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A Hstory Of The Councils Of The Church Volumes 1 to 5 by Charles Joseph Hefele D.D.

SEC. 23. The Synodal Acts

THE first and principal source from which we draw our information respecting the deliberations at Nicæa, must of course be the acts of the Synod. Unhappily we possess only three portions of them—the Creed, the twenty Canons, and the Synodal Decree; and the question arises, whether this is all which ever existed; in other words, whether the separate discussions and debates at Nicæa were committed to writing, and subsequently lost, or whether they neglected to take minutes of the proceedings. Vague rumours of later times have reported that minutes were taken; and it is asserted in the preface to the Arabic edition of the Canons, that the acts of the Nicene Synod fill no fewer than forty volumes, and have been distributed throughout the whole world. To a similar effect is that which the pseudo-Isidore writes, in the preface to his well-known collection. “He had learnt,” he says, “from the Orientals, that the acts of Nicæa were more voluminous than the four Gospels.” At the Synod of Florence, in the fifteenth century, one of the Latin speakers asserted that Athanasius had asked and obtained a genuine copy of the acts of Nicæa from the Roman bishop Julius, because the Oriental copies had been corrupted by the Arians. Some went so far as even to indicate several collections of archives in which the complete acts of Nicæa were preserved. Possevin, for instance, professed to know that a copy was in the archiepiscopal library at Ravenna. As a matter of fact, this library had only a manuscript of the Nicene Creed, which was written in purple and gold letters. At an earlier period, Pope Gregory x. had written to the King and to the Catholicus of the Armenians, to ask for a copy of the acts, which were said to exist in Armenia, but in vain. Others professed to know, or offered as a conjecture, that the documents in request were at Constantinople or Alexandria, or rather in Arabia. In fact, they discovered, in the sixteenth century, in old Arabic MSS., besides the twenty Canons of Nicæa already mentioned, which were well known before, a great number of other ecclesiastical ordinances, constitutions, and canons, in an Arabic translation, which all, it was said, belonged to the Nicene Council We shall demonstrate beyond a doubt, at sec. 41, the later origin of these documents.

The same must be said of an alleged collection of minutes of a disputation held at Nicæa between some heathen philosophers and Christian bishops, which S. Gelasius of Cyzicus, in the fifth century, inserted in his History of the Council of Nicæa, of which we shall presently have something more to say. They are also spurious, and as apocryphal as the pretended minutes of a disputation between Athanasius and Arius. Those who know this history of S. Gelasius only by hearsay, have taken it for an additional and more complete collection of the Synodal Acts of Nicæa, and thereby have strengthened the vague rumour of the existence of such. As a matter of fact, however, there is no evidence of any one ever having seen or used those acts. An appeal cannot be made to Balsamon on this point; for when this celebrated Greek scholar of the twelfth century refers, in his explanation of the first canon of Antioch, to the Nicene acts, he is evidently thinking simply of the Synodal Decree of Nicæa.

We believe we can also show, that from the first no more acts of Nicæa were known than the three documents already named—the Creed, the twenty Canons, and the Synodal Decree. This is indicated by Eusebius, when he says, in his Life of Constantine: “That which was unanimously adopted was taken down in writing, and signed by all.” So early as the year 350, Athanasius could give no other answer to a friend who wished to learn what passed at Nicæa. If a complete copy of the acts had existed, Athanasius would certainly have known of it, and would have directed his friend to that Baronius maintains that Athanasius himself speaks of the complete acts of Nicæa, in his work de Synodis Arim. et Seleuc. c. 6; but the Cardinal was led into error by an incorrect Latin translation of the passage which he quoted, for the Greek text does not speak of acts properly so called: it says only, that “if we wish to know the true faith, there is no need for another council, seeing we possess τὰ τῶν πατέρων (that is to say, the decisions of the Nicene Fathers), who did not neglect this point, but set forth the faith so well, that all who sincerely follow their γράμματα may there find the scriptural doctrine concerning Christ.” To see in these words a proof of the existence of detailed acts of the Council, is certainly to give much too wide a meaning to the text, as Valesius has remarked, and Pagi also: it is most likely that Athanasius, when writing this passage, had in view only the Creed, the Canons, and the Synodal Decree of Nicæa.

In default of these acts of the Council of Nicæa, which do not exist, and which never have existed, besides the three authentic documents already quoted, we may consider as historical the accounts of the ancient Church historians, Eusebius, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, and Rufinus, as well as some writings and sayings of S. Athanasius’, especially in his book de Decretis synodi Nicænœ, and in his Epistola ad Afros. A less ancient work is that by Gelasius Bishop of Cyzicus in the Propontis, who wrote in Greek, in the fifth century, a History of the Council of Nicæa, which is to be found in all the larger collections of the councils. In the composition of this work Gelasius made use of the works mentioned above, and had also other ancient documents at his disposal, which had been carefully collected by his predecessor, Bishop Dalmasius. We shall see hereafter that he admitted things which were improbable, and evidently false. Gelasius, however, has in Dorscheus a defender against the too violent attacks to which he has been subjected.

The work of Gelasius is divided into three books, the first of which is only the life of the Emperor Constantine the Great, and contains absolutely nothing relative to the Council of Nicæa. The whole of the second book, on the contrary, is devoted to the history of that assembly. The third is wholly composed of three letters of Constantine’s; but we may presume that it was formerly larger, and contained particularly the account of Constantine’s baptism, which Photius borrowed from Gelasius, but which was subsequently mutilated, in order that the honour of having been the place where the great Emperor received baptism might not be taken from the city of Rome. However, no sort of proof is given in support of this suspicion.

An anonymous Copt undertook a similar work to that of Gelasius. This writer probably lived a short time after the Council of Nicæa, and composed a sort of history of this Synod (Liber synodicus de concilio Nicæno) in the Coptic language. Four fragments of this work, which was lost, were discovered more than fifty years ago by the learned archæologist George Zoëga (Danish consul at Rome, a convert to Roman Catholicism, and interpreter at the Propaganda, who died in 1809), and were published in the Catalogus codicum Copticorum manuscriptorum musei Borgiani. Unfortunately the proof sheets of this work were almost all lost, in consequence of the death of Zoëga and of his Mæcenas happening immediately after its completion, and from a lawsuit entered into by the heirs. The learned French Benedictine Cardinal Pitra has just published these four fragments afresh, with a Latin version and notes, in the first volume of his Spicilegium Solesmense (Paris 1852, p. 509 sqq.).

1. The first and largest of these fragments contains the Nicene Creed, with the anathemas pronounced against Arius. Only the first lines are wanting. Then come some additions by the author of the Liber Synodicus. The first runs thus: “This is the faith proclaimed by our” fathers against Arius and other heretics, especially against Sabellius, Photinus (? who lived long after Nicæa), and Paul of Samosata; and we anathematize those adversaries of the Catholic Church who were rejected by the 318 bishops of Nicæa. The names of the bishops are carefully preserved, that is to say, of the Eastern ones; for those of the West had no cause for anxiety on account of this heresy.”

This addition had been for a long time in Hardouin’s collection in Latin, and in Mansi’s, and it was generally attributed to Dionysius the Less. The second addition is a more detailed exposition of the Catholic faith, also proceeding from the pen of the author of the Liber Synodicus. It says: “We adore not only one divine person, like Sabellius; but we acknowledge, according to the confession of the Council of Nicæa, one Father, one Son, one Holy Ghost. We anathematize those who, like Paul of Samosata, teach that the Son of God did not exist before the Virgin Mary—not before He was born in the flesh, etc. We anathematize also those who hold that there are three Gods, and those who deny that the Logos is the Son of God (Marcellus of Ancyra and Photinus of Sirmium).” The author puts next to these two additions a document which has been handed down to us, the first half of the list of bishops present, at Nicæa, containing one hundred and sixty-one names.

2. The second and shortest of the fragments contains the second part of the Nicene Creed, not quite accurately repeated by one or more later believers. To the words Spiritus sanctus are already added Qui procedit a Patre, an interpolation which could not have been added till after the second Œcumenical Council. Then comes a further Expositio fidei, which endeavours to work out the consequences of the Nicene Creed, and is especially directed against Sabellius and Photinus.

3. The third fragment gives us next the end of this Expositio fidei. It is followed by two additions, attributed to an Archbishop Rufinus, otherwise unknown. The first expresses the joy which the orthodox doctrine gives to the author; the second tells us that each time the bishops rose at Nicæa they were three hundred and nineteen in number, and that they were only three hundred and eighteen when they took their seats. They could never discover who the three hundred and nineteenth was, for he was sometimes like one, sometimes like another; at last it was manifest that it was the Holy Spirit. Rufinus then writes a certain number of Sententiæ synodi sanctæ; but some of these judgments are on points which were not brought before the Nicene Council, especially on man’s free-will. They are undoubtedly somewhat similar to the Expositio fidei orthodoxæ, which is contained in the second and third fragments.

4. The fourth fragment contains the Coptic translation of the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth canons of Nicæa. It is more or less according to the original Greek text, without the principal meaning ever being altered.

These four Coptic fragments certainly possess interest to the historian of the Nicene Council, who is anxious to know all the sources of information; but they have not so much value and importance as Zoëga and Pitra have attributed to them. We shall again speak of each of these fragments in their proper place in the history of the Council of Nicæa.

The anonymous author of the book entitled τὰ πραχθέντα ἐν Νικαίᾳ, several manuscripts of which are in existence, pretends to be a contemporary of the Nicene Council. This small treatise, published by Combefis, and of which Photius has given extracts, contains palpable errors,—for instance, that the Nicene Council lasted three years and six months. It is generally of small importance.

We may say the same of the λόγος of a priest of Cæsarea, named Gregory, upon the three hundred and eighteen Fathers of Nicæa. Combefis, who has also published this document, supposes that the author probably lived in the seventh century. He, however, calls the book opus egregium; but, with the exception of some biographical accounts of one of the bishops present at Nicæa, Gregory gives only well-known details, and improbable accounts of miracles. Although the value of these latter small treatises is not great, Hardouin and Mansi, coming after Combefis, ought to have inserted them in their collections of the Councils. These Collections contain all the other known documents relative to the history of the Council of Nicæa, and they form the basis of the account which we have to give of it. We shall hereafter speak of the numerous canons attributed to the Council of Nicæa, and of another pretended creed directed against Paul of Samosata.

SEC. 24. The Convocation by the Emperor

The letters of invitation sent by the Emperor Constantine the Great to the bishops, to ask them to repair to Nicæa, do not unfortunately now exist, and we must content ourselves with what Eusebius says on the subject. “By very respectful letters (τιμητικοῖς γράμμασι) the Emperor begged the bishops of every country (ἁπανταχόθεν) to go as quickly as possible to Nicæa.” Rufinus says that the Emperor also asked Arius. It is not known whether invitations were sent to foreign bishops (not belonging to the Roman Empire). Eusebius says that the Emperor assembled an œcumenical council (σύνοδον οἰκουμενικὴν); but it is not at all easy to determine the value of the word οἰκουμένη. However it may be, Eusebius and Gelasius affirm that some foreign bishops took part in this great Council. The former says: “A bishop even from Persia was present at the Council, and Scythia itself was represented among the bishops.” Gelasius does not mention a Scythian bishop—that is to say, a Goth; but he begins his work with these words: “Not only bishops from every province of the Roman Empire were present at the Council, but even some from Persia.” The signatures of the members of the Council which still remain (it is true they are not of incontestable authenticity) agree with Eusebius and Gelasius; for we there find one John Bishop of Persia, and Theophilus the Gothic metropolitan. Socrates also mentions the latter, who, he says, was the predecessor of Ulphilas.

It is impossible to determine whether the Emperor Constantine acted only in his own name, or in concert with the Pope, in assembling the bishops. Eusebius and the most ancient documents speak only of the Emperor’s part in the Council, without, however, a positive denial of the participation of the Pope. The sixth Œcumenical Synod, which took place in 680, says, on the contrary: “Arius arose as an adversary to the doctrine of the Trinity, and Constantine and Silvester immediately assembled (συνέλεγον) the great Synod at Nicæa.” The Pontifical of Damasus affirms the same fact. From that time, the opinion that the Emperor and the Pope had agreed together to assemble the Council became more and more general; and with whatever vivacity certain Protestant authors may have arrayed themselves against this supposition, it certainly seems probable that in such an important measure the Emperor would have thought it necessary not to act without the consent and co-operation of him who was recognised as the first bishop of Christendom. Let us add that Rufinus had already expressly said that the Emperor assembled the Synod ex sacerdotum sententia. If he consulted several bishops upon the measure which he had in view, he certainly would have taken the advice of the first among them; and the part of the latter in the convocation of the Council must certainly have been more considerable than that of the other bishops, or the sixth Council would doubtless have expressed itself in another way. The testimony of this Council is here of real importance. If it had been held in the West, or even at Rome, what it says might appear suspicious to some critics; but it took place at Constantinople, at a period when the bishops of this city were beginning to be rivals to those of Rome. The Greeks formed greatly the majority of the members of the Council, and consequently their testimony in favour of Rome, more especially in favour of the co-operation of Silvester, is very important.

In order to make the journey to Nicæa possible to some, and at least easier to others, the Emperor placed the public conveyances and the beasts of burden belonging to the Government at the disposal of the bishops; and while the Council lasted, he provided abundantly for the entertainment of its members. The choice of the town of Nicæa was also very favourable for a large concourse of bishops. Situated upon one of the rivers flowing into the Propontis on the borders of Lake Ascanius, Nicæa was very easy to reach by water for the bishops of almost all the provinces, especially for those of Asia, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Greece, and Thrace: it was a much frequented commercial city, in relation with every country, not far distant from the imperial residence in Nicomedia, and after the latter the most considerable city in Bithynia. After the lapse of so many centuries, and under the oppressive Turkish rule, it is so fallen from its ancient splendour, that under the name of Isnik it numbers now scarcely 1500 inhabitants. This is fewer than the number of guests it contained at the time when our Synod was held.

SEC. 25. Number of the Members of the Council

Eusebius says that there were more than two hundred and fifty bishops present at the Council of Nicæa; and he adds that the multitude of priests, deacons, and acolytes who accompanied them was almost innumerable. Some later Arabian documents speak of more than two thousand bishops; but it is probable that the inferior orders of the clergy were reckoned with them, and perhaps all together they reached that number. Besides, there must have been more bishops at Nicæa than Eusebius mentions; for S. Athanasius, who was an eye-witness, and a member of the Council, often speaks of about three hundred bishops, and in his letter ad Afros he speaks expressly of three hundred and eighteen. This number was almost universally adopted; and Socrates himself, who always follows Eusebius in his details respecting the commencement of the Nicene Synod, and copies him often word for word, nevertheless adopts the number three hundred and eighteen; also Theodoret, Epiphanius, Ambrose, Gelasius, Rufinus, the Council of Chalcedon, and Sozomen, who speaks of about three hundred bishops.1 In fact, the number of bishops present varied according to the months: there were perhaps fewer at the beginning; so that we may reconcile the testimonies of the two eye-witnesses Eusebius and Athanasius, if we suppose that they did not make their lists at the same time. The number of three hundred and eighteen being admitted, it is natural that we should compare it with the three hundred and eighteen servants of Abraham.1 S. Ambrose,1 and several others after him, notice this parallel. Most of these three hundred and eighteen bishops were Greeks: among the Latins we find only Hosius of Cordova, Cecilian of Carthage, Marcus of Calabria, Nicasius of Dijon, Domnus of Stridon (in Pannonia), the two Roman priests Victor and Vincent, representatives of Pope Silvester.1 With Hosius of Cordova, the most eminent members of the Council were those of the apostolic sees, Alexander of Alexandria, Eustathius of Antioch, and Macarius of Jerusalem: then came the two bishops of the same name, Eusebius of Nicomedia and of Cæsarea; Patamon of Heraclea in Egypt, who had lost one eye in the last persecution; Paphnutius of the higher Thebaïs, and Spiridion of Cyprus, both celebrated for their miracles. Paphnutius had one eye bored out and his legs cut off during Maximin’s persecution. Another bishop, Paul of Neocæsarea, had had his hands burnt by the red-hot irons that Licinius had commanded to be applied to them. James of Nisibis was honoured as a worker of miracles: it was said that he had raised the dead. There was also seen among the foremost, Leontius of Cæsarea, a man endowed with the gift of prophecy, who during the journey to Nicæa had baptized the father of S. Gregory of Nazianzus; besides Hypatius of Gangra, and S. Nicolas of Myra in Asia Minor, so well known for his generosity, that Eusebius could say with truth: “Some were celebrated for their wisdom, others for the austerity of their lives and for their patience, others for their modesty; some were very old, some full of the freshness of youth.” Theodoret adds: “Many shone from apostolic gifts, and many bore in their bodies the marks of Christ.”

It is no wonder if, considering their circumstances, there were some unlearned among so large a number of bishops; but Bishop Sabinus of Heraclea in Thrace, a partisan of Macedonius, was quite wrong when, shortly afterwards, he laughed at the general ignorance of the members of the Council of Nicæa. After having given vent to his hatred as a heretic, he did not hesitate to copy one of these Nicene Fathers, Eusebius, the father of ecclesiastical history. Socrates has shown that the same Sabinus fell into other contradictions.

Among the auxiliaries of the bishops of Nicæa, he who became by far the most celebrated was Athanasius, then a young deacon of Alexandria, who accompanied his bishop Alexander. He was born about the year 300, at Alexandria, and had been consecrated to the service of the Church in a very peculiar manner. Rufinus relates the fact in the following manner:—According, he says, to what he heard at Alexandria from those who knew Athanasius, Alexander Bishop of Alexandria one day saw on the sea-shore several children imitating the ceremonies of the Church. They did not do it at all as children generally do in play; but the bishop remarked that they followed every ecclesiastical rite very exactly, and especially that Athanasius, who represented the bishop, baptized several catechumens from among the children. Alexander questioned them, and what he heard convinced him, and also his clergy, that Athanasius had really administered the sacrament of baptism to his little playfellows, and that it only required the confirmation of the Church. Probably the young officiant had not intended to play, but to do well quod fieri vult ecclesia. According to the bishop’s advice, all these children were consecrated to the work of the ministry; and Alexander soon took the young Athanasius to be with him, ordained him deacon in 319, and placed so much confidence in him that he raised him above all the other clergy, and made him an archdeacon, although scarcely twenty years of age. It is probable that Athanasius took part in the Arian controversy from the commencement; at least Eusebius of Nicomedia, or other adversaries of his, attribute Alexander’s persevering refusal of reconciliation with Arius to his influence. “At Nicæa,” says Socrates, “Athanasius was the most vehement opponent of the Arians.” He was at the same time the man of highest intelligence in the Synod, and an able logician. This aptness for controversy was particularly valuable in the conflict with such sophists as the Arians. The bishops had even brought learned laymen and accomplished logicians with them, who, like Athanasius and others who were present, not being bishops, took a very active part in the discussions which preceded the deliberations and decisions properly so called.

SEC. 26. Date of the Synod

All the ancients agree in saying that the Synod took place under the consulship of Anicius Paulinus and Anicius Julianus, 636 years after Alexander the Great, consequently 325 A.D. They are not equally unanimous about the day and the month of the opening of the Council. Socrates says: “We find from the minutes that the time of the Synod (probably of its commencement) was the 20th May.” The acts of the fourth Œcumenical Council give another date. In the second session of that assembly, Bishop Eunomius of Nicomedia read the Nicene Creed; and at the commencement of his copy were these words: “Under the consulship of Paulinus and Julianus, on the 9th of the Greek month Dasius, that is, the 13th before the Kalends of July, at Nicæa, the metropolis of Bithynia.” The Chronicle of Alexandria gives the same date, xiii Cal. Jul., and consequently indicates the 19th June. In order to reconcile the data of Socrates with those of the Council of Chalcedon, we may perhaps say that the Council opened on the 20th May, and that the Creed was drawn up on the 19th June. But Athanasius expressly says that the Fathers of Nicæa put no date at the commencement of their Creed; and he blames the Arian bishops Ursacius and Valens, because their Creed was preceded by a fixed date. Consequently the words placed at the top of the copy of the Nicene Creed read at Chalcedon must have proceeded, not from the Synod of Nicæa, but from some later copyist. But neither can we establish, as Tillemont and some other historians have tried to do, that this date signifies, not the day when the Creed was drawn up, but that of the opening of the Synod. Even if the Synod had affixed no date to its Creed, we may well suppose that this date was placed there at a later period, and continue to believe that the Council opened on the 20th of May 325, and that it published the Creed on the 19th of June. Baronius found a third chronological datum in an ancient manuscript, attributed to Atticus Bishop of Constantinople, according to which the Synod lasted from the 14th June to the 25th August. But we may reconcile this date with the other two, on the theory that the Synod was called together for the 20th of May. The Emperor being absent at that time, they held only less solemn discussions and deliberations until the 14th June, when the session properly so called began, after the arrival of the Emperor; that on the 19th the Creed was drawn up; and that the other business, such as the Easter controversy, was then continued, and the session terminated on the 25th August.

Valesius and Tillemont think otherwise. The former rejects the date given by Socrates, and thinks that the Council could not have assembled so early as the 20th May 325. He calculates that, after the victory of Constantine over Licinius and the Emperor’s return, the mission of Hosius to Alexandria, his sojourn there, then the preparations for the Synod, and finally the journeys of the bishops to Nicæa, must have taken a longer time; and he regards it as more probable that the Synod commenced on the 19th June. But Valesius erroneously supposes that the great battle of Chalcedon (or Chrysopolis), in which Constantine defeated Licinius, took place on the 7th September 324; whilst we have more foundation for believing that it was a year previously, in 323. But if we admit that Constantine conquered Licinius in September 324, and that the next day, as Valesius says, he reached Nicomedia, there would remain from that day, up to the 20th May 325, more than eight months; and this would be long enough for so energetic and powerful a prince as Constantine was, to take many measures, especially as the re-establishment of peace in religion appeared to him a matter of extreme importance. Besides, in giving the 19th June as the commencement of the Synod, Valesius gains very little time: a month longer would not be sufficient to overcome all the difficulties which he enumerates.

Tillemont raises another objection against the chronology which we adopt. According to him, Constantine did not arrive at Nicæa till the 3d July, whilst we fix the 14th June for the opening of the solemn sessions of the Council in the presence of the Emperor. Tillemont appeals to Socrates, who relates that, “after the termination of the feast celebrated in honour of his victory over Licinius, he left for Nicæa.” This feast, according to Tillemont, could have been held only on the anniversary of the victory gained near Adrianopolis the 3d July 323. But first, it is difficult to suppose that two special feasts should be celebrated for two victories so near together as those of Adrianopolis and of Chalcedon: then Socrates does not speak of an anniversary feast, but of a triumphal feast, properly so called; and if we examine what this historian relates of the last attempts of Licinius at insurrection, we are authorized in believing that Constantine celebrated no great triumphal feast till after he had repressed all these attempts, and even after the death of Licinius. Eusebius expressly says that this feast did not take place till after the death of Licinius. We need not examine whether the reports spread abroad respecting the last insurrections of Licinius were true or not; for if Constantine caused false reports to be spread about the projects of Licinius, it is natural that he should wish to confirm them afterwards by giving a public feast. It is true we do not know the exact date of the execution of Licinius; but it was probably towards the middle of 324, according to others not until 325: and therefore the triumphal feast of which we are speaking could easily have been celebrated a short time before the Council of Nicæa.

SEC. 27. The Disputations

In the interval which separated the opening of the Synod (20th May) and the first solemn session in the presence of the Emperor, the conferences and discussions took place between the Catholics, the Arians, and the philosophers, which are mentioned by Socrates and Sozomen. Socrates says expressly, that these conferences preceded the solemn opening of the Synod by the Emperor; and by comparing his account with those of Sozomen and Gelasius, we see that Arius was invited by the bishops to take part in them, and that he had full liberty there to explain his doctrine. We find, too, that many of his friends spoke in his favour, and that he reckoned as many as seventeen bishops among his partisans, particularly Eusebius of Nicomedia, Theognis of Nicæa, Maris of Chalcedon, Theodorus of Heraclea in Thrace, Menophantus of Ephesus, Patrophilus of Scythopolis, Narcissus of Cilicia, Theonas of Marmarica, Secundus of Ptolemais in Egypt, and up to a certain point Eusebius of Cæsarea. Besides, a good many priests, and even laymen, took his side; for, as Socrates says, many learned laymen and distinguished dialecticians were present at these conferences, and took part, some for Arius, others against him. On the orthodox side it was chiefly Athanasius and the priest Alexander of Constantinople, vested with power by his old bishop, who did battle against, the Arians.

Sozomen also mentions these conferences, in which some wished to reject every innovation in matters of faith; and others maintained that the opinion of the ancients must not be admitted without examination. He adds, that the most able dialecticians made themselves renowned, and were remarked even by the Emperor; and that from this time Athanasius was considered to be the most distinguished member of the assembly, though only a deacon. Theodoret praises Athanasius equally, who, he says, “won the approbation of all the orthodox at the Council of Nicæa by his defence of apostolic doctrine, and drew upon himself the hatred of the enemies of the truth.” Rufinus says: “By his controversial ability (suggestiones) he discovered the subterfuges and sophisms of the heretics (dolos ac fallacias).”

Rufinus, and Sozomen, who generally follows him, mention some heathen philosophers as being present at the Synod and at these conferences, either in order to become better acquainted with Christianity, or to try their controversial skill against it. What Gelasius relates is not very probable: he affirms that Arius took these heathen philosophers with him, that they might help him in his disputations. He gives an account, at a disproportionate length, of the pretended debates between the heathen philosopher Phædo, holding Arian opinions, and Eustathius Bishop of Antioch, Hosius of Cordova, Eusebius of Cæsarea, etc., the result of which, he says, was the conversion of the philosopher. According to Valesius, this account is entirely false, and what Rufinus relates about the philosophers is, to say the least, singular. One of these philosophers, he says, could not be overcome by the most able among the Christians, and always escaped like a serpent from every proof which was given him of the error of his doctrines. At last a confessor, an unlearned and ignorant man rose and said: “In the name of Jesus Christ, listen, O philosopher, to the truth. There is one God, who created heaven and earth, who formed man of clay, and gave him a soul. He created everything visible and invisible by His Word: this Word, whom we call the Son, took pity on human sinfulness, was born of a virgin, delivered us from death by His sufferings and death, and gave us the assurance of eternal life by His resurrection. We expect Him now to be the Judge of all our actions. Dost thou believe what I say, O philosopher?” The philosopher, wonderfully moved, could no longer hold out, and said: “Yes; surely it is so, and nothing is true but what thou hast said.” The old man replied: “If thou believest thus, rise, follow me to the Lord, and receive the seal of His faith.” The philosopher turned towards his disciples and hearers, exhorted them to embrace the faith of Christ, followed the old man, and became a member of the holy Church. Sozomen and Gelasius repeat the account of Rufinus. Socrates also relates the principal part of the story; but he does not say that the philosophers who took part in these conferences were heathens: his words seem rather to refer to Christian controversialists who took the side of Arius.

SEC. 28. Arrival of the Emperor—Solemn Opening of the Council—Presidency

During these preparatory conferences the Emperor arrived; and if Socrates is correct, the Synod was solemnly opened the very day following the discussion with the philosopher. From the account given by Sozomen at the beginning of the nineteenth chapter of his first book, one might conclude that the solemn session in the presence of the Emperor, which we are now to describe, did not take place till after all the discussions with Arius; but Sozomen, who certainly made use of the narrative of Eusebius, tells us that the Synod was inaugurated by this solemnity (ἡμέρας ὁρισθείσης τῇ συνόδῳ). Eusebius thus describes it: “When all the bishops had entered the place appointed for their session, the sides of which were filled by a great number of seats, each took his place, and awaited in silence the arrival of the Emperor. Ere long the functionaries of the court entered, but only those who were Christians; and when the arrival of the Emperor was announced, all those present rose. He appeared as a messenger from God, covered with gold and precious stones,—a magnificent figure, tall and slender, and full of grace and majesty. To this majesty he united great modesty and devout humility, so that he kept his eyes reverently bent upon the ground, and only sat down upon the golden seat which had been prepared for him when the bishops gave him the signal to do so. As soon as he had taken his place, all the bishops took theirs. Then the bishop who was immediately to the right of the Emperor arose, and addressed a short speech to him, in which he thanked God for having given them such an Emperor. After he had resumed his seat, the Emperor, in a gentle voice, spoke thus: ‘My greatest desire, my friends, was to see you assembled. I thank God, that to all the favours He has granted me He has added the greatest, that of seeing you all here, animated with the same feeling. May no mischievous enemy come now to deprive us of this happiness! And after we have conquered the enemies of Christ, may not the evil spirit attempt to injure the law of God by new blasphemies! I consider disunion in the Church an evil more terrible and more grievous than any kind of war. After having, by the grace of God, conquered my enemies, I thought I had no more to do than to thank Him joyfully with those whom I had delivered. When I was told of the division that had arisen amongst you, I was convinced that I ought not to attend to any business before this; and it is from the desire of being useful to you that I have convened you without delay. But I shall not believe my end to be attained until I have united the minds of all—until I see that peace and that union reign amongst you which you are commissioned, as the anointed of the Lord, to preach to others. Do not hesitate, my friends—do not hesitate, ye servants of God; banish all causes of dissension—solve controversial difficulties according to the laws of peace, so as to accomplish the work which shall be most agreeable to God, and cause me, your fellow-servant, an infinite joy.’ ”

Constantine spoke in Latin. An assistant placed at his side translated his discourse into Greek, and then the Emperor gave place to the presidents of the Council (παρεδίδου τὸν λόγον τοῖς τῆς συνόδου προέδροις). The Emperor had opened the Council as a kind of honorary president, and he continued to be present at it; but the direction of the theological discussions, properly speaking, was naturally the business of the ecclesiastical leaders of the Council, and was left to them. We thus arrive at the question of the presidency; but as we have already spoken of it in detail in the Introduction, we may be satisfied with recalling here the conclusion then arrived at, that Hosius of Cordova presided at the assembly as Papal legate, in union with the two Roman priests Vito (Vitus) and Vincentius.

SEC. 29. Mutual Complaints of the Bishops

When the Emperor had yielded the direction of the assembly to the presidents (προέδροις), Eusebius tells us that the disputations and mutual complaints began. By this he means that the Arians were accused of heresy by the orthodox, and these in their turn by the Arians. Other authors add, that for several days divers memorials were sent to the Emperor by the bishops accusing one another, and by the laity criminating the bishops; that on the day fixed to decide these quarrels the Emperor brought to the Synod all the denunciations which had been sent to him, sealed with his signet, and, with the assurance that he had not read them, threw them into the fire. He then said to the bishops: “You cannot be judged by men, and God alone can decide your controversies.” According to Socrates, he added: “Christ has commanded man to forgive his brother, if he would obtain pardon for himself.”

It is possible that all this account, drawn from more recent sources, may be only an amplification of what Eusebius relates of the complaints and grievances which were brought forward; and this suggestion has the greater probability when we consider that Eusebius, who tries on every occasion to extol his hero the Emperor, would certainly not have passed this act over in silence. However, it is impossible absolutely to throw aside the account by Rufinus and his successors, which contains nothing intrinsically improbable.

SEC. 30. Manner of Deliberation

We possess but few sources of information respecting the manner of deliberation which was adopted, from the solemn opening of the Synod by the Emperor up to the promulgation of the creed. Eusebius, after having mentioned the grievances brought by the bishops against one another, merely continues thus: “Grievances were numerous on both sides, and there were at the beginning many controversies, accusations, and replies. The Emperor listened to both sides with much patience and attention. He assisted both sides, and pacified those who were too violent. He spoke in Greek, in an extremely gentle voice, answered some with arguments, praised others who had spoken well, and led all to a mutual understanding; so that, in spite of their previous differences, they ended by being of the same mind.”

Socrates describes the discussions almost in the same words as Eusebius, so also Sozomen; and we may conclude from their testimony, and still more from the account by Rufinus, that the discussions between the Arians and the orthodox, which had commenced before the first solemn session of the Council, continued in the Emperor’s presence. As to the time during which these debates lasted, Gelasius tells us that “the Emperor sat with the bishops for several months;” but it is evident that he confuses the discussions which took place before the solemn opening of the Synod by the Emperor with the deliberations which followed (he speaks of the philosophers for the first time after the opening), and he imagines that the Emperor was present not only at the later, but also at the preliminary deliberations.

Rufinus maintains further, “that they then held daily sessions, and that they would not decide lightly or prematurely upon so grave a subject; that Arius was often called into the midst of the assembly; that they seriously discussed his opinions; that they attentively considered what there was to oppose to them; that the majority rejected the impious system of Arius; and that the confessors especially declared themselves energetically against the heresy.” It is nowhere said whether those who were not bishops were admitted to these later debates and disputations, as they had been to the first Sozomen speaks only of the bishops who had discussed; Eusebius says nothing of such a limitation; and it is probable that men like Athanasius, and the priest Alexander of Constantinople, might speak again upon so important a question. Amongst the bishops, Marcellus of Ancyra signalized himself as an opponent of the Arians.

The analogy which we may suppose to have existed between the Nicene and later Synods has caused the admission that at Nicæa the members of the Synod were divided into commissions or private congregations, which prepared the materials for the general sessions. But we find no trace of this fact in the ancient documents; and the accounts of Eusebius and others leave us rather to suppose that there were no such commissions, but only general sessions of the bishops.

Our information respecting these sessions is unfortunately very slight and defective; and except the short intimations that we have already seen in Eusebius and his successors, few details have reached us. Gelasius himself, elsewhere so prolix, says no more than Eusebius and Rufinus; for what he relates of the discussions of the heathen philosophers can only have occurred at the commencement of the Council, if it happened at all. We should have been very much indebted to him, if, instead of the long, dry, and improbable discussions of the heathen philosopher Phædo, he had transmitted to us something of the discussions of the theologians.

SEC. 31. Paphnutius and Spiridion

Some further details furnished by Rufinus give no more information respecting the doctrinal discussions with the Arians, but have reference to two remarkable bishops who were present at Nicæa. The first was Paphnutius from Egypt, who, he says, was deprived of his right eye, and had his knees cut off, during the persecution by the Emperor Maximin. He had worked several miracles, cast out evil spirits, healed the sick by his prayers, restored sight to the blind, and the power of their limbs to the lame. The Emperor Constantine esteemed him so highly, that he frequently invited him to go to his palace, and devoutly kissed the socket of the eye which he had lost.

The second was Spiridion of Cyprus, who from a shepherd became a bishop, continued to tend his flocks, and made himself famous by his miracles and prophecies. One night, when robbers entered his fold, they were detained there by invisible bonds, and not till the next morning did the aged shepherd perceive the men who had been miraculously made prisoners. He set them free by his prayer, and presented them with a ram, in order that they might not have had useless trouble. Another time he compelled his daughter Irene, after she was buried, to speak to him from her tomb, and tell him where she had placed a deposit which a merchant had entrusted to him; and she gave, in fact, the required information. Such is the account given by Rufinus, who is followed by Socrates and Gelasius.

SEC. 32. Debates vrith the Eusebians. The ὁμοούσιος

Athanasius gives us some details respecting the intervention of a third party, known under the name of Eusebians. It was composed, at the time of the Council, of about twelve or fifteen bishops, the chief of whom was Eusebius of Nicomedia, who gave them his name. Theodoret says of them: “They attempted to conceal their impiety, and only secretly favoured the blasphemies of Arius.” Eusebius of Cæsarea often sided with them, although he was rather more adverse to Arianism than the Eusebians, and stood nearer to the orthodox doctrine. If we wished to employ expressions in use in reference to modern parties and assemblies, we should say: At Nicæa the orthodox bishops formed, with Athanasius and his friends, the right; Arius and some of his friends the left; whilst the left centre was occupied by the Eusebians, and the right centre by Eusebius of Cæsarea.

Athanasius tells us that “the Eusebian intermediate party was very plainly invited by the Nicene Fathers to explain their opinions, and to give religious reasons for them. But hardly had they commenced speaking when the bishops were convinced of their heterodoxy,” so strongly was their tendency to Arianism manifested. Theodoret probably alludes to this fact when he quotes from a pamphlet by Eustathius of Antioch, that the Arians, who were expressly called Eusebians in the eighth chapter, laid before the Synod a Creed compiled by Eusebius, but that this Creed was rejected with great marks of dissatisfaction, as tainted with heresy. We know that Valesius, in his notes upon Theodoret, advances the opinion that the Creed in question was compiled, not by Eusebius of Nicomedia, but by Eusebius of Cæsarea; but we shall see further on, that the historian submitted to the Council quite another Creed, which has been highly commended, and which would certainly neither have merited nor provoked such strong dissatisfaction from the bishops. Moreover, S. Ambrose says expressly, that Eusebius of Nicomedia submitted a heterodox writing to the Council.

When the Eusebians saw that the Synod were determined to reject the principal expressions invented by the Arians,—viz.: the Son is ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων, a κτίσμα and ποίημα; that He is susceptible of change (τρεπτῆς φύσεως) and ἦν ὅτε οὐκ ἦν,—they tried to bring it about that in their place biblical expressions should be selected to define the doctrine of the Church, in the hope that these expressions would be sufficiently vague and general to allow another interpretation which might be favourable to their doctrine. Athanasius, who relates this fact, does not say precisely that the Eusebians proposed these biblical expressions, but that they would have rejoiced in them. However, if we consider their habitual conduct, and their continual and oft-repeated complaint that an unbiblical expression had bee selected at Nicæa, we can hardly be wrong in supposing that they actually suggested the use of expressions drawn from the Bible. The Fathers showed themselves disposed to accept such, and to say, “The Logos is from God, ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ” (instead of “out of nothing,” as the Arians wanted it); the Eusebians consulted together, and said, “We are willing to accept the formula; for all is from God, we and all creatures, as says the apostle.” When the bishops found out this falseness and ambiguity, they wished to explain more exactly the words “of God,” and added (in their Creed), “The Son is of the substance of God (ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας τοῦ Θεοῦ);” and they could no longer pretend to misunderstand this. The bishops went on, and said further, “The Logos is the virtue of God, the eternal image of the Father, perfectly like to the Father, immutable and true God;” but they remarked that the Eusebians exchanged signs amongst themselves, to notify that they agreed with these expressions: for in the Bible man is also called an image of God, the “image and glory of God;” even the locusts are called a “power of God.” The term immutable applies alike to man; for S. Paul says, “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ;” and even the attribute of eternal may be applied to man, as we see it in S. Paul.

