Christ spoke through Hippolytus?

In order to step up with my rather basic Arabic I have begun, very slowly, to read The Canons of Hippolytus in Coquin’s edition. If any reader thought the blog had been abandoned, it will now be clear that I have simply been busy with other things, as well as the day job.

The initial list of titles is not translated in the Bebawi/Bradshaw version. For the most part these are simply the titles which are at the head of the canons in the main text, but at the end we find the following statement, in Coptic and Arabic.

The Coptic is straightforward enough, reading: These are the canons of the church which Hippolytus, sainted archbishop (ⲡⲁⲣⲭⲏⲉⲡⲓⲥⲕⲟⲡⲟⲥ) of Rome, wrote.

The Arabic is more extensive:

These are the canons of the church, the instructions which Hippolytus, chief of the bishops of Rome, wrote, in accordance with the traditions of the apostles, through (جهة) Our Lord the Christ (one MS reads “the Holy Spirit”) the speaker in(?) him (الناطق فيه). (Coquin translates “parlant en lui”.)

Quite apart from the question of whether we should translate the article with the present participle, is the question of whether this applies to Hippolytus or to Christ, that is to say is Christ speaking in Hippolytus (the more probable reading), or is Hippolytus speaking in Christ? In either event a fairly major claim of authority is being staked by this mediaeval scribe, providing interesting evidence for the reception of the church-order tradition in Alexandria as apparently inspired. The vl, attributing Hippolytus’ speech to the Holy Spirit, is also interesting from the same perspective.

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The path to Rome

In preparation for my appearance at the incontro of the Augustinianum soon I have posted a draft of my paper entitled: “From sabbath to Sunday: new evidence from Aristo of Pella” as a discussion session.

There have been some interesting observations. Come and join the fun at https://www.academia.edu/s/ffd9477cbf/the-transfer-from-sabbath-to-sunday-new-evidence-from-aristo-of-pella

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Blidstein, Purity, community, and ritual

I have just had the pleasure of reviewing Moshe Blidstein, Purity, community and ritual in early Christian literature (Oxford: OUP, 2017.)

I will not repeat the review here except to say that this is an excellent work. With consideration of the Didache and the Didascalia, as well as of baptismal and community-forming rituals, it is of natural interest to readers of this blog.

Badger your librarian to get it!

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Dubious docetists: a new publication

I have just received my copy of Joseph Verheyden et al. (ed.) Docetism in the early church:the quest for an elusive phenomenon (WUNT 402; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018). This includes my essay on Ignatius’ “docetic” opponents, given at the Oxford patristic conference back in 2015. I have made reference to this before, in the post on docetism and the Didachistic Eucharist. I will now record that I sweated blood over that paper. Hopefully it was worth it.

I concluded that “docetism” was not a useful category. I am interested to find that this conclusion is widely shared by other essayists in the volume; since there was no conferring either in advance of or since the submission of the essays this speaks volumes. There are some outstanding essays here; I particularly enjoyed Allen Brent’s philsophical sophistication in identifying enlightenment philosophy of mind as an obstacle to modern understandings of ancient christology, Paul Hartog’s examination of what Ignatius might have added to the kerygma in his polemical context, and Taras Khomych’s rather literate reading of the dance of Jesus in the Acta Johannis. These were my personal highlights, but all the contributions are excellent and worth reading. Beyond the big conclusion, which is that “docetism” is a term which should be abandoned as useless, I was glad to find other points of agreement between other essays and mine, in particular Winrich Löhr’s conclusion that philosophical discourse lay behind a number of the christologies that are classified as docetic, Francis Watson’s observation that Ignatius only speaks of his “docetic” opponents’ denial of Christ’s suffering and not of their denial of any other aspect of Christ, and Jens Schröter’s acceptance of a Hadrianic date for Ignatius’ activity. However, given that there is a lot of common ground among the essays in terms of the materials examined, there is remarkably little redundancy.

The book is €134, which will put it beyond most individuals and many libraries. I am happy to share a pdf of my essay with any reader. My contact details can be found buried somewhere on this blog or on academia.edu. Alternatively leave a comment (if you give your address it will not be published on the blog as I can edit or delete comments before they are displayed.)

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The Didache material appended to Traditio apostolica in the Axumite Ethiopic version

In a previous post I have made reference to the fragment of Didache material attached to the Axumite Ethiopic version of Traditio apostolica published by A. Bausi.“La nuova versione etiopica della Traditio apostolica: edizione e traduzione preliminare“ in Paola Buzi and Alberto Camplani (edd.), Christianity in Egypt: literary production and intellectual trends. Studies in honor of Tito Orlandi (Rome: Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, 2011), 19-69.

I was reminded of this in recent correspondence, and so present this version of the material for comparative purposes, based on the English prepared for my work on the Two Ways Tradition. It falls well short of any scientific standard, and is not for citation, but is offered as an encouragement to anyone considering the textual history of the Didache to take this material into account, given that it diverges significantly from the received Greek version.

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Now regarding apostles and prophets act thus, in accordance with the direction of the Gospel. Any apostle who comes to you should remain only a day or two. If he desires to remain a third or delays his departure he is a <false> prophet. Do not test any prophet speaking in the Spirit; do not make discernment because not every sin may be forgiven. Everyone speaking in the spirit is a prophet as long as they are manifesting the conduct of the Lord. The false prophet and the prophet shall be known from conduct. Every prophet ordering in the spirit that a table be set does not eat of it; otherwise he is a false prophet. Every prophet teaching the truth yet not practising what is taught is a false prophet. Every prophet who is tested and true, who works in human company and acts outside the law shall not be judged of you, for he will have judgement with the Lord. For so the ancient prophets acted. Do not listen should anyone say in the spirit “Give me money, or other things.” Yet if he says you should give to others, give it to him without question.

