Did anyone take notice of the church orders?

Daniel Vaucher has submitted an extensive comment on my conspectus of church orders. This conspectus needs to be updated in several respects, though this may not happen until the fall, as I do not work much in the summer. When I do come to update it, I shall examine his suggestions for additions (apart from Epistula apostolorum and I Clement) (see the comment below.)

Within his comment Vaucher asks:

Would you suggest, then, in opposition to the synodal canons, that Church Orders had no reasonable expectation of being observed? It reminds me of Paul Bradshaws question in his recent book, if anybody took any notice of the Church Orders. Were they really just literary ideal ?
The next one is the classification of the Apostolic canons at the end of CA VIII. It is apparent that they included material from the synods of the 4th century, but nevertheless they were probably written / compiled by the same author as the Apostolic Constitutions. The latter are in my opinion clearly a Church Order. The Apostolic Canons are somewhat in-between, if they consist of canons by individual bishops or actual synods and of material by an anonymous author of the CA. Things get even more complicated in terms of the working definition when we look at the aftermath of the Apostolic Canons. They were included in all the Canonical collections and became actual Canonic Law.

 

I agree entirely that the apostolic canons are church order material, though I treat them as part of the Apostolic constitutions, as I believe that they were compiled by the same author/redactor (as DV agrees.) And he is right, not only do they incorporate material from “real” synods, but they come to be incorporated in canonical collections.

I do treat of this a little in a forthcoming article in RHE on the pseudonymous Antiochene canons included in my conspectus. I take the liberty of quoting myself:

The standard statement in the history of apostolic pseudepigrapha is that such productions cease with the prominence of church councils, which become sources of authority as canon law develops.1 Whatever the truth of that statement, we may note that these “church orders” are preserved in canonical collections alongside other, more historically grounded, councils, such as the west Syrian Synodicon2 and the collection found in Paris Syr. 62, which contains the Didascalia apostolorum and an abbreviated version of Testamentum Domini alongside conciliar canons and documents such as Constantine’s summons to Nicaea. Thus even if the growth of councils and the development of a corpus of canon law led to the end of the production of pseudo-apostolic legislative and liturgical material it also led to the preservation of what had been produced. So these Antiochene canons are found in the Munich MS between African conciliar acts from the time of Cyprian and the eighth book of the Apostolic constitutions, and in the Vallicellan alongside the canons of the local fourth-century councils such as Ancyra and Gangra as well as those of the ecumenical councils. Moreover, even if the growth of conciliar legislation led to the end of the church orders, before it did so it directly affected their form as in the fourth century such pseudepigrapha adopt the form of conciliar canons. Thus we have the Apostolic canons, already mentioned above, and the rewriting of the Hippolytean Traditio apostolica into canon form in the Canones Hippolyti.

1Thus Susan Wessel, “The formation of ecclesiastical law in the early church” in Wilfried Hartmann, Kenneth Pennington (ed.), The history of Byzantine and eastern canon law to 1500 (Washington DC: Catholic University of America, 2012), 1-23 at 23; Heinz Ohme, “Sources of the Greek canon law to the Quinisext Council (691/2): councils and church fathers” in Hartmann and Pennington History, 24-114 at 31; Paul F. Bradshaw, Ancient church orders (JLS 80; Norwich: Hymns Ancient and Modern, 2015), 57-8.

2Ed. Arthur Vööbus, The Synodicon in the west Syrian tradition (Leuven: Peeters, 1975-6).

I think what I am suggesting beyond what is here is that prior to the development of conciliar law the church orders employed apostolic authority as an attempt to persuade. The fact that they were translated, copied and edited implies that they were read and noticed, but that their force was persuasive only. The adaptation of canon form to apostolic pseudonymy is the next step in lending persuasive force to the contents of the orders. The widespread distribution of the apostolic canons indicates that this was successful. Interestingly, moreover, we find the pseudonymous Antiochene canons quoted  by Gregory of Pisinuntum at the second Council of Nicaea, which again indicates that the canon form brought persuasive success. But the provisions of synodal canons could be enforced in the way that those of the church orders could not.

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