The Apostolic Canons
[The Rudder]

The Canons of the Holy Fathers

Canon I

A Bishop must be ordained by two or three bishops*.

Canon II.

A Presbyter must be ordained by one Bishop, and so must a Deacon and other Clergymen.

Canon III.

If any Bishop or Presbyter contrary to the Lord's ordinance related to sacrifice, offers anything else at the sacrifical altar, whether it be honey, or milk, or artifical liquor instead of wine, chickens, or any kind of animals, or vegetables, contrary to the ordinance, let him be deposed from office: except ears of new wheat or bunches of grapes, in due season. Let it not be permissible to bring anything else to the sacrificial altar but oil for the lamps, and incense at the time of the holy oblation.

Canon IV.

Let all other fruit be sent home to the Bishop and Presbyters as firstfruits, but not to the sacrificial altar. It is understood that the Bishop and Presbyters shall distribute a fair share to the Deacons and other Clergymen.

Canon V.

No Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon shall put away his own wife under pretext of reverence. If, however, he put her away, let him be excommunicated; and if he persist in so doing, let him be deposed from office.

Canon VI.

A Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon, must not undertake worldly cares. If he does, let him be deposed from office.

Canon VII.

If any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon, celebrate the holy day of Easter before the vernal equinox with the Jews, let him be deposed.

Canon VIII

If any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon, or anyone else in the sacerdotal list, fail to partake of communion when the oblation has been offered, he must tell the reason; and if it is a good excuse, he shall receive a pardon. But if he refuses to tell it, he shall be excommunicated, on the ground that he has become a cause of harm to the laity and has instilled a suspicion as against the offerer, of it that the later has failed to present it in a sound manner.

Canon IX.

All those faithful who enter and listen to the Scriptures, but do not stay for prayer and Holy Communion must be excommunicated, on the ground that they are causing the Church a breach of order.

Canon X.

If anyone pray in company with one who has been excommunicated, he shall be excommunicated himself.

Canon XI.

If anyone who is a clergyman pray in company with a deposed clergyman, he shall be deposed too.

Canon XII.

If any clergyman or layman, who has been excommunicated, or who has not been admitted to penance, shall go away and be received in another city without commendatory letters, both the receiver and the one received shall be excommunicated.

Canon XIII

If he has been excommunicated, let his excommunication be augmented, on the ground that he has lied and that he has deceived the Church of God.

Canon XIV.

A bishop shall not abandon his own parish and go outside of it to interlope to another one, even though urged by a number of persons to go there, unless there be a good reason for doing so, on the ground that he can be of greater help to the inhabitants there, by reason of his piety. And even then he must not do so of his own accord, but in obedience of the judgment of many Bishops and at their urgent request.

Canon XV.

If any Presbyter, or Deacon, or anyone at all in the Sacerdotal list, abandoning his own province, departs to another, and after deserting it entirely, sojourns in another, contrary to the opinion of his own Bishop, we bid him to officiate no longer; especially if his Bishop summons him to return, and he has not obeyed and persists in his disordeliness, he may, however, commune there as a layman.

Canon XVI.

If, on the other hand, the Bishop with whom they are associating, admits them as clergymen in defiance of the deprivation prescribed against them, he shall be excommunicated as a teacher of disorder.

Canon XVII.

Whoever has entered into two marriages after baptism, or who has possessed himself of a concubine, cannot be a Bishop, a Presbyter, or a Deacon, or anything else in the sacerdotal list.

Canon XVIII.

No one who has taken a widow, or a divorced woman, or an harlot, or a house-maid, or any actress as his wife, may be a Bishop, or a Presbyter, or a Deacon, or hold any other position at all in the sacerdotal list.

Canon XIX.

Whoever marries two sisters, or a niece, may not be a clergyman.

Canon XX.

Any Clergyman that gives surety shall be deposed.

Canon XXI.

A eunuch, whether he became such by influence of men, or was deprived of his virile parts under persecution, or was born thus, may, if he is worthy, become a Bishop.

Canon XXII.

Let no one who has mutilated himself become a clergyman; for he is a murderer of himself, and an enemy of God's creation.

Canon XXIII.

