twenty-eight (thirty) canons of Chalcedon; about the same time were added the four canons of the council of Constantinople of 381, under the name of which also appeared three (or seven) other canons of a later date. Towards the same date, also, the so-called “Apostolic Canons” were placed at the head of the group. Such was the condition of the Greek collection when it was translated and introduced into the West.
In the course of the 6th century the collection was completed by the addition of documents already in existence, but which had hitherto remained isolated, notably the canonical letters of several great bishops, Dionysius of Alexandria, St Basil and others. It was at this time that the Latin collection of Dionysius Exiguus became known; and just as he had given the Greek councils a place in his collection, so from him were borrowed the canons of councils which did not appear in the Greek collection—the twenty canons of Sardica (343), in the Greek text, which differs considerably from the Latin; and the council of Carthage of 410, which itself included, more or less completely, in 105 canons, the decisions of the African councils. Soon after came the council in Trullo (692), also called the Quinisextum, because it was considered as complementary to the two councils (5th and 6th ecumenical) of Constantinople (553 and 680), which had not made any disciplinary canons. This assembly elaborated 102 canons, which did not become part of the Western law till much later, on the initiative of Pope John VIII. (872-881). Now, in the second of its canons, the council in Trullo recognized Its final form.and sanctioned the Greek collection above mentioned; it enumerates all its articles, insists on the recognition of these canons, and at the same time prohibits the addition of others. As thus defined, the collection contains the following documents: firstly, the eighty-five Apostolic Canons, the Constitutions having been put aside as having suffered heretical alterations; secondly, the canons of the councils of Nicaea, Ancyra, Neocaesarea, Gangra, Antioch, Laodicea, Constantinople (381), Ephesus (the disciplinary canons of this council deal with the reception of the Nestorians, and were not communicated to the West), Chalcedon, Sardica, Carthage (that of 419, according to Dionysius), Constantinople (394); thirdly, the series of canonical letters of the following great bishops—Dionysius of Alexandria, Peter of Alexandria (the Martyr), Gregory Thaumaturgus, Athanasius, Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, Amphilochus of Iconium, Timotheus of Alexandria, Theophilus of Alexandria, Cyril of Alexandria, Gennadius of Constantinople; the canon of Cyprian of Carthage (the Martyr) is also mentioned, but with the note that it is only valid for Africa. With the addition of the twenty-two canons of the ecumenical council of Nicaea (787), this will give us the whole contents of the official collection of the Greek Church; since then it has remained unchanged. The law of the Greek Church was in reality rather the work of the Byzantine emperors.
The collection has had several commentators; we need only mention the commentaries of Photius (883), Zonaras (1120) and Balsamon (1170). A collection in which the texts are simply reproduced in their chronological order is obviously inconvenient; towards 550, Johannes Scholasticus, patriarch of Constantinople, drew up a methodical classification of them under fifty heads. Finally should be mentioned yet another kind of compilation still in use in the Greek Church, bearing Nomocanon. the name of nomocanon, because in them are inserted, side by side with the ecclesiastical canons, the imperial laws on each subject: the chief of them are the one bearing the name of Johannes Scholasticus, which belongs, however, to a later date, and that of Photius (883).
The canon law of the other Eastern Churches had no marked influence on the collections of the Western Church, so we need not speak of it here. While, from the 5th century onwards a certain unification in the ecclesiastical law began to take place within the sphere of the see of Constantinople, it was not till later that a similar result was arrived at in the West. For In the West. several centuries there is no mention of any but local collections of canons, and even these are not found till the 5th century; we have to come down to the 8th or even the 9th century before we find any trace of unification. This process was uniformly the result of the passing on of the various collections from one region to another.
The most remarkable, and the most homogeneous, as well as without doubt the most ancient of these local collections is that of the Church of Africa. It was formed, so to speak, automatically, owing to the plenary assemblies of the Africa. African episcopate held practically every year, at which it was customary first of all to read out the canons of the previous councils. This gave to the collection an official character. At the time of the Vandal invasion this collection comprised the canons of the council of Carthage under Gratus (about 348) and under Genethlius (390), the whole series of the twenty or twenty-two plenary councils held during the episcopate of Aurelius, and finally, those of the councils held at Byzacene. Of the last-named we have only fragments, and the series of the councils under Aurelius is very incomplete. The African collection has not come to us directly: we have two incomplete and confused arrangements of it, in two collections, that of the Hispana and that of Dionysius Exiguus. Dionysius knows only the council of 419, in connexion with the affair of Apiarius; but in this single text are reproduced, more or less fully, almost all the synods of the collection; this was the celebrated Concilium Africanum, so often quoted in the middle ages, which was also recognized by the Greeks. The Spanish collection divides the African canons among seven councils of Carthage and one of Mileve; but in many cases it ascribes them to the wrong source; for example, it gives under the title of the fourth council of Carthage, the Statuta Ecclesiae antiqua, an Arlesian compilation of Saint Caesarius, which has led to a number of incorrect references. Towards the middle of the 6th century a Carthaginian deacon, Fulgentius Ferrandus, drew up a Breviatio canonum, a methodical arrangement of the African collection, in the order of the subjects. From it we learn that the canons of Nicaea and the other Greek councils, up to that of Chalcedon, were also known in Africa.
The Roman Church, even more than the rest, governed itself according to its own customs and traditions. Up to the end of the 5th century the only canonical document of non-Roman origin which it officially recognized was
Rome. the group of canons of Nicaea, under which name were also included those of Sardica. A Latin version of the other Greek councils (the one referred to by Dionysius as prisca) was known, but no canonical use was made of it. The local law was founded on usage and on the papal letters called decretals. The latter were of two kinds: some were addressed to the bishops of the ecclesiastical province immediately subject to the pope; the others were issued in answer to questions submitted from various quarters; but in both cases the doctrine is the same. At the beginning of the 6th century the Roman Church adopted the double collection, though of private origin, which was drawn Dionysius Exiguus and his collection. up at that time by the monk Dionysius, known by the name of Dionysius Exiguus, which he himself had assumed as a sign of humility. He was a Scythian by birth, and did not come to Rome till after 496, his learning was considerable for his times, and to him we owe the employment of the Christian era and a new way of reckoning Easter. At the desire of Stephen, bishop of Salona, he undertook the task of making a new translation, from the original Greek text, of the canons of the Greek collection. The manuscript which he used contained only the first fifty of the Apostolic Canons; these he translated, and they thus became part of the law of the West. This part of the work of Dionysius was not added to later; it was otherwise with the second part. This
- For the further history of the law of the Greek Church and that of the Eastern Churches, see Vering, Kirchenrecht, §§ 14–183 (ed. 1893). The Russian Church, as we know, adopted the Greek ecclesiastical law.
- Edited by Pierre Pithou (Paris, 1588), and later by Chifflet, Fulg. Ferrandi opera (Dijon, 1694); reproduced in Migne, Patr. Lat. vol. 67, col. 949.