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Apostolical Canons / Approved Canons of the Fathers

Edited from a variety of translations (mentioned in the preface) by H. R. Percival

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51 Pages

Page 2

Prefatory Note.

As this volume only professes to contain the conciliar decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, it would seem that canons and rulings which were of private or quasi-private origin should have no place in it; and yet a very considerable number of such determinations are expressly approved by name in the Canons of the Synod in Trullo, which canons were received, to some extent at least (as we have seen), by the Seventh Ecumenical Council. Under these circumstances I have felt that the reader might justly expect to find some mention made of these decrees, which while indeed non-conciliar in origin, yet had received such high conciliar sanction. I have therefore placed a translation of the text of the "Apostolical Canons" with a brief introduction, and have reprinted Johnson's epitome of the other decrees and canons, supplying a few omissions and adding a few notes, chiefly taken from the Greek scholiasts, Zonaras and Balsamon. It is hoped that thus the present volume has been made practically complete, and that from it, any student can obtain a satisfactory knowledge of all the doctrinal definitions and of all the disciplinary enactments of the undivided Church.

The Apostolical Canons.


To affirm that the "Apostolical Canons" were a collection of canons made by the Apostles would be about as sensible as to affirm that the "Psalterium Davidicum" [559] was a collection of his own psalms made by David, or that the "Proverbs of Solomon" was a collection of proverbs made by Solomon.

Many of the Psalms had David for their composer; many of the Proverbs had Solomon for their originator; but neither the book we call "The Psalter" nor the book we call "The Proverbs" had David or Solomon for its compiler. The matter contained in the one is largely, many think chiefly, of Davidic origin, the matter contained in the other is no doubt Solomonic; and just so "The Apostolical Canons" may well be to a great extent of Apostolic origin, committed to writing, some possibly by the Apostles themselves, others by their immediate successors, who heard them at their mouth; and these at some period not far removed from the date of the Nicene Council (a.d. 325), probably earlier than the Council of Antioch, were gathered together into a code which has since then been somewhat enlarged and modified. This is the view of the matter to which the general drift of the learned seems to be moving, and it is substantially the view so ably defended by Bishop Beveridge in his Synodicon, and in his remarkably learned and convincing answer to his French opponent, [560] entitled Codex Canonum Ecclesiae Primitivae vindicatus ac illustratus. (This last volume, together with the "Preface to the Notes on the Apostolical Canons" has been reprinted in Vol. XII. of Bishop Beveridge's Works in the "Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology.") [561]

[559] The reader may remember that when it was proposed in a first draft to the Council of Trent to say the "Psalms of David," the Fathers refused to pass it as proposed, because the Psalter contained Psalms not by David, and substituted the expression "The Davidic Psalter" (Psalterium Davidicum).

[560] Matthieu de Larroque. in Annot. Bev. in Can. Apost. 1674.

[561] It is most unfortunate that the Rev. A. B. Grosart, LL.D., in the article "Beveridge" in that usually accurate and learned work, the Dictionary of English Biography, should have written "regretting" this republication of the Vindicatio, on the ground that Bp. Beveridge in its pages "demonstrates that he lacked the instincts of the genuine scholar as distinguished from the merely largely read man!" There seem to be a great many soidisant "genuine scholars" who lack all sense of humour!

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