Bryan A. Stewart, Priests of my people

Recently published by Peter Lang, what appears to be a very light revision of the thesis which may be read at

To quote the beginning of the publisher’s information (the rest of which may be seen at “This book offers an innovative examination of the question: why did early Christians begin calling their ministerial leaders «priests» (using the terms hiereus/sacerdos)?”

On the basis of a speedy read my initial reaction is there is certainly something here and the proposal is certainly superior to that of Hanson which it seeks to replace, though I feel somehow that Stewart has not told the whole story. Nonetheless the observation of the possibility that priestly imagery has some connection with the maintenance of sacred space, which is Stewart’s fundamental argument, is perhaps part of the story which might be told.

With chapters on the Traditio apostolica and the Didascalia apostolorum it cannot fail to be interesting!

PS: I am not related, to my knowledge, to the author.

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The receptacle for the loaf at Traditio apostolica 22

This is an extensively updated version of the post that was formerly here.

Barely six months since the publication of the second edition of my Hippolytus: the apostolic tradition (no third edition is planned) and I notice something which, if not an error, at least should have had further attention.

In Traditio apostolica 22, there is a direction regarding the distribution of Communion. The Ethiopic text published by Duensing states that “when the deacon approaches the presbyter he should unfold his garment (lebso), and the presbyter should take it…” For Dix this is “nonsense” and for Botte “absurde”. Thus Dix and Botte alike prefer to take a reading here from Testamentum Domini 2.11 which, instead of clothing, has ܦܝܢܟܐ ܐܘ ܟܦܦܬܐ (“the disk [πίναξ transliterated?] or paten”), and seek to explain the Ethiopic reading through misunderstanding or corruption. I was misled, in my reconstruction, into accepting this.

However, the more recently discovered Aksumite Ethiopic text has the same reading, which should have given me pause to reconsider, since the processes of corruption suggested by Dix and Botte cannot have occurred in a text directly dependent on the Greek.

There is a further consideration which should have given me cause for hesitation. For when the Ethiopic texts suggests that the deacon “unfold”, or “open”, his clothing, this is reflected in Testamentum Domini, which states that the paten should be “opened” or “unfolded”. Thus this text is no easier to understand than the Ethiopic, since a paten cannot really be opened. This I came to realize whilst translating Testamentum Domini for St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.

Firstly here is the entire passage:

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. When the deacon approaches the presbyter he should open his garment, and the presbyter should take it himself and distribute it to the people with his own hand.

Beyond the word at issue here there is a great deal of confusion, but I remain convinced, building on a suggestion of Dix, that the passage concerns the sharing of eucharistic bread across the diverse Roman congregations, and that the deacons are therefore carrying portions of the loaf consecrated by the bishop to the presbyters who are celebrating elsewhere, a rite known as the fermentum. (On the fermentum generally see Marcel Metzger, “The history of the eucharistic celebration at Rome” in Anscar J. Chupungco (ed.), Handbook for Liturgical Studies: The Eucharist (Collegeville: Liturgical, 1999), 103-131, on the fermentum at 106-109.) This originated in the manner in which the individual episkopoi in their households might share the eucharistic elements as a sign of union, (reported by Irenaeus at the time of Anicetus apud Eusebius HE 5.24.17) and which, with the development of monepiscopate in Rome, became a rite by which the episkopos sent portions to the presbyters in the city as a mark of his union with them.

If this is correct, then it is possible that this may cast light on the Ethiopic reading. In particular, although much of the evidence for the rite of the fermentum is late, some light may be cast on earlier practice by the statement of the 8th century Ordo Romanus 30B that the fermentum is carried in corporals. (Et transmittit unusquisque presbiter mansionarum de titulo suo ad ecclesiam Salvatoris et exspectant ibi usquedum frangitur Sancta, habentes secum corporales. Et venit oblationarius subdiaconus et dat eis de Sancta, quod pontifex consecravit, et recipiunt ea in corporales et revertitur unusquisque ad titulum suum et tradit Sancta presbitero. Et de ipsa facit crucem super calicem et ponit in eo et dicit: Dominus vobiscum. Et communicant omnes sicut superius.” Text in M. Andrieu, Les ordines Romani du haut moyen age 3 (Spicilegium Sacrum Lovaniense 24; Leuven: Peeters, 1951), 474.)

