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GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HUMAN LAW: A NEW TESTAMENT PERSPECTIVE ON LAW AND THEOLOGY

  • Jens Schröter (a1)
Abstract

It is a remarkable fact that ancient Christianity did not establish a distinct legal system. The early Christians did not take over the Jewish law as the basis for the church. Rather, they accepted the administrative and legal context of the Roman Empire and developed their religious and ethical views within this framework. Consequently, unlike in Judaism and Islam, a “Christian law” was not established, even not after the acceptance of Christianity as the official religion in the Roman Empire or as Christianity became the prevailing religion in the Middle Ages and remained so into modern times. Nevertheless, Christianity developed its own perspective on legal and ethical matters. Distinctive for this view is the difference between the commitment to God's will on the one hand and the respect for human legal systems on the other. In other words, Christianity developed a perspective on the relationship of law and theology that can be described as the implementation of a double directive: Christians are bound to an ethos oriented towards God's will, but at the same time they accept the rules and authorities of this world. This view also means that God's commandments found in the scriptures of Israel are now interpreted in a new way. They are not regarded as ethical and ritual rules that would separate Christian communities from society. Rather, God's law, interpreted by Jesus Christ, serves as the guideline for a life of the Christian believers within the world of the Roman Empire. Both of these concepts—the acceptance of the legislation of the society and the commitment to God's will—can come into conflict with each other, as has often happened in Christian history. Already in early Christianity it was pointed out that obedience to God should prevail over human law.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Joel R. White , “‘Peace and Security’ (1 Thessalonians 5.3): Is It Really a Roman Slogan?New Testament Studies 59, no. 3 (2013): 382–95

Jeffrey A. D. Weima , “‘Peace and Security’ (1 Thess 5.3): Prophetic Warning or Political Propaganda?New Testament Studies 58, no. 3 (2012): 331–59

Ulrike Roth , “Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus: A Christian Design for Mastery,” Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 105, no. 1 (2014): 102–30

Daniel Marguerat , “A Christianity between Jerusalem and Rome,” in The First Christian Historian: Writing the Acts of the Apostles (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 6584

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Journal of Law and Religion
  • ISSN: 0748-0814
  • EISSN: 2163-3088
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-law-and-religion
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