The Nicene Creed in Hippo 393 / Carthage 397

In the Breviarium Hipponense, the summary of the canons of the council of Hippo in 393, prepared at the start of the council of Carthage in 397, there is a version of the Nicene creed.  I thought it might be interesting to look at.  The text is from Munier, CCSL149, p.30, but I have added punctuation (extra commas!) from Mansi at points.  There are quite a few variants in the various manuscripts, which I shall ignore.

Nicaeni concilii professio fidei recitata et confirmata est quae ita se habet.**

Credimus in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, uisibilium et inuisibilium factorem, et in unum Dominum Iesum Christum Filium Dei, natum de Patre unigenitum, hoc est, de substantia Patris, Deum <de> Deo, lumen de lumine, Deum uerum de Deo uero, natum non factum, unius substantiae cum Patre, (quod Graeci dicunt omousion); per quem omnia facta sunt siue quae in caelo siue quae in terra; <qui> propter homines et propter nostram salutem descendit, et incarnatus est, homo factus per Virginem Mariam; passus est et resurrexit tertia die, ascendit in caelos, uenturus iudicare uiuos et mortuos ; in Spiritum sanctum.

Eos etiam qui dicunt : Erat quando non erat, et : Quia ex nullis existentibus factus est, uel ex alia substantia, dicentes mutabilem Filium Dei: hos anathematizat ecclesia catholica, et apostolica disciplina.


The profession of faith of the council of Nicaea was read and confirmed which is as follows:**

We believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of things visible and invisible, and in one Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, born of the Father, only-begotten, that is, of the substance of the Father, God <from> God, light from light, true God from true God, born not made, of one substance with the Father (which the Greeks call “homousion”); through whom all things were made, whether in heaven or on earth; <who> on account of men and on account of our salvation descended and was incarnate, made man through the Virgin Mary; he died and rose again on the third day, he ascended into the heavens, he will come again to judge the living and the dead; in the Holy Spirit.

Those also who say, “There was when he was not,” and “That*** he was made out of nothing existing, or from another substance,” saying the Son of God is mutable, these the catholic church and the apostolic teaching anathematise.

A couple of notes.

First I was not sure about “quae ita se habet” – “which (quae) thus (ita) se (it) habet (it considers, holds)”.  Google translate unhesitatingly gives “and is as follows”, suggesting an idiom.

In fact I find precisely the same usage in the Institutes of Justinian, book 3, title 11, introducing a quotation with this sentence: “Verba rescripti ita se habent:”, clearly meaning “the words of the rescript are as follows”.  Looking in Livy book 22, Cicero De legibus 1, Frontinus, and others, I conclude:

  • ita se habere  = to be as follows, to stand so.
  • res ita se habet = the matter stands so.

Similarly, I think we have here the late / medieval use of “quia” to mean “that” rather than “because”.

We don’t think of the Nicene creed as having anathemas on the end, but clearly it was understood to do so in Carthage at this period.  The anathemas are directed at the Arians, of course.

It is also interesting that they explicitly refer, in this Latin version, to the Greek word “homoousion” as well (in Latin letters).


From my diary

I attended the zoom lecture by Dr Adrian Papaphagi on Latin manuscript fragments in Transylvania.  I had to leave early, but the first half hour was genuinely interesting.  The history of the Reformation in that part of the world was quite unknown to me before now.  The manuscripts of Transylvania suffered badly during the Reformation, but most of those mentioned were medieval service books, which naturally were of no use afterwards.

I’m still thinking about the canons of the African councils.  The material from the council of 419 is almost done with, as we have a fairly complete English translation of it.  I would like to produce a properly formatted and intelligible version of this.  The main loose end is the “ancient epitome” quoted at various points, but I need to learn something about this.

Now that I know more, I have started to look again at the Breviarium Hipponense.  I will have to produce a Latin text, and then return to doing some light translating.  Something I probably need to do first is to read the three pages of Munier’s explanation – in Latin – of the “complex” transmission of the Breviarium.  Since he prints what seems to be at least three different versions of the text, this might be important.

Little by little.


March 25 – the date of the annunciation, the crucifixion, and the origin of December 25 as the date of Christmas?

Today is March 25, Lady Day.  According to various online sources, it is celebrated as the the day that the angel Gabriel announced the incarnation to the virgin Mary, the Annunciation.  This is also the day of Jesus’ conception.  I have read that some ancient sources also considered it to be the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, in line with an ancient belief that a prophet came into the world and left it on the same date.  Finally there is the idea that the date of Christmas, 25 December, probably came about because it was 9 months after the conception of Jesus.

There’s a lot in that to verify.  But I thought that I would post the ancient testimonies that give 25 March as the day of the crucifixion.  For this sounds odd to us.  We know that Easter is the day of the resurrection, the third day after the crucifixion; but Easter moves on the lunar calendar.  So where does 25 March come from?

There is an obvious witness, which no doubt influenced all subsequent writers – St Augustine, De Trinitate book 4, chapter 5:

He is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since.  But He was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.  (NPNF translation here.)

This was written early in the 5th century. He repeats this claim in the City of God, book 18, chapter 54 (here):

Now Christ died when the Gemini were consuls, on the eighth day before the kalends of April. He rose the third day, as the apostles have proved by the evidence of their own senses.

But where did he get this idea from, that the crucifixion was on the 8th day before the kalends of April, March 25?

There is a lunar calendar on the statue of Hippolytus in the Vatican Library.[1]  Apparently a note within this indicates the “Passion of Christ” was on Friday March 25.

Tertullian, Adversus Judaeos 8:18: (English)

[18] Quae passio Christi [huius exterminium] intra tempora LXX ebdomadarum perfecta est sub Tiberio Caesare, consulibus Rubellio Gemino et Rufio Gemino mense Martio temporibus paschae, die octavo Kalendarum Aprilium, die primo azymorum quo agnum occiderunt ad vesperam, sicut a Moyse fuerat praeceptum.

