Any body without a rule, a guide or law is doomed to chaos, anarchy, and disharmony. Any group without a guiding principle will be more disorganized than organized. A people without a distinguishing mark will surely be buried in the sand of time. They will suffer extinction wrought about by their irrelevance which is the consequence of the absence of laws and hence, absence of a pattern of behavior. The church is both organized and relevant. It follows then that she must have a law guiding her children to a way of life. This serves as a distinguishing factor between her members and those who are not her members; making them truly salt of the earth and light of the nations. What then are those guiding principles? How did they come about? What are the antecedents that necessitated their emergence? What is (are) the importance of the history of these laws? These are some of the questions this work shall be addressing. Canon Law Defined
Etymologically the word canon is derived from the Greek word “kavόνεҁ” meaning a stick or rod. It also means a standard measurement, the rule, norm, or yardstick.1 law on the other hand means a rule usually made by a government that is used to order the way a society behaves. In other words it is a system of rules of a particular society.2 according to Thomas Aquinas, law is a specific ordinance of reason meant to promote common good and promulgated by one who has the responsibility for the commminity.3 Therefore the code of canon law is a book containing the universal and fundamental laws of the Roman Catholic Church. By code is meant a unified systematic body of law and not just a loose collection of law Epochs In The Emergence of The Code of Canon Law
According to The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia, “the evolution of the church law can generally be divided into three major eras: the ius antiquum (old law), the ius novum (new law), and the ius novissimum (newest law).”4 The old law spans through the first eleven centuries; the new law begins from the twelfth century through the nineteenth century while the newest law begins from the late sixteenth century to the present age. It is obvious from the above that our scope in this work lies within the ius antiquum and the middle of ius novum. The ius antiquum
For more than five centuries, the church existed without a comprehensive body of written law. The cause of this can be attributed to the fact that Jesus Christ was himself at times at loggerheads with the legalistic system of the Jews. Secondly the Roman Empire made laws that regulated even the church so the Christians did not see themselves as capable of making their own law. These notwithstanding, the Christians within the first three centuries drew their norms from the gospels and sacred scripture, Didache, Tradittio Apostolica, and Didascalia Apostolorum. These documents shared some characteristics in common. First, their authority derived from their apostolic origin, secondly, they drew upon scripture and practice for their norms and they aimed at Christian discipline, doctrine and worship.5 Thus, the New Testament was a primary source of the earliest norms of the cannon law. However, as the Christian communities began to evolve into more complicated and integrated organizational structures throughout the Mediterranean world, the New Testament seemed to be inadequate as some issues could not get express guide from it. Hence, assemblies of the fathers met to deliberate and provide direction on such issues. These assemblies are known as the councils of the church. There were a number of these councils both in the East and West. The council of Carthage (220 – 230) is the first western council of which we are well informed. It is worthy of note that Carthage is in North Africa. Moreover councils were subsequently held there almost annually during the reign of Cyprian as bishop (251-258). However, the first council that produced a set of legislative decrees in the one that...
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