Dating the Gnomes of Nicaea

Alin Suciu has been kind enough to post my provisional text and translation of the Gnomes on his immensely popular and learned blog. It may be seen here:

One reader has asked what its date might be. This is a question with which I will deal properly when I get to write the intro which will form part of the more permanent and conventional publication (together with the annotation, and which will occur when and only when, as somebody who claims no expertise in Coptic, I am assured that the translation and text are relatively free of blunders.)

However, for the moment…

Church orders are notoriously difficult to date due to the fact that they are rather like snowballs, gathering material as they go and trapping within themselves material which tends to reflect periods earlier than their redaction. Thus I pick up echoes here and there of the Didache. And there are no big giveaways that I can see within the text. However… the emphasis on monachai and the absence of any recognition of organized monasticism tends to point to the earlier part of the fourth century rather than the latter (though I am aware of at least one fifth century monachē). Again an argument from silence, but the lack of any reference to persecution tends to point towards the fourth century (post Constantine) rather than pre-. Also, however, to be taken into account is what looks like a homily on the Mother of God which has been redacted into the material. No evidence, but my gut feeling is that this is later…, which might indicate a later level of secondary redaction (as Revillout, I recollect, suggested.) (I do not count the inclusion of the word theotokos here as this is only in one late textual witness (B) and may well be the work of the copyist.) However, again on this point, it has been argued that Ambrose Virg. had read this part of the Gnomes (though it is equally possible, in my view, that he had read one of the sources, or had access to one of the traditions, namely the frequent angelic visitations which Our Lady received) which pushes back to the fourth again. Any advance? Athanasian authorship has been claimed, but is not widely accepted. Finally, it is transmitted alongside the Syntagma Doctrinae, which I have dated fairly precisely elsewhere to the 380s/390s. So we would probably not be way out if we placed the production in the same period, i.e. between 360 and 400.


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