Out of time? Eternity, christology and Justinianic law

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The essay explores the distinctive relationship between sacred (Christian) temporality and (Western) ‘hermeneutics of the state’, through a focus upon the founding texts of the Civilian legal tradition: the sixth-century CE Digest, Code and Institutes. Part 1 analyses the Emperor Justinian’s claim that these law-books were to be ‘valid for all eternity’ through a series of close textual readings of the same law-books’ prefatory constitutions. Part 2 contextualises Justinian’s lawyerly invocation of ‘eternity’ within contemporary Eastern Christological disputes, including a set of theological debates, orchestrated by Justinian himself, that took place at the same time (and location) as his law-books were being compiled. Part 3 concludes by arguing that the ‘timeless’, rational, universal, authority of the Civilian Legal tradition – as explored in the chapter by Ryan – was in fact underpinned by a specific Eastern (‘Byzantine’) sacred temporality.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPolitical thought, time, and history
EditorsJohn Robertson
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781009289399
ISBN (Print)9781009289368 , 9781009289344
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2023


  • Corpus Iuris Civilis
  • Civilian legal tradition
  • Justinian
  • Eternity
  • Sacred time
  • Incarnation


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