Munier’s “Concilia Africae” – read his Chronological Overview in English

Let’s continue with our description of the material in the Latin preface to Munier’s Concilia Africae a. 345-a.525.  As I wrote in my previous post, this is a very dense and hard to understand preface, but anybody working with the book needs to know what is in it.

The next chunk is actually very useful.  But it is cunningly hidden behind a bibliography, and I certainly never realised how important it was.  So I will translate most of the material relating to fourth century councils.

As in my previous post, I don’t intend to post everything – just enough so that those working with Munier’s book can get a handle on what they’re looking at.

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The Council of Carthage under Gratus, a. 345-348.

In this edition, p. 2, where the witnesses are reviewed.

The date for the council is still uncertain. Indeed, it does not depend solely on the date of Sardica (a. 342-343), at which Gratus was present (c. 5): H. Hesse, The Canons of the Council of Sardica, Oxford 1958, p. 23, but from the time of the mission of the officials of Paul and Mark (as well as from the time of the edict of Constantis) to whom the same Gratus alludes in the prologue.  E. Schwartz argues for the year 342 (the council of Sardinia) and rejects the year 348/349 (as the date for the council under Gratus): “Der griechische Texi der Kanones von Serdika”, in Zeitschrift fur die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, 30 (1931 ) p. 4 n.i. But his opinion was not acceptable to all: W. TELFER, in The Harvard Theol. Review, 35 (1943) p. 190, W.H.C. FREND, The Donatist Church, Oxford 1952, p. 179, etc., always retain the year 348 or 349, as do LENAIN DE TILLEMONT, P. Monceaux, Histoire litteraire de l’Afrique chrétienne, IV (1912), p. 242; HEFELE-LECLERCQ, I, 837, etc. More recently, R. Crespin, relying on the opinion of Rev. F.L. CROSS (JThSt, 50 [1949], p. 200) proposed the year 345, Ministère et sainteté, Paris 1965, p. 38 n. 5.   While things stand thus, until questions can be resolved about the passion of Marculus (whether he perished on the 29th of November 347 or not?; cf. Optatius Contra Parm. Don. 347), and the edict of Constans (whether the edict was published by the proconsul of Africa on 15 August 347, or on the same day in the previous year?), to which the passion of Maximian and Isaac is linked, taking into account the events of the West (or the influence of Bishop Maximian of Treves on Constans?), it can be accepted that a council was held under Gratus in a certain year between 345 and 348.

It is agreed that the bishops of the provinces of Africa had already gathered before this council from the Prologue and cc. 2, 3, 12, 13, but nothing certain is known about what was then discussed, except that it was decreed in a certain synod of Byzacena that it was not permissible to lend money to clerics (c. 12).

From the council under Gratus we have:

a) canons 10 and 13, in canon 5 of the case of Apiarius; see table, p. 100;
b) canon 11 in the Council of Carthage 525, p. 264
c) the eleven canons in Ferrandus’ Breviatio; see table, p. 307-311; Maassen, n. 134.

The Council of Carthage under Genetlius, a. 390

In this edition, p.11. For anything else, cf. HEFELE-LECLERCQ, II, 76.

This is only presented accurately in the tradition of Spanish chronology; Maassen’s statements, p. 151 n. 3 and p. 152 n. 3, on the manuscripts used by the editors, must be corrected, as shown in the article: C. Munier, “La tradition du IIe concile de Carthage”, in Revue des Sciences religieuses, 46 (1972), p. 193-214.

A little earlier than this council, we know that certain African councils were held in accordance with can. 1, 2, 3, 10, but their canons, if any, do not survive; Epigonius says that a canon was made about the continence of clerics (c. 2).

From the council under Genetlius there are:

a) the nine canons among the canons of the cause of Apiarius, 25 May 419, in a revised form; cf. Maassen, p. 153 and our synopsis, p. 100;
b) the seven canons in Ferrandus’ Breviatio; see table, p. 307-311.

