Anti-Semitic Decrees

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Anti-Semitic Decrees from “Church” Councils

First Sunday Law Enacted by Emperor Constantine
March 321 CE

On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country, however, persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits; because it often happens that another day is not so suitable for grain-sowing or for vine-planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost. (Given the 7th day of March, Crispus and Constantine being consuls each of them for the second time [321 CE].)

SOURCE: Codex Justinianus, lib. 3, tit. 12, 3; trans. in Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3 (5th ed.; New York: Scribner, 1902), p. 380, note 1. [Not a “Church” decree, but included here because it came from Constantine, who was the true founder of the “church” as it exists today.]


On the Keeping of Easter
325 CE

From the Letter of the Emperor to all those not present at the Council of Nicea [325 CE]
(Found in Eusebius, Vita Const., Lib. iii., 18-20.)

When the question relative to the sacred festival of Easter arose, it was universally thought that it would be convenient that all should keep the feast on one day; for what could be more beautiful and more desirable, than to see this festival, through which we receive the hope of immortality, celebrated by all with one accord, and in the same manner? It was declared to be particularly unworthy for this, the holiest of all festivals, to follow the custom [the calculation] of the Jews, who had soiled their hands with the most fearful of crimes, and whose minds were blinded. In rejecting their custom, we may transmit to our descendants the legitimate mode of celebrating Easter, which we have observed from the time of the Saviour's Passion to the present day [according to the day of the week].

We ought not, therefore, to have anything in common with the Jews, for the Saviour has shown us another way; our worship follows a more legitimate and more convenient course (the order of the days of the week); and consequently, in unanimously adopting this mode, we desire, dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews, for it is truly shameful for us to hear them boast that without their direction we could not keep this feast. How can they be in the right, they who, after the death of the Saviour, have no longer been led by reason but by wild violence, as their delusion may urge them? They do not possess the truth in this Easter question; for, in their blindness and repugnance to all improvements, they frequently celebrate two passovers in the same year. We could not imitate those who are openly in error. How, then, could we follow these Jews, who are most certainly blinded by error? for to celebrate the passover twice in one year is totally inadmissible. But even if this were not so, it would still be your duty not to tarnish your soul by communications with such wicked people [the Jews].

Besides, consider well, that in such an important matter, and on a subject of such great solemnity, there ought not to be any division. Our Saviour has left us only one festal day of our redemption, that is to say, of his holy passion, and he desired [to establish] only one Catholic Church. Think, then, how unseemly it is, that on the same day some should be fasting whilst others are seated at a banquet; and that after Easter, some should be rejoicing at feasts, whilst others are still observing a strict fast. For this reason, a Divine Providence wills that this custom should be rectified and regulated in a uniform way; and everyone, I hope, will agree upon this point.

As, on the one hand, it is our duty not to have anything in common with the murderers of our Lord; and as, on the other, the custom now followed by the Churches of the West, of the South, and of the North, and by some of those of the East, is the most acceptable, it has appeared good to all; and I have been guarantee for your consent, that you would accept it with joy, as it is followed at Rome, in Africa, in all Italy, Egypt, Spain, Gaul, Britain, Libya, in all Achaia, and in the dioceses of Asia, of Pontus, and Cilicia. You should consider not only that the number of churches in these provinces make a majority, but also that it is right to demand what our reason approves, and that we should have nothing in common with the Jews.

To sum up in few words: By the unanimous judgment of all, it has been decided that the most holy festival of Easter should be everywhere celebrated on one and the same day, and it is not seemly that in so holy a thing there should be any division. As this is the state of the case, accept joyfully the divine favour, and this truly divine command; for all which takes place in assemblies of the bishops ought to be regarded as proceeding from the will of God. Make known to your brethren what has been decreed, keep this most holy day according to the prescribed mode; we can thus celebrate this holy Easter day at the same time, if it is granted me, as I desire, to unite myself with you; we can rejoice together, seeing that the divine power has made use of our instrumentality for destroying the evil designs of the devil, and thus causing faith, peace, and unity to flourish amongst us. May God graciously protect you, my beloved brethren.

