Legislation Affecting the Jews
(300 - 800 CE)
The compilation which follows is from
the appendices of James Parkes: The Conflict
of the Church and the Synagogue: A Study in
the Origins of Antisemitism, (New York: JPS,
1934). The reference C.T. refers to the Code
Theodosianus; C.J. refers to the Corpus Juris
Civilis of Justinian. Both these codes compiled
earlier laws, and it is from the texts of
these compilations that the earlier legal
history can be established.
THE UNDIVIDED EMPIRE
Laws of Constantine r. 311-337
C.T., 16.8.1; to Evagrius, 18.x.315.
On converts to Judaism and to Christianity.
C.T., 16.8 .3; to the Officials at Cologne,
I I xii .321.
With certain exceptions Jews are to be called
to the Decurionate.
C.T., 16.8.2; to Ablavius the Pretorian Prefect,
On the relation of Jews to the Decurionate.
C.T., 16.8.4; to the Jewish Priests, Rabbis,
Elders and other authorities, I xii.331.
Immunities of synagogue authorities.
C.T., 16.8.5; to Felix, P.P., 22.x.335
On molesting Jewish converts to Christianity.
C.T., 16.9.1; to Felix, P.P., 22.x.335.
Circumcision of non-Jewish slaves.
Laws of Constantius [I r. 305-311, II r.
C.T., 16.9.2; to Evagrius, 13.viii.339
Purchase and circumcision of non-Jewish or
C.T., 16.8.6; to Evagrius, 13.viii.339.
Marriage between Jews and members of the imperial
C.T., 16.8.7; to Thalassius, P.P., 3.vii.352
Apostasy to Judaism.
Laws of Valentinian [I r. 364-375, II r.
C.T., 7.8.2; to Remigius Mag. Off., 6.v.368,
370 or 373.
Violation of synagogues.
Laws of Gratian r. 375-378
C.T., 12.1.99; to Hypatius, P.P., 18.iv.383.
On the relation of Jews to the Decurionate.
C.T., 16.7.3; to Hypatius, P.P., 21.v.383
Intestability for apostates to Judaism.
C.T., 3.1.5; to Cynegius, P.P., 22.ix.384.
Possession or purchase of Christian slaves.
Laws of Theodosius I "the Great"
C.T., 3.7.2 or 9.7.5; to Cynegius, P.P.,
Intermarriage between Jews and Christians.
C.T., 13.5.18; to Alexander, Prefect of Egypt,
Questions of maritime transport.
C.T., 16.8.8; to Tatianus, P.P., 17.iv.392.
Jewish right of excommunication.
C.T., 16.8.9; to Addeus, Commander-in-Chief
of the Eastern Command, 29.ix.393.
Judaism is a lawful sect.
C.J., 1.9.7; to Infantius, Governor ofthe
Eastern Provinces, 30.xii.393.
Jews may only marry according to Christian
table of affinity.
[The text of this law is not to be found in
the Codex Theodosianus]
LAWS OF THE WESTERN PROVINCES OF THE EMPIRE
Laws of Honorius r. 395-423
C.T., 12.1.157; to Theodorus, P.P., 13.ii
Jewish duty in the Decurionate.
C.T., 12.1.158; ditto.
C.T., 16.8.14; to Messala, P.P., I I iv.399.
Confiscation of the aurum coronarium.
C.T., 16.8.16; to Romulianus, P.P., 22.iv.404.
Exclusion of Jews from military and court
C.T., 16.8.17; to Hadrian, P.P., 25.vii.404.
Permission to send aurum coronarium restored.
C.T., 16.5.44; to Donatus (in Africa), 24.xi.408.
Jews and heretics must not disturb sacraments.
C.T., 16.5.46; to Theodore, P.P., 15.v.409.
Laws against Jews and heretics to be strictly
C.T., 16.8.19; to Jovius, P.P., 15.iv.409.
The ' Caelicoli ' are to be suppressed.
C.T., 8.8.8 or 2.8.26; to Johannes, P.P.,
26.vii.409 or 412.
