1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Elvira, Synod of
ELVIRA, SYNOD OF, an ecclesiastical synod held in Spain, the date of which cannot be determined with exactness. The solution of the question hinges upon the interpretation of the canons, that is, upon whether they are to be taken as reflecting a recent, or as pointing to an imminent, persecution. Thus some argue for a date between 300 and 303, i.e. before the Diocletian persecution; others for a date between 303 and 314, after the persecution, but before the synod of Arles; still others for a date between the synod of Arles and the council of Nicaea, 325. Mansi, Hardouin, Hefele and Dale are in substantial agreement upon 305 or 306, and this is probably the closest approximation possible in the present state of the evidence. The place of meeting, Elvira, was not far from the modern Granada, if not, as Dale thinks, actually identical with it. There the nineteen bishops and twenty-four presbyters, from all parts of Spain, but chiefly from the south, assembled, probably at the instigation of Hosius of Cordova, but under the presidency of Felix of Accis, with a view to restoring order and discipline in the church. The eighty-one canons which were adopted reflect with considerable fulness the internal life and external relations of the Spanish Church of the 4th century. The social environment of Christians may be inferred from the canons prohibiting marriage and other intercourse with Jews, pagans and heretics, closing the offices of flamen and duumvir to Christians, forbidding all contact with idolatry and likewise participation in pagan festivals and public games. The state of morals is mirrored in the canons denouncing prevalent vices. The canons respecting the clergy exhibit the clergy as already a special class with peculiar privileges, a more exacting moral standard, heavier penalties for delinquency. The bishop has acquired control of the sacraments, presbyters and deacons acting only under his orders; the episcopate appears as a unit, bishops being bound to respect one another’s disciplinary decrees. Worthy of special note are canon 33, enjoining celibacy upon all clerics and all who minister at the altar (the most ancient canon of celibacy); canon 36, forbidding pictures in churches; canon 38, permitting lay baptism under certain conditions; and canon 53, forbidding one bishop to restore a person excommunicated by another.
See Mansi ii. pp. 1-406; Hardouin i. pp. 247-258; Hefele (2nd ed.) i. pp. 148 sqq. (English translation, i. pp. 131 sqq.); Dale, The Synod of Elvira (London, 1882); and Hennecke, in Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopädie (3rd ed.), s.v. “Elvira,” especially bibliography. (T. F. C.)