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Councils of Carthage

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Title: Councils of Carthage  
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Subject: Development of the New Testament canon, Christian biblical canons, 251 in Christianity, 255 in Christianity, 256 in Christianity
Collection: 251 in Africa, 251 in Christianity, 251 in the Roman Empire, 255 in Africa, 255 in Christianity, 255 in the Roman Empire, 256 in Africa, 256 in Christianity, 256 in the Roman Empire, 348 in Africa, 348 in Christianity, 348 in the Roman Empire, 397 in Africa, 397 in Christianity, 397 in the Roman Empire, 3Rd-Century Christian Church Councils, 411 in Africa, 411 in Christianity, 411 in the Roman Empire, 418 in Africa, 418 in Christianity, 418 in the Roman Empire, 419 in Africa, 419 in Christianity, 419 in the Roman Empire, 424 in Africa, 424 in Christianity, 424 in the Roman Empire, 484 in Africa, 484 in Christianity, 4Th-Century Christian Church Councils, 5Th-Century Christian Church Councils, Carthage, Vandals
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Councils of Carthage

The Councils of Carthage, or Synods of Carthage, were church synods held during the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries in the city of Carthage in Africa. The most important of these are described below.

St. Augustine arguing with Donatists.


  • Synod of 251 1
  • Synod of 256 2
  • Synod of 345 3
  • Synod of 397 4
  • Conference of 411 5
  • Council of 418 6
  • Council of 419 7
  • Synod of 484 8
  • Council of 525 9
  • See also 10
  • Sources 11
  • External links 12

Synod of 251

In May 251 a synod, assembled under the presidency of Cyprian to consider the treatment of the lapsi, excommunicated Felicissimus and five other Novatian bishops (Rigorists), and declared that the lapsi should be dealt with, not with indiscriminate severity, but according to the degree of individual guilt. These decisions were confirmed by a synod of Rome in the autumn of the same year. Other Carthaginian synods concerning the lapsi were held in 252 and 254.[1]

Synod of 256

Two synods, in 255 and 256, held under Cyprian, pronounced against the validity of heretical baptism, thus taking direct issue with Stephen I, bishop of Rome, who promptly repudiated them. A third synod in September 256, possibly following the repudiation, unanimously reaffirmed the position of the other two. Stephen's claims to authority as bishop of bishops were sharply resented, and for some time the relations of the Roman and African Sees were severely strained.[2]

  • A variety of unresolved issues related to restoration of the lapsed in faith and the actions of those who had been considered heretics remained to be dealt with at the first ecumencical council. The eighth canon of the council in particular addressed Novationists.[3]

Synod of 345

Around 345-349 under Gratus a synod of orthodox bishops, who had met to record their gratitude for the effective official repression of the Circumcelliones (Donatists), declared against the rebaptism of any one who had been baptized in the name of the Trinity, and adopted twelve canons of clerical discipline.[4]

Synod of 397

The Council of Carthage, called the third by Denzinger,[5] issued a canon of the Bible on 28 August 397. The primary source of information about the third council of Carthage comes from the Codex Canonum Ecclesiæ Africanæ, which presents a compilation of ordinances enacted by various church councils in Carthage during the fourth and fifth centuries. In one section of this code the following paragraph concerning the canon of Scripture appears.[6]

Conference of 411

The Conference of Carthage, held by the command of the Emperor Honorius in 411 with a view to terminating the Donatist schism, while not strictly a synod, was one of the most important assemblies in the history of the African sees, and of the whole Catholic Church. It was presided over by Marcellinus of Carthage who found in favour of the Catholic party, which led to the violent suppression of the Donatists.[7]

Council of 418

On 1 May 418 a great synod (Augustine of Hippo called it A Council of Africa), which assembled under the presidency of Aurelius, bishop of Carthage, to take action concerning the errors of Caelestius, a disciple of Pelagius, denounced the Pelagian doctrines of human nature, original sin, grace, and perfectibility; and it fully approved the contrary views of Augustine. Prompted by the reinstatement by the bishop of Rome of a deposed African priest (Apiarius of Sicca), the synod enacted that whoever appeals to a court on the other side of the sea (meaning Rome) may not again be received into communion by any one in Africa (canon 17).[8]