Jews to be left undisturbed on Sabbaths and
C.T., 16.8.20; to Johannes, P.P., 26.vii.412.
Synagogues and Sabbaths to be left undisturbed.
C.T., 16.9.3; to Annatus Didascalus and the
Elders of the Jews, 6.xi.415.
Jews may own Christian servants if they do
not convert them.
C.T., 16.8.23; to Annatus Didascalusand the
Eldersof the Jews, 24.ix.416.
Jewish converts to Christianity may revert
C.T., 16.8.24; to Palladius, P.P., 10.iii.418.
Jews may not enter government service or army.
They may follow
law, liberal professions and decurionate.
Laws of Valentinian III r. 425-455
Const. Sirm. 6 fin. to Amatius, Governor
of Gaul, 9.vii.425.
Jews to be excluded from government service.
C.T., 16.8.28; to Bassus, P.P., 8.iv.426.
Converted children of Jews to inherit from
LAWS OF THE EASTERN PROVINCES OF THE EMPIRE
UP TO THE PUBLICATION OF THE THEODOSIAN CODE
Arcadius r. 395-408
C.T., 16.8.10; to the Jews, 27.ii.396.
Jews to fix their own prices.
C.T., 16.8.11; to Claudianus, Governor of
the Eastern Provinces, 24.iv.396.
The Patriarch not to be insulted.
C.T., 9.45.2; to Archelaus, Prefect of Egypt,
Jews not to become Christians from economic
C.T., 16.8.12; to Anatolius, Prefect of Illyricum,
Jews and their synagogues are to be protected.
C.T., 16.8.13; to Caesarius, P.P., I.vii.397.
Jewish clergy to have the same privileges
as Christian clergy.
C.T., 2.1.10; to Eutychianus, P.P., 3.ii.398.
Jews to follow Roman Law except on religious
C.T., 12.1.165; to Eutychianus, P.P., 30.xii.399.
Jews to serve in Decurionate.
C.T., 16.8.15; to Eutychianus, P.P., 3.ii.404.
The Patriarch to retain his privileges.
Laws of Theodosius II r. 408-450
C.T., 16.8.18; to Anthemius, P.P., 29.v.408.
Jews not to mock the Cross at Purim.
C.T., 16.8.22; to Aurelian, P.P., 20.x.415.
Degradation of the Patriarch.
C.T., 16.9.4; to Monaxius, P.P., 10.iv.417.
Various regulations on the possession of Christian
C.T., 16.8.21; to Philip, Governor of Illyricum,
Jews are not to be attacked or synagogues
they must not outrage Christianity.
C.T., 16.8.25; to Asclepiodotus, P.P., 15.ii.423.
Synagogues not to be pulled down or confiscated.
New ones not to be built.
C.T., 16.8.26; to Asclepiodotus, P.P., 9.iv.423,
Laws to be enforced, synagogues not to be
down, Jews to be exiled for circumcising non-Jews.
C.T., 16.9.5; to Asclepiodotus, P.P., 9.iv.423.
Jews not to purchase Christian slaves.
C.T., 16.8.27; to Asclepiodotus, P.P., 8.vi.423.
New synagogues not to be built, old ones not
to be confiscated.
C.T., 16.10.24; to Asclepiodotus, P.P., 8.vi.423.
Peaceable Jews not to be offended.
C.T., 15.5.5; to Asclepiodotus, P.P., I.ii.425.
Jews to observe seasons of fast and feast.
C.T., x6.8.29; to John, Count of the Sacred
All special Jewish taxes to be confiscated
to Charity Fund.
Novella 3; to Florentius, P.P., 31.i.438.
No Jew to hold office; new synagogues not
to be built;
proselytising to be punished with death; new
to be confiscated; burdensome public office
undertaken; Jewish law to be followed in private
COUNCILS OF THE EMPIRE UP TO THE TIME OF THE
PUBLICATION OF THE THEODOSIAN CODE
Elvira (Spain), c. 300
Canon 16. Intermarriage with Jews.
