Council of Elvira, is the first known council of the Christian church in Spain. At the time, Elvira was a city in the Roman province of Hispania Baetica, now Granada in what is now southern Spain. It is the first council of which the canons have survived although the complete English translation did not seem to be available on the internet. The canons provide the earliest reliable information on the Spanish church. The exact date of the council is disputed, with some scholars placing it between 300–304 others 309. The Diocletian persecution ran from 303 to 324.

It is important to recall that the Edict of Toleration that legalized Christianity in 311. Christianity was made the official religion of the Roman Empire with the Edictum de Fide Catholica in 380. The Umayyad (Muslim) conquest of Hispania was around 711 to 788. Putting the council between the end of persecution and the beginning of Muslim domination. All this to say that it is interesting the degree to which the Church had structure at this time. Central to many of the canons is the notion of who may recieve communion. The Catholic doctrine that communion is a means of grace. Penance also figures in many of them. 

Nineteen bishops and 24 priests, primarily from southern Spain, assembled with the intention of restoring order and discipline in the church. The 81 canons that were adopted reflect the internal life and external relations of the Spanish church. Many of the canons seem severe to our ears as they imposed rigorous discipline for various sins. No reconciliation with the church was allowed for certain sins, including idolatry, repeated adultery, divorce, and incest. The punishment for lesser sins was exclusion from Holy Communion, sometimes for up to 10 years. Members of the clergy were expected to lead pure and holy lives. Subsequently, some of the canons were included in the canons of later councils, including the Council of Nicaea (325).

The Eighty-one canons that are recorded concern order, discipline and conduct among the Christian community. Canons 1-  deal with Christians who have sacrificed to Idols. Canon 36, forbidding the use of images in churches prefigures the Iconoclast Controiversy(ies) that will follow and is used by Protestant scholars to note that the use of images was controversial for a long time prior to the Seventh Council. (The box by that canon shows what the Orthodox have to say on the matter.)

This list of the canons has been patched together from the references given at the bottom.

Idolatry

Canons

  1. Any one, who after faith in the baptism of salvation, and being of adult years, shall have entered the temple of an idol [to commit idolatry] and shall have sacrificed - this being a capital offence, because it involves supreme guilt - shall not receive communion even at death. (Dale)
  2. Flamens [a priest of ancient Rome] who after the faith of baptism and regeneration shall have sacrificed, because they will have doubled their guilt if murder be added, and have tripled their sin if sexual immorality be involved, shall not receive communion even at death. (Dale, slightly altered)
  3. In the case of Flamens  who have not sacrificed but merely given the games, inasmuch as they have abstained from the fatal sacrifices, we decree that they may be received into communion at the last: provided, however, that they first submit to a suitable penance; but if, after their penance, they commit sexual offenses they should not be given communion lest they seem to be mocking Sunday communion. (Kidd, Documents, plus Webmaster)
  4. Flamens who have been catechumens and have abstained from sacrifices, may be admitted to baptism after three years.
  5. If a woman in a fit of rage whips her maidservant so severely that she dies a horrible death within three days, and it is not certain whether she killed her on purpose or by accident: provided that the required penance has been done, she shall be readmitted to communion after seven years if it was done on purpose, and after five years if by accident; if she becomes ill during the prescribed time, let her receive communion.

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Sexuality, marriage and clerical celibacy

  1. If a Christian completes penance for a sexual offense and then again commits fornication, he or she may not receive communion even when death approaches.
  2. Women who without acceptable cause leave their husbands and join another man may not receive communion even when death approaches
  3. A baptized woman who leaves an adulterous husband who has been baptized, for another man, may not marry him. If she does, she may not receive communion until her former husband dies, unless she is seriously ill.
  4. If an unbaptized woman marries another man after being deserted by her husband who was a catechumen, she may still be baptized. This is also true for female catechumens. If a Christian woman marries a man in the knowledge that he deserted his former wife without cause, she may receive communion only at the time of her death.
  5. If a female catechumen marries a man in the knowledge that he deserted his former wife without cause, she may not be baptized for five years unless she becomes seriously ill.
  6. Parents and other Christians who give up their children to sexual abuse are selling others' bodies, and if they do so or sell their own bodies, they shall not receive communion even at death.
  7. Virgins who have been consecrated to God shall not commune even as death approaches if they have broken the vow of virginity and do not repent. If, however, they repent and do not engage in intercourse again, they may commune when death approaches.
  8. If a virgin loses her virginity but then marries the man involved, she may commune after one year, without doing penance, for she has broken only the laws of marriage. If she has been sexually active with other men, she must complete a penance of five years before being re-admitted to communion.
  9. Christian girls are not to marry pagans, no matter how few eligible men there are, for such marriages lead to adultery of the soul.
  10. Heretics shall not be joined in marriage with Catholic girls unless they accept the Catholic faith. Catholic girls may not marry Jews or heretics, because they cannot find a unity when the faithful and the unfaithful are joined. Parents who allow this to happen shall not commune for five years.
  11. If any should somehow join their daughters in marriage to priests of idols, they shall not be given communion–even at the end.
  12. Bishops, presbyters, and deacons, once they have taken their place in the ministry, shall not be given communion even at the time of death if they are guilty of sexual immorality. Such scandal is a serious offence.
  13. Bishops, presbyters, and deacons shall not leave the area where they work, or travel in the provinces, in order to engage in profitable ventures. If it is an economic necessity, let them send a son, a freedman, an employee, a friend, or someone else. They should engage only in business activities within their own area.

