Vol. 3, Chapter V (Cont’d) – The Papacy from Leo I to Gregory I. a.d. 461-590


The first Leo and the first Gregory are the two greatest bishops of Rome in the first six centuries. Between them no important personage appears on the chair of Peter; and in the course of that intervening century the idea and the power of the papacy make no material advance. In truth, they went farther in Leo’s mind than they did in Gregory’s. Leo thought and acted as an absolute monarch; Gregory as first among the patriarchs; but both under the full conviction that they were the successors of Peter.

After the death of Leo, the archdeacon Hilary, who had represented him at the council of Ephesus, was elected to his place, and ruled (461-468) upon his principles, asserting the strict orthodoxy in the East and the authority of the primacy in Gaul.

His successor, Simplicius (468-483), saw the final dissolution of the empire under Romulus Augustulus (476), but, as he takes not the slightest notice of it in his epistles, he seems to have ascribed to it but little importance. The papal power had been rather favored than hindered in its growth by the imbecility of the latest emperors. Now, to a certain extent, it stepped into the imperial vacancy, and the successor of Peter became, in the mind of the Western nations, sole heir of the old Roman imperial succession.

On the fall of the empire the pope became the political subject of the barbarian and heretical (for they were Arian) kings; but these princes, as most of the heathen emperors had done, allowed him, either from policy, or from ignorance or indifference, entire freedom in ecclesiastical affairs. In Italy the Catholics had by far the ascendency in numbers and in culture. And the Arianism of the new rulers was rather an outward profession than an inward conviction. Odoacer, who first assumed the kingdom of Italy (476-493), was tolerant toward the orthodox faith, yet attempted to control the papal election in 483 in the interest of the state, and prohibited, under penalty of the anathema, the alienation of church property by any bishop. Twenty years later a Roman council protested against this intervention of a layman, and pronounced the above prohibition null and void, but itself passed a similar decree against the alienation of church estates.

Pope Felix II., or, according to another reckoning, III. (483-492), continued the war of his predecessor against the Monophysitism of the East, rejected the Henoticon of the emperor Zeno, as an unwarrantable intrusion of a layman in matters of faith, and ventured even the excommunication of the bishop Acacius of Constantinople. Acacius replied with a counter anathema, with the support of the other Eastern patriarchs; and the schism between the two churches lasted over thirty years, to the pontificate of Hormisdas.

Gelasius I. (492-496) clearly announced the principle, that the priestly power is above the kingly and the imperial, and that from the decisions of the chair of Peter there is no appeal. Yet from this pope we have, on the other hand, a remarkable testimony against what he pronounces the “sacrilege” of withholding the cup from the laity, the communio sub una specie.

Anastasius II. (496-498) indulged in a milder tone toward Constantinople, and incurred the suspicion of consent to its heresy.

His sudden death was followed by a contested papal election, which led to bloody encounters. The Ostrogothic king Theodoric (the Dietrich of Bern in the Niebelungenlied), the conqueror and master of Italy (493-526), and, like Odoacer, an Arian, was called into consultation in this contest, and gave his voice for Symmachus against Laurentius, because Symmachus had received the majority of votes, and had been consecrated first. But the party of Laurentius, not satisfied with this, raised against Symmachus the reproach of gross iniquities, even of adultery and of squandering the church estates. The bloody scenes were renewed, priests were murdered, cloisters were burned, and nuns were insulted. Theodoric, being again called upon by the senate for a decision, summoned a council at Rome, to which Symmachus gave his consent; and a synod, convoked by a heretical king, must decide upon the pope! In the course of the controversy several councils were held in rapid succession, the chronology of which is disputed. The most important was the synodus palmaris, the fourth council under Symmachus, held in October, 501. It acquitted this pope without investigation, on the presumption that it did not behove the council to pass judgment respecting the successor of St. Peter. In his vindication of this council — for the opposition was not satisfied with it — the deacon Ennodius, afterward bishop of Pavia († 521), gave the first clear expression to the absolutism upon which Leo had already acted: that the Roman bishop is above every human tribunal, and is responsible only to God himself. Nevertheless, even in the middle age, popes were deposed and set up by emperors and general councils. This is one of the points of dispute between the absolute papal system and the constitutional episcopal system in the Roman church, which was left unsettled even by the council of Trent.

Under Hormisdas (514-523) the Monophysite party in the Greek church was destroyed by the energetic zeal of the orthodox emperor Justin, and in 519 the union of that church with Rome was restored, after a schism of five-and-thirty years.

Theodoric offered no hinderance to the transactions and embassies, and allowed his most distinguished subject to assert his ecclesiastical supremacy over Constantinople. This semi-barbarous and heretical prince was tolerant in general, and very liberal toward the Catholic church; even rising to the principle, which has waited till the modern age for its recognition, that the power of the prince should be restricted to civil government, and should permit no trespass on the conscience of its subjects. “No one,” says he, “shall be forced to believe against his will.” Yet, toward the close of his reign, on mere political suspicion, he ordered the execution of the celebrated philosopher Boethius, with whom the old Roman literature far more worthily closes, than the Roman empire with Augustulus; and on the same ground he caused the death of the senator Symmachus and the incarceration of Pope John I. (523-526).

Almost the last act of his reign was the nomination of the worthy Felix III. (IV.) to the papal chair, after a protracted struggle of contending parties. With the appointment he issued the order that hereafter, as heretofore, the pope should be elected by clergy and people, but should be confirmed by the temporal prince before assuming his office; and with this understanding the clergy and the city gave their consent to the nomination.

Yet, in spite of this arrangement, in the election of Boniface II. (530-532) and John II. (532-535) the same disgraceful quarrelling and briberies occurred; — a sort of chronic disease in the history of the papacy.

Soon after the death of Theodoric (526) the Gothic empire fell to pieces through internal distraction and imperial weakness. Italy was conquered by Belisarius (535), and, with Africa, again incorporated with the East Roman empire, which renewed under Justinian its ancient splendor, and enjoyed a transient after-summer. And yet this powerful, orthodox emperor was a slave to the intriguing, heretical Theodora, whom he had raised from the theatre to the throne; and Belisarius likewise, his victorious general, was completely under the power of his wife Antonina.

