Council of Elvira

c.305. Held in Spain after a period of persecution, it was attended by nineteen bishops and a number of presbyters. The council reveals a community facing the problems created by rapid conversion followed by something of a decline from the original fervor. The problems basically resolve themselves around the degree of compromise acceptable in a mixed pagan-Christian society. Thus the eighty-one canons deal with matters such as continued nominal attachment to the pagan priesthood, remarriage, adultery, and celibacy amongst the clergy. The penalties are severe, including lifelong excommunication, without the possibility of reconciliation, for offenses such as sacrificing and bigamy. There is also evidence of a developing asceticism in a regulation for virgins “who have dedicated themselves to God.”