Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XIV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The First Ecumenical Council: The First Council of Nice.: Canon XIX
p. 40 Canon XIX.
Concerning the Paulianists who have flown for refuge to the Catholic Church, it has been decreed that they must by all means be rebaptized; and if any of them who in past time have been numbered among their clergy should be found blameless and without reproach, let them be rebaptized and ordained by the Bishop of the Catholic Church; but if the examination should discover them to be unfit, they ought to be deposed. Likewise in the case of their deaconesses, and generally in the case of those who have been enrolled among their clergy, let the same form be observed. And we mean by deaconesses such as have assumed the habit, but who, since they have no imposition of hands, are to be numbered only among the laity.
Ancient Epitome of Canon XIX.
Paulianists must be rebaptised, and if such as are clergymen seem to be blameless let them be ordained. If they do not seem to be blameless, let them be deposed. Deaconesses who have been led astray, since they are not sharers of ordination, are to be reckoned among the laity.
(Dict. Chr. Ant. s.v. Nicæa, Councils of.)
That this is the true meaning of the phrase ὅρος ἐκτέθειται, viz. “a decree has now been made,” is clear from the application of the words ὅρος in Canon xvii., and ὥρισεν, in Canon vi. It has been a pure mistake, therefore, which Bp. Hefele blindly follows, to understand it of some canon previously passed, whether at Arles or elsewhere.
Here χειροθεσία is taken for ordination or consecration, not for benediction,…for neither were deaconesses, sub-deacons, readers, and other ministers ordained, but a blessing was merely pronounced over them by prayer and imposition of hands.
Their (the Paulicians) deaconesses also, since they have no imposition of hands, if they come over to the Catholic Church and are baptized, are ranked among the laity.
With this Zonaras and Balsamon also agree.
By Paulianists must be understood the followers of Paul of Samosata the anti-Trinitarian who, about the year 260, had been made bishop of Antioch, but had been deposed by a great Synod in 269. As Paul of Samosata was heretical in his teaching on the Holy Trinity the Synod of Nice applied to him the decree passed by the council of Arles in its eighth canon. “If anyone shall come from heresy to the Church, they shall ask him to say the creed; and if they shall perceive that he was baptized into the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, 102 he shall have a hand laid on him only that he may receive the Holy Ghost. But if in answer to their questioning he shall not answer this Trinity, let him be baptized.”
The Samosatans, according to St. Athanasius, named the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in administering baptism (Orat. ii, Contra Arian. No. xliii.), but as they gave a false meaning to the baptismal formula and did not use the words Son and Holy Spirit in the usual sense, the Council of Nice, like St. Athanasius himself, considered their baptism as invalid.
There is great difficulty about the text of the clause beginning “Likewise in the case, etc.,” and Gelasius, the Prisca, Theilo and Thearistus, (who in 419 translated the canons of Nice for the African bishops), the Pseudo-Isidore, and Gratian have all followed a reading διακόνων, instead of διακονισσῶν. This change makes all clear, but many canonists keep the ordinary text, including Van Espen, with whose interpretation Hefele does not agree.
The clause I have rendered “And we mean by deaconesses” is most difficult of translation. I give the original, ᾽Εμνήσθημεν δὲ διακονισσῶν τῶν ἐν τῷ σχήματι ἐξετασθεισῶν, ἐπεὶ κ.τ.λ. Hefeles translation seems to me impossible, by σχήματι he understands the list of the clergy just mentioned.
In Patre et Filio et Spiritu Sancto esse baptizatum
Next: Excursus on the Deaconess of the Early Church.
Like & share St-Takla.org
© Saint Takla Haymanout Website: Coptic Orthodox Church - Alexandria, Egypt / URL: https://st-takla.org / Contact us at