With the conquest of Italy the popes fell into a perilous and unworthy dependence on the emperor at Constantinople, who reverenced, indeed, the Roman chair, but not less that of Constantinople, and in reality sought to use both as tools of his own state-church despotism. Agapetus (535-536) offered fearless resistance to the arbitrary course of Justinian, and successfully protested against the elevation of the Eutychian Anthimus to the patriarchal see of Constantinople. But, by the intrigues of the Monophysite empress, his successor, Pope Silverius (a son of Hormisdas, 536-538), was deposed on the charge of treasonable correspondence with the Goths, and banished to the island of Pandataria, whither the worst heathen emperors used to send the victims of their tyranny, and where in 540 he died — whether a natural or a violent death, we do not know.

Vigilius, a pliant creature of Theodora, ascended the papal chair under the military protection of Belisarius (538-554). The empress had promised him this office and a sum of money, on condition that he nullify the decrees of the council of Chalcedon, and pronounce Anthimus and his friends orthodox. The ambitious and doubled-tongued prelate accepted the condition, and accomplished the deposition, and perhaps the death, of Silverius. In his pontificate occurred the violent controversy of the three chapters and the second general council of Constantinople (553). His administration was an unprincipled vacillation between the dignity and duties of his office and subservience to an alien theological and political influence; between repeated condemnation of the three chapters in behalf of a Eutychianizing spirit, and repeated retraction of that condemnation. In Constantinople, where he resided several years at the instance of the emperor, he suffered much personal persecution, but without the spirit of martyrdom, and without its glory. For example, at least according to Western accounts, he was violently torn from the altar, upon which he was holding with both hands so firmly that the posts of the canopy fell in above him; he was dragged through the streets with a rope around his neck, and cast into a common prison; because he would not submit to the will of Justinian and his council. Yet he yielded at last, through fear of deposition. He obtained permission to return to Rome, but died in Sicily, of the stone, on his way thither (554).

Pelagius I. (554-560), by order of Justinian, whose favor he had previously gained as papal legate at Constantinople, was made successor of Vigilius, but found only two bishops ready to consecrate him. His close connection with the East, and his approval of the fifth ecumenical council, which was regarded as a partial concession to the Eutychian Christology, and, so far, an impeachment of the authority of the council of Chalcedon, alienated many Western bishops, even in Italy, and induced a temporary suspension of their connection with Rome. He issued a letter to the whole Christian world, in which he declared his entire agreement with the first four general councils, and then vindicated the fifth as in no way departing from the Chalcedonian dogma. But only by the military aid of Narses could he secure subjection; and the most refractory bishops, those of Aquileia and Milan, he sent as prisoners to Constantinople.

In these two Justinian-made popes we see how much the power of the Roman hierarchy was indebted to its remoteness from the Byzantine despotism, and how much it was injured by contact with it.

With the descent of the Arian Longobards into Italy, after 668, the popes again became more independent of the Byzantine court. They continued under tribute indeed to the ex-archs in Ravenna, as the representatives of the Greek emperors (from 554), and were obliged to have their election confirmed and their inauguration superintended by them. But the feeble hold of these officials in Italy, and the pressure of the Arian barbarians upon them, greatly favored the popes, who, being the richest proprietors, enjoyed also great political consideration in Italy, and applied their influence to the maintenance of law and order amidst the reigning confusion.

In other respects the administrations of John III. (560-573), Benedict I. (574-578), and Pelagius II. (578-590), are among the darkest and the most sterile in the annals of the papacy.

But with Gregory I. (590-604) a new period begins. Next to Leo I. he was the greatest of the ancient bishops of Rome, and he marks the transition of the patriarchal system into the strict papacy of the middle ages. For several reasons we prefer to place him at the head of the succeeding period. He came, it is true, with more modest claims than Leo, who surpassed him in boldness, energy, and consistency. He even solemnly protested, as his predecessor Pelagius II. had done, against the title of universal bishop, which the Constantinopolitan patriarch, John Jejunator, adopted at a council in 587; he declared it an antichristian assumption, in terms which quite remind us of the patriarchal equality, and seem to form a step in recession from the ground of Leo. But when we take his operations in general into view, and remember the rigid consistency of the papacy, which never forgets, we are almost justified in thinking, that this protest was directed not so much against the title itself, as against the bearer of it, and proceeded more from jealousy of a rival at Constantinople, than from sincere humility. From the same motive the Roman bishops avoided the title of patriarch, as placing them on a level with the Eastern patriarchs, and preferred the title of pope, from a sense of the specific dignity of the chair of Peter. Gregory is said to have been the first to use the humble-proud title: “Servant of the servants of God.” His successors, notwithstanding his protest, called themselves “the universal bishops” of Christendom. What he had condemned in his oriental colleagues as antichristian arrogance, the later popes considered but the appropriate expression of their official position in the church universal.


List of Popes and Emperors

From Constantine the Great to Gregory the Great, a.d. 314-590

Comp. the lists in vol. ii., and vol. iv.

This list is based upon Jaffé’s Regesta, Potthast’s Biblioth. Hist. Medii Aevi, and Cardinal Hergenröther’s list, in his Kirchengesch., third ed. (1886), vol. iii. 1057 sqq.




a.d. Popes. Emperors a.d.   

311-314, Melchiades. Constantine I., or The Great, 306 (323)-337   

314-335, Silvester I.   

336-337, Marcus. Constantine II. (in Gaul), 337-340.   

337-352, Julius I. Constantius II. (in the East), 337-350.   

Constans (in Italy),   

352-366, Liberius.   

(357, Filix II., Antipope.) Constantius Alone, 350-361   

Julian, 361-363.   

Jovian, 363-364.   

366-384, Damasus. Valentinian I., 364-375.   

Valens, 364-378.   

(366-367, Ursicinus, Antipope.) Gratian, 375-383.   

Valentinian II. (in the West), 375-392.   

385-398, Siricius. Theodosius, 379-395.   

398-402, Anastasius. Arcadius (in the East), 395-408.   

402-417, Innocent I. Honorius (in the West), 395-423.   

417-418, Zosimus. Theodosius II. (E.), 408-450.   

418-422, Bonifacius.   

(418, Dec. 27 Eulalius, Antipope.)   

422-432, Coelestinus I. Valentinian III. (W.), 423-455.   

432-440, Sixtus III.   

440-461, Leo I. the Great Marcian (E.), 450-457   

Maximus Avitus (W.), 455-457.   

Majorian (W.), 457-461.   

Leo I. (E.), 457-474.   

461-468, Hilarus. Severus (W.), 461-465.   

Vacancy (W.), 465-467.   

468-483 Simplicius. Anthemius (W.), 467-472.   

Olybrius (W.), 472-473.   

Glycerius (W.), 473-474.   

Julius Nepos (W.), 474   

Leo II, (E.) 474   

Zeno, (E.) 474-476.   

