Friday, June 17, 2011

Laodicea - Canon 24

No one of the priesthood, from presbyters to deacons, and so on in the ecclesiastical order to subdeacons, readers, singers, exorcists, door-keepers, or any of the class of the Ascetics, ought to enter a tavern.

As has been previously noted (and now enumerated in this canon) is the recognition of those who perform certain functions within the meeting of the church.  An individual was not allowed to cross to a higher-level function without formal recognition of that move: the uppermost functions and offices require additional outside recognition via a synod.  These positions were a serious and holy business reflecting the desire for all things to be done decently and in order (1 Cor 14:40) and by the power which God supplies (1 Pet 4:11-12).

That desire for holiness drove the church to cleanse itself by removing itself from those places where great sin was known to occur.  We need to be careful because English translations of early church writings use words common to society but not necessarily with the same meaning or understanding.  For instance, Tertullian railed against Christians attending the theater.  Roman theaters were not the "black tie" affairs we know today but far more debauched in atmosphere.  In the same way, the taverns mentioned in the canon are not English pubs where whole families could go for food and fellowship.  A much closer picture would be an Old West saloon with wanton drunkenness, gambling, and women of ill repute.  With this background we can understand that the intent of the canon is not asceticism or legalism but maintaining the testimony of the individual and local church.

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