Author Archives: Alistair C. Stewart

About Alistair C. Stewart

I am the artist formerly known as Alistair Stewart-Sykes, parish priest and social/liturgical historian.

A partial reception history of Traditio apostolica

One of the questions I would ask of those who take a “Bradshavian” view of the development of Traditio apostolica, namely that it is the result of a series of fourth-century accretions, is how it is that so much of it is extant in other fourth-century documents, namely Testamentum Domini, Canones Hippolyti and the eighth book of Apostolic constitutions. My argument, in essence, is that the book must have been substantially complete before being reworked in these various dependent documents.

However, I confess that this does not have the force that it had when first I rehearsed it in my response to Paul Bradshaw in 2004. At the time I suggested that the proponents of the accretional view also had to explain how it came to be substantially complete in three different places at the same time, namely Syria (Testamentum Domini), Egypt (Canones Hippolyti) and Antioch (Apostolic constitutions), these being the provenances conventionally ascribed to each of these documents. However, my subsequent work, in which I have argued that Testamentum Domini and Canones Hippolyti are Asian, from somewhere in between Constantinople and Antioch, and from around the third quarter of the fourth century (thus close in time and provenance to Apostolic Constitutions), means that it is quite possible that the same recension of Traditio apostolica was extant and circulating in fourth-century Asia, probably in the second half of the century, and was reworked to produce these three derivatives. This in turn means that those who deny the third-century and Roman provenance of the final redaction of Traditio apostolica might be able to suggest a redaction in this region, in the first half or so of the fourth century.

I don’t think so, for a host of reasons, but must admit that, by virtue of being simpler, this is a more tenable position than that presented in the Bradshaw/Johnson/Phillips commentary which I criticized back in 2004.

It is, in any event, an interesting observation on the reception history of Traditio apostolica.


Leave a comment

Filed under Apostolic Tradition

The reception history of the Didascalia

Sarah Whitear, in a comment below, asks about the reception history of the Didascalia. She asks, “Other than Apostolic Constitutions, are there any later Christian texts which comment or use the DA?” I thought it worth turning an answer into a post, though I should acknowledge that what follows is mostly taken straight from F.X. Funk, Didascalia et Constitutiones apostolorum II (Paderborn: Schöningh, 1905), 3-14.

First up is the one I knew without looking it up! Epiphanius, in his chapter on the Audians (Haer. 70) refers to the Audians’ use of the Didascalia to justify their Quartodeciman practice. The text is called τῶν ἀποστόλων διάταξις; I conclude in my treatment, following many of the learned, that this is indeed the extant Didascalia. Things are slightly confused, however, by a statement elsewhere in the Panarion in which, discussing the “Aerians”, in which Epiphanius states: “If, indeed, I need to speak of the Ordinance of the Apostles (τῆς διατάξεως τῶν ἀποστόλων), they plainly decreed there that Wednesdays and Fridays be fasts at all times except Pentecost and directed that nothing at all be eaten on the six days of the Passover except bread, salt and water; and which day to keep, and that we break our fast on the night before the Lord’s Day. (Epiphanius Haer. 55.6.1). The mention of Wednesdays and Fridays is not derived from the Didascalia; it is not derived from the Didache either (as the Didache does not except the Pentecost), and nor is it Apostolic Constitutions 7. Most puzzling. Unless Epiphanius is quoting from faulty memory.

Finally we may note that in Haer. 45.4.5 Epiphanius states: καὶ οἱ ἀπόστολοί φασιν ἐν τῇ διατάξει τῇ καλουμένῃ ὅτι «φυτεία θεοῦ καὶ ἀμπελὼν ἡ καθολικὴ ἐκκλησία». This may either be the Didascalia or the Constitutiones, though I’m inclined to think it the Didascalia.

In conclusion, I think we can take it that Epiphanius had some knowledge of the Didascalia, and that the Audians did likewise.

We may next turn to a Coptic version of Athanasius’ Paschal letter, edited by Carl Schmidt, “Der Osterfestbrief des Athanasius vom J. 367” Nachrichten von der königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Philologisch-historische Klasse 1898 (Göttingen: Horstmann, 1898), 167-203. Where the Greek text refers to the Didache, the Coptic refers to ⲧⲇⲓⲥⲕⲁⲗⲓⲕⲏ ⲛ̄ⲛⲁⲡⲟⲥⲧⲟⲗⲟⲥ and adds, “I do not mean that which is said to censure Deuteronomy”. Schmidt suggests that the translator does not know the Didache at all, but has some knowledge of the Didascalia and was therefore confused. This seems entirely reasonable. We may add that the existence of a (lost, apart from a tiny fragment) Coptic translation of the Didascalia would point to some circulation in Egypt.

There are a number of citations of the Didascalia in the Opus imperfectum in Matthaeum, cited in detail by Funk, though I deal with these rather briefly. There is no doubt that the Didascalia is cited here, but given our total lack of knowledge about the origin of this work, it does not assist us much with tracing a reception history. Perhaps somebody with greater knowledge of the Opus imperfectum could jump in here and assist.

Finally we may note, with Funk, some citations of the Didascalia in Bar-Hebraeus, in his Nomocanon, and in his Ethicon. No surprise here.

R.H. Connolly (Didascalia apostolorum (Oxford: Clarendon, 1929), lxxxiv-lxxxvii) discusses Funk’s work and ventures to suggest that the Didascalia was also known to Aphraahat. As discussed in a recent post, there is certainly a large overlap at significant points between the two, though I would tend to consider this the result of a common cultural and theological milieu, rather than looking for direct influence in one direction or another. In part this comes about because I have dated the Didascalia rather later than Connolly.

Connolly also believes that the ps-Clementines made use of the Didascalia (again, I think this unlikely due to the dating of the Didascalia to the fourth century, though, again, perhaps this could be explored further), and finally suggests that the Apostolic Church Order and Canones Hippolyti knew the work.

I have discussed the relationship between Apostolic Church Order and the Didascalia in my edition, where I suggest that the two do share a common source. I leave the discussion there.

Turning to the Canones Hippolyti Connolly reckons three points of derivation. I do not think any of them can be sustained.

Firstly he points to the gathering of the apostles in the first chapter. However, the Canones do not refer to the apostles; the reference is certainly to a council of some sort, but it could equally well be Nicaea.

He further refers to the paschal provisions of Canones Hippolyti in canon 22. “Every point emphasized here is to be found in chapter xxi of the Didascalia” he states. I deal with these parallels in pp24-27 of my edition of Canones Hippolyti and conclude that they do not point to literary dependence, but to a common paschal practice, rooted, we may add, in the Quartodeciman origins of the communities which produced these documents. This in turn was part of the basis for my argument that the Canones are not Egyptian.

The final parallel to which he points had me stumped for a while. He refers to Canon 22 and to a provision that women being baptized should be assisted by other women in removing their clothing before baptism which is, he suggests, reminiscent of the role of women deacons in the Didascalia. His source is the edition of Hans Achelis, Die ältesten Quellen des orientalischen Kirchenrechts 1: die Canones Hippolyti (TU 6.4; Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1891), who had in turn lifted a Latin translation from D.B. von Haneberg, Canones S Hippolyti Arabice e codicibus Romanis cum versione latina, annotationibus et prolegomenis (Munich: Academia Boica, 1870). Sure enough I do find this in Haneberg’s Latin, but the puzzle is that there is nothing corresponding to it in the Arabic text! How it got there I know not, but on this occasion it has misled Connolly significantly

In summary, the reception history is thin. But the enquiry has been interesting.

Leave a comment

Filed under Didascalia Apostolorum

Sex and menstruation in the Didascalia

An interesting conversation today with Sarah Whitear, a graduate student at Leuven who is working on attitudes to menstruation in early Christian circles.

We discussed the passage of the Gnomai regarding Mary’s amenorrhoea (6.1, stating that due to her purity (ἁγνεία) “the way of women was not with her.”) Since editing the text (I referred to Soranus Gyn. 1.4.19-23 in which he suggests that particularly active women (such as those preparing for singing contests) do not menstruate because there is no excess nutrition which needs to be diverted into menses) I have thought further about this; my medical knowledge is limited, but I understand that secondary amenorrhoea may result from malnutrition and in particular protein deficiency. One therefore wonders, given the extremity of asceticism undergone in some circles, whether such secondary amenorrhoea was actually common among female ascetics, and the description of Mary thus typical of female ascetics known to the redactor. We also compared this statement to that of the Protoevangelium Jacobi in which Mary is removed from the temple prior to beginning menstruation.

