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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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In Israel the activities of the lawyer were limited by the Torah, or Law of Moses. His functions were three-fold: to study and interpret the Law (and the traditions arising from it), to hand it down by teaching, and to apply it in the Courts of Justice. The lawyers played an important part in the proceedings of the Sanhedrin, not only voting, but also speaking, if they saw fit, on either side of a case, though in criminal charges solely on behalf of the accused (Mishn. Sanhedrin, iv. 1). The Roman lawyers, were more secular in their interests, and applied themselves more directly to the practical aspects of jurisprudence. Their work in the law-courts covered a wide range. The most general representative of law was the cognitor, or attorney, whose place (in Gaius’s time) was partially filled by the procurator litis, or legal agent; but in court the case was pleaded by the patronus or orator, the skilled counsel of whom Cicero is so illustrious an example, often assisted by the advocatus, or legal adviser. The opinion of jurisconsulti, or professional students of law, could also be laid before the judges. See Trial-at-Law.

In the NT lawyers appear as νομικοί, ‘jurists’ (freq. in Lk., but elsewhere only in Matthew 22:35 and Titus 3:13), or νομοδιδάσκαλοι, ‘doctors of the law’ (only in Luke 5:17, Acts 5:34, and 1 Timothy 1:7); but they are clearly identical with the γραμματεῖς, ‘scribes,’ who are mentioned so often in the Gospels and Acts. These lawyers are all of the Jewish type. The Roman lawyer appears, however, in the ῥήτωρ or ‘orator’ Tertullus, who pleaded the cause of St. Paul’s prosecutors before the Roman governor Felix (Acts 24:1 ff.)-in order, no doubt, that the proper technicalities might be observed, and the case presented in the way most likely to win over the trained Roman mind. See Tertullus.

Literature.-On Jewish lawyers cf. D. Eaton in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) iii. 83ff., with references; and on Roman jurists and orators see A. H. J. Greenidge, Legal Procedure of Cicero’s Time, 1901, p. 148ff.; H. J. Roby, Roman Private Law in the Times of Cicero and of the Antonines, 1902, ii. 407ff.; and other authorities cited in article Trial-at-Law.

A. R. Gordon.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Lawyer'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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