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  1. A bishop or other cleric may have only a sister or a daughter who is a virgin consecrated to God living with him. No other woman who is unrelated to him may remain.
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  1. Those who sinned sexually as youth may not be ordained as subdeacons. This will guard against their being promoted to higher offices later on. If they have already been ordained, they shall be removed from their office.
  2. Young men who have been baptized and then are involved in sexual immorality may be admitted to communion when they marry if they have fulfilled the required penance.

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  1. Bishops, presbyters, deacons, and others with a position in the ministry are to abstain completely from sexual intercourse with their wives and from the procreation of children. If anyone disobeys, he shall be removed from the clerical office.

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Pictures/Images

Canon 36. Foreshadow of the Iconoclast Controversy?

Both iconoclasts and iconodules have cited this canon in favor of their own positions in the history of the Church. As such, it is not a stretch to say that no one knows the exact context or meaning of this canon, rendering it moot as a piece of "evidence" for any one position. At best, it is interesting fodder for the discussion.
The canon shows that Christians of the pre-Nicene period were distinguishing between images and idols, by its usage of the word picturas to indicate images. ( <a~~/a>)
  1. Pictures are not to be placed in churches, so that they do not become objects of worship and adoration. The Latin is (Placuit picturas in ecclesia esse non debere, ne quod colitur et adoratur in parietibus depingatur.)

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  1. Pagans, if in sickness they wish to have the laying-on-of-hands, and if their life hs been at least partially decent, shall have the laying-on-of-hands and become Christians.
  2. It is forbidden that landholders, when they receive their payments, shall account as received anything offered to idols. If after this prohibition they do so anyway, they shall be severed from communion for the space of five years.
  3. The Faithful are warned to forbid, as far as they can, that idols be kept in their homes. If, however, they fear violence from their slaves, they must at least keep themselves pure. If they do not do this, they are considered to be outside the Church.

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  1. A former prostitute who has married and who seeks admission to the Christian faith shall be received without delay.

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  1. If a baptized married man commits adultery repeatedly, he is to be asked as he nears death whether or not he will reform should he recover. If he so promises, he may receive communion. If he recovers and commits adultery again, he may not commune again, even as death approaches.

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  1. If any of the clergy of the Faithful eats with Jews, he shall be kept from communion in order that he be corrected as he should.

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  1. Anyone who writes scandalous graffiti in a church is to be condemned.

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  1. A magistrate is ordered to keep away from the church during the one year of his term as Duumvir [joint magestrate].

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  1. A man who, after his wife's death, marries her baptized sister may not commune for five years unless illness requires that reconciliation be offered sooner.

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  1. If a woman conceives in adultery and then has an abortion, she may not commune again, even as death approaches, because she has sinned twice.
  2. A woman who remains in adultery to the time of her death may not commune. If she breaks the relationship, she must complete ten years' penance before communing.

 

href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synod_of_Elvira" 2/22/19

https://www.britannica.com/event/Council-of-Elvira 2/22/19

https://earlychurchtexts.com/public/elvira_canons.htm 2/22/19

http://www.beyond-the-pale.org.uk/elvira.htm 2/22/19

https://www.csun.edu/~hcfll004/elvira.html 2/22/19

https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxyandheterodoxy/2013/05/20/is-there-really-a-patristic-critique-of-icons-part-3-of-5/ 2/22/19

http://www.awrsipe.com/patrick_wall/selected_documents/309%20council%20of%20elvira.pdf