As part of our ongoing dialogue about slavery in the church orders Daniel Vaucher asks the following series of interesting questions.
There is another interesting reference to slave in offices: TA 9 about confessors. Confessors are supposed to be made to presbyters; those who only suffered domestic punishment are to be laid hands on for any order they are worth of. (Comparing the different editions and translations, there seems to be a disagreement on the sense of that). Most scholars note that this sentence is a reference to slave-confessors. Canons of Hippolyt §6 speak explicitly of slaves, but they are to receive only the spirit of the presbyterate instead of the insignia. CA adopt the passage as well, but leaving any reference to slaves out. Confessors are not to request an office against the will of the bishop. So the passage in TA 9 is dubious (and was even in antiquity controversial). Were slaves in a worse situation than free confessors? Can we imagine that a slave-owner, who punished his slave due to his religion, tolerated him being in an office (requiring time and money)? But even within TA there is a tension. In TA 15 the slave is to be accepted to the church only with consent of the master. Can we imagine that a slave-owner approves of the religion, but then punishes him for the same reason? (or should we think of exceptional cases in which a slave enters the church, then has his master changed, and is then punished?). There are certainly many questions. I might also ask what you implicate by your remark (in your TA book 2001, p. 93) that this passage TA §9 keeps with “the conservative attitudes towards the slave-class exhibited by the R-El in Refutation, to whom the whole passage is to be attributed.” Do you know of other passages “against” the slave-class in the Refutation? And I also ask if the passage is really this conservative? Did the author had to include a regulation about slaves? He could just as well have left it out, like CA did later, but he chose to include it and grant slaves some honour and possibly also the admission to the presbyterate.
In answering this we turn first to the tension between TA15 and TA 9.
The tension is the result of different levels of redaction. We may reasonably guess that TA15 is part of the Vorlage, which I have termed P. Of course you may say that the redactor made a decision to leave this in, and as such is making a redactional decision, but the tendency in all of these orders, prior to CA, is to leave as much as possible undisturbed, and if necessary to add caveats and qualifications. Possibly this reflects the conservative manner in which sources were employed in antiquity, and this in turn may be the result of the fact that, although codices were coming in at the time of this writer, rolls are still in use. Somehow I cannot see R-El using anything so common as a codex! Anyways, the provision that a slave should have consent is from P; that regarding confessors is from R-El.
Now this redactor is, as I state in the TA (2001) book, sniffy about slaves. I find the assertion repeated in the 2015 edition at p. 109. Look at this author’s biography of Callistus in Ref. 9, an account which J. Glancey, Slavery as a moral problem in the early church and today (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2011), 69, describes as “rife with stereotypes about slaves” as Callistus is depicted as a trickster, a runaway and a thief. This is the basis for the assertion. Note in particular that Callistus sought to extend recognition of the unions of free women with enslaved men, and look at “Hippolytus’” reaction in Ref. 9.7, even though he incorporates (from a source, admittedly) the corresponding provision with regard to free men and enslaved women.
Now the most important point, however, is the point of misunderstanding. In suggesting that confessors be appointed presbyters TA is clear that they are being appointed to an honor, and not to an office. I think this emerges even in my 2001 commentary, left unchanged here in 2015. Quite possibly R-El is legislating ancient practice, and since the presbyterate is in the process of becoming an office there is some confusion here.
It is interesting that this emerges clearly enough from the Sahidic, but that the (later) Ethiopic and Arabic translators completely misunderstand the provision. For TA the point is that such a confessor does not need appointment (cheirotonia) as he has the honor as a right by virtue of being a confessor. CA does not so much omit this, but in failing to understand that the presbyterate here is an honor and not an office, and that cheirotonia is election rather than a sacramental rite of ordination, recasts the entire passage by insisting that ordination is essential for office. Most interesting among the versions is Canones Hippolyti 6, to which Daniel Vaucher refers in his question; here the provision regarding a slave-confessor seems to me to be an addendum to the base of TA, judging by the Sahidic, rather than a reworking of something which is there. And it insists that being a slave is no bar to being a presbyter, though one wonders how effective, as Daniel Vaucher points out, somebody whose primary responsibility is to a master would be in what has now become an office. Nonetheless the fact that the redactor of Canones Hippolyti has to make the provision explicit indicates that there were those in the community who took the line that a slave should not be admitted to office.