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Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals

(False Decretals; Forged Decretals).

1. a. Collection of ecclesiastical documents, some genuine, some forged, made probably in Franconia in the 1st half of the 9th c. An earlier collection, based on that of Dionysius* Exiguus, had been erroneously attributed to Isidore* of Seville. The Frankish fraud also appeared under Isidore's name.

The Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals are divided into 3 parts: I. 50 apostolic canons; ca. 59/60 spurious decretals of Roman bps. (popes) from Clement I (see Apostolic Fathers, 1) to Miltiades* (Melchiades). II. The Donation* of Constantine (see also 2); tracts on the council of Nicaea; canons of the Gk., Afr., Gallic, and Sp. councils to 683. III. Decretals (including 35 spurious ones) of popes from Sylvester I (see Popes, 1) to Gregory II (ca. 669–731; b. Rome, It.; pope 715–731).

b. The spurious decretals are for the most part not complete forgeries but are rather based on the literature of theol. and canon law then existing, amplified or altered, and so formulated as to serve the purposes of the compiler(s) (see c). But the fraud is clumsy: (1) 2d–3d c. Roman bps. are made to write in the Frankish Lat. of the 9th c.; (2) they write in the spirit of post-Nicene orthodoxy; (3) they write on medieval relations of ch. and state; (4) they quote Scripture from post-Jerome translations; (5) a 3d-c. bp. writes to a 5th-c. bp. about the celebration of Easter.

c. Purpose of the Pseudo-Isidorian fraud was to extend into antiquity the papal claim of temporal power (see Pepin the Short) and to est. the pope as unquestioned ruling head of the ch. and its hierarchy. The fraud was perpetrated in an uncritical age. It was questioned by Nicholas* of Cusa, L. Valla,* M. Luther,* and J. Calvin* (Institutio religionis christianae, IV, vii, xi, xx), then unmasked by the authors of the Magdeburg* Centuries, finally revealed so clearly by D. Blondel* that RCs have also been openly convinced.

2. In the Donation of Constantine, Constantine* I is portrayed as confessing his faith and telling how he was converted and cured of leprosy by Sylvester I, as recognizing the primacy of the Roman bp., and as giving him the Lateran* palace, with imperial power in the W. That far exceeds donations by Constantine I to Sylvester I related in Acta Sylvestri and in a letter by Adrian* I to Charlemagne* perhaps ca. 778/780.


Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

Internet Version Produced by
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod


Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
All rights reserved.

Content Reproduced with Permission

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