Page images


Opinions of recent Ecclesiastical Authors.


and others, embrace the opinion of Daillé, yet many have taken a middle course; who would contend that all those canons are indeed fictitious and spurious, but that their origin is very ancient.

Nearest to Daillé comes Peter de Marcia, who, because Firmilianus and Cyprian, disputing with Stephen, bishop of Rome, concerning the baptism of heretics, made not the least mention of the canons, conjectures that these canons were collected and honored with the name of the apostles, A. D. 250, and that this was done at a certain council in Iconium. For if the canons had been known before this, it cannot be explained why those men did not appeal to them, when in canons XLVI, XLVII, and XLVIII, the baptism of heretics is disapproved. I confess that this conjecture seems to me very reasonable. And to this one argument other reasons could be added, and other canons called into the discussion.

But here we must by no means omit to mention that most learned man, William Beveridge, who has written concerning the apostolical canons with so much acuteness and excellence that his opinion is approved by almost all. Although he has not dared to affirm either that they were written by the apostles themselves, or that they were dictated to Clement of Rome as an aman. uensis, yet he endeavors to prove that they are the most ancient canons of the primitive church. That canons framed by apos. tolic men in the end of the second century and the beginning of the third

, everywhere began to be known, nay, that the collector both of the canons and of the constitutions, was not Clement of Rome, but Clement of Alexandria, he has suspected from the last canon. There are indeed many things in which I rejoice that I agree with Beveridge, but nevertheless, in a subsequent part of

essay, where I exhibit my opinion respecting the age of the canons

, reasons are given why in the main point I dissent from him. Here it will be sufficient to remark that I cannot dissent from the opinion of the learned men who contend that the whole of the last canon was inserted afterwards by another hand, and, therefore, that testimony cannot be drawn from it for settling the question respecting the author of the canons.

We must now come to more recent ecclesiastical historians; most of whom, however, may be passed over in silence. For although they

and persons occupied with ecclesiastical law had Petrus de Marca, De Concordia Sacerdotii et Imperii, Lib. III. c. 2. . Codex Canonum Ecclesiae Primitivae Vindicatus et Illustratus, Lond.


1678. 4.

most frequent occasion to refer to the canons, and settle their age by solid arguments, yet most of them, I know not by what accident, have been silent on the subject. They have seemed to have answered sufficiently the demands of criticism, if they have not assumed that the canons came from the apostolic age, and have made certain conjectures respecting their origin. But among the ecclesiastical writers who flourished towards the close of the last century, I must not neglect to commend one, whose opinion I have appropriated to my own use, and have set forth more copiously, as it was incumbent on me to do. It is Spittler, 1 whose merits in historical erudition connected with theology are very distinguished; and who has treated concerning the antiquity of the collection of canons, but not concerning the antiquity of the particular canons; and has stated it as being fully ascertained that these canons, in the earlier ages, arose in individual churches, which claimed to themselves apostolical origin; and that for this cause, and not because apostles were the authors of the canons, any precept of an apostolic church, being conformable to the doctrine of the apostles, was honored with the name of an apostolical canon. Finally, he thought that the separate canons, every. where scattered in the apostolic churches, were brought into a collection ; but afterwards were variously modified.

This opinion has also prevailed among more recent writers on law.? Most of them have judged that the origin of the canons is to be placed in the second century and in the third; and that they, nevertheless, contain vestiges, from which it may justly be concluded that they were afterwards increased.

From this brief survey of the judgments which have been pronounced respecting the canons, it will sufficiently appear that learned men have not all received the same number, but have followed various and conflicting opinions concerning this matter. In order, therefore, to show what has been proposed correctly, and what otherwise, the only thing to be done seems to be to institute a discussion concerning the number and authority of the canons. In this, it is of primary importance to examine diligently and estimate the testimonies of the ancients, that, having surveyed these, we may discover certain common principles, as it were, from which, in conjunction with internal evidences, the origin of the canons can, with probability, be made to appear.

I Geschichte des Kanonischen Rechts bis auf die Zeiten des falschen Isidor. Halle, 1778.

Compare Walter, in his Lehrbuch des Kirchenrechts, $ 39, s. 96. 3rd Ed.


Only fifty Canons received by the Latin Church.

