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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The stinoufi prayer of the Coptic Didache

Posted ages ago on sarum.academia.edu/AlistairStewart; my article on the stinoufi prayer published originally as “The Word and the sweet scent: a re-reading of the stinoufi  prayer in the Coptic Didache” Anaphora 1 (2007), 53-64. How did I forget to blog?

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Making a mess of martyrs and the mass

I have just found Maxwell E. Johnson, “Martyrs and the mass: the interpolation of the narrative of institution into the anaphora” Worship 87 (2013), 2-22.

Johnson argues, principally on the basis of the prayer of Polycarp at his martyrdom, that the interpolation of an institution narrative in the anaphora resulted from martyrological prayer. The received answer that the inclusion of the narrative is catechetical in origin is accepted, and the point argued is that this catechesis, in the fourth century (the date to which Johnson would assign the interpolation of the institution narrative, including into the Apostolic tradition, a connection which gives me an excuse to blog this private rant here) was necessary to remind those for whom martyrdom was never a real experience of the sacrifice of Christ. “What better way to strongly emphasize and make clear [and to split infinitives ACS] this connection than to have the very words of Christ within the central prayer of the Eucharist itself?”(p. 19) Actually there are quite a few better ways, particularly since, in the fourth century, the martyria are themselves becoming the location of shrines, and we are soon into the period of the translation of relics.

I do not have the patience to deliver a full critique at this point. Sufficient to say that Johnson’s statement that the prayer of Polycarp at his martyrdom reflected a regular third-century Eucharistic prayer is to confuse the diverse roots of Eucharistic praying, and moreover to confuse distinct species of Eucharistic meal, one of which seeks communion with Christ through communion with a martyr, the other of which seeks direct communion with Christ. There is no doubt that there is some martyrological influence in the emergence of the eucharist in the third/fourth century, but it is not to be located in the inclusion of the institution narrative within the anaphora, and especially not conveyed through catechesis.

I have already dealt with much of this material in my contribution to Frances Young’s Festschrift and in my edition of Vita Polycarpi. I argue in the first for the inclusion of an institution narrative in the original stratum of the episcopal Eucharistic prayer of Traditio apostolica and treat the Eucharistic prayer of Polycarp in the latter. Johnson does not make reference to either. Of course, he is far too important to bother with the work of a poore parson of a town, but had he done so he might have been saved from some methodological clangers.

The last time I got seriously peeved by Johnson, the result was published in Questions liturgiques. If I get time I will see if I can knock out a more coherent and reasoned response fit for more conventional publication.

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