The Didache as an associational lex

2021 sees the publication of Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum 62 (2019).

This contains my article “The Didache as an associational lex: re-opening the question of the genre(s) of the church orders” on pp29-49. I am very pleased to announce this publication, as I am hoping that it answers many of the questions posed on this blog, and has been “forthcoming” for about as long as I can remember!

Abstract: Although the term “church orders” is widely used there is no agreement as to its definition.
The genre of the Didache is examined in the light of recent discussion, and the conclusion is reached that it should be termed a Christian associational lex. This conclusion is based principally on the grounds of common content and purpose with other ancient non-Christian associational leges, but also to an extent on form. It is then noted that Traditio apostolica manifests the same phenomenon and may similarly be classified as a Christian associational lex. On this basis it is argued that whereas the later church orders form a literary tradition, rather than conforming to a single genre, they originate as associational leges.

E-offprints are available through the usual channels.


Filed under Apostolic Tradition, Church orders in genera(l), Didache

The ordination prayers in Traditio apostolica

SVTQ_64_1-2_front_cover__15245.1607463417Newly appeared in SVTQ 64.1–2 (2020), 11–24, is my “The Ordination Prayers in Traditio Apostolica: the search for a Grundschrift

Abstract: Although there is much disagreement regarding the date and provenance of Traditio apostolica, there is growing agreement that a source underlies some of the document. This article suggests that this source included material regarding the ordination of a bishop. Although it has been expanded, it is possible to reconstruct much of this source. A Roman provenance and second-century date are suggested.

Sharp-eyed readers will note that this is a reversal of the position I took in the two editions of my commentary. For this reason, this post is being filed among e-rrata.

Offprints can be sent on request through the usual channels.

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Water is best… for breakfast

Now appeared in advance publication on the JTS website (prior to its appearance in print in the October (sic) issue) is my ἄριστον μὲν ὕδωρ: ancient breakfasts and the development of eucharistic foods.

Although there is evidence for eucharistic celebration in the context of an evening cena in the earliest period, this celebration comes to be transferred to the morning, particularly to Sunday morning. This might bring about significant change in the celebration, part of which might lie in the foods employed, and their quantities. On the basis of an examination of the evidence for daytime eating in Graeco-Roman antiquity, the suggestion is made that eucharistic foods employed in many circles subsequently seen as deviant were standard breakfast foods, and that abstinence from wine reflects this context. Thus the use of water in the eucharist, rather than denoting an ascetic bent in some early Christian circles, simply reflects the transfer of the eucharistic meal from the evening to the morning.

On the very day this was published the clergy of the Church of England had a letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York stating, among other things, that “The elements are to be bread and wine and no other substance.” I might wonder whether there is a connection… but doubt it. However, just to play safe, I have now removed the cheese and olives from the tabernacle.

Those unable to access the JTS site are invited to ask an offprint in the usual way.

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On Johannine apples and Epicurean pears

A correspondent on the question of Epicureanism and Johannine Christianity suggests that the conclusions of Fergus King’s book are almost foregone, as this is a comparison between apples and pears.

I have been giving this some thought, not the least since, when I was a country parson, I had an orchard with a variety of trees which gave fruit from June to October. Pears and apples are different, we know, though not as different as, say, apples and bananas. Apples and pears can cross-pollinate.

So let us put ourselves into the shoes of a Wittgensteinian spaceman. On finding my orchard and fruit-cages, he would rapidly determine that these are edible fruits (I leave out my nut trees at this point!). He would rapidly distinguish between fruit on trees, fruit on canes, and fruit growing on the ground. The cherries, peaches, plums, and apricots would also be clearly distinct as soft fruit. The apples and pears, however, growing on similar trees, fruiting at the same time, and each producing a hard fruit, would have a manifest similarity. Our scientific spaceman only then begins to observe the differences. Rightly he concludes that apples and pears are distinct, though this is the result of a closer examination.

In studying early Christianity we are spacemen coming from another planet. There are other spacemen who have suggested that Epicureanism and Christianity are closely related. After all, they are growing in the same ancient Mediterranean orchard. So this is an assertion which needs to be examined, even if the assertion ends up, perhaps obviously in retrospect, as baseless.

The fact that Christianity, like apples, appears in a variety of species, some of which are perhaps closer to other systems of thought and faith, means that the question has to be narrowed down. The absence of evidence of psychagogic practices, and the indications that there is no aspect of memorializing in the Johannine ritual meal, means that there is less overlap between this form of Christianity and, say, the Pauline. But even then, Johannine and Pauline Christianity are apples… Epicureanism is a pear. Or perhaps a banana.


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How (not) to write liturgical history

A recent conversation in another forum about Wittgensteinian spacemen reminded me that I had this lurking on my hard-drive. Originally a product of my time at Seminary (not altogether wasted then!) I dragged it out of the recesses of my mind for a lecture in around 2012 on the reconstruction of ancient liturgy. Having remembered it, I thought it worth sharing…

Several hundred years after the destruction of the planet earth, archaeologists and historians from the planet Zog begin the scholarly study of earth’s civilization, and have a particular interest in liturgical and religious practices… A leading journal carries the following article:

A new fragment from the Methodist hymn book:
climbing and veiling in 18th century Methodist liturgy

The study of the liturgy of the Methodists, a Christian grouping from the eighteenth century, has been limited by the lack of available written sources. However a recent discovery of fragments from a leaf of the Methodist hymn book may cast new light on an obscure area.

The text is given first, followed by an attempt at reconstructing the liturgy which lies behind it.

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ by highest heav’n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness! [lacuna]

Unfortunately the rest of the text is missing, but the Methodist provenance is clear as the fragment’s typography, paper and numeration fit with the other available fragments of the Methodist Hymn Book.

We intend to argue that this liturgical fragment demonstrates close similarity between the liturgy of Methodists in the eighteenth century and that of Roman Catholics in the same period, in particular that both celebrated the rite known as benediction. However, there is also a ritual, namely climbing into a roof, which has not clearly been attested before, but which enables us to understand a number of references in contemporary liturgical sources.

It is to this ritual that we turn first. The reference to angels in the first line is almost certainly a reference to angels (heavenly beings) which are found in roofs in some English churches of the period, for instance those found in the excavation of the church of S Wendreda in March.angelfoor

We may thus surmise that the congregation is being told that the angels are singing and that they are to listen. The text which the angels sing, and to which the congregation is to listen, is then found in the following lines:

“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”

What follows is a rubric:

Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies.
With the angelic host proclaim:

Since the skies are the place in which angels dwell, here represented by the church roof, I suggest that the congregation is being directed to climb up to the roof in order to sing along with the angels, joining with them in the line “Christ is born in Bethlehem.” If such a reading is correct, than this in turn illuminates other liturgical fragments of the period which have previously remained obscure, in particular references to singing alongside angels, such as the following from the BCP of 1928:

Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore praising thee, and saying, HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, Lord God of, hosts, Heaven and earth are full of thy glory: Glory be to thee, O Lord Most High. Amen.

It has previously been suggested that, given the appearance of angels in a roof-space, there should be movement towards the roof by the congregation at this point, but for the first time there is clear evidence that such a ritual actually occurred.

The means by which the congregation is to mount the roof is uncertain, though it is possible that liturgical ladders were employed. This in turn might explain the appearance of a ladder in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.liturgicalladder

The congregation, by now in the roof, is then to sing antiphonally with the angels, singing the line “Christ is born in Bethlehem”, here joining in with the song which the angels are singing, and then listening to the angels repeat the refrain, “glory…”.

Having established that the fragment supports the hypothesis of a rite of liturgical climbing into a roof space we may proceed to examine parallels which are more securely founded, namely the witness that the hymn bears to the rite known from the closely related cult of Roman Catholicism of the same period termed “benediction”.

It is in the second verse that the possible linkage with benediction appears as it makes reference to Christ appearing in the liturgy (“Behold him come…”) The means by which this appearance occurs is not clear; however, the reference to veiling (“veiled in flesh”) may be significant. Recent research on benediction in Roman Catholicism in the same period has speculated on the use of a veil in the liturgy. Whereas the purpose of this veil is unclear, it may be that the presence of the Godhead is initially hidden behind the veil and then slowly revealed. This in turn illuminates the text found among the Hymns Ancient and Modern fragments: “O Christ, whom now beneath a veil we see…” “Flesh” is another word for “meat”, at least in the cognate Germanic languages (so Flemish, fleis, German Fleisch); this obscure phrase indicates that the veil is made of a slice of meat.

We may further wonder whether this text is likewise not one which accompanies benediction, and enquire whether the recently discovered Ancient and Modern fragments, on this basis, have a Methodist provenance.

Although the reference to the veil is not altogether clear, the link with the liturgy of benediction is secured through the third verse of the fragment: “Hail the sun of righteousness.” For although many details of the practice of benediction are obscure, in particular the precise role played by the veil, it is clear that the ritual employed an object which looked very much like a stylized sun; an example is given in the following figure.


It is perhaps this object which the congregation is greeting as they “hail the sun of righteousness”, singing with the angels from the roof-space as the object of devotion, the sun, is slowly unveiled. Again, the reference is to the manifestation of the Christian deity, Christ, also known as the Sun (vl Son) of God, whom the congregation greets.

For all the continuing uncertainty, this fragment establishes that the early Methodists practised the same liturgy of benediction known to Roman Catholics in the same period; further research may explore what further common liturgical ground the two occupied. Beyond this, the rite of climbing the roof is now demonstrated to have occurred, and so other references to this rite may appear in new light.

Leonel Dix Mowinckel

As a postscript, I had an enquiry from the library about copyright (seriously!) when I circulated this in advance of the lecture. I told them that the Planet Zog had waived reproduction charges due to the high cost of bank transfers outside the solar system. I realize now that I should have said that this was a more advanced civilization, and had abandoned copyright fees altogether!


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Epicureanism and the Gospel of John

27346_00_detailNot strictly church orders (actually, not at all!) but the arrival of Fergus J. King, Epicureanism and the Gospel of John is an excuse to give a shout-out to an old friend, and a plug for the book. In addition, the themes addressed are likely to be of interest to those concerned with our ancient church orders.

The clue is probably in the title… this is a comparative study of Epicureanism and the fourth Gospel. In asking the question as to what the two schools have in common, the author concludes that there isn’t much, for all the superficial similarity. This conclusion is reached through an examination of the schools’ doctrine of God, teaching about death, on their fundamental principles (each of which subjects forms a chapter), and in two chapters on the ritual life and the internal organization of the schools (here the intersect with church orders emerges.)

Of course, this does not mean that there were not occasional overlaps between the practices of Epicurean and Christian groups in antiquity (for instance in the exercise of psychagogy), but the Johannine school was not one of them and, as the author points out, whatever the degree of social and cultural overlap there were significant ideological differences. Thus the author begins with a fictive Epicurean, and asks how simple a transition it might be to for him to adopt Johannine Christianity. The answer, in the conclusion, is that it would involve conversion, not simple re-alignment.

As I believe I have suggested previously, the value of comparative studies in the history of early Christianity lies as much in the differences as in the similarities between the comparanda. The work of comparison sometimes allows what is distinct in Christian circles to stand out in new light. As examples we might take the Corinthian congregation, which seems to exhibit a greater degree of social differentiation than most associations, or the extent to which Christian associations were trans-local and networked across and between cities and provinces by contrast to most ancient associations. This book exhibits this neatly with regard to the comparison of Johannine Christianity and other ancient schools, particularly reminding us of what is central in the Johannine tradition, as indeed of what is central in Epicureanism.

Post-publication PS: In the comment below, Fergus King offers readers a chance to buy the book at discount!


