The Beginnings Of Councils As A
Ecclesiastical councils were the first defence against heresy. As the
Church had not as yet attained its hierarchical constitution and the
autonomy of the local church still persisted, these councils had little
more than the combined authority of the several members composing them.
They had, as yet, only moral force, and did not speak for the Church
officially. With the development of the episcopal constitution, the
councils gained rapidly in authority.
Additional source material: See Eusebius, Hist. Ec., V, 16
(given above, § 25, a), V, 24; Tertullian, De Jejun., 13
(given below, § 38).
(a) Libellus Synodicus, Man. I, 723.
For a discussion of the credibility of the Libellus Synodicus, a
compilation of the ninth century, see Hefele, History of the
Councils, § 1.
A holy and provincial synod was held at Hierapolis in Asia by
Apollinarius, the most holy bishop of that city, and twenty-six other
bishops. In this synod Montanus and Maximilla, the false prophets, and at
the same time, Theodotus the tanner, were condemned and expelled. A holy
and local synod was gathered under the most holy Bishop Sotas of
Anchialus(51) and twelve other bishops, who condemned and rejected
Theodotus the tanner and Montanus together with Maximilla.
(b) Eusebius. Hist. Ec., V, 18. (MSG, 20:475.) Cf. Mirbt, n. 21.
The following should be connected with the first attempts of the
Church to meet the heresy of the Montanists by gatherings of
bishops. It also throws some light on the methods of dealing with
the new prophets.
Serapion, who, according to report, became bishop of Antioch at that time,
after Maximinus, mentions the works of Apollinarius against the
above-mentioned heresy. And he refers to him in a private letter to
Caricus and Pontius, in which he himself exposes the same heresy, adding
as follows: "That you may see that the doings of this lying band of new
prophecy, as it is called, are an abomination to all the brethren
throughout the world, I have sent you writings of the most blessed
Claudius Apollinarius, bishop of Hierapolis in Asia." In the same letter
of Serapion are found the signatures of several bishops, of whom one has
subscribed himself as follows: "I, Aurelius Cyrenius, a witness, pray for
your health." And another after this manner: "AElius Publius Julius, bishop
of Debeltum, a colony of Thrace. As God liveth in the heavens, the blessed
Sotas in Anchialus desired to cast the demon out of Priscilla, but the
hypocrites would not permit him." And the autograph signatures of many
other bishops who agreed with them are contained in the same letter.
Next: The Apostolic Tradition And The
Previous: The Defence Against Heresy