If anyone who is a clergyman should mutilate himself, let him be deposed from office. For he is a self-murderer.

Canon XXIV.

Any layman who has mutilate himself, let him be excommunicated for three years. For he is a plotter against his own life.

Canon XXV.

Any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon taht is taken in the act of committing fornication, or perjury, or theft shall be deposed from office, but shall not be excommunicated. For Scripture says; "Thou shall not exact revenge twice for the same offence". The same rule applies for the rest of clergymen

Canon XXVI.

As to bachelors who have entered the clergy, we allow only anagnosts and psalts to marry, if they wish to do so.

Canon XXVII.

As for a Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon that strikes believers for sinning, or unbelievers for wrong-doing, with the idea of making them afraid, we command that he be deposed from office. For our Lord has nowhere taught that: on the contrary, He Himself when struck did not strike back; when reviled, He did not revile His revilers; when suffering, He did not threaten.


If any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon, who has been justly deposed from office for proven crimes, should dare to touch the liturgy which once had been put in his hands, let him be cut off from the Church altogether.

Canon XXIX.

If any Bishop become the recipient of this office by means of money, or any Presbyter, or any Deacon, let him be deposed as well as the one who ordained him, and let him be cut off from all communion, as was Simon the Sorcerer by me Peter.

Canon XXX.

If any Bishop comes into possession of a church by employing secular rulers, let him be deposed from office, and let him be excommunicated. And all those who communicate with him too.

Canon XXXI.

If any Presbyter, condemning his own Bishop, draw people aside, and set up another altar, without finding anything wrong with the bishop in point of piety and righteousness, let him be deposed, on the ground that he is an office-seeker. For he is a tyrant. Let the rest of the clergymen be treated likewise, and all those who abet him. But let the laymen be excommunicated. Let these things be done, after one, and a second, and a third request of the Bishop.

Canon XXXII.

If any Bishop excommunicates any Presbyter or Deacon, these men must not be incardinated by anyone else but the one who excommunicated them, unless by a coincidence the bishop who excommunicated them should be deceased.


None of the foreign Bishops, or Presbyters, or Deacons, shall be received without letters commendatory. Even when they bear such, they shall be examined. And if they really are preachers of piety, they shall be received; but if they are not, after furnishing them what they have need of, they shall not be admitted to communion. For many things are done with a view of rapine.

Canon XXXIV.

It behoves the Bishops of every nation to know the one among them who is the premier or chief, and to recognise him as their head, and to refrain from doing anything superfluous without his advice and approval: but, instead, each of them should do only whatever is necessiated by his own parish and by his the territories under him. But let not even such a one do anything without the advice and consent and approval of all. For thus will there be concord, and God will be glorified through the Lord in Holy Spirit, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Canon XXXV.

A Bishop shall not dare to confer ordaination outside of his own boundries, in cities or territories not subject to him. If he be proved to have done so against the wishes of those having possession of those cities or territories, let him be deposed, and well as those whom he ordained.

Canon XXXVI.

In case any Bishop who has been ordained refuses the office and the care of the laity which has been entrusted to him, he shall be excommunicated and remain so until such time as he accepts it. Likewise as touching a Presbyter or a Deacon. But if on departing, he failed to accept it, not contrary to his own inclination, but because of the spitefullness of the laity, let him be a bishop, but let the clergy of that city be excommunicated, since no one can correct such an insubordinate laity.


Twice a year let a council of bishops be held, and let them examine one another in regard to dogmas of piety, and let incidental ecclesiastical contradictions be eliminated: the first one, in the fourth week of Pentecost; the second one, on the twelfth of Hyperberetaeus.


Let the bishop have the care of all ecclesiastical matters and let him manage them, on the understanding that God is overseeing and supervising. Let him not be allowed to appropriate anything therefrom or to give God's things to his relatives. If they be indigent, let him provide for them as indigents, but let him not trade off things of the Church under this pretext.

Canon XXXIX.

Let Presbyters and Deacons do nothing without the consent of the Bishop. For he is the one entrusted with the Lord's people, and it is from him that an accounting will be demanded with respect to their souls.

Canon XL.