And the suffering of this “extermination” was perfected within the times of the lxx hebdomads, under Tiberius Caesar, in the consulate of Rubellius Geminus and Fufius Geminus, in the month of March, at the times of the passover, on the eighth day before the calends of April, on the first day of unleavened bread, on which they slew the lamb at even, just as had been enjoined by Moses.

The Liberian Catalogue of bishops of Rome of 354 AD, part 13 of the Chronography of 354 (here):



An obscure author, Q. Julius Hilarianus, ca. 397, in his Expositum de die Paschae et Mensis, c.15 (PL 13, 1105-14; 1114B):

Eo quippe anno, ut supputationis fides ostendit, et ratio ipsa persuadet, passus est idem Dominus Christus luna xiv, viii kal. April, feria sexta.

In the East there were various dates,[2].  The Acts of Pilate seem to contain the date in at least one version (here):

In the fifteenth year of the government of Tiberius Caesar, emperor of the Romans, and Herod being king of Galilee, in the nineteenth year of his rule, on the eighth day before the Kalends of April, which is the twenty-fifth of March, in the consulship of Rufus and Rubellio, in the fourth year of the two hundred and second Olympiad, Joseph Caiaphas being high priest of the Jews.

There are various versions of the Acts of Pilate, at least two in Greek, plus a Latin version, and it is probably fairly late, at least as we have it.  But Tertullian refers twice to apocryphal material by Pilate, in the Apologeticum, in c.5 and in cc. 21 and 24, which suggests that the Acts of Pilate, or some precursor to them, was already circulating in the second century.[3]

The evidence would suggest therefore that the Acts of Pilate are probably responsible for the Latin tradition that the crucifixion was on 25 March.  This was adopted by Tertullian, and read by Augustine, and then disseminated to the world.  From it, again in the west, the calculation of 25 December arises.

  1. [1]Schmidt, T. C. (2015). “Calculating December 25 as the Birth of Jesus in Hippolytus’ Canon and Chronicon,” Vigiliae Christianae 69, p.542–563. doi:10.1163/15700720-12341243
  2. [2]See
  3. [3]A compilation of some information about this text may be found here.

Translations of the acts of the African councils

There are two main chunks of material transmitted to us from antiquity.  The first is the Breviarium Hipponensis, with its introductory letter.  This is a summary of the canons of the council of Hippo in 393, which was prepared at the council of Carthage in 397 after it was discovered that the decisions of Hippo were unknown to most bishops in Africa.  But I find no sign of translations of this chunk, so I will leave this to one side for now.

The second chunk is the “code of the African church”, the “codex canonum ecclesiae Africanae”, transmitted to us by Dionysius Exiguus in his collection of canons and acts, the so-called “collection Dionysiana”, in the revised edition.  Dionysius presents this as the acts of the “council of Carthage”, meaning the council of Carthage of 419, but after canon 33 the remainder of the material is acts and canons of older councils.

This second chunk has been translated in full, by Henry R. Percival in 1899 in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 2, vol. 14.  The relevant section, headed “The Canons of the 217 Blessed Fathers who assembled at Carthage”, can be found here.  It does not correspond to the revised order of materials in Mansi, nor in Munier in CCSL 149, but to the manuscript order.

Percival’s work is a good piece of work, although the intrusions into the text of comment rather conceal from the reader what the text actually is.  His references to an “ancient epitome” are unclear to me – does he mean the “tituli” prefixed to the acts and canons?  These do not appear in the body of the text in Mansi, that I can see, nor in the Migne PL67 text, nor in the Labbe and Cossart:  Concilia, Tom. II. col. 1041 that he is translating.  He discusses this here, but without looking up his references I am none the wiser.  (There is an explanation in Beveridge, Synodicon, 1672, here, in the prolegomenon section 26; but I lost the will to live when I looked at it).

His first footnotes on this section brought a wry smile to my face:

Yes indeed, sir, they are indeed very hard to follow in the original sometimes.  I suspect Bishop Aurelius simply tended to run his sentences together, as a manner of speaking, which is very hard on us non-native Latin speakers.  But there we go.

Percival translates the edition before him.  But he was not the first to make a translation, as he tells us himself in his bibliographical introduction.

The following is a list of the English translations which I have consulted or followed:

  • John Johnson, The Clergyman’s Vade-mecum (London, 2d Ed., 1714).
  • Wm. A. Hammond, The Definitions of Faith and Canons of Discipline of the Six Œcumenical Councils, etc.
  • William Lambert, The Canons of the First Four General Councils of the Church and those of the Early Greek Synods (London, s.d. Preface dated 1868).
  • John Fulton, Index Canonum.  [This work ends with the Council of Chalcedon.]  (New York, 1872.  3d Ed., 1892.)
  • John Mendham, The Seventh General Council, the Second of Nice (London, s. d.).
  • H. R. Percival, The Decrees of the Seven Ecumenical Synods.  Appendix I. to A Digest of Theology (London, Masters, 1893).

Much of these are dedicated to the ecumenical councils – i.e. the Greek councils.  They give us nothing for the African councils.

