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. We have two more articles on Constantine and the Sabbath (click here for #1 and click here for #2). These decrees do not really belong to the time of Constantine, as there are no church records to confirm this date. The best date for this council is about 364 (to read more about the dating of this council, read the appendix at the end of this article).
One of the goals of this council was to discourage Sabbath keeping in the Eastern Roman Empire during this time; most Christians in the East still observed the Sabbath. The canons, or final conclusions issues by council, confirm this detail. We have some quotes below:
“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. To read the rest of the canons from this council, CLICK HERE).
What do we learn from the council?
Some people try to claim that this council shows the Sabbath was ‘instantly’ changed to Sunday. This incorrect. Most Christians in the east, and many in the West, still observed the Sabbath AFTER this council was held and many decades into the future! To read an article about this subject, CLICK HERE)!
The Roman Church did not have the civil authority (at that time) to force people to follow these canons from this council. The Council simply reflects the Roman Church’s view of the Sabbath at that time.
The Council of Laodicea was clearly promoted by the Roman Church and those leaders who agreed with them. We learn that even in congregations with pro-Roman influence, the Sabbath still retained some level of importance as the Scriptures were supposed to be read on the day. However, the canons of this council are very anti-Semitic and anti-Sabbath. One goal of this council was to discourage people from keeping God’s Sabbaths in the Biblical manner by resting on the day.
In 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 – www.biblesabbath.org
Article Appendix: The Timing of Laodicea
Some of the decrees of this Council are curiously uncharacteristic to be allowed by the 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.