Basiliscus (E.), 476-477.   

Romulus Augustulus (W.) 475   

End of the Westem Line in Romulus Augustulus, (Henceforth, till a.d. 800, Emperors reigning at Constantinople). 476   

483-492, Felix III. (or II.). Anastasius I., 491-518.   

492-496, Gelasius I.   

496-498, Anastasius II.   

498-514, Symmachus.   

(498-Nov., 501, Laurentius, Antipope)   

514-523, Hormisdas. Justin I., 518-527.   

523-525, John I.   

526-530, Felix IV. (or III.). Justinian, 527-565.   

530-532, Bonifacius III.   

532-535, John II.   

535-536, Agapetus I.   

536-540, Silverius.   

540-554, Vigilius.   

555-560, Pelagius I.   

560-573, John III. Justin II., 565-574.   

574-578, Benedict I. Tiberius II., 574-582.   

578-590, Pelagius II. Maurice, 582-602.   

590-604, Gregory I. the Great. Phocas, 602-610.  



65. The Synodical System. The Ecumenical Councils

I. The principal sources are the Acts of the Councils, the best and most complete collections of which are those of the Jesuit Sirmond (Rom. 1608-1612, 4 vols. fol.); the so-called Collectio regia (Paris, 1644, 37 vols. fol.; a copy of it in the Astor Libr., New York); but especially those of the Jesuit Hardouin († 1729): Collectio maxima Conciliorum generalium et provincialium (Par. 1715 sqq., 12 vols. fol.), coming down to 1714, and very available through its five copious indexes (tom. i. and ii. embrace the first six centuries; a copy of it, from Van Ess’s library, in the Union Theol. Sem. Library, at New York); and the Italian Joannes Dominicus Mansi (archbishop of Lucca, died 1769): Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collection, Florence, 1759-’98, in 31 (30) vols. fol. This is the most complete and the best collection down to the fifteenth century, but unfinished, and therefore without general indexes; tom. i. contains the Councils from the beginning of Christianity to a.d. 304; tom. ii.-ix. include our period to a.d. 590 (I quote from an excellent copy of this rare collection in the Union Theol. Sem. Libr., at New York, 30 t. James Darling, in his Cyclop. Bibliographica, p. 740-756, gives the list of the contents of an earlier edition of the Councils by Nic. Coleti, Venet., 1728, in 23 vols., with a supplement of Mansi, in 6 vols. 1748-’52, which goes down to 1727, while the new edition of Mansi only reaches to 1509. Brunet, in the “Manuel Du Libraire,” quotes the edition of Mansi, Florence, 1759-1798, with the remark: “Cette collection, dont le dernier volume s’arrête à l’année 1509, est peu commune à Paris ou elle revenait à 600 fr.” Strictly speaking its stops in the middle of the 15th century, except in a few documents which reach further.) Useful abstracts are the Summa Conciliorum of Barth. Caranza, in many editions; and in the German language, the Bibliothek der Kirchenversammlungen (4th and 5th centuries), by Fuchs, Leipz., 1780-1784, 4 vols.

II. Chr. Wilh. Franz Walch (Luth.): Entwurf einer vollständigen Historie der Kirchenversammlungen, Leipz., 1759. Edw. H. Landon (Anglic.): A manual of Councils of the Holy Catholick Church, comprising the substance of the most remarkable and important canons, alphabetically arranged, 12mo. London, 1846. C. J. Hefele (R.C.): Conciliengeschichte, Freiburg i. B. 1855 sqq.; second revised ed. 1873 sqq., 7 vols., down to the Council of Florence (1447). Comp. my Essay on Oekumenische Concilien, in Dorner’s Annals of Ger. Theol. vol. viii. 326-346.

Above the patriarchs, even above the patriarch of Rome, stood the ecumenical or general councils, the highest representatives, of the unity and authority of the old Catholic church. They referred originally to the Roman empire, but afterward included the adjacent barbarian countries, so far as those countries were represented in them by bishops. They rise up like lofty peaks or majestic pyramids from the plan of ancient church history, and mark the ultimate authoritative settlement of the general questions of doctrine and discipline which agitated Christendom in the Graeco-Roman empire.

The synodical system in general had its rise in the apostolic council at Jerusalem, and completed its development, under its Catholic form, in the course of the first five centuries. Like the episcopate, it presented a hierarchical gradation of orders. There was, first, the diocesan or district council, in which the bishop of a diocese (in the later sense of the word) presided over his clergy; then the provincial council, consisting of the metropolitan or archbishop and the bishops of his ecclesiastical province; next, the patriarchal council, embracing all the bishops of a patriarchal district (or a diocese in the old sense of the term); then the national council, inaccurately styled also general, representing either the entire Greek or the entire Latin church (like the later Lateran councils and the council of Trent); and finally, at the summit stood the ecumenical council, for the whole Christian world. There was besides these a peculiar and abnormal kind of synod, styled σύνοδος ἐνδημοῦσα, frequently held by the bishop of Constantinople with the provincial bishops resident (ἐνδημοῦντες) on the spot.

In the earlier centuries the councils assembled without fixed regularity, at the instance of present necessities, like the Montanist and the Easter controversies in the latter part of the second century. Firmilian of Cappadocia, in his letter to Cyprian, first mentions, that at his time, in the middle of the third century, the churches of Asia Minor held regular annual synods, consisting of bishops and presbyters. From that time we find an increasing number of such assemblies in Egypt, Syria, Greece, Northern Africa, Italy, Spain, and Gaul. The council of Nicaea, a.d. 325, ordained, in the fifth canon, that the provincial councils should meet twice a year: during the fast season before Easter, and in the fall. In regard to the other synods no direction was given.

The Ecumenical councils were not stated, but extraordinary assemblies, occasioned by the great theological controversies of the ancient church. They could not arise until after the conversion of the Roman emperor and the ascendancy of Christianity as the religion of the state. They were the highest, and the last, manifestation of the power of the Greek church, which in general took the lead in the first age of Christianity, and was the chief seat of all theological activity. Hence in that church, as well as in others, they are still held in the highest veneration, and kept alive in the popular mind by pictures in the churches. The Greek and Russian Christians have annually commemorated the seven ecumenical councils, since the year 842, on the first Sunday in Lent, as the festival of the triumph of orthodoxy and they live in the hope that an eighth ecumenical council shall yet heal the divisions and infirmities of the Christian world. Through their symbols of faith those councils, especially of Nice and of Chalcedon, still live in the Western church, both Roman Catholic and Evangelical Protestant.

