King Alfred the Great and Our Common Law

The last words of it form a fitting epitaph for that noblest king of England. There, Alfred declares: "He seems to me a very foolish man and very wretched, who will not

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increase his understanding while he is in the World — and [who would not] ever wish and long to reach that endless life where all shall be made clear."

King Alfred on the legal history of Celtic Britain before Anglo-Saxon times there

In the A.D. 880f King Alfred's version of the earlier Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation,7 Alfred states that "Britain is an island of the Ocean, which was of yore named Albion…. In the beginning, the Britons alone were at the first inhabitants of this island — from whom it received its name." In that same work, Alfred also states:8 "The Island 'Britain' was unknown to the Romans, until Caius Caesar by surname Julius sought it with an army…sixty winters ere Christ's coming…. After that, Claudius the [Roman] emperor…again led an army into Britain [during 43 A.D.]…. Then Nero [from 54 to 68 A.D.] took to the empire, after Claudius Caesar…. He lost the rule of Britain."

Certainly the Christian Alfred principally meant that the pagan Romans then began to lose their rule over Britain, increasingly — to King Jesus. For the Anglo-Briton Alfred adds: "Then it was from Christ's coming here, 156 years…. Lucius King of Britain…prayed and entreated…he might be made a Christian…. And then the Britons received baptism and Christ's Faith — and held that in mild peace,…. Britain was then raised very high — in much belief and confession of God."

King Alfred on the history of Britain since the arrival of the AngloSaxons Alfred goes on:9 "The Britons…went into the hands of their foes…. It then pleased them all, with their king named Vortigern, that they should call and invite the Saxon Nation from the parts beyond sea for their help. It is certain that this was ordained by the Lord's might.

"Then it was about 449 years from [our] Lord’s incarnation that…the [Anglo-Saxon] nation of the English [Angles] and Saxons was invited by the foresaid king, and came to Britain." Subsequently, however, "the Britons…vexed themselves with intestinal broils, and sunk themselves in many sins."10

By 300 years later, Alfred's Wessex in Southwest England (still flanked by Celtic Culdee Britons immediately to her west and to her north), had herself become a Christian State. This had occurred as a result of the work of Proto-Protestant Brythonic and Anglo                                               

7 Bede: Ecclesiastical History of the British People (A.D. 731), I:1-6. 8 Ib., I:2-4. 9 Ib., I:14f. 10 Ib., I:22 (Alfred's chapter heading).

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Saxon evangelists — and through Roman Catholic Missionaries from Kent, from Italy, and from elsewhere in Europe.

Clearly, Alfred of Wessex himself strove to develop a Biblical view of history. He was, to a remarkable extent, consistently Christian in all that he did. Indeed, according to the great Elizabethan chronicler and historian Holinshed,11 it was Alfred who began the University of Oxford around A.D. 875.

Introductory remarks about King Alfred's Law Code

However, Alfred's most important work was certainly his Law Code. It is preceded by a long introduction.12 This contains translations not only of the Ten Commandments, but also of many other passages from the book of Exodus.13 It is followed by an excerpt from Christ's Sermon on the Mount14 and by a brief account of apostolic history (with quotations from the apostolic book of Acts).15 There, Alfred stresses the "jots and tittles" alias the minutiae of God's Law and His Prophets (Matthew 5:17f); the "Golden Rule" (Matthew 7:12); and the God-inspired decision of the First General Assembly of the Christian Church — in order to teach God's Law and His Prophets (Amos 9:11f) as well as His Gospel also in the congregations of Christ (Acts 15:15-29 & 16:4f).

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