The Acts of the Council of Carthage in 397 and the Council of Hippo in 393 – online in English

It is done.  I have finally finished the task of creating a translation of the Acts of the Council of Carthage in 397, incorporating the remains of the Acts of the Council of Hippo in 393.  The purpose of this exercise is to show how canon 36 of Hippo, which lists the canon of scripture, actually fits into the other material from the council.  This is not a bunch of men voting on the Word of God, as is often crudely supposed. Instead it is a set of administrative regulations, which could be – and were – revised, summarised, and otherwise improved.

Here are the files.  They are also available on here.

As usual, this material is public domain.  Use it in any way you choose, personal, education, or commercial.

These two files do not seem like very much, as the output from the labour of most of a year, but they are what they are.  I need to thank those who commented on the original blog posts, especially Bill North and Diego, for rescuing me from many a misunderstanding.


From my diary

I have spent a very busy afternoon, pulling together most of the pieces of the Council of Hippo (393) and the two sessions of the Council of Carthage (397).  Despite all that I have done on this in the last twelve months, it has been rather awful.  I’m still not quite sure how to arrange all the material.

The problem is not with the edition of Charles Munier, although this is not fun to work with.  I think that the problem is caused by the material; a mass of stuff, repeated, revised, edited, abbreviated, reordered, through council after council, source after source.  It is a very tangled mass of stuff.

Editors like Mansi simply gathered together what belonged to each council.  Munier tried to follow some kind of transmission unit.  I have a feeling, tho, that the first course is the only possible course for what I want to do.

I’m trying to remember, in all this, what that original objective was.  I started with the widespread conception that the Councils of Hippo and Carthage “decided” by vote what should be in the canon of scripture.  This only works if you only quote canon 36, however.  But then that is exactly what the books all do.

I felt the answer was to present the context; the other canons, and material produced by the councils.  This is still true; but I had no conception of the sheer difficulty in working with this mass of material.  It is telling that Munier says that he spent ten years on this onerous task.  What a way to spend the 1960s!  I myself will be more than glad to be rid of this one.

The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers translated the Register of the church of Carthage, a collection of canons appended to the council of 419 (?) by the 6th century editor Dionysius Exiguus.  This contains stuff that I need to include; mostly canons of the second session of the Council of Carthage.  This evening I have been copying and pasting the relevant portions to a word document, in order to work on them further.

I think that I will largely use them as is, with minor tweaks.  At one point the translator mysteriously dropped into Jacobean English!  Thee and thou appeared all over the place; and then vanished again.  The translation veers between very literal and almost paraphrase.  At one point he just sticks the Latin word in here or there, untranslated, unfootnoted.  I infer that nobody, nobody, really read it that hard!  More interesting was a note to one canon where the translator said that the Latin was a mess and he followed the Greek translation instead.  I sympathise, I truly do.  How funny that Latin so well-used and copied should be corrupt!

Oh well.  Onward.


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.

    *    *    *    *



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]


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

During late antiquity the Catholic bishops of the Roman provinces of Africa frequently gathered in synods and issued rules (“canons”) for the behaviour of the clergy.  This created a mass of regulations which was eagerly seized on by other parts of the church and became a major source for medieval canon law.  The material for the African synods was edited in Latin by Charles Munier, Concilia Africae A. 345 – A. 525, CCSL 149 (1974).  This remains the current critical edition, even if there is a typo on the first page where the CCSL volume number is given as “CCLIX” instead of “CLIX” (!), which Brepols have not fixed in the nearly 50 years since it was reported.

But the volume is really very hard for anyone other than an expert to use.  The temptation is to plunge into the materials, but it is hard to make sense of them.  I have found it necessary to prepare a rough translation into English of his prefatory material, for my own use, and I thought that I would place this here.

I offer no guarantees of accuracy.  This is a draft.  Nor am I going to put the Latin here.  Get yourself the Latin, and read it yourself, with this to help.  My objective here is only to spare others some of the pain that I have found in trying to use the book for its design purpose.

