Sources of the Greek Canon Law

to the Quinisext Council (692):

Councils and Church Fathers


Heinz Ohme

2.1 Index of Abbreviations                                                            


2.2 Introduction: The Organization of the Material and the Most Important Editions

2.3 Canons of Synods

            Canons of the Apostles                                                     

            Synod of Nicaea (325)                                                      

            Synod of Ankyra (314)                                                     

            Synod of Neokaisareia (315/319)                                       

            Synod of Gangra                                                               

            Synod of Antioch                                                              

            Synod of Laodikeia                                                            

            Synod of Constantinople (381)                                         

            Synod of Ephesus (431)                                                    

            Synod of Chalcedon (451)                                                  

            Synod of Serdica (341)                                                     

            Synod of Carthage (419)                                                   

            Synod of Constantinople (394)                                         

            Synod of Constantinople (692) (Quinisext Council)          

2.4 Canons of the Fathers

            Origin and Content                                                             

            Dionysios of Alexandria                                                   

            Peter of Alexandria                                                           

            Gregory Thaumaturgos (Wonderworker)                          

            Athanasios of Alexandria                                                   

            Basil the Great                                                                    

            Gregory of Nyssa                                                               

            Gregory of Nazianzos                                                         

            Amphilochios of Ikonion                                                   

            Timothy of Alexandria                                                       

            Theophilos of Alexandria                                                   

            Cyril of Alexandria                                                            

            Gennadios of Constantinople                                            

            Cyprian of Carthage                                                           

22.2 Introduction: The Organization of the Material and the Most Important Editions

a) Concerning organization. It is usual to organize the canonical material of Byzantine canon law into four groups: 1. canons of the Apostles; 2. canons of ecumenical synods; 3. canons of local synods; 4. canons of the Fathers. This organization is found in most of the editions available today. Footnote It was first found in c. 1 of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (787), and it has been generally followed in the Orthodox Church in the second millennium. Its characteristic is a systematic organization of the material under dogmatic rubrics, which is demonstrated in the placing of the Canons of the Apostles, but particularly in the canons of ecumenical synods as well as local synods.

            An exposition primarily interested in the history of the sources cannot adopt this organization without modification, since it is already rendered dubious by the pseudoepigraphic character of the Canons of the Apostles as well as by the historical problem of regarding the Constantinople synods of 381 and 692 as ‘Ecumenical Councils'. The most problematic aspect of the systematic approach is the fact that it ignores the development and coming-into-being of the ‘Ecumenical Council’ as an institution which only reaches full maturity in the eighth century. For earlier centuries this concept cannot be applied as a valid historical distinction. Footnote

            I have decided not to present the material in this essay in a strictly chronological order. Footnote For example, the tradition of treating the earliest synods of the church as a block in the sequence: Ankyra, Neokaisareia, Gangra, Antioch, and Laodikeia, will collapse, since Antioch would have to be placed before Gangra. It is more significant, however, that such a historicizing chronological order would lose the weighting of the canonical material in the early church as well as the process of formation which is clarified by the traditional order. The overwhelming significance of the synod of Nicaea (325), whose canons were also of central importance, would thus be obscured, and decisions that became significant only later, such as the canons of Carthage (258), Constantinople (394), and Carthage (419) would receive prior treatment. Such a chronological treatment would in fact produce an ahistoric ordering.

            This portion of the History of Medieval Canon Law treats the sources of canonical material of Byzantine canon law down to the so-called Quinisext Council (692). Although it is known that this council did not bring the development of canon law in the Byzantine East to a close, Footnote this terminus is justified both historically and in terms of substance. C. 2 of the Trullanum constitutes an apex and milestone for the canon law of the early church and its further development in the Greek East. It is this canon which first listed and authorized the canons of the apostles, the synods and the Fathers, hence the whole of the law applicable until then. One may speak here of the first synodical codification, and the canon is of basic importance for Orthodoxy. Footnote

            The model for c. 2 of the Quinisext was the canonical collection Syntagma XIV titulorum, which originated in Constantinople at the end of the sixth century. Footnote The canon not only adopts the canonical material developed there, but also adopts the organization found in the second part of the Syntagma. Footnote The canon constitutes, so to speak, its synodal recognition. Although there the Canons of the Apostles are already placed at the very beginning, the further order is still entirely in keeping with the subsequent development of this corpus canonum. This is particularly the case with the synodal canons, which are not organized in the manner they would be later. Rather, the oldest corpus contained the synods of Nicaea, Ankyra, Neokaisareia, Gangra, Antioch, Laodikeia, and Constantinople (381). Then come the synods of Ephesus, Chalcedon and Serdica; finally Carthage (419) and Constantinople (394) are followed by the Canons of the Fathers. Footnote This generic division appears to preserve the best ordering according to historical criteria, and for that reason it is the order that will be observed in the following exposition. It will not be possible to treat the Canons of the Apostles as a category in their own right. Rather, they will be treated as synodal canons, which in fact they are. Footnote

b) The Most Important Editions. The edition by P.-P. Joannou published in 1962 in Grottaferrata by the ‘Pontifica Commissione per la Redazione del Codice di Diritto Canonico Orientale’ should be mentioned first. Footnote It is the only one of the currently accessible textual editions which can be called a critical edition. The foundation of Joannou's text Footnote is the edition of the Synogoga of John Scholastikos Footnote by V.N. Beneševič. Footnote Since the Synogoga comes to an end with Chalcedon and the Canons of the Fathers are represented only by Basil, and he only in an incomplete form, Joannou supplied the missing parts. For this he used the manuscript tradition of synodal acts and the Fathers of the Church, particularly exploiting the many canonical collection manuscripts. He was committed to the systematic treatment of the material in sequence, though, in places, he supplemented the material in an often arbitrary manner. Footnote In Joannou's introductions he always feels compelled to represent the Roman Catholic position, and for that reason he saw his way clear to accept the canons of the synod of Constantinople of 869, which are not preserved in any Byzantine collection, as ‘canons of the Eighth Ecumenical Synod’. Footnote

            The most widely distributed edition among Orthodox canon lawyers is the Syntagma, edited by G.A. Rhalles and M. Potles from 1852 to 1859 in six volumes. Footnote It may be described as the textus receptus or ‘Vulgate’ of Byzantine canon law. Volumes 1 to 4 consist Footnote of an edition of the Syntagma XIV titulorum in the form ca. 883, the ‘Nomokanon of Photius’, with parallel printed commentaries of Byzantine canonists of the twelfth century: J. Zonaras, T. Balsamon, and A. Aristenos. The textual basis is the editio princeps of the Trebizond Codex of 1311, against which Rhalles-Potles collated all editions appearing until 1852. Footnote Volume 5 contains synodal decisions and Διατάξεις of the patriarchs of Constantinople as well as a collection of novellae of Byzantine emperors, and volume 6 contains the Syntagma of Matthew Blastares. Footnote

            The textual edition of H.S. Alivisatos, κανόνες is a short handbook or study edition in a single volume. Footnote Alivisatos prints the text of vols. 2 to 4 of Rhalles-Potles without the commentaries of canonists or the critical apparatus. In the place of Rhalles-Potles vols. 5 and 6, he added a section (part 4) with documents from Greece's ‘more recent legislation in ecclesiastical law’ from this century.

            Together with the Syntagma of Rhalles-Potles, the so-called Pedalion Footnote of Nikodemos Hagiorites (1749-1809) enjoys the widest distribution among the Orthodox. Footnote It consists of a collection for Orthodox clergy put together at the end of the eighteenth century out of kanonika and nomika hitherto available only in manuscript. Its selection of later canonical texts has been criticized up to the present day. Footnote The Pedalion was edited with the approval of the Ecumenical Patriarch Neophytos VII (1789-94, 1798-1801), so that it has a certain official character. The first edition appeared in Leipzig in 1800. On the basis of the third edition of 1864 appearing in Zante/Zakynthos, nine printings have appeared. Alongside the edition itself, the special contribution of Nikodemos is his translation of each canon into the vernacular (̔Ερμηνείαι), as well as his cross-references to other decisions of similar content (Συμφωνίαι).

            The textual edition of F. Lauchert of 1896 is still being used. Footnote Lauchert offers the synodal canons without the Canons of the Fathers. He orders his material chronologically and mixes canons of the Latin West with those of the Greek East. As the texts are reprints of earlier editions, mostly from Mansi and Bruns, Footnote the text offered by Lauchert thus has to be compared with more recent editions. The same applies to the even-older edition of Cardinal J.B. Pitra, which was presented as a critical edition, though it has seldom been positively reviewed. Footnote


2.3 Canons of Synods

The Canons of the Apostles


Editions: Joannou, CSP 1-53; Funk, Didascalia 1.564-92; M. Metzger, Les Constitutions Apostoliques 3 (SC 336; Paris 1987) 275-309; Lauchert 1-13 (repr. Mansi); Rhalles-Potles 2.1-112; Pedalion 1-117; Alivisatos, κανόνες 135-156; Pitra 1.13-36; versio latina: EOMIA 1.9-32; Versiones: see G. Bardy, DDC 2.1294.

Translations: English: Rudder 1-154; NPNF 14.591-601; German: F. Boxler, Bibliothek der Kirchenväter, ed. O. Bardenhewer (1911-; 1st ed. Kempten 1874) 317-33; French: Joannou, CSP 1-53; M. Metzger, Les Constitutions Apostoliques 3 (SC 336; Paris 1987) 275-309.

Literature: G. Bardy, ‘Canons apostoliques', DDC 2.1288-95; P.F. Bradshaw, ‘Kirchenordnungen I. Altkirchliche', TRE 18 (1990) 662-670; J.S. von Drey, Neue Untersuchungen über die Constitutionen und Kanones der Apostel (Tübingen 1832) 203-419; F.X. Funk, Die apostolischen Konstitutionen (Rottenburg 1891; repr. Frankfurt 1970) 180-206; H. Leclercq, ‘Canons Apostoliques', DACL 2 (1925) 1910-50; M. Metzger, Les Constitutions apostoliques 1-3 (SC 320, 329, 336; Paris 1985-87) 3.9-13; M. Metzger, ‘Konstitutionen (Pseudo-Apostolische)', TRE 19 (1991) 540-4; P. Nautin, ‘The 85 Apostolic Canons', EEC 62; Ohme, Kanon 485-497; B. Steimer, Vertex Traditionis. Die Gattung der altchristlichen Kirchenordnungen (Beiheft zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 63; Berlin/New York 1992) 87-94, 114-33; C.H. Turner, ‘Notes on the Apostolic Constitutions', JTS 16 (1914-15) 54-61, 523-38; JTS 31 (1930) 128-41; C.H. Turner, ‘A Primitive Edition of the Apostolic Constitutions and Canons', JTS 15 (1914) 53-65; E. Schwartz, Über die pseudoapostolischen Kirchenordnungen (Strasbourg 1910); A. Spagnolo and C.H. Turner, ‘A Fragment of an Unknown Latin Version of the Apostolic Constitutions', JTS 13 (1912) 49ff.

1. The Canons of the Apostles are a collection of 85 canons. Footnote They are included at the end of book 8 of the Apostolic Constitutions as Chapter 47. The short epilogue (8.48) describes them in the direct speech of the apostles as their ‘canons’ for the bishops. Hence the Apostolic Constitutions as a whole have the appearance of a conciliar document with canonical decrees passed by the apostolic council in Jerusalem (6.14.1). An historical evaluation of the Canons of the Apostles can only take place in the context of the Apostolic Constitutions. The general consensus in evaluating this work, developed by modern research and completely settling the older controversies Footnote which had arisen after its publication in the sixteenth century, is based essentially on the research of F.S. von Drey, F.X. Funk, E. Schwartz and C.H. Turner. M. Metzger added a new edition to that of Funk in 1985-87, essentially confirming the state of research. Footnote

            According to this research, the Apostolic Constitutions are a pseudoepigraphic compilation consisting of the following elements: 1. A collection of the three older church ordinances, the Didache, the Didaskalia, and the Traditio apostolica (Const. 7, 1-6, 8); 2. Insertion of liturgical prayer formulas and conciliar traditions into the above; 3. Insertion of extracts and citations, particularly from the Holy Scriptures and the pseudo-Clementine literature; 4. Direct interpolations by the compiler himself. The unity of the entire Apostolic Constitutions, including the Canons of the Apostles, is no longer in doubt. Footnote It is probably not the work of a single editor or compiler but rather the joint product of a ‘workshop’. The land of origin is Syria, more precisely probably Antioch in the period around 380. Footnote

2. The unity of the Apostolic Constitutions and the Canons of the Apostles is confirmed by the fact — as close inspection shows— that the Canons of the Apostles also is a compilation of older material, particularly from the synods of Antioch (328), Laodikeia, and Nicaea (325), from which at least 28 canons have been taken. Footnote The dependence of the Canons of the Apostles on the canons of Antioch in particular cannot any longer be doubted, since the corresponding canons are excerpts from those of Antioch, and they follow them in order, with corresponding gaps.

            This is the case with the following canons (with the corresponding canons of Antioch in parentheses): canons 9, 10, 11 and 12 on the duty of clergy to take Holy Communion, the presence of the faithful at the anaphora and the ban on common prayer with excommunicates and those deposed from office (c. 2); c. 13 on the ban of receiving excommunicates into other congregations (c. 6); c. 14 on the ban against bishops changing dioceses (canons 18, 21); canons 15 and 16 on the rights of clerics who leave their congregations (c. 3); c. 29 on deposed clerics (c. 4); c. 32 on separating priests and deacons (c. 5); c. 33 on the reacceptance of excommunicated priests and deacons (c. 6); c. 34 on the reception of alien clerics (canons 7, 8); c. 35 on the rights of the metropolitan (c. 9); c. 36 on the ban on consecrating outside one's own diocese (canons 13, 22); c. 37 on the refusal of office by clerics and the rejection of a bishop by the congregation (canons 17, 18); c. 38 about the two eparchial synods every year (c. 20); canons 39 to 41 on church property and the private property of the bishop (canons 24 and 25); and c. 76 on the ban on designating one's successor (c. 23).

            So far as the synod of Laodikeia is concerned, the following derivations can be established: the ban by c. 45 of praying with heretics or conceding to their clerical functions has a parallel in canons 9, 33, and 34; canons 70 and 71, banning sharing fasting, festivals or gifts with Jews, taking oil into their sanctuaries or lighting lamps (C. Laod. 37-39).

            Besides Antioch and Laodikeia, some individual canons of Nicaea (325) appear to be sources of the Canons of the Apostles: canons 21 to 24 concerning eunuchs in the clergy and on self-mutilation (C. Nic. 1); c. 80 forbidding neophites in episcopal office (C. Nic. 2) and c. 44 banning the taking of usury by clerics (C. Nic. 17).

            The final piece of evidence indicating a direct connection to the Apostolic Constitutions is the fact that about twenty of the canons are taken directly from the Apostolic Constitutions. Here the passages of the Apostolic Constitutions in the Apostolic Canons are all interpolations of the compiler. Footnote Canons 42 and 43 treating the private property of bishops, clerical gambling and drinking are taken from the Didaskalia.

            Interpolations in the Apostolic Constitutions are sources of the following canons: canons 1 and 2 on the number of consecrators (3.20); c. 7 on the necessity for clerics to be free of worldly cares (2.6); c. 8 on the distinction of Easter and Passover (5.17); c. 17 on the second marriage after baptism as a hindrance to ordination (2.2, 6.17); c. 18 on particular marriages as hindrances to ordination (6.17); c. 20, that clerics should not guarantee loans (2.6); c. 27 on the ban on marriage after higher orders (6.17); c. 34 on the mode of receiving alien clerics (2.58, 7.28); c. 46 against heretical baptism (6.15); c. 47 on rebaptism (6.15); c. 49 on the formula of baptism (6.10, 11, 26); c. 51 on the ban on the asceticism of clerics out of disgust (6.8, 10, 11, 26); c. 52 on the reception of penitent sinners (2.10-20); c. 53 on deposing clerics who practice asceticism on festival days (5.20); c. 60 banning the books of the godless in the divine service (6.16); c. 64 banning praying in the synagogues of Jews and heretics (2.61); c. 66 on the ban on fasting on Saturdays and Sundays (5.20); c. 79, that one possessed cannot become a cleric before being healed (8.32), and many others.

            The other canons deal with decisions on the following themes: forbidden offerings (canons 3-5); bans on divorce of married clergy under the pretext of piety (c. 6); forbidden degrees of relationship for the second marriage of clerics (c. 19); deposing clerics does not lead automatically to excommunication (canons 25, 26); use of force by clerics against sinners leads to deposing (c. 28); simony (canons 30, 31); gambling and drunkenness of clerics (canons 42, 43); ban on lay divorce with the intent of remarriage (c. 48); necessity of threefold submersion in baptism (c. 50); drunkenness of clerics (c. 54); harrassment of clerics (canons 55, 56) and of the disabled (c. 57); neglect of official duties and cares (canons 58, 59); moral impediments for entering the clerical order (c. 61); apostacy of clerics (c. 62); ban on unbled meat (c. 63); clerics as killers (c. 65); abduction with intent to marry (c. 67); ban on second marriage (c. 68); non-observance of fasting times by clerics (c. 69); removal and misuse of the instruments of divine service (canons 72, 73); complaint proceedings against bishops (c. 74); requirements of the witnesses for such proceedings (c. 75); physical impediments for episcopal ordination (canons 77, 78); ban on political activities by bishops (c. 81); slaves in the episcopal office (c. 82); ban on war service for clerics (c. 83); lèse-majesté (c. 84); index of the canonical Holy Scriptures, including the Apostolic Constitutions. Footnote

            The content of the canons has little internal unity and barely any internal order. It is suprising, however, that out of the 85 canons, 76 deal with the clergy, and laymen are almost totally ignored. One can thus speak of the Canons of the Apostles as a selection and compilation of ecclesiastical discipline for clerics. Footnote

            The numeration of the canons in the manuscripts is diverse. Footnote Since the oldest text, the Fragmentum Veronense, lacks all numeration, it is to be assumed this was also lacking in the Greek original. Footnote The question remains open whether the compiler had a collection of older conciliar material before him, or whether he knew these decisions in isolation. The earliest canonical collections are believed to have arisen in the period of Constantinople I, about 381 (see below).

3. Hence, the Canons of the Apostles may be regarded as representing the literary type of pseudo-apostolic church orders of the early church; and together with the Apostolic Constitutions they may even be regarded as the apex of the genre. Their uniqueness appears to lie in the fact that actual canonical decisions of ecclesiastical synods are clothed with the claim of apostolic origin through literary fiction. The Apostolic Constitutions are, in fact, the last example of this genre within the imperial church, where they are soon to be definitively replaced by synodal canons. It is only in the separated churches in Syria and Egypt that they continued to be relevant. Footnote Hence the Canons of the Apostles, as a portion of the Apostolic Constitutions, like all church orders of the earliest period, Footnote fill a legislative vacuum in the formation of ecclesiastical institutions by collating, actualizing, and propagating the old normative texts and traditions. The author of the Apostolic Constitutions wanted to unify ecclesiastical norms in order to fight the plethora of local traditions and particularism that had been characteristic of the fourth-century conciliar legislation. The compiler naturally made an evaluation in the course of his selection. Despite the unavoidable contradictions among various parts of the Apostolic Constitutions, the Canons of the Apostles are a good measure for what the compiler held to be absolutely binding and what he knew best from his own context.


4. The earliest indication of the use of the Canons of the Apostles appears in an extract from the acts of the synod of Constantinople of 29 September 394 (see below), where Nektarios of Constantinople refers to the ‘apostolic canons’ on the question of condemning a bishop. Footnote According to these ‘apostolic canons', a bishop could not be deposed by two or three other bishops, but only through the vote of a larger synod of the corresponding eparchy. This shows a knowledge of C. App. 74, which regulates in detail the deposition of a bishop after three summonses by a synod, and which is among the most-cited canons in the councils of the fifth century. Footnote However, as J.S. von Drey and J.W. Bickell have shown, we cannot assume, as some historians have, that when the phrases κανὼν ἀποστολικός or ἐκκλησιαστικός or ἀρχαος are used in the sources that they are references to these collections of canons. Footnote Rather references in texts before 394 that contain these phrases should be understood to mean that a canon rested on an ecclesiastical norm or practice dating from the time of the apostles.

            When Dionysius Exiguus translated a collection of canons from Greek into Latin for Bishop Stephanus of Salona, he placed the first 50 Canons of the Apostles at the head. Footnote In his praefatio, he remarked that many have doubted the apostolic origin of the canons in his own time.


Incipiunt regule ecclesiastice sanctorum apostolorum, prolate per Clementem, Ecclesie romane pontificem, quae ex graecis exemplaribus in ordine primo ponuntur, quibus quamplurimi quidem consensum non prebuere facile et tamen postea quaedam constituta pontificum ex ipsis canonibus adsumpta esse videntur. Footnote

            This appears conceivable in Greek as well as in Latin regions, since it appears that a Latin translation existed of the Apostolic Constitutions, including the Canons of the Apostles, even before Dionysius‘ translation. Footnote What cannot be answered to this day is why Dionysius only translated the first 50 canons. It is unlikely that he broke off the translation because the subsequent canons contradicted Roman practice (such as c. 66), since that may also be said of some canons of the first part (such as canons 46 and 47). Neither is it convincing to say he knew of only 50 canons, since the older Latin translation presents all 85 canons. E. Schwartz has declared that the gloss to c. 50 was the reason Dionysius broke off his translation, since, to him, the gloss was heretical. Footnote

            In 496 Pope Gelasius issued his decree De libris non recipiendis (see below), in which the formula, Liber qui appellatur Canones apostolorum, apocryphus was inserted under Pope Hormisdas (514-23). In the second collection of canons that Dionysius compiled during Hormisdas’ pontificate, he did not include the Canons of the Apostles. In his praefatio to Hormisdas, Dionysius declared that he had included canons in the volume which had been received by the entire church. Footnote Since the first collection received more weight in later times, the Canons of the Apostles entered the pseudo-Isidorian Decretals and finally were excerpted in the Decretum of Gratian. Footnote

            In the East the use of the Canons of the Apostles can be traced in the councils of the fifth century. Footnote John Scholastikos received all 85 canons in his Synogoga without any doubt about their authority. He pointed out that the canons had long been found in older collections. Footnote The Canons of the Apostles were included in Justinian's Novellae 6 and 137. Consequently they had been confirmed by secular law, and their texts can be found in the Corpus iuris civilis. The council fathers of the Quinisext Council (692) underlined the great importance of the Canons of the Apostles in the East by placing them before Nicaea in the list of authorities, ‘canonizing’ their apostolic origin. The norms of the Canons of the Apostles were now declared βεβαίους and ἀσφαλες. Even the Apostolic Constitutions were declared to be of apostolic origin because of being mentioned in C. App. 85, even though having been partly falsified by the ‘heterodox.'

The Synod of Nicaea (325)


Editions: Joannou, CCO 23-41; Lauchert 37-43; Alivisatos, κανόνες 25-33; Rhalles-Potles 2.113-64; Pitra 1.427-35; Versiones: ClavisG 8520-7.

Translations: English: Tanner 6-19; NPNF 14.1-58; German: Wohlmuth 6-19; Ortiz de Urbina 288-93; French: Joannou, CCO 23-41; G. Fritz, ‘Nicée (Ier Concile de)', DThC 11 (1931) 408-16.

