On pseudonymy and Coptic apocrypha: with thanks again to Alin Suciu

Recently published (and made available online) by the excellent Alin Suciu is his article “The Book of Bartholomew: a Coptic apostolic memoir” Apocrypha 26 (2015), 211-237.

The abstract follows:

The Book of Bartholomew (= Liber Bartholomaei) is one of the best-known apocryphal writings preserved in Coptic. The present article proposes that the text in question belongs to a peculiar genre of Coptic literature : the memoirs of the apostles. This category consists of reports attributed to the apostles concerning various topics, all related to Coptic piety and liturgical life.

Within the article he explains that a major reason for the production of these pseudepigrapha was the aetiology of feasts within the Coptic calendar. He also refers to a statement prefacing a collection of pseudepigrapha attributed to the biblical patriarchs that Athanasius had discovered them among ancient apostolic decrees (nisyntagma narcheos). This, he shows, is a common trope; I have already referred to Suciu’s making me aware of such a statement in the preface to a pseudo-Chrysostomic text, and he details others within his article.

Whereas this is an Egyptian phenomenon, further light is shed on the context of pseudonymous production shared by the church orders. It is also interesting that apostolic sanction is sought for liturgical practice, again a mark of the church orders.

1 Comment

Filed under Church orders in genera(l)

What did the eucharistic celebrants of the Testamentum Domini “make”? The perils of pointing

In the eucharistic rite of Testamentum Domini (1.23) we read: “…taking bread, gave it to His disciples, saying, Take, eat, this is My Body which is broken for you for the forgiveness of sins. When ye shall do this, ye make My resurrection.” (translation of MacLean in J. Cooper, A.J. Maclean, The Testament of our Lord (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1902), 73. Other translations read the same.)

The relevant passage in Syriac reads:

ܩܝܡܬܐ ܕܝܠܝ ܥܒܕܝܢ ܐܢܬܘܢ (qymt) dyly (bdyn )ntwn.)

The critical word here is that translated as “resurrection”, ܩܝܡܬܐ. Translators have pointed this as ܩܝܵܡܬܵܐ . However, were the word pointed ܩܳܝܶܡܬܳܐ then it might be translated “memorial”, albeit in the sense more of a tombstone than a liturgical commemoration.

This is surely the translator’s intention. At the time of Rahmani’s initial translations of Testamentum Domini (1899) Hauler had not yet published the Latin fragments of Traditio apostolica, and at the time of Cooper and MacLean’s publication they were newly published, and so the relationship between the Testamentum and Traditio apostolica was not understood. But with the passage of a century since Connolly, surely we can improve the translation at this point.

Edit, 26th September: I had forgotten the suggestion of W. E. Pitt, “Anamnesis and Institution Narrative in the Liturgy of Apostolic ConstitutionsJEH 9 (1958), 1-7, at 5, who suggests that this came about through a misreading of anamnēsis (memorial) as anastasis (resurrection). Obviously this is now to be rejected,. but we may give due recognition to Pitt for seeing the issue.

Leave a comment

Filed under Testamentum Domini

Review of Batiffol’s Syntagma Doctrinae (and more!)

Digging around in the learned literature of the late nineteenth century I find a gem, a review by A. Robertson of Batiffol’s Syntagma doctrinae in The Classical Review 6 (8) (1892), 351-354. Far beyond its value as a review is the discussion of earlier work on the Syntagma and the Fides patrum, and in particular a trenchant discussion of Revillout’s theories about the derivation of these documents, alongside the Gnomai, from the Council of Alexandria.

There are also some interesting reflections on the credal form found in the Syntagma, and on the value of the document with regard to the text of the Didache.

Those without easy access to an academic library can find this with relative ease on archive.org.

Leave a comment

Filed under Other church order literature

The Didascalia and the pericope adulterae

Dean Inge of St Paul’s was reportedly asked by EC Ratcliff whether he was interested in liturgy. ‘No,’ said the Dean, ‘and neither do I collect postage stamps.’

I would add that neither do I indulge in NT textual criticism (despite David Parker being one of my earliest teachers).

So I was surprised to be asked my opinion by a correspondent on whether the Didascalist knew the Pericope adulterae. There is reference to this, or to something comparable, at DA 2.24.3. But I have no opinion as to what. NB however my belief that the reading of CA and Lat. should be preferred to that of Syr. (which more closely represents the canonical text.)

For those who are interested do note https://danielbwallace.com/2013/06/26/where-is-the-story-of-the-woman-caught-in-adultery-really-from/ (though this is old news). This post also contains a link to Hughes’ article in Novum Testamentum.

1 Comment

Filed under Didascalia Apostolorum

Jews for Jesus in the Didascalia!

Karin Zetterholm, “Jesus-Oriented Visions of Judaism in Antiquity” Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis 27 (2016), 37-60, is another off the production line of the “Ways that never parted” factory. What is positive about this arm of scholarship is the recognition of a more diverse Judaism than the rabbinic sources might lead us to recognize. What is less positive, however, is a failure to recognize that the boundaries, though resistant to modern cartographic effort, were real to those who experienced them. Were they not, then literature like the Didascalia would not have been produced.

Zetterholm argues that the Didascalia is “Jewish”, and that the account given by the deuterotic redactor might be understood within a Jewish frame.

Although the author claims to be a Jew, calling himself a disciple ‘from the House of Judah’ (DA 26 407:248/ 408:230), this is often dismissed by scholars as being part of the literary fiction that attributes authorship to Jesus’ original disciples. However, some scholars have argued that his extensive knowledge of Jewish traditions and practices beyond what is found in the Bible, and his use of ‘rabbinic-like’ hermeneutics indicate that the author was a Jew.