II It is clear that among all the ancient authors, John of Antioch was the first who mentioned the apostolic canons, and these, the whole eighty-fwe, as belonging to the volume of sacred writings

. And, the Trullan council, in their second canon, having passed a favorable decree concerning these canons,' and afterwards John of Damascus having received them into the catalogue of holy Scriptures, very few of the Greeks have called in ques. tion their apostolic origin and authority.

The first to be mentioned, who, among the Greeks, has hesitated to ascribe the canons to the apostles, seems to be Photius.3 But the Greeks, as they never disputed concerning the number of the canons, always retained as sacred the eighty-five. Amoug the Latins it was different. About the year 500, Diony. sius Exiguus, (who introduced our reckoning from the birth of Christ,) by translating fifty canons from Greek into Latin, presented them to the Latin church. And, to this time, it is not known why he did not translate into Latin the whole eighty-five canons, and give them all to the Latin church; whether he happened to have only fifty canons in his perhaps mutilated manuscript

, or thought he ought to exclude from his version the latter therty-five, as having been added after the collection was made. Be that matter as it may, it is certain that the Latin church received only the first fifty, and held them sacred.

Nor has the usage of the church been changed in later times. But canons, advanced to greater authority as having come from the apostles, have in many things been made arbiters. And, be it remembered, it was in a time when criticism had not yet been applied to ecclesiastical history, that no one opposed their claims. In the sixth century they are often brought forward by the popes to promote the papal interests. Their power and authority increased more and more; yet no more than the fifty came into use. This is easily ascertained from the controversy of Cardinal Humbert, who, when he contended at all points against Nicetas Pectoratus concerning the Sabbath, loudly asserted that all the ca

Εδοξε δε και τούτο τη αγία ταύτη συνόδο κάλλιστα και σπουδαιότατα, ώστε μένειν και από του νυν βεβαίους και ασφαλείς ... τους υπό των προ ημών αγίων και ενδόξων απόστολων όγδοήκοντα πέντε κανόνας. * De Fide Orthod, Lib. IV. c. 28. * In his Bibliotheca, Cod. 112; in his Preface to the Nomocanon, and in Matthaei Blastaris Προθεωρία: Ου μην αλλά και τους λεγομένους των αγίων αποστόλων, εί και τινες αυτούς αμφιβόλους διά τινας αιτίας ηγήσαντο.

nons, except the fifty, were apocryphal. It appears from many passages that Gratian (A. D. 1145) thought the same.

Having now briefly stated the testimonies concerning the collection of the canons, we proceed to consider the origin of each.

All who have diligently examined the work, must have discov. ered that the canons have not proceeded from one author. The testimonies of the ancients, indeed, prove this. For often in the councils of the fourth and of the fifth century, reference is made to most ancient canons to which various names are given. Let us, therefore, trace those vestiges which may yet be found in the early ages, and bring them to light, that the origin of the canons may become more manifest.

IIL The council of Chalcedon (A. D. 451), when, in their twenty-second canon, they decreed it unlawful for the clergy after the death of a bishop to seize the property which belonged to him, sanctioned as it were and fortified their canon by adding, as also it is interdicted in the ancient canons, (xatws xai tois acha xavóow innyógevral). But observe how wonderful it is, if we inspect the matter more thoroughly. Let us look around and examine whether there is any such prohibition in the canons of former councils. We find no canon except our fortieth apostolic canon which expressly orders that the property of the bishop be not lost, nor cease to be at his disposal, but that he have the power of leaving it to whomsoever he may please. In view of these facts, who can doubt that the council of Chalcedon, in the words quoted, pointed to our canons ? In passing, let us here remark, that ancient regulations were first cited under the name of apostolical canons in the council of Constantinople, A. D. 394. (See Zonaras, p. 527, and Balsamon, p. 763.) At that council there were present, besides many other bishops, Theophilus of Alexandria, Flavius of Antioch, Gregory of Nyssa, and Theodorus of Mopsuestia,-men of great eminence. No one will deny that the regulation presented in our canon LXVI, (otherwise numbered LXXIII and LXXIV,] is similar to the one which

i Gratian. Distinct. 16. Pref. and Urban II, apud Gratianum, Dist. 32, c. 6.

