The stinoufi prayer of the Coptic Didache

Posted ages ago on; my article on the stinoufi prayer published originally as “The Word and the sweet scent: a re-reading of the stinoufi  prayer in the Coptic Didache” Anaphora 1 (2007), 53-64. How did I forget to blog?

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Making a mess of martyrs and the mass

I have just found Maxwell E. Johnson, “Martyrs and the mass: the interpolation of the narrative of institution into the anaphora” Worship 87 (2013), 2-22.

Johnson argues, principally on the basis of the prayer of Polycarp at his martyrdom, that the interpolation of an institution narrative in the anaphora resulted from martyrological prayer. The received answer that the inclusion of the narrative is catechetical in origin is accepted, and the point argued is that this catechesis, in the fourth century (the date to which Johnson would assign the interpolation of the institution narrative, including into the Apostolic tradition, a connection which gives me an excuse to blog this private rant here) was necessary to remind those for whom martyrdom was never a real experience of the sacrifice of Christ. “What better way to strongly emphasize and make clear [and to split infinitives ACS] this connection than to have the very words of Christ within the central prayer of the Eucharist itself?”(p. 19) Actually there are quite a few better ways, particularly since, in the fourth century, the martyria are themselves becoming the location of shrines, and we are soon into the period of the translation of relics.

I do not have the patience to deliver a full critique at this point. Sufficient to say that Johnson’s statement that the prayer of Polycarp at his martyrdom reflected a regular third-century Eucharistic prayer is to confuse the diverse roots of Eucharistic praying, and moreover to confuse distinct species of Eucharistic meal, one of which seeks communion with Christ through communion with a martyr, the other of which seeks direct communion with Christ. There is no doubt that there is some martyrological influence in the emergence of the eucharist in the third/fourth century, but it is not to be located in the inclusion of the institution narrative within the anaphora, and especially not conveyed through catechesis.

I have already dealt with much of this material in my contribution to Frances Young’s Festschrift and in my edition of Vita Polycarpi. I argue in the first for the inclusion of an institution narrative in the original stratum of the episcopal Eucharistic prayer of Traditio apostolica and treat the Eucharistic prayer of Polycarp in the latter. Johnson does not make reference to either. Of course, he is far too important to bother with the work of a poore parson of a town, but had he done so he might have been saved from some methodological clangers.

The last time I got seriously peeved by Johnson, the result was published in Questions liturgiques. If I get time I will see if I can knock out a more coherent and reasoned response fit for more conventional publication.

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Apostolic Tradition 21.39-40, the white stone, and a matter of balancing the Coptic against the Aksumite Ethiopic

Over on I find, over a year later, a discussion of Apostolic tradition 21.39-40; find it by searching for “Andrew Criddle”, as the discussion is over three posts.

The Sahidic of Apostolic Tradition reads: “We have handed over to you in brief these things about holy baptism and the holy offering, since you have already been instructed about the resurrection of the flesh and the other things according to the Scriptures. Now (δέ) if anything else should be said, the bishop shall say it privately…” There is a significantly different reading in the Aksumite Ethiopic, an understanding which may well stand behind the version offered by the Testament of the Lord. This text reads: “It is therefore convenient to be given this in brief on the washing and on the offering because they have already been instructed. But about the resurrection of the body and everything else in accordance [with the Scriptures] the bishop will reveal and explain as is convenient when they are initiated.” Testament of the Lord is slightly confusing, but the confusion may come about through attempting to make sense of a reading like that of the Aksumite: “They should also be taught about the resurrection of bodies; before being baptized nobody should know the word concerning the resurrection.” Andrew Criddle, for whom I have the utmost respect, believes that the Aksumite reflects a more accurate rendition of the original, given the potential support of Testamentum Domini, and locates the precise matter regarding the resurrection, which is to be held secret, in the teaching regarding the harrowing of hell which is found in Testamentum Domini presented as mystagogy.

I’m afraid that on this occasion I cannot agree. It is as likely that this particular mystagogy is a peculiarity of the Testamentum. The Aksumite Ethiopic may be derived from a Greek text very similar to the Coptic. To demonstrate the point I attempt a retroversion of the relevant phrase(s) without punctuation (and with apologies for the horrible appearance of the Greek): … περὶ τοῦ λουτροῦ καὶ τῆς προσφορᾶς ἐπειδὴ ἤδη κατήχησθε (or ηνται following Ethiopic) περὶ τῆς τῆς σαρκὸς ἀναστασέως καὶ τὰ λοιπά κατὰ τᾶς γραφάς… Now if a full stop or colon is placed after the verb κατήχησθε the meaning is as the Ethiopic (though admittedly the style would be improved with a δέ after the περί), whereas should the full stop or colon be placed after τᾶς γραφάς then the meaning is as the Coptic. It is quite possible that the redactor of the Testamentum Domini (mis)read the text in the same way as the Ethiopic scribe.

I treat the point in the second edition of my Apostolic tradition (now languishing forgotten at the Press) but since the discussion had already entered the blogosphere I thought it worth labouring here at rather greater length than I do in the book.

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Didache Bibliography

As intimated earlier, I have received an invitation to produce an annotated bibliography on the Didache.

This is for the Oxford Bibliographies in Biblical Studies series. I was not aware that the Didache was in the Bible, but then again I am no expert.

And I made a start today! Pretty tedious for the most part, but hopefully I will find a few obscurities to blog about on the way, and may enjoy re-reading some stuff. I am thinking that I should at least re-read the classic works of Harnack and Audet. This will give me an excuse.

In the meantime I find that has a bit of a bibliography, with some links to online material.

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Fragments of the Testamentum Domini in Georgian


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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

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

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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