J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Learning from the Ancient: How the Bible and Early Governments Affect Modern-Day Law

Attendees of the annual JRCLS Conference were treated with an insightful lecture on “Values of Biblical Laws Today” by John W. Welch, Professor, J. Reuben Clark Law School, and Clifford B. Parkinson, Attorney at Lear & Lear LLP.

Welch explained that many of the United States’ Bill of Rights have their origin from the Bible. The Six Amendment right to confront your accuser is similar to Roman law utilized during the trial of Paul in Acts. The Fifth amendment right against self-incrimination was adopted from British law, which interpreted the Biblical injunction not to “forswear thyself” as a right to not self-incriminate.

The Bible also helps to identify modern day legal problems, and suggests solutions. Punishment for perjury in the United States is ineffective, which undermines the integrity of the court system. In Deuteronomy, the law of Moses requires that a perjurer receive whatever punishment would have befallen the accused, which would certainly deter would-be perjurers.

According to Parkinson, the Framers of the U.S. Constitution looked to ancient Rome, Greece, and Israel for limits on leadership. A bicameral legislature was used in Ancient Rome, which the Framers preferred since the unicameral legislature of the Articles of Confederation had failed. Athenians used the procedure of “ostracism,” in which they voted to ostracize or ban a leader from the city for ten years if he behaved irresponsibly or was too disruptive to the peace of the city. Imagine the uses of such a law today! Roman magistrates could not usually be prosecuted for crimes they committed while in office. Once their term ended, however, they could be prosecuted and so this law encouraged magistrates to be on their best behavior.  

Welch concluded the lecture by discussing tactics that critics use to discredit the Bible. Among them, attackers attempt to restrict and narrow interpretation of the Bible which then strangles life out of any application of it. Detractors oversimplify and then scorn, saying for example that the Bible is not worthwhile since women are depicted as property. Other tactics include factionalize then ridicule, saying that it was only a myth that Moses received the ten commandments on Mount Sinai, and forget then ignore.  

Participants left the lecture with food for thought on how the Bible and Ancient Governments have contributed to existing American law, and ideas for sound future legislation.


By Julie Smith, Media Committee

Posted: March 29, 2016