SOURCE: Henry R. Percival, ed., The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church, Vol. XIV of Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, edd. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, (repr. Edinburgh: T&T Clark; Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1988) [These texts are out of copyright, but an online version may be found at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library]


The Canons of the Synod of Laodicea
365 CE

CANON VI: It is not permitted to heretics [Jews] to enter the house of God while they continue in heresy.

CANON X: The members of the Church shall not indiscriminately marry their children to heretics [Jews].

CANON XXV: A subdeacon must not give the Bread, nor bless the Cup. [Prohibits the Kiddush and HaMotzi.]

CANON XXIX: Christians must not Judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord's Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be Judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.

CANON XXXI: It is riot lawful to make marriages with all [sorts of] heretics [Jews], nor to give our sons and daughters to them; but rather to take of them, if they promise to become Christians.

CANON XXXIII: No one shall join in prayers with heretics [Jews] or schismatics.

CANON XXXVII: It is not lawful to receive portions sent from the feasts of Jews or heretics, nor to feast together with them.

CANON XXXVIII: It is not lawful to receive unleavened bread from the Jews, nor to be partakers of their impiety.

CANON XXXIX: It is not lawful to feast together with the heathen [Jews], and to be partakers of their Godlessness.

CANON LIII: Christians, when they attend weddings, must not join in wanton dances, but modestly dine or breakfast, as is becoming to Christians. [Prohibits Davidic dancing.]


The Canons of the Council in Trullo
692 CE

CANON VII (VIII): If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, shall celebrate the holy day of Easter before the vernal equinox, with the Jews, let him be deposed.

CANON X (XI): If any one shall pray, even in a private house, with an excommunicated person, let him also be excommunicated.

CANON XXII: He who has mutilated (circumcised?) himself, cannot become a clergyman, for he is a self-murderer, and an enemy to the workmanship of God.

CANON XXIII: If any man being a clergyman shall mutilate (circumcise?) himself, let him be deposed, for he is a self-murderer.

CANON XXIV: If a layman mutilate (circumcise?) himself, let him be excommunicated for three years, as practising against his own life.

CANON XXXIV (XXXV): The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them [the Pope] and account him as their head, and do nothing of consequence without his consent; but each may do those things only which concern his own parish, and the country places which belong to it. But neither let him (who is the first) do anything without the consent of all; for so there will be unanimity, and God will be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit.

CANON XLV: Let a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, who has only prayed with heretics [Jews], be excommunicated: but if he has permitted them to perform any clerical office, let him be deposed.

CANON XLVI: We ordain that a bishop, or presbyter, who has admitted the baptism or sacrifice of heretics [Jews], be deposed. For what concord hath Christ with Belial, or what part hath a believer with an infidel?

CANON LI: If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any one of the sacerdotal list, abstains from marriage, or flesh, or wine, not by way of religious restraint, but as abhorring them, forgetting that God made all things very good, and that he made man male and female, and blaspheming the work of creation, let him be corrected, or else be deposed, and cast out of the Church. In like manner a layman. [Forbids the observance of Jewish dietary restriction.]

CANON LXII: If any of the clergy, through fear of men, whether Jew, heathen, or heretic, shall deny the name of Christ, let him be cast out. If he deny the name of a clergyman, let him be deposed. If he repent, let him be received as a layman.

CANON LXIV: If any clergyman or layman shall enter into a synagogue of Jews or heretics to pray, let the former be deposed and let the latter be excommunicated.

CANON LXVI: If any of the clergy be found fasting on the Lord's day, or on the Sabbath, excepting the one only, let him be deposed. If a layman, let him be excommunicated.

CANON LXIX: If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or reader, or singer, does not fast the holy Quadragesimal fast of Easter, or the fourth day, or the day of Preparation, let him be deposed, unless he be hindered by some bodily infirmity. If he be a layman, let him be excommunicated. [Forces observance of pagan Easter and prohibits observance of Passover.]

CANON LXX: If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any one of the list of clergy, keeps fast or festival with the Jews, or receives from them any of the gifts of their feasts, as unleavened bread, any such things, let him be deposed. If he be a layman, let him be excommunicated. [Prohibits observance of the Feasts of the Lord.]

CANON LXXI: If any Christian brings oil into a temple of the heathen or into a synagogue of the Jews at their feast, or lights lamps, let him be excommunicated.

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