Canon 49. Blessing of fields by Jews.
Canon 50. Sharing feasts with Jews.
Canon 78. Adultery with Jewesses.
Canon I. Eating Passover with the Jews.
Canon 16. Gospels to be read on Saturday.
Canon 29. Christians to work on Sabbath.
Canon 37. Gifts for feasts from Jews, and
sharing feasts with Jews, prohibited.
Canon 38. Unleavened bread not to be accepted
from Jews, and Jewish feasts to be avoided.
The Apostolic Canons
Canon 61. Denying Christianity through fear
Canon 63. Entering a synagogue prohibited.
Canon 69. Feasting or fasting with Jews prohibited.
Canon 70. Oil not to be taken into synagogue
RECENSIONS OF THE THEODOSIAN CODE
The Breviary of Alaric
2.1.10=C.T., 2.1.10; Jews to use Roman courts
except on religious questions or by agreement.
2.8.3 = C.T., 2.8.26; Sabbath not to be disturbed.
3.1.5=C.T., 3.1.5; Jews not to possess Christian
3.7.2 and 9.4.4=C.T., 3.7.2 and 9.7.5; intermarriage.
16.2.1 = C.T., 16.7.3; apostates to be punished
16.3.1 = C.T., 16.8.5; converts to Christianity
not to be molested.
16.3.2 = C.T., 16.8.7; apostates to Judaism.
16.4.1=C.T., 16.9.1; circumcised slaves.
16.4.2=C.T., 16.9.4; possession of Christian
Novella 3 = Novella 3, public office, building
of synagogues, perversion of Christians.
Roman Law of the Burgundians
Law of Gondebaud, 19.4. Intermarriage.
Roman Law of the Franks
Clothaire II, Constitutio Generalis 4. Lawsuits
between Romans to be conducted according to
Roman Law of the Ostrogoths
Theodoric, Cap. 143. Jews to retain privileges
allowed by Law.
Lex Romana Raetica Curiensis
2.1.8; extent and limitations of judicial
3.1.5; purchase of Christian slaves.
Law of the Lombards
2.56.1; Roman citizens to live according
to Roman Law.
LEGISLATION OF THE WESTERN KINGDOMS: THE VISIGOTHS
Laws of Reccared I of 588
12.2.12. Purchase, possession and circumcision
of non-Jewish slaves.
Laws of Sisebut of 612
12.2.13. Christian slaves of Jews to be freed;
converts to Christianity to inherit; other
legislation affecting slaves.
12.2.14. Liberation of Christian slaves; mixed
marriages; irrevocability of this law.
Laws of Chindaswinth of between 641 and
12.2.16. Christians Judaising.
Laws of Recceswinth of c. 652
12.2.2. Christian doctrine not to be criticised.
12.2.3. Laws are to be considered irrevocable
and strictly enforced.
12.2.4. Apostasy not to be permitted.
12.2.5. Passover and Jewish feasts not to
12.2.6. Marriage only by Christian tables
12.2.7. Circumcision prohibited.
12.2.8. Distinctions of foods prohibited.
12.2.9. Actions or evidence against Christians
12.2.10. Evidence against Christians prohibited.
12.2.11. Lawbreakers to be stoned or enslaved.
12.2.15. Jews on no account to be protected
Laws of Erwig of c 680
12.3.1. Owing to Jewish evasions all laws
to be re-enacted, except those concerning
manumission and capital punishment.
12.3.2. Blasphemy against Christian doctrine
to be punished."
12.3.3. All Jews to submit to baptism.
12.3.4. Practice of Jewish customs to be punished.
12.3.5. Celebration of Jewish feasts to be
12.3.6. Work on Sunday to be punished, and
special feasts to be observed.
12.3.7. Distinctions of meats prohibited,
except for those physically unable to eat
12.3.8. Marriage to be according to Christian
12.3.9. Blasphemers and apostates to be punished.
12.3.10. Jewish bribes not to be accepted.
12.3.11. Jewish books and teaching to be suppressed.
12.3.12. Jews not to own Christian slaves.
12.3.13. Jews to sell their Christian slaves
or prove their own orthodoxy.