    *    *    *    *

PROEMIUM [ = PREAMBLE, pages v-xii]

Among the documents of the law of the ancient churches, the canons of the African Councils hold no small place; for those which made their way not only into the collections of the West, but also from Latin copies translated into Greek, were admitted into the sources of Byzantium law: for by the decision of the council at Trullo (AD 692, c. 2) the synod of Carthage AD 419, with Excerpts from the Register of that Church, was approved.

In order to preserve the unity of the faith and the discipline, it was the custom of African bishops to assemble in synods since the early days. Blessed Cyprian (ep. 71, 4; 73, 3) testifies that such meetings were held under Agrippinus (a. 218-222?) and under Donatianus (a. 236-248), his predecessors. He himself frequently convened synods, especially when he contended with the bishop of Rome about reconciling the fallen and repeating baptism. At the beginning of the protests, the Donatists were often gathered together, but the greater part of their minutes were destroyed; nor is there space here to investigate or publish these.  The Donatist and Anti-Donatist writers are conveniently found in the very useful work of the Rev. D. Eligius Dekkers, under the name of “Clavis Patrum Latino­rum“, second edition (1961).

For our primary concern and study was to make available the documents of law which were available from Africa in ancient compilations, as well as to all the churches, also sprung from the source. And though there are already many editions of the Councils, from the Merliniana (Lutetiae Parisiorum, a. 1524)  to the most famous by Dominic Mansi (Florence and Venice, 1759-1798), an account of which is in the work of C. Lightfoot – H. Leclercq, “Histoire des Conciles”, t. I, p. 97-114, you will find that all who desire to use editions of this kind are often met with perplexing doubts, because the same documents are often handed down several times, so that the better tradition can be discerned. Indeed from the incunables of the art of printing on, editors found manuscripts by chance and hastily published them. But by an unfortunate chance, they were too often deceived by that African material, even though they had sent new documents to the press, because they had prior information about the synods of Africa, through the Spanish tradition, the worst of them all, or through the writings of Pseudo-Isidore; from which it came about that either they had few genuine readings or else they attempted to reconcile them with the Spanish tradition.

Nor is it surprising that the investigators of ecclesiastical and canon law in an area obstructed by so much baggage, perspired with much labour, since they were not weary of distinguishing wheat from chaff. This was the first reason why the restoration of each synod was extremely difficult, because in the more recent councils it was the custom of the Africans to read and confirm the decrees of earlier ones, so that the acts of some of them contained nothing new. But when the collectors of canons found so many statutes of almost the same kind in their copies, the problem was so awkward to them that they often omitted certain things, either the earlier one or the later, but did not give warning of things either transposed or compacted. Moreover, there was the deception, carelessness, haste, and scruple of the scribes, the cause of great confusion, so that either they were forced to abbreviate the documents, or they placed certain things under fictitious titles, either in ignorance or deliberately, or else they completely destroyed the chronological order or sequence of the Acts.

In order that traditions from authentic minutes might be distinguished from more recent ones, which, as they say, are contained in second- or third-hand compilations, it was necessary to return to the manuscripts themselves. Among the most active and intelligent seekers for manuscripts, above all, are those praiseworthy men, the brothers Peter and Jerome Ballerini, who judged with admirable skill concerning the African synods; their investigations, published in 1757, whose name is: “De antiquis collectionibus et collectoribus cano­num [=Of the ancient collections and collectors of canons]” (part II, c. iii), all well-known, are reflected in the Patrologia Latina 56, 88-124. Friedrich Maassen discussed the African councils very well: his book was published earlier in the century, “Geschichte der Quellen und der Literatur des canonischen Rechts im Abendlande” (Graz, 1871), nos. 132-164.  Very useful on the manuscripts and old compilations of law is C.H. Turner in his work, “The Most Ancient Monuments of the Law of the Western Church“, London, 1899-1939; nor is that all: the Acts of the name of Apiarius, which were examined at the council of Carthage AD 419, he edited meticulously in the place where they were (I, p. 561-624).   Lately Rev. Canon F.L. Cross (I would like to mention his innumerable benefits to me) has written briefly and skilfully in his concise article: “History and Fiction in the African Canons”, in The Journal of Theological Studies, new series, XII, part 2 (1961), p. 227-247.