Council of Hippo, 8 October 393

The beginning of the councils under Aurelius; there was a “full council of the whole of Africa”, as Possidius attests, Life of Augustine 7.  Augustine, while still a priest, made a speech to the Fathers, which he then revised in his work De fide et symbolo = On the faith and creed, as he himself testifies, Retract. I, 17; Maassen, n. 136

A notice of the location and date of the council is in Reg. Carth., immediately before canon 34 (p. 182). There are some remains from the complete form of the Acts, namely:

a) the five complete canons, which I found in Ms. Vercelli 165 (p. 20).
b) two other canons, which were read at the council of Carthage 525 (p. 269-270).

I will discuss the Breviarium Hipponensis shortly under the council of AD 397 (p. xxi).

Council of Carthage, 16 June 394

A mention of this council, which appears to have been for the proconsular province, appears in Reg. Carth., before canon 34 (p. 182); Maassen, n. 137; HEFELE-LECLERCQ, II, p. 97.

The Council of Hadrumetinum, AD 394

This was for the province of Byzacena, as it seems, held a little after the preceding one; Reg. Carth., before c. 34.  Nothing more is known; Maassen, n. 137; HEFELE-LECLERCQ, II, 97

Council of Carthage, 26 June 397

The proconsular province alone attended.   Mention of it in Reg. Carth., before can. 57 (p. 193), which is transmitted from it; unclear whether it is the same as what the Breviatio of Ferrandus provides, under n. 64

Editions: Labbe II, 1081 and 1642 ; Hardouin I, 894; Mansi III, 750 ; PL 67, 199 D ; cf. Hefele-Leclercq II, 82 and 91; Maassen, n. 138.

Council of Carthage, August 13, 397

Notice of this council is included in the Acts of the council of August 28, 397. The bishops of Byzacena had arrived before the time of the plenary council, which the Fathers (at Hippo Regius) had determined would begin on 10 Kalends of September (cf. Reg. Carth., c. 73).  So on the thirteenth of August, under the presidency of Aurelius, they assembled with their primate Mizonius. But why the Byzaceni should arrive so early that they could return to their own province before the bishops of Numidia and Mauritania would arrive, may only be conjectured. Perhaps there was already an old quarrel about the precedence to be observed among the provinces, which seems to have been still unsolved in AD 525.

The Fathers of Byzacena drew up a summary of the decrees of the Council of Hippo 393, which they recommended to their colleagues soon to gather at Carthage in a letter, since “those things which are known to have been done and established in the same place (sc. Hippo) some with unbridled rashness have not observed”; they promise for their part that they will circulate the summary in the regions of Byzacena.

A summary of the decrees of the Council of 13 August 397 – which is often called the Breviarium  Hipponensis – was inserted into the proceedings of August 28, 397 (p. 183). Much has been written about that Breviarium , not all of it relevant. The Ballerini brothers made the best judgment, PL 56, 94 D; and most recently, F.L. Cross, art. laud., p. 229-233.

Edd. : Labbe II, 1641 ; Mansi III, 875 (sub titulo concilii Byzaceni!) ; cf. Hefele-Leclercq, II, 100 ; Maassen, n. 139.

Council of Carthage, August 28, 397

Others have transmitted the acts of this council organised differently (Ballerini, De ant. collection. et collector. canonum, II, 3, §3, PL 56, 94-103, and Maassen, n. 139-140).  But the order must be restored as follows:

1. The address of Bishop Aurelius, in Reg. Carth., before c. 34 (p. 182 ; PL 67, 193 B);

2.  The acts of the council of 13 August 397 were read, namely:

a) The letter of Aurelius, Mizonius and the bishops of Byzacena is read (p. 28 ; PL 56, 418 B);
b) The Breuiarium Hipponense is read in its original form, that is:
– The profession of faith (p. 30; PL 56, 418 C; Turner I, 302, col. a);
– Canons A-E and 1-36 (p. 32-43; PL 56, 419 B-430 A);  Note: Whether canon 37 of the Brev. Hippon., and c. 47 from the Reg. Carth. (PL 67, 195 B; p. 186) both belong to the original form of the Breviarium Hipponense or not is not entirely clear. Perhaps only c. 37 must be referred to the events of August 13, 397;
c) The subscription of the session 13 August 397 (p. 47 ; PL 56, 432 C).

3.  The Breviarium Hipponense is confirmed, and it is ordered that it shall be received in the Acts of August 28, 397, as evidenced by Reg. Carth., c. 34 (p. 183; PL 67, 193 D).