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The time of the resurrection

I have previously posted on the fragments of Melito De anima et corpore.

Although I do not have full access to the witnesses, I have the Syriac under the name of Alexander of Alexandria and the Coptic under the name of Athanasius through E.A. Wallis Budge, Coptic homilies in the dialect of Upper Egypt (London: British Museum, 1910).

My reading today was undertaken as a spiritual exercise at a time when normally I would be saying mass, but inevitably did not stay so. I observed that whereas the Coptic states that Christ rose from the dead “in the third (hour) of the day” (ϩⲙ̄ⲡⲙⲉϩϣⲟⲙⲛⲧ ⲛ̄ϩⲟⲟⲩ) the Syriac reads “on the third day” (ܠܬܠܬܐ ܝܘܡܝܢ).

Whereas it might be obvious that the Syriac has rendered τῃ τρίτῃ τῆς ἡμέρας as though it were τῃ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ (a simple enough mistake, given that this is a familiar phrase) there is more. Epistula apostolorum 15 implies that the paschal vigil is to conclude at 3am, a direction made explicit in Didascalia apostolorum 5.19.6 (part of chapter 21 in the Syriac.)

On the assumption that the reading of the Coptic is correct this all implies that there was an established pattern of maintaining the vigil until 3am in Quartodeciman communities, a suspicion now confirmed by Melito. All I need to do now is persuade my parish that this is the best time for the Easter vigil!

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A bit of fun with Canones Hippolyti 7

Can. Hipp. 7 reads: The subdeacon (ὑποδιάκων, transliterated) and the reader (ἀναγνώστης, transliterated), when (اذا) they pray by themselves (وحدهما ), are stationed to the rear, and the subdeacon (ὑποδιάκων) serves to the rear of the deacon.

This provision seems to apply to liturgical arrangements, but why should it be said that they pray by themselves? It dawns on me that μόνον, an adverb in the Greek referring to praying, might be rendered into Coptic as ⲙⲟⲛⲟⲛ, and then taken as referring to the deacon and subdeacon (the Coptic being indeclinable.) Thus it is possible that the statement regarding these officials praying “by themselves” originally intended that their sole ministry was prayer, an adaptation of the statement in Trad. ap. 10.5 that the widow is not ordained as she is appointed for prayer alone, one of a series of provisions (including the statement at Trad. ap. 13 that the subdeacon follows the deacon) denying ordination by handlaying to a number of roles. One also wonders whether idha, “when” or “if”, here represents ⲉⲣϣⲁⲛ- intended to mean “since” and taken in its conditional sense by the Arabic translator. Thus, “The subdeacon and the reader, since they only pray, are stationed to the rear…”

Unfortunately, I’m really still no clearer about what this actually means!

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Pylvänäinen published!

rxtqylfaThe announcement of the publication of Pauliina Pylvänäinen, Agents in liturgy, charity and communication: the tasks of female deacons in the Apostolic Constitutions (STT 37; Turnhout: Brepols, 2020), in May turned out to be somewhat premature. However, I can now state that it has indeed been published, and I am pleased and proud to have received a copy with a kind inscription from the author. I understand she is now working on male deacons in Apostolic constitutions, and look forward to that work as well.

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A fair witness to the church? Didache 11.11

My attention having been drawn to the fact that Harnack dated the Ignatian epistles to the 130s (as have I), I thought I might read what he had to say (Adolf von Harnack, “Lightfoot on the Ignatian Epistles. II. Genuineness and Date of the Epistles” The Expositor third series 3.3 (March 1886), 175-192. This is the third part of an extended review of Lightfoot.)

Interesting though this was, my attention was more taken by Frederic Henry Chase, “Note on The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles Chapter xi,” The Expositor third series 3.4 (April 1886), 319-320. Here Chase suggests emending εἰς μυστήριον κοσμικὸν ἐκκλησίας to εἰς μαρτύριον κόσμιον ἐκκλησίας.

I will admit that I have never seen reference to Chase’s conjecture, and also that I find it very attractive. I need say no more, but commend those interested to read Chase’s argument in support.

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Office, and appointment to office, in early Christian communities

Some years ago I was invited to contribute an essay to a forthcoming Cambridge History of Ancient Christianity. This volume contains essays setting out the status quaestionis and proposing new avenues for enquiry.

My given subject was office and ordination.

I should have known that something was wrong when the publisher sent a pdf contract and would not accept an electronic signature. I was supposed to print, sign, scan and send. I told them that that if they wanted a “real” signature they should have the courtesy to send a “real” contract with a stamped return envelope and not expect them to to their clerical work for them. They said they couldn’t. I said they could write the essay themselves. They sent a paper contract. I sent it back without a stamp.

If you think you can see a rant against the shenanigans of publishers coming on, you are right. They are, as always, paying in tommy. If you don’t know what this rather obscure phrase means, it is a system of reward by which payment is made in goods, not money,  goods which can only be obtained from the company making the payment in the first place. This system has been illegal in the UK since the Truck act of 1831 (now incorporated into new legislation) but is still widely used by academic publishers. English-speaking readers may recognize the origin of the term “tommyrot.”

I wrote the essay. The editors were happy but then, under pressure from the publisher, stated that they considered it too long. David Parker, I recollect, used to say that Bultmann carved up the Gospels with the delicacy of a college servant cutting a pie. They took the same approach to my essay (although, to be fair, they quoted Tertullian, who described Marcion as editing not with a scalpel, but a sword, and were entirely open about what they were doing, and why.) After seeing what they had done I had little choice but to do the same myself, using the same approach but retaining what I hope were the more interesting bits.

Now doubt the book will come out in due course, swelling the publisher’s coffers and doing little for my reputation. I have, however, posted the original and uncut version on Quod scripsi, scripsi. Enjoy!


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Chase on the daily office in Apostolic Tradition

I have just read with interest Nathan Chase, “Another look at the ‘daily office’ in Apostolic traditionStudia liturgica 49 (2019), 5-25.

Abstract: The daily prayer practices outlined in the Apostolic Tradition, their origins, and even the number of prayer hours, have been points of dispute among scholars. However, new sources of the Apostolic Tradition, as well as work on lay ascetical movement in Egypt, call for the reevaluation of this document, its dating, provenance, and interpretation. This article argues that the Apostolic Tradition is a composite document, whose daily prayer cycle in its current form has been shaped by a third- or fourth-century lay ascetical movement in Egypt. The document appears to outline prayer at rising, followed by a communal service of catechesis and prayer, prayer at the third, sixth, and ninth hours, as well as prayer at bed and in the middle of the night. Given the difficulties in interpreting the document it is unlikely that the document, or at least the daily prayer practices outlined in it, were celebrated as written.

For me, the major point emerging from this article is an apparent consensus that the final pattern of daily prayer in early Christian circles is the result of the conflation of distinct patterns. And I think that Chase is right in his reconstruction of the horarium (noting with a certain satisfaction that he agrees with me that prayer at cock-crow is not a distinct hour, but the same as prayer on rising from sleep).

Beyond the headlines, some valuable observations are made, not the least of which is the possibility that Canones Hippolyti 27 is an attempt to make usable the horarium of Traditio apostolica. I think this entirely plausible. Traditio apostolica is confused  as the result (I suggest) of two distinct conclusions being conjoined.

Chase’s overall argument that the horarium is Egyptian, partly based on the possibility that it was employed by lay monastic groups like those envisaged by the Gnomae is, I think, unnecessary. These lay monastic groups are widely known, and may well have emerged from school settings like that I envisage for Traditio apostolica. Nonetheless it gives me a degree of personal satisfaction in seeing the the Gnomae employed as a source in scholarly work.

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Wilhite’s commentary on the Didache

PrintI have just completed a review for JTS on Shawn J. Wilhite, The Didache: A Commentary  (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2019).

It can be read there in due course, but anyone who is anxious (is there anyone who might be anxious?) can request an advance copy in the usual way.


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The opening dialogue of the anaphora in Testamentum Domini

Recently come to my attention is Varfolomeev Maksim (2016) ” Some Peculiarities of the Liturgical Dialogues Before Anaphora and Communion in the “Testament of Our Lord” “, Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia I : Bogoslovie. Filosofiia. Religiovedenie, 2016, vol. 66, pp. 9-23 (in Russian).

The article may be found here, with a link to a pdf. I admit that my reading has been entirely through the medium of Google translate, for which reason I refrain from a detailed discussion. The author argues (to my mind reasonably) that the “Sancta sanctis” in the opening dialogue of the anaphora of Testamentum Domini is an element in the euchological tradition (it seems to me a forming consensus that anaphoras are built of smaller prior units) and that it serves in this context to place the worship of the church into a communion with the worship of the church in heaven. As such a liturgical Sanctus is not required.

This approach is much to be preferred to that of Gabriele Winkler, “Über das christliche Erbe Henochs und einige Probleme des Testamentum Domini” Oriens Christianus 93 (2009), 201-247, at 246, for whom the appearance of the Sancta sanctis in this position is “unsinnig.”

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The motivations for a wineless Eucharist

Last year at the Oxford Patristics conference I gave a paper entitled, “Άριστον μέν ύδωρ: Ancient Breakfasts and the Development of Eucharistic Foods” in which I argued that the common phenomenon of finding eucharistic meals celebrated without wine might be attributed not to ascetic motivation but to the common pattern of breakfast foods in Graeco-Roman antiquity which tended to reject the use of wine at breakfast as socially inappropriate. The most common breakfast food was bread, often accompanied by water.

Paul Bradshaw has written an assessment of the discussion on this point between myself and Andrew McGowan which may be read here; it was due to be delivered at NAPS, an event which was, of course, cancelled. As one might expect it is a balanced assessment. I comment no further but invite readers to read.


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Agents in liturgy, charity, and communication

Pauliina Pylvänäinen informs me that her book, Agents in liturgy, charity and communication: the tasks of female deacons in the Apostolic Constitutions (STT 37; Turnhout: Brepols, 2020) is now out.

I look forward to my copy(!) The almost equally good news is that it is available until the end of May at 20% discount, with free p&p, from here.

Congratulations to Dr Pylvänäinen!



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Libation and the “longer text” of Luke 22

Many years ago, in a seminar at Codrington College, I set a proverbial cat among the metaphorical pigeons by suggesting, only partly seriously, that the words over the (second) cup in the longer text of Luke implied that a libation had been offered. In the phrase τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη ἐν τῷ αἵματί μου, τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ἐκχυννόμενον ἐκχυννόμενον properly refers not to the blood but to the cup.

One of my “lock-down” activities has been thinking about the two texts of Luke’s last supper, an issue which has intrigued me since student days. Thus I was interested to see that Matthias Klinghardt, a few years ago, made the same suggestion in all earnestness (“Der vergossene Becher: Ritual und Gemeinschaft im lukanischen Mahlbericht” Early Christianity 3 (2012), 33-58). Klinghardt suggests that Luke would not commit such a solecism as to use the wrong case here; of course Luke might not, but an interpolator might. This is thus an indication that the “longer text” is an interpolated text.