Strictly speaking, none of these councils properly represented the entire Christian world. Apart from the fact that the laity, and even the lower clergy, were excluded from them, the assembled bishops themselves formed but a small part of the Catholic episcopate. The province of North Africa alone numbered many more bishops than were present at either the second, the third, or the fifth general council. The councils bore a prevailingly oriental character, were occupied with Greek controversies, used the Greek language, sat in Constantinople or in its vicinity, and consisted almost wholly of Greek members. The Latin church was usually represented only by a couple of delegates of the Roman bishop; though these delegates, it is true, acted more or less in the name of the entire West. Even the five hundred and twenty, or the six hundred and thirty members of the council of Chalcedon, excepting the two representatives of Leo I., and two African fugitives accidentally present, were all from the East. The council of Constantinople in 381 contained not a single Latin bishop, and only a hundred and fifty Greek, and was raised to the ecumenical rank by the consent of the Latin church toward the middle of the following century. On the other hand, the council of Ephesus, in 449, was designed by emperor and pope to be an ecumenical council; but instead of this it has been branded in history as the synod of robbers, for its violent sanction of the Eutychian heresy. The council of Sardica, in 343, was likewise intended to be a general council, but immediately after its assembling assumed a sectional character, through the secession and counter-organization of the Eastern bishops.

It is, therefore, not the number of bishops present, nor even the regularity of the summons alone, which determines the ecumenical character of a council, but the result, the importance and correctness of the decisions, and, above all, the consent of the orthodox Christian world.

The number of the councils thus raised by the public opinion of the Greek and Latin churches to the ecumenical dignity, is seven. The succession begins with the first council of Nicaea, in the year 325, which settled the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, and condemned the Arian heresy. It closes with the second council of Nice, in 787, which sanctioned the use of images in the church. The first four of these councils command high theological regard in the orthodox Evangelical churches, while the last three are less important and far more rarely mentioned.

The ecumenical councils have not only an ecclesiastical significance, but bear also a political or state-church character. The very name refers to the οἰκουμένη, the orbis Romanus, the empire. Such synods were rendered possible only by that great transformation, which is marked by the accession of Constantine. That emperor caused the assembling of the first ecumenical council, though the idea was probably suggested to him by friends among the bishops; at least Rufinus says, he summoned the council “ex sacerdotum sententia.” At all events the Christian Graeco-Roman emperor is indispensable to an ecumenical council in the ancient sense of the term; its temporal head and its legislative strength.

According to the rigid hierarchical or papistic theory, as carried out in the middle ages, and still asserted by Roman divines, the pope alone, as universal head of the church, can summon, conduct, and confirm a universal council. But the history of the first seven, or, as the Roman reckoning is, eight, ecumenical councils, from 325 to 867, assigns this threefold power to the Byzantine emperors. This is placed beyond all contradiction, by the still extant edicts of the emperors, the acts of the councils, the accounts of all the Greek historians, and the contemporary Latin sources. Upon this Byzantine precedent, and upon the example of the kings of Israel, the Russian Czars and the Protestant princes of Germany, Scandinavia, and England — be it justly or unjustly — build their claim to a similar and still more extended supervision of the church in their dominions.

In the first place, the call of the ecumenical councils emanated from the emperors. They fixed the place and time of the assembly, summoned the metropolitans and more distinguished bishops of the empire by an edict, provided the means of transit, and paid the cost of travel and the other expenses out of the public treasury. In the case of the council of Nicaea and the first of Constantinople the call was issued without previous advice or consent from the bishop of Rome. In the council of Chalcedon, in 451, the papal influence is for the first time decidedly prominent; but even there it appears in virtual subordination to the higher authority of the council, which did not suffer itself to be disturbed by the protest of Leo against its twenty-eighth canon in reference to the rank of the patriarch of Constantinople. Not only ecumenical, but also provincial councils were not rarely called together by Western princes; as the council of Arles in 314 by Constantine, the council of Orleans in 549 by Childebert, and — to anticipate an instance — the synod of Frankfort in 794 by Charlemagne. Another remarkable fact has been already mentioned: that in the beginning of the sixth century several Orthodox synods at Rome, for the purpose of deciding the contested election of Symmachus, were called by a secular prince, and he the heretical Theodoric; yet they were regarded as valid.

In the second place, the emperors, directly or indirectly, took an active part in all but two of the ecumenical councils summoned by them, and held the presidency. Constantine the Great, Marcian, and his wife Pulcheria, Constantine Progonatus, Irene, and Basil the Macedonian, attended in person; but generally the emperors, like the Roman bishops (who were never present themselves), were represented by delegates or commissioners, clothed with full authority for the occasion. These deputies opened the sessions by reading the imperial edict (in Latin and Greek) and other documents. They presided in conjunction with the patriarchs, conducted the entire course of the transactions, preserved order and security, closed the council, and signed the acts either at the head or at the foot of the signatures of the bishops. In this prominent position they sometimes exercised, when they had a theological interest or opinion of their own, no small influence on the discussions and decisions, though they had no votum; as the presiding officers of deliberative and legislative bodies generally have no vote, except when the decision of a question depends upon their voice.

To this presidency of the emperor or of his commissioners the acts of the councils and the Greek historians often refer. Even Pope Stephen V. (a.d. 817) writes, that Constantine the Great presided in the council of Nice. According to Eusebius, he introduced the principal matters of business with a solemn discourse, constantly attended the sessions, and took the place of honor in the assembly. His presence among the bishops at the banquet, which he gave them at the close of the council, seemed to that panegyrical historian a type of Christ among his saints! This prominence of Constantine in the most celebrated and the most important of all the councils is the more remarkable, since at that time he had not yet even been baptized. When Marcian and Pulcheria appeared with their court at the council of Chalcedon, to confirm its decrees, they were greeted by the assembled bishops in the bombastic style of the East, as defenders of the faith, as pillars of orthodoxy, as enemies and persecutors of heretics; the emperor as a second Constantine, a new Paul, a new David; the empress as a second Helena; with other high-sounding predicates. The second and fifth general councils were the only ones at which the emperor was not represented, and in them the presidency was in the hands of the patriarchs of Constantinople.

But together with the imperial commissioners, or in their absence, the different patriarchs or their representatives, especially the legates of the Roman bishop, the most powerful of the patriarchs, took part in the presiding office. This was the case at the third and fourth, and the sixth, seventh, and eighth universal councils.

