The disappearing deaconess

A comment on the post below about the disappearing deacon has led me to read Brian Patrick Mitchell, The disappearing deaconess (Alexandra VA: Eremia, 2021).

Although there is some historical material here (some of which is outside the period of my competence), the book is also a contribution to the ongoing debate in Orthodox circles about the restoration of a female diaconate. As a matter of policy I never comment on internal issues relating to another part of Christ’s vineyard (DA1) which restricts me somewhat. Beyond that, Mitchell’s book is largely a work of theology, a field in which I can claim a complete lack of distinction.

I therefore limit myself to a few observations on the first chapter, which is concerned with history. Two points emerge from my reading.

The first is that Mitchell states that the first evidence for female deacons is found in Didascalia apostolorum which derives, he says, from the third century (“around 230”, p11). Sadly he appears to have overlooked more recent work on the Didascalia, which tends to date it somewhat later. As such we cannot be so sure that this is the first evidence. With due recognition of the uncertainties of interpretation of the 19th canon of Nicaea, I still often think that this is the first certain evidence of such an order. However, Mitchell believes that the female diaconate was a new institution in the church of the fourth century. Here I agree, and suggest that a later dating for the Didascalia material might strengthen his case.

My second major observation is that the attempt to deny any female diaconate or office in the first century or so of Christ-confession (pp5-10) misses the mark. In Original bishops I suggest that there may well have been female episkopoi and diakonoi in the first century, but that female leadership rapidly disappears with the re-institutionalization of the church as associational (whilst clinging on in separated communities). To accept this would do no harm to Mitchell’s thesis since, as he states in his preface, “History is not tradition. History becomes tradition only when it is handed down.” (pxi)

The book is a light reworking of a dissertation dating from 2017; it thus inevitable that the treatment of deaconesses in Testamentum Domini does not deal with my own (2020) contribution, though what it has to say (pp16-17) is largely fair. He notes Martimort’s suggestion that the Testamentum knew only of deaconesses from his sources (unlikely I think) and also suggests that there is a reaction against the presence of deaconesses. I don’t think either is correct; I think the Testamentum is just puzzled at this new order and doesn’t really know what to do with them!

I hope that the author and his readers and supporters will take these comments in the constructive spirit with which they are offered.

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A subdeacon’s sex-change

Carolyn Osiek, and Kevin Madigan, Ordained women in the early church: a documentary history (Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011), 70, note an inscription dedicated to “Alexandra, subdeacon.” They comment: “The office of subdeacon is known for men, but is otherwise unknown for women.” This intrigued me sufficiently to check the reference, which is given as BE (1963): 152. Sure enough the name of the subdeacon is given there as “Alexandra”. However, a full reference is given to Georgi Mihailov, “Epigraphica”, Bulletin de l’Institut archéologique bulgare 25 (1962), 205-209, here at 208-209. There Mihailov reads ὑποδιακάνον Ἀλέξαν[δ]ρος. Jeanne and Louis Robert in BE appear to have subjected him to gender re-assignment!

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Euodia and Syntyche again

Richard Fellows draws our attention to an article on Euodia and Syntyche in significant agreement with ours.
I think that wraps that particular matter up nicely! Mind you, we got there first!!!*

*(Actually James C. Watts, “Did Euodia and Syntyche Quarrel?” Methodist New Connexion Magazine and Evangelical Repository 61/3 (1893), 24–29, got there first but his contribution was totally forgotten until Dr Stewart turned it up in the British Library!)

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Krankenpflege and the ministry of deaconesses in the Didascalia

A correspondence with Esko Ryökäs has emerged from the diakonia webinar, which may be of more general interest. It is presented here as a dialogue:

ER: On 9th December, we discussed “taking care of the sick in Didascalia 3,12: “You too have need of the ministry of a deaconess in many things, so that they may go into the homes of pagans, where you may not go, where there are believing women, that they may minister as necessary to those who are sick and bathe those beginning to recover from sickness.”. I think there is the verb ܫܡܫ in the Syriac text. Do you believe that “sitting by” is a possible translation? “Krankenpflege” is possible, but it has a particular meaning in our languages.

ACS: It’s an interesting passage. First up we are certainly talking about the sick (infirmes, ܠܐܝܠܢ).
Latin (an ancient translation) simply has ministrent, which is surely derived from a διακ-·stem in Greek. I have a high opinion of this Latin version, as in general it is extremely literal, and when it is clearly mistaken it is usually possible to see what the error was; for this reason, where possible, I always use this as my base version in reconstructing the lost Greek originals which it renders. Syriac rather confuses the matter by doubling up the statement, “visiting” the sick (a word with the root ܣܥܪ which I would tend to translate with stems from ἐπισκοπ-… this is the word used in Peshitta Luke 1:68 to render ἐπεσκέψατο) and then to minister (ܡܫܡܫܐ) (διακ-) to those in need. I thus think that Krankenpflege is quite a good translation here. I do not think “sitting by” does the word(s) justice. We have episkopē and diakonia. Probably the Greek had a διακ- verb.
Also note the interesting textual variant in some Syriac MSS which have her “anoint”, rather than wash, those who are recovering.

ER: This with anointing is very interesting. It is very logical, too. This could mean that some deaconesses did anointing, which (later, of course) was understood as an mysterion/sacrament.

ACS: And note that this variant reading is found only in MSS of a much later recension of the Didascalia.

ER: I will have to think more about Krankenpflege I am writing on this, and have to be clear about the direction of my argument. What do we know about Krankenpflege in Syriac area during those years (2nd-4th c.). At least they don’t have any vaccinations. Or did they?

ACS: The Didascalia itself describes a number of medical treatments… none of them alas vaccination.
As to what we know of Krankenpflege in the area and period of the production of DA… what can we know unless we know a) the area and b) the period at which this part was produced! I am fairly sure that this is one of the later layers, and would date it to a period around Nicaea. I am also fairly sure that it derives from a more easterly and bilingual area of Syria. Cappadocia and Antioch had organized Krankenpflege, or at least poor relief to which the care of the sick was allied, and the widows in Apostolic church order are charged with this… there’s a lot about this in my book on the Canons of Hippolytus… but further east there seems to be little. Note the story at Sozomen HE 3.16 when Ephrem has to sort out poor relief in Edessa as there is nobody else who can be trusted… and the Krankenpflege ceases when the plague is over.

ER: The role of deaconesses in comparison with that of widows gives rise to a question. Pauliina Pylvänäinen’s book about deaconesses has the title: Agents in Liturgy, Charity and Communication. Could it be that deaconesses were more for liturgy/common celebrations – and the widows more for taking care? This is one of the questions I have in editing our books. I don’t have an answer, mostly due the fact that in our book we analyse only the one side. What did widows do in those texts?

ACS: In my book on the Didascalia I argue that deaconesses were instituted to bring ministering women under episcopal control… thus replacing the widows and taking over their historic functions. In my essay on deaconesses in the Testamentum Domini I see more of this. Wendy Mayer (Chrysostom expert) agrees with me that the same was true of Chrysostom’s ordination of female deacons.