The reason for accepting the possibility that this might cast light on a practice some five-hundred years earlier is the continuity between this practice and that of carrying apophoreta away in classical Rome. It was common practice to take food away from the table, reference to this practice being made by Martial, Lucilius and Juvenal. In a manner consistent with the understanding that the origins of the Eucharist were sympotic, we may state that, in essence, the fermentum was the removal of food from a banquet for consumption elsewhere. What is significant is that these morsels are taken away in napkins; thus Martial Epig. 2.37, 7 refers to a sodden mappa filled with food, Lucian Symposium 36 to a napkin (ὀθόνη) filled with food taken from a table and Petronius Satyricon 60 to the filling of mappae with goods from Trimalchio’s table. This practice may readily be compared to the carrying of the fermentum in a corporal.

We may thus explain the Ethiopic as an honest attempt to render the Greek, misunderstanding coming about due to the translator’s failure to recognize the context, and so to know that there was reference here to a napkin, or corporal. If ὀθόνη or something of the sort stood in the text then the translator might well render that as lebs. Moreover, the word rendered by both Ethiopic and Syriac versions as “open” may have been ἀναπτύσσω. Slightly more conjecturally, “his” garment might have come about had the text read ὀθόνη αὐτοῦ, the pronoun referring to the fermentum rather than to the deacon. Thus the Ethiopic translator, who did not understand the rite being described, nonetheless renders a literal, but initially incomprehensible, translation whereas Testamentum Domini, which is after all a reworking rather than a translation, in turning the direction into a description of the administration of Communion in a church, and the respective roles of sacred ministers, thus substitutes vessels for the corporals in which the fermentum was carried.

Thus the relevant passage should read:

When the deacon approaches the presbyter he should unfold its cloth, and the presbyter should take it (the fermentum) himself.

I think my failure here was due to my lack of awareness that the fermentum was carried in corporals. For some reason (I think to do with the way in which we used to say mass with the paten under the corporal) I was under the impression that it was carried on patens, and so anticipated seeing the word here.

In any event, yet another error to chalk up on my syllabus.

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Ps-Ignatius, Eudoxius and the Apostolic constitutions

Although I should perhaps be better employed during Holy Week I was able to attend the Kings London patristic seminar yesterday to hear Allen Brent on ps-Ignatius.

Brent argued that ps-Ignatius was what might roughly be called an anomoian, and in particular a disciple of Eudoxius, in Constantinople from 360, but previously in Antioch. This in turn, in an Antiochene setting, would point to Euzoius or one of his circle as the forger.

Brent’s fundamental evidence is a fragment of Eudoxius found in F. Diekamp, Doctrina patrum de incarnatione Verbi: ein griechisches Florilegium aus der Wende des 7 und 8 Jahrhunderts (2nd ed; Münster: Aschendorff, 1981), 64-5: We believe in one only true God and Father, the only first principle unbegotten and without a father, not worshipped because by nature no-one worships the completely transcendent, and in one Lord Jesus Christ the Son, able to be worshipped because he worships rightly the Father, and on the one hand only begotten because he s greater than all creation that came after him, and on the other hand, first-born because of his most excellent and placed first of all in the created order, made flesh not made human, for he did not assume a human soul, but he became flesh in order that through flesh he might communicate as divine through a veil to us humans…

Whereas we can see the points of contact with ps-Ignatius, particularly in the statements regarding the lack of a human soul (and cf. ps-Ignatius Philippians 9.4 for the matter of communicating pathē), as I have already noted, this is simply an outworking of a conventional position in Antiochene christology. Brent’s suggestion that Ignatius was chosen simply as a fundamentally orthodox figure likewise does not convince me. It might be possible to align the forger’s statement regarding being a man set on unity (derived partially from the authentic Ignatius) with a Eudoxian agendum of creating a single imperial church, but against this must be set ps-Ignatius Philadelphians 4. In other words, I see no reason to revise my opinion that the forger is derived from Meletian circles.

However, if Brent is indeed right, that would align ps-Ignatius more closely with the Apostolic constitutions. And yet Brent shares my opinion that the parallels are derived not from identity of authorship but a common exegetical tradition.

The puzzle continues to be as baffling as ever.

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Getting wet in 3rd-4th century Syria

Recently posted to, an essay by Annette Yoshiko Reed entitled “Parting Ways over Blood and Water? Beyond ‘Judaism’ and ‘Christianity’ in the Roman Near East”, another piece along the lines of “the ways that never parted.”