Literature: H.C. Brennecke, ‘Nicäa I', TRE 24 (1994) 429-441 (literature); Beck, Kirche 44 (literature); A.E. Burn, The Council of Nicaea (London 1925); G. Cereti, ‘The reconciliation of remarried divorces according to canon 8 of the Council of Nicaea', Studies in Canon Law presented to P.J.M. Huizing, ed by J.H. Provost, Leuven 1991, 193-207; H. Chadwick, ‘Faith and Order at the Council of Nicaea', Harvard Theological Review 53 (1960) 171-95; H. Crouzel, ‘Les digamoi visés par le Concile de Nicée dans son canon 8', Augustinianum 18 (1978) 533-46; B.E. Daley, ‘Position and patronage in the early church. The original meaning of “primacy of honour“', JThS. N.S. 44 (1993) 529-553; Th.G. Elliot, Constantine‘s preparations for the Council of Nicaea, JRH 17 (1992) 127-137; G. Fritz, ‘Nicée (Ier Concile de)', DthC 11 (1931) 399-417; K. Girardet, ‘Der Vorsitzende des Konzils von Nicaea (325). Kaiser Konstantin d. Gr.', Klassisches Altertum, Spätantike und frühes Christentum. FS A. Lippold, ed. by K. Dietz, Würzburg 1993, 331-360; Hefele-Leclercq 1.1.503-619 , 1.2.1182-1202; W. Huber, Passa und Ostern (Supplement to ZNW 35; Berlin 1969); C. Kannengiesser, ‘Nicaea’, EEC 595; G. Larentzakis, ‘Das Osterfestdatum nach dem I. ökumenischen Konzil von Nikaia (325)', ZThK 101 (1979) 67-78; P. L'Huiller, ‘Ecclesiology in the Canons of the First Nicene Council’, St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 27 (1983) 119-31; Kaufhold, ‘Väterlisten’; K. Lübeck, Reichseinteilung und kirchliche Hierarchie des Orients bis zum Ausgange des vierten Jahrhunderts (Münster 1901); R. Macina, ‘Pour éclaire le terme digamoi’, Revue des sciences religieuses 61 (1987) 54-73; J. Meyendorff, ‘One Bishop in One City (canon 8)’, St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 5 (1961) 54-62; K. Müller, ‘Beiträge zur Geschichte der Verfassung der alten Kirche. V. Die Kanones 4-7 von Nizäa’, Abh. Akad. Berlin 3 (1922) 21-7; Ohme, Kanon 352-378; Ortiz de Urbina; V. Peri, ‘Lo stato degli studi intorno alla origine della quaresima’, Aevum 34 (1960) 525-55; Schwartz, ‘Kanonensammlungen’ 203-20; J. v.d. Speeten, ‘Le dossier de Nicée dans la Quesnelliana’, Sacris erudiri 28 (1985) 383-450; BISA.

1. The 20 canons of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325), together with its creed, a synodal letter to the Church of Alexandria, and the list of episcopal subscribers are the sole surviving direct sources for the decrees and negotiations of this council. Footnote The council was accorded preeminent importance by the late fourth century. It became the foundation of the future development of ecclesiastical doctrine, as well as the exemplary expression of imperial power in an ecclesiastical synod.

            The question of whether minutes of the proceedings of Nicaea once existed and were lost at an early date cannot be definitively answered. Footnote In any case, it is not to be overlooked that there never was a single literary reference to the existence of such minutes, not even in the earliest accounts of the council. Footnote

            After Emperor Constantine had won sole rulership in 324, he called the council in accordance with the model of the council of Arles (314), and it opened on 20 May 325 or in June in the hall of the palace of Nicaea. Footnote The reported number of participating bishops varies from 250 to over 300. Footnote Alongside the bishops of the East, who were most concerned, a few from the West were also invited, for this was to be an imperial synod, an ‘ecumenical’ council. Footnote

2. The tasks at hand did not consist solely of settling the Arian conflict, but also of settling schismatic developments in the Church of Egypt, called the Meletian Schism, Footnote as well as of regulating questions of order for the entire church and of establishing a common date for Easter. Footnote

            The Synod of Arles had already called for a unified date for the Easter festival in its c. 1. The Nicaean decision to celebrate Easter henceforth on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring separated Easter from the Jewish calculation of Passover, which had been altered in the course of time that avoided the vernal equinox. This calculation of the Easter feast has been observed in principle to the present day. The decisions only survive in the writing of Emperor Constantine dedicated to this theme, ‘To the churches', Footnote as well as in the epistula synodica to the Church of Alexandria. Footnote It is surprising that no formal decree of the synod has survived. The ‘discovery’ of such a ‘decree’ by J.B. Pitra and his edition of it, has to be viewed skeptically. Footnote It is no more than another summary of the decision made in Nicaea. This text is already to be found in the Synagoge of Fifty Titles by John Scholastikos, Footnote but it cannot be described as a formal ‘conciliar decree’ either in form or style. At the same time it is clear that the Easter decision of the synod was not included among the 20 canons, where it would appear at first glance to belong.

3. In the same way, the conciliatory decision of the council on the Egyptian Meletians did not find a place in the canons. It has only been preserved to us in the synodal letter to the Church of Alexandria. Footnote The thirty-three bishops so far consecrated by Melitios of Lycopolis, Footnote as well as the five priests and three deacons, were permitted to remain in their offices and places after a laying-on of hands, though they remained lower in rank than the ‘Catholic’ clerics. Bishops were to be without the right of electing or nominating clergy. They could, nonetheless, take the place of Catholic bishops on the death of incumbents. Melitios alone lost his right to consecrate. The synod made similar decisions about the ‘Cathars’ or Novatians in c. 8, parties which included several bishops of the synod. Footnote

            The mildness of these decisions becomes clear if one compares them with c. 19 on the reintegration of the ‘Paulianists', in which the entire clergy, from bishops to deaconesses, who had adhered to the teachings of Paul of Samosata, had to be rebaptized and ordained again. The offer to the Meletians appears even milder than c. 8, in which no prospect is given to Cathar bishops of recovering their cathedra when the sees became free again. The will of the emperor to ensure peace in the Church in the East stood behind these decisions.

4. Theodoret of Cyrrhus († ca. 466) reports Footnote that after the anathematization of the Arians, the bishops regathered and passed 20 ‘laws on the organization of ecclesiastical life’ (περὶ τς ἐκκλησιαστικς πολιτείας νόμους ἔγραψαν εἴκοσι). Gelasios of Cyzicus after 475 also presents the text of all 20 canons (ἐκκλησιαστικοὺς κανόνας εἴκοσιν) without varying from the content or sequence of what is found in Greek canonical collections. Footnote Rufinus included the 20 canons in Latin summaries in his Ecclesiastical History, dividing canons 6 and 8 in two, hence producing 22 canons. Footnote Hence the oldest historians of the church not only confirm the great significance attributed to the canons of Nicaea from the earliest times, but also their number. Footnote In Syrian, Arabic, and Ethiopian traditions, these 20 canons grew through the addition of a great number of other canonical norms. Footnote This can be seen as a sign of the great authority attributed to the Nicaean Council and all of its decrees which it enjoyed from the end of the fourth century in all of Christendom. In the Roman tradition, doubtless for similar reasons, the canons of Serdica were passed on under the name of the Nicaenum (see below).

            Of great historical importance were those canons which initiated a new organization of ecclesiastical leadership and adminstration in parallel with the secular reorganization of the empire carried through by Diocletian (284-305). Footnote Under threat of excommunication, canons 15 and 16 intended to bind the entire clergy to the parish congregation, called the paroikia (c. 16), ‘for which they were ordained', excluding any autonomous movement from one episcopal parish to another as well as any enticement, a practice which is incidentally described as virtually universal. Footnote Both canons illustrate the ancient Christian bond of ordination to a certain local church, which is the paroikia of the bishop. The new ecclesiastical structures are formulated in canons 4 to 7. Episcopal congregations are formed into ecclesiastical provincial associations geographically corresponding to secular Imperial provinces (both of them use the same descriptive term, ἐπαρχία), headed by the bishop of the provincial capital or metropolis, as the ‘metropolitan'. Hence c. 4 rules that episcopal elections must be attended by all the bishops of a province. Three bishops suffice for consecration, but those three must have the written approval of the others. The metropolitan must confirm the decision and consecration (canons 4, 6). C. 5 institutes the provincial synod as the supreme ecclesiastic court of appeal which must be held twice a year. Footnote C. 6 establishes the foundation for the patriarchal system, which is further elaborated at Constantinople in 381 and finally stabilized in the sixth century. In this canon, the Church of Alexandria is referred to the situation in Rome, and special regulations are also made for Antioch. In this way ‘the old customs’ and privileges (πρεσβεα) are confirmed, according to which these churches have jurisdiction and influence reaching across provincial boundaries. C. 7 confirms to the bishop of Aelia (Jerusalem) a position of priority of honour (ἀκολουθία τς τιμς), despite the rights of the metropolitan see of Kaisareia.

            It must not be overlooked that these canons for restructuring the church resulted from conditions prevalent in the Eastern Empire, but which did not necessarily prevail in the West, ‘where, for example, the synods of African provinces encompassed considerably larger units’. It is in this light that we should understand the varied reception of the canons of Nicaea, as well as the variation in their Latin translations. Footnote

            The following canons deal with the dignity, way of life, and hierarchical order of the clergy: c. 1 excludes from the clergy those who have willingly made themselves eunuchs, but not those who had this done against their will or for reasons of illness. C. 2 opposes any consecration of neophytes, and c. 3 forbids clerics to live together with a woman in sexual abstinence. C. 9 requires an examination in advance of any consecration of a priest. If it is omitted and any impediment makes itself known after the consecration, such candidates will not be allowed to function, despite their consecration. C. 10 confirms the ban on consecrating those who have lapsed, and even a consecration which has taken place does not prejudice this. Clerics who practise usury are to be deposed (c. 17). C. 18 regulates the hierarchical rank and sequence of the higher clergy: bishop, priest, deacon, weighted particularly to the disadvantage of the deacon.

            Canons 11 to 14 deal with regulations of public penance: for those who lapsed under the persecution of Licinius (canons 11, 12); guaranteeing communion of penitents in articulo mortis (c. 13); for sinful catechumens (c. 14). In order not to erase the separation from the penitent ‘kneelers', the synod finally ruled in c. 20 that the faithful should celebrate the divine service while standing.

The Synod of Ankyra (314)


Editions: R.B. Rackham, ‘The Text of the Canons of Ancyra’, Studia biblica et ecclesiastica (Oxford 1891) III 139-216; Joannou, CSP 56-73; Lauchert 29-34 (= Rackham); Mansi 2.515-34; Pitra, 1.441-8; Alivisatos, κανόνες 157-64; Rhalles-Potles 3.20-69; Pedalion 371-85; Versiones: ClavisG 8501.

Translations: English: Rudder, 489-503; NPNF 14.63-72; German: Hefele 1.219-42; French: Joannou.

Literature: Hefele-Leclercq Histoire 1.1.298-326; Kaufhold, ‘Väterlisten’; X. LeBachelet, ‘Ancyra (Concile de)', DThC 1 (1923) 1173-7; J. Lebon, ‘Sur un concile de Césarée’, Le Muséon 51 (1938) 89-132; Ohme, Kanon 329-334; S. Parvis, ‘The Canons of Ancyra and Caesarea (314)’, JThS. N.S. 52 (2001) 625-636; BISA.

1. When Emperor Maximinus Daia took his own life following his defeat by Licinius in July 313, the last bastion of persecution of the church since Diocletian in the eastern imperial district of the Tetrarchy fell. Eusebios reports that in this period, after the Edict of Toleration issued by Licinius in Nicomedia on 13 June 313 many synods were held in the East once more. Footnote Among these can be numbered the synod of Ankyra, the metropolis of Galatia.

            Its dating can be determined by the presidency of Bishop Vitalis of Antioch (see below), who died in 319, but particularly from c. 6 on sacrificati who had fallen away as a result of the mere threat of punishment and who had asked to return to the church ‘at the time of the synod’. They were to be received from now until next Easter into the penitential rank of ‘hearers.’ Then they had to spend five more years as penitential ‘kneelers’ and ‘fellow- standers'. The earliest possible Pentecost, the usual date for a synod, would be 314. This earliest possible date has high probability, since the question of dealing with lapsi and the regulation of their potential recovery to the church was such a concern to the council (canons 1-9, 12).

            Along with the 25 canons of the synod, Footnote the Latin tradition preserves three lists of bishops attributed to the council. Footnote These vary between 12 and 18 participants. The Ballerinis showed long ago that the list has anachronistic provincial boundaries, Footnote so that it must have been amended later. The lists given in the Prisca and the Isidoriana have no provincial titles attributed to bishops, but they were added later to the collection of Dionysius. Still, the lists are not necessarily inauthentic, since most participants can be attributed to the period and were also at Nicaea in 325. Just as is the case with the synod of Neokaisareia, Vitalis of Antioch held first place and should be seen as the president. The so-called Libellus synodicus attributes the presidency to Markellos of Ankyra, who was one of the participants, but it is unlikely that he presided. Footnote It is striking, however, that the participants come from the sphere of influence of the Church of Antioch in Asia Minor, Syria, and Palestine. This was hence not a local synod in the strictest sense, but rather a general synod of the churches in the imperial dioecesis Oriens.

2. The oldest preserved version of the Greek text with 25 canons dates to the ninth and tenth centuries. Footnote For that reason the translations, particularly the Latin tradition, are especially significant. Footnote

            Beyond the decisions concerning lapsi (canons 1-9, 12), no further system is to be discerned in the ordering of the material. Canons regulated the position of lapsed priests and deacons (canons 1 and 2), as well as the rules of return for those who had been compelled to participate in sacrifices or sacrificial banquets. Distinction was made between those who participated in sacrifices with public confession (c. 3), passive participation (c. 4), and participation in tears and mourning (c. 5). C. 6 dealt with participation in sacrifice in response to a simple threat of punishment. Canon 7 discussed those who participated in sacrificial banquets but who did not eat the sacrificial meat; while c. 8 treated repeated sacrifice, c. 9 complete apostasy, and c. 12 sacrificing during one's period as a catechumen.

            Questions treating the clergy are dealt with by the following canons: deacons are to declare at the time of their election whether they intend eventually to marry (c. 10); chorepiscopi are forbidden to ordain without special license (c. 13); a principled rejection of the eating of meat leads to deposing (c. 14). Further canons dealt with the sale of ecclesiastical property during a vacancy of the see (c. 15), the duties and status of bishops-elect who are not accepted in their parishes (c. 18), and the breaking of an oath of chastity (c. 19).

            The other decisions deal with the following themes: abducting betrothed girls (c. 11); sex with animals (canons 16 and 17); adultery (c. 20); abortion (c. 21); murder (c. 22); manslaughter (c. 23); magic (c. 24); and lastly the special case of the seduction of a future sister-in-law by the bridegroom, resulting in the girl's death.

            The canons as a whole have great importance for the history of the institution of penance in the early church. They are among the earliest evidence for the three-step system of penance, which eventually even became a four-step system (canons 4-9, 16-17, 20-25). Footnote The text and interpretation of c. 13 are in dispute concerning the practical functions of chorepiscopi, Footnote who are first mentioned here.

            J. Lebon has defended the thesis that canons 20 to 25 were originally passed by a synod in Kaisareia of Cappadocia in the same year, Footnote whose list of participants later was switched with that of the Synod of Neokaisareia.

The Synod of Neokaisareia (between 315 and 319)


Editions: Joannou, CSP 75-82; Mansi 2.539-43; Lauchert 35-6; Pitra 1.451-4; Alivisatos, κανόνες 166-9; Pedalion 385-95; Rhalles-Potles 3.70-95; Versiones: ClavisG 8504.

Translations: English: Rudder, 507-19; NPNF 14.79-88; German: Hefele 1.242-51; French: Joannou, CSP 75-82.

Literature: G. Bardy, ‘Néocésarée’, DDC 6.995-7; Hefele-Leclercq Histoire 1.326-334; Kaufhold, ‘Väterlisten’; BISA; C. Nardi, ‘Neocaesarea’, EEC 585.

            In the Greek collections of canons, the decisions of the synod of Neokaisareia, the metropolis of Pontos Polemoniakos, always follows the synod of Ankyra. The fact that this also indicates a temporal sequence is shown by the lemma of the Greek manuscripts of the canons, which dates the synod between that of Ankyra and Nicaea. Footnote It also fits that the problem of lapsi obviously no longer played a role, in contrast to Ankyra. It is hence likely that some time has passed since 313. Footnote

            Other than the 15 canons, there survives from this council in the Latin tradition a list of bishops with 17 to 20 names, Footnote of which 6 are also found on the lists for Ankyra, and several are on the Nicaean list, too. One can thus assume that the synods were close together in time. As is the case with Ankyra, the first place is held by Vitalis of Antioch, who died around 319. Here as well the participants come from churches of Antioch's sphere of influence in Asia Minor, Syria, and Palestine. J. Lebon attributes this list of bishops to a council in Caesarea in Cappadocia in 314. Footnote

            The decisions of the synod do not show any internal principle of organization; they are briefly formulated and deal with the following themes: priests cannot marry after ordination (c. 1); marriage with a sister-in-law will lead to expulsion (c. 2); c. 3 deals with penance for bigamy (i.e. second and further marriages); sins of thought are not subject to penance (c. 4); c. 5 formulates penance for catechumens; pregnant women are not to be excluded from baptism (c. 6); c. 7 orders that priests cannot take part in weddings of bigamists; c. 8 specifies the impact of a wife's adultery on a clerical husband; priests who sinned physically before ordination should not perform the Eucharist, and deacons in such circumstances can only be servants of the church (canons 9, 10); the minimum age for priests is 30 years (c. 11); delaying baptism until an illness excludes a person from the priestly office (c. 12); canons 13 and 14 deal with restricting the functions of a countryside priest (ἐπιχώριοι πρεσβύτεροι) and chorepiscopi; c. 15 restricts the number of deacons in one town to seven.

            The canons have particular importance for the development of the system of penance; the interpretation of c. 5 is in dispute in that context. Footnote

The Synod of Gangra (ca. 340-342)


Editions: Joannou, CSP 85-99; Lauchert 79-83; Alivisatos, κανόνες 207-16; Pitra, 1.487-92; Pedalion 398-405; Rhalles-Potles 3.96-121; Latin: EOMIA 2.145-214; Versiones: ClavisG 8553-54.

Translations: English: Rudder 523-31; NPNF 14.91-103; German: Hefele 1.780-88; French: Joannou, CSP 85-99.

Literature: G. Bardy, ‘Gangres’, DDC 5 (1953) 935-8; T.D. Barnes, ‘The Date of the Council of Gangra’, JTS 40 (1989) 121-24; J. de Churruca, ‘L'anathème du concile de Gangres contre ceux qui sous prétexte de Christianisme incite les esclaves à quitter leurs maîtres’, RHD 60 (1982) 261-78; J. Gribomont, ‘Eustathe de Sébaste’, DSp 4.2 (1961) 1708-12; idem, ‘Le monachisme au IVe siècle en Asie Mineure: de Gangres au messalianisme’, Studia Patristica 2 (TU 64; Berlin 1957) 400-15; W.D. Hauschild, ‘Eustathius von Sebaste’, TRE 10 (1982) 547-50; Hefele-Leclercq Histoire 1.2.1029-45; Kaufhold, ‘Väterlisten’; A. Laniado, ‘Note sur la datation conservée en Syriaque du concile de Gangres’, OCP 61 (1995) 195-199; F. Loofs, Eustathius von Sebaste und die Chronologie der Basilius-Briefe (Halle 1898) 79-90; BISA.

            Greek collections of canons transmit the entire epistula synodica of the synod of Gangra, the metropolis of the province of Paphlagonia. Following the name of the addressee and of the sender, as well as a description of the motivation for the meeting of the synod, there follow the 20 so-called ‘canons'. The epilogue, often designated c. 21, closes the synodal communiqué. It is directed to the bishops ‘in Armenia’ and signed by 13 bishops. However, since their sees are not given, certain identification is possible only with difficulty. Footnote The synod was convened because of practices contrary to the norms of the church taken ‘by those around Eustathios’ as well as ‘by him personally’ (ὑπὸ τούτων αὐτν τν περὶ Εὐστάθιον; ὑπ’ αὐτο). The offense described agrees with the content of the 20 decisions following. These are all anathemas in form and content, all formulated according to the scheme, ‘Εἴ τις ... ἀνάθεμα ἔστω'. Errors and abuses of the anchorite-ascetic movement are condemned here. This evidence demonstrates that Eustathios is the same person as Eustathios of Sebaste, an identification that had already been made by Sokrates and Sozomenos. These canons reflect the background of the ascetic movement of ‘Eustathians’, particularly in the imperial diocese of Pontos. Footnote The epilogue emphasized that the synod was not condemning asceticism, enkrateia or parthenia, which are extensively praised and approved, but only the arrogance connected with them.

            Sokrates and Sozomen had already differed in their dating of the synod. The former places it after the synod of Constantinople in 360, the latter before ‘the synod of Antioch.’ The agreement of these dates with those given by Basil the Great on the life of Eustathios (epp. 244, 263) and their internal agreement, as well as the possibility of completely identifying the 13 bishops in the temporal context of the synod of Serdica, lead to a dating of ‘circa 340-42'. The definitive conclusions of F. Loofs on this are thoroughly convincing. Footnote

            The anathemas are aimed against the following practices: 1. The condemnation of the marital union as an impediment to salvation; 2. the condemnation of the eating of meat as an impediment to salvation; 3. the promotion of the flight of slaves to become anchorites; 4. avoiding religious services of married priests; 5. contempt of the house of God and congregational worship; 6. the holding of private religious services; 7. reception of ecclesiastical incomes; 8. payment and receipt of such gifts without permission by the bishop; 9. asceticism in contempt of marriage; 10. vaunting themselves over the married; 11. condemnation of agape; 12. high valuation of the costume of the ascetic class; 13. the wearing of men's clothing by women on grounds of asceticism; 14. abandonment of husbands on the grounds of anchorism and contempt of marriage; 15. and 16. the abandonment of children and parents on the pretext of asceticism; 17. tonsure of women; 18. fasting on Sundays; 19. increase beyond the general fasts of the church; 20. contempt of religious services on behalf of the martyrs.

            The influence of these canons was considerable. Seven translations have survived from the early church (see above, versiones); almost all of these rules passed into the Decretum Gratiani.

The Synod of Antioch (ca. 330)


Editions: Joannou, CSP 104-26; Lauchert 43-50; Pitra 1.454-67; Pedalion 406-19; Rhalles-Potles 3.122-70; Alivisatos, κανόνες 171-81; Versiones: ClavisG 8535-6.

Translations: English: Rudder 534-49; NPNF 14.104-22; German: Hefele 1.513ff.; French: Joannou, CSP 104-26.

Literature: G. Bardy, ‘Antioche (Concile et canons d')’, DDC 1.589-98; Hefele-Leclercq Histoire 1.702-33; H. Hess, The Canons of the Council of Sardica (Oxford 1958) 2.145-50; Ohme, Kanon 391-399; E. Schwartz, ‘Athanasius, VIII’ 216-230; M. Simonetti, ‘Antioch. II. Councils’, EEC 48-9; BISA.

1. The 25 canons of the synod of Antioch belong to the oldest part of the Greek canonical collections, which normally form a solid traditional block in the sequence of Ankyra, Neokaisareia, Gangra, Antioch, and Laodikeia. Even the oldest Syrian and Latin translations attribute these canons to the synod of dedication (in encaeniis) held at Antioch in 341. Footnote This dating already appears as a solid tradition in 403-404 at the time of the affair of the deposing of John Chrysostom, since the Antiochene c. 4 asserted by his detractors from the entourage around Theophilos of Alexandria was attacked by Chrysostom's partisans to be invalid, since it had been approved by an ‘Arian synod’ directed against Athanasios. It appears that this argument was not disputed by the other side. Footnote Pope Innocent I (402-417) adopted this argument in his own defense of John Chrysostom, Footnote and when Palladios describes the affair in his Vita of John composed in 408, he believes that this canon had been suspended by the synod of Serdica, since it had been directed against Athanasios and Markellos. Footnote This situation only becomes understandable when one assumes that the canons of Antioch were already established parts of Greek canonical collections by the end of the fourth century. In these collections the canons were attributed to the synod in encaeniis and were cited from such a collection by Chrysostom’s enemies. The historical argument made by adherents of the patriarch of Constantinople appears not to have had a chance in opposition to this factitious authority. To the present day there are those who attribute the canons to the synod of 341. Footnote

            The Ballerinis were the first to take a decisive stand against this dating, which was later reinforced, particularly by E. Schwartz. Footnote The following facts speak against the synod in encaeniis: 1. The surviving list of participants and subscribers shows that their roughly 30 participants were also members of the synod of Nicaea in 325, so that the two synods had to be seen as closely related in time; 2. 97 bishops took part in the synod of 341; 3. the synod was not under the presidency of the bishop of Antioch, but under that of Eusebios of Caesarea. Eusebios, however, presided only over the synod of Antioch of about 330, which gathered for the election of a new bishop after the fall of Eustathios. Footnote The ‘Antioch Schism’ which arose as a result of this episode, with its confusions, formed the historical background reflected in the canonical decisions. The connection of these canons with the synod in encaeniis points to the period before 380, when this council was held in greater regard than that of Nicaea in the homoiic imperial church. Footnote

2. Canon 1 renewed the Nicaean decision on the festival of Easter and threatened those who keep the Easter festival according to Jewish usage with excommunication. C. 2 excommunicated those who attend the service of God‘s Word but do not participate in the communal prayers and do not participate in the eucharist. They also must not share hospitality with excommunicated persons. Those excommunicated, according to c. 6, can only be received back by their own bishop or by a synod.