However, the greater part of our conversation was taken up with an intriguing passage in the Didascalia: I translated, back in the day as “Therefore you should not go to your wives when they are undergoing natural flux, but hold to them…” (DA 6.22.6)

My version was fundamentally based on the Latin: Nolite convenire illis sed sustinete eas.

On this I wrote:

‘You should not go to’ is absent in Syr. which reads instead ‘And when they (your wives) are in their natural flux you should hold to them (ܢܩܦܝܢ) in the manner which is right…’ Flemming in Achelis and Flemming (1904), 223, suggests some accidental omission on the part of the Syriac translator and Vööbus (1979b), 244, similarly opines that Lat. is closer to the original and that accidental omission has occurred. However, although the suggestion of Flemming and Vööbus is followed here there is much to be said for Connolly’s assertion (1929), 255, that Syr. is ‘more in the spirit of the author’. Although CA tends to support Lat. there is little verbal correspondence, thus supporting Connolly’s suggestion that Lat. and CA are independent ‘improvements’ of the original.

I remember puzzling over this when I was translating all those years ago, so was glad to be called back to it. In general I think my footnote is fair, though perhaps I give too much air-time to Connolly. What I did not write at the time, but may now say, as I said to Ms Whitear, is that Connolly probably didn’t know what he was talking about, since he was a monk! Ms Whitear, very perceptively, pointed out that we should probably not take CA into account, as it really goes off piste here. I am convinced, having re-examined the passage. And so we are left with Latin and Syriac with no help from CA which has “improved” the original so as to obliterate it entirely.

My common sense reading of Latin is that men are being told to be good and understanding husbands while their wives are having periods, and not to attempt to have sex with them. Ms Whitear said that this was what she was thinking, so we were in fundamental agreement. The combination of common sense and the witness of the Latin indicates that this is probably the correct understanding.

The Syriac is less common-sensical, particularly if it is telling husbands to have sex with their wives while they are menstruating. However, Ms Whitear, very properly, pointed out that whereas Connolly, and many since, have taken ܢܩܦܝܢ to mean sexual congress this is by no means the most obvious meaning for the verb. We thus spent some time wondering what Greek Vorlage might have led to ܢܩܦܝܢ in Syriac and sustenere in Latin. One candidate was ἀντιλαμβάνεσθαι. This remains possible, as does (I now think) ὑπολαμβάνεσθαι. In other words we discounted the first part of the phrase, (nolite convenire in Latin) assuming it to have been omitted by the Syriac through some form of corruption.

Since then it has dawned on me, since the Syriac is probably corrupt (or taken from a corrupt Greek text), that ܢܩܦܝܢ might actually represent the word rendered in Latin as convenire. This might be συνεῖναι, which might indeed have a sexual connotation (though not exclusively so).

Here we enter the muddy waters of retroversion. If the Vorlage began: οὔκ οῦν δεῖ ὑμῖν συνεῖναι ταῖς γυναιξὶ ὑμῶν… it might have been corrupted to, or misread as, οὐκοῦν δεῖ ὑμῖν συνεῖναι ταῖς γυναιξὶ ὑμῶν… The phrase rendered as “sed sustinete eas” is missing, perhaps as a result of earlier misunderstanding.

I am not being dogmatic here. There is some corruption, and the meaning certainly is that men should not have sex with their menstruating wives, and that they should be loving and faithful husbands. The Latin is correct (I do have great confidence in the Verona Latin as an early text and careful, if painfully literal, translation.) Quite how the Syriac ended up as it did I know not. One of the two clauses is absent; the question is that of which.

Comments, corrections, and observations are welcome!


Filed under Didascalia Apostolorum, Other church order literature

An apology

Some years ago (2017 to be precise) I had a correspondence with Fr Robert Two Bulls of Minnesota. Fr Bob is a former student. It started with some very perceptive observations from him.

RTB: I have a question that maybe I should know but I am sure you do. Here it is: Are the bread and wine at the Eucharist equal? Or is the bread more important? Many of our clergy colleagues make a show of bread breaking (remembering your GTS Liturgy class, that it’s just breaking bread) and it’s usually the clergy or Bishops who distribute the bread and the lesser folks who share the cup. My take is simple consumption -that bread is eaten first and then washed down with wine and then somewhere in history someone decided to add something more symbolic to it. Thoughts?
ACS: They are surely equal (though I cannot cite authority for this, as Anglicans don’t work that way.) There’s a whole load of stuff at the Council of Trent on this, especially since they decided that the whole of Jesus was present in either, so why, they asked, both, and then had to come up with an answer to their own question.
Now you are right, and I always hated it, when clergy make a huge thing of the fraction. It is, after all, solely practical. No more symbolic than pouring wine out of a bottle (though we could no doubt make something symbolic out of that.)
And you are right that we entrust the chalice to all sorts, but keep hold of the host. When, to make the point, I have asked laypeople to administer the host while I take the chalice they never seem comfortable with that; possibly it’s just because it’s unusual, but maybe there’s more going on.
Not sure about bread being washed down with wine, however, simply because, as you may recall, in some rites the wine came first (Didache, possibly Luke.) But it may be some reason as brutally practical as that. Recollect that in many early rites bread and wine were not the only possible eucharistic foods… but always, and perhaps this is critical, always bread. Simply because this was the normal food at every meal without fail in the Greco-Roman world.
Now if you remember the way my mind works, when it does, you will see that this poses thoughts about inculturation. What about societies which never used wine? Or bread come to that? Why are these (Mediterranean) foods so privileged?
Of course part of the answer is the privileging of the Last Supper narrative as the origin of the eucharist, rather than the meals Jesus had with his disciples before and after his resurrection. In particular I suggest the feeding of 5000 (wineless) might be seen as foundational for the eucharist, a meal in which the Kingdom of God is shown and made present.)

Now the post is headed “an apology”. The reason for this is that, thinking about the date, I realize that it was about then that I had the thoughts which led to my Oxford paper “ἄριστον μὲν ὕδωρ: ancient breakfasts and the development of eucharistic foods” subsequently published in JTS and now incorporated into the first chapter of my forthcoming book. I strongly suspect that it was the ball that Fr Bob passed to me that I picked up and with which I ran. I have failed, however, to acknowledge that, but seek to make good that omission now.
For those unfamiliar with the work, the article suggests that wine was dropped from the eucharist in some quarters because it (the eucharist) was transferred to the morning. Wine is not a morning drink or a breakfast food! In my forthcoming book I argue that the wine usually preceded the bread, and that it only came to follow because people thought they were doing what Jesus did at the last supper, and that the last supper was distinct because it was a Passover rite (and therefore annual.) Not quite what Fr Robert was suggesting, but along those lines and quite possibly inspired by his questions. I’m thinking that I might go further and suggest that the wine functioned distinctly when it preceded the bread, perhaps to sanctify the time to be with Jesus, who came in the bread.
Not that we have the authority to mess with the liturgy; I am also aware that in ministry to the dying I have sometimes given viaticum with a pipette in the species of the Precious Blood. This practice, however, is the result of development, and the phenomena to which Fr Bob draws attention perhaps indicate that there is a sort of genetic memory of when things were different.
Thank-you Fr Robert Two Bulls. And every blessing on your amazing ministry.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anything else

Coming soon!


by | February 17, 2023 · 10:12 pm

The origin of the baptismal formula

I am happy to announce the publication of my article “The Baptismal Formula: a Search For Origins” in Ecclesia Orans 39 (2022), 391-414.

The origins of the baptismal formula found in fourth century eastern baptismal rites are explored. It is suggested that the formula originates as early as the first century in a syntactic dialogue between the candidate and the baptizer. The prayer of the candidate is subsequently transferred to the baptizer and, because it originated as a calling out by the candidate, is known as an epiklesis. The recognition that “epiklesis” in the third and fourth centuries may refer to the formula clarifies a number of aspects of the development of the baptismal rite.

Vengono esplorate le origini della formula battesimale presente nei riti battesimali orientali del IV secolo. Si suggerisce che la formula abbia origine già nel I secolo in un dialogo sintattico tra il candidato e il battezzatore. La preghiera del candidato viene successivamente trasferita al battezzatore e, poiché ha origine da un’invocazione da parte del candidato, è nota come epiklesis. Il riconoscimento che “epiklesis” nel III e IV secolo possa riferirsi alla formula chiarisce una serie di aspetti dello sviluppo del rito battesimale.

Canones Hippolyti, naturally enough, provide some evidence for the argument, as indeed does Traditio apostolica. There is some mention of Constitutiones apostolorum and a citation of the Didascalia, so we can say that this really is relevant to the blog! Towards the end I also suggest a solution to the issue of whether Didache 7.1 represents a baptismal formula.