In order to exclude this dishonest exegesis, and to express themselves more clearly (λευκότερον), the bishops chose, instead of the biblical expressions, the term ὁμοούσιος (that is, of the same substance, or consubstantial). By this expression they meant, “that the Son is not only like to the Father, but that, as His image, He is the same as the Father; that He is of the Father; and that the resemblance of the Son to the Father, and His immutability, are different from ours: for in us they are something acquired, and arise from our fulfilling the divine commands. Moreover, they wished to indicate by this, that His generation is different from that of human nature; that the Son is not only like to the Father, but inseparable from the substance of the Father; that He and the Father are one and the same, as the Son Himself said: “The Logos is always in the Father, and the Father always in the Logos, as the sun and its splendour are inseparable.”

Athanasius speaks also of the internal divisions of the Eusebians, and of the discussions which arose in the midst of them, in consequence of which some completely kept silence, thereby confessing that they were ashamed of their errors. As they began more clearly to foresee that Arianism would be condemned, the Eusebians grew colder in its defence; and the fear of losing their offices and dignities so influenced them, that they ended by nearly all subscribing to the ὁμοούσιος and the entire Nicene formula. Eusebius of Nicomedia, in particular, proved himself very feeble and destitute of character; so much so, that even the Emperor, before and afterwards his protector, publicly reproached him for his cowardice, in a letter which we still possess, and related how Eusebius had personally and through others entreated him to forgive him, and allow him to remain in his office.

SEC. 33. The Creed of Eusebius of Cæsarea

Eusebius of Cæsarea made a last attempt to weaken the strong expression ὁμοούσιος, and the force of the stringently defined doctrine of the Logos. He laid before the Council the sketch of a Creed compiled by himself, which was read in the presence of the Emperor, and proposed for adoption by the assembly. After a short introduction, the Creed was conceived in these words: “We believe in one only God, Father Almighty, Creator of things visible and invisible; and in the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is the Logos of God, God of God, Light of Light, life of life, His only Son, the first-born of all creatures, begotten of the Father before all time, by whom also everything was created, who became flesh for our redemption, who lived and suffered amongst men, rose again the third day, returned to the Father, and will come again one day in His glory to judge the living and the dead. We believe also in the Holy Ghost. We believe that each of these three is and subsists: the Father truly as Father, the Son truly as Son, the Holy Ghost truly as Holy Ghost; as our Lord also said, when He sent His disciples to preach: Go and teach all nations, and baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Eusebius added, that this was his true belief; that he always had believed thus; that he always would believe it, and anathematize every heresy. He relates, that after the reading of this formula nobody arose to contradict him; that, on the contrary, the Emperor praised it very highly, declared that he thus believed, exhorted everybody to accept the Creed and to sign it, only adding to it the word ὁμοούσιος. The Emperor, he adds, himself explained this word ὁμοούσιος more exactly: he said it did not signify that there was in God a corporeal substance, nor that the divine substance was divided (between the Father and the Son), and rent between several persons; for material relations cannot be attributed to a purely spiritual being.

After these words of the Emperor, says Eusebius, the bishops might have added the word ὁμοούσιος, and given to the Creed that form in which it might be universally adopted, to the exclusion of every other.

It is possible, indeed, that the Council may have taken the formula of Eusebius as the basis of its own; at least the comparison of the two Creeds speaks in favour of that hypothesis; but even if this were so, it is not the less true that they differ considerably and essentially: the word ὁμοούσιος is the principal point, and moreover it is not correct to say that the Nicene Fathers added no more than this word to the Eusebian formula. The Arians would perhaps have been able to admit this Creed, whilst that of Nicæa left them no subterfuge. It is besides evident that in his account of the matter Eusebius has not spoken the whole truth, and his account itself explains why he has not done so. In fact, when they presented the Nicene Creed to him to sign, he begged a moment for reflection, and then signed it; and then feared, as having hitherto been a protector of Arianism, that he would be blamed for having given his signature. It was in order to explain this conduct that he addressed a circular letter to his Church, in which he related what we have just borrowed from him,—namely, the Creed he had proposed, its acceptation by the Emperor, etc. After having transcribed the Nicene Creed in extenso, with the anathemas which are attached to it, he continues, in order to excuse himself: “When the bishops proposed this formula to me, I did not wish to consent to it before having minutely examined in what sense they had taken the expressions ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας and ὁμοούσιος. After several questions and answers, they declared that the words ἐκ τοῦ πατρός did not imply that the Son was a part of the Father; and that appeared to me to correspond with the true doctrine, which proclaims that the Son is of the Father, but not a part of His substance. For the sake of peace, and in order not to depart from the right doctrine, I would not resist the word ὁμοούσιος. It is for the same reason that I admitted the formula, ‘He is begotten, and not created,’ after they had explained to me that the word created designates in general all other things created by the Son, and with which the Son has nothing in common. He is not a ποίημα, He is not similar to things created by Himself; but He is of a better substance than all creatures: His substance is, according to the teaching of the Scriptures, begotten of the Father; but the nature of this generation is inexplicable and incomprehensible to the creature.” “As to the word ὁμοούσιος,” Eusebius continues, “it is supposed that the Son is ὁμοούσιος with the Father, not after the manner of bodies and mortal beings (ζῶα), nor in such a way that the substance and power of the Father are divided and rent, or transformed in any way; for all that is impossible with a nature not begotten of the Father (ἀγένητος φύσις). The word ὁμοούσιος expresses that the Son has no resemblance with the creatures, but is like in all things to the Father who has begotten Him, and that He is of no other hypostasis or substance (οὐσία) than that of the Father. I have agreed to this explanation, as I know that some ancient bishops and celebrated writers have also made use of the word ὁμοούσιος. After these explanations as to the meaning of the Nicene formula, which were supplied in the presence of the Emperor, we have all given our assent, and we have found nothing unacceptable in the anathema attached to the Creed, seeing that it prohibits expressions which are not found in Holy Scripture. In particular, it has seemed to me quite right to anathematize the expression, ‘He was not before He was begotten;’ for, according to the universal doctrine, the Son of God was before His corporeal birth, as the Emperor himself affirmed: by His divine birth He is before all eternity; and before being begotten de facto (ἐνεργείᾳ) by the Holy Ghost of Mary, He was κατὰ δύναμιν in the Father.”

These last words certainly do no honour to the character of Eusebius. He must have known that the Arians did not hold what he attributed to them,—namely, that the Son was not before His appearance in the flesh (by Mary); for the Arian expression οὐκ ἦν πρὸ τοῦ γεννηθῆναι (He was not before He was begotten) refers evidently to the generation of the Son by the Father—a generation anterior to time—and not to His generation in time by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary, as Eusebius sophistically suggests. He must have known, besides, in what sense the Council rejected the οὐκ ἦν πρὸ τοῦ γεννηθῆναι: he had recourse, however, to a dishonest artifice, giving another meaning to words perfectly clear in the Arian system, and attributing a gross folly to the old friends he had forsaken.

S. Athanasius has already remarked upon this; and it is astonishing, after that (not to speak of other writers), that even Möhler has overlooked the fact. But on the other side Möhler has with justice pointed out with what partiality Eusebius everywhere puts forward the Emperor’s intervention, as if the Nicene Creed had been his work, and not the bishops’. According to his account, one should imagine that the Emperor hindered free discussion by his presence, whilst S. Ambrose and S. Athanasius both assure us of the contrary. The latter particularly asserts: “All the Nicene bishops condemned this heresy; … and they were not constrained to this by anybody, but they quite voluntarily vindicated the truth as they ought.”

The zeal displayed by the Emperor Constantine for the ὁμοούσιος, and of which he gave proofs by the deposition of the Arians, contrasts strongly with the manner in which he regards the controversy at the beginning, and which he expressed before the Synod in his letter to Alexander Bishop of Alexandria, and to Arius. Constantine had been at that time, according to all appearance, under the influence of the bishop of his residence, Eusebius of Nicomedia, so much the more as he was only a layman, and in fact only a catechumen himself. But during the Council Hosius doubtless helped him to understand the question more thoroughly, and the subterfuges of the Arians certainly also contributed to give the Emperor a strong aversion to a cause which was defended by such evil means.

SEC. 34. The Nicene Creed

Tillemont, relying upon a passage of S. Athanasius, has thought he might venture to attribute to Bishop Hosius the greatest influence in the drawing up of the Nicene Creed. But the assertion of S. Athanasius applies only to the part taken by Hosius in the development of the faith of Nicæa: he does not speak in any way of a special authorship in the compilation of the formula of Nicæa. It is the same with the expression of S. Hilary: Hujus igitur intimandæ cunctis fidei, Athanasius in Nicæna synodo diaconus, vehemens auctor exstiterat. Here also only the great influence which S. Athanasius had in the deliberations of the Nicene Council is spoken of; but it is not said that he gave the notion of the Creed. We know, in fine, from S. Basil, that Hermogenes, then a deacon, subsequently Bishop of Cæsarea in Cappadocia, acted as secretary to the Synod, and that he wrote and read the Creed.

This Creed, the result of long deliberations, many struggles, and scrupulous examination, as the Emperor himself said, has been preserved to us, with the anathema which was affixed to it, by Eusebius, in a letter which he wrote to his Church, and which we have mentioned above: also by Socrates, Gelasius, and others. It is as follows:

Πιστεύομεν εἰς ἕνα Θεὸν Πατέρα παντοκράτορα, πάντων ὁρατῶν τε καὶ ἀοράτων ποιητήν• καὶ εἰς ἕνα Κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν τὸν Υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ, γεννηθέντα ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς μονογονῆ, τουτέστιν ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας τοῦ Πατρὸς, Θεὸν ἐκ Θεοῦ, φῶς ἐκ φωτὸς, Θεὸν ἀληθινὸν ἐκ Θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ, γεννηθέντα, οὐ ποιηθέντα, ὁμοούσιον τῷ Πατρὶ, διʼ οὗ τὰ πάντα ἐγένετο, τά τε ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ καὶ τὰ ἐν τῇ γῇ• τὸν δʼ ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους καὶ διὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν σωτηρίαν κατελθόντα καὶ σαρκωθέντα, ἐνανθρωπήσαντα, παθόντα καὶ ἀναστάντα τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ, ἀνελθόντα εἰς οὐρανοὺς, καὶ ἐρχόμενον κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς. Καὶ εἰς τὸ Ἅγιον Πνεῦμα. Τοὺς δὲ λέγοντας, ἦν ποτὲ ὅτε οὐκ ἦν, καὶ πρὶν γεννηθῆναι οὐκ ἦν, καὶ ὅτι ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων ἐγένετο, ἢ ἐξ ἑτέρας ὑποστάσεως ἢ οὐσίας φάσκοντας εἶναι, ἢ κτιστὸν ἢ τρεπτὸν ἢ ἀλλοιωτὸν τὸν Υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἀναθεματίζει ἡ καθολικὴ Ἐκκλεσία.

“We believe in one GOD, the Father Almighty, Creator of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord JESUS Christ, the Son of GOD, only-begotten of the Father, that is, of the substance of the Father. GOD of GOD, light of light, very GOD of very GOD, begotten, not made, being of the same substance with the Father, by whom all things were made in heaven and in earth, who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, was incarnate, was made man, suffered, rose again the third day, ascended into the heavens, and He will come to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost. Those who say, There was a time when He was not, and He was not before He was begotten, and He was made of nothing (He was created), or who say that He is of another hypostasis, or of another substance (than the Father), or that the Son of God is created, that He is mutable, or subject to change, the Catholic Church anathematizes.”

All the bishops, with the exception of five, declared themselves ready immediately to subscribe to this Creed, under the conviction that the formula contained the ancient faith of the apostolic Church. This was so clear, that even the Novatian bishop Acesius, although separated from the Church on points of discipline, gave witness to its dogmatic truth, and adopted the Creed unconditionally, saying, “The Council has introduced nothing new in this act, O Emperor; this has been the universal belief since apostolic times.” The five bishops who at first refused to sign were: Eusebius of Nicomedia, Theognis of Nicæa, Maris of Chalcedon, Theonas of Marmarica, and Secundus of Ptolemais. They even ridiculed the term ὁμοούσιος, which could only refer, they said, to substances emanating from other substances, or which came into existence by division, separation, and the like. In the end, however, all signed except Theonas and Secundus, who were anathematized together with Arius and his writings. They were also excommunicated. But a writer on their own side, Philostorgius, says that these three bishops did not act honestly in their subscription; for he relates that, by the advice of the Emperor, they wrote, instead of ὁμοούσιος, the word ὁμοιούσιος (similar in substance, instead of one in substance), which has almost the same sound and orthography. We see, indeed, from the beginning that the signatures of these three bishops were not considered sincere; for Bishop Secundus, when he was exiled, said to Eusebius of Nicomedia: “Thou hast subscribed in order not to be banished; but I hope the year will not pass away before thou shalt have the same lot.”

SEC. 35. The Signatures

It appears that, at the time of S. Epiphanius (cir. 400), the signatures of all the 318 bishops present at Nicæa still existed. But, in our own time, we have only imperfect lists of these signatures, disfigured by errors of copyists, differing from each other, and containing the names of only 228 bishops. Moreover, the names of several bishops are omitted in these lists whom we know to have been present at Nicæa; for instance, those of Spiridion and Paphnutius. The name even of Marcellus of Ancyra is inaccurately given as Pancharius of Ancyra. But in spite of these faults of detail, the lists may be regarded as generally authentic. They are, it is true, in Latin, but they bear evident traces of translation from the Greek. What proves their antiquity still more, is the circumstance that the members of the Council are grouped in them by provinces, as in other ancient Synods; for instance, at those of Arles and Chalcedon. That, however, which is of greatest importance, is the fact that the provinces named in these lists perfectly agree with their political division at the time of the Nicene Council; and particularly that those provinces whose limits were assigned at a later period are not mentioned. The bishops of these countries (e.g. Euphratesia, Osrhoëne, etc.) are, on the contrary, classed quite correctly according to the names of the ancient provinces. This is why the Ballerini have with justice defended the authenticity of the lists of signatures at the Nicene Council against some objections made by Tillemont.

Zoëga has discovered a new list of this kind in an ancient Coptic manuscript, and Pitra published it in the Spicilegium Solesmense. He has given not only the Coptic text, but by comparing it with the Latin lists still exant he has made out a new list of Nicene bishops distributed equally in provinces, and thus corrected and completed the lists known up to the present time.

Even before Zoëga, Selden had given another list translated from the Arabic, which numbers altogether 318 persons, but includes the names of several priests, and frequently of many bishops, for one and the same town; so much so, that Labbe and Tillemont have decidedly rejected this list as apocryphal. Another shorter list, given by Labbe, and after him by Mansi, does not belong at all to the Nicene Council, but to the sixth Œcumenical. In fine, Gelasius gives the shortest list: it mentions only a few bishops who sign for all the ecclesiastical provinces.

SEC. 36. Measures taken by the Emperor against the Arians

When the formula of the Synod was laid before the Emperor, he looked upon it as inspired by God, as a revelation from the Holy Spirit dwelling in men so holy, and he threatened to banish any one who would not sign it. We have already seen the effect produced by these threats. But the Emperor fulfilled them without delay, and exiled to Illyria Arius and the two bishops Secundus and Theonas, who had refused to subscribe, as well as the priests who were attached to them. At the same time he ordered the books of Arius and his friends to be burned, and he threatened all who concealed them with pain of death. He even wished to annihilate the name of Arians, and ordered them in future to be called Porphyrians, because Arius had imitated Porphyry in his enmity to Christianity.1 Subsequently Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognis of Nicæa were also deposed and banished, because, while admitting the Creed, they would not recognise the deposition of Arius, and had admitted Arians amongst them. At the same time, the churches of Nicæa and Nicomedia were required by the Emperor to elect orthodox bishops in their place. The Emperor particularly blamed Eusebius of Nicomedia, not only for having taught error, but for having taken part in Licinius’ persecution of the Christians, as well as plotted intrigues against Constantine himself, and deceived him.

SEC. 37. Decision of the Easter Question

The second object of the Nicene Council was the removal of the difficulties, which had existed up to that time, as to the celebration of the festival of Easter. The old controversy respecting Easter was great and violent; but almost greater and more violent still is that which has been raised among learned men of later times on the Paschal controversy, and on purely accessory questions belonging to it—for example, whether the Primate had gained or lost in this controversy—so that the true point of the controversy has been almost lost from sight.

The first who went most thoroughly into this question was the learned French Jesuit, Gabriel Daniel, in 1724. A German professor, Christopher Augustus Heumann, presented independently, almost at the same time, the result of his studies upon the Easter controversy. Mosheim examined the whole of this question anew, yet only with reference to the work of Daniel (he had not been able to lay his hand on Heumann’s dissertation); and the greater number of his successors accepted his conclusions, particularly Walch, in the first volume of his Ketzerhistorie.

The same question has been debated with a new interest in modern times, because of its relation to the criticism of the Gospels; and particularly by the Tübingen school, in the interest of its peculiar theories. But the best work published on this subject is that of Dean Weitzel, at the time a deacon at Kircheim, under the title of Die christl. Passafeier der drei ersten Jahrhunderte (The Christian Paschal Controversy of the Three First Centuries). He has cleared up several points which had remained obscure through want of complete original information.

By the use of these preparatory works, amongst which we must mention the Dissertation of Rettberg, published in Ilgen’s Zeitschrift für historische Theologie (Gazette of Historical Theology), and by personally investigating anew the existing sources of original information, we have arrived at the following results:—As the Old Testament is the figure of the New, Christians in all times have recognised in the paschal lamb of the Jews the prototype of Christ, and His great expiatory sacrifice upon the cross. The Messianic passages in the Bible had already compared Christ to a lamb, and in the New Testament S. John the Baptist had explicitly called Him the Lamb of God; besides which, the slaying of the Lamb upon the cross corresponded fully with the slaying of the Jewish paschal lamb. The typical character of the Jewish paschal lamb was so evident in the eyes of the ancient Christians, that the Apostle Paul called our Lord Jesus Christ “our Passover (τὸ πάσχα ἡμῶν).”

All parties unanimously agreed, in the controversy which rose later about the celebration of Easter, that the festival itself had been instituted by the apostles. But the existence of this controversy proves that, if the apostles prescribed the celebration of the festival of Easter, they did not determine how it was to be celebrated, so that different practices arose in different countries.

It is commonly supposed that there were only two separate ways of celebrating Easter—that of Asia Minor, and that of the West; but the most modern researches have established beyond doubt that there were three parties in these divisions, of which two were in the Church herself, and a third belonged to an heretical Ebionite sect.

If we would characterize these three in a general manner, we might say: The latter held, with the continuance of the obligation of the ancient law in general, the validity of the old legal passover: their festival then, properly speaking, was not Christian; it was rather Jewish. The two other parties, both looking from a Christian point of view, believed in the abrogation of the ancient law, and their festival was purely Christian. In their opinion, the prototype—that is to say, the Jewish Easter—had ceased, after having received its accomplishment in Christ; whilst the Ebionites, or the third party, wished still to preserve the type and the typical feast.

But the two parties who regarded the matter equally from a Christian point of view, differed on two points: (a) as to the time of the Easter festival, and (b) as to the fast.

To the one, as to the other, Easter was the great festival of Redemption by Christ. But the great drama of Redemption had two particularly remarkable moments—the death and the resurrection of the Lord; and as the Jewish feast lasted for several days, Christians also prolonged their Easter for several days, so as to comprehend the two great moments of the work of redemption. Thus both sides celebrated (α) the day of death, and (β) the day of resurrection. They were also agreed as to the time of the celebration of the festival, in so far as the two parties were agreed, to the greatest possible extent, as to the date of the death of Christ, and chose, as the first decisive point in deciding the festival, the 14th of Nisan, not because they regarded the Jewish law as binding upon that point, but because Christ’s Passion had actually commenced on that date; and thus they formed their conclusions, not on legal, but on historical grounds.

However, even with this common basis, divergences were possible, in that some insisted upon the day of the week, and wished specially to preserve the remembrance of that upon which Christ had died, and also that upon which He had risen again. These—and they were principally the Westerns—consequently always celebrated the anniversary of the death of Christ upon a Friday, and the day of resurrection upon a Sunday, considering this custom as the ἀληθέστερα τάξις (truer order), in opposition to the Jewish ordinance. The others, on the contrary, belonging chiefly to Asia Minor, insisted upon the day of the year and of the month, and wished above all to celebrate the remembrance of the Lord’s death exactly upon the day of the month on which it happened, which, according to them, was the 14th Nisan. They believed, as we shall see hereafter—and the Westerns held the same opinion—that Christ had not partaken of the paschal lamb with His disciples in the last year of His life, but that on the 14th of the month Nisan, before the feast of the passover, He had been crucified; consequently they wished to celebrate the Saviour’s death on the 14th Nisan, whatever day of the week it fell upon, even were it not a Friday.

Thus the first difference as to the time consisted in this, that the one considered above everything the day of the week upon which Christ died, whilst the others attached the most importance to the day of the month or of the year. But the former did not neglect either the day of the month or of the year: with them also the 14th Nisan (ιδʼ = 14) was decisive; that is to say, they too regulated their festival according to the ιδʼ. When the 14th Nisan fell upon a Friday, the two parties were agreed about the time of the festival, because the day of the week and of the month coincided. But if, for example, the ιδʼ fell upon a Tuesday, the Asiatics celebrated the death of Christ upon the Tuesday, and the Westerns on the following Friday; and if the ιδʼ fell upon a Saturday, the Asiatics celebrated the death festival upon that Saturday, whilst the Westerns kept it still on the Friday following.

All this it is needless to discuss; but one point is not certain,—namely, whether, when the ιδʼ (and consequently their commemoration of the death) did not fall upon a Friday, but, for instance, on a Wednesday, the Asiatics celebrated the feast of the resurrection the third day after the commemoration of the death—in this case on the Friday—or kept it on the Sunday. Weitzel holds the latter opinion; but he has not been able to bring sufficient proofs in support of his decision. All depends here upon the sense given to the words of Eusebius: “The majority of bishops had (in the second century) decreed that the μυστήριον τῆς ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀναστάσεως could be celebrated only on a Sunday.” Does he by μυστήριον τῆς ἐκ νεκρ., etc., refer to the mystery of the resurrection? If so, it demonstrates that the feast of the resurrection had until then been celebrated upon other days. To escape this argument, Weitzel takes μυστήριον in the sense of sacrament, that is to say, the reception of the holy communion; and according to him, these bishops ordained the communion of the resurrection to be received only on Sunday; whilst previously the Asiatics had been satisfied to celebrate the feast of the resurrection on Sunday, but had been accustomed to communicate on the day upon which the 14th Nisan fell. We should rather hold the opinion that it was the feast of the resurrection which previously had not been celebrated on Sunday. This question of the communion leads us to the second point of difference between the Asiatics and the Occidentals, that is to say, the fast.

This divergency arose from the different way of conceiving of the day of the death of Christ. The Westerns considered it exclusively as a day of mourning: they looked upon it, so to speak, from the historical side, and were in the same state of mind as the disciples upon the day of the death of Christ, that is, in deepest sorrow. The Orientals, on the contrary, rather considered this day, from its dogmatic or doctrinal side, as the day of redemption; and for this reason it was to them, not a day of mourning, but of joy, dating from the moment when Christ died, and had thus accomplished the work of redemption. Yet the hours of the day preceding the moment of death were spent by them in mourning, in memory of the Passion of Christ. They completed the fast at the moment of the death of Christ—three o’clock in the afternoon—and then they celebrated the feast of the communion, that is to say, the sacred rite of the feast, with the solemn Agape (love-feast) and the δεῖπνον Κυρίου (Supper of the Lord). The Occidentals, on the contrary, considering the whole day as consecrated to mourning, continued the fast, a sign of mourning, and did not end it until the joyful morning of the resurrection. It was upon this day that they celebrated the Easter communion, and not upon the Saturday, as Mosheim has supposed.

It is a secondary question, whether the Eastern Church ended their fast upon the 14th Nisan after the Easter communion, or recommenced it once more, and continued it to the day of the resurrection. The words of Eusebius, impartially considered, are favourable to the first opinion; for his ἐπιλύεσθαι (to loose) and his ἐπίλυσις (loosing) of the fast indicate rather a total completion than a simple suspension. In spite of this, Mosheim has attempted to demonstrate, from a passage of S. Epiphanius, that the Audians, a degenerate branch of the Quartodecimans, of Asia Minor, fasted again after their Easter feast. But even if the Audians did in fact follow this custom, it cannot from this be concluded that it was an universal Eastern custom. In the second place, Mosheim was the first to see in this passage what he wished to demonstrate; and he misunderstood it, as we shall see hereafter when speaking of the sect of the Audians.

This difference respecting the fast was not the only one. Not merely was the day of the end of the fast not the same with the Eastern and Western Churches, but there was no perfect uniformity in the manner (εἶδος) of fasting, and this difference went back to the remotest times. S. Irenæus indicates this in the fragment of his letter to Pope Victor, which Eusebius has preserved: “Some,” says he, “fast only one day; others two; others, again, several days.” Then come these obscure words, οἱ δὲ τεσσαράκοντα ὥρας ἡμερινάς τε καὶ νυκτερινὰς συμμέτροῦσι τὴν ἡμέραν αὐτῶν. If we place a comma after τεσσαράκοντα, the sense is this: “Others fast forty hours, reckoning the hours of the day and night;” that is to say, they fast equally by day and night. Massuet has understood the passage in this way. But if we place no comma after τεσσαράκοντα, the sense is: “Others fast in all forty hours by day and night (perhaps the twenty-four hours of Good Friday and sixteen hours on Saturday).” Valesius and Böhmer defend this interpretation. Gieseler gives a third explanation. He proposes to read τῇ ἡμέρᾳ, or more exactly, σὺν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ, instead of τὴν ἡμέραν, and translates it thus: “Others reckon forty hours in all with their day;” that is, they fast upon the day they consider as the passover, or the day of the death of Christ, and begin with the death-hour (three hours after noon) a new fast of forty hours until the resurrection. We do not think that such a modification of the text, wanting in all critical authority, can be justified; but we cannot absolutely decide between Massuet and Valesius, which is happily unnecessary for our principal purpose. S. Irenæus clearly says that the differences in the manner of celebrating Easter were then of no recent date—that they had also existed in the primitive Church. After Valesius’ translation, S. Irenæus concludes that this difference was the result of the negligence of the rulers (κρατούντων) of the Church; but Massuet has proved that this translation was incorrect, and demonstrated that the expression κρατεῖν does not here mean to rule, but to maintain (a custom), and that S. Irenæus intended to say, “who (our ancestors), it appears, have not sufficiently maintained the matter (παρὰ τὸ ἀκριβὲς κρατούντων), and thus have bequeathed to their descendants a custom which arose in all simplicity, and from ignorance.”

What we have just said plainly proves, that the two parties of whom we speak, the Asiatic and Western Churches, were both perfectly established upon a Christian and ecclesiastical basis; for Easter was a festival equally important and sacred to both, and their difference had regard, not to the kernel of the matter, but to the shell. It was otherwise, as we have already indicated, with the third party, which, for the sake of brevity, we call the Ebionite or Judaic sect. It had this in common with the Asiatic party, that it determined the celebration of Easter according to the day of the month or of the year (the ιδʼ), without regard to the day of the week. Consequently there were two parties of Quartodecimans, if we take this expression in its more extended sense; that is to say, two parties who celebrated their Easter festival upon the 14th Nisan, who were thus agreed in this external and chronological point, but who differed toto cœlo in regard to the essence of the matter.

In fact, the Ebionite party started from the proposition, that the prescription of Easter in the Old Testament was not abolished for Christians, and therefore that these ought, like the Jews, and in the same manner, to eat a paschal lamb in a solemn feast on the 14th Nisan. This Jewish paschal banquet was to them the principal thing. But the other Quartodecimans, regarding the subject in a Christian light, maintained that the ancient paschal feast was abolished—that the type existed no longer—that what it had prefigured, namely, the death of the Lamb upon the cross, had been realized,—and that therefore the Christian should celebrate, not the banquet, but the death of his Lord.

The difference between these two parties therefore depends upon the question as to the perpetual obligatory force of the Mosaic law. The Ebionite Quartodecimans accepted, while the orthodox denied this perpetuity; and consequently the latter celebrated not the Jewish passover, but the day of the death of Christ. Both parties appealed to the Bible. The Ebionites said: Christ Himself celebrated the passover on the 14th Nisan; Christians, then, ought to celebrate it on that day, and in the same way. The orthodox Quartodecimans maintained, on the contrary, that Christ had not eaten the passover in the last year of His earthly life, but that He was crucified on the 14th Nisan, before the time of the paschal feast commenced; and that thus the 14th Nisan is the anniversary, not of the feast of the passover, but of the death of Christ.

Eusebius asserts that Asia was the home of the Quartodeciman party. But it is not quite clear what he means by Asia; since the word signifies sometimes a quarter of the world, sometimes Asia Minor, sometimes only a portion of the latter, Asia Proconsularis, of which Ephesus was the capital. Eusebius has not here taken the word Asia in any of these three acceptations: for (α) the Quartodeciman party had not its home either in the whole of Asia Minor or the whole of Asia, since, as Eusebius himself says, Pontus (in Asia Minor), Palestine, and Osrhoëne followed another practice; and, on the other side, (β) it was not confined to proconsular Asia, for we find it also in Cilicia, Mesopotamia, and Syria, as S. Athanasius testifies. S. Chrysostom says even, that formerly it prevailed also at Antioch.

But Eusebius points out his meaning more clearly in the following chapter, where he classes among the Quartodecimans the Churches of Asia (proconsular), “and the neighbouring provinces.” We shall see later, that there were amongst these Quartodecimans in Asia Minor, not only orthodox, but Ebionites, particularly at Laodicea. If the Quartodecimans in general formed a minority among Christians, the Ebionites, as it appears, formed but a small group in this minority.

The great majority of Christians regulated the festival of Easter according to the day of the week, so that the resurrection might always be celebrated on a Sunday, and the death of Christ always on a Friday. According to Eusebius, this mode of celebration of the Easter festival “was observed by all other Churches throughout the whole world, with the exception of Asia;” and he particularly mentions Palestine, Rome, Pontus, France, Osrhoëne, Corinth, Phœnicia, and Alexandria. The Emperor Constantine the Great affirms that “all the Churches of the West, the South, and the North, had adopted this practice, particularly Rome, the whole of Italy, Africa, Egypt, Spain, Gaul, Britain, Libya, Achaia (Greece); it had even been adopted in the dioceses of Asia, Pontus, and Cilicia.” This can be only partially true of Cilicia and Asia Minor; for the latter was quite the seat of the Quartodecimans, and S. Athanasius distinctly classes Cilicia amongst the Quartodeciman provinces.

It follows from what has been said, that it is not quite correct to call the practice of those who regulated Easter according to the day of the week the Western practice; for a great number of the Eastern provinces also adopted this plan. It might rather be called the common or predominant use; whilst the Quartodeciman custom, which was based on a Jewish theory, should be called the Ebionite; and the second Quartodeciman custom, which rested upon a Christian basis, may be called the Johannean. The orthodox Quartodecimans, indeed, specially appealed to S. John the evangelist, and partly to the Apostle S. Philip, as we see from the letter of their head, Polycrates of Ephesus; and they affirmed that these two great authorities had always celebrated Easter on the 14th Nisan. But the Western or ordinary usage was also based upon the apostolical authority of the prince-apostles SS. Peter and Paul, who, according to them, had introduced this custom.

Besides, all parties preserved the expression of the feast of the passover given in the Old Testament, although it only recalled particularly the passing of the destroying angel over the dwellings of the Israelites; for פֶּסַח, from פָּסַח, signifies passing over. In a more general way this word signifies the deliverance from Egypt; and in this sense it might have been employed figuratively by Christians, as their feast of deliverance from Egypt The Aramaic פַּסְהָא (Pascha) prevailed along with the Hebrew form פֶּסַה (Pesach), and more widely than this; and thus many Gentile Christians, who were unacquainted with Hebrew, were easily led to derive the word Pascha from the Greek verb πάσχειν.

Sometimes by the word Pascha was signified the whole week of the Passion, sometimes the days which they celebrated during that week, or even a particular day in it, especially that of our Lord’s death. Tertullian, for instance, in his book de Jejunio, calls the whole week Pascha, but in his work de Oratione only Good Friday. Constantine the Great, in the same way, speaks sometimes of one day, sometimes of several days, in Easter week. He seems also particularly to signify by the word Easter the day of the death of Christ; nevertheless he calls the day of the resurrection not only ἡμέρα ἀναστάσεως, but also πάσχα, as may be seen from the whole tenor of the passage in Eusebius, and from several others quoted by Suicer. Basil the Great, for instance, in his Exhortatio ad Baptismum, identifies the ἡμέρα τοῦ πάσχα with the μνημόσυνον (day of commemoration) τῆς ἀναστάσεως. Subsequently, from what period is uncertain, in order to make a distinction, they call the day of the death πάσχα σταυρώσιμον (passover of crucifixion), and the day of the resurrection πάσχα ἀναστάσιμον (passover of resurrection).

It is clear from a passage in Tertullian,1 that the universal custom of the ancient Church was to celebrate Easter for a whole week. S. Epiphanius says still more plainly,1 “The Catholic Church celebrates not only the 14th Nisan, but the whole week;” and as he certainly emphasized this in opposition to the Quartodecimans, we may presume that the Ebionite Quartodecimans celebrated only the 14th of Nisan as the feast of the passover; that at least the other days were thrown into the shade relatively to this principal feast, which was quite in accordance with their Jewish tendency. The observance of the Mosaic prescription respecting the paschal feast seemed to them far more important than the celebration of the days of the death and resurrection of our Lord.

Although there was a notable difference in the three ways of keeping Easter, the antagonism between the Johannean and the ordinary custom was first noticed; but the higher unity in the spirit and in the essence of the subject made the chronological difference seem less striking and more tolerable. S. Irenæus gives a proof of this when he distinctly says, in a fragment of the synodical letter which he wrote in the name of the Gallican bishops, “that the Roman bishops before Soter, namely Anicetus, Pius, Hyginus, Telesphorus, and Xystus (the latter was living at the beginning of the second century), did not follow the Asiatic custom, nor did they tolerate it amongst their people, but that nevertheless they lived amicably with those who came to Rome from countries where a contrary practice prevailed; and they even sent the holy Eucharist, in token of unity, to the Quartodeciman bishops of those Churches.”

The first known debate respecting this difference, and the first attempt made at the same time to put an end to it, took place when S. Polycarp went to Rome to see Pope Anicetus, towards the middle of the eleventh century. We cannot determine exactly in what year this took place. Baronius declares, but with insufficient reason, for the fifth year of Marcus Aurelius, 167 years after Christ. But Polycarp was so advanced in years at this time, that it is difficult to believe he could have undertaken so long a journey; besides, Anicetus had then been in the see of Rome for ten years, and consequently Polycarp might well have visited him before. However, Polycarp went to Rome, and not about the Easter business, as Baronius concludes from an incorrect translation of Eusebius, but about some other slight differences which he wished to compose in concert with Anicetus. He was certainly the most worthy representative of the Johannean or Asiatic opinions, being recognised as the most distinguished bishop of Asia Minor, and certainly the only disciple of S. John then living. We may suppose that he followed the Johannean practice with regard to the celebration of Easter, not only from the fact that he was Bishop of Smyrna in Asia Minor, but also from this, that Polycrates of Ephesus, the ardent defender of the Johannean custom, particularly appealed to Polycarp in his struggle with Pope Victor. Polycarp and Anicetus received each other with the kiss of peace, and held a conference on the subject of Easter, which did not however last long, Anicetus being unable to induce Polycarp to abandon a practice which the latter “had observed in communion with the Evangelist S. John.” Neither would Anicetus abandon the custom pursued by his predecessors in the episcopate. In spite of this difference they lived in communion, and Anicetus conferred what was then a very special mark of distinction upon his host, allowing him to celebrate the holy Eucharist in his church and in his presence. After that they separated in peace, and the same feeling continued between the two parties whom they represented.

Some years after Polycarp’s journey we meet with the first known movements of the Ebionite Quartodecimans. Melito Bishop of Sardes relates, in a fragment of his work (two books, περὶ τοῦ πάσχα), that “when Servilius Paulus was Proconsul of Asia, and Sagaris Bishop of Laodicea had suffered martyrdom, a warm controversy arose at Laodicea on the subject of Easter.” The time in which Melito flourished was probably about the year 170. This fragment does not specify the particular point upon which the controversy turned, but we learn that from another source. Apollinaris of Hierapolis, a contemporary, a friend, and a compatriot of Melito, whose opinions also he held, likewise wrote a work upon Easter; and the two fragments which have been preserved in the Chronicon Paschale assert—(1) “Those are mistaken who hold that our Lord ate the paschal lamb with His disciples upon the 14th Nisan, and that He died upon the great day of unleavened bread (the 15th Nisan). They pretend that S. Matthew affirms it; but such an opinion is not accordant with the (ancient) law, and the Gospels (especially those of S. Matthew and S. John) would thus be contradictory.” The second fragment says: “The 14th Nisan is the true passover of our Lord, the great Sacrifice; instead of the lamb, we have here the Lamb of God,” etc.

By these fragments we see that Apollinaris belonged to those Christians who held that our Lord did not partake of the passover the last year of His life, but that He was crucified upon the 14th Nisan. Thus the immolation of the lamb, the type, was realized by the death of the Lamb upon the cross upon the same 14th of Nisan, in the week of the Passion. The type was then abolished, and the commemoration of the death of Christ replaced the Jewish (ιδʼ) feast. He holds that by admitting this theory the evangelists can be harmonized, and that an exact parallelism was established between the facts of the New and the types of the Old Testament. According to the opposite opinion, however, (1) the evangelists are not agreed; and (2) that opinion does not agree with the ancient law. It is not said why, but we may conclude from his words that the following was implied: “If Christ had eaten the paschal lamb upon the 14th Nisan, His death should have taken place upon the 15th Nisan, whilst the type of this death was only upon the 14th; and consequently the resurrection falls upon the 17th Nisan, whilst the type occurs upon the 16th.”

The proximity of Hierapolis and of Laodicea, and the fact that Melito and Apollinaris lived at the same time, sanction the presumption that the party attacked by the latter was identical with that of Laodicea, and which Melito attacked; and as Apollinaris and Melito were associated as apologists and lights of their time, they were also certainly associated in the Easter controversy. Apollinaris was, as his fragments prove, a Johannean Quartodeciman; and Melito was the same, for Polycrates expressly appeals to him.