            The majority of the canons rendered decisions concerning the relationship of priests to their bishops and of bishops to their metropolitans. Hence, priests should not abandon their congregations, on threat of being deposed (c. 3). Deposed clerics who continue to perform their duties squander by that act any chance of being restored (c. 4), and whoever establishes schismatic neighbouring congregations is to be deposed; if he persists, secular authority will enforce the sanction (c. 5). No stranger is to be received without a letter of peace (c. 7), but such letters are not to be issued by countryside priests (c. 8).

            Bishops who undertake to consecrate in another‘s district without permission are to be deposed (canons 13 and 22). If bishops after consecration do not take up their duties in the district designated for them, they are excommunicated (c. 17). C. 21 renews the Nicaean ban on the translation of bishops, and c. 23 forbids the designation of successors.

            Several canons regulate the procedure for deposing bishops. If the provincial synod is unable to come to a unanimous conclusion in such a case, the metropolitan is supposed to summon additional bishops from a neighboring eparchy (c. 14). If the conclusion is then unanimous, all further possibility of appeal is excluded (c. 15). If anyone, after being deposed, appeals to the emperor instead of to a larger synod, he loses all chance for restoration (c. 12). Any appeal to the emperor without the approval of the bishops or the metropolitan is forbidden (c. 11).

            The authority of the metropolitan is remarkably strengthened. C. 9 insists that all bishops restrict themselves to their districts, while the metropolitan is responsible for the entire province and enjoys precedence. A synod’s filling of vacant bishoprics (c. 16) and the consecration of bishops can both only take place in the presence of the metropolitan (c.19). He alone is to call the provincial synod, which meets twice a year (c. 20). Since these canons renewed or made the decisions of Nicaea more precise, it can be assumed that the prerogatives of metropolitans decreed there were not accepted easily. C. 10 finally restricted the rights of chorepiscopi, and canons 24 and 25 regulate the administration of ecclesiastical properties.

            It is to be remarked that the synod of Serdica (342) renewed some of the canons of Antioch, sharpening the penalties threatened there: cf. c. 21 with c. Serd. 1+2; c. 11 with c. Serd. 8; c. 6 with c. Serd. 16. Footnote

            At the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, at its twelfth session, c. Ant. 16 and 17 were passed as canons 95 and 96, with the qualification that they were ‘canons of the Holy Fathers‘, and at the fourth session the c. Ant. 4 and 5 were read out as canons 83 and 84. This numbering is an important piece of evidence of the existence of an official canonical collection, in which the canons were arranged in numerical sequence. Footnote

The Synod of Laodikeia (before 380)


Editions: Joannou, CSP 130-55; Lauchert 72-9; Pitra 1.495-504; Alivisatos, κανόνες 197-208; Pedalion 420-42; Rhalles-Potles 3.171-226; Versiones: ClavisG 8607.

Translations: English: NPNF 14. 123-34; Rudder 551-78; German: Hefele 1.746-77; French: Joannou, CSP 130-55.

Literature: G. Bardy, ‘Laodicée (Concile et canons de)’, DDC 6.338-43; Hefele-Leclercq Histoire 1.2, 989-1028; C. Nardi, ‘Laodicea, Council of’, EEC 472-3; Ohme, Kanon 402-406; Schneemelcher, ‘Bibel III.’ 22-48; Schwartz, ‘Kanonensammlungen’ 190-4; Zahn, Geschichte 193-202; BISA.

            The synod of Laodikeia in Phrygia, with its 59 or 60 canons Footnote included in all old Greek canonical collections, presents almost insoluble puzzles concerning dating and historical context.

            A note is posted at the head of the text of the canons Footnote informing us that the ‘holy synod’ which gathered in Laodikeia in Phrygia Pacatiana, and whose participants were drawn from various provinces of the Asian (diocese) (ἐκ ... τς ̓Ασιανς), had issued the following decisions. There is no date, neither a synodal letter nor a subscription list survives to explain why these canons appeared so important to the oldest collections.

            The lemma of the Cod. Vindobonensis hist. gr. 7 (11th-12th cent.), ‘Κανόνες νθ’ τς ἐν Λαοδικείᾳ τς Φρυγίας συνελθόντων μακαρίων πατέρων συνόδου ἐπὶ το μεγάλου θεοδοσίου', which Joannou adopted in his edition, Footnote and the assertion resting on it in the Decretum Gratiani (D.15 c.11) that the canons had been passed by 32 bishops under the presidency of one Theodosios, remain vague. Theodoret is the first to mention it in his commentary on Colossians 2:18, written about 430, referring to the ban on prayers to angels by the synod of Laodikeia, using its c. 35 with its ban on the angel cult. Footnote Theodoret's assertion is the terminus ad quem, and the partition of Phrygia, which is admittedly not precisely dated, into Phrygia Salutaris and Phrygia Pacatiana about 325 is the terminus non ante. Footnote

            The decision of c. 7 about the recovery of heretics, specifically of Novatians, Photinians, and Quartodecimans, without repetition of baptism, is surprising because of its mild treatment of the adherents of Photinus of Sirmium. He had often been condemned for his heretical doctrine of the Trinity, and he was deposed and banned in 351. Footnote The mention of him provides a further reference for dating, although it is precisely the Photinians who are lacking in the older Latin translations. Footnote A further temporal limit is drawn by the fact that the canons of Laodikeia were already contained in the corpus canonum assembled under homoian auspices in Antioch before 379. Footnote This dating is confirmed through internal evidence, including the lack of decisions on lapsi, the extensive description of forms of ecclesiastical organization, which bespeak a situation of peace, the mild treatment of sinners in c. 2, which contrasts with the strictness of the canons of Nicaea, and finally the liturgical references in canons 14 to 23 and 25 to 30.

2. The literary form of the 60 canons is surprising, since almost all consist of only a single brief sentence, giving the impression of a summary or a rubric. This practice also makes an impact on the style of the canons, since canons 1 to 19 begin with ‘Περὶ το...’ and canons 20 to 59 with ‘῞Οτι (οὐ) δε...'. Further, some canons are repeated in both of these stylistic forms, as is the case with the ban on marriage with heretics in canons 10 and 31, as well as the ban on visiting heretical cemeteries and places of martyrdom, in canons 9 and 34. Finally, canons 3, 4, 7, 8, and 20 are summaries of the Nicaean canons 2, 17, 8, 19, and 18. Thus, it would be easy to assume that the canons of Laodikeia are a comprehensive collection of the Phrygian canonical tradition, which was possibly composed by two successive synods in Laodikeia. Footnote E. Schwartz tried to explain the reception of the canons of Laodikeia into the Greek corpus canonum through its stress on the ranking of the clergy and its origins in the equally anti-Nicene diocese of Asia. ‘The epitomized form can be explained by the fact that it had been transcribed to order’. Footnote

3. Alongside the canons on heresy mentioned above (7, 9, 10, 31), c. 8 prescribes rebaptism for Montanists. C. 6 forbids heretics to set foot in orthodox churches, and canons 32 and 33 forbid persons to accept eulogiai from heretics or to pray with them.

            C. 1 allows a second marriage with a small penance. C. 11 bans the installation of presbytides, Footnote and c. 44 forbids women’s access to the altar. No neophytes were to be received into the clergy (c. 3), and clerics are not to take usury (c. 4). Consecrations are not to be performed in the presence of the unbaptized (c. 5), the election of bishops pertains to the metropolitan and the bishops of the province (c. 12) and not to the people (c. 13). Footnote Bishops are obligated to attend synods (c. 40). Canons 56 and 58 regulate further rights and duties of bishops, and c. 56 orders the establishment of periodeutes in the place of chorepiscopi. Canons 20, 21, 22, and 43 give decisions for deacons and subdeacons, canons 15 and 23 for lectors and cantors. C. 24 forbids the entire clergy from visiting bars, canons 41 and 42 forbid travel by clerics without permission and letter of the bishop. Canons 25 to 28 regulate liturgical rights and bans. Canons 29, 30, 36, 39, and 53 to 55 forbid the use of heathen or Jewish practices. Regulations on dealings with the consecrated elements of the eucharist (c. 14) and ordering the divine service (canons 16 to 19) are also passed. Questions of the practice of baptism are regulated by canons 45 to 48, rules for fasts by canons 49 to 52. Finally, c. 59 forbids the liturgical usage of ‘private psalms’ and uncanonical books. C. 60 names the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments; in the former, the books of Judith, Tobias, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Jesus of Sirach, and Maccabees are missing, and in the latter, Revelations.

The Synod of Constantinople (381)


Editions: Joannou, CCO 45-8; Lauchert 84-87; Pitra 1.508-9; Alivisatos, κανόνες 35-9; Pedalion 155-65; Rhalles-Potles 2.165-91; Versiones: ClavisG 8600.

Translations: English: NPNF 14.171-86; Cummings, Rudder 202-20 and Tanner, Decrees 31-35; German: Wohlmuth, Dekrete 31-35; Ortiz de Urbina, 313-4; French: Joannou, CCO 45-8.

Literature: E. Chrysos, ‘Die Akten des Konzils von Konstantinopel I (381)’, Romanitas-Christianitas. Festschrift J. Straub zum 70. Geburtstag, eds. G. Wirth, et al. (Berlin-New York 1982) 426-35; G. Bardy, ‘Constantinople, concile de (381)’, DDC 4.424-28; C. Kannengiesser, ‘Constantinople II, Councils’, EEC 195-196; Hefele-Leclercq Histoire 2.1.1-48; Ohme, Kanon 510-542; Ortiz de Urbina, 133-289 [German version] 231-5; Le IIe Concile Œcuménique (Études théologiques 2; Chambésy 1982); Ritter, Konzil; A.M. Ritter, ‘Das II. ökumenische Konzil und seine Rezeption: Stand der Forschung’, Le IIe Concile Œcuménique 43-62; A.M. Ritter, ‘Konstantinopel. Ökumenische Synoden. I. ökumenische Synode von 381’, TRE 19 (1991) 518-24; BISA.

1. Ordinarily, the Greek canonical collections attribute seven canons to the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381. Of these, general consensus identifies canons 1 to 4 as authentic. This is because the old Latin translations in the Prisca, Dionysius Exiguus, Isidore, and the Codex of Lucca know only these first four canons, which are independently witnessed, since they divide the text differently. Footnote Further, the early historians only speak of the first four canons. Footnote Hence, canons 5 and 6 probably belong to the Constantinople synod of 382; Footnote c. 7, which is still missing in John Scholastikos and presents a discussion of the practice of Constantinople in the recovery of heretics, appears to be an excerpt from the letter of Patriarch Gennadios I of Constantinople to Martyrios of Antioch from the middle of the fifth century. Footnote All three canons were only later joined to the council of 381 in the course of the manuscript tradition. Footnote

2. Canons 1 to 4 constitute the actual decisions of the council which were presented to the Emperor Theodosios I for his confirmation at the final session on 9 July 381 by the bishops through the Logos Prosphonetikos, Footnote which has survived. The emperor responded to this request with his edict of 30 July 381. Footnote The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, which current research attributes to this council, but whose role at the council is still disputed, as well as the doctrinal tome, which has not survived, and can only be reconstructed using the synodal letter of the Constantinople synod of 382, are (in agreement with A.M. Ritter) not to be regarded as decisions of the council in the narrower sense. Footnote

            Any statements about the course of the council can only be based on a historical reconstruction, though one of high probability, since minutes not only do not survive, they were probably never even kept. Footnote In keeping with Ritter's reconstruction, the composition of the four canons can be understood in the context of the council as follows.

3. The regulation of the question of the bishop of Constantinople after the opening of the council in May 381, with the election of Gregory of Nazianzos, ended the affair surrounding the ‘cynic’ Maximos from Alexandria. He had been consecrated bishop of the imperial capital in 380 through a clandestine action supported by the Alexandrian bishop Peter. C. 4 declared this election to be invalid, as well as all of Maximos’ consecrations and actions. Footnote One must keep in mind this Alexandrian intervention into the affairs of the church of Constantinople to understand canons 2 and 3, which have the greatest historical importance among the canons of the council. Footnote

            Therefore, c. 2 forbids the bishops of an imperial diocese to intervene in the affairs of the bishops of another imperial diocese, to cross their boundaries without permission, or to undertake ordinations there. Specified were the five dioceses of the eastern half of the Empire: Aegyptus, Oriens, Asia, Pontus, and Thracia. This would leave untouched the competence of provincial synods regulated in Nicaea (see above), as well as responsibilities for the missionary churches outside the boundaries of the empire. C. 3 directs that the bishop of Constantinople should have ‘precedence in honour (πρεσβεα τς τιμς) (directly) behind the bishop of Rome’, ‘because this city is the new Rome’.

            In this manner the reordering of the ecclesiastical structure continued, based on the foundation of the constitution of the Roman Empire. While the council of Nicaea (see above) had created ecclesiastical provinces beyond the episcopal parochia (metropolitan districts), which were geographically congruent with the civil provinces, the council at Constantinople established larger districts that conformed to the boundaries of the imperial dioceses and that encompassed a number of metropolitan districts. These districts were autonomous.

            This was an important step toward the later Justinianic patriarchal order, although there is still no mention of patriarchs in this canon. The occasion for this reorganization was the experience that since Nicaea neither the emperor nor the various ecclesiastical parties had respected the rights and authority of provincial synods or metropolitans in the ecclesiastical squabbles. Yet c. 2, and even more c. 3, could be directed against the see of Alexandria, which traditionally had taken second place behind Rome and therefore the first place in the East. Now, however, not only the most important ally of the Roman Church in the East was downgraded for the benefit of ecclesiastically traditionless Constantinople, but it was also implied that even the precedence of Old Rome was only a ‘precedence of honour’ in analogy to the position of the imperial city and center of the Imperium Romanum. So, both canons are a fatal step toward an ever-deeper intermingling of the imperial church with the organization and administration of the empire.

            In the final phase of the council the fathers must have turned to composing the doctrinal tome, which has been lost, as well as the dogmatic c. 1, which constituted a summary of the tome’s doctrinal statements and anathemas. Footnote The canon restricts itself to confirming the ‘faith of the 318 Fathers’ of Nicaea and anathematizing the ‘Eunomians or Anhomoeans, the Arians or Eudoxians, the Semi-Arians or Pneumatomachians, the Sabellians, the Marcellians, the Photinians, and the Apollinarians’. Footnote The formulation of these dogmatic decisions were additional to the doctrinal tome, and its loss can only be understood if c. 1 is meant as the doctrinal decision of the council. Footnote Through these decisions, the council put an end to all the trinitarian conflicts of the fourth century, which had brought the church the greatest confusion and distress for more than five decades.

4. One may only speak of a general recognition of the synod of Constantinople of 381 as the Second Ecumenical Council after the Council of Chalcedon in 451 (see below). Its status as an ecumenical council was supported — at least in the West — by recognition of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed (and hence implicitly of c. 1). However, c. 2 and especially c. 3 were not generally accepted in the Western Church. Pope Leo the Great lodged a vigorous protest against c. 3, Footnote and the council was not declared one of the four ecumenical councils until the time of Pope Hormisdas (514-23). Footnote Even the final Roman reception by Gregory the Great in his epistula synodica of February 591, did not include c. 3, which certainly led him at the same time to reject all the canons of 381. Footnote The Roman Church was only ready to accept c. 3 at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215; that is, at a time when a Latin patriarch occupied the throne of Constantinople. Footnote

The Synod of Ephesus (431)


Editions: Joannou, CCO 57-65 (repr. Beneševič, Synogoga see below); ACO 1.1-3, 27-8 (c. 1-6); 1.1-7, 105-6 (c. 7); 1.1-7, 122 (c. 8); Lauchert 87-8; Pitra 1.522-34; Alivisatos, κανόνες 42-6; Rhalles-Potles 2.192-215; Pedalion 170-9; Versiones: ClavisG 8800; Gesta: ClavisG 8675-8802.

Translations: English: Rudder 221-40; NPNF 14.225-42; German: P.-T. Camelot, Ephesus und Chalkedon (Mainz 1963) 207-11; French: Joannou, CCO 57-65; A.-J. Festugière, Ephèse et Chalcédoine. Actes des conciles, Paris 1982.

Literature: G. Bardy, ‘Éphèse (Concile de 431)’ , DDC 5.362-4; P.-T. Camelot, Éphèse et Chalcédoine (Paris 1962; Ephesus und Chalkedon Mainz 1963); A. Grillmeier, Jesus der Christus im Glauben der Kirche 1 (Freiburg 1979) 642-91; Hefele-Leclercq Histoire 2.1.330-42; Kaufhold, ‘Väterlisten’; J. Liebéart, ‘Éphèse (Concile d’ )’ , DHGE 15.561-74; J. Liebéart, ‘Ephesus, ökumenische Synode (431)’ , TRE 9 (1982) 753-5; L. I. Scipioni, Nestorio e il concilio di Efeso (Studia patristica Mediolanensia 1; Milan 1974); M. Simonetti, ‘Ephesus. II. Councils’, EEC 275; BISA.

            As a rule, Greek canonical collections preserve eight canons of the Third Ecumenical Council of 431 in Ephesus. These are, for the most part, decisions which the partial synod of the Cyrillian majority made at various sessions on questions of varying character.

            On 19 November 430, Emperor Theodosios II called the council to meet the following Pentecost, 7 June 431, to settle the Christological controversy which had raged between the patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria, Nestorios and Cyril since 428. In his sacra to the council, Footnote he informed it that no other question than the dogmatic one was to be discussed there. It was the responsibility of the imperial comes domesticorum, Kandidianos, to oversee this and to see to it that the synod proceeded in good order. Imperial intentions were, however, subverted by a majority of 154 bishops under Cyril, Memnon of Ephesus, and Juvenal of Jerusalem, who opened the synod over the protests of Kandidianos and 68 bishops on 22 June 431, even before the arrival of the bishops of the imperial diocese of Oriens under John of Antioch. The synod was initiated as a trial against the absent Nestorios, and his deposing and excommunication was already ordered at the first session. This ‘̓Απόφασις’ bears 197 signatures. Footnote In the strictest sense the synod did not issue any dogmatic horos nor a detailed description of the errors being condemned. One might see the confirmation of Cyril’s so-called second letter to Nestorios Footnote as a dogmatic statement, which was accepted by a majority of 125 votes, as well as the rejection of Nestorios’ second letter to Cyril Footnote by 35 votes. Footnote

            As soon as John of Antioch arrived on 26 June, he held a synod with the minority awaiting him, in which the deposing and excommunication of Cyril and Memnon was proclaimed in a ‘ψφος’ , excluding all who held communion with them. Footnote By this act the synod was split. Contrary to the emperor’s mandate (sacra) of 29 June Footnote to reopen the council in the presence of all bishops, Cyril’ s majority held second and third sessions on 10 and 11 July, after the arrival of the papal legates. Footnote In keeping with the directions of Pope Celestine, his legates approved the decision of 22 June with their signatures. On 16 and 17 July, the ‘Cyrillians’ held two further sessions in the presence of the legates, in order to respond to the depositions and excommunications by the synod of the ‘Orientals’ . These actiones 4 and 5 were trial proceedings against John of Antioch, leading to the deposition and excommunication of John and 33 other bishops. Footnote The letters to the emperor and to the pope as well as the epistula universalis Footnote of the majority synod are certainly to be attributed in time to this actio 5. Footnote This is because this ‘συνοδικὸν γράμμα’ , as it was named in the surviving address to the bishops of Epirus vetus Footnote to the bishops, priests, deacons and the entire people in every eparchy’ lists along with John the names of all 33 excommunicated and deposed bishops. In a second part, six specific rules are formulated on how to deal with adherents to Nestorios, and the synodal letter is concluded by a list of subscribers.

            These six decisions, taken from the letter without alteration, constitute what is called canons 1 to 6 of the Council of Ephesus. Footnote In the synodal letter itself or in other parts of the council acts, they are not described as canons. The first canon levels deposition and excommunication against all metropolitans who either attend the minority synod or have approved or approve the Pelagian, Caelestios (c. 1). Here for the first time the Eastern and Western Church condemn Pelagianism. Footnote Bishops who maintain communion with ‘apostacy’ should be deposed (c. 2), clerics deposed by Nestorios are returned to office (c. 3). Clerics who are adherents of Nestorios or Caelestios are to be deposed (c. 4), and clerics uncanonically restored to office by Nestorios and his adherents are to remain deposed (c. 5). Finally, all efforts against the decisions of the synod will lead to deposing for clerics, excommunication for lay persons.

            The acts of a further session are preserved in the Collectio Atheniensis, the so-called actio 6 of 22 July 431. Footnote These acts are incomplete and were probably gathered after the fact by Cyril. Footnote The emphasis is on the report of the priest and oikonomos of the church of Philadelphia, Charisios, about a creed of Constantinopolitan origins circulating in Lydia. This creed was being presented to clerics for their signature, and it was also used when Quartodecimans and Novatians were received back. Charisios had resisted signing it and had been excommunicated. Yet the creed was, in his view, heretical and Nestorian, which the council should decide. The decision on this Footnote constitutes c. 7 in the canonical collections, though it does not appear as a canon in the acts. It decrees the sole use of the pistis of the Nicene Fathers, the formula of 325, and directs that anyone using the ekthesis cited by Charisios would lie under the ‘απόφασις’ of the synod, hence under the 6 decisions already described.

            Collectio Atheniensis 81 preserves the protocol of actio 7 of the council, which constitutes the basis for the autocephaly of the Church of Cyprus. Footnote The dating found there, 31 August, was a scribal error for 31 July. Footnote A petition (libellos) was read out from the Cypriot metropolitan Rheginos of Constantia, who was present with two other Cypriot bishops. The petition complained against the ban pronounced by the proconsul of Antioch, Dionysios, against the synod of Cyprus filling the vacant metropolitan see of Constantia before the synod in Ephesus decided whether this right pertained to the metropolitan of Antioch. Behind this lay a long history of efforts by the bishops of Antioch to assure themselves superior metropolitan rights over the island of Cyprus. The Cypriots had ignored the proconsul’s ban, and they elected Rheginos while asserting their traditional rights. The synod decided, on the basis of customary law in view of the Nicean canons 4 and 6, that the synod of Cyprus might henceforth install their own bishops. This decision, Footnote which is entered in the canonical collections as c. 8, ends the minutes and is not even designated there as a canon.

2. Between the gesta of actio 6 and the gesta de episcopis Cypriis, the Collectio Atheniensis preserves a resolution by the synod as well as two further decisions after the Cypriot affair which were not received into canonical collections, but which barely differ in form or content from the others. All three decisions are undated. The first is a horos against ‘Messalians or Euchites’ Footnote and regulates their return to the church on the basis of a synodal decision of Constantinople for Pamphylia and Lykaonia as well as on Alexandrian practice. According to it, clerics might remain in office if they condemned their own errors. Laymen were also admitted to communion under the same conditions. In contrary cases, clerics were to be deposed and excommunicated, and lay persons excommunicated. No Messalian was permitted to enter a monastery, and one of their writings, entitled Asketikon, was condemned.

            The second decision is also the horos to a petition (libellos) of two bishops of the province of Europa. Footnote Euprepios of Byze and Arkadiopolis and Cyril of Koila and Kallipolis express their anxiety that their metropolitan, Phritilas of Herakleia, the partisan of John of Antioch, was seeking to isolate them by trying to install new bishops for cities under them. The synod was to confirm the customary law of several poleis belonging to their sees, as was generally the case with any one see in Europe. The synod approved this request.

            The third text was a letter to the eparchial synod of Pamphylia Footnote on the matter of Bishop Eustathios, who had resigned his office but, with the agreement of his sucessor, asked to remain nominally as bishop. The synod ruled Footnote that he could retain the ὄνομα, τιμή, and κοινωνία of his episcopal position, but could act as a bishop only with the approval of his successor.

3. It is surprising that the 8 texts that later entered Greek canonical collections are never designated as ‘canons’ in the conciliar minutes. Even Sokrates, whose report on the council of Ephesus is remarkably short for a contemporary, mentions no canons. Footnote The oldest known Greek canonical collections also appear not to have received the canons of Ephesus. So, for example, they do not appear in the Syrian translation of the Greek corpus of 500/1 in Hieropolis/Mabbug (= British Museum Addit. 14528), although six canons of Chalcedon are found there. Footnote Dionysius Exiguus also knows nothing about them, so that he must have used a Greek model without these canons. The oldest Latin translation is taken from a translation of conciliar acts by the deacon Rusticus in the third quarter of the sixth century. Footnote It is not a matter of a translation of canons but rather of the conciliar acts. These canons have obviously not yet entered Latin canonical collections.