ER: I think this could be another way of saying what I did. Also perhaps the tasks were more of a liturgical character. It could be some other, too. But perhaps those for the common meeting was more important.

ACS: Or more prominent in the contemporary literature because more obvious. If people are asked what I do they will talk about liturgy and preaching, but not about editing church magazines, checking accounts, chairing meetings…
So to come back to Krankenpflege, all in all the passage is a bit of a mystery! Woman deacons are doing a job that is otherwise not mentioned of male deacons… although the bishop in Traditio apostolica visits the sick I would not call it Krankenpflege.

ER: The logic of Krankenpflege was not at all so technical as we have it. It is not easy to read the old texts; you use your own time as a reference without knowing it.

ACS: With this I must agree.

Post script on 22nd January 2022
Thinking further about this passage it dawned on me that the reference to the female deacons washing might mean that they washed the bodies of the women when they died. It brought to mind Lampadia washing the body of Macrina (Vita Macrinae in PG 46 988-90). I ran this past Esko who replied that he had asked Serafim Seppälä, according to whom, in Greek culture, it was an everyday praxis that women washed the bodies of the dead. This seems to me to be what the text means.

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Getting into hot water with Anton Baumstark

Borg. Ar. 22, one of the manuscripts containing the Arabic Testamentum Domini, has a liturgical appendix with material related to, but distinct from, parallel material in Testamentum Domini. Some of this was published by Baumstark in “Eine aegyptische Mess- und Taufliturgie vermutlich des 6 Jahrhunderts” Oriens christianus 1 (1901) p. 1-45. I had a note from a colleague querying Baumstark’s rendition of بحميم الميلاد الثانى in one of the prayers after baptism, as “per aquam calidam regenerationis.” The question was whether I could make any sense of it; where, indeed, did Baumstark find the aqua?

My first look was to see what the word was in the Testamentum Domini. Although this isn’t straight Testamentum there is a comparable prayer there, where the word is ܣܚܬܐ. That is straightforward. But this passage is derived from from Traditio apostolica. The Latin here is lauacrum regenerationis, with an apparent reference to Titus 3:5, and so in keeping with the Syriac of Testamentum Domini.

The Sahidic of this section of Traditio apostolica is not extant and the Bohairic rather free but the Arabic is للحمي الى للولدة الثانية (Horner, Statutes of the apostles, 101), thus using the same root. So I went to check the dictionaries, going first to Wehr, to find on p203 حم with form 10 as “take a bath”. And so to Lane, who has this form 10, but also the noun حمة meaning a hot spring. I can only think that the root came to refer to a bath through metonymy, though the usage here is otherwise unattested. If this is the case the meaning is straightforward and entirely in keeping with the original, and although Baumstark’s translation is rather forced we can see where he got the water from!

However, beyond the minutia of this single word, the correspondence reminds me of how fascinating this liturgical appendix is as witness to the Egyptian Nachleben of the liturgies of Testamentum Domini.

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The baptismal rite in the Ethiopic versions of Traditio apostolica

One baffling aspect of the mediaeval Ethiopic version of Traditio apostolica is the presence of an additional baptismal rite, apart from a version of that found in other versions of Traditio apostolica (ed. Hugo Duensing, Der Äthiopische Text der Kirchenordnung des Hippolyt (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1946), 81-127.)

Alessandro Bausi, “The baptismal ritual in the earliest Ethiopic canonical liturgical collection” in Heinzgerd Brakmann et al (ed), Neugeboren aus Wasser und Heiligem Geist”: Kölner Kolloquium zur Initiatio Christiana (Münster: Aschendorff, 2020), 31-83 has now published a version of a clearly closely related baptismal ritual from the Axumite collection from which he derived the new text of Traditio apostolica. I have yet to explore it in detail, but since I have at present, as a result of the ongoing discussion with Maxwell Johnson about the interrogation in the Egyptian rite, a particular interest in the introduction of the syntaxis into Egyptian baptismal rites (generally suggested to have taken place in the fourth century on the basis of the appearance of such a syntaxis in Canones Hippolyti, evidence which has now disappeared with the denial of an Egyptian provenance to this document) and in the role and presence of the five-membered creed found in the Deir Balizeh papyrus and elsewhere (including Epistula apostolorum) as part of my overall argument that declaratory creeds are no less primitive than interrogatory creeds (though the language is misleading), I took a particular interest in the baptismal confession found in the Axumite ordo.

Essentially this baptismal confession is the same as that found in the present Coptic rite, namely the declaration of the five-membered creed, followed by a brief interrogation: “Do you believe?” “I believe” repeated three times. What is notable, however, is the absence of any syntaxis. This implies a rather later entrée of the syntaxis into Egyptian rites (it is, for instance, present in the current Coptic rite) than previously thought.

Turning to the version in the mediaeval Ethiopic of Traditio apostolica we find that the same baptismal profession that is in the Axumite rite, as in the present Coptic rite, in in place, namely the prompted repetition of the five-membered creed and the repeated question “Do you believe?” (though are very slight variations between the Axumite version and the mediaeval version.) This later rite, however, has a syntaxis. This syntaxis, however, is none other than, yet again, the same five-membered creed, which is thus repeated twice in the ritual! In the version of the rite of Traditio apostolica within this text the same, expanded, version of the five-membered creed as found in the Coptic version of the Traditio is found, albeit partly conformed to the interrogatory shape of the original. But given that the version in the second ritual lacks the expansions this can hardly be put down to the influence of Traditio apostolica. I think there may be more to say about this… but consider that after writing a 138 word sentence that that’s enough for now.

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More shameless self-aggrandizement

Sydney College of Divinity have now got around to posting the details of my two most recent books, the re-edition of Apostolic church order and my version with introduction of Canons of Hippolytus. The titles will bring up the link… with the opportunity to buy a copy!
I’m particularly excited about Canons of Hippolytus; reading recently on Egyptian liturgy I see how often these are cited as evidence. However, I believe that I have shown that the Canons are not Egyptian but, in agreement with Georg Kretschmar (who made the suggestion in passing but did not argue it), that they are more likely Cappadocian, or perhaps Antiochene. Interestingly I reached this conclusion independently, having forgotten that Kretschmar had suggested it.
If I am right, then this has fairly far-reaching consequences both for the study of Egyptian liturgy and of Cappadocian liturgy. Of course, I may be wrong… I have been wrong before, notably in dating Apostolic church order to the third century (being misled as the sources are all from that period or before) and hence being glad of the re-issue and the opportunity to correct myself (whilst staying relatively muted on the subject!) As to the Canons, I suppose I just have to wait for critical reaction.

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Understanding diakonia: a webinar

From Esko Ryökäs, at Joensuu… and no need to pack snowshoes as it’s all online, on 8th and 9th December!

More information here, together with a registration form.