I will not, here and now in any event, expatiate on the fundamental thesis, but note that there is some consideration of the Didascalia within this essay, in particular the issue regarding ritual washing. The essay rams home the manner in which the rabbis and the Didascalist redactors inhabit parallel (and possibly overlapping) intellectual worlds within the same physical space. In particular I note the comment in Tos Ketuboth 7.6 expanding a comment in M Ketuboth 7.6 regarding wives who are put away without their ketubah. Already the Mishnah notes a woman who speaks with a man in the street (cf. DA 1.8.26) and to the Mishnaic categories the Tosefta adds “who washes and bathes in the public baths with just anyone” (cf. DA 1.9).

Beyond quotidian bathing, and turning to the more central (for one redactor of DA at least) issue of ritual bathing, Reed states: “Although typically read in terms of a Christian rejection of Jewish ritualism or legalism, the concern for repeated washing is also paralleled among some Rabbis of their time”, citing Tos Yadayim 2.20. I cannot see how such a conclusion is derived from this text, but note it nonetheless as indicating a debate within Jewish circles, even as DA indicates a similar debate within its own Christian grouping.

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Vaucher on Draper on children and slaves in the Didache

Daniel Vaucher submits the following reaction to J.A.Draper, “Children and Slaves in the Community of the Didache and the Two Ways Tradition” in J. A. Draper and C. N. Jefford (eds.), The Didache: A Missing Piece of the Puzzle in Early Christianity (Atlanta: SBL, 2015), 85-121.

Jonathan Draper contextualizes the Haustafel in Did 4.9-11 with its exhortation to slaves to obey their masters, with the inherent contradiction, that the TWT actually asks for community of goods (Did. 4.5-8). I agree with his warning, (p. 91), “that the generalized reciprocity and egalitarian economic system developed within this early Christian community should not be romanticized”, because community of goods and slavery is an “internal contradiction”. He goes on to state (p. 96 f.) that the rules would have severe consequences if applied rigorously in a Christian Jewish community. “The first and foremost consequence of renouncing ownership of one’s property would be the disinheritance of one’s children and the manumission of any slaves one owned.”

Shortly analyzing the admonition to slaveowners that they mustn’t command their slaves in bitterness, he concludes (p. 102 f.) that “this is an uneasy compromise to be sure, but it is directed in my opinion towards keeping the ideal of general reciprocity in place.”

But I’m sceptic whether the author of the Didache really envisaged a community of goods (or egalitarian community). In my opinion, what is said about the “hohe Widerspruchstoleranz” of the CA might also account for the Didache, because it is a collection of different traditions: the admonition to slaves has a long history (pagan, Jewish and Christian) and it’s certainly not something the author came up with himself. I don’t think we can ever compare the two notions of “sharing all you have with your brothers” and “slaves, obey!” Draper is right in my opinion in pointing at the difficulty that the two chapters pose, but I don’t agree with his solution.

In my opinion, neither Didache nor any other Christian source I know really asks for community of goods, but they use the well-known topos to ask for more consequent almsgiving and charity. Compare 1 Tim, Clement quis dives and Cyprian de opere eleem.

Luke’s depiction of the community in Jerusalem as sharing everything they have is certainly idealized the same way. Community of goods (and having no slaves!) was projected onto the Golden Age, a long lost time with equality and justice. Luke’s story of the Jerusalem community actually relates to this Golden Age of Christianity, but at a time, when it’s already gone. Property and slave-owning has become normal even for the Christian communities.

Maybe there was a community of goods in an Essene circle. Interestingly, Philo’s description of the Essenes, and to some extent Josephus’ also, again relates the community (and having no slaves) to equality and justice, and therefore, idealizes it in the context of the Golden Age.

I can’t tell whether the TWT originates from the Essenes, as I’m no expert. But in my opinion it’s for sure that the Qumran documents have more severe rules to give in all property upon the entry into the community, whereas the Didache does not. Why not? If the author wanted to realize a community of goods, or at least “general reciprocity”, he could have asked for it much more forcefully. But the following admonition to slaves points more in the direction, that he accepts the patriarchal structures of his community. He – as many other Christian writers – simply uses the ideal of a community of goods to encourage charity.

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Daniel Vaucher on controlling bishops

Some further thoughts from Daniel Vaucher, picking up on our earlier discussion. I simply quote them, with very light editing. My lack of comment is probably eloquent.