? Can. XL, "Έστω φανερά τα ίδια του επισκόπου πράγματα, είγε και ίδια έχει, και φανερά τα κυριακά, ίν' εξουσίαν έχη, των ιδίων τελευτών και επίσκοπος οίς βούλεται και ως βούλεται καταλείψαι, και μη προφάσει των εκκλησιαστικών πραγμάτων διαπίπτειν τα του επισκόπου.

Μη χρήναι προς το εξής μήτε παρά τριών, μή τι γε παρά δύο τον υπεύθυνος δοκιμαζόμενον καθαιρείσθαι, αλλά γαρ πλείονος συνόδου ψήφω και των της επαρχίας, καθώς και οι αποστολικοί κανόνες διωρίσαντο.



Traces of these Canons in Early Ages.


we have inserted at the bottom of the page as having been decreed by that council.1

It should be further remarked, that the Fathers in this general council

, A. D. 381, sent epistles to Damasus, Ambrose, and other bishops then assembled at Rome, in which from an ancient ca. ΠΟn, (Παλαιός τε ως ίστε θεσμός κεκράτηκε, και των αγίων εν Νικαία πατέρων ορος,) they contended it ought to be establislied that bishops in their own parishes, and there only, with the assistance, if they think proper, of other neighboring bishops, should give ordination to those who become clerical persons. Nor is there any law more ancient than the Nicene council, except canons XIV. and XV, which forbid a bishop's leaving his own parish, and pervading that of another, unless a reasonable cause constrain him.2

And about that time Evagrius occupied the episcopal chair at Antioch, having been ordained by no one except his predecessor Paulinus; which Theodoret, in his Ecclesiastical His!ory, B. V. C. 23, affirms to have been done contrary to the ecclesiastical law, (παρά τον εκκλησιαστικών θεσμών,)-nay, contrary to many canons, (παρα πολλους κανόνας.). But manifestly his affirmation is in harmony with the canon which expressly enjoins, Let a bishop be ordained by two bishops or by three, (Επίσκοπος χειροτονείσθω υπο επισκόπων δύο ή τριών). May we not reasonably infer that Theodoret had in his mind our first canon, from which he judged the ordination of Evagrius to be unlawful? But if we thoroughly examine the other canons, the seventy-sixth presents itself to us, which establishes in almost so many words the judgment of 'Can. LXVI. Επίσκοπον κατηγορηθέντα επί τινα παρά αξιοπιστων και πιστων προσώπων, καλείσθαι αυτόν αναγκαίον υπό των επισκόπων κάν μεν απαντήση και απολογήση ή έλεγχθείη, ορίζεσθαι το επιτίμιον· ει δε καλούμενος μη υπακούσοι, καλείσθω και δεύτερον, αποστελλομένων επ' αυτόν δύο επισκόπων· έαν δε και θέτω καταφρονήσας μη απαντήση, ή σύνοδος αποφαινέσθω κατ' αυτού τα δοκούντα, όπως μη δοξη κερδαίνειν φυγοδικών.

? We here insert the two canons entire, to avoid the necessity of repetition hereafter.-Can. ΧΙV. Επίσκοπον μη εξειναι καταλείψαντα την έαυτού παροικίαν έτερα επιπηδάν, κάν υπό πλειόνων αναγκάζηται, ει μή τις εύλογος αιτία ή τούτο βιαζομενη αυτόν ποιείν, ώς πλέον τι κέρδος δυναμένου αυτού τοις εκείσε λόγω ευσεθείας συμβάλλεσθαι και τούτο δε ουκ αφ' εαυτού, αλλά κρίσει πολλών επισκόπων και παρακλήσει μεγίστη. Can. XV. Εί τις πρεσβύτερος ή διάκονος ή όλως του καταλόγου των κληρικών απολείψας την έαυτού παροικίαν εις ετέραν απέλθη, και παντελώς μεταστάς διατρίβη έν άλλη παροικία παρα γνώμην του ίδιου επισκόπου τούτον κελεύομεν μηκέτι λειτουργείν, μάλιστα εί προσκαλουμένου αυτόν του επισόπου αυτού επανελθείν ούχ υπήκουσεν επιμένων τη αταξία: ώς λαϊκός μέντοι

εκείσε κοινωνείτω.

« PreviousContinue »