But against whom did Apollinaris write, and what was the character of the party against whom he and Melito contended? Apollinaris does not enter into detail upon this point: he simply indicates, in the first extract, that his opponents celebrated the paschal feast upon the 14th Nisan. They were therefore Quartodecimans; but as he was of that class himself, we must seek elsewhere for the special character of his adversaries; and as in the second extract he strongly insists upon the 14th Nisan “being the true passover of the. Lord, the great sacrifice wherein the Son of God was immolated instead of the Jewish lamb,” we may conclude naturally enough that his adversaries were Ebionite Quartodecimans, who also celebrated, it is true, the 14th Nisan, but in a Jewish manner, with the feast of the passover. This is made still more evident by an extract from Hippolytus, of which we shall have to speak hereafter. Moreover, the work of Melito determined Clement of Alexandria to write a λόγος περὶ τοῦ πάσχα, not indeed to refute it, but to complete Melito’s work. Of this work of Clement’s we have only fragments preserved in the Chronicon Paschale, and the first of these fragments says: “Christ always ate the paschal lamb with His disciples in His earlier years, but not in the last year of His life, in which He was Himself the Lamb immolated upon the cross.” The second fragment has the words: “Christ died on the 14th of Nisan; and after His death, on the evening of the same day, the Jews celebrated their passover feast.”

Clement here quite agrees with Apollinaris, and his work proves that the same party which Apollinaris opposed still existed after the lapse of many years.

After some time, S. Hippolytus attacked them in two fragments, both preserved in the Chronicon Paschale. He distinctly says: “The controversy still lasts, for some erroneously maintain that Christ ate the passover before His death, and that consequently we ought to do so also. But Christ, when He suffered, no longer ate the legal passover; for He was Himself the passover, previously announced, which was on that day fulfilled in Him.” This fragment by Hippolytus is taken from his work against the heresies, and consequently from that time the Ebionite Quartodecimans were rightly considered as heretics. He says again, in the second fragment of his work upon Easter: “Christ did not partake of the passover before His death; He would not have had time for it.”

We need not wonder that an Italian bishop like Hippolytus should have thought it necessary to oppose the Ebionite party; for it was not restricted to Phrygia (Laodicea) and the other countries of Asia Minor, but it had found defenders even at Rome, and Hippolytus was a priest of the Roman Church—he was even for some time a schismatical Bishop of Rome. Eusebius indeed says: “Several sects arose in Rome in the time of the Montanists, of which one had for its chief the priest Florinus, another Blastus.” He does not tell us their doctrine, but says that Florinus was deposed, and that both of them had seduced many of the faithful. He adds: Irenæus wrote against Florinus a book called de Monarchia, and against Blastus another, de Schismate; but again he does not mention the doctrine taught by Blastus. We have no more account of it than is contained in the apocryphal supplement to Tertullian’s book de Prescriptione, where it is said, in the fifty-third chapter: Est præterea his omnibus (to Marcion, to Tatian, etc.) etiam Blastus accedens, qui latenter Judaismum vult introducere. According to this text, Blastus was a Judaizer, having tendencies analogous to those of the Ebionite Quartodecimans of Asia Minor (especially of Laodicea). If Blastus, towards 180, tried to introduce the Ebionite Quartodecimanism into Italy, and even into Rome, the aversion of Pope Victor towards the Quartodecimans in general can be easily explained, and his earnestness in his controversy with Polycrates and the Asiatics.

We thus reach the second period of the Paschal controversy. In the first, we have seen the two customs of the Church—the Johannean custom, and the usual one—existing side by side, each of these opposing only the Ebionite party. Now, on the contrary, the two purely Christian opinions are to be found in violent conflict. It was probably Pope Victor who was the cause of the struggle: the intrigues of Blastus doubtless resulted in setting him against the Quartodecimans, and leading him to forbid the celebration of the feast on the 14th Nisan. In 196, S. Jerome’s Chronicle says that he wrote to the most eminent bishops of every country, asking them to assemble synods in their provinces, and by their means to introduce the Western mode of celebrating Easter. These letters—for example, those to Polycrates of Ephesus—also contained threats in case of resistance. Numerous synods therefore assembled, as we learn from Eusebius; and all, with the exception of those of Asia Minor, unanimously declared “that it was a rule of the Church to celebrate the mystery of the resurrection only on a Sunday.” They acquainted all the faithful with this declaration by synodical letters. Eusebius saw several of these synodical letters, especially those from the Synods of Palestine, presided over by Theophilus Bishop of Cæsarea and Narcissus of Jerusalem; also those from the bishops of Pontus, under Palma; from the bishops of Gaul, under Irenæus; from the bishops of Osrhoëne; and, finally, the private letter from Bacchylus Bishop of Corinth. They unanimously pronounced in favour of Victor’s opinion, except Polycrates Bishop of Ephesus. The latter had also been president of a synod composed of a great number of the bishops of his province. He said that all approved of the remarkable letter which he proposed to send to Pope Victor, which Eusebius has preserved. In this letter he says, “We celebrate the true day, without adding or subtracting anything;” and he appeals, in justification of his practice, as we have before seen, to the Apostle Philip, who died at Hierapolis, to S. John the Evangelist, to Polycarp, and others, who all kept Easter on the fourteenth day after the new moon. Seven of his own relations had been bishops of Ephesus before him, and had observed the same custom. “As he had attained the age of sixty-five years, Polycrates no longer feared any threatening, he said, for he knew that we ought to obey God rather than men.”

Thereupon, says Eusebius, continuing his account, Pope Victor tried to excommunicate (ἀποτέμνειν πειρᾶται) the Churches of Asia and of the neighbouring provinces; and he addressed an encyclical letter to this effect to all the Christians of those countries. The words of Eusebius might also be understood to mean that Victor really launched a sentence of excommunication against these Churches, and they have been taken in this sense by the later Church historian Socrates; but it is more correct to say, as Valesius has shown, that the Pope thought of excommunicating the Asiatics, and that he was kept from carrying out the sentence especially by S. Irenæus. Eusebius says, indeed, “He tried to excommunicate them.” He adds: “This disposition of Victor did not please other bishops, who exhorted him rather to seek after peace. The letters in which they blame him are still extant.” However, Eusebius gives only the letter of S. Irenæus, who, although born in Asia Minor, declared that the resurrection of the Saviour ought to be celebrated on a Sunday; but also exhorted Victor not to cut off from communion a whole group of Churches which only observed an ancient custom. He reminds him that his predecessors had judged this difference with much more leniency, and that, in particular, Pope Anicetus had discussed it amicably with Polycarp Bishop of Smyrna.

Eusebius here remarks, that Irenæus, as his name indicates, had become εἰρηνοποῖος, and that he addressed letters on this occasion, not only to Victor, but to other bishops.

Thus this debate did not bring about the uniformity which Victor desired. However, as a consequence of these explanations and negotiations, some Churches of Asia, it appears, renounced their custom, and adopted that of the West, as Massuet and Valesius have concluded from the letter published by Constantine after the close of the Synod of Nicæa, in which he says: “Asia” (doubtless meaning some of its Churches), “Pontus, and Cilicia have adopted the universal custom.” This can apply only to a part of Cilicia, seeing that, according to the testimony of S. Athanasius, the custom of the Quartodecimans prevailed there. Thus up to this time the controversy bore only upon these two points: 1st, Was the festival to be held according to the day of the week, or that of the month? 2d, When was the fast to cease?

But in the third century, which we have now reached, a fresh difficulty arose to complicate the debate, which we may call briefly the astronomical difficulty.

We have seen that with the Asiatics, as with the Westerns, Easter was determined by the 14th Nisan, with this difference only, that the Asiatics always celebrated Easter on this day, whilst the Westerns kept it on the Sunday following (with them the Sunday of the resurrection was their greatest festival). But then this question arose: On what precise day of the year does the 14th Nisan fall? or how can the lunar date of the 14th Nisan be reconciled with the solar year? The Jews’ ecclesiastical year, the first month of which is called Nisan, commences in the spring. At the beginning of spring, and particularly towards the equinox, barley is ripe in Palestine. For this reason the month Nisan is also called the month of sheaves; and the great festival of the month Nisan, the passover, is at the same time the feast of harvest, in which the first sheaf of barley is offered to God as first-fruits. According to this, the 14th Nisan comes almost at the same time with the full moon after the vernal equinox; and although the lunar year of the Jews is shorter than the solar year, they made up the difference by an intercalary month, so that the 14th Nisan always occurred at the same period. It was also partly determined by the ripeness of the barley.

Many Fathers of the Church relied especially on the fact that the passover had always been kept by the ancient Hebrews, and by the contemporaries of our Saviour, after the equinox, and so ordered that the festival should continue to be celebrated after the commencement of the spring. They remarked that the Jews had always determined the ιδʼ in this way until the fall of Jerusalem. The defective practice of not fixing the ιδʼ according to the equinox was not introduced among them until after that event.

We may see clearly what resulted from this rule. Whoever observed it, could no longer regulate his Easter according to the 14th Nisan of the Jews, inasmuch as this day occurred after the equinox. If the 14th fell before the equinox with the Jews, the Christians ought to have said: “The Jews this year celebrate the 14th Nisan at a wrong date, a month too soon: it is not the full moon before, but the full moon after the equinox, which is the true full moon of Nisan.” We say full moon, for the 14th Nisan was always necessarily at the full moon, since each month among the Jews began with the new moon. In this case the Christians kept their Easter a month later than the Jews, and determined it according to the full moon after the vernal equinox. Hence it resulted

1. That if a Johannean Quartodeciman acted according to the equinox, he always celebrated his Easter exactly on the day of the full moon after the equinox, without minding on what day of the week it fell, or whether it coincided with the Jewish 14th of Nisan or not.

2. That if a Western acted also according to the equinox, he always celebrated his Easter on the Sunday after the full moon which followed the vernal equinox. If the full moon fell on a Sunday, he kept the festival not on that Sunday, but on the following one, and that because the day of the resurrection (consequently his Easter) ought to be observed not on the very day of the ιδʼ (being the day of Christ’s death), but after the ιδʼ.

We shall presently see that the latter manner of computation for regulating the celebration of the Easter festival was adopted by many, if not all, in the West; but we cannot determine whether many of the Asiatics did the same. The seventh (eighth) of the so-called Apostolic Canons, besides, ordered Easter to be celebrated universally after the vernal equinox.

When abandoning the way of Jewish computation, the Christians had naturally much more difficulty in determining the period of their Easter. It was necessary to make special calculations in order to know when Easter would fall; and the most ancient known calculation on this point is that of Hippolytus, a disciple of S. Irenæus, who was erroneously called Bishop of Pontus, but who was in fact a Roman priest at the commencement of the third century, and was opposition Bishop of Rome about the year 220 to 235. Eusebius says of him, that in his book upon Easter he makes a computation, and bases it upon a canon of sixteen years. Nothing more was known of this calculation or canon until in 1551, on the way to Tivoli, not far from the Church of S. Lawrence, there was discovered a marble statue of a bishop seated on his throne. It is at present in the Vatican Museum. It was recognised as the statue of Hippolytus, because a catalogue of the works of the bishop represented was inscribed upon the back of the throne. Upon the right side of the throne is a table of the Easter full moons, calculated for a period of a hundred and twelve years (from 222 to 333 after Christ). Upon the left side is a table of the Easter Sundays for the same period, and the calculation for both tables is based upon the cycle of sixteen years mentioned by Eusebius: so that, according to this calculation, after sixteen years, the Easter full moon falls on the same day of the month, and not of the week; and after a hundred and twelve years it falls regularly on the same day of the month, and of the week also. Ideler justly remarks that Hippolytus might have abridged his calculation one half, since according to it the full moon fell every eight years on the same day of the month, and that every fifty-six years it fell again on the same day of the month and of the week also.

This point being settled, Hippolytus lays down the following principles:—

1. The fast should not cease till the Sunday. This is expressly said in the inscription on the first table (engraven on the right side of the throne).

2. It is thence established that it is the Sunday which gives the rule, that the communion feast must then be celebrated, and the day of Christ’s death on the Friday.

3. As Hippolytus always places the ιδʼ after the 18th March, doubtless he considered the 18th March as the equinox, and this day formed the basis of his Easter calculations.

4. If the ιδʼ fell on a Friday, he would keep Good Friday on that day. If the ιδʼ fell on a Saturday, he would not keep Easter on the following day, but put it off for a week (as occurred in the year 222). In the same way, if the ιδʼ fell on a Sunday, it was not that day, but the following Sunday, which was his Easter day (for example, in 227).

As Hippolytus was a disciple of S. Irenæus, and one of the principal doctors of the Church of Rome, we may consider his Easter calculation as exactly expressing the opinion of the Westerns, and especially of the Church of Rome, on the subject.

The Church of Alexandria also did not celebrate Easter until after the equinox. The great Bishop Dionysius expressly says so in an Easter letter, now lost, which is mentioned by Eusebius. According to him, Dionysius must also have published an Easter canon for eight years. At Alexandria, the city of astronomers, it would, besides, have been easy for Bishop Dionysius to make a more exact computation than that of Hippolytus, who had settled the question satisfactorily for only a certain number of years.

But Dionysius was in his turn surpassed by another Alexandrian—Anatolius Bishop of Laodicea in Syria since 270, who wrote a work upon the feast of Easter, a fragment of which has been preserved by Eusebius. He discovered the Easter cycle of nineteen years, and began it with the year 277, probably because in that year his calculation was established.

1. Anatolius proceeds upon the principle that the ancient Jews did not celebrate the passover until after the equinox, and that consequently the Christian’s Easter ought never to be kept until after the vernal equinox.

2. He considers the 19th March as the equinox.

3. He says nothing about the old question relating to the fast, and the time when it should close; but evidently, as he was an Alexandrian, he followed the usual custom (and not that of Asia).

This cycle of nineteen years was soon subjected to different modifications, after which it was generally adopted in Alexandria from the time of Diocletian. The chief modification was, that the Alexandrians placed the equinox not on the 19th, but on the 21st March, which was tolerably exact for that period. Besides, when the ιδʼ fell on a Saturday, they departed from the systems of Anatolius and Hippolytus, and celebrated Easter on the following day, as we do now. The completion of this cycle of nineteen years is attributed to Eusebius of Cæsarea.

Such was the state of the question at the commencement of the fourth century. It shows us that the differences in the time for the celebration of Easter were at that time greater than ever.

The introduction of the question about the equinox had added fresh differences to the three former ones. Not only did some of the Asiatics continue the Jewish calculation then in use, so that their Easter might fall before the equinox; but some of the Westerns, not consulting the last astronomical calculations, also celebrated their Easter before the equinox.

Like the Asiatics, the Western Quartodecimans, who did not consider the equinox at all, often celebrated Easter earlier than the rest of Christendom, and therefore called themselves Protopaschites. But also among the Equinoctialists themselves there existed some difference: for the Alexandrians calculated Easter according to the cycle of nineteen years, and took the 21st March as the date of the equinox; whilst the Romans, as they followed Hippolytus, observed the cycle of sixteen years (subsequently that of eighty-four years), and placed the equinox on the 18th March. When the full moon occurred on the 19th March, it was considered by the Latins the Easter full moon, and they celebrated their festival on the following Sunday; whilst with the Alexandrians this full moon was before the equinox, and consequently they waited for another full moon, and celebrated their Easter a month after the day considered right by the Latins.

These serious and numerous differences were indeed very lamentable, and were the cause of many disputes and frequent troubles in countries where these different modes simultaneously existed. They often made the Christians an object of the most bitter ridicule on the part of the heathen. Indeed, the Council of Arles perfectly responded to the exigencies of the times, when in 314 it endeavoured to establish unanimity upon this question. This Synod commanded in its very first canon, that henceforth Easter should be celebrated uno die et uno tempore per omnem orbem, and that, according to custom, the Pope should send letters everywhere on this subject. The Synod therefore wished to make the Roman mode predominant, and to suppress every other, even the Alexandrian (supposing that the difference between the Alexandrian and the Roman calculation was known to the bishops at Arles).

But the ordinances of Arles were not accepted everywhere, and they failed to establish uniformity in the Church. The decision of an œcumenical council became necessary; and, in fact, the first Œcumenical Council of Nicæa was occupied with this business. We are ignorant of the detailed debates on this subject, knowing only the result as we find it in the encyclical letter of the Council, and in the Emperor’s circular.

In the former document, the Council thus addresses the Church of Alexandria, and its well-beloved brethren in Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis: “We give you good news of the unity which has been established respecting the holy passover. In fact, according to your desire, we have happily elucidated this business. All the brethren in the East who formerly celebrated Easter with the Jews, will henceforth keep it at the same time as the Romans, with us, and with all those who from ancient times have celebrated the feast at the same time with us.”

The Emperor Constantine made the following announcement in his letter to all who were not present at the Council:

When the question relative to the sacred festival of Easter arose, it was universally thought that it would be convenient that all should keep the feast on one day; for what could be more beautiful and more desirable, than to see this festival, through which we receive the hope of immortality, celebrated by all with one accord, and in the same manner? It was declared to be particularly unworthy for this, the holiest of all festivals, to follow the custom (the calculation) of the Jews, who had soiled their hands with the most fearful of crimes, and whose minds were blinded. In rejecting their custom, we may transmit to our descendants the legitimate mode of celebrating Easter, which we have observed from the time of the Saviour’s Passion to the present day (according to the day of the week). We ought not therefore to have anything in common with the Jews, for the Saviour has shown us another way: our worship follows a more legitimate and more convenient course (the order of the days of the week); and consequently, in unanimously adopting this mode, we desire, dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews, for it is truly shameful for us to hear them boast that without their direction we could not keep this feast. How can they be in the right,—they who, after the death of the Saviour, have no longer been led by reason, but by wild violence, as their delusion may urge them? They do not possess the truth in this Easter question; for, in their blindness and repugnance to all improvements, they frequently celebrate two passovers in the same year. We could not imitate those who are openly in error. How, then, could we follow these Jews, who are most certainly blinded by error? for to celebrate the passover twice in one year is totally inadmissible. But even if this were not so, it would still be your duty not to tarnish your soul by communications with such wicked people (the Jews). Besides, consider well, that in such an important matter, and on a subject of such great solemnity, there ought not to be any division. Our Saviour has left us only one festal day of our redemption, that is to say, of His holy passion, and He desired (to establish) only one Catholic Church. Think, then, how unseemly it is, that on the same day some should be fasting, whilst others are seated at a banquet; and that after Easter, some should be rejoicing at feasts, whilst others are still observing a strict fast. For this reason, Divine Providence wills that this custom should be rectified and regulated in a uniform way; and every one, I hope, will agree upon this point. As, on the one hand, it is our duty not to have anything in common with the murderers of our Lord, and as, on the other, the custom now followed by the Churches of the West, of the South, and of the North, and by some of those of the East, is the most acceptable, it has appeared good to all, and I have been guarantee for your consent, that you would accept it with joy, as it is followed at Rome, in Africa, in all Italy, Egypt, Spain, Gaul, Britain, Libya, in all Achaia, and in the dioceses of Asia, of Pontus, and Cilicia. You should consider not only that the number of churches in these provinces make a majority, but also that it is right to demand what our reason approves, and that we should have nothing in common with the Jews. To sum up in few words: by the unanimous judgment of all, it has been decided that the most holy festival of Easter should be everywhere celebrated on one and the same day, and it is not seemly that in so holy a thing there should be any division. As this is the state of the case, accept joyfully the divine favour, and this truly divine command; for all which takes place in assemblies of the bishops ought to be regarded as proceeding from the will of God. Make known to your brethren what has been decreed, keep this most holy day according to the prescribed mode; we can thus celebrate this holy Easter day at the same time, if it is granted me, as I desire, to unite myself with you; we can rejoice together, seeing that the divine power has made use of our instrumentality for destroying the evil designs of the devil, and thus causing faith, peace, and unity to flourish amongst us. May God graciously protect you, my beloved brethren.”

We find no further details in the acts. But it is easy to understand that the Fathers of the Council took as the basis of their decision the computation which was most generally admitted among orthodox Christians, that is, the one which regulated the ιδʼ according to the equinox, and Easter Sunday according to the ιδʼ. We have a letter of Constantine’s upon this point, which clearly shows the mind of the Council; for, according to this letter, the Synod requires, 1st, that Easter day should always be a Sunday (and therefore decides against the Quartodecimans); and 2d, that it should never be celebrated at the same time as the feast of the Jews. It results from this second decision, that according to the Synod, if the ιδʼ should fall on a Sunday, Easter was not to be celebrated on that Sunday, but a week later. And this for two reasons: (1) Because the ιδʼ indicates the day of the Saviour’s death, and that the festival of the resurrection ought to follow that day, and not to coincide with it; (2) because in those years when the ιδʼ should fall on a Sunday, Christians would be celebrating their Easter at the same time as the Jews, which was what the Synod wished to avoid. The third decision made at Nicæa was (3) to forbid Christians to celebrate Easter twice in one year; that is to say, that the equinox should be considered in all calculations about Easter.

In my opinion, there is no doubt that Constantine, in his letter, which has every appearance of being a synodical letter, mentioned only the decisions really arrived at by the Council. This indubitable fact being once admitted, it must certainly be acknowledged also that the Synod was right in giving rules for determining Easter day. Perhaps it did not explain expressly the principles which formed the basis of the three decisions given above, but undoubtedly all these decisions showed them sufficiently. When Ideler maintains “that the rule clearly enunciated in S. Epiphanius had not been expressly prescribed by the Council of Nicæa,” this opinion has no foundation, unless Ideler plays upon the word expressly; for Epiphanius gives, as the basis of his computation, the same three rules already laid down by the Nicene Council and in the letter of Constantine,—the observation of the Equinox, placing the ιδʼ after the equinox, and placing the Sunday after the ιδʼ. Ideler appears to me to have too easily accepted the theories in the second book of Christian Walch’s Decreti Nicæni de Paschale explicatio, which are opposed to our opinions.

It may be asked whether the Council intended to give the preference to the Roman computation, against the Alexandrian. Both rested upon the three rules accepted by the Council; but the Romans considered the 18th March, and the Alexandrians the 21st March, as the terminus a quo of the Easter full moon. According to Ideler, our Synod did not take much notice of this difference, and seemed indeed to entirely ignore it. The acts of the Council, in fact, do not show that it knew of this difference. The tenor of Constantine’s letter seems to authorize the opinion expressed by Ideler. The synodical letter indeed says: “In future, all shall celebrate Easter with the Romans, with us, and with all,” etc.; and Constantine supposes that the manner of celebrating Easter among the Romans and the Egyptians, and consequently among the Alexandrians, is identical. However, the great importance of the Easter question, and the particular value which it had at the time of the Nicene Council, hardly allow it to be supposed that the differences between the Roman and Alexandrian computations should not have been known in such a large assemblage of learned men, among whom were Romans and Alexandrians. It is much more rational to admit that these differences were well known, but that they were passed over without much discussion. To act thus was indeed an absolute necessity, if they wished to arrive at complete uniformity upon the Easter question; and what we are now saying is not a pure hypothesis, for Cyril of Alexandria says: “The General Synod has unanimously decreed that, since the Church of Alexandria is experienced in such sciences, she should announce by letter every year to the Roman Church the day on which Easter should be celebrated, so that the whole Church might then learn the time for the festival through apostolical authority” (i.e. of the Bishop of Rome).

Pope Leo. I. expresses himself in the same way in his letter to the Emperor Marcian. He says: “Studuerunt itaque sancti Patres” (he certainly understands by that the Fathers of Nicæa, though he does not expressly say so) “occasionem hujus erroris auferre, omnem hanc curam Alexandrino episcopo delegantes (quoniam apud Ægyptios hujus supputationis antiquitus tradita esse videbatur peritia), per quem quotannis dies prædictæ solemnitatis Sedi apostolicæ indicaretur, cujus scriptis ad longinquiores Ecclesias indicium generale percurreret.” If Pope Leo is in the right, this text teaches us two things: (1) That the Synod of Nicæa gave the preference to the Alexandrian computation over the Roman, whilst the contrary had been decreed at Arles; (2) That the Synod found a very good way of smoothing difficulties, by ordaining that the Alexandrian Church should announce the day for Easter to the Church of Rome, and that Rome should make it known to the whole Church.

Another account taken from S. Ambrose agrees very well with what S. Leo says. S. Ambrose tells us, indeed, that according to the advice of several mathematicians, the Synod of Nicæa adopted the cycle of nineteen years. Now this is the Alexandrian cycle; and in fact, in charging the Church of Alexandria to tell the day for Easter every year to the Church of Rome, it adopted the Alexandrian cycle.

Dupin therefore took useless trouble when he tried to prove that the Fathers of Nicæa had simply given occasion for the adoption of this canon. The Benedictine editions of the works of S. Ambrose have also weakened the meaning of the words of S. Ambrose, by making him say that the Nicene Fathers had indeed mentioned this cycle, but that they had not positively ordered it to be used.

It is rather remarkable that the Synod should not have placed its decision as to the celebration of the festival of Easter among its canons. None of the canons of the Council, not even those of doubtful authenticity, treat of this subject. Perhaps the Synod wished to conciliate those who were not ready to give up immediately the customs of the Quartodecimans. It refused to anathematize a practice which had been handed down from apostolic times in several orthodox Churches.

The differences in the way of fixing the period of Easter did not indeed disappear after the Council of Nicæa. Alexandria and Rome could not agree, either because one of the two Churches neglected to make the calculation for Easter, or because the other considered it inaccurate. It is a fact, proved by the ancient Easter table of the Roman Church, that the cycle of eighty-four years continued to be used at Rome as before. Now this cycle differed in many ways from the Alexandrian, and did not always agree with it about the period for Easter. In fact, (α) the Romans used quite another method from the Alexandrians: they calculated from the epact, and began from the feria prima of January. (β) The Romans were mistaken in placing the full moon a little too soon; whilst the Alexandrians placed it a little too late. (γ) At Rome the equinox was supposed to fall on the 18th March; whilst the Alexandrians placed it on the 21st March. (δ) Finally, the Romans differed in this from the Greeks also: they did not celebrate Easter the next day when the full moon fell on the Saturday.

Even the year following the Council of Nicæa—that is, in 326—as well as in the years 330, 333, 340, 341, 343, the Latins celebrated Easter on a different day from the Alexandrians. In order to put an end to this misunderstanding, the Synod of Sardica in 343, as we learn from the newly discovered festival letters of S. Athanasius, took up again the question of Easter, and brought the two parties (Alexandrians and Romans) to regulate, by means of mutual concessions, a common day for Easter for the next fifty years. This compromise, after a few years, was not observed. The troubles excited by the Arian heresy, and the division which it caused between the East and the West, prevented the decree of Sardica from being put into execution; therefore the Emperor Theodosius the Great, after the re-establishment of peace in the Church, found himself obliged to take fresh steps for obtaining a complete uniformity in the manner of celebrating Easter. In 387, the Romans having kept Easter on the 21st March, the Alexandrians did not do so for five weeks later—that is to say, till the 25th April—because with the Alexandrians the equinox was not till the 21st March. The Emperor Theodosius the Great then asked Theophilus Bishop of Alexandria for an explanation of the difference. The bishop responded to the Emperor’s desire, and drew up a chronological table of the Easter festivals, based upon the principles acknowledged by the Church of Alexandria. Unfortunately, we now possess only the prologue of his work.

Upon an invitation from Rome, S. Ambrose also mentioned the period of this same Easter in 387, in his letter to the bishops of Æmilia, and he sides with the Alexandrian computation. Cyril of Alexandria abridged the paschal table of his uncle Theophilus, and fixed the time for the ninety-five following Easters, that is, from 436 to 531 after Christ. Besides this, Cyril showed, in a letter to the Pope, what was defective in the Latin calculation; and this demonstration was taken up again, some time after, by order of the Emperor, by Paschasinus Bishop of Lilybæum and Proterius of Alexandria, in a letter written by them to Pope Leo I. In consequence of these communications, Pope Leo often gave the preference to the Alexandrian computation, instead of that of the Church of Rome. At the same time also was generally established, the opinion so little entertained by the ancient authorities of the Church—one might even say, so strongly in contradiction to their teaching—that Christ partook of the passover on the 14th Nisan, that He died on the 15th (not on the 14th, as the ancients considered), that He lay in the grave on the 16th, and rose again on the 17th. In the letter we have just mentioned, Proterius of Alexandria openly admitted all these different points.

Some years afterwards, in 457, Victor of Aquitaine, by order of the Roman Archdeacon Hilary, endeavoured to make the Roman and the Alexandrian calculations agree together. It has been conjectured that subsequently Hilary, when Pope, brought Victor’s calculation into use, in 456, that is, at the time when the cycle of eighty-four years came to an end. In the latter cycle the new moons were marked more accurately, and the chief differences existing between the Latin and Greek calculations disappeared; so that the Easter of the Latins generally coincided with that of Alexandria, or was only a very little removed from it. In cases when the ιδʼ fell on a Saturday, Victor did not wish to decide whether Easter should be celebrated the next day, as the Alexandrians did, or should be postponed for a week. He indicates both dates in his table, and leaves the Pope to decide what was to be done in each separate case. Even after Victor’s calculations, there still remained great differences in the manner of fixing the celebration of Easter; and it was Dionysius the Less who first completely overcame them, by giving to the Latins a paschal table having as its basis the cycle of nineteen years. This cycle perfectly corresponded to that of Alexandria, and thus established that harmony which had been so long sought in vain. He showed the advantages of his calculation so strongly, that it was admitted by Rome and by the whole of Italy; whilst almost the whole of Gaul remained faithful to Victor’s canon, and Great Britain still held the cycle of eighty-four years, a little improved by Sulpicius Severus. When the Heptarchy was evangelized by the Roman missionaries, the new converts accepted the calculation of Dionysius, whilst the ancient Churches of Wales held fast their old tradition. From this arose the well-known British dissensions about the celebration of Easter, which were transplanted by Columban into Gaul. In 729, the majority of the ancient British Churches accepted the cycle of nineteen years. It had before been introduced into Spain, immediately after the conversion of Reccared. Finally, under Charles the Great, the cycle of nineteen years triumphed over all opposition; and thus the whole of Christendom was united, for the Quartodecimans had gradually disappeared.

Before returning to the Quartodecimans, we will here add some details for the completion of what has been said on the Easter question. In ancient times, the entire duration of a year was calculated erroneously. Thus it happened by degrees, that the equinox, instead of falling on the 21st March as announced by the calendar, really fell on the 11th March of the calendar then in use. The calculations upon the lunar months also contained many errors. For this reason, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII. introduced a calendar improved by Alois Lilius of Calabria, by the Jesuit Clavius, and others. The improvements of this calendar were: 1st, That the morrow of the 4th October 1582 was counted as the 15th October, and the calendar was thus made to agree with astronomical calculations; 2d, The Easter full moon was calculated much more accurately than before, and rules were established for the future prevention of the difficulties which had been previously experienced. Every fourth year was to be leap year, with the exception of the secular year (i.e. the year at the end of the century); yet even in this case, in four secular years, one was to be leap year. Thus the years 1600 and 2000 are leap years, whilst the years 1700 and 1800 and 1900 are not so.

The Gregorian Calendar from this time came into use in all Catholic countries. The Greek Church would not admit it. Protestants accepted it in 1775, after long hesitation and much dissension. In the time of Gregory XIII. the difference between the calendar and the real astronomical year was ten days; if this calendar had not been changed, it would have been eleven days in 1700, and twelve in 1800: for this reason the Russians with their Julian Calendar are now twelve days behind us. But even the Gregorian Calendar itself is not quite exact; for, according to the calculations of Lalande, which are now generally admitted, the duration of a tropical year is shorter by 24 seconds than the Gregorian Calendar, so that after 3600 years it would differ by one day from the astronomical year. Besides this, the Gregorian Calendar has not fixed the months with perfect accuracy. A somewhat defective cycle was selected on account of its greater simplicity; so that, astronomically speaking, the Easter full moon may rise two hours after the time calculated by the calendar: thus, it might be at one o’clock on the Sunday morning, whilst announced by the calendar for eleven o’clock on Saturday night. In this case Easter would be celebrated on that same Sunday, when it ought to be on the following Sunday.

We remark, finally, that the Gregorian Calendar occasionally makes our Christian Easter coincide with the Jewish passover, as for instance in 1825. This coincidence is entirely contrary to the spirit of the Nicene Council; but it is impossible to avoid it, without violating the rule for finding Easter which is now universally adopted.

SEC. 38. The later Quartodecimans

The Council of Nicæa was to find more difficulty in the East than in the West in establishing complete uniformity in the celebration of Easter. Without regard to the synodical decisions, many Quartodecimans continued to celebrate Easter according to their old custom. The Synod of Antioch in 341 was even obliged to threaten them with ecclesiastical penalties if they did not adopt the common rules. It did so in these words, in its first canon: “All those who do not observe the decision respecting the holy festival of Easter made by the holy and great Synod of Nicæa, assembled in the presence of the most pious Emperor Constantine, are to be excommunicated and cut off from the Church if they continue obstinate in rejecting the legal rule.” The preceding refers to the laity. But if a pastor of the Church, a bishop, priest, or deacon, acted contrary to this decree, and ventured, to the great scandal of the people, and at the risk of troubling the Church, to Judaize, and to celebrate Easter with the Jews, the Synod considered him as no longer forming part of the Church, seeing that he not only bore the weight of his own sin, but that he was also guilty of the fall of several others. This clergyman is by the very fact itself deposed; and not he alone, but also all those who continue to go to him after his deposition. Such as are deposed have no longer any right to any of the outward honour given them by the sacred office with which they were invested.

These threatenings were not entirely successful. On the contrary, we learn from S. Epiphanius that in his time, about the year 400 after Christ, there were still many Quartodecimans, and that they were even disagreed among themselves. As to their faith, they are orthodox, said S. Epiphanius; but they hold too much to Jewish fables, i.e. they observe the Jewish Easter, and build upon the passage: “Cursed is he who does not celebrate his passover on the 14th Nisan.” All that we know respecting these Quartodecimans may be summed up as follows:—

a. They celebrate one day only, whilst the Catholic Easter lasts for a whole week.

b. On that day, the day of the ιδʼ, they fast, and they communicate: they fast till three o’clock, consequently not a whole day; which S. Epiphanius disapproves.

c. One party among them (in Cappadocia) always celebrated Easter on the 25th March, on whatever day of the week it might fall, according to the (apocryphal) Acta Pilati, which says that Jesus Christ died on the 25th March.

d. Others did not for that reason abandon the 14th Nisan, but hoped to make the two dates agree, by celebrating their Easter on the day of the full moon immediately following the 25th March.

According to this, the Quartodecimans of S. Epiphanius fall into three classes, one of which abandons the ιδʼ, and consequently separates itself considerably from the Jews. It is impossible to determine whether the other classes followed the ancient or the new method of the Jews in their calculation for Easter; but the praise which S. Epiphanius gives them for their orthodoxy proves that they were not Ebionites, but that they were attached to the Johannean tradition which was for a long time prevalent in Asia Minor.

SEC. 39. The Audians

The Audians, or Odians, are a remarkable branch of the Quartodecimans: they lived in cloisters, and followed the rules of the monastic life. Their foundation was derived from a certain Audius of Mesopotamia, about the time of the Synod of Nicæa. Audius had become celebrated by the severity of his asceticism; and Epiphanius, who mentions him in his History of Heretics, treats him with all possible favour, so much so that the ascetic with whom he sympathizes makes him almost forget the schismatic. Audius, he says, had censured the abuses which had been introduced into the Church, particularly the luxury and avarice of several of the bishops and clergy, and had therefore brought upon himself much hatred and persecution. He had borne all with patience, when finally the blows and unworthy treatment of which he was the object, forced him, so to speak, to excommunicate himself, and together with a few partisans, among whom were found some bishops and priests, to form a particular sect.

As for the rest, adds Epiphanius, he had certainly not fallen from the true faith: at most, he could be accused only of having expressed and maintained a singular opinion upon a point of small importance. Like several ancient doctors, e.g. Melito, Audius anthropomorphically considered the resemblance of man to God to be in the body,—an opinion which S. Epiphanius has refuted in a rather long dissertation. Before beginning the refutation of Audius, Epiphanius relates that this ascetic was consecrated bishop after he left the Church, by a bishop who had left the Church with him. He adds that the Audians lived by the work of their hands, and that their whole life was truly praiseworthy.

According to Epiphanius, the second difference between the Audians and the Church was about the celebration of the festival of Easter. From the ninth chapter S. Epiphanius seeks to express very explicitly what he understands by this difference, but his exposition is not clear.

The Audians set out from this fundamental principle: Easter must be celebrated at the same time (but not in the same manner) as with the Jews. This practice had been that of the primitive Church; and it was only from consideration for the Emperor Constantine, and in order to celebrate his birthday, that it had been abolished at Nicæa. Epiphanius refutes this last accusation of the Audians, by showing that, according to the rules of Nicæa, Easter could not always fall on the same day of the month: therefore it could not always fall on the Emperor’s birthday.

To support their manner of celebrating Easter, Epiphanius says, that the Audians quoted a sacred book, διατάξεις τῶν ἀποστόλων. This book, we see, bears the same title as our so-called Apostolic Constitutions; but the fragments of it given by S. Epiphanius are not to be found in our text of the Apostolic Constitutions, and especially upon the Easter question they disagree with the contents of these Constitutions. S. Epiphanius spares no praise of the orthodoxy of these διατάξεις: he even finds that as to discipline it is quite conformed to the custom of the Church. Only the Audians interpret it erroneously in what concerns the celebration of the Easter festival. The apostles in these διατάξεις give the following rule: “You (that is, you Gentile Christians) ought to celebrate Easter at the same time as your brethren who have been Jews (ἐκ περιτομῆς).” The apostles meant: You ought to act like the rest of the faithful; whilst the Audians interpreted their words thus: You ought to celebrate Easter with the Jews (οἱ ἐν περιτομῆ). If, however, the apostolic rule meant, in a general way, that they ought to celebrate Easter with other Christians, Epiphanius concludes with reason that the Audians ought now to bow to the commands of the Council of Nicæa; for in speaking thus, the διατάξεις had in view the unity and uniformity of the Church. S. Epiphanius proves that the διατάξεις really only desired unity, and that they gave no directory of their own for the keeping of the festival. He quotes the following passage in support of his sentiments: “Even if those whose manner of celebrating Easter you have adopted should be mistaken in their views, you ought not to regard it.” The διατάξεις did not therefore intend to prescribe the best and most correct practice, but to induce the minority to follow the majority; and as Christians who had been Jews formed this majority, they recommended Jewish practice for the establishment of unity.

Up to this S. Epiphanius is clear and intelligible; but what follows is full of difficulties, many of which are perhaps insoluble. Here is all that we can say with any certainty about these riddles of Œdipus, as Petavius calls them in his notes upon Epiphanius.

