Five stray canons of the Council of Hippo (393) – canons 2 and 3

It’s time to return to our translation of the canons of the Council of Hippo in 393, last visited in December last year here.  I’ve had a fair bit of material sitting on my desktop for a year, and it’s time to move some of it into the blog!

As I said last time, five canons were rediscovered by Charles Munier about 50 years ago.  Let’s get on with translating them into English.  Comments are welcome! – I have found these canons rather tricky at points.

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Here’s canon 2:

2. Epigonius episcopus dixit : Omnis incontinentia quae in abscondito exercetur, ne palam publicata damnetur, volumus itaque aliqua disciplina sauciari; lectores dicimus pubescentes coartari debere, ut matrimonia suscipiant aut certe sanctimonia profiteantur. Sin vero voluntate prava perseveraverint, suspendi eos oportere a lectione usque eundem diem ut, aut uxores ducant aut, si noluerint uxores ducere, professionem continentiae suae devoverint.

2.  Bishop Epigonius said: We want every incontinence, which is practised in secret for fear that it should be condemned when made known openly, therefore to be cut back by some regulation; we say that youthful readers ought to be constrained to marry or at least to make a declaration of purity.  But if in fact they persevere in their corrupt purpose, they ought to be suspended from the readership until the day when either they marry, or, if they are not willing to marry, they shall make profession of their continence.

Canon 3:

3. Epigonius episcopus dixit : Additur aliquid quod non sejungatur de hoc titulo : saepe, patientibus propositis, vidimus lectores in ecclesiis (…). Si hoc placet mentibus vestris, qui secundam acceperit, a lectione ex hodierno die arceatur.

Ab universis episcopis dictum est: Omnibus placet ut deinceps, si quis lector duas uxores habuerit, ab lectionis officio sit remotus.

3. Bishop Epigonius said: There is something to add that should not be detached from this subject: often, while permitting the practices, we have seen readers in churches (…). If this is agreed by your judgement, let him who has married a second [wife] from this day be prevented from reading.

By all the bishops it was said: It is agreed by all that, if any reader has two wives in succession, from now on he should be removed from the office of reading.

I’ll defer canons 4 and 5 until next time.


2 thoughts on “Five stray canons of the Council of Hippo (393) – canons 2 and 3

  1. deinceps: I’m sure this doesn’t mean here ‘in succession’ but “from now on”, and goes with ‘sit remotus’. I think ‘patientibus propositis’ refers to the existing norms, that is, “since the rules allow it”; and that the canon actually establishes a new rule: “it is agreed by all that in the future, if any reader has two wives, he should…”

    Note that with this ‘secundam’ and ‘duas uxores’ may still refer either to bigamy or to second marriage. I see via Google Books that this is discussed in J.-A. Sabw Kanyang, Episcopus et plebs: l’évêque et la communauté ecclésiale dans les conciles africains (345-525) pages 141-2:

    “Les évêques africains rejettent ainsi toute bigamie de telle sorte qu’un lecteur qui a contracté un deuxième mariage est exclu de sa fonction ecclésiastique.
    “Ainsi, lorsque les évêques parlent de «si quis lector duas uxores habuerit» dans le canon 3 du concile d’Hippone 3 octobre 393, ils font peut-être allusion à une bigamie simple, c’est-à-dire à une bigamie «simultanée» ou le fait de convoler en secondes noces. Une telle bigamie est apparentée à la polygamie.
    “Il peut s’agir aussi d’une bigamie «successive», d’un remariage. Que ce soit l’une ou l’autre, les évêques africains rejettent toute forme de bigamie et privent l’accès à la cléricature tout candidat qui ne serait pas mari d’une seule femme.”

  2. That is certainly better. I read “deinceps” with “habuerint”, but it works much better with “sit remotus”. Thank you so much for looking at this, and also for finding that source.

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