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The interrogation in Egyptian baptismal rites

In response to my article The early Alexandrian baptismal creed: declaratory, interrogatory… or both?” Questions liturgiques 95 (2014), 237-253 (which came out in 2015(!)), questioning whether Egypt had ever known an “interrogatory” baptismal rite, Maxwell Johnson has responded, defending his position, in “Interrogatory creedal formulae in early Egyptian baptismal rites: a reassessment of the evidence” Questions liturgiques 101 (2021), 75-93. I have now drafted a response to his response which, I think, brings some valuable new considerations into play. It may be that I will have to revise my original position slightly, but if this new evidence is as significant as I think it is then the position to which I originally took exception, namely that the original form of baptismal profession in Egypt was an interrogation like that found in Traditio apostolica, is completely excluded,

I also think that the issues explored go beyond the narrow concern of the Egyptian baptismal rite, as it raises the whole question of the priority of “interrogatory” creeds over “declaratory” credal statements.

There is a definite church order aspect to this, as the discussion involves a consideration of the baptismal interrogations in Canones Hippolyti and the Sahidic version of Traditio apostolica.

I knocked the response in a couple of days (nights actually). Because it was written in haste and heat I let myself off and, whilst cooling off, had posted the draft to as a discussion paper, in the hope of guidance and correction from those equipped to guide and correct.

Three weeks later: The discussion ended with no comment from anyone. From this I conclude that nobody is that bothered. However, I have made some revisions, removed the academia discussion, and sent it off anyway… we await the result of peer review.

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Saint Paul and the two ways

I am pleased to announce the publication of my article “St Paul and the two ways: Romans 12-13 and pre-baptismal catechesis” Bulletin of the St Philaret Institute 39 (2021), 12-31, alongside some other interesting-looking articles. The journal is open access. Note that the Russian translation (!) appears first. The home page is in Russian… and Google translate turns me into an abbot!

The abstract:

This article suggests that the paraenetic material in Romans 12-13 in being introduced with a reference to baptism and concluding with an eschatological exhortation, again referring to baptism, is deliberately intended to reflect a pre-baptismal catechesis, rather than, as frequently supposed, a synoptic source or Jesus-tradition. Significant parallels with the Didache, and other parts of the two-ways tradition, are observed. This leads to the further observation that the context of this catechesis is shaped in a specifically Jewish context, being reflected in Pliny’s report of Christian activities and in the Elchesite baptismal ritual. Paul is employing a recognizably Jewish form of catechesis here in order to commend his teaching to a primarily Jewish audience. Gentile baptism, however, required a distinct renunciation, and in time a doctrinal element was added to the catechetical programme.

This was actually started as long ago as 2008, in a presentation given at that famous seat of learning, Cuddesdon. They did not appreciate it. I had pulled if off the back burner several times, but only when I pulled it off again late last year, on receiving a request for an article on catechesis from SFI, did I realize that the reason I had made no progress was that I was using the material to try to answer the question of the extent of Paul’s knowledge of Jesus-logia; although the argument tends to indicate that he had none, it is not a slam-dunk, and the question is in any case not the most interesting one. What is interesting is Paul’s knowledge of the catechetical tradition represented by, inter alia, the Didache.

This announcement is filed under e-rrata, as there are two errors of omission.

One comes about because of the passage of time. Namely, although I read Seeberg Der Katechismus der Urchristenheit ages ago, when I was preparing for my trip to Cuddesdon, I really should have re-read it. Had I done so I would have remembered Romans 6:17, χάρις δὲ τῷ θεῷ ὅτι ἦτε δοῦλοι τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὑπηκούσατε δὲ ἐκ καρδίας εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε τύπον διδαχῆς, which strikes me as really clinching the argument. The τύπος διδαχῆς is surely the two ways.

The other omission is reference to Benjamin A. Edsall, The reception of Paul and early Christian initiation: history and hermeneutics (Cambridge: CUP, 2019). Edsall does not have a lot of time for Carrington and Selwyn who were, alongside Seeberg, the fontes et origines for my thinking here. My excuse here is that I only came across this work after the article was translated and typeset.

In his introductory chapter Edsall suggests that the formal catechumenate was not known in the first or early second centuries. Insofar as it may refer to a formal period of liminal existence with fixed rituals this amounts to a statement of the obvious. Insofar as it may refer to instruction prior to baptism, then the Didache rather tends to contradict Edsall here. To get away from this, Edsall suggests that the two ways material in Didache 1-6 is rather loosely connected to the baptismal rite: “’these things’ need not be restricted to literary reference points and may refer rather to pre-baptismal declarations by the priest and believer (note the plural προειπόντες) rather than to Didache 1– 6.” (p27). There is more, however, to connect the two ways material and the baptismal rite than simply the phrase at Did. 7.1; thus we may note the echoes of the two ways in the report of catechumenate and baptism given to Pliny (Ep. 10.96.7) and the similar echoes in the baptismal rite of the Elchesites (Hippolytus Ref. 9.15.6.) προειπόντες (the plural is noted, though we should also note βαπτίσατε) certainly does refer to pre-baptismal declarations by the baptizer (not a priest, surely!) and possibly the candidate… but these declarations are constituted by the two ways (ταῦτα πάντα). Actually that insight could become another article… remember you read it here first!

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Tout en commun?

Last week saw another excellent Zoom seminar from Tilburg presented by Jonathan Cornillon (Sorbonne) based on his book Tout en commun? La vie économique de Jésus et des premières générations chrétiennes (Cerf Patrimoines, 2020) with responses from Bart Koet and Paul van Geest. The Didache gets a look-in, which is justification enough to post the details here.

This can be watched here, where there is more interesting stuff.


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The continued use of church orders in non-Chalcedonian churches

Somewhere in his oevre Paul Bradshaw reflects on the question of why the church orders disappear from use within Chalcedonian churches, whereas in non-Chalcedonian circles they continue to be preserved and reworked.

Writing an encyclopaedia article on canons of church councils (and wishing I’d never accepted the commission) I came across David Heith-Stade, “Marriage in the canons of the council in Trullo” Studia Theologica 64 (2010), 4-21. Heath-Stade, at 18-19, points out that by this point in the seventh century large amounts of Byzantine territory had fallen into Islamic hands, so there was a particular need for a legal framework within which Christians under Islamic rule might operate, since the common law of the Empire might no longer apply. Obviously the Chalcedonian churches are outwith the jurisdiction of these councils; which leads me to wonder whether the reason for the preservation and continued reworking of the church orders in the non-Chalcedonian churches is the same as that suggested for the Quinisext by Heath-Stade, namely to continue to provide a basis for ecclesiastical governance within a civil Islamic framework.

Just a thought…

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O frabjous day!

The publisher informs me that the second edition of my Apostolic church order has been published. Herewith the blurb:

The Apostolic Church Order is the name most commonly given to a pseudonymous document claiming to be the work of the apostles, found in most canonical collections, which sets out the manner in which a church should be organized.

Although this church-order was much studied in the nineteenth century the twentieth century saw it neglected, its light eclipsed by that of the Didache. In 2006 the present author published an entirely new Greek text, the first to take full account of ancient Syriac and Latin versions accompanied by the first translation of the entire document into a modern language. This edition rapidly went out of print. The text and translation are now republished with some minor revisions and with a revised introduction.

Whereas the author previously suggested that the work was ante-Nicene, he has reconsidered the matter, and now suggests that the work is probably from the fourth century, but that the redactor has employed much earlier sources in compiling this church order. A renewed argument for a Cappadocian provenance is offered. The document is of historical interest particularly because of the light which it sheds on the development of church order and most especially on the role of women in the ministries of early Christian communities. This church order is a polemical discourse employing apostolic precept to downgrade the role and influence of women in the church’s ministry, subordinating female ministers to a male presbyterate.

