Condemnation of works


In the Decretum Gelasianum (Gelasian Decree) de recipiendis et non recipiendis libris, which appears to be a Decree issued by Pope Gelasius I (492-496AD) in 494, there is a lengthy catalogue of acceptable and unacceptable books from the fathers. This work is made up of 5 chapters: De Spiritu Sancto, De canone Scripturae Sacrae, De sedibus patriachalibus, De synodis oecumenicis, De libris recipiendis. The last part has given its' name to the whole work.

More details and a bibliography for the Decretum may be found in Quasten, vol. IV, p277. The actual authorship of the document seems very uncertain. Until recently, it was believed that no reference to the Decretum was made by any extant writer prior to the 9th century, and on this basis it was dismissed as a forgery, as this is the era of the Forged Decretals. However more recent opinion has suggested that it must have been known to Isidore of Seville, in the 7th century, and that it was probably put together by an unknown hand, perhaps in North Italy, from various materials in the early 6th century. The reality would seem to be that no-one actually knows. However it became treated as authoritative during the Middle Ages.

The works of Tertullian are included in the list of non recipiendis libris. This may account for the tiny number of manuscripts known to us.


See bibliography for more details on these.

1. Quasten, J, Patrology, IV, 277. Not much info, but good references.

2. Von Dobschutz, Ernst, Das Decretum Gelasianum. Critical edition of the document itself. The text is now online here, with an English translation.   Reviewed and summarised by F.C.Burkitt -- review online.

3. Howorth, H.H., The Decretal of Damasus. JTS 14 (1913). The case for 9th century forgery. Somewhat confused argument, but interesting, if only to spot the gaps in the logic.

4. Leclerq, H, Gelasien (Decret), article in Dictionnaire D'Archeologie Chretienne et De Liturgie, (1924) Vol 6 (G-GOTHA), p722-747. Massive bibliography. Puts the case for 6th century authorship and reviews all work so far.


This page has been online since 10th December 1999.

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