The Oxford Patristic Conference and the church order literature

It is now weeks to go until Oxford, and still I haven’t written my paper (which, btw, is on Ignatius of Antioch’s “docetic” opponents, and on Friday afternoon, by which time most people are too tired to care.)

The conference will kick off for me, however, on the Tuesday morning at nine sharp, as I am chairing the short communications on liturgy. I wonder whether I will get to ring the bell.

First into bat is Paul Bradshaw, the abstract of whose paper is below. He is wrestling with the very issues with which I am constantly wrestling, so I look forward very much to his most recent insights.

Paul Bradshaw: SC another look at the church order literature

In the late twentieth century it was debated whether the ancient church orders were comprehensive and descriptive or selective and polemic. This paper will argue that this is a false dichotomy. As ‘living literature’, the church orders need to be read as multiple layers of tradition and cannot be said to have one single purpose. At least in part their compilers and redactors were trying to preserve what they thought was ancient, and the results evolved into literary texts rather than manuals intended for practical use. However, their attempts either to maintain or to promote particular practices ultimately had rather limited effect.

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The Arabic “Canons of the apostles”

Amidst the detritus which daily litters my inbox comes this interesting enquiry from Tom Schmidt, a doctoral student at Yale.

He is working on an Arabic commentary on the Apocalypse by ibn Katib Qaysar, a 13th century Copt. In it he quotes from the “canons of the apostles”. The passage is as follows:

“For this reason, the end of the canons of the apostles was composed from the chronicles, [and] what was transcribed was [as follows]: ‘When the disciples had finished laying down the new traditions, and believers had multiplied upon the earth, the emperors were unbelievers under the deceptions of Satan, and they hastened to kill the believers and to torture them so that they would worship idols. In distress, [facing] adversity, and under compulsion, they were occupied with the establishment of other traditions, about 356 years [after the birth of Christ], around the time of Emperor Constantine the Great. If someone was about to obtain the crown of martyrdom hastily [and] without punishment, his situation would be prolonged and his patience would disappear, so there is no doubt that this involved protection and care.

He wanted to know if I could identify these “canons of the apostles.” Clearly these are not the apostolic canons appended to book eight of the Constitutiones apostolorum; If I understand the text right, amidst the confusion, it seems to regard an over-hasty zeal for martyrdom, an issue much debated in the third century. But I am aware of no canons as such relating to this. and cannot help him identify the canons.

But if there is any learned reader who does recognize this, please comment, and I will pass this to Mr Schmidt.

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Forthcoming book of essays on the Didache

Whilst we look forward to the publication of a volume of essays on the Didache from SBL, edited by Jonathan Draper and Clayton Jefford, I can at least share the ToC.

The title is The Didache: a missing piece of the puzzle in early Christianity. Since we have the Didache, perhaps we are entitled to ask how it can be a missing piece. The very complexity of early Christianity is such, however, that it is possible to say that every piece of the puzzle that we find alerts us to how many more we are missing.

Introduction: Dynamics, Methodologies, and Progress in Didache studies (Clayton N. Jefford)

Part 1: approaches to the Text as a Whole
Identity in the Didache community (Stephen Finlan)

Authority and Perspective in the Didache (Clayton N. Jefford)

The Distress signals of Didache Research: Quest for a Viable future (Aaron Milavec)

Children and slaves in the community of the Didache and the Two Ways Tradition (Jonathan Draper)

Reflections on the Didache and its community: a Response (Andrew Gregory)

Part 2: Leadership and Liturgy
Baptism and holiness: Two Requirements authorizing Participation in the Didache’s eucharist (Huub van de Sandt)

The Lord’s Prayer (Didache 8) at the faultline of Judaism and Christianity (Peter J. Tomson)

Pray “in This Way”: formalized speech in Didache 9–10 (Jonathan Schwiebert)

The Ritual Meal in Didache 9–10: Progress in understanding (John J. Clabeaux)

Response to essays on Leadership and Liturgy in the Didache (Joseph G. Mueller)

Part 3: The Didache and Matthew
Before and after Matthew (Bruce Brooks)

The sectio evangelica (Didache 1.3b–2.1) and Performance (Perttu Nikander)

The Didache and Oral Theory (Nancy Pardee)

From the sermon on the Mount to the Didache (John W. Welch)

The Lord Jesus and his coming in the Didache (Murray J. Smith)

Matthew and the Didache: some comments on the comments (Joseph Verheyden)

Part 4: The Didache and Other early Christian Texts
Without Decree: Pagan sacrificial Meat and the early history of the Didache (Matti Myllykoski)

Another Gospel: exploring early Christian Diversity with Paul and the Didache (Taras Khomych)

The first century Two Ways catechesis and hebrews 6:1–6 (Matthew Larsen and Michael Svigel

The Didache and Revelation (Alan J. P. Garrow)

The Didache as a source for the Reconstruction of early Christianity: a Response (Jeffrey Bingham)

Conclusion: Missing Pieces in the Puzzle or Wild Goose chase? A Retrospect and Prospect (Jonathan Draper)

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The Two Ways Tradition in Barnabas (and the Didache)

Relatively recently published is Julien C.H. Smith, “The Epistle of Barnabas and the two ways of teaching authority” VigChr 68 (2014), 465-497.