However, the day is particularly frabjous (Callooh! Callay!) as in the same note they inform me that my version, with text and introduction, of the Canons of Hippolytus is also published.

Again the blurb:

The Canons of Hippolytus is a church order derived from Traditio apostolica, though incorporating major expansions of the original; although composed in Greek, it survives only in Arabic, itself a translation from a Coptic version of the Greek. Beyond directing the conduct of ordinations, initiation, and ritual meals, the text gives instructions for the conduct of Christians and Christian clergy, with a particular concern with the direction of ascetics as well as discussing the provision of a place of hospitality.

Here a fresh English version is presented with annotation explaining the peculiarities of transmission and translation for those unequipped with Arabic. This is accompanied by a facing Arabic text for the benefit of those with some knowledge of the language.

The text and notes are prefaced by an extensive introduction; of particular significance in the introduction is the re-examination of the date and provenance of the document. Whereas it has for centuries been assumed to have originated in Egypt, extensive evidence for a Cappadocian or Antiochene origin is presented. This leads to a major re-assessment of the value of the document for the liturgical historian, for the historian of asceticism in the fourth century, and for the social historian.

I cannot link to the publisher’s site as they have frumiously neglected to put the works on there… but I have checked and they are both available from a well-known online bookstore. Search by my name and the titles as given here. The prices given indicate that they are relatively brillig (and not Brillish).

I await my comps… though not too beamishly. There will be errors. I spotted a minor typographical error (“where” for “whether” on p 54 of the proofs of the Canons, the day after the work went to the printer) and the discussion of the baptismal formula is already out of date as I have been working further on this topic. However, hopefully the cause of science is advanced, and I may have a brief chortle among the mimsy borogoves.


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Ein Esel schimpft den anderen Langohr

OUP has recently sent an email warning us of predatory journals. Since JTS charges $4000 for making a publication open access the warning is timely indeed.

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Presbyters in Papias

…and so, virtually, to Melbourne, where I had the pleasure of attending the Biblical and early Christian seminar of the ACU to respond to Stephen Carlson on “Presbyters in Papias”… what’s not to like?

Stephen argued that the term in Papias denotes a channel of tradition. I could not disagree; in response I suggested that this mirrors forming Jewish usage. Although the main evidence for this is later (M Erub. 3.4; M Aboth 1.1), we may note Mark 7:3 and par. as indication that this usage was ancient. In this context we might not overlook the significant presence of Jews in Hierapolis. Papias receives from the elders the traditions about Jesus.

Although I doubt that the Christian use of the term for an office has anything to do with Judaism, this usage is different. And so I revise, or at least qualify slightly, the opinion in Original Bishops that presbyteros has no Jewish heritage. It does not when we speak of the presbyters within communities, but perhaps does so when the bishops of individual churches, gathering together in part as agents of tradition, refer to themselves as the presbyteroi of a particular place. Paul Bradshaw had already pointed out to me the usage at Exodus 24:1 (LXX) and Numbers 11:16–17 (LXX); this usage is thus consistent.

The essay will appear in a book on presbyters to be published in WUNT and edited by Bart Koet. We look forward to this.

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More on James and the church orders

In continuing to preach through James, and today discussing speech acts (in debt in particular to J.L. Austin) in the context of James 3, I recollected reading Dale C. Allison, “A liturgical tradition behind the ending of James” JSNT 34 (2011), 3-18.

Allison, with reference to James 5:13-20, suggests that a “very primitive church order” lies behind this part of James. Quite what he envisages a church order to be is less clear; though he does have some reference to prayers in Testamentum Domini, and to Constitutiones apostolorum and to some material the Didascalia, he also cites a number of other early Christian texts, including Polycarp and I Clement, in support of his case.

I think I would say that rather than being influenced by a church order, the epistle and the church orders draw on the same fund of catechetical material.

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James and Paul on faith and works

Apart from all the Bach, one of the joys of having a German organist of Lutheran background, as I do at one of my churches, is the opportunity to bait him regarding the erroneous Lutheran reading of Paul.

Readings from James as the epistle over the last and next few Sundays are an absolute gift in this regard! However, arguing in my homilies during these weeks, as I did at a conference in Tilburg many years ago, that the epistle represents the content of baptismal catechesis (a position of which I am more convinced than ever) it dawned on me today that the supposed contrast between faith and works in 2:14-17 is completely unrelated to the Pauline discussion with the works of the law in Jewish circles, but is basically and simply saying that those who claim to have faith in Christ should act in accordance with that faith. Was Paul even that important in Jewish-Christian circles in the period prior to the Bar Kosiba revolt that anyone would want to take issue with him?

It is much the same content as the, likewise catechetically originating, Matthew 7. Or Canones Hippolyti 37, certainly reflective of catechesis: “Thus somebody who says ‘I have been baptized and received the Body of the Lord’ and feels comfortable, and says ‘I am a Christian’, yet is a lover of selfish desires and is not conformed to the commandments of Christ, is like somebody who goes into a bath covered in dirt, and leaves without rubbing himself, since he did not receive the burning of the Spirit.”

We may finally note in this respect Athenagoras Legatio 11.4, stating that Christians manifest their teaching less by word than by deed. In this part of the Legatio Athenagoras is speaking of the contents of catechesis.

Quite probably the lack of connection between James’ teaching on faith and works and that of Paul has been argued previously (and if any passing Neutestamentler can give me any references to such an argument I would be grateful indeed). However, it is surely the recognition of a debt to catechesis that is the truly decisive argument here.


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Tertullian De baptismo 17.5

In Tertullian De baptismo 17.5 we read: quam enim fidei proximum videtur ut is docendi et tinguendi daret feminae potestatem qui ne discere quidem constanter mulieri permisit? Taceant, inquit, et domi viros suos consulant.

The issue is with the phrase qui ne discere quidem constanter mulieri permisit. Does constanter go with permisit or discere? In either event, what might it mean? A check of various translations betrays a certain liberty with the text to make sense of it. Thus Evans, for whom I have the utmost admiration, takes constanter with discere and renders: “…he did not allow a woman even to learn by her own right.” I find it hard to assign such a meaning to constanter. Moreover, did Paul really forbid women to learn? It seems a stretch.

There is only one extant MS of the text; the editio princeps used a further MS, now lost, where for discere it reads docere. Is this a better reading? Or might we account for both readings by emending to dicere? As such constanter belongs with permisit, which is more natural, and the entire sentence makes complete sense: “… who consistently would not even allow a woman to speak.”

This issue came up at dinner with friends last night and the possible solution came after a sleepless night turning it over in my mind! My question to them (and you) is whether this is a brilliant emendation or the desperate contrivance of an indifferent Latinist.


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The Canons of Cyril of Jerusalem from the Kitāb al-Hudā

As Paul Bradshaw has observed several times, the church orders tend to survive in churches on the margins. Significantly they are also found, frequently, in collections of canon law from these marginal churches, among other more “canonical” material. Notes on some of these, which contain church order material, may be found in the conspectus below, and in Daniel Vaucher’s post on the Kitāb al-Hudā.

