Apostolic Constitutions

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The Apostolic Constitutions is a fourth-century pseudo-Apostolic compilation or collection of independent, closely related, treatises on Christian discipline, worship, and doctrine, in eight books, the eighth containing the Apostolic Canons, which according to Latin copies were "put forth by Clement, Pontiff of the Roman Church". The work can be dated from A.D. 375 to 380. This collection in eight books was clearly intended to serve as a manual of guidance for the clergy, and to some extent for the laity. It represents itself to be the work of the Apostles, given by them as individuals or as a body, whose instructions are supposed to have been gathered and handed down by the compiler, pseudonymously claiming to be St. Clement of Rome, whose name gave a fictitious weight of authority to more than one piece of early Christian literature.

It was evidently meant to be a code of catechetical instruction and of moral and liturgical law. Most of its injunctions are in the form of short treatises and exhortations, supported by ample scriptural texts and examples. Its elements are loosely combined without apparent care for order or unity.

The Church seems never to have regarded this work as of undoubted Apostolic authority. The seventh century Eastern Trullan Council in 692 rejected the work as a whole on account of the interpolations of heretics. Only that portion of it called "Apostolic Canons" was received (eighty-five by the Eastern, fifty by the Western Church); but even the fifty of these canons which afterward were accepted by the Western Church were not regarded as having certain Apostolic origin. They were translated into Latin by Dionysius Exiguus. Canon XXXIV. (XXXV.) has been understood as pertaining to a universal Petrine Primacy of jurisdiction. They were rejected by Pope Sergius I.[1]

Where known, the Apostolic Constitutions were generally held in high esteem and served as the basis for much ecclesiastical legislation. Today they have the highest value as an historical document, revealing to scholars and historians the moral and religious conditions and the liturgical observances of the third and fourth centuries of early undivided Christianity.

See also


Apostolic Fathers

Petrine Primacy

Ecumenical council

Catechism of the Catholic Church


  1. St. Sergius I, born in Antioch, he was elected on the 15th of December 687 and died the 8th of September 701. Nominated after two antipopes, he strove to extinguish the schism that had arisen in Rome itself, and succeeded in terminating that of Aquileia. He introduced into the liturgy the use of the Agnus Dei.

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