Klinghardt argues that Luke indeed means that a libation was poured, though he makes no reference to the textual issue. Nonetheless it is possible that an interpolator misunderstood the Pauline type material which he was handling (as I believe happened), which in turn would imply that libations were known in the cultic circle from which he came. As such, whether the participle refers to the blood or to the cup itself, this would be an interpolation deriving from liturgical practice, whether or not that practice included a libation. As evidence for the possibility that libations were poured in Christian eucharistic liturgy we may observe Traditio apostolica 38.2 which, in its current context, is strange but, if the argument that these chapters are reworked from material dealing with a eucharistic Sättigungsmahl is accepted, may readily be seen as a prohibition on the pouring of libations at the Eucharist, which is a sure sign in turn that such practice was known. A similar line is taken by M.J.C. Warren, “The cup of God’s wrath: libation and early Christian meal practice in Revelation” Religions 9 (2018), 413, n. 6.with regard to the Jewish texts apparently prohibiting libations, such as M.Avodah Zarah 5.1-6 and the corresponding passages in the Talmud, namely that the reason why there is such a careful attempt to guard against the possibility of wine being used for libations by gentiles is that this was also part of Jewish ritual. Warren (“Cup”, 9-10) suggests that the libation imagery of Revelation is negative, and directed against the practice of libations by Christians, again implying the possible practice of libation by Christians. This is possible, though her further suggestion that the seer is opposed to the Christian use of wine entirely is surely an overstatement.

The use of libations by Christians is thus possible; again, an early dating of Traditio apostolica reveals significant liturgical information lying just beneath its third-century surface.

Klinghardt actually suggests that the early Christian Eucharist was simply a regular Sättigungsmahl of religious significance, and was invariably marked by a libation. Although I have not excluded the possibility of the offering of libations at Christian eucharistic meals, it does not seem to have been a regular, or even a common, occurrence.

To return to the text of Luke, it is possible that we have interesting evidence here that libations were offered. However, given that we are dealing with a rather clumsy interpolator, it is also possible that our interpolator had a weak grasp of the Greek case system in relative clauses!

Edit (May 17th 2020): I now find, in further reading, that Klinghardt’s theory was proposed by O. Holtzmann “Das Abendmahl im Urchristentum” ZNW  5 (1904), 89-120. 


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Pauliina Pylvänäinen on male deacons in the Apostolic Constitutions

A congress planned for this May in Joensuu on deacons in early Christianity has been cancelled. Nonetheless a number of papers will be given online.

On May 11th at 10am (Finnish time) (which I think is 9am in the UK, 4am in the eastern Caribbean) Pauliina Pylvänäinen will give a paper on The Tasks of Male Deacons in The Apostolic Constitutions 3, 19.

To avoid robots I am not posting the zoom link but humans will be able to find it using zoom with the details: Meeting ID: 931 7877 1660 Password: 265842.

Other papers will be given during the week at the same time, though this is the only one of direct relevance to the church orders.

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Brief notice: Chun Ling Yu, Bonds and boundaries among the early churches

Chun Ling Yu, Bonds and boundaries among the early churches: community maintenance in the letter of James and the Didache (STT29; Turnhout: Brepols, 2018) is an examination of James and the Didache in the particular light of theories concerning conflict and group maintenance derived from the social sciences.

In this dIS-9782503580739-1brief note we concentrate on what he has to say regarding the Didache.

In the chapter on community tensions he takes the Schöllgenian line that the Didache is pointed at particular issues, rather than seeing it as a more generalized document giving ritual instructions; although I would agree that there are particular issues, I would suggest that the Didache is more generalized, though inevitably the issues that are important or controversial within the community will figure larger than others.

Yu notes a number of possible internal sources of tension, such as the inclusion of gentiles within a Jewish community, tensions with potential false prophets, transients, and false teachers, though I am not sure that he is right in suggesting that there is insufficient respect for community leaders. He points out that these provide the conditions anticipated by conflict theories, and that the document, serving as an authoritative partner in the dialectic, serves the means of conflict reduction suggested by the Allport-Pettigrew hypothesis, namely the equalization of status of members, the encouragement to co-operation to common goals, and the support of established authorities, thus both harmonizing and regulating (using the language of Kazan).

He further notes that the strong in-group is further strengthened in cohesion through the implicit and explicit identification of out-groups, both the wider gentile world and the wider Jewish world, the hypocrites. In part this is through ritual, in part through a common code (for instance the setting of particular fast days against those of the hypocrites), but chiefly, it emerges, through norms of behaviour which are distinct from either out-group and which are instilled through the two ways. Thus returning to Allport he suggests that the rituals of the community serve to maintain the community and to resolve sources of potential conflict through the common ritual life.

In summary, there are inevitable points of disagreement; however, Yu presents a far more sophisticated study of the Didache on the basis of social science models than I have previously read.

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Disappointed… yet again

Though also, I may add, slightly relieved.

In one of my forays into the periodical literature of the turn of the twentieth century, a time at which so many discoveries of church order literature were made, I came across the assertion of F.X. Funk, (“Das achte Buch der Apostolischen Konstitutionen und die verwandten Schriften” Historisches Jahrbuch 16 (1895), 473 – 509, at 483, n.3), that there was an Ethiopic manuscript of the Canones Hippolyti in Oxford. I was surprised to read this, as Coquin had edited the Canones and I would not have expected him to miss something like that. Nonetheless, the thought crossed my mind that I should go and take a look. Having in the last week finished my book on Canones Hippolyti and sent it for peer review, my heart slightly sank at the thought that I would have to recall it! However, I had the sense to check the catalogue first, namely A. Dillmann, Catalogus codicum manuscriptorum Bibliothecae Bodleianae Oxoniensis. Pars VII: codices Aethiopici. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1848). The MS in question is described at pp 24-31. I have, after all, been disappointed before in the quest to find a non-Arabic version of these Canones.

I saved myself a fare by checking as sure enough there is no such thing. The manuscript to which Funk refers is a manuscript of canonical material, starting with the Fetha Nagast (the Ethiopic version of the Nomocanon of Ibn al-Assal.) This incorporates, as Coquin notes, some material from Canones Hippolyti. Within his work, Ibn al-Assal tells us of his sources, and says something of the Canones Hippolyti, namely that the Copts had translated it and found it useful, and that Gabriel (ibn Turayk (ACS)) had employed them in his collection of canons. This was carried over to the Fetha Nagast and cited at this point by Dillmann.

It is thus not a Ethiopic version of the Canones Hippolyti at all.


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E-rratum: Apostolic tradition p82

Discussing the phrase “he opened wide his hand when he suffered” at Traditio apostlolica 4.7 on p82 of the second edition of my commentary we read that there is a reference to this action in De Antichristo 52, and a statement that this text quotes Isaiah 65.2.

I’m not sure how I managed to produce two errors in one line… however, the citation should be to De Antichristo 61. And there is no citation of Isaiah here. The error is certainly also found in the first edition, from which it had been carried over.

Thanks to Darrell Hannah who noticed this.

The substantive point that the usage of Traditio apostolica here can be illustrated from within the Hippolytean corpus nonetheless remains.

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Timothée : Sur la Pâque

9782204131582-5dcc24aad0a90Newly appeared is Pierre Chambert-Protat, Camille Gerzaguet, Timothée : Sur la Pâque. Édition princeps et critique, traduction française, introduction, notes et index (SC604; Paris: Cerf, 2019).

This is a text regarding issues in timing the Pascha, which the editors persuasively argue derives from Asia, and slightly (but only slightly) less persuasively from a period prior to Nicaea.

A new text is always exciting, and this is of exceptional interest and importance.

Certain points of personal satisfaction emerge. Firstly, having long suggested that the reason why Quartodeciman practice was objectionable to those who did not keep a Sunday Pascha, or any Pascha, was that the fourteenth might concur with a Sunday, and thus take precedence, because in this event the Sunday would be marked by fasting, I now find this explicitly stated by Timothy in De Pascha 13. I also recollect suggesting that the Quartodecimans need not have used Nisan as their “fourteenth”, and again find that this suggestion is confirmed as a practice in some quarters by Timothy De Pascha 15 (a polemic against appeal to the Acta Pilati, the significance of which is not immediately clear but explained by the editors in the introduction.)

Beyond this personal satisfaction, the text is a gold-mine regarding issues of paschal practice in Asia. Thus we also have a statement of Pascha as deliberately anti-Jewish (by contrast to the attitude of vicarious fasting lying behind the Quartodeciman source of Didascalia 21) made clear in De Pascha 18.

The editors suggest that Timothy is aiming his polemic against four groups, only one of which is characterized as Quartodeciman. My reading (admittedly only a cursory first reading of a text to which I will return often) indicates that these are all in some sense Quartodeciman groups, and that the arguments are connected; the first group is the “evening” Quartodecimans of whom Apollonaris of Hierapolis is a representative, who held an evening Pascha as the commemoration of the last supper at the same time as the Jewish Pesaḥ (and appealing to a synoptic chronology). The other groups whom Timothy opposes are, I suggest, offshoots of Quartodeciman practice. As Christians became more removed from Jewish practice they could no longer employ Jewish calculations of Pascha, leading to all sorts of confusion in Quartodeciman circles, which are already coming about in the 170s.

Timothy’s own opinion of the proper computation of the Pascha is less clear, which leads me to wonder whether he was in some sense an apologist for the Nicene settlement of the Paschal question. This would fit his rhetoric, and the indications that some sort of triduum is forming, rather than a unitative Pascha. The absence of reference to the equinox does not invalidate this thesis, as it might be taken as assumed and known. If the text derives from a period immediately after Nicaea the later issue of the protopaschites would not have yet arisen.

The purpose of this post, however, is less to ask questions of the editors, but to thank them for their work in bringing this fascinating and vital text to light, and to encourage you all to get your copy here.

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Canones Hippolyti 5 and Constitutiones apostolorum 8.18

Has anyone noticed the uncanny similarity between the ordination prayer for a deacon at Canones Hippolyti 5 and that at Canones apostolorum 8.18? Might they perhaps be related?

With due apologies to the Lookalikes column in Private Eye (and to readers outside the UK who will miss the encoded cultural reference)… though the better question is how they are related. And indeed, how the ordination prayer for a deacon in the Coptic rite fits into this family tree.

Perhaps we should be told.

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Disappointed again

vatsirbitLooking for bibliography on the Canones Hippolyti I came across Assemani (Codices chaldaici sive syriaci Vaticani Assemaniani, p37) who gives, among the contents of a Vatican MS, Constitutiones eorumdem (ie the apostles) per Hippolytum. The MS may be seen at (thanks to the Vatican Library.) For a moment I had visions of discovering a Syriac version of Canones Hippolyti! There indeed, in the heading, as may be seen above, it reads ܛܘܟܣܐ ܕܫܠܝܚܐ ܒܝܕ ܐܝܦܘܠܝܛܘܣ.

Rather like unwrapping Christmas presents, the excitement did not last. The contents had a certain familiarity at first sight, and the recesses of my somewhat fevered mind recognized what it was fairly speedily.

The denouement was not long delayed, as the first giveaway is in what follows the title: ܕܫܡܥܘܢ .ܟܢܢܝܐ ܡܛܠ ܩܢܘܢܐ ܥܕܬܝܐ If my readers are as learned as I suspect they are, they would recognize from the appearance of the name of Simon the Canaanite either Apostolic Constitutions 8.38, or the opening of the sixth book of the Clementine Octateuch, the diataxis. Material from this diataxis, which is a rehash of parts of Book 8 of Apostolic Constitutions, appears, we may recollect, in the “E” recension of Didascalia apostolorum.

There are some variations, on first glance, between the ms and the textus receptus of the diataxis in the Octateuch, which no doubt are interesting, and may provide a topic for research by somebody with more time and patience than I. It’s certainly not as much fun as finding a Syriac version of the Canones, which are otherwise extant only in Arabic, based on Coptic. Still.

Also of interest is the attribution of this diataxis to Hippolytus. I am reminded of Allen Brent’s comment, somewhere in the vast tome which is Hippolytus and the Roman church in the third century, that the name in time became a cipher for tradition. Again, a curious byway, but one which I will have to leave unexplored.