Various editions of John Johnson’s Clergyman’s Vade-Mecum Part II are on Google Books.  The first edition, 1709, is here.  The fourth edition, 1731, is here.  I didn’t see the second edition. The title in full is:

The Clergy-Man’s Vade Mecum: Part II : Containing the Canonical Codes of the Primitive, Universal, Eastern, and Western Church, Down to the Year of Our Lord, DCCLXXXVII, Done from the Original Greek and Latin, Omitting No Canon, Decree, Or Any Part of Them that is Curious Or Instructive ; with Explanatory Notes, a Large Index, and a Preface Shewing the Usefulness of the Work; with Some Reflections on Moderate-non-conformity, and the Rights of the Church…

As the title suggests, the book features a very long and tedious preface, mainly attacking the presbyterian Edmund Calamy over some pointless and annoying dispute.  After that he gets into translating the canons, but not the acts.  The purpose of the book is to present the Anglican clergyman with various bits of information useful to him in his job – a doubtless absentee job, at that period.  The canons are there as church law.  Johnson also made a subsequent volume in 1720 in which he translated all the canons of the anglosaxon and early English church, under the snappy title of:

A Collection of All the Ecclesiastical Laws, Canons, Answers, Or Rescripts … Concerning the Government, Discipline and Worship of the Church of England, from Its First Foundation to the Conquest, that Have Hitherto Been Publish’d in the Latin and Saxonic Tongues. And of All the Canons and Constitutions Ecclesiastical, Made Since the Conquest and Before the Reformation in Any National Council, Or in the Provincial Synods of Canterbury and York, that Have Hitherto Been Publish’d in the Latin Tongue: Now First Translated Into English with Explanatory Notes, and Such Glosses from Lyndwood and Athone, as Were Thought Most Useful…

It may be found here.  Johnson references a French translation by “Du Pin”, but I don’t know where that could be found.

I don’t know what other English translations there may be of the African councils material.  I suspect there must be some.

There is a French translation, by P.-P. Joannou.  I discuss this, with links, here.  It does not contain the Breviarium material.

There is a German translation: G. D. Fuchs, Bibliothek der Kirchenversammlungen des vierten und fünften Jahrhunderts, from the 1780s.  I discuss this, with links, here.

There is a 1849 Spanish translation of the 1808 edition by F. González (the one reprinted in Migne PL 84) with facing Latin text here:  I am told that the language is naturally dated but the translation looks quite faithful.


A few notes on Henry R. Percival, translator of “The Seven Ecumenical Councils” in the NPNF Series 2

Continuing our little series on the councils of the African church, I’ve been looking at the existing translations into English.  I shall write a separate post on this.

Any search for translations immediately brings up the volume edited by Henry R. Percival in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series, Second Series, volume 14. While reading his preface, here, (1899) I came across the following words:

The work intrusted to me of preparing this volume evidently can be divided into two separate parts.  The first, the collecting of the material needed and the setting of it before the reader in the English tongue; the other, the preparation of suitable introductions and notes to the matter thus provided.

Now in each of these departments two courses were open to the editor:  the one, to be original; the other, to be a copyist.  I need hardly say that of these the former offered many temptations.

But I could not fail to recognize the fact that such a course would greatly take from the real value of the work, and therefore without any hesitation I have adopted the other alternative, and have endeavoured, so far as was at all possible, to keep myself out of the question altogether; and as a general rule even the translation of the text (as distinguished from the notes) is not mine but that of some scholar of well-established reputation.

These selfless words filled my heart with a warm feeling towards the translator, and a desire to know more of him.

Let us, then, remember Henry Robert Percival.  I learn that he was born 30 April 1854, and he died on 22 September 1903, aged only 49 – a young man.[1]  There is a photograph online, although I don’t know the source, which I have added to this post (I hope!)

Various of his works are online here.

Mr Percival was an Episcopalian clergyman.   From the funeral sermon, I learn that he never enjoyed good health, but travelled widely in Europe in his youth.  He was in fact unable even to attend seminary regularly, but had private tuition, and was ordained in 1878.  I would infer that he did not come from a poor family.

In 1881 he became Rector of the failing Church of the Evangelists in Philadelphia.  The church had been built some years earlier as a mission chapel, but the standard of construction was poor, and the need for constant repairs soon exhausted the funds of the backers.  Disputes naturally arose, which led to the resignation of the rector and the appointment of Mr. Percival.  It was decided to demolish most of the old building and to erect a  new one, in an Italianate style, funded by the rector and his wealthy friends.  It opened on March 24th, 1886.  The church enjoyed a period of success while he was rector, and all the debts were paid off by 1889.  He composed a guide to the building which is online here.

But the church had no root in the community.  There were few episcopalians locally, and the area was becoming increasingly full of immigrants from Europe.  It has been observed:

Percival’s Church of the Evangelists was the kind of manufactured artifact appropriate to house what James van Trump calls “a rather self-conscious coterie of late nineteenth century Philadelphia haute bourgeoisie ‘engaged’, one might say, in being ‘Catholic’, cultivated, and artistic.” (van Trump, The Charette, Jan. 1965, p. 17; see bibliography.) The building in its basic style and decoration embraces Italy, Ruskin, the ecclesiological movement, and the pageantry of mediaeval Christianity. As such, it is a vivid document of the taste of High Church romantic Italophile Americans of the Period.

Ultimately the whole project was merely the whimsy of a rich man.   How wonderful, however, to have the money and connections to build an Italianate basilica, and to sustain it, if only for a while!

Percival eventually retired as rector in 1897, for health reasons.  After his death financial worries and disputes returned.  The building was eventually sold in 1916 to an art collector, and as the Fleischer Art Memorial it still stands today.[2]

Mr Percival was as Anglo-Catholic as could be imagined.  He said the mass daily at his church, and heard confessions.  His bishop refused to allow him to use catholic lights and vestments, so the result seemed rather odd.  But there can be no doubt about his sincerity.  He became an influential theologian in the Episcopalian church.

In retirement he edited and translated the volume of the NPNF, and did other literary tasks.  It is his work with the NPNF that lives today, I would think.

He died, still a young man, at the age of 49.  His death was announced in the San Francisco Call, vol. 94, number 116, on 24 September 1903, (online here) as follows:

Rev. Henry R. Percival Dead.

