It may be a question whether the qualification required of bishops and deacons by the Pastoral Epistles, that they should not be "given to filthy lucre" (1Ti 3:3,8; Tit 1:7), implies proneness to bribery, properly so called, or covetousness generally. If, however, we reckon the Apostolical Constitutions as representing generally the Church life of the 2d century, we see that the offence was then beginning to take shape. The bishop is directed not to be open to receive gifts, since unconscientious men, "becoming acceptors of Persons, and having received shameful gifts," will spare the sinner, letting him remain in the Church. In two other passages there are even more marked recgonitions of such offenes.
In the Roman law there were numerous enactments against bribery. Theodosius enacted the penalty of death against all judges who took bribes. In Justinian's time, although the penalty of death seems to have been abrogated, the offence is subjected to degrading punishments.
The law of the Church on the subject of bribery was substantially that of the State. The spiritual sin was looked upon as equivalent to the civil offence, and the Church needed no special discipline to punish the former. One form of bribery, indeed, relating to the obtainment of the orders or dignities of the Church, is considered separately under the head of SIMONY SEE SIMONY (q.v.).