In thinking about this material recently I come to realize that another peculiarity about these collections and their contents is the continued production of pseudonymous canonical and liturgical material. Thus in the Kitāb al-Hudā we find canons attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem. Graf (GCAL 1, 335-337) lists three pages of Cyrilline pseudepigrapha in Arabic, including this. I present a somewhat provisional translation; what is good in it is largely due to the efforts of others (who have requested anonymity). In spite of the uncertainties and frequent lack of clarity, given that these canons are not otherwise extant and have never been translated, I thought it worth making this public. However, I cannot stress too much that there is a great deal of obscurity here, and that on occasion this rendition is little better than guesswork. My sole excuse is that this a first journey into terra incognita without any navigational tools.

The opening line has a striking resemblance to one of the canons among the the otherwise unidentified “A little of the canons of the apostles and the fathers, through which the church of Christ is truly united” which is found in the collection of canonical material in the E recension of the Didascalia apostolorum (see pp 274-275 of my version). Thus compare: Canon 17 of these: “Nor should a presbyter baptize his bodily child, unless death should threaten the child and no other presbyter is there to baptize him” with the opening line of these canons. This is the only direct parallel but the preoccupations of the documents seem largely the same. There is thus a similar concern with who may marry whom, though the concern here is that baptism creates a familial relationship which might put persons unrelated by blood into a familial relationship (water being as thick as blood!) Vööbus (CSCO 402, 42) suggests that the source of the canons found in the Didascalia is the Canons of an otherwise unknown Johanan found in the West Syrian Synodicon, but although the concerns are again similar, there is no evident literary relationship. The three share a milieu, but little else.

Frankly, this material raises as many questions as it does answers, not the least of which being those of date and provenance. All I can say on this is that it is of a date and provenance entirely out of my field of expertise!

The translation is derived from the text of Pierre Fahed, Kitāb al-Hudā ou livre de la direction (Aleppo: Imp. Maronite, 1935), 216-219.

The canons of Cyril of Jerusalem concerning baptism and marriage in the radiant faith

It is not permitted that a presbyter should baptize his son if another priest may be found, except in case of necessity. In case of necessity this is allowable to him. But he abstains from sexual intercourse for forty days. It is likewise not allowed to accept the baptism of the sons of his brothers, or an aunt’s child, or an uncle’s child, or a maternal aunt’s child, or a grandmother’s child. It is not permissible for them to accept baptism for any children of these at all.

A deacon is not permitted to anoint his son with oil. A deacon other than he is to take him down to the baptism and bring him up from it. To him it is not permissible.

It is not permissible at all that a priest should be kissed by a layman; nor should he kiss his son.1 And if he does this he is to separate from his wife for ever, and he is not permitted to take another, and if he marries he is banned from the sacrifice for the period of his life, and so it is for a woman, as for a man.

And if two men receive baptism it is not permitted that either should marry the other’s sister, or his daughter, or his mother, or his daughter’s daughter, nor his son’s daughter, or his sister’s daughter, or his paternal uncle’s daughter, nor his maternal uncle’s daughter, nor his maternal aunt’s daughter, nor the daughter of a half brother2 before the baptism. Even if she was born after the baptism it is not allowed, or even if this is agreed among them prior to the baptism. This is permissible for them if they are unrelated, but if they are for four generations then this is not permissible to them. And if their parents had children, male or female, and they wish to marry them to each other it is permissible for them to do so. This is no crime for them. And if there are sons to the father, or children to the mother,3 then they are not to construct a marriage between their children, or their children’s children at all, nor any of their family line, because baptism has brought about a comprehensive lineage. It is not permissible for that is an offence to Almighty God.

It is not permissible for a woman to kiss a man, or for a man to kiss a female.4 It is not permissible for a man and a woman to receive baptism at the same time, since if they die and they had done this then it is not permissible for their children or their children’s children to marry each other.

And it is not permitted for a deacon to marry a widow, even if she is abandoned. And for a presbyter, even if he is a young man and his wife has died, it is not permitted that he should marry another. And if he marries he commits fornication, and a fornicator does not serve at the altar of God, because he has preferred marriage to the priestly priesthood. Likewise the priestly class is not to marry a widow, even if they were married to priests and are bar adta (children of the church.) Both the presbyterate and the diaconate; and the orders below them, it is not permissible that they be given the priesthood except after they are married.

If they stipulated to themselves5 that they would be steadfast in virginity and purity this is excellent. Whoever breaches his undertaking and gets married after accepting the prayer of ordination should be rejected, because he has violated the covenant of God Almighty and his promise. And God, blessed be his name, will set him afar off and he will not attend the sacred mystery at all.

The deacons and those who are beneath them in their degrees, the sub-deacons (transliterated) and readers and psalmists, let them be received into the order of priesthood a year after their marriage. And if they do not desire marriage and they have a good reputation, and they stipulated concerning themselves to God that they are not to be married, then that is excellent. Yet if they go on to get married they are not to serve at the altar of almighty God. Anyone who has ascended any of the priestly ranks is not permitted to marry two women. Anyone who goes on this way is not to serve the altar of almighty God, such is not permitted by this decree, and so should be removed and rejected, because he has disobeyed, and fallen under judgement because he is like a fornicator, and it will not be forgiven him. It is not permitted that somebody who has committed this sin should appear in his place before the altar at all, because he has preferred marriage to the discipline of Christ. For this reason he is banished from the holy camp, to take his place in this world. If a priest marries a third time, then his face should be spat upon, and he should burn in the fire. And his priestly clothing, and his crown should be removed and he should be prohibited from the sacrifice for the span of his life. And this decree is for the diaconate and the priesthood: whoever has donned the crown of the Lord, and those who are beneath them, like readers and psalmists and ܘܕܝܘܢܐ ܘܪܣܡܐ.6

They shall distribute the body at the gate of the holy house and they shall not approach the altar at all. And to a laymen likewise they should not distribute the body from the altar, even if they are honoured patrons, but they shall distribute the sacrifice to him outside the door.

Such are the canons.

1Reading the verb qbl as a form II and accepting that there is a double object (as found often in Syriac texts). Otherwise the sentence might be construed: “It is not permissible for a priest to receive it, a layman will not kiss his son.” This does not make much sense to me. But even this version has its problems!

2Literally “nor the daughter of a companion in birth”. Taken here to mean a half brother through a different father.

3Taken as meaning stepchildren.

4Again reading qbl as a form II. Cf. Traditio apostolica 18.4.

5Literally “to their souls”.

6I can make nothing of these two Syriac words! My understanding is that the karshuni MSS were derived from MSS in Arabic script, and possibly by scribes with no knowledge of Syriac. The scope for confusion is thus extensive. Note that the previous words, readers and psalmists, are also found in Syriac here.

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Traditio apostolica 25

In his recent Apostolic Tradition reconstructed (29, fn 44) Bradshaw ascribes part of Traditio apostolica 25 to the later Ethiopic translator, noting its absence in the Axumite version. He thus ascribes layers to the chapter thus (material in Roman type being the Grundschrift, in italics ascribed to a third-century redactor, struck through not appearing in Bradshaw’s version at all and assigned to the later translator.)