To prove to the Audians that they should follow the sense and not the letter of the διατάξεις, he seeks to show that, taken in a literal sense, the text contains contradictions. In proof, he gives the following passage in the eleventh chapter: “Whilst the Jews have their festival of joy (the passover), you should weep and fast on their account, because it was on the day of this feast that they nailed the Saviour to the cross. And when they weep and eat unleavened bread with bitter herbs, you should celebrate your festival of joy.” Now, as the Jews held this festival on a Sunday, it would follow, according to the διατάξεις, that Christians should weep and fast on the Sunday. But this is forbidden, and the διατάξεις themselves say, “Cursed be he who fasts on the Sunday.” Here there is a manifest contradiction; and, looked at closely, there is even a double contradiction: for, 1st, It is commanded to fast, and yet not to fast on the Sunday; and 2d, This precept is in opposition to the other, which the Audians pretend to draw from the διατάξεις, namely, that they ought to celebrate Easter with the Jews. Thus, says Epiphanius, the διατάξεις, according to the opinion of the Audians on the one side, require Easter to be kept with the Jews; and on the other, they require Christians to do the contrary of what the Jews do. S. Epiphanius then tries to smooth this difficulty about the literal sense, and does it in the following way: “When the Jews celebrate their feast after the equinox, you may do so at the same time as they; but if, according to their new and wrong reckoning, they celebrate it before the equinox, you should not imitate them: for in that case there would be two celebrations of Easter in the same year.”

S. Epiphanius having this solution in mind, had already made allusion to it at the beginning of the eleventh chapter, by remarking that Easter was calculated according to the sun, the equinox, and the moon, whilst the Jews paid no attention to the equinox. By this remark he interrupts his demonstration of the contradictions contained in the διατάξεις. He had said, indeed, at the end of the tenth chapter: “Even the terms (the terms of the διατάξεις) contain a contradiction, for they contain the command to observe the fast of the vigil during the time of the feast of unleavened bread (μεσαζόντων τῶν ἀζύμων). Now, according to ecclesiastical calculation, that is not possible every year.” With Petavius, I think that Epiphanius here simply says the same as in the eleventh chapter: “When the Jews feast, we should fast; but the repast of the Jews often takes place on the Sabbath, during which day it is forbidden to fast.” The meaning, then, of the words quoted above is this: “They demand that we should fast on the day of the feast of unleavened bread, that is, on the day of the ιδʼ (μεσαζ. ἀζ. = during the time of unleavened bread). But, according to the Church calendar, that is not always possible, because sometimes the ιδʼ falls on a Sunday.” I regard, then, the last words of the tenth chapter as merely announcing the contradiction which is afterwards shown in the eleventh chapter. Weitzel gives another meaning to these words: “The vigil of Easter (before the festival of the resurrection) should always fall in the middle of the week of unleavened bread, which is not always possible, according to the ecclesiastical calculation.” It is quite true that this coincidence could not always take place according to the calculation of Nicæa; but it would have been of no use for Epiphanius to appeal to the Council of Nicæa, as it was no authority to the Audians. With them, on the contrary, the eve of the festival of the resurrection always fell about the middle of the week of unleavened bread, that is to say, at the end of the second day. Besides, the connection between the tenth and eleventh chapters, and the line of argument of S. Epiphanius, render necessary the explanation which we have given of this passage.

In bringing forward these contradictions of the διατάξεις, S. Epiphanius simply wished to refute the exaggerated Quartodecimanism of the Audians; but he does not mean to say that these same Audians followed all these principles of the διατάξεις. He does not say, “You celebrate Easter with the Jews, and you fast when they are eating the passover.” On the contrary, it appears that they were ignorant of these further requirements of the διατάξεις; for Epiphanius does not in the least reproach them with acting in this way. He does not suppose in any way that they so hold it, but he shows them that that is what the διατάξεις teach. All that we know of the way of celebrating Easter in use among the Audians is therefore reduced to this:—

a. They always celebrated Easter with the Jews, consequently on the day of the ιδʼ.

b. They did not separate themselves from the Jews, even when the latter kept their passover before the equinox. This twofold practice is entirely in harmony with what we know of the origin and character of the Audians. Before separating from the Church, they shared the sentiments of many Asiatic Christians; that is to say, they were Johannean Quartodecimans, who celebrated their Easter, communicated, and ended their fast on the day of the ιδʼ. The orthodoxy of the Church which they left (the Catholic Church of Asia Minor), and the praises of S. Epiphanius of their faith, do not allow us to suppose that they could have been Ebionite Quartodecimans. Epiphanius does not say that they celebrate Easter in the same manner as the Jews, but only that they celebrate it at the same time as the Jews. Neither must we conclude that they were Ebionites because they sometimes kept Easter with the Jews before the equinox. That only proves that they followed the ιδʼ closely, simply, and literally, without troubling themselves with astronomical calculations. When the Jews celebrated the ιδʼ, they kept their Christian feast.

We have seen that they appealed to an apocryphal book. We do not know if they followed the rules of this book on other points. The analysis which Epiphanius makes of all the passages of the διατάξεις shows us that the Audians did not follow entirely the rules given in this work about the celebration of Easter. It is not easy to determine the exact meaning of these rules. As Epiphanius understands them, they set forth the following requirements:—“When the Jews keep their passover after the equinox, you may celebrate Easter at the same time; but if, according to their new and erroneous reckoning, they keep it before the equinox, you ought not to imitate them.” Weitzel gives another meaning to this passage: “When the Jews eat,” etc. He believes that the διατάξεις wish to establish a middle course between the Western and Eastern practices—that Quartodecimanism is their basis; to which they add the two following directions:—

a. On the day of the ιδʼ, when the Jews keep their passover, you should fast and weep, because it is the day of Christ’s death.

b. But when the Jews are mourning on the days following the passover, or more exactly, on the Mazot days, you should feast, that is to say, you should celebrate your Easter festival on the day of the resurrection.

They therefore preserved on one side the Asiatic practice, which required that Easter should be regulated according to the day of the month; and on the other, they admitted the Roman custom, which was to fast on the day of Christ’s death, and to celebrate the festival on the day of His resurrection. The eve of that day would then be the ἀγρυπνία μεσαζόντων τῶν ἀζύμων spoken of by Epiphanius at the end of the tenth chapter. We have shown above that this latter opinion was without foundation; and besides, Weitzel’s hypothesis has also this against it, that it makes the διατάξεις offer a very strange compromise between the Easter usage of the Westerns and that of the Asiatics,—a compromise which is found nowhere else, and which the Audians would not have accepted.

Epiphanius gives the following information upon the after-history of the Audians, and the duration of this sect of the Quartodecimans. As Audius was continually trying to spread his doctrine further, and as he had already gained both men and women to his side, the bishops complained of him to the Emperor, who banished him to Scythia. S. Epiphanius does not say how long he lived there; but he relates that he spread Christianity among the Goths in the neighbourhood (probably those on the borders of the Black Sea); that he founded monasteries among them, which became celebrated for the austerity of their rules and the chastity of their monks; but that he continued to celebrate Easter according to his method, and to maintain his opinion about our likeness to God. The Audians showed the same obstinacy in refusing to communicate with other Christians, or to live even with the most virtuous among them. What appears intolerable to S. Epiphanius is, that they would not content themselves with the general name of Christians, and that they united to it the name of a man in calling themselves Audians. After the death of Audius, Uranius was their principal bishop in Mesopotamia; but they had several bishops in the land of the Goths, among whom Epiphanius mentions Sylvanus. After the death of Uranius and Sylvanus, the sect became very small. With the other Christians, they were driven from the country of the Goths by the pagan king Athanarich (372). “They have also left our country,” adds S. Epiphanius, “and their convent on Mount Taurus (in the south of Asia Minor), as well as those in Palestine and Arabia, have been abandoned.” S. Epiphanius concludes his notice with the remark, that the number of members of this party and of their monasteries was very small at the time when he wrote, that is, about the year 400 after Christ; and they then had only two resorts, one in Chalcis, and the other in Mesopotamia. It is hardly probable that the anthropomorphic monks of Egypt could have had any connection with the Audians: the laws of the Emperors Theodosius II. and Valentinian III. prove that the latter still existed in the fifth century, for they were then reckoned among the heretics; but in the sixth century they altogether disappear.

SEC. 40. Decision on the subject of the Meletian Schism

The third chief business of the Synod of Nicæa was to put an end to the Meletian schism, which had broken out some time before in Egypt, and must not be confused with another Meletian schism which agitated Antioch half a century later. The imperfect connection, or rather the contradiction, which exists in the information furnished by the original documents, hardly allows us to determine what was the true origin of the Meletian schism of Egypt. These documents may be divided into four classes, as chief of which, on account of their importance, we must mention those discovered more than a century ago by Scipio Maffeï, in a MS. belonging to the chapter of Verona, and printed in the third volume of his Observazioni letterarie. Routh afterwards reprinted them in his Reliquiæ sacræ.

These documents are all in Latin, but they are evidently translated from the Greek; and in order to be understood, must often be re-translated into Greek. But that is not always sufficient: in many places the text is so corrupt as to be perfectly unintelligible. The authenticity of these documents, which are three in number, has been doubted by no one, and their importance has been universally acknowledged. The most important, the largest, and the most ancient of these pieces, is a letter written from their dungeon by the four Egyptian bishops, Hesychius, Pachomius, Theodorus, and Phileas, to Meletius himself. Eusebius relates that these four bishops were seized and martyred under Diocletian. Maffeï presumes s that Phileas Bishop of Thmuis, in Upper Egypt, was the composer of this common letter, because this bishop is known elsewhere as a writer, and is quoted by Eusebius and S. Jerome as a learned man. What adds to the probability of this hypothesis, is the fact that in the letter in question Phileas is mentioned the last, whilst Eusebius and the Acts of the Martyrs, translated into Latin, mention him first, and represent him as one of the most important men in Egypt. Besides, this letter by Phileas, etc., was evidently written at the commencement of the schism of Meletius, and before he had been formally separated from the Church; for the bishops gave him the name of dilectus comminister in Domino. “They have,” they say, “for some time heard vague rumours on the subject of Meletius: he was accused of troubling the divine order and ecclesiastical rules. Quite recently these reports had been confirmed by a great number of witnesses, so that they had been obliged to write this letter. It was impossible for them to describe the general sadness and profound emotion occasioned by the ordinations that Meletius had held in strange dioceses. He was, however, acquainted with the law, so ancient and so entirely in conformity with divine and human right, which forbids a bishop to hold an ordination in a strange diocese. But without respect to this law, or to the great bishop and father Peter (Archbishop of Alexandria), or for those who were in prison, he had brought everything into a state of confusion. Perhaps he would say in self-justification, that necessity had obliged him to act thus, because the parishes were without pastors. But this allegation was false, for they had instituted several περιοδευταὶ and visitors; and in case of these being negligent, he should have brought the matter before the imprisoned bishops. In case they should have told him that these bishops were already executed, he could easily have discovered if it were so; and even supposing that the news of their death had been verified, his duty was still to ask of the chief Father (Peter Archbishop of Alexandria) permission to hold ordinations.” Finally, the bishops recommended him to observe the holy rules of the Church for the future.

The second document is a short notice added by an ancient anonymous writer to the preceding letter. It is thus worded: “Meletius having received and read this letter, made no answer to it, nor did he go either to the imprisoned bishops or to Peter of Alexandria. After the death of these bishops as martyrs, he went immediately to Alexandria, where he made partisans of two intriguers, Isidore and Arius, who wished to become priests, and were full of jealousy against their archbishop. They pointed out to him the two visitors appointed by Archbishop Peter: Meletius excommunicated them, and appointed two others in their place. When Archbishop Peter was told of what was passing, he addressed the following letter to the people of Alexandria.”

This letter is the third important document, and is thus worded: “Having learned that Meletius had no respect for the letter of the blessed bishops and martyrs (we perceive that Phileas and his companions had been already executed), but that he has introduced himself into my diocese—that he has deposed those to whom I had given authority, and consecrated others—I request you to avoid all communion with him, until it is possible for me to meet him with some wise men, and to examine into this business.”

We will thus sum up what results from the analysis of these three documents:—

1st. Meletius, an Egyptian bishop (the other bishops call him comminister) of Lycopolis in the Thebaïs (S. Athanasius gives us this latter information in his Apologia contra Arianos, No. 71), made use of the time when a great number of bishops were in prison on account of their faith, in despite of all the rules of the Church, to hold ordinations in foreign dioceses, probably in those of the four bishops, Phileas, Hesychius, Theodoras, and Pachomius.

2d. Nothing necessitated these ordinations; and if they had been really necessary, Meletius ought to have asked permission to hold them from the imprisoned bishops, or, in case of their death, from Peter Archbishop of Alexandria.

3d. None of these three documents tell where Archbishop Peter was at that time, but the second and third prove that he was not at Alexandria. They show also that he was not imprisoned like his four colleagues, Phileas and the rest. Indeed, it was because Peter could not live at Alexandria that he had authorized commissaries to represent him, but Meletius took advantage of his absence to bring trouble into this city also.

Again, we may conclude that Peter was not imprisoned:

(α.) Even from the letter which he wrote, saying, “He would go himself to Alexandria.”

(β.) From the first as well as the second document putting a difference between his situation and that of the imprisoned bishops.

(γ.) Finally, from these words of Socrates: “During Peter’s flight, on account of the persecution then raging, Meletius allowed himself to hold ordinations.” We will admit, in passing, the fact that Archbishop Peter, like Dionysius the Great and S. Cyprian, had fled during the persecution, and was absent from Alexandria, because it is of great importance in judging of the value of other information from the same sources.

4th. According to the second document, Meletius despised the exhortations of the four imprisoned bishops, and would not enter into relation either with them or with Archbishop Peter; and after the death of these bishops he went himself to Alexandria, where he united with Arius and Isidore, excommunicated the episcopal visitors appointed by Peter, and ordained two others.

5th. Archbishop Peter, being informed of all these things, recommended from his retreat all the faithful not to communicate with Meletius.

The offence of Meletius, then, consisted in his having introduced himself without any right into other dioceses, and in having given holy orders. It was not so much the necessity of the Church as his own arrogance and ambition which impelled him to this step. Epiphanius and Theodoret tell us that Meletius came next in rank to the Bishop of Alexandria, that he was jealous of his primate, and wished to profit by his absence, in order to make himself master and primate of Egypt.

The second source of information upon the origin of the Meletians is composed of some expressions of S. Athanasius, and of the ecclesiastical historian Socrates. Athanasius, who had had much to do with the Meletians, says—

(α.) In his Apology: “The latter (Peter Archbishop of Alexandria) in a synodical assembly deposed Melitius (Athanasius always writes Μελίτιος), who had been convicted of many offences, and particularly of having offered sacrifice to idols. But Melitius did not appeal to another synod, neither did he try to defend himself; but he raised a schism, and to this day his followers do not call themselves Christians, but Melitians. Shortly afterwards he began to spread invectives against the bishops, particularly against Peter, and subsequently against Achillas and Alexander” (who were Peter’s two immediate successors).

(β.) The same work of S. Athanasius furnishes us also with the following information: “From the times of the bishop and martyr Peter, the Melitians have been schismatics and enemies of the Church: they injured Bishop Peter, maligned his successor Achillas, and denounced Bishop Alexander to the Emperor.”

(γ.) S. Athanasius in a third passage says: “The Melitians are impelled by ambition and avarice.” And: “They were declared schismatics fifty-five years ago, and thirty-six years ago the Arians were declared heretics.”

(δ.) Finally, in a fourth passage: “The Eusebians knew well how the Melitians had behaved against the blessed martyr Peter, then against the great Achillas, and finally against Alexander of blessed memory.”

Socrates agrees so well in all concerning the Meletians with what Athanasius says, that it might be supposed that Socrates had only copied Athanasius.

Here is an epitome of the facts given by both:

1. They accuse Meletius of having offered sacrifice to the gods during the persecution. The three documents analysed above do not say a word of this apostasy, neither does Sozomen mention it; and S. Epiphanius gives such praises to Meletius, that certainly he did not even suspect him of this apostasy. It may also be said with some reason, that such consideration would not have been shown to Meletius and his followers by the Synod of Nicæa if he had really offered sacrifice to idols.

On the other hand, it cannot be admitted that S. Athanasius should have knowingly accused Meletius of a crime which he had not committed. The whole character of this great man is opposed to such a supposition; and besides, the commonest prudence would have induced him to avoid making an accusation which he knew to be false, in a public work against declared adversaries. It is much more probable that such reports were really circulated about Meletius, as other bishops, e.g. Eusebius of Cæsarea, were subjected to the like calumny. What may perhaps have occasioned these rumours about Meletius, is the fact that for some time this bishop was able to traverse Egypt without being arrested, and ordained priests at Alexandria and elsewhere; whilst bishops, priests, and deacons who were firm in the faith were thrown into prison, and shed their blood for their holy faith.

2. Athanasius and Socrates reproach Meletius with having despised, calumniated, and persecuted the Bishops of Alexandria, Peter, Achillas, and Alexander.

3. By comparing the expressions of S. Athanasius with the original documents analysed above, we are able to determine almost positively the period of the birth of the Meletian schism. Athanasius, indeed, agrees with the three original documents, in affirming that it broke out during the episcopate of Peter, who occupied the throne of Alexandria from the year 300 to 311. S. Athanasius gives us a much more exact date when he says that the Meletians had been declared schismatics fifty-five years before. Unfortunately we do not know in what year he wrote the work in which he gives this information. It is true that S. Athanasius adds these words to the text already quoted: “For thirty-six years the Arians have been declared heretics.” If S. Athanasius is alluding to the condemnation of Arianism by the Council of Nicæa, he must have written this work in 361, that is to say, thirty-six years after the year 325, when the Council of Nicæa was held; but others, and particularly the learned Benedictine Montfaucon, reckon these thirty-six years from the year 320, when the heresy of Arius was first condemned by the Synod of Alexandria. According to this calculation, Athanasius must have written his Epistola ad Episcopos Ægypti in 356. These two dates, 356 and 361, give us 301 or 306 as the date of the origin of the schism of Meletius, since it was fifty-five years before 356 or 361, according to S. Athanasius, that the Meletians were condemned. We have therefore to choose between 301 and 306; but we must not forget that, according to the original documents, this schism broke out during a terrible persecution against the Christians. Now, as Diocletian’s persecution did not begin to rage in a cruel manner until between the years 303 and 305, we are led to place the origin of this schism about the year 304 or 305.

4. Our second series of original authorities do not say that Meletius ordained priests in other dioceses, but S. Athanasius mentions that “Meletius was convicted of many offences.” We may suppose that he intended an allusion to these ordinations, and consequently it would be untrue to say that Athanasius and the original documents are at variance.

5. Neither can it be objected that S. Athanasius mentions a condemnation of Meletius by a synod of Egyptian bishops, whilst the original documents say nothing about it, for these documents refer only to the first commencement of the Meletian schism. Sozomen, besides, is agreed upon this point with S. Athanasius, in the main at least. He says: “Peter Archbishop of Alexandria excommunicated the Meletians, and would not consider their baptism to be valid; Arius blamed the bishop for this severity.” It must be acknowledged that, according to the right opinion respecting heretical baptism, the archbishop was here too severe; but also it must not be forgotten that the question of the validity of baptism administered by heretics was not raised until later, and received no complete and definite solution till 314, at the Council of Arles.

Up to this point, the documents which we have consulted have nothing which is mutually contradictory; but we cannot say as much of the account given us of the Meletian schism by S. Epiphanius. He says: “In Egypt there exists a party of Meletians, which takes its name from a bishop of the Thebaïs called Μελήτιος. This man was orthodox, and in what concerns the faith did not at all separate from the Church.… He raised a schism, but he did not alter the faith. During the persecution he was imprisoned with Peter, the holy bishop and martyr (of Alexandria), and with others.… He had precedence of the other Egyptian bishops, and came immediately after Peter of Alexandria, whose auxiliary he was.… Many Christians had fallen during the persecution, had sacrificed to idols, and now entreated the confessors and martyrs to have compassion on their repentance. Some of these penitents were soldiers; others belonged to the clerical order. These were priests, deacons, etc. There was then much hesitation and even confusion among the martyrs: for some said that the lapsi should not be admitted to penitence, because this ready admission might shake the faith of others. The defenders of this opinion had good reasons for them. We must number among these defenders Meletius, Peleus, and other martyrs and confessors: all wished that they should await the conclusion of the persecution before admitting the lapsi to penitence. They also demanded that those clergy who had fallen should no longer exercise the functions of their office, but for the rest of their lives should remain in lay communion.” The holy Bishop Peter, merciful as he ever was, then made this request: “Let us receive them if they manifest repentance; we will give them a penance to be able afterwards to reconcile them with the Church. We will not refuse them nor the clergy either, so that shame and the length of time may not impel them to complete perdition.” Peter and Meletius not agreeing upon this point, a division arose between them; and when Archbishop Peter perceived that his merciful proposition was formally set aside by Meletius and his party, he hung his mantle in the middle of the dungeon as a sort of curtain, and sent word by a deacon: “Whoever is of my opinion, let him come here; and let whoso holds that of Meletius go to the other side.” Most passed over to the side of Meletius, and only a few to Peter. From this time the two parties were separate in their prayers, their offerings, and their ceremonies. Peter afterwards suffered martyrdom, and the Archbishop Alexander was his successor. Meletius was arrested with other confessors, and condemned to work in the mines of Palestine. On his way to exile Meletius did what he had before done in prison,—ordained bishops, priests, and deacons, and founded churches of his own, because his party and that of Peter would not have communion with each other. The successors of Peter called theirs the Catholic Church, whilst the Meletians named theirs the Church of the Martyrs. Meletius went to Eleutheropolis, to Gaza, and to Aelia (Jerusalem), and everywhere ordained clergy. He must have remained a long time in the mines; and there also his followers and those of Peter would not communicate together, and assembled in different places for prayer. At last they were all delivered. Meletius still lived a long time, and was in friendly relations with Alexander, the successor of Bishop Peter. He occupied himself much with the preservation of the faith. Meletius lived at Alexandria, where he had a church of his own. It was he who first denounced the heresy of Arius to Bishop Alexander.

We see that Epiphanius gives the history of the Meletian schism in quite a different way from S. Athanasius and the original documents. According to him, the origin of this schism was the disagreement between Meletius and Peter on the subject of the admission of the lapsi, and particularly about the clergy who had fallen. In this business Meletius had not been so severe as the Novatians, but more so than his archbishop, who had shown too much mercy,—so much so that the right appeared to be undoubtedly on his side. In order to explain this contrast, it has often been supposed that Epiphanius took a notice composed by a Meletian as the foundation of his own account, and that he was thus led to treat Meletius much too favourably. But it seems to me that it may be explained more satisfactorily. S. Epiphanius relates, that on his way to the mines, Meletius founded a Church for his party at Eleutheropolis. Now Eleutheropolis was the native country of S. Epiphanius, consequently he must have known many of the Meletians personally in his youth. These fellow-countrymen of S. Epiphanius would doubtless make him acquainted with the origin of their party, placing it in the most favourable light; and subsequently S. Epiphanius would give too favourable an account of them in his work.

It may now be asked, What is the historical value of S. Epiphanius’ history? I know that very many Church historians have decided in its favour, and against Athanasius; but since the discovery of original documents, this opinion is no longer tenable, and it must be acknowledged that S. Epiphanius was mistaken on the principal points.

a. According to Epiphanius, Meletius was imprisoned at the same time as Peter. Now the original documents prove that, at the time of the commencement of the schism, neither Peter nor Meletius was in prison.

b. According to S. Epiphanius, Bishop Peter of Alexandria was too merciful towards the lapsi; but the penitential canons of this bishop present him in quite another light, and prove that he knew how to keep a wise middle course, and to proportion the penance to the sin. He who had borne torture for a long time before allowing himself to be conquered by the feebleness of the flesh, was to be less severely punished than he who had only resisted for a very short time. The slave who, by order of his master, and in his stead, had sacrificed to idols, was only punished by a year of ecclesiastical penance, whilst his master was subjected to a penance of three years (canons 6 and 7). The tenth canon particularly forbids that deposed priests should be restored to their cures, and that anything but lay communion should be granted to them. Peter therefore here teaches exactly what S. Epiphanius supposes to be the opinion of Meletius, and what, according to him, Peter refused to admit.

c. S. Epiphanius is mistaken again, when he relates that Peter was martyred in prison, as the original documents, and S. Athanasius, who had the opportunity of knowing the facts, tell us that Peter left his retreat, and excommunicated Meletius in a synod.

d. According to S. Epiphanius, Alexander was the immediate successor of Bishop Peter, whilst in reality it was Achillas who succeeded Peter, and Alexander succeeded him.

e. Finally, according to S. Epiphanius, the schismatic Meletius, although having a separate church at Alexandria, was on the best terms with Archbishop Alexander, and denounced the heresy of Arius to him; but the whole conduct of Meletius towards the Archbishop of Alexandria, and the part taken by the Meletians in the Arian heresy, give much more credibility to the assertion of S. Athanasius. Meletius, according to him, despised and persecuted Bishop Alexander, as he had before done his predecessors on the throne of Alexandria.

We have exhausted the three sources of information already mentioned. Those remaining for us to consult have neither the importance, nor the antiquity, nor the historical value of the three first. Among these documents there are, however, two short accounts by Sozomen and Theodoret, which deserve consideration, and which agree very well with the original documents, and in part with what is said by S. Athanasius. We have already made use of these accounts. As for S. Augustine, he mentions the Meletians only casually, and says nothing as to the origin of the sect; besides, he must have had before him the account of Epiphanius.

The great importance of the Meletian schism decided the Council of Nicæa to notice it, especially as, in the Emperor’s mind, the principal object of the Council was to restore peace to the Church. Its decision on this matter has been preserved to us in the synodical letter of the Egyptian bishops, etc., who speak in these terms of the Meletian schism, after having treated of the heresy of Arius: “It has also been necessary to consider the question of Meletius and those ordained by him; and we wish to make known to you, beloved brethren, what the Synod has decided upon this matter. The Synod desired, above all things, to show mercy; and seeing, on carefully considering all things, that Meletius does not deserve consideration, it has been decided that be should remain in his city, but without having any authority there, and without the power of ordination, or of selecting the clergy. He is also forbidden to go into the neighbourhood or into any other town for such an object. Only the simple title of bishop should remain to him; and as for the clergy ordained by him, it is necessary to lay hands upon them again, that they may afterwards be admitted to communion with the Church, to give them their work, and to restore to them the honours which are their due; but in all dioceses where these clergy are located, they should always come after the clergy ordained by Alexander. As for those who, by the grace of God and by their prayers, have been preserved from all participation in the schism, and have remained inviolably attached to the Catholic Church, without giving any cause for dissatisfaction, they shall preserve the right of taking part in all ordinations, of presenting such and such persons for the office of the ministry, and of doing whatever the laws and economy of the Church allow. If one of these clergy should die, his place may be supplied by one newly admitted (that is to say, a Meletian); but on the condition that he should appear worthy, that he should be chosen by the people, and that the Bishop of Alexandria should have given his consent to such election.” These stipulations were to be applied to all the Meletians. There was, however, an exception made with Meletius, that is to say, that the rights and prerogatives of a bishop were not retained to him, because they well knew his incorrigible habit of putting everything in disorder, and also his precipitation. Therefore, that he might not continue to do as he had done before, the Council took from him all power and authority.

This is what particularly concerns Egypt and the Church of Alexandria. If any other decree has been made in the presence of our dear brother of Alexandria, he will acquaint you with it when he returns amongst you; for in all that the Synod has done, he has been a guide and a fellow-worker.”

It was probably on account of the Meletians, and to cut short the pretensions of Meletius, who desired to withdraw himself from the authority of the Patriarch of Alexandria, and to set himself up as his equal, that the Synod of Nicæa made this plain declaration in its sixth canon: “The ancient order of things must be maintained in Egypt, in Libya, and in Pentapolis; that is to say, that the Bishop of Alexandria shall continue to have authority over the other bishops, having the same relation as exists with the Bishop of Rome. The ancient rights of the Churches shall also be protected, whether at Antioch or in the other bishoprics. It is evident, that if one should become a bishop without the consent of his metropolitan, he could not, according to the order of the great Synod, retain this dignity; but if, from a pure spirit of contradiction, two or three should oppose an election which the unanimity of all the others renders possible and legal, in such a case the majority must carry the day.”

The Synod had hoped to gain the Meletians by gentleness; but it succeeded so little, that after the Nicene Synod they became more than ever enemies to the Church, and by uniting with the Arians, did a thousand times more harm than they had done before. Also, in speaking of this admission of the Meletians into the Church, decreed by the Council of Nicæa, S. Athanasius rightly said, “Would to God it had never taken place!” In the same passage we learn from S. Athanasius, that in order to execute the decree of the Council of Nicæa, Alexander begged Meletius to give him a list of all the bishops, priests, and deacons who formed his party. Alexander wished to prevent Meletius from hastening to make new ordinations, to sell holy orders for money, and thus to fill the Church with a multitude of unworthy clergy, abusing the mercy of the Council of Nicæa. Meletius remitted, indeed, the desired list to the Archbishop of Alexandria, and subsequently Athanasius inserted it in his Apologia against the Arians. We see from it that the Meletians numbered in Egypt twenty-nine bishops, including Meletius; and at Alexandria, four priests, three deacons, and a military almoner. Meletius himself gave this list to Alexander, who doubtless made these ordinations valid, in obedience to the Council of Nicæa.

According to the ordinance of Nicæa, Meletius remained in “his city,” Lycopolis; but after the death of Bishop Alexander, through the mediation of Eusebius of Nicomedia, that alliance was entered into between the Meletians and the Arians which was so unfortunate for the Church, and particularly for S. Athanasius, in which Meletius took part. It is not known when he died. He nominated as his successor his friend John, who, after being maintained in his office by the Eusebians at the Council of Tyre in 335, was driven into exile by the Emperor Constantine. The best known of the Meletians are—Bishop Arsenius, who, it is said, had had one hand cut off by S. Athanasius; Bishop Callinicus of Pelusium, who at the Council of Sardica was a decided adversary of S. Athanasius; the hermit Paphnutius, who must not be mistaken for the bishop of the same name who at the Council of. Nicæa was the defender of the marriage of priests; and the pretended priest Ischyras, who was among the principal accusers and most bitter enemies of S. Athanasius. We shall afterwards have occasion to speak of the part taken by the Meletians in the troubles excited by the heresy of Arius; suffice it here to say, that this schism existed in Egypt until the middle of the fifth century, as is attested by Socrates and Theodoret, both contemporaries. The latter mentions especially some very superstitious Meletian monks who practised the Jewish ablutions. But after the middle of the fifth century, the Meletians altogether disappear from history.

SEC. 41. Number of the Nicene Canons

The Synod of Nicæa also set forth a certain number of canons or prescriptions on discipline; but there has been much discussion as to the number. We give here our opinion upon this question, which we have before discussed in the Tübinger Theologische Quartalschrift.

Let us see first what is the testimony of those Greek and Latin authors who lived about the time of the Council concerning the number.

a. The first to be consulted among the Greek authors is the learned Theodoret, who lived about a century after the Council of Nicæa. He says, in his History of the Church: “After the condemnation of the Arians, the bishops assembled once more, and decreed twenty canons on ecclesiastical discipline.”

b. Twenty years later, Gelasius Bishop of Cyzicus, after much research into the most ancient documents, wrote a history of the Nicene Council. Gelasius also says expressly that the Council decreed twenty canons; and, what is more important, he gives the original text of these canons exactly in the same order, and according to the tenor which we find elsewhere.

c. Rufinus is more ancient than these two historians. He was born near the period when the Council of Nicæa was held, and about half a century after he wrote his celebrated history of the Church, in which he inserted a Latin translation of the Nicene canons. Rufinus also knew only of these twenty canons; but as he has divided the sixth and the eighth into two parts, he has given twenty-two canons, which are exactly the same as the twenty furnished by the other historians.

d. The famous discussion between the African bishops and the Bishop of Rome, on the subject of appeals to Rome, gives us a very important testimony on the true number of the Nicene canons. The presbyter Apiarius of Sicca in Africa, having been deposed for many crimes, appealed to Rome. Pope Zosimus (417–418) took the appeal into consideration, sent legates to Africa; and to prove that he had the right to act thus, he quoted a canon of the Council of Nicæa, containing these words: “When a bishop thinks he has been unjustly deposed by his colleagues, he may appeal to Rome, and the Roman bishop shall have the business decided by judices in partibus.” The canon quoted by the Pope does not belong to the Council of Nicæa, as he affirmed; it was the fifth canon of the Council of Sardica (the seventh in the Latin version). What explains the error of Zosimus is, that in the ancient copies the canons of Nicæa and Sardica are written consecutively, with the same figures, and under the common title of canons of the Council of Nicæa; and Zosimus might optima fide fall into an error which he shared with many Greek authors, his contemporaries, who also mixed the canons of Nicæa with those of Sardica. The African bishops not finding the canon quoted by the Pope either in their Greek or in their Latin copies, in vain consulted also the copy which Bishop Cecilian, who had himself been present at the Council of Nicæa, had brought to Carthage. The legates of the Pope then declared that they did not rely upon these copies, and they agreed to send to Alexandria and to Constantinople to ask the patriarchs of these two cities for authentic copies of the canons of the Council of Nicæa. The African bishops desired in their turn that Pope Boniface should take the same step (Pope Zosimus had died meanwhile in 418), that he should ask for copies from the Archbishops of Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch. Cyril of Alexandria and Atticus of Constantinople, indeed, sent exact and faithful copies of the Creed and canons of Nicæa; and two learned men of Constantinople, Theilo and Thearistus, even translated these canons into Latin. Their translation has been preserved to us in the acts of the sixth Council of Carthage, and it contains only the twenty ordinary canons. It might be thought at first sight that it contained twenty-one canons; but on closer consideration we see, as Hardouin has proved, that this twenty-first article is nothing but an historical notice appended to the Nicene canons by the Fathers of Carthage. It is conceived in these terms: “After the bishops had decreed these rules at Nicæa, and after the holy Council had decided what was the ancient rule for the celebration of Easter, peace and unity of faith were re-established between the East and the West. This is what we (the African bishops) have thought it right to add according to the history of the Church.”

The bishops of Africa despatched to Pope Boniface the copies which had been sent to them from Alexandria and Constantinople, in the month of November 1419; and subsequently in their letters to Celestine I. (423–432), successor to Boniface, they appealed to the text of these documents.

e. All the ancient collections of canons, either in Latin or Greek, composed in the fourth, or quite certainly at least in the fifth century, agree in giving only these twenty canons to Nicæa. The most ancient of these collections were made in the Greek Church, and in the course of time a very great number of copies of them were written. Many of these copies have descended to us; many libraries possess copies: thus Montfaucon enumerates several in his Bibliotheca Coisliniana. Fabricius makes a similar catalogue of the copies in his Bibliotheca Græca to those found in the libraries of Turin, Florence, Venice, Oxford, Moscow, etc.; and he adds that these copies also contain the so-called apostolic canons, and those of the most ancient councils.

The French bishop John Tilius presented to Paris, in 1540, a MS. of one of these Greek collections as it existed in the ninth century. It contains exactly our twenty canons of Nicæa, besides the so-called apostolic canons, those of Ancyra, etc. Elias Ehinger published a new edition at Wittemberg in 1614, using a second MS. which was found at Augsburg; but the Roman collection of the Councils had before given, in 1608, the Greek text of the twenty canons of Nicæa. This text of the Roman editors, with the exception of some insignificant variations, was exactly the same as that of the edition of Tilius. Neither the learned Jesuit Sirmond nor his coadjutors have mentioned what manuscripts were consulted in preparing this edition; probably they were manuscripts drawn from several libraries, and particularly from that of the Vatican. The text of this Roman edition passed into all the following collections, even into those of Hardouin and Mansi; while Justell in his Bibliotheca juris Canonici, and Beveridge in his Synodicon (both of the eighteenth century), give a somewhat different text, also collated from MSS., and very similar to the text given by Tilius. Bruns, in his recent Bibliotheca Ecclesiastica, compares the two texts. Now all these Greek MSS., consulted at such different times, and by all these editors, acknowledge only twenty canons of Nicæa, and always the same twenty which we possess.

The Latin collections of the canons of the Councils also give the same result,—for example, the most ancient and the most remarkable of all, the Prisca, and that of Dionysius the Less, which was collected about the year 500. The testimony of this latter collection is the more important for the number twenty, as Dionysius refers to the Græca auctoritas.

f. Among the later Eastern witnesses we may further mention Photius, Zonaras, and Balsamon. Photius, in his Collection of the Canons, and in his Nomocanon, as well as the two other writers in their commentaries upon the canons of the ancient Councils, quote only and know only of twenty canons of Nicæa, and always those which we possess.

g. The Latin canonists of the middle ages also acknowledge only these twenty canons of Nicæa. We have proof of this in the celebrated Spanish collection, which is generally but erroneously attributed to S. Isidore (it was composed at the commencement of the seventh century), and in that of Adrian (so called because it was offered to Charles the Great by Pope Adrian I.). The celebrated Hincmar Archbishop of Rheims, the first canonist of the ninth century, in his turn attributes only twenty canons to the Council of Nicæa; and even the pseudo-Isidore assigns it no more.

In the face of these numerous and important testimonies from the Greek Church and the Latin, which are unanimous in recognising only twenty canons of Nicæa, and exactly those which have been handed down to us, we cannot consider authentic the Latin letter which is pretended to have been written to Pope Marcus by S. Athanasius, in which it is said that the Council of Nicæa promulgated first of all forty Greek canons, then twenty Latin canons, and that afterwards the Council reassembled, and unitedly ordained these seventy canons. A tradition, erroneously established in the East, may have caused this letter to be accepted. We know, indeed, that in some Eastern countries it was believed that the Council of Nicæa had promulgated this number of canons, and some collections do contain seventy. Happily, since the sixteenth century we have been in possession of these pretended canons of Nicæa; we can therefore judge them with certainty.

The first who made them known in the West was. the Jesuit J. Baptista Romanus, who, having been sent to Alexandria by Pope Paul IV., found an Arabic MS. in the house of the patriarch of that city, containing eighty canons of the Council of Nicæa. He copied the MS., took his copy to Rome, and translated it into Latin, with the help of George of Damascus, a Maronite archbishop. The learned Jesuit Francis Turrianus interested himself in this discovery, and had the translation of Father Baptista revised and improved by a merchant of Alexandria who was in Rome. About the same time another Jesuit, Alphonso Pisanus, composed a Latin history of the Council of Nicæa, with the help of the work of Gelasius of Cyzicus, which had just been discovered; and at his request Turrianus communicated to him the Latin translation of the Arabic canons. Pisanus received them into his work. In the first edition the testimony of the pretended letter of S. Athanasius to Marcus caused him to reduce the eighty canons to seventy; but in the subsequent editions he renounced this abbreviation, and published all the eighty canons in the order of the Arabic MS. It was in this way that the Latin translation of the eighty so-called Arabic canons of Nicæa passed into the other collections of the Councils, particularly into that of Venice and of Binius. Some more recent collections, however, adopted the text of a later translation, which Turrianus had made.