Everyone coming in the name of the Lord should be received; when you have tested him you shall know, for you shall have knowledge of right and left. You should help, as much as you are able, anyone who comes to you as a traveller, who shall not remain with you except for two or three days. If he desires and wishes to stay with you and has a useful trade, if he has no use he should not be kept. If he has no trade act according to your understanding, for an idle person should not live among you. If he does not wish to act in this way he is a Christ-tinker; beware of people like that!

Every prophet wishing to stay with you is worthy of his food. Thus you shall take every firstfruit of the winepress, of wheat, of the threshing floor, of cattle and of sheep, giving the firstfruit to the prophets for they are your <high>-priests. If you have no prophet give them to the destitute. If you make dough, take the first fruit, giving in accordance with the commandment. Likewise take the firstfruit if you open a flask of oil or wine or honey, giving to the prophets. And of money and clothing and every possession, take the firstfruit as seems right to you, giving in accordance with the commandment.

Your fasts should not be with the hypocrites for they fast on the second and the fifth day of the week, yet you fast on the Wednesday and the Friday. Nor pray like the hypocrites, <but> as the Lord commanded in the Gospel.

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An agraphon in Testamentum Domini

An article by Dominic White OP, “’My mystery is for me’: a saying of Jesus?” Scripture Bulletin 44 (2014), 27-42, draws attention to the appearance of an agraphon in Testamentum Domini 18: “For my mysteries are given to those who are mine”. This agraphon appears elsewhere, notably in Clement Strom. 5.10, ps-Clement Rec. 19.19, and in Chrysostom Hom. in I Cor. on I Cor. 2:6-7.

It is also attributed to Isaiah by Theodoret of Cyrus In Psalmos on Ps 24 (25):14 (PG80.1041), where the text reads τὰ μυστήρια μου ἐμοὶ καὶ τοῖς ἐμοῖς, and again with reference to Ps 65 (66):16 (PG80.1369), though here it is not attributed. It is also attributed to Isaiah (probably) by Jerome Ep. 48.13 (he attributes it to “the prophet”): “My mystery is for me,” says the prophet; “my mystery is for me and for them that are mine.” This reference is unobserved by White.

Isaiah 24:16b in the Vulgate reads: “Et dixi: Secretum meum mihi, secretum meum mihi.” Jerome further notes at Comm. in Is. 8.24 that the reading is attested by Theodotion. This reading is attested in one LXX stream with the reading: “και ειπεν το μυστηριον μου εμοι το μυστηριον μου εμοι”. One MS extends this with “και τοις εμοις.” The Hebrew text rendered is רזי לי, so it would seem that this MS has extended the text by citing the agraphon as received, rather than as found in the text. Even so it is noteworthy that when Jerome cites the passage he does so in a fuller form than that found in his version of Isaiah, again indicating that he had independent knowledge of the statement.

It is thus hard to say whether the agraphon was received by the redactor of Testamentum Domini (this passage certainly being redactional) as from Jesus directly or as from him through Isaiah, though given that it is in a fuller form, it seems more probable that it was received as from the direct testimony of Jesus. What is noteworthy is that here, as in the second citation from Theodoret, the saying is joined to Matt. 7:6. The clear intention of the redactor is to limit the instructions here received from Jesus to a select group, the ascetics of the Testamentum community.

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Consider a new Church Order

I recently discovered an interesting article by F. Stanley Jones in A. Özen (ed.), Historische Wahrheit und theologische Wissenschaft, Gerd Lüdemann zum 50. Geburtstag, Frankfurt 1996, pp. 87-104. In “The Genre of the Book of Elchesai”, the author collects the fragmentary evidence on the Parthian book of revelation called “book of Elchesai/Elxai”, that was brought to Rome under a “heretic” called Alcibiades towards the end of the 2nd century. Fragments and polemics remain in the works of Hippolyt and Epiphanius as well as in Origens Homily on Psalms 82, preserved in Eus. h.e. 6.38.

Jones argues against former common sense that the Book of Elchasai was an apocalyptic text. Without entering the debate about the nature of Church Orders, he states: “the primary focus of the writing is on regulating the life of Christian, which is a reasonable starting point for defining a church order.” He then lists the fragments that address the life of the Christians, which focus on the renunciation of idolatry “with the lips, not the heart”, baptism, impartation of the secret prayer, astrological instructions, instructions on the direction of prayer,  the avoidance of fire, and more.

He adds further arguments to strengthen his case: the author, who seems to be a “religious authority”, uses first person singular to adress his readers, that is, the congregation. He adds examples to support the casuistic logic – and probably to convince his readers of his demands. Finally, “Elchasai was one of these leaderss who, similar to Paul, was engaged in the process of ordering early Christian life, only Elchesai wrote an actual church order rather than merely sporadic letters to congregations.”

I will have to take some time and check the fragments as well as the secondary literature that links the book of Elchasai to Judaism and Manichaism in order to fully evaluate Jones’ arguments. I tend to agree with Jones’ view, but given the fragmentary state of the book, who knows what the original was like? But the article was very interesting to read; it is a reminder that we should open our eyes in the search for more and lesser-known Church Orders.

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