PHILADELPHIA. Sept. 23.— Rev. Henry R. Percival, a prominent Protestant Episcopal divine, died’ last night at his country home in Devon, a suburb. He was 48 years of age. Dr. Percival was an extensive writer on theology, many of his books being used as standard works in nearly all of the Episcopal theological seminaries of this country.

His funeral sermon, A Sermon in Memory of Rev. Henry Robert Percival Preached by Rev. Robert Ritchie at St. Mark’s Church, Philadelphia (1903), is online here.

It is always easy to sneer at the failures of yesteryear, and even the successes.  But it seems to me that Mr Percival deserves our kindness.  With his poor health as a burden, he did what he could.  I have a feeling that many of us may prove to have done less with our lives, and benefitted others less.

Mr. Percival lies in Saint Peter’s Episcopal Churchyard in Philadelphia:

Requiscat in pace, et resurgat resurrectione justorum.

  1. [1]
  2. [2]I owe much of this information to the Wikipedia article on the Fleischer Art Memorial, and the history of the building in a nomination form as a historical monument, online here.

Zoom meeting – A paper on fragments of medieval Latin manuscripts originating in Transylvania, by Adrian Paphagi

On March 26 at 3pm GMT / UTC (1100 EDT) Dr Adrian Papahagi will present a paper via Zoom with the title Evidence Preserved by Destruction: Recycling Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Transylvania during the (Counter)Reformation.  You can register for it here.  (H/T @FragmentariumMS on Twitter here.)  I may listen in myself.

Like most of us, I was quite unaware that there were Latin manuscripts written in medieval Translyvania.  But indeed there were.  There were Benedictine Abbeys, and Franciscan Friaries in the region.  The area was only transferred to Romania in modern times.

Dr P. has published a paper “Lost Libraries and Surviving Manuscripts: The Case of Medieval Transylvania” in: Library & Information History 31 (2015), 35–53, in English, with the following abstract:

The medieval dioceses of Transylvania, Oradea, and Cenad were the easternmost ramparts of Western culture. Cathedrals, Benedictine and Cistercian abbeys, Franciscan and Dominican convents, parish churches, and urban communities owned books and libraries in the Middle Ages. Most of these were lost to fires and plunders. The Tartars’ invasion in 1241 and the Reformation were also major occasions for book destruction. Starting from surviving book lists and manuscripts preserved in Romania and abroad, the present article attempts to reconstruct the landscape of literacy in medieval Transylvania.

The paper discusses what collections now exist, and where the manuscripts are.  From this I learn that most of the manuscripts were destroyed, and only about 100 produced or owned before 1500 are extant.

I also found at a paper by Adinel C. Dinca, “The Medieval Book in Early Modern Transylvania Preliminary Assessments”, in: SUBB – Historia 62 (2017), 24-34, here.  This again is valuable to those who come to it new.

Alba Iulia – known to readers of this blog hitherto as the site of a Mithraeum – was the capital of Transylvania and today has the largest collection of medieval manuscripts, the Batthyaneum Library.  This was created only in the 1780s by Bishop Ignatius Batthyany, mainly by purchase from other areas of the Hapsburg domains, so it doesn’t contain much from medieval Transylvania.  Some of its manuscripts are online, according to this blog post at the Medieval Hungary blog.  I found that going to the search engine here – NOT the search on the main page – and entering “Batthyaneum”  gave 15 results, some of them incunables.  I saw nothing of great interest to us, tho.  Apparently the state seized the library from the church in 1949, after which “access became very limited”, and still is.

Always interesting to hear about something a bit wild!


Munier’s “Concilia Africae” edition (CCSL 149) – a table of contents

The modern critical edition of the canons and acts of the African councils is Charles Munier, “Concilia Africae A. 345- A. 525”, in: Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 149 (1974).   The volume number is indeed 149, despite being misprinted as 259 (“CCLIX”) on the title page.  Volume 149A is the companion text, the conlocutio of 411 between the Catholics and Donatists.

As I have remarked before, the CCSL 149 volume is very hard to use.  Part of that is that it does not have a table of contents.  In order to work with it, I was obliged to create one, so I will share it here.  It isn’t incredibly detailed – some things I have yet to discover.  But it is better than nothing.

This data is based on the (not very helpful) list at the Brepols site here, and looking the items up in the Clavis Patrum Latinorum (=CPL).  The CPL helpfully gives page numbers.  Each “text”  is in fact a collection of all the material from various sources relating to that particular church council.

There are any number of tiddlers, so I have placed the big texts in bold.

