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Greek canonical collections

About fifty years after Dionysius worked in Rome, a priest from Antioch, John Scholasticus, gathered canonical texts into a new collection called the Collectio L titulorum.36 John drew upon an earlier collection that is now lost, the Collectio LX titulorum. His principal sources were the established tradition of Greek conciliar canons from the early Councils of Nicaea, Ancyra and Gangra, to the later Councils of Constantinople I and Chalcedon. This part of the collection was very similar to Dionysius'. John added texts, however, to his collection from the writings of an Eastern church father, Basil of Caesarea, that were not yet accepted as canonical in the West. John divided two of the so-called 'canonical letters' of Basil (Letters 199 and 217) into sixty-eight chapters and arranged them systematically according to subject matter. All of this material John placed under fifty titles that began with the honour due to the patriarch (title one) and ended with a title that dealt with the canon of prayers and the date of Easter (title fifty). John Scholasticus' Synagoge of 50 titles occupies a position in the Eastern church similar to that of Dionysius Exiguus' collection in the West. It is the oldest and first important collection of canon law in the East. It was a private collection, but all later Greek canonical collections were based on it or used it as a source. Dionysius introduced papal letters as a source of canonical norms equal to conciliar canons; John established the writings of the church fathers (primarily the Eastern church fathers) as authoritative sources in canonical collections. Later the Third Council of Constantinople (in Trullo) of 692 decreed that the writings of Eastern church fathers had juridical authority equal to conciliar canons. John also drew from imperial legislation. When Justinian had compiled his great codification (533-4), he included legislation governing church government and clerical discipline at the beginning of his Codex. Further, after promulgating his Corpus iuris civilis, he produced extensive legislation that dealt with ecclesiastical matters in his Novellae. John Scholasticus 'canonised' this material by producing a collection of eighty-seven excerpts from Justinian's Novellae, the so-called Collectio LXXXVII titulorum. Since John Scholasticus was patriarch of Constantinople (565-77), his office gave his collection prestige and authority in the Greek church. Three hundred years later, St Methodios translated John's Synagoge into Slavonic. It then became the text upon which the Slavonic and Russian churches based their legal systems.

36 VN. Benesevic, ed., Ioannis Scolastici Synagoga; see also E. Schwartz, DieKanonessammlung des Johannes Scholastikos.

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