A set of canons prescribing moral rules concerning the clergy and the laity, promulgated by the emperor JUSTINIAN at the instigation of the patriarch of Constantinople. The Epiphanius under whose name these canons are placed is not, as one might be tempted to think, the famous in the fourth century but his namesake, the patriarch of Constantinople in the years 520-535.

There are two sets of “canons of Epiphanius,” the one containing 137 canons, and the other, 45. The Melchites possess both series, whereas the Copts, who seem to have borrowed it from them, have only the short series of 45. The short series is sometimes attributed to ATHANASIUS, but this is only an error in reading, since the names Epiphanius and Athanasius could be confused in Arabic.

It is understandable that this collection of canons should be attributed to Justinian, for it reproduces the legislation of the sixth novella of the code of this emperor. On the other hand, since it is given only in the Melchite and Coptic collections, it must have an Eastern origin; moreover, given that it derives from after the Council of CHALCEDON in 451, the Copts no doubt borrowed from the Melchites.

Darblade (1946, p. 124) thinks that the larger series is earlier than the council “in Trullo,” because it is not mentioned, and later than 535, since it is attributed to the patriarch Epiphanius, who died in 535. As to the shorter series, which is only a resumé of the larger one, it is not known at what period it saw the light or when the Copts adopted it.

We can only say that the short series is found in the chronological collection of MACARIUS, a monk of Wadi al- Natrun, in the fourteenth century and in the systematic collection of Michael, bishop of Damietta, who died at the beginning of the thirteenth century. It is mentioned by IBN KABAR in his encyclopedia al-Zulmah (1971, p. 152). These texts do not appear in the collections.

There is no critical edition other than the table in Ibn Kabar’s encyclopedia. A translation will be found in Riedel’s work (1900, pp. 289-94). In this manuscript, thirty-five canons are counted, and they are placed under the name Athanasius of Alexandria, a minor error due to a misreading.

There is scope for correcting the information given by G. Graf (1944, p. 621) relating to the manuscript Cairo 442 (Coptic Patriarchate, Patriarchal Library, Canon 13), which has been identified as being an incomplete manuscript of the Nomocanon of the twelfth-century II ibn Turayk, which gives us the earliest date for the use of these canons by the Copts (Coquin, 1966, pp. 287-88, where this precious manuscript is described).


  • Abu al-Barakat ibn Kabar. al-Zulmah. Cairo, 1971. Coquin, R.-G. Les Canons d’Hippolyte. PO 31. Paris, 1966.
  • Darblade, J. B. La Collection canonique arabe des Melkites. Fonti serie 2. Harissa, 1946.
  • Riedel, W. Die Kirchenrechtsquellen des Patriarchats Alexandrien. Leipzig, 1900; repr. Aalen, 1968.