O Sapientia,.. ueni ad docendum nos uiam prudentiae!


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Apostolic church order: revised edition

A few weeks ago I reported on a correspondence with David Hunter about celibacy in the Apostolic Church Order.

Since then, things have moved on apace, and a great deal of midnight oil has been burnt. The publication of the Early Christian Studies series in which my edition appeared has been taken over by the Sydney College of Divinity. Since they did not have any files relating to the original publication they agreed to the offer of a revised edition, and the files for the new publication were sent on St Andrew’s day just gone.

A publication date is in the hands of the press, but thanks nonetheless go to SCD for their readiness to produce the new edition.


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More on the Coptic Canons of Basil

In previous posts I have mentioned the discovery of a Coptic version of the Canons of Basil. This is being edited by Alberto Camplani and Federico Contardi.

The most recent update from the editors is in their essay “Remarks on the textual contribution of the Coptic codices preserving the Canons of Saint Basil with edition of the ordination rite for the bishop (canon 16)” in Francesca P. Barone et al. (ed.), Philologie, herméneutique et histoire des textes entre orient et occident: mélanges en hommage à Sever J. Voicu Turnhout: Brepols, 2017), 139-159.

From this we learn that the Coptic provides a rather more extensive literary frame than the Arabic, and some additional canonical material, though there is also material in the Arabic not found in the new Coptic version. Church order literature continues, it is clear, to be “living literature” in its Nachleben. The authors, moreover, suggest that a Syrian provenance is possible, and a date in the sixth century.

Finally we are provided with a preliminary edition of canon 16, the ordination of a bishop, based on the new manuscript, though with fragments from the Turin papyri now placed in context. The ordination is not without consent of the metropolitan (ⲡⲉⲡⲓⲥⲕⲟⲡⲟⲥ ⲛ̄ⲧⲙⲏⲉⲧⲣⲟⲡⲟⲗⲓⲥ); subsequently in the canon a chief bishop (ⲡⲛⲟϭ ⲛ̄ⲉⲡⲓⲥⲕⲟⲡⲟⲥ) appears, though we cannot be entirely assured that these are the same person. Ordination is through the holding of a book of the Gospels over the candidate, with an ordination prayer, followed by a laying on of a hand by the principal bishop, followed by the other bishops, and a greeting and insufflation by the chief bishop, followed by greetings from the other clergy and people.

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Brief notice: Wilhite, One of life and one of death

In comparing the Didache to other two-ways documents, particularly the near-contemporary Barnabas and 1QS, and the (uncertain of dating but traditionsgeschichtlich proximate) Doctrina apostolorum, it is notable that certain elements are absent, notably any eschatological warning consequent on failure to observe the teaching, and the presence of angels having watch over the two ways.

This is hardly a new observation, but Shawn Wilhite, in the recently published “One of life and one of death”: apocalypticism and the Didache’s two ways (Piscataway: Gorgias, 2019) documents this in detail. The term “apocalypticism” is given a broad definition, as is the literature of two ways, extending far more widely than other treatments, including my own. There is benefit in this, however, in that the observation of the absence of any features in the Didache which even broadly might be termed apocalyptic is all the more striking, and the uniqueness of the Didache in the literature, given the wider range of literature than that usually considered, is all the more remarkable.

Wilhite is not the first to consider this phenomenon, but it is documented here in far more detail than previously. Van de Sandt and Flusser, largely on the basis of comparison with the Doctrina, had previously suggested that this might be the result of ethicization; Wilhite demonstrates that this is highly probable.

We are led to wonder whether this in some sense is the result of the adaptation by D of TWT to pre-baptismal catechesis. Given his argument that D16 is not a separated part of D1-6.3 (as indeed, I had myself suggested, in my libellus on the two ways) we are again forced to deny Draper’s assertions that full Torah obedience is expected of all members of the Didache community. Wilhite himself, however, is not as clear on this aspect as he might be.

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Clerical celibacy in Apostolic Church Order

I have recently had some correspondence with David Hunter over clerical celibacy in the church orders, and particularly in Apostolic Church Order (K). The origins and history of clerical celibacy are central to his research programme, and so this enquiry was particularly welcome.

The questions he put to me were as follow:

1: In 16.2, there is this prescription about bishops: “It is good should he be unmarried, otherwise he should be of one wife, having some education, and able to interpret the scriptures, even if he is unlettered. He should be generous, and overflowing with love for all, so that a bishop should not come under accusation on any account by the many.”

I was a little puzzled by the ἀπὸ μιᾶς γυναικός. The preposition ἀπό seemed odd. Stefan Heid takes it as “free of one wife,” which is even less likely. But I was wondering if you had any thoughts about this.

2: The second question has to do with 18.2: “Therefore the presbyters should have been a long time in the world, having kept themselves from congress with women in their lives, generous towards the brotherhood, not respecters of persons, struggling alongside the bishop and participating in the mysteries together with him, gathering the people and devoted to the pastor.” There is the phrase τρόπῳ τινί before “having kept themselves from congress with women in their lives.” I don’t see this phrase in your translation, and I’m not sure what it means. I wondered if it could mean “in some manner” in the sense of “in an appropriate manner,” i.e., referring to temporary sexual abstinence prior to celebrating Eucharist.

Inevitably, with such interesting and difficult questions, there was some to-ing and fro-ing. My first instinct was that Heid’s understanding of ἀπό was forced in the extreme, though I have gone back on that to some extent. I also wondered whether the text might be repunctuated to take τρόπῳ τινί with the preceding ἤδη κεχρονικόντας ἐπὶ τῷ κόσμῳ rather than the following ἀπεχομένους, again to change my mind. So rather than create a dialogue out of the correspondence I am writing up my conclusions.

On ἀπό: The versions (Syriac, Sahidic, Arabic and Ethiopic) give no helpful guidance on the disputed issue of interpretation in the Greek text.

What is interesting is the rewrite undertaken on the ἀπὸ μιᾶς γυναικός along the lines of “it is good if he is unmarried, but if he has a wife he should stay with her…” This is in the Sahidic; the Arabic and Ethiopic are (I recollect) dependent on that version, and follow Sahidic on that point. This indicates some controversy around the issue in the line of text which ends up in Egypt.

So the ἀπό is indeed odd. Although the direction that a bishop should be married once is common enough I might take a moment to wonder whether that is what is actually meant here, as I assumed back in 2005/6 when I produced my edition. At some point I now think the bishop became an ascetic like the presbyters (see below), and that this might provide a rationale for the kind of meaning (survived one wife) that Heid puts onto it. But that would constitute a deliberate rewriting of the text, that is to say the insertion of ἀπό, or perhaps something more extensive, probably at the last level of redaction. Thus Heid may well be right, but fails to notice that this is a change of direction reflecting an unusual setting and context. To say that he should have survived a single wife is almost otiose after the statement that it is better that he be ἀγύναιος; the original, I am so led to suspect, simply read that he should be μιᾶς γυναικός (I Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6), but this has been rewritten, retaining the original (as was the way) but changing its meaning utterly.

On τρόπῳ τινί: the phrase τρόπῳ τινί, whilst again slightly odd, is not unknown in statements of qualification, thus: δεῖ δὲ καὶ τοὺς διακόνους ὄντας μυστηρίων Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ κατὰ πάντα τρόπον πᾶσιν ἀρέσκειν (Ign. Trall. 2.3) and τὸν ποιμένα τὸν καθιστάμενον ἐπίσκοπον… οὐκ ἔλαττον ἐτῶν πεντήκοντα, ὅτι τρόπῳ τινὶ τὰς νεωτερικὰς ἀταξίας… ἐκπεφευγὼς ὑπάρχει (CA 2.1.1). Here it means something like “to some extent” (or in Ignatius, to the entire possible extent); in the light of the CA parallel, where time has put some distance between the ordinand and his folies de jeunesse, possibly in K it indicates the time since he last spoke to a woman. That is to say a presbyter is to be an older man, who has long given up on women! I do not think temporary abstinence is meant, because the presbyters did not celebrate the Eucharist in K. The bishop did while the presbyters keep order and undertake the distribution of gifts.

But there is more; I have recently returned to K for a paper I am writing for a conference in Finland (not actually going there, as it is too cold(!) but will be linked up by webcam). The paper is on deacons in K and Testamentum Domini (TD), following on from completing my version of TD last year. It is clear enough that TD has turned the presbyters into an ascetic cadre, male versions of the widows. I am now thinking, in the light of TD, that K is in the process of doing the same thing. I am convinced that K and TD come from the same broad area (Cappadocia/Cilicia), K being slightly earlier than TD, which is mid-4C. The result, as far as deacons is concerned, is that the deacons pick up the slack whilst the presbyters spend their lives in prayer and ascetic direction. Thus if the presbyters are ascetics, then they are celibate, or widowed. We may note by contrast that the deacon might be married. However, to return to the question of temporary abstinence, it is to be noted that the presbyters do not themselves celebrate the Eucharist in TD any more than they do in K, as this is the bishop’s task (though a presbyter can pick up if the bishop has had a wet dream the night before.)

So the presbyters, both in the K community and in the TD community, form an ascetic cadre with their bishop. I think this, rather than any common expectation of episcopal or presbyteral celibacy, is what is going on. This localized asceticism was taken to extremes by the Eustathians, and the canons of Gangra (to which Prof. Hunter had pointed in the course of our exchange), from the same context and period, represent a reaction to this, whereas TD (and K) represent a more moderate version of the Eustathian view.

As far as K is concerned, because of the state of the text and the multiple levels of redaction of what was a traditional text (possibly as old as the first century, certainly no later than the second century, and likely predating I Timothy), I would be very careful indeed about taking anything from this beyond the statement that the presbyters in this community are, by the time of the redaction of the document, forming an ascetic cadre. Monastic celibacy is a very different matter from the celibacy of simple parish priests like myself, and so I do not think that K tells us anything about clerical celibacy outside the monastic context.

Finally note that Prof. Hunter had struggled to find a copy of Apostolic church order, and he is far from being the first to report such a struggle. About a year ago I raised the question of a revised reprint with the publisher, since I had had numerous enquiries about obtaining a copy. They seemed interested in reprinting, having received the same request a number of times, though less in revising. It has gone a bit quiet since then.

I may return to my original suggestion of a revised reprint. In any such revision the blurred lines which Prof. Hunter so successfully observed in my translation (the failure to give full force to ἀπό and the failure to render τρόπῳ τινί) would be addressed. For the moment I can simply admit and advertize the errors here. Like the church orders themselves, my work on these documents is living literature.

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Arabic versions of the Testamentum Domini

As noted in a post below, there are a number of Arabic recensions of Testamentum Domini, none published.

However, although unpublished, two were investigated in a 2018 dissertation from Tübingen, Die Kirchenordnung aus dem Testamentum Domini Nostri Jesu Christi nach den Redaktionen der Handschriften Borg. arab. 22 und Petersburg or. 3, the title of which is self-explanatory. This is the work of Andreas Johannes Ellwardt. This renders the versions of Testamentum Domini that these MSS contain, acessible and readable. There is a short introduction (which I admit I have not read yet),  the text of the two MSS (or at least the church-order material, the author has left the introductory apocalypse to one side) in parallel columns, and a  (German) translation of the Testamentum Domini church order material in Borg. arab. 22, a manuscript employed by Rahmani in his edition of the Syriac. Although I have not read the dissertation in its entirety I have done some sampling on the texts and on what looks like some very helpful annotation.

