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The Organization of the Church of Africa on the Eve of the Vandal Invasion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2009

R. Pierce Beaver
Affiliation:
Baltimore, Maryland

Extract

In Saint Augustine's time two theories concerning the origin of the church of Africa were current in Africa and Italy: either the Carthaginian church had been founded by missionaries from the church of Rome or the Gospel had been brought from various eastern lands. Carthage was undoubtedly the center from which Christianity spread throughout the whole of North Africa. As the number of converts increased and the churches multiplied, the same problems of organization arose and were solved as in other parts of the Empire, and ecclesiastical administration followed the lines of demarcation used by the civil power. Under Diocletian a reorganization of the imperial administrative scheme had taken place, and the Diocese of Africa, extending from Cyrenaica on the East to the Malva and Mount Atlas on the West, was comprised of the provinces of Tripolitana, Byzacenum, Proconsular Africa, Numidia, Mauretania Sitifiensis, and Mauretania Caesariensis. The district to the West, Mauretania Tingitana, was attached to the Diocese of Spain. By the end of the fourth century the church had created six provinces following the same lines, with the exception that Tingitana, although not a part of Africa politically formed a part of the ecclesiastical province of Mauretania Caesariensis. The last province to be created was Mauretania Sitifiensis, which was granted a primate by the Council of Hippo in 393.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © American Society of Church History 1936

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References

1 Innocent I, Ep. 25.2 (PL, v. 20, p. 551).Google Scholar

2 Augustine, Ep. 43.7 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 90).Google Scholar

3 Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, v. I (1), p. 583.Google Scholar

4 Between this point and Tingitana stretched several hundred miles of roadless desert, forming a natural boundary.

5 Under Diocletian, this province had been divided into Proconsular Numidia with its capital at Cirta, and Military Numidia with Lambesis as its capital. Under Constantine, the two were again united with the capital at Cirta, which was now renamed Constantine.

6 For the exact boundaries, see Ferrére, , La situation religieuse de l'Afrique romaine despuis la fin au IVe siècle jusqu'à l'invasion des Vandales, pp. 78Google Scholar; Dict, d'arch. chrét., v. I (1), pp. 582583Google Scholar; v. IX (1), pp. 1251–1258, 1302–1306, 1335–1336.

7 Dict, d'arch. chrét., v. I (1), p. 583Google Scholar; v. IX (1), p. 1342; Schwartze, , Untersuchungen über die Entwickelung der afrikanischen Kirche, p. 20Google Scholar; Ferrére, , op. cit., p. 6.Google Scholar

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11 Augustine, Ep. 34.5 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 26).Google Scholar

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21 This disputation was the last attempt of the Catholic episcopate to win the Donatists by an appeal to reason. After it they were wholeheartedly in favor of the suppression of Donatism by the secular power. The conference was ordered by Emperor Honorius, who appointed the Tribune Marcellinus imperial agent and high commissioner. He was a zealous Catholic and friend of Augustine. The conference lasted from June 1 to 8, when Marcellinus declared in favor of the Catholics. He immediately began to enforce the laws against the Donatists, and, excepting for the short time that Marinus was in power, the state officials were henceforth zealous in their work of “reunion.”

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30 Council of Hippo of 393, Ser. I, can. 4, renewed by Council of Carthage of 525 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 919Google Scholar; v. VIII, pp. 646–647); Hefele, , Conciliengeschichte, v. II, p. 56).Google Scholar

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34 Cod. Can. Ecc. Afr., can. 125 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 822Google Scholar); Hefele, , Conciliengeschicte, v. Il, p. 106.Google Scholar

35 Council of Hippo of 393, Ser. II, can. 6 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 920Google Scholar); Ferrére, , op. cit., p. 13.Google Scholar

