NEOPHYTE (Gr. from 740s, new, Ovr6v, a plant, "newly planted"), a word used in the Eleusinian and other mysteries to designate the newly initiated, and in the early church applied to newly baptized persons. These usually wore the white garments which they received at their admission to the church (see Baptism) for eight days, from Easter eve till the Sunday after Easter (hence called Dominica in albis), but they were subject to strict supervision for some time longer and, on the authority of Tim. iii. 6, were generally held ineligible for election as bishops, a rule to which, however, history shows some notable exceptions, as in the cases of St Ambrose at Milan in 374 and Synesius of Cyrene at Ptolemais in 409, who were chosen bishops before they were even baptized. By the council of Nicaea (325) this rule was extended to the priesthood. The ancient discipline is still maintained in the Roman Church, and applies to converts from Christian sects as well as to those from heathenism. The period, however, is determined by circumstances. The term "neophyte" is also sometimes applied in the Roman Church to newly ordained priests, and even - though rarely - to novices of a religious order. In a transferred sense the word is also given to one beginning to learn any new subject.
See Bergier, Diet. de theologie, s.v.; Martigny, Diet. des antiquites, PP. 433-435; Siegel, Christliche Alterthiimer, iii. 17 seq.; Riddle, Christ. Antiquities, pp. 313, 522; Walcott, Sacred Archaeology, s.v.
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