Relying on the example and help, and overcome by the friendly persuasion of those who have dedicated themselves to the knowledge of the sources of canon law, I have dared to hammer out this edition of the canon law of the Councils of Africa (under the guidance of the master of all, Gabriel Le Bras).

The rationale and method of the work must now be indicated with a few words, since these differ in some respects from the method and principles used in the previous edition of the Councils of Gaul (AD 314-506) (Corpus Christianorum, vol. 148 [1963]).  In the ancient manuscripts the synods of Gaul were always whole and separate, so it was easy to arrange them in strict chronological order. The documents of the law of the churches of Africa are presented in a very different way: while some of the councils, like in Gaul, are transmitted separately and entire, others have reached us in compiled form, the entire acts of the councils, or as excerpts from their decisions, or they offer only a brief information about such assemblies, e.g. “Acts of the name of Apiarius”, AD 418-424, or “Excerpts from the Register of Carthage”. Those which can be published separately in chronological order are these:

a) Carthage Councils I, II, VII of the Spanish collection.  But the material under the titles of the Councils III, IV, V, and VI of Carthage, or of the Council of Milevis (AD 402), which is given in the same place, although it deserves less – or no – credit in some cases, could not be omitted from this edition, since it has been known and used for more than ten centuries.
b) the Council of Thelense (AD 418);
c) the council of Hippo (AD 427);
d) the Council of Carthage (AD 525).

I would not like to dismember the collections of the autonomous churches of Africa, or the abbreviated versions of their acts, or the remaining monuments of the science of canon law created in those countries, contrary to what is most often done. Nor would it be right, as Ed. Schwartz warns, who wrote about the collection of African material inserted in the second Dionysian (collection): “I believe it to be the private work of a Carthaginian cleric that was never read at an African synod. That it is old and contains valuable material should not be disputed. It, like the Breviarium Hipponense and the African councils of the Hispana, must be published separately if the history of transmission is to become clear: just don’t split it up into individual councils.” (“Die Kanonessammlungen der alten Kirche”, in “Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung” 56, Kan. Abt. 25 [1936], p. 72 note).

For this reason, I have edited here the documents of that kind, as they have been revised, in chronological order just as they were preserved, so that the knowledge and practice of canon law among the churches of Africa may appear. For though certain things concerning the author, sources, origin, and scope of each collection may remain obscure, the succession of these documents is not doubtful:

a) The Breviarium Hipponense (p. 22-53) was put together in the month of August 397, and enlarged a little after 401;

b) The Gesta de nomine Apiarii (p. 79-172) exists in two editions, the first of which was sent to Rome at the end of May 419, the other in the month of November of the same year and was completed in 424;

c) The Excerpta ex Registro ecclesiae Carthaginensis were collected in the city of Carthage by a private individual at the end of the fifth century (p. 173-247);

d) The Breviatio canonum of Fulgentius Ferrandus (p. 283-311) was compiled before AD 546, by a deacon of the church of Carthage, as Cresconius testified in his preface of his book (cf. Maassen, “Geschichte”, p. 800).

e) The Concordia canonum of Cresconius (Maassen, n. 842) certainly ought to have had its place in this edition with more certainty; for although there is still doubt about the person and time of the author, that he was an African, who composed his work from both collections of Dionysius the Exiguus, there is no doubt.  But when I found out that the first editor, namely Ch. Justel, often reported the readings of his exemplar (cod. Bodleian 3689, now from Mus. 103 ; cf. Maassen, n. 569, 1) of the second Dionysian collection under the titles of Cresconius, and that there was not time to collect all the manuscripts of the Concordia canonum of Cresconius  – at least thirty – required to prepare properly a critical edition of this work, it seemed right to refer the reader to the existing edition (PL 88, 829-942).

