Sec. 94. Synod at Gangra.


A second Synod, also in Asia Minor, of uncertain date, but about the same time as that of Laodicea, was held about the middle of the fourth century at Gangra, the metropolis of Paphlagonia, of which we still possess twenty canons, and a Synodal Letter addressed to the bishops of Armenia. In the heading of the latter the Bishops Eusebius, Aelianus, Eugenius, Olympius, Bithynicus, Gregory, Philetus, Pappus, Eulalius, Hypatius, Proairesius, Basil, and Bassus give their names as members of the Synod of Gangra, but there is no intimation of the Episcopal Sees of any of them. Other names appear in some manuscripts of the Latin translation of this Synodal Letter, made by Dionysius Exiguus, among which occurs, e.g., that of Hosius of Corduba, certainly wrongly, as neither the Greek, the many Latin codices, nor the Prisca have it : moreover, at the time of the Synod of Gangra, Hosius was without doubt dead. Baronius and Binius were therefore certainly wrong in maintaining that Hosius presided at this Synod in the name of the Pope; for even if the Latin codices which insert his name had been right, no inference whatever could he drawn in favour of his presidency, as they only mention his name somewhat late, and not primo loco.

The Libellus Synodicus mentions another president of the Synod of Gangra, namely, a certain Dius. The Ballerini think that it should be Bios, and that this again is only an abbreviation by copyists of Eusebios, who is named primo loco in the heading of the Synodal Letter. Which Eusebius is here meant is indeed doubtful, and depends upon the view taken as to the time when the Synod was held. Some take him to be the well-known Eusebius of Constantinople, formerly in Nicomedia; others the Eusebius, Archbishop of Csesarea in Cappadocia (362-370), the predecessor of S. Basil the Great.

The Synodal Letter of Gangra says that "the Synod assembled on account of certain necessities of the Church, and for the investigation of the affair of Eustathius; and having found that many improprieties had been committed by the Eustathians, it therefore sought to remove the evils occasioned by him, Eustathius." 5 It then enumerates the following dis- orders occasioned by the Eustathians : —

(1.) "As the Eustathians condemn marriage, and maintain that no married person has hope with God, they have dissolved many marriages; and as those separated lacked the gift of continence, they have given occasion to adultery.

(2.) "They caused many to forsake the public assemblies for divine service, and to organize private conventicles.

(3.) "They despise the ordinary dress, and introduce a new (ascetic, monastic) dress.

(4.) "The first-fruits which are given to the Church they claim for themselves, as being par excellence the saints.

(5.) "Slaves run away from their masters and despise them, presuming upon their new dress.

(6.) "Women now assume men's clothes, and think themselves thereby justified; nay, many shave their heads under the pretext of piety.

(7.) "They fast on Sundays, but eat on the fast-days of the Church.

(8.) "Some forbid all animal food.

(9.) "They will not pray in the houses of married people.

(10.) "They will not take part in sacrifices (Eucharistic sacrifices) in the houses of married people.

(11.) "They despise married priests, and take no part in their worship.

(12.) "They despise the services (masses) in honour of the martyrs, as well as those who join in them.

(13.) "They maintain that the rich who do not forsake all have no hope of being saved".

"Besides this, much else that is wrong is taught by them, while they are not at unity among themselves, and each one adds what comes into his own mind. The Council accordingly condemns them, and declares them shut out from the Church; but in the case of their coming to a better mind and anathematizing their errors, they shall be again received".

In this passage the chief contents of the canons of Gangra are already given; for they are in substance no more than anathemas of the above-mentioned errors and irregularities of the Eustathians. They run thus : —

Can. 1. "If any one despises wedlock, abhorring and blaming the woman who sleeps with her husband, even if she is a believer and devout, as if she could not enter the kingdom of God, let him be anathema "(that is, without further judgment shut out from the Church).