We can hardly take part of the apparatus of pseudonomy as autobiographical; the redactor’s statement that he is “from the house of Judah” is no more autobiographical or credible in itself than the claim that these disciples met in Jerusalem to write the Didascalia. Certainly there is knowledge of “rabbinic-like” hermeneutics, but this tells us nothing of the redactor’s birth. Even if he is Jewish by descent, why is that significant? Birth does not give access to a halachic or haggadic tradition. What, indeed, does a statement that an author or redactor is Jewish actually mean in the context of this train of thought? The concern for Jewish identity grounded in birth indeed seems to me to be a peculiarly recent concern. What is of concern to the redactors of DA is praxis (law observance, or not) and belief.

She goes on:

He (the redactor of DA) calls the members of his community ‘Christians’, a fact that would seem to make the Didascalia difficult to claim for Judaism, but we should not automatically assume that ‘Christian’ here means non-Jewish. For us, ‘Jewish’ and ‘Christian’ are mutually exclusive categories, but the author of the Didascalia rather seems to use ‘Christian’ in the sense of a specific kind of Judaism – a subgroup within Judaism who believes that Jesus is the Messiah.

It is nonetheless a subgroup which includes gentiles. As such it is a strange type of Judaism, if Jewish birth is the critical factor in determining who belongs. The claim of the redactor that the real Jews are actually the Christians is in any event not an attempt to be inclusive, but is a supersessionist claim, like that of Melito (Jewish by birth!) that the church is the true Israel.

None of this intended to deny that the “parting of the ways” was extended and untidy, that there were diverse groups defining themselves variously as Christian and Jewish (who may have been separated from other groups also claiming to be Jewish or Christian), that some Christian were law-observant, or indeed that the intellectual world of at least one redactor of DA was close to that inhabited by contemporary Jews. But to suggest that DA is evidence that the distinction between Jew and Christian in fourth-century Syria is artificial is to miss the point altogether.

1 Comment

Filed under Didascalia Apostolorum

Church orders at the British patristic conference

The British patristic conference in Birmingham in September yields one paper of direct relevance to the study of the ancient church orders.

The abstract is as follows:

Pauliina Pylvänäinen

A Common Purpose for Paul and the Female Deacons?

The author writes in 1 Tim 1:12 that Christ has appointed Apostle Paul εἰς διακονίαν. The same enunciation has been used in four other verses in the Greek NT. About three hundred years after that, the Apostolic Constitutions, one of the most influential ancient church orders, was compiled. Among its various ecclesiastical instructions the author commands the special group of women in his midst: He gives several instructions and presents an ordination prayer for them. In the prayer the author uses an enunciation, which rings a bell. He writes that the female deacon has to be appointed – εἰς διακονίαν.

The noun διακονία has commonly been translated as “service”. However, the traditional understanding about the early Christian use of the verb διακονέω has lately been challenged. Especially John N. Collins and Anni Hentschel have re-interpreted its ancient usage. According to them, service is not the main meaning for διακονία. If anything, the term refers to the areas of agency and attendance. It connotes intermediary functions. Collins’ and Hentschel’s results form the background for my research.

In the presentation I will have a glance at the usage of εἰς διακονίαν in its contexts both in 1 Tim 1:12 and AC VIII, 20, 2. I will find out, to what kind of purposes Paul and the female deacons really are appointed. Are the enunciations parallel? Do they have the equivalence both of form and content?

This, and the other abstracts, may be viewed at
http://cal-itsee.bham.ac.uk/itseeweb/conferences/britishpatristics2016/abstracts.html

My quick answer to the concluding question is “probably not.”

For the convenience of readers the relevant prayer reads as follows:

O Eternal God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of man and of woman, who replenished with the Spirit Miriam, and Deborah, and Anna, and Huldah; who did not disdain that Your only begotten Son should be born of a woman; who also in the tabernacle of the testimony, and in the temple, ordained women to be keepers of Your holy gates—do Thou now also look down upon this Your servant, who is to be ordained to the office of a deaconess, and grant her Your Holy Spirit, and cleanse her from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, (2 Corinthians 7:1) that she may worthily discharge the work which is committed to her to Your glory, and the praise of Your Christ, with whom glory and adoration be to You and the Holy Spirit for ever. Amen.

This is the ANF translation. The phrase εἰς διακονίαν is rendered “to the office of a deaconess.”

1 Comment

Filed under Apostolic Constitutions

The additional chapters of the Arabic Didascalia

As part of my work on Testamentum Domini I have been trying to get my head around the various Arabic versions of this text. Here I have been greatly aided by the extraordinary scholarship of R-G Coquin, “Le Testamentum Domini: problemes de tradition textuelle” Parole de l’Orient 5 (1974), 165-188. Coquin notes three distinct Arabic versions, based on distinct Greek recensions of the text. This to add to the Ethiopic version and the Syriac recension published by Rahmani.

What is particularly interesting to note, in what amounts to a throwaway remark from Coquin on p. 184 of his article, is that the additional chapters of the Arabic Didascalia (see previous posts), whilst taken from Testamentum Domini, reflect a distinct Arabic version of this material.

My own Arabic is somewhat limited. All this steels my determination, however, to improve its standard so that, even if as a retirement project, I can bring this material to publication. In the meantime I hope nonetheless that somebody else does it. So if there is any Arabist reading this blog who is looking for a research project…

Leave a comment

Filed under Testamentum Domini