Shortly after the first edition of Alphonso Pisanus appeared, Turrianus made the acquaintance of a young converted Turk called Paul Ursinus, who knew Arabic very well, and understood Latin and Italian. Turrianus confided to him a fresh translation of the eighty Arabic canons. Ursinus, in preparing it, made use of another ancient Arabian MS., discovered in the library of Pope Marcellus II. (1555). This second MS. agreed so well with that of Alexandria, that they might both be taken for copies from one and the same original. Turrianus published this more accurate translation in 1578. He accompanied it with notes, and added a Proëmium, in which he tried to prove that the Council of Nicæa promulgated more than twenty canons. All the collections of the Councils since Turrianus have considered his position as proved, and have admitted the eighty canons.

In the following century, the Maronite Abraham Echellensis made the deepest researches with reference to the Arabic canons of the Council of Nicæa; and they led him to the opinion that these canons must have been collected from different Oriental nations, from the Syrians, Chaldeans, Maronites, Copts, Jacobites, and Nestorians, and that they had been translated into many Oriental languages. At the same time he started, and with truth, the suggestion that these Oriental collections were simply translations of ancient Greek originals, and that consequently in the Greek Church too they must have reckoned more than twenty canons of Nicæa. After having compared other Arabian MSS. which he had obtained, Echellensis gave a fresh Latin translation of these canons at Paris in 1645. According to these MSS., there were eighty-four canons instead of eighty. However, this difference arose much more from the external arrangement than from the canons themselves. Thus the thirteenth, seventeenth, thirty-second, and fifty-sixth canons of Turrianus were each divided into two in the translation by Abraham Echellensis; on the other hand, the forty-third and eighty-third of Echellensis each formed two canons in the work of Turrianus. The twenty-ninth, thirty-seventh, and forty-first of A. Echellensis are wanting in Turrianus; but, again, Echellensis has not the forty-fifth canon of Turrianus. A superficial study of these two collections of canons would lead to the conclusion that they were almost identical; but it is not so. The corresponding canons in the two translations sometimes have an entirely different meaning. We can but conclude either that the Arabian translators understood the Greek original differently, or else that the MSS. which they used showed considerable variations. The latter supposition is the most probable; it would explain how the eighty-four Arabian canons contain the twenty genuine canons of Nicæa, but often with considerable changes. Without reckoning these eighty-four canons, Echellensis has also translated into Latin, and published, a considerable number of ecclesiastical decrees, διατυπώσεις, constitutiones, also attributed to the Nicene Council. He added to this work a Latin translation of the Arabic preface, which preceded the entire collection in the MS., together with a learned dissertation in defence of the eighty-four canons, with a good many notes. Mansi has retained all these articles, and Hardouin has also reproduced the principal part of them.

It is certain that the Orientals believed the Council of Nicæa to have promulgated more than twenty canons: the learned Anglican Beveridge has proved this, reproducing an ancient Arabic paraphrase of the canons of the first four Œcumenical Councils. According to this Arabic paraphrase, found in a MS. in the Bodleian Library, the Council of Nicæa must have put forth three books of canons: the first containing eighty-four canons, referring to priests, monks, etc.; the second containing the first twenty authentic canons; the third being only a series of rules for kings and superiors, etc. The Arabic paraphrase of which we are speaking gives a paraphrase of all these canons, but Beveridge took only the part referring to the second book, that is to say, the paraphrase of the twenty genuine canons; for, according to his view, which, as we shall show, was perfectly correct, it was only these twenty canons which were really the work of the Council of Nicæa, and all the others were falsely attributed to it. The little that Beveridge gives us of the paraphrase of the first book of the pretended canons shows, besides, that this first book tolerably coincided with the fifteen decrees edited by Echellensis, which concern monks, abbots, and abbesses. Renaudot informs us that the third book of the Arabic paraphrase proves that the third book of the canons contained also various laws by Constantine, Theodosius, and Justinian. Beveridge believed this paraphrase to be the work of an Egyptian priest named Joseph, who lived in the fourteenth century, because that name is given in the MS. accompanied by that chronological date; but Renaudot proves conclusively that the Egyptian priest named Joseph had been only the possessor of the MS. which dated from a much earlier period.

However it may be as to the latter point, it is certain that these Arabic canons are not the work of the Council of Nicæa: their contents evidently prove a much more recent origin. Thus:

a. The thirty-eighth canon (the thirty-third in Turrianus) ordains that the Patriarch of Ephesus should proceed to Constantinople, which is the urbs regia, ut honor sit regno et sacerdotio simul. This decree therefore supposes that Byzantium was then changed into Constantinople, and that it had become the imperial residence. Now this change did not take place until about five years after the Council of Nicæa. At the period when the Council was held, Byzantium was still quite an insignificant town, almost reduced to ruins by a previous devastation. The bishopric of Constantinople was only raised to the dignity of a patriarchate by the second and fourth Œcumenical Councils. Therefore this canon, translated into Arabic, could not have belonged to the Council of Nicæa, and does not date back further than the fourth Œcumenical Council.

b. The forty-second canon of A. Echellensis (thirty-sixth in Turrianus) forbids the Ethiopians to elect a patriarch: their spiritual head was to bear only the title of Catholicus, and to be under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Alexandria, etc. This canon also betrays a more recent origin than the time of the Council of Nicæa. At that period, indeed, Ethiopia had no bishop; hardly had S. Frumentius begun the conversion of its people; and it was only subsequently, when S. Athanasius was already Archbishop of Alexandria, that S. Frumentius made him acquainted with the good results of his missions, and was consecrated by him bishop to the new converts. Our canon, on the contrary, supposes a numerous episcopate to be then existing in Ethiopia, and its head, the Catholicus, to be desirous to free himself from the mother church of Alexandria. This canon, as well as others quoted by Turrianus and by A. Echellensis, assumes that the institution of patriarchates was then in full vigour, which was not the case at the time of the Council of Nicæa.

c. Peter de Marca has already proved the forty-third canon of the text of A. Echellensis (thirty-seventh in Turr.) to be more recent than the third Œcumenical Council of Ephesus (431). This Council of Ephesus rejected the pretensions of the Patriarch of Antioch respecting the choice of the bishops of Cyprus. According to Marca’s demonstration, this dependence of Cyprus upon the see of Antioch cannot be verified before the year 900: for in the time of the Emperor Leo the Wise (911), we know, from the Notitia of his reign, that Cyprus was not then dependent upon Antioch; whilst this Arabian canon makes out that this submission was already an accomplished fact, disputed by no one.

d. The fifty-third canon (forty-ninth in Turr.), which condemns simony, has its origin from the second canon of the fourth Œcumenical Council of Chalcedon. It is therefore evident that it was not formed at Nicæa.

e. In the thirty-eighth, thirty-ninth, and forty-second canons (c. 33, 34, and 36 in Turr.), the Bishop of Seleucia, Almodajen, is already called Catholicus,—a dignity to which he did not attain until the sixth century, under the Emperor Justinian. In this canon, as Seleucia has the Arabian name of Almodajen, Renaudot concludes that these canons were not formed until the time of Mahomet.

The Constitutiones, edited by Echellensis, still less than the eighty-four canons, maintain the pretension of dating back to the Council of Nicæa.

a. The first division of these Constitutions, that de Monachis et Anachoretis, presupposes an already strong development of monasticism. It speaks of convents for men and women, abbots and abbesses, the management of convents, and the like. But we know that, at the time of the Council of Nicæa, monasticism thus organized had scarcely made its appearance. Even in the first times after our Synod, there were none of those large convents mentioned in the Arabic canons, but only hamlets of monks, consisting of groups of cabins.

b. The second series of Arabian Constitutions comprises nineteen chapters. It also speaks of convents, abbots, the property and possession of convents, etc. (c. 1–10). The eighth canon shows that there were already many monks who were priests. Now this was certainly not the case at the time of the Council of Nicæa, when monasticism was in its infancy. The ninth chapter speaks of Constantinople as the imperial residence (urbs regia), which again betrays a later period.

c. The third series comprises twenty-five chapters. The Nicene Creed, which is contained in it, has here already the addition which was made to it in the second Œcumenical Council. The Arabic Creed, besides, is much longer than the genuine one. The Orientals added several phrases, as Abraham Echellensis has remarked. This Arabic Creed asserts that Jesus Christ is perfectus homo, vera anima intellectuali et rationali præditus; words betraying an intention of opposing Apollinarism, as well as those following: duas habentes naturas, duas voluntates, duas operationes, in una persona, etc., which seem to be a protest against the heresy of the Monophysites and the Monothelites.

Following this Creed, the Arabic text relates, falsely, that Constantine entreated the bishops assembled at Nicæa to give the name of Constantinople to Byzantium, and to raise his bishopric to the rank of an archbishopric, equal to that of Jerusalem.

The decrees of this last series, examined in detail, also show that they are more recent than the Council of Nicæa, by mentioning customs of later origin. Thus the tenth chapter commands the baptism of infants; the twelfth and thirteenth chapters, again, concern monks and nuns; the fourteenth chapter finds it necessary to forbid that children should be raised to the diaconate, and more especially to the priesthood and episcopate.

We may therefore sum up the certain proofs resulting from all these facts, by affirming that these Arabic canons are not genuine; and all the efforts of Turrianus, Abraham Echellensis, and Cardinal d’Aguirre, cannot prevent an impartial observer from coming to this opinion even with regard to some of those canons which they were anxious to save, while abandoning the others. Together with the authenticity of these canons, the hypothesis of Abraham Echellensis also vanishes, which supposes them to have been collected by Jacob, the celebrated Bishop of Nisibis, who was present at the Nicene Synod. They belong to a later period. Assemani offers another supposition, supporting it by this passage from Ebed-jesu: “Bishop Maruthas of Tagrit translated the seventy-three canons of Nicæa.” Assemani believes these seventy-three canons to be identical with the eighty-four Arabic canons, but such identity is far from being proved. Even the number of the canons is different; and if it were not so, we know, from what we saw above, that several of the Arabic canons indicate a more recent period than those of Bishop Maruthas. It is probable that Maruthas really translated seventy-three canons, supposed to be Nicene; that is to say, that he had in his hands one of those MSS. spoken of above, which contained various collections of canons falsely attributed to the Council of Nicæa.

It will be asked why in some parts of the East they should have attributed so great a number of canons to the Council of Nicæa. It is not difficult to explain the mistake. We know, indeed, that the canons of various councils were at a very early period collected into one corpus; and in this corpus the canons of Nicæa always had the first place, on account of their importance. It happened afterwards, that either accidentally or designedly, some copyists neglected to give the names of the councils to those canons which followed the Nicene. We have already seen that even at Rome there was a copy containing, sub uno titulo, the canons of Nicæa and those of Sardica. When these copies were circulated in the East, that which might have been foreseen took place in course of time: viz., from a want of the spirit of criticism, all the later canons which followed after the true canons were attributed to the Council of Nicæa.

But it must also be said that certain learned men, especially Baronius and the Spanish Cardinal d’Aguirre, have tried hard to prove, from the only Greek and Latin memorials, and without these Arabic canons, that the Synod of Nicæa published more than twenty canons.

a. The Synod, said Aguirre, certainly set forth a canon on the celebration of Easter; and a proof of this is, that Balsamon, in his commentary upon the first canon of Antioch, mentions this Nicene canon as being in existence. There must therefore, concludes Aguirre, have been above twenty Nicene canons. But it may be answered that the ancient authors make no mention of a canon, but only of a simple ordinance, of the Council of Nicæa respecting the celebration of the Easter festival; and it is indeed certain that such a rule was given by the Council, as is proved by the synodical decree. As for Balsamon, he says exactly the contrary to what Cardinal d’Aguirre maintains,—namely, ἐν γοῦν τοῖς κανόσι τῶν ἐν Νικαίᾳ πατέρων τοῦτο οὐχ εὕρηται, εἰς δὲ τὰ πρακτικὰ τῆς πρώτης συνόδου εὑρίσκεται; that is to say, “which is not to be found in the canons of the Fathers of Nicæa, but which was there discussed.” D’Aguirre evidently did not consult the Greek text of Balsamon, but probably made use of the inaccurate Latin translation which Schelstrate has given of it. But even admitting that some later writer may have given as a canon the Nicene rule about Easter, even the nature of things shows that it could only be a disciplinary measure. Perhaps also a passage of the Synod held at Carthage in 419 had been misunderstood. This Synod says that the Council of Nicæa re-established the antiquus canon upon the celebration of Easter; which from the context means, and can mean, only this—the ancient rule for the celebration of Easter was restored by the Council of Nicæa, to be observed by the generations following.

b. Cardinal d’Aguirre says, in the second place, that if some very ancient authors are to be trusted, the acts of the Council of Nicæa were very voluminous, and he concludes from this that there must have been more than twenty canons; but we have explained above that it is very doubtful whether these acts contained more than the Creed, the canons, and the synodical letter; and even if the acts were really very voluminous, it does not necessarily follow that they contained a larger number of canons. The acts of the Council of Ephesus are very extensive; but nevertheless that Council published only six canons, eight at the most, if we consider as canons two decrees which had a special object.

c. Aguirre suggests further, that the Arians burnt the complete acts of the Council of Nicæa, and allowed only these twenty canons to remain, in order to have it believed that the Council had decreed no others. Baronius also makes a similar supposition, but there is not the slightest proof of such an act on the part of the Arians; and if the Arians had done as he suggests, they would certainly have burnt the Creed of Nicæa itself, which contains their most express condemnation.

d. It is well-nigh superfluous to refute those who have maintained that the Synod of Nicæa lasted three years, and who add that it must certainly have promulgated above twenty canons during all that time. The Synod began and ended in the year 325: it was after the close of it that the Emperor Constantine celebrated his vicennalia. The supposition that the Council lasted for three years is a fable invented subsequently by the Orientals; but even were it true, if the Council really lasted for three years, one could not therefore affirm that it must have promulgated a great number of decrees.

e. The following passage from a letter of Pope Julius I. has been also made use of to prove that the Council of Nicæa published more than twenty canons: “The bishops at Nicæa rightly decided that the decrees of one council may be revised by a subsequent one.” This letter is to be found in the works of S. Athanasius. But Pope Julius I. does not say that the Nicene Fathers made a canon of their decision; on the contrary, he appears to consider that it was by their example, in judging afresh the Arian question, already judged at Alexandria, that the Nicene Fathers authorized these revisions.

f. When the Patriarch of Constantinople, Flavian, appealed to Rome against the decision of the Robber-Synod of Ephesus, Pope Leo the Great, in two letters addressed to the Emperor Theodosius, appealed in his turn to a decree of the Council of Nicæa, to show that such appeals were permissible. Cardinal d’Aguirre immediately concludes that Pope Leo there quotes a canon which is not among the twenty authentic ones. The Cardinal did not see that Pope Leo here commits the same mistake as Pope Zosimus, by quoting a canon of Sardica as one of those passed at Nicæa.

g. It is less easy to explain these words of S. Ambrose, quoted by Baronius and Aguirre: Sed prius cognoscamus, non solum hoc apostolum de episcopo et presbytero statuisse, sed etiam Patres in concilio Nicæno tractatus addidisse, neque clericum quemdam debere esse, qui secunda conjugia sortitus. An examination of this text shows, however, that S. Ambrose does not attribute to the Council of Nicæa a canon properly so called; he uses only the expression tractatus. The Benedictines of S. Maur, besides, say very reasonably on this passage of S. Ambrose: “As Pope Zosimus mistook a canon of Sardica for one of Nicæa, so S. Ambrose may have read in his collectio of the Acts of Nicæa some rule de digamis non ordinandis, belonging to another synod, and may have thought that this rule also emanated from the Council of Nicæa.”

h. We have to examine an expression of S. Jerome, which it has been said will show that more than twenty canons were promulgated at Nicæa. S. Jerome says in his Præfatio ad librum Judith: Apud Hebræos liber Judith inter agiographa legitur, cujus auctoritas ad roboranda ilia, quæ in contentionem veniunt, minus idonea judicatur.… Sed quia hunc librum Synodus Nicæna in numero Sanctarum Scripturarum legitur computasse, acquieri postulationi vestræ, etc. If we conclude from these words that the Fathers of Nicæa gave a canon of the genuine books of the Bible, we certainly draw an inference which they do not sustain. The meaning seems rather to be this: the Nicene Fathers quoted this book of Judith, that is to say, made use of it as a canonical book, and so in fact recognised it. In this way the Council of Ephesus implicitly acknowledged the Epistle to the Hebrews, by approving of the anathemas levelled by Cyril against Nestorius, in which this epistle is quoted as a book of the Bible. It is true that, in some memorials left to us by the Council of Nicæa, we find no such quotation from the book of Judith; but the difficulty does not lie there: the quotation may have been made vivâ voce in the Council; and this fact may have been laid hold of, and preserved in some document composed by a member of the Council. Besides, S. Jerome said only these words, “legitur computasse,” that is to say, we read that the Council of Nicæa did so. If the Council had really made a canon on this subject, S. Gregory of Nazianzus, Amphilochius, and others, would not have subsequently refused to reckon the book of Judith in the number of canonical books. S. Jerome himself in another passage is doubtful of the canonicity of the book; he therefore can have attached no great importance to what he said of the Council of Nicæa on the subject of the book of Judith. Finally, the Council of Laodicæa, more recent than that of Nicæa, in its sixtieth canon, does not reckon the book of Judith among the canonical books: such exclusion would have been utterly impossible if the pretended canon had been really promulgated at Nicæa in 325.

i. It has been attempted also to decide the controversy now under consideration by the high authority of S. Augustine, who in his 213th epistle (in earlier editions the 110th) says: “Even in the lifetime of Valerius I was appointed coadjutor-bishop in Hippo, not being aware that this had been prohibited by the Council of Nicæa.” It has been said—and Cardinal d’Aguirre especially insisted—that this prohibition is not to be found in the twenty canons; but he is mistaken: the prohibition is there; it is very explicit in the eighth canon.

k. We proceed to an objection taken from Pope Innocent I., who says in his twenty-third epistle, that at Nicæa it was forbidden that any one should be ordained priest who had served in war after his baptism. This prohibition, indeed, is not to be found in the twenty Nicene canons; but an attentive reading of Innocent I.’s epistle leads us to ask if Innocent really considered this prohibition as proceeding from the Council of Nicæa. He says, in fact: “You know yourselves the rules of Nicæa about ordination, tamen aliquam partem, quæ de ordinationibus est provisa, inserendam putavi.” It is not known whether the two words aliqua pars ought to be understood of a rule of Nicæa, or of a rule taken from another synod, and treating of the same subject. Innocent twice mentions this prohibition to ordain soldiers as priests: once in the forty-third epistle, where he in no way mentions the Council of Nicæa: the second time in Ep. i. c. 2, where it is true that in the context there is reference to the Council of Nicæa; but in the passage itself, where the Pope recalls the prohibition, he does not rest upon the authority of that Council. In the passage the word item evidently means secundo, and not that the rule following is a decree of Nicæa. We might even admit that Pope Innocent intended to quote a Nicene rule, but that would prove nothing contrary to our position. The words quoted by the Pope are those of a Council of Turin, as has been thoroughly shown by Labbe. We must therefore conclude that Innocent made the same mistake as his predecessor Zosimus.

l. Gelasius of Cyzicus gives nine constitutiones, exclusive of the twenty authentic canons; and at the close of Book II. c. 29 he says explicitly, “The bishops of Nicæa gave various similar διατυπώσεις;” hence it has been said that he refutes our thesis. But these constitutiones are purely dogmatical (λόγος διδασκαλικὸς): therefore they are not canons, and could not have increased the number to more than twenty; but—and this is the principal point—they are most certainly spurious: none of the ancient writers are acquainted with them; no one among the moderns has endeavoured to defend their historical value; most do not even mention them—as, for instance, Tillemont and Orsi; and those who quote them content themselves with denying their genuineness.

m. According to Baronius and d’Aguirre, Socrates, the Greek historian of the Church, is erroneously represented as having said that the Council of Nicæa commanded the use of the doxology thus worded, “Glory be to the Father and to the Son,” in order to show the equality of the Father and the Son; whilst the Arians proposed this form, “Glory be to the Father through the Son.” But in the said passage Socrates simply affirms that there was one party at Antioch which made use of the one form, and another which used the other, and that the Arian Bishop Leontius tried to prevent the praises of God being sung according to the παράδοσις of the Council of Nicæa, that is, to prevent their using forms in accordance with the Nicene doctrine. Valesius also remarks, when translating that passage from Socrates, that the Greek historian nowhere says what Baronius and Aguirre attribute to him. We know, indeed, that before the rise of the Arian heresy the Fathers of the Church often altered the form of the doxology, sometimes saying “by the Son,” sometimes “and to the Son.” But as the Arians would not use the form “and to the Son,” and persisted in saying “by the Son,” the orthodox in their turn gained the habit of saying almost exclusively, without there being any rule on the subject, “and to the Son.” If there had been a rule, the orthodox bishops would not long subsequently have allowed the form “by the Son” to have been used.

n. Pope Leo appealed repeatedly to the Council of Nicæa to show that the Patriarch of Constantinople wrongfully laid claim to a precedency over the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch. Aguirre hence concludes that the Pope must have had Nicene decrees before him which are not among the twenty canons recognised as authentic. It is easy to reply that S. Leo refers only to the sixth canon of Nicæa, which maintains the Archbishops of Alexandria and Antioch in their rights, and consequently implicitly forbids any other bishop to be placed above them.

o. Notwithstanding the efforts of Cardinal d’Aguirre, it is impossible to make a serious objection of what was said by the second Council of Arles, held about the year 452. This Council expresses itself thus: magna synodus antea constituit—that whoso falsely accused another of great crimes should be excommunicated to their life’s end. It is perfectly true, as has been remarked, that the twenty canons of Nicæa contain no such rule; but it has been forgotten that, in making use of the expression magna synodus, the second Council of Arles does not mean the Council of Nicæa: it has in view the first Council of Arles, and particularly the fourteenth canon of that Council.

p. The objection drawn from the Synod of Ephesus is still only specious. The Council of Ephesus relies upon a decision of the Council of Nicæa in maintaining that the Church of Cyprus is independent of the Church of Antioch. Aguirre thought that this was not to be found in the twenty canons; but it is not so, for the Council of Ephesus certainly referred to the sixth canon of Nicæa when it said: “The canon of the Fathers of Nicæa guaranteed to each Church the rank which it previously held.”

q. Again, it has been said that Atticus Bishop of Constantinople alludes to a canon not found among the twenty, when he indicates very precisely in a letter who those are, according to the rule of the Council of Nicæa, who ought to have literæ formatæ. But the document bearing the name of Bishop Atticus was unknown to the whole of antiquity; it belongs only to the middle ages, and has certainly no greater value than the pseudo-Isidorian documents. But if this memorial were authentic (Baronius accepts it as such), it would prove nothing against our position; for Baronius himself tells us that the Fathers of Nicæa deliberated very secretly upon the form that the literæ formatæ ought to take, but made no canon upon the subject.

r. The last witness of Aguirre has no greater weight. It is an expression of S. Basil’s, who affirms that the Council of Nicæa made rules for the punishment of the guilty, that future sins might be avoided. Now the canons of Nicæa in our possession, as we shall see hereafter, authorize S. Basil to speak in this way. Some other objections of less importance not repeated by Aguirre might be noticed, but they have been sufficiently exposed and refuted by Natalis Alexander.

SEC. 42. Contents of the Nicene Canons

After having determined the number of authentic canons of the Council of Nicæa, we must now consider more closely their contents. The importance of the subject, and the historical value that an original text always possesses, has decided us to give the Greek text of the acts of the Council (according to the editions of Mansi and of Bruns), together with a translation and a commentary intended to explain their meaning.

CAN. 1

Εἴ τις ἐν νόσῳ ὑπὸ ἰατρῶν ἐχειρουργήθη, ἢ ὑπὸ βαρβάρων ἐξετμήθη, οὗτος μενέτω ἐν τῷ κλήρῳ• εἰ δέ τις ὑγιαίνων ἑαυτὸν ἐξέτεμε, τοῦτον καὶ ἐν τῷ κλήρῳ ἐξεταζόμενον πεπαῦσθαι προσήκει, καὶ ἐκ τοῦ δεῦρο μηδένα τῶν τοιούτων χρῆναι προάγεσθαι• ὥσπερ δὲ τοῦτο πρόδηλον, ὅτι περὶ τῶν ἐπιτηδευόντων τὸ πρᾶγμα καὶ τολμώντων ἑαυτοὺς ἐκτέμνειν εἴρηται• οὕτως εἴ τινες ὑπὸ βαρβάρων ἢ δεσποτῶν εὐνουχίσθησαν, εὑρίσκοιντο δὲ ἄλλως ἄξιοι, τοὺς τοιούτους εἰς κλῆρον προσίεται ὁ κανών.

If a man has been mutilated by physicians during sickness, or by barbarians, he may remain among the clergy; but if a man in good health has mutilated himself, he should resign his post after the matter has been proved among the clergy, and in future no one who has thus acted should be ordained. But as it is evident that what has just been said only concerns those who have thus acted with intention, and have dared to mutilate themselves, those who have been made eunuchs by barbarians or by their masters will be allowed, conformably to the canon, to remain among the clergy, if in other respects they are worthy.”

This ordinance of Nicæa agrees well with the directions contained in the apostolic canons 21–24 inclusive (20–23 according to another way of numbering them), and it is to these apostolic canons that the Council makes allusion by the expression ὁ κανών. It was not Origen alone who, a long time before the Council of Nicæa, had given occasion for such ordinances: we know, by the first apology of S. Justin, that a century before Origen, a young man had desired to be mutilated by physicians, for the purpose of completely refuting the charge of vice which the heathen brought against the worship of Christians. S. Justin neither praises nor blames this young man: he only relates that he could not obtain the permission of the civil authorities for his project, that he renounced his intention, but nevertheless remained virgo all his life. It is very probable that the Council of Nicæa was induced by some fresh similar cases to renew the old injunctions; it was perhaps the Arian Bishop Leontius who was the principal cause of it. S. Athanasius, and after him Theodoret and Socrates, relate in fact that Leontius, a Phrygian by birth, and a clergyman at Antioch, lived with a subintroducta named Eustolion; and as he could not separate himself from her, and wished to prevent her leaving him, mutilated himself. His bishop, Eustathius, had deposed him, more especially for this last act; but the Emperor Constantine afterwards made him by force Bishop of Antioch. Leontius became afterwards one of the most bitter opponents of S. Athanasius. This ordinance of Nicæa was often renewed in force by subsequent synods and by bishops; and it has been inserted in the Corpus juris canonici.

CAN. 2

Ἐπειδὴ πολλὰ ἤτοι ὑπὸ ἀνάγκης ἢ ἄλλως ἐπειγομένων τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐγένετο παρὰ τὸν κανόνα τὸν ἐκκλησιαστικὸν, ὥστε ἀνθρώπους ἀπὸ ἐθνικοῦ βίου ἄρτι προσελθόντας τῇ πίστει, καὶ ἐν ὀλίγῳ χρόνῳ κατηχηθέντας εὐθὺς ἐπὶ τὸ πνευματικὸν λουτρὸν ἄγειν, καὶ ἅμα τῷ βαπτισθῆναι προσάγειν εἰς ἐπισκοπὴν ἢ πρεσβυτερεῖον• καλῶς ἔδοξεν ἔχειν, τοῦ λοιποῦ μηδὲν τοιοῦτο γίνεσθαι• καὶ γὰρ καὶ χρόνου δεῖ τῷ κατηχουμένῳ, καὶ μετὰ τὸ βάπτισμα δοκιμασίας πλείονος• σαφὲς γὰρ τὸ ἀποστολικὸν γράμμα τὸ λέγον• Μὴ νεόφυτον, ἵνα μὴ τυφωθεὶς εἰς. κρίμα ἐμπέσῃ καὶ παγίδα τοῦ διαβόλου• εἰ δὲ προϊόντος τοῦ χρόνου ψυχικόν τι ἁμάρτημα εὑρεθῇ περὶ τὸ πρόσωπον, καὶ ἐλέγχοιτο ὑπὸ δύο ἢ τριῶν μαρτύρων, πεπαύσθω ὁ τοιοῦτος τοῦ κλήρου• ὁ δὲ παρὰ ταῦτα ποιῶν, ὡς ὑπεναντία τῇ μεγάλῃ συνόδῳ θρασυνόμενος, αὐτὸς κινδυνεύσει περὶ τὸν κλῆρον.

Seeing that many things, either from necessity or on account of the pressure of certain persons, have happened contrary to the ecclesiastical canon, so that men who have but just turned from a heathen life to the faith, and who have only been instructed during a very short time, have been brought to the spiritual laver, to baptism, and have even been raised to the office of priest or bishop, it is right that in future this should not take place, for time is required for sound instruction in doctrine, and for further trial after baptism. For it is a wise saying of the apostle, as follows: ‘Not a novice, lest through pride he fall into condemnation, and into the snare of the devil.’ If hereafter a cleric is guilty of a grave offence, proved by two or three witnesses, he must resign his spiritual office. Any one who acts against this ordinance, and ventures to be disobedient to this great Synod, is in danger of being expelled from the clergy.”

It may be seen by the very text of this canon, that it was already forbidden to baptize, and to raise to the episcopate or to the priesthood any one who had only been a catechumen for a short time: this injunction is in fact contained in the eightieth (seventy-ninth) apostolical canon; and according to that, it would be older than the Council of Nicæa. There have been nevertheless certain cases in which, for urgent reasons, an exception has been made to the rule of the Council of Nicæa,—for instance, that of S. Ambrose. The canon of Nicæa does not seem to allow such an exception, but it might be justified by the apostolical canon which says, at the close: “It is not right that any one who has not yet been proved should be a teacher of others, unless by a peculiar divine grace.” The expression of the canon of Nicæa, ψυχικὸν τι ἁμάρτημα, is not easy to explain: some render it by the Latin words animale peccatum, believing that the Council has here especially in view sins of the flesh; but, as Zonaras has said, all sins are ψυχικὰ ἁμαρτήματα. We must then understand the passage in question to refer to a capital and very serious offence, as the penalty of deposition annexed to it points out.

These words have also given offence, εἰ δὲ προῑόντος τοῦ χρόνου; that is to say, “It is necessary henceforward,” etc., understanding that it is only those who have been too quickly ordained who are threatened with deposition in case they are guilty of crime; but the canon is framed, and ought to be understood, in a general manner: it applies to all other clergymen, but it appears also to point out that greater severity should be shown towards those who have been too quickly ordained. Others have explained the passage in this manner: “If it shall become known that any one who has been too quickly ordained was guilty before his baptism of any serious offence, he ought to be deposed.” This is the interpretation given by Gratian, but it must be confessed that such a translation does violence to the text. This is, I believe, the general sense of the canon, and of this passage in particular: “Henceforward no one shall be baptized or ordained quickly. As to those already in orders (without any distinction between those who have been ordained in due course and those who have been ordained too quickly), the rule is that they shall be deposed if they commit a serious offence. Those who are guilty of disobedience to this great Synod, either by allowing themselves to be ordained or even by ordaining others prematurely, are threatened with deposition ipso facto, and for this fault alone.” We consider, in short, that the last words of the canon may be understood as well of the ordained as of the ordainer.

CAN. 3

Ἀπηγόρευσεν καθόλου ἡ μεγάλη σύνοδος μήτε ἐπισκόπῳ μήτε πρεσβυτέρῳ μήτε διακόνῳ μήτε ὅλως τινὶ τῶν ἐν τῷ κλήρῳ ἐξεῖναι συνείσακτον ἔχειν, πλὴν εἰ μὴ ἄρα μητέρα ἢ ἀδελφὴν ἢ θείαν, ἢ ἃ μόνα πρόσωπα πᾶσαν ὑποψίαν διαπέ φευγε.

The great Synod absolutely forbids, and it cannot be permitted to either bishop, priest, or any other cleric, to have in his house a συνείσακτος (subintroducta), with the exception of his mother, sister, aunt, or such other persons as are free from all suspicion.”

In the first ages of the Church, some Christians, clergymen and laymen, contracted a sort of spiritual marriage with unmarried persons, so that they lived together; but there was not a sexual, but a spiritual connection between them, for their mutual spiritual advancement. They were known by the name of συνείσακτοι, ἀγαπηταὶ, and sorores. That which began in the spirit, however, in many cases ended in the flesh; on which account the Church very stringently forbade such unions, even with penalties more severe than those with which she punished concubinage: for it happened that Christians who would have recoiled from the idea of concubinage permitted themselves to form one of these spiritual unions, and in so doing fell. It is very certain that the canon of Nicæa forbids this species of union, but the context shows moreover that the Fathers had not these particular cases in view alone; and the expression συνείσακτος should be understood of every woman who is introduced (συνείσακτος) into the house of a clergyman for the purpose of living there. If by the word συνείσακτος was only intended the wife in this spiritual marriage, the Council would not have said, any συνείσακτος except his mother, etc.; for neither his mother nor his sister could have formed this spiritual union with the cleric. The injunction, then, does not merely forbid the συνείσακτος in the specific sense, but orders that “no woman must live in the house of a cleric, unless she be his mother,” etc. Because this interpretation presents itself naturally to the mind, several ancient authors have read in the Greek text ἐπείσακτον instead of συνείσακτον; for instance, the Emperor Justinian in his Novel 123 (c. 29), and Rufinus in his translation of the canon. Several councils, amongst others the second of Tours (c. 11) and the fourth of Toledo (c. 42), have also received this reading, but wrongly, as is proved by the best Greek manuscripts. Beveridge, S. Basil, and Dionysius the Less read συνείσακτον with us. On the meaning of the last words of this canon, it has been doubted whether the Council allows all persons who are free from suspicion to live in the house of a clerk, as it is understood by Gratian; or whether the true translation is this: “And his sisters and aunts cannot remain unless they be free from all suspicion.” Van Espen explains the text in this manner, but this interpretation does not seem altogether in accordance with the original.

Another question has been raised on this subject,—namely, whether it supposes the marriage of priests, or whether it orders celibacy, and then the real wives of clerics would be included in the word συνείσακτοι. This last interpretation is that of Bellarmin; but it is without foundation, for the συνείσακτοι are here forbidden to all clerks, and we know that at this period those in minor orders were permitted to marry. In conclusion, it cannot be overlooked that this canon shows that the practice of celibacy had already spread to a great extent among the clergy; as even Fuchs confesses, and as Natalis Alexander has also remarked. The question of the relation of the Council of Nicæa to celibacy will be considered when we come to the history of Paphnutius.

CAN. 4

Ἐπίσκοπον προσήκει μάλιστα μὲν ὑπὸ πάντων τῶν ἐν τῇ ἐπαρχίᾳ καθίστασθαι• εἰ δὲ δυσχερὲς εἴη τὸ τοιοῦτο, ἢ διὰ κατεπείγουσαν ἀνάγκην ἢ διὰ μῆκος ὁδοῦ, ἐξάπαντος τρεῖς ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ συναγομένους, συμψήφων γινομένων καὶ τῶν ἀπὸντων καὶ συντιθεμένων διὰ γραμμάτων, τότε τὴν χειροτονίαν ποιεῖσθαι• τὸ δὲ κῦρος τῶν γινομένων δίδοσθαι καθʼ ἑκάστην ἐπαρχίαν τῷ μητροπολίτῃ.

The bishop shall be appointed by all (the bishops) of the eparchy (province); if that is not possible on account of pressing necessity, or on account of the length of journeys, three (bishops) at the least shall meet, and proceed to the imposition of hands (consecration) with the permission of those absent in writing. The confirmation of what has been done belongs by right, in each eparchy, to the metropolitan.”

The Church was not obliged in principle to conform itself to the territorial divisions of the states or of the provinces in establishing its own territorial divisions. If, however, it often accepted these civil divisions as models for its own, it was to facilitate the conduct of business, and to prevent any disruption of received customs. Thus the apostles often passed through the principal cities of one province for the purpose of preaching the gospel there before entering another, and afterwards they treated the faithful of that province as forming one community. For instance, S. Paul writes to the Church of God at Corinth, and to all the faithful of Achaia: he unites, then, in his thoughts all the Christians of the province of Achaia, and at the head of the Churches of that province he places that of Corinth, which was its political capital. He addresses in the same manner another of his letters “to the Churches of the Galatians,” again uniting in his mind all the communities of that civil province. The result of this action of the Church was, that the bishops of the same province soon considered that there was a certain bond between them, and the bishop of the capital thus gained insensibly a sort of pre-eminence over his colleagues in the province. This pre-eminence could only be based in some cases on the civil importance of the capital; but it must not be forgotten that the civil capital was often also the ecclesiastical, as being the first city in the province in which a Christian Church was founded, from which the gospel was made known to the other cities in the province. It is especially the civil importance that the Synod of Antioch of 341 had in view when it said, in its ninth canon: “The bishops of each eparchy must understand that it is the bishop of the metropolis (political capital) who has charge of the business of the eparchy, because all meet at the metropolis to transact their business.” The word eparchy here most certainly designates the civil province; and evidently the Synod wished to make the civil divisions the basis of ecclesiastical divisions. The Council of Nicæa follows the same course: it orders in this fourth canon that a bishop shall be chosen by the other bishops of the whole eparchy (political province); and in accordance with the ninth canon of the Synod of Antioch, it decides that the metropolitan shall have charge of the business of the eparchy. The first remark that there is to make on this canon is, then, to point out that the Council of Nicæa accepts the political division as the basis of the ecclesiastical division; but there were afterwards exceptions to this rule.

