is the one that kills the most unbelievers.

In the 6th century, the eastern half of the Roman world degenerated into a theocratic tyranny in which centuries of Hellenic scientific discovery was condemned as demonic and consigned to the flames.


An End to Justice

The foolish Constantine was perhaps the first of a thousand monarchs who "too easily believed that he should purchase the favour of Heaven if he maintained the idle at the expense of the industrious." (Gibbon)

In 438 Theodosius II began the process of Christianising the Law Code. Now, in Law, the imperial palace – even its stables! – became 'sacred.' The interweaving of the 'sacred person' of the monarch with the 'sacred Church of Christ' became ever tighter. The code spoke of "the thousand terrors that defend the boundless claim to honour of the Church." (Freeman, p259)

A century later, Justinian, forever credited with his law code (indeed, the very spelling of 'justice'), actually did no more than authorise a compendium of the massive corpus of laws framed by his pagan predecessors (he employed the pagan Tribonian, in 529, to do the work). The 3rd century works of Papinian and Ulpian alone comprise more than one third of the 6th century compilation (Corpus Juris Civilis). His over-riding goal was to eliminate from Roman law any aspects which were incompatible with Christian theology.

When the 'Digest' and the 'Pandects' were ready in 535, three million 'verses' had been reduced to 150,000. Notoriously, the Justinian Codex contained two pernicious statutes (Codex I., xi. 9 and 10) which decreed the total destruction of Hellenism, even in the civil life. These particular laws were vigorously enforced, with severe persecutions even of men in high positions.

For its contribution, the 'pious, prosperous, renowned, victorious, and triumphant' Justinian gave the city of Berytus an honoury title: 'Nutrix Legum' – 'Mother of Laws.'

The old gods must have heard:

The once glorious city of Berytus was destroyed by a triple catastrophe of earthquake, tidal wave and fire in 551 AD.



A theocratic state is a particularly pernicious and austere form of dictatorship. Individual "sin" is held to pollute the community and is used to enforce a harsh, collective discipline. A blind obedience is required to secure God's blessing. Where once humanity had gathered in the agora to hear and debate through the skills of rhetoric and logic, now cowed 'sheep' knelt in silence in the basilica of a church to receive, without question, a sermon from on high. From the pulpit, too, came imperial propaganda, and on occasions, 'heretical' diatribes. In time, the call would be for holy murder – crusades, pogroms, witch hunts.

In the fusion of Church with State, the imperial family (and indeed the barbarian successor kings) did indeed gain the "endorsement of Heaven." With a theocratic monarchy in the east, a papal monarchy in Rome, and barbarous sister kingdoms of christendom in the west, an ecclesiastic totalitarianism reigned throughout Europe, its tyranny permeating every sphere of life.

Faced with such almighty autocracy the ancient liberties of the common people, if only ever slightly referenced by tribunes and assemblies, dissolved before the 'divine right of kings' and 'Privilegia Ecclesiastica'.

"The King bears the image of God, just as the bishop bears the image of Christ."

The frightening words of the 4th century Ambrosiaster.

Because the malicious God of the Old Testament frequently acted in an arbitrary, vicious manner so might kings and emperors – with impunity. Thus, the ever-pious Justinian saved his throne in the face of the Nika riots in 532 by the massacre of 30-50,000 rioters. The only restraint upon boundless tyranny was the collapse of enforceable authority.

The study of jurisprudence, the very Law itself, became an irrelevance.


End of Human Rights, New Forms of Oppression

" Do you not realize that Eve is you? The curse God pronounced on your sex weighs still on the world. Guilty, you must bear its hardships. You are the devil's gateway, you desecrated the fatal tree, you first betrayed the law of God, you softened up with your cajoling words the man against whom the devil could not prevail by force.

The image of God, the man Adam, you broke him, it was child's play to you. You deserved death, and it was the son of God who had to die!"

– A rancorous Tertullian gives a Christian view of womenDiscipline, Moral & Ascetical Works (Trans. R. Arbessman)


Popular culture ensures that we are all more familiar with the slavery of ancient Rome than we are with the so-called "serfdom" of the Christian centuries which followed.

Yet the empire of Rome, until the decline of the 4th century, encouraged and facilitated the manumission of slavery into freedom on a vast scale, and with it the growth of a large and important class of free or freed men. Nor did social mobility end merely with a former slave gaining his freedom. Many slaves are known to history because they became successful, wealthy and even powerful men in their own right, some themselves becoming slave-owners in turn.

