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The Trial of Christ, by David K. Breed, [1948], at

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The Author has spoken before meetings of various ward organizations in St. Louis on the subject, "Political Lessons from the Trial of Christ." Under such circumstances the utmost care is taken to avoid religious differences and to point out that the trial of Christ has a three-fold significance: the Technical aspect, the Citizenship aspect, and the Messianic aspect. To an unlearned political audience the technical portion which we have reviewed has to be stated in simple terms, in order to put the larger emphasis on the idea that the remedy for legal laxity is to honestly endeavor to get reform.

To illustrate, when the Lindbergh defendant, Hauptmann, 116 assigned in an Appellate Court some 57 alleged errors in his trial for the kidnapping and murder of young Lindbergh, a good church friend of mine ventured

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the opinion that he would "get off on a technicality." We are glad he did not. At the time, I told my friend that the technicalities of the law are for the protection of all people, innocent and guilty alike. The duty of a good citizen is not to wail over apparent technical miscarriages of justice but rather to join hands with his fellows to correct the existing procedural evils. How many of those who condemned the Supreme Court for avoiding a Child Labor law some twenty-five years ago, 117 ever turned their hands to aid in the campaign to amend the Constitution of The United States so as to permit regulation of this evil? How many of those who scorn politics as "dirty" ever do anything to clean them up? How many so-called professing Christians ever let their voice be heard in a political meeting?

Intelligent reform of the law requires not only desire on the part of the reformer for a betterment of conditions, not only the political stamina and influence to get the legislative group to adopt his program, but most of all an intelligent understanding of legal history

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and precedent leading up to the existing dilemma, in order that the reformer will be able to point out to this age the factual errors of history. In drawing from the errors of the trial of Christ, therefore, a lesson in citizenship, it is well that we have in mind the history of law and the theory of human government. Archeology has its place in such a study but is quite beyond the scope of our brief presentation. 118 The basic principles of the law have remained unchanged for four thousand years, 119 and most of the great lawgivers of history have either been trained in the law or inspired of God. Somewhere the author has read that it was not mere accident that Moses was rescued from the river by Pharaoh's daughter, but that as a result of his upbringing in the royal palace Moses was educated in the Egyptian universities of that day and had some knowledge of existing law

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and of medicine as well. No doubt he had access to the Code of Hammurabi. Roman Law in force when Christ was tried, as we have pointed out, was the Laws of the Twelve Tables. 120 Some years ago the author wrote his graduation thesis (unpublished) on "The Twelve Tables in Modern American Law" and demonstrated that 87 of the 113 sections of The Twelve Tables were in accord with our law, in principle if not in detail, in 1930 A.D., Two Thousand Three Hundred Eighty Years after they were promulgated! 121 My brother 122 has quite properly reminded the writer, time and time again, that the law is not an end unto itself but a means of enforcing some semblance of earthly justice until the world is raptured by the

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[paragraph continues] Second Coming of Christ: No man was ever saved by mere law!

The writings of St. Paul are very rich in their legal references. 123 In our Appendix we mention the legalism of Paul in more detail. The Bible tells us he had been a student under the great and learned Gamaliel. 124 Whether or not Paul was learned in the law, the idea of the Church as the Body of Christ is clearer to a legal mind if one remembers that corporations were known to law as far back as 500 B. C., 125 and that corporate existence is the only worldly example of anything that resembles immortality. 126

Our point is that the legalisms in Paul's

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writings and the existence of corporations in those days in Greek and Roman Law—even the Hebrew corporate existence of the Sanhedrin—all aid one in understanding Christ. We will refer again to the precious promise that, "In My Father's house are many mansions, . . . I go to prepare a place for you. " 127 Archeology has discovered court records in Egypt in the Koine Greek language in which the word "Mansion" used in the passage quoted is used in the sense of "Habitable real estate acceptable for bail bond." 128 We are sure our Heavenly Home will be habitable like that.

A great sage once said that one cannot stand still. The minute a movement stops growing, it deteriorates. As long as there were other worlds to conquer, Rome was a powerful state but when progress stopped the Empire fell. The public is prone to point out the laxities in our laws and government and lay the blame to two groups—the lawyers and the politicians. A failure of the Roman government to enforce the rigid laws in that great trial in Jerusalem caused the greatest

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public murder in history. From that failure we can learn the value of enforcement—the political lesson that the technicalities of a system of law should be enforced. We can learn that the remedy for a defective law is not wholesale violation but amendment.

So let us now as Christians use what influence we have to bring about those changes in Government and in law that will be for the greatest public good, remembering that good earthly government derives its power from the just consent of the governed. Let us teach the public to vote intelligently at every election, and to respect and obey the legal technicalities of existing government while working for their improvement. If we can thus educate the public to the intelligent use of elections we shall render real service to the people of the United States.


66:116 Hauptmann v. State, 115 N. J. L. 412, 180 Atl. 809, certiorari denied 296 U. S. 649, habeas corpus denied, 297 U. S. 693.

67:117 Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co., (1922) 259 U. S. 20.

68:118 Cf., Smith, "The Romance of the Greek New Testament", in The Sunday School Times, Feb. 1, 1947, Vol. 89, p. 99.

68:119 Compare Gaius' Institutes, (Postes Transl.) Bk. I, Sec. I; Code of Hammurabi; Ten Commandments (Exodus xx) of which the Commandments I, II, X, are not now American law; Numbers 35:30; U. S. Const., Amendment XIV; McCune Gill, "Getting Back to Justinian", in 62 American Law Review, p. 301 (1928); Wigmore, A Panorama of the World's Legal Systems, 3 vols.

69:120 450 B. C.; Text available in English in St. Louis Law Review for June, 1928 (Conant translation of Bruns' Text) .

69:121 The ideas of the Twelve Tables appear outside Roman Law and Anglo-American Law, and there was once a discussion as to whether they were copied from the Code of Confucius or not; consult, further on this point, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, (Scribners’ 1915) title "Law" in volume 7, pp. 820, 830, and 877; Sir John Legge, Confucian Analects (Hongkong, 1861); Jernigan, China in Law and Commerce, (London, 1915).

69:122 The Rev. M. Edwards Breed, First Presbyterian Church, Chillicothe, Mo.

70:123 See, for example, 1 Tim. 1:5, 8; Gal. 3:15; Heb. 9:15; Rom. 10:4; 1 Cor., Ch. 10; 1 Cor. 14:21; etc.

70:124 Acts 22:3; Gal. 1:13 & 14; Phil. 3:4-10; etc.

70:125 Fletcher, Cyclopedia of the Law of Private Corporations, 20 vols., 1931, vol. 1, p. 1; Blackstone's Commentaries, I, 468; Sohm, Institutes of Roman Law, (Ledlie's Trans., 1926) p. 186; Maine, Ancient Law, 4th ed., p. 183; Ulpian, Frag. 22, 5; Corpus Juris, (Modern legal encyclopedia not to be confused with Justinian C. J.), vol. 14, p. 51; etc.

70:126 See the great definition by Marshall, C. J., in Dartmouth College vs. Woodward, 4 Wheaton 518, 4 L. Ed. 629 1. c. 659. The following are the dates of origin of well known modern corporations still existing: Dartmouth College, 1769; Yale, 1701; St. Peters' College, Cambridge, England, 1284; Hudson Bay Co., 1670, see The Governors etc. for Hudson Bay vs. Hudson Bay Fur Co., 33 Fed. 2d. 801.

71:127 John 14:2.

71:128 Rimmer, Voices from the Silent Centuries, p. 68.

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