Council of Rome

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The Council of Rome was a meeting of Christian Church officials and theologians which took place in 382 under the authority of the bishop of Rome, Damasus I. The previous year, the Emperor Theodosius I had appointed the "dark horse" candidate Nectarius Archbishop of Constantinople. The bishops of the West opposed the election result and asked for a common synod of East and West to settle the succession of the see of Constantinople, and so the Emperor Theodosius, soon after the close of the First Council of Constantinople in 381, summoned the Imperial bishops to a fresh synod at Constantinople; nearly all of the same bishops who had attended the earlier second council were assembled again in early summer of 382. On arrival they received a letter from the synod of Milan, inviting them to a great general council at Rome; they indicated that they must remain where they were, because they had not made any preparations for such long a journey; however, they sent three—Syriacus, Eusebius, and Priscian—with a joint synodal letter to Pope Damasus, Ambrose, archbishop of Milan, and the other bishops assembled in the council at Rome.

The Roman synod to which this letter was addressed was the fifth under Damasus. No formal account remains of its proceedings, nor of how its members treated the question of Nectarius. Theodosius did, however, send commissioners to Rome in support of his synod.

This historical synod at Rome gained additional importance long afterwards. According to a document appended to some manuscripts of the so-called Decretum Gelasianum or "Gelasian Decretal" and given separately in others, at this council the authority of the Old and New Testament canon would have been affirmed in a decretal. The document was first connected to this council of Rome in 1794, when Fr. Faustino Arevalo (1747–1824), the editor of Coelius Sedulius, expressed his theory that the first three of the five chapters of the Decretum were really the decrees of a Roman council held a century earlier than Gelasius, under Damasus, in 382.

Arevalo's conclusions were widely accepted, and the text of these first three chapters, given the title of "The Roman Council under Damasus" have often been reprinted. On this theory the so-called "Damasine List" would be the earliest Western list of the Biblical canon promulgated by a council, two years earlier than the publication of the first installment of the Latin Vulgate.

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The Damasine list

The "Damasine list" theory asserts that the list of books contained in "Incipit Concilium Vrbis Romae sub Damaso Papa de Explanatione Fidei" (the "Gelasian decree")[] represents the work of the Council of Rome in 382. It reads as follows:

It is likewise decreed: Now, indeed, we must treat of the divine Scriptures: what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she must shun. The list of the Old Testament begins: Genesis, one book; Exodus, one book: Leviticus, one book;Numbers, one book; Deuteronomy, one book; Jesus Nave, one book; of Judges, one book; Ruth, one book; of Kings, four books [First and Second Books of Kings, Third and Fourth Books of Kings]; Paralipomenon, two books; One Hundred and Fifty Psalms, one book; of Solomon, three books: Proverbs, one book; Ecclesiastes, one book; Canticle of Canticles, one book; likewise, Wisdom, one book; Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), one book;
Likewise, the list of the Prophets: Isaiah, one book; Jeremias, one book; along with Cinoth, that is, his Lamentations; Ezechiel, one book; Daniel, one book; Osee, one book; Amos, one book; Micheas, one book; Joel, one book; Abdias, one book; Jonas, one book; Nahum, one book; Habacuc, one book; Sophonias, one book; Aggeus, one book; Zacharias, one book; Malachias, one book.
Likewise, the list of histories: Job, one book; Tobias, one book; Esdras, two books; Esther, one book; Judith, one book; of Maccabees, two books.
Likewise, the list of the Scriptures of the New and Eternal Testament, which the holy and Catholic Church receives: of the Gospels, one book according to Matthew, one book according to Mark, one book according to Luke, one book according to John. The Epistles of the Apostle Paul, fourteen in number: one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians [First Epistle to the Corinthians and Second Epistle to the Corinthians], one to the Ephesians, two to the Thessalonians [First Epistle to the Thessalonians and Second Epistle to the Thessalonians], one to the Galatians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, two to Timothy [First Epistle to Timothy and Second Epistle to Timothy], one to Titus, one to Philemon, one to the Hebrews.
Likewise, one book of the Apocalypse of John. And the Acts of the Apostles, one book.
Likewise, the canonical Epistles, seven in number: of the Apostle Peter, two Epistles [First Epistle of Peter and Second Epistle of Peter]; of the Apostle James, one Epistle; of the Apostle John, one Epistle; of the other John, a Presbyter, two Epistles [Second Epistle of John and Third Epistle of John]; of the Apostle Jude the Zealot, one Epistle. Thus concludes the canon of the New Testament.
Likewise it is decreed: After the announcement of all of these prophetic and evangelic or as well as apostolic writings which we have listed above as Scriptures, on which, by the grace of God, the Catholic Church is founded, we have considered that it ought to be announced that although all the Catholic Churches spread abroad through the world comprise but one bridal chamber of Christ, nevertheless, the holy Roman Church has been placed at the forefront not by the conciliar decisions of other Churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, who says: "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it; and I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you shall have bound on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall have loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

The document from which this list comes, "Incipit Concilium Vrbis Romae sub Damaso Papa de Explanatione Fidei," is neither a 4th century document nor an actual Decretal of any bishop. As Burkitt points out[]:

There can, I think, be little doubt that v. Dobschütz has made out his case. The really decisive point is that in I 3, in the part most directly associated with Damasus, there is a quotation of some length from Augustine in Joh. ix 7 (Migne, xxxv 146l).1 As Augustine was writing about 416, it is evident that the Title Incipit Concilium Vrbis Romae sub Damaso Papa de Explanatione Fidei is of no historical value...Thus these famous Lists represent no Papal ordinance, but are the production of an anonymous scholar of the sixth century.

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