            The Ephesian decisions become valid as ‘canons’ only in the Synogoge of John Scholastikos in the middle of the sixth century. Yet their number and order was for a long time diverse, so that in the foreword to the Synogoge, 7, 6, and 8 canons are attributed to the synod of Ephesus in the manuscripts. Footnote The canons themselves are distributed into titloi 37, 38, 1, and 47. The decision on Cyprus cited in title 1 is designated as c. 6, but many manuscripts also say c. 7 or 8. Footnote In 545, when Emperor Justinian in his Novella 131.1 declared the canons of the ecumenical synods equal to laws, the canons of Ephesus were included.

The Synod of Chalcedon (451)


Sources: canons 1 to 27: ACO 2.1.2, 158-163 (354-9) (actio 7; c. 28: ACO 2.1.3, 88 (447) 28-94 (453), 32 (actio 17); c. 29: ACO 2.1.3, 108.11-21; 108.31—109.6; c. 30: ACO 2.1.2, 114.2-18; Joannou, CCO 69-97 (repr. Beneševič, Synagoga [canons 1 to 27]; Lauchert 89-97; Pitra 1.522-36; Rhalles-Potles 2.216-91; Alivisatos, κανόνες 49-60; Pedalion 185-211; Versiones: ClavisG 9008, 9018, 9015.

Translations: English: NPNF 14.267-288; Tanner 87-103; German: Wohlmuth 87-103; French: A.-J. Festugière, Actes du Concile de Chalcédoine sessions III-VI, Genf 1983; Joannou, CCO 69-97; Hefele-Leclercq 2.2.649-847, 767-828, 929-944.

Literature: G. Bardy, ‘Chalcédoine (Concile de)’ , DDC 3.287-292; W. Bright, The Canons of the First Four General Councils (2d ed. Oxford 1892) 123-210; Camelot, Éphèse et Chalcédoine; E. Chrysos; ‘Der sog. 28. Kanon von Chalcedon in der “Collectio Prisca“’, AHC 7 (1975) 109-117; B.E. Daley, ‘Position and patronage in the early church. The original meaning of “primacy of honour“’, JThS. N.S. 44 (1993) 529-553; R. Delmaire, ‘Les dignitaires laïcs au concile de Chalcédoine’, Byzantion 54 (1984) 141-175; A. Grillmeier and H. Bacht, Das Konzil von Chalkedon 3 (Würzburg 1951-54; 5th ed. 1979) 825-65; A. de Halleux, ‘Le décret chalcédoine sur les prérogatives de la Nouvelle Rome’, EThL 64 (1988) 288-323; Hefele-Leclercq Histoire 2.2.649-847, 767-844; E. Herman, ‘Chalkedon und die Ausgestaltung des konstantinopolitanischen Primates’ , Das Konzil von Chalkedon 2.459-90; St.O. Horn, Petrou Kathedra, Paderborn 1982; P. L’Huillier, ‘Le décret du concile de Chalcédoine sur les prérogatives du siège de la très sainte église de Constantinople’, Messager de l’Exarchat du Patriarchat russe en Europe Occidentale 27 (1979) 33-69; Kaufhold, ‘Väterlisten’; T.O. Martin, ‘The Twenty-Eighth Canon of Chalcedon: A Background Note’ , Das Konzil von Chalkedon 2.433-58; E. Schwartz, Der sechste nicaeanische Kanon auf der Synode von Chalkedon (Sitz. Akad. 27; 1930) 611-40; E. Schwartz, Aus den Akten des Konzils von Chalkedon (Abh. Akad. 32.2; Munich 1925); M. Simonetti, ‘Chalcedon. II. Council’ , EEC 159; L. Ueding, ‘Die Kanones von Chalkedon in ihrer Bedeutung für Mönchtum und Klerus’ , Das Konzil von Chalkedon 2.569-676; W. de Vries, ‘Die Struktur der Kirche gemäß dem Konzil von Chalkedon’, OCP 35 (1969) 63-122; L.R. Wickham, ‘Chalkedon’, TRE 7 (1981) 668-675; BISA.

1. With his sacra of May 451, Footnote Emperor Marcian called a synod for 1 September 451 in Nicaea to bring ecclesiastical concord to the dogmatic question of the unification of the divine and human in Jesus Christ. The conflict, underway since the dispute over Nestorios and the synod of Ephesus in 431, had broken out into open struggle in proceedings against the Archimandrite Eutyches (from 8 to 22 November 448) and his rehabilitation at the Ephesian ‘Robbers’ Council’ (8 to 22 August 449) by Dioskoros of Alexandria and Juvenal of Jerusalem. The Fourth Ecumenical Council was finally transferred from Nicaea to Chalcedon, in the immediate vicinity of the capital, and opened on 8 October 451. By its sixth session on 25 October, it achieved an agreement in the dogmatic question under the leadership of five legates of Pope Leo, but especially under the leadership of 19 leading imperial officials. Footnote The result of this agreement was the formulation of a doctrinal definition (horos), Footnote which preceded the deposing of Dioskoros and the annulment of the decisions of Ephesus of 449.

            At the sixth session, Footnote the doctrinal formula was confirmed by the emperor and endorsed by 452 bishops Footnote in his presence and in that of his wife, Pulcheria. At the end of the session Marcian asked the bishops not to leave Constantinople before all of the pending questions had been resolved. Footnote These questions were exclusively of a canon-law nature and would occupy the council for one more week. The emperor had already told the synodical members that he expected the resolution of three questions, since their regulation had to proceed ‘κανονικς’ and not through secular laws. Footnote For this purpose he had 3 pre-formulated kephalaia read out to the bishops at once. Footnote They were adopted in modified form as canons 4, 3, and 20 among the Chalcedonian canons.

            In the edition of the acts of Chalcedon by E. Schwartz, Footnote the material of the Greek minutes have been distributed into 17 actiones. Footnote This order goes back to the official first edition of the Greek acts prepared soon after 451, which is followed by the oldest of the three Latin translations, the so-called Versio antiqua. In this edition, it is clear that substantive topics took precedence over chronological order. Footnote E. Chrysos has particularly questioned the order of the canonical actiones 7 to 17 using extensive arguments. Footnote In keeping with the order of the Greek acts, the 27 canons of the council follow immediately on the order of the emperor already mentioned in what is called actio 7 on the same day (25 October). Footnote It is in fact a surprise that this actio 7 consists only of the words of the 27 canons without any element of the proceedings. Footnote In addition, with the close connection of the canons to the formal session of 25 October and the promulgation of the dogmatic horos it is difficult to understand why the emperor presented the three kephalaia and did not pass immediately to the promulgation of the canons. Yet the synod did not adopt the three kephalaia moved by the emperor without modification, but rather added to them, altered them, and passed them on their own. Footnote This took time, so that it was impossible to pass the canons immediately in keeping with the emperor’s desire. Marcian had also referred to the synod a number of pending disputes in which the persons affected had appealed to the emperor. It would only be logical, once the synod had resolved the disputes and the negotia privata, to move to the presentation of general rules as can be seen in the unusual opening formula of canons 3, 12, 19, and 23, ‘λθεν εἰς τὴν ἁγίαν σύνοδον ὅτι...’ and similar. It appears mandatory, then, to place the promulgation of the canons after actio 15, on 30 or 31 October. Then discussions took place about the so-called c. 28. Footnote

            The Greek acts of actio 8 of 26 October Footnote bring an end to the debates between Maximos of Antioch and Juvenal of Jerusalem on the region of jurisdiction of the two thrones. The two of them presented to the synod an agreement they had negotiated on 23 October, Footnote which was unanimously approved by the synod and which entered into the acts by the imperial commissioners as synodal ‘ἀπόφασις’ and ‘ψφος’ with validity for all time. Footnote Henceforth, only the provinces of Phoenicia I and II and Arabia would be subject to the see of Antioch, while the provinces of Palestina I to III were placed under the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Jerusalem. There was no more talk about the rights of the metropolitan of Kaisareia in Palestine, which had still been expressly defended in c. 7 of Nicaea. With that, Juvenal had achieved the goal of autonomy for Jerusalem that he had been pursuing since Ephesus in 431. The decision of actio 8 could be said to be the foundational charter of the patriarchate of Jerusalem.

            In the course of actio 9 (also on 26 October), the case of Theodoret of Kyros was given a legally clear regulation. Footnote Although his deposing by Dioskoros in 449 had been rendered null and void by the annulling of the ‘Robbers’ Council’ , and he had taken a seat and vote as one of the synod participants at the first session, but this had taken place only under the loud protests of the Palestinians, Egyptians, and Illyrians. Footnote The council proceeded to order his reinstatement as bishop of Kyros after he anathematized Nestorios. Footnote

            The tenth and eleventh sessions on 26 and 27 October settled the case of Bishop Ibas of Edessa. Footnote During these sessions the records of the proceedings held against him in Tyre and Berytus were read out, though the use of the proceedings of the Latrocinium was rejected. Ibas was rehabilitated, the orthodoxy of his letter to Maris confirmed by the Roman legate, Footnote and his reinstatement as bishop of Edessa ordered after he had also explicitly anathematized Nestorios. Footnote

            In actiones 12 and 13 on 29 and 30 October, the legal dispute between the two bishops of Ephesus, Bassianos and Stephanos, was debated Footnote and both were ordered to be deposed.

            The dispute between the metropolitan of Bithynia, Eunomios of Nicomedia, and the bishop of Nicaea was the occasion for actio 14 on 30 October. Footnote The reason for this was the earlier elevation of Nicaea, which was ecclesiastically a suffragan of Nicomedia, to a (secular) metropolis by the emperors Valentinian and Valens and the ecclesiastical claims of the bishop that had arisen since. The council restricted the ecclesiastical rights of Nicaea and confirmed the metropolitan rights of Nicomedia. This decision was recorded in general terms in c. 12 (see below). Footnote

            Actio 15 of 31 October Footnote dealt with the effort of Bishop Sabinianos of Perre, deposed at Ephesus in 449, to obtain reinstatement. They did not come to a conclusion on this but referred the matter to Maximos of Antioch to be settled within 8 months.

2. The 27 canons of the council, under the title, ‘῞Οροι ἐκκλησιαστικοὶ ἐκφωνηθέντες παρὰ τς ἁγίας καὶ οἰκουμενικς συνόδου τς ἐν Χαλκεδόνι συναχθείσης’ , Footnote produce a plethora of new decisions on questions about the discipline of the clergy and of monasticism, about episcopal office, and about the structure of the church.

            At the head of the collection is a confirmation of all synodal canons enacted until then (c. 1).

            The canons on monasticism have special importance, since monasticism is given a legal standing as an institution and thus is integrated into the church. Footnote C. 4 is fundamental, which places the monastery under the control of the bishops, without whose approval no monastery can even be founded. The monastery was to be the sole place of residence for monasticism, which is committed to hesychia, fasting, and prayer. Without the permission of the bishop, the monk is not allowed to leave the house. Monks are to intervene neither in ecclesiastical nor in public matters. Footnote The demand for constancy and steadfastness is doubled, firstly by the ban on secularizing established houses and their property (c. 24), secondly by the threat to excommunicate virgins and monks who break their oath of voluntary celibacy (c. 16). An entire series of canons treated monks and clergy together. Hence c. 3 bans them from participating in any enterprise to make a profit, Footnote and c. 7 bans accepting worldly office or any military service. All clerics in charitable establishments, monasteries, or martyria are placed under the bishops (c. 8), and any conspiracy against bishops is threatened with the penalty of deposition (c. 18). C. 23 sharpens the residency requirement once more for both clerical groups, particularly forbidding them to live in Constantinople without permission.

            The following regulations deal with the discipline and order of the clerical estate, including the bishops: c. 5 confirms previous canons on the theme of translation, threatening non-observance with excommunication. Footnote C. 6 forbids absolute ordination, and c. 10 the possibility of being ordained to two churches. Canons 11 and 13 regulate the necessity and distinction of letters of recommendation and peace. Lectors and cantors are forbidden to marry heterodox wives (c. 14). Consecration as deaconess is only to be made beginning at the age of 40 (c. 15), and the estates of deceased bishops is protected against clerical claimants (c. 22). Complaints against bishops and clerics demand an investigation of the reputation of the plaintiff (c. 21).

            The following canons have their eye on the office of the bishop and his practice: any practice of simony is threatened with deposing (c. 2). Lobbying at court to have a metropolitan district divided in order to create new metropoleis is threatened with deposing, and metropoleis already created this way are declared ‘honorary metropoleis’ (c. 12). Countryside parishes should remain under the control of the bishop under whom they had been in the previous thirty years (c. 17). The duty of holding a provincial synod twice a year is reinforced (c. 19). Metropolitans have to complete the consecration of suffragans presented to them (c. 25) within three months, and every bishop has to transfer the financial administration to his oikonomos (c. 26).

            It is clear that the immediate experiences and conflicts of the previous years are in the background of many of these canons, such as the disputes with Eutyches and his monks in Constantinople, the rabble-rousing of Syrian monks by Barsaumas and his intervention in the Latrocinium, the intrigue of clergy from Edessa against Ibas, as well as the struggles between Nicaea and Nicomedia, or between Tyre and Berytos. Footnote

            Two further canons that regulate the instances of appeals of ecclesiastical cases constituted the bishop of Constantinople as the highest court of appeal and brought it into competition with the ‘exarchs’ of the imperial dioceses. This led to the legal establishment of the primacy of the see of Constantinople before the battle erupted over the so-called c. 28 at Chalcedon. Thus, c. 9 specifies that conflicts between clerics belong before the bishop, to the exclusion of all secular courts. In proceedings between clerics and bishops, the proper instance is the provincial synod, but in proceedings against metropolitans it can be either the exarchos of the diocese or the bishop of the capital city. C. 17 already applies this canon to a conflict over the jurisdictional subjection of rural congregations (see above). Hence, the archbishop of Constantinople receives the right to take the place of the superior metropolitans (‘exarchs’) of the three dioceses surrounding the capital city, Pontus, Asia, and Thracia (the metropolitans of Kaisareia in Cappadocia, Ephesus, and Heraclea), and so to judge, if the appellants turn to him. Footnote This regulation offers, along with the so-called c. 28, a consistent general picture. The canon reveals that the church had taken an essential step in the direction of the patriarchal constitution.

3. The Greek acts offer as actio 17 Footnote the minutes from a session on 30 October on the privileges of the bishop of Constantinople. The substance of these minutes consists of the reading out of a resolution on this matter passed by a synodal session the previous day, the so-called c. 28, with a subscription list of 185 bishops, who brought proxies for 23 more bishops. Footnote

            The resolution passes the following decisions: confirming c. 3 of the Council of Constantinople (381), Footnote the see of Constantinople-New Rome should receive the same privileges (τὰ ἴσα πρεσβεα) as those accruing to Old Rome, and Constantinople should take the second rank after Rome. The justification for the precedence of both thrones is the fact that both cities are imperial residences and seats of the Senate. The ecclesiastical rank of both cities should correspond to this secular rank. Further, in the future the metropolitans of the imperial dioceses of Pontus, Asia, and Thracia as well as bishops residing outside imperial territory should be consecrated by the patriarch of Constantinople. The suffragans in the named dioceses should henceforth only be consecrated by the metropolitans together with all eparchial bishops, after the archbishop of Constantinople had been informed of the election.

            In this way the exarchs of the dioceses named (see above) were deprived of their traditional rights. In any case, it appears that this canon only confirmed what had long been the practice. Footnote Yet the bishops of these dioceses resisted the implementation of the new law (see below). The Patriarch of Constantinople obtained a jurisdictional district equal to that of old Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and recently Jerusalem. Beyond that, Constantinople was to have a position of primacy in the East that was comparable to that of Rome in the West. This constitutional development in the church followed the structural logic of the secular state: with two emperors, two capitals, and two senates, the church would now have two heads.

            It is surprising that the first reading of the resolution Footnote was not taken into the minutes, and hence was not counted as a session. Further, the first reading appears not to have led to a final clarification, since a further session was needed on the following day for the same set of problems. E. Chrysos has convincingly shown that these minutes probably had been removed from the first edition of the Greek minutes because it included the votes of opponents and their arguments. Footnote These are still discernable in the minutes of actio 17 with the protests of Eusebios of Ankara and Thalassos of Kaisareia. Footnote Further, there must have been other Pontic bishops, so that many more synodal participants were present than the 185 in the subscription list. Footnote

            The papal legates certainly refused cooperation from the outset, on the grounds that they had no instructions. Footnote Beyond this there was the legal necessity of carrying out a voting procedure (ψφος) which implied a discussion of substance. This is the only possible explanation for the fact that together with the planned resolution, the minutes contain a subscription list as the result of a ‘ψφος’ . In keeping with that, this resolution was described by the bishops as a ‘ψφος’ , Footnote never as a ‘canon’ .

            Chrysos has gone on plausibly to explain that actio 16 contained in the Greek minutes, with the reading of the letter of Pope Leo to the synod, is bogus. Footnote The virtually unexplainable reading of this letter only at the end of the council and in a session held for it alone becomes comprehensible if one assumes that this letter stands in the place of the first reading of c. 28, with Leo‘s demand that the synod assures the canons and rights of the bishops after the restoration of ecclesiastical peace, Footnote which was to testify to the legitimate proceedings in the matter of Constantinople, even against the position of the legates. So, the lack of actio 16 in the entire Latin tradition can be explained. According to this, the first reading of c. 28 was to be put in the place of actio 16, and actio 17 was to be dated on 1 November.

            The legates now declared the entire resolution to be null and void, and they had their objection registered in the minutes. Footnote The synod hence turned to Pope Leo in its epistula synodica, asking for him to approve this ‘ψφος’ . Footnote The same was done by the emperor and Anatolios of Constantinople, who even described the decision as a restriction of his earlier rights. Footnote Leo refused his approval in letters to Marcian, Pulcheria, and Anatolios, Footnote as well as in his answer to the bishops. Footnote Anything in opposition to the canons of Nicaea was not acceptable; C. 6 of Nicaea had established a definitive ranking: Rome, Alexandria, Antioch. Footnote Anatolios appeared to be satisfied with that, Footnote though that did not alter the de facto primacy of Constantinople in the East nor did it change Constantinople’s exercise of its rights.

            In keeping with this result, 27 canons were attributed to the council of Chalcedon even in the East until the second half of the sixth century. John Scholastikos in his Synogoge L titulorum around 550 only documents 27 canons. Footnote Only with the Syntagma XIV titulorum Footnote was the resolution included, together with two further decisions. All three were admittedly not designated ‘canons’ . Footnote They consisted of excerpts from the minutes of the session on the affair of Photius of Tyre and Eustathios of Berytus, Footnote as well as from actio 4. These texts declare the impossibility (sacrilege) of demoting a bishop to a priest, as well as the reluctance of Egyptian bishops to take a binding dogmatic position without the instruction of the archbishop of Alexandria, who still had to be elected. All 30 canons have been included in Byzantine ecclesiastical law ever since.

The Synod of Serdica (342)


Editions: EOMIA 1.2.442-560; Joannou, CSP 159-89; Lauchert 51-72; Pitra 1.468-83; Alivisatos, κανόνες 184-95; Rhalles-Potles 3.227-85; Pedalion 443-61; Versiones: ClavisG 8570.

Translations: English: Rudder 583-99; German: Hefele 1.556-607; French: Joannou, CSP 159-89.

Literature: G. Bardy, ‘Sardique (Concile de)’ , DThC 14 (1939) 1109-14; L.W. Barnard, ‘The Council of Serdica: Some Problems Re-Assessed’ , AHC 12 (1980) 1-25; L.W. Barnard, The Council of Serdica, 343 A.D. (Sofia 1983); H.C. Brennecke, Hilarius von Poitiers und die Bischofsopposition gegen Konstantius II (PTS 26; Berlin 1984); H.C. Brennecke, ‘Rom und der dritte Kanon von Serdika (342)’ , ZRG Kan. (Rom.) Abt. 100 (1983) 15-45; E. Caspar, Geschichte des Papsttums 1 (Tübingen 1930) 131-65; Girardet, ‘Appellatio’ 98-127; K.M. Girardet, Kaisergericht und Bischofsgericht. Studien zu den Anfängen des Donatistenstreites (313-315) und zum Prozeß des Athanasius von Alexandrien (328-346) (Antiquitas, ser. 1, vol. 21); E. Heckrodt, Die Kanones von Sardika aus der Kirchengeschichte erläutert (Jenaer Historische Arbeiten 8; Bonn 1917); Hefele-Leclercq Histoire 1.2 p.737-823; H. Hess, The Canons of the Council of Sardica (Oxford 1958); Kaufhold, ‘Väterlisten’; Ohme, Kanon 408-449; E. Schwartz, Zur Geschichte des Athanasius IX, (NGWG; Göttingen 1911) 409-522 (repr. Gesammelte Schriften 3 [Berlin 1959] 265-334); E. Schwartz, Der griechische Text der Kanones von Serdika (ZNW 30; Berlin 1931) 265-334; Schwartz, ‘Kanonensammlungen’ 208-20; H.J. Sieben, ‘Die sardicensischen Appellationskanones im Wandel der Geschichte’, ders.: Die Partikularsynode, Frankfurt/M. 1990, 193-228; M. Simonetti, ‘Serdica. II. Council’ , EEC 757; S. Troianos, ‘Der Apostolische Stuhl im früh- und mittelbyzantinischen kanonischen Recht’ , Il primato del vescovo di Roma nel primo millennio (Vatican City 1991) 245-59; C.H. Turner, ‘The Genuineness of the Sardican Canons’ , JTS 3 (1902) 370-97; J. Ulrich, Die Anfänge der abendländischen Rezeption des Nizänums (PTS 39; Berlin 1994); BISA.

1. The imperial synod in Serdica in the autumn of 342 constitutes the end of the first phase of the dispute begun by Arianism. Its failure was marked at the outset by the mutual anathemization of ecclesiastical leaders in the Eastern and Western Empire, and it would lead to the first schism between the Eastern and Western Church. Footnote

            Athanasios of Alexandria (295-373) had been deposed and excommunicated by the party of Eusebios of Nicomedia at the imperial synod of Tyre (335). After vain attempts to reverse this judgment, he had to flee from Egypt in 339 and turn to Pope Julius I (337-52), who summoned the oriental bishops in early 340 to a Roman synod on a set date to review the judgment of Tyre. The bishops rejected such a review, confirming their decision at the so-called ‘Synod in encaeniis’ in Antioch (341) and formulating their confession in the form of a new creed, coloured by Origenism. Footnote After an alliance of the two emperors, Constantius II and Constans, which was favorable to the West, the synod demanded by the Athanasian party was to be called for autumn 342. The place of meeting was Serdica, located near the border between the Eastern and Western Empires, where about 76 bishops from the East and 94 from the West gathered. Footnote The Western party stood under the leadership of the aged Ossius of Cordoba.

            The need for clarification had arisen in many matters: in the area of doctrine, since the Nicaean formulation of the trinitarian faith was not interpreted uniformly, and among other matters the anti-Arian spokesman of the Nicean synod, Markellos of Ankyra, had been excommunicated and deposed in the meantime by eastern synods (Constantinople, 336/7, and Antioch, 341). Footnote In the personal destinies of the leading representatives of the struggle against Arianism (Athanasios, Markellos, Eustathios of Antioch, and others), who had been excommunicated and deposed in the East, was united the question of the finality of such synodal judgments and the possibility for a renewed judgment of their cases along with the potential for participation by the state in the proceedings, leading to the state carrying out judgments through banishment. Finally, the Oriental party that had carried out the trial against the head of the Egyptian Church consisted primarily of representatives of the churches of Syria and Asia Minor, while, with the exception of the Meletians, the Egyptian church stood almost unanimously behind Athanasios.

            Correspondingly, the synodal letter of Serdica to Pope Julius set the three following points on the agenda: Tria fuerunt, quae tractanda erant.... ante omnia de sancta fide et de integritate ueritatis.... secunda de personis.... tertia uero quaestio, quae uere quaestio appellanda est.... Footnote H.C. Brennecke has presented a plausible case that interpreting the first point of the agenda in terms of Athanasios as a defense of the faith of Nicaea is unlikely, and that in the background of the planned discussion lay the doctrinal statements of Markellos, which would have been a precondition for the Eastern bishops and their involvement in the question of a synod as well as for their eventual appearance. Footnote The agenda was, however, changed by the Western bishops, who appeared first and who preferred to deal at the outset with the second point, de personis, thus following the action of the Roman synod earlier in the year and renewing communion with those who had been condemned. The Eastern bishops who had arrived demanded that the condemned had to be excluded, at least from these meetings. Their demand was rejected, so they departed the assembly and constituted their own synod in the city’s imperial palace. Footnote The prejudice of the Westerners had provoked this step. Behind it stood a fundamental question of law within the church. Could synodal judgments henceforth be seen as irreversible or could their validity be judged by their reception? Could the West reverse Eastern judgments without the consent of the original synodal judges? Footnote

            Hence, the council broke apart even before the beginning of actual discussions. Both rump synods met separately and anathematized the leaders of the other side. After the departure of the orientals, the Western bishops continued to meet, passing canons as well as a theological declaration against Eastern Origenism, which proved in the end not to be sustainable. Both synods also made diverging decisions for the next 50 or 30 years respectively on the calculation of Easter. Footnote

2. The canons in ecclesiastical law passed by the Westerners present problems in terms of numeration, form, and original language.

