The Bishop of Rome and the study of the church orders

It’s not often that the Didascalia (although not named) makes the news!

http://ncronline.org/news/vatican/francis-create-commission-study-female-deacons-catholic-church

 

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Is I Clement a church order? In response to Daniel Vaucher

In response to my posting a conspectus of church orders, in an attempt to define the field, Daniel Vaucher has responded in a comment, to which I am responding in a series of posts.

As part of that post I attempted to define the field, offering a definition of a church order as “a literary document which seeks to direct the conduct of Christians and of the church on the basis of an appeal to tradition derived from or mediated through the apostles.”

Vaucher suggests that there is a danger of too broad a definition, and that I am in danger of having to include the post-Pauline letters. He also suggests various other documents which might be included under my definition.

The only grey area for me is I Clement. I do not think that Epistula apostolorum is directive in the way that the orders are and was central to the definition, and to include that in the focus is unhelpful. I do think that we might well include I Timothy and Titus in the conspectus; we may recall Bartsch’s important study here (Die Anfänge urchristlicher Rechtsbildungen. Studien zu den Pastoralbriefen, (Hamburg-Bergstedt : Reich, 1965) and reflect that Johannes Mühlsteiger, Kirchenordnungen: Anfänge kirchlicher Rechtsbildung (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 2006) includes the Pastoral Epistles. I Clement is a grey area in that it certainly seeks to direct the conduct of a church, though not the church in general, and appeals to apostolic authority, even if that authority is not central to its persuasive force. On balance I think I would exclude it on the grounds that it is addressed to one church rather than to churches in the abstract, and on the grounds that apostolic authority, whilst present, is not central. Nonetheless I can see the case for its inclusion.

This is all for today! I must add, for any reader unfamiliar with academic discourse, that my critical comments are the result of gratitude to Vaucher for his attention and contribution. He, of course, knows that.

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Peter of Alexandria, Didascalia: in response to a comment from Daniel Vaucher

Daniel Vaucher has produced a major comment on the post below on the conspectus of the church orders. I will respond by way of blog-posts on each individual aspect of his comment, as and when time allows.

Here is just one small one.

Vaucher states: Peter of Alexandria could be the author of a didascalia Petrou. Aren’t didascalia / diataxis the common names of church orders? Harnack (Chronologie der altchr. Litteratur, Vol 2, 1904, 73) mentions an unedited Didascalia Petrou in Cod. Vat. Gr. 2081, fol. 94v and asks whether it is Peter from Alexandria. He mentions a study by Crum, “Texts Attributed to Peter of Alexandria” JTS 4 (1903), 387-397, but I can’t find a note of the didascalia.

I reply: It is not often that one gets one over on Harnack so I shall enjoy this moment! Vaucher reports Harnack accurately, but the Didascalia of Peter of Alexandria had indeed been published from the Vatican MS, by J. M. Heer, “Ein neues Fragment der Didaskalie des Martyrbischofs Peter von Alexandrien,” Oriens Christianus 2 (1902), 344-51. Although Vaucher is right, Didascalia is indeed a common name for church order material, this is not a church order but a homiletic fragment.

This comment will keep me going for months!

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Docetism and the Didachistic Eucharist

A correspondence is occurring through academia.edu which may be of wider interest. Obviously my correspondent does not have the learning that I am sure is possessed of my usual readers, but there may be something here which is useful to somebody. It has certainly exposed a hole in my own knowledge.

It started with the question:

Why is there no mention of the death of Christ in the eucharistic passages of the Didache? Is there any gnostic influence here?

I replied:

A lot of people have asked that question over the years. The problem, as I see it, is that we have allowed Paul’s witness to determine what the Eucharist means, namely a concentration on Jesus’ death. This is one strand in the nest of meanings which the Eucharist had in the different early Christian communities, and one which, when the eucharist becomes fixed in meaning and form in the third and fourth centuries, comes to be prominent. But it was not how the Didache people understood the Eucharist. Rather they understood the presence of Jesus in the meal as being a foreshadowing of his presence on earth when he comes again as messiah and judge.

I do not think we can say that it is “Gnostic” influence, though that to an extent depends on when you think the Didache emerged. Most scholars, however, believe that it had been completed by the beginning of the second century (some would put it much earlier, some slightly later) whereas gnosticism does not really emerge until a bit later than that. “Gnostic”, like “Christian” and “Jewish” in the first and second century, is a bit of a vague category, and there were varying gnostic practices with regard to the eucharist, and varying beliefs and evaluations of it. Some, like the community of the Gospel of Judas, rather looked down on it, some, like that of the Gospel of Philip, had a very exalted understanding. But I don’t think any of them saw the eucharist as a “sneak preview” of Christ’s second coming as the Didache people apparently did.

One might have thought that the end of it but the reply came back:

Does not John refer to gnostic denial of Jesus in the flesh. Also gnosticism was strong in Syria where the Didache came from, and also there may be a quote from the Sentences of Sextus, a pythagorean work.

