Sole Authority Of The State Chur
When Theodosius had successfully forced upon the East the theology of
Nicaea, his policy as to religious matters was manifest. No longer was
heresy to be allowed. Laws were to control opinion in the same way that
they did conduct. The old plea of the persecuted Christians under the
heathen Roman Empire, religio non cogi potest, was completely forgotten.
As Christianity was the one sole religion of divine character, based upon
the unique divine act of the incarnation, it was folly to allow men to
continue in heathenism--it might even be dangerous to the State to allow
them, as it might bring down the just vengeance of God. With this policy
the populace was completely in accord, especially when it led to the
plunder and destruction of heathen sanctuaries, and many of the more
zealous of the clergy were willing to lead in the assault. In these ways
the State Church obtained a two-fold exclusive authority: as regards
heathenism, and as regards heresy.
(a) Codex Theodosianus.
Laws regarding heathenism.
XVI, 10, 14; A. D. 399.
Whatever privileges were conceded by the ancient laws to the priests,
ministers, prefects, hierophants of sacred things, or by whatsoever name
they may be designated, are to be abolished henceforth, and let them not
think that they are protected by a granted privilege when their religious
confession is known to have been condemned by the law.
XVI, 10, 16; A. D. 399.
If there are temples in the fields, let them be destroyed without crowd or
tumult. For when these have been thrown down and carried away, the support
of superstition will be consumed.
XVI, 10, 15; A. D. 399.
This law appears again in the Cod. Just., I, 13, 3, for it
appears to have been necessary even as late as the sixth century
to prevent unauthorized destructions of temples which were in the
cities and might be fairly regarded as ornaments to the city.
We prohibit sacrifices yet so that we wish that the ornaments of public
works to be preserved. And that those who attempt to overthrow them may
not flatter themselves that it is with some authority, if any rescript or,
perchance, law is alleged, let these documents be taken from their hands
and referred to our knowledge.
XVI, 10, 21; A. D. 416.
Those who are polluted by the error or crime of pagan rites are not to be
admitted to the army nor to receive the distinction and honor of
administrator or judge.
XVI, 10, 23; A. D. 423.
Although the pagans that remain ought to be subjected to capital
punishment if at any time they are detected in the abominable sacrifices
of demons, let exile and confiscation of goods be their punishment.
XVI, 10, 24; A. D. 423. (Retained in Cod. Just., I, 11, 16.)
The Manichaeans and those who are called Pepyzitae [Montanists] and also
those who by this one opinion are worse than all heretics, in that they
dissent from all as to the venerable day of the Easter festival, we
subject to the same punishment, viz.: confiscation of goods and exile, if
they persist in the same unreason. But this we especially demand of
Christians, both those who are really such and those who are called such,
that they presume not, by an abuse of religion, to lay hands upon the Jews
and pagans who live peaceably and who attempt nothing riotous or contrary
to the laws. For if they should do violence to them living securely and
take away their goods, let them be compelled to restore not merely what
they have taken away but threefold and fourfold. Let the rectors of
provinces, officials, and provincials know that if they permit these
things to be done, they themselves will be punished, as well as those who
(b) Theodoret, Hist. Ec., V, 29. (MSG, 82:1256.)
The destruction of temples.
The following passage is illustrative of the temper of those who
took part in the destruction of heathen sanctuaries. The imperial
edicts for these acts were obtained in 399. Chrysostom, the leader
in the movement, fairly represents the best thought and temper of
On receiving information that Phoenicia was still suffering from the
madness of the demons' rites, he [John Chrysostom] got together some monks
fired with divine zeal and despatched them, armed with imperial edicts,
against the idols' shrines. He did not draw from the imperial treasury the
money to pay the craftsmen and their assistants who were engaged in the
work of destruction, but he persuaded certain faithful and wealthy women
to make liberal contributions, pointing out to them how great would be the
blessing their generosity would win. Thus the remaining shrines of the
demons were utterly destroyed.