Offprints may be supplied through the usual channels.

Disclaimer: I have no comment on goings-on in Detroit and Phoenix, or on the response from the Congregation.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anything else, Apostolic Constitutions, Apostolic Tradition, Canons of Hippolytus, Didache, Didascalia Apostolorum

Music to my ears!

Forthcoming in Vigiliae Christianae, and available as advance publication on the Brill website, is Alex Fogleman, “The Apologetics of Mystery: The Traditio apostolica and Appeals to Pythagorean Initiation in Josephus and Iamblichus”

While the Traditio apostolica ascribed to Hippolytus has primarily been the focus of studies about authorship and dating, this unique work also has much to suggest about rhetorical presentations of catechesis in the early Christian era. Comparing the TA to Josephus’s account of the Essenes in the Judean War and Iamblichus’s account of Pythagorean initiation in De vita Pythagorica, this essay argues that the TA’s presentation of catechesis can be read as constitutive of a quasi-apologetic defense of the Hippolytan “school” during the transitional period from school Christianity to monepiscopacy during the second century. Deploying similar Pythagorean imagery to describe the process of initiation, the author/editor of the TA makes a case for the Hippolytan school as offering a true philosophical way of life.

Leave a comment

Filed under Apostolic Tradition

Oh deer! Some rambling thoughts on Christian animal sacrifice

In a conversation about something else Euthymios Rizos drew my attention to a Vita of St Athenogenes. I have now had the opportunity to read this in the edition of Pierre Maraval, La Passion inédite de S. Athénogène de Pédachthoé en Cappadoce (BHG 197b) (Brussels: Bollandistes, 1990).

What struck me most was the account of Athenogenes’ meeting a deer which he had raised; the saint promises that the deer will not be taken by hunters, but that its offspring will be offered to the glory of God each year. Subsequently we hear that a fawn is presented by its mother each year for sacrifice and consumption at the feast of the martyrs.

However, perhaps I should not be surprised; for all that we hear constantly of the cessation of animal sacrifice in Christianity (early Christians, as well as wearing open-toed sandals, being vegetarians and perhaps, UK readers will suspect, Guardian readers) the practice continued, particularly in Armenia, and continues still (see here for instance.) The surprise is that (as Andrew McGowan pointed out to me) the sacrifice should be of a deer, generally a wild animal. Canons attributed to Basil prohibit the offering of a hunted animal (see on these Fred C. Conybeare, “The Survival of Animal Sacrifices inside the Christian Church” American Journal of Theology 7 (1903), 62-90, at 79-80). But perhaps the point is that the deer on this occasion is not hunted, but is willingly offered by itself (thus I am unsure of the connection to a sacred hunt made by Franz Cumont, “L’ archevêché de Pédachtoé et le sacrifice du faon” Byzantion 6 (1931), 521-533.) However, we may also note that deer were reportedly offered by Justinian at the dedication of Hagia Sophia (at least according to a later account, on which see Kateryna Kovalchuk, “The Encaenia of St Sophia: Animal Sacrifice in a Christian Context” Scrinium 4 (2008), 161-203.)

We are frequently told that the eucharist, by becoming ritualized and by delivering food in token amounts, has lost its significance, and that it should once again take on the aspect of a meal. I do not cite extensively here, as the theme is surely familiar to all my readers, though I cannot resist referring to one contribution which suggests that, in rejection of the industrial meat-economy, the eucharist should be rediscovered as a “real vegetarian meal, and not just a token meal.” (Michael S. Northcott, “Eucharistic eating, and why many early Christians preferred fish” in Rachel Muers and David Grummet (ed.), Eating and believing: interdisciplinary perspectives on vegetarianism and theology (London: T & T Clark, 2008), 232-246, here at 243-244.) This essay exhibits such an astounding level of ignorance regarding both the early Christian eucharist and the pastoral reality of parishes that it comes as no surprise to learn that the contributor is a professor of practical theology.

In this spirit I wonder whether I might start slaughtering animals at the church door during our parish mass; such has been considered seriously elsewhere (see here and here) but I think I will leave this to the Armenians (and to other cultures still familiar with acts of slaughtering) and allow the meal-logic which is already implicit in the mass we celebrate to speak for itself. This, after all, is why we keep a eucharistic fast, as Traditio apostolica 36 already reminds us. In its original context this provision intended that the eucharistic food should be consumed first in the meal; but who would eat a meal before going for a meal?

Leave a comment

Filed under Anything else, Apostolic Tradition, Other church order literature

Aphrahat and the Didascalia on the secondary legislation

I have just read Sergey Minov, “Food and social boundaries in late antique Syria-Mesopotamia. Syriac Christians and Jewish dietary laws and alimentary practices” Antiquité Tardive 27 (2020), 69-82.

Abstract: Le propos principal de cet article concerne les différentes façons dont le discours touchant le domaine alimentaire a été utilisé par les chrétiens syriaques pendant l’Antiquité tardive pour parvenir à construire une identité collective distincte, indépendante du judaïsme, et établir des frontières sociales avec les Juifs. Il examine comment les règles alimentaires bibliques ont été réinterprétées par les exégètes syriaques, comme Aphrahat (IVe siècle) et Jacques de Sarough (VIe siècle), qui se sont efforcés de montrer le caractère inadapté des prescriptions pour les chrétiens. Il examine également la façon dont les hymnes comme les Canons prescrivaient d’éviter les repas entre chrétiens et juifs. Enfin, il aborde la question complexe du rapport entre ce discours discursif du christianisme indépendant des juifs et du judaïsme et la réalité sociale non moins complexe de la Syro-Mésopotamie tardoantique.

Beyond its intrinsic interest, the reason for mentioning it here is Minov’s observation that Aphraahat employs the same distinction between the still binding decalogue and the “secondary legislation” that is found in the Didascalia, and indeed links this to the making of the golden calf. This tends to place the “deuterotic redactor”, rather as I suspected, somewhere early in the fourth century, and in east Syria.


Filed under Didascalia Apostolorum

On the origin of votive lights

A while back I had a correspondence regarding votive lamps in early Christian churches.

This started with an enquiry regarding a text in II Enoch 45: “If anyone makes lamps numerous in front of the face of the Lord, then the Lord will make his treasure stores numerous in the highest Kingdom.”

I couldn’t shed a lot of light on this text, but more generally I observed that whereas lights are brought in for any Graeco-Roman meal lasting into the hours of darkness, thinking of Traditio apostolica and of Tertullian Apol. 39 inter alia, the burning of a perpetual light is something different.

I was able to cite a few texts; Tertullian (Apol. 35) didn’t think much of burning lamps during the day, and the same attitude persists in the Synod of Elvira c34 forbidding burning candles in cemeteries during the day: Cereos per diem placuit in coemeterio non incendi, inquietandi enim sanctorum spiritus non sunt. Qui haec non observaverint arceantur ab ecclesiae communione. Whereas this applies to cemeteries, and not churches, it does tell us that lights were burnt in cemeteries. This may relate to burial at night, (note that in the Acta of Cyprian the body is borne to the cemetery by the light of candles and torches) but may also indicate that lights were kept lit in the cemeteries beyond the time of burial and that burial might be accompanied by lights even during the day. The accompaniment of candles to the grave of Macrina (Greg. Naz. Vit. Macr. 994C) is less obviously taking place at night.

Things are much clearer towards the end of the fourth century. Paulinus refers to lights burning night and day (De S. Felice natal. 3) (PL61.467), and there is dispute between Jerome and Vigilantius (Jerome adv. Vigilantium) in part over the very issue of burning lamps in the martyria. This leads me to suspect that the votive lamp in churches originated in the martyria, and that this in turn originated from the custom of burning lights in the cemeteries. Dix (Shape of the liturgy, 419) states that “perpetually burning lights at the martyrs’ tombs are found before the end of the fourth century”, but gives no reference for this (unless he is mindful of Jerome, whom he cites in the following pages.) I would not put much confidence in the report of Anastasius Bibliothecarius that Constantine provided a massive pharum to burn before the tomb of Peter (PL127 1518-19), but it is significant nonetheless that this perpetual light is placed before a martyr’s tomb.

I was reminded of this reading an apocryphal Vita of Herakleidios from (6th century?) Cyprus, where it is said that “The Father Mnason, arriving at the same time as us, prayed a great prayer, and taking oil from the un-extinguished (ἀσβέστου) lamp he put it on the father Heracleides and anointed him entirely (συνήλειψεν αὐτὸν ὅλον.)”