When the bishop is present and evening is come the deacon brings in a lamp 2and standing among all the believers who are present he shall give thanks. Firstly he greets them as he says: “The Lord be with you.”

And the people shall say: “And with your spirit.”

Let us give thanks to the Lord.”

And they shall say: “It is right and just. Greatness and exaltation with praise is fitting to him.”

And he shall not say “Hearts on high,” for it is to be said at the offering.

And he shall pray in this way as he says: “We give you thanks, O God, through your child Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom you have illuminated us, revealing to us the incorruptible light. 8Therefore we have completed the length of the day and we have arrived at the beginning of the night, being sated with the day’s light which you created for our satisfaction. And now, having arrived at the light of evening through your grace, we give you praise and glorify you 9through your child Jesus Christ, our Lord, through whom to you be power and honour together with the Holy Spirit, now and always and to the ages of ages. Amen.”

And all shall say: “Amen.”

And then, when they get up after the dinner, they shall pray, and the children and the virgins shall say psalms.

And afterwards the deacon, when he takes the mixed cup of the oblation, shall say one of the psalms in which “alleluia” is written.

After that, if the presbyter has commanded, again from the same psalms. And afterwards, the bishop having offered the cup, he shall say a psalm proper to the cup, while all say “alleluia.” 14And all of them, as he recites the psalms, shall say “alleluia,” which is to say “we praise him who is God most high; glorified and praised is he who founded all the world with one word.”

And likewise, when the psalm is completed, he shall give thanks over the cup (Dix emends to “bread”) and give of the fragments to all the faithful.

Although this chapter only appears in completeness in a mediaeval Ethiopic version, there are hints of its existence in Canones Hippolyti and Testamentum Domini.

If there is a feast or a dinner provided by somebody for the poor, it is the Lord’s (κυριακόν). The bishop should be present when a lamp is lit. The deacon gets up to light it and the bishop prays over them and over those who invited them. It is right that he make the thanksgiving (εὐχαριστία) at the beginning of the liturgy so that they can be dismissed before it is dark, and recite psalms before their departure. (Canons of Hippolytus 32)

The lamp should be offered in the temple by the deacon, as he says “The grace of the Lord be with you all.” And all the people should say “And with your spirit.”

The little boys should sing spiritual psalms and hymns of praise by the light of the lamp. All the people, all together, their voices in harmony, should respond to the psalm and to the song, “Alleluia.” Nobody should kneel until the one who is speaking has ceased. In the same way, also, when a reading is read or a word of instruction is spoken. If the name of the Lord is thus uttered, and the rest, as has already been adequately discussed, nobody should bow, coming in creeping. (Testamentum Domini 2.11)

It may be noted that Canones Hippolyti makes reference to the recitation of psalms; Testamentum Domini does the same, and, moreover, prescribes the “Alleluia” response.

Something about psalm singing, and the alleluia response, must therefore, surely, have been in the version circulating in fourth century Cappadocia on which these two versions draw. As such it can hardly be the work of a mediaeval Ethiopian. This is not to deny that there are issues of transmission here; the phrase “when they get up after the dinner” is particularly suspicious. But the funny business is certainly not as Bradshaw would have it here. Looking at his reconstruction initially I thought it looked too neat!

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Bradshaw’s reconstruction of the Apostolic tradition: the interactive version

Paul Bradshaw informs me that an interactive version of his reconstruction is available on the Alcuin Club website. I’ve had great fun playing with it… hope you do too!

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Bradshaw’s reconstruction of Traditio apostolica

It is a while since I posted anything here; I did wonder whether the utility of the blog might be coming to and end, and even composed a final posting in my head. This is due to pressure of other work, not the least my day job. And since it appears that the Church of England no longer values the work of parish clergy, I have been treasuring it all the more. tells the story. Of course, the pattern proposed, we hear, is “like the early church”. “Back to the future” goes through my head. Which is no doubt why, in the first generations, the Didachist saw fit to charge the appointment of episkopoi and diakonoi who are “worthy of the Lord.” We should be so lucky.

However, these rather depressing reflections are interrupted by the arrival of Paul Bradshaw, The apostolic tradition reconstructed: a text for students (JLS 91; Norwich: Hymns Ancient and Modern, 2021) for which I had to part with ten quid. And of course you want to know whether I consider it worth it. My initial comment is that it could hardly fail to be an improvement on Cuming, which I assume this work replaces. But forty-odd pages for over a tenner is on the steep side (given the price of my own commentary!)

Bradshaw employs the recently discovered Axumite Ethiopic text, and largely employs this as the base for his version. I could hardly fail to approve! Also, interestingly, he employs a system of type-faces graphically to show the “original” (that is to say material from early in the second century) (in Roman type), third century (or so) expansions (shown in italics) and later material (underlined.) This is helpful for those of us concerned to trace the levels of redaction; whether it helps the students of the subtitle is another question.

Bradshaw’s italicized sections are still within the period that I set for the redactional work of the Hippolytean school. Thus, for instance, the first, introductory chapter is supplied, he suggests, by whoever first brought the material together; I would not disagree (though I am surprised to see that he assigns the final chapter to a later hand). Indeed Bradshaw would assign the greater part of the document to a second or early third century date; he italicizes sections which are manifestly not fourth century, such as the offering of cheese and olives at the Eucharist, but since this is still within the relatively early history of the document I will not cavil. And so I will not pick on the italicized sections, and will also admit that there is broad (albeit only broad) agreement on the Grundschrift. Thus in dealing with the question of Bradshaw’s assignment of sections to date I largely overlook the italicized sections, simply looking at what he underlines, (thus assigning this material to the later periods of reworking.) I also avoid discussing the ordination prayers again, referring to our two recently published articles on the subject (see here and here).

In the episcopal eucharistic prayer after ordination (TA 4) Bradshaw admits a largely 3C origin, but also suspects some later additions, which makes a eucharistic prayer without an anamnesis. This is not impossible, but I would like to know why. Bradshaw similarly sees the epiklesis as later, though of course I do not think it is an an epiklesis at all. Similarly he is suspicious of the institution narrative; although I admit that this is an early appearance, perhaps the earliest, of such a narrative within an eucharistic prayer I suggest elsewhere that it might be retained so that the prayer has the shape of a collect.

The statement prescribing a three year catechumenate (TA 17) is assigned to a later period. Here I refer to something I wrote some years ago, in the debate in SVTQ referring to his earlier commentary:

the discussion of the length of the catechumenate (96-98) is excellent, and many interesting parallels are drawn. I would not dissent from the conclusion that a three-year catechumenate was not general in the ante-Nicene church, but this conclusion need not be drawn from the determination that the three-year period is fourth-century, but could be equally well reached from reckoning that the Hippolytean school, like that of Clement, which is roughly contemporary, employed an extensive period of catechumenate because of its scholastic orientation.