36 Ibid., Ser. II, can. 27. (p. 923).

37 Augustine, , Ep. 209Google Scholar (CSEL, v. 57, pp. 347353Google Scholar); Possidius, , Vita Aug., 4.Google Scholar

38 Possidius, , Vita Aug., 4.Google Scholar

39 Augustine, Ep. 38.2 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 65).Google Scholar

40 Augustine, , Ep. 59Google Scholar (CSEL, v. 34 (2), pp. 219220).Google Scholar

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47 Augustine, Ep. 43.7 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 90Google Scholar) Tanto magis enim timere debuit (i.e., Secundus), ne pax unitatis violaretur, quanto erat Carthago civitas ampla et inlustris, unde se per totum Africae corpus malum, quod ibi esset exortum, tamquam a vertice effunderet. Erat etiam transmarinis vicina regionibus et fama celeberrima nobilis. Unde non mediocris utique auctoritatis habebat episcopum, qui posset non curare conspirantem multitudinem inimicorum, cum se videret et Romanae ecclesiae, in qua semper apostolicae cathedrae vinguit principatus, et ceteris terris, unde evangelium ad ipsam Africain venit, per communicatorias litteras esse coniunctum …

48 Ferrére, 's statement, op. cit., p. 11.Google Scholar

49 Leclereq, 's phrase, Dict. d'arch. chrét., v. I (1), p. 584.Google Scholar

50 . Cod. Can. Ecc. Afr., can. 55 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 746)Google Scholar

51 Ibid., can. 52, 53, 73, 94 (pp. 742, 743, 755, 799); Dict, d'arch. chrét., v. I (1), p. 584Google Scholar; Hefele, , Conciliengeschichte, v. II, p. 57Google Scholar; Ferrére, , op. cit., p. 12Google Scholar. He must of necessity have visited several small dioceses, mere congregations in villages and on estates, in a single day. Even with such saving of time, a yearly visit of all the dioceses appears physically impossible when one remembers the other duties of the archbishop, including the administration of his own diocese of Carthage.

52 Third Council of Carthage, 397, can. 7 (Mansi, , v. III, pp. 928929Google Scholar); Hefele, , Conciliengesch., v. II, p. 63.Google Scholar

53 Council of Hippo of 393, canon reenacted by Council of Carthage of 525 (Mansi, , v. VIII, pp. 646647Google Scholar; briefer form v. III, p. 919).

54 Ibid.; Ferrére, , op. cit., p. 12.Google Scholar

55 Ibid.; Dict, d'arch, chrét., v. I (1), p. 584Google Scholar; Ferrére, , p. 12.Google Scholar

56 Cf. Ep. 201 among the letters of Augustine, from the Emperors Honorius and Theodosins to Bishop Aurelius (CSEL, v. 57, pp. 296299).Google Scholar

57 Fifth Council of Carthage, can. 19; Hefele, , Conciliengesch., v. II, p. 72.Google Scholar

58 Augustine, , Ep. 174Google Scholar, salutation (CSEL, v. 44, p. 650Google Scholar); Baxter, , Sel. Letters of Saint Aug., p. 302, n.Google Scholar

59 Augustine, , Ep. 22Google Scholar (CSEL, v. 34 (1), pp. 5462).Google Scholar

60 Augustine, Ep. 64.2 (CSEL, 34 (2), p. 230).Google Scholar

61 Epp. 22; 41; 60; 174 (CSEL, v. 34 (1), pp. 5462Google Scholar; v. 34 (2), pp. 81–84; 221–222; v. 44, pp. 650–651).

62 Ep. 41.

63 Epp. 60; 64.3 (v. 34 (2), p. 221–222; 231).

64 Augustine, Ep. 60.2 end (v. 34 (2), p. 224).

65 Augustine, , Ep. 174Google Scholar (CSEL, v. 44, p. 650).Google Scholar

66 Even the emperor thought it proper that letters to the church of Africa be sent both to Aurelius and Augustine. Cf. Augustine, , Ep. 201Google Scholar, end (CSEL, v. 57, p. 299).Google Scholar

67 Augustine, , Ep. 64Google Scholar (CSEL, v. 34 (2), pp. 229232).Google Scholar

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69 Occasionally the provincial synods took action of more than local importance, such as the resolutions of the Councils of Proconsularis and Numidia in the Pelagian questions.