On this F. Halkin, “Les actes apocryphes de Saint Héraclide de Chypre, disciple de l’Apôtre Barnabé” Analecta Bollandiana 82 (1964), 133-170, at 165, comments: “Une lampe á huile qu’on n’éteint jamais, voila une attestation rare, sinon unique, de usage des « veilleuses » ou lampes du sanctuaire. Je ne trouve rien sur cet usage dans le Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ni dans le vieux Thesaurus de Suicerus, ni á l’article ἄσβεστος du Patristic Greek Lexicon.” Hopefully this goes some way to filling the void.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anything else

The Stipulatio and the Egyptian baptismal confession

The article discussed in a post below, “The Interrogation in Egyptian Baptismal Rites: a further consideration” Questions Liturgiques 102 (2022), 3-15 has appeared.

Requests for an offprint may be filed in the usual way(s).


Filed under Anything else, Canons of Hippolytus

Wandering widows in the Didascalia (and the Talmud)

In making a start on a new project, an article for RAC on widows, I immediately stumbled across this gem:

Our Rabbis have taught: A maiden who gives herself up to prayer, a wandering (שׁוֹבָבִית) widow, and a minor whose months are not completed– these bring destruction upon the world.

TB Sotah 22a

Inevitably this brought to mind:

Thus the widow should know that she is the altar of God, and she should sit constantly at home, not wandering or going to the houses of the faithful to receive, for the altar of God does not wander or go anywhere, but is fixed in a single place. A widow, therefore, should not wander or go from house to house. Those who roam and who have no shame cannot be still even within their own houses.

DA 3.6.3-4

I am not suggesting a literary parallel, but perhaps some common cultural ground.

1 Comment

Filed under Didascalia Apostolorum

Why and when did Antioch adopt post-baptismal anointing?

A puzzling question in liturgical history is the date and reason for the entrée of post-baptismal anointing into the Antiochene rite. The same question may be posed of the Jerusalem rite. A good summary overall of the discussion (with bibliography) may be found in Juliette Day, The baptismal liturgy of Jerusalem: fourth and fifth-century evidence from Palestine, Syria, and Egypt (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), 105-131.

I was led to think about this, without coming to any real conclusion, by reading Gregorios Ioannides, “Christian initiation in the Cypriot liturgical sources” in that remarkable collection, about which I have already posted, H. Brakmann et al. (ed.), “Neugeboren aus Wasser und Heiligem Geist”: Kölner Kolloquium zur Initiatio Christiana (Münster: Aschendorff, 2020), 273-332.

Iohannides has reference to an apocryphral vita of Heraclides, which contains a number of accounts of baptism (ed. F. Halkin, “Les actes apocryphes de Saint Héraclide de Chypre, disciple de l’Apôtre Barnabé” Analecta Bollandiana 82 (1964), 133-170.) This is indeed a valuable source for the historian of the baptismal liturgy.

I have one cavil with an otherwise excellent essay. On p279 he states: “Although there was no direct reference to the anointing with holy chrism, it can be considered to be self-evident, and to have followed right after the triple baptism in the water.” In the light of the absence of such anointing from the Antiochene rite at the time of Chrysostom I don’t think this is self-evident. He goes on: “In the case of the sailor’s baptism … indirect reference was made to the occurrence of the Holy Spirit after the baptism in the water.” In support of this assertion he cites the text thus: τῆς τοῦ Χριστοῦ σωτηρίας ἡμᾶς καταξίωσον καῖ δούλους ἡμᾶς καταξιωθῆναι αὐτοῦ (=through baptism) ποίησον καὶ πνεύματος ἁγίου ἡμᾶς ἔμπλησον (= through chrismation) ἵνα εἴμεθα σύν σοί. I do not think that the text here can stand the interpretation put onto it, given the absence in the other accounts of any post-baptismal anointing. Indeed at p291 he notes architectural changes brought about in a baptistery, commenting, “The initial architecture of the main place for pre-baptismal rites and the »chrismarion« without the apse most likely reflect the Antiochian liturgical order of the bishop anointing the candidates with holy chrism not after but rather prior to the baptism in the baptismal font.” In other words, the Cypriot church followed the Antiochene pattern, and continued to do so after Antioch had adopted post-baptismal chrismation.

It is this which leads me to ponder again on the initial question. I might have hoped that the identification of Canones Hippolyti as reflecting Antiochene, rather than Egyptian, liturgy would offer some clarification, though sadly this text does not. Although there is some confusion the post-baptismal rites follow the pattern of Traditio apostolica.

Is it even possible that the influence of Traditio apostolica, or some version thereof, led to the Antiochene and Hagiopolite adoption of post-baptismal anointing? Juliette Day does canvass this suggestion, (Baptismal liturgy, 138) but does not follow through on it. Nor will I, or at least not on this occasion!

Leave a comment

Filed under Apostolic Tradition, Canons of Hippolytus

The Alexandrian baptismal formula

For some years I have been pondering the history of the baptismal formula, and an article on the subject is forthcoming in Ecclesia orans, possibly this year. The abstract follows:

The origins of the baptismal formula found in fourth century eastern baptismal rites are explored. It is suggested that the formula originates as early as the first century in a syntactic dialogue between the candidate and the baptizer. The prayer of the candidate is subsequently transferred to the baptizer and, because it originated as a calling out by the candidate, is known as an epiklesis. The recognition that “epiklesis” in the third and fourth centuries may refer to the formula clarifies a number of aspects of the development of the baptismal rite.

What the abstract does not say (though I recollect that the article does) is that the active formula and the passive formula in eastern circles derive from the same original dialogue.

The reason for mentioning this is that I have just been reading Heinzgerd Brakmann, “ⲃⲁⲡⲧⲓⲥⲙⲁ ⲁⲓⲛⲉⲥⲉⲱⲥ: Ordines und Orationen kirchlicher Eingliederung in Alexandrien und Ägypten” in H. Brakmann et al. (ed.), “Neugeboren aus Wasser und Heiligem Geist”: Kölner Kolloquium zur Initiatio Christiana (Münster: Aschendorff, 2020), 85-196.

As one might expect this is a remarkable and detailed treatment of a vast amount of literature. However, I find one cause to question Brakmann. On p113 he observes the use of an active baptismal formula (“I baptize…”) in the Alexandrian literature, and observes its distinction from the passive use of other eastern churches (“The servant of God, N, is baptized…”), and its common ground with the Roman church. He deduces from this some Roman influence on Alexandria.

I do not think that this can be sustained. Critical in this is, of course, the evidence of Canones Hippolyti, in which an active formula is found, awkwardly combined with a baptismal interrogation derived from Traditio apostolica. Historically, and on the assumption that the Canones are Egyptian, this has been taken as (further) evidence for the active formula in Alexandria, though if I am right and the Canones are Antiochene or Cappadocian, then this indicates that the active and passive formulae are found alongside each other in Antioch in the fourth century (which is not unreasonable, as Chrysostom criticizes the active formula, which he would hardly do if such a formula were unknown to him.)

The active formula in Alexandria derives, I suggest, from the original syntactic dialogue taking place at baptism, in the same way that the now common (in the east) passive formula did. I do not think that there is a link to Roman practice. Indeed I do not think that the use of the formula in the west is ancient, but rather agree with E.C. Whitaker “The history of the baptismal formula” JEH 16 (1965), 1-12, that this came about due to growth in numbers being baptized, and the fact that the majority of candidates were infants.

More generally I have always been slightly sceptical about the often-heard assertions of a link between Roman and Alexandrian liturgical practice. The suggestion of a link on the basis of a common (but, I think, unrelated) active baptismal formula gives me no cause to abandon such scepticism.


Filed under Anything else, Canons of Hippolytus

New priest is but old presbyter writ large?

A recent conversation about when presbyters began to exercise liturgical functions (and I’m still none the wiser, though the significant point is that we should not assume that somebody called a presbyter in the first four centuries or so did so, unless there is evidence of other presbyters doing so in the same place at the same time), and in turn the point at which we should render “presbyter” as “priest” (with reference to M.R. James’ rendering of πρεσβῦτις as “priestess” in the Martyrium Matthaei) brought back memories of Fr Bown’s campaign against “priestesses” in the Church of England (I am showing my age), but also to the happier recollection of the delightful poem of Fr Forrest. Those unfamiliar with the name of Stanley Forrest will hopefully be encouraged to seek further.

I long to be a Presbyter,
A Presbyter or Priest,
And grow an elder’s whiskers,
Like the Esbyter or East,
A yard in length at lesbyter,
I mean, of course, at least.
I’m sure that they would operate
Like yesbyter or yeast,
And flocks would be incresbyter,
Tremendously increased,
At every major festival,
Each fesbyter or feast.
And though I’d look a besbyter,
I’d be a kindly besbyter,
A gentle and adorable
Apocalyptic Beast.
SJ Forrest, (1955)

1 Comment

Filed under Anything else

Ancient church orders at NAPS 2022

Only one church order paper at the upcoming meeting of NAPS in Chicago, but it’s a good one! Here, with thanks to the author, is the abstract of what sounds like a fascinating paper.

