318 Christian bishops met at the city of Nicaea in the Roman Province of Bithynia in May and June of A.D. 325, at the instigation and under the direction of Constantine I (`The Great') to discuss matters which were disturbing the Church, and thus Constantine's empire. He had been instrumental in making Christianity a legal religion in A.D. 313 ("Edict of Milan"). Note that Constantine called, presided over, and helped to enforce the decisions of the Council. The bishop of Rome did not attend personally, but sent two deacons as his delegates. Apparently, Hosius, bishop of Cordova in Spain presided.

The full texts of the 20 Canons issued by the Council survive, as well as ancient summaries of the texts, and the famous Nicene Creed. See P. Schaff & H. Wace, A Select Library of Nice and Post- Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, second series, Volume XII: THE SEVEN ECUMENICAL COUNCILS (1899), 2-42. The ancient epitomes are given here, for the most part.



Eunuchs may be received into the number of the clergy, but those who castrate themselves shall not be received.


Those who have come from the heathen shall not be immediately advance to the priesthood. For without a probation of some time a neophyte is of no advantage. But if after ordination it be found out that he has sinned previously, let him then be expelled from the clergy.


"The Great Synod has stringently forbidden any bishop, presbyter, deacon, or any one of the clergy whatever, to have a subintroducta dwelling with him, except only a mother, or sister, or aunt, or such persons only as are beyond all suspicion."
(Full original text)


"It is by all means proper that a bishop should be appointed by all the bishops in the province. But should this be difficult, either on account of urgent necessity or because of distance, three at least should meet together, and the suffrages of the absent bishops also being given and communicated in writing, then the ordination should take place. But in every province the ratification of what is done should be left to the Metropolitan." (Full original text)


Such as have been excommunicated by certain bishops shall not be restored by others, unless the excommunication was the result of pusillanimity, or strife, or some other similar cause. And that this may be duly attended to, there shall be in each year two synods in every province--one before Lent, the other toward autumn.


"Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis prevail: that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, sine the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood: that if any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the Great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop. If, however, two or three bishops shall from natural love of contradiction, oppose the common suffrage of the rest, it being reasonable and in accordance with the ecclesiastical law, then let the choice of the majority prevail."
(Full original text)


"Since custom and ancient tradition have prevailed that the Bishop of Aelia [Capitolina = Jerusalem] should be honored, let him (saving the due dignity to the Metropolis [Caesarea Maritima]) have the next place of honor." (Full original text)


If those called Cathari come over, let them first make profession that they are willing to communicate with the twice married, and to grant pardon to the lapsed. And on this condition he who happens to be in orders, shall continue in the same order, so that a bishop shall be a bishop. Whoever was a bishop among the Cathari let him, however, become a Chorepiscopus, or let him enjoy the honor of a presbyter or a bishop. For in one church there shall not be two bishops.


Whoever are ordained without examination, shall be deposed if it be found out afterwards that they had been guilty." [of, e.g., blasphemy, bigamy, heresy, idolatry, magic]


"If any who have lapsed have been ordained through the ignorance, ore even with the [previous knowledge of the ordainers, this shall not prejudice the Canon of the Church. For when they are discovered, they shall be deposed."
(Full original text)


As many as fell without necessity, even if therefore undeserving of indulgence, yet some indulgence shall be shown them and they shall be prostrators for twelve years.


Those who endured violence and were seen to have resisted, but who afterwards yielded to wickedness, and returned to the Army, shall be excommunicated for ten years. But in every case the way in which they do their penance must be scrutinized. And if anyone who is doing penance shows himself zealous in its performance, the Bishop shall treat him more leniently than had he been cold and indifferent.


The dying are to be communicated. But if any such get well, he must be placed in the number of those who share in the prayers, and with these only. [This refers to those who have been excommunicated, or who are undergoing a major penance.]


"Concerning catechumens who have lapsed, the Holy and Great Synod has decreed that after they have passed three years as mere hearers, they shall pray with the Catechumens."
(Full original text)


Neither bishop, nor presbyter, nor deacon shall be transferred from city to city. But they shall be sent back should they attempt to do so, to the Churches in which they were ordained.


Such presbyters or deacons as desert their own Church are not to be admitted into another, but are to be sent back to their own diocese. But if any bishop should ordain one who belongs to another Church without the consent of his own bishop, the ordination shall be canceled.


Since many enrolled among the clergy, following covetousness and lust of gain, have forgotten the Divine Scripture, which says, `He heat not given his money upon usury (Ex. 22.25; Deut. 23.29),' and in lending money asks for 1% per month interest, the Holy and Great Synod thinks it just that if after this Decree anyone be found to receive interest, whether he accomplish it by secret transaction or otherwise, as by demanding `the whole and one half', or by using any other contrivance whatever for filthy lucre's sake, he shall be deposed from the Clergy and his name stricken from the list."
(Full original text)


Deacons must abide within their own bounds. They shall not administer the Eucharist to Presbyters, nor touch it before Presbyters do, nor sit among the Presbyters. For all this is contrary to the canons and decent order.


Paulianists must be rebaptized, and if such as are clergymen seem to be blameless let them be ordained. If they do not seem to be blameless, let them be deposed. Deaconnesses who have been led astray, since they are not sharers of ordination, are to be reckoned among the Laity.


On the Lord's Day and at Pentecost all must pray standing and not kneeling.

The Paulianists in Canon XIX are followers of Bishop Paul of Samosata, who was made Bishop of Antioch in Syria ca. 260 A.D., but was deposed by a Synod in 269 A.D. He was anti-Trinitarian, an heretical position already anathamatized at the Council of Arles (Canon 8).


January 24, 2010 8:21 PM

John Paul Adams, CSUN

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional
Valid CSS!

| Home | | Papal Portraits Home | | Viae Romanae: Bibliography | | Greek & Roman History | | Imperial Cult Bibliography |