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  • Konzilien und Synoden im spätantiken Gallien von 314 bis 696 nach Christi Geburt. Teil 1: Chronologische Darstellung; Teil 2: Zusammenschau wichtiger Themenkreise
  • Michael Kulikowski
Konzilien und Synoden im spätantiken Gallien von 314 bis 696 nach Christi Geburt. Teil 1: Chronologische Darstellung; Teil 2: Zusammenschau wichtiger Themenkreise. By Josef Limmer. [Wissenschaft und Religion: Veröffentlichungen des Internationalen Forschungszentrums für Grundfragen der Wissenschaften Salzburg, Band 10.] (Frankfurt: Peter Lang. 2004. Pp. iv, 463; iv, 375. $128.95 paperback. ISBN 3-631-53303-9.)

These seemingly thorough volumes are tedious in a manner that only German handbooks can achieve, with their numbered and sub-numbered paragraphs ensuring that no concession to mere readability impinges upon the exposition of evidence and firm, unambiguous conclusions. The first volume begins with definitions of ecumenical, provincial, and local councils and synods, surveys their history in the Roman and post-Roman periods, and proceeds to a massive, council-by-council, canon-by-canon exposition of every Gallic council and synod between Arles in 314 and Auxerre between 692 and 696. Preambles and epistles are sketched and subscription lists are given in full. Each canon is translated (or at times closely paraphrased) and each translated council is followed by summary analyses and excurses on major points at issue, be they disciplinary or theological. The occasional excursus treats the non-conciliar evidence for important figures involved with a particular council or synod, for instance Avitus of Vienne and Caesarius of Arles. The volume concludes with a useful summary index of conciliar decisions, [End Page 127] lemmatized by topics. Throughout, the material is presented accurately, but it is very much a summary of evidence; novel interpretation is entirely absent, as are any interpretative grey areas, and the author knows nothing of Anglophone scholarship, which might have helped with the disputed chronologies of some councils and would certainly have given nuance to the summary of controversies over heresy and monastic discipline. The second volume, slightly shorter, rehearses the same information contained in the first volume, but does so according to long, thematic sections on bishops, priests, monks and nuns, the laity, slaves, Jews, heretics, and other social questions, and the liturgy and sacraments. Each of these thematic sections is based exclusively on the primary evidence of the canons; modern scholarship is virtually invisible, and it is not until one reaches the final section that one understands why that is the case. Limmer's last twenty pages disclose the real purpose of the whole, enormous exercise, which has not, in fact, been to provide a new analytical history of the Gallic church councils. On the contrary, he has set out to compare the special concerns and solutions of the Gallic church in late antiquity with those of today's Catholic Church. The brevity of this final section undermines whatever it might have been intended to achieve, but we do learn that the author regards modern Halloween as a living relic of paganism and strongly approves of excluding women from the diaconate and priesthood. There is, to be sure, a long and honorable tradition of seeking answers to today's disciplinary conundra in the teachings of the fathers and the canon law of the early Church. If such explorations are to make a scholarly contribution, they need a far greater awareness of the modern literature than the present book shows. For the exhaustive summary and indexing of canons in the first volume, Limmer's book has some value as a work of reference, but it adds nothing to what we already know of the Gallo-Roman and Frankish church.

Michael Kulikowski
University of Tennessee-Knoxville


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