Christological Titles in the Prayer-Texts of the Apostolic Tradition

Prayer-texts form a distinctive category of material within ancient Christian literature, not least because of their tendency to retain styles and vocabulary that have become archaic or even obsolete in other forms of discourse. Following the now established conclusion that the anonymous ancient church order known as the Apostolic Tradition is not a third-century work by a certain Hippolytus but a piece of “living literature” that gradually developed between the second and fourth centuries, this paper examines the use of the designation “your servant Jesus Christ” in its prayers in comparison with the same expression in other sources. While the phrase tended to be superseded by other more Christologically advanced titles in those sources in the course of the second century, it was still preserved alongside them in certain doxological formulae down to at least the fourth century, especially in Egyptian prayers. In contrast to these, however, in the Apostolic Tradition this primitive epithet is not confined to doxologies and usually appears without other titles for Christ in prayers. This suggests that any exceptions have been subjected to later interpolations, and that the substance of the whole prayers is genuinely extremely old.


Filed under Apostolic Tradition

Ramelli on presbytides

I recently reviewed Joan Taylor and Ilaria Ramelli, Patterns of Women’s Leadership in Early Christianity, for Reading Religion.

Ilaria Ramelli has responded on Researchgate.

I have tried to contact her, to clear what follows with her. I understand she has been gravely ill of late and is in poor health, and so is probably not circumstanced to respond. I am therefore posting this response with an apology that I have not done so with her consent and foreknowledge. However, I do feel that Ramelli’s response to my review requires a response in return.

I really don’t have an ecclesial dog in this fight, but do believe, as I have stated previously elsewhere, that historians need to be very careful when the history we write might affect our present ecclesial realities, and church leaders (in whatever guise they may be) need to be careful in listening to us historians (that is to say, they should listen to us, but listen with a hermeneutic of suspicion!) Moreover, I have always studiously stepped back from engaging in discussions in other parts of the catholic church than my own whilst seeking to provide such historical guidance as I can.

Ramelli offers some clarifications of her statements where she suggests I have misunderstood her; the context, as may be seen from the review, was that I made some minor criticisms of some statements, particularly in her own essay, suggesting that some further nuancing was necessary. I was brief because, in a review, I did not want to become sidetracked or turn it into something other than a review of a book!

My suggestion of nuancing was made with regard to two issues.

Firstly that we should be wary of assuming that “presbyter” and its female form necessarily refers to an order of ministry like bishop and deacon. Even in the fourth century, in some communities, such as that of Testamentum Domini, I suspect that this was not the case. Hence my questioning of Bill Tabbernee’s use of the term “presbyteral” to describe the eucharistic activity of the prophet reported by Firmilian; I would have suggested that she was acting episcopally.

My second concern is to note that the eucharistic meal had developed considerably between the first and fourth centuries; I have a book in the final stages of preparation on precisely this subject, and suggest that the movement was from a variety of meals, which are generically eucharistic, to a single meal, “the” Eucharist. Thus, for instance, whereas I appreciated Teresa Berger’s suggestion that the virgins’ meal in ps-Athanasius Virg. was eucharistic in a domestic setting, my suspicion is that it had once been so, but by the time ps-Athanasius wrote it was no longer so, but had become something else, since what might have been recognizable as eucharistic in a broad sense in an earlier period is not eucharistic in a fourth-century context, as “eucharist” has by now a narrower definition. To give another example: on p32 of Ramelli’s essay she notes that Prisca is mentioned before Aquila and goes on to say: “This suggests that Prisca, not Aquila, was the leading member, and key host, who can be considered to have presided over a house church and to have celebrated the Eucharist there.” Certainly it is plausible that Prisca was the host, but to use the language of eucharistic celebration to describe what happens in the first century is, I believe, to impose a greater degree of liturgical order on the household gatherings of the earliest generation than they actually possessed and to paint a rather anachronistic picture of what a eucharistic gathering in this period might have looked like.

In this light I turn to what she says about Origen and presbytides. She states, correctly, that Origen both in the catena to I Cor. and in the Comm. in Joh. proposes that women might teach other women. My objection, however, is not to this but to the equation of presbyteroi as an office and presbytides. My point was that, in the fourth century, we have presbytides (Conc. Laodic.) who have particular seats and status in church, but that these are not the same as female presbyters. I think they are like the widows in Testamentum Domini who are certainly the female equivalent of the (male) presbyters, but that the male presbyters in this community, whilst ordained (as are the widows) are actually aged male ascetics rather than people holding ecclesiastical ministerial office as we would understand it. These widows teach younger women; I think that is exactly the picture Origen also gives us, but this in no way makes them female presbyters. Indeed, in Comm. in Joh. 32.132 I do not even think that Origen is referring to male presbyteroi as an office.

In this context I was surprised to read of presbytides in the Didascalia and even to hear that they were female presbyters (55-56). Where in the Didascalia? The only presbytides (assuming that the retroversion from Latin aniculas is correct, and I think I more likely that it is presbuteras, on the basis of Apostolic Constitutions) are those who are fed charitably (DA 2.28). In sum, I think there is some confusion here.

Ramelli also states, with further reference to my review:

On p. 45 I do not “conflate” the Eucharistic bread with other Eucharistic meals. Rather, after pointing to Theosebia, called by Nazianzen homotimos of a hiereus (“having the same dignity” as a presbyter and bishop, her brother Gregory) and involved in the Eucharistic celebration, I adduce a passage in Gregory Nyssen’s Life of Macrina in which Macrina herself is said to “lend her hands in service to the liturgies” and then “prepare bread with her own hands” for her mother, but I do not conflate the two: Gregory’s emphasis lies on the same hands which prepared the bread, in humility and service (a cypher of Macrina’s lifestyle:) and were used at the Eucharistic liturgy. What I say, based on Gregory, is that Macrina “used her hands to celebrate the Liturgy” (p. 45), not that the bread she prepared for her mother was Eucharistic in any sense.

Here I apologize if there is some misunderstanding; however, my objection was to her acceptance of Teresa Berger’s interpretation of the ps-Athanasian meal as though it were fact (as I suggest above, I think it supposition, albeit interesting supposition) and the subsequent conflation with the liturgical activity of Theosebia. I am sorry if this was unclear.

And again, I do not think that Theosebia was a presbyter, in the sense of holding an order of ministry. And so the two concerns mentioned above converge. She may have been homotimos with a hiereus, but this does not mean that she was one (and, in any case, a hiereus is a bishop rather than a presbyter…) Again I think her status was comparable to that of the widows of Testamentum Domini, as was the nature of her liturgical participation. I do not follow the point here in as much detail, because I think that the fundamental point, that we should see these statements in the light of contemporary Asian evidence, such as Testamentum Domini and the canons of Laodicea, has been made already.

What Ramelli does present is a “gender divided” participation of women and men in the eucharistic liturgy in fourth century Cappadocia and elsewhere. I think we get some picture of this from Testamentum Domini, where the widows have a place by the altar comparable to that of the presbyters, and I suspect that this is what brings about the reworking of an older polemic by the redactor of Apostolic Church order. Thus fleshing out of the picture we may derive from these “church orders” is the contribution that Ramelli, Joan Taylor, and indeed others in this volume have made; this is a substantial contribution.

As I state in my review, this volume of essays sets the standard for discussion. But I also say that it is clearly not the last word on the material they discuss.

Leave a comment

Filed under Apostolic church order, Didascalia Apostolorum, Testamentum Domini

Just fancy that (2)!!!

“Stewart’s use of the current Coptic rite of baptism as the key for interpreting the earlier Egyptian sources… is problematic methodologically…. to read the sources from the interpretative lens of the current Coptic rite results in an anachronistic reading of those sources.” Maxwell E. Johnson, “Interrogatory creedal formulae in early Egyptian baptismal rites: a reassessment of the evidence” QL 101 (2021) 75-93, at 92-93.

“Two prayers following renunciation and profession occur precisely at this point in the Coptic order of Baptism… that this prayer follows both the renunciation and profession, as in the Coptic rite, may be suggested… ” Maxwell E. Johnson, The prayers of Sarapion of Thmuis: a literary, liturgical and theological analysis (OCA 249; Rome: PIO, 1995), 131.

