The Synod of Laodicea
The Council of Laodicea was a regional Christian synod of approximately thirty clerics from Asia Minor which assembled about 363–364 in Laodicea, Phrygia Pacatiana. The major concerns of the council involved regulating the conduct of church members. The council expressed its decrees in the form of written rules or canons. Among the sixty canons decreed, several aimed at:
- Maintaining order among bishops, clerics and laypeople (canons 3–5, 11–13, 21–27, 40–44, 56–57)
- Enforcing modest behavior of clerics and laypeople (4, 27, 30, 36, 53–55)
- Regulating approach to heretics (canons 6–10, 31–34, 37), Jews (canons 16, 37–38) and pagans (canon 39)
- Outlawing the keeping of the Sabbath (Saturday), and encouraging rest on Sunday (canon 29)
- Outlining liturgical practices (canons 14–20, 21–23, 25, 28, 58–59)
- Restrictions during lent (canons 45, 49–52)
- Admission and instruction of catechumens and neophytes (canons 45–48)
- Specifying a biblical canon (canons 59–60)
The 59th canon forbade the readings in churches of uncanonical books. The 60th canon listed canonical books, with the New Testament containing 26 books, omitting the Book of Revelation, and the Old Testament including 22 books from the Tanakh and several deuterocanonical books including I and II Esdras, the Book of Baruch, and the Epistle of Jeremiah. It is also believed that they may have demonized the “Second Book of Enoch”, which led to its degeneration. Around 350, Cyril of Jerusalem produced a list of biblical books matching that from the Council of Laodicea.
The Synod of Laodicea (363 A.D.)
The Canons of the Synod Held in the City of Laodicea, in Phrygia Pacatiana, in which Many Blessed Fathers from Divers Provinces of Asia Were Gathered Together:
Source. Translated by Henry Percival. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1900.)
The holy synod which assembled at Laodicea in Phrygia Pacatiana, from various regions of Asia; set forth the ecclesiastical definitions which are hereunder annexed.
It is right, according to the ecclesiastical Canon, that the Communion should by indulgence be given to those who have freely and lawfully joined in second marriages, not having previously made a secret marriage; after a short space, which is to be spent by them in prayer and fasting.
He who has been recently baptized ought not to be promoted to the sacerdotal order.
They who are of the sacerdotal order ought not to lend and receive usury, nor what is called hemioliæ.
Balsamon: “This canon calls elections
laying on of hands, and says that since in elections unworthy things are often said with regard to those who are elected, therefore they should not take place in the presence of any that might happen to come to hear.”
It is not permitted to heretics to enter the house of God while they continue in heresy.
Persons converted from the heresy of those who are called Phrygians, even should they be among those reputed by them as clergymen, and even should they be called the very chiefest, are with all care to be both instructed and baptized by the bishops and presbyters of the Church.
The members of the Church are not allowed to meet in the cemeteries, nor attend the so-called martyries of any of the heretics, for prayer or service; but such as so do, if they be communicants, shall be excommunicated for a time; but if they repent and confess that they have sinned they shall be received.
The members of the Church shall not indiscriminately marry their children to heretics.
The election of those who are to be appointed to the priesthood is not to be committed to the multitude.
The holy things are not to be sent into other dioceses at the feast of Easter by way of eulogiæ
No others shall sing in the Church, save only the canonical singers, who go up into the ambo and sing from a book.
The Psalms are not to be joined together in the congregations, but a lesson shall intervene after every psalm.
The same service of prayers is to be said always both at nones and at vespers.
After the sermons of the Bishops, the prayer for the catechumens is to be made first by itself; and after the catechumens have gone out, the prayer for those who are under penance; and, after these have passed under the hand [of the Bishop] and departed, there should then be offered the three prayers of the faithful, the first to be said entirely in silence, the second and third aloud, and then the [kiss of] peace is to be given. And, after the presbyters have given the [kiss of] peace to the Bishop, then the laity are to give it [to one another], and so the Holy Oblation is to be completed. And it is lawful to the priesthood alone to go to the Altar and [there] communicate.
It is not right for a deacon to sit in the presence of a presbyter, unless he be bidden by the presbyter to sit down. Likewise the deacons shall have worship of the subdeacons and all the [inferior] clergy.
The subdeacons have no right to a place in the Diaconicum, nor to touch the Lord’s vessels.
The subdeacon has no right to wear an orarium, nor to leave the doors.
The readers and singers have no right to wear an orarium, and to read or sing thus [habited].
No one of the priesthood, from presbyters to deacons, and so on in the ecclesiastical order to subdeacons, readers, singers, exorcists, door-keepers, or any of the class of the Ascetics, ought to enter a tavern.
A subdeacon must not give the Bread, nor bless the Cup.
They who have not been promoted [to that office] by the bishop, ought not to adjure, either in churches or in private houses.