I do not understand the assignment of the daily exorcism (TA 20.3) and the effeta (TA 20.8) to the fourth century. It is true that otherwise the effeta is not found until the letter of John the deacon, but then again the sources are very thin. There is nothing which demands that this not be seen as primitive. Even less do I understand why Bradshaw assigns the renunciation (TA 21.6-9) to a later period. There are hints of renunciation in baptismal rites from the earliest evidence. The rationale given in a footnote is that the description of the baptismal rite is interrupted. I do see this, and observe it myself in the second edition of my own commentary, but still suspect that something must have stood here, even if it is not precisely the rite that is now extant, for which reason I assign it to a level of redaction prior even to the first redaction of Traditio apostolica.

It seems strange to assign the giving of milk and honey to the newly baptized to a later period (TA 21.28-30). It is surely early, since the same practice is found in Marcionite circles.

On the deacons “garment” (TA 22) I refer to the post below and the published article on the subject. Bradshaw continues to assign this to a later period.

The statement “this is a blessing and not the body of the Lord” at TA 26.2 is assigned to a later redactor. I do not see why; indeed one would expect that the distinction would be made only while the Eucharist took place within a Sättigungsmahl. I also do not see why the restriction of flowers to roses and lilies is considered later. (TA 32.2b), though the matter is admittedly minor.

By contrast I am surprised to see Bradshaw assign the supper for widows (TA 30) to the Grundschrift. One might have thought that this provision only came about once the Eucharist had ceased to be a Sättigungsmahl and another avenue for food charity would be required.

I think I have said enough. The work repays study, though I am not moved in my opinions in any way. Except at one point: Bradshaw suggests that TA 25.2b-10 is from a slightly later level of redaction (third century) than the original instruction regarding the entry of the light. This is plausible. He further suggests that the rest of the chapter is the work of the Ethiopic translator. This is an interesting thought, and certainly cleans up some of the mess here. I have not determined whether or not he is right, my main caveat being that the chapter is a bit too tidy as a result (!) but certainly it is a point worth of consideration.

It is of course hard to change a mind, once made up… indeed I have often entertained the thought that the Metzger/Bradshaw line on Traditio apostolica is a blik (the term of R.M. Hare, should you not be familiar with it. ) Presumably this is why Bradshaw persists in translating the Latin version of the post-baptismal episcopal anointing prayer, rather than the oriental version, which is now supported by the Axumite Ethiopic. There might once have been a case for following the Latin, but it was in my opinion never strong (though it was upheld by Anglican evangelicals for confessional reasons) but surely its appearance in the new Ethiopic weakens the case yet further. In the same way I was surprised to see that he persists in thinking that the baptismal creed has been expanded. The christology, he opines, “is too advanced for the period to which we are assigning the earliest layer of this document” (40) Possibly so (though I don’t really see that the Roman creed encodes a particularly “high” christology) but too advanced for the early third century? Really? He suggests that “a redactor…expanded the original short answers to correspond more closely to… the old Roman Symbol.” (41) This is, of course, different to the approach of the 2002 commentary (I have written on this elsewhere) which indicates that Bradshaw has been forced to take some of my critique on board, and is trying desperately to save his position. This latest version begs the question as to why a fourth-century redactor should want to expand the creed (and do so before, note, the redaction of Testamentum Domini and Canones Hippolyti in the middle of that century), and begs the larger question of how the old Roman symbol emerged if not from a baptismal context. Nonetheless here, and elsewhere, I see less blasé assignment of material to a series of mysterious fourth-century eastern redactors, and much more assigned to the third-century date that I have always maintained.

How to conclude? My best suggestion is, should you have ten Pounds (or its equivalent in other currencies) to spare, that you get your own copy and decide for yourselves. I’m holding on to mine… I’m beginning to think about a third edition!

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What deacons did: link

As intimated in a previous post the papers from the online deacons seminar have now been posted and can be seen here:

Papers are by Gerard Rouwhorst on Ephrem, Andreas Mueller on Chrysostom, and summary statements from Esko Ryökäs, Bart Koet and Edwina Murphy.

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The disappearing deacon

This week has seen another three online seminars as part of the “What did deacons do?” project. When the recorded versions are available I will post the link.

At the conclusion of the discussion questions were raised about what might be included in a summary chapter to conclude the book based on the project. Discussion had indicated that the pattern was one of decline in the significance and role of the deacon in the fourth century, and thought was given that this might need some explanation.

My own suggestion is that this is the result of change in the nature of episkopoi, who gain bigger dioceses (note the legislation against chorepiskopoi) and a result of this, in turn, the increase in the number of presbyters. As the aboriginal episcopal function of charity disappears the role of the deacon as administrator of this episcopal charity also disappears. Moreover, as presbyters grow in importance and numbers, assistantship turns into assistance not to the bishop but to the presbyter. Of course there are exceptions; Rome is distinct as a relatively small urban diocese with a large extra-diocesan responsibility, and the community of the Testamentum Domini has a bishop (and presbyters) who fasts and prays and doesn’t do anything else, so it’s all left to the deacons! But in other sources, such as Ephrem and Chrysostom (discussed this week), we observe the diminution of the role in the fourth century and beyond. The evidence that might indicate a more active role is in the church orders, but as is often remarked, these are archaeological, and tend to repeat material which is traditional, but no longer reflects real conditions, and therefore have to be used with great care. Thus when Canones Hippolyti states that the deacon accompanies the bishop this is actually from Traditio apostolica, and is in any case a mistranslation by the Arabic translator due to misunderstanding the Coptic translation from which he was working. I am sure that the original Greek verb was προσκαρτερέω.

Rather unfashionably, might I also suggest that the development of woman deacons in the latter part of the fourth century might in turn result from this diminution? In other words, if a role is not that important, then it might be entrusted to a woman!


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The ordination prayers of Traditio apostolica: the Bradshavian version

Just published is Paul F. Bradshaw, “The ordination prayers in the so-called Apostolic Tradition” Vigiliae Christianae 75 (2021), 119-129.

Abstract: The anonymous church order formerly identified as the Apostolic Tradition and attributed to Hippolytus is now regarded by many scholars as a composite work made up of layers of redaction from around the mid-second to mid-fourth centuries. This essay revises the unsatisfactory attempt to discern such strata in its ordination prayers that was made by Eric Segelberg as long ago as 1975, and argues that their earliest forms are among the oldest material in the so-called Apostolic Tradition, belonging to the first half of the second century.

There is much in common here with my own recent treatment, particularly as both use Segelberg as a springboard, though Bradshaw continues to be mistrustful of what he sees as hieratic language in the episcopal ordination prayer.

Unlike my own article, however, his gives consideration to the presbyteral ordination prayer, and makes the persuasive suggestion that this too may have some antiquity, at least in an earlier form. He points out that that no liturgical functions are mentioned, which seems to reflect a situation where the presbyters were not ministers as such but advisors to the bishop. He states “One might assume that such people would simply have been elected or appointed without any ritual act or even prayer for them, but there is no reason to suppose that this was true everywhere or that it persisted throughout the century as their role began to change” (127). This is certainly possible.