f) The brevatio canonum: “From the synod at Carthage of Africa”, which is presented in the Spanish Epitome (Maassen, n. 703), is not the work of an African. When it was published very recently by G. Martinez Diez (“El Epitome hispanico”, Comillas [1962]), I was unwilling to omit this document (put together for the use of the Braga Church at the beginning of the seventh century, so it seems), lest perhaps a judgment, which was too severe on the canons of the Africans, brought forward by a friend, might give some offense to some.  For he wrote, “The African canons and their exact attribution to the different councils is one of the greatest puzzles offered in the history of the ancient conciliar dispositions. It has not yet been resolved and perhaps never will be, at least with absolute certainty; and the fragment of African canons of the Epitome participates in this same obscurity and uncertainty” (op. cit., p. 45). When you carefully compare the sources of this Brevatio (p. 314-319), it appears by degrees that all the canons given there are known from other sources, both those taken from the Breviarium Hipponensis and the Excerpts from the Register of the Church of Carthage.

g)  Concerning the compilation of the African Councils, which the author of the collection known as the Collectio Hispana knew, following the Ballerini brothers (PL 56, 218 sq.) and Maassen, n. 793, has been best discussed by G. Martinez Diez in his book, “La coleccion canonica Hispana”, t. I (1966), p. 286-288.   Some refer to the testimony of the Council of Tours 567, c. 21 (cf. C. de Clercq, Councils of Gaul AD 511-695 [1963], p. 186), where the decision of the Council of Carthage AD 418 (see p. 227, 1532) is cited under the title of the CSouncil of Milevis, in order to show that the African compilations (so Maassen), or a hodgepodge of them, placed under the name of the council of Milevis (so Martinez), already existed in the middle of the sixth century.  This idea seems the better, because it is clear that the Excerpts from the Carthaginian Register were often extracted from the manuscripts which I first discussed, namely Berolinensis Phillipp. 1743 and Monacensis 5508 (see p. 235 and 245, the titles of those manuscripts).  Although the author of the Collectio Hispana knew the African material before it had been distorted, he himself revised the documents for his own benefit, so that ever since there has been no small deception.


It is clear that many things out of the very extensive Acts of the councils of Africa have perished so that nothing survives except extracts. A great number of collections of canons of that province were assembled, drawn from the traditions which they call “erratica”, which were available to writers from the fifth century to the seventh century. But the harvest of the reapers was trivial (cf. C. Munier, “Un canon inedit du XXe council de Carthage: Vt nullus ad ecclesiam romanam appellare audeat / Let no one dare to appeal to the Roman church” in “Revue des Sciences religieuses”, 40 [1966], 113-126). It is better, therefore, to say briefly what is preserved in individual manuscripts, with whose help we may conjecture the existence of other traditions, which are now lost:

  1.  The Collectio Fossatensis (for manuscripts see Maassen, n. 685 ; Turner I, 2, p. viii) is described by Maassen, p. 618-619. The archetype was written in the middle of the sixth century, but the order described in the chapter list, from the end of the same century, was changed in the body. Codex M contains the following African material:

a) in the list of chapters: “XI. The Canons of Carthage, where there were 212 (2) bishops, chapter. 28 – XII. The canons of Thelensis, where there were 38 bishops and others.”

At the end of the list of chapters the author notes: “The number of bishops, just as I found it written in Africa, so I have given it.”

b) In the body, fol. 94’: “The chapters of the canons of the council of the bishops of Cartagena begin in ccxiii”. The chapter list follows, see p. 78

Then we read: “Here begin the canons of Carthage or of the African provinces, = Eight definitions against the Pelagians 74-77, [The lack of a closing quote is as in the original – RP] and the Statuta ecclesiae antiqua = Ancient Statutes of the Church which I have recently published (CCSL. 148, p. 164-185); the whole series is divided into twenty-seven chapters.

—  “Likewise, the canons of the same Carthage” (fol. 101′): fragments are offered from several councils, nowhere found in this order, namely (see p.312): “Of Caesarius and Atticus Valentinianus (read: uu. cc.) being consuls (read: conss.) v. kal. Septembris in Carthage in the secretarium of the Basilica of St. Restituta” and there follow the three canons, to which I have assigned the letters A-C, namely: A-B = Breu. Hipp., c. 9-10, in the second recension, 28 August 397, p. 36-37; C = Reg. Carth., c. 125, May 1, 418, see p. 227.