12.3.16. Treatment of apostate slaves.
12.3.17. No Jew to exercise authority over
12.3.18. Slaves desiring to become Christians
to be free to do so.
12.3.19. No Jew to be appointed bailiff of
12.3.20. Regulations affecting Jewish travellers.
12.3.21. Feast days to be spent in presence
of bishop, or suitable Christian.
12.3.22. Jewish employees to be obliged to
13.3.23. Clergy to see to carrying out of
12.3.24. Penalties for corruption or laxity.
12.3.25. Lay judges not to act without ecclesiastical
12.3.26. Local religious authorities responsible
for strict enforcement.
12.3.27. Limitation of royal prerogative of
12.3.28. Method of publication of this legislation.
Laws of Egica of c. 690
12.2.18 Regulations of Jewish traders, Jewish
taxes, and Jewish leases of Christian property.
COUNCILS OF THE VISIGOTHS
[The first two councils were held by the
Catholics (i.e. Roman citizens) at a time
when their Visigothic masters were Arians.]
Canon 12. Fasting in Lent on Saturdays.
Canon 34. Special conditions for Jewish catechumens.
Canon 40.Clergy and laity to avoid Jewish
Canon 16. Jews, heretics and pagans to be
allowed in church up to the missa catechumenorum.
Toledo III, 589
Capit. 14 . Intermarriage; Christian slaves;
children of mixed marriages; public office;
proselytising, and circumcision.
Canon 4. Jews not to work on Sunday.
Canon 9. Psalms not to be sung during Jewish
Canon 14. Jewish fortune-tellers not to be
Toledo IV, 633
Canon 57. Jews not to be compelled to be
Canon 58. Jewish bribes not to be accepted
Canon 59. Apostates to be punished.
Canon 60. Children of Jews to be brought up
Canon 61. Children of apostates to inherit.
Canon 62. No communication to be allowed between
baptised and unbaptised Jews.
Canon 63. In mixed marriages unconverted partner
must be baptised and children brought up Christians.
Canon 64. Apostates not to be allowed as witnesses.
Canon 65. Jews and Jewish Christians to be
excluded from public office.
Canon 66. Jews not to own Christian slaves.
Toledo VI, 638
Canon 3. Jews remaining in Spain must be
Toledo VIII, 653
King's Speech (Recceswinth). Denunciation
Canon 10. Future sovereigns must be orthodox.
Canon 12. Jews remaining in Spain must be
Toledo IX, 655
Canon 17. Jews to pass Jewish and Christian
festivals in presence of ecclesiastical authorities.
Toledo X, 656
Capit. i. Easter must be celebrated uniformly.
Capit 7. Christian slaves not to be sold to
Toledo XII, 681
King's Speech (Erwig). Implores action on
Jewish apostasy and delinquency.
Canon 9. Confirmation of the Laws of Erwig.
Toledo XVI, 693
King's Speech (Egica). Appeal for confirmation
of all previous laws, together with prohibition
of unconverted Jews trading, and converted
Jews being taxed specially.
Capit. i. Confirmation of King's Speech.
Toledo XVII, 694
King's Speech (Egica). Jewish plot against
Spanish security. All Jews except those of
Septimania to be reduced to slavery.
Canon 8. Confirms King's request.
LEGISLATION OF THE WESTERN KINGDOMS: THE BURGUNDIANS
Law 102. Punishment of Jewish assault on
Council of Epaone, 517
Canon 15. Attendance at Jewish banquets prohibited.
LEGISLATION OF THE WESTERN KINGDOMS: THE FRANKS
Childebert, c. 554
Letter to clergy and people. Jews not allowed
in street between Holy Thursday and Easter.
Clothaire II, 614
Edict. Jews not to hold office.
Cap. Acquisgran. 15 (= Laodicea, Canon 29)
Christians to work on Sabbath.