For the emperor’s connection with the council had reference rather to the conduct of business and to the external affairs of the synod, than to its theological and religious discussions. This distinction appears in the well-known dictum of Constantine respecting a double episcopate, which we have already noticed. And at the Nicene council the emperor acted accordingly. He paid the bishops greater reverence than his heathen predecessors had shown the Roman senators. He wished to be a servant, not a judge, of the successors of the apostles, who are constituted priests and gods on earth. After his opening address, he “resigned the word” to the (clerical) officers of the council, by whom probably Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, Eustathius of Antioch, and Hosius of Cordova — the latter as special friend of the emperor, and as representative of the Western churches and perhaps of the bishop of Rome — are to be understood. The same distinction between a secular and spiritual presidency meets us in Theodosius II., who sent the comes Candidian as his deputy to the third general council, with full power over the entire business proceedings, but none over theological matters themselves; “for” — wrote he to the council — ,“it is not proper that one who does not belong to the catalogue of most holy bishops, should meddle in ecclesiastical discussions.” Yet Cyril of Alexandria presided at this council, and conducted the business, at first alone, afterward in conjunction with the papal legates; while Candidian supported the Nestorian opposition, which held a council of its own under the patriarch John of Antioch.

Finally, from the emperors proceeded the ratification of the councils. Partly by their signatures, partly by special edicts, they gave the decrees of the council legal validity; they raised them to laws of the realm; they took pains to have them observed, and punished the disobedient with deposition and banishment. This was done by Constantine the Great for the decrees of Nice; by Theodosius the Great for those of Constantinople; by Marcian for those of Chalcedon. The second ecumenical council expressly prayed the emperor for such sanction, since he was present neither in person nor by commission. The papal confirmation, on the contrary, was not considered necessary, until after the fourth general council, in 451. And notwithstanding this, Justinian broke through the decrees of the fifth council, of 553, without the consent, and in fact despite the intimated refusal of Pope Vigilius. In the middle ages, however, the case was reversed. The influence of the pope on the councils increased, and that of the emperor declined; or rather, the German emperor never claimed so preëminent a position in the church as the Byzantine. Yet the relation of the pope to a general council, the question which of the two is above the other, is still a point of controversy between the curialist or ultramontane and the episcopal or Gallican schools.

Apart from this predominance of the emperor and his commissioners, the character of the ecumenical councils was thoroughly hierarchical. In the apostolic council at Jerusalem, the elders and the brethren took part with the apostles, and the decision went forth in the name of the whole congregation. But this republican or democratic element, so to call it, had long since given way before the spirit of aristocracy. The bishops alone, as the successors and heirs of the apostles, the ecclesia docens, were members of the councils. Hence, in the fifth canon of Nice, even a provincial synod is termed “the general assembly of the bishops of the province.” The presbyters and deacons took part, indeed, in the deliberations, and Athanasius, though at the time only a deacon, exerted probably more influence on the council of Nice by his zeal and his gifts, than most of the bishops; but they had no votum decisivum, except when, like the Roman legates, they represented their bishops. The laity were entirely excluded.

Yet it must be remembered, that the bishops of that day were elected by the popular voice. So far as that went, they really represented the Christian people, and were not seldom called to account by the people for their acts, though they voted in their own name as successors of the apostles. Eusebius felt bound to justify, his vote at Nice before his diocese in Caesarea, and the Egyptian bishops at Chalcedon feared an uproar in their congregations.

Furthermore, the councils, in an age of absolute despotism, sanctioned the principle of common public deliberation, as the best means of arriving at truth and settling controversy. They revived the spectacle of the Roman senate in ecclesiastical form, and were the forerunners of representative government and parliamentary legislation.

In matters of discipline the majority decided; but in matters of faith unanimity was required, though, if necessary, it was forced by the excision of the dissentient minority. In the midst of the assembly an open copy of the Gospels lay upon a desk or table, as, a symbol of the presence of Christ, whose infallible word is the rule of all doctrine. Subsequently the ecclesiastical canons and the relics of the saints were laid in similar state. The bishops — at least according to later usage — sat in a circle, in the order of the dates of their ordination or the rank of their sees; behind them, the priests; before or beside them, the deacons. The meetings were opened and closed with religious solemnities in liturgical style. In the ancient councils the various subjects were discussed in open synod, and the Acts of the councils contain long discourses and debates. But in the council of Trent the subjects of action were wrought up in separate committees, and only laid before the whole synod for ratification. The vote was always taken by heads, till the council of Constance, when it was taken by nations, to avoid the preponderance of the Italian prelates.

The jurisdiction of the ecumenical councils covered the entire legislation of the church, all matters of Christian faith and practice (fidei et morum), and all matters of organization arid worship. The doctrinal decrees were called dogmata or symbola; the disciplinary, canones. At the same time, the councils exercised, when occasion required, the highest judicial authority, in excommunicating bishops and patriarchs.

The authority of these councils in the decision of all points of controversy was supreme and final.

Their doctrinal decisions were early invested with infallibility; the promises of the Lord respecting the indestructibleness of his church, his own perpetual presence with the ministry, and the guidance of the Spirit of truth, being applied in the full sense to those councils, as representing the whole church. After the example of the apostolic council, the usual formula for a decree was: Visum est Sprirtui Sancto et nobis. Constantine the Great, in a circular letter to the churches, styles the decrees of the Nicene council a divine command; a phrase, however, in reference to which the abuse of the word divine, in the language of the Byzantine despots, must not be forgotten. Athanasius says, with reference to the doctrine of the divinity of Christ: “What God has spoken by the council of Nice, abides forever.” The council of Chalcedon pronounced the decrees of the Nicene fathers unalterable statutes, since God himself had spoken through them. The council of Ephesus, in the sentence of deposition against Nestorius, uses the formula: “The Lord Jesus Christ, whom he has blasphemed, determines through this most holy council.” Pope Leo speaks of an “irretractabilis consensus” of the council of Chalcedon upon the doctrine of the person of Christ. Pope Gregory the Great even placed the first four councils, which refuted and destroyed respectively the heresies and impieties of Arius, Macedonius, Nestorius, and Eutyches, on a level with the four canonical Gospels. In like manner Justinian puts the dogmas of the first four councils on the same footing with the Holy Scriptures, and their canons by the side of laws of the realm. The remaining three general councils have neither a theological importance, nor therefore an authority, equal to that of those first four, which laid the foundations of ecumenical orthodoxy. Otherwise Gregory would have mentioned also the fifth council, of 553, in the passage to which we have just referred. And even among the first four there is a difference of rank; the councils of Nice and Chalcedon standing highest in the character of their results.