Let the Bishops own property (if, indeed, he has any) be publicly known, and let the Lord's be publicly known. In order that the Bishop may have authority to dispose of his own property when he dies, and leave it to whomsoever he wishes as as he wishes. And lest by reason of any pretext of ecclesiastical property that of the Bishop be submerged, be it that he has a wife and children, or relatives, or house servants. For it is only just with God and men that neither the church should suffer any loss owing to ignorance of the Bishop's property, nor the Bishop, or his relatives, should have their property confiscated on the pretext that it belonged to the church. Or even to have trouble with those who are quarreling over his property, and to have his death involved in aspersions.

Canon XLI.

We command that the Bishop have authority over the property of the Church. For if the precious souls of human beings ought to be entrusted to him, there is little need of any special injunction concerning money; so that everything may be entrusted to be governed in accordance with his authority, and he may grant to those in need through the presbyters and deacons with fear of God and all reverence, while he himself may partake thereof whatever he needs (if he needs anything) for his necessary wants, and for brethern who are his guests, so as not to deprive them of anything, in any manner. For God's law has enjoined that those who serve at the altar are to be maintained at the altar's expense. The more so in view of the fact that not even a soldier ever bears arms against belligerents at his own expense.

Canon XLII.

If a Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon, wastes his time by playing dice, or getting drunk, either let him desist therefrom or let him be deposed from office.

Canon XLIII.

Let any subdeacon, Anagnost, or Psalt, who does like things either desist or be excommunicated. Likewise any laymen.

Canon XLIV.

Let any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon, who demands interest on money lent to others cease doing so or be deposed.

Canon XLV.

Let any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon, that merely joins in prayer with heretics, be suspended, but if he has permitted them to perform any service as Clergymen, let him be deposed. (sc. from office)

Canon XLVI.

We order any Bishop, or Presbyter, who has accepted any heretics' Baptism, or sacrifice, be deposed; For "what consonancy hath Christ with Beliar? or what part hath the believer with an infidel?

Canon XLVII.

If a Bishop or Presbyter baptize anew anyone who has had a true baptism, or fail to baptize anyone that has been polluted by the impious, let him be deposed, on the ground that he is mocking the cross and death of the Lord and railing to distinguish priests from pseudopriests.


If any layman who has divorced his wife takes another, or one divorced by another man, let him be excommunicated.

Canon XLIX.

If any Bishop or Presbyter, baptize anyone not into the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, but into three beginningless beings or into three sons or into three comforters, let him be deposed.

Canon L.

If any Bishop or Presbyter does not perform three immersions, (literally, "three baptisms") in making one baptism (literally, "one initiation"), but a single immersion (literally, "a single baptism"), that given into the death of the Lord, let him be deposed (sc. from office). For the Lord did not say, "Baptize ye into my death," but, "Go ye and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 28:19)

Canon LI.

If any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon, or any at all on the sacerdotal list, abstains from marriage, or meat, or wine, not as a matter of mortification, but out of an abhorrence thereof, forgetting that all things are exceedingly good, and that God made man male and female, and blasphemously misrepresenting God's work of creation, either let him mend his ways or let him be deposed from office, and expelled from the Church. Let a layman be treated similarly.

Canon LII.

If any Bishop or Presbyter shall refuse to welcome back anyone returning from sin, but on the contrary, rejects him, let him be deposed from office, since he grieves Christ, who said, "There is joy in heaven over a single sinner who repenteth".

Canon LIII.

If any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon, on the days of fests will not partake of meat and wine, because he loathes these things, and not on account of asceticism, let him be deposed from office, on the ground that he has his own conscience seared and has become a cause of scandal to many.

Canon LIV.

If any clergyman be caught eating in a tavern or any restaurant where intoxicating beverages are served, let him be excommunicated, except only in case it happens to be at a wayside in where he has put up for the night by necessity.

Canon LV.

If any Clergyman should insult the bishop, let him be deposed from office. For "thou shalt not speak ill of thy people's ruler"

Canon LVI.

If any Clergyman should insult a Presbyter, or a Deacon, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LVII.

If any clergyman jeers, fleers, or flouts, or contumeliously or scurriously or derisively or mockingly scoffs or sneers at anyone who is lame or maimed, or who is deaf, or who is blind, or him who is a cripple, let him be excommunicated. The same rule applies to the layman.

