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The Codex Theodosianus

January 31, 2018

On this date in 439 CE, the Codex Theodosianus (Code of Theodosius II) was established in the Byzantine Empire. The Codex, a compilation of the laws promulgated since the time of Constantine, the first Christian Emperor (he converted in 313 CE), systematized the process that stripped Jews of citizenship rights and repressed Judaism as a religion. Constantine I (306-337) had forbidden Jews from proselytizing; Constantius II (337-361) had outlawed intermarriage and forbidden Jews from owning or dealing in slaves; Theodosius II (408-450) forbade the building of new synagogues and prohibited Jews from holding lucrative public positions. Justinian I (527-565) would later disqualify Jews as witnesses against Christians in courts of law. Thus, in the course of three centuries, Jews became second-class citizens, a status that became entrenched in Europe for more than a thousand years under the power of the Church.

“No Jew . . . shall obtain offices and dignities; to none shall the administration of city service be permitted; . . . Indeed, we believe it sinful that the enemies of the heavenly majesty and of the Roman laws should become the executors of our laws — the administration of which they have slyly obtained and that they, fortified by the authority of the acquired rank, should have the power to judge or decide as they wish against Christians, yes, frequently even over bishops of our holy religion themselves, and thus, as it were, insult our faith.” —Codex Theodosianus