  • p. v – Preface
    • p. vii – a list of documents used as sources, at the foot of the page.
    • p. xiii – manuscripts and sigla.
    • p. xxiii – Chronological list of councils, table of canons, and a bibliography for each council.
  • p. 1. – Concilia Africae
  • p. 2-10 – Concilium Carthaginense sub Grato, 345-348 AD (CPL 1765a)
  • p. 11-19 – Concilium Carthaginense, 390 AD (CPL 1765c)
  • p. 20-21 – Concilium Hipponense, 393 AD (CPL 1765d)
  • p.  23-53 – Concilium Carthaginense, 397 AD.  This is comprised of:
    • 22-27 – Sources and preface
    • 28-53 – The Breviarium Hipponense (CPL 1764)
      • 28-29 – The first session.  Starts with the prefatory letter by Aurelius and Mizonius
      • 30-31 – Nicene creed
      • 32-46 – Two different versions on the canons on facing pages
      • 47 – 53 – The second session of the 13 August, 397.  Mostly signatures and bits and pieces.
  • p.54-65 – Concilium Theletense, 418 AD (CPL 1765e)
  • p. 66 – Fragment of an unknown Concilium Provinciae Byzacenae (CPL 1765b)
  • 67-78 – Concilium Carthaginense, 418 AD (CPL 1765f)
  • 79-165 – Codex Apiarii Causa = “Codex Canonum Ecclesiae Africanae”, part 1, up to canon 33 (CPL 1765)
    •  Concilium Carthaginense, 419 AD – Acts of 25 May.
    • 33 Canones Apiarii causa, with the tituli and a speech by Aurelius at the end.  Canon 24 is the canon of scripture,
    • Epistula ad Bonifacium papam (CPL 393)
    • Epistula Cyrilii Alexandriae ad episcopos Africae (CPL 396)
    • Epistula ad Caelestinum papam (CPL 394)
  • p.248-253 – Concilium Carthaginense, 424-425 AD (CPL 1765g)
  • p.173-247 – Registri Ecclesiae Carthaginensis Excerpta (CPL 1765h)  = “Codex Canonum Ecclesiae Africanae”, part 2, everything after canon 33, and all of it relating to councils before 419, I believe.
  • p.248-253 – Concilium Hipponense, 427 AD (CPL 1766)
  • p. 254-282 – Concilium Carthaginense, 525 AD (CPL 1767)
  • p. 283 – Concilium Carthaginense, 536 AD (CPL 1767a)
  • p.284-311 – Ferrandi, Breviatio Canonum (CPL 1768)
  • p.312-313 – Sylloge Rerum Africanarum Collectionis Fossatensis
  • p.314-319 – Sylloge Africanorum Conciliorum in Epitome Hispanica (CPL 1769b)
  • p. 320-322 – Sylloge Canonum Africanorum Collectionis Laureshamensis (CPL 1769a)
  • p. 323-369 – Collectiones et Concilia Hispaniae — Concilia Africana secundum traditionem collectionis Hispanae (CPL 1790)
    • 329-341 – Concilium Carthaginense III
    • 342-354 – Concilium Carthaginense IV – Collectiones et Concilia Ecclesiarum Galliae — Statuta Ecclesiae antiqua. Recensio hispanica (CPL 1776°)
    • 355-359 – Concilium Carthaginense V
    • 360 – Concilium Carthaginense VI
    • 361-369 – Concilium Milevitana
  • p.371-425 – Indices
  • Maps

The most useful review of the book that I found was by Hubert Mordek, in Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte: Kanonistische Abteilung 72 (1986), 368-376.  This pointed out the numerous misprints – including the series number on the title page! – and other problems with the volume, in a 9 page review.  The first page can be seen here.


The “codex canonum ecclesiae Africanae” – looking at the Justell edition

Today I looked at a Google Books volume, here, headed on that site as “Codex canonum Ecclesiæ Africanæ promulgated at the Council of 419”.  It turns out to be a book printed in 1615 by C. Justell, consisting – seemingly – of the material from the “collectio Dionysiana” under the heading of the council of Carthage.

The text is printed from some manuscript, in Latin.  On alternate pages is the Greek translation made in antiquity.

The title – “Codex canonum ecclesiae Africanae” – “Code of canons of the African Church” – keeps turning up in discussions of canon law for centuries afterwards, and even merits a Clavis Patrum Latinorum number of its own, CPL 1765.

But … in reality it is the collection of texts relating to the Council of Carthage of 419, complete, following canon 33, with an appendix of materials from previous councils – which was probably added by Dionysius Exiguus from other sources – plus a few letters to and from the council.  One of the purposes of the council was to verify the exact text of materials from Nicaea, by requesting copies from the east, and these are included.

What is NOT included is the Breviarium of the canons of Hippo in 393, nor the introductory letter to it by Aurelius and Mizonius,

This makes matters simpler.  There are plainly two main transmission units in play here.

  1. The Breviarium and its introductory letter by Aurelius and Mizonius, both produced at the Council of Carthage in 397.  Canon 36 in the Breviarium contains the canon of scripture.

2. The canons of the council of 419, plus the appendix of earlier material added by Dionysius Exiguus.  Canon 24 contains the canon of scripture.  The appendix also contains a chunk of prefatory material to the Council of Carthage in 397.

It looks as if these two items travel down the years independently.

Progress of a sort, anyway.


Can we use Fuchs’ Bibliothek der Kirchenversammlungen, and do we want to?

Few will be aware that in the 1780’s G.D. Fuchs published an 4-volume German translation of the acts and canons of the church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries.  His Bibliothek der Kirchenversammlungen des vierten und fünften Jahrhunderts can be found online, at Google Books in low resolution, and at the BSB – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek – Bavarian State Library – in higher resolution.  Here are a few links:

  • Vol. 1 (1780) – Google Books. – BSB.  Introduction, canons up to Nicaea.
  • Vol. 2 (1781) – Google Books. – BSB.  Thyrus (335) to the first synod of Toledo (400).
  • Vol. 3 (1783) – Google Books. – BSB.  African Synods, from 348 to 426; Jerusalem, Diospolis, up to preliminaries to Ephesus in 431.
  • Vol. 4 (1784) – Google Books. – BSB.  Ephesus, Chalcedon, Constantinople etc to the end of the fifth century.

Just to add to the fun, he used a “gothic” typeface – “Fraktur” is the technical term – which is pretty much unreadable to non-Germans, even if they know the language.  But modern technology has made quite a difference.  Google can make books in Fraktur searchable.  Abbyy Finereader 15 can turn it into modern typeface using the “Old German” language setting.  The BSB has a search facility on its volumes, probably using the Abbyy engine.  It was in fact a Google search for “Mizonius”, a bishop at the Council of Carthage in 397, that produced a link to Fuchs.