Within the Coptic Order of Baptism, however, a brief prayer for the regeneration of the one who be baptized is also offered by the priest upon entrance into the baptistery… Sarapion’s Prayer 10 certainly may be read as corresponding to this…” Johnson, Prayers, 135.

1 Comment

Filed under Anything else

Just fancy that!

Recently appeared is John S. Kloppenborg, “The Didache and the Apostolic Constitutions in the context of association rules” in Joseph Verheyden et al, Texts in contexts: essays on dating and contextualising Christian writings from the second and early third centuries (Leuven: Peeters, 2021).

In essence Kloppenborg argues: “The comparison of the Didache with the bylaws of Greek, Roman, and Judaean associations indicates many commonalities, but some distinctive features as well. It is unexceptional that the Didache’s regulations treated entrance and initiation, the vetting of those who wished to join or interact with the group, meal practices, the general behaviour that should be expected of members, and a keen interest in not falling prey to financial fraud. The selection of leaders – that is, the ἐπίσκοποι – is also unexceptional.”

Cf. “We may thus suggest that if an ancient hearer were to hear a document setting out the conditions for admission to a religious association, describing the means of entry, regulating the manner in which meals are to be conducted, and appointing officers, such an ancient reader would readily recognize an associational lex.” Alistair C. Stewart, “The Didache as an associational lex: re-opening the question of the genre(s) of the church orders” JbAC 62 (2019), 29-49.

Leave a comment

Filed under Church orders in genera(l), Didache

An Antiochene version of the “eucharistic words”

I have just read Kevin Künzl, “The Ignatian eucharist in transition: textual variation as evidence for transformations in meal practice and theology” in Markus Vinzent (ed.), Studia patristica 126 (Leuven: Peeters, 2021), which is perhaps not as exciting as it sounds. Künzl observes the variations between the middle and long recensions of Ignatius in passages relating to meals, in order to demonstrate that the understanding of Eucharist had undergone some change between the second century and the fourth, though he interestingly observes other versional evidence. However, one fascinating observation, which I had overlooked, is the use of the verb θρύπτω in one passage, as opposed to the more usual κλάω.
This passage is in the long recension of Philadelphians 4: the expansion reads, “There is one bread which is broken (ἐθρύφθη) for all, and one cup which is shared with the whole congregation.” Künzl renders ἐθρύφθη as “ground”, which is perhaps overdoing it, but I really feel I should have observed this when I was working on the pseudo-Ignatians, and rendered “broken up”, rather than simply “broken.”
Künzl offers the following interesting parallels to the use of this word:
Constitutiones Apostolorum 8.12.36: …καὶ κλάσας ἔδωκεν τοῖς μαθηταῖς εἰπών· Τοῦτο τὸ μυστήριον τῆς καινῆς διαθήκης, λάβετε ἐξ αὐτοῦ, φάγετε, τοῦτό ἐστι τὸ σῶμά μου τὸ περὶ πολλὼν θρυπτόμενον εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν.
Theodoret, Epistula 145 (PG 83, 1251A): καὶ τὰ θεῖα δὲ παραδοὺς μυστήρια, καὶ τὸ σύμβολον κλάσας καὶ διανείμας, ἐπήγαγε· Τοῦτό μού ἐστι τὸ σῶμα, τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν θρυπτόμενον εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν.
This peculiar version of the words of institution seems to be common Antiochene property. I would not, however, read more into it than that.

Leave a comment

Filed under Apostolic Constitutions

A webinar for John Collins

As John Collins turned 90 the indefatigable Bart Koet organized a webinar honouring his contribution to the study of diakonia. There are contributions from Sven Erik Brodd, Anthony Gooley, Anni Hentschel, Edwina Murphy, Pauliina Pylvänäinen, as well as from Bart Koet himself, and a response from the birthday boy and honoree.

The webinar was recorded and may be seen here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anything else

Testamentum Domini 1.37

A point of discussion has arisen between myself and Grant White with regard to Testamentum Domini 1.37. Here the translation following Cooper and McLean:

If any woman whatsoever suffer violence from a man, let the deacon accurately investigate if she be faithful and have truly suffered violence; if he who treated her with violence was not her lover. And if she be accurately thus, and if she that suffered mourn about the violence that happened to her, let him take it up to the hearing of the bishop, that she may be shewn to be in all things in communion with the Church. If he who treated her with violence be faithful, let not the deacon bring him into the church for partaking, even if he repent. But if he be a catechumen and repent, let him be baptized and partake.

The key term here is that translated “suffer violence”. The Syriac root is ܩܛܪ.

For White the passage concerns spousal violence. Thus he refers to Norman Russell Underwood, The Professionalization of the Clergy in Late Antiquity (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation. Berkeley: University of California, 2018), 106, who suggests that the deacon is here adopting the role of medical examiner.

In my own version I translated as “suffer compulsion”, and understood this to refer to an allegation of rape, which may prove not to be rape but consensual sex. Thus I understood that the deacon, on establishing that it is not consensual, reports this to the bishop so that no blame attaches to the woman. Then the deacon does not allow the perpetrator into the church, as he is doorkeeper, but the woman, who is a victim and not a fornicator, is permitted to communicate. The deacon’s investigation is not, therefore, the investigation of injuries to the woman but of the circumstances.

This uncertainty was a good enough excuse to pay a visit to Fr Darrell Hannah, and to consult regarding the Ethiopic text. He informs me that the Ethiopic root is ḥyl, which like the Arabic cognate حيل is suitably vague. Alas we are none the wiser as a result, though I did enjoy my trip to Ascot!

One piece of evidence which might offer support to White (and Underwood) is a brief statement of Epiphanius De fide 21.10 in which he states that deaconesses are appointed only to assist women “for modesty’s sake… if there is a need because of baptism or an inspection of their bodies.” The nature and purpose of this investigation is not stated. However, I have a recollection that the bodies of catechumens might be inspected for signs of demonic infestation, which would link in with the role of female deacons in baptism.

Here I have to ask the help of my readers as I cannot remember where I came across this! Can anyone help?


Filed under Testamentum Domini

The disappearing deaconess

A comment on the post below about the disappearing deacon has led me to read Brian Patrick Mitchell, The disappearing deaconess (Alexandra VA: Eremia, 2021).

Although there is some historical material here (some of which is outside the period of my competence), the book is also a contribution to the ongoing debate in Orthodox circles about the restoration of a female diaconate. As a matter of policy I never comment on internal issues relating to another part of Christ’s vineyard (DA1) which restricts me somewhat. Beyond that, Mitchell’s book is largely a work of theology, a field in which I can claim a complete lack of distinction.

I therefore limit myself to a few observations on the first chapter, which is concerned with history. Two points emerge from my reading.

The first is that Mitchell states that the first evidence for female deacons is found in Didascalia apostolorum which derives, he says, from the third century (“around 230”, p11). Sadly he appears to have overlooked more recent work on the Didascalia, which tends to date it somewhat later. As such we cannot be so sure that this is the first evidence. With due recognition of the uncertainties of interpretation of the 19th canon of Nicaea, I still often think that this is the first certain evidence of such an order. However, Mitchell believes that the female diaconate was a new institution in the church of the fourth century. Here I agree, and suggest that a later dating for the Didascalia material might strengthen his case.

My second major observation is that the attempt to deny any female diaconate or office in the first century or so of Christ-confession (pp5-10) misses the mark. In Original bishops I suggest that there may well have been female episkopoi and diakonoi in the first century, but that female leadership rapidly disappears with the re-institutionalization of the church as associational (whilst clinging on in separated communities). To accept this would do no harm to Mitchell’s thesis since, as he states in his preface, “History is not tradition. History becomes tradition only when it is handed down.” (pxi)

The book is a light reworking of a dissertation dating from 2017; it thus inevitable that the treatment of deaconesses in Testamentum Domini does not deal with my own (2020) contribution, though what it has to say (pp16-17) is largely fair. He notes Martimort’s suggestion that the Testamentum knew only of deaconesses from his sources (unlikely I think) and also suggests that there is a reaction against the presence of deaconesses. I don’t think either is correct; I think the Testamentum is just puzzled at this new order and doesn’t really know what to do with them!

I hope that the author and his readers and supporters will take these comments in the constructive spirit with which they are offered.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anything else, Didascalia Apostolorum, Testamentum Domini

A subdeacon’s sex-change

Carolyn Osiek, and Kevin Madigan, Ordained women in the early church: a documentary history (Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011), 70, note an inscription dedicated to “Alexandra, subdeacon.” They comment: “The office of subdeacon is known for men, but is otherwise unknown for women.” This intrigued me sufficiently to check the reference, which is given as BE (1963): 152. Sure enough the name of the subdeacon is given there as “Alexandra”. However, a full reference is given to Georgi Mihailov, “Epigraphica”, Bulletin de l’Institut archéologique bulgare 25 (1962), 205-209, here at 208-209. There Mihailov reads ὑποδιακάνον Ἀλέξαν[δ]ρος. Jeanne and Louis Robert in BE appear to have subjected him to gender re-assignment!

