The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4

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Typical Synods and Creeds

Synod of Elvira

(Illustrating the problems the Church had to meet.)

When the holy and religious bishops had met in session in the Church of Elyira twenty-six presbyters being in attendance, and the deacons and people in general being present, they decreed as follows:

I. Concerning those who have sacrificed to idols after baptism.

It was enacted by them that anyone of adult age who after faith in the baptism of salvation shall have gone to the temple of an idol to sacrifice and shall have made sacrifice—which is a capital crime,— since it is the greatest sin—shall not receive communion at his death.

II. Concerning pagan priests who sacrifice after baptism.

It is decreed that flamens [pagan priests] who after receiving the baptism of regeneration have sacrificed to idols—inasmuch as they have committed a double crime, adding murder to idolatry, or even a threefold crime, adultery being included—shall not receive communion at their death.

III. Concerning those who have only made gifts to idols.

Of flamens who have not made sacrifice, but have only given a gift, inasmuch as they have withheld themselves from the fatal sacrifice it is decreed that communion many be given to them in the end, if they have performed the lawful penance; but if they have committed adultery after the penance, it is decreed that communion shall not be given to them again, lest they seem to make sport of the divine communion.

IV. When these as catechumens may be baptized if they sacrifice to idols.

Again, if flamens have become catechumens and have kept themselves from sacrifices, it is decreed that they be admitted to baptism after a space of three years.

V. If a mistress kill a slave in anger.

If any woman, borne away by the fury of her wrath, has beaten her slave-woman with scourges so that she dies in suffering withinthree days there after, inasmuch as it is uncertain whether it was by design or accident, it is enacted that if it was by design, the mistress shall be admitted to communion after seven years and the lawful penance, if by accident after five years; but if she falls sick within that time, let her have communion.

VI. If anyone has killed a man by sorcery.

If anyone has killed another by sorcery, since this cannot be done without idolatry, it is enacted that communion shall never be furnished him even at his death.

VII. If those who have done penance for adultery sin again.

If any one of the faithful, after falling into adultery and performing penance during the appointed time, has again committed adultery, it is decreed that he shall not have the communion at his death.

VIII. Concerning women who leave their husband and wed others.

Likewise women who leave their husbands without cause and unite with others, may not receive communion at their death.

IX. Concerning women who leave adulterous husbands and marry others.

Likewise a woman who leaves an adulterous husband to marry another is to be forbidden to marry; if she has married him let her not receive communion until the husband she left has departed this world,—unless perchance the extremity of illness makes it necessary to give it to her.

X. If a woman abandoned by a catechumen marries another.

If she whom a catechumen deserts marries again, she may be admitted to baptism; this is to be observed in regard to women catechumens. But if a woman of the faith has been married to a man who deserted a guiltless wife, she knowing that he had a wife whom he left without cause, it is enacted that communion may be given to her only at death.

XI. If a woman catechumen falls seriously ill.

If a woman catechumen becomes grievously ill within the five years [for her probation], it is decreed that baptism should be given and not denied.

XIII. Concerning women who are guilty of pandering.

If a woman, either a parent, or one of the faith, has been guilty of pandering, inasmuch as she has sold the body of another as well as her own, it is decreed that she may not receive communion even at her death.

XIII. If virgins consecrated to God have been guilty of fornication.

If virgins who have dedicated themselves to God have broken their oath of virginity and become enslaved to lust, not repenting of what they have committed, it is decreed that communion be not given to them even at death. But if women of this kind have fallen through persuasion or weakness of the flesh and have done penance through their whole life in abstaining from union, so that it seems the sin had been a slip, it is decreed that they may receive communion at the end.

XIV. If virgins of the secular life have been guilty of fornication.

If virgins who had not kept their virginity marry those who ravished them and keep them as husbands, inasmuch as they have broken only their nuptials, they should be reconciled to the communion after one year without penance, but if they take other husbands, inasmuch as they are thus guilty of adultery, it is decreed that they may be admitted to communion after five years when the lawful penance has been done.

XV. Concerning marriage of Christian girls with the heathen.

Christian virgins should not be given in marriage to the heathen because of the great number of girls, lest when their age breaks into bloom, it should lead them into adultery of the soul [that is, fall into heathenism].

XVI. That women of the faith should not be married to unbelievers.

If heretics will not come over to the Catholic church, girls of the Catholic faith should not be given them in marriage; but it is decreed that they be never given to Jews or heretics, inasmuch as there can be no association of the faithful with an unbeliever: if parents act against this prohibition, it is decreed that they abstain from communion for five years.

