(appellatio, in Greek ἐπικαλέομαι, Ac 25:11-12,21,25), the act by which a party who thinks that he has cause to complain of the judgment passed by an inferior judge demands that his case may be re-examined by a superior court. The right of appeal to superior tribunals has generally been considered an essential concomitant of inferior judicatories.
I. Jewish. — In the patriarchal times, as among the Bedouins, the patriarch or head of the tribe — that is to say, the sheik — administered justice; and as there was no superior power, there could be no appeal from his decisions. The only case of procedure against a criminal which occurs during the patriarchal period is that in which Judah commanded the supposed adulterous Tamar to be brought forth and burnt (Ge 38:24). But here the woman was his daughter-in-law, and the power which Judah exercised was that which a man possessed over the females of his own immediate family. If the case had been between man and man, Judah could have given no decision, and the matter would, without doubt, have been referred to Jacob.
In the desert Moses at first judged all causes himself; and when, finding his time and strength unequal to this duty, he, at the suggestion of Jethro, established a series of judicatories in a numerically ascending scale (Ex 18:13-26), he arranged that cases of difficulty should be referred from the inferior to the superior tribunals, and in the last instance to himself. Although not distinctly stated, it appears from various circumstances that the clients had a right of appeal, similar to that which the courts had of reference. When the prospective distribution into towns of the population, which had hitherto remained in one compact body, made other arrangements necessary, it was directed that there should be a similar reference of difficult cases to the metropolitan court or chief magistrate ("the judge that shall be in those days") for the time being (De 16:18; De 17:8-12). Some, indeed, infer from Josephus (Ant. 4, 8, 14, ἀναπεμπέτωσαν, sc. οἱ δικασταί) that this was not a proper court of appeal, the local judges and not the litigants being, according to the above language, the appellants; but these words, taken in connection with a former passage in the same chapter (εἴ τις . . . τινὰ αἰτίαν προφέροι), may be regarded simply in the light of a general direction. According to the above regulation, the appeal lay in the time of the Judges to the judge (1 Jg 4:5), and under the monarchy to the king, who appears to have deputed certain persons to inquire into the facts of the case, and record his decision thereon (2Sa 15:3). Jehoshaphat delegated his judicial authority to a court permanently established for the purpose (2Ch 19:8). These courts were re- established by Ezra (Ezr 7:25). That there was a concurrent right of appeal appears from the use Absalom made of the delay of justice, which arose from the great number of cases that came before the king his father (2Sa 15:2-4). These were doubtless appeal cases, according to the above direction; and M. Salvador (Institutions de Moise, 2, 53) is scarcely warranted in deducing from this instance that the clients had the power of bringing their cases directly to the supreme tribunal.
Of the later practice, before and after the time of Christ, we have some clearer knowledge from Josephus and the Talmudists. After the institution of the Sanhedrim the final appeal lay to them, and the various stages through which a case might pass are thus described by the Talmudists — from the local consistory before which the cause was first tried to the consistory that sat in the neighboring town; thence to the courts at Jerusalem, commencing in the court of the 23 that sat in the gate of Shushan, proceeding to the court that sat in the gate of Nicanor, and concluding with the great council of the Sanhedrim that sat in the room Gazith (Carpzov, Appar. p. 571). The Jews themselves trace the origin of these later usages up to the time of Moses: they were, at all events, based on early principles, and therefore reflect back some light upon the intimations respecting the right of appeal which we find in the sacred books (Mishna, De Synedr. 10; Talm. Hieros. 18; Talm. Bab. 3, 10; Maimon. De Synedr. 10; Selden, De Synedr. 3, 10; Lewis, Origines Hebraeae, 1:6; Pastoret, Legislation des Hebreux, 10). See TRIAL.
