Summary: Paul faces trial by the Roman authorities and appeals to Caesar.
a. This week, the Presidential race officially began. The Democrats were seen heating up the airwaves and newspapers in Iowa, as the American public sees their potential voting field trimmed down somewhat.
b. President Bush, on the other hand, addressed the nation in a State of the Union address, and according to a Wall Street Journal article I read this week, his staff had been working on this speech since October.
c. I saw on the news where the President Bush practiced the speech in the White House Theater for two days. The press wasn’t allowed inside, but only a few trusted advisors.
d. The theme of the week on the news seemed to be politics, since the Superbowl isn’t until next Sunday. I thought that this was very fitting, since we are going to be looking at the Roman government, and in particular the Roman justice system, as we see Paul on trial.
e. In the spirit of everybody going back to school, a freshman was assigned the project in his political science class. The assignment was to describe in practical terms, several different forms of government. His paper read like this -
f. Communism: You have two cows. The government takes both, milks them, keeps the milk, and gives you a pint. Socialism: The government takes one of your cows and gives it to a neighbor. Fascism: The government takes both your cows and shoots one of them. Nazism: The government takes both cows and shoots you. Capitalism: You milk booth cows, sell one of the cows, and buy a bull. Bureaucracy: The government takes both cows, milks them, and pours the milk down the drain.
g. A more original saying on the mockery of laws of the land in various countries goes something like this - In the US, everything that is not prohibited by law is permitted. In Germany, everything that is not permitted by law is prohibited. In Russia, everything is prohibited, even if permitted by law. In France, everything is permitted, even if prohibited by law.
h. We are also going to look at Roman lawyers as they are introduced in the New Testament. They were called orators, because they pled their case with great passion.
a. We know much about Roman law from history, and today we get to take a look at a typical Roman trial close up. Most early civilizations were ruled by custom or by the arbitrary judgments of kings. Laws -- and the punishments for not obeying them -- were at the whim of the ruler. However, at Rome in 450 BC there was a revolt by a group of people who felt they were entitled to know and be able to interpret the code of laws. Thus the Twelve Tables were established. A ten-man commission set forth the basis of law for all Roman citizens. The Twelve Tables was the complete law code. They covered all areas of the law, emphasizing the procedure that was to be followed for various crimes. They made the law transparent and, in theory, applicable to all citizens. But still, in Rome, the wealthy generally found ways to escape judgment.
b. The laws of the Twelve Tables were never repealed, but some fell into disuse over time. The Roman laws stood for 1000 years. Now, citizenship was exclusive and the Roman Empire was marked by strong class distinctions. The wealthy had control of most of the legal customs prior to the establishment of the Twelve Tables and they retained their influence in Roman courts even afterwards. "Standing jury courts" -- basically comprised the criminal courts of the late Republic. There were several such courts, each one dealing with a different statutory offense. The large juries were drawn from a list of upper class citizens and made their rulings by majority vote. The option of appeal did not become available until about the time of Christ.
c. The role of a Roman lawyer differed considerably from that in the United States. The individual plaintiff and defendant were responsible for their own representation. Throughout the proceedings, the lawyer, or patronus, could offer strategic advice and could give a speech on behalf of his client, but he was not allowed to be paid money for his services.
d. Lawyers were not trained in law but rather in the art of speaking. During their training they would listen to the speeches of other advocates and learn of the law in this fashion. They were all men of means, interested more in practical solutions than in theory, and had other interests, usually working their way up the Roman bureaucracy.
e. Our study this morning comes out of Acts chapter 24, and we are going to finish out the chapter this week, leaving us with just four more chapters until we finish the Book of the Acts.