            The numbering of canons not only diverge between the Latin and Greek versions, but even for the Latin text there are various systems of numeration in the literature. The most widely distributed version is the numeration according to Dionysius Exiguus and the Prisca, according to which the text is divided into 21 canons with considerable variations. The Greek text brings 20 canons with great variations from the Latin version in the division of the material. Thus canons 10b, 12, and 18 are missing there, while in the Latin version the Greek canons 18 and 19 are missing. From this corpus and form of publication (see below), one can conclude ‘that the canons were not originally numbered at all, but formed a continuous record of synodical acts’ . Footnote C.H. Turner, in his critical edition Footnote of what he regards as the original Latin text, introduced yet another system of division, which has the advantage of placing together in one number all canons belonging together in terms of material (he thus arrives at 13 canons). But this numbering has not been adopted in the literature. Footnote

            The form of publication reveals that this canonical material was shaped under Western influence. Footnote The proof of this is that, though the canons of eastern synods of the fourth century normally have the ‘form of order’ ‘without preserving a trace of the discussion whose written product they are’ , the canons of Serdica appear as proposals the synod accepts, in the course of which extensive justifications, summaries, and proposals for amendments are given. Footnote Such a form of publication, presenting the canons as the result of discussion in which the connection with the minutes are preserved, is a distinguishing mark of African synods from the earliest times to the start of the fifth century. Footnote The stylistic characteristics of this minute-style include the proposal by a named participant framed as a question (N. N. episcopus dixit: ... si omnibus [hoc] placet) in discursive, informal diction, with the formula of approval added (placet; placere sibi; omnes episcopi dixerunt) with the acclamation of the whole. Hence the canons of Serdica are formed in groups (canons 1 to 2; 3, 4, and 7; 8 to 12; 14 and 15; 16 and 17) within the minutes of an occasionally-interrupted discussion. Canons 12, 18, and 19 can hardly be described as canons but rather as concurrent contributions to discussions. If one takes the 23 Latin and Greek canons as a group, ‘only thirteen may properly be classed as legislative acts; the other ten are dependent comments or resumés’ . Footnote

            Accepting the theses of P. Batiffol, A. Steinwenter, and H. Gelzer on the parallels between the discussion methods of the Roman Senate and the synods (relatio—sententia— acclamatio—senatus consultum), the canons of Serdica emerge, according to Hess’ analysis, as a reflection of this ‘parliamentary method’ . Footnote In view of this discovery one might well conclude that there were never more complete minutes of this council than what is preserved in the canons. Footnote

            There exists no direct historical evidence for the question thoroughly discussed in the older literature concerning the priority of the Latin or Greek text. Footnote Both of the forms of the text are well witnessed, yet each exhibits great differences not only in the order, but each also contains material lacking in the other and with differences which are significant in terms of content. All of the Latin versions of the text have a single common prototype, but the Greek manuscript versions also agree in their variations from the Latin text.

            Due to the work of C.H. Turner and E. Schwartz, it is today generally accepted that the Latin text is closer to the original. Footnote Schwartz saw the Greek version as a later translation. Footnote Due to the presence of canons 18 and 19, which are found only here, and the special references to the church of Thessalonike, Schwartz concluded that the Greek version was prepared in Thessalonike about 360 or later. The attempt by G.R. von Hankiewicz to establish the priority of the Greek text must be seen as outmoded. Footnote

            Still, the detailed investigation undertaken by H. Hess, renewing the thesis of the Ballerini assuming an originally double edition, does deserve respect. Footnote It is in fact surprising that the Greek text often gives a truer image of the debates. Footnote It must be added that among the synodal participants known for their origin, there are about 60 Greek-speakers and 33 Latin-speakers, so that there was a distribution of languages which was truly unique for the synods of the fourth century. Footnote While the language of proceedings under the presidency of Ossius was certainly Latin (all of the other synodal documents are composed in Latin), there still must have been a translation during the synod from Latin into Greek, which could be the cause of the unquestionable dependency of the Greek on the Latin text. Hence, according to Hess, the Greek version was a ‘set of minutes taken from the Latin debate by a bilingual scribe or, as is more likely, a verbatim record of the proposals as they were repeated by the interpreter’ Footnote .

3. In terms of content, the canons of Serdica deal almost exclusively with questions of the office of the bishop. Footnote In the course of this legislation, four major themes are addressed:

a. Translatio (Metathesis). One may hardly speak of an absolute ban on every translation of a bishop in the early church. Ecclesiastically-ordered transfers appear to have been common. The canonical ban on translation deals more with transfers made by oneself or in pursuit of one’s own interests. Footnote That is also the case with the decisions at Serdica, c.1 even threatening excommunication for this practice. The background for this appears to be the efforts of Valens of Mursa to win the see of Aquileia, as well as the switch of Eusebios of Nicomedia to the throne at Constantinople. Correspondingly, c. 2 punishes with excommunication any influencing of the election of a bishop. C. 3a belongs in this context, forbidding any visit by a bishop to another province without invitation. A bishop was not to spend more than three weeks in a city not his own (c. 14), and if he visited his own properties located in alien provinces, he is to return after three weeks (c. 15). Bishops who receive excommunicated clerics are to report before a synod (c. 16). Canons 18 and 19 oppose recruiting candidates for the clergy in a foreign episcopal district. C. 20 regulates the time foreign clergy could stay in Thessalonike, in analogy to c. 14. C. 21 finally makes a special rule for the length of residency by bishops deposed over a matter of faith. The translation rules of Serdica rely upon canons 15 and 16 of Nicaea.

b. Episcopal election. Footnote C. 5 deals with the case when a bishop is unwilling to participate in an ordination. The context and terms addressed are entirely different in the Greek and Latin versions. The Greek version appears to have been altered to fit later conditions. Footnote C. 13 opposes the practice of episcopal election in the case of the wealthy or of lawyers, in which case the preliminary levels of ordination are only performed pro forma. Both canons hearken back to canons 2 and 9 of Nicaea.

c. Appellatio. Footnote Without any doubt the so-called ‘appellation canons’ have in all times attracted the greatest interest, and they play a central role in the question of the historical anchoring of the primacy claims of the Roman papacy. Interest is directed primarily at canons 3 b+c, 4, 7, and less to c. 17, which foresees a chance of appeal by priests and deacons with the bishops of the neighbouring province, hence renewing c. 5 of Nicaea. In interpreting the canons first mentioned, what has been said of the form of publication should be recalled. One should not look at these three canons as decisions made entirely independently of one another, producing inevitable contradictions, but rather they must be seen as parts of a single resolution. Footnote Correspondingly, Turner has brought all of these together in his edition into a single ‘c. 3’.

            In Serdica the following procedure of appeal was established: Footnote 1. In a dispute between two bishops, no colleague from a neighbouring province may be called to judge. 2. A bishop who has been condemned by his colleagues within his own province may raise an objection against the judgment. 3. Those who carried out the proceeding (that is, his fellow provincials or the bishops of a neighbouring province) may send a report on the objection to the bishop of Rome. 4. The see of the condemned person may not be newly occupied in the interim. 5. The bishop of Rome, after the review of the case, has two possibilities: a) if he holds the judgment to be right, the judgment is final; b) if he does not receive the judgment, he can order a renovatio iudicii and designate bishops as judges. The new trial will take place before bishops from a neighbouring province. At the request of the condemned, the Roman bishop can send additional priests from his own congregation.

            By this the synod overturned previous legal practice, advocated by Orientals, in which synodal judgments were in principle beyond appeal. Footnote This corresponded to the understanding of synodal canons as immediately inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that they could not be reversed by the decisions of another synod. The canon of Serdica, however, created ‘an instance for the entire church which made possible a revocatio iudicii, which had hitherto not been possible according to the law of synods; this also created an instance which stood above the level of the province’ . Footnote The judgment of a synod over a bishop would, in the future, require the concurrence of the Roman bishop. Since the parallel to this procedure is not an appeal according to imperial law but rather to the decisions on the retractatio of lawsuits that had been completed through unappealable judgments, which could only be confirmed or retried through a supplicatio to the emperor, the bishop of Rome would not be described as an instance of appeal but as an instance of supplication. Footnote

            The notion that such rules are not based on the experience of the conflict over Athanasios, as E. Schwartz argued in retrospect, and that the purpose of the canons was only directed to the Western Empire, is generally rejected today. Footnote

d. Episcopal journeys to petition the court are to be regulated by canons 8 to 12 by hindering dubious and ambitious petitions, defining proper petitions, and clarifying the route along which one proceeds. Footnote

4. The history of the tradition of the canons of Serdica is rich in surprises. Footnote It is remarkable that the canons were seen and cited by the Roman church until Dionysius Exiguus as decisions of Nicaea. The case which was much discussed was that of the priest Apiarius from Sicca in Numidia, who appealed against his deposing in 417/8 to Pope Zosimus of Rome, whose legates cited the canons in question at the synod of Carthage in 419 (see below) as of Nicaea. These were, however, utterly unknown in Africa. Footnote

            The text of the canons appears to have been unknown outside of the Roman Church before the circulation of the first canonical collections. Footnote The practice of clothing other canons with the authority of Nicaea was common and by no means restricted to the decisions of Serdica. Footnote The Greek text is not contained in any Oriental canonical collection before the middle of the sixth century. It is first found in the Synogoge L titulorum of John Scholastikos and then in the Syntagma XIV titulorum. Footnote All later Greek versions depend on these two collections. No direct literary witnesses of an older Greek text are known.

The Synod of Carthage (419)


Sources: C. Munier, Concilia Africae A. 345-A. 525 (CCL 149; Turnhout 1974) 89-172: Codex Apiarii causae (canons 1-33 + Gesta de nomine Apiarii), 182-247: Excerpta ex registro ecclesiae Carthaginensis (c. 34-133); PL 67.181-230; Mansi 3.699-844; Joannou, CSP 197-436; Rhalles-Potles 3.286-624; Alivisatos, κανόνες 225-302; Pedalion 462-542.

Translations: English: NPNF 14.441-511; French: Joannou, CSP 197-436.

Literature: G. Bardy, ‘Afrique’ , DDC 1.288-307; F.L. Cross, ‘History and Fiction in the African Canons’, JTS 12 (1961) 227-47; Hefele-Leclercq Histoire 2.1 p.196-211; Maassen, Geschichte 149-85; Munier, Concilia Africae 79-87, 98ff., 173-81; C. Munier, ‘Carthage. V. Councils’ , EEC 146-8; C. Munier, ‘Vers une édition nouvelle des Conciles africains (345-525)’ , Revue des Études Augustiniennes 18 (1972) 249-59; Ohme, Kanon 460-469; Schwartz, ‘Kanonensammlungen’ 231-55.

            The Greek translation of the acts of the African general synod of 25 and 30 May 419 as well as the canons later attributed to it belong equally to the corpus of Greek canonical collections. The occasion for discussions by the 217 synodal participants under the presidency of Bishop Aurelius of Carthage was the conflict with Roman claims to hear an appeal in the case of the priest Apiarius of Sicca. Footnote The acts which are preserved (Gesta de nomine Apiarii) Footnote , including the 33 Canones Apiarii causae, also survive intact in the Greek version. Canons 34 to 133 appear to be a probably private selection of African canonical material from the end of the fifth century. These Excerpta ex registro ecclesiae Carthaginiensis Footnote were passed on in the Latin tradition separately and were widely distributed. It was only with Dionysius Exiguus that they were incorporated into the acts of the synod of 419 in the second edition of his canonical collection as canons 34 to 133. Footnote

            In the Greek canonical collections, however, this identical body of acts with 133 canons is first found near the end of the sixth century in the Syntagma XIV titulorum. Footnote The Quinisext Council (692) confirmed these ‘canons of Carthage’ in its c. 2. The basis of the Greek translation, whose author and precise date are unknown, was probably the Dionysia secunda. This is vouched for particularly by the numeration, which is largely identical with Dionysius, as well as the ordering of the acts in the Greek tradition, and there is also a close literary dependency. It would be the sole example for the use of the Dionysian collections in the Greek East. It would be conceivable that there was an early translation by the imperial chancery for relations with the Latin Church in North Africa. Alongside that there appears to have been yet another translation, for the verbatim citation of c. 81 in the Epistula adversus Theodorum Mopsuestenum Footnote by the Emperor Justinian, about 550, offers a variant version. Footnote

The Synod of Constantinople (394)


Sources: Joannou, CSP 438-444; Beneševič, Syntagma 456-9; Pelagii diaconi ecclesiae Romanae, In defensione Trium Capitulorum, ed. R. Devreesse (Studi e Testi 57; Rome 1932) 9-11; Pitra, 2.162-5; Pedalion 461-2; Rhalles-Potles 3.625-8; ClavisG 8606.

Translations: English: Rudder 601ff.; NPNF 14.511-3; French: Joannou, CSP 438-44; Hefele-Leclercq Histoire (see below).

Literature: C. De Clercq, ‘Les conciles de Constantinople de 326 à 715’, Apollinaris 34 (1961) 345-368; L. Duchesne, ‘Le pape Sirice et le siège de Bostra’ , Annales de philosophie chrétienne 111 (1885) 280-4; Hefele-Leclercq 2.1 p.97-100; E. Honigmann, Trois mémoires posthumes d’ histoire et de géographie de l’ Orient Chrétien (Subsidia hagiographica 35; Brussels 1961) 3-48; BISA.

            It is only with the Syntagma XIV titulorum that Greek canonical collections transmit an excerpt of the proceedings from the acts of the Constantinople synod of 394. Footnote L. Duchesne (see above) discovered further fragments of these proceedings in a memorandum on the dispute over the Three Chapters by the later Pope Pelagius I (556-561) in the Cod. Aurelianensis 73 (70). Footnote Even when joined in proper sequence, Footnote the two parts appear only to constitute a fragment of a single session of the council.

            It is to be learned from the Greek excerpt of the proceedings that the synod had assembled in the baptistry of the ‘Church of Constantinople’ on 29 September 394 under the imperial colleagues Arkadios and Honorios, hence still under Theodosios I. Pelagius adds that this was done on the summons of the praefectus praetorio Rufinos on the occasion of the consecration of the Church of the Apostles which he had established. Hence this is a dedication synod similar to that of Antioch (341) and Tyre (335); in time it would be termed the ‘synod of Rufinos’ . Emperor Theodosios had placed Rufinos at the side of his son Arkadios as regent for the Eastern Empire.

            The proceedings cite 20 participants by name, in the first place Nektarios of Constantinople, Theophilos of Alexandria, and Flavian of Antioch, and among the others there are Gelasios of Kaisareia in Palestine, Gregory of Nyssa, Amphilochios of Ikonion and Theodore of Mopsuestia, all holders of metropolitan sees, as well as ‘various other bishops’ . Footnote Pelagius knows of 37 bishops in all. Since almost all oriental churches were represented, one might speak of a general council of the East. It had, however, not been called by the emperor.

            The occasion for the gathering was the schism arising before 381 in the Arabian ecclesiastical province. The former occupant of the metropolitan see of Bostra, Gabadius, disputed the legitimacy of the present metropolitan, Agapius. Footnote The minutes mention Footnote that Gabadius had been deposed by two bishops, since deceased, and that Agapius had been raised in his place. In Pelagius the names of Palladius and Cyril are found. Duchesne (see above) believes this latter name is Cyril of Jerusalem († 386).

            Pelagius goes on to report that both opponents appealed to Pope Siricius (384-99), who had referred them to Theophilos of Alexandria until the matter finally came before the synod of Constantinople. It is surprising that the case apparently was tried neither in Antioch nor in a synod of the diocese of Oriens. One can infer from that a greater independence, even insubordination, of the metropolitans there toward the see of Antioch. The long-enduring schism in Antioch in the fourth century makes this understandable. Duchesne has wanted to see in the appeal to Rome an application of the ‘appeal canons’ of Serdica (see above). Footnote Theophilos of Alexandria actually does play a leading role in the discussions.

            The entire proceeding documents ten votes by Nektarios, Arabianos of Ankyra, Theophilos, and Flavian. The result was that the synod, citing the council of Nicaea, forbids that a bishop be deposed or be consecrated by two bishops. This was only to be possible through the act of a larger provincial synod, ‘as the apostolic canons have ruled’ . Apparently this is a citation of c. App. 74. Nektarios passed the proposal of Theophilos in the form of a legal decision, to which the council gave its approval.

            The Greek manuscripts transmit their excerpt of the proceedings under the rubric of Κανών. Nikodemos Hagiorites (= Pedalion), who did not see this form of publication as proper for a ‘canon’ , took two substantive sentences beginning with ‘ὁρίζομεν’ and called them Κανών Α’ and Β’ (= the proposal of Nektarios).


The Synod of Constantinople, 692

(Quinisext Council)


Sources: Joannou, CCO 101-241 (Logos Prosphonetikos and canons); H. Ohme, ‘Das Concilium Quinisextum und seine Bischofsliste‘ (AKG 56), Berlin 1990 145-70 (subscription list); Kanonika 6, 41-186; Mansi 11.921-1006; Rhalles-Potles 2.295-554; Pitra 2.14-72; Lauchert 97-139; Pedalion 215-313; Alivisatos, κανόνες 69-117.

Translations: English: Kanonika 6, 41-186; NPNF 14.359-65; Rudder 283-413; French: Joannou, CCO 101-241.

Literature: G. Fritz, ‘Quinisexte (concile) ou in Trullo’ , DThC 13 (1937) 1581-97; Hefele-Leclercq Histoire 3.1 p.560-578; I.M. Konidaris, ‘Das Mönchtum im Spiegel der Penthekte’ , AHC 24 (1992) 273-85; P. Landau, ‘Überlieferung und Bedeutung der Kanones des Trullanischen Konzils im westlichen kanonischen Recht’, Kanonika 6, 215-227; V. Laurent, ‘L’œuvre canonique du Concile de Trullo (691-692). Source primaire du droit de l’église orientale’, REB 23 (1965) 7-41; G. Nedungatt and M. Featherstone (ed.), ‘The Council in Trullo revisited ’, Kanonika 6 (1995); H. Ohme, ‚Das Quinisextum und seine Bischofsliste‘, (AKG 56), Berlin 1990; H. Ohme, ‘Das Quinisextum auf dem VII. ökumenischen Konzil’ , AHC 20 (1988) 326-44; H. Ohme, ‘Zum Konzilsbegriff des Concilium Quinisextum’ , AHC 24 (1992) 112-26; H. Ohme, ‘Das Concilium Quinisextum—Neue Einsichten zu einem umstrittenden Konzil’ , OCP 58 (1992) 367-400; J.-M. Sansterre, ‘Jean VII (705-707), idéologie pontificale et réalisme politique’ , Hommages à Ch. Delvoye, eds. L. Hadermann-Misquich and G. Raepsaet (Brussels 1982) 377-88; J.-M. Sansterre, ‘Le Pape Constantin Ier (708-715) et la politique religieuse des Empereurs Justinien II et Philippikos’, Archivum Hist. Pont. 22 (1984) 7-30; S.N. Troianos, ‘Die Wirkungsgeschichte des Trullanum (Quinisextum) in der byzantinischen Gesetzgebung’, AHC 24 (1992) 95-111; H.-J.Vogt, ‘Zur Ekklesiologie des Trullanums’, AHC 24 (1992) 127-144; BISA.

1. Emperor Justinian II (685-95, 705-11) called a synod in 691-692 Footnote which met in the domed hall (Trullos) of the imperial palace in Constantinople to fill the canonical gaps left by the Fifth and Sixth Ecumenical Councils. Footnote Other than the Liber Pontificalis (see below), the sole source of information about this council consists of the conciliar acts. Other Greek and Latin sources for this period either do not waste a word on the council or mention it only in passing. Footnote

            Besides the canons and the episcopal subscription list, the acts include the address of the council fathers to the emperor, the so-called Logos Prosphonetikos. Footnote From this it can be learned that the emperor himself had taken the initiative for this synod; Footnote the bishops had gathered at his command, Footnote and the council had assembled as a ‘holy and ecumenical’ council. Footnote The motivation for bringing the council into being was also declared. Footnote

            The critical edition of the subscription list permits for the first time definitive statements on the number of participants. Footnote Out of 220 bishops, 183 came from the provinces of the patriarchate of Constantinople, 10 came from Illyricum orientale; the Alexandrian patriarch, 24 Antiochenes and 2 representatives of Jerusalem represented the three eastern patriachates. Six places were left open for later signatures. Beyond that the list reveals significant alterations in the hierarchical sequence of subscribers, and it provides an answer to the question of Roman participation. In addition there is the extremely unusual fact that the emperor signed in the first place, before the bishops. Here we appear to have an early attempt to promote at the level of a conciliar proceeding the incorporation of East Illyricum into the jurisdiction of Constantinople. Footnote The small ‘Western’ participation in the Trullan Council is not unique among councils, and the Quinisext is not the only one to be interpreted from this fact. The cause could only have been the generally altered circumstances in the Balkans which had arisen from the migrations in the course of the sixth and seventh centuries. Footnote

            The signature of the metropolitan of Crete, Basil of Gortyna, Footnote has been fondly seen in the Orthodox tradition since Balsamon as a sign of Roman participation at the Quinisext, even of its approval. Footnote But Basil was no Roman apocrisiarius; Footnote rather he had been co-opted into the Roman synodal delegation of 125 bishops in the course of the Sixth Ecumenical Council. He continued to use the style of signature he had developed there. He was also no papal legate and cannot have had a papal delegation of plenipotentiary powers. The Roman see was not represented at the Trullan Council through papal legates.

2. The 102 canons constitute the actual work of the council and in some ways the completion of the canon law of the early church. This was an attempt to reorder the spiritual and moral life of the church via ecclesiastical law, arising out of an emergency in which the Christian substance was being subjected to severe erosion. The disasters suffered by the Byzantine Empire in the course of the seventh century constitute the historical background. Footnote

            Canons 62, 65, 71, and 94 actually enumerate a plethora of festivals, customs, and rites from the pre-Christian, Hellenistic cycle of festivities which continued to be practiced, besides occultism and mantic practices (canons 60 and 61). Footnote Relations with Jews is the theme of c. 11. Public morality is also the object of bans on extensive pomp, on pornography, and on abortion, as well as the ban on sexual intercourse with nuns (canons 96, 100, 91, 4). Pimping is denounced (c. 86). Bathing of men and women together is banned (c. 77), as well as dice-playing (c. 50) and various forms of popular entertainment (c. 51). Footnote All public spectacles in the week following Easter are forbidden (c. 66).

            In order to protect the sacred from profanation, holy places were not to be polluted by sexual intercourse (c. 97). No cattle were to be kept in churches (c. 88), and no inns were to be kept in their vicinity (c. 76). Even agapes were forbidden in the area of a church (c. 74). The cross was forbidden to be used as decoration on the floor (c. 73), as well as a representation of Christ as a lamb (c. 82). The penalty for the destruction of holy books is excommunication (c. 68). The ban on laymen entering the area of the altar — with the exception of the emperor — should be placed here (c. 69), as is the case with the renewal of the ban against secularizing religious houses (c. 49).

            Even upon the clerical estate, the commandment concerning Sunday must be enjoined (c. 80) as well as the ban on clerics running bars or loaning money (canons 9 and 10), and they are not to participate in popular entertainments (c. 24). Further regulated are the ages of consecration (canons 14 and 15), the number of deacons in one city (c. 16), their rank behind the priests (c. 7), the tonsure (c. 21), the wearing of special clothing (c. 27). C. 33 sets conditions for ordination and condemns the Armenian practice of taking clergy only from clerical families. C. 17 rules against translation; emigrated clerics should return to their congregations if conditions allow (c. 18). Simony in ordination (c. 22) and in communion (c. 23) are threatened with deposing, as is conspiracy against the bishop (c. 34). A ban on living with women who are not above every suspicion is renewed once more for priests in c. 5, as is any marriage after ordination (c. 6). Regulations in the case of a second marriage or impermissible marriage for clergy are made by canons 3 and 26. A general imposition of celibacy is rejected, against the Roman practice (c. 13), but abstention is required during the period of altar service. Priests living among the barbarians were permitted the oath of celibacy as an exception (c. 30). Yet bishops are held to celibacy, and they are forbidden to continue living with their wives (c. 12); the wives were to enter religious houses (c. 48). Bishops were not permitted to preach outside their own dioceses (c. 20), but within their dioceses they are required to do so daily, especially on Sundays. The definitions of synods and the doctrines of the Fathers are to be their standard (c. 19). Metropolitans are forbidden to seize the property of deceased bishops (c. 35).