Fuchs tells us that he used the text from J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum, vol. 3 (1759) In fact he wisely indicates the column numbers.  At the start of the material on the Council of Carthage in 397 (volume 3, page 63), we get as a heading “Mansi Tom. III. col. 915 = 939.” and a footnote which specifies what is where.

In the original, and in Google Translate English:

43) In der oben angezeigten Stelle hat Mansi die Aus­gabe unserer Synodalakten nach der Anleitung und den Handschriften der Ballerini, mit Anmerkungen von diesen. Vorher geht col. 909-915. admonitio BaIIeriniorum de breuiar Hippon. Wiederum col. 875-908. 1) Die alte Isidorsche Ausgabe cum titulis, annexisque quinque capitulis ex Gratiano aIiis­que desumptis, incertae originis. 2) Einige Ausga­ben, worinnen die Hipponischen abgekürzten Schlüsse von den übrigen Verfügungen durch die Aufschrift unterschieden sind, 3) Anmerkungen von Dinius. 4) Eine Nachricht von einer Synode zu Karthago, aus dem libellus synodicus, von der aber ungewis ist, ob sie hieher gehört. 5) Anmerkungen von Aubespi­ne.  6) Zwo Anmerkungen von Pagi. Die Synode wird gewöhnlich unter dem Titel, Concil. Carthag. III. angeführt, und unter den Aurelianischen wird sie als die dritte gezählt.

43) In the place indicated above, Mansi has the edition of our synodal acts according to the instructions and the manuscripts of the Ballerini, with annotations from them. Before that, col. 909-915. admonitio BaIIeriniorum de breuiar Hippon. Again col. 875-908. 1) The old Isidorian edition cum titulis, annexisque quinque capitulis ex Gratiano aIiisque desumptis, incertae originis. 2) Some editions, in which the Hipponian abbreviated conclusions are distinguished from the other provisions by the inscription, 3) Notes by Dinius. 4) A message from a synod at Carthage, from the libellus synodicus, of which, however, it is uncertain whether it belongs here. 5) Comments from Aubespine. 6) Two notes from Pagi. The synod is usually entitled, Concil. Carthag. III. cited, and counted as the third among the Aurelian.

Here’s the corresponding page from Mansi:

This is all well and good.  So I thought that I would try to identify this proemium, the introduction to the council, in other modern editions.  It can be found in the standard edition, Munier’s CCSL 149, Concilia Africae, on p.182, at the start of the “Register of excerpts of the Carthage Church”; and in Joannou’s Fonti discipline generale antique (IVe-IXe s.) vol. 1.2 les canons des synodes particuliers (1962) i.e. volume 1.2, p.250, with French translation.  In other words this preface reaches us only as part of the “Council of Carthage” in the “Collectio Dionysiana” – I talked about the collections here -, in the material that follows canon 33.  It took a little longer than I would have liked to find all those.

Just for fun, I used Abbyy Finereader 15, and I scanned Fuchs’ material for the Council of Carthage in 397, and I ran the text, and part of the copious footnotes, through Google Translate.  But scanning does make you read the text.  I found that Fuchs text was obviously incomplete.  A footnote indicated that the signatures of the bishops had been omitted; not a good sign.  Likewise in canon 1, I knew that a text of the Nicene Creed should be given; but it was omitted, as a footnote confirmed.

Let’s take a look at the Proemium, and compare what Fuchs gives us, in his archaic German, to the actual Latin text that Mansi prints.  First Fuchs (with the raw Google output after):

44) Unter dem Konsulat des Caesarius und Attikus d. 28ten August. Als sich Aurelius zu Karthago in dem Kirchenzimmer mit den Bischöfen gesezt hatte, und die Diakonen da stunden 45), so sagte er:  Wir versammleten uns, wie ihr wisset, sogleich nach dem zur Synode bestimmten Tag 46), in der Meynung, die Gesandten der übrigen Provinzen vyn Afrika seyen auch angekommen. Man las den Brief der Byzacenischen Bischöfe, welche vor der anberaumen Zeit sich hier eingefunden halten, und was diese sonst mit mir verhandelt halten, vor; man las die Vollmacht der Sitiphensischen Legaten, des Honoratus und Urbanus; nicht weniger das Schreiben des Krescentianus, des Primas von Numidien, und des Aurelius, unserer Mitbischöfe, worinnen sie versprochen haben, sie würden entweder selbst kommen, oder doch der Gewohnheit nach Abgeordnete schicken. Da nun dieses bisher nicht geschehen, und doch die Legaten von dem Sitiphensischen Mauritanien sich langer nicht aufhalten können: so wollen wir nicht nur das Schreiben unserer Byzacenischen Brüder, sondern auch den dem selbigen angehangten und für diese Versammlung bestimmten kurzen Auszug der Kirchenverordnungen noch einmal verlesen lassen, ob nicht etwas daran zu verbessern seyn möchte. Um dieses bittet der verehrungswürdige Primas Mizonius in einem Schreiben an mich.

44) In the consulate of Caesarius and Atticus, on August 28th. When at Carthage Aurelius sat in the church room with the bishops, and the deacons were there,45) he said: “As you know, we met immediately after the day that was set for the Synod 46), in the Meynnung, the ambassadors from the other provinces of Africa had also arrived. The letter from the Byzacene bishops, who were present here before the appointed time and what other things they were negotiating with me, were read out; one read the authority of the Sitiphensian legates, the Honorus and Urbanus; no less the letter from Crescentianus, the primate of Numidia, and from Aurelius, our fellow bishops, in which they promised that they would either come themselves or, as is customary, send delegates. Since this has not happened so far, and yet the legates of Mauritania Sitiphensis cannot stay longer: we want not only the letter from our Byzacene brothers, but also the Breviarium from the same, which is attached to the same and intended for this assembly Have church ordinances read out again to see if something could be improved on them. The venerable Primate Mizonius asks me for this in a letter.”