(c) Socrates, Hist. Ec., VII, 15. (MSG, 67:768.)
The murder of Hypatia.
The fearful murder of Hypatia represents another aspect of the
opposition to heathenism, in which the populace seconded the
efforts of the authorities in a policy of extirpating paganism.
There was a woman in Alexandria named Hypatia. She was the daughter of the
philosopher Theon, and she had attained such a proficiency in literature
and science as to surpass by far all the philosophers of her own time.
Having succeeded to the Platonic school, which had come down from
Plotinus, she explained all the principles of philosophy to her auditors.
Therefore many from all sides, wishing to study philosophy, came to her.
On account of the self-possession and ease of manner which she had
acquired by her study, she not infrequently appeared with modesty in the
presence of magistrates. Neither did she feel abashed in entering an
assembly of men. For all men, on account of her extraordinary dignity and
virtue, admired her the more. Against her envious hostility arose at that
time. For as she had frequent interviews with Orestes [governor of
Alexandria] it was calumniously reported among the Christian populace that
it was she who prevented Orestes from being reconciled to the bishop
[Cyril]. Some men of this opinion and of a hot-headed disposition, whose
leader was a reader named Peter, waylaid her returning home. Dragging her
from her carriage they took her to the church called Caesareum. There they
completely stripped her and murdered her with tiles. When they had torn
her in pieces, they took her mangled limbs to a place called Cinaron, and
there they burnt them. This affair brought no little opprobrium, not only
upon Cyril but also upon the whole Alexandrian Church. And surely murders,
fights, and actions of that sort are altogether alien to those who hold
the things of Christ. These things happened in the fourth year of the
episcopate of Cyril .
(d) Socrates, Hist. Ec., VII, 11. (MSG, 67:757.)
Novatians and the Church at the beginning of the fifth century.
Socrates is the principal authority for the later history of the
Novatians. It is probable that his interest in them and evident
sympathy for them were due to some connection with the sect,
perhaps in his early years, and he gives many incidents in their
history, otherwise unknown.
After Innocent [401-417], Zosimus [417-418] governed the Roman Church for
two years, and after him Boniface [418-422] presided over it for three
years. Celestinus [422-432] succeeded him, and this Celestinus took away
the churches from the Novatians at Rome and obliged Rusticula, their
bishop, to hold his meetings secretly in private houses. Until this time
the Novatians had flourished exceedingly in Rome, having many churches
there and gathering large congregations. But envy attacked them there,
also, as soon as the Roman episcopate, like that of Alexandria, extended
itself beyond the limits of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and degenerated
into its present state of secular domination. And for this cause the
bishops would not suffer even those who agreed with them in matters of
faith to enjoy the privileges of assembling in peace, but stripping them
of all they possessed, praised them merely for these agreements in faith.
The bishops of Constantinople kept themselves free from this sort of
conduct; in so much as in addition to tolerating them and permitting them
to hold their assemblies within the city, as I have already stated,(134)
they treated them with every mark of Christian regard.
(e) Codex Theodosianus, XVI, 5, 40; A. D. 407.
Edict of Arcadius and Honorius against the Manichaeans and other
heretics. (Retained in Cod. Just., I, 5, 4.) Cf. Mirbt, n.
What we have thought concerning the Donatists we have recently set forth.