Cap. Acquisgran. 45 (=Carthage IV, Canon
Jews not to give evidence.
Cap. dup. ad Niumagen, 806.
Clergy not to allow sale of church plate to
Jews or others.
Cap. de Jud. 1, 814.
Jews not to receive Church property in pledge.
Cap. de Jud. 2, 814.
Christians not to be taken in pledge.
Cap. de Jud. 3, 814.
Jews not to mint or trade privately.
Cap. de Jud. 814.
4a. Oath to be taken by Jew in giving evidence.
4b. Oath to be taken in pleading not guilty.
COUNCILS OF THE FRANKS
Canon 12. Clergy to avoid Jewish feasts.
Orleans II, 533
Canon 19. Intermarriage.
Canon 6. Intercourse between Christian and
Canon 9. Jewish judges.
Orleans III, 538
Canon 13. Regulations for Christian servants
of Jews; intermarriage; attending Jewish festivities.
Canon 28. Sunday not to be observed in Jewish
Canon 30. Jews not to mix with Christians
between Holy Thursday and Easter.
Orleans IV, 541
Canon 30. Christian slaves of Jews to be
redeemed on request.
Canon 31. Conversion of servants to Judaism
Orleans V, 548
Canon 22. Conditions to be observed when
slaves take refuge in churches.
Canon 2. Jewish conversation with nuns.
Canon 13. Jews not to be judges or tax collectors.
Canon 14. Jews not to mix with Christians
between Holy Thursday and Easter.
Canon 15. Christians not to take part in Jewish
Canon 16. Christian slaves to be redeemed.
Canon 17. Attempted conversion of slave to
Judaism to be punished.
Canon 15. Jews seeking positions of authority
to be baptised.
Canon I I. Christians not to be sold to Jews;
Jews not to hold office. Jewish slanders against
Christianity to be refuted.
[This last may be a scribe's error for: 'Jewish
banquets not to be attended', reading' convivia
'for'convicia '. It is so given in Concilium
Chalons sur Saone, 650
Canon 9. Slaves not to be sold beyond frontiers,
so as not to fall into hands of Jews.
Canons of Carthage ', or' of the African
Canon 84. Jews, heathen and heretics to be
allowed into church up to the missa catechumenorum.
Canon 89. Judaising to be suppressed.
Canon 196. Jews and others not to give evidence.
COUNCILS OF THE PAPACY
Canon 10. Intermarriage.
LEGISLATION OF THE EASTERN EMPIRE
The Code of Justinian contained certain laws
from the Code of Theodosius. These are marked
with an asterisk. Except where noted, they
*Laws of Constantine
C.T., 16.8.1 = C.J., 1.9.3.
*Laws of Constantius
C.T., 16.8.7 = C.J., 1.7.1.
C.T., 16.8.6 is combined with 16.9.1 (of
Constantine), 16.9.2 (of Constantius) and
16.9.4 (of Theodosius 11) and ascribed to
Constantius, as C.J., 1.10.1 in M.G.H. quarto,
Conc. I, p. 19q.
*Laws of Valentinian
C.T., 7.8.2 = C.J., 1 .9.4.
*Laws of Gratian
C.T., 12.I.99 = C.J., 1.9.5.
C.T., 16.7.3 = C.J., 1.7.2.
*Laws of Theodosius the Great
C.T., 3.7.2 = CT, 1.9.6.
C.J, 11.9.7 has no counterpart in the Theodosian
*Laws of Honorius
C.T., 12.1.157 = C.J., 10.32.49.
C.T., 16.8.19 = C.J., 1.9.12.
C.T., 8.8.8 = C.J., 1.9.13, adding that on
Jewish feasts Jews shall not be entitled to
*Laws of Arcadius
C.T., 16.8.10 = C.J., 1.9.9.
C.T., 9.45.2 = C.J., 1.12.1.
C.T., 2.1.10 = C.J., 1.9.8.
C.T., 12.1.165= C.J., 1.9.10.
