While the winter winds blew during January and February, I kept out of mischief by studying for (and passing, praise God!) the terrifying Virginia Bar examination. The object was not merely to be able to defend myself against libelous attacks from the Kin of Eutychus but more especially to gain additional expertise in integrating legal principle with theological truth. The interconnections between law and theology are particularly striking in the field of Wills & Estates, and we shall here offer some examples of the kind of cross-pollination that can aid the contemporary biblical interpreter.
The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews bases his entire theological argument on a foundational legal principle relating to the estates of decedents: “The blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, [shall] purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. And for this cause he is the mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth” (Heb. 9:14–17).
From the days of Roman law to modern Anglo-American common law jurisprudence, the rule has been invariable: a testamentary expression “speaks”—becomes efficacious—not at execution but on the decease of the testator. American legal realist Joseph Walter Bingham might well have cited Hebrews when he declared: “The essential distinguishing characteristic of a will is that it has absolutely no ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 63+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more