Neither they of the priesthood, nor clergymen, nor laymen, who are invited to a love feast, may take away their portions, for this is to cast reproach on the ecclesiastical order.
It is not permitted to hold love feasts, as they are called, in the Lord’s Houses, or Churches, nor to eat and to spread couches in the house of God.
Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.
None of the priesthood, nor clerics [of lower rank] nor ascetics, nor any Christian or layman, shall wash in a bath with women; for this is the greatest reproach among the heathen.
It is not lawful to make marriages with all [sorts of] heretics, nor to give our sons and daughters to them; but rather to take of them, if they promise to become Christians.
It is unlawful to receive the eulogiæ of heretics, for they are rather ἀλογίαι [i.e., follies], than eulogiæ [i.e., blessings].
No one shall join in prayers with heretics or schismatics.
No Christian shall forsake the martyrs of Christ, and turn to false martyrs, that is, to those of the heretics, or those who formerly were heretics; for they are aliens from God. Let those, therefore, who go after them, be anathema.
Christians must not forsake the Church of God, and go away and invoke angels and gather assemblies, which things are forbidden. If, therefore, any one shall be found engaged in this covert idolatry, let him be anathema; for he has forsaken our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and has gone over to idolatry.
They who are of the priesthood, or of the clergy, shall not be magicians, enchanters, mathematicians, or astrologers; nor shall they make what are called amulets, which are chains for their own souls. And those who wear such, we command to be cast out of the Church.
It is not lawful to receive portions sent from the feasts of Jews or heretics, nor to feast together with them.
It is not lawful to receive unleavened bread from the Jews, nor to be partakers of their impiety.
It is not lawful to feast together with the heathen, and to be partakers of their godlessness.
Bishops called to a synod must not be guilty of contempt, but must attend, and either teach, or be taught, for the reformation of the Church and of others. And if such an one shall be guilty of contempt, he will condemn himself, unless he be detained by ill health.
None of the priesthood nor of the clergy may go on a journey, without the bidding of the Bishop.
None of the priesthood nor of the clergy may travel without letters canonical.
The subdeacons may not leave the doors to engage in the prayer, even for a short time.
Women may not go to the altar.
[Candidates] for baptism are not to be received after the second week in Lent.
They who are to be baptized must learn the faith [Creed] by heart, and recite it to the bishop, or to the presbyters, on the fifth day of the week.
They who are baptized in sickness and afterwards recover, must learn the Creed by heart and know that the Divine gifts have been vouchsafed them.
They who are baptized must after Baptism be anointed with the heavenly chrism, and be partakers of the Kingdom of Christ.
During Lent the Bread must not be offered except on the Sabbath Day and on the Lord’s Day only.
The fast must not be broken on the fifth day of the last week in Lent [i.e., on Maunday Thursday], and the whole of Lent be dishonoured; but it is necessary to fast during all the Lenten season by eating only dry meats.
The nativities of Martyrs are not to be celebrated in Lent, but commemorations of the holy Martyrs are to be made on the Sabbaths and Lord’s days.
Marriages and birthday feasts are not to be celebrated in Lent.
Christians, when they attend weddings, must not join in wanton dances, but modestly dine or breakfast, as is becoming to Christians.
Members of the priesthood and of the clergy must not witness the plays at weddings or banquets; but, before the players enter, they must rise and depart.
Neither members of the priesthood nor of the clergy, nor yet laymen, may club together for drinking entertainments.
Presbyters may not enter and take their seats in the bema before the entrance of the Bishop: but they must enter with the Bishop, unless he be at home sick, or absent.
Bishops must not be appointed in villages or country districts, but visitors; and those who have been already appointed must do nothing without the consent of the bishop of the city. Presbyters, in like manner, must do nothing without the consent of the bishop.
The Oblation must not be made by bishops or presbyters in any private houses.
No psalms composed by private individuals nor any uncanonical books may be read in the church, but only the Canonical Books of the Old and New Testaments.
These are all the books of Old Testament appointed to be read: 1, Genesis of the world; 2, The Exodus from Egypt; 3, Leviticus; 4, Numbers; 5, Deuteronomy; 6, Joshua, the son of Nun; 7, Judges, Ruth; 8, Esther; 9, Of the Kings, First and Second; 10, Of the Kings, Third and Fourth; 11, Chronicles, First and Second; 12, Esdras, First and Second; 13, The Book of Psalms; 14, The Proverbs of Solomon; 15, Ecclesiastes; 16, The Song of Songs; 17, Job; 18, The Twelve Prophets; 19, Isaiah; 20, Jeremiah, and Baruch, the Lamentations, and the Epistle; 21, Ezekiel; 22, Daniel.
And these are the books of the New Testament: Four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; The Acts of the Apostles; Seven Catholic Epistles, to wit, one of James, two of Peter, three of John, one of Jude; Fourteen Epistles of Paul, one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, one to the Ephesians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, one to the Hebrews, two to Timothy, one to Titus, and one to Philemon.