            For the reordering of the monastic life: Footnote monastic life is open to every Christian (c. 43). The age of entering a religious house may not be below ten years (c. 40). Further regulations deal with cloistering (canons 46 and 47), tonsure (c. 45), breaking of the oath (c. 44), and with the eremitic life (canons 41 and 42).

            On sacramental practice and care of souls: baptizing in private chapels is fundamentally forbidden (c. 59). The repetition of baptism in case of uncertainty is made possible by c. 84. Catechumens should learn everything about the Christian faith and display it to the bishop or priests (c. 78). C. 95 thoroughly renews and supplements rules for the rebaptism and/or reception of heretics. Communion by hand is obligatory for all (c. 101). Self-communion for laymen is forbidden (c. 58), and dead persons must under no circumstances be given the eucharist (c. 83). C. 102 establishes a therapeutically-understood practice of confession and guidance of souls.

            Canons 53, 54, 87, 92, and 98 give decisions concerning marital law.

            For ordering the time of fasting: c. 56 opposes the Armenian usage, and c. 55 the Roman custom (see below); the church of the entire oikumene should follow the same order.

            For liturgical order: c. 52 regulates the liturgy of the Presanctified. C. 32 condemns the Armenian practice of using wine for the Eucharist without mixing it with water. Canons 28 and 57 oppose the combination of grapes as well as honey and milk with the eucharist. C. 99 opposes the Armenian practice of bringing meat to the altar. Footnote There is a ban on laymen preaching and teaching in public (c. 64). Women are to remain totally silent during the divine liturgy (c. 70). Decisions on choir singers (c. 75), the Trisagion (c. 81), genuflection (c. 90), and the celebration of ‘Mary’s childbed’ (c. 79) also belong here.

            On the constitution of the church: the ecclesiastical rank of a city is determined by its civil status (c. 38); the established appropriation of a rural congregation to one eparchy should remain inviolate (c. 25). Provincial synods are to be held twice a year and at least once a year in difficult circumstances (c. 8). The rights of bishops who are unable to occupy the throne of their diocese due to barbarian conquest are regulated by c. 37. A special regulation for the exile of the archbishop of Cyprus along with his people in the eparchy of Hellespontos is the occasion for c. 39.

            It is clear that a large number of canons renew or modify older decisions. Footnote Particular canons have been seen as the background for the rejection of the council by Rome. The listing of the canons in question takes up a large part of the reference literature. Footnote It is certain that some of the canons were unacceptable to Rome, and they explicitly threaten the Roman practice of celibacy (c. 13) Footnote and the Roman urban practice of the Saturday fast in Lent (c. 55) with deposing and excommunication. Similarly, in c. 2 — the first summary of the canon law of the ancient church — Western local synods (with the exception of Serdica and Carthage) are ignored, and all 85 ‘Apostolic Canons’ are accepted. In addition there is the belittling permission of celibacy for priests in ‘barbarian churches’ (c. 30) and the ban on the consumption of blood (c. 67). C. 36 also ‘touches a hot iron’ by renewing c. 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council and c. 28 of Chalcedon by ruling that the throne of Constantinople should enjoy the same rights of honour as old Rome and stand in the second place behind it. Footnote

3. The sole sources, other than acts of the councils, that are available to us on the conflict which arose between Rome and Constantinople over the Quinisext, are the entries in the Liber Pontificalis. Footnote In the vitae of Popes Sergius I (687-701), John VII (705-7), Constantinus I (708-15), and Gregory II (715-31), Footnote the Liber Pontificalis reports that Justinian II made three attempts to achieve a reception of the canons by the Roman see. Footnote Pope Sergius I not only refused to receive the tomoi and to have them publicly read, but he even rejected them as invalid. Footnote John VII did not accept Justinian’s proposal ‘to gather a council of the Apostolic Church and to confirm what he approved and to reject and declare invalid what he disapproved’ . He sent the acts back to the emperor without alteration. Footnote It was only with Constantinus I, who himself traveled to Constantinople for this purpose, that an agreement over the Quinisext was reached in Nicomedia, satisfying both parties. Footnote Constantinus would only accept those canons that did not oppose Roman usage. Footnote It is likely that the Roman Church achieved dispensation from the application of the canons in question. Yet Constantinus did recognize their validity and allowability. Footnote The renewal of Roman privileges stressed by the Liber Pontificalis certainly makes this concession possible. C. 36 also does concede a certain primacy to Rome. Further ‘privileges’ might have been a confirmation of Roman jurisdiction over the see of Ravenna and a renewal of tax privileges for the papal patrimony. Footnote

            Yet the conflict over the Trullan Council is not primarily to be understood on the basis of its canonical material. This only emerged into the foreground later. Over the course of the seventh and eighth centuries, if not longer, there was a readiness to compromise. Footnote The Roman popes’ refusal to sign appears to have been dominated by the following motives: 1) the ranking of the bishops of Illyricum orientale in the subscription list; and 2) the conciliar procedure and the idea of an ecumenical council embodied in the synod. Footnote According to this model, the criteria for an ecumenical council would appear to consist in the bishops of the entire territory of the Roman state being present or represented in response to imperial command, and that matters of faith should be the subject of discussion. In keeping with this concept, Justinian II, uniquely in the history of councils, had placed his signature before that of the bishops. It was assumed that the Roman bishop would add his signature after the fact, after the canons had already been given force of law by the subscription of the emperor.

            In 1054, the Quinisext Council served spokesmen for ecclesiastical polemics on both sides as a justification for schism. Niketas Stethatos attacked, using the Trullan canons against azyma, the Western practice of fasting, and celibacy, and demanding they be observed. Footnote Cardinal Humbert rejected all of these canons on behalf of the Latin Church, since Rome had supposedly never accepted them and had never obeyed them, since they were invalid and depraved. Footnote

            Theologians in the Byzantine Empire subsequently stressed the ecumenical status and the autonomy of this synod. As a result, the great canonists of the twelfth century, John Zonaras and Theodore Balsamon, stressed the ecumenical nature of the Quinisext. Footnote It was, however, Matthew Blastares who drew the last consequence from this weighting and gave it an extensive section in his Syntagma of 1335 with the title, ‘Holy and Ecumenical Council’ . Footnote This has remained the usual evaluation of the Trullan Council in Orthodox theology to the present day.

2.4 The ‘Canons of the Fathers’

Origin and Content


Literature: G. Bardy, ‘Épîtres canoniques des Pères’ , DDC 5 380-4; Joannou, CPG xiv-xxv (Introduction générale à l’édition t. II); C. Munier, Les sources patristiques du droit du VIIIe-XIIIe siècle (Mulhouse 1957); Schwartz, Bußstufen 274-362; Schwartz, ‘Kanonensammlungen’ .

            Alongside the synodal canons, the ‘Canons of the Fathers’ make up an autonomous portion of Greek canonical collections. C. 2 of the Quinisext Council (692) sealed (ἐπισφραγίζομεν) the ‘canons established by our holy and blessed Fathers’ , and alongside the synodal canons gives the names of 13 Fathers with their episcopal titles. Footnote It is surprising that there is no additional information about which writings or canons of the various Fathers are in question. From this, one might conclude that clarity about that prevailed among the synodal participants in the Quinisext and in the Byzantine Church at the end of the seventh century. Footnote However, a comparison of the list of Fathers in c. 2 of the Quinisext with the Fathers listed in the so-called Nomokanon of Photius, Footnote in the Pedalion, and in Rhalles-Potles (in this sequence) still makes it clear that the content and sequence of the ‘Canons of the Fathers,’ even after the Quinisext, had not yet been settled and finally clarified. Footnote

c. 2       Nomokanon      Pedalion        Rhalles-Potles

Dion.Alex.      Dion.Alex.       Dion.Alex.     Dion.Alex.

Petr.Alex.       Petr.Alex.        Greg.Thaum. Petr.Alex.

Greg.Thaum.  Greg.Thaum. Petr.Alex.        Greg.Thaum.

Ath.      ——                      Ath.                Ath.

Bas.                 Bas.                  Bas.                Bas.

Greg.Nyss.      Greg.Nyss.       Greg.Nyss. Greg.Nyss.

Greg.Naz. ——                       Greg.Naz.      Tim.Alex.

Amph. ——                       Amph.            Theoph.Alex.

Tim.Alex.       Tim.Alex.        Tim.Alex.      Kyrillos

Theoph.Alex. Theoph.Alex. Theoph.Alex. Greg.Naz.

Cyril               Cyril                Cyril              Amph.

Gennadios       Gennadios        Gennadios      Gennadios

Cypr.Carth.                              Joann.Nest., Tarasios

                                                   Tarasios, etc.

            Later additions found in the Pedalion and in Rhalles-Potles will be dealt with later in another place. Footnote So far as the ordering of the Fathers is concerned, the surprising part is that Peter of Alexandria and Gregory Thaumaturgy exchange places and Timothy of Alexandria, Theophilos of Alexandria, and Cyril form a solid traditional block which is, however, variously sequenced internally. The so-called Nomokanon of Photius lacks Athanasios, Gregory of Nazianzos, and Amphilochios.

            P.-P. Joannou referred to the fact that most manuscripts of canonical collections prior to the twelfth century fail to confirm the content and sequence of c. 2 Quinisext. In some manuscripts Gregory of Nazianzos is lacking, and/or Amphilochios, others are added; others lack Gennadios, or the sequence in general is altered, or only a portion of the Fathers is included. Footnote Even as late as the 11th century, Michael Psellos (1018-1078) (who was a close friend of the learned jurist and later Patriarch John VIII Xiphilinos) only knows Dionysius, Gregory the Wonder-Worker, Timothy of Alexandria, Cyril, and Gennadios, besides the 68 (!) canons of Basil the Great. Footnote To be sure, he also does not mention the Quinisext Council. One may only agree with Joannou’s conclusion that c. 2 Quinisext was only generally accepted in the twelfth century, and it is only after then that one may speak of a relatively stable corpus and sequence of the Canons of the Fathers in the Eastern Church. This conclusion corresponds with what is known of the acceptance of the Quinisext Council itself, which was only complete among the canonists of the twelfth century. Footnote

            Evaluating the opinions of significant theologians and Fathers of the Old Church as ‘canons’ and incorporating them in the collections of synodal canons must be understood as a long-unfolding process in which various local churches achieved autonomous and not necessarily unified results. Hence the Synagoga of John Scholastikos (Patriarch of Constantinople, 565-77) contains, alongside the Canons of the Apostles and the synodal canons through c. 27 of Chalcedon, only material of Basil the Great. Footnote What E. Schwartz has called the ‘Collection of Theodosius Diaconus’ in Cod. Veronensis LX (seventh century), probably compiled about 367/8 in Alexandria, Footnote contains no Canons of the Fathers whatsoever. This, however, is to be understood from their character as a dossier of acts from the archives of the Alexandrian see concerning the story of Athanasios, whose principle of collection was not for historical or canonical but concrete purposes in ecclesiastical politics.

            Yet, the pre-Chalcedonian corpus canonum of the Greek imperial church translated into Syriac about 500 in Hierapolis/Mabbug and only preserved in this form, incorporated into later collections in the sixth century, also contains no Canons of the Fathers. Footnote From this Syriac tradition, as well as from the corresponding Latin tradition in what is called the ‘Freising-Würzburg Version’ Footnote , it has been concluded that it is ‘a certainty that the oldest canonical collections contained no Canons of the Fathers, but only the canons of councils’ Footnote . It is only with the Cod. Par. syr. 62 (ninth century) that we find a collection that adds the Canons of the Fathers to the canons of councils. E. Schwartz thinks that this collection is much older than the sixth century, and since Chalcedon follows the Canons of the Fathers, he concludes that it predates Chalcedon. Footnote Here we certainly have the first evidence for a collection of the Canons of the Fathers. It consists of the following pieces:

1. Excerpts from the letters of Ignatios of Antioch.

2. Excerpts from the ‘Logos’ of Peter of Alexandria on lapsi, in a more complete version than what was received in Greek canonical collections.

3. The 15 ‘Erotapokriseis’ of Timothy of Alexandria.

4. Letter of Athanasios to Ammun.

5. Basil: ep. 55 Gregorio presbytero; ep. 53 Chorepiscopis; ep. 160 Diodoro; epp. 188, 199, 217 in their own sequence.

            On the one hand, this corpus can serve as evidence for how disparate such collections were at the beginning; Ignatius did not make it into the later collections. On the other hand, it is also an indication that the process of collection and the addition of Canons of the Fathers to synodal canons must have begun between 381 and 451.

            Almost all the Canons of the Fathers consist of letters or occasional writings directed to specific persons; they contain addressees and senders and often include proems and epilogues. One exception is the letter of Peter of Alexandria, which is only excerpted. Other exceptions include the metric index of the Scriptural canon of Gregory of Nazianzos and Amphilochios, the ‘Erotapokriseis’ of Timothy of Alexandria, and the excerpts from the De Spiritu Sancto in canons 91 and 92 of Basil.

            The titles of the canons into which the letters were later distributed were originally summaries of the entire canon, of its circumstance, or even of the penance imposed. These resumés were at first written in the margin of the text, often introduced by σημείωσον, τί φησὶ περὶ, τί τὸ. It was only later that these glosses were incorporated into the text, thus dividing it into paragraphs or ‘canons’ . Finally, the numeration was added. Since numeration is virtually uniform in the manuscripts, it may be assumed that it is old and that the texts were taken into the collections at a point when they were already divided and being used in that manner. Footnote

            The degree to which the canonical letters were legally binding in their original situation depended on whether these rescripts were directed to subordinates or to bishops of the same rank. In the prior case they had the authoritative character of an order, as when the metropolitan wrote to his suffragans (for example, Basil, c. 90; Theophilos of Alexandria and Cyril, canons 4 and 5; also Peter of Alexandria; Gregory the Wonder-Worker; and Athenasius, c. 3). In the latter case, they had more of an advisory function (for example, Dionysios of Alexandria, canons 1 to 4; Basil, canons 1 to 87).

            ‛In the evolving law of the church’ , bishops exercised ‘the function of iureconsulti, or as one said in Constantinople, of prudentes; they interpreted the applicable law, explained difficulties, developed leading principles, but always only as advisors.(...) Whether the receiving bishop would follow the counsel or not was up to him; this [genre] of canonical letter has in its own right no legal force. It is something quite different when a metropolitan issues directions to bishops placed under him; there he speaks with the authority of a "teacher"’ . Footnote [There are hence] ‘essentially two forms in which bishops sought to create a unified disciplinary law, that of the rescript and that of the synodal decision’ . Footnote One may compare the ‘Canons of the Fathers’ in their significance for the Byzantine East with papal decretals (see below), whose binding authority remained restricted to the West.

            The Quinisext Council (see above) sought to bestow the character of canon law binding for the entire church on the selection of episcopal rescripts gathered in its c. 2. Footnote

Dionysios of Alexandria († 264/5)


Editions: C.L. Feltoe, ΔΙΟΝΥΣΙΟΥ ΛΕΙΨΑΝΑ. The Letters and Other Remains of Dionysius of Alexandria (Cambridge 1904) 94-105, 60-2; Joannou, CPG 1-16; Rhalles-Potles 4.1-13; Pedalion 544-51; Alivisatos, κανόνες 322-7; PG 10.1272-90; Pitra 1.541-5.

Translations: English: C.L. Feltoe, St. Dionysius of Alexandria. Letters and Treatises (Translations of Christian Literature, ser. I; London 1908); Rudder 713-23; German: W.A. Bienert, Dionysius von Alexandrien, das erhaltene Werk (BGL 2; Stuttgart 1972) 45-6, 54-8; French: Joannou, CPG 1-16.

Literature: W.A. Bienert, Dionysius von Alexandrien. Zur Frage des Origenismus im dritten Jahrhundert (PTS 21; Berlin 1978) 121-5, 180ff; W.A. Bienert, ‘Dionysius von Alexandrien’ , TRE 8 (1981) 767-71; P. Nautin, ‘Dionysius of Alexandria’ , EEC 238; Ohme, Kanon 296-304.

            Dionysios is the most significant bishop of the Alexandrian church in the third century and the first to whom Eusebios of Kaisareia gave the sobriquet ‘the Great’ Footnote . Only fragments survive of his extensive writings.

1. The Letter to Basilides. Thanks to its solid anchoring in Greek canonical collections, this letter is one of the very few completely preserved letters of Dionysios. Eusebios reports that the addressee was ‘bishop of the congregations in the Pentapolis’, hence in the imperial province of Libya secunda, a portion of the diocese of Oriens which only became a province under Diocletian. Footnote The sovereignty of the Alexandrian see over the Pentapolis is already recognized as ‘old customary law’ by c. 6 of Nicaea, but it cannot be assumed for this period. Eusebios says in the same place that Dionysios left ‘various letters’ to Basilides, but they do not survive.

            The letter is a response to a written request by Basilides on the correct time to end the pre-Easter fast as well as three further requests for counsel in questions of sexual ethics. Two-thirds of the response deals with the first theme. In the Pentapolis, according to this, there had arisen differences of opinion whether the fast, with reference to Roman practice, was to continue until the first cock’s crow of Easter morning or only until Good Saturday or during the night between the two days. Basilides asked Dionysios whether he could issue a horos (όϱοϛ) on this point. Footnote This, as well as the address to Basilides as ‘συλλειτουργός’ , argues for the letter being not only a ‘theological opinion on an ecclesiastical question in dispute’ from Dionysios as leader of the catechetical school of Alexandria, Footnote but a response as bishop of Alexandria to the request to establish within the region under his influence a norm for a fasting practice that had hitherto been disunited.

            Dionysios replies that ending the fast before midnight is blameworthy; whoever waits long is to be praised, but uniformity is not to be sought. The end of the fast could be individually regulated depending on how long the fast has lasted, since it could be 2, 3, or 4 days, but for many is only one day.

            The general exposition of this complex constitutes what is called c. 1, and the three remaining divisions of the letter are canons 2 to 4. They deal with the ceremonial cleanness of menstruating women (c. 2), the frequency of marital relations (c. 3), and the burden on the conscience created by nocturnal emissions (c. 4). Yet even here, save for c. 2, Footnote Dionysios avoids detailed prescriptions.

2. The Letter to Kolon. The Pedalion, Rhalles-Potles, and Alivisatos, ἱεροὶ κανόνες restrict themselves to these 4 canons. Pitra Footnote in contrast, has shown that some canonical collection manuscripts Footnote also preserve a fragment of the letter to Konon (or Kolon), Footnote which Joannou adds to his own edition. Eusebios reports that Kolon was bishop of Hermopolis, hence under the bishop of Alexandria. Footnote The fragment deals with the question of how one is to deal with excommunicates who have been reconciled in articulo mortis and then recover. Dionysios expressly opposes banning them again and burdening them with their earlier sins.

Peter of Alexandria († 311)


Editions: Joannou, CPG 33-57 (repr. Beneševič, Syntagma 578-96); PG 18.468-508; Pitra 1.551-61; M. Routh, Reliquiae sacrae (Oxford 1846) 4.23-45; P. de Lagarde, Reliquiae iuris ecclesiastici antiquissimae (Leipzig 1856) 63-73, 99-117; Pedalion 562-75; Rhalles-Potles 4.14-44; Alivisatos, κανόνες 334-45; Versiones: ClavisG 1639.

Translations: English: Rudder 740-55; NPNF 14.601-2; French: Joannou, CPG 33-57.

Literature: G. Fritz, ‘Pierre d’Alexandrie’ , DThC 12 (1935) 1802ff.; C.W. Griggs, Early Egyptian Christianity, Leiden 1990, 117-120; Grotz, Die Entwicklung 409-13; F.H. Kettler, ‘Der melitianische Streit in Ägypten’ , ZNW 35 (1936) 155-93; F.H. Kettler, ‘Petros von Alexandrien’ , RE 19.2 (1938) 1281-8; Ohme, Kanon 307-311; Schwartz, ‘Die Quellen’ 87-116; M. Simonetti, ‘Peter I of Alexandria’ , EEC 677-98; T. Vivian, St. Peter of Alexandria. Bishop and Martyr, Philadelphia 1988.

            The so-called Epistula canonica of Peter of Alexandria, bishop there from 300, belongs to the basic documents on the outbreak of the ‘Melitian Schism’ at the start of the fourth century in the Egyptian Church. Footnote Soon after the outbreak of the Diocletian persecutions in Egypt, in 303, Peter had taken flight and was leading the church from hiding. Bishop Melitios of Lykopolis in Upper Egypt, who believed that Peter had forfeited his office, now saw himself as the leader of the church, setting up clerics in alien dioceses, even in Alexandria itself. On his return, when Peter ordered a mild treatment of lapsi, the conflict led to a schism in 306.

            His directions for the modalities of reconciliation of lapsi passed into Greek canonical collections, divided into 14 parts, constituting what is called the ‘canons’ of Peter. Although the Greek manuscripts speak in their lemmata of a logos, Footnote it really is a question of a letter, as demonstrated by the Syriac tradition, preserved in Cod. Paris. syr. 62, in the title placed at the end of the letter. Footnote It is only in this Syriac tradition that the proem as well as an extended concluding passage are preserved. Footnote The address is missing, to be sure, but the proem shows that the letter was ‘not directed to an individual, but that it was a decree to all or a great number of Egyptian bishops. The language is one of authority’ . Footnote Since the lapsi themselves are addressed, however, it is certainly an encyclical ‘to be read out in all Egyptian churches’ . Footnote

            From the very first sentence of c. 1 it can be seen that the encyclical was written soon after the fourth Easter since the start of the persecutions, hence around Easter 306. The writing mentions that the persecutions have lessened in the meantime and that many lapsi have demanded reception back into the church, including particularly great masses of those who had sacrificed without compulsion and have given no special sign of repentence (c. 3). Footnote Others, however, who suffered torture at the very outset of the persecution, have been standing as ‘weepers’ before the church doors for three years (c. 1). Footnote This made it mandatory to take a principled position on the question of penance, as well as in light of the many questions which had reached Peter from the whole of Egypt. Footnote Since Melitios is not mentioned in the encyclical, it can be assumed that this writing itself stimulated the conflict over the treatment of the lapsi.

            The decisions of Peter may be called a ‘decree of pardon’, Footnote since the detailed resolutions, with their brief periods of penance weighted according to the severity of the cases, assume in principle the admission of all lapsi to the process of penance. Even those who simply performed sacrifice in keeping with the edict without scruple or risk were to receive the chance to do penance after one year of probation (c. 3). In this way those who had been entirely unready to do penance were kept under watch and thus motivated to penance (c. 4). The actual periods of penance are set for the following cases: 40 days for those who only denied the faith under torture, since they bore the wounds of Christ on their bodies (c. 1); 1 year for those who weakened immediately in prison (c. 2); only 6 months for those who officially participated in sacrifice but avoided performing sacrifice through tricks (c. 5); 3 years for lords who sent their Christian slaves (1 year) to sacrifice in their place (canons 6 and 7). Whoever fell away at the beginning but then recanted and even professed their faith under torture were received back without penance (c. 8). This is followed by a thorough treatment of those who had pressed for martyrdom and had reported themselves. Even if they professed their faith, they were to do penance (canons 9 and 11). Clergy from this group were to be deposed (c. 10). Avoidance of sacrifice through bribery is seen as model conduct (c. 12), flight expressly approved (c. 13). Whoever was brought into contact with the victim through force under torture was to be numbered among the confessors (c. 14).

            Thus a generally-binding regulation was placed in opposition to the charismatic penitential power practiced by the confessors. Footnote Epiphanios of Salamis reports that most confessors stood on the side of Melitios. Footnote

            The c. 15 contained in most Greek canonical collections on fasting on Wednesday and Friday is probably a passage from the work on Easter to one Bishop Trikentios, which only survives in fragmentary form. Footnote

Gregory Thaumaturgos (Wonderworker) ([210]-[270])


Editions: Joannou, CPG 19-30; PG 10.1019-48; Routh, Reliquiae 3.251-83; Pitra 1.562-6; Alivisatos, κανόνες 329-34; Rhalles-Potles 4.44-66; Pedalion 553-61.