Not so with the rules of discipline prescribed in the canones. These were never considered universally binding, like the symbols of faith; since matters of organization and usage, pertaining rather to the external form of the church, are more or less subject to the vicissitude of time. The fifteenth canon of the council of Nice, which prohibited and declared invalid the transfer of the clergy from one place to another, Gregory Nazianzen, fifty-seven years later (382), reckons among statutes long dead. Gregory himself repeatedly changed his location, and Chrysostom was called from Antioch to Constantinople. Leo I. spoke with strong disrespect of the third canon of the second ecumenical council, for assigning to the bishop of Constantinople the first rank after the bishop of Rome; and for the same reason be protested against the twenty-eighth canon of the fourth ecumenical council. Indeed the Roman church has made no point of adopting all the disciplinary laws enacted by those synods.

Augustine, the ablest and the most devout of the fathers, conceived, in the best vein of his age, a philosophical view of this authority of the councils, which strikes a wise and wholesome mean between the extremes of veneration and disparagement, and approaches the free spirit of evangelical Protestantism. He justly subordinates these councils to the Holy Scriptures, which are the highest and the perfect rule of faith, and supposes that the decrees of a council may be, not indeed set aside and repealed, yet enlarged and completed by, the deeper research of a later day. They embody, for the general need, the results already duly prepared by preceding theological controversies, and give the consciousness of the church, on the subject in question, the clearest and most precise expression possible at the time. But this consciousness itself is subject to development. While the Holy Scriptures present the truth unequivocally and infallibly, and allow no room for doubt, the judgment of bishops may be corrected and enriched with new truths from the word of God, by the wiser judgment of other bishops; the judgment of the provincial council by that of a general; and the views of one general council by those of a later. In this Augustine presumed, that all the transactions of a council were conducted in the spirit of Christian humility, harmony, and love; but had he attended the council of Ephesus, in 431, to which he was summoned about the time of his death, he would, to his grief, have found the very opposite spirit reigning there. Augustine, therefore, manifestly acknowledges a gradual advancement of the church doctrine, which reaches its corresponding expression from time to time through the general councils; but a progress within the truth, without positive error. For in a certain sense, as against heretics, he made the authority of Holy Scripture dependent on the authority of the catholic church, in his famous dictum against the Manichaean heretics: “I would not believe the gospel, did not the authority of the catholic church compel me.” In like manner Vincentius Lerinensis teaches, that the church doctrine passes indeed through various stages of growth in knowledge, and becomes more and more clearly defined in opposition to ever-rising errors, but can never become altered or dismembered.

The Protestant church makes the authority of the general councils, and of all ecclesiastical tradition, depend on the degree of its conformity to the Holy Scriptures; while the Greek and Roman churches make Scripture and tradition coordinate. The Protestant church justly holds the first four general councils in high, though not servile, veneration, and has received their statements of doctrine into her confessions of faith, because she perceives in them, though compassed with human imperfection, the clearest and most suitable expression of the teaching of the Scriptures respecting the Trinity and the divine-human person of Christ. Beyond these statements the judgment of the church (which must be carefully distinguished from theological speculation) has not to this day materially advanced; — the highest tribute to the wisdom and importance of those councils. But this is not saying that the Nicene and the later Athanasian creeds are the non plus ultra of all the church’s knowledge of the articles therein defined. Rather is it the duty of theology and of the church, while prizing and holding fast those earlier attainments, to study the same problems ever anew, to penetrate further and further these sacred fundamental mysteries of Christianity, and to bring to light new treasures from the inexhaustible mines of the Word of God, under the guidance of the same Holy Spirit, who lives and works in the church at this day as mightily as he did in the fifth century and the fourth. Christology, for example, by the development of the doctrine of the two states of Christ in the Lutheran church, and of the three offices of Christ in the Reformed, has been substantially enriched; the old Catholic doctrine, which was fixed with unerring tact at the council of Chalcedon, being directly concerned only with the two natures of Christ, as against the dualism of Nestorius and the monophysitism of Eutyches.

With this provision for further and deeper soundings of Scripture truth, Protestantism feels itself one with the ancient Greek and Latin church in the bond of ecumenical orthodoxy. But toward the disciplinary canons of the ecumenical councils its position is still more free and independent than that of the Roman church. Those canons are based upon an essentially unprotestant, that is, hierarchical and sacrificial conception of church order and worship, which the Lutheran and Anglican reformation in part, and the Zwinglian and Calvinistic almost entirely renounced. Yet this is not to say that much may not still be learned, in the sphere of discipline, from those councils, and that perhaps many an ancient custom or institution is not worthy to be revived in the spirit of evangelical freedom.

The moral character of those councils was substantially parallel with that of earlier and later ecclesiastical assemblies, and cannot therefore be made a criterion of their historical importance and their dogmatic authority. They faithfully reflect both the light and the shade of the ancient church. They bear the heavenly treasure in earthen vessels. If even among the inspired apostles at the council of Jerusalem there was much debate, and soon after, among Peter, Paul, and Barnabas, a violent, though only temporary collision, we must of course expect much worse of the bishops of the Nicene and the succeeding age, and of a church already interwoven with a morally degenerate state. Together with abundant talents, attainments, and virtues, there were gathered also at the councils ignorance, intrigues, and partisan passions, which had already been excited on all sides by long controversies preceding and now met and arrayed themselves, as hostile armies, for open combat. For those great councils, all occasioned by controversies on the most important and the most difficult problems of theology, are, in fact, to the history of doctrine, what decisive battles are to the history of war. Just because religion is the deepest and holiest interest of man, are religious passions wont to be the most violent and bitter; especially in a time when all classes, from imperial court to market stall, take the liveliest interest in theological speculation, and are drawn into the common vortex of excitement. Hence the notorious rabies theologorum was more active in the fourth and fifth centuries than it has been in any other period of history, excepting, perhaps, in the great revolution of the sixteenth century, and the confessional polemics of the seventeenth.

