show that they followed the pattern ofthe Roman senate: a roll ofnames was taken, a motion put, and every delegate required in turn to say placet or non placet.3 No non placet, however, is recorded, even when the number of bishops rose to ninety or more; these parliaments, like local synods, functioned as a megaphone for the bishop, and were, if anything, less hospitable to dissent than the political institutions of this age.

More controversial in form, though no less certain in their outcome, were the courts held for the examination of heretics, of which Origen's Dialogue with Heraclides is the longest extant specimen. Origen, as the most learned of the presbyters, was co-opted to elicit a recantation from the accused, or by refuting him to justify the sentence that the bishops had come to pronounce. Origen was employed in the same capacity against Beryllus ofBostra (Eusebius, Church history 6.33.1-2), but the greatest affair of this kind took place some years after his death when a certain Malchion, a teacher of rhetoric, on behalf of eighty bishops from neighbouring provinces, exposed the false Christology of the Antiochene bishop Paul of Samosata. Such a combination against an episcopal colleague was unprecedented - and so was the aftermath, for the judges, being unable to enforce the deposition, turned successfully to Aurelian, the pagan emperor (ibid. 7.30.19). An account of his intervention and the cause of it was sent to the bishops ofRome and Alexandria, while he himselfentrusted to Rome the choice of Paul's successor. Thus it became apparent that contumacy was not to be overcome without the goodwill of the sovereign, while the sovereign would not act without involving the rest of Christendom.4 In the half-century after Aurelian, civil war, the division of the realm and persecution stood in the way of a general council; when the troubles ceased and the bishops met again, it was not to try a single malefactor or agree on a single custom, but to find a balm for all the abuses, grievances and schisms that survived to augment the sufferings of the church.

From the persecution to Constantinople

The first council, in the East or the West, that is known to have issued canons was held at Elvira in Spain on 15 May of a year between 295 and 314. (It is commonly dated to 305 or 306.) Of the eighty-one canons attributed to it, perhaps only the first twenty-one are to be considered as a product of this council. They include a canon fixing a period of penance for a mistress who

3 Hess, The early development of canon law, 17-29.

4 On the proceedings, see H. de Riedmatten, Les actes du proc'es de Paul de Samosate;

G. C. Stead, 'Marcel Richard on Malchion and Paul of Samosata'.

0 0

Post a comment