XVII. Concerning those who give their daughters in marriage to heathen priests.

If any parents unite their daughters to priests of idols, it is decreed that communion be not given them even in death.

XVIII. If priests and ministers are guilty of adultery.

If bishops, presbyters and deacons engaged in ministry are discovered to have been guilty of adultery, it is decreed because of the scandal and the profane crime that they should not receive communioneven at their death.

XIX. Concerning clergymen engaging in business and markets.

Bishops, presbyters and deacons should not depart from their stations for the purpose of trading; nor should they go about among the provinces to engage in markets for gain; for obtaining their own supplies let them send a son or a freedman or an agent or a friend or anyone else; and if they wish to trade, let them trade in their own province.

XX. Concerning usurers of clergy and laity.

If anyone of the clergy be found taking usury, it is decreed that he be degraded and forced to abstain from communion. If any layman be proved to have taken usury, and after being rebuked he shall have promised to cease from it nor exact it further, it is decreed that pardon be granted to him; but if he persists in that iniquity, he should be thrust out of the church.

If anyone living in the city has not come to church for three Sundays, let him be kept away for a short time, that he may seem to be reprimanded.

XXII. If Catholics who fall into heresy return to the faith.

If any member of the Catholic church as been converted to heresy, and has returned, it is decreed that penance should not be refused him, because he has seen his error; if he does penance for ten years, then communion should be given him; but if children have been led astray, since they did not sin by their own wickedness, let them be received straightway.

XXIII. Concerning the time of fasts.

It is decreed that the strict fasts are to be kept every month except during the days of July and August, because of the weakness of some.

XXIV. That those who are baptized away from home should not attain to the clergy.

It is decreed that all who are baptized away from home should not be promoted to the clergy in other provinces, because their life is not known.

XXV. Concerning communicatory letters of confessors.

All who have borne letters of confession bearing the name of the confessor, should be given letters of communion instead, since the glory of the name of confessor overawes all the simple.

XXVI. That fast be observed every Sabbath.

It is enacted that the error be corrected, so that we observe strict fast every Sabbath.

XXVII. That clergymen do not have strange women in their homes.

Let the bishop or any other clergyman have with him only a sister or a virgin daughter given to God: it is decreed that he should never have a strange woman.

XXVIII. Concerning the offerings of non-communicants.

It is enacted that a bishop ought not to receive a gift from one who is not a communicant.

XXIX. How demoniacs are to be regarded in the church.

The name of a demoniac who is disturbed by an evil spirit should never be read from the altar with the offering, nor should such an one be permitted to serve with his hand in the church.

XXX. That those who have committed adultery after baptism be not created subdeacons.

Those who have been guilty of adultery in their youth should not be ordained as subdeacons, since later they may be promoted to a higher grade by deception; and if any such have been ordained in the past, let them be removed,

XXXI. Concerning youths who have committed adultery after baptism.

It is decreed that youths who have committed adultery after the sacrament of baptism of salvation, when they have taken wives, may be admitted to communion, when the lawful penance has been done.

XXXII. That communion be given to excommunicated presbyters in necessity.

If anyone has fallen into danger of death by reason of grievous sin, it is decreed that his penance should lie not with the presbyter, but with the bishop; yet in cases of sickness it may be necessary for a presbyter to give communion, or a deacon if a priest orders him.

XXXIII. That bishops and ministers should abstain from their wives.

It is decreed that bishops, presbyters and deacons and all the clergy engaged in the service abstain entirely from their wives and do not create children; whoever does so, is to be shut off of his clerical honor.

XXXIV. That candles be not burned in cemeteries.

It is decreed that candles be not burned in the cemetery, that the spirits of the saints be not disquieted. Those who do not obey this, are to be driven from the communion of the church.

XXXV. That women should not keep vigil in cemeteries.

It is decreed that it be forbidden to women to keep vigil in the cemetery, since often sins are secretly committed under pretence of prayer.

XXXVI. That there be no pictures in the church.

It is decreed that there shall be no pictures in the church, lest what is worshipped and adored should be depicted on the walls.

XXXVII. Concerning unbaptized demoniacs.

It is granted that those who are vexed by unclean spirits may be baptized if they have come to the extremity of death; if they were of the faithful, communion should be given them. It is forbidden that they should burn lamps in public; if they act against this prohibition, let them be kept from communion.

XXXVIII. That the faithful may baptize in cases of necessity.

If he is sailing far from home, or if he is not near a Church, one of the faith, if he has kept his own baptism pure and is not bigamous, may baptize a catechumen who is brought to the extremity of sickness; on this condition that if the man survives, he should take him to the bishop that the laying on of hands be made perfect.