Translations: English: P. Heather and J. Matthews, The Goths in the Fourth Century (Translated Texts for Historians 11; Liverpool 1991) 5-11; Rudder 727-37; NPNF 14. 602; German: P.H. Bourier, Des heiligen Gregorius Thaumaturgus Ausgewahlte Schriften, 2d ed. (BKV; Kempten 1911); French: Joannou, CPG 19-30.

Literature: H. Crouzel, ‘Grégoire le Thaumaturge’ , DSp 6 (1967) 1014-20; H. Crouzel, ‘Gregor der Wundertäter’ , RAC 12 (1983) 779-93; Grégoire le Thaumaturge: Remerciement à Origène, ed. H. Crouzel (SC 148; Paris 1969) 14-34; H. Crouzel, ‘Gregory the Thaumaturge’ , EEC 368; A. Drage, ‘Der Kanonische Brief des Gregorius’, JPTh 7 (1981) 102-126; P. Godet, ‘Grégoire de Néocésarée’, DThC 6 (1920) 1844-74; H. Grotz, Die Entwicklung des Bußstufenwesens in der vornicänischen Kirche, Freiburg 1955, 400-8; P. Heather and J. Matthews, The Goths in the Fourth Century, Liverpool 1991, 1-11; J. Modrzejewski, ‘Grégoire le Thaumaturge et le droit romain’ , RHD 49 (1971) 313-24; K. Phouskas, Γρηγορίου θαυματουργο ἡ κανονικὴ ἐπιστολή. Εἰσαγωγὴ-κριτικὴ ἔκδοσις κειμένου-μετάφρασις-σχόλια (Athens 1978) (repr. ̓Εκκλησιαστικὸς φάρος 60 [1978] 736-809); Schwartz, Bußstufen 310ff.; M. Slusser, ‘Gregor der Wundertäter’ , TRE 14 (1985) 188-91.

            The so-called Epistula canonica of Gregory the Wonder-Worker belongs to the undisputed genuine works among the few surviving writings of the bishop of Neokaisareia in Pontus. The man venerated by posterity as the apostle of Cappadocia and Pontus had been the missionary of his homeland. Footnote

            About 254, ‘Goths and Borads’ had appeared who wasted and plundered Pontus. Footnote In the course of this episode, many Christians apparently experienced hardships and were found guilty of crimes. The letter deals with them. A bishop of Pontus who remains nameless Footnote had possibly turned to Gregory for assistance in deciding how these sinners could be kept in the church. The ‘canonical letter’ , probably also written during 254, would then be a rescript in response to a question. However, it is more likely that the letter was an encyclical by Gregory to the bishops of his eparchy. Footnote Since the letter survives without an address or a formal beginning or conclusion, its form is closer to an encyclical. Later, it was mostly divided into 11 sections, Footnote which became the ‘canons.’ They were provided with a summary description of contents.

            Gregory declared that if Christians in captivity had been forced to eat sacrificial meat that this was ethically insignificant, and he referred to 1 Corinthians 6:13 and Matthew 15:11. In the same way, an innocent woman who had been raped is to have an unaltered status in the congregation, with reference to Deuteronomy 22:26. If such a woman was known as indecent before, however, they were not to hold common prayers with her (c. 1). Whoever became a robber during the plundering out of a lust for possession should be openly expelled from the church (canons 2 and 3). Whoever found the goods of another could not make any profit on it (c. 4), even to replace his own losses (c. 5). Collaborators are to be excluded from the ‘hearers’ (c. 7), as were accused burglars. If they confess, however, and are willing to compensate, they should ‘kneel’ (c. 8). In the same way those who find the goods of others and do not return them: if they report themselves, they should participate in the prayers (c. 9). The commandment should be fulfilled without any thought of the desire for profit (c. 10).

            This writing is a significant witness for the development of penance in the Old Church. It is in dispute whether there are more levels of penance behind the decisions of canons 7 to 9 than that of those excluded, those beseeching readmittance, and the penitent themselves. Footnote The so-called c. 11 describes a penitential system of four stages. It is not included in many manuscripts, Footnote and it is generally seen as a later addition.

Athanasios of Alexandria ([295]-373)


Editions: Joannou, CPG 63-84; Rhalles-Potles 4.67-81; Pedalion 576-85; Alivisatos, κανόνες 345-53; Pitra 1.567-74; Ep. ad Ammun: ClavisG 2106, PG 26.1169-76; ep. fest. 39: ClavisG 2102 (2), PG 26.1436-40, 1176-80; ep. ad Rufin.: ClavisG 2107, PG 26.1180-1.

Translations: English: NPNF 14.602-603; Rudder 758-70; German: P. Merendino, Osterfestbriefe des Apa Athanasios (Düsseldorf 1965) 94-107; French: Joannou, CPG 63-84.

Literature: S. Sakkos, ‘ ̔Η λθ’ ἑορταστικὴ ἐπιστολὴ το Μ. ̓Αθανασίου’ , in: Τόμος ἑόρτιος χιλιοστς ἑξακοσιοστς ἐπετίου Μ. ̓Αθανασίου, ed. I. Mantzarides (Thessalonike 1974) 129-96; Schneemelcher, ‘Bibel III.’ 22-48; G.C. Stead, ‘Athanasius’ , EEC 93-5; M. Tetz, ‘Athanasius und die Einheit der Kirche’ , ZThK 81 (1984) 196-219; M. Tetz, ‘Athanasius von Alexandrien’ , TRE 4 (1979) 333-49; M. Tetz, ‘Zur Biographie von Athanasius von Alexandrien’ , ZKG 90 (1979) 304-38; M. Tetz, ‘Über nikäische Orthodoxie: Der sog. Tomus ad Antiochenos des Athanasios von Alexandrien’ , ZNW 66 (1975) 194-222.

            From the plethora of writings by the outstanding theologian and ecclesiastical politician of Nicaean orthodoxy and bishop of Alexandria, three letters of various character have entered Greek canonical collections. Footnote

1. The Epistula ad Ammun, designated c. 1, answers a request from the monk Ammun for an ethical evaluation of involuntary nightly pollutions. Footnote Athanasios declares every natural emission to be sinless, and only what comes from a bad heart could be sinful. It is remarkable that the ‘dual ways’ of marriage and virginity are understood as being among the callings, although the higher nature of virginity is certainly clear, since it is promised hundred-fold fruit in a commentary on Matthew 13:8, while marriage is only to receive thirty-fold. Footnote In an earlier interpretation, the hundred-fold fruit was promised to martyrs.

2. The so-called ‘c. 2’ is an excerpt significant for the history of the canon of the Holy Scripture from the 39th Festival Letter of Athanasios from 367. Footnote Due to its reception into canonical collections, this letter has been well preserved in Greek, and other parts are preserved in Coptic. Footnote In a polemical context directed against the use of ‘apocryphal’ scriptures by the Meletians, Footnote Athanasios names the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments (τὰ κανονιζόμενα...βιβλία) which are for him complete, untouchable, and unexceedable ‘sources of salvation’ . The Old Testament canon corresponds to the Hebrew canon with 22 books. For the New Testament, all 27 books including Revelations are enumerated. Further, Athanasios enumerates books which are certainly not canonical (οὐ κανονιζόμενα), but which can be read aloud for catechetical purposes: Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Jesus of Sirach, Esther, Judith, Tobit, the ‘so-called Didache’ , and The Shepherd of Hermas.

3. The Epistula ad Rufinianum appears only to have been received into the Greek canonical collections as c. 3 quite late; a large number of manuscripts preserve it only at the end of the canons of the Fathers or not at all. Footnote The letter is a response to the request to Athanasios by Bishop Rufinianos on the conditions ‘ruled by the synods and elsewhere’ for the return of someone who had fallen into error. Footnote Athanasios responds by mentioning that, immediately after the end of the persecutions, a synod including outside bishops had gathered in Alexandria; with others in Hellas, Spain, and Gaul. All of them had made the same decision. Footnote The request shows that due to the changes after the death of Constantius II on 3 November 361 and the coming to power of Julian the Apostate, regulations were needed for the question of how to deal with clerics previously hostile to the Nicaeans who now turned to the Nicene fold. Athanasios had returned to Alexandria on 21 February 362, and the Alexandrine synod mentioned probably took place as early as April 362. Footnote Rufinus of Aquileia described this synod as ‘the council of the confessors’ , Footnote and it was motivated by the consolidation and unification of Nicene orthodoxy. The sole surviving written document is the so-called Tomus ad Antiochenos. Footnote From this Epistula synodalis it can be learned that the question mentioned above was handled as the first item of business, while after the departure of most of the bishops a ‘narrower synod’ dealt specifically with the ‘Antioch question’ ; the results of this were written down in the Tomus so as to transmit them to Antioch. Footnote While the Tomus formulates the conditions of peace for reconciliation with old-Nicenes and Meletians in Antioch, the response to Rufinianos gives the principled conclusion of the synod of 362. According to this, even the leaders of the opponents should be offered forgiveness, insofar as they are penitent, though they are to be deposed from their offices. Whoever falls from the faith through force or compulsion would be forgiven and remains a cleric, and whoever was deceived and suffered violence would also be forgiven. Footnote The Tomus ad Antiochenos 3.1 preserves the general conditions belonging together with these conditions: 1. the anathematization of the Arians, 2. the Nicene confession, and 3. the confession of the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Footnote

            The letter achieved special prominence in connection with the question of the return of iconoclastic clergy at the first session of Nicaea II (787), where it was read out. Footnote

            In his edition, P.-P. Joannou arbitrarily added quaestio 112 on communion with heretics from the Quaestiones ad Antiochum ducem here, although it is spurious and does not appear in the canonical collections. Footnote Also found in some manuscripts and hence also accepted by Joannou is the fragment, De non participando diuinis mysteriis sine discrimine, on marital continence before receiving communion. Footnote

            The so-called Canones Athanasii were not received in the canonical collections. This is an ‘ecclesiastical church order for the higher and lower clergy’ from Egyptian sources from the second half of the fourth century, attributed to Athanasios and divided into 107 canons in the eleventh century. Footnote

Basil the Great (330-379)


Editions: Joannou, CPG 85-199; Y. Courtonne, Saint Basile, Lettres I-III (Les belles lettres; Paris 1957-66); PG 32.219-1110; R.J. Deferrari, St. Basil: The Letters, with an English Translation I-IV (London 1926-1934) (Greek text = PG 32.219-1110!); Rhalles-Potles 4; Pedalion 586-651; Alivisatos, κανόνες 334-99; Pitra 1.576-618; B. Pruche, Basile de Césarée, Traité du S. Esprit (2nd ed., SC 17; Paris 1968).

Translations: English: Deferrari, St. Basil; Rudder 771-864; NPNF 14.604-11; German: W.-D. Hauschild, Basilius von Caesarea, Briefe, 1-3 (Bibliothek der Griechischen Literatur 32 [Stuttgart 1990], 3 [1973], 37 [1993]).

Literature: Bonis, ‘ Αἱ τρες κανονικαὶ ̓Επιστολαὶ ’ (repr. Theologia 201-20); P.J. Fedwick, ed., Basil of Caesarea: Christian, Humanist, Ascetic: A Sixteenhundredth Anniversary Symposion (Toronto 1981) 1-2; P.J. Fedwick, The Church and the Charisma of Leadership of Basil of Caesarea (Toronto 1979); J. Gribomont, ‘Basil of Caesarea in Cappadocia’ , EEC 114-5; W.-D. Hauschild, ‘Basilius von Caesarea’ , TRE 5 (1979) 301-13; P. L’Huillier, ‘Les sources canoniques de Saint Basile’, Messager de l’ Exarchat du Patriarchat russe en Europe Occidentale 44 (1963) 210-17; Ohme, Kanon 543-569; F. van de Paverd, ‘Die Quellen der kanonischen Briefe Basileios des Grossen’ , OCP 38 (1972) 5-63; R.E. Reynolds, ‘Basil and the Early Medieval Latin Canonical Collections’, in Fedwick, Symposion 513-32; Schwartz, Bußstufen; Schwartz, ‘Kanonensammlungen’ .


            Basil the Great, the metropolitan of Kaisareia in Cappadocia, was accorded a preeminent position in the Greek church as a Father of the Church and a teacher in questions of dogma. He also gave instruction on the spiritual life and its organization. No other Greek Father of the Church has had so many of his letters included in Eastern canonical collections. For that reason from fifth century the ‘canons of Basil’ occupy the most prominent place among the ‘canons of the Fathers’ in Greek canonical collections. Footnote In most cases his letters, or excerpts from them, to various people were placed in the collections, but there are also two excerpts from his De Spiritu Sancto. Portions of his ascetic writings or homilies, in contrast, were not received into the canonical literature.

            The Maurists published 365 of Basil’s letters. Footnote All of his canonical letters were composed during his episcopacy (370-379). With one exception, they may all be viewed as authentic, and most of them can be fitted into the chronology of the life and works of Basil, which is relatively certain if not finally settled. Footnote Eight letters as well as the excerpts from De Spiritu Sancto, divided into 92 canons, belong to the later ‘normal corpus’ of the Greek canonical collections. In addition there are three further letters or extracts there (canons 93 to 95) that are not found in all collections. These include c. 93, which is not authentic.

            Before we examine the canons individually, the corpus should be explained schematically.


Canons 1 to 16 = ep. 188, Amphilochio de canonibus I a.374/5 (Joannou, CPG 92-116; Rhalles-Potles 4.88-137; PG 32.663-83; Courtonne 2.120-31).

Canons 17 to 50 = ep. 199, Amphilochio de canonibus II a.375/6 (Joannou, CPG 116-39; Rhalles-Potles 4.138-205; PG 32.715-32; Courtonne 2.154-64).

Canons 51 to 85 = ep. 217, Amphilochio de canonibus III a.376/7 (Joannou, CPG 140-59; Rhalles-Potles 4.206-56; PG 32.793-809; Courtonne 2.208-17).

Canon 86 = ep. 236, Amphilochio Iconii episcopo a.376 (Joannou, CPG 159-60; Rhalles-Potles 4.257-8; PG 32.875-85; Courtonne 3.47-55).

Canon 87 = ep. 160, Diodoro a.375/6 (Joannou, CPG 160-9; Rhalles-Potles 4.259-68; PG 32.621-8; Courtonne 2.88-92).

Canon 88 = ep. 55, Gregorio presbytero a.370-378 (Joannou, CPG 169-72; Rhalles-Potles 4.269-74; PG 32.401-4; Courtonne 1.141-2).

Canon 89 = ep. 54, Chorepiscopis a.370-378 (Joannou, CPG 172-5; Rhalles-Potles 4.275-7; PG 32.401-4; Courtonne 1.139-40).

Canon 90 = ep. 53, Chorepiscopis a.370-378 (Joannou, CPG 175-6; Rhalles-Potles 4.278-82; PG 32.396-9; Courtonne 1.137-9).

Canons 91-92 = De Spiritu Sancto 27.66-67; 29.71, a.375 (Joannou, CPG 179-87; Rhalles-Potles 4.283-91; PG 32.188-92, 200-1; Pruche, 478.15—482.34, 484.53—488.19, 500.1—502.23).

Canon 93 = Sermo ob sacerdotum instructionem (ClavisG 2933.1-2; Joannou, CPG 187-90; Rhalles-Potles 4.391-2; PG 31.1685-8).

Canon 94 = ep. 93, Ad Caesariam patriciam, de communione a.372 (Joannou, CPG 191-3; Rhalles-Potles 4.389; PG 32.483-5; Courtonne 1.203-4).

Canon 95 = ep. 240, Nicopolitanis presbyteris a.376 (Joannou, CPG 193-8; Rhalles-Potles 4.386; PG 32.893-7; Courtonne 3.61-4).

2. Canons 1 to 85. The three extensive letters, called canonical letters (epp. 188, 199, 217), which were placed at the beginning of the collections, are directed to Amphilochios. He had directed a concrete and precise catalogue of questions to Basil at the outset of his episcopacy as metropolitan of the province of Lykaonia. In the proem of ep. 188, Basil says that he was forced by this request to deal with problems he had never specifically considered. In response he wished to recall what he had ‘heard’ from earlier generations and draw the corresponding conclusions. The fact that this is not simply a conceit by a rhetorically-trained epistelographer is made clear by the fact that it is in fact the collection and communication of church rules from earlier times, as well as personal supplements and applications to the proposed special cases, which constitute the character of the three principal canonical letters.

            From the proem of ep. 199 we learn that Amphilochios had added a second letter to his first without having received an answer from Basil. The completed first reply had been lying for some time in Kaisareia before Basil sent ep. 188 together with ep. 199 by the same courier. Hence it comes about that many of Basil’s answers involve revisiting a question which had been raised again. There is no internal order to the material in the two letters whatsoever. Basil deals with complicated and difficult ethical questions, simply pursuing their sequence. Often it is clear that concrete individual cases lie behind the questions (for example, canons 2, 3, 8, 10). The fact that these were actual letters is well displayed by the conclusion of ep. 188, in which two exegetical notices are given which, oddly enough, were later divided up as ‘canons’ and evaluated (canons 15 and 16).

            In detail, the following themes are dealt with (canons 1 to 16): modalities for the return of Novatians (Cathars), Montanists (Pepuzenes), and Enkratites (c. 1); abortion is to be treated as murder (c. 2); deposing a deacon due to indecency (c. 3); the duration of penance due to polygamy (c. 4); reception of remorseful heretics in articulo mortis (c. 5); sexual intercourse between monks and nuns is not marriage (c. 6); homosexuality, sodomy, murder, poison, adultery, and apostacy deserve the same penalty (c. 7); considerations concerning premeditated and unpremeditated homicide (canons 8 and 11); unequal treatment of women and men in the practice of divorce according to customary law (c. 9); to what degree the oath of a cleric to remain in one place prevents his transfer (c. 10); no second marriage for clerics (c. 12); homicide in war (c. 13); the office of priest and the taking of usury are mutually exclusive (c. 14).

            In the second letter as well (canons 17 to 50), the themes run together in great variety. He begins with his reply to the special inquiry of the priest Bianor as to whether he is hindered in carrying out his office due to an oath given in Antioch (c. 17); in the remaining material there are canons on permitted and forbidden marriage as well as on questions of sexual misconduct, which predominate. Hence, there is a question on the breaking of an oath of chastity by virgins, widows, and men (canons 18 and 19); the immunity from the penalty for breaking an oath once given in heretical congregations (c. 20); sexually indecent husbands who cannot be punished for adultery according to customary law (c. 21); marriages compelled by abduction and rape (canons 22, 25, 30); marriages between two brothers and two sisters (c. 23); and the remarriage of widows and widowers (c. 24). Questions of marriage and sexual misconduct are also dealt with in canons 26, 31, 34-42, 46, and 48-50; failings of priests and deacons in this respect in canons 27, 32, 44. On other themes, he opposes an oath not to eat pork (c. 28), says that an oath to do evil cannot be binding (c. 29), regards the exposure of an infant as the same as murder (c. 33), and determines that the reception of rigorous Enkratites (Saccophores and Apotactites) should be accomplished through rebaptism (c. 47).

            The third letter (canons 51-85) begins in much the same style. C. 51 once more deals with the manner of punishing clerics (cf. canons 3, 32); c. 52 once again deals with the exposure of infants (cf. c. 33)—Amphilochios had certainly asked about it once more. The same appears to have been the case with c. 53 (cf. c. 30), and c. 54 (cf. c. 8). C. 55 deals the special case of taking justice into one’ s own hand against robbers.

            With c. 56 a clear change in the style of writing takes place. No more special questions of cases are discussed, but rather the great capital sins are enumerated, for which public penance is required. While Basil rarely spoke of different stages of penance in the earlier canons (only canons 4 and 22) and never explained the penalties because he assumed them to be well known, they are now thoroughly named and frequently dealt with. There are four levels of penance, the 1. προσκλαίοντες = weeping, 2. ἀκροώμενοι = hearers, 3. ὑποπίπτοντες = kneelers, and 4. συνεσττες = standing. Due to this detailed description, these three letters of Basil form one of the most important sources for the stages of penance and catechumen groups in the history of public confession. Footnote To clarify this method, c. 56 is reproduced here verbatim:


A man who has voluntarily slain anyone, and has thereafter regretted the deed and has repented of it, shall be excluded from communion with the Holy for twenty years. The twenty years shall be allotted to him in the following manner, to wit: For four years he must weep outside of the portal, standing upright beside the oratory, and begging the faithful who enter to make a special prayer for him, while he confesses over and over again the same transgression. After four years he is to be stationed among the audients (or listeners), and for five years he shall be permitted to go out together with them. For seven years he shall be permitted to go out together with the kneelers, praying with them. Four years more shall he spend together with the faithful, but shall not be permitted to participate in the offering. When these years have been duly fulfilled, he shall partake of the Holy Elements.

            In a similar manner are treated unpremeditated murder (c. 57); adultery (c. 58); whoring (c. 59); breaking an oath of celibacy (c. 60); theft (c. 61); homosexuality (c. 62); sodomy (c. 63); perjury (c. 64); magic (c. 65); violating a corpse (c. 66); incest (c. 67); marriage within the forbidden degrees (c. 68); indecency by readers, deacons, and priests (canons 69 and 70); hiding debilities and their conviction (c. 71); soothsaying (c. 71); and denial of Christ (c. 73). An excursus on the possibility of shortening the periods of penance in case of earnest penance (c. 74) gives an impression of a break in the discussion.

            In the remaining canons, the following sins are regulated, once more with detailed presentation of the levels of penance: incest with a sister or sister-in-law (canons 75 and 76); remarriage of a divorced man (c. 77); marriage with a sister-in-law (c. 78); incest with a stepmother (c. 79); polygamy (c. 80); apostacy during a barbarian raid (c. 81); perjury (c. 82); and soothsaying and heathen practices (c. 83). The conclusion constitutes another long disquisition on the greater significance of intensity and veracity of penance over any compulsive length of penance (canons 84 and 85).

            The stylistic oddity of canons 56 to 85 has led E. Schwartz in various connections to make dramatic conclusions about the sources used by Basil here. Footnote He concluded that ‘in the third letter from the 56th canon on, Basil copies earlier canons with small modifications, usually only stylistic’ . Footnote He wished to prove that the corpora of canons 56 to 74 and 75 to 85 are autonomous collections of older canons which Basil took over. Footnote The basis for this, so far as he was concerned, was the analysis of the Cod. Patmensis 172 and 173 (eighth to ninth centuries) and of the Syriac Cod. Parisinus 62(ninth century). Recently he was opposed in a thorough investigation by F. van Paverd. Footnote

3. Canons 86 to 90. Ep. 236 to Amphilochios deals with different themes and topics in seven parts. The fourth part of the letter takes a position on the question of the Enkratites, forming the text for c. 86. The occasion for the inquiry by Amphilochios was certainly the argument raised by the Enkratites that even Catholics would not eat all foods, but that they drew the distinction between permitted and impermissible food. Basil answered that any distinction was only made between usefulness and injury, not concerning sinfulness.

            C. 87 contains parts 2 to 5 of ep. 160 to Diodoros of Tarsus, leaving out the proem. There Basil turns expressly against the possibility of the marriage of a widower with a sister-in-law. A letter permitting this practice, circulating under the name of Diodoros, was used as a counter-argument, as was explained in the proem. In c. 23 Basil had already mentioned his letter to Diodoros as well as that he had sent Amphilochios a transcription of it.

            Ep. 55 to the seventy-year-old priest Gregorios or Paregorius Footnote (c. 88) forbids him to continue living with his householder, with whom he is not related, citing c. 3 of Nicaea, under threat of anathema. In ep. 54 (c. 89), Basil turns to the chorepiscopi of his metropolitan district, who were complaining about their unworthy circumstances in calling as lower clergy, claiming his own right of participation in their functions. The addressees of ep. 53 (c. 90) are also chorepiscopi. Footnote Every simoniac practice of ordination is threatened here with deposition.

4. Further canons: Canons 91 to 92 are three excerpts from De Spiritu Sancto. In them he deals with the significance of the dogma and kerygma of the church, Footnote as well as the unwritten traditions of the church, which are just as binding as written doctrine. Basil described them concretely: crossing; prayer facing east; the wording of the epiklesis (ἐπἰκλησις); the blessing of baptismal water and chrism; the chrism itself; the threefold immersion of the one being baptised; abrenuntiation; prayer while standing; the inclusion of the Holy Spirit in the doxology with the formulation, σὺν τ Πνεύματι; as well as ‘most’ sacraments.