Gratian has twice adopted this canon in his collection, the first time according to the Isidorian translation, the second time according to the translation of Dionysius Exiguus. In the latter place he wrongly refers it to the prohibition of the marriage of priests, and as wrongly thinks that it was directed against the Manicheans, while in truth Eustathius and his exaggerated veneration of the vita monastica gave occasion for it.

Can. 2. "If any one condemns one who eats meat, though he abstains from blood, idolatrous sacrifices, and things strangled, and is faithful and devout, as if in so doing he had no hope of salvation, let him be anathema."

This canon also, like the preceding one, is not directed against the Gnostics and Manicheans, but against an unenlightened hyper-asecticism, which certainly approaches the Gnostic-Manichean error as to matter being Satanic. We further see that, at the time of the Synod of Gangra, the rule of the Apostolic Synod with regard to blood and things strangled was still in force. With the Greeks, indeed, it continued always in force, as their Euchologies still show. Balsamon also, the well-known commentator on the canons of the Middle Ages, in his commentary on the sixty-third Apostolic Canon, expressly blames the Latins because they had ceased to observe this command. What the Latin Church, however, thought on this subject about the year 400, is shown by S. Augustine in his work Contra Faustum, where he states that the apostles had given this command in order to unite the heathens and Jews in the one ark of Noah; but that then, when the barrier between Jewish and heathen converts had fallen, this command concerning things strangled and blood had lost its meaning, and was only observed by few. But still, as late as the eighth century, Pope Gregory the Third (731) forbade the eating of blood or things strangled under threat of a penance of forty days. Gratian adopted this canon.

Can. 3. "If any one teaches a slave, under pretext of piety, to despise his master, to forsake his service, or not to serve him with good- will and entire respect, let him be anathema."

As appears from this, and from the fifth article of the Synodal Letter, which is in accordance with it, many Christian slaves assumed the habitus monasticus, and left the service of their masters of their own accord to lead an ascetic life. The rule of this Synod harmonizes with 1 Tim. VI. 1 and Tit. II 9, 10. In the Corpus Jur. Can. this canon is found twice, viz. in the Isidorian translation, and the collection of Bishop Martin of Braga.

Can. 4. "If any one maintains that, when a married priest offers the sacrifice, no one should take part in the service, let him be excommunicated."

As is well known, the ancient Church, as now the Greek Church, allowed those clergy who were married before their ordination to continue to live in matrimony. Compare what was said above in the history of the Council of Nicaea, in connection with Paphnutius, concerning the celibacy and marriage of priests in the ancient Church. Accordingly this canon speaks of those clergy who have wives and live in wedlock; and Baronius, Binius, and Mitter-Muller gave themselves useless trouble in trying to interpret it as only protecting those clergy who, though married, have since their ordination ceased to cohabit with their wives.

The so-called Codex Ecclesiae Romanae published by Quesnel, which, however, as was shown by the Ballerini, is of Gallican and not Roman origin, has not this canon, and consequently it only mentions nineteen canons of Gangra.

Can. 5. "If any one teaches that the house of God is to be despised, and likewise the services there held, let him be anathema."

Can. 6. "If any one, avoiding the churches, holds private meetings, and in contempt of the Church performs that which belongs only to her, without the presence of a priest with authority from the bishop, let him be anathema."

Both these canons forbid the existence of conventicles, and conventicle services. It already appears from the second article of the Synodal Letter of Gangra, that the Eustathians, through spiritual pride, separated themselves from the rest of the congregation, as being the pure and holy, avoided the public worship, and held private services of their own. The ninth, tenth, and eleventh articles of the Synodal Letter give us to understand that the Eustathians especially avoided the public services when married clergy officiated. We might possibly conclude, from the words of the sixth canon : that no priest performed any part in their private services; but it is more probable that the Eustathians, who did not reject the priesthood as such, but only abhorred the married clergy, had their own unmarried clergy, and that these officiated at their separate services.

Can. 7. "If any one appropriates to himself the tithes of fruit (oblations) belonging to the Church, or distributes them outside the Church, that is, to those who are not ministers of the Church, without the consent of the bishop, or without being authorized by him, and will not act according to his will, let him be anathema."