XXXIX. If gentiles seek to be baptized in extremity.

If gentiles desire that hands be laid on them in sickness, it is decreed that it be done and they be made Christians, if their life has been honorable in every way.

XL. That the faithful should not receive anything pertaining to sacrifices to idols.

It is decreed that it be forbidden to owners when they receive their accounts, to credit [the gent] with anything that has been given to an idol; if they do so after this prohibition, let them be kept from the communion for five years.

XLI. That masters forbid their slaves to worship idols.

It is decreed that the faithful be admonished to forbid the keeping of idols in their homes as far as possible; but if they fear the force of their slaves, and keep themselves pure [it may be forgiven?]; if they do not do this, let them be held as strangers by the church.

XLII. When those who come to the faith should be baptized.

It is decreed that those who come to the faith by belief for the first time, if their manner of life has been good, may be admitted to baptism after three years, unless in the urgence of sickness the case requires that it be given sooner to the one who is in danger and who seeks grace.

XLIII. Concerning the celebration of Pentecost.

It is decreed that an evil custom should be corrected in accordance with he authority of the Scriptures, so that we should all celebrate the day of Pentecost; lest if anyone should not do so, it should appear that a new heresy has arisen.

XLIV. If pagan harlots are converted.

It is decreed that a woman who was at one time a harlot and afterwards took a husband, may be received immediately.

XLV. Concerning catechumens who do not frequent the church.

It is decreed that one who was once a catechumen and has not come to church for a very long time, should not be denied baptism, if anyone of the clergy has known him to be a Christian, or if some of the faithful witness for him, inasmuch as he seems to have abandoned his old man.

XLVI. Concerning the faithful who have repented after apostasy.

If one of the faithful has become an apostate and has stayed away from church for a very long time, but has finally returned and ceased to be an idolator, it is decreed that he may receive communion after ten years.

XLVII. Concerning the married man who frequently commits adultery.

If any one of the faithful who has a wife is guilty of adultery, not once but often, he may be admitted to communion in the extremity of death; but if he has promised to cease, communion may be given him; if after his rehabilitation he has again committed adultery, it is decreed that he be not allowed to make sport further of the communion of peace.

XLVIII. That the clergymen should not receive anything from those who are baptized.

It is decreed that this error be corrected, so that those who are baptized should not put money in the vessel as has been the custom, lest the priest seem to sell for a price that which he received freely: nor should their feet be washed by priests or clergymen.

XLIX. That the harvests of the faithful should not be blessed by Jews.

It is decreed that owners be warned not to allow their harvests, which they receive from God by the action of His grace, to be blessed by Jews, lest they [the Jews] render ineffective and weak our benediction; if anyone has presumed to do this after this prohibition, let him be utterly cast out of the church.

L. Concerning Christians who eat with Jews.

If any clergyman or believer has taken food with Jews, it is decreed that he be kept from communion so that he may be corrected.

LI. That heretics should not be promoted to the clergy.

If a believer has come to the faith from heresy, he should not be promoted to the clergy; and if any have been ordained in the past, certainly they should be deposed.

LII. Concerning those who place slanderous books in the church.

Those who are found to have put scandalous books in the church are to be anathematized.

LIII. Concerning bishops who give communion to one who has been excommunicated by another bishop.

It is determined by all that one who has been guilty of any crime shall receive communion again only from that bishop by whom he had been forced to abstain; if another bishop presumes to admit him, without the knowledge or consent of that bishop by whom he was deprived, let him know that in so doing he stirs up strife between brothers, and endangers his own position.

LIV. Concerning parents who break the promise of betrothal.

If parents break the promise of betrothal, they are to be kept from communion for three years; but if the betrothed man or woman has been discovered in a serious crime, the parents will be held excused; if they have sinned together and polluted themselves, the former sentence is to be observed.

LV. Concerning pagan priests who do not sacrifice.

It is decreed that priests who only wear the crowns, but do not sacrifice nor give anything to idols at their own expense, may receive communion after two years.

LVI. Concerning magistrates and duumvirs.

It is decreed that magistrates who serve as duumvirs for one year should be forbidden to come to church.

LVII. Concerning those who give their garments for adorning a display.

Matrons or their husbands should not give their garments to adorn a worldly display; and if they do this they are to be kept from communion for three years.