*Laws of Theodosius II
C.T., 16.8.18 = C.J., 1.19.11
C.T., 16.8.22 = C.J., 1.9.15, including only
the paragraph dealing with Jewish juridical
C.T., 16.9.4 = C.J, 1.10.I.
C.T., 16.8.21 = C.J., 1 .9.14.
C.T., 16.8.26 = C.J., 1.9.16.
C.T., 16.10.24 = C.J., I.11.6.
C.T., 15.5.5 = C .J., 3.12.6.
C.T., 16.8.29 = C.J., 1.9.17
Novella 3 = C.J., 1.5.7, 1.7.5, and 1.9.18
Laws of Marcian
C.J., 1.1.4; to Palladius, P.P., 7.ii.452.
Christianity not to be discussed in public.
Laws of Justin and Justinian
C.J., 1.5.12 of 527
' Heretics are all such as do not belong to
the Catholic faith including Jews. They are
not to hold any office; or follow profession
of law. Heavy penalties for connivance with
Laws of Justinian, r 527-565
C.J., 1,5.13, no date or address.
Orthodox children not to be disinherited by
C.J, 1.5.17, no date or address.
Complete destruction of Samaritan synagogues
C.J, 1.3.54, no date or address.
No Jew to possess Christian slaves, or slaves
desiring to become Christian.
C.J., 1.10.2, no date or address.
No Jew to own a Christian slave.
C.J., 1.9.2, no date, (?) addressed to the
Sabbath not to be disturbed.
C.J., 1.5.21, to Johannes, P.P., 28.vii.531
Jews may not give evidence against orthodox,
but may do so against
each other. They may witness documents.
Nov. 37, to Salomon, Governor of Africa,
Jews not to be allowed to attend church services;
or to own
Christian slaves. Their synagogues are to
be turned into churches.
Nov. 45, to Johannes, P.P., I.ix.537.
Jews are to perform decurionate without its
honours; may, in
a suit involving orthodox persons, only give
them or for the state.
Nov. 131, to Peter, P.P., 545.
Jews may not lease orthodox property; they
may not build
Nov. 146, to Areobindus, P.P., 8.ii.553.
(Owing to its importance the text is given
in full below)
Laws of Leo the Isaurian, r. 717-741
Ecloga, App. 4.6.
Jews to hold no public office.
Ecloga, App. 4.7.
Either Jewish parent may desire the children
to be educated as Christians.
Ecloga, App. 4.13.
Samaritan synagogues to be destroyed.
Ecloga, App. 4.16.
Apostasy to Judaism to be punished.
Ecloga, App. 4.24.
Proselytising to Judaism to be punished.
Ecloga, App. 6.26.
Jews neither to possess nor circumcise Christian
Ecloga, App. 6.27.
No Jew to possess Christian slave.
Ecloga, App. 6.28.
Slave of Jew desiring to become Christian
to be freed.
Ecloga, App. 6.30.
Circumcision of Christian to be punished.
COUNCILS OF THE EASTERN EMPIRE
Canon 14. Marriageable members of clergy
not to wed Jew.
Canon II. No Christian to eat unleavened
bread with Jew, use them as doctors or bathe
Nicaea II, 787
Canon 8. Baptised Jews who lapse are to be
treated as Jews.
'Forged' Canons of Nicaea
Canon 52 (56). Clergy are not to eat or have
business associations with Jews.
NOVELLA 146 OF JUSTINIAN
8.ii.553. Nov.146. Justinian to Areobindas, P.P.
A Permission granted to the Hebrews to read the Sacred
Scriptures according to Tradition, in Greek, Latin or any other Language,
and an Order to expel from their community those who do not believe
in the judgment, the Resurrection, and the Creation of Angels.
