Christianity and Equity
Oxford Handbook of Christianity and Law (Forthcoming)
CSLR Research Paper No.11.2022-AFF
25 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2022 Last revised: 27 Jul 2022
Date Written: May 16, 2022
Equity is an important concept in the legal systems of the common law world. Its development has been shaped by Christian sources, which in turn have been heavily influenced by classical sources. This chapter surveys the line of development from Aristotle to the the modern law of equity. In between, it traces equity through Roman law, the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, scholastic theology, canon law, the Magisterial Reformation, and the early modern English Court of Chancery. Some of these contributions to the development of equity treat it as an exceptional correction to the law on account of its generality (the exceptional sense). Others are more likely to see equity as the justice that is the ultimate aim of law, and thus a guide to the law’s interpretation (the interpretive sense). Regardless of which sense is emphasized, these sources tend to link equity with justice, both as a political virtue and a personal virtue—that is, as an essential condition for a just society and an essential characteristic of a just person. The contemporary law of equity still bears the imprint, even if faint, of the classical and Christian sources, and these sources offer insights for equity in the present.
Keywords: equity, justice, Aristotle, Roman law, Hebrew Bible, Old Testament, New Testament, Aquinas, canon law, Reformation, Chancery
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