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

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

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

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

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The Didascalia and the pericope adulterae

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

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

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

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

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Jews for Jesus in the Didascalia!

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

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

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

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

She goes on:

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

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

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

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Church orders at the British patristic conference

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

The abstract is as follows:

Pauliina Pylvänäinen

A Common Purpose for Paul and the Female Deacons?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The additional chapters of the Arabic Didascalia

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

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

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

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Didache Bibliography, again

It dawns on me that I never posted an update on the saga of the Oxford online Didache bibliography.

The sordid reality is that I gave up on it, going goggle-eyed at the (apparently bizarre) formatting required. Thankfully my friend Taras Khomych came to the rescue and finished the job, becoming co-author in the process. I suppose it is now available… I’m afraid I lost all interest. Even the offer of free Oxford books could not lure me back.

Brighter news, however, in that Jonathan Draper has posted an annotated bibliography of his writings on the Didache to academia.edu. This is very useful. And of course we look forward to his (long awaited) commentary for the Oxford Apostolic Fathers series.

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Church Order Conspectus – matter of definition

After having been added as co-author on the blog, I’d like to reply once more on the matter of defining the church order tradition, and in regards to Stewarts conspectus (see post of January 6th 2016), on which texts we could include in the list and which not.

In my dissertation, I analyze the emergence of the church orders in the context of Church history from its beginning to the early 4th century. I’ll therefore exclude here the Church Orders from the 4th to 5th centuries. I start with the premise that the texts we normally regard as Church Orders (Didache, Traditio Apostolica, Didascalia, Apostolic Church Order) share some features with regards to content. Building on Stewarts working definition, I’d propose five features:

First, the lack of a central authority in the emerging Church. Especially after the death of the Apostles, the communities were in need of a broadly accepted authority, even more so when problems went beyond singular communities or house churches. The authors present themselves as such authorities and their texts as binding for everybody.

Second, the apostolic claim and the pseudonymity. It is clearly a sign that the anonymous authors lacked authority or that they hoped to give their texts more persuasive force this way. It also originates from the fragmentation of the early church in different house communities or schools and the fact that ancient schools tended to construct some kind of lineage.

Third, questions of authority. It is apparent that Church Orders were written in contest with other Christian authorities or leaders, e.g. prophets, patrons, widows. The texts therefore deal with hierarchy and offices to regulate Church life.

Fourth, the process of canonization, which of course is complex, but most of the early Christian texts deal with the question, what is truly Christian? It leads to the formation of a canon and simultaneously, to the construction of heresy and orthodoxy. Most Christian texts deal with integration and demarcation of other doctrines or schools. So do the Church Orders, when they treat heretic literature, false teaching etc.

Fifth, problem-oriented. This is central to my argument. These texts were written to address concrete problems and questions in Christian communities, and therefore, we deal with texts written by Christians for Christians.

It is symptomatic that many modern scholars try to define the Church order tradition but fail to do so. I’m not happy neither! Steimer, Mueller, Metzger and others, in the end, always recur to the content: the attempt to “direct the conduct of Christians and of the church”. What I’d like to propose is that we should see the Church Orders in their early Christian context, and this links them to other Christian texts. There are many more texts that share all or most of the above-mentioned features. (Certainly, not all features are equally present in all texts.) And crucially, I think, some texts are not essentially different from the Church Orders, but are sometimes not called so.

We already named the Pastorals, which are in my opinion a fictional trilogy clearly with Church Order character. I’d propose the letters by the Apostolic fathers in general, although there is more differentiation necessary (we dealt with 1 Clement, but see Alexandre Faivre for reflections on other letters). But what with deutero-Pauline letters like Ephesians, Colossians, the Johannine letters?

Stewart argues that these letters were written only to one community and not to the whole Church. But then, letters were expected to be read out aloud, to circulate in a town, or sometimes to be sent on to other cities and communities (like other letters were written to be publicized, e.g. Pliny, Seneca). What is important in my opinion is that letters were clearly problem-oriented and dealt with actual questions.

The recourse to the apostolic authority is a good point too in my opinion. But where do we find it more explicit than in the deutero-Pauline letters?

Enough for now, I await vigorous opposition.

daniel vaucher

 

 

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