Leave a comment

Filed under Anything else

Euodia and Syntyche again

Richard Fellows draws our attention to an article on Euodia and Syntyche in significant agreement with ours.
I think that wraps that particular matter up nicely! Mind you, we got there first!!!*

*(Actually James C. Watts, “Did Euodia and Syntyche Quarrel?” Methodist New Connexion Magazine and Evangelical Repository 61/3 (1893), 24–29, got there first but his contribution was totally forgotten until Dr Stewart turned it up in the British Library!)

Leave a comment

Filed under Anything else

Krankenpflege and the ministry of deaconesses in the Didascalia

A correspondence with Esko Ryökäs has emerged from the diakonia webinar, which may be of more general interest. It is presented here as a dialogue:

ER: On 9th December, we discussed “taking care of the sick in Didascalia 3,12: “You too have need of the ministry of a deaconess in many things, so that they may go into the homes of pagans, where you may not go, where there are believing women, that they may minister as necessary to those who are sick and bathe those beginning to recover from sickness.”. I think there is the verb ܫܡܫ in the Syriac text. Do you believe that “sitting by” is a possible translation? “Krankenpflege” is possible, but it has a particular meaning in our languages.

ACS: It’s an interesting passage. First up we are certainly talking about the sick (infirmes, ܠܐܝܠܢ).
Latin (an ancient translation) simply has ministrent, which is surely derived from a διακ-·stem in Greek. I have a high opinion of this Latin version, as in general it is extremely literal, and when it is clearly mistaken it is usually possible to see what the error was; for this reason, where possible, I always use this as my base version in reconstructing the lost Greek originals which it renders. Syriac rather confuses the matter by doubling up the statement, “visiting” the sick (a word with the root ܣܥܪ which I would tend to translate with stems from ἐπισκοπ-… this is the word used in Peshitta Luke 1:68 to render ἐπεσκέψατο) and then to minister (ܡܫܡܫܐ) (διακ-) to those in need. I thus think that Krankenpflege is quite a good translation here. I do not think “sitting by” does the word(s) justice. We have episkopē and diakonia. Probably the Greek had a διακ- verb.
Also note the interesting textual variant in some Syriac MSS which have her “anoint”, rather than wash, those who are recovering.

ER: This with anointing is very interesting. It is very logical, too. This could mean that some deaconesses did anointing, which (later, of course) was understood as an mysterion/sacrament.

ACS: And note that this variant reading is found only in MSS of a much later recension of the Didascalia.

ER: I will have to think more about Krankenpflege I am writing on this, and have to be clear about the direction of my argument. What do we know about Krankenpflege in Syriac area during those years (2nd-4th c.). At least they don’t have any vaccinations. Or did they?

ACS: The Didascalia itself describes a number of medical treatments… none of them alas vaccination.
As to what we know of Krankenpflege in the area and period of the production of DA… what can we know unless we know a) the area and b) the period at which this part was produced! I am fairly sure that this is one of the later layers, and would date it to a period around Nicaea. I am also fairly sure that it derives from a more easterly and bilingual area of Syria. Cappadocia and Antioch had organized Krankenpflege, or at least poor relief to which the care of the sick was allied, and the widows in Apostolic church order are charged with this… there’s a lot about this in my book on the Canons of Hippolytus… but further east there seems to be little. Note the story at Sozomen HE 3.16 when Ephrem has to sort out poor relief in Edessa as there is nobody else who can be trusted… and the Krankenpflege ceases when the plague is over.

ER: The role of deaconesses in comparison with that of widows gives rise to a question. Pauliina Pylvänäinen’s book about deaconesses has the title: Agents in Liturgy, Charity and Communication. Could it be that deaconesses were more for liturgy/common celebrations – and the widows more for taking care? This is one of the questions I have in editing our books. I don’t have an answer, mostly due the fact that in our book we analyse only the one side. What did widows do in those texts?

ACS: In my book on the Didascalia I argue that deaconesses were instituted to bring ministering women under episcopal control… thus replacing the widows and taking over their historic functions. In my essay on deaconesses in the Testamentum Domini I see more of this. Wendy Mayer (Chrysostom expert) agrees with me that the same was true of Chrysostom’s ordination of female deacons.

ER: I think this could be another way of saying what I did. Also perhaps the tasks were more of a liturgical character. It could be some other, too. But perhaps those for the common meeting was more important.

ACS: Or more prominent in the contemporary literature because more obvious. If people are asked what I do they will talk about liturgy and preaching, but not about editing church magazines, checking accounts, chairing meetings…
So to come back to Krankenpflege, all in all the passage is a bit of a mystery! Woman deacons are doing a job that is otherwise not mentioned of male deacons… although the bishop in Traditio apostolica visits the sick I would not call it Krankenpflege.

ER: The logic of Krankenpflege was not at all so technical as we have it. It is not easy to read the old texts; you use your own time as a reference without knowing it.

ACS: With this I must agree.

Post script on 22nd January 2022
Thinking further about this passage it dawned on me that the reference to the female deacons washing might mean that they washed the bodies of the women when they died. It brought to mind Lampadia washing the body of Macrina (Vita Macrinae in PG 46 988-90). I ran this past Esko who replied that he had asked Serafim Seppälä, according to whom, in Greek culture, it was an everyday praxis that women washed the bodies of the dead. This seems to me to be what the text means.

Leave a comment

Filed under Didascalia Apostolorum

Getting into hot water with Anton Baumstark

Borg. Ar. 22, one of the manuscripts containing the Arabic Testamentum Domini, has a liturgical appendix with material related to, but distinct from, parallel material in Testamentum Domini. Some of this was published by Baumstark in “Eine aegyptische Mess- und Taufliturgie vermutlich des 6 Jahrhunderts” Oriens christianus 1 (1901) p. 1-45. I had a note from a colleague querying Baumstark’s rendition of بحميم الميلاد الثانى in one of the prayers after baptism, as “per aquam calidam regenerationis.” The question was whether I could make any sense of it; where, indeed, did Baumstark find the aqua?

My first look was to see what the word was in the Testamentum Domini. Although this isn’t straight Testamentum there is a comparable prayer there, where the word is ܣܚܬܐ. That is straightforward. But this passage is derived from from Traditio apostolica. The Latin here is lauacrum regenerationis, with an apparent reference to Titus 3:5, and so in keeping with the Syriac of Testamentum Domini.

The Sahidic of this section of Traditio apostolica is not extant and the Bohairic rather free but the Arabic is للحمي الى للولدة الثانية (Horner, Statutes of the apostles, 101), thus using the same root. So I went to check the dictionaries, going first to Wehr, to find on p203 حم with form 10 as “take a bath”. And so to Lane, who has this form 10, but also the noun حمة meaning a hot spring. I can only think that the root came to refer to a bath through metonymy, though the usage here is otherwise unattested. If this is the case the meaning is straightforward and entirely in keeping with the original, and although Baumstark’s translation is rather forced we can see where he got the water from!

However, beyond the minutia of this single word, the correspondence reminds me of how fascinating this liturgical appendix is as witness to the Egyptian Nachleben of the liturgies of Testamentum Domini.

Leave a comment

Filed under Apostolic Tradition, Testamentum Domini

The baptismal rite in the Ethiopic versions of Traditio apostolica

One baffling aspect of the mediaeval Ethiopic version of Traditio apostolica is the presence of an additional baptismal rite, apart from a version of that found in other versions of Traditio apostolica (ed. Hugo Duensing, Der Äthiopische Text der Kirchenordnung des Hippolyt (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1946), 81-127.)

Alessandro Bausi, “The baptismal ritual in the earliest Ethiopic canonical liturgical collection” in Heinzgerd Brakmann et al (ed), Neugeboren aus Wasser und Heiligem Geist”: Kölner Kolloquium zur Initiatio Christiana (Münster: Aschendorff, 2020), 31-83 has now published a version of a clearly closely related baptismal ritual from the Axumite collection from which he derived the new text of Traditio apostolica. I have yet to explore it in detail, but since I have at present, as a result of the ongoing discussion with Maxwell Johnson about the interrogation in the Egyptian rite, a particular interest in the introduction of the syntaxis into Egyptian baptismal rites (generally suggested to have taken place in the fourth century on the basis of the appearance of such a syntaxis in Canones Hippolyti, evidence which has now disappeared with the denial of an Egyptian provenance to this document) and in the role and presence of the five-membered creed found in the Deir Balizeh papyrus and elsewhere (including Epistula apostolorum) as part of my overall argument that declaratory creeds are no less primitive than interrogatory creeds (though the language is misleading), I took a particular interest in the baptismal confession found in the Axumite ordo.

