Confessors and presbyters in Traditio apostolica (and its re-writes)

Dani Vaucher, in our ongoing correspondence, perceptively asks whether the directions in Traditio apostolica restricting the promotion of confessors to the honor of presbyterate disguise a conflict between patron-presbyters and confessors, like that which developed in Africa in the third century between confessors and Cyprian.

It’s a fair and worthwhile question, though I do not think that this is the case. The fundamental conflict in this community is between the patron-presbyters and the episkopos, that is, in Weberian terms, between a bureaucratic and a traditional mode of governance. Certainly the patron-presbyters are attempting to restrict access to their privileges, but I think it is too strong to label this a conflict. I don’t think the comparison with Cyprian’s Africa works simply because the confessors there were not attempting to be recognized as presbyters, but were challenging the (bureaucratically legitimated) episcopate.

However, he goes on: Do you think, that the revision of TA §9 in CA points in the same direction?

This reads: And I James, the son of Alphæus, make a constitution in regard to confessors: A confessor is not ordained; for he is so by choice and patience, and is worthy of great honour, as having confessed the name of God, and of His Christ, before nations and kings. But if there be occasion, he is to be ordained either a bishop, priest, or deacon. But if any one of the confessors who is not ordained snatches to himself any such dignity upon account of his confession, let the same person be deprived and rejected; for he is not in such an office, since he has denied the constitution of Christ, and is worse than an infidel. (ANF translation I think, just grabbed for convenience off the web.)

Here certainly one can see how one can read this as a conflict between office and charism, though, again, not with patron-presbyters (not the least because they no longer existed in the fourth century.) One wonders, however, whether the constitutor simply thought that the original provision meant that a confessor should be recognized as a presbyter (in the fourth century understanding, namely a priest) and rushed to correct that. Not that any confessor (were there any, in fourth century Antioch?) had actually claimed to be a priest, not having been ordained.

What is interesting, once again, is how the church orders rewrite material that they do not understand. Thus, for the sake of completeness, this is what Testamentum Domini does with the provision:

If anyone bears witness and makes it known that he was in chains, imprisoned, or tortured on account of the name of God, a hand is not to be laid on him for the diaconate for this reason, in the same way not for the presbyterate, for the honour of the clergy (klēros) is his, since he was protected in his confession by the hand of God. However, if he is appointed as a bishop he is worthy of the imposition of a hand.
If he is a confessor who has not been judged by the powers, and not ill-treated in chains, but has simply confessed, he is worthy of the imposition of a hand; he receives the prayer of the clergy (klēros). However he does not pray over him repeating all the words, but when the shepherd goes forward in promotion the effect is received. (TD 1.39)


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Filed under Apostolic Constitutions, Apostolic Tradition

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