Former slaves became freedmen holding important positions in the state bureaucracy. The children of slaves could, and did, become powerful "Romans" – up to and including Emperor of all the Romans.

Diocletian – one of the greatest of the Roman emperors, who ruled for thirty years and then retired – had parents who were born slaves.

In the Christian monarchy that began with Constantine slavery was extended and made harsher. Instead of manumission the new hereditary employments of labourers and peasants created a 'serfdom' worse than slavery.

Women, in particular, were singled out for subjugation and punishment. With the example of the blessed, ever-pure Virgin Mary set before them at every turn all non-virgins were pronounced whores and Jezebels. In time the sentence on women, so misogynously voiced by Tertullian, would lead to enforced celibacy, joyless marriage and witch burning.


Charles Freeman, The Closing of The Western Mind (Heinemann, 2002)
Jenifer Cochrane, The Illustrated History of Medicine (Tiger Books, 1996)
Henry Pirenne, Medieval Cities (Princeton UP, 1952)
Tony McAleavy, Life in a Medieval Abbey (English Heritage, 1996)
John Julian Norwich, Byzantium (Penguin, 1991)
Arthur Ferrill, The Fall of the Roman Empire (Thames & Hudson, 1986)
Friedrich Heer, The Fires of Faith (Weidenfield & Nicolson, 1970)
Michael Grant, The Roman Emperors (Weidenfield & Nicolson, 1985)
Joan Evans (Ed.), The Flowering of the Middle Ages (Thames & Hudson, 1998)



Related articles
The Insanity Begins – The Closing Mind
Collapse of Ancient Medicine Ruin of Public Health
Missionaries or Murderers? – The Christianising of Europe
1000 Years of Carnage & Barbarity in the name of Christ
The Papal Princes – Christian Lords of Hell on Earth
Do you really think it all began with a sanctimonious Jewish wonder-worker, strolling about 1st century Palestine? Prepare to be enlightened.
  Jesus – The Imaginary Friend

Still holding to the idea that some sort of holy man lies behind the legend? Better check out...
Godman – Gestation of a Superhero

A closer look at the glib assertion that the Jesus story "got off the ground quickly and spread rapidly."
What DID the Early Christians Believe?

Many currents fed the Jesus myth, like streams and tributaries joining to form a major river.
Sourcing the legend – The Syncretic Heritage of Christianity

Much of the mythology of Christianity is a rehash of an older and even more transparent fabrication – Judaism.
Jew Story – The Way of the Rabbi

Human ingenuity and cunning is matched by mankind's equally monumental credulity and wishful thinking.
Christianity's Fabrication Factory

Church organisation, authority and membership preceded rather than followed the justifying doctrine. As the organisation and its needs changed so has the ‘Testament of God’ adapted accordingly.
Dogma – The Word in all its Savage Glory

From religious policeman to grandee of the church, from beast fighter in Ephesus to beheading in Rome, Paul's story has more holes than a swiss cheese.
 St Paul the Apostle – Dead in the water?

Orchestrated by ambitious Christian clerics, a cancer of superstition, fear and brutality was imposed across Europe.
Heart of Darkness – The Criminal History of the Christian Church

The Christian Heaven may have been a vain folly but the Christian Hell has been real enough.
Hell on Earth – A Brutal Superstition Spreads Across the World

Raised to the status of State religion the Christian Church reigned over the destruction of civilization. As the centuries passed religious barbarism grew ever more vicious.
Winter of the World – The Terrible Cost of "Christendom"

For two millennia Christianity's anti-sexual, puritanical doctrines have inflicted untold damage on the mental, emotional and physical lives of countless millions of people.
Those SEXUALLY hung-up Christians – Loved-up for Jesus

With a Jewish father (stern patriarch) and a Christian mother (obsession with guilt and heaven) it is not surprising that Islam grew up a bit of a tartar.
Islam's Desert Storm – 'Christendom' Reaps a Whirlwind

Heaven help us. The richest, most powerful nation in history has a psychotic infatuation with Jay-a-sus the Lawd!
The Christianizing of the Americas





Some fifty articles are now available as a book. For your copy order:



Copyright © 2004 by Kenneth Humphreys.
Copying is freely permitted, provided credit is given to the author and no material herein is sold for profit.