Magna Carta

I found myself at Euston yesterday, with a spare hour to kill, so I popped into the British Library, like you do, to have a look at the Codex Sinaiticus. A couple of months ago there was the following exchange at St Mary’s LGBT group, which had made me want to go and gaze in awe all over again…

Me: “Well, maybe that phrase in Romans is connected more with the preceding bit, remember there’s no punctuation in the earliest New Testament texts. No capital letters to indicate where sentences begin neither…”
Participants: “What? What?! No-one ever told us that. That can’t be right. It would mean you could never be absolutely certain of what any of the texts mean…”
Me: “Hmmm….”

Anyway, whilst I was there, I got distracted by Magna Carta and particularly by a comment that only three phrases in Magna Carta are still on the statute book in England. One of these guarentees the freedom of the English Church.

Can anyone tell me what that means?

What, in particular does it mean in relation to the Anglican Covenant?


  1. Rosemary Hannah says

    Can tell you nothing about Magna Carta, but every time I am in the BL I go and look as Sinaiticus. I do love it. Love the text, too.

    But of course it is easiertoreadwithnowordbreaksorpuncutationthanonewouldexpectespeciallywithpractiseandwithaninflectedlanguagethatistruer.

  2. Alison Peden says

    Interesting, this one. Clause 1 of Magna Carta protects the English Church from royal interference in its elections. Could you say that today it is fighting for protection from equality legislation?

  3. My eyes still go squinty when I think too hard about that conversation, but I must drop into the British Library next time I’m in London. Just so that I can see it for myself.

  4. Alison Peden says

    Episcopal elections, in the main – which were the ones the king was interested in (perhaps the odd abbot too). The immediate issue was the election of Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1207 with Papal approval. John disputed it & expelled the monks of Christ Church (the electors). Pope Innocent III retaliated by placing England under interdict which lasted 7 years. Clause 1 of Magna Carta, which is the one about the freedom of the church, was drafted by Langton.

    So we’re talking about bishops.

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