Can. 8. "If any one gives or receives such offerings without the consent of the bishop, or one appointed by him for the administration of charities, the giver as well as the receiver shall be anathematized."

Compare on this the fourth article of the Synodal Letter of Gangra, the fourth Apostolic, and the twenty-fourth Antiochian canon of the year 341.

Can. 9. "If any one lives unmarried or in continence, avoiding marriage from contempt, and not because of the beauty and holiness of virginity, let him be anathema."

Can. 10. "If any one of those who for the Lord's sake remain single, in pride exalts himself above those who are married, let him be anathema."

That virginity without humility has no worth, had already been taught by the apostolic Fathers, Clement of Rome, and Ignatius of Antioch. Gratian adopted both these canons.

Can. 11. "If any one despises those who in the faith solemnize the agape, and for the honor of the Lord invite their brethren to it, and will take no part in these invitations because he lightly esteems the matter, let him be anathema."

The Synodal Letter of Gangra does not mention this point, as neither do Socrates and Sozomen, although they point out the other errors of the Eustathians. But, as Van Espen remarks, by the agape must not here be understood the ancient Church ceremony of that name, but such love-feasts as were given by wealthy Christians to the poor.

Can. 12. "If any man from supposed asceticism wears the peribolaeum (the pallium of philosophers and monks), and as if he were thereby made righteous, despises those who in piety wear upper garments, and make use of other common and ordinary clothing, let him be anathema."

The lacernae were the common upper garments worn by men over the tunic; but the Peribolaia were rough mantles worn by philosophers to show their contempt for all luxury. Socrates, and the Synodal Letter of Gangra in its third article, say that Eustathius of Sebaste wore the philosopher's mantle. But this canon in no way absolutely rejects a special dress for monks, for it is not the distinctive dress, but the proud and superstitious over-estimation of its worth, which the Synod here blames.

Can. 13. "If a woman from pretended asceticism alters her dress, and instead of the customary female dress assumes male attire, let her be anathema."

The Synodal Letter in its sixth article also speaks of this. Exchange of dress, or the adoption by one sex of the dress of the other, was forbidden in the Pentateuch (Deut. XXII. 5), and was therefore most strictly interdicted by the whole ancient Church. Such change of attire was formerly adopted mainly for theatrical purposes, or from effeminacy, wantonness, the furtherance of unchastity, or the like. The Eustathians, from quite opposite and hyper-ascetical reasons, had recommended women to assume male, that is, probably monk's attire, in order to show that for them, as the holy ones, there was no longer any distinction of sex; but the Church, also from ascetical reasons, forbade this change of attire, especially when joined to superstition and puritanical pride.

Can. 14. "If a woman leaves her husband and separates herself, from an abhorrence of the marriage state, let her be anathema."

Compare the first article of the Synodal Letter. It is plain, and Van Espen has expressly pointed out, that the question here is not of divorce in its real sense (a vinculo), but of a separation quoad thorum. Whether this separation from table and bed took place with or without the mutual consent of both parties is of no importance, for in either case it was the result of a false dogmatic reason, i.e. the opinion mentioned in the Synodal Letter, that a married person could not be saved. Therefore this canon cannot in any way be employed in opposition to the practice of the Catholic Church. For though the Church allows one of a married couple, with the consent of the other, to give up matrimonial intercourse, and to enter the clerical order or the cloister, still this is not, as is the case with the Eustathians, the result of a false dogmatic theory, but takes place with a full recognition of the sanctity of marriage.

Can. 15. "If any one forsakes his children, and does not educate them, and, as far as he can, train them in fitting habits of piety, but neglects them under the pretext of asceticism, let him be anathema."

Can. 16. " If children, especially those of Christian parents, forsake them, under the pretext of piety, and do not show them due honor, on the plea of esteeming piety as the higher duty, let them be anathema."