LVIII. That those who carry letters of communion should be interrogated as to their faith.

It is enacted everywhere and particularly in the place where the chief cathedral of the bishopric is placed, that those who carry letters of communion should be interrogated as to whether they have beentried in all things in their testimony.

LIX. That believers should not go up to the capitol to sacrifice.

It is forbidden that any Christian should go up and look upon the idol of the capitols for the purpose of sacrificing as the pagans do; but if anyone has done so, he is to be held equally guilty [with the pagan]; if he has been a believer he may be taken back after ten years when he has done penance.

LX. Concerning those who are slain while destroying idols.

If any one has been breaking idols and has been slain there, inasmuch as such action is not authorized by the gospel nor is it found that the apostles ever did such a thing, it is decreed that such an one should not be received among the number of the martyrs.

LXI. Concerning those who marry two sisters.

If anyone after the death of his wife marries her sister, she being herself a believer, it is decreed that he should be kept from communion for five years, unless perchance the extremity of sickness require that peace be given him sooner.

LXII. If charioteers and pantomimists are converted.

If a charioteer or a pantomimist desire to become a believer, it is decreed that he must first renounce his calling, and then he may be received, on condition that he should never return to it; if they disobey this injunction, let them be cast out of the church.

LXIII. Concerning wives who slay the children conceived in adultery.

If any woman conceives in adultery in the absence of her husband, and then after that crime kills the child, it is decreed that communion shall never be given even in death, inasmuch as she has committed a twofold crime.

LXIV. Women who continue in adultery with the husbands of others up to their death.

If any woman has continued to be guilty of adultery with the husband of another up to her death, it is decreed that communion should not be given her at death; but if she has left him, let her receive communion after the penance has been done and ten years have passed.

LXV. Concerning the adulterous wives of clergymen.

If the wife of any clergyman has been guilty of adultery and he has known of it and has not immediately put her away, let him not receive communion at his death, lest instruction in crime should seem to come from those who ought to be examples of right living.

LXVI. Concerning those who marry their step-daughter.

If any one takes his step-daughter to wife, it is decreed that communion shall not be given him in death, inasmuch as he has committed incest.

LXVII. Concerning the marriage of a woman catechumen.

It is forbidden that any woman of the faith or a catechumen should have her dressers and hair curlers; whoever do so, let them be driven from the communion.

LXVIII. Concerning a catechumen adulterous woman who kills her child.

If a catechumen woman has conceived through adultery and has strangled her child, it is decreed that she be baptized only at her death.

LXIX. Concerning married men who have afterward fallen into adultery.

If a man after marrying has fallen into adultery once, it is decreed that he shall do penace for five years and thus be reconciled, unless the extremity of sickness make it necessary for communion to be given to him before that time; this is to be observed also toward women.

LXX. Concerning women who are guilty of adultery with the knowledge of their husbands.

If a woman has committed adultery with the knowledge of her husband it is decreed that communion shall not be given him even in death; but if he leaves her, let him receive communion after ten years, if he has kept her in his house any time after he knew she was adulterous.

LXXI. Concerning debauchers of boys.

Communion shall not be given even at death to debauchers of boys.

LXXII. If adulterous widows later marry the same men.

If any widow has committed adultery and later marries the same man, after doing penance for five years it is decreed that she may be admired again to communion; if she has left him and married another, let her not receive communion even in death; and if he whom she married was one of the faith, let him not receive communion, until he has done the lawful penance for ten years, unless sickness require that communion be given sooner.

LXXIII. Concerning informers.

If any believer becomes informer and anyone has been proscribed or slain by means of his information, it is decreed that he shall not receive communion even in death; if the case be not so serious, he may be given communion after five years; if the informer was a catechumen, he may be admitted to baptism after five years.

LXXIV. Concerning false witnesses.

A false witness is to be kept from communion according to his offense; if he testified in a case that is not capital, and if he proves that he was not allowed to keep silence [was forced to testify?], he shall be kept from communion two years; if however he cannot prove this to the convention of the clergy, it is decreed that he shall be kept out for five years.

LXXV. Concerning those who accuse priests or ministers and do not prove the charge.

If any one has assailed a bishop or a presbyter or a deacon with false accusations of crime, and cannot prove his charge, communion shall not be given him even in death.

LXXVI. If deacons are proved to have sinned before being raised to honor.

If anyone has allowed himself to be ordained a deacon, and afterwards it is discovered that he at one time committed a mortal sin, if he confesses of his own will, it is decreed that he may receive communion after doing the lawful penance for three years; but if another discovers his guilt, he aught to receive only the lay communion after doing penance five years.

