[St. Pachomius Library]
This document is in the public domain. Copying it is encouraged.


Translated by Henry R. Percival, 1899.

The Canons of the Holy and Blessed Fathers Who Assembled at Neocæsarea

(The Paris edition of Zonaras adds): Which are Indeed Later in Date Than Those Made at Ancyra, But More Ancient Than the Nicene: However, the Synod of Nice Has Been Placed Before Them on Account of Its Peculiar Dignity

Canon I.

If a presbyter marry, let him be removed from his order; but if he commit fornication or adultery, let him be altogether cast out [i.e. of communion] and put to penance.

Ancient Epitome of Canon I: If a presbyter marries he shall be deposed from his order. If he commits adultery or whoredom he shall be expelled, and shall be put to penance.

Aristenus: A presbyter who marries is removed from the exercise of the priesthood but retains his honour and seat. But he that commits fornication or adultery is cast forth altogether and put to penance.

Canon II.

If a woman shall have married two brothers, [Balsamon's Greek text adds:"if she will not be persuaded to loose the marriage"], let her be cast out [i.e. of communion] until her death. Nevertheless, at the hour of death she may, as an act of mercy, be received to penance, provided she declare that she will break the marriage, should she recover. But if the woman in such a marriage, or the man, die, penance for the survivor shall be very difficult.

Ancient Epitome of Canon II: A woman married to two brothers shall be expelled all her life. But if when near her death she promises that she will loose the marriage should she recover, she shall be admitted to penance. But if one of those coupled together die, only with great difficulty shall penitence be allowed to the one still living.

Canon III.

Concerning those who fall into many marriages, the appointed time of penance is well known; but their manner of living and faith shortens the time.

Ancient Epitome of Canon III: The time of polygamists is well known. A zeal for penance may shorten it.

Zonaras: Before this synod no canon is found which prescribes the duration of the penance of bigamists [i.e. digamists].

St. Basil (in Epist. ad Amphilogium, Can. 4) in speaking of the penance of trigamists: We have received this by custom and not by canon, but from the following of precedent.

Canon IV.

If any man lusting after a woman purposes to lie with her, and his design does not come to effect, it is evident that he has been saved by grace.

Ancient Epitome of Canon IV: Whoso lusteth but doth not accomplish his pleasure is preserved of God.

Balsamon: In sins, the Fathers say, there are four stages: the first motion, the struggle, the consent, and the act. The first two of these are not subject to punishment, but in the two others the case is different. For neither is the first impression nor the struggle against it to be condemned, provided that when the reason receives the impression it struggles with it and rejects the thought. But the consent thereto is subject to condemnation and accusation, and the action to punishment. If therefore anyone is assailed by the lust for a woman, and is overcome so that he would perform the act with her, he has given consent, indeed, but to the work he has not come, that is, he has not performed the act, and it is manifest that the grace of God has preserved him; but he shall not go off with impunity. For the consent alone is worthy of punishment. And this is plain from canon lxx. of St. Basil, which says, "A deacon polluted in lips (en cheilesi)" or who has approached to the kiss of a woman "and confesses that he has so sinned, is to be interdicted his ministry," that is to say is to be prohibited its exercise for a time. "But he shall not be deemed unworthy to communicate in sacris with the deacons. The same is also the case with a presbyter. But if anyone shall go any further in sin than this, no matter what his grade, he shall be deposed." Some, however, interpret the pollution of the lips in another way; of this I shall speak in commenting on Canon lxx. of St. Basil.

Canon V.

If a catechumen coming into the Church have taken his place in the order of catechumens, and fall into sin, let him, if a kneeler, become a hearer and sin no more. But should he again sin while a hearer, let him be cast out.

Ancient Epitome of Canon V: If a catechumen falls into a fault and if while a kneeler he sins no more, let him be among the hearers; but should he sin while among the hearers, let him be cast out altogether.

Zonaras: There are two sorts of catechumens. For some have only just come in and these, as still imperfect, go out immediately after the reading of the scriptures and of the Gospels. But there are others who have been for some time in preparation and have attained some perfection; these wait after the Gospel for the prayers for the catechumens, and when they hear the words "Catechumens, bow down your heads to the Lord," they kneel down. These, as being more perfect, having tasted the good words of God, if they fall, are removed from their position; and are placed with the "hearers"; but if any happen to sin while "hearers" they are cast out of the Church altogether.

Canon VI.

Concerning a woman with child, it is determined that she ought to be baptized whensoever she will; for in this the woman communicates nothing to the child, since the bringing forward to profession is evidently the individual [privilege] of every single person.

Ancient Epitome of Canon VI: If a woman with child so desires, let her be baptized. For the choice of each one is judged of.

Canon VII.

A Presbyter shall not be a guest at the nuptials of persons contracting a second marriage; for, since the digamist is worthy of penance, what kind of a presbyter shall he be, who, by being present at the feast, sanctioned the marriage?

Ancient Epitome of Canon VII: A presbyter ought not to be present at the marriage of digamists.For when that one implores favour, who will deem him worthy of favour.

Zonaras: Digamists are not allowed for one year to receive the Holy Gifts... Although this is found in our writings, yet we ourselves have seen the Patriarch and many Metropolitans present at the feast for the second nuptials of the Emperor.

Canon VIII.