3 It appears from the translation given, that the words "thus plainly esteeming piety the higher duty" — are spoken in the sense of the Eustathians, and contain the pretext with which they defended their wrong behaviour towards their parents, as did the Pharisees of whom Christ says : "But ye say, "Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, it is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me, and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your traditions " (Matt. xv. 5, 6). 3

Can. 1 7. "If a woman from pretended asceticism cuts off her hair given her by God to remind her of her subjection, thus renouncing the command of subjection, let her be anathema."

The Apostle Paul, in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, XI 10, represents the long hair of women, which is given them as a natural veil, as a token of their subjection to man. We learn from the Synod of Gangra, that as many Eustathian women renounced this subjection, and left their husbands, so, as this canon says, they also did away with their long hair, which was the outward token of this subjection. In the Catholic Church also, when women and girls enter the cloister, they have their hair cut off, but from quite other reasons than those of the Eustathian women. The former give up their hair, because it has gradually become the custom to consider the long hair of women as a special beauty, as their greatest ornament; but the Eustathians, like the ancient Church in general, regarded long hair as the token of subjection to the husband, and, because they renounced marriage and forsook their husbands, they cut it off.

Can. 18. "If any one from pretended asceticism fasts on Sunday, let him be anathema."

Can. 19. "If an ascetic, as possessing perfect understanding, and without bodily necessity, out of pride does not keep the fasts universally commanded, and observed by the whole Church, let him be anathema."

Can. 20. "If any one out of pride and scorn censures the cultus of the martyrs or the services there held, and the commemoration of the martyrs, let him be anathema".

Van Espen is of opinion that the Eustathians had generally rejected the common service as only fit for the less perfect, and that the martyr chapels are only mentioned here, because in old times service was usually held there. According to this view, no especial weight need be attached to the expression martyrs. But this canon plainly speaks of a disrespect shown by the Eustathians to the martyrs. Compare the twelfth article of the Synodal Letter. Fuchs thought that, as the Eustathians resembled the Aerians, who rejected the service for the dead, the same views might probably be ascribed to the Eustathians. But, in the first place, the Aerians are to be regarded rather as opposed than related in opinion to the Eustathians, being lax in contrast to these ultra-rigorists. Besides which, Epiphanius only says that they rejected prayer for the salvation of the souls of the departed, but not that they did not honor the martyrs and there is surely a great difference between a feast in honour of a saint, and a requiem for the good of a departed soul. Why, however, the Eustathians rejected the veneration of martyrs is nowhere stated; perhaps because they considered themselves as saintsv, exalted above the martyrs, who were for the most part only ordinary Christians, and many of whom had lived in marriage, while according to Eustathian views no married person could be saved, or consequently could be an object of veneration.

To these twenty canons the Synod of Gangra added an epilogue, which is often cited in the old manuscripts as the twenty-first canon, and the object of which was to prevent any misinterpretations of the decrees. It runs thus :

"We write (order) this, not in order to shut out those who in the Church of God, and in accordance with the Holy Scriptures, desire to lead ascetic lives, but those who make asceticism a pretext for pride, exalt themselves above those who lead simpler lives, and introduce innovations contrary to the Holy Scriptures and the canons of the Church. We, too, admire the virginity which is accompanied with humility, and approve continence when joined to dignity and virtue. We approve the renunciation of worldly affairs, if done with humility, and honor married intercourse as seemly, nor do we despise riches if united with righteousness and benevolence. We praise that simplicity and uncostliness of dress, which without ornament only serves for the needs of the body, and do not approve the effeminate and luxurious advance in dress. We also honor the house of God, and the assemblies held therein; but we do not confine holiness to these houses alone, but honor every place which is built in the name of God (therefore also the martyrs). We approve the common service in the Church of God for the good of the community, and value the immense charities of the brethren, which, in accordance with traditional order, are bestowed upon the poor through the Church; and, to sum up all, we wish that everything handed down in the Holy Scriptures and the Apostolic Traditions (that is, rules and usages) delivered to us should be observed in the Church". Gratian divided this Epilogue into two canons.

