Volume III - Church History

Second Century

The Quartodeciman Controversy

We also find near the end of the second century the first time occasion when the bishop of Rome tried to exert his authority over a group of Christians living outside of his area of jurisdiction—Rome and the surrounding region. This occurred in about 190, when Pope Victor I (ruled 189–199), the first Latin-speaking bishop of Rome, attempted to excommunicate the Christians in Asia Minor who were celebrating Pascha on the 14th of the Jewish month of Nisan, no matter what day of the week it fell on. Hence these Christians came to be known as Quartodecimans (i.e., the “Fourteeners”).

Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea (d. c. 340), the first great Church historian, in his History of the Church, reports that a number of bishops, including Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, “very sternly rebuked Victor” for this action, even though they agreed with him that Pascha should always be celebrated on a Sunday. Victor’s announcement of excommunication was ignored by the Quartodecimans, who continued their custom. When the First Ecumenical Council, in 325, mandated that all the Churches celebrate Pascha at the same time, most of the remaining “Quartodecimans” aligned their practice with that of the rest of the universal Church.