Essentially this baptismal confession is the same as that found in the present Coptic rite, namely the declaration of the five-membered creed, followed by a brief interrogation: “Do you believe?” “I believe” repeated three times. What is notable, however, is the absence of any syntaxis. This implies a rather later entrée of the syntaxis into Egyptian rites (it is, for instance, present in the current Coptic rite) than previously thought.

Turning to the version in the mediaeval Ethiopic of Traditio apostolica we find that the same baptismal profession that is in the Axumite rite, as in the present Coptic rite, in in place, namely the prompted repetition of the five-membered creed and the repeated question “Do you believe?” (though are very slight variations between the Axumite version and the mediaeval version.) This later rite, however, has a syntaxis. This syntaxis, however, is none other than, yet again, the same five-membered creed, which is thus repeated twice in the ritual! In the version of the rite of Traditio apostolica within this text the same, expanded, version of the five-membered creed as found in the Coptic version of the Traditio is found, albeit partly conformed to the interrogatory shape of the original. But given that the version in the second ritual lacks the expansions this can hardly be put down to the influence of Traditio apostolica. I think there may be more to say about this… but consider that after writing a 138 word sentence that that’s enough for now.

Leave a comment

Filed under Apostolic Tradition

More shameless self-aggrandizement

Sydney College of Divinity have now got around to posting the details of my two most recent books, the re-edition of Apostolic church order and my version with introduction of Canons of Hippolytus. The titles will bring up the link… with the opportunity to buy a copy!
I’m particularly excited about Canons of Hippolytus; reading recently on Egyptian liturgy I see how often these are cited as evidence. However, I believe that I have shown that the Canons are not Egyptian but, in agreement with Georg Kretschmar (who made the suggestion in passing but did not argue it), that they are more likely Cappadocian, or perhaps Antiochene. Interestingly I reached this conclusion independently, having forgotten that Kretschmar had suggested it.
If I am right, then this has fairly far-reaching consequences both for the study of Egyptian liturgy and of Cappadocian liturgy. Of course, I may be wrong… I have been wrong before, notably in dating Apostolic church order to the third century (being misled as the sources are all from that period or before) and hence being glad of the re-issue and the opportunity to correct myself (whilst staying relatively muted on the subject!) As to the Canons, I suppose I just have to wait for critical reaction.

1 Comment

Filed under Apostolic church order, Canons of Hippolytus

The interrogation in Egyptian baptismal rites

In response to my article The early Alexandrian baptismal creed: declaratory, interrogatory… or both?” Questions liturgiques 95 (2014), 237-253 (which came out in 2015(!)), questioning whether Egypt had ever known an “interrogatory” baptismal rite, Maxwell Johnson has responded, defending his position, in “Interrogatory creedal formulae in early Egyptian baptismal rites: a reassessment of the evidence” Questions liturgiques 101 (2021), 75-93. I have now drafted a response to his response which, I think, brings some valuable new considerations into play. It may be that I will have to revise my original position slightly, but if this new evidence is as significant as I think it is then the position to which I originally took exception, namely that the original form of baptismal profession in Egypt was an interrogation like that found in Traditio apostolica, is completely excluded,

I also think that the issues explored go beyond the narrow concern of the Egyptian baptismal rite, as it raises the whole question of the priority of “interrogatory” creeds over “declaratory” credal statements.

There is a definite church order aspect to this, as the discussion involves a consideration of the baptismal interrogations in Canones Hippolyti and the Sahidic version of Traditio apostolica.

I knocked the response in a couple of days (nights actually). Because it was written in haste and heat I let myself cool off and, whilst cooling off, posted the draft to as a discussion paper, in the hope of guidance and correction from those equipped to guide and correct.

The discussion ended with no comment from anyone. From this I concluded that nobody was that bothered. However, I made some revisions, removed the academia discussion, and sent it off anyway… I can now announce that the result, “The interrogation in Egyptian baptismal rites: a further consideration” will appear in Questions liturgiques in due course. Whether anyone reads it is, of course, another question.

Here, anyway, is the abstract of the forthcoming article:
In response to Alistair C Stewart, Maxwell Johnson has presented arguments for continuing to see an interrogation in the original Egyptian baptismal rite. This article takes a fresh look at the question, suggesting that the evidence cannot lead to a certain conclusion on this point. Nonetheless, the form of the stipulatio, introduced into Egypt in the third century and previously unknown there, tends to indicate that the interrogatory baptismal rite, which employs this form, is a western phenomenon. It is possible that the interrogation entered Egyptian baptismal rituals as a result of the widespread Egyptian adoption of the stipulatio.

1 Comment

Filed under Anything else, Apostolic Tradition, Canons of Hippolytus

Saint Paul and the two ways

I am pleased to announce the publication of my article “St Paul and the two ways: Romans 12-13 and pre-baptismal catechesis” Bulletin of the St Philaret Institute 39 (2021), 12-31, alongside some other interesting-looking articles. The journal is open access. Note that the Russian translation (!) appears first. The home page is in Russian… and Google translate turns me into an abbot!

The abstract:

This article suggests that the paraenetic material in Romans 12-13 in being introduced with a reference to baptism and concluding with an eschatological exhortation, again referring to baptism, is deliberately intended to reflect a pre-baptismal catechesis, rather than, as frequently supposed, a synoptic source or Jesus-tradition. Significant parallels with the Didache, and other parts of the two-ways tradition, are observed. This leads to the further observation that the context of this catechesis is shaped in a specifically Jewish context, being reflected in Pliny’s report of Christian activities and in the Elchesite baptismal ritual. Paul is employing a recognizably Jewish form of catechesis here in order to commend his teaching to a primarily Jewish audience. Gentile baptism, however, required a distinct renunciation, and in time a doctrinal element was added to the catechetical programme.

This was actually started as long ago as 2008, in a presentation given at that famous seat of learning, Cuddesdon. They did not appreciate it. I had pulled if off the back burner several times, but only when I pulled it off again late last year, on receiving a request for an article on catechesis from SFI, did I realize that the reason I had made no progress was that I was using the material to try to answer the question of the extent of Paul’s knowledge of Jesus-logia; although the argument tends to indicate that he had none, it is not a slam-dunk, and the question is in any case not the most interesting one. What is interesting is Paul’s knowledge of the catechetical tradition represented by, inter alia, the Didache.

This announcement is filed under e-rrata, as there are two errors of omission.

One comes about because of the passage of time. Namely, although I read Seeberg Der Katechismus der Urchristenheit ages ago, when I was preparing for my trip to Cuddesdon, I really should have re-read it. Had I done so I would have remembered Romans 6:17, χάρις δὲ τῷ θεῷ ὅτι ἦτε δοῦλοι τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὑπηκούσατε δὲ ἐκ καρδίας εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε τύπον διδαχῆς, which strikes me as really clinching the argument. The τύπος διδαχῆς is surely the two ways.

The other omission is reference to Benjamin A. Edsall, The reception of Paul and early Christian initiation: history and hermeneutics (Cambridge: CUP, 2019). Edsall does not have a lot of time for Carrington and Selwyn who were, alongside Seeberg, the fontes et origines for my thinking here. My excuse here is that I only came across this work after the article was translated and typeset.

In his introductory chapter Edsall suggests that the formal catechumenate was not known in the first or early second centuries. Insofar as it may refer to a formal period of liminal existence with fixed rituals this amounts to a statement of the obvious. Insofar as it may refer to instruction prior to baptism, then the Didache rather tends to contradict Edsall here. To get away from this, Edsall suggests that the two ways material in Didache 1-6 is rather loosely connected to the baptismal rite: “’these things’ need not be restricted to literary reference points and may refer rather to pre-baptismal declarations by the priest and believer (note the plural προειπόντες) rather than to Didache 1– 6.” (p27). There is more, however, to connect the two ways material and the baptismal rite than simply the phrase at Did. 7.1; thus we may note the echoes of the two ways in the report of catechumenate and baptism given to Pliny (Ep. 10.96.7) and the similar echoes in the baptismal rite of the Elchesites (Hippolytus Ref. 9.15.6.) προειπόντες (the plural is noted, though we should also note βαπτίσατε) certainly does refer to pre-baptismal declarations by the baptizer (not a priest, surely!) and possibly the candidate… but these declarations are constