Darrell Hannah on Epistula apostolorum

Recently appeared is Darrell Hannah, “The Vorlage of the Ethiopic version of the Epistula apostolorum: Greek or Arabic?” in Meron T. Gebreananaye et al. (ed.), Beyond Canon: early Christianity and the Ethiopic textual tradition (London: London: T&T Clark, 2021), 97–116. Fr Darrell is nearly a neighbour, so giving this a puff is a particular pleasure.

The church order connection (I always try to find one) is in his reflection on the apocalypse of Testamentum Domini. The relationship between this apocalypse and that preceding the Epistula in the Ethiopic witness (the Discourse in Galilee). The relationship between these two apocalypses has long been an interest to me, so it is a boon to see the evidence laid out so clearly. Fr Darrell actually suggests that the Epistula itself may have been a source on which the apocalypse of the Testamentum drew. This would make sense given the recent ascription of all this material to an Asian provenance.

Although nowhere near as accomplished as Fr Darrell in examining this material, I have for a long time taken a punt on the Ethiopic being a direct translation of the Greek. In particular I had in mind the passage where Jesus speaks of the Pascha which the disciple who is released from prison will keep: he refers to “that which is in my remembrance and my agape” (in the Coptic) or “my agape and my memorial” (Ethiopic). The Coptic translator seems to assume that the “memorial” is the Eucharist. To me it seems more probable that a distinct rite is intended, and that the Ethiopic translator has correctly rendered the Greek (which may well be μνημόσυνον.) The statement of an expert on this material that the Ethiopic is taken directly from Greek, and not via Arabic, renews my confidence.



Filed under Anything else, Testamentum Domini

8 responses to “Darrell Hannah on Epistula apostolorum

  1. Alistair, I have had a look back at the evidence and it turns out that every occurrence of ἀνάμνησις in the Bible (Lev. 24.7; Num. 10.10; Pss. 37(38).1; 69(70).1; Wis. 16.6; Luke 22.19; 1 Cor. 11.24-25 and Heb. 10.3) is rendered by ⲠⲢⲠⲘⲈⲨⲈ and tazkār in the Coptic and Ethiopic versions, respectively. Of course, only the Lukan and Pauline texts are eucharistic. Nonetheless, the consistency strongly suggests that the original Greek of Ep.Apost. 15 paired ἀνάμνησις with Agape.

    [Of course, there is as yet no critical edition of the Ethiopic of Luke or 1 Corinthians (so I checked Pell Platt) and the Coptic OT is poorly served by unequal critical editions–and the Ethiopic is only a little better. Still have consulted the editions of Boyd (for Eth. Leviticus), Dillmann (Eth. Numbers & Wisdom), Ludolf (Ethiopic Psalms), Tedros Abraha (Eth. Hebrews – a true critical edition), De Lagarde (Bohairic Pentateuch), Budge (Sahidic Psalter), Ideler (Bohairic Psalter), Thompson (Sahidic Wisdom) and Horner (Sahidic and Bohairic NT) and the unanimity is striking!]

    The only differences are, in the Coptic, dialectical, and, in the Ethiopic, in 1 Corinthians 11.24-25, where the noun is used for the first occurrence of ἀνάμνησις and the cognate verb for the second.

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    • Darrell, thank-you for responding, and for the immense work here. I hope it has not distracted you from work on the commentary. That is some library you have in Ascot.

      My thinking was that this text reflects the use of tazkar at the Ethiopic of Exodus 12:14, rendered μνημόσυνον in LXX. However, where I got this gem from I cannot say… I recall a revelatory moment thirty years ago in Cambridge (when I was curate in Stevenage, and sneaking off to the UL to work on a doctorate behind the bishop’s back). The reason for picking on Exodus 12 is its importance in the Quartodeciman rite to which Epistula apostolorum bears witness.

      But in examining this text we should also advert to the distinction in word order, as Coptic has “memory” and agape, whereas Ethiopic has agape and “memory”. My rationale for trusting the Ethiopic order, rather than the Coptic, is the thinking that the Coptic translator made the assumption that the normative Eucharist was intended, and being used to an agape following the Eucharist inverted the order. However, my suggestion from way back then, to which I still hold, is that the Quartodeciman paschal liturgy, whilst generically eucharistic, was distinct, and that the eucharistic action took place at the end, after what the Epistula calls the agape. Thus I would leave out the “eucharistic” texts of the NT here, as they represent a different kind of Eucharist.

      I realize that it is perfectly possible that a putative Arabic translator might have rendered the Greek accurately, and the Ethiopic translator then accurately rendered the hypothetical Arabic, though the intervention of a further level of translation would inevitably bring about a further level of confusion. Hence my predilection for seeing the Ethiopic as directly representing the Greek, and doing so more accurately than the Coptic.

      Thank-you again, and thank-you for bringing a bit of proper scholarship to the blog.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. drddhannah

    Apologies it has taken so long to return to this and to respond to your last post. Having looked at all the evidence for both ἀνάμνησις and μνημόσυνον in the Ethiopic version, I am less confident that we can know what lay behind tazekār at Ep.Apost. 15. For, while the Ethiopic version is consistent in always rendering ἀνάμνησις with tazekār–except possibly for 1 Corinthians 11.25, where the cognate verb is used (and it needs to borne in mind that we still have no critical edition of the Ethiopic version of the Corinthian epistles)–, tazekār is also regularly used as a translation for μνημόσυνον. Regularly, but not uniformly.

    First of all, the data is much more ample. Whereas ἀνάμνησις occurs in the Greek Bible only nine times (Lev. 24.7; Num. 10.10; Pss. 37[38].1; 69[70].1; Wis. 16.6; Luke 22.19; 1 Cor. 11.24-25; Heb. 10.3), there are over 70 instances of μνημόσυνον, 71 on the LXX, three in the NT and one instance of μνημόσυνος (Est. 6.1). Of the 71 occurrences of μνημόσυνον in the LXX, 33 times it is rendered by tazekār. The same term is used for the one occurrence of μνημόσυνος. However, 26 times μνημόσυνον is translated as zekr, a word whose semantic range overlaps with that of tazekār. Six other times the Ethiopic version is rather paraphrastic and either omits the term or uses a cognate verb. (There are another six occurrences of μνημόσυνον in the Books of Maccabees, which never had a place in the Ethiopic Bible.) In other words, μνημόσυνον/μνημόσυνος is rendered with tazekār just over 52% of the time, by zekr 40% and by a pharaphase about 9% (omitting the six Maccabean instances).

    Of the three NT instances, μνημόσυνον is rendered by tazekār once (Acts 10.4) and by the cognate verb twice (Matt. 26.13; Mark 14.9).

    It is striking that often certain translators evidently preferred one term or the other. For example, the translator of the Psalter never utilises tazekār and uses zekr all six times he renders μνημόσυνον. The translator of Esther, on the other hand, preferred tazekār, using it on every occasion, except one, for μνημόσυνον (6 out of 7 times) and also once for μνημόσυνος. Similarly, the translator of Exodus renders μνημόσυνον with tazekār seven out of ten times, but only once does he chose zekr (3.15). For in both 17.14 and 28.12, where the Greek term appears twice in each verse, he paraphrases and shortens the verse so as to render the term only once each. The translator of Leviticus is more even handed, rending μνημόσυνον with tazekār two times and with zekr four.

    It is also striking that at times the two terms are used almost interchangeably. For example, Lev. 2.2 and 5.12 are very similar in meaning, but the former has zekr, while the latter uses tazekār. The same oscillation appears in Est. 9.31(32) and 10.2–just three verses later (!)–and in Sir. 38.23 and 39.9. These three examples point to the over-lapping semantic range of the two terms and demonstrate that they could be considered synonymous.

    What might we conclude from this data? Admittedly, we have much more data to work with regard to μνημόσυνον/μνημόσυνος than with ἀνάμνησις. The Ethiopic word tazekār, which appears at Ep.Apost. 15, is used often enough to translate both Greek terms that we cannot be certain which lay behind tazekār in the Greek Vorlage. However, μνημόσυνον was also often rendered by zekr, whereas ἀνάμνησις never is–although, to be sure, we much less data to work with here. While the many instances of zekr weakens the case somewhat for μνημόσυνον standing behind tazekār at Ep.Apost. 15, it cannot be denied that an Ethiopic translator confronted with μνημόσυνον would have had tazekār among his options and, probably, it would have been his (slightly?) preferred option.

    One last point occurs to me. The Ethiopic translator of Exodus certainly preferred tazekār to zekr. If the translation of Exodus was made prior to that of the Epistula, which is a fair assumption, and if the translator of the Epistula knew the text of Exodus well, he would have been directed toward tazekār if his text contained μνημόσυνον. But it does not follow that it did. For tazekār is also an expected rendering of ἀνάμνησις. Thus, the connection Alistair wishes make between Exodus 12.14 and Ep.Apost. 15 is certainly possible, but not proven. Neither is my previous argument for ἀνάμνησις. Either could have stood in the Greek exemplar used by the Ethiopic translator of the Epistula. The evidence of the Coptic manuscript, however, just may tilt the balance in favor of ἀνάμνησις.