The author is modest enough to admit that this is far from the last word on the subject, but it is a very significant word nonetheless. I am only sorry it was not available to me when I was working on the text for my English version. If time allows, it may however provide some material for the blog…

The dissertation may be seen at: › handle › Dissertation_Ellwardt

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Cyprian of Antioch and Magic in the Church Orders

Magic and divination were an integral part of ancient society. Even after the rise of Christianity, the luring power of diviners, sorcerers, astrologers and the like were felt in cities around the Mediterranean. Magic (to use a not unproblematic umbrella term) was strongly linked to idolatry, in Christian perspective anyway. No surprise bishops and other Christian teachers were fighting against its influence. The Church Orders forbid the practice of magic from its beginning. The author of the Didache writes (2.2): “you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft”, and the author of the Traditio Apostolica requires that practitioners of magic stop it in order to be taught. (16: “A magus shall not even be brought forward for consideration. An enchanter, or astrologer, or diviner, or interpreter of dreams, or a charlatan, or one who makes amulets, either they shall cease or they shall be rejected.”) The latter text was incorporated in the Apostolic Constitutions, written towards the end of the 4th century, probably in Antioch.

When I looked through the Christian literature of that time, I came across an interesting legend which seems to preach exactly that same claim. The “conversion of Cyprian” (probably early 4th century) tells the story of Justina, a Christian virgin who is hassled by a man who fell in love with her. The lover is rejected again and again, until he takes the services of a magician, Cyprian of Antioch. The magician summons several demons in order to seduce the virgin, unsuccessfully. The prayers and the sign of the cross drive them off. When Cyprian recognizes the power of Christ and the church, he burns his magic books publicly and converts to Christianity.

Now is that story not the true propaganda for what bishops and Church Orders commonly demanded? Cyprian ceases his business, advertised by the destruction of his idols and the burning of the books (cf. Acts 19.19), in order to be granted accession, and baptism. Cyprian later becomes bishop, martyr, and saint, until the Catholic Church renounces his holy status in the 20th century…

The legend is tripartite. The “conversion” is most probably the earliest version of the legend (based inter alia on the story of Thecla and the magician in Lucians Philopseudes). Then comes the “confession”, a first-person narrative of Cyprians youth and infamous deeds as magician and his pact with the devil. The third part is the “martyrium”, it is of later date, but linked more to the conversion than to the confession.

Among the many differences between the conversion and the confession, the picture of the devil in the confession is the most striking to me (5.6): “His form was like a golden flower adorned with precious stones, and he crowned his head with stones that were twined together – the energies of which illuminated that plain, and his garment was no different – and when he enwreathed himself, he shook the land. Great indeed was the display around his throne of different ranks which laid down their forms and energies in subordination to him.” (trans. Bailey). And when Cyprian revolts against Satan, after having learned the true Christian power, the devil attacks him (corporeally) and almost kills him in an epic struggle. Only with the sign of the cross, Cyprian manages to free himself.

What I wonder is whether this description of the devil, his absolute corporeal form and the brawl with Cyprian is as original as the “confessions” imagination of the pact with the devil. I have not found any other instances of such “fights with the devil” in early Christian literature. Or is the scene interpolated and of a later date?



Theodor Zahn, Cyprian von Antiochien und die deutsche Faustsage. Erlangen 1882.

Ludwig Radermacher, Griechische Quellen zur Faustsage: der Zauberer Cyprianus, die Erzählung des Helladius, Theophilus. Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien 4, 1927.

Ryan Bailey, The confession of Cyprian of Antioch: introduction, text, and translation. Montreal 2009.


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Hołasek on the catechumenate

Although dated 2018, this article has only just come to my attention. Possibly it has also escaped the attention of other students of the church order literature: Andrzej Rafał Hołasek, “Catechumens in the East in the Light of Pseudo-epigraphic Normative Church Sources from the 4th Century” Studia Ceranea 8 (2018), 139-151.

Abstract: The article discusses the requirements that 4th-century catechumens in the East were expected to meet. Accordingly, the pseudo-epigraphic Church regulations found in the Canons of Hippolitus and in the Apostolic Constitutions are analysed. It can be seen from these texts that their authors showed considerable concern for maintaining high standards associated with the period of the catechumenate; furthermore, they put considerable emphasis on the adherence to the Church regulations and the implementation of Christian standards of thought in daily life.

The article is not earth-shattering in its originality, but is a careful study, taking care to hear the voices of the redactors, rather than their Hippolytean sources.

Personally it leads me to reflect, not for the first time, on my own practice of catechesis, and the manner in which the formation of a habitus is far more important than any imparting of information.

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Mueller, “Marriage and family law in the ancient church order literature”

Recently appeared is Joseph G. Mueller, “Marriage and family law in the ancient church order literature” Journal of legal history 40 (2019), 203-221.

Abstract: Numerous ancient texts present prescriptions on Christianity’s ethic, liturgy, leadership, and other institutions. Scholars call ‘church order literature’ a few of them composed in Greek, because of literary dependencies among them that make them an identifiable corpus. The composition of some of them seems to begin in the first century. In the fourth century, Christians began to gather them in various collections. While all these texts and their collections have no common literary genre, they do all purport to convey a tradition of apostolic teaching on the conduct of church life and its institutions. This teaching sees God’s law based on Christian scripture as the only valid law for church life. This article will present the prescriptions of that law conveyed by the ancient church order literature on the following topics: family requirements for membership in the church, prohibitions defining and defending marriage, regulations on family relationships, and restrictions on who may marry. Even in its dispositions on marriage and family, the ancient church order literature attests Christians’ contact with multiple legal regimes in the Roman empire. This literature reflects a view of the ancient Christian family that is typical in its difference from, and its similarity to, Greco-Roman conceptions.

Fr Joseph explains that this is part of an issue of the journal publishing a set of conference proceedings. He was invited to a conference on family law to speak on the church order literature, and this is the result. Thus much of the article is intended to introduce the literature to those to whom it is unlikely to be familiar, and much of what is said of family law within them is descriptive.

Three things nonetheless stand out for me.

Firstly I note his recognition of the church’s acceptance of the legal framework regarding slavery. Daniel Vaucher will be pleased that the topic is aired.

Secondly, because of the manner in which various church orders are treated diachronically we may see the evolution of certain topics across the period of the production of the church orders. This may provide a template for further topical studies.

Thirdly I note the manner in which the lens of “law” is employed to explore the church orders as a group. This chimes in with Bradshaw’s recent essay, and with some thinking that I have been doing myself. This may prove to be a fruitful way in which to understand the base-documents, and their subsequent collection into larger documents, and their subsequent inclusion in collections.

Thank-you Fr Joseph for providing an offprint and for the explanatory note which accompanied it.


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A sixteenth century citation of the Ethiopic Didascalia

ludolfIn debate with Roman Catholic missionaries in the sixteenth century, Gälawdewos (Claudius) emperor of Ethiopia, defends practices in Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity which were seen as Judaizing.

One point of contention was the Ethiopian observation of the Sabbath. He states that it is not kept in the Jewish manner, but that they “honour it by offering up on it the sacrifice (ቍርባን) and perform on it the supper (ምሳሐ) as our fathers, the Apostles, have commanded us in the Didascalia (በዲድስቅልያ).”

Solomon Gebreyes, “The Confession of King Gälawdewos (1540–1559): a 16th century-Ethiopia monophysite document against Jesuit proselytism” JAHPS 3 (2016), 1-18, at p5, gives a reference to Harden’s Didascalia pp178-179, which is a version of CA 7.36, the “synagogal” prayers which are found in that text. This does not seem likely. More probable is the Ethiopic Didascalia version of CA 2.59 (cited here following Harden with some readings from Platt’s text, which seem to fit the citation more neatly):

Admonish, then, O bishop, thy people, and bid them come to the church day and night, and never absent themselves from it, that the congregation therein be not diminished, for they are members of Christ. And we say this not concerning the priests alone, but concerning all the people, that each one may understand the word of the Lord. For our Lord saith, “But he that is not with me is mine adversary, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.” Be not slothful, then, for ye are members of Christ; separate not yourselves from His Body and His Blood; nor choose the cares of this world before the commandments of God. Gather yourselves together in the church in the evening and in the morning; glorify God, and sing, and read the Psalms of David, the sixty-second, and the hundred and fortieth as well. And especially on the Sabbath of the Jews and on the first day, the Christian Sabbath, which is (the day of) His holy resurrection, offer praise and thanksgiving and honour to God, who created all things by His Son Jesus Christ, whom He sent unto us; who was well pleased to suffer according to His will, and was buried in the earth, and rose again from the dead. But if ye come not to the church, what excuse, or what answer will ye make to God? For on this day, the Christian Sabbath, we ought to hear the preaching of His holy resurrection, and remember His sufferings, and make remembrance of Him, and read the Scriptures of the prophets, and the Gospel; and (celebrate) the eucharist, the sacrifice of the oblation, (our) spiritual food.

What is most interesting is to find a church order cited as authoritative in the sixteenth century.

The picture, incidentally, is the relevant page of Ludolfus (Hiob Ludolf) Ad suam historiam Aethiopicam commentarius, which is where I initially found the reference. For those unfamiliar with this work, it is worth recording that it contains the first western publication of Apostolic church order, in Ethiopic. A Greek text did not appear for another 150 years.

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Paul Bradshaw on the church orders… again

An essay from Paul F. Bradshaw, “The Ancient Church Orders: early ecclesiastical law?” appears in David Lincicum et al. (ed.), Law and Lawlessness in Early Judaism and Early Christianity (WUNT 420; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2019).

Unsurprisingly Bradshaw answers the question with a qualified negative, but there is much here and, like anything Bradshaw writes, is worth a read.

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The church orders at the 2019 Oxford patristic conference

The Oxford patristics conference takes place this August.

A quick read of the programme reveals the following papers on the church orders.

Clayton Jefford. Why Are There No Manuscripts of the Ancient Didache?

Abstract: While scholars speak of the Didache’s origins and evolution with seeming confidence based on the eleventh-century text of H54, no complete parallel to the tradition appears prior to the late fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions Book 7. Several researchers have attempted with various degrees of success to illustrate knowledge of the Didache among early patristic sources, notably E. von der Goltz (1905) for Athanasius, J.A. Robinson (1920) and F.R.M. Hitchcock (1923) for Clement of Alexandria, M.A. Smith (1966) for Justin Martyr, C.N. Jefford (1995) for Ignatius of Antioch, etc., yet evidence for the entirety of the text remains elusive. This essay surveys several such attempts and concludes with the suggestion that the reason no manuscripts of the entire text are available is because there were never any to be found. While portions of the tradition certainly were known and circulated among ancient Christian (and likely Jewish) authors, no complete version of what is now associated with the witness of H54 was available.

Tom O’Loughlin. The Didache and Diversity of Eucharistic Practice in the Churches: the Value of Luke 22:17-20 as Evidence

Abstract: The sequence of blessings found in the Didache (cup followed by loaf) has long been seen as a significant deviation from what has been seen (based on later accepted practice) as the normative sequence of loaf followed by cup (as found in Paul [1 Cor 11:24-5], Mark, and Matthew). However, if we see ‘the longer form’ of Luke 22:17-20 (cup, loaf, cup) as a conflation of two text relating to two different practices – where the text of Luke was a ‘living text’ which varied with the practice of the church in which it was being used – then we have evidence (in the shorter variants of Luke) for a range of churches which at one time used the sequence found in the Didache of cup followed by loaf. From the original diversity as seen in the Didache and Paul (see 1 Cor 10:16-7 and 21-2) there came in time a uniformity. The Didache preserves a fossil of this earlier period, Paul’s acquaintance with this diversity dropped out of sight in that I Cor 10 was read in terms of 1 Cor 11, while the Lukan text that became the standard form preserved both readings (reflecting both practices) by conflation ‘lest anything be lost.’ That this conflated text was seen as a problematic can be seen in the reaction of Eusebius of Caesarea, while we should concentrate attention afresh on the ‘shorter texts’ as these point to forgotten practices.

