Council of Laodicea

The Council of Laodicea was a regional synod of approximately thirty clerics from Asia Minor that assembled about 363–364 AD in Laodicea, Phrygia Pacatiana

Historical context

The council took place soon after the conclusion of the war between the Roman Empire and the Persian Empire, waged by Emperor Julian. Julian, the last Constantinian emperor, attempted a revival of paganism and resumed discrimination against Christians. After his death in battle on June 26, 363, officers of the army elected the Christian Jovian as his successor, who in his precarious position far from supplies ended the war with Persia unfavorably for Rome. He was soon succeeded by Valentinian I, who named his brother Valens Emperor of the East.

Major concerns

The major concerns of the Council involved regulating the conduct of church members. The Council expressed its decrees in the form of written rules or canons. Among the sixtycanons decreed, several aimed at:

  • Maintaining order among bishops, clerics and laypeople (canons 3–5, 11–13, 21–27, 40–44, 56–57)
  • Enforcing modest behaviour of clerics and laypeople (4, 27, 30, 36, 53–55)
  • Regulating approach to heretics (canons 6–10, 31–34, 37), Jews (canons 16, 37–38) and pagans (canon 39)
  • Outlawing the keeping of the Jewish sabbath (Saturday) and encouraging rest on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) (canon 29)
  • Outlining liturgical practices (canons 14–20, 21–23, 25, 28, 58–59)
  • Restrictions during Lent (canons 45, 49–52)
  • Admission and instruction of catechumens and neophytes (canons 45–48)
  • Specifying a Biblical canon (canons 59–60)

Biblical Canon

The 59th canon restricted the readings in church to canonical books of the Old and New Testaments. The 60th canon listed these books, with the New Testament containing 26 books, omitting the Book of Revelation, and the Old Testament including the 22 books of the Hebrew Bible plus the Book of Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremy.

The authenticity of the 60th canon is doubtful as it is missing from various manuscripts and may have been added later to specify the extent of the preceding 59th canon. Around 350 AD, Cyril of Jerusalem produced a list matching that from the Council of Laodicea.


The council marks the first occasion in Christianity of the explicit condemnation of astrology, a matter on which theologians and legislators had not yet reached consensus.