That’s pretty clear, even without tidying up.  But is it Mansi?

Sadly it is not.  Even a glance shows that Fuchs has omitted the last sentence, “Si ergo placent quae tractata sunt, legantur, & singula a vestra caritate considerentur.” – “If what [the canons] have been handed over is acceptable, let them be read, and considered one by one by your charity.”  There is plenty of verbiage about “your charity” in other places, which Fuchs has omitted.  Cutting out the piffle is sort of OK, although not very.

The Byzacene bishops arrived early, by mistake, and could not stay.  So they compiled a summary of the canons of Hippo, attached to a letter to the council.  In this first session of the council, on 28 August 397, Bishop Aurelius – really the archbishop – now wants the council to review what was said.  That lost sentence by itself is an important omission as to what the council is about to do.

Mansi and Joannou confirm Mansi’s text at this point. Let’s look at Joannou’s text and translation:

De concilio Carthaginensi, ubi multa sunt constituta.

Caesario et Attico viris clarissimis consulibus, V. Kal. Septembris, Carthagine in secretario basilicae restitutae, cum Aurelius episcopus una cum episcopis consedisset, adstantibus diam diaconis, advenientibus quoque Victore sene Puppianense, Tito Migirpense, Evangelo Assuritano, Aurelius episcopus dixit:

Post diem praestitutum concilii consedimus, ut recordamini fratres beatissimi, d arbitrabamur omnium provinciarum per Africam legationes convenisse ad diem, ut dixi, praestitutam nostri tractatus; sed cum sacerdotum nostrorum epistola Byzacenorum fuisset recitata, vel quid mecum iidem, qui tempus d diem concilii praevenerant, tractassent vestrae caritati legeretur, lecta est etiam a fratribus Honoraio et Urbano, qui nobiscum hodie concilio participantur, legatio Sitiphensis provinciae destinata; frater etiam Reginus ecclesiae Vegetselitanae literas ad parvitatem meam datas Crescentiani primae sedis, ut ipse insinuat, Numidiarum et Aurelii coepiscoporum nostrorum; in quibus scriptis vestra mecum caritas recognoscit promisisse eosdem, quod aut ipsi dignarentur venire, aut ad hoc concilium fuissent ex more destinaturi legatos. Sed hoc quia minime factum videtur, diu se detineri de longinquo venientes legati Mauritaniae Sitiphensis non posse testantur.

Et ideo fratres, si vestrae caritati videtur, literae fratrum nostrorum Byzacenorum, sed et breviarium quod eidem epistolae adiunxerunt ad hunc coetum conrogatum legantur, ut si qua forte illic movere caritatis vestrae animum possunt, in eodem breviario quae diligentius fuerint animadversa in melius reformentur. Hoc enim frater et coepiscopus noster primae sedis, vir perspectus merito suae gravitatis atque prudentiae, Mizonius, scribens ad meam parvitatem postulavit. Si ergo placet, quae tractata sunt legantur et singula a vestra caritate considerentur.

Du synode de Carthage, où de nombreuses décisions furent prises.

Sous Césaire et Atticus les clarissimes consuls, le cinquième jour des calendes de septembre, à Carthage, au secrétariat de la basilique Restaurée, sous la présidence d’Aurélius évêque, les évêques étant présents assistés de diacres, y assistant aussi Victor le vénérable évêque de Pupput, Tite évêque de Migirpa, Evangele évêque d’Assuras, Aurélius évêque de Carthage parla aux évêques.

Aurélius évêque dit: Apres le jour fixé pour la réunion du synode, alors que nous siégions, comme vous vous en souvenez, mes tris bienheureux freres, et attendions que les délégués de toutes les provinces d’Afrique arrivent au jour de notre réunion, jour fixé, dis-je, à l’avance, on lut une lettre de nos comministres de la Byzacine; on lut aussi à votre charité les discussions qui ont eu lieu entre moi et ceux qui sont arrivés avant le jour fixé pour le synode; nos frères Honoré et Urbain, qui prennent part à la session de ce jour, nous ont lu la délégation qui fut envoyée du territoire Sitifien; or notre frère Rhéginus de l’église Végétsélitaine présenta à notre modestie des lettres de nos comministres Crescentien et Aurélius, titulaires des premiers sièges des deux Numidies, dans lesquelles, votre charité s’en souvient avec moi, ils promettent ou bien de daigner venir eux-mémes à ce synode ou bien d’y envoyer selon l’usage des délégués. Mais comme cela n’a eu aucunement lieu, les délégués de la Mauritaine Sitifienne, arrivés de si loin, protestent qu’ils ne peuvent s’attarder plus longtemps.

C’est pourquoi, mes frères, si tel est l’avis de votre charité, qu’on lise dans cette réunion bénie les lettres de nos frères de la Byzacène et le mémoire qu’ils y ont ajouté, afin que soit corrigé pour le mieux ce que votre charité estimerait pouvoir être corrigé avec plus de soin; c’est cela en effet que notre frère dans l’épiscopat Mizonius, le titulaire très illustre du premier siège, demande en écrivant à mon humilité d’une manière digne de sa grandeur et de sa prudence. Si donc tel est votre avis, qu’on lise ce qui fut débattu et que votre chanté prête attention à chaque question.

As it is late, I will merely run the French through Google Translate and touch it up a bit.  My experience is that the French is sometimes a paraphrase, but it will serve for our purpose.

From the Synod of Carthage, where many decisions were made.

Under Caesarius and Atticus the most honourable consuls, on the fifth day of the kalends of September, in Carthage, at the secretariat of the Restored Basilica, under the presidency of bishop Aurelius, the bishops being present assisted by deacons, also assisting there Victor the venerable bishop of Puppianum, Titus bishop of Migirpa, Evangelus bishop of Assuras; Aurelius bishop of Carthage spoke to the bishops.