His final sentence is also worth pondering. “… it deserves emphasizing that there is no reason to think that the prayers formed a single collection prior to their absorption into the developing Apostolic Tradition, but each one may have come from a different ecclesiastical tradition.” (129)

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The date of the translation of the Didascalia into Syriac

An interesting question greeted me this morning on the date of the Syriac translation of Didascalia apostolorum. My correspondent points out that Vööbus and Connolly suggest the mid-4th century whereas Brock and Schöllgen think late 5th/early 6th century.

I had to respond that I am something of a rudus in such matters, and that this was a matter on which I did not think I could bring any real insight. Late 5th century is a reasonable date as there is concrete evidence that the Greek text was circulating in Syriac speaking areas at that time (namely the fragment published in Bartlet, “Fragments of the Didascalia apostolorum in Greek” JTS 18, (1917), 301–309), but this is not of particular probative value as the probability is that the text was produced in a bilingual part of Syria anyway. Connolly is, I think, too early in putting it in the first quarter of the third century as I do not think even the Greek text was completed at that point. Which brings me back to the observations on vocabulary in Vööbus (CSCO 402), 25-28. Given that the text originated in a bilingual area a very early translation, as Vööbus suggests, is entirely plausible.

However, I am wondering whether anyone out there has any particular insight.

PS: Some time later I received the follow-up question as to the version in which the redactions of the Didascalia were carried out. I had no hesitation in suggesting that the major redactions were carried out in Greek; the Latin version, derived from Greek, has elements of all the redactional levels, though it is possible that a few minor glosses and interpolations may have taken place within the Syriac version.
The recension which I term the E recension, however, with its large omissions towards the end and the additional material added to the third chapter, was a recension of the Syriac version. The location of the new material at the end of the third chapter indicates that the chapter divisions were established, and more to the point much, though not all, of this additional material is of Syriac origin.

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A picture of the Testamentum Domini

Saw this in a sacristy yesterday, as Ash Wednesday brought a return to church.

No doubt it was intended to be comical in a Sohmian sort of way, but my jaundiced eye immediately realized that this might be a picture of the Testamentum Domini!

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What did deacons do?

It’s been a busy week in the small world of the ancient church orders. Last night saw a virtual launch party for Pauliina Pylvänäinen’s book on Apostolic constitutions (which I couldn’t get into!), but also a series of online seminars as part of the ongoing project on diakonia shared between the University of Eastern Finland and the Tilburg School of Catholic Theology. Two were directly related to the church order literature, and the other certainly connected:

The papers given are now available online. They are:

Why Ask what Deacons Did? Dr. Arnold Smeets, TST
The Liminal Nature of the Diaconal Role in the Didascalia Apostolorum. Phoebe Kearns, University of Winchester

Deacons in the Testament of Our Lord. The State of the Question and Avenues for Future Research. Dr. Grant White, Sankt Ignatios College, Stockholm School of Theology
Deacons in the Writings of Gregory Nazianzen. Dr. Brian J. Matz, Fontbonne University (U.S.A.)

The privacy notice will disappear, or you can simply click it out.


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Dionysius of Alexandria and the Didascalia on counting to three

Basil Lourié has drawn my attention to a testimonium of Timothy Ailuros preserved in Armenian, most easily accessed (or at least most easily accessed by unlettered parish priests) through the translation of F. C. Conybeare, “The patristic testimonia of Timotheus Aelurus (Irenaeus, Athanasius, Dionysius)” JTS 15 (1913), 432-442, at 437-442. This collection of testimonia includes a citation of Melito of Sardis, attributed to Irenaeus, which is also found in Syriac (see elsewhere on the blog.) However, the reason for drawing attention to it here and now is the discussion of sabbath and Sunday drawn from the correspondence of Dionysius of Alexandria, which is related to the passion chronology. Dionysius is arguing that the day concludes at nightfall. Were it otherwise, and the following night to be counted as part of a day, then he suggests that the resurrection would have occurred not on the third day but on the second.

In the process he takes issue with those who reckon that the darkness which fell at the crucifixion is to be reckoned as a night, and so compute the three days as including three nights, beginning with this “nightfall” on the Friday. This is precisely the calculation employed in the Didascalia at 5.13.9-13a:

And they crucified him on the Friday. He suffered at the sixth hour on Friday. These hours in which our Lord suffered were reckoned as a day, 10and then there was darkness for three hours, and this was reckoned a night. And again, there were three hours, from the ninth hour until evening, – a day, and afterwards the night of the sabbath of the passion. Now in the Gospel of Matthew it is written thus: ‘On the evening of the sabbath as the first day of the week was dawning came Mary and the other Mary, Magdalene, to see the tomb. And there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down and rolled the stone away.’ And so there was the day of the sabbath, and three hours of the night which were after the sabbath when our Lord was sleeping. And what he had said was fulfilled, that the son of man should spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, as it is written in the Gospel.

Not having otherwise met such a calculation, I am intrigued to find it here, and wonder whether it might have been more widespread than I had previously thought.

On another note, Dionysius (on the assumption that the attribution is correct) seems to support the evidence of Socrates HE 5.22 that worship at the close of sabbath continued in Egypt.


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Darrell Hannah on Epistula apostolorum

Recently appeared is Darrell Hannah, “The Vorlage of the Ethiopic version of the Epistula apostolorum: Greek or Arabic?” in Meron T. Gebreananaye et al. (ed.), Beyond Canon: early Christianity and the Ethiopic textual tradition (London: London: T&T Clark, 2021), 97–116. Fr Darrell is nearly a neighbour, so giving this a puff is a particular pleasure.

The church order connection (I always try to find one) is in his reflection on the apocalypse of Testamentum Domini. The relationship between this apocalypse and that preceding the Epistula in the Ethiopic witness (the Discourse in Galilee). The relationship between these two apocalypses has long been an interest to me, so it is a boon to see the evidence laid out so clearly. Fr Darrell actually suggests that the Epistula itself may have been a source on which the apocalypse of the Testamentum drew. This would make sense given the recent ascription of all this material to an Asian provenance.

Although nowhere near as accomplished as Fr Darrell in examining this material, I have for a long time taken a punt on the Ethiopic being a direct translation of the Greek. In particular I had in mind the passage where Jesus speaks of the Pascha which the disciple who is released from prison will keep: he refers to “that which is in my remembrance and my agape” (in the Coptic) or “my agape and my memorial” (Ethiopic). The Coptic translator seems to assume that the “memorial” is the Eucharist. To me it seems more probable that a distinct rite is intended, and that the Ethiopic translator has correctly rendered the Greek (which may well be μνημόσυνον.) The statement of an expert on this material that the Ethiopic is taken directly from Greek, and not via Arabic, renews my confidence.


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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! I have come to realize that items in publication are like buses… you wait for ages and then three come along at once.

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.


Filed under Apostolic Tradition, E-rrata

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 was prevented from doing so by government regulation), 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!

PS (October 17th 2021): I’ve just read Ewa Wipsczycka “Les ordres mineurs dans l’eglise d’Egypte du IVe au VIIIe siecle” Journal of Juristic papyrology 23 (1993), 181-215, who on 192 suggests that subdeacons rather fancied being deacons, and that the limitation of their role is what leads to the provision that they “go behind.” I do not find this very likely.

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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 me to do 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(!)

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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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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