            The Pedalion closes the canons of Basil with the three excerpts from De Spiritu Sancto. Theodore Balsamon and Matthew Blastares counted as the 85 canons of Basil only those from the first three letters to Amphilochios, while they would not designate the remaining canonical decisions to be ‘canons’ . John Zonaras in his exposition of c. 54 Quinisext calls ep. 160 to Diodoros c. 86, which is today usually designated c. 87. The Codex of Trebezond, the basis of Rhalles-Potles also numbers only these 85 canons. Footnote Some manuscripts add from one to three further decisions to these 92 canons. In the Codex of Trebezond, for example, these are gathered together with other additions with the title ‘Διάφορα’ . Footnote C. 93 there bears the title, ‘Παράγγελμα πρὸς τὸν ἱερέα περὶ τς θείας χάριτος’ . This is the pseudo-epigraphic Sermo ob sacerdotum instructionem, Footnote certainly of Alexandrian provenance, which Joannou took into his collection in the longer variant. Footnote C. 94 is an excerpt from ep. 93 to the Patrician Lady Kaisaria on the frequency of communion. Footnote Basil approved of daily communion, but he also mentions for Kaisareia the practice of receiving communion on Sunday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, besides holidays of the saints.

            An excerpt from ep. 240 to the residents Footnote of Nikopolis constitutes c. 95. It calls upon the Nicene congregation there to continue to bear up under mistreatment by those sustaining the error of the homoios, protected by the state, as well as to disobey their bishops.

Gregory of Nyssa (331/340-[395])


Editions: Joannou, CPG 203-26; PG 45.221-36; Alivisatos, κανόνες 441ff.; Rhalles-Potles 4.295-330; Pedalion 651-62; Pitra 1.619-29; (ClavisG 3148).

Translations: English: Rudder 866-82; NPNF 14.611-12; French: Joannou, CPG 203-26.

Literature: M. Altenburger and F. Mann, Bibliographie zu Gregor von Nyssa (Leiden 1988); D.L. Balás, ‘Gregor von Nyssa’ , TRE 14 (1985) 173-81; M. Canévet, ‘Grégoire de Nyssa’ , DSp 6 (1967) 971-1011; H. Dörrie, ‘Gregor III (Gregor von Nyssa)’, RAC 12 (1983) 863-95; J. Gribomont, ‘Gregory of Nyssa’ , EEC 363-5; I. Kornarakes, ‘ ̔Η πρὸς Λητόϊον κανονικὴ ἐπιστολὴ Γρηγορίου το Νύσσης ἐξ ἐπόψεως ποιμαντικς ψυχολογίας ’, Gregorios o Palamas 42 (Thessalonike 1959) 147-52, 219-31; F. van de Paverd, ‘Disciplinarian Procedures in the Early Church’ , Augustinianum 21 (1981) 291-316; Schwartz, Bußstufen 314ff.

            Only scanty information is available for a biography of the younger brother and pupil of Basil the Great. Footnote His election in 372 as bishop of the small town of Nyssa, Footnote lying between Kaisareia and Ankyra, constituted a turning point; despite his own reluctance, he allowed himself to be persuaded by Basil to accept the position.

            Among the ‘three Cappadocians’ , Gregory is regarded as the ‘philosophical head’ and the systematic theological thinker. The fact that his gifts did not lie in the practical requirements of the episcopal office, Footnote but rather in the systematic working out of theological questions, is shown by his letter to Bishop Letoius of Melitene, the metropolis of Armenia II, certainly written about 383. It is one of the few surviving letters of Gregory. Footnote

            This writing, which was taken into the Greek canonical collections after being divided into 8 parts (‛canons’ ), deals with questions of public confession. In contrast to the so-called canonical letters of Basil, however, it deals primarily with the systematic theological basis of the necessity for penance as well as its duration, so that practical examples have more of an explanatory character.

            The proem (c. 1) offers a psychological foundation for therapeutic penance. The precondition for a healing is described as a correct recalling of the cause of an illness in one of the three parts of the soul, which is understood as threefold in keeping with the Platonic model. The capital sins are distributed in keeping with this division of the soul. C. 2 deals with the sin attributed to the λογικόν part of the soul, apostacy; c. 3 deals with soothsaying and conjuring. C. 4 analyzes the sins of adultery, indecency, and whoring, pertaining to the ἐπιθυμητικόν part of the soul. C. 5 treats sins of the third, θυμοειδές, part of the soul: homicide and murder; further, he deals with the coming into operation of penance for those recovering from these sins, which penances are granted in articulo mortis. In the same way he analyzes the lust for possessions and their concrete forms, theft and robbery (c. 6), grave robbery (c. 7), and sacrilege (c. 8).

            The periods of penance mentioned by Gregory Footnote are different from those prescribed by Basil for the same case, so the question might be asked, whence came the tradition represented by Gregory? Footnote What is surprising is a singular schematization of the periods of penance into three steps of equal length: murder (3 x 9 years); adultery, sodomy, pederasty (3 x 6 years); whoring (3 x 3 years).

Gregory of Nazianzos († 390)


Editions: Joannou, CPG 229-31; PG 37.472-4 (ClavisG 3034); Rhalles-Potles 4.363-4; Pedalion 662ff.; Alivisatos, κανόνες 406-8; Pitra, 1.654-5.

Translations: English: Rudder 883-4; NPNF 14.612; French: Joannou, CPG 229-31.

Literature: J. Gribomont, ‘Gregory Nazianzen’ , EEC 361-2; C. Hartmann, ‘Gregor von Nazianz’, LACL 262-266; J. Mossay, ‘Gregor von Nazianz’ , TRE 14 (1985) 164-73; Schneemelcher, ‘Bibel III.’ , TRE 6 (1980) 22-48; B. Wyß, ‘Gregor II (Gregor von Nazianz)’ , RAC 12 (1983) 793-863; Zahn, 2.212-9.

            The year of birth for Gregory in the Cappadocian town of Nazianzos cannot be established with certainty. Footnote His father, Gregory the Elder, was bishop there from 329 to 374. About 372 Basil the Great consecrated him as bishop of the market town of Sasima, which belonged to Cappadocia II after the partition of Cappadocia, in order to assert the claim of Kaisareia against the new metropolis of Tyana and its metropolitan Anthimos. Anthimos, however, denied Gregory entry, so that he never entered his office due to these conditions.

            From 379 on, Gregory resided in Constantinople to care for the Nicaean minority in the capital. Supported by the change in ecclesiastical politics under Theodosios I, he became bishop of Constantinople on 24 November 380, and after the death of Meletius of Antioch he also became president of the general council of the Eastern Empire which had been meeting since May 381. Footnote

            Gregory must be seen as the most important Greek Christian poet. Through the roughly 17,000 verses composed by him, he seeks to confront Hellenistic poetry with a Christian equal, observing all the formal rules. Footnote From the first part of the corpus of his poems, the so-called Carmina dogmatica, Carm. 1.1.12 has entered the Greek canonical collections. There it is placed together with the iambics of Amphilochios (see below) on the same theme; yet both are missing in the Synagoge of John Scholastikos. These can be typified as mnemonic verses in which Gregory enumerates alongside the Old Testament the 26 books of the New Testament without Revelations, confirming that the ‘canon of the 26 books’ had gained extensive acceptance at the end of the fourth century. Footnote

Amphilochios of Ikonion (340/45-394/403)


Editions: Joannou, CPG 232-5; E. Oberg, Amphilochii Iconiensis. Iambi ad Seleucum (PTS 9; Berlin 1969) 36-9; PG 37.1593-8 (ClavisG 3230); Rhalles-Potles 4.365-7; Pedalion 664-5; Alivisatos, κανόνες 408-10; Pitra, 1.655ff.

Translations: English: Rudder 585-6; NPNF 14.612; German: E. Oberg, ‘Das Lehrgedicht des Amphilochios', JAC 16 (1973) 67-97; French: Joannou, CPG 232-5.

Literature: K. Holl, Amphilochius von Ikonium in seinem Verhältnis zu den großen Kappadokiern (Tübingen 1904); G. Röwekamp, Amphilochius v. Ikonien, LACL 23-24; Schneemelcher, ‘Bibel III’ , TRE 6 (1980) 22-48; S.J. Voicu, ‘Amphilochius of Iconium’ , EEC 32; Zahn, 2.212-9.

            After his education as a rhetor under Libanius in Antioch, Amphilochios practiced this profession in Constantinople from 363 to 370/1. He ended his practice in order to dedicate himself to the eremitic life. Footnote Between 370 and 372 under Emperor Valens the province of Lykaonia was newly formed out of portions of the provinces of Galatia and Pisidia as well as from Isaurian areas. Footnote The episcopal see of Ikonion hence became both the civil and ecclesiastical metropolis. On the recommendation of Basil the Great, Amphilochios was elected metropolitan. Both of them were bound in close friendship. Amphilochios participated as executor of the heritage of Basil at the Council of Constantinople in 381, and along with Optimos of Antioch in Pisidia he was made a guarantor of orthodoxy in the imperial diocese of Asia. Footnote His death lies between the synod of Constantinople in 394 (see above), in which he participated, and before 403. Footnote

            The 333 iambs to Seleukos, placed among the works of Gregory of Nazianzos by the first editors as well as by Migne, are a guide to the pious life and successful studies for his ten-year-old nephew, composed about 396. Footnote Iambs 251 to 319 contain an index of biblical books of the Old and New Testament, which is of significance for the history of the canon and is always combined with that of Gregory of Nazianzos (see above) in Greek canonical collections. Even at the end of the fourth century, Amphilochios documents the old doubts about the Epistle to the Hebrews, the four small ‘Catholic Epistles’ , and Revelations.

Timothy of Alexandria († 385)


Editions: Joannou, CPG 240-58; PG 33.1296-1308; Pitra 1.630-45; Alivisatos, κανόνες 400-6; Pedalion 666-76; Rhalles-Potles 4.331-41 (ClavisG 2520).

Translations: English: Rudder 889-901; NPNF 14.612; French: Joannou, CPG 240-58.

Literature: J. Faivre, ‘Alexandrie’ , DHGE 2 (1914) 289-369, 317-9; B. Windau, ‘Timotheus I. von Alexandrien’, LACL 606/7.

            Only a little is known of the biography of Timothy of Alexandria. Sokrates reports Footnote that he succeeded his own brother, whom the Emperor Valens had exiled, to the see of Alexandria. At the Council of Constantinople of 381 he is found among those who sought the resignation of Gregory of Nazianzos after the deposition of the Alexandrian candidate, Maximos. Footnote Afterward the Emperor Theodosios named him one of the ‘normal bishops’ in the Empire. Footnote

            Among the few surviving works of Timothy Footnote are those responsa canonica that are included in all Greek canonical collection manuscripts and are historically anchored in the lemmata there to an inquiry from the Fathers of the Council of 381. Footnote It consists of brief ‘questions and answers’ (̓Ερωταποκρίσεις) of diverse content which are numerated as the ‘canons’ of Timothy. Footnote The number of responses vary in the tradition. The first 15 are found in all the canonical collection manuscripts and may be held as authentic; Footnote the rest are of dubious origin. The Pedalion and Rhalles-Potles offer 18 excerpts, and in Pitra there are further elements added in the tradition. Out of documentary interest, Joannou accepted 29 questions and answers in his own edition.

            The following themes are dealt with: the communion of catechumens (c. 1), of the possessed (c. 2), of menstruating women (c. 7), after marital relations (c. 5), and after nocturnal emission (c. 12); the baptism of the possessed (c. 2), of catechumens in a coma (c. 4), and of menstruating women (c. 6); the fasting practices at Lent for childbearing women (c. 8) and the ill (c. 10); divine service in the presence of heretics (c. 9); conduct of clerics in cases of illicit marriage (c. 11); the days of the week in which married persons are to abstain from intercourse (c. 13); ecclesiastical prayer for suicides (c. 14); adultery on the grounds of illness of the wife (c. 15).

Theophilos of Alexandria ([345]-412)


Editions: Joannou, CPG 262-73; PG 65.33-45; Pitra 1.646-9; Alivisatos, κανόνες 426-32; Rhalles-Potles 4.342-54; Pedalion 676-86 (ClavisG 2678).

Translations: English: Rudder 904-14; NPNF 14.613ff.; French: Joannou, CPG 262-73.

Literature: H. Crouzel, ‘Théophile d‘Alexandrie’ , DSp 15 (1991) 524-30; R. Delobel and M. Richard, ‘Théophile d’Alexandrie’ , DThC 15 (1946) 523-30; A. de Nicola, ‘Theophilus’ , EEC 831; A. Favale, Teofilo d’Alessandria (345-412) (Turin 1958); H.G. Opitz, ‘Theophilos von Alexandrien’ , RECA 5A (1934) 2149-65;

            Information on the life of Theophilos before his assumption of the office of bishop of Alexandria in 385 rests only on the chronicle of John of Nikiu (about 700) and on the Alexandrian Synaxarion (fifteenth century), which bear legendary elements. Footnote He was already active as a cleric and deacon under his three predecessors, Athanasios, Peter, and Timothy. In the three decades of his tenure of office, the struggle of the Alexandrine patriarchs against the throne of the capital and its bishops for ecclesiastical precedence, which had been produced by c. 3 of Constantinople I of 381 (see above). Under the leadership of Theophilos, the Alexandrian see achieved the leading position of ecclesiastical power in the Christian East. Theophilos already played a decisive role in settling the schism in the ecclesiastical province of Arabia, as well as in the debates on this at the Constantinople synod of 394. Footnote His reputation was tarnished after the fact by his ruthless struggle against Origen and his defenders among Egyptian monks in what is called ‘the first Origenist controversy’ , Footnote as well as by his intrigues against Bishop John Chrysostom of Constantinople, deposing him at the ‘Synod of the Oak’ (403) organized by Theophilos. Footnote

            Among the extensive literary works of Theophilos, which have been preserved in fragments, Footnote there are 5 writings which were divided into 14 canons and included in the Greek canonical collections. They are:

1. An excerpt entitled ‘Προσφώνησις’ in the manuscripts, dealing with the rules of fasting for the case when the vigil fast of the Theophaneia falls on a Sunday (c. 1). Joannou attributes this ‘edict’ to the fragment of the sixth Easter letter of Theophilos in 391. Footnote

2. A ‘memorandum’ for (Bishop ?) Ammon, sent by Theophilos to Lykopolis Footnote with detailed directions for the problems which had emerged there, whose resolution had been requested by the local bishop, Apollon. The question of how to deal with clerics who had been in communion with ‘Arians’ (c. 2) dates the letter at the beginning of Theophilos’ episcopate. Canons 3 to 6 and c. 9 regulate specific cases of named priests. C. 7 regulates ordination practice. C. 8 gives orders on what is to be done with the remnants of the eucharistic bread. Canons 10 to 11 establish an oikonomos for the incomes of the church there, and the care prescribed for widows, the poor, and travelers.

3. A brief passage from a letter to a (Bishop?) Aphyngios on the process of receiving Cathars back into the church (c. 12). Here Theophilos regulates ordination by citing the synod of Nicaea (c. 8); that canon only foresaw the laying on of hands, however.

4. An excerpt from a letter to a Bishop Agathon on the concrete case of an illicitly contracted marriage (c. 13).

5. A letter to a Bishop Menas on the case of a woman excommunicated by priests, whose resolution was obviously disputed by Menas. Theophilos confirmed the decision as legal (c. 14).

Cyril of Alexandria ([380]-444)


Editions: Joannou, CPG 276-84; PG 77.361-5; Alivisatos, κανόνες 432-6; Rhalles-Potles 4.916-22; Pedalion 687-92; Pitra 1.650-3 (ClavisG 5378-9).

Translations: English: Rudder 916-22; NPNF 14.615; French: Joannou, CPG 276-84.

Literature: G. Bardy, ‘Cyrille d’ Alexandrie’ , DHGE 13 (1956) 1169-77; E.R. Hardy, ‘Cyrillus von Alexandrien’ , TRE 8 (1981) 254-60; G. Jouassard, ‘Cyrillus von Alexandrien’ , RAC 3 (1957) 499-515; H. du Manoir, ‘Cyrille d’Alexandrie’, DSp 2 (1953) 2672-83; M. Simonetti, ‘Cyril of Alexandria’, EEC 214-5.

            As successor to his uncle Theophilos, Cyril mounted the episcopal throne of Alexandria on 17 October 412. Footnote After the elevation of Nestorios to the see of Constantinople in 428, two problems occupied his duties as an ecclesiastical political leader: first the struggle against Nestorios’ questioning of title Theotokos for Mary in connection with the ‘Antioch Theology’ and second the status and preeminence of the episcopal see of the imperial residence. Footnote In April 433, Cyril agreed with the compromise formula of John of Antioch, so that ecclesiastical unity was restored in the East. In his later years, Cyril was particularly concerned with opposing extremists among his own adherents as well as among those of the Antiochene school.

            Of the more than 100 surviving letters of Cyril, Footnote two have entered the Greek canonical collections, divided into 5 ‛canons’.

1. The letter to Domnos II (441-9), Footnote successor to John on the throne of Antioch, must have been written at the beginning of Domnos’ s tenure, about 442. Domnos had turned in writing to Cyril and Proklos of Constantinople in the matter of Bishop Peter, who was subject to him, who had been forced to resign under accusation of mishandling church property, but who could continue to bear the title of bishop. Peter himself had sought the aid of Cyril, insisting on his innocence and complaining of the uncanonical procedure of his deposing. Cyril responded with full awareness of his thirty years of experience by turning to the novice and demanding that he carry out a just and proper trial. If Peter was guilty, then he would also have to lose his title (c. 1). Money taken improperly from Peter had to be given back so long as his guilt was not proved. Bishops must, under the judgment of God, be able to dispose of the property of their churches themselves (c. 2). Deposing a bishop could not proceed by means of a(n involuntary) resignation, but rather only through a demonstration of guilt based on the procedure of an ecclesiastical court (c. 3).

2. A letter to the bishops of Libya and the Pentapolis, which had been stimulated by complaints of monks from the Thebais over the ordination of unworthy persons by these bishops. Cyril admonished them once more to examine the way of life before every ordination (c. 4). Catechumens who are guilty of sins were capable of being baptised in articulo mortis (c. 5).

            Joannou in his edition adds three additional pieces that are not contained in most canonical collections. In the Syntagma XIV titulorum, the excerpts from Theophilos and Cyril are entered from the beginning. The Syriac collection of Cod. paris. 62 (ninth century), which goes back to before the sixth century, still misses the two Alexandrians, but this could have been in reaction to the Nestorian conflict. Footnote

Gennadios of Constantinople ([400]-471)


Editions: Joannou, CPG 292-9; F. Diekamp, Analecta Patristica (Orientalia Christiana Analecta 117; Rome 1938) 79-82 (repr. Pitra 2.183-7); Mansi 7.912-6; PG 85.1613-21; Alivisatos, κανόνες 436-40; Pedalion 692-7; Rhalles-Potles 4.368-74 (ClavisG 5977).

Translations: English: Rudder 923-8; NPNF 14.615; French: Joannou, CPG 292-9.

Literature: Diekamp, Analecta Patristica 54-108, 79-82, 96-8; Grumel, Regestes II No. 143; J. Kirchmeyer, ‘Gennade de Constantinople’ , DSp 6 (1967) 204-5; DHGE 20 (1984) 497; S.J. Voicu, ‘Gennadius of Constantinople’ , EEC 342.

            In 458 Gennadios was consecrated the successor to Anatolios as bishop of Constantinople. Footnote He had been a priest in the imperial capital and had already participated in the conflict over Nestorios in 431-432 with a public and virulent rejection Footnote of the 12 anathemas of Cyril. During his episcopate he expressly defended the christological definition of Chalcedon and was influentially involved in the deposition and exile of Timothy Ailuros from Alexandria in 460 and later of Peter the Fuller of Antioch.

            Part of the literary work of Gennadios, which has survived in fragmentary form, Footnote is an ‘Epistula encyclica of Patriarch Gennadios and the Holy Synod assembled by him, to all Metropolitans’. Footnote Together with a subscription list of 81 bishops, including 20 metropolitans, it was included in Greek canonical collections. Footnote From the preface it can be that the synod in question is the so-called Endemusa. Footnote

            The synodal canon sharply opposes the simoniac ordination practice which had developed in Galatia and spread widely as a ‘custom’ . The sinfulness of simony is established with reference to Matthew 10:9 and Acts 8:23 and is sharpened even more by recalling c. 2 of Chalcedon, which is cited verbatim. The threat of punishment is intensified by the threat of anathema.

            A dating of the synod around 458-459 is probable, since several Egyptian bishops are included among the subscribers. They were driven from their sees in 457 by Timothy Ailuros and were residing in Constantinople. The inauguration and ordination of Gennadios would have been the primary purpose of this synod.

            In his Enkomion to St. Gennadios, which Neophytos Enkleistos Footnote wrote in Cyprus in the twelfth century, he included a shortened form of the encyclical letter. Footnote In view of the uncomplicated tradition of the manuscripts before the thirteenth century, Footnote this must have been a later epitome.

            Among the spuria of Gennadios was a letter, addressed to Martyrios of Antioch according to the lemma, on the reception of heretics into the church. Footnote A short version of this writing has been added to the later collected manuscripts of Constantinople I of 381 as ‘c. 7’ (see above).


Cyprian of Carthage († 258)


Sources: Caecilius Cyprianus..., Opera omnia, ed. G. Hartel (Vienna 1871; New York 1965) 2.766-70; L. Bayard, St. Cyprien. Correspondence (Paris 1925; 2nd ed. 1961-2) 2.252-6; Joannou, CPG 303-13; Alivisatos, κανόνες 220-2; Rhalles-Potles 3.2-6; Pedalion 368-9.

Translations: English: R.B. Donna, Saint Cyprian (Letters 1-81, The Fathers of the Church 51; Washington 1964); NPNF 14.518-21; Rudder 483-8; German: Bibliothek der Kirchenväter 2nd ed. 60.323-7 (J. Baer); French: Bayard, St. Cyprien II; Joannou, CPG 303-13.

Literature: G. Bardy, ‘Cyprien’, DSp 2 (1953) 2661-96; G. Bardy, ‘Cyprien de Carthage’, DHGE 13 (1956) 1149-60; M. Bénevot, ‘Cyprian von Karthago’, TRE 8 (1981) 246-54; J.A. Fischer, ‘Das Konzil zu Karthago im Jahre 255’, AHC 14 (1982) 227-40; J.A. Fischer, ‘Das Konzil zu Karthago im Frühjahr 256’, AHC 15 (1983) 1-14; J.A. Fischer, ‘Das Konzil zu Karthago im Spätsommer 256’, AHC 16 (1984) 1-39; V. Saxer, ‘Cyprian of Carthage’, EEC 211-2; A. Stuiber, ‘Cyprianus I’ , RAC 3 (1957) 463-6.

            A Greek translation of the synodal letter of the Carthaginian synod of 255 on the validity of heretical baptism found its way into the Greek canonical collections as a ‘canon of Cyprian of Carthage.’ Footnote This synodal canon promulgated by 32 African bishops, preserved as number 70 among the letters of Cyprian, belongs (together with its confirmation by the Carthaginian synod of early 256 and the African general council attended by 87 bishops of 1 September 256) to the chief documents of the baptismal controversy between Cyprian and Stephan of Rome (254-256). Footnote The decision of 255 opposes the validity of any baptism made by heretics and schismatics without distinction, since the church was not there and since outside the Catholic Church no one may be baptized. A renewed baptism was mandatory if they were seeking entry into the Catholic Church. The synodal proceedings of 1 September 256 Footnote were also received into the Greek canonical literature. Footnote

            The Greek translations were probably all written by the same pen, though one not characterized by its precision. The author and time are unknown. Footnote In the Greek collections, the ‘canon of Kiprian’ first appears in the Syntagma XIV titulorum, Footnote even before the Quinisext Council. This already confirms its being a part of the canonical material of the Eastern Church. In any case, the statement in c. 2 of the Quinisext makes it clear that the decision only represents the African local tradition and only has validity there. Footnote The Quinisext documented the regulation of the problem in question, which had been altered by c. 8 of Nicaea, c. 7 of Constantinople (381), canons 1 and 47 of Basil, and its own c. 95. In connection with this, we note that only a small number of Greek canonical compendia preserve the ‘canon of Kiprian’ at all. Footnote At the same time, c. 2 of the Quinisext carried the canon as the last in a series of canons of the Fathers, thus documenting with historical correctness its late date of addition.

            When, in newer collections and editions, the concept of historicized organization and dogmatic weighting of canons grew dominant, ‘The Synod of Carthage’ (thus in the title) was placed among the local synods, even before the synod of Ankyra. Footnote