Council of 419

Two synods, one in 419 and another in 424, met regarding the question of appeals to Rome. The latter addressed a letter to the bishop of Rome, Pope Celestine I, protesting against his claim to appellate jurisdiction, and urgently requesting the immediate recall of his legate, and advising him to send no more judges to Africa.[9] The Roman See refused, citing its apostolic authority.

Synod of 484

The Vandal Synod of Carthage (484) was a largely unsuccessful church council meeting called by the Vandal King Huneric to persuade the Catholic bishops in his recently acquired North African territories to convert to Arian Christianity. The Catholic bishops refused and many, including Fulgentius of Ruspe and Tiberiumus, were exiled to Sardinia,[10][11] and some executed. The Notitia Provinciarum at Civitatum Africa says that nearly 500 went into exile. The bishops had requested that Catholic bishops from outside Huneric's dominions be allowed to attend but this was refused, the king saying "When you make me master of the whole world, then what you want shall be done". The synod appears to be have been an exercise in royal browbeating more than a genuine debate, with bias toward Arian bishops.[12]

Council of 525

See also



  • Canons From The Council Of Carthage Against Pelagianism, May 1, 418
  • Catholic Encyclopedia – African Synods
  • Schaff, Philip, The Seven Ecumenical Councils – Canons of Carthage

External links

  1. ^ Hefele, 2nd ed., i. pp. 111 sqq. (English translation, i. Section 5, pp. 93 sqq.); Mansi, i. pp. 863 sqq., 905 sqq.; Hardouin, i. pp. 133 sqq., 147 sqq.; Cyprian, Epp. 52, 54, 55, 68.
  2. ^ Hefele, 2nd ed., i. Section 6, pp. 117-119 (English translation, i. pp. 99 sqq.); Mansi, i. pp. 921 sqq., 951 sqq.; Hardouin, i. pp. 153 sqq.; Cyprian, Epp. 69-75.
  3. ^ 8th canon of the Council of Nicea
  4. ^ Hefele, 2nd. ed., i. pp. 632-633 (English translation, ii. pp. 184-186); T Mansi's "Collection of Councils", part III, pp.143 sqq.; Hardouin, i. pp. 683 sqq. Summaries of the canons can be read in Right Rev. C J Hefele's "A history of the Christian councils: from the original documents, Volume 2" at pp.184-186
  5. ^ Denzinger 186 in the new numbering, 92 in the old
  6. ^ The Latin text and English translation are from B.F. Westcott, A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament (5th ed. Edinburgh, 1881), pp. 440, 541-2.
  7. ^ Hefele, 2nd ed., ii. pp. 103-104 (English translation, ii. pp. 445-446); Mansi, iv. pp. 7-283 ; Hardouin, i. pp. 1043-f 190.
  8. ^ Hefele, 2nd ed., ii. pp. 116 sqq. (English translation, ii. pp. 458 sqq.); Mansi, iii. pp. 810 sqq., iv. pp. 377 sqq., 45I sqq.; Hardouin, i. pp. 926 sqq. Link to English translation below.
  9. ^ Hefele, 2nd ed., ii. pp. 120 sqq., 137 sqq. (English translation, ii. pp. 462 sqq., 480 sqq.); Mansi, iii. pp. 835 sqq., iv. pp. 401 sqq., 477 sqq.; Hardodin, i. pp. 943 sqq., 1241 sqq. (L F. C.)
  10. ^ Stefano Antionio Marcelli "Africa Christiana in tres Partes Tributa Vol1 p253.
  11. ^ JD Foge, the Cambridge History of Africa, (Cambridge University Press, 1979) p 481 Vol II.


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