“Our legal system is based on the Bible.” “Judges do not make law.” Historical realities expose both these currently popular pronouncements as myths.
The roots of our legal system are heathen. For centuries before any European learned of the Ten Commandments, the Germanic tribes were resolving disputes in public assemblies. Disputants brought with them other community members, who contributed their knowledge of either the facts of the dispute, or the relevant community history, e.g., concerning land use or the credibility of the disputants. Then, designated “law speakers” provided the legal rules from memory and reason. The decision was often heavily influenced by the relative numbers of supporters, termed “oath helpers,” that the parties brought to the trial. Legal proceedings were of necessity entirely oral since none of the Germanic languages except Gothic was written until the eighth century, and long after that most of the population was illiterate.
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