If the wife of a layman has committed adultery and been clearly convicted, such [a husband] cannot enter the ministry; and if she commit adultery after his ordination, he must put her away; but if he retain her, he can have no part in the ministry committed to him.

Ancient Epitome of Canon VIII: A layman whose wife is an adulteress cannot be a clergyman, and a cleric who keeps an adulteress shall be expelled.

Canon IX.

A Presbyter who has been promoted after having committed carnal sin, and who shall confess that he had sinned before his ordination, shall not make the oblation, though he may remain in his other functions on account of his zeal in other respects; for the majority have affirmed that ordination blots out other kinds of sins. But if he do not confess and cannot be openly convicted, the decision shall depend upon himself.

Ancient Epitome of Canon IX: If a presbyter confess that he has sinned, let him abstain from the oblation, and from it only. For certain sins orders remit. If he neither confess nor is convicted, let him have power over himself.

Canon X.

Likewise, if a deacon have fallen into the same sin, let him have the rank of a minister [hyperetes].

Ancient Epitome of Canon X: A deacon found in the same crime shall remain a minister.

Canon XI.

Let not a presbyter be ordained before he is thirty years of age, even though he be in all respects a worthy man, but let him be made to wait. For our Lord Jesus Christ was baptized and began to teach in his thirtieth year.

Ancient Epitome of Canon XI: Unless he be xxx. years of age none shall be presbyter, even should he be worthy, following the example of the baptism of our Saviour.

Pope St. Zacharias of Rome in his Letter to St. Boniface the Bishop, number vi: In case of necessity presbyters may be ordained at xxv. years of age.

Canon XII.

If any one be baptized when he is ill, forasmuch as his [profession of] faith was not voluntary, but of necessity [i.e. though fear of death] he cannot be promoted to the presbyterate, unless on account of his subsequent [display of] zeal and faith, and because of a lack of men.

Ancient Epitome of Canon XII: One illuminated on account of sickness is not to be made presbyter, unless in reward for a contest which he afterwards sustains and on account of scarcity of men.

Aristenus: He that is baptised by reason of illness, and, therefore come to his illumination not freely but of necessity, shall not be admitted to the priesthood unless both these conditions concur, that there are few suitable men to be found and that he has endured a hard conflict after his baptism.

Balsamon: If one of these conditions is lacking, the canon must be observed.

Zonaras explains that the reason for this prohibition was the well-known fact that in those ages baptism was put off so as the longer to be free from the restraints which baptism was considered to impose.

Canon XIII.

Country presbyters may not make the oblation in the church of the city when the bishop or presbyters of the city are present; nor may they give the Bread or the Cup with prayer. If, however, they be absent, and he [i.e., a country presbyter] alone be called to prayer, he may give them.

Ancient Epitome of Canons XIII. and XIV: A country presbyter shall not offer in the city temple, unless the bishop and the whole body of the presbyters are away. But if wanted he can do so while they are away. The chorepiscopi can offer as fellow ministers, as they hold the place of the Seventy.

Dionysius Exiguus and Isidore read the last clause in the plural.

In many mss. this canon is united with the following and the whole number given as 14.

Canon XIV.

The chorepiscopi, however, are indeed after the pattern of the Seventy; and as fellow-servants, on account of their devotion to the poor, they have the honour of making the oblation.

Ancient Epitome of Canon XIV: [Vide ante, as in many mss. the two canons are united in the Ancient Epitome.]

Canon XV.

The deacons ought to be seven in number, according to the canon, even if the city be great. Of this you will be persuaded from the Book of the Acts.

Ancient Epitome of Canon XV: Seven Deacons according to the Acts of the Apostles should be appointed for each great city.

This canon was observed in Rome and it was not until the xith century that the number of the Seven Cardinal Deacons was changed to fourteen. That Gratian received it into the Decretum (Pars. I., Dist. XCIII., c. xij.) is good evidence that he considered it part of the Roman discipline. Eusebius gives a letter of Pope Cornelius, written about the middle of the third century, which says that at that time there were at Rome forty-four priests, seven deacons, and seven subdeacons; and that the number of those in inferior orders was very great.

In the acts of the Council of Chalcedon, Actio 10, it is noted that the Church of Edessa had fifteen priests and thirty-eight deacons. And Justinian, we know, appointed one hundred deacons for the Church of Constantinople.

Council in Trullo, Canon 16: Since the book of the Acts tells us that seven deacons were appointed by the Apostles, and the synod of Neocæsarea in the canons which it put forth determined that there ought to be canonically only seven deacons, even if the city be very large, in accordance with the book of the Acts; we, having fitted the mind of the fathers to the Apostles' words, find that they spoke not of those men who ministered at the Mysteries but in the administration which pertains to the serving of tables.

APPENDIX: FROM CANON 2 OF THE COUNCIL "IN TRULLO": Declaring these Canons to be a part of Orthodox canon law.

"But we set our seal likewise upon all the other holy canons set forth by our holy and blessed Fathers, that is, by the 318 holy God-bearing Fathers assembled at Nice, and those at Ancyra, further those at Neocæsarea and likewise those at Gangra, and besides, those at Antioch in Syria ..."


The St. Pachomius Orthodox Library, St. Angelina of Serbia and Albania 1998.

Have mercy, O Lord, upon Thy servant the translator Henry and on Daniel.