We have on this point the testimony of contemporaries and of the acts of the councils themselves. St. Gregory Nazianzen, who, in the judgment of Socrates, was the most devout and eloquent man of his age, and who himself, as bishop of Constantinople, presided for a time over the second ecumenical council, had so bitter an observation and experience as even to lose, though without sufficient reason, all confidence in councils, and to call them in his poems “assemblies of cranes and geese.” “To tell the truth” thus in 382 (a year after the second ecumenical council, and doubtless including that assembly in his allusion) he answered Procopius, who in the name of the emperor summoned him in vain to a synod — “to tell the truth, I am inclined to shun every collection of bishops, because I have never yet seen that a synod came to a good end, or abated evils instead of increasing them. For in those assemblies (and I do not think I express myself too strongly here) indescribable contentiousness and ambition prevail, and it is easier for one to incur the reproach of wishing to set himself up as judge of the wickedness of others, than to attain any success in putting the wickedness away. Therefore I have withdrawn myself, and have found rest to my soul only in solitude.” It is true, the contemplative Gregory had an aversion to all public life, and in such views yielded unduly to his personal inclinations. And in any case he is inconsistent; for he elsewhere speaks with great respect of the council of Nice, and was, next to Athanasius, the leading advocate of the Nicene creed. Yet there remains enough in his many unfavorable pictures of the bishops and synods of his time, to dispel all illusions of their immaculate purity. Beausobre correctly observes, that either Gregory the Great must be a slanderer, or the bishops of his day were very remiss. In the fifth century it was no better, but rather worse. At the third general council, at Ephesus, 431, all accounts agree that shameful intrigue, uncharitable lust of condemnation, and coarse violence of conduct were almost as prevalent as in the notorious robber-council of Ephesus in 449; though with the important difference, that the former synod was contending for truth, the latter for error. Even at Chalcedon, the introduction of the renowned expositor and historian Theodoret provoked a scene, which almost involuntarily reminds us of the modern brawls of Greek and Roman monks at the holy sepulchre under the restraining supervision of the Turkish police. His Egyptian opponents shouted with all their might: “The faith is gone! Away with him, this teacher of Nestorius!” His friends replied with equal violence: “They forced us [at the robber-council] by blows to subscribe; away with the Manichaeans, the enemies of Flavian, the enemies of the faith! Away with the murderer Dioscurus? Who does not know his wicked deeds? The Egyptian bishops cried again: Away with the Jew, the adversary of God, and call him not bishop!” To which the oriental bishops answered: “Away with the rioters, away with the murderers! The orthodox man belongs to the council!” At last the imperial commissioners interfered, and put an end to what they justly called an unworthy and useless uproar.

In all these outbreaks of human passion, however, we must not forget that the Lord was sitting in the ship of the church, directing her safely through the billows and storms. The Spirit of truth, who was not to depart from her, always triumphed over error at last, and even glorified himself through the weaknesses of his instruments. Upon this unmistakable guidance from above, only set out by the contrast of human imperfections, our reverence for the councils must be based. Soli Deo gloria; or, in the language of Chrysostom: Δόχα τῷ θεῷ πάντων ἕνεκεν!


66. List of the Ecumenical Councils of the Ancient Church

We only add, by way of a general view, a list of all the ecumenical councils of the Graeco-Roman church, with a brief account of their character and work.

1. The Concilium Nicaenum I., a.d. 325; held at Nicaea in Bithynia, a lively commercial town near the imperial residence of Nicomedia, and easily accessible by land and sea. It consisted of three hundred and eighteen bishops, besides a large number of priests, deacons, and acolytes, mostly from the East, and was called by Constantine the Great, for the settlement of the Arian controversy. Having become, by decisive victories in 323, master of the whole Roman empire, he desired to complete the restoration of unity and peace with the help of the dignitaries of the church. The result of this council was the establishment (by anticipation) of the doctrine of the true divinity of Christ, the identity of essence between the Son and the Father. The fundamental importance of this dogma, the number, learning, piety and wisdom of the bishops, many of whom still bore the marks of the Diocletian persecution, the personal presence of the first Christian emperor, of Eusebius, “the father of church history,” and of Athanasius, “the father of orthodoxy” (though at that time only archdeacon), as well as the remarkable character of this epoch, combined in giving to this first general synod a peculiar weight and authority. It is styled emphatically “the great and holy council,” holds the highest place among all the councils, especially with the Greeks, and still lives in the Nicene Creed, which is second in authority only to the ever venerable Apostles’ Creed. This symbol was, however, not finally settled and completed in its present form (excepting the still later Latin insertion of filioque), until the second general council. Besides this the fathers assembled at Nicaea issued a number of canons, usually reckoned twenty on various questions of discipline; the most important being those on the rights of metropolitans, the time of Easter, and the validity of heretical baptism.

2. The Concilium Constantinopolitanum I., a.d. 381 summoned by Theodosius the Great, and held at the imperial city, which had not even name in history till five years after the former council. This council, however, was exclusively oriental, and comprised only a hundred and fifty bishops, as the emperor had summoned none but the adherents of the Nicene party, which had become very much reduced under the previous reign. The emperor did not attend it. Meletius of Antioch was president till his death; then Gregory Nazianzen; and, after his resignation, the newly elected patriarch Nectarius of Constantinople. The council enlarged the Nicene confession by an article on the divinity and personality of the Holy Ghost, in opposition to the Macedonians or Pneumatomachists (hence the title Symbolum Nicaeno-Constantinopolitanum), and issued seven more canons, of which the Latin versions, however, give only the first four, leaving the genuineness of the other three, as many think, in doubt.

3. The Concilium Ephesinum, a.d. 431; called by Theodosius II., in connection with the Western co-emperor Valentinian III., and held under the direction of the ambitious and violent Cyril of Alexandria. This council consisted of, at first, a hundred and sixty bishops, afterward a hundred and ninety-eight, including, for the first time, papal delegates from Rome, who were instructed not to mix in the debates, but to sit as judges over the opinions of the rest. It condemned the error of Nestorius on the relation of the two natures in Christ, without, stating clearly the correct doctrine. It produced, therefore, but a negative result, and is the least important of the first four councils, as it stands lowest also in moral character. It is entirely rejected by the Nestorian or Chaldaic Christians. Its six canons relate exclusively to Nestorian and Pelagian affairs, and are wholly omitted by Dionysius Exiguus in his collection.

4. The Concilium Chalcedonense, a.d. 451; summoned by the emperor Marcian, at the instance of the Roman bishop Leo; held at Chalcedon in Bithynia, opposite Constantinople; and composed of five hundred and twenty (some say six hundred and thirty) bishops. Among these were three delegates of the bishop of Rome, two bishops of Africa, and the rest all Greeks and Orientals. The fourth general council fixed the orthodox doctrine of the person of Christ in opposition to Eutychianism and Nestorianism, and enacted thirty canons (according to some manuscripts only twenty-seven or twenty-eight), of which the twenty-eighth was resisted by the Roman legates and Leo I. This was the most numerous, and next to the Nicene, the most important of all the general councils, but is repudiated by all the Monophysite sects of the Eastern church.