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  3. fellowsrichard

    Alistair and Darrell, the Epistula Apostolorum 5 lists the women after the children at the feeding of the five thousand. A few NT manuscripts, including Bezae do the same. Also, Epistula Apostolorum 4 lists Joseph ahead of Mary. In the NT this is done only by the Syriac Sinaiticus at Luke 2:16, as far as I know. Are the manuscripts of Epistula Apostolorum consistent in this? What can we conclude from it? That misogynist transpositions go back at least to A.D. 150?


    • drddhannah

      Richard, with regard to EpApost 5, one of the five Mss known to Guerrier (K – BL Or. 795), but hardly used, reads “women and children.” But since then all but one of the “new” Mss I have examined, including the oldest, have this reading. The witnesses are divided. Interestingly, so is the Ethiopic NT; in Matthew 15.38 Zuurmond’s B text reads “children and women,” whereas all the other recensions, at both 14.21 and 15.38, read “women and children.” Thus, I do not think we can know what was the order in the original text of the Epistula.
      With regard to EpApost. 4, all the witnesses place Joseph before Mary. However, the justice of the comparison of Luke 2.16 with EpApost. 4 is not so clear to me. They record different instances. Nor are there many occasions in the NT when the names Mary and Joseph appear side by side connected or by a copulative. It would be more instructive if you could point to an instance of “Mary and Joseph” in one of the many versions of the story about Jesus and the village teacher.

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      • fellowsrichard

        Thanks, Darrell. Men and women were often transposed to give priority to the men in early NT manuscripts. However, women are rarely attacked when they have precedence over only their children. Mark 3:31 is the only other case, I think. I therefore think it is unlikely that the transpositions at Matt 14:21 and 15:38 happened independently more than once. Is there a way to tell whether the manuscripts of EpApost that have “children and women” had come under the influence of NT manuscripts that have the same reading, or whether manuscripts of EpApost that have “women and children” had come under the influence of the other NT manuscripts? Do any of the manuscripts of EpApost betray their influences?

        I could not find any other places where Mary and Joseph are listed together in versions of the story about Jesus and the village teacher, though I suspect that I have not looked in all the right places.

        I have a forthcoming paper, largely on transpositions of males and females in early Greek manuscripts. It would be very valuable if someone could extend the study to include the versions and apocryphal and Gnostic texts.


  4. drddhannah

    Richard, I am using eleven mss in my edition of the Epistula (there is a table and simplified schema at the end of the article, Alistair’s review of which started this discussion; it is available on Academia.edu). Eight of the mss belong to Family 1, three to Family 2. All agree that Family 1 is superior.
    At this reading, six mss (all but one Family 1) read “women and children”, while five (three Family 1 and two Family 2) read “children and women.” That sounds pretty evenly divided, but the three/four mss which I judge the oldest and best (EKO on my table and schema; and G which I have just begun including) all read “women and children.” So on external considerations, I am printing that reading (but could easily be convinced of the priority of the other reading). Internal considerations (see below) are less helpful in this instance.
    The same reading, “women and children,” is clearly preferred in the different recensions of Ethiopic Matthew–except Rec. B at 15.38 (“children and women”). Now, Zuurmond argued (in his editions of Ethiopic Mark and Matthew) that Rec. B is later than Rec. A (the only two recensions that have any claim to antiquity) and that Rec. B is a revision of Rec. A, aiming at a translation in greater conformity with the Greek. This process is clearly visible at 15.38, but not (for some reason) at 14.21.
    Now, in my article I pointed to the distance of the allusions to NT material in the Epistula from the Ethiopic NT (I give a couple of examples, but they could be multiplied) as evidence for it being translated in an early period.
    If I am right, then the Epistula was translated into Ethiopic directly from Greek sometime in the late Axumite period (4th-7th centuries), roughly contemporary with the different books of the Ethiopic Bible. Of course, our mss of the Epistula are much later and could be open to revision toward the NT text–but I have not seen much evidence for this.
    So, it could be that at this point the majority text of the Epistula has been influenced by the majority reading of Matthew (“women and children”), but it seems more likely to me that the variation we have in the mss of the Epistula can be explained in various ways. Ethiopic scribes can be rather careless and a text like the Epistula seems to have been copied with less care that books of the NT. So, I would not be surprised if some of the variation in mss of the Epistula derived from carelessness and some from influence of the majority reading in Matthew.
    I arrive that this conclusion from a good deal of work with Ethiopic mss and mss of the Epistula. That leads me to be hesitant to arrive at too final a decision on the original reading or how great was the influence of the Ethiopic NT.


    • fellowsrichard

      I feel very fortunate to get the benefit of your expertise on this, Darrell. Is it possible that copyists were influenced by what they felt sounded “right”? We have stock phrases like “ladies and gentlemen” and “husband and wife” and “men, women and children”. Do we know whether the conventional order for ancient Greek and Ethiopic speakers was “women and children” or “children and women”? If it was the former, then should the latter be preferred as the harder reading?


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