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:
https://books.google.com/books?id=2ml0v8VSYjwC&pg=PA211. I am told that the language is naturally dated but the translation looks quite faithful.