The second remark relates to the method of proceeding in the election of bishops. In apostolic times the apostles themselves chose the bishops. During the period immediately after apostolic times it was the disciples of the apostles, ἐλλόγιμοι ἄσδρες, as S. Clement calls them. Thus such men as Titus and Timothy nominated bishops; but the election had to be approved by the whole community, συνευδοκησάσης τῆς ἐκκλησίας πάσης, as S. Clement says again; so that here a new agent appears in the choice of a bishop: the community has to make known whether it considers the person elected fitted or unfitted for the charge. After the death of the disciples of the apostles this practice changed; there were no longer any bishops who had such an uncontested ascendency over the others. A letter of S. Cyprian tells us in a very clear manner how episcopal elections and consecrations were then carried on. “In almost all provinces,” he writes, “the business is managed in this manner: The nearest bishops in the province meet in the city for which the election is to be held. The bishop is then elected plebe præsente; the people are bound to be present at the election, for singulorum vitam plenissime novit. The episcopal dignity is after that conferred universæ fraternitatis suffragio and episcoporum judicio.” Beveridge has explained this very important passage in the following manner. The bishops of the province choose their future colleague, and the fraternitas—that is to say, the people and the clergy of the city—decide whether the choice is acceptable, whether the candidate is worthy of the episcopate. It seems to me that Beveridge thus does violence to the expression suffragio, and does not quite accurately translate judicio. Suffragium is derived from sub and frango. It properly means a fragment—a shred or scrap—and refers to the shell which the ancients used for voting in the assemblies of the people. This expression, then, ought here to signify that the people, the community, had the right of noting, but that the right of deciding—the judicium—was reserved to the bishops of the province. Van Espen gives the same explanation that we do in his canon law. The fraternitas, he says—that is to say, the clergy and people of the community—who are interested in the choice had the right of presentation; the bishops had afterwards to decide. They had then the principal part to perform. In certain cases the bishops elected and consecrated a candidate sine prævia plebis electione—for instance, when the people would undoubtedly have made a bad choice. As it was by the judicium of the bishops that the new bishop was appointed, so it was also their duty to consecrate the newly elected.

The Council of Nicæa thought it necessary to define by precise rules the duties of the bishops who took part in these episcopal elections. It decided, (a) that a single bishop of the province was not sufficient for the appointment of another; (b) three at the least should meet, and (c) they were not to proceed to election without the written permission of the absent bishops; it was necessary (d) to obtain afterwards the approval of the metropolitan. The Council then accepts the ordinary division according to the metropolis: it accepts it as far as the nomination and ordination of bishops is concerned, and it grants certain rights to the metropolitan. The principal result of this division—namely, the provincial synod—will be considered under the next canon.

Meletius was probably the occasion of this canon. It may be remembered that he had nominated bishops without the concurrence of the other bishops of the province, and without the approval of the metropolitan of Alexandria, and had thus occasioned a schism. This canon was intended to prevent the recurrence of such abuses. The question has been raised as to whether the fourth canon speaks only of the choice of the bishop, or whether it also treats of the consecration of the newly elected. We think, with Van Espen, that it treats equally of both,—as well of the part which the bishops of the province should take in an episcopal election, as of the consecration which completes it.

The Council of Nicæa had a precedent in the first apostolic canon, and in the twentieth canon of Arles, for the establishment of this rule. The canon of Nicæa was afterwards in its turn reproduced and renewed by many councils,—by that of Laodicea (c. 12), of Antioch (c. 19), by the fourth Synod of Toledo (c. 19), the second of Nicæa (c. 13): it is also reproduced in the Codex Ecclesiæ Afric. (c. 13). It has been put into execution in the Greek Church as well as in the Latin Church, and inserted in all collections of ecclesiastical laws, especially in the Corpus juris canonici.

It has been, however, interpreted in different ways. The Greeks had learnt by bitter experience to distrust the interference of princes and earthly potentates in episcopal elections. Accordingly, they tried to prove that this canon of Nicæa took away from the people the right of voting at the nomination of a bishop, and confined the nomination exclusively to the bishops of the province. In order to obtain a solid ground for this practice, the seventh Œcumenical Council held at Nicæa (c. 3) interpreted the canon before us in the sense that a bishop could be elected only by bishops; and it threatens with deposition any one who should attempt to gain, by means of the temporal authority, possession of a bishopric. One hundred years later, the eighth Œcumenical Council enforces the same rule, and decides, in accordance “with former councils,” that a bishop must not be elected except by the college of bishops. The Greek commentators, Balsamon and others, therefore, only followed the example of these two great Councils in affirming that this fourth canon of Nicæa takes away from the people the right previously possessed of voting in the choice of bishops, and makes the election depend entirely on the decision of the bishops of the province.

The Latin Church acted otherwise. It is true that with it also the people have been removed from episcopal elections, but this did not happen till later, about the eleventh century; and it was not the people only who were removed, but the bishops of the province as well, and the election was conducted entirely by the clergy of the cathedral church. The Latins then interpreted the canon of Nicæa as though it said nothing of the rights of the bishops of the province in the election of their future colleague (and it does not speak of it in a very explicit manner), and as though it determined these two points only: (a) that for the ordination of a bishop three bishops at least are necessary; (b) that the right of confirmation rests with the metropolitan. In the Latin Church this right of confirmation passed in course of time from the metropolitans to the Pope, particularly by the concordats of Aschaffenburg.

CAN. 5

Περὶ τῶν ἀκοινωνήτων γενομένων, εἴτε τῶν ἐν τῷ κλήρῳ εἴτε ἐν λαϊκῷ τάγματι, ὑπὸ τῶν καθ ̓ ἐκάστην ἐπαχίαν ἐπισκόπων κρατείτω ἡ γνώμη κατὰ τὸν κανόνα τὸν διαγορεύοντα, τοὺς ὑφʼ ἑτέρων ἀποβληθέντας ὑφʼ ἑτέρων μή προσίεσθαι. ἐξεταζέθω δὲ, μὴ μικροψυχίᾳ ἢ φιλονεικίᾳ ἤ τινι τοιαύτῃ ἀηδίᾳ τοῦ ἐπισκόπου ἀποσυνάγωγοι γεγέννηται. ἵνα οὐν τοῦτο τὴν πρέπουσαν ἐξέτασιν λαμβάνῃ, καλῶς ἔχειν ἔδοξεν, ἑκάστου ἐυιαυτοῦ καθʼ ἑκάστην ἐπαρχίαν δὶς τοῦ ἔτους συνόδους γίνεσθαι, ἵνα κοινῇ πάντων τῶν ἐπισκόπων τῆς ἐπαρχίας ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ συναγομένων, τὰ τοιαῦτα ζητήματα ἐξετάζοιτο, καὶ οὕτως οἱ ὁμολογουμένως προσκεκρουκότες τῷ ἐπισκόπῳ κατὰ λόγον ἀκοινώνητοι παρὰ πᾶσιν εἴναι δόξωσι, μέχρις ἂν τῷ κοινῷ τῶν ἐπισκόπων δόξῃ τὴν φιλανθρωποτέραν ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν ἐκθέσθαι ψῆφον• αἱ δὲ σύνοδοι γινέσθωσαν, μία μὲν πρὸ τὴς τεσσαρακοστῆς, ἵνα πάσης μικροψυχίας ἀναιρουμένης τὸ δῶρον καθαρὸν προσφέρηται τῷ Θεῷ, δευτέρα δὲ περὶ τὸν τοῦ μετοπώρου καιρόν.

As regards the excommunicated, the sentence passed by the bishops of each province shall have the force of law, in conformity with the canon which says: He who has been excommunicated by some should not be admitted by others. Care must, however, be taken to see that the bishop has not passed this sentence of excommunication from narrow-mindedness, from a love of contradiction, or from some feeling of hatred. In order that such an examination may take place, it has appeared good to order that in each province a synod shall be held twice a year, composed of all the bishops of the province: they will make all necessary inquiries that each may see that the sentence of excommunication has been justly passed on account of some determined disobedience, and until the assembly of bishops may be pleased to pronounce a milder judgment on them. These synods are to be held, the one before Lent, in order that, having put away all low-mindedness, we may present a pure offering to God, and the second in the autumn.”

As we have already remarked, the Council in this canon again takes as a basis divisions by metropolitan provinces, by instituting provincial synods; and it lays down for them one part of the business which should occupy them.

Before the Council of Nicæa, ecclesiastical law had already forbidden that any one who had been excommunicated should be admitted by another bishop; the twelfth (thirteenth) apostolical canon even threatens a bishop who should do so with excommunication. This rule of the Council of Nicæa, that a sentence of excommunication passed by a bishop should be examined by a provincial synod which had the right to annul it, is found, if not literally, at least in sense, in the thirty-sixth apostolic canon (thirty-eighth), which says that a provincial synod should decide those ecclesiastical questions which are in dispute. This same apostolical canon orders very explicitly that two provincial synods shall be held every year, but it does not appoint the same seasons as the canon of the Council of Nicæa. It might be supposed at first sight, that according to the ordinance of Nicæa, a provincial synod is only required to make inquiries about the force of sentences of excommunication which have been passed; but it may be seen that the Œcumenical Council held at Constantinople has correctly explained this canon, in saying that it entrusts the provincial Council with the care of examining into the whole affairs of the province.

Gelasius has given, in his history of the Council of Nicæa, the text of the canons passed by the Council; and it must be noticed that there is here a slight difference between his text and ours. Our reading is as follows: “The excommunication continues to be in force until it seem good to the assembly of bishops (τῷ κοινῷ) to soften it.” Gelasius, on the other hand, writes: μέχρις ἄν τῷ κοινῷ ἤ τῷ ἐπισκόπῳ, κ.τ.λ., that is to say, “until it seem good to the assembly of bishops, or to the bishop (who has passed the sentence),” etc.… Dionysius the Less has also followed this variation, as his translation of the canon shows. It does not change the essential meaning of the passage; for it may be well understood that the bishop who has passed the sentence of excommunication has also the right to mitigate it. But the variation adopted by the Prisca alters, on the contrary, the whole sense of the canon: the Prisca has not τῷ κοινῷ, but only ἐπισκόπῳ: it is in this erroneous form that the canon has passed into the Corpus juris can. The latter part of the canon, which treats of provincial councils, has been inserted by Gratian.

CAN. 6

Τὰ ἀρχαῖα ἔθη κρατείτω τὰ ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ καὶ Λιβύῃ καὶ Πενταπόλει, ὥστε τὸν Ἀλεξανδρείας ἐπίσκοπον πάντων τούτων ἔχειν τὴν ἐξουσίαν, ἐπειδὴ καὶ τῷ ἐν τῇ Ῥώμῃ ἐπισκόπῳ τοῦτο σύνηθές ἐστιν• ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ κατὰ Ἀντιόχειαν καὶ ἐν ταῖς ἄλλαις ἐπαρχίαις τὰ πρεσβεῖα σώζεσθαι ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις• καθόλου δὲ πρόδηλον ἐκεῖνο, ὅτι εἴ τις χωρὶς γνώμης τοῦ μητροπολίτου γένοιτο ἐπίσκοπος, τὸν τοιοῦτον ἡ μεγάλη σύνοδος ὥρισε μὴ δεῖν εἶναι ἐπίσκπον• ἐὰν μέντοι τῇ κοινῇ πάντων ψήφῳ, εὐλόγῳ οὔσῃ καὶ κατὰ κανόνα ἐκκλησιαστικὸν, δύο ἢ τρεῖς διʼ οἰκείαν φιλονεικίαν ἀντιλέγωσι, κρατείτω ἡ τῶν πλειόνων ψῆφος.

The old custom in use in Egypt, in Libya, and in Pentapolis, should continue to exist, that is, that the bishop of Alexandria should have jurisdiction over all these (provinces); for there is a similar relation for the Bishop of Rome. The rights which they formerly possessed must also be preserved to the Churches of Antioch and to the other eparchies (provinces). This is thoroughly plain, that if any one has become a bishop without the approval of the metropolitan, the great Synod commands him not to remain a bishop. But when the election has been made by all with discrimination, and in a manner conformable to the rules of the Church, if two or three oppose from pure love of contradiction, it will be carried by the majority.”

I. The fourth and fifth canons had determined the rights of provincial councils and of ordinary metropolitans; the sixth canon is taken up with the recognition and regulation of an institution of a higher order of the hierarchy. It is most clear from the words of the canon, that the Synod had no intention of introducing anything new. It desires that the ancient tradition should be preserved, by which the Bishop of Alexandria had jurisdiction over Egypt (in the narrower sense of the word), Libya, and Pentapolis.

It is very evident that it is an exceptional position that had been already given to the Bishop of Alexandria, which is recognised and ratified by the Council. The Bishop of Alexandria had not alone under his jurisdiction one civil province, like the other metropolitans, of whom the fourth canon has already treated: he had several provinces depending upon him,—Egypt (properly so called), and to the west two other provinces, Libya (Libya sicca vel inferior) and Pentapolis, or Cyrenia (situated to the west of Libya, which separates it from Egypt properly so called). There is, of necessity, attached to these provinces the Thebaïs, or Upper Egypt, which at the time of the Council of Nicæa was certainly under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Alexandria. Our canon does not specially name it, because it includes it in Egypt, whose limits are not, as may be seen, very exactly determined by the Fathers of Nicæa. The four provinces here named formed, at the time of the Synod, the diocese (political division) of Egypt, or Egypt taken in its largest signification; some time after the diocese was divided into six provinces—Pentapolis (Libya superior), Libya inferior, Thebaïs, Egypt, Augustamnica (the eastern part of Egypt), and Arcadia or Eptanomis (Middle Egypt).

These explanations prove that the sense of the first words of the canon is as follows: “This ancient right is assigned to the Bishop of Alexandria, which places under his jurisdiction the whole diocese of Egypt.” It is without any reason, then, that the French Protestant Salmasius (Saumaise), the Anglican Beveridge, and the Gallican Launoy, try to show that the Council of Nicæa granted to the Bishop of Alexandria only the rights of ordinary metropolitans.

But since it is evident that an exceptional position is appointed for him, we must now ask in what this position consisted. Two cases here present themselves:—

a. The four civil provinces, Egypt; Libya, Pentapolis, and Thebaïs, might be united into a single ecclesiastical province, of which the Bishop of Alexandria would be declared the sole metropolitan. This supposition has been adopted by Van Espen.

b. Or else each one of these civil provinces might form an ecclesiastical province, and have its metropolitan, whilst the Archbishop of Alexandria (who was metropolitan of the province of Egypt, taken in its narrower signification) had a certain ecclesiastical supremacy over the civil diocese, so that the other metropolitans (that is to say, those of Pentapolis, of Thebaïs, and of Libya) would be under his jurisdiction. At the time of the Council of Nicæa there was no particular title to describe the chief metropolitan, who was usually called at a later period Patriarch or Exarch.

It seems to me beyond a doubt, that in this canon there is a question about that which was afterwards called the patriarchate of the Bishop of Alexandria; that is to say, that he had a certain recognised ecclesiastical authority, not only over several civil provinces, but also over several ecclesiastical provinces (which had their own metropolitan): it is in this sense that Valesius in earlier times, and in our days Phillips and Maassen, have interpreted the sixth canon of Nicæa. The reasons for this explanation are:—

(α.) The general rule, confirmed by the fourth canon of the Council of Nicæa, determined that each civil province should be an ecclesiastical province as well, and that it should have its metropolitan. Now nothing proves that Libya, Pentapolis, and Thebaïs were an exception to this general rule, and had no metropolitans of their own.

(β.) According to S. Epiphanius, Meletius was ἀρχιεπίσκοπος of the province of Thebaïs; and according to the same author, he had the first place after the Archbishop of Alexandria, over all the bishops of Egypt. Although the title of ἀρχιεπίσκοπος was not in use in the time of Meletius, Epiphanius does not hesitate to make use of it in accordance with the usage of his own time, and to show by it that he considers Meletius as the metropolitan of the Thebaïs; but as, in his account of the history of the Meletian schism, S. Epiphanius has made serious mistakes, we do not, as we have shown elsewhere, attach much importance to his testimony.

(γ.) We find a letter of Synesius to Theophilus Archbishop of Alexandria, in which he says, “that S. Athanasius having discovered in Siderius, formerly Bishop of Palæbisca and Hydrax, a capacity for higher functions, had translated him to Ptolemais in Pentapolis, to govern the metropolitan church there.” As this Synesius was Bishop of Ptolemais at the beginning of the fifth century, his assertion, which bears witness to the fact that this city was at the time of S. Athanasius, and consequently at the time of the Council of Nicæa, an ecclesiastical metropolis, is of the greatest value.

(δ.) Other passages of this letter of Synesius, in particular the following passage, show that Ptolemais was in reality formerly an ecclesiastical metropolis: “He was reproached with not having sufficiently guarded the maternal rights of his city (τὰ μητρῶα τῆς πόλεως δίκαια), that is to say, the rights of his metropolitan church, against the Bishop of Alexandria.”

(ε.) Synesius acted also repeatedly as metropolitan of Pentapolis. He brought together the other bishops of the province, and gave his consent to the choice of a new bishop; thus making use of a right that the fourth canon of Nicæa accorded to a metropolitan.

(ζ.) Finally, we may appeal to the Emperor Theodosius II., who, in a letter dated March 30, 449, gave orders to Dioscurus Bishop of Alexandria to present himself at Ephesus for the great Synod (that which was known later as the Latrocinium Ephesinum), with the ten metropolitans who belonged to his diocese.

It is, then, incontestable that the civil provinces of Egypt, Libya, Pentapolis, and Thebaïs, which were all in subjection to the Bishop of Alexandria, were also ecclesiastical provinces with their own metropolitans; and consequently it is not the ordinary rights of metropolitans that the sixth canon of Nicæa confirms to the Bishop of Alexandria, but the rights of a superior metropolitan, that is, of a patriarch. We are able to define in what these rights consisted:—

a. The Bishop of Alexandria ordained not only the metropolitans who were subject to him, but also their suffragans; while the ordinary rule was, that the suffragans should be ordained by their own metropolitans.

b. But the Bishop of Alexandria could only (as patriarch) ordain those whose election had the consent of the immediate metropolitan, that is, of the metropolitan in whose province he found himself. The letter of Synesius again proves this, in which he requests Theophilus Patriarch of Alexandria to consecrate the new Bishop of Olbia in Pentapolis. After making the request, Synesius adds this phrase: “I moreover give my vote for this man” (Φέρω κἀγὼ τὴν ἐμαυτοῦ ψῆφον ἐπὶ τὸν ἄνδρα).

Finally, we shall see a little further on that this sixth canon also decreed measures to prevent the rights of simple metropolitans being completely absorbed in the privileges of the patriarchs.

II. The sixth canon of Nicæa acknowledged for the Bishop of Antioch the rights which it had acknowledged for the Bishop of Alexandria; that is, as it would be expressed at a later period, the rights attached to a patriarchate. The second canon of the Council of Constantinople, held in 381, proves that the patriarchate of the Bishop of Antioch was identical with the civil diocese of Oriens. This diocese of Oriens contained, according to the Notitia dignitatum, fifteen civil provinces: Palæstina, Fœnice, Syria, Cilicia, Cyprus, Arabia, Isauria Palæstina salutaris, Palæstina (ii.), Fœnice Lybani, Eufratensis, Syria salutaris, Osrhoëna, Cilicia (ii.).

Whatever might be the number of civil provinces that the diocese of Oriens contained at the time of the Council of Nicæa, it is not less certain that, in the canon before us, a supremacy was acknowledged for the Bishop of Antioch, extending to several provinces which had their own metropolitans. Thus, for example, Palestine acknowledged as its metropolitan the Bishop of Cæsarea, as we shall see in the seventh canon of the Council of Nicæa; but the metropolitan of Cæsarea, in his turn, was under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Antioch, as his superior metropolitan (patriarch). S. Jerome says expressly that these rights of the Church of Antioch proceeded from the sixth canon of Nicæa, “in which it was ruled that Antioch should be the general metropolis of all Oriens, and Cæsarea the particular metropolis of the province of Palestine (which belonged to Oriens).” Pope Innocent I. wrote to Alexander Bishop of Antioch: “The Council of Nicæa has not established the Church of Antioch over a province, but over a diocese. As, then, in virtue of his exclusive authority, the Bishop of Antioch ordains metropolitans, it is not allowed that other bishops should hold ordinations without his knowledge and consent.”

These passages show us in what the rights of the metropolitan of Antioch consisted: (α) He ordained the metropolitans immediately: (β) The other bishops, on the contrary, were ordained by their metropolitan, yet by his permission; whilst, as we have seen further back, the patriarchs of Alexandria ordained immediately the suffragan bishops also.

III. For the support of its rule, the Council of Nicæa points out that the Bishop of Rome has also rights analogous to those which it acknowledges for the Bishop of Alexandria (and for the Bishop of Antioch). It is evident that the Council has not in view here the primacy of the Bishop of Rome over the whole Church, but simply his power as a patriarch; for only in relation to this could any analogy be established between Rome and Alexandria or Antioch. This subject will be considered more in detail further on.

IV. After having confirmed the claim of the three great metropolitan cities of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch to patriarchal rights, our canon adds: “The rights (πρεσβεῖα) of the Churches in the other eparchies must also be preserved.” The question is, What is here understood by the words, “the Churches of the other eparchies?” Salmasius and others think that the question in point here is about ordinary ecclesiastical provinces and their metropolitan cities; but Valesius, Dupin, Maassen and others have maintained that this passage relates to the three superior eparchies (sensu eminenti) of Pontus, proconsular Asia, and Thrace, which possessed similar rights to those of the patriarchal Churches of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, and which later were usually called exarchates. The metropolitan cities of these three eparchies, sensu eminenti, were Ephesus for proconsular Asia, Cæsarea in Cappadocia for Pontus, and Heraclea (afterwards Constantinople) for Thrace. The Council of Constantinople, held in 381, speaks of these three exceptional metropolitan cities; and for my own part, I see no difficulty in believing that the Council of Nicæa also speaks of them in this sentence: “The rights of the Churches must also be preserved in the other eparchies;” for (α) our canon does not speak of ordinary eparchies (that is to say, of simple metropolitan cities), but of those which have particular rights (πρεσβεῖα).

(β.) The word ὁμοίως shows that the Synod places these eparchies in the same rank as the sees of Alexandria and Antioch.

(γ.) It is very true that the sixth canon does not determine these other eparchies sensu eminenti; but as the second canon of the Council of Constantinople (381) groups these three sees of the eparchies of Pontus, Asia, and Thrace just in the same way as the Council of Nicæa had grouped the Churches of Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria, there can be no doubt that the Council of Nicæa had also in view these three eparchies sensu eminenti.

(δ.) This passage, taken from a letter of Theodoret to Pope Flavian, may also be quoted: “The Fathers of Constantinople had (by this second canon) followed the example of the Fathers of the Council of Nicæa, and separated the dioceses the one from the other.” It follows from this, according to Theodoret, that the Synod of Nicæa had acknowledged as ecclesiastical provinces, distinct and governed by a superior metropolitan, the dioceses of Pontus, Asia, and Thrace (as it had done with regard to the dioceses of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch); for, as the Council of Constantinople desired to separate the dioceses the one from the other, it is evidently necessary that the limits of these dioceses should be known, and that the three, patriarchates of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch should not be the only ones distinct.

V. The sixth canon proceeds: “It is plain enough, that if any one has become a bishop without the approval of the metropolitan, the great Synod (of Nicæa) does not allow him to remain bishop.” By metropolitan, Valesius understands patriarch, and explains the passage in this manner: “Without the consent of the patriarch, a bishop should never be instituted.” Dupin and Maassen think, on the contrary, that the question is here that of an ordinary metropolitan, and explain the sentence in this manner: “In those ecclesiastical provinces which form part of a patriarchate, care must be taken to preserve the rights of the simple metropolitan, and for that reason no person can be made a bishop without the consent of his immediate metropolitan; that is to say, the patriarch himself cannot ordain any one without the consent of the metropolitan of the future bishop.”

This explanation shows why the Synod of Nicæa repeats in its sixth canon this sentence already inserted in the fourth: “No one can be made a bishop without the consent of his metropolitan.”

VI. According to what has been said, the end of the sixth canon, “When, from a mere spirit of contradiction, two or three oppose an election which has been made by all, and which is at the same time reasonable and in accordance with the rules of the Church, the majority must prevail,” should be explained in this manner: “When any one has been elected bishop by the majority of the clergy and of the bishops of the province, and with the consent of the metropolitan and of the patriarch, then,” etc.

VII. This sixth canon was possibly the result of the Meletian schism; for, as it is a fact that these schismatics slighted the rights of the Bishop of Alexandria, this confusion probably decided the Synod of Nicæa to define clearly the rights of that bishop.

VIII. It may now be seen how clear and intelligible the sense of this sixth canon is, and yet it has been the object of the most wide-spread controversies.

1. The first question is, What is the value of the canon before us with respect to the Catholic doctrine of the Papacy? And while some have desired to see in it a confirmation of the doctrine of the Roman primacy, others have adduced it as a weapon against the primacy of the Holy See. Phillips remarks with justice, in speaking of this canon: “It is evident that this canon cannot be used to demonstrate the primacy of the Pope; for the Council of Nicæa did not speak of the primacy, which had no need of being established or confirmed by the Council of Nicæa.”

It must not be forgotten that the Pope unites in himself several ecclesiastical dignities: he is bishop, metropolitan, patriarch, and lastly, primate of the whole Church. Each one of these dignities may be regarded separately, and that is what the canon has done: it does not consider the Pope as primate of the universal Church, nor as simple Bishop of Rome; but it treats him as one of the great metropolitans, who had not merely one province, but several, under their jurisdiction.

2. There has also been a question as to what extent was given to this metropolitan diocese of Rome by the Council of Nicæa; but the very text of the canon shows that the Council of Nicæa decided nothing on this point: it is content to ratify and confirm the order of existing things. There has been a great conflict of opinions to explain in what this order of things consisted. The translation of this canon by Rufinus has been especially an apple of discord. Et ut apud Alexandriam et in urbe Roma vetusta consuetudo servetur, ut vel ille Ægypti vel hic suburbicariarum ecclesiarum sollicitudinem gerat. In the seventeenth century this sentence of Rufinus gave rise to a very lively discussion between the celebrated jurist Jacob Gothfried (Gothofredus) and his friend Salmasius on one side, and the Jesuit Sirmond on the other. The great prefecture of Italy, which contained about a third of the whole Roman Empire, was divided into four vicariates, among which the vicariate of Rome was the first. At its head were two officers, the præfectus urbi and the vicarius urbis. The præfectus urbi exercised authority over the city of Rome, and further in a suburban circle as far as the hundredth milestone. The boundary of the vicarius urbis comprised ten provinces—Campania, Tuscia with Ombria, Picenum, Valeria, Samnium, Apulia with Calabria, Lucania, and Brutii, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica. Gothfried and Salmasius maintained, that by the regiones suburbicariæ the little territory of the præfectus urbi must be understood; whilst, according to Sirmond, these words designate the whole territory of the vicarius urbis. In our time Dr. Maassen has proved. in his book, already quoted several times, that Gothfried and Salmasius were right in maintaining that, by the regiones suburbicariæ, the little territory of the præfectus urbi must be alone understood. But, on the other hand, according to Maassen, it is a complete mistake to suppose the patriarchal power of the Bishop of Rome restricted to this little territory.

The sixth canon of Nicæa proves that it was not so; for, on comparing the situation of the two Churches of Alexandria and of Rome, it evidently supposes that the patriarchate of Rome extended over several provinces. In fact, the ten provinces composing the territory of the vicarius urbis, and which were hundreds of times larger than the regio suburbicaria, did not contain all the territory over which the authority of the Pope as patriarch extended; for, in our days, Phillips has proved, by reference to the work of Benetti (Privilegia S. Petri), that the Bishop of Rome had the right of ordaining bishops, and consequently the rights of a patriarch, over other countries than those which are contained in the ten provinces of the vicarius urbis. If the question is put in this way, it must be said, either that Rufinus does not identify the ecclesiæ suburbicariæ with the regiones suburbicariæ, or that he is mistaken if he has done so. Phillips thinks that Rufinus has not really fallen into this error. Having remarked that the provinciæ suburbicariæ (that is to say, the ten provinces enumerated above) took their name from the vicarius urbis, he considered that the ecclesiæ suburbicariæ also took theirs from the episcopus urbis; and he has comprised under this name of ecclesiæ suburbicariæ all the churches which form part of the Roman patriarchate.

For my part, I willingly believe that the expression of Rufinus is inaccurate; for the Prisca (an old Latin translation of the canons) translates the passage of our canon in question as follows: Antiqui moris est, ut urbis Romæ episcopus habeat principatum, ut suburbicaria loca ET OMNEM PROVINCIAM SUAM sollicitudine gubernet; (a) understanding by suburbicaria loca the little territory of the præfectus urbi, but (b) not restricting the authority of the Pope as patriarch within the limits of this territory; and therefore it adds, et omnem provinciam suam.

But what was in fact the extent of this patriarchate of the Church of Rome?

The Greek commentators Zonaras and Balsamon (of the twelfth century) say very explicitly, in their explanation of the canons of Nicæa, that this sixth canon confirms the rights of the Bishop of Rome as patriarch over the whole West. We see, then, that even the Greek schismatics of former times admitted that the Roman patriarchate embraced the entire West, as the following testimonies and considerations prove:—

a. Mention is made a hundred times by the ancients, of the patriarchates into which the Churches of the East were divided (Alexandria, Antioch, etc.); but no one has ever hinted at the existence of a second patriarchate of the West. On the contrary, it may be seen that in all the West there was only one patriarchate.

b. S. Augustine shows that the Bishop of Rome was looked upon as this Patriarch of all the West, for he gives to Pope Innocent I. the title of “President of the Church of the West.”

c. S. Jerome gives the same testimony. He writes to the presbyter Mark, “that he was accused of heresy on account of his clinging to the homoousios, and that this charge had been carried to the West and into Egypt; that is to say, to Damasus Bishop of Rome, and to Peter (Bishop of Alexandria).” It may be seen that, as the Bishop of Alexandria is here regarded as Patriarch of Egypt, so the Bishop of Rome is considered the Patriarch of the West.

d. The Synod of Arles, held in 314, speaks in the same way. In a letter to Pope Sylvester, it says to him: Qui majores diœceses tenes. It considers, then, that the Bishop of Rome has under his jurisdiction several (civil) dioceses, while the other patriarchs had, as we have seen, only one.

e. We may finally appeal to the authority of the Emperor Justinian, who in his 119th Novel, speaking of the ecclesiastical division of the whole world, numbers five patriarchates: those of Rome, of Constantinople, of Alexandria, of Antioch, and of Jerusalem. Now, as these four last patriarchates contain only the Church of the East, it is evident that the patriarchate of Rome contains in itself alone all the West.

The Roman patriarchate contained, then, eight dioceses, which at the beginning of the sixteenth century were divided into sixty-eight provinces; and although, at the accession of Theodosius the Great—that is to say, in 378—Eastern Illyricum ceased to form part of the Empire of the West, and was joined to that of the East, yet the provinces of this prefecture continued to be joined to Rome for ecclesiastical purposes, and a special papal vicar was charged with the ecclesiastical government of these dioceses. The first of these vicars was Bishop Ascholius of Thessalonica, appointed by Pope Damasus.

It must not, lastly, be overlooked that the Bishop of Rome did not exercise in an equal degree, over the whole West, the full rights of patriarch; for in several provinces simple bishops were ordained without his consent. On the other hand, the Pope exercised his patriarchal right in convoking at different renewals the general and private synods of the Western Church (synodos occidentales)—for example, the Synod of Arles in 314—and in making himself the judge of the metropolitans of the West, either directly or indirectly, as in Illyricum by his vicar.

In some ancient Latin translations, this canon begins with the words, Ecclesia Romana semper habuit primatum; and this variation is also found in the Prisca. So the Emperor Valentinian III., in his edict of 445 on the subject of Hilary of Arles, issued also in the name of his Eastern colleague Theodosius II., maintained that the holy Synod had confirmed the primacy of the Apostolic See. The Emperor Valentinian evidently makes allusion to the sixth canon of Nicæa; for at that time the second canon of the Council of Constantinople, held in 381, which speaks in the same sense, was not yet known at Rome.

It must be added that, at the time of the sixteenth session of the fourth Œcumenical Council at Chalcedon, the Roman legate Paschasinus read the sixth canon of Nicæa in the following manner: Quod Ecclesia Romana semper habuit primatum; teneat autem et Ægyptus, ut episcopus Alexandriæ omnium habeat potestatem, quoniam et Romano episcopo hæc est consuetudo.

The actual text of the acts of the Council of Chalcedon proves that the translation given by Paschasinus was placed over against the Greek text of the sixth canon of Nicæa. An attempt has been made to see in this juxtaposition a protest of the Synod against the Roman translation; but even if it is admitted that the portion of the acts which gives these two texts is perfectly authentic, it is very evident that the legate Paschasinus had no intention, in quoting the sixth canon of Nicæa, to demonstrate the primacy of the Holy See: he only desires to prove that the Bishop of Constantinople ought not to take precedence of those of Antioch and Alexandria, because that would be a violation of the canon of Nicæa. It was not the words of the translation of Paschasinus with reference to the see of Rome which engaged the attention of the Council; it was those which referred to the sees of Antioch and Alexandria, and those were very faithfully translated from the Greek. On the other hand, the Ballerini have shown in a nearly conclusive way, in their edition of the Works of S. Leo the Great, that the acts of Chalcedon have been interpolated, that the Greek text of the sixth canon of Nicæa must have been introduced by some later copyist, and that the text of Paschasinus was the only one which was read in the Synod. We shall return to this question in the history of the Council of Chalcedon.

It seems to us that Dr. Maassen goes too far, when he says that the Council of Chalcedon expressly confirmed the Roman interpretation of the sixth canon of Nicæa, and consequently its recognition of the Roman primacy. It is true that, after the reading of the Latin version of the canon in question, followed by the reading of the first, second, and third canons of Constantinople (of 381), the imperial commissioners who were present at the Synod made this declaration: “After what has been cited on both sides, we acknowledge that the most ancient right of all (πρὸ πάντων τὰ πρωτεῖα), and the pre-eminence (καὶ τὴν ἐξαίρετον τιμὴν), belong to the Archbishop of old Rome; but that the same pre-eminence of honour (τὰ πρεσβεῖα τῆς τιμῆς) ought to be given to the Archbishop of new Rome.” Maassen has considered that, after these words of the imperial commissioners, it may be concluded that the sixth canon of the Council of Nicæa had already recognised, in fact, the right of the Pope to take precedence of all other bishops; but it was not so. The commissioners said: On both sides, that is to say, in what the papal legate has read, and in what has been read by the consistorial secretary Constantine as well, the precedence of Rome is recognised. This is the same as saying: This precedence, which we do not in the least contest (there is no question, in fact, of that), is set forth (a) in the Latin version of the sixth canon of Nicæa, read by Paschasinus, and is contained (b) in the canons of Constantinople read by Constantine. But the imperial commissioners of the Synod go no further in their declarations; and in particular, they have not declared that the original text of the sixth canon of Nicæa—a text which had not been read—contains affirmatively a recognition or a confirmation of the primacy of the Pope.

But it will be said, How could the ancient translators of these canons, as well as the legates of the Pope and Emperors, suppose that the sixth canon of Nicæa included a confirmation of the primacy of Rome? In answer to this question, Dr. Maassen has put forward a theory, which we produce simply as a theory: “The Fathers (of Nicæa) confirmed the rights of each see (of Alexandria, of Antioch, etc.). Why did they take as an example in their decree the constitution of the Roman patriarchate? Why were they not content simply to give their sanction to those patriarchal rights without adducing this analogy? We cannot imagine a more striking proof of the deep respect that the Fathers of Nicæa had for the visible head of the Church; for no one will suppose that the simple confirmation by the Council of the rights of superior metropolitans would not be perfectly sufficient.… But that which was sufficient for mere law did not satisfy the Fathers of Nicæa: their own sentiments on the utility of the institution of patriarchates did not appear sufficient to influence their decree: they did not wish to present to the approbation of the Pope those decrees simply confirming the privileges of superior metropolitans. They preferred to refer to the fact that ‘the Bishop of Rome already enjoyed the same position:’ it was to show that at Rome an institution existed analogous to that which they wished to confirm. In reserving to himself a certain number of provinces which he might deal with in a peculiar manner, did not the Pope most clearly recognise it as necessary that the same should be the case with other Churches; and that a portion of the power which belonged exclusively to him in his position as chief pastor of the universal Church, should be committed to other bishops? The Bishop of Rome was then, strictly speaking, the founder of the institution of patriarchates (that is to say, he gave to certain patriarchs a portion of that power over the universal Church which belonged to him). He had himself given the type, that is, the motive, upon which the Fathers of Nicæa founded their canon. Can we wonder, then, that the most remote antiquity found in this canon, to use the expression of Pope Gelasius I., ‘an unique and irrefragable testimony’ in support of the primacy?”

The sixth canon of Nicæa has been inserted in the Corpus juris canonici, but there it has been divided into three smaller canons.

CAN. 7

Ἐπειδὴ συνήθεια κεκράτηκε καὶ παράδοσις ἀρχαῖα, ὤστε τὸν ἐν Αἰλὶᾳ ἐπίσκοπον τιμᾶσθαι, ἐχέτω τὴν ἀκολουθίαν τῆς τιμῆς τῂ μητροπόλει σωζομένου τοῦ οἰκείου ἀξιώματος.

As custom and ancient tradition show that the Bishop of Ælia ought to be honoured (in a special manner), he should have precedence; without prejudice, however, to the dignity which belongs to the metropolis.”

Short as this canon is, its explanation presents great difficulties. One thing is certain: it is, that the Council desires to confirm an ancient right of the Bishop of Ælia, that is to say, of Jerusalem, to enjoy certain honours; but in what they consisted, and what must be understood by the words ἀκολουθία τῆς τιμῆς, we cannot easily determine.

If the city of Jerusalem had not been taken and destroyed by Titus, August 31st, in the seventieth year after Christ, it would certainly have had, in the organization and economy of the Church, a very distinguished place as the ancient Mother-Church of Christendom; but of old Jerusalem there remained only three towers and a portion of the city wall: all the rest was levelled with the ground, and the plough had passed over the ruins.

A short time after the year 70, certain Jewish and Christian colonists settled in the midst of these ruins, and built huts there, and even a little Christian church in the place, in which the first believers were in the habit of meeting after the ascension of Christ to celebrate the eucharistic feast. A short time after the commencement of the second century, the Emperor Hadrian had a new city built upon the ruins of Jerusalem, with a temple to Jupiter Capitolinus. He also gave the new city the name of Ælia Capitolina, in remembrance of this temple and of his own family. He peopled it with fresh colonists, after the entire exclusion of the Jews.