2. Roman. — The most remarkable case of appeal in the New Testament is that of the Apostle Paul from the tribunal of the Roman procurator Festus to that of the emperor, in consequence of which he was sent as a prisoner to Rome (Ac 25:10-11). Such an appeal having been once lodged, the governor had nothing more to do with the case: he could not even dismiss it, although he might be satisfied that the matter was frivolous, and not worth forwarding to Rome. Accordingly, when Paul was again heard by Festus and King Agrippa (merely to obtain materials for a report to the emperor), it was admitted that the apostle might have been liberated if he had not appealed to Caesar (Ac 26:32). Paul might therefore seem to have taken a false step in the matter, did we not consider the important consequences which resulted from his visit to Rome (see Conybeare and Howson, 2, 162). But, as no decision had been given, there could be no appeal, properly speaking, in his case: the language used (Ac 25:9) implies the right on the part of the accused of electing either to be tried by the provincial magistrate or by the emperor. Since the procedure in the Jewish courts at that period was of a mixed and undefined character, the Roman and the Jewish authorities coexisting and carrying on the course of justice between them, Paul availed himself of his undoubted privilege to be tried by the pure Roman law. It may easily be seen that a right of appeal which, like this, involved a long and expensive journey, was by no means frequently resorted to. In lodging his appeal Paul exercised one of the high privileges of Roman citizenship which belonged to him by birth (Ac 22:28). SEE CITIZENSHIP.
The right of appeal connected with that privilege originated in the Valerian, Porcian, and Sempronian laws, by which it was enacted that if any magistrate should order flagellation or death to be inflicted upon a Roman citizen, the accused person might appeal to the judgment of the people, and that meanwhile he should suffer nothing at the hands of the magistrate until the people had judged his cause. But what was originally the prerogative of the people had in Paul's time become that of the emperor, and appeal therefore was made to him (see Smith's Dict. of Class. Antiq. s.v. Apellatio, Roman). Hence Pliny (Ep. 10:97) mentions that he had sent to Rome some Christians, who were Roman citizens, and had appealed unto Caesar. This privilege could not be disallowed by any magistrate to any person whom the law entitled to it. Indeed very heavy penalties were attached to any refusal to grant it, or to furnish the party with facilities for going to Rome. See, generally, Krebs, De provocatione Pauli ad Caesarem (Lips. 1783); Santoroccii Diss. de-Pauli ad Caesarem appellatione (Marburg, 1721).
3. Ecclesiastical. — In the early Church all ecclesiastical matters were originally determined by the bishop with his court, from whose decision an appeal lay to the provincial synod (see council of Africa, 418). The case of Apiarius, priest of Sicca, in Mauritania, is supposed to have been about the first instance of an appeal to Rome, on which occasion the African Church resolutely resisted this papal encroachment on her independence. In the Middle Ages it often occurred that those whose doctrines had been censured by the pope appealed from his decision to an oecumenical council. Such, e.g., was the case with Wycliffe. Pius II forbade such appeals, under the penalty of excommunication, in 1459; but a numerous school of Roman Catholic theologians and canonists, who maintain the superiority of an oecumenical council over the pope, have never ceased to advocate them. In England there were no appeals to Rome before the time of King Stephen, when the practice was for the first time introduced by Henry de Blois, bishop of Winchester and papal legate (see Johnson, Eccl. Canons, sub ann. 1143). But by art. 8 of the Constitutions of Clarendon it was declared that, "If appeals arise, they ought to proceed from the archdeacon to the bishop, from the bishop to the archbishop, and, lastly, to the king (if the archbishop fail in doing justice), so that the controversy be ended in the archbishop's court by a precept from the king, and so that it go no further without the king's consent." These appeals were from time to time further prohibited, but they continued to be practiced until the time of the final rupture with Rome in the reign of Henry VIII, when they were entirely abolished (24 Hen. VIII, cap. 12, and 28 Hen. VIII, cap. 19). The Council of Antioch, A.D. 341, can. 12, and that of Chalcedon, declare that no royal or imperial decree can have any force in ecclesiastical matters — against the canons. Such indeed has ever been the discipline of the whole Church.
During the appeal the sentence of the inferior court is suspended; and it is usual for the superior court, at the instance of the appellant, to grant an inhibition to stay the execution of the sentence of the inferior court until the appeal shall be determined (Bingham, Orig. Eccl. bk. 2, ch. 16, § 16).
In the Methodist Episcopal Church, the right of appeal from lower to higher courts, both for ministers and laymen, is carefully guarded by a constitutional provision (Discipline, pt. 1, § 4).
In Presbyterian churches there are formal modes of appeal from a lower to a higher court, or from a session to a presbytery, from it to a synod, and from the synod to the general assembly.