More on Isaac of Nineveh

Further to my last post I found my copy of Marius Besson, ”Un recueil de sentences attribué à Isaac le Syrien”, Oriens Christianus 1 (1901): 46-60, 288-298. It has also been reprinted by Gorgias and may be obtained (at a price) from http://www.gorgiaspress.com/bookshop/p-57035-besson-marius-un-recueil-de-sentences-attribu-isaac-le-syrien.aspx.

I recollect now that the reason I did not include Isaac’s work in my book on the two ways is less that he was remote from the tradition, though he is, but more because the relevant material appears only in a few sentences towards the beginning, whereas there is a great deal of other material. Nonetheless, I realize now that this is another ascetic gnomologion. Given my interest in these, sparked by working on the Gnomai of Nicaea, I do now regret failing to give this work any further attention. It provides yet another instance of the asceticization of the Church Order tradition and the growth of the classical tradition of gnomologia as means of instruction and self-instruction in monastic circles.

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Dixit Dix de Didache

Having unaccountably lost my copy of Batiffol’s edition of the Greek Syntagma doctrinae I looked online to see if a digital copy were obtainable (apparently, none is.)

However, I did turn up a curio from the history of scholarship, namely Dix on the question of whether Didache 1.4 which reads: ἐάν τίς σοι δῷ ῥάπισμα εἰς τὴν δεξιὰν σιαγόνα should include the word δεξιὰν. He suggests that this might not be the case on the basis of the citation of the text in Isaac of Nineveh’s Sententiae which omits the word. This is, he notes, the reading of the Diatessaron. The article is within the public domain and may be viewed at http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/jts/034_242.pdf.

Whereas Isaac may be a long way removed from the Didache (I recollect that, when preparing my book on the Two Ways, I decided that this text was too remote from the tradition to warrant inclusion) this was sufficient to suggest to Dix that the Didachist was indebted to the Diatessaron; this was in support of the theory (originating with Armitage Robinson and then in wide circulation) that the Didache was a product of the late second century. As part of this he has to argue that the sectio evangelica was part of the original Didache, and in this context grabs evidence from the Syntagma doctrinae which appears to cite the sectio evangelica of the Didache. On this basis, he concludes that the sectio was part of the original, and that the Diatessaronic reading is preserved by Isaac on the basis that he may have had an old text.

The basic argument of dependence on the Diatessaron and the primacy of the Two Ways Tradition as preserved in the Didache (as opposed to its representation in the Doctrina and in Apostolic Church Order) is not worth refuting. As to whether δεξιάν should be omitted from the text of the Didache at this point, quite apart from the Diatessaron, the witness of Isaac is interesting but hardly conclusive. Nonetheless, since I have just received a commission for an annotated bibliography of the Didache (to be blogged on a later occasion, I am just returning from an extended rest) it is interesting to find this curio to add to the collection, and to start the process.

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The Didascalia Apostolorum or “Teaching of the (Twelve) Apostles”

Alistair C. Stewart:

Not the work of a professional scholar but a fair summary nonetheless. And of course one is glad to see the Didascalia gaining attention.

Originally posted on David Christian Clausen:

In my last post regarding the origins of Christianity in Syria, I mentioned a number of early Christian texts believed to have been authored somewhere within the Roman imperial province. One of those is the Didascalia Apostolorum, Latin for “Teaching of the Apostles.” Most scholars believe the DA was authored in Greek in the third century of the Common Era but by the next century it came to be translated into both Latin and Syriac, the language spoken in much of Syria. Among those cities in which the DA may have originated are Aleppo (modern Halab, southeast of Antioch), Bosra (modern Busra al-Sham in southeast Syria), and Edessa (modern Sanli Urfa in western Syria). The DA shows the influence of both the Hebrew Bible and certain rabbinical texts, indicating an origination point in a location with a significant Jewish-Christian population.

Because of its relatively late date of authorship vis-à-vis…

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The pseudonymy game

A few weeks ago I went to a day studying pseudonymous dialogues, in particular to hear the excellent Alin Suciu, who gave a paper on pseudo-apostolic dialogues in Coptic. It keeps me out of trouble!

 What was interesting, as far as students of the ancient church orders is concerned, is the apparatus of pseudonymy in many of these dialogues, as many claim to have been found in Jerusalem, hidden in libraries. Most striking, in that context, was the introduction to ps-John Chrysostom On the four bodiless creatures in which the author states that he was in Jerusalem studying the commands (nesēntagma) in Jerusalem. Surely these syntagmata are an allusion to the setting in Jerusalem of the pseudo-apostolic church orders (e.g. the Didascalia.) A pseudonymous author thus refers to the apparatus of pseudonymy! Any further development of understanding of the church orders must come to terms with their pseudonymous nature. Bart Ehrman has made a significant contribution here, but somehow I do not think his is the last word; I tend to think of pseudonymy more as a literary game than an outright intention to deceive (forgery, in Bart’s words). What Alin’s paper particularly brings to our attention is the continuation of the literary game which we call pseudonymy.

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The original bishops on the Baker blog

Some reflections here.

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Progress report

I have now received a scan of one of the two pages at the end of the Turin codex containing the Gnomai of Nicaea. Although it is largely lacunose and, due to the darkness of the papyrus, even what is extant is largely illegible from a photograph, I can at least rest assured that this is not a missing page of gnomai simply because it is written in two columns, whereas the rest of the gnomai are in one. Unfortunately, due to an error, only one of the two pages was sent; the other page which was sent was a duplicate of one I had already received. I have pointed this out and wait… again!

In the meantime, and more positively, the introduction and main text of my second edition of Traditio apostolica has gone into the editorial process. I need only now to check the appendix (containing the Hippolytean homily on the Psalms, as before) and recast the indices. My aim was to have this done by Pentecost, so I may well be on schedule.

A publication date is in the hands of the Press, but I do not anticipate that it will be long delayed. Unlike the Gnomai…

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Apostolic Tradition on military catechumens

In the Sahidic version of Apostolic Tradition 16 (the Latin being wanting) it is said of a soldier seeking baptism that he shall not “go to the task” if he is ordered, nor swear the oath. The meaning is obscure. The Aksumite Ethiopic, however, is clear that a soldier is not to offer sacrifice, not to swear the oath, and not to wear a wreath. The Canons of Hippolytus likewise reflect the prohibition of swearing and wearing of the wreath. We may thus reasonably believe that the new Ethiopic version retains the closest reflection of the original. “Not to go to the task” may be some corrupted version of the words regarding sacrifice, though I am at a loss to suggest precisely what.

The particular reason for drawing attention to this is an essay by Yoder on military service in the church orders, found at http://www3.nd.edu/~theo/jhy/writings/history/ecdisc%26ord.htm#N_40_, in which Yoder deduces on the basis of this section of Apostolic Tradition that the principal objection to military service was not the issue of the close relationship with the cultus of the emperor, as is often held. He appears to be using a translation based on the Sahidic, though I am a bit confused as to which, as he makes reference to the Latin (which is not extant for this passage!) However, the Aksumite Ethiopic seems to shift the balance somewhat.

There are a number of significant flaws in Yoder’s use of the church order material in his essay, on which I will not expatiate. It is interesting, as he himself notes, that an ethicist might find material in these documents; ethicists, however, should be as cautious in their use as liturgiologists have, in recent years, learnt to be. Which is not to say that they should not use the material, simply that they should handle it with care.

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