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

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

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

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Hippolytus, the patristic conference, and Coptic in Stevenage…

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

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Paper on creeds on academia.edu

Newly uploaded to academia.edu is a forthcoming article in Questions liturgiques in which I build on previous work which suggested that the syntaxis was the earliest form of baptismal confession in Syria, by suggesting that Alexandria also had some form of creedal declaration as part of the baptismal rite from the earliest times.

This means that the common assertion, largely based on the baptismal rite of Traditio apostolica, that the earliest form of baptismal creed was interrogatory, and thus that any creedal declaration is of necessity later, falls apart. I suggest that the so-called “interrogatory” creeds are all western, and thus that Traditio apostolica reflects a western rite.

There’s more, but you can read it for yourselves!

Once again, naïve use of the church order material has proved misleading.

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The Gnomai of Nicaea, yet again

It is a long time since I reported on progress on the Gnomai of Nicaea. To cut a long story short, I deduced that two pages in the published versions of Revillout and Rossi did not really belong in the Gnomai, and so set out on a search for the missing pages.

One of them turned out to be a page of unedited material. How do I know? Because it had a page number on it! This was a page I had looked at before and dismissed, because its content did not appear to me to part of the Gnomai. And then I noticed the page number, when revisiting the question in complete bafflement. I have put a lot of thought into this, extending over the best part of a year, and to be honest I am not much wiser than I was to start with, except for having gained the wisdom never again to get involved in unedited Coptic manuscripts! Apart from thinking, and having to do other things (like earning a living), I really struggled with reading the codices and only managed with a great deal of help.

Apart from saying “never again”, my final conclusion is that the scribe was working with a disordered original, and that somehow extraneous material got included, though not the material included by Revillout (because, if for no other reason, of the page number!) This page number, however, does prove that my instinct was correct and that Revillout had included extraneous material. In other words, there may not even be anything missing from the Gnomai after all (though there is no way of being sure, unless an independent textual witness turns up.) Nonetheless I have put all the relevant material into the book and each reader can decide what s/he wants to consider to constitute the Gnomai of Nicaea. Somehow, given that these orders are “living literature”, that’s appropriate.

Only today I got the breakthrough (or rather, I got given it) on figuring out the last page of fragments. Tomorrow (hopefully) the book will go to the press (again!), after one last read-through.

It will be St Patrick’s day. On that day, some years ago, I met my beloved wife. Somehow a dedication seems appropriate.

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Further appearances of church order material in non-church order contexts

 A news(-ish) report here http://www.livescience.com/49673-newfound-ancient-gospel-deciphered.html of this recent publication http://www.mohr.de/en/nc/theology/series/detail/buch/forbidden-oracles.html has some nice pictures of the miniature codex which is the subject of the study.

The miniature codex itself, entitled The Gospel of the lots of Mary, is an aid to divination, intended to deliver an oracle by being opened at random, rather as some Christians still open the Bible at random to find guidance.

The report at livescience also has a citation (with picture) of one of the oracles:

“Go, make your vows. And what you promised, fulfill it immediately. Do not be of two minds, because God is merciful. It is he who will bring about your request for you and do away with the affliction in your heart.”

The warning against double-mindedness is immediately reminiscent of the same warning in Didache 2.4 and parallels elsewhere in the Two Ways Tradition. As such this book of lots provides yet another example of the appearance of material which is found in the Church Order Tradition in other literary contexts (assuming that a book of lots is indeed a literary product.)

The question of whether this material was transmitted to this context within the church orders, as part of the catechesis of which this was originally a part, or through a further development such as a gnomic anthology, is entirely open. The sole purpose of this post is to observe the phenomenon.

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Elements of the Didascalia and the Didache in the Ethiopic versions of Traditio apostolica

One of the many peculiarities of the Ethiopic transmission of Traditio apostolica in the senodos is the inclusion within it of the apostolic decree from Acts (possibly derived from the Didache), certain provisions from the Didache (chiefly those regarding prophets and travellers, so Didache 11.3-13.7, together with Didache 8.1-2) and a short section of the Didascalia, basically most of the twelfth chapter of the Syriac version (2.57-2.58.6). Because of the disorder in this text this material appears in the middle. What is interesting is that in the new Aksumite Ethiopic text published by Bausi, the same material is found; here it is found towards the end of Traditio apostolica, following on from the directions regarding the cemeteries, and followed only by the brief concluding chapter.

I have been curious about this for some time. Now Jonathan Draper in his “Performing the cosmic mystery of the church in the communities of the Didache“, newly published in Jonathan Knight and Kevin Sullivan (ed.), The open mind: essays in honour of Christopher Rowland (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 37-57 at 45-6, suggests that the appearance of this section in the Ethiopic transmission (I think he is referring to the senodos, though he is a bit vague), and also in the Coptic version (though we should note that the Coptic version is a fragment, rather than an anthology, and begins at 10.6), is “highly significant, indicating that prophets and rules for their control were still relevant or even burning issues.” He suggests that this catena of texts was brought to Ethiopia by Asian monks in the third century, and that they had brought this catena of texts as it “reflected the nature of the mission of the monks to Ethiopia.” He suggests that these monks, moreover, were sympathetic to the new prophecy.

The Coptic version, being a fragment, may be left entirely out of consideration here. This leaves the substantive question of whether the text as currently preserved was brought as is, from Asia or elsewhere, or was excerpted within Ethiopia, or Egypt.

If Draper is correct, one would have to account not only for the material regarding prophecy being excerpted, but also for the eighth chapter, and also for inclusion of the fragment of the Didascalia, not to mention the apostolic decree. This does not seem to be explainable by recourse to the interests of pro-Montanist monastic missionaries (alluring alliteration). Then again, there is no obvious reason why the selection currently found should have been produced within Ethiopian Christianity; even if there was a need within Ethiopia for the regulation of prophets, this hardly explains the selection of the rest of the material, nor its inclusion within Traditio apostolica.

If the Aksumite text is indeed derived directly from Greek, as is most probable, then this in turn implies that the other material was also rendered directly from Greek (thus making the Ethiopic texts more important witnesses for the text of the Didascalia than previously realized). It also implies that the selection might have been made not in Ethiopia but in Alexandria, at an earlier stage in transmission. The question of the purpose of its anthologizing and inclusion among the other church order texts thus remains unanswered, though I am glad that Draper has drawn attention to the issue.

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Syntagma doctrinae online

Having previously stated that Batiffol’s edition of the Syntagma doctrinae could not be found online, I must, once again, correct myself.

It is part of the second fascicle of his Studia patristica and may be found at https://archive.org/details/studiapatristica00bati. His edition of the Fides patrum, however, is not available online as far as I can determine.

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