To which I slightly intemperately responded:

1: The passages in the Johannine epistles are capable of a number of interpretations (see Streett, They went out from us). Even if this refers to Cerinthus, there is a whole question of whether Cerinthus was actually gnostic. And what, in any case, is the relevance to the Didache?
2: So what if D and gnosis share geographical space?
3: Not sure that D quotes Sextus, and Sextus is not Pythagorean, though it has some intellectual overlap. And it is certainly not gnostic.

I am not an expert on gnostic systems, but I know enough to know that it is a difficult category to use.

My correspondent was undeterred by this display of petulance and came back twice.

Is it accurate to say that the idea Jesus did not come in the flesh or did not really physically die on the cross, would show up as an omission, especially in the docetic eucharistic liturgy that spotlights the death of Christ. Is that accurate to say?

And:

Is this a reference to docetism?
“I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” – 2 John 1:7
Does the Didache affirm the physicality of Christ or his sacrifice?

This time I responded at greater length and with greater patience:

The phrase you cite from John:

oἱ μὴ ὁμολογοῦντες Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐρχόμενον ἐν σαρκί:

Can be interpreted as not confessing

a) Jesus to be the (same as) the Christ who actually came (Cerinthian separationism).
b) Jesus to be the Messiah, who actually came. (Judaism)
c) Jesus Christ coming in the flesh (i.e. he came some other way) (docetism).
or indeed,
d) That Jesus Christ did not come at all (grammatically possible but historically unlikely!)

The problem with docetism is that it is very hard to define, and in particular the kind of “docetism” that we know from the textbooks does not seem to appear until the third century, if then. Last year I wrote an essay for a collection on docetism in which I struggled to define Ignatius’ “docetists”. It made me realize the complexity of the question, which I had not myself appreciated before I started that project. I think John is anti Cerinthian separationism, and that that is effectively docetic, but not in the “textbook” sense.

So when you ask “Does the Didache affirm the physicality of Christ or his sacrifice?” I have to answer that it makes no reference to this issue, but that does not mean that it denied either tenet, simply that it is not working in the milieux in which such issues are being considered. The fact that is derived from a law-observant setting in, possibly, Syria, and that gnostic schools derive from the same setting is not really pertinent. Thus when you first suggested that the didachistic eucharist, not making reference to the death of Christ, might thereby hide some docetic tendencies, I suggested that we should not make the Pauline eucharist normative for first century eucharistic celebrations, and that the Didache contributes another strand to our understanding of the tangled skein of roots which go to making the later eucharist.

So you ask:

Is it accurate to say that the idea Jesus did not come in the flesh or did not really physically die on the cross, would show up as an omission, especially in the docetic eucharistic liturgy that spotlights the death of Christ. Is that accurate to say?

I am guessing that what you mean is that the eucharistic liturgy spotlights the death of Christ, and so if such a reference is absent that is an indication of docetism. However, at the risk of banging on on the same old drum, the problem is with the premiss. Why should the eucharistic liturgy spotlight the death of Christ? The Didachistic liturgy spotlights the messianic presence of Christ. What it made of the death we cannot tell, but we cannot say that the death was denied, simply that the Didachistic eucharist, unlike the Pauline, did not encode Christ’s death. We may suggest, beyond this, that since the Didache seems to envisage salvation as happening in the world (firstly through realizing eschatology and finally, with Christ’s return in judgement) then this is not salvation from the world, which, giving due acknowledgement to the distinction in gnostic systems, seems to be fundamental to them all.

I don’t know enough about gnostic eucharistic rites to comment on them. I need to read, Einar Thomassen, The spiritual seed and Herbert Schmid, Die Eucharistie ist Jesus at least. Maybe I need salvation from a thousand other responsibilities to do so.

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Bryan A. Stewart, Priests of my people

Recently published by Peter Lang, what appears to be a very light revision of the thesis which may be read at http://www.scotthahn.com/download/attachment/2468.

To quote the beginning of the publisher’s information (the rest of which may be seen at http://www.peterlang.com/index.cfm?event=cmp.ccc.seitenstruktur.detailseiten&seitentyp=produkt&pk=82164) “This book offers an innovative examination of the question: why did early Christians begin calling their ministerial leaders «priests» (using the terms hiereus/sacerdos)?”

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

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

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

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The receptacle for the loaf at Traditio apostolica 22

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

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

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

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

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

Firstly here is the entire passage:

On the first of the week the bishop, if he is able, should himself distribute to all the people with his own hand, while the deacons break. And the presbyters break the baked bread. When the deacon approaches the presbyter he should open his garment, and the presbyter should take it himself and distribute it to the people with his own hand.

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

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

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

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

Thus the relevant passage should read:

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

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

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

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Ps-Ignatius, Eudoxius and the Apostolic constitutions

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

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

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

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

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

The puzzle continues to be as baffling as ever.

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