We had the issue with the martyrs and confessors, on which I just have one more general thought. In regards to TA, you mention a fundamental conflict between patron/presbyters and the episcopos. I fully agree with this. In Cyprian’s Africa, confessors challenge the episcopate, especially in terms of penitence and giving the absolution. In Letters 38-40 Cyprian ordains such confessors into the clergy. Do you think that this is an attempt to bring them under the episcopal control? A similar case is found in the Didascalia (and similar again 1 Tim), where widows (or women in general?) appear to have exercised a certain influence. In regulating the “office” of widows, the bishops might get a firmer control on these independent women.

This is just a thought, though, and not something I really know well, honestly. but it led me to the next issue, the reception of TA §9 in CA and CanHipp. You wonder whether there were really any confessors in late 4th century Antioch, and I agree with you that this is kind of a bizarre instruction in this context. although persecutions continued occasionally, as under Julian or then in 5th century Persia, I don’t think that this was ever an issue for CA. but I have Eva Synek (Oikos, 1999) in mind who pointed out that the compilation never aimed at clearing the internal contradictions (“hohe Widerspruchstoleranz”), as all the other compilations in the East never did. This of course leads to the question, if and to what extent the compilations can ever be used in extracting information about 4th century social practices.

And I came across your post on the CanHipp and our finding that they might have aimed at organizing the ascetics… “there was a concerted effort by the wider fourth century Egyptian church to harness and organize the ascetics”. As early as 1910 Eduard Schwartz already pointed out, that the “enemy” behind the pseudapostolic CA was monasticism (which was, if I’m not mistaken, confirmed by Eva Synek). So we might open our focus and envisage also Antioch and Syria to be in a certain conflict between church and monasticism (basically see Vööbus), to which the CA bear witness.

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The Arabic Didascalia

Some recent posts have moved some to ask me further about the Arabic Didascalia.

There are two recensions.

The first corresponds to Constitutiones apostolorum 1-6, with some omissions and re-arrangements. In addition it has a preface and six additional chapters. This preface is that which also appears in the E recension of the Syrian Didascalia.

The opening of this recension was given by Thomas Pell Platt (The Ethiopic Didascalia; or, the Ethiopic version of the Apostolical constitutions, received in the church of Abyssinia. With an English translation (London: R. Bentley, 1834) from one of two MSS in London. Platt further gives an account of a controversy between Whiston and Grabe in the early eighteenth century, which led to Grabe’s examination of two Arabic MSS at Oxford. (Platt, Ethiopic Didascalia, ii-viii.) Grabe gave a description of the contents of these without any publication,seeing the versional aspects of these MSS as simply corruption of the Greek.

As far as I can see the next published treatment of this material is that of Funk, who lists eight MSS for the Arabic Didascalia, giving a description of the contents, and a German translation of the preface and the additional chapters. (F.X. Funk, Die apostolischen Konstitutionen: eine litterar–historische Untersuchung (Rottenburg: Wilhelm Bader, 1891), 215-242. Two of these, in London, are mentioned by Platt, Ethiopic Didascalia, xi. The former is in Karshuni script, the latter was the source of his printing of the opening.) A Latin version of this material, with extensive annotation, is to be found in Funk’s Didascalia et constitutiones apostolorum (Paderborn: Schoeningh, 1905), 120-136. The reason for stressing that this was published is that Wilhelm Riedel, Die Kirchenrechtsquellen des Patriarchats Alexandrien (Leipzig: Deichert, 1900), 164-165, reports that Lagarde had studied the Parisian MSS and made a collation, but that this was never published! (According to Riedel this MS may be found as Lagarde 107 in the University Library at Göttingen.)

The other recension, discovered by Baumstark, is close to Constitutiones apostolorum in books 1-6, also contains most of book 7, does not include the additional chapters but does include the preface. The colophon states that this version was translated from Coptic in the thirteenth century. As such it is less a witness to the Arabic Didascalia as to a lost Coptic Didascalia. (See Anton Baumstark, “Die Urgestalt der ‘arabischen Didaskalia der Apostel’” Oriens Christianus 3 (1903), 201-208.)

Lagarde had opined that the Ethiopic version was a translation of the Arabic (my source for this being Riedel’s brief report.) Given that this is likewise unpublished, though edited and translated into English (by J.M. Harden, The Ethiopic Didascalia (London: SPCK, 1920)), it does seem extraordinary that no effort appears to have been made since that of Lagarde to study and to bring this material to light.

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