Necessity dictates that when the Hebrews listen to
their sacred texts they should not confine themselves to the meaning
of the letter, but should also devote their attention to those sacred
prophecies which are hidden from them, and which announce the mighty
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And though, by surrendering themselves
to senseless interpretations, they still err from the true doctrine,
yet, learning that they disagree among themselves, we have not permitted
this disagreement to continue without a ruling on our part. From their
own complaints which have been brought to us, we have understood that
some only speak Hebrew, and wish to use it for the sacred books, and
others think that a Greek translation should be added, and that they
have been disputing about this for a long time. Being apprised of the
matter at issue, we give judgment in favour of those who wish to use
Greek also for the reading of the sacred scriptures, or any other tongue
which in any district allows the hearers better to understand the text.
We therefore sanction that, wherever there is a Hebrew
congregation, those who wish it may, in their synagogues, read the sacred
books to those who are present in Greek, or even Latin, or any other
tongue. For the language changes in different places, and the reading
changes with it, so that all present may understand, and live and act
according to what they hear. Thus there shall be no opportunity for
their interpreters, who make use only of the Hebrew, to corrupt it in
any way they like, since the ignorance of the public conceals their
depravity. We make this proviso that those who use Greek shall use the
text of the seventy interpreters, which is the most accurate translation,
and the one most highly approved, since it happened that the translators,
divided into two groups, and working in different places, all produced
exactly the same text.
i. Moreover who can fail to admire those men, who,
writing long before the saving revelation of our mighty Lord and Saviour
Jesus Christ, yet as though they saw its coming with their eyes completed
the translation of the sacred books as if the prophetic grace was illuminating
them. This therefore they shall primarily use, but that we may not seem
to be forbidding all other texts we allow the use of that of Aquila,
though he was not of their people, and his translation differs not slightly
from that of the Septuagint.
ii. But the Mishnah, or as they call it the second
tradition, we prohibit entirely. For it is not part of the sacred books,
nor is it handed down by divine inspiration through the prophets, but
the handiwork of man, speaking only of earthly things, and having nothing
of the divine in it. But let them read the holy words themselves, rejecting
the commentaries, and not concealing what is said in the sacred writings,
and disregarding the vain writings which do not form a part of them,
which have been devised by them themselves for the destruction of the
simple. By these instructions we ensure that no one shall be penalised
or prohibited who reads the Greek or any other language. And their elders,
Archiphericitae and presbyters, and those called magistrates, shall
not by any machinations or anathemas have power to refuse this right,
unless by chance they wish to suffer corporal punishment and the confiscation
of their goods, before they yield to our will and to the commands which
are better and clearer to God which we enjoin.
If any among them seek to introduce impious vanities,
denying the resurrection or the judgment, or the work of God, or that
angels are part of creation, we require them everywhere to be expelled
forthwith; that no backslider raise his impious voice to contradict
the evident purpose of God. Those who utter such sentiments shall be
put to death, and thereby the Jewish people shall be purged of the errors
which they introduced.
We pray that when they hear the reading of the books
in one or the other language, they may guard themselves against the
depravity of the interpreters, and, not clinging to the literal words,
come to the point of the matter, and perceive their diviner meaning,
so that they may start afresh to learn the better way, and may cease
to stray vainly, and to err in that which is most essential, we mean
hope in God. For this reason we have opened the door for the reading
of the scriptures in every language, that all may henceforth receive
its teaching, and become fitter for learning better things. For it is
acknowledged that he, who is nourished upon the sacred scriptures and
has little need of direction, is much readier to discern the truth,
and to choose the better path, than he who understands nothing of them,
but clings to the name of his faith alone, and is held by it as by a
sacred anchor, and believes that what can be called heresy in its purest
form is divine teaching.
This is our sacred will and pleasure, and your Excellency
and your present colleague and your staff shall see that it is carried
out, and shall not allow the Hebrews to contravene it. Those who resist
it or try to put any obstruction in its way, shall first suffer corporal
punishment, and then be compelled to live in exile, forfeiting also
their property, that they flaunt not their impudence against God and
the empire. You shall also circulate our law to the provincial governors,
that they learning its contents may enforce it in their several cities,
knowing that it is to be strictly carried out under pain of our displeasure.