Pauliina Pylvänäinen. Agents in Liturgy, Charity and Communication. The Function of Deaconesses in the Apostolic Constitutions

Abstract: The reinterpretation of deacons and diakonia challenges us to consider the function of deaconesses in the Apostolic Constitutions. The Apostolic Constitutions is a church order that originated in Antioch and was completed in AD 380. The tasks of deaconesses in the document can be divided into three categories: Firstly, duties that are linked to the liturgy in the congregation are assigned to the deaconesses by the compiler. They guard the doors of the church building, find places for women who need them and are present when the women approach the altar during the Eucharist. When a woman is being baptized, a deaconess assists the bishop during the rite. The document also consists two analogies which describe the liturgical function of the deaconesses: They function in the places of the Levites as well as the Holy Spirit. Secondly, the deaconesses have tasks that traditionally have been defined as charitable service. Since the concept of deacon has been reinterpreted, tasks have to be evaluated as to whether they include charitable connotations or not. My analysis shows that the deaconesses are sent to visit the homes of women. The visits include, for instance, almsgiving, and hence belong to the field of charity by nature. In some cases the tasks of healing and travelling also seem to have charitable connotations. However, alongside these tasks, the deaconesses also have a task that is neither mainly liturgical nor charitable. As messengers, they play a role in the communications of the congregation.

Finally, although the text discussed here is not actually a church order (see posts below), particular note may be taken of:

Svenja Ella Luise Sasse. The Preliminary Edition of the Greek Didaskalia of Jesus Christ

Abstract: The Greek Didaskalia of Jesus Christ, a rather unknown apocryphal text probably written in the sixth century, is composed as a conversation between the risen Christ and the Twelve Apostles: Because they are concerned about the transgressions of man and wonder how forgiveness can be obtained, the Apostles ask Christ who gives them further instructions for a God pleasing life. Among other subjects the dialogue also refers to the Christian Sunday observation as an essential topic. Besides instructions for an appropriate behavior on Sundays, this day even appears as a personification together with angels and heavenly powers in the Hereafter. The personification of the Sunday bears testimony for the soul which had fastened on Wednesday and Friday and had observed Sunday correctly. Thus, the Sunday undergoes a salvation-historical emphasis. Together with the Letter from Heaven the Didaskalia can therefore be regarded as a fruitful and important apocryphal source concerning the development of Sunday veneration. A critical edition of its text has already been published by François Nau in 1907. As his edition is only based on two manuscripts while ten manuscripts are meanwhile available, a preparation of a new critical edition has become necessary which is part of the broader project The Apocryphal Sunday at Vienna University directed by Prof. Dr. Uta Heil. The talk will give an impression of the present working results concerning the preliminary edition of the Didaskalia.

Note, in passing, that the speaker also refers to our Letter from Heaven, discussed by Daniel Vaucher. Unfortunately this paper is being given at the same time that Jefford is speaking on the Didache.

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A new witness to the text of Apostolic church order

Recently published is David Lincicum, “An Excerpt from the Apostolic Church Order (CPG 1739)” Sacris Erudiri 57 (2018), 439-444. I am immensely grateful to Dr Lincicum for sending me an offprint of his article.

An earlier edition of Sacris Erudiri had discussed a manuscript now in Athos (Athous, Koutloumousiou 39) containing a miscellany of theological texts. This includes the text edited by Lincicum, which the original editor had taken to be a version of the Didache, but which Lincinum correctly identifies as a version of the material in Apostolic church order (K).

It is, however, heavily abbreviated. The editor notes similarities with the abbreviation of Apostolic church order found in Cod. Mosquensis 125, f. 284, but rightly concludes that it is not a direct derivative. It is also clearly distinct from the other abbreviation, the epitome edited by T. Schermann, Eine Elfapostelmoral oder die X-Rezension der “beiden Wege” (Munich: Lentner, 1903), 14-18, (termed “E” in my edition.)

Lincicum provides a collation of the various witnesses. For ease of reference I have produced a synopticon of the three abbreviated versions which may be found here. It is less scientific than Lincicum’s collation, but perhaps easier on the eye.

Lincicum’s conclusion is that “A and M share a common ancestor that also lies behind V’s (=K’s) readings, and more distantly, the OPN recension (=E). Thus, it is now possible to see A as the second-oldest witness to the Greek text of the ACO. Although it is a brief excerpt, it offers a window onto an earlier form of the Greek, and so enables one more point of purchase on a fluid textual tradition.”

This common ancestor is that which I had termed κ. I am still not sure that A (like M) is not a direct epitomization of K, but would have to spend more time with the synopsis and with Lincicum’s collation to be sure. In any event the question arises as to why this text is so prone to epitomization. And indeed it is excellent to have a further witness to the text, older than the Vienna manuscript which is the sole extant complete Greek version.

Once again, thanks to Dr Lincicum for his work and for his personal kindness.

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Roman holiday

tempodidioI was fortunate to be able to attend the recent incontro at the Augustinianum in Rome on the subject “Masculum et feminam creavit eos (Gen. 1,27): Paradigmi del maschile e femminile nel cristianesimo antico”, giving a paper on the deaconess in Testamentum Domini (an abstract of which may be found in a post below.)

I picked up my copy of the conference proceedings from last year, published by Nerbini International in the Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum series under the title Tempo di Dio tempo dell’uomo: XLVI Incontro di Studiosi dell’Antichità Cristiana (Roma, 10-12 maggio 2018). It is an enormous tome, though sadly the church orders do not seem to make much of an appearance. It contains my essay, “The transfer from Sabbath to Sunday”, again flagged below, and an essay covering similar ground from Isabel Maria Alçada Cardoso entitled “La sinassi eucarestica domenicale: vespertina e/o mattutina?”

Although not church order related, I am especially interested to see the published version of a paper given by Alberto d’Anna entitled “Il digiuno romano del sabato: tra Agostino e gli Actus Vercelli”; the Roman sabbath fast has been of interest to me for some time, and as advertised below I have published on the subject. D’Anna’s essay is complementary in that he points out the rationale given by Augustine that Peter had fasted when doing battle in Rome with Simon Magus, on the sabbath. Again we recollect Bradshaw’s dictum that “When a variety of explanations is advanced for the origin of a liturgical custom, its true source has almost certainly been forgotten.”

At 701 pages, and covering the entire chronological and geographical spread of early Christianity, most readers will find something to engage and interest them. I cannot claim to have read all the papers yet, nor even those of direct interest, but will be dipping in for some time to come. You may wish to dip in yourselves… If your librarian can be persuaded to get a copy.

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Women at the last supper: the witness of the church orders


The fresco of Cerula restored

I have just read the chapter “The Life of the Virgin and Its Antecedents” in Ally Kateusz, Mary and Early Christian Women: Hidden leadership (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). If I have done the hyperlink correctly, this should take you to the e-book on google play.

The chapter is largely concerned with the question of whether a (late) Life of the virgin extant in Georgian held that female disciples were present at the last supper. I cannot comment on this part of the chapter; not for the first time I admit to being Georgian-challenged. However, the author, at the end of the chapter, seeks traces of this tradition in the church order literature.

First she points to DA 2.26.4-8:

…but the bishop is high-priest and Levite. He it is who ministers the word to you and is your mediator, yourteacher, and, after God, is your father who has regenerated you through the water. He is your chief, he is your master, he your powerful king. He is to be honoured by you in the place of God, since the bishop sits among you as a type of God. The deacon, however, is present as a type of Christ, and is therefore to be loved by you. And the deaconess is to be honoured by you as a type of the Holy Spirit. The presbyters are also to be reckoned by you as a type of the apostles, and the widows and orphans are to be considered among you as a type of the altar.

This the author describes as a “kernel that survived the final redactor (which) preserves a stunning example of its original gender parity—a liturgical pair, a male deacon and a female deacon.”

I would love for this to be true, but fear that the point of the passage is to exalt the bishop, to keep presbyters in their place, and to introduce the image, perhaps borrowed from Polycarp, of the widow as an altar. Insofar as liturgical arrangements are concerned, we may note that the deaconess has probably supplanted the place of the widows as found in Testamentum Domini, and is probably the work of the uniting redactor.

I do, however, agree broadly (as she agrees with me (!) and with Allie Ernst) that the passage in Apostolic church order 24-28 regarding the propriety of women celebrating the sacraments with reference to Mary’s presence at the last supper does relate to the possibility that a version of this account had broadened the numbers present beyond the twelve to incorporate the presence of female disciples. Kateusz writes:

“This scribe’s focus on repeatedly undermining Mary’s authority suggests that the scribe considered Mary herself a threat. The text itself belies a raging ideological conflict over the role of women officiants. One faction was using Mary to justify women officiants, and the other faction, represented by this scribe, was going to great lengths to try to undermine Mary’s authority. This scribe, thus, was not only aware of a preexisting tradition that said women had been present at the last supper, and that Jesus had authorized them as ministers there—he also knew that the communities who followed this tradition considered Mary herself the model for these women clergy.”

I am not sure that I could go quite this far in reconstructing the situation behind the passage with such detail, but do not retract my earlier (2006) statements that the situation is broadly along these lines and that “The whole point of the discussion is to subordinate women’s participation in the celebration of the eucharist.” My suspicion, moreover, is that the “other faction” is outwith the community of the redactor. I do accept the possibility, however, that there was some literary text to which the redactor of Apostolic church order is making reference. Possibly, an observation which is less than friendly to Kateusz’s case, this is the source of the agraphon found here that the weak will be saved through the strong.

Kateusz is part of the Wijngaards Theological Institute. I am aware that this is not the first time that I have criticized the use of church order material by members of this Institute. I must re-iterate that I have no axe to grind here, and consider it inappropriate as an Anglican to intervene in a discussion in another part of the catholic church. My concern is solely that enthusiasm for a change within the Roman church (or any other Christian community come to that) should not blunt our historical acumen.

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De confusione titulorum

A recent note from a student has made me think.

He was discussing the document which I have termed Canones Addaei. He writes:

I was confused -especially in the start of my research- with the many names of this source (The Teaching of the Apostles). Some translate the mallpānutā as “Doctrine” (for example Cureton translates “The Teaching of the Apostles” as “Doctrina Apostolorum”) some as “Teaching” (Brook, Witakowski) and some others as “Canones Addaei” or “The Teaching of Addai”. So as you know better than me the title of this specific source (The Teaching of the Apostles) overlaps with the titles of other sources like the “original” Doctrina Apostolorum of the Teaching of the (Twelve) Apostles. It is not the same source with the “Didascalia” nor with “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles “

He is absolutely right. I termed the document Canones Addaei in part to distinguish it from the Doctrina Addaei, (another work altogether, just to add to the confusion), though the Syriac title is ܡܠܦܢܘܬܐ ܕܫܠܝܚܐ, which might translate as Doctrina apostolorum, the title given to a Latin version of the two ways!

The confusion over the titles of the church orders is common and understandable. I recently corrected a set of proofs where the editor had not understood that the (Latin) Doctrina apostolorum was not the same as the Didascalia apostolorum and had messed up all the references. The English version of Harnack’s Die Quellen der sogenannten Apostolischen Kirchenordnung is actually entitled The sources of the Apostolic canons, which might lead the reader to think that it was about the appendix to Constitutiones apostolorum.