Canon LVIII.

If any Bishop or Presbyter neglects the Clergy or the laity, and fails to instruct them in piety, let him be excommunicated: but if he persists in his negligence and indolence, let him be deposed from office.

Canon LIX.

If any Bishop, or Presbyter fails to supply necessities when any of the clergy is in want, let him be excommunicated. If he persists, let him be deposed, as having murdered his brother.

Canon LX.

If any one reads to the public in churches the impious writers bearing false inscriptions and purporting to be holy, to the injury of laity and clergy, let him be deposed.

Canon LXI.

If a charge of fornication, or of adultery, or of any other forbidden act be brought against a faithful one, and be proved, let him not be promoted to the clergy.

Canon LXII.

If any Clergyman, for fear of any human being, whether the latter be a Jew, Greek, or heretic, should deny the name of Christ, let him be cast out and rejected; If he deny the name of clergyman, let him be deposed; and if he repent, let him be accepted as a layman.

Canon LXIII.

If any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon, or any one else on the sacerdotal list at all, eat meat in the blood of its soul, or that has been killed by a wild beast, or that has died a natural death, let him be deposed. For the law has forbidden this. But if any layman do the same, let him be excommunicated.


If any Clergyman be found fasting on Sunday, or on Saturday with the exception of one only, let him be deposed from office. If, however, he is a layman, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LXV.

If any Clergyman, or Layman, enter a synagogue of Jews, or of heretics to pray, let him be both deposed and excommunicated.
(Ap. c.VII, XLV, LXXI; c. XI of the 6th; c. I of Antioch; cc. VI, XXXII, XXXIII, XXXVII, XXXVIII of Laodicea.)

Canon LXVI.

If any clergyman strikes anyone in a fight, and kills by a single blow, let him be deposed from office for his insolence. But if he be a layman, let him be excommunicated.
(c. XCI of the 6th, cc. XXI, XXII, XXIII of Ancyra; Athanasius in his Epistles; cc. II, VIII, XI, etc., c. V of Nyssa)

Canon LXVII.

If anyone is keeping a virgin whom he has forcibly raped, though she be not engaged to another man, let him be excommunicated. And let it not be permissible for him to take another, but let him be obliged to keep her whom he has made his choice even though she happen to be indigent.
(cc. XXII, XXIII, XXV, XXVI of Basil)


If any Bishop, Presbyter, or Deacon accepts a second ordination from anyone, let him and the one who ordained him be deposed. unless it be established that his ordination has been performed by heretics. For those who have been baptized or ordained by such persons cannot possibly be either faithful Christians or clergymen.

Canon LXIX.

If any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon, or subdeacon, or Anagnost, or Psalt fails to fast throughout the forty days of Holy Lent, or on Wednesday, or on Friday, let him be deposed from office. Unless he be preventd from doing so by reason of bodily illness. If, on the other hand, a layman fails to do so, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LXX.

If any bishop, or presbyter, or deacon, or any at all who is on the list of clergymen, fasts together with Jews, or celebrates a holiday together with them or accepts from them holiday gifts or favors, such as unleavened wafers, or anything of the like, let him be deposed from office. If a layman do likewise, however, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LXXI.

If any Christian conveys oil to a temple of heathen, or to a synagogue of the Jews, in their festivals, or lights lamps for them, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LXXII.

If any Clergyman or Layman takes a wax candle or oil from the holy Church, let him be excommunicated, and be compelled to give back what he took, together with a fifth part of its value to boot.


Let no one appropriate any longer for his own use any golden or silver vessel that has been sanctified, or any cloth, for it is unlawful to do so. If anyone be caught in the act, let him be punished with excommunication.

Canon LXXIV.