As we have seen, the Synod of Gangra was occasioned by the proud hyper-asceticism of Eustathius and his followers. Socrates and Sozomen both maintain that this Eustathius was no other than the well-known Bishop of Sebaste bearing the same name, with whom we became acquainted among the heads of the Semi-Arians. They also describe him as a strictly ascetic man, who introduced monasticism into Asia Minor and Armenia, gave rules for a strict life, as to dress and food, but who fell into foolish practices contrary to the laws of the Church. They then go on to ascribe to him in detail the very same ultra-rigorist and hyper-ascetic views which were censured by the Synod of Gangra, and their testimony has the more weight as both of them were only two generations younger than Eustathius, and he was one of those renowned personages who are spoken of long after their death.

This distinct statement of Socrates and Sozomen is further confirmed by Basil the Great, who also ascribes to Eustathius of Sebaste a tendency to monasticism, and subsequently quarrelled with him, his former friend, on account of several irregularities. To this must be added that Eustathius was bishop of Sebaste in Armenia, and that it was precisely to the bishops of Armenia that the Synod of Gangra directed its Synodal Letter. Under such circumstances, the statement of Baronius, Du Pin, and others (supported by no single ancient testimony), that another Eustathius, or possibly the monk Eutactus, is here meant, deserves no serious consideration, though Tillemont did not express himself otherwise than in favour of it.

It may be further questioned whether the errors and irregularities which the Council of Gangra rejected, should be attributed to Eustathius of Sebaste himself, or rather to his pupils, and the latter opinion found many supporters in the time of Sozomen. Among later writers, the Benedictines especially pronounced in favour of it. But the Synod of Gangra in its Synodal Letter not only speaks of the followers of Eustathius, but especially of Eustathius himself.

In accordance with the decisions of Gangra, Eustathius is said to have laid aside his peculiarities, and again dressed himself like other ecclesiastics (not as a monk); but Sozomen describes this as a mere unwarranted report. It now remains to decide the date of the Synod of Gangra. Socrates places it after the Synod of Constantinople of 360; but Sozomen, though certainly in a very vague and loose manner, places it before the Antiochian Synod of 341. The fact that in many old collections of canons, especially that of Dionysius, the canons of Gangra precede those of Antioch, agrees with this latter view, and not a few scholars have therefore placed the Synod of Gangra between those of Nicsea and Antioch, i.e. between 325 and 341; besides which, the Synod of Gangra mentions Eustathius without the title of bishop, which probably it would not have omitted if he had already at that time been raised to the episcopate.

Remi Ceillier has suggested another hypothesis as to the date of the Synod of Gangra, i.e. that, as in the letters in which S. Basil the Great complains of Eustathius (Ep. 226, 257) he never in any way mentions that the Synod had also declared against him, therefore it is more likely that it was held after those letters were written, in 376. Moreover, S. Basil's youngest brother, S. Peter, became bishop of Sebaste in 380. This would agree perfectly with the opinion that Eustathius was deposed from the See of Sebaste by the Synod of Gangra shortly before the year 380, and Peter appointed as his successor.

Lastly, the Ballerini are of opinion that this Synod took place between 362 and 370 A.D., and for this reason, that Bishop Eusebius, who is first named in the heading of the Synodal Letter, and was plainly the president of the Synod, was probably no other than the Archbishop Eusebius of Caesarea in Cappadocia, the predecessor of S. Basil, to whom, in accordance with the prerogative of his See, the primacy over the provinces of Pontus, Paphlagonia, and Armenia belonged. This period between 362 and 370 would also agree with the statement of Socrates, that the Synod of Gangra came later than that of Constantinople in 360; and the Libellus Synodicus also, in stating that Dius was the president of the Synod of Gangra, probably indicates this Eusebius. But this hypothesis also is based upon the unproved assumption that the Eusebius of the Synodal Letter was the Archbishop Eusebius of Caesarea; and after all has been said, we can arrive at no certain conclusion as to the date of the Synod of Gangra.