Parent (γονεύς.). As early as the giving of the decalogue parents were to be honored by their children as a religious duty (Ex 20:12; Le 19:3; De 5:16); but as the law was promulgated more fully, their relation to their children was more accurately defined and more firmly established in society. The respect due to parents- was inviolable. A child who cursed (Ex 21:17; Le 20:9;
comp. De 27:16; Pr 20:20; Mt 11:4) or struck his parents (Ex 21:15) was punishable with death. Even obstinate disobedience on the part of sons, who, in spite of all parental reproofs and influence, continued to be flagrantly wicked, was, upon judicial investigation, punished with stoning (De 21:18; Philo, Opera, 1:371; Joseph. Ant. 4:8, 24; Apion, 2:27). Parricide is not mentioned in the Mosaic law (so that of Solon [Cicero, Pro R. Amer. c. 25] and of Romulus [Plutarch, Vit. Rom. c. 22]. On the Egyptian law for this crime, see Diod. Sic. 1:77). The support of old or infirm parents was a matter of course, but in the Talmud is expressly enjoined on children (see Lightfoot, p. 908; comp. Potter, Greek Antiq. 2:618 sq.). The father, as head of the family, had very great authority over his children. But the Jewish law, unlike the Egyptian (yet there the power was limited" see Diod. Sic. 1:77), and that of the ancient Gauls (Caesar, Bell. Gall. 6:19), did not allow parents the power of life and death over their children; although it has been inferred from Judah's sentence of Tamar (Ge 38:24; comp. Liv. 2:41) that the father of the family, during the patriarchal period, exercised also the functions of a criminal judge. (On the extent of parental authority among the Romans, Zimmern's. Geschichte d. Romans Privatrechts, I, 2:665 sq., may be consulted.) Under the law, however, he not only controlled the household economy, but married his sons (Ge 24; Ex 21:9 sq.; Jg 14:2 sq.) and daughters (Ge 29:16 sq.; 34:12) at his own pleasure; could sell the latter into slavery (Ex 21:7; comp. Plutarch, Vit. Sol. ch. 13), and could even annul any vows which they had made without his knowledge (see Nu 30:6, and comp. Gans, Erbrecht, 1:135). But by the time of Christ the traditional expositions of the law had lessened the parent's authority (Mt 15:5. See Vow. Comp. Michaelis, Mos. Rit. 2:103 sq.). Much value was ascribed to the blessing of a parent, and the curse of none was accounted a great misfortune (Ge 27:4,12; Ge 49:2 sq.; Sirach 3:11. See Grotius, ad loc. Comp. Homer, Od. 2:134; Il. 9:454; Plutarch, Tizmol. vi; Plato, Leg. 2:931 sq.). SEE CHILD; SEE FAMILY; SEE OLD.
By the old Roman law parents had power of life and death over their children, and in certain cases could sell them into slavery without redemption. The Christian emperors, however, soon modified and finally abolished this arbitrary power. In many heathen nations it still continues. Among civilized communities the duties of parents to children have in all ages, as a general rule, been recognized as relating to their health, their maintenance, their education, and morals. SEE EDUCATION; SEE PAEDAGOGICS.