LXXVII. Concerning the baptised who die before they are confirmed.

If any deacon ruling a people without bishop or presbyter, has baptized any, the bishop should complete the work in them; but if they depart this world before that can be done, anyone of them who believed is justified by his faith.

LXXVIII. If married people of the faith commit adultery with Jews or heathens.

If a believer having a wife, commits adultery with a Jewish or heathen woman, let him be driven from the communion; but if another discover his guilt, he may be admitted to the Lord’s communion only after doing the lawful penance for five years.

LXXIX. Concerning those who play.

If one of the faithful play for money with the dice, that is, at the gaming board, it is decreed that he shall be kept from communion; and if he correct his fault and cease from playing, he may be admitted to communion again after one year.

LXXX. Concerning freedmen.

It is forbidden that freedmen whose patrons are living should be promoted to the clergy.

LXXXI. Concerning the letters of women.

Women should not presume to write letters to laymen in their own names and not in the names of their husbands; nor should they receive friendly letters from anyone addressed to their names alone.

The Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan Creed

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty; Maker, of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God and very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made, who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; proceedeth from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spake by the Prophets. And I believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Athanasian Creed

1. Whoever will be saved, it is necessary above all else that he hold to the Catholic Faith.

2. Unless each one keep this whole and unbroken, he shall without doubt perish into eternal death.

3. And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in the Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity;

4. Neither confounding the persons, nor distinguishing the essence.

5. For the Father is one Person, the Son another, and the Holy Ghost another,

6. But there is one Divinity of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, an equal Glory, and a coeternal Majesty.

7. Such as is the Father, such is the Son, and such the Holy Ghost.

8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, the Holy Ghost uncreated.

9. The Father infinite, the Son infinite, the Holy Spirit infinite.

10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, the Holy Ghost eternal.

11. And yet there are not three eternals, but one eternal (God).

12. As also they are not three but one uncreated, not three but one infinite (God).

13. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty.

14. And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.

15. So the Father is God; the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost God.

16. And yet there are not three, but one God.

17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord.

18. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.

19. For just as we are compelled by Christian truth to confess each Person individually to be God and Lord;

20. So we are prohibited by the Catholic Religion to speak of three Gods or three Lords.

21. The Father has been made by none, nor created nor begotten.

22. The Son is from the Father only; not made nor created, but begotten.

23. The Holy Ghost is from the Father and the Son, not made, nor created, nor begotten, but emanating.

24. So there is one Father, not three; one Son, not three; one Holy Ghost, not three.

25. And in this Trinity, there is no before nor after, no greater or less.

26. But the whole three Persons are coeternal and coequal.

27. So that in every way, as before stated, the Unity is to be worshiped in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity.

28. Whoever wills to be saved, then, let him believe in this way concerning the Trinity.

29. But it is also necessary for eternal salvation that he should believe faithfully in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

30. The true faith is, then, that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is alike God and Man.

31. God, of the essence, of the Father, begotten before the worlds, and Man, of the Substance of his Mother, born in the world.

32. Perfect God and perfect man, made of a reasonable soul and human flesh.

33. Equal to the Father as to Divinity, less than the Father from the point of view of his manhood.

34. Although He is both God and man, yet He is not two but one Christ.

35. One moreover, not by the change of Divinity into flesh, but by the assumption of manhood into his Divinity.

36. One, all in all, not a mixture of essences, but a unity of Person.

37. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ.

38. Who suffered for our salvation; descended into the lower world, rose again the third day from the dead.

39. He ascended into heaven, He sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

40. Whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

41. At Whose coming all men have to rise again with their bodies;

42. And are to give an account of their deeds.

43. And they that have done good shall go into eternal life, but they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

44. This is the Catholic Faith: unless each believe it rightly and firmly, he cannot be saved.

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Chicago: "Typical Synods and Creeds," The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4 in The Library of Original Sources, ed. Oliver J. Thatcher (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: University Research Extension Co., 1907), 112–125. Original Sources, accessed December 1, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=RKMK2TBQVZI4UC4.

MLA: . "Typical Synods and Creeds." The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4, in The Library of Original Sources, edited by Oliver J. Thatcher, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, University Research Extension Co., 1907, pp. 112–125. Original Sources. 1 Dec. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=RKMK2TBQVZI4UC4.

Harvard: , 'Typical Synods and Creeds' in The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4. cited in 1907, The Library of Original Sources, ed. , University Research Extension Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, pp.112–125. Original Sources, retrieved 1 December 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=RKMK2TBQVZI4UC4.