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“Codex Theodosianus”.

Several examples from the Theodosian Code of Roman Imperial law relating to Church life and practice and the Church's relation with society and other religious groups - dating from fourth and fifth centuries.

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Click here to read at in the original Latin (with dictionary lookup links). The English translations below are from A Source Book for Ancient Church History, J.C. Ayer (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913). Several further extracts from Codex Theodosianus are given through the link above.

  • Is like an electronic encyclopedia of the first five centuries of Church History, with extensive links (subscription version only) to information on around 800 people and themes, and around 230 Church Councils;

  • Is a Reader in Early Christian History and Theology with 225+ carefully prepared on-site texts (Greek and/or Latin with English translation alongside) from the first five centuries of the life of the Church. These cover a range of significant themes and represent several authors (a sample text is here and a complete list of on-site texts here). All have dictionary lookup links. There is also an introduction to each text (to help in understanding its context and significance) together with background notes linked with the text, carefully prepared printable versions, a site search engine and many other helpful features;

  • Gives easy access to complete Greek and Latin texts which are in the public domain and translations (where found available) from the first five centuries. There are carefully indexed links to authors and their works, including an index of commentaries, homilies etc. by biblical book. Nearly all of the Greek and Latin texts from this period contained in the Migne Patrologia series are covered. Some other sources are also used. The texts used are the scanned versions available at Google Books and elsewhere. A distinctive feature of the Early Church Texts website is that where English translations have been found available online they can easily be read immediately alongside the original Greek and Latin. (A complete list of authors represented is here. A sample text is here.)

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XVI, 1, 2 - A.D. 380
All are to be Catholic Christians.

It is our will that all the peoples whom the government of our clemency rules shall follow that religion which a pious belief from Peter to the present declares the holy Peter delivered to the Romans, and which it is evident the pontiff Damasus and Peter, bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic sanctity, follow; that is, that according to the apostolic discipline and evangelical doctrine we believe in the deity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost of equal majesty, in a holy trinity. Those who follow this law we command shall be comprised under the name of Catholic Christians; but others, indeed, we require, as insane and raving, to bear the infamy of heretical teaching; their gatherings shall not receive the name of churches; they are to be smitten first with the divine punishment and after that by the vengeance of our indignation, which has the divine approval.

XVI, 1, 3 - A.D. 381
Trusted bishops.

We command that all churches be forthwith delivered up to the bishops who confess the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost to be of one majesty and power; of the same glory and of one splendor, making no distinction by any profane division, but rather harmony by the assertion of the trinity of the persons and the unity of the Godhead, to the bishops who are associated in communion with Nectarius, bishop of the Church of Constantinople, and with Timotheus in Egypt, bishop of the city of Alexandria; in the parts of the Orient, who are in communion with Pelagius, bishop of Laodicaea and Diodorus, bishop of Tarsus; in proconsular Asia and in the diocese of Asia, who are in communion with Amphilochius, bishop of Iconium, and Optimus, bishop of Antioch; in the diocese of Pontus, who are in communion with Helladius, bishop of Caesarea, and Otreius, bishop of Melitina, and Gregory, bishop of Nyssa, Terennius, bishop of Scythia, Marmarius, bishop of Marcianopolis. Those who are of the communion and fellowship of approved priests ought to be admitted to possess the Catholic churches; but all who dissent from the communion of the faith of those whom the special list has named ought to be expelled from the churches as manifest heretics; and no opportunity whatsoever ought to be allowed them henceforth of obtaining episcopal churches that the priestly orders of the true and Nicene faith may remain pure and no place be given to evil cunning, according to the evident form of our precept.

XVI, 5, 1 - A.D. 326
Religious privileges only for the Catholic Church.

Privileges which have been bestowed in consideration of religion ought to be of advantage only to those who observe the Catholic law. It is our will that heathen and schismatics be not only without the privileges but bound by, and subject to, various political burdens.

XVI, 10, 2 - A.D. 341
Pagan sacrifices abolished.

Let superstition cease; let the madness of sacrifices be abolished. For whoever, against the law of the divine prince, our parent [Constantine] and this command of our clemency, shall celebrate sacrifices, let a punishment appropriate to him and this present decision be issued.

XVI, 10, 4 - A.D. 346
Temples closed and Sacrifices forbidden.

It is our pleasure that in all places and in all cities the temples be henceforth closed, and access having been forbidden to all, freedom to sin be denied the wicked. We will that all abstain from sacrifices; that if any one should commit any such act, let him fall before the vengeance of the sword. Their goods, we decree, shall be taken away entirely and recovered to the fisc, and likewise rectors of provinces are to be punished if they neglect to punish for these crimes.




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Codex Theodosianus
Theodosian Code
Imperial Church
Church under the Roman Empire
Catholic Church outlaws heretics
destruction of pagan temples
No Games and Theatres on Christian Festivals
Empire bans pagan sacrifice
End of pagan sacrifice
Latin Text
in Latin
Church and State after Constantine


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