In arguing that the two ways elements suffuse the entire epistle, Smith presents the case that the concluding chapters, summarizing the two ways, are more than simply an awkward appendix. More to the point the author argues that the two ways tradition is part of the community’s identity-formation. In particular he suggests that this bolsters the author’s identity as a figure of authority within the community

I am not persuaded on the author’s final point, not really following his argument here. Certainly there are elements within the Two Ways Tradition which lead to the formation of an authority figure out of the teacher, but I have to ask whether this is really central to the Tradition or to its purpose in Barnabas.

However, the case that the Two Ways Tradition suffuses the entire document is persuasive, and the suggestion that the Tradition contributes to the community’s identity is attractive. Possibly, having dissuaded the community from the observance of the law, and in particular those elements of law-observance which serve as identity markers (such as the Sabbath and circumcision) the author has to employ the Two Ways as an identity marker setting out the positive directions which are to be followed in lieu of those which formerly took prominence and which mark out the Christian community as distinct.

Which inevitably raises the question of whether the same is true of the employment of the Tradition within the Didache. In particular, might this provide some form of answer to the question of whether law observance was ultimately demanded of gentiles? It seems to me that if the Tradition is employed in one Christian community as a means of providing an alternative focus of identity, although this does not mean that every Christian community adopted the Tradition with the same intent, nonetheless another might do so. Certainly this is coherent with the use of the Tradition as pre-baptismal catechesis,.

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Great book coming out from Gorgias

I don’t mean the Gnomai!

A few years ago I came across a dissertation online providing a critical Georgian text (among other things) of the Hippolytean In Cant. I had long suspected that this commentary reflected mystagogy in the Hippolytean community, and was pleased to find that the author agreed with me.

I contacted Yancy Smith, the author, who now follows this blog, and suggested to him that the work should be published. There have been a few delays but he now tells me that the work will be coming out with Gorgias soon. It is to be called The mystery of anointing. It will probably cost an arm and a leg, but I will ask Santa nicely and promise to be a good boy. It will certainly be worth paying money for, I promise you.

The church-order connection lies in the light that the commentary casts on the multiple anointings in the baptismal rite of Traditio apostolica (on the assumption that this document, likewise, derives from the Hippolytean community.) But even if you are not convinced on this point (there are a few doubters, still!) there is a lot more in it than that. For a start, a usable modern translation for those of us who are Georgian-challenged!

Congratulations and thanks to the author, and to Gorgias for publishing. Respect all round!

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New technology baffles pissed old hack: the Oxford online Didache bibliography

The Didache bibliography for Oxford has “passed” peer review. This is nothing short of miraculous. “How so?” you diatribally enquire.

The Oxford bibliography site has an arcane method for submitting MSS online. Having received the peer reviewers’ comments and the editorial queries, it appears to me that after struggling with passwords, usernames, logins etc. I managed to send the wrong file! Not completely the wrong file (i.e. not a shopping list, or a begging letter to my bank manager) but what looks to me like a working draft, complete with annotations to self, uncorrected spelling, loose ends, bits in the wrong place etc. Somehow the draft got accepted with a few terse notes from the peer reviewers about the somewhat unconventional orthography! The editor at the Press will have to earn his salt and sort this out since such spare time as I have between now and August will be spent trying to cobble together something that will pass for a paper in Oxford, apart from seeing Hippolytus and the Gnomai through to publication. And all this during the English cricket season.

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Hippolytus, the patristic conference, and Coptic in Stevenage…

The second edition of the Hippolytus commentary will, says the publisher, be out in time for the Oxford patristics conference (http://www.oxfordpatristics.com/), though I have some editorial work to do.
Clearly thoughts are turning to Oxford as I have had several people enquiring as to whether I will be there. I will, and am even now struggling with writing my paper. More on this, perhaps, another time, In the meantime, however, there is a Coptic symposium in Stevenage (http://www.copticcentre.com/3rd-international-coptic-symposium-2015/). Not much in the way of a church-order connection but I thought it worth flagging up; a number of papers deal with the realia of Egyptian church life in antiquity, so there is something of an overlap. Stevenage may lack the cachet of Oxford, but at £30 for two days it definitely offers better value for money!

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