The council took place soon after the conclusion of the war between the Roman Empire and the Persian Empire, waged by Emperor Julian. Julian, the last Constantinian emperor, attempted a revival of paganism. After his death in battle on 26 June 363, officers of the army elected the Christian Jovian as his successor. Jovian, in a precarious position, far from supplies, ended the war with Persia unfavorably for Rome. He was soon succeeded by Valentinian I, who named his brother Valens as Emperor of the East.
The major concerns of the council involved regulating the conduct of church members. The council expressed its decrees in the form of written rules or canons. Among the sixty canons decreed, several aimed at:
- Maintaining order among bishops, clerics and laypeople (canons 3–5, 11–13, 21–27, 40–44, 56–57)
- Enforcing modest behavior of clerics and laypeople (4, 27, 30, 36, 53–55)
- Regulating approach to heretics (canons 6–10, 31–34, 37), Jews (canons 16, 37–38) and pagans (canon 39)
- Outlawing the keeping of the Sabbath (Saturday), and encouraging rest on Sunday (canon 29)
- Outlining liturgical practices (canons 14–20, 21–23, 25, 28, 58–59)
- Restrictions during lent (canons 45, 49–52)
- Admission and instruction of catechumens and neophytes (canons 45–48)
- Specifying a biblical canon (canons 59–60)
The 59th canon forbade the readings in churches of uncanonical books. The 60th canon listed canonical books, with the New Testament containing 26 books, omitting the Book of Revelation, and the Old Testament including 22 books from the Tanakh and several deuterocanonical books including I and II Esdras, the Book of Baruch, and the Epistle of Jeremiah. It is also believed that they may have demonized the "Second Book of Enoch", which led to its degeneration.
The authenticity of the 60th canon is doubtful, as it is missing from various Greek manuscripts and may have been added later to specify the extent of the preceding 59th canon. The Latin version of the canons of Laodicea consistently omit the canon list. Around 350, Cyril of Jerusalem produced a list of biblical books matching that from the Council of Laodicea.
- Council of Laodicea at bible-researcher.com. Retrieved 2011-10-05.
- "Synod of Laodicea" Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 14. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (eds). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., (1900). "[N. B.— This Canon is of most questionable genuineness.]", retrieved 2011-10-06.
- Cyril of Jerusalem on the Canon at bible-researcher.com, retrieved 2011-10-05.
- Tester, Jim (1987). A history of western astrology. Woodbridge: Boydell. p. 55. ISBN 0-85115-255-4.
- Halfond, Gregory (2011). "Tenebrae Refulgeant: Celestial Signa in Gregory of Tours". The Heroic Age. 15.
- "Synod of Laodicea (4th Century)", The Canons with annotations, from Schaff
- Philip Schaff (ed.), The Seven Ecumenical Councils (A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. XIV), "The Canons of the Councils of Ancyra, Gangra, Neocæsarea, Antioch and Laodicea, which Canons were Accepted and Received by the Ecumenical Synods". Synod of Laodicea.