What is interesting is the cause of this confusion, namely the fact that titles in the ancient world did not serve to distinguish one book from another but to operate as a guide to the contents. How many books were called περὶ φύσεως? Thus a scribe might write διδασκαλία τῶν ἀποστόλων (or its Syriac equivalent) on any number of works. And cause a nightmare to editors and students of church orders for centuries to come!

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Die Sakramentsgemeinschaft in der alten Kirche

Clipboard01Newly published is L.H. Westra, L. Zwollo, Die Sakramentsgemeinschaft in der Alten Kirche: Publikation der Tagung der Patristischen Arbeitsgemeinschaft in Soesterberg und Amsterdam (Patristic Studies 15; Leuven: Peeters, 2019).

The publisher tells us: Was bedeutet die Gemeinschaft von Brot und Wein, die wir in der Kirche Sakramentsgemeinschaft nennen? Dieser Begriff ist für vielen zu einem Problem geworden. Obwohl Kirche und Glaube in unserer Gesellschaft zu einem Randphänomen geworden sind, erhalten sie dennoch eine gewisse Anerkennung. Glaube und Spiritualität werden weithin anerkannt als wertvolle Hilfsmittel für die psychische Gesundheit. Die Kirche spielt immer noch eine wichtige Rolle, wenn die Humanität der Gesellschaft in Frage kommt – das Kirchenasyl ist wiederum sehr aktuell. Aber das Sakrament? Es gehört zum kirchlichen Traditionsgut, aber sonst? In der Antike ging man ganz umgekehrt vor. Gerade weil man das Sakrament teilte, wird man zur Kirche. Der gemeinschaftliche Genuss von Brot und Wein bildete den Grund für die kirchliche Existenz. Die Gemeinschaft mit Christo bestimmte die Spiritualität. In dem vorliegenden Band wird diese altkirchliche Sakramentsgemeinschaft weiterhin untersucht. Wie funktionierte sie in der Praxis, lokal und weltweit? Wie sahen die Feiern aus? Wer nahm teil, wer nicht? Welche Entwicklungen gab es? So erscheint eine der ältesten Riten unserer Gesellschaft in einem neuen und hoffentlich auch inspirierendem Licht.

What this does not tell you is that there are contributions from both of your blog editors.

Daniel Vaucher’s essay “Ubi servi? Überlegungen zur frühchristlichen Eucharistiefeier” explores the presence (and absence) of slaves in eucharistic fellowships, concluding that to the greater extent they were excluded, and that the development away from the eucharistic Sättigungsmahl served to reduce their role yet further (as they may have been present in a serving capacity in these eucharistic meals of an earlier period.) In terms of church orders, we may note his reference to the Didascalia. Alistair C. Stewart, “Ἐκ Βιῶν εἰς ζωήν: Groups, Therapy, and the Construction of Text and Community in the Church Order Tradition” focusses on the Didache and the Didascalia (with a nod to the Doctrina apostolorum) in exploring the manner in which the study of group behaviours within psychology might illustrate the manner in which Christian groups practised psychagogy and brought about Gemeinschaft, so in turn that they might act eucharistically.

Beyond this there are contributions from Paul van Geest (“Patristik in den Niederlanden: Die Forschungslage und der neue Schwerpunkt der Mystagogie”), Liuwe H. Westra (“Wie die Sakramentsgemeinschaft in der Alten Kirche funktionierte”), Gerard A.M. Rouwhorst (“Vom christlichen Symposium zur Eucharistiefeier des vierten Jahrhunderts), Hans van Loon (Eucharist and Fellowship in Cyril of Alexandria) and Laela Zwollo, (Augustine’s Conception of Sacrament. The Death and Resurrection of Christ as Sacrament in De trinitate: Mystic Union between Christ and his Church).

No critical comment on the contents is offered (for obvious enough reasons). Peeters have priced it at €46. No comment on that either, though you can probably guess what mine would be.

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Something new on Traditio apostolica

From Markus Vinzent: something which will at least move the argument on, and gives us something new to think about, with regard to Traditio apostolica.

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Testamentum Domini published

Image 1I am happy to say that my version, with a fairly extensive introduction, of Testamentum Domini, has now been published by St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.  Get yours here.

As a taster, here is the forematter:

The work presented here was first suggested to me by Fr John Behr in 1999, but not started until 2007, after he had reminded me of his request. For a number of years, however, it was abandoned as other projects took precedence, and I despaired of my own ability to complete it. Nonetheless, an invitation from Codrington College to lecture on apocalyptic in the patristic period led to the publication of an article on the apocalyptic section of the Testament. Work restarted in earnest in 2015, at Fr John’s suggestion that I take it up again. Not for the first time I have cause to thank Fr John and all at St Vladimir’s Seminary Press for their confidence in me and for their patience.

In essence this is a translation of the Syriac text published by Rahmani in 1899, though on occasion I have understood this text differently from previous translators. Moreover, on occasion I have ventured a conjecture, and have had an eye to the Ethiopic version, and to such portions of other texts as have been published. As I note in the introduction, this falls short of what is really required, given the complexity of the textual transmission of the work and the extent to which it has been neglected, but if this serves in any way to re-ignite the interest of specialists then that is is good. The Arabic witnesses in particular need proper investigation.

My primary aim, however, is to make the work better known and readily accessible to a wide readership. Thus although the footnotes may refer to abstruse matters and to recondite secondary literature, the text can be read without reference to them, as can the introduction.

This introduction is intended to show the importance of this neglected work for liturgical history, beyond its value as a witness to Apostolic tradition. Moreover I hope to have established the (already suspected) fourth-century and Cappadocian provenance of the Testament; it is thus a work contemporary with the Cappadocian fathers. A Basilian outlook underlies the Testament, which is reason enough, beyond its valuable liturgical information, to read the work

William Gordon, preaching at the funeral of Christopher Codrington in 1710, noted that Codrington “was a great Admirer of the Fathers, particularly of St. Basil.” Sadly we must record that he followed Basil in accepting the necessity of slavery; however, his bequest for the foundation of a Basilian monastic community in Barbados, whilst never realized, was the basis for the College which I was privileged once to serve, and through which the learning of the fathers is kept alive in the West Indies.

For this we glorify you, we bless you, we give thanks to you Lord.


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More on the Pseudo-Nicaean canons

In a previous post I have shown the different versions of the pseudo-nicaean canons. I have missed to point out an interesting feature of their transmission, though. The Syriac text, which is the original version of the canons according to Braun and Vööbus, is significantly longer than the later Arabic and Ethiopic translations. For not only they differ in the number and content of the canons themselves, the Syriac canons are transmitted in a long letter, presumably by Maruta of Maipherkat to Isaac, bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon. This letter recounts the origins of the council of Nicaea along with the creed, with the names of the bishops as well as many excursuses. Maruta, if he is the authentic author of the text, also translates the Greek canons into Syriac to make them accessible to the Syriac speaking East. He not only translates the 20 Greek canons but also the pseudo-nicaean canons, which he seems to accept as authentic too.

The letter says that Isaac had requested to learn the Apostolic canons to regulate his Church. Maruta answers that these canons circulated before the Nicaean council: they are said to be partly written by James, partly by Luke – apostolic therefore. Maruta goes on to summarize these canons: They are nothing less than what we call the Canons of Addai! But Maruta explains that the Apostolic canons were outdated, not fit anymore to regulate a Church fighting heresies. That is why he sends Isaac the Nicaean canons – or what he deems appropriate for the Persian church.

Not much has been written on this interesting letter (interesting too as it is a direct testimony to the canons of Addai!). The acts of the Council of Isaac (410) certainly associate Maruta with a set of canons which he transmitted. Whether he is the author of the letter and/or of the pseudo-nicaean canons, I cannot tell for the moment. It seems to me that the letter is partly interpolated, with elements from later centuries. Clearly living literature. Hopefully I can write more soon.

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The invention of theology

Very recently I had the privilege of assisting with the obsequies of Keith Bosley. Shortly before his death a new collection of his verse appeared, The wedding guest. The book came out at the wake and fell open to this poem, this short and vast masterpiece, typically  backhanded.

Mindful of the season in which we recall Οὗτος ἀφικόμενος ἐξ οὐρανῶν ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν διὰ τὸν πάσχοντα I offer this gem as greeting to the reader, as a memorial to the writer, as a thanks to Keith’s family, and to all as an encouragement to read the work of a master of his craft.


At the end
of the Passover meal
the leader takes
a piece of matzo

set aside earlier
breaks it and hands it round
to signify
the paschal lamb

which is why
Jews are discouraged
from eating lamb
at this meal

then he pours out
the last cup of wine
for all present
plus Elijah

who has his own chair
should he come in
through the door
opened for him

to announce
the Messiah
but centuries ago
barbarians burst in

stood the bloodless rite
upon its head
and invented

(April 2001)

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Evangelium Petri and the Didascalia

Joel Marcus, “The Gospel of Peter as a Jewish Christian document” NTS 64 (2018), 473-494, is a somewhat speculative article on Evangelium Petri. It is noted here because Marcus returns to the Didascalia, having previously discussed this document in his “The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs and the Didascalia Apostolorum: a common Jewish Christian milieu?” JTS 61 (2010), 596–626. Here he turns to the Quartodeciman background of the Vorlage to chapter 21 (Syriac), noting here the nexus of relationship between it, Evangelium Petri, and other Quartodeciman literature, and the complex relationship between Quartodeciman Christianity and the Jewish matrix of its genesis.

As already said, the conclusion is somewhat speculative, but is not impossible, and the piece is worth reading.

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Daniel Vaucher on Peter of Alexandria

Though too modest to mention it himself, Daniel Vaucher has a new publication: “Glaubensbekenntnis oder Sklavengehorsam?—Petrus von Alexandrien zu einem christlichen Dilemma” Vigiliae Christianae 72 (2018), 533-560.

Abstract: The so-called Canonical letter (or περὶ Μετανοίας, “On Repentance”) of St. Peter of Alexandria, sheds light on a variety of means that Christians chose to avoid the sacrifice test under the Diocletian persecution. Canons 5-7 deal explicitly with slave- owners using their slaves as surrogates. St. Peter condemns these practices heavily, while at the same time he condemns servile obedience. In this, Peter is almost alone in early Christianity, when almost all Christians preached blind obedience. The article examines these canons, and contextualizes them with other Christian perceptions of ancient slavery. At the same time, the letter is important for the understanding of the Great persecution, its mechanisms, and the personal situation of St. Peter. Hence, the letter is discussed in regards to its transmission, and its context.

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Sklaverei in Norm und Praxis: review

vaucherI have at last received my copy of Daniel Vaucher’s book Sklaverei in Norm und Praxis: die früchristlichen Kirchenordnungen (Hildesheim: Olms, 2017). My thanks to Dr Vaucher for his kind note, and for sending me a second copy after the Post Office managed to lose the first. I am sorry that it has taken so long for a review to appear.

The object of the work is to understand Christian understandings of slavery through a proper examination of Christian sources, which has not been undertaken with sufficient rigour, particularly not by recent studies. Although there is a focus on church orders, the author has an extensive knowledge of other early Christian literature; thus the opening, which refers to the Vita Polycarpi and to the Acta Andreae, plunges us directly into the world of unreflective Christians in antiquity.