5. The Concilium Constantinopolitanum II. was assembled a full century later, by the emperor Tustinian, a.d. 553, without consent of the pope, for the adjustment of the tedious Monophysite controversy. It was presided over by the patriarch Eutychius of Constantinople, consisted of only one hundred and sixty-four bishops, and issued fourteen anathemas against the three chapters, so called, or the christological views of three departed bishops and divines, Theodore of Mopsueste, Theodoret of Cyros, and Ibas of Edessa, who were charged with leaning toward the Nestorian heresy. The fifth council was not recognized, however, by many Western bishops, even after the vacillating Pope Vigilius gave in his assent to it, and it induced a temporary schism between Upper Italy and the Roman see. As to importance, it stands far below the four previous councils. Its Acts, in Greek, with the exception of the fourteen anathemas, are lost.

Besides these, there are two later councils, which have attained among the Greeks and Latins an undisputed ecumenical authority: the Third Council of Constantinople, under Constantine Progonatus, a.d. 680, which condemned Monothelitism (and Pope Honorius, † 638), and consummated the old Catholic christology; and the Second Council of Nicaea, under the empress Irene, a.d. 787, which sanctioned the image-worship of the Catholic church, but has no dogmatical importance.

Thus Nicaea — now the miserable Turkish hamlet Is-nik — has the honor of both opening and closing the succession of acknowledged ecumenical councils.

From this time forth the Greeks and Latins part, and ecumenical councils are no longer to be named. The Greeks considered the second Trullan (or the fourth Constantinopolitan) council of 692, which enacted no symbol of faith, but canons only, not an independent eighth council, but an appendix to the fifth and sixth ecumenical councils (hence, called the Quinisexta sc. synodus); against which view the Latin church has always protested. The Latin church, on the other hand, elevates the fourth council of Constantinople, a.d. 869, which deposed the patriarch Photius, the champion of the Greek church in her contest with the Latin, to the dignity of an eighth ecumenical council; but this council was annulled for the Greek church by the subsequent restoration of Photius. The Roman church also, in pursuance of her claims to exclusive catholicity, adds to the seven or eight Greek councils twelve or more Latin general councils, down to the Vatican (1870); but to all these the Greek and Protestant churches can concede only a sectional character. Three hundred and thirty-six years elapsed between the last undisputed Graeco-Latin ecumenical council of the ancient church (a.d. 787), and the first Latin ecumenical council of the medieval church (1123). The authority of the papal see had to be established in the intervening centuries.


67. Books of Ecclesiastical Law

I. Bibiliotheca juris canonici veteris, ed. Voellus (theologian of the Sorbonne) and Justellus (Justeau, counsellor and secretary to the French king), Par. 1661, 2 vols. fol. (Vol. i. contains the canons of the universal church, Greek and Latin, the ecclesiastical canons of Dionysius Exiguus, or of the old Roman church, the canons of the African church, etc. See a list of contents in Darling’s Cyclop. Bibliographica, p. 1702 sq.)

II. See the literature in vol. ii. §56. The brothers Ballerini: De antiquis tum editis tum ineditis collectionibus et collectoribus canonum ad Gratianum usque in ed. Opp. Leon M. Ven., 1753 sqq. The treatises of Quesnel, Marca, Constant, Drey, Theiner, etc., on the history of the collections of canons. Comp. Ferd. Walther: Lehrbuch des Kirchenrechts, p. 109 sqq., 8th ed., 1839.

The universal councils, through their disciplinary enactments or canons, were the main fountain of ecclesiastical law. To their canons were added the decrees of the most important provincial councils of the fourth century, at Ancyra (314), Neo-Caesarea (314), Antioch (341), Sardica (343), Gangra (365), and Laodicea (between 343 and 381); and in a third series, the orders of eminent bishops, popes, and emperors. From these sources arose, after the beginning of the fifth century, or at all events before the council of Chalcedon, various collections of the church laws in the East, in North Africa, in Italy, Gaul, and Spain; which, however, had only provincial authority, and in many respects did not agree among themselves. A codex canonum ecclesiae universae did not exist. The earlier collections because eclipsed by two, which, the one in the West, the other in the East, attained the highest consideration.

The most important Latin collection comes from the Roman, though by descent Scythian, abbot Dionysius Exiguus, who also, notwithstanding the chronological error at the base of his reckoning, immortalized himself by the introduction of the Christian calendar, the “Dionysian Era.” It was a great thought of this “little” monk to view Christ as the turning point of ages, and to introduce this view into chronology. About the year 500 Dionysius translated for the bishop Stephen of Salona a collection of canons from Greek into Latin, which is still extant, with its prefatory address to Stephen. It contains, first, the fifty so-called Apostolic Canons, which pretend to have been collected by Clement of Rome, but in truth were a gradual production of the third and fourth centuries; then the canons of the most important councils of the fourth and fifth centuries, including those of Sardica and Africa; and lastly, the papal decretal letters from Siricius (385) to Anastasius II. (498). The Codex Dionysii was gradually enlarged by additions, genuine and spurious, and through the favor of the popes, attained the authority of law almost throughout the West. Yet there were other collections also in use, particularly in Spain and North Africa.

Some fifty years after Dionysius, John Scholasticus, previously an advocate, then presbyter at Antioch, and after 564 patriarch of Constantinople, published a collection of canons in Greek, which surpassed the former in completeness and convenience of arrangement, and for this reason, as well as the eminence of the author, soon rose to universal authority in the Greek church. In it he gives eighty-five Apostolic Canons, and the ordinances of the councils of Ancyra (314) and Nicaea (325), down to that of Chalcedon (451), in fifty titles, according to the order of subjects. The second Trullan council (Quinisextum, of 692), which passes with the Greeks for ecumenical, adopted the eighty-five Apostolic Canons, while it rejected the Apostolic Constitutions, because, though, like the canons, of apostolic origin, they had been early adulterated. Thus arose the difference between the Greek and Latin churches in reference to the number of the so-called Apostolic canons; the Latin church retaining only the fifty of the Dionysian collection.

The same John, while patriarch of Constantinople, compiled from the Novelles of Justinian a collection of the ecclesiastical state-laws or νόμοι, as they were called in distinction from the synodal church-laws or κανόνες. Practical wants then led to a union of the two, under the title of Nomocanon.

These books of ecclesiastical law served to complete and confirm the hierarchical organization, to regulate the life of the clergy, and to promote order and discipline; but they tended also to fix upon the church an outward legalism, and to embarrass the spirit of progress.