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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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An assembly of persons met together for the purpose of consultation: an assembly of deputies or commissioners sent from several churches, associated by certain bonds in a general body, Acts 1:6; Acts 15:21 : council, Oecumenical or General, is an assembly which represents the whole body of the Christian church. The Romanists reckon eighteen of them Bullinger six, Dr. Prideaux seven, and bishop Beveridge eight, which, he says, are all the general councils which have ever been held since the time of the first Christian emperor. They are as follow:

1. The council of Nice, held in the reign of Constantine the Great, on account of the heresy of Arius.

2. the council of Constantinople, called under the reign and by the command of Theodosius the Great, for much the same end that the former council was summoned.

3. The council of Ephesus, convened by Theodosius the Younger, and the suit of Nestorius.

4. The council at Chalcedon, held in the reign of Martianus, which approved of the Eutychian heresy.

5. the second council of Constantinople, assembled by the emperor Justinian, condemned the three chapters taken out of the book of Theodorus, of Mopsuestia, having first decided that it was lawful to anathematize the dead. Some authors tell us that they likewise condemned the several errors of Origen about the Trinity, the plurality of worlds, and pre-existence of souls.

6. The third council of Constantinople, held by the command of Constantius Pogonatus, the emperor, in which they received the definitions of the first five general councils, and particularly that against Origen and Theodorus, of Mopsuestia.

7. The second Nicene council.

8. The fourth council of Constantinople, assembled when Louis II. was emperor of the West. Their regulations are contained in twenty-seven canons, the heads of which the reader may find in Dupin. Whatever may be said in favour of general councils, their utility has been doubted by some of the wisest men. Dr. Jortin says, "they have been too much extolled by Papists, and by some Protestants. They were a collection of men who were frail and fallible. Some of those councils were not assemblies of pious and learned divines, but cabals, the majority of which were quarrelsome, fanatical, domineering, dishonest prelates, who wanted to compel men to approve all their opinions, of which they themselves had no clear conceptions, and to anathematize and oppress those who would not implicitly submit to their determinations." Jortin's Works, vol. 7: charge 2; Broughton's Dict.; Mosheim's Eccl. Hist. Index. Councils, Provincial or Occasional, have been numerous. At Aix la Chapelle, A. D. 816, a council was held for regulating the canons of cathedral churches. The council of Savonnieries, in 859, was the first which gave the title of Most Christian King to the king of France; but it did not become the peculiar appellation of that sovereign till 1469. Of Troyes, in 887, to decide the disputes about the imperial dignity. The second council of Troyes, 1107, restrains the clergy from marrying. The council of Clermont, in 1095. The first crusade was determined in this council.

The bishops had yet the precedency of cardinals. In this assembly the name of Pope was for the first time given to the head of the church, exclusively of the bishops, who used to assume that title. Here, also, Hugh, archbishop of Lyons, obtained of the pope a confirmation of the primacy of his see over that of Sens. The council of Rheims, summoned by Eugenius III. in 1148, called an assembly of Cisastrian Gaul, in which advowses, or patrons of churches, are prohibited taking more than ancient fees, upon pain of deprivation and ecclesiastical burial. Bishops, deacons, sub-deacons, monks, and nuns, are restrained from marrying. In this council the doctrine of the Trinity was decided: but upon separation the pope called a congregation, in which the cardinals pretended they had no right to judge of doctrinal points; that this was the privilege peculiar to the pope. The council of Sutrium, in 1046, wherein three popes who had assumed the chair were deposed. The council of Clarendon in England, against Becket, held in 1164. the council of Lombez, in the country of Albigeois, in 1200, occasioned by some disturbances on account of the Albigensis; a crusade was formed on this account, and an army sent to extirpate them. Innocent III. spirited up this barbarous war. Dominic was the apostle, the count of Toulouse the victim, and Simon, count of Montfort, the conductor or chief. The council of Paris in 1210, in which Aristotle's metaphysics were condemned to the flames, lest the refinements of that philosopher should have a bad tendency on men's minds, by applying those subjects to religion. The council of Pisa, begun March the 2d, 1409, in which Benedict XIII. and Gregory XII. were deposed. Another council, sometimes called general, held at Pisa in 1505. Lewis XII. of France, assembled a national council at Tours (being highly disgusted with the pope, ) 1510, where was present the cardinal De Gurce, deputed by the emperor; and it was then agreed to convene a general council at Pisa. Murray's History of Religion.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Council'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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