Council of Laodicea – 364 AD
Over the years, there has been some debate about when the Council of Laodicea was held. Some ascribe it to Constantine’s time, and others to a later date. Some of the decrees of the Council are curiously uncharacteristic to be allowed by he Emperor Constantius (Constantine’s son who ruled from 337 to 361). It also would be uncharacteristic for it to be held under Valens, who ruled the East from 364-378. These two rulers were favorable towards Arianism. This was the main Christian group in the Eastern Empire. They were known for Sabbath-keeping tendencies.
There was a period of time from 361 to 364 in which two rulers, Julian and Jovian, ruled in the East. Julian was known for his paganism. Jovian, on the other hand, was known to favor the Roman Church. During Jovian’s short reign (only about 8 months) is the most likely time period for this council.
One of the goals of this council was to stop the Sabbath keeping tendencies that were so prevalent in the Eastern Roman Empire during this time. This is evidenced by the canons issued during the Council.
Below, we have some exact quotes from this council.
“Canon 16: The Gospels are to be read on the Sabbath [i.e. Saturday], with the other Scriptures.
Canon 29: Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday, but shall work on that day; but the Lord’s day they shall especially honour, and, as being Christians, shall if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out from Christ.
Canon 37: No one shall accept festal presents from Jews and heretics, or keep the festivals with them.”
(Quotes from this Synod taken from: Hefele, Joseph. A History of the Councils of the Church from the Original Documents. Edinborough, 1896. Vol 2, Pages 295-324.)
What do we learn from the council?
Even in congregations with pro-Roman influence, the Sabbath still retained some level of importance, as the Scriptures were read on them. However, the canons of this council are very anti-Semitic and anti-Sabbatarian. They wanted to discourage people from keeping God’s Sabbaths.
One caution to be made when reading the canons of this council. First of all, it did not have a significant impact on Sabbath observance (at the time). This council did not change the Sabbath. No one can change it. A Church Council held by the Roman Church or any group does not mean that every person instantly tried to follow it. The Roman Church did not have the civil authority (at this time) to enforce any such Council. Such Councils only serve to show us the viewpoints of the Roman Church at a specific time.
Believe it or not, MOST Christians at this time were still keeping the Sabbath (for more information, CLICK HERE)! This is especially true in the Eastern Roman Empire. The situation remained this way for decades after this council.
We can see the enemy’s plan to discourage people from keeping the commandments of God. Though he may try his best, we know that he can never win! Councils like this were the foundation for anti-Semitism that would form Christian thinking centuries later and to some extent even today.
Kelly McDonald, Jr.
BSA President – http://www.biblesabbath.org