After setting out the purpose of the work in the first chapter, in the second chapter Vaucher describes and contextualizes the church orders, setting their development in the world of a developing, urbanizing, diverse Christianity. On the basis of function the church orders are seen as prescriptive Christian texts, setting out an ideal which may be in tension with the reality. Hence the title of the work sees Christian discourse regarding slavery setting norms which are not actually achieved. Beyond this, however, the following chapters manifest the extent of unanswered questions regarding early Christianity and slavery. The study is not, however, restricted to the church orders, but to other prescriptive material, or material which might be read as prescriptive. Thus the third chapter focusses on Paul. Vaucher demonstrates the variety of unanswered questions regarding slavery in the Pauline corpus, in particular in the interpretation of Philemon. His overall suggestion is that Paul has an ideal which is eschatological in goal, but which is also not manifested. Such a failure is manifested in the Corinthian Gemeindemahl and in the treatment of slavery. This is rather better than “love-patriarchalism” as an understanding of Paul’s approach, since it takes account of the eschatological nature of the real Christian communities, and sees the disappearance of slavery as part of the yet-unrealized Kingdom.

This leads to the deutero-Pauline literature in the fourth chapter, as in this literature we see something similar to the church orders, as well as the first treatment of the church orders’ directions concerning slavery. Vaucher suggests that the Pauline tension is unresolved, and that there are two streams in early Christianity, broadly “libertarian” or ascetic, a stream later represented by monasticism, and a more bürgerlich stream represented by the church orders as in previous generations by the Haustafel. It is in the course of this chapter that there is one of the many interesting discussions of detail, here in particular over the question of the purchase of slaves by congregations in order that they may obtain their freedom. Vaucher points to the very different versions of the same material in Didascalia 2.62.4 and its parallel in Constitutiones apostolorum, where the latter text indicates the possibility that slaves might be purchased. This is read in the light of the earlier prohibition on the purchase of slaves’ freedom from common funds in the Ignatian Ad Pol., indicating that the practice of post-Constantinian Christianity was different, by virtue of living in a different ecclesial contest.

The theme of lack of resolution continues as the fifth chapter examines the tension which exists between the rhetoric (and ritual) of baptism and the reality of slavery. Here Vaucher raises, and in my opinion answers correctly, a particular issue regarding the demand in Traditio apostolica for a “master’s reference” for a slave-catechumen. The same chapter also considers slave office-holders, though this might better have been discussed separately, as Vaucher returns in a subsequent chapter to the matter of the catechumenate, pointing out in the sixth chapter the extent to which the “forbidden professions” of Traditio apostolica might tend to exclude slaves. The author might reasonably respond to this criticism that the chapter continues the theme of the book overall, which is the tension between the institution of slavery and the practice of slavery; indeed, although the matter of slaves as office-holders has been discussed to some extent already in this blog, the discussion in the book goes far beyond this, suggesting that exclusion was a later phenomenon, but suggesting that certain offices, particularly in the earliest period, might principally have been held by the slaves and freedmen of the episkopos-patron. The brief discussion of the role and origin of the reader is particularly enlightening here.

As already noted, the sixth chapter concerns potential exclusion of slaves from the catechumenate on the basis of forbidden professions. Again, this is an unnoticed area which Vaucher has done well to observe. The chapter may be read alongside the useful appendix setting out the “forbidden professions” as found in the various sources.

The seventh chapter turns to the treatment of slaves. Again the tension within the Christian message and the practice of slavery emerges. As is the case in many of the chapters, a host of sub-questions emerges. In particular the observations regarding the extent to which both the pseudo-Ignatians and the Consitutiones apostolorum expand their Vorlagen considerably in encouraging the proper treatment of slaves, and introduce extensive material which is not in the documents which they are reworking, cause Vaucher to suggest that the authors are facing a real issue in their Antiochene context, and that the poor treatment of slaves is still an issue three hundred years into the life of the Christian movement. The same chapter observes the similarities and differences between the catalogues of those from whom gifts are to be refused in the Didascalia, the Constitutiones apostolorum and in the pseudo-Athanasian material such as the Fides patrum, in particular with regard to the treatment of slaves. The literary puzzle is perhaps insoluble, but its observation is worthwhile, and the extent to which it forms a tradition is noteworthy.

A final chapter compounds the puzzle of unanswered questions by posing the question of slavery and sex, in a society in which slaves were the sexual property of their owners. Could a slave employed for a master’s sexual satisfaction become a Christian or would this pollute the body to an extent that such a person is of necessity excluded? Again one feels that this topic might better have been discussed in the context of catechumenate, but the questions are well-posed nonetheless.

The conclusion repeats the extent of the problematic, and emphasizes the extent to which the institution of slavery goes unquestioned in the Christian sources, even whilst standing in tension to the Christian Gospel.

There are also appendices and excursus. Reference has already been made to the appendix laying out the various versions of the “forbidden professions”; this is preceded by an extensive appendix setting out the various church orders in their interrelated confusion. The interest of this to the readers of the blog is obvious.

The main argument is valuable, but the value of the work goes beyond the overall argument, firstly in the manner in which it provides a worked example of the importance of the church orders as historical documents and at the same time their limitations and secondly, as already indicated, in the individual discussions of disputed and unclear points.

As an example of such, I may take that of concubinage in Traditio apostolica. Vaucher notes the particular arrangements for concubines in Traditio apostolica 16, and the recognition here of the social (and legal) reality of slave-concubines. However, he notes the oddness that there is no mention of the controversy with Kallistos, who had allowed the de facto marriage of free women and enslaved men, something criticized roundly in the Refutatio. It emerges from Vaucher’s discussion that Kallistos’ intention was that Christian women were to have Christian spouses, and thus that there might be difficulty for them to find Christian husbands of their own social status. Thus although Vaucher, who rightly recognizes the “aristokratische Besinning” of Hippolytus, determines in the end that the situation is unclear (249), his discussion actually points us in the direction of some solution here, in that the chapter concerns catechumens, rather than established Christians. As such the situation would not arise, as these male slaves would already be Christians, rather than being catechumens. I would have to revise my opinion of the text of TA 16.14b (derived from the Greek epitome) and now see this as a gloss. In this respect we may also note the important text Constitutiones apostolorum 8.34.13, to which Vaucher directs our attention.

The wealth of such detailed discussions is what makes the work so valuable. Thankfully it is equipped with a Stellenregister to ease the reader who wishes to explore the individual aspects of the texts, as well as an excellent bibliography, which testifies to the depth of the research. It is also printed in a remarkably clear typeface. However, given the value of the contents and the fact that they have taken a subvention for publishing, one might have hoped that Olms would have produced a sturdier product. But the publishers are our masters.

Beyond giving the book a wholehearted commendation and its author warm congratulations, I may perhaps be allowed a personal note of thanks. In a West Indian context we cannot forget the legacy of slavery and the evils which accompanied it, and struggle with the manner in which the Christian churches, particularly the Anglican churches, were complicit in its continuation. Vaucher’s work at least reminds us that this was not a perversion introduced in the seventeenth century but that such confused thinking was a legacy of the earliest period of Christian development.


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Yet another attempt to deny Roman provenance to Traditio apostolica

Looking for something else, today I came across Maciej Zachara Mic “Czy Tradycja apostolska jest dokumentem rzymskim?” Ruch biblijny I liturgicznyrok 65 (2012), 3-20. As my Polish is somewhat non-existent (in spite of living in Slough) I am relieved to find the English abstract: ·

The so-called Apostolic Tradition is usually considered an element of the history of the liturgy of the Roman Church. This conviction lays ultimately on two presuppositions: on the attribution of the Apostolic Tradition to St. Hippolytus of Rome and on the presence of two postbaptismal anointings in the baptismal ritual of Apostolic Tradition, which is peculiar exclusively to the Roman liturgy. However, none of these presuppositions is certain. The arguments for St. Hippolytus’ authorship are so weak, that this attribution must be considered highly improbable. The presence of two postbaptismal anointings in the Apostolic Tradition can be explained by the complexity of its baptismal ritual which seems to be a conflation of different traditions. On the other hand, the Roman tradition of two postbaptismal anointings is probably due to the episcopal prerogative to administer the confirmation and to the concession given to presbyters to anoint the neophytes with the chrism at the baptisms administered by them. This presbyteral chrismation was afterwards extended to every baptism. Consequently, the origins of the Apostolic Tradition are far from certain and its Roman provenance is by no means proved.

The article itself can be read here.

Oddly enough this is in line with my argument in my commentary. Although the initiatory section was much revised in the second edition in view of the critique of Bradshaw and Ekenberg, I suggested in both versions that the double post-baptismal anointing was unrelated to that in Gelasianum and should not be considered as evidence for a Roman provenance, and that the document largely reflected the life of an emigré congregation. The argument for Roman provenance rests on neither presupposition identified by Fr Mic. Nuff said.

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The smell of baking bread: Mart. Pol. 15

In Didascalia apostolorum we read: “You set pure bread before him, which is formed by fire and sanctified by the invocation, offering without demur and praying for those who sleep.” (DA 6.22.2.)

In Traditio apostolica 22 we read: “On the first of the week the bishop, if he is able, should himself distribute to all the people with his own hand, while the deacons break. And the presbyters break the baked bread.”

Dix, (Treatise, 44) suggests that “the bread they are given” should be read instead of “the baked bread”— reading wefoya (delivered) rather than ‘afoya (baked)— a reading which is found in two manuscripts of the later Ethiopic text. Botte (Tradition apostolique, 61 n. 3) suggests that since the same phrase appears in the Ethiopic version at chapter 26 below “baked” must be the correct reading, though he is at a loss as to what the term means. Moreover, the appearance of “baked” in the Aksumite Ethiopic means that “baked” should certainly be read. Similarly the Aksumite version has “baked bread” in TA 26.

In previous publications I have noted this emphasis on the fact that bread is baked, and leaned towards the suggestion that bread might be baked in situ, particularly in the cemeteries (in my works on Didascalia and Vita Polycarpi certainly, and perhaps elsewhere.) The context in Vita Polycarpi was the report that the burning Polycarp gave off the smell of baking bread (Mart. Pol. 15.)

In an increasingly rare lightbulb moment it occurred to me that this may be a reference (and implicit contrast) to the practice of sacrifice. Bread (and Polycarp) are offered, and baked, in the same way that animal sacrifices were cooked with fire. I am also aware of burnt grain offerings, particularly at Roman tombs, but admit that I do not know enough about sacrificial practice to be certain on this point. Nonetheless it all adds up.. If anyone can point me to a beginners’ guide to the practice of ancient sacrifice in the early centuries of the Common Era, particularly in funereal settings, with big print and lots of pictures (or else, with reliable primary source material!) I would be gratified indeed. For the present, I withdraw my suggestion that bread was baked on site and accuse myself of a further error.

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Was chapter 4 a later addition to Traditio apostolica?

Jens Schröter “Die Funktion der Herrenmahlsüberlieferungen im 1. Korintherbrief: zugleich ein Beitrag zur Rolle der “Einsetzungsworte” im frühchristlichen Mahltexten” ZNW 100 (2009), 78-100, at 79-80 in footnote 5, notes that the episcopal eucharistic prayer at TA4 is absent from some versions, and thus suggests that it might have been added to some versions of Traditio apostolica at a later date. The prayer is present in Latin but absent in Sahidic and the Axumite Ethiopic versions. However, turning to the rewritings, it was obviously available to the redactors of Testamentum Domini and Constitutiones apostolicae, though is absent from Canones Hippolyti. So we have to ask ourselves at what later stage this chapter was added, such that it might find its way to Italy, Cappadocia and Antioch within the time-frame. It is not as if a more convincing solution is fairly obvious, given the distribution of the chapter’s presence and absence, namely that it was omitted in the Alexandrian recension, and thus in the versions dependent on that Greek original.

This is yet another example of the knots into which those who seek to deny the Roman and early third-century provenance of Traditio apostolica tie themselves

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