—  “Likewise another council at Carthage, where the ambassadors of the Apostolic See had assembled, that is, Faustinus, bishop of the Church of Potentia, in the province of Picinus in Italy. And to the place.” The four canons follow to which I have assigned the letters D-G, namely: D = Reg. Carth., c. 128; E = c. 129; F = c. 130, but mutilated; G = 131; all from the council of 30 May 419, see p. 230-231.

—   “Piaerius and Ardabor being  consuls, viii. kal. October in the basilica of Saint Leontina”: two canons follow, to which I have assigned the letters H and J, namely: H = Can. Ap. 29, from the Dionysian recension; J = Can. Ap. 30. These I have given twice, p.143-144 and pp. 250-251, are also to be placed under the inscription of the council (Hipponensis) of September 24, 427.

— “Vincentius and Fravita being consuls, on the ides of September, at Carthage in the secretarium of the basilica of St. Restituta, where the letter of Athanasius (read: Anastasius), bishop of Rome, against the Donatist(s) was left: and at the place.” One canon follows to which I have assigned the letter K = Can. Ap. 26, in Dionysius’ recension, p. 142

— Canon L, without inscription = Can. Ap. 33 a, of Dionysius’ recension, p. 145, or 9 from the Council of Hippo. AD 427, p.252.

— “Likewise here begin the canons of the same on the ides of August, Caereanus being consuls” (fol. 108). Thus is proclaimed the letter of the bishops of Byzacena and Aurelius to the synod of Carthage, 28 August 397 and the Breviarium Hipponense (but without canons 9-10), p. 28-48.

The African series concludes as follows: “End of the Council held at Carthage.”

Although it seems to include nothing new, other than the inscription of the Council of Hippo in AD 427, the collectio Fossatensis offers the best tradition of all the canons which it included, for it is the most ancient, as can be read from the attached records of the Breviarium Hipponense and the Council of Thelensis. For there it is not the canons that are numbered, but – something I found nowhere else in the manuscripts – the pages of the volume which is being copied! From the readings of the same compilations likewise the quality of that tradition can be assessed, which one may infer from the adjoining Register of a certain African church.

2.  The Collectio Laureshamensis (for manuscripts see Maassen, n. 673; Turner I, 2 p.v) is described by Maassen, p. 585-591, who assigned it to the middle of the sixth century.   Besides the Carthaginian Council, a. 525, which is presented only in the same place (p. 255-282), it contains excerpts from the Breviarium Hipponensis, in both recensions (see synopsis, p. xxiii) and the signatures of the Council of Carthage of August 28, 397, p. 48-49.

3.  The Collectio Tolosana or Albigensis (Mss: Maassen, n. 676; Turner I, 2, p.v), is described by Maassen, p. 592-603.  It offers nothing unknown from others sources; however, it is to be noted that it provides nine definitions against the Pelagians, as in the Quesnelian, p. 69-73.

4.  The Codex Vercellensis Bibl. capit. 165, based on sources now lost, preserves some unique documents from Africa, namely: on fol. 199’, there is the complete text of five canons of the Council of Hippo, 8 October 393, p. 20-21. In addition, we learn from this manuscript that the letter of Innocent I was read in the Council of Suffetulensis (Byzacena) (cf. Maassen, p. 184). Finally, on fol. 200′ are three canons of the Council of Carthage under Gratus (a. 345), to be compared with the Spanish recension (c. 2, 3, 9) p. 4-7.