We find in this new city a large community of Christians, converts from heathenism, who had at their head the Bishop Marcus; but for two hundred years the name of Jerusalem appears no more in history. The new city was treated as though it had nothing in common with the old; there was even considerable difficulty in knowing and distinguishing the differences which existed between the one and the other. Thus it happened that the city of Hadrian had not the ecclesiastical rank which belonged by right to old Jerusalem. After Jerusalem had been destroyed by Titus, Cæsarea (Turris Stratonis), which had formerly been only the second city in the country, became the civil and ecclesiastical metropolis, and the, Bishop of Ælia was only a simple suffragan of the metropolitan of Cæsarea. But it might be foreseen that the reverence of all Christians for the holy places, sanctified by the life, sufferings, and death of our Lord, would contribute little by little to raise the importance of the old city, and consequently that of its Church and bishop; and thus it came to pass that the metropolitan of Cæsarea was gradually equalled, if not surpassed, by the dignity of the Holy City κατʼ ἐξοχὴν,—without, however, the subordinate ecclesiastiaal position of the latter being altered. Towards the end of the second century the gradation was already so sensible, that at a Synod of Palestine the Bishop of Ælia occupied the presidency conjointly with the metropolitan of Cæsarea (secundo loco, it is true); as Eusebius, who was himself afterwards metropolitan of Cæsarea, plainly tells us in the fifth book and twenty-third chapter of his History: “At a Synod held on the subject of the Easter controversy in the time of Pope Victor, Theophilus of Cæsarea and Narcissus of Jerusalem were presidents.” The same Eusebius shows us, in his fifth book and twenty-fifth chapter, how near in honour the Bishops of Jerusalem and Cæsarea were to each other; for, when writing a list of the bishops, he places Narcissus of Jerusalem before the metropolitan Theophilus of Cæsarea. It is true that in the twenty-second chapter he does the contrary. The synodal letter of the bishops assembled at Antioch in 269 on the subject of the errors of Paul of Samosata is very remarkable on this point. It is signed first by Helenus Bishop of Tarsus, immediately afterwards by Hymenæus Bishop of Jerusalem, whilst Theotecnus Bishop of Cæsarea signs only quarto loco. It must not, however, be hastily concluded from this that the Bishop of Jerusalem had already at this time priority of the metropolitan of Cæsarea; but it cannot be doubted that the entirely exceptional position in which he found himself would of necessity raise difficulties between himself and his metropolitan. It is this which probably induced the Synod of Nicæa to pass its seventh canon. The eminent De Marca, as well as other historians, have supposed that by this canon the Synod wished to grant the first place to the Bishop of Jerusalem, immediately after the three great Patriarchs of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, without altogether raising him to the rank of Patriarch, and leaving him subject to the jurisdiction of the metropolitan of Cæsarea. Marca explains in this way the words ἐχέτω τήν ἀκολουθίαν τῆς τιμῆς: 1. He should have the honour (respectu honoris) of following immediately after the metropolitans of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch; 2. The last words of the canon signify that the dignity which belongs to the metropolitan must not, however, be infringed. Marca appeals in support of his theory to an old translation by Dionysius the Less, and to another yet older translation which was composed for the Synod of Carthage held in 419. But not one of these translations supports Marca, for not one of them gives any explanation of the words ἀκολουθία τῆς τιμῆς. Beveridge has especially taken it upon himself to refute Marca. A patriarch placed under the jurisdiction of a metropolitan is, according to him, an impossibility. He considers that, by the words ἐχέτω τὴν ἀκολουθίαν, the Council of Nicæa has simply desired to confirm to the Bishop of Jerusalem the first place after the metropolitan of Cæsarea, just as in the Anglican hierarchy the Bishop of London comes immediately after the Archbishop of Canterbury. Beveridge remarks on this, that it may be answered, that in this same Synod of Nicæa, where the bishops signed by provinces, Macarius Bishop of Jerusalem nevertheless signed before Eusebius the metropolitan of Cæsarea. Beveridge acknowledges the accuracy of this reply; but he adds that two other bishops of Palestine also signed before Eusebius, and yet no one will maintain that they were not under the jurisdiction of the metropolitan of Cæsarea. The signatures at the Council of Nicæa are not, then, conclusive. It might be added that, in these same signatures of the Council, the metropolitan of the province of Isauria is found signing in the fifth place, that is to say, after four of his suffragans; and even the metropolitan of Ephesus did not sign first among the bishops of Asia Minor (although Ephesus was one of the largest metropolitan cities of the Church): his name comes after that of the Bishop of Cyzicus.

A more remarkable incident is, that almost immediately after the Council of Nicæa, the Bishop of Jerusalem, Maximus, convoked, without any reference to the Bishop of Cæsarea, a Synod of Palestine, which pronounced in favour of S. Athanasius, and proceeded further to the consecration of bishops. Socrates, who records this fact, adds, it is true, that he was reprimanded for having so acted. But this fact shows that the Bishop of Jerusalem was endeavouring to make himself independent of the Bishop of Cæsarea. It may also be seen by the signatures of the second Œcumenical Synod, that Cyril Bishop of Jerusalem wrote his name before that of Thalassius Bishop of Cæsarea. And, on the other side, it is not less certain that in 395 John metropolitan of Cæsarea nominated Porphyrius, a priest of Jerusalem, Bishop of Gaza; and that the Synod of Diospolis, held in 415, was presided over by Eulogius metropolitan of Cæsarea, although John Bishop of Jerusalem was present at the Synod. These different researches show us that the question of precedence between the Bishops of Cæsarea and Jerusalem cannot be determined; for sometimes it is the Bishop of Cæsarea who is first, sometimes the Bishop of Jerusalem. This state of things lasted on to the time of the third Œcumenical Council held at Ephesus in 431. Juvenal Bishop of Jerusalem took a very prominent place, and signed immediately after Cyril of Alexandria (it is true the Bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine was not present). But this same Cyril was at this Synod a declared opponent of Juvenal; and when the latter wished by the help of false documents to have his ecclesiastical primacy over Palestine acknowledged by the Council, Cyril appealed on the subject to the authority of the Roman See. This same Juvenal Bishop of Jerusalem had attempted, after a long contest with Maximus Bishop of Antioch, to make himself a patriarch; and the Bishop of Antioch, weary of the controversy, determined that the three provinces of Palestine should be under the patriarchate of Jerusalem, whilst Phœnicia and Arabia should remain attached to the see of Antioch. The fourth Œcumenical Council held at Chalcedon ratified this division in its seventh session, without, as it appears, the least opposition being offered.

The last words of the seventh canon, τῆ μητροπόλει, κ.τ.λ., have also been explained in different ways. Most writers—and we share their opinion—think that these words designate the metropolis of Cæsarea; others have supposed that the question is about the metropolis of Antioch; but Fuchs has supposed that the reference is wholly to Jerusalem. According to him, the Council simply wished to show the reason of the existence of certain honours granted to this Church, because this metropolis (as an original Church) had a special dignity. This last theory clearly cannot be sustained: if the canon had this meaning, it would certainly have had a very different form. This seventh canon has been inserted in the Corpus juris canonici.

CAN. 8

Περὶ τῶν ὀνομαζόντων μὲν ἑαυτοὺς Καθαρούς ποτε, προσερχομένων δὲ τῇ καθολικῆ καὶ ἀποστολικῇ Ἐκκλησίᾳ, ἔδοξε τῇ ἁγίᾳ καὶ μεγάλῃ συνόδῳ, ὥστε χειροθετουμένους αὐτοὺς μένειν οὕτως ἐν τῷ κλήρῳ πρὸ πάντων δὲ τοῦτο ὁμολογῆσαι αὐτοὺς ἐγγράφως προσήκει, ὅτι συνθήσονται καὶ ἀκολουθήσουσι τοῖς τῆς καθολικῆς καὶ ἀποστολικῆς Ἐκκλησίας δόγμασι• τοῦτʼ ἔστι καὶ διγάμοις κοινωνεῖν καὶ τοῖς ἐν τῷ διωγμῷ παραπεπτωκόσιν• ἐφ ̓ ὦν καὶ χρόνος τέτακται, καὶ καιρὸς ὥρισται• ὥστι αὐτοὺς ἀκολουθεῖν ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς δόγμασι τῆς καθολικῆς Ἐκκλησίας• ἔνθα μὲν οὖν πάντες, εἴτε ἐν κώμαις, εἴτε ἐν πολεσιν αὐτοὶ μόνοι εὑρίσκοιντο χειροτονηθέντες, οἱ εὑρισκόμενοι ἐν τῷ κλήρῳ ἔσονται ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ σχήματι• εἰ δὲ τοῦ τῆς καθολικῆς Ἐκκλησίας ἐπισκόπου ἦ πρεσβυτέρου ὄντος προσέρχονταί τινες, πρόδηλον, ὡς ὁ μὲν ἐπίσκοπος τῆς Ἐκκλησίας ἕξει τὸ ἀξίωμα τοῦ ἐπισκόπου, ὁ δὲ ὀνομαζόμενος παρὰ τοῖς λεγομένοις Καθαροῖς ἐπίσκοπος τὴν τοῦ πρεσβυτέρου τιμὴν ἕξει• πλὴν εἰ μὴ ἄρα δοκοίη τῷ ἐπισκόπῳ, τῆς τιμῆς τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτὸν μετέχειν• εἰ δὲ τοῦτο αὐτῷ μὴ ἀρέκοι, ἐπινοήσει τόπον ἢ χωρεπισκόπου ἢ πρεσβυτέρου, ὑπὲρ τοῦ ἐν τῷ κλήρῳ ὅλως δοκεῖν εἶναι, ἵνα μὴ ἐν τῇ πόλει δύο ἐπίσκοποι ὦσιν.

With regard to those who call themselves Cathari, the holy and great Synod decides, that if they wish to enter the Catholic and Apostolic Church, they must submit to imposition of hands, and they may then remain among the clergy: they must, above all, promise in writing to conform to and follow the doctrines of the Catholic and Apostolic Church; that is to say, they must communicate with those who have married a second time, and with those who have lapsed under persecution, but who have done penance for their faults. They must then follow in every respect the doctrines of the Catholic Church. Consequently, when in villages or in cities there are found only clergy of their own sect, the oldest of these clerics shall remain among the clergy, and in their position; but if a Catholic priest or bishop be found among them, it is evident that the bishop of the Catholic Church should preserve the episcopal dignity, whilst any one who has received the title of bishop from the so-called Cathari would only have a right to the honours accorded to priests, unless the bishop thinks it right to let him enjoy the honour of the (episcopal) title. If he does not desire to do so, let him give him the place of rural bishop (chorepiscopus) or priest, in order that he may appear to be altogether a part of the clergy, and that there may not be two bishops in one city.”

The Cathari who are here under discussion are no other than the Novatians (and not the Montanists, as is maintained in the Göttinger gelehrten Anzeigen, 1780, St. 105), who from a spirit of severity wished to exclude for ever from the Church those who had shown weakness during persecution. They arose at the time of the Decian persecution, towards the middle of the third century, and had for their founder the Roman priest Novatian, who accused his Bishop Cecilian of showing too much lenity towards the lapsi. These schismatics were called Novatians from the name of their leader; but from a spirit of pride they gave themselves the name of Cathari (Puritans), κατ ̓ ἐξοχὴν, because their communion alone was in their eyes the pure bride of Christ, whilst the Catholic Church had been contaminated by the readmission of the lapsi. Their fundamental principle of the perpetual exclusion of the lapsi was in a manner the concrete form of the general principle, brought forward two generations before, that whoever after baptism once fell into mortal sin, should never be received back into the Church. The Catholic Church was herself in those times very much inclined to severity: she granted permission to perform penance only once; whoever fell a second time was for ever excluded. But the Montanists and Novatians exceeded this severity, and professed the most merciless rigour. A portion of the Novatians—those of Phrygia—followed the Montanists in a second kind of rigourism, in declaring that any one of the faithful who married again after the death of his consort committed adultery. What we have said shows that the Novatians were in truth schismatics, but not heretics; and this explains the mild manner in which the Council of Nicæa treated the Novatian priests (for it is of them only that this canon speaks). The Council treats them as it had treated the Meletians. It decides, in fact, 1st, ὥστε χειροθετουμένους, κ.τ.λ., that is to say, “they must receive imposition of hands.” The meaning of these words has been a matter of dispute. Dionysius the Less translates them in this way: ut impositionem manus accipientes, sic in clero permaneant. The Prisca gives a similar translation; and then it may be said that the eighth canon, according to the two authors, would be entirely in accordance with the decision given by the Council of Nicæa on the subject of the Meletians. That decision ordered that the Meletian clergy should not indeed be ordained anew by a Catholic bishop, but that they ought nevertheless to receive from him imposition of hands. They were treated as those who had received baptism at the hands of heretics. Beveridge and Van Espen have explained this canon in another manner, resting upon Rufinus, and the two Greek commentators of the middle ages, Zonaras and Balsamon. According to them, the χειροθετουμένους does not signify the imposition of hands which was to be received on their returning to the Catholic Church: it simply refers to the priesthood received in the community of the Novatians; and consequently the sense of the canon of the Council of Nicæa is as follows: “Whoever has been ordained when amongst the Novatians, must remain among the clergy.” It seems to me that the Greek text is more favourable to the first opinion than to the second, as the article is wanting before χειροθετουμένους, and αὐτοὺς is added; but this first opinion itself supposes that the reference is to those who were already clerics when they were in Novatianism, so that the meaning and fundamental idea is nearly the same in the one interpretation as in the other: for even supposing that Beveridge and Van Espen are in the right, it does not follow that the Novatian clerics were admitted among the orthodox clergy without any condition, particularly without some imposition of hands; on the contrary, it is clear that they were not treated with more consideration than the Meletian clergy. Gratian appears to us to be in opposition to what our text tells us, and to the practice of the ancient Church, as well as to the analogy of the case of the Novatians with that of the Meletians, in supposing that the eighth canon of Nicæa prescribes a re-ordination.

The Synod decided, besides, that the Novatians who came over should promise in writing a full submission to the doctrines of the Catholic Church. By these doctrines the canon does not seem to mean the doctrines of the faith in the special sense of the words: it seems rather to have reference to the admission of the lapsi, and those who contracted second marriages. To quiet the Novatians on the subject of the lapsi, care is taken to add that they must have submitted to a prescribed penance; that is to say, that the lapsi should, before being readmitted into the Church, undergo a long and severe penance.

After having established these two rules of discipline, the Synod adds the general condition, that Novatians (that is to say, the Novatian clergy) who desire restoration to the Church shall submit in general to all the doctrines of the Catholic Church.

The Council adds also the following directions:—

(α.) If in any city or village there exist only Novatian clergy, they are to retain their offices; so that, for example, the Novatian bishop of an entirely Novatian district may remain as a regular bishop when he re-enters the Catholic Church.

(β.) But if there be found somewhere (perhaps it is necessary to read εἰ δέ που instead of εἰ δὲ ποῦ) a Catholic bishop or priest along with Novatians, the Catholic bishop is to preserve his office; and the Novatian bishop must take the position of a simple priest, unless the Catholic bishop thinks it well to allow him the honour of the episcopal title (but without any jurisdiction). The Council does not say what is to be done with the Novatian priests; but we may infer that, in places which possess but one priest, the cure should return to a Catholic priest, and the Novatian priest should retain only the title. The Synod did not provide for the case of a conflict between several priests, but the rules made on the subject of the Meletians enable us to supply this omission. Converts are allowed to remain in the office and rank of the priesthood, but they are to take their place after the other priests, and they are to be excluded from elections.

(γ.) Lastly, in a case where a Catholic bishop would not leave the Novatian bishop the continuance of the episcopal title, he should give him the post of a chorepiscopus or priest, and this that the Novatian might continue to be visibly one of the clergy, and yet there might not be two bishops in the same city.

This mildness of the Synod of Nicæa in the case of the Novatians had no more effect in extinguishing this schism than in the case of the Meletians; for Novatianism continued until the fifth century.

Amongst the Novatian bishops who took part in the Synod, we must especially mention Acesius, bishop of this sect at Constantinople, whom the Emperor Constantine held in great esteem on account of the austerity of his life, and had in consequence invited him to the Synod. Constantine asked him if he were willing to subscribe the Creed and the rule on the feast of Easter. “Yes,” replied Acesius, “for there is here, O Emperor, nothing new introduced by the Council; for it has been so believed since the time of the apostles, and thus has Easter been kept.” And when the Emperor further asked, “Why, then, do you separate from the communion of the Church?” Acesius replied by quoting different acts which had been passed under the Emperor Decius, and by declaring that no one who had committed mortal sin should be admitted again to the holy mysteries. He might be exhorted to repentance, but the priest had not the right to pronounce him really absolved, but the penitent must look for pardon from God alone. Upon this the Emperor replied, “Acesius, take a ladder, and climb up to heaven alone.” Sozomen has suggested that Acesius was of very great use to his party, and it is generally believed that this canon was made so mild towards the Novatians out of respect for him.

CAN. 9

Εἴ τινες ἀνεξετάστως προσήχθησαν πρεσβύτεροι, ἢ ἀνακρινόμενοι ὡμολόγησαν τὰ ἡμαρτημένα αὐτοῖς, καὶ ὁμολογησάντων αὐτῶν, παρὰ κανόνα κινούμενοι ἄνθρωποι τοῖς τοιούτοις χεῖρα ἐπιτεθείκασι• τούτους ὁ κανὼν οὐ προσίεται• τὸ γὰρ ἀνεπίληπτον ἐκδικεῖ ἡ καθολικὴ Ἐκκλησία.

If any persons have been admitted to the priesthood without inquiry, or if upon inquiry they have confessed their crimes, and the imposition of hands has nevertheless been conferred upon them in opposition to the canon, such ordination is declared invalid; for the Catholic Church requires men who are blameless.”

The crimes in question are those which were a bar to the priesthood, such as blasphemy, (successive) bigamy, heresy, idolatry, magic, etc., as the Arabic paraphrase of Joseph explains. It is clear that these faults are punishable in the bishop no less than in the priest, and that consequently our canon refers to the bishops as well as to the πρεσβύτεροι in the more restricted sense. These words of the Greek text, “In the case in which any one might be induced, in opposition to the canon, to ordain such persons,” allude to the ninth canon of the Synod of Neocæsarea. It was necessary to pass such ordinances; for even in the fifth century, as the twenty-second letter of Pope Innocent the First testifies, some held that as baptism effaces all former sins, so it takes away all the impedimenta ordinationis which are the result of those sins.

The ninth canon of Nicæa occurs twice in the Corpus juris canonici.

The following canon has a considerable resemblance to the one which we have just considered.

CAN. 10

Ὅσοι προεχειρίσθησαν τῶν παραπεπτωκότων κατὰ ἄγνοιαν, ἠ καὶ προειδότων τῶν προχειρισαμένων, τοῦτο οὐ προκρίνει τῷ κανόνι τῷ ἐκκλησιαστικῷ• γνωσθέντες γὰρ καθαιροῦνται.

The lapsi who have been ordained in ignorance of their fall, or in spite of the knowledge which the ordainer had of it, are no exception to the law of the Church, for they are excluded as soon as their unworthiness is known.”

The tenth canon differs from the ninth, inasmuch as it concerns only the lapsi and their elevation, not only to the priesthood, but to any other ecclesiastical preferment as well, and requires their deposition. The punishment of a bishop who should consciously perform such an ordination is not mentioned; but it is incontestable that the lapsi could not be ordained, even after having performed penance: for, as the preceding canon states, the Church requires those who were faultless. It is to be observed that the word προχειρίζειν is evidently employed here in the sense of “ordain,” and is used without any distinction from χειρίζειν; whilst in the synodal letter of the Council of Nicæa on the subject of the Meletians, there is a distinction between these two words, and προχειρίζειν is used to signify eligere.

This canon is found several times in the Corpus juris canonici.

CAN. 11

Περὶ τῶν παραβάντων χωρὶς ἀνάγκης ἢ χωρὶς ἀφαιρέσεως ὑπαρχόντων ἢ χωρὶς κινδύνου ἤ τινος τοιούτου, ὃ γέγονεν ἐπὶ τῆς τυραννίδος Λικινίου• ἔδοξε τῇ συνόδῳ, κἂν ἀνάξιοι ἧσαν φιλανθρωπίας, ὅμως χρηστεύσασθαι εἰς αὐτούς• ὅσοι οὖν γνησίως μεταμέλονται, τρία ἔτη ἐν ἀκροωμένοις ποιήσουσιν οἱ πιστοὶ, καὶ ἑπτὰ ἔτη ὑποπεσοῦνται• δύο δὲ ἔτη χωρὶς προσφορᾶς κοινωνήσουσι τῷ λαῷ τῶν προσευχῶν.

As to those who lapsed during the tyranny of Licinius, without being driven to it by necessity, or by the confiscation of their goods, or by any danger whatever, the Synod decides that they ought to be treated with gentleness, although in truth they have shown themselves unworthy of it. Those among them who are truly penitent, and who before their fall were believers, must do penance for three years among the audientes, and seven years among the substrati. For two years following they can take part with the people at divine service, but without themselves participating in the oblation.”

The persecution of Licinius had come to an end only a few years before the meeting of the Council of Nicæa, and at the downfall of that Emperor. The cruelty with which they were persecuted led a large number into apostasy. Thus the Council had to take notice in several of its canons of the lapsi; and as there were different classes to be made among these lapsi—that is to say, as some among them had yielded at the first threat, whilst others had undergone long tortures before their fall—the Synod wished to take account of the extenuating as well as of the aggravating circumstances, and to proportion the punishment to the degree of the fault. This canon does not say how the least guilty are to be treated; but it decides that those who are the most guilty, and the least excusable, should pass three years in the second degree of penitence, seven years in the third, and two years in the fourth or lowest class.

The canon supposes that those who are to receive this treatment were before their fall fideles, i.e. members of the Church, and not simple catechumens. We shall see in the fourteenth canon what the Synod decides with respect to catechumens who showed themselves weak.

CAN. 12

Οἱ δὲ προσκληθέντες μὲν ὑπὸ τῆς χάριτος, καὶ τὴν πρώτην ὁρμὴν ἐνδειξάμενοι, καὶ ἀποθέμενοι τὰς ζώνας, μετά δὲ ταῦτα ἐπὶ τὸν οἰκεῖον ἔμετον ἀναδραμόντες ὡς κύνες, ὡς τινὰς καὶ ἀργύρια προέσθαι, καὶ βενεφικίοις κατορθῶσαι τὸ ἀναστρατεύσασθαι• οὗτοι δέκα ἔτη ὑποπιπτέτωσαν μετὰ τὸν τῆς τριετοῦς ἀκροάσεως χρόνον. ἐφʼ ἅπασι δὲ τούτοις προσήκει ἐξετάζειν τὴν προαίρεσιν, καὶ τὸ εἶδος τῆς μετανοίας. ὅσοι μὲν γὰρ καὶ φόβῳ καὶ δάκρυσι καὶ ὑπομονῇ καὶ ἀγαθοεργιαις τὴν ἐπιστροφὴν ἔργῳ καὶ οὐ σχήματι ἐπιδείκνυνται, οὗτοι πληρώσαντες τὸν χρόνον τὸν ὡρισμένον τῆς ἀκροάσεως, εἰκότως τῶν εὐχῶν κοινωνήσουσι, μετὰ τοῦ ἐξεῖναι τῷ ἐπισκόπῳ, καὶ φιλανθρωπότερον τι περὶ αὐτῶν βουλεύσασθαι. ὅσοι δὲ ἀδιαφόρως ἤνεγκαν, καὶ τὸ σχῆμα τοῦ [μὴ] εἰσιέναι εἰς τὴν Ἐκκλησίαν ἀρκεῖν αὐτοῖς ἡγήσαντο πρός τὴν ἐπιστροφὴν, ἐξάπαντος πληρούτωσαν τὸν χρόνον.

Those who, called by grace, have shown the first zeal, and have laid aside their belts, but afterwards have returned like dogs to their vomit, and have gone so far as to give money and presents to be readmitted into military service, shall remain three years among the audientes, and ten years among the substrati. But in the case of these penitents, their intention and the character of their repentance must be tried. In fact, those among them who, by fear and with tears, together with patience and good works, show by deeds that their conversion is real, and not merely in appearance, after having finished the time of their penance among the audientes, may perhaps take part among those who pray; and it is in the power of the bishop to treat them with yet greater lenity. As to those who bear with indifference (their exclusion from the Church), and who think that this exclusion is sufficient to expiate their faults, they will be bound to perform the whole period prescribed by the law.”

In his last contests with Constantine, Licinius had made himself the representative of heathenism; so that the final issue of the war would not be the mere triumph of one of the two competitors, but the triumph or fall of Christianity or heathenism. Accordingly, a Christian who had in this war supported the cause of Licinius and of heathenism might be considered as a lapsus, even if he did not formally fall away. With much more reason might those Christians be treated as lapsi, who, having conscientiously given up military service (this is meant by the soldier’s belt), afterwards retracted their resolution, and went so far as to give money and presents for the sake of readmission, on account of the numerous advantages which military service then afforded. It must not be forgotten that Licinius, as Zonaras and Eusebius relate, required from his soldiers a formal apostasy; compelled them, for example, to take part in the heathen sacrifices which were held in the camps, and dismissed from his service those who would not apostatize. It must not be supposed, then, that the Council forbade military service generally, as the writer has shown in the Tübinger Theol. Quartalschrift for 1841 (S. 386). But equally untenable is the opinion of Aubespine. He supposes that the canon speaks of those who promised to perform a lifelong penance, and to retain the accustomed penitential dress, but who afterwards broke their vow, and took part in secular matters, and tried to make their way to posts of honour. The cingulum which the canon mentions is evidently the cingulum militiæ. It is in this sense too that Pope Innocent the First has used it in his letter to Victricius of Rouen. He says to that bishop, making, it is true, a mistake upon another point: Constituit Nicæna synodus, si quis post remissionem peccatorum cingulum militiæ secularis habuerit, ad clericatum admitti omnino non debet.

The Council punishes with three years in the second degree of penance, and with ten years in the third, those of the faithful who had taken the side of Licinius in his struggle against Christianity. It was, however, lawful for the bishop to promote the better disposed penitents of the second rank (ἀκρόασις) to the fourth, in which they could be present at the whole of divine service (εὐχὴ). It is not stated how long they should remain in this fourth rank; but from what the eleventh canon says, it may be supposed that they remained in it two years. As to those who underwent their penance with more indifference, and who were content to pray outside the Church, without taking any active part in divine service, they were required to fulfil the whole time of their penance. It is by considering the negation μὴ which comes before εἰσιέναι as an interpolation, as Gelasius of Cyzicus, the Prisca, Dionysius the Less, the pseudo-Isidore, Zonaras, and others have done, that the interpretation given above may be obtained. When inserting this canon in the de Pœnitentia, Gratian gives it the same meaning that we do. If it is desired at any cost to retain the negation, the last clause will be explained as follows: “They consider it as sufficient obedience to the Church not to go beyond what is allowed to them as penitents, and not to attend without permission the missa fidelium.”

CAN. 13

Περὶ δὲ τῶν ἐξοδευόντων ὁ παλαιὸς καὶ κανονικὸς νόμος φυλαχθήσεται καὶ νῦν, ὥστε, εἴ τις ἐξοδεύοι, τοῦ τελευταίου καὶ ἀναγκαιοτάτου ἐφοδίου μὴ ἀποστερεῖσθαι• εἰ δὲ ἀπογνωσθεὶς καὶ κοινωνίας πάλιν τυχὼν, πάλιν ἐν τοῖς ζῶσιν ἐξετασθῇ, μετὰ τῶν κοινωνούντων τῆς εὐχῆς μόνης ἔστω• καθόλου δὲ καὶ περὶ παντὸς οὑτινοσοῦν ἐξοδεύοντος, αἰτούντος τοῦ μετασχεῖν Εὐχαριστίας, ὁ ἐπίσκοπος μετὰ δοκιμασίας ἐπιδότω.

With respect to the dying, the old rule of the Church should continue to be observed, which forbids that any one who is on the point of death should be deprived of the last and most necessary viaticum. If he does not die after having been absolved and admitted to communion, he must be placed amongst those who take part only in prayer. The bishop should, however, administer the Eucharist, after necessary inquiry, to any one who on his deathbed asks to receive it.”

The Synod of Nicæa provides for the case of a lapsus being in danger of death before he has fulfilled the period of his penance, and decides that, in conformity with the old custom and with old rules—for example, the sixth canon of the Council of Ancyra—the holy Eucharist (ἐφόδιον) should be administered to the dying person, although he has not fulfilled all his penance. Van Espen and Tillemont have proved, against Aubespine, that the word ἐφόδιον here signifies the communion, and not merely absolution without communion. The opinion of those two authors is also that of the two old Greek commentators Zonaras and Balsamon, and of the Arabian paraphrast Joseph. If the sick person should recover his health, he should take his place in the highest rank of penitents. The Council does not state the period he should pass in it, but it is clear, and the ancient collector of canons, John of Antioch, adds, “that such an one should remain in that class the whole time of penance prescribed in canons 11 or 12.”

The Synod ends this canon more generally. In the beginning it treats only of the lapsi, but at the end it considers all those who are excommunicated, and orders that the bishop, after having made personal inquiry into the state of matters, may administer the communion to every man on his deathbed, whatever his offence may have been.

This thirteenth canon has been inserted in the Corpus juris can.

CAN. 14

Περὶ τῶν κατηχουμένων καὶ παραπεσόντων ἔδοξε τῇ ἁγίᾳ καὶ μεγάλῃ συνόδῳ, ὥστε τριῶν ἐτῶν αὐτοὺς ἀκροωμένους μόνον, μετὰ ταῦτα εὔχεσθαι μετὰ τῶν κατηχουμένων.

The holy and great Synod orders that catechumens who have lapsed be audientes for three years; they can afterwards join in prayer with the other catechumens.”

The catechumens are not, strictly speaking, members of the Church: their lapse, therefore, in time of persecution, may be considered as less serious than actual apostasy. But it was also natural to prolong their time of probation, when, after persecution, they asked again to be admitted among the catechumens; and it is this of which the fourteenth canon treats. These catechumens should, it says, remain three years among the audientes, that is to say, among the catechumens, who only take part at the didactic part of worship, at sermons, and at reading. If they showed during this time of penance zeal and marks of improvement, they might be admitted to prayer with the catechumens; that is to say, they might form part of the higher class of those who made up the catechumeni sensu strictiori. These could be present at the general prayers which were offered at the end of the sermon; and they received, but kneeling, the bishop’s blessing.

In the same way as Origen and several other writers, more especially several Greek historians of the Church, so the Council of Nicæa speaks only, as we have seen, of two classes of catechumens. Some Latin writers, amongst whom Isidore of Seville may be quoted, speak only of these two grades of catechumens; and it may be said, without any doubt, that the primitive Church knew of no others. Bingham and Neander have maintained, and the opinion is generally held, that in the fourth century there was formed a third class of catechumens, composed of those who should receive baptism immediately; and also that the meaning of the ceremonies for the reception of this sacrament was explained to them. They were called φωτιζόμενοι and competentes; but we notice that S. Isidore makes competentes synonymous with γονυκλίνοντες. Beveridge endeavours to prove that S. Ambrose also spoke of this third class of catechumens; but the words of this Father, Sequenti die erat dominica; post lectiones atque tractatum, dimissis catechumenis, symbolum aliquibus competentibus in baptisteriis tradebam basilicæ, show us that by catechumenis he understands the first and second classes, and that the competentes belonged to the third class.

The fourteenth canon of Nicæa has not been inserted in the Corpus juris canonici, probably because the old system of catechumens had ceased to exist at the time of Gratian.

CAN. 15

Διὰ τὸν πολὺν τάραχον καὶ τὰς στάσεις τὰς γινομένας ἔδοξε παντάπασι περιαιρεθῆναι τὴν συνήθειαν, τὴν παρὰ τὸν κανόνα εὑρεθεῖσαν ἔν τισι μέρεσιν, ὥστε ἀπὸ πόλεως εἰς πόλιν μὴ μεταβαίνειν μήτε ἐπίσκοπον μήτε πρεσβύτερον μήτε διάκονον. εἰ δέ τις μετὰ τὸν τῆς ἁγίας καὶ μεγάλης συνόδου ὅρον τοιούτῳ τινὶ ἐπιχειρήσειεν, ἤ ἐπιδοίη ἑσυτὸν πράγματι τοιούτῳ, ἀκυρωθήσεται ἐξάπαντος τὸ κατασκεύασμα, καὶ ἀποκατασταθήσεται τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ, ᾖ ὁ ἐπίσκοπος ἢ ὁ πρεσβύτερος ἐχειροτονήθη.

On account of the numerous troubles and divisions which have taken place, it has been thought good that the custom which has been established in some countries in opposition to the canon should be abolished; namely, that no bishop, priest, or deacon should remove from one city to another. If any one should venture, even after this ordinance of the holy and great Synod, to act contrary to this present rule, and should follow the old custom, the translation shall be null, and he shall return to the church to which he had been ordained bishop or priest.”

The translation of a bishop, priest, or deacon from one church to another, had already been forbidden in the primitive Church. Nevertheless several translations had taken place, and even at the Council of Nicæa several eminent men were present who had left their first bishoprics to take others: thus Eusebius Bishop of Nicomedia had been before Bishop of Berytus; Eustathius Bishop of Antioch had been before Bishop of Berrhœa in Syria. The Council of Nicæa thought it necessary to forbid in future these translations, and to declare them invalid. The chief reason of this prohibition was found in the irregularities and disputes occasioned by such change of sees; but even if such practical difficulties had not arisen, the whole doctrinal idea, so to speak, of the relationship between a cleric and the church to which he had been ordained, namely, the contracting of a mystical marriage between them, would be opposed to any translation or change.

In 341the Synod of Antioch renewed, in its twenty-first canon, the prohibition passed by the Council of Nicæa; but the interest of the Church often rendered it necessary to make exceptions, as happened in the case of S. Chrysostom. These exceptional cases increased almost immediately after the holding of the Council of Nicæa, so that in 382 S. Gregory of Nazianzus considered this law among those which had long been abrogated by custom. It was more strictly observed in the Latin Church; and even Gregory’s contemporary, Pope Damasus, declared himself decidedly in favour of the rule of Nicæa. It has been inserted in the Corpus juris canonici.

CAN. 16

Ὅσοι ῥιψοκινδύνως μήτε τὸν φόβον τοῦ Θεοῦ πρὸ ὀφθαλμῶν ἔχοντες, μήτε τὸν ἐκκλησιαστικὸν κανόνα εἰδότες, ἀναχωρήσουσι τῆς ἐκκλησίας, πρεσβύτεροι ἢ διάκονοι ἢ ὅλως ἐν τῷ κανόνι ἐξεταζόμενοι• οὗτοι οὐδαμῶς δεκτοὶ ὀφείλουσιν εἶναι ἐν ἑτέρᾳ ἐκκλησίᾳ, ἀλλὰ πᾶσαν αὐτοῖς ἀνάγκην ἐπάγεσθαι χρὴ, ἀναστρέφειν εἰς τὰς ἑαυτῶν παροικίας, ἢ ἐπιμένοντας ἀκοινωνήτους εἶναι προσήκει. εἰ δὲ καὶ τολμήσειέ τις ὑφαρπάσαι τὸν τῷ ἑτέρῳ διαφέροντα, καὶ χειροτονῆσαι ἐν τῇ αὑτοῦ ἐκκλησίᾳ, μὴ συγκατατιθεμένου τοῦ ἰδίου ἐπισκόπου, οὗ ἀνεχώρησεν ὁ ἐν τῷ κανόνι ἐξεταζόμενος, ἄκυρος ἔσται ἡ χειροτονία.

Priests, deacons, and clerics in general, who have with levity, and without having the fear of God before their eyes, left their church in the face of the ecclesiastical laws, must not on any account be received into another: they must be compelled in all ways to return to their dioceses; and if they refuse to do so, they must be excommunicated. If any one should dare to steal, as it were, a person who belongs to another (bishop), and to ordain him for his own church, without the permission of the bishop from whom he was withdrawn, the ordination is null.”

This sixteenth canon has a good deal of connection with the preceding. It contains two general principles: a. It threatens with excommunication all clerics, of whatever degree, if they will not return to their first church (according to Balsamon, exclusion from communio clericalis.); b. It forbids any bishop to ordain for his own diocese a person belonging to another diocese. It may be supposed that the Council of Nicæa has here again in view the Meletian schism; but it must not be forgotten that Meletius did not ordain strangers to his diocese, and retain them afterwards, but the reverse—he ordained clergymen for other dioceses.

We notice also, that in this canon the expression ἐν τῷ κανόνι ἐξεταζόμενος occurs twice to designate a cleric; it means literally, any one who belongs to the service of the Church, who lives under its rule (κανὼν), or whose name is inscribed in its list (κανὼν).

Gratian has inserted this canon, and divided it into two.

CAN. 17

Ἐπειδὴ πολλοὶ ἐν τῷ κανόνι ἐξεταζόμενοι τὴν πλεονεξίαν καὶ τὴν αἰσχροκέρδειαν διώκοντες ἐπελάθοντο τοῦ θείου γράμματος λέγοντος• Τὸ ἀργύριον αὑτοῦ οὐκ ἔδωκεν ἐπὶ τόκῳ• καὶ δανείζοντες ἑκατοστὰς ἀπαιτοῦσιν• ἐδικαίωσεν ἡ ἁγία καὶ μεγάλη σύνοδος, ὡς, εἴ τις εὑρεθείη μετὰ τὸν ὅρον τοῦτον τόκους λαμβάνων ἐκ μεταχειρίσεως ἢ ἄλλως μετερχόμενος τὸ πρᾶγμα ἢ ἡμιολίας ἀπαιτῶν ἢ ὅλως ἕτερόν τι ἐπινοῶν αἰσχροῦ κέρδους ἕνεκα, καθαιρεθήσεται τοῦ κλήρου καὶ ἀλλότριος τοῦ κανόνος ἔσται.

As many clerics, filled with avarice and with the spirit of usury, forget the sacred words, ‘He that hath not given his money upon usury,’ and demand usuriously (that is, every month) a rate of interest, the great and holy Synod declares that if any one, after the publication of this law, takes interest, no matter on what grounds, or carries on the business (of usurer), no matter in what way, or if he require half as much again, or if he give himself up to any other sort of scandalous gain, he must be turned out of the clergy, and his name struck off the list.”

Several of the oldest Fathers of the Church considered that the Old Testament forbade interest to be received: thus, in the fourth book of his controversial work against Marcion, Tertullian wishes to prove to this Gnostic the harmony which exists between the Old and the New Testament, by taking as an example the teaching given about a loan at interest. According to Ezekiel, says Tertullian, he is declared just who does not lend his money upon usury, and who does not take what comes to him from it, that is to say, the interest. By these words of the prophet, God had prepared for the perfection of the New Testament. In the Old, men had been taught that they should not make gain by lending money, and in the New that they should even bear the loss of what they had lent.

Clement of Alexandria expresses himself in the same way: “The law forbids to take usury from a brother, and not only from a brother by nature, but also from one who is of the same religion as ourselves, or who is one of the same nation as ourselves, and it looks upon lending money at interest as unjust: unfortunate persons should rather be assisted with open hand and open heart.”

In taking account of the prohibitions declared by the Jewish law against lending at interest, the customs of that time must have filled the Christian mind with horror of this quæstus. As in the Jewish language there is only one word to express usury and lending at interest, so with the Romans the word fœnus was also ominous in its double meaning. During the last period of the republic and under the emperors, the legal and mildest interest was twelve per cent., or, as the Romans called it, interest by month, or usura centesima; but sometimes it increased to twenty-four per cent., binæ centesimæ, and even to forty-eight per cent., quaternæ centesimæ. Horace speaks even of a certain Fufidius, who demanded sixty per cent.; and what is remarkable is, that he speaks of this Fufidius when on the subject of apothecaries. As this exorbitant interest was generally paid at the beginning of the month, the reason why Ovid speaks of the celeres, and Horace of the tristes Kalendas, is explained.

The early Christians knew this loan at interest but little; they also kept themselves from it conscientiously, so long as that brotherly love prevailed from which had come a community of goods. But unhappily other Christians became apt scholars of the heathen in this matter. It was most blameworthy in the clergy, whose savings, according to canon law, belonged to the poor and to the Church, and least of all ought to be abused to usurious gain through the oppression of the poor. Therefore the forty-fourth (or forty-third) apostolical canon gave this order: “A bishop, priest, or deacon who receives interest for money lent, must cease from this traffic under pain of deposition;” and the Council of Arles, held in 314, says in the twelfth canon: De ministris, qui fœnerant, placuit, eos juxta formam divinitus datam a communione abstinere. The seventeenth canon of Nicæa also forbids all the clergy to lend money on interest; we say to all the clergy, because in the preceding canon we have shown that by the words ἐν τῷ κανόνι ἐξεταζόμενοι the clergy must be understood. The Synod, fearing lest the clergy should in future practise usury in a hidden and underhand manner, was careful at the end of the canon to define the different sorts of usury which are forbidden.

The seventeenth canon of Nicæa is found twice in the Corpus juris canonici.

CAN. 18

Ἠλθεν εἰς τὴν ἁγίαν καὶ μεγάλην σύνοδον, ὅτι ἔν τισι τόποις καὶ πόλεσι τοῖς πρεσβυτέροις τὴν Εὐχαριστίαν οἱ διάκονοι διδόασιν, ὅπερ οὔτε ὁ κανὼν οὔτε ἡ συνήθεια παρέδωκε, τοὺς ἐξουσίαν μὴ ἔχοντας προσφέρειν τοῖς προσφέρουσι διδόναι τὸ σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ. κἀκεῖνο δὲ ἐγνωρίσθη, ὅτι ἤδη τινὲς τῶν διακόνων καὶ πρὸ τῶν ἐπισκόπων τῆς Εὐχαριστίας ἅπτονται. Ταῦτα μὲν οὖν ἅπαντα περιῃρήσθω• καὶ ἐμμενέτωσαν οἱ διάκονοι τοῖς ἰδίοις μέτροις, εἰδότες ὅτι τοῦ μὲν ἐπισκόπου ὑπηρέται εἰσὶ, τῶν δὲ πρεσβυτέρων ἐλάττους τυγχάνουσι• λαμβανέτωσαν δὲ κατὰ τὴν τάξιν τὴν Εὐχαριστίαν μετὰ τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους, ἢ τοῦ ἐπισκόπου διδόντος αὐτοῖς ἢ τοῦ πρεσβυτέρου. ἀλλὰ μηδὲ καθῆσθαι ἐν μέσῳ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων ἐξέστω τοῖς διακόνοις• παρὰ κανόνα γὰρ καὶ παρὰ τάξιν ἐστι τὸ γινόμενον. Εἰ δέ τις μὴ θέλοι πειθαρχεῖν καὶ μετὰ τούτους τοὺς ὅρους, πεπαύσθω τῆς διακονίας.

It has come to the knowledge of the holy and great Synod, that in certain places and cities deacons administer the Eucharist to priests, although it is contrary to the canons and to custom to have the body of Christ distributed to those who offer the sacrifice by those who cannot offer it. The Synod has also learned that some deacons receive the Eucharist even before the bishops. This must all now cease: the deacons should remain within the limits of their functions, and remember that they are the assistants of the bishops, and only come after the priests. They must receive the Eucharist in accordance with rule, after the priests—a bishop or a priest administering it to them. The deacons ought no longer to sit among the priests, for this is against rule and order. If any one refuses to obey after these rules have been promulgated, let him lose his diaconate.”

Justin Martyr declares that in the primitive Church the deacons were in the habit of administering to each one of those present the consecrated bread and the holy chalice. Later it was the bishop or the celebrating priest who administered the holy bread, and the deacon administered only the chalice: this is what the Apostolical Constitutions order. We see that this was still the custom in the time of S. Cyprian, by this sentence taken from his work de Lapsis: Solemnibus adimpletis calicem diaconus offerre præsentibus cœpit. It is evident that the word offerre cannot signify here to celebrate the holy sacrifice, but merely to administer; the expression solemnibus adimpletis shows that the divine service was already finished, and consequently there is no question here of celebrating, but merely of administering the chalice for communion. In other analogous passages this meaning of offerre is not so clearly indicated, and thence has arisen the mistake that the deacons could also offer the holy sacrifice. It must not be forgotten, however, that certain deacons did in fact venture to offer the holy sacrifice; for the first Council of Arles says in its fifteenth canon: De diaconibus quos cognovimus multis locis offerre, placuit minimè fieri debere. It is not unlikely that during the persecution of Diocletian, when very many bishops and priests had been driven away or put to death, some deacon allowed himself to celebrate the eucharistic sacrifice; but such an act was altogether opposed to the spirit and rules of the primitive Church. The Apostolical Constitutions show very plainly that it is forbidden for deacons to pronounce the blessing and to offer the holy sacrifice (benedicere et offerre). They could only fulfil the duties indicated by their name διάκονος. But it very probably happened that in some places the deacon had overstepped the limit of his powers, and for that reason had rendered necessary the prohibition of the Council of Arles. I know, indeed, that Binterim has wished to explain this canon of the Council of Arles in another way. He supposes that the rebuke is not annexed to the word offerre, but merely the words multis locis, and he explains the canon as follows: “In future, the deacon must no longer celebrate and administer the holy Eucharist to other congregations besides his own.” I cannot believe in the accuracy of this explanation, and Binterim has certainly done violence to the text of the Council of Arles.

But besides, this canon of Nicæa says nothing directly of this pretension of the deacon to wish to consecrate: it has rather in view certain other abuses; and we know from another source, that in Christian antiquity there was often complaint of the pride of deacons. The deacons of the city of Rome have especially been reproached on account of pride, and the Council of Arles says on this subject in its eighteenth canon: De diaconibus urbicis, ut non sibi tantum præsumant, sed honorem presbyteris reservent, ut sine conscientia ipsorum nihil tale faciant. It has been supposed that these presumptuous deacons of the city of Rome had given occasion for the passing of this canon, and that it was decreed on the motion of the two Roman priests who represented the Pope at the Council of Nicæa.

In the primitive Church, the holy liturgy was usually celebrated by a single person, more frequently by the bishop, or by a priest when the bishop was hindered from being present; but the other priests were not merely present at the holy sacrifice, as is the custom now: they were besides consacrificantes; they did what newly ordained priests do now, when they celebrate together with the bishop the mass at their ordination. These consacrificing priests ought to have received the communion from the hands of the celebrant; but in some places the deacons had taken upon themselves the right of administering the holy communion to priests as well as to the people, and this is the first abuse which the canon condemns. The second abuse of which they were guilty was, that they τῆς Εὐχαριστίας ἅπτονται before the bishop. It is doubtful what these words mean. The pseudo-Isidore, Zonaras, and Balsamon give the meaning which most naturally presents itself: “They go so far as to take the Eucharist before the bishop.” The Prisca, as well as Dionysius the Less and others, translate ἅπτονται by contingant, that is to say, touch; and Van Espen interprets the canon in this way: “The deacons touch (but do not partake of) the holy Eucharist before the bishop.” But the word ἅπτονται includes the idea of partaking as well, as the subsequent words in the canon prove, which settle the order to be followed in the reception of the Eucharist, and show us consequently that these words τῆς Εὐχαριστίας ἅπτονται signify Eucharistiam sumere. It may be asked how it could happen that the deacon could communicate before the bishop. When the bishop himself celebrated, this was clearly impossible; but it very often happened that the bishop caused one of his priests to celebrate, and contented himself with being present at the holy sacrifice. The same thing would happen if one bishop visited another, and was present at divine service. In both cases the bishop would receive the communion immediately after the celebrant, and before the priests. But if a deacon undertook to administer the communion to the priests, and to the bishop as well, it would happen that the bishop would not receive the communion until after the deacon, for he would always begin by communicating himself before administering the communion to others; and this is the abuse which the Council found it necessary to forbid.

The third encroachment of which the deacons were guilty had reference to their places in church. Several among them had placed themselves among the priests. The Synod condemns this abuse, and finishes with this threat: “Whoever shall not obey, after the publication of these rules, shall be removed from his diaconate.” Unhappily they were not strictly observed; for even after the Council of Nicæa complaints continued to be made of the pride of the deacons, and S. Jerome says that “he saw at Rome a deacon who took his place among the priests, and who at table gave his blessing to the priests.”

Van Espen remarks with truth that this canon of discipline proves the belief of the Council of Nicæa in three great dogmatic truths: (1.) The Council of Nicæa saw in the Eucharist the body of Christ; (2.) It called the eucharistic service a sacrifice (προσφέρειν); and (3.) It concedes to bishops and priests alone the power of consecrating.

This canon is found in the Corpus juris canonici.

CAN. 19

Περὶ τῶν Παυλιανισάντων, εἰτα προσφυγόντων τῇ καθολικῇ Ἐκκλησίᾳ, ὅρος ἐκτέθειται, ἀναβαπτίζωσθαι αὐτοὺς ἐξάπαντος• εἰ δέ τινες ἐν τῷ παρεληλυθότι χρόνῳ ἐν τῷ κλήρῳ ἐξητάσθησαν, εἰ μὲν ἄμεμπτοι καὶ ἀνεπίληπτοι φανεῖεν, ἀναβαπτισθέντες, χειροτονείσθωσαν ὑπὸ τοῦ τῆς καθολικῆς Ἐκκλησίας ἐπισκόπου• εἰ δὲ ἡ ἀνάκρισις ἀνεπιτηδείους αὐτοὺς εὑρίσκοι, καθαιρεῖσθαι αὐτοὺς προσήκει. Ὡσαύτως• δὲ καὶ περὶ τῶν διακονισσῶν, καὶ ὅλως περὶ τῶν ἐν τῷ κακόνι ἐξεταζομένων ὁ αὐτὸς τύπος παραφυλαχθήσεται. Ἐμνήσθημεν δὲ διακονισσῶν τῶν ἐν τῷ σχήματι ἐξετασθεισῶν, ἐπεὶ μηδὲ χειροθεσίαν τινὰ ἔχουσιν, ὥστε ἐξάπαντος ἐν τοῖς λαϊκοῖς αὐτὰς ἐξετάζεσθαι.

With respect to the Paulianists, who wish to return to the Catholic Church, the rule which orders them to be re-baptized must be observed. If some among them were formerly (as Paulianists) members of the clergy, they must be re-ordained by the bishop of the Catholic Church after they have been re-baptized, if they have been blameless and not condemned. If, on inquiry, they are found to be unworthy, they must be deposed. The same will be done with respect to the deaconesses; and in general, the present rule will be observed for all those who are on the list of the Church. We remind those deaconesses who are in this position, that as they have not been ordained, they must be classed merely among the laity.”

By Paulianists must be understood the followers of Paul of Samosata, the anti-Trinitarian who, about the year 260, had been made Bishop of Antioch, but had been deposed by a great Synod in 269. As Paul of Samosata was heretical in his teaching on the Holy Trinity, the Synod of Nicæa applied here the decree passed by the Council of Arles in its eighth canon: Si ad Ecclesiam aliquis de hæresi venerit, interrogent eum symbolum; et si perviderint, eum in Patre et Filio et Spiritu Sancto esse baptizatum, manus ei tantum imponatur ut accipiat Spiritum sanctum. Quod, si interrogatus non responderit hanc Trinitatem, baptizetur.

The Samosatans, according to S. Athanasius, named the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in administering baptism; but as they gave a false meaning to the baptismal formula, and did not use the words Son and Holy Spirit in the usual sense, the Council of Nicæa, like S. Athanasius himself, considered their baptism as invalid. Pope Innocent the First said of them in his twenty-second epistle, “They do not baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Spirit,” wishing above all to make it understood by that, that they gave to these names an altogether false signification.

The Synod of Nicæa, regarding the baptism of the Paulianists as invalid, would logically affirm that their ordinations were also without value; for he who is not really baptized can clearly neither give nor receive holy orders. Accordingly the Synod orders that the Paulianist clergy should be baptized; but by a wise condescension they permit those among these clergy who have received Catholic baptism, and who have given proofs of ability and of good conduct, to be ordained as clergy of the Catholic Church. Those who have not these conditions are to be excluded.

The rest of the text presents insurmountable difficulties, if the reading of the Greek manuscripts be adopted, ὡσαύτως καὶ περὶ τῶν διακονισσῶν. In this case, in fact, the canon would order: The deaconesses of the Paulianists can, if they are of irreproachable manners, retain their charge, and be ordained afresh. But this sentence would be in direct contradiction to the end of the canon, which declares that the deaconesses have received no ordination, and ought to be considered as simply laity. The difficulty disappears, if in the first sentence we read with Gelasius, διακόνων instead of διακονισσῶν. The Prisca, with Theilo and Thearistus, who in 419 translated the canons of Nicæa for the bishops of Africa, have adopted the same reading as Gelasius. The pseudo-Isidore and Gratian have done the same; whilst Rufinus has not translated this passage, and Dionysius the Less has read διακονισσῶν.

Van Espen has tried to assign an intelligible meaning to this canon, without accepting the variation adopted by so great a number of authors. According to him, the Synod meant to say this in the last sentence: “We have mentioned above in particular the deaconesses, because it would not have been otherwise possible to grant them the conditions which have been made for the Paulianist clergy, and because they would have been looked upon as simple lay-persons, seeing that they have not been ordained.” It is easy to see that Van Espen here inserts a meaning which is foreign to the text. Aubespine has attempted another explanation, which has been in later times adopted by Neander. He supposes that the deaconesses of the Paulianists were of two kinds: those who were really ordained, and those widows who had never received ordination, and who had only by an abuse the name of deaconesses. The canon would continue the first in their charge, and place the second among the laity. But the text itself does not make the least allusion to these two kinds of deaconesses; and what Neander alleges against the opinion of those who read διακόνων instead of διακονισσῶν has no weight. According to him, it would have been superfluous to speak again specially of the deacons in this passage, since the clergy in general had already been spoken of in that which precedes. It may be answered, that if the Synod wished to make it understood that the present rules extended to all degrees of the clergy, there is an explanation of its reason for making express mention of the deacons and inferior clergy.

The words of the canon, ἐπεὶ μηδὲ χειροθεσίαν τινὰ ἔχουσιν, still make the meaning of the sense difficult, and appear opposed to the variation we have adopted. It cannot be denied that the Apostolical Constitutions really speak of the ordination of deaconesses by the imposition of hands, and the Council of Chalcedon speaks of it still more clearly in its fifteenth canon. According to this canon, on the contrary, the deaconesses would not have received any imposition of hands. Valesius and Van Espen have sought to solve this difficulty by saying that, at the time of the Council of Nicæa, the custom had not yet been introduced of laying hands on deaconesses. But the Apostolical Constitutions testify to the contrary. Aubespine has put forward another explanation, which proceeds from his theory analysed above: he maintains that the deaconesses of the Catholic Church were truly ordained by the imposition of hands, but that among the Paulianists there were two classes of deaconesses, an ordained and an unordained. It seems to us that a third solution of this difficulty might be found, put forward by Baronius, and adopted by Justell. In supposing that at the time of the Council of Nicæa the deaconesses received imposition of hands, it must, however, be remembered that this act was essentially different from clerical ordination properly so called: it was a mere benediction, not an ordination. In describing, then, clerical ordination by χειροθεσία sensu strictiori, it might be said that the deaconesses had received no χειροθεσία. The decree against the Meletians, and the eighth canon of Nicæa against the Novatians, prove that the Fathers of Nicæa took the word χειροθεσία as synonymous with mere benediction.

CAN. 20

Ἐπειδὴ τινές εἰσιν ἐν τῇ κυριακῇ γόνυ κλίνοντες καὶ ἐν ταῖς τῆς πεντεκοστῆς ἡμέραις• ὑπὲρ τοῦ πάντα ἐν πάσῃ παροικυία φυλάττεσθαι, ἑστῶτας ἔδοξε τῇ ἁγίᾳ συνόδῳ τὰς εὐχὰς ἀποδιδόναι τῷ Θεῷ.

As some kneel on the Lord’s day and on the days of Pentecost, the holy Synod has decided that, for the observance of a general rule, all shall offer their prayers to God standing.”

Tertullian says in the third chapter of his book de Corona, that Christians considered it wrong to pray kneeling on Sundays. This liberty of remaining standing, he adds, is granted us from Easter to Pentecost. By the word πεντηκοστὴ the single day of Pentecost must not be understood, but rather the whole time between Easter and Pentecost. It is thus, for example, that S. Basil the Great speaks of the seven weeks of the τῆς ἱερᾶς Πενηκοστῆς. Instead, then, of praying kneeling, as they did on other days, Christians prayed standing on Sundays and during Eastertide. They were moved in that by a symbolical motive: they celebrated during these days the remembrance of the resurrection of Christ, and consequently our own deliverance through His resurrection. All the Churches did not, however, adopt this practice; for we see in the Acts of the Apostles that S. Paul prayed kneeling during the time between Easter and Pentecost. The Council of Nicæa wished to make the usual practice the universal law; and the later Fathers of the Church, e.g. Ambrose and Basil, show that this custom spread more and more. The Catholic Church has preserved to our days the principal direction of this canon, and it has been inserted in the Corpus juris canonici.

SEC. 43. Paphnutius and the projected Law of Celibacy

Socrates, Sozomen, and Gelasius affirm that the Synod of Nicæa, as well as that of Elvira (can. 33), desired to pass a law respecting celibacy. This law was to forbid all bishops, priests, and deacons (Sozomen adds subdeacons), who were married at the time of their ordination, to continue to live with their wives. But, say these historians, the law was opposed openly and decidedly by Paphnutius, bishop of a city of the Upper Thebaïs in Egypt, a man of a high reputation, who had lost an eye during the persecution under Maximian. He was also celebrated for his miracles, and was held in so great respect by the Emperor, that the latter often kissed the empty socket of the lost eye. Paphnutius declared with a loud voice, “that too heavy a yoke ought not to be laid upon the clergy; that marriage and married intercourse are of themselves honourable and undefiled; that the Church ought not to be injured by an extreme severity, for all could not live in absolute continency: in this way (by not prohibiting married intercourse) the virtue of the wife would be much more certainly preserved (viz. the wife of a clergyman, because she might find injury elsewhere, if her husband withdrew from her married intercourse). The intercourse of a man with his lawful wife may also be a chaste intercourse. It would therefore be sufficient, according to the ancient tradition of the Church, if those who had taken holy orders without being married were prohibited from marrying afterwards; but those clergy who had been married only once, as laymen, were not to be separated from their wives (Gelasius adds, or being only a reader or cantor). This discourse of Paphnutius made so much the more impression, because he had never lived in matrimony himself, and had had no conjugal intercourse. Paphnutius, indeed, had been brought up in a monastery, and his great purity of manners had rendered him especially celebrated. Therefore the Council took the serious words of the Egyptian bishop into consideration, stopped all discussion upon the law, and left to each cleric the responsibility of deciding the point as he would.

If this account be true, we must conclude that a law was proposed to the Council of Nicæa the same as one which had been carried twenty years previously at Elvira, in Spain: this coincidence would lead us to believe that it was the Spaniard Hosius who proposed the law respecting celibacy at Nicæa. The discourse ascribed to Paphnutius, and the consequent decision of the Synod, agree very well with the text of the Apostolic Constitutions, and with the whole practice of the Greek Church in respect to celibacy. The Greek Church as well as the Latin accepted the principle, that whoever had taken holy orders before marriage, ought not to be married afterwards. In the Latin Church, bishops, priests, deacons, and even subdeacons, were considered to be subject to this law, because the latter were at a very early period reckoned among the higher servants of the Church, which was not the case in the Greek Church. The Greek Church went so far as to allow deacons to marry after their ordination, if previously to it they had expressly obtained from their bishop permission to do so. The Council of Ancyra affirms this (c. 10). We see that the Greek Church wished to leave the bishops free to decide the matter; but in reference to priests, it also prohibited them from marrying after their ordination.

Therefore, whilst the Latin Church exacted of those presenting themselves for ordination, even as subdeacons, that they should not continue to live with their wives if they were married, the Greek Church gave no such prohibition; but if the wife of an ordained clergyman died, the Greek Church allowed no second marriage. The Apostolic Constitutions decided this point in the same way. To leave their wives from a pretext of piety was also forbidden to Greek priests; and the Synod of Gangra (c. 4) took up the defence of married priests against the Eustathians. Eustathius, however, was not alone among the Greeks in opposing the marriage of all clerics, and in desiring to introduce into the Greek Church the Latin discipline on this point. S. Epiphanius also inclined towards this side. The Greek Church did not, however, adopt this rigour in reference to priests, deacons, and subdeacons; but by degrees it came to be required of bishops, and of the higher order of clergy in general, that they should live in celibacy. Yet this was not until after the compilation of the Apostolic Canons (c. 5) and of the Constitutions (l.c.); for in those documents mention is made of bishops living in wedlock, and Church history shows that there were married bishops, for instance Synesius, in the fifth century. But it is fair to remark, even as to Synesius, that he made it an express condition of his acceptation, on his election to the episcopate, that he might continue to live the married life. Thomassin believes that Synesius did not seriously require this condition, and only spoke thus for the sake of escaping the episcopal office; which would seem to imply that in his time Greek bishops had already begun to live in celibacy. At the Trullan Synod (c. 13) the Greek Church finally settled the question of the marriage of priests. Baronius, Valesius, and other historians, have considered the account of the part taken by Paphnutius to be apocryphal. Baronius says, that as the Council of Nicæa in its third canon gave a law upon celibacy, it is quite impossible to admit that it would alter such a law on account of Paphnutius. But Baronius is mistaken in seeing a law upon celibacy in that third canon: he thought it to be so, because, when mentioning the women who might live in the clergyman’s house—his mother, sister, etc.—the canon does not say a word about the wife. It had no occasion to mention her; it was referring to the συνεισάκτοι, whilst these συνεισάκτοι and married women have nothing in common. Natalis Alexander gives this anecdote about Paphnutius in full: he desired to refute Bellarmin, who considered it to be untrue, and an invention of Socrates to please the Novatians. Natalis Alexander often maintains erroneous opinions, and on the present question he deserves no confidence. If, as S. Epiphanius relates, the Novatians maintained that the clergy might be married exactly like the laity, it cannot be said that Socrates shared that opinion, since he says, or rather makes Paphnutius say, that, according to ancient tradition, those not married at the time of ordination should not be so subsequently. Moreover, if it may be said that Socrates had a partial sympathy with the Novatians, he certainly cannot be considered as belonging to them, still less can he be accused of falsifying history in their favour. He may sometimes have propounded erroneous opinions, but there is a great difference between that and the invention of a whole story. Valesius especially makes use of the argument ex silentio against Socrates, (a.) Rufinus, he says, gives many particulars about Paphnutius in his History of the Church: he mentions his martyrdom, his miracles, and the Emperor’s reverence for him, but not a single word of the business about celibacy. (b.) The name of Paphnutius is wanting in the list of Egyptian bishops present at the Synod. These two arguments of Valesius are very weak; the second has the authority of Rufinus himself against it, who expressly says that Bishop Paphnutius was present at the Council of Nicæa. If Valesius means by lists only the signatures at the end of the acts of the Council, this proves nothing; for these lists are very imperfect, and it is well known that many bishops whose names are not among these signatures were present at Nicæa. This argument ex silentio is evidently insufficient to prove that the anecdote about Paphnutius must be rejected as false, seeing that it is in perfect harmony with the practice of the ancient Church, and especially of the Greek Church, on the subject of clerical marriages. On the other hand, Thomassin pretends that there was no such practice, and endeavours to prove by quotations from S. Epiphanius, S. Jerome, Eusebius, and S. John Chrysostom, that even in the East priests who were married at the time of their ordination were prohibited from continuing to live with their wives. The texts quoted by Thomassin prove only that the Greeks gave especial honour to priests living in perfect continency, but they do not prove that this continence was a duty incumbent upon all priests; and so much the less, as the fifth and twenty-fifth apostolic canons, the fourth canon of Gangra, and the thirteenth of the Trullan Synod, demonstrate clearly enough what was the universal custom of the Greek Church on this point. Lupus and Phillips explain the words of Paphnutius in another sense. According to them, the Egyptian bishop was not speaking in a general way: he simply desired that the contemplated law should not include the subdeacons. But this explanation does not agree with the extracts quoted from Socrates, Sozomen, and Gelasius, who believe Paphnutius intended deacons and priests as well.

SEC. 44. Conclusion: Spurious Documents

It was probably at the conclusion of its business that the Council of Nicæa sent to the bishops of Egypt and Libya the official letter containing its decisions relative to the three great questions which it had to decide, viz. concerning Arianism, the Meletian schism, and the celebration of Easter.

When the Synod had completed its business, the Emperor Constantine celebrated his vicennalia, that is, the twentieth anniversary of his accession to the empire. Consequently this festival shows the terminus ad quem of the Council. Constantine was declared Emperor during the summer of 306; his vicennalia must therefore have taken place during the summer or autumn of 325. In order to testify his peculiar respect for the Fathers of Nicæa, i.e. for the Synod itself, the Emperor invited all the bishops to a splendid repast in the imperial palace. A hedge was formed of a multitude of soldiers with drawn swords; and Eusebius can find no words to describe the beauty of the scene—to tell how the men of God passed through the imperial apartments without any fear, through the midst of all these swords. At the conclusion of the banquet, each bishop received rich presents from the Emperor. Some days afterwards, Constantine commanded another session to be held, at which he appeared in person, to exhort the bishops to use every endeavour for the maintenance of peace; he then asked them to remember him in their prayers, and finally gave them all permission to return home. They hastened to do so; and filled with joy at the great work of pacification just concluded by the Emperor and the Council, they made known its resolutions in their own countries.

On his part the Emperor also sent many letters, either in a general way to all the Churches, or to the bishops who had not been present at the Council; and in these letters he declared that the decrees of the Council were to be considered laws of the empire. Eusebius, Socrates, and Gelasius have preserved three of these imperial edicts: in the first, Constantine expresses his conviction that the Nicene decrees were inspired by the Holy Spirit; which shows the great authority and esteem in which the decisions of Nicæa were held from the very beginning. S. Athanasius gives similar testimony. He says, in the letter which he sent to the African bishops, in the name of ninety bishops assembled in synod: “It (the Synod of Nicæa) has been received by the whole world (πᾶσαἡ οἰκουμένη); and as several synods are just now being assembled, it has been acknowledged by the faithful in Dalmatia, Dardania, Macedonia, Epirus, Crete, the other islands, Sicily, Cyprus, Pamphilia, Lycia, Isauria, all Egypt, Libya, and the greater part of Arabia.” S. Athanasius expresses himself in like manner in his letter to the Emperor Jovian in 363: he often calls the Synod of Nicæa an œcumenical synod, adding that a universal synod had been convoked, that provincial councils, which might easily fall into error, might not have to decide on so important a subject as Arianism. Finally, he calls the Council of Nicæa “a true pillar, and a monument of the victory obtained over every heresy.” Other Fathers of the Church, living in the fourth or fifth centuries, speak of the Council of Nicæa in the same terms as S. Athanasius, showing the greatest respect for its decisions. We may mention Ambrose, Chrysostom, and especially Pope Leo the Great, who wrote as follows: Sancti illi et venerabiles patres, qui in urbe Nicæna, sacrilego Ario cum sua impietate damnato, mansuras usque in finem mundi leges ecelesiasticorum canonum condiderunt, et apud nos et in toto orbe terrarum in suis constitutionibus vivunt; et si quid usquam aliter, quam illi statuere, præsumitur, sine cunctatione cassatur: ut quæ ad perpetuam utilitatem generaliter instituta sunt, nulla commutatione varientur. Pope Leo therefore considered the authority of the Nicene canons to be everlasting; and he says in the same epistle (ch. 2), that they were inspired by the Holy Ghost, and that no subsequent council, however great, could be compared to it, still less preferred to it. (Leo here especially alludes to the fourth Œcumenical Council.) Eastern Christians had so much reverence for the Council of Nicæa, that the Greeks, Syrians, and Egyptians even established a festival for the purpose of perpetuating the remembrance of this assemblage of 318 bishops at Nicæa. The Greeks kept this festival on the Sunday before Pentecost, the Syrians in the month of July, the Egyptians in November. Tillemont says truly: “If one wished to collect all the existing proofs of the great veneration in which the Council of Nicæa was held, the enumeration would never end. In all ages, with the exception of a few heretics, this sacred assembly at Nicæa has never been spoken of but with the greatest respect.”

The words of Pope Leo which we have quoted especially show the high esteem in which Rome and the Popes held the Council of Nicæa. The acts of the Synod were first signed, as before said, by the representatives of the Holy See; and it is perfectly certain that Pope Silvester afterwards sanctioned what his legates had done. The only question is, whether the Council of Nicæa asked for a formal approbation, and whether it was granted in answer to their request. Some writers have answered this question in the affirmative; but in order to establish their opinion, have relied upon a set of spurious documents. These are: 1st, A pretended letter from Hosius, Macarius of Jerusalem, and the two Roman priests Victor and Vincentius, addressed to Pope Silvester, in the name of the whole Synod. The letter says, “that the Pope ought to convoke a Roman synod, in order to confirm the decisions of the Council of Nicæa.” 2d, The answer of Pope Silvester, and his decree of confirmation. 3d, Another letter from Pope Silvester, of similar contents. 4th, The acts of this pretended third Roman Council, convoked to confirm the decisions of the Council of Nicæa: this Council, composed of 275 bishops, must have made some additions to the Nicene decrees. To these documents must be added, 5th, the Constitutio Silvestri, proceeding from the pretended second Roman Council. This Council does not indeed speak of giving approval to the Nicene decrees; but with this exception, it is almost identical in its decisions and acts with those of the third Roman Council. These five documents have been preserved in several MSS., at Rome, Köln, or elsewhere: they have been reproduced in almost all the collections of the Councils; but now all are unanimous in considering them to be spurious, as they evidently are. They betray a period, a way of thinking, and circumstances, later than those of the fourth century. The barbarous, almost unintelligible Latin of these documents, particularly points to a later century, and to a decay in the Latin language, which had not taken place at the time of the Nicene Synod.

We may further observe on the subject of these documents:

1. Concerning the first: (α.) Macarius of Jerusalem, in this document, appears as the principal representative of the Synod of Nicæa; and he is, in fact, made to take precedence of the Patriarchs of Alexandria and of Antioch, who are not even named. Now, at the period of the Council of Nicæa, the see of Jerusalem had no peculiar place of eminence. (β.) In the superscription, instead of “the Synod of Nicæa,” etc., the document has the words, “the 318,” etc., an expression which was not in use at the time of the Council of Nicæa. (γ.) This document is dated viii. Cal. Julias: we should therefore be led to conclude, if we trusted to that date, that the Council asked the Holy See for approval of its work a few days after its commencement.

2. Coustant and others prove the spuriousness of the second document—namely, Silvester’s supposed confirmation of the Synod—on the following grounds:—

(α.) There is in the document a reference to the (false) Easter canon of Victorinus (or Victorius) of Aquitania. Now Victorinus did not flourish until 125 years later, about the middle of the fifth century. It is true that Döllinger has recently offered a different opinion respecting this Victorinus, suggesting that it is not Victorius of Aquitania who is referred to, but a Roman heretic (a Patripassian) of that name, who lived at the beginning of the third century. This Victorius was a contemporary of Pope Callistus and of the priest (afterwards antipope) Hippolytus, and subsequently resisted the Easter canon drawn up by the latter, which afterwards came into use, and even the Church doctrine of the Trinity. In favour of this theory is the fact, that in the fifth of these forged documents Victorius is mentioned along with Callistus and Hippolytus, and an anathema is pronounced upon all the three. If Döllinger is right, as we cannot doubt, the argument of Coustant must fall away; but the spuriousness of the document is still entirely beyond doubt, and has been recognised by Döllinger.

(β.) At the end of the document an entirely false chronological date is given, Constantine VII. et Constantio Cæsare IV. consulibus. When Constantine became consul for the seventh time (A.D. 326), his son Constantius was invested with that dignity for the first time, and not for the fourth. Such a chronological error would certainly not have been committed in a wilting so important in the Roman archives.

3. The spuriousness of the third document betrays itself chiefly in the fact that it contains the anathema pronounced upon Photinus of Sirmium, which was not put forth until the year 351, at the first Synod of Sirmium.

4. The fourth document is rendered doubtful by the consideration, that it is impossible for all the writers of ancient times to have been silent on the subject of a Roman synod so important, and at which 275 bishops were present. Athanasius and Hilary speak ex professo of the synods of that period; but neither of them says a word of this great Roman Synod, nor gives the slightest intimation of it. Besides, if we give credence to the superscription of this document, the Synod must have been held in the presence of Constantine the Great, whereas the Emperor was not once in Rome during the whole of the year 325. But even if, as Binius has suggested, the words præsento Constantine have been erroneously removed from the place where they were followed by apud Nicænum, and placed in the title of this, it cannot, however, be denied: (α.) That the decree passed by this alleged Roman Synod, which orders that Easter shall be celebrated between the 14th and 21st of Nisan, is nonsensical and anti-Nicene. (β.) Equally incompatible with the Nicene period is the rule that clerics are not to be brought before a secular tribunal. This privilegium fori was at that time unknown. (γ.) Equally absurd is the ordinance respecting the degrees in advancing to the episcopate or the presbyterate, which directs that one must be an Ostiarius for a year, twenty years a Lector, ten years an Exorcist, five years an Acolyte, five years a Subdeacon, and five years a Deacon; that is to say, altogether forty-six years in the ministry, before he could become a priest. Such an absurdity was certainly never promulgated by a Roman council.

5. We have no need to give a particular account of the supposed acts of an alleged second Roman Council in 324, which form the fifth document, as they say nothing of a confirmation of the Nicene Synod. As, however, this document seems to have proceeded from the same pen as the other four, we may, by way of showing how little knowledge the forger had of that period, simply point out that this second Roman Council was professedly held during the Nicene Synod, as is expressly stated in the Epilogue, and that it came to an end on the 30th of May 324, that is to say, a whole year before the beginning of that of Nicæa.

Coustant suggests that all these documents must have been forged in the sixth century. He has treated particularly of the fifth of these spurious documents, and in his preface he suggests that it was composed soon after the time of Pope Symmachus. Symmachus had been unjustly accused of several crimes, but was acquitted by a Synod which met in 501 or 503; and at the same time the principle was asserted, that the Pope could not be judged by other bishops. In order to establish this principle and that of the forum privilegiatum, which is closely connected with it, Coustant says they fabricated several documents, and among others this fifth: the bad Latin in which it is written, and the fact that it was discovered in a Lombard MS., have caused it to be thought that it was composed by a Lombard residing at Rome. A principal argument employed by Coustant to show that this piece dated from the sixth century, the period during which Victorinus of Aquitania lived, has been overthrown by Döllinger’s hypothesis, to which we have referred.

All these documents are therefore without doubt apocryphal; but though they are apocryphal, we must not conclude from this that all their contents are false, that is to say, that the Council of Nicæa never asked Pope Silvester to give his approval to their decrees. Baronius thinks that this request was really made, and on our part we think we can add to his arguments the following observations:

(a.) We know that the fourth Œcumenical Council, held at Chalcedon, sent to Pope Leo their acts to be approved by him. Anatolius Patriarch of Constantinople wrote in the following manner to Leo: Gestorum vis omnis et confirmatio auctoritati vestræ Beatitudinis fuerit reservata. The Council speaks in the same way as Anatolius in the letter which they wrote to the Pope: Omnem vobis gestorum vim insinuavimus, ad comprobationem nostræ sinceritatis, et ad eorum, quæ a nobis gesta sunt, firmitatem et consonantiam. The Emperor Marcian also regarded this approval of the Pope as necessary for the decrees passed at Chalcedon; and he asked repeatedly and earnestly for this approval, with the suggestion that it should be given in a special writing; and he directed that it should also be read everywhere in his Greek dominions, that there might be no doubt of the validity of the Council of Chalcedon. The Emperor says he is astonished that the Pope had not sent these letters of approval: Quas videlicet in sanctissimis ecclesiis perlectas in omnium oportebat notitiam venire. This omission, he goes on, nonnullorum animis ambiguitatem multam injecit, utrum tua Beatitudo, quæ in sancta synodo decreta sunt, confirmaverat. Et ob eam rem tua pietas literas mittere dignabitur, per quas omnibus ecclesiis et populis manifestum fiat, in sancta synodo peracta a tua Beatitudine rata haberi.

(b.) These texts, explicit as they are, authorize us in believing, not quite without doubt, but nevertheless with a certain degree of probability, that the principles which guided the fourth Council were not strange to the first; and this probability is greatly increased by the fact that a Synod composed of more than forty bishops, assembled from all parts of Italy, very explicitly and confidently declared, and that in opposition to the Greeks, that the 318 bishops at Nicæa confirmationem rerum, atque auctoritatem sanctæ Romanæ ecclesiæ detulerunt.

(c.) Socrates tells us that Pope Julius asserted: Canon ecclesiasticus vetat, ne decreta absque sententia episcopi Romani ecclesiis sanciantur. Pope Julius then clearly declared not only that œcumenical councils ought to be approved by the Bishop of Rome, but also that a rule of ecclesiastical discipline (canon ecclesiasticus) demanded this. We must not regard these words as an allusion to this or that particular canon. But as Pope Julius filled the Holy See only eleven years after the Council of Nicæa, we are forced to believe that such a rule must have existed at the time of the Nicene Synod.

(d.) The Collectio Dionysii exigui proves that, about the year 500, it was the general persuasion at Rome that the acts of the Council of Nicæa had been approved by the Pope. Dionysius in fact added to the collection of the Nicene acts: Et placuit, ut hæc omnia mitterentur ad episcopum Romæ Silvestrum. It is this general persuasion which probably made people think of fabricating the false documents of which we have spoken, and gave the forger the hope of passing his wares as genuine.








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