70 Clearly demonstrated in the controversy with Pope Zosimus and the attitude which the Africans then showed towards the decrees of Nicaea.

71 Council of Hippo of 393, Ser. II, can. 5 (Mansi, , v. III, pp. 919920).Google Scholar

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74 The period following Easter was a favorite time for litigation. Augustine, Serm. 259.6 (PL, v. 38, p. 1201).Google Scholar

75 Council of Hippo of 393, Ser. II, can. 9 (Mansi, , v. III, pp. 920921Google Scholar); Constitutiones Sirmondi, vi.Google Scholar

76 Cf. Article by Ledercq in Dict, d'arch, chrét., v. IX (1), pp. 159178.Google Scholar

77 Mansi, , Sanctorum conciliorum amplissima collectio, v. III, pp. 699 ff.Google Scholar

78 Cod. Can. Ecc. Afr., can. 129 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 826).Google Scholar

79 Augustine, , Ep. 65Google Scholar (CSEL, v. 34 (2), pp. 232234Google Scholar). At first it was necessary that the bishop call in five neighboring bishops to assist him in the trial of a priest, and two for the trial of a deacon (Council of Hippo, Ser. II, can. 8), but by 402 the bishop alone apparently tried the accused, and the first appeal was to the neighboring bishops. (Augustine, , Ep. 65Google Scholar; Sixteenth Council of Carthage, can. 17; Cod. Can. Ecc. Afr., can. 125Google Scholar; Hefele, , Conciliengeschichte, v. II, p. 106).Google Scholar

81 Ibid., 2 (p. 233).

82 Sixteenth Council of Carthage, can. 17, or Cod. Can. Ecc. Afr., can. 125 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 822Google Scholar); Hefele, , Conciliengeschichte, v. II, p. 106.Google Scholar

83 Council of Hippo of 393, Ser. II, can. 6 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 920).Google Scholar

84 Ibid., can. 7 (p. 920).

85 Ibid., can. 9 (pp. 920–921).

86 Boyd, , Ecclesiastical Edicts of the Theodosian Code, pp. 92 ff.Google Scholar

87 Augustine, Ep. 64.4 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 232).Google Scholar

88 Council of Hippo of 393, Ser. I, can. 2 (Maasi, , v. III, p. 919Google Scholar); Augustine, Ep. 34.5 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 26).Google Scholar

89 Ibid.; Augustine, Epp. 64.3; 62 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), pp. 231Google Scholar; 224–226).

90 Augustine, Ep. 34.5 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 26).Google Scholar

91 Augustine, , Epp. 91Google Scholar; 104 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), pp. 427 ff; 582 ff).Google Scholar

92 Augustine, , Epp. 64Google Scholar; 219; 250 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), pp. 229 ff; v. 57, pp. 428 ff; 593 ff).Google Scholar

93 Augustine, , Epp. 250Google Scholar; 250 A (CSEL, v. 57, pp. 593598; 598).Google Scholar

95 Augustine, , Ep. 250 A (p. 598).Google Scholar

96 This letter and Paul's reply are not extant.

97 Ep. 85 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), pp. 394395).Google Scholar

98 Epp. 62; 63 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), pp. 224226; 226229).Google Scholar

99 Ibid. (pp. 224–226).

100 Augustine, Ep. 110.1 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 638).Google Scholar

101 Ep. 64.3 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 231).Google Scholar

102 Ibid.; Council of Hippo of 393, Ser. II, can. 19 (Mansi, , v. III, p. 920).Google Scholar

103 Probably the Council of Carthage of September 13, 401.

104 Augustine, Ep. 64.3 (CSEL, v. 34 (2), p. 231).Google Scholar

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