4. Other acts and statutes about which also information is given in Reg. Carth.: c. 47 b) – 56 (p. 186-193 ; PL 67, 195 C-199 D) and in the Third Council of Carthage in the Hispana collection, c. 48 b, 38-46; and 50 (p. 186-193; PL 84, 193 D-198 D), but the order of things was completely overturned, as can be seen from the following table (p. 23).  Note: c. 49 of the Collectio Hispana, in ed. Gonzalez (PL 84, 198 C) is present only in some copies: for it is c. 32 of the Canons in the case of Apiarius, in the recension of Dionysius (p. 144).

5. Conclusion of Aurelius: Reg. Carth., c. 56; the Hispana, on the passage, c. 50

6. The signatures of August 28 397: twenty-nine are handed down in the Lauresham collection, out of the forty-three bishops who are said to have been present (p. 49); In the Hispana three are present, of forty-four present; only that of Aurelius is included in Reg. Carth., c. 56.

According to the custom of the African Church, the canons of this council, among which the rules of the Breviarium Hipponense held the first place, were very often reread in the later councils held under Aurelius; some of them, either confirmed or revised, are to be found in the acts of the synods, 25 May 419 (among the canons in the case of Apiarius), and 5 February 525, under Boniface; but some are preserved by African, Gallic and Spanish collectors, such as Reg. Carth. Excerpta which Dionysius Exiguus inserted into his second recension of his compilations (c. 36-46; p. 173; PL 67, 194 A – 195 B); the collectio Laureshamensis (Maassen, p. 590) in additions, which seem to be derived from the ancient African tradition; the Breviatio Ferrandi, deacon of the Carthage church (p. 287-306); the author of the Hispana collection; author of the collectio Fossatensis (Maassen, p. 618-619). All of these are provided for the convenience of the reader in the following synopsis [a table – RP].

Edd. : many editions of this council are available, but, taking into account those things which Ballerini, Maassen, or more recent writers have said, concerning the restoration of its acts, great caution should be used: Labbe II, 1165-1190 ; Hardouin I, 969-974 ; Mansi III, 875-892, 916-930, Suppl. I, 254.

Testimonia : Aug. ep. 29,2 = Brev. Hipp., c. 29 ; ep. 64, 3 = Brev. Hipp. c. 36.
See also: Hefele-Leclercq, II, 100; Maassen, n. 139-140 ; Cross, art. laud., 229-233.

[In the printed edition, a big “tabula canonum”, “table of canons” then follows on pp.xxiii-xxiv.  Unless the reader is sharp, he will not have noticed the allusion to stuff “in adiuncta synopsi praebentur”, provided in the adjoining synopsis.  That seems to mean this table, which appears without introduction on p.xxiii.

Down the left hand side is a list of “canones”, up to 56 in number.  Across the top are a number of later collections of canons; the canons for the Apiarius case, the Register of the canons of Carthage, the Collectio Laureshamensis, etc.  These collections contain versions, original or adapted, of material from earlier councils.  The table basically allows you to start with canon 1234 of Carthage Aug. 28, 397, and find out what number canon in “collection XYZ” matches it.

So, to take an example, we can find that canon 3 of Carthage has a parallel in canon 226 in the Brevatio Ferrandi, and canon 5 in the Collectio Hispana.

A table of this kind follows other councils further on. – RP]

Council of Carthage, April 27, 399

Notice in Reg. Carth, before c. 57 (p. 193; PL 67, 199 D).
Edd. : Mansi III, 750, 979-980; cf. HEFELE-LECLERCQ, Il, 120-121; Maassen, n. 141


[My own interest goes no further than the 4th century, so I shall stop here.  But next there is a title “SAECULI QUINTI”, OF THE FIFTH CENTURY; two councils of 401, then a table of the canons of 401 with the references to the collections.  The same format continues for councils into the 6th century, on p.xxxviii.  That ends the prefatory material. – RP]


3 thoughts on “Munier’s “Concilia Africae” – read his Chronological Overview in English

  1. Nice work!

    Forewords often seem to have a lot of good information, but it sometimes seems very difficult to dig it out.

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