The Development of an Ecclesiastical Rule of Law

Hamilton Hess

in The Early Development of Canon Law and the Council of Serdica

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780198269755
Published online April 2004 | e-ISBN: 9780191601163 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Early Christian Studies

 The Development of an Ecclesiastical Rule of Law

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Abundant evidence exists for the adaptation of civil practices, inclusive of the taking of minutes, for use in church councils. The minutes of the Council of Carthage held under Cyprian in September 256, the canons of the Council of Serdica, and of the Councils of Carthage in 345/8 and 390 bear clear witness to the employment of standard Roman parliamentary procedure in the presentation of topics, the mode of discussion, and the manner of reaching conclusions. It is also clear from the same evidence and from the models employed that the agreements were accepted for observance by the bishops who enacted them and were not normally, and certainly not widely, regarded at the time as universally binding regulations; they reflected instead the morally suasive conventions in Roman culture: consensus and the personal auctoritas of the decision makers. The concept and employment of church law, or canon law, as a code of universally or regionally binding statutes grew slowly, and in so doing it was largely inspired by the Roman civil code. This influence and the parallels in character between the ecclesiastical and civil codes can be observed in the shaping of the late‐fourth‐ to sixth‐century canonical collections that are discussed in Ch. 2.

Keywords: auctoritas; canon law; canonical collections; civil practices; consensus; councils; minutes; parliamentary procedure; Roman civil code

Chapter.  13920 words. 

Subjects: Early Christianity

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