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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. II: The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus.: A Synod consisting of One Hundred and Fifty Bishops meets at Constantinople. The Decrees passed. Ordination of Nectarius.

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Chapter VIII.—A Synod consisting of One Hundred and Fifty Bishops meets at Constantinople. The Decrees passed. Ordination of Nectarius.

The emperor making no delay summoned a Synod 703 of the prelates of his own faith, in order that he might establish the Nicene Creed, and appoint a bishop of Constantinople: and inasmuch as he was not without hope that he might win the Macedonians over to his own views, he invited those who presided over that sect to be present also. There met therefore on this occasion of the Homoousian party, Timothy from Alexandria, Cyril from Jerusalem, who at that time recognized the doctrine of homoousion704 having retracted his former opinion; Melitius from Antioch, he having arrived there previously to assist at the installation of Gregory; Ascholius also from Thessalonica, and many others, amounting in all to one hundred and fifty. Of the Macedonians, the leaders were Eleusius of Cyzicus, and Marcian of Lampsacus; these with the rest, most of whom came from the cities of the Hellespont, were thirty-six in number. Accordingly they were assembled in the month of May, under the consulate 705 of Eucharius and Evagrius, and the emperor used his utmost exertions, in conjunction with the bishops who entertained similar sentiments to his own, to bring over Eleusius and his adherents to his own side. They were reminded of the deputation they had sent by Eustathius to Liberius 706 then bishop of Rome; that they had of their own accord not long before entered into promiscuous communion with the orthodox; and the inconsistency and fickleness of their conduct was represented to them, in now attempting to subvert the faith which they once acknowledged, and professed agreement with the catholics in. But they paying little heed alike to admonitions and reproofs, chose rather to maintain the Arian dogma, than to assent to the ‘homoousian’ doctrine. Having made this declaration, they departed from Constantinople; moreover they wrote to their partisans in every city, and charged them by no means to harmonize with the creed of the Nicene Synod. The bishops of the other party remaining at Constantinople, entered into a consultation about the ordination of a bishop; for Gregory, as we have before said, 707 had resigned that see, and was preparing to return to Nazianzus. Now there was a person named Nectarius, of a senatorial family, mild and gentle in his manners, and admirable in his whole course of life, although he at that time bore the office of proctor. This man was seized upon by the people, and elected 708 to the episcopate, and was ordained accordingly by one hundred and fifty bishops then present. The same prelates moreover published a decree, 709 prescribing ‘that the bishop of Constantinople should have the next prerogative of honor after the bishop of Rome, because that city was New Rome.’ They also again confirmed the Nicene Creed. Then too patriarchs were constituted, and the provinces distributed, so that no bishop might exercise any jurisdiction over other churches 710 out of his own diocese: for this had been often indiscriminately done before, in consequence of the persecutions. To Nectarius therefore was allotted the great city and Thrace. Helladius, the successor of p. 122 Basil in the bishopric of Cæsarea in Cappadocia, obtained the patriarchate of the diocese of Pontus in conjunction with Gregory Basil’s brother, bishop of Nyssa 711 in Cappadocia, and Otreïus bishop of Melitina in Armenia. To Amphilochius of Iconium and Optimus of Antioch in Pisidia, was the Asiatic diocese assigned. The superintendence of the churches throughout Egypt was committed to Timothy of Alexandria. On Pelagius of Laodicea, and Diodorus of Tarsus, devolved the administration of the churches of the East; without infringement however on the prerogatives of honor reserved to the Antiochian church, and conferred on Melitius then present. They further decreed that as necessity required it, the ecclesiastical affairs of each province should be managed by a Synod of the province. These arrangements were confirmed by the emperor’s approbation. Such was the result of this Synod.



Cf. parallel account in Sozom. VII. 7–9; Theodoret, H. E. V. 8. The Synod of Constantinople was the second great œcumenical or general council. Its title as an œcumenical council has not been disputed, although no Western bishop attended. Baronius, however (Annal. 381, notes 19, 20), attempts to prove, but unsuccessfully, that Pope Damasus summoned the council. For a full account of the council, see Hefele, History of the Councils, Vol. II. p. 340–374.


Sozomen adds that Cyril was previously a follower of Macedonius, and had changed his mind at this time. Cf. Sozom. VII. 7.


381 a.d.


Cf. IV. 12.


See above, chap. 7.


See Bingham, Christ. Antiq. IV. 2. 8 for other examples illustrating this method of electing bishops.


Canon 3 of the Synod; see Hefele, History of the Councils, Vol. II. p. 357. The canon is given by Socrates entire and in the original words. Valesius holds that the primacy conferred by this canon on the Constantinopolitan see was one of honor merely, and involved no prerogatives of patriarchal or metropolitan jurisdiction. For a full discussion of its significance, see Hefele, as above. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 confirmed the above action in the following words: ‘We following in all things the decision of the Holy Fathers, and acknowledging the canon of the one hundred and fifty bishops…do also determine and decree the same things respecting the privileges of the most holy city of Constantinople, New Rome. For the Fathers properly gave the primacy to the throne of the elder Rome.’ Canon 28.


Canon 2. The words ‘patriarch,’ however, and ‘patriarchate’ are not used in the canon. According to Sophocles (Greek Lexicon) the modern sense of these words was introduced at the close of the fourth century. Valesius holds that the sixth canon of the Nicene Council had given sanction to the principle of patriarchal authority; but Beveridge is of opinion that patriarchs were first constituted by the second general council. Hefele takes substantially the same position as Valesius. See discussion of the subject in Hefele, Hist. of the Councils, Vol. I. p. 389 seq.


Cf. IV. 27. On Gregory of Nyssa, one of the most prominent of the ancient Fathers, see Smith & Wace, Dict. of Christ. Biog.; Schaff, Hist. of the Christ. Church, Vol. III. p. 903 et seq., and sources mentioned in the work.

Next: The Body of Paul, Bishop of Constantinople, is honorably transferred from his Place of Exile. Death of Meletius.

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