'synod'.6 There is no evidence that Christians of different communities gathered together to decide matters of discipline or doctrine until the late second century. Nonetheless they undoubtedly resolved questions inside their local communities with congregational assemblies regularly.
The emergence ofecclesiastical assemblies that established canonical norms took place almost simultaneously in the East and West. In the early third century, Tertullian reported that councils (concilia) were held to decide questions and to represent the 'whole Christian name' (repraesentatio totius nominis Christiani). The exact nature ofthese assemblies hasbeen debated, but there can be no doubt that they promulgated norms and made decisions for Christian communities.7 We know of assemblies in Asia Minor at Iconium, Synnada, Bostra and other localities in the early third century In the second half of the century these assemblies became more common. The Council of Carthage under Bishop Agrippinus that can be dated between 220 and 230 was the first Western assembly about which we are well informed. Cyprian provides information that the participants confronted the issues surrounding the legal rules of baptism. He also mentions another council that condemned Privatus, the bishop of Lambaesis, for his crimes. Cyprian presided over a number of councils while bishop of Carthage and used councils as a means to govern the churches of North Africa.8 In 251, he summoned a synod to establish rules for reconciling those Christians who had abandoned their faith because of persecution. During the next year, he gathered sixty-seven bishops to treat questions of reconciliation (again) and of infant baptism. Cyprian wrote a letter to a certain Fidus in which he informed him of the actions that the council had taken. This is the oldest conciliar letter that has survived.9 Subsequently councils were held in Carthage almost every year during Cyprian's reign as bishop (248/9-58).
Councils challenged the developing authority of the monarchical bishop because they limited his freedom to govern his church. There was an evolving conviction in Christian communities that there were norms and procedures that shouldbe followed in all the local churches. Nevertheless, Cyprian believed that a bishop should have great freedom of action and forcefully stated that he was answerable only to God. When he quarrelled with Pope Stephen
6 H.J. Sieben, Die Konzilsidee, 415-23, discusses the assembly at Jerusalem and its use as a model for conciliar action in the fourth century.
7 Tertullian, Dejejunio 13.6; see Hamilton Hess, Early development, 10-15 at 10-11 with references.
8 See Hess, Early development, 17-20.
9 Cyprian, Letter 64.
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