Bishop Aurelius said, “After the day fixed for the meeting of the synod, while we were sitting, as you will remember, my very blessed brothers, and waiting for the delegates from all the provinces of Africa to arrive on the day of our meeting, a day fixed, I said, in advance, we read a letter from our co-ministers of Byzacene; the discussions which took place between me and those who arrived before the day fixed for the synod were also read to your charity; our brothers Honorius and Urbanus, who are taking part in today’s session, read us the delegation that was sent from Sitifian province; also our brother Rheginus of the Vegetselitan church presented to our modesty letters from our commissioners Crescentianus and Aurelius, holders of the first sees of the two Numidias, in which, your charity remembers it with me, they promise to come to this synod or else to send delegates according to custom. But as this did not happen at all, the delegates from Mauritania Sitifiense, who had arrived from so far away, protested that they could not linger any longer.

And so, my brothers, if this is the opinion of your charity, let us read in this blessed meeting the letters of our brothers of Byzacene and the summary that they added to it, so that what your charity would think could be corrected with more care may be corrected for the better.  This is indeed what our brother in the episcopate Mizonius, the very illustrious holder of the first see, asks by writing to my humility in a manner worthy of his greatness and his prudence. So if that is your opinion, let us read what was debated and let your charity consider each question.”

There is a lot of verbiage in that, compared to Fuchs.  Fuchs gives us the essence of what Aurelius said; but not the actual wording.  So his version must not be relied on.

Looking at it differently, however, Fuchs does at least express an opinion, in fairly simple German, as to what these texts actually say, behind all the “your charity” and “our modesty” honorifics.  I have already found that the Latin can be rather involved.  So anybody working with these texts may still find the briefer version of Fuchs of use.

Update (24/03/2021): I have discovered that the NPNF has a translation of this proemium, which is in fact embedded in the “code of the African church” material here, after canon 33, just as it is in the “collection Dionysiana”.  Here it is:

Aurelius, the bishop, said:[438] After the day fixed for the council, as ye remember, most blessed brethren, we sat and waited for the legations of all the African provinces to assemble upon the day, as I have said, set by our missive; but when the letter of our Byzacene bishops had been read, that was read to your charity, which they had discussed with me who had anticipated the time and day of the council; also it was read by our brethren Honoratus and Urban, who are to-day present with us in this council, sent as the legation of the Sitifensine Province. For our brother Reginus of the Vege[t]selitane[439] Church,[440] the letters sent to my littleness by Crescentian and Aurelius, our fellow-bishops, of the first sees of the [two] Numidias, in which writings your charity will see with me how they promised that either they themselves would be good enough to come or else that they would send legates according to custom to this council; but this it seems they did not do at all, the legates of Mauritania Sitifensis, who had come so great a distance gave notice that they could stay no longer; and, therefore, brethren, if it seem good to your charity, let the letters of our Byzacene brethren, as also the breviary, which they joined to the same letter, be read to this assembly, so that if by any chance they are not entirely satisfactory to your charity, such things in the breviary may be changed for the better after diligent examination. For this very thing our brother and fellow-bishop of the primatial see, a man justly conspicuous for his gravity and prudence, Mizonius, demanded in a letter he addressed to my littleness. If therefore it meets with your approval, let there be read the things which have been adopted and let each by itself be considered by your charity.

A couple of the footnotes are interesting:

I will write more about existing English translations.


Let’s kill all the umlauts!

We all know the umlaut.  It’s those two dots above the vöwëls in German words.  It also appears in the names of low-grade heavy-metal bands, as a way to seem more Germanic.

But how many of us know that the umlaut is completely fake?

in 1783, G. D. Fuchs issued his Bibliothek der Kirchenversammlungen des vierten und funften Jahrhunderts – Library of Church Councils of the Fourth and Fifth Centuries – in multiple volumes at Leipzig.  Being German, he printed it in a “Fraktur” typeface – that horrible, unreadable Germanic “gothic” typeface.

But modern technology is wonderful, and I’ve been scanning some of it and creating an electronic text.  And I noticed something…

Here’s an example.

At the top is what the OCR software makes of the text.  At the bottom is the image being scanned.

But notice the “Umstände”.  In Fuchs text, the modern umlaut is actually printed as a tiny little letter “e”!!

I’m sure we all remember the fat Nazi Reichsmarshal from numerous war films.  In German, of course, he is “Göring”, with his umlaut correctly in place.  In English we say “Goering”.  It turns out that we are right.  That umlaut, the funny looking vowel with a funny-looking mark, is just fake.  His name really was Goering, and the Germans just wrote it in a funny way that just looked more Germanic on the page.

Longer ago, the German language in German books were rather less, um, Germanic.  I’ve noticed in the past that the spellings in Austrian books in the 1890s are less Germanic than in those produced in the Reich in the same period.  Cologne is not spelled with a K until recent times.  I get the impression that the Germans during the 18-19th centuries must have gone off on a weird tangent.  Probably it’s nationalism or something, but it doesn’t half make their books hard to read.

Thankfully they don’t use Fraktur any more.  I am told that in 1941, in a blow for sanity, Adolf Hitler banned the use of it.   Yes, you read that correctly – we don’t use the words “sane” and “Hitler” in the same sentence that often.  It’s a sign of how mad things had got, that Hitler was the voice of reason.  Today I believe that the modern German governments have been trying to simplify, getting rid of the double-s, and things like that.  It must be welcome.

But all the same… how about all those umlauts really being just an abbreviated lower-case letter “e”?  I bet bands like Moeterhead and Doekken would have been really annoyed.