When a bishop has been accused of somthing by trustworthy men, he must be summoned by Bishops; and if he answers and confesses, or is found guilty, let the penalty be fixed. But if when summoned he refuses to obey let him be summoned a second time by sending two Bishops to him. If even then he refuses to obey let him be summoned a third time, two bishops again being sent to him; but if even then he shows contempt and fails to answer let the synod decide the matter against him in whatever way seems best, so that he may not seem that he is getting the benefit by evading the trial.
(c. VI of the 2nd; cc. IX, XVII, XXI of the 4th; cc. XIV, XV of Antioch, c.IV of Sarican cc. VIII, XII, XVI, XXVII, XCVI, CV, CXXXI, CXXXVII, CXXXIX, of Carthage, and c. IX of Theophilus.)

Canon LXXV.

As a witness against a bishop let no heretic be accepted, but neither shall one faithful alone: for "every charge shall be established by the mouth or two or three witnesses" (Deut. 17:6, Matt. 18:16)

Canon LXXVI.

It is decreed that no Bishop shall be allowed to ordain whomsoever he wishes to the office of the Episcopate as a matter of concession to a brother, or to a son, or to a relative. For it is not right to make heirs of the Episcopate to be created, by subjecting God's things to human passion; for God's Church ought not be entrusted to heirs. If anyone shall do this let the ordination remain invalid and void, and let the bishop himself be penanced with excommunication.


If any cripple, or anyone with a defect in an eye or in a leg, is worthy of the episcopate, let him be made a bishop. For it is not an injury to the body that defiles one, but a pollution of the soul.


Let no one that is deaf nor anyone that is blind be made a Bishop, not on the ground that he is deficient morally, but least he should be embarrased in the exercise of ecclesiastical functions.

Canon LXXIX.

If anyone is possessed of a devil, let him not be made a clergyman, nor even be allowed to pray in company with the faithful. But after he has been cleansed thereof, let him be received, and if worthy be ordained.

Canon LXXX.

It is not right (allowed) to ordain a man a bishop immediately after he has joined the Church and been baptized if he has hitherto been leading a heathen life, or has been converted from wicked behaviour. For it is wrong to let one without experience become a teacher of others, unless in some special case this be allowed as a matter of divine favor and grace.

Canon LXXXI.

We have said that a Bishop or a Presbyter must not decend himself into public offices, but must attend to ecclesiastical needs. Either let him be persuaded therefore, not to do so, or let him be deposed, for no one can serve two masters, according to the Lord's injunction.


We do not permit house servants to be ordained to the clergy without the consent of their masters, to the sorrow of the masters owning them. For such a thing causes an upheaval in the households. But if any house servant should appear worthy to be ordained to any rank, as our own Onesimus did, and their masters are willing to permit it, and grant them their freedom, and allow them to leave home, let him be so ordained.


If a bishop,or presbyter, or deacon, is engaged in military matters, and wishes to hold both the Roman (i.e. civil) and a sacerdotal office, let him be deposed; for (render) "unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's". (Matt. 22:21)


If anyone insults an emperor or, King, or any other ruler, contrary to what is right and just, let him pay the penalty. Accordingly, If he is a clergyman, let him be deposed; but if he is a layman, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LXXXV.

To all the Cergyman and Laymen let the following books be venerable and sacred: Of the Old Testament, The five of Moses, namely, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; The one of Jesus of Nave (commonly called Joshua in Englsh); the one of Judges; the one of Ruth; the four of the Kingdoms; two Paralipomena (Chronicles) of the book of the days; two of Esdras (Ezra) one of Esther; three of the Maccabees; one of Job; one Psalter (commonly called the Psalms in English and Greek); three of Solomon, namely Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs; twelve of the Prophets; one of Isaiah; one of Jeremiah; one of Ezekiel; one of Daniel; outside of these it is permissible for yo to recont in addition thereto also the Wisdom of the very learned Sirach by way of teachig your young folks. Our own books, that is to say, those of the New Testament, are: comprising the four Gospels, namely, that of Matthew, of Mark, of Luke, and of John; fourteen Epistles of Paul; two Epistles of Peter; three Epistles of John; one of James; one of Jude. Two Epistles of Clement; and the Injunctions addressed to you through me, Clement, in eight books, which ought not to be divulged to all on account of the secret matters they contain and the Acts of us Apostles.

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* Later canons change canon 1 requiring at least 3 bishops including the Metropolitan or Patriarch with the synod present. See; c. XIX of the 25 c., c. XVIII of the 141 c.

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