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THE CANONS OF THE APOSTLES.
A Dissertation, Historical and Critical, Translated from the Latin, by Irah Chase, D. D.
INTRODUCTORY Note. (The author of this Dissertation De Codice Canonum, qui Apostolorum nomine circumferuntur, is Dr. O. C. Krabbe, now a Professor in the University of Kiel. To say nothing of his other highly valuable productions, his work in German on the Origin and Contents of the Apostolical Constitutions ought to be mentioned here, as being akin to the small Latin work now presented in an English dress. It was a Prize Essay at the University of
. Bonn. It forms an octavo volume of about three hundred pages. It introduces the reader to a dark but deeply interesting period of Ecclesiastical History; and to all who are prepared to enter on a fundamental investigation, it furnishes important aid in solving one of the most difficult problems, and in understanding the state of the ancient church. It is already translated from the German ; and, probably, it will soon be published in connection with an English version of the so called Apostolical constitutions and ca. nons of the Apostles. Indeed, from the evidence of manuscripts, the canons of the Apostles seem once to have constituted a concluding chapter (47th) of the Eighth and last Book of the Apostolical Constitutions. But, in the present Article, they are treated as a distinct collection.
VOL. IV. No. 13.
It is unnecessary here to speak of the mighty influence which these canons have had, or of their importance in shedding light on the history of Christendom. And it would be wrong to detain the reader by apologies, or criticisms, or commendations. In the few instances in which it has seemned desirable to add anything, it has been added by the translator, and included in brackets.TR.)
From the time of the Lutheran Reformation, a new and brighter day shone on Ecclesiastical History, as well as on all the departments of Theology. For there have been men now mentioned among theologians with merited praise, who, when they had received the liberty of thinking and speaking, applied the torch as it were, of criticism to the thick darkness of errors, and summoned to a more accurate examination various statements which, although commonly admitted, were yet not placed beyond doubt. They felt themselves under special obligations to go back to the earlier ages of the Christian church, and inspect carefully the foundation on which the Romish church had been resting. But the more they penetrated into the most interior recesses of Ecclesiastical History, and explored critically the sources themselves, the better they have upderstood that many things by which the Romish church has assumed her authority, and sustained herself for so many ages, are nothing else than inventions destitute of all firm and stable foundation. When those reformers, therefore, applied themselves zealously to draw from the fountains of history the means of combating the theologians of Rome, it could not but occur that they should not only reject many vain and absurd notions, but even refute and annihilate them. In breaking the supports of the Papal domination, what immortal glory they acquired to themselves by proving the falsity of the Decretal Epistles, to say nothing of anythiug else, no one needs to be informed.
But among the ancient writings which in former times, were advanced to great power and authority, and which helped to sustain the Popes in establishing some of their institutes and decrees, have been also the canons, which were circulated in the name of the holy apostles. Nor have there been wanting in the
• Κανόνες εκκλησιαστικοί των αυτών αγίων αποστόλων. Thus the book in the French king's library, 1326, is entitled : In Dionysius Exiguus : Regulae Ecclesiasticae sanctorum Apostolorum, prolatae per Clementem ecclesiae Roma'nae pontificem. And in the king's Greek collection of canons, 2430 : Kavoves
3 catholic church those who against all appearance of truth wonld dare to palm these canons on the apostles, and not hesitate to set them forth as apostolical. Before the Reformation, therefore, these canons had great authority, and were even received into the body of the canon law; nor did popes omit to quote them in settling contests and in promulgating laws.
But their authority was shaken and diminished, when the greatest distrust was awakened respecting all writings which served 10 perpetuate and sustain the papal domination. At last, their whole force and influence were destroyed, when it was proved by the gravest reasons, that these canons are not a work of the apostles, and can rightfully be ascribed neither to the apostles nor to Clement of Rome. This became the united and harmonious voice of all the intelligent, including even theologians of the catholic church. But respecting the origin of the canons there were among theologians various opinions. No one was presented that united all suffrages. Though most agreed in denying that the canons are of apostolic origin, yet in forming a judgment how they arose, and to what age they are to be adjudged, there was much diversity. But at what time they came into existence, where they first appeared, who collected them, and why they bear the name of the apostles, all will readily perceive to be inquiries of no small importance.
And to me, as I approach this question to be solved concerning the origin of the canons, it seems requisite, that, after narrating as briefly as possible the opinions of learned men respecting this matter, and examining diligently the testimonies of the ancients, I should institute a discussion concerning the number and authority of the canons.
Then we must proceed to consider whether they have one author, or are a collection of separate canons which arose in the early Christian church. Finally, if on this point we arrive at any certainty, we must inquire whether, by examining the canons themselves more carefully, and taking into view external considerations, it may be possible to determine more exactly the time in which they arose.
I. Let us present the most important opinions of the authors who have written concerning the canons. οι λεγόμενοι των αποστόλων, διά Κλήμεντος. But in the Latin Ms. 1203 : Apostolorum Canones, qui pro Clementem Romanum pontificem de Graeco in Latthum, sicut quidam asserunt, dicuntur esse translati, sunt quinquaginta. Compare Cotelerii Patr. A post. Opera, Toin. 1. p. 442;—also C. J. Can. ed. Böhmer, and C. J. Civ. ed. Gothsfred.
The first were the well known Magdeburg centuriators, who vehemently impugned their apostolic authority, and proved clearly that the work is spurious, and not to be ascribed to the apostles. Turrianus,2 Binius,3 and others undertook the defence of the canons, affirming that they were made by the apostles themselves. Influenced by zeal for the order of things as established around them, they were led into this opinion, that, by the aid of those ancient regulations, they might, at their pleasure, commend and confirm certain ecclesiastical rites and various institutes of ecclesiastical discipline. But the attempt was made in vain. For even among the theologians of their own church, this opinion has not prevailed.
But along with others who descended into the arena against those papists, was John Daillé, far the most learned man of his uge, and one of the most acute; who in his third book De Pseudepigraphis Apostolicis, entirely overthrew the insane opinion. He put forth his vigorous efforts to impugn and refute also the opin. ion of Albaspinaens, bishop of Baden, who had contended that this ancient collection of canons was nothing else than a summary and abridgment of local councils and of matters sanctioned by individual bishops of the Greek churches before the Nicene council.4 Then, having exploded the opinions of his adversaries, Dail. lé proposes his own, namely, that this apocryphal collection of canons, completed, did not become known before the fifth century, and now about the end of the fifth century made its appearance, and began to be published 5
Among the catholic theologians, Bellarming and Baronius; admit only the first fifty canons to be legitimate ; the rest, which Dionysius Exiguus had omitted in his collection, they do not think to be of legal authority, although they are received by the Greeks.
But although Natalis Alexander,9 Antonius Pagi, 9 Cabassutius10
· Ceritus. Magdeb. I. Lib. II. c. VII. p. 544.
* In Tract. pro Canonibus Apostolorum et Decretalibus Epistolis contra Magd. Lib. I. Florent. 1572, 1612.
* Praefat. ad canon. A post. Tom. I. concil. p. 14; where he acknowledges all as genuine and apostolical, except the 65th canon and the 84th, which he would have expunged.
4 De Antiq. Eccles. Ritib. Lib. I Obs. 13.
& Dissert. 17. seculi l. p. 195. Ad A. C. 56. p. 46. 10 In Notit. Ecclesiast. Histor. concil. p. 7.