5.  The Codex Parisinus Lat. 3858 C (Maassen, n. 651) has collected many African documents, but this is a compilation of the modern age, completed after the ninth century, as will soon be apparent; which, indeed, I think is Italian, after making an accurate collation of all the African material; nor did I perceive anything useful for restoring the authentic texts.

a) The first series addresses the Pelagians:

— Excerpts from letter 186 of Augustine to Paulinus, with an erroneous conclusion: “And Aurelius of Carthage and the other bishops in number 71 signed,” whose origin is not known clearly.
— The beginning of the synodal letter of the Carthage Council 416 to the Pope Innocent, with the same response: these are borrowed from a certain manuscript of the so-called Vatican collection, similar to our U;

b) the second series is derived from the Code of the case of Apiarius, in the Italian recension; see synopsis, p. 81:

— The canons of the cause of Apiarius, forty in number;
— The letter from the Council of Carthage AD 419, sent to Boniface on 26 May;
— The letter of the Africans to Celestine, under the erroneous inscription: “Here begins the letter or annotation of the third council of Carthage”, unless you admit that the council of 424 was indeed the third to deal with the case of Apiarius;

c) the Breviarium Hipponense, in the recension of the Vatican collection; cf. the synopsis on p. 26-27, and the readings which I have presented. Many things were omitted, so the canons of  Apiarius, – which drew upon the Breviarium; see the synopsis on p. 100 – were not repeated here;

d) The Statuta ecclesiae antiqua = Ancient Statutes of the Church, without an inscription, but in a recension which I found to be similar to the Vatican collection;  [The printed text has no entry “e” – RP].

f)  Excerpts from the Register Carthaginensis, see p.178-181, but canons 49, 50, 70, 72, 84, 91-94, 107, 108 are missing from the words: “Placuit omnibus…”, 109-116 of the Dionysian recension.  The readings of this series agree closely with the Bobbio Dionysiana; which is confirmed by the presence of a canon on burials (before canon 73), which is also found in the same collection.

g) After the proceedings of the Council of Ephesus (taken from the Bobbio Dionysiana) are included excerpts from a copy of the collection of Pseudo-Isidore:

— the Letter of Aurelius and the bishops of Byzacena to the fathers of the council of Carthage, 28 August, 397;
— the council of Carthage under Gratus, AD. 345;
— the council of Carthage under Genethlius, AD. 390, where canons 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, are omitted which were already copied within the canons of Apiarius.

So it appears that the too kindly judgment of Masseen must be modified in some respects. The age of the collection cannot be assigned to the times of Dionysius, namely, at the beginning of the sixth century. Nor can the deceptive abundance of African material deceive us, while it is certain that the collector has drawn everything from already well known compilations.

6.  A small piece from an unknown council (of the province of Byzacenae, I conjecture) found by Hubert Mordek in cod. Stuttgardt. HB VI, 113, and given to be edited here; whom I thank gratefully.


As for other manuscripts or compilations, in which the canons of Africa are included, mention of these will be made at the top of the material for each council; but I thought that a list of the manuscripts that were available should be placed at the beginning of this work, p. xiii-xvii as well as a brief chronological order of all the synods, p. xix-xxxviii.


The observations which H. Marrou and S. Lancel made In order to complete the list of names (of places and of bishops) were of the greatest help, together with all the prosopographical information about African affairs which the most skilled A.M. La Bonnardiere communicated.  I give many thanks to them and to all who for ten years have helped me edit or interpret the manuscripts.

While he completed his difficult and pious work, the workman dedicated his work to his mother, who always moved to the admiration of all to his patron saint Augustine, and to his father, who lived for so many years in the regions of the Proconsular, Byzacene, Tripoli, and, finally, beloved by all the inhabitants or foreigners in that African country; to whom the Lord, just and merciful, deigns to grant with indulgence the light of truth, peace of love. (You who are reading, pray for me a sinner).

Argentorati (Strasbourg), in die
SS. Apostolorum Petri et Pauli, anno salutis MCMLXXII.
C. Munier

    *    *    *    *

Even in English that is a pretty indigestible preface.  Ouch.

Following this, pages xiii-xvii contain a list of editions, and then a very long list of manuscripts used.  I don’t think this needs to appear here – it’s fairly easy to follow in the Latin.  Pages xvii-xviii contain the abbreviations used in the apparatus.  On page xix there is a section which I never noticed, and which it is very, very necessary to read.  It is headed “Conspectus Chronologicus” – “Chronological Overview” – and I will give an English translation in a separate post.  [Update – it’s here]