Especially do we pursue, with well-merited severity, the Manichaeans, the
Phrygians, and the Priscillianists,(135) since men of this sort have
nothing in common with others, neither in custom nor laws. And first we
declare that their crime is against the State, because what is committed
against the divine religion is held an injury of all. And we will take
vengeance upon them by the confiscation of their goods, which, however, we
command shall fall to whomsoever is nearest of their kindred, in ascending
or descending lines or cognates of collateral branches to the second
degree, as the order is in succession to goods. Yet it shall be so that we
suffer the right to receive the goods to belong to them, only if they
themselves are not in the same way polluted in their conscience. And it is
our will that they be deprived of every grant or succession from whatever
title derived. In addition, we do not leave to any one convicted of this
crime the right of giving, buying, selling, or finally of making a
contract. The prosecution shall continue till death. For if in the case of
the crime of treason it is lawful to attack the memory of the deceased,
not without desert ought he to endure condemnation. Therefore let his last
will and testament be invalid, whether he leave property by testament,
codicil, epistle, or by any sort of will, if ever he has been convicted of
being a Manichaean, Phrygian, or Priscillianist, and in this case the same
order is to be followed as in the grades above stated; and we do not
permit sons to succeed as heirs unless they forsake the paternal
depravity; for we grant forgiveness of the offence to those repenting. We
will that slaves be without harm if, rejecting their sacrilegious master,
they pass over to the Catholic Church by a more faithful service. Property
on which a congregation of men of this sort assemble, in case the owner,
although not a participator in the crime, is aware of the meeting and does
not forbid it, is to be annexed to our patrimony; if the owner is
ignorant, let the agent or steward of the property, having been punished
with scourging, be sent to labor in the mines, and the one who hires the
property, if he be a person liable to such sort of punishment, be
deported. Let the rectors of provinces, if by fraud or force they delay
the punishment of these crimes when they have been reported, or if
conviction have been obtained neglect punishment, know that they will be
subject to the fine of twenty pounds of gold. As for defensors and heads
of the various cities and the provincial officials, a penalty of ten
pounds is to compel them to do their duty, unless performing those things
which have been laid down by the judges in this matter, they give the most
intelligent care and the most ready help.
(f) Leo the Great, Epistula 7. (MSL, 54:620.)
Manichaeanism in Rome.
This epistle, addressed to the bishops throughout Italy, shows the
way in which zealous bishops could, and were expected to,
co-operate with the secular authorities in putting down heresy.
Leo the Great [440-461], the greatest of the popes before Gregory
the Great, was equally great as an ecclesiastical statesman, as
theologian, and universally acknowledged leader of the Roman
people in the times of the invasions of Attila and Genseric.
Without being the creator of the papal idea, he was able so to
gather up the elements that had been developed by Siricius,
Innocent, and others, as to give it a classical expression that
almost warrants one in describing him as the first of the popes in
the later sense of that term. His literary remains consist of
sermons, of which ninety-six are genuine, in which, among other
matters, he sets forth his conception of the Petrine prerogative
(see below, § 87, b), and letters in which he deals with the
largest questions of ecclesiastical politics, especially in the
matter of the condemnation of Monophysitism at the Council of
Chalcedon. See below, § 91.
Our search has discovered in the city a great many followers and teachers
of the Manichaean impiety, our watchfulness has proclaimed them, and our
authority and censure have checked them: those whom we could reform we
have corrected and driven to condemn Manichaeus with his preachings and
teachings, by public confession in the Church, and by the subscription of
their own hands; and thus we have lifted those who have acknowledged their
fault from the pit of their impiety, by granting them opportunity for
repentance. But some who had so deeply involved themselves that no remedy
could assist them have been subjected to the laws, in accordance with the
constitutions of our Christian princes, and lest they should pollute the
holy flock by their contagion, have been banished into perpetual exile by
the public judges. And all the profane and disgraceful things which are
found, as well in their writings as in their secret traditions, we have
disclosed and clearly proved to the eyes of Christian laity, that the
people might know what to shrink from or avoid; so that he that was called
their bishop was himself tried by us and betrayed the criminal views which
he held in his mystic religion, as the record of our proceedings can show
you. For this, too, we have sent you for instruction; and after reading
them you will be able to understand all the discoveries we have made.
And because we know that some of those who are involved here in too close
an accusation for them to clear themselves have fled, we have sent this
letter to you, beloved, by our acolyte; that your holiness, dear brothers,
may be informed of this, and see fit to act more diligently and
cautiously, lest the men of Manichaean error be able to find opportunity of
hurting your people and of teaching these impious doctrines. For we cannot
otherwise rule those intrusted to us unless we pursue, with the zeal of
faith in the Lord, those who are destroyers and destroyed; and with what
severity we can bring to bear, cut them off from intercourse with sound
minds, lest this pestilence spread much wider. Wherefore I exhort you,
beloved, I beseech and warn you to use such watchful diligence as you
ought and can employ in tracking them out lest they find opportunity of
(g) Leo the Great, Epistula 15. (MSL, 54:680.)
An account of the tenets of the Priscillianists. Leo is answering
a letter sent him by Bishop Turribius of Asturia, in which that
bishop had given him statements about the faith of these
sectaries. It appears that these statements which Leo quotes and
refutes in brief are not wholly correct and that the
Priscillianists were far from being as heretical as they have been
commonly represented. See articles in the recent encyclopaedias,
e.g., New Schaff-Herzog, and Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed.
The change in opinion is due to the discovery of writings of
Priscillian himself. Nevertheless, these statements, defective as
they may be, represent the opinion of the times as to these
heretics and the general attitude toward what was regarded as
heretical and savoring of Manichaeanism.(136)
1. And so under the first head is shown what impious views they hold about
the divine Trinity; they affirm that the person of the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Ghost is one and the same, as if the same God were named now
Father, now Son, now Holy Ghost; and as if He who begat were not one, He
who was begotten another, and He who proceedeth from both yet another; but
an undivided unity must be understood, spoken of under three names, but
not consisting of three persons.
2. Under the second head is displayed their foolish and empty fancy about
the issue of certain virtues from God which He began to possess, and which
were posterior to God in His own essence.
3. Again the language of the third head shows that these same impious
persons assert that the Son of God is called "only begotten" for this
reason that He alone was born of a virgin.
4. The fourth head deals with the fact that the birthday of Christ, which
the Catholic Church venerates as His taking on Him the true man, because
"the Word became flesh and dwelt among us," is not truly honored by these
men, but they pretend that they honor it, for they fast on that day, as
they do also on the Lord's Day, which is the day of Christ's resurrection.
No doubt they do this because they do not believe that Christ the Lord was
truly born in man's nature, but maintain that by a sort of illusion there
was an appearance of what was not a reality.
5. Their fifth head refers to their assertion that man's soul is a part of
the divine substance, and that the nature of our human state does not
differ from its Creator's nature.
6. The sixth points out that they say that the devil never was good and
that his nature is not God's handiwork, but that he came forth of chaos
7. In the seventh place follows that they condemn marriage and are
horrified at begetting children, in which, as in nearly all things, they
agree with the profanity of the Manichaeans.
8. Their eighth point is that the formation of men's bodies is the device
of the devil and that the seed of conception is shaped by the aid of
demons in the womb.
9. The ninth notice declares that they say that the sons of promise are
born, indeed, of women, conceived by the Holy Spirit; lest the offspring
that is born of carnal seed should seem to share in God's estate.
10. Under the tenth head they are reported as asserting that the souls
which are placed in men's bodies have previously been without a body and
have sinned in their heavenly habitation and for this reason have fallen
from their high estate to a lower one alighting upon ruling spirits of
divers qualities, and after passing through a succession of powers of the
air and stars, some fiercer, some milder, are enclosed in bodies of
different sorts and conditions, so that whatever variety and inequality is
meted out to us in this life, seems the result of previous causes.
11. Their eleventh blasphemy is that in which they suppose that both the
souls and bodies of men are under the influence of fatal stars.
12. The twelfth of these points is this: that they map out the parts of
the soul under certain powers and the limbs under others; and they suggest
the characters of the inner powers that rule the soul by giving them the
names of the patriarchs; and on the other hand, they attribute the signs
of the stars to those under which they put the body.
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