Apostolic Tradition 21.39-40, the white stone, and a matter of balancing the Coptic against the Aksumite Ethiopic

Over on hyptoposeis.org I find, over a year later, a discussion of Apostolic tradition 21.39-40; find it by searching for “Andrew Criddle”, as the discussion is over three posts.

The Sahidic of Apostolic Tradition reads: “We have handed over to you in brief these things about holy baptism and the holy offering, since you have already been instructed about the resurrection of the flesh and the other things according to the Scriptures. Now (δέ) if anything else should be said, the bishop shall say it privately…” There is a significantly different reading in the Aksumite Ethiopic, an understanding which may well stand behind the version offered by the Testament of the Lord. This text reads: “It is therefore convenient to be given this in brief on the washing and on the offering because they have already been instructed. But about the resurrection of the body and everything else in accordance [with the Scriptures] the bishop will reveal and explain as is convenient when they are initiated.” Testament of the Lord is slightly confusing, but the confusion may come about through attempting to make sense of a reading like that of the Aksumite: “They should also be taught about the resurrection of bodies; before being baptized nobody should know the word concerning the resurrection.” Andrew Criddle, for whom I have the utmost respect, believes that the Aksumite reflects a more accurate rendition of the original, given the potential support of Testamentum Domini, and locates the precise matter regarding the resurrection, which is to be held secret, in the teaching regarding the harrowing of hell which is found in Testamentum Domini presented as mystagogy.

I’m afraid that on this occasion I cannot agree. It is as likely that this particular mystagogy is a peculiarity of the Testamentum. The Aksumite Ethiopic may be derived from a Greek text very similar to the Coptic. To demonstrate the point I attempt a retroversion of the relevant phrase(s) without punctuation (and with apologies for the horrible appearance of the Greek): … περὶ τοῦ λουτροῦ καὶ τῆς προσφορᾶς ἐπειδὴ ἤδη κατήχησθε (or ηνται following Ethiopic) περὶ τῆς τῆς σαρκὸς ἀναστασέως καὶ τὰ λοιπά κατὰ τᾶς γραφάς… Now if a full stop or colon is placed after the verb κατήχησθε the meaning is as the Ethiopic (though admittedly the style would be improved with a δέ after the περί), whereas should the full stop or colon be placed after τᾶς γραφάς then the meaning is as the Coptic. It is quite possible that the redactor of the Testamentum Domini (mis)read the text in the same way as the Ethiopic scribe.

I treat the point in the second edition of my Apostolic tradition (now languishing forgotten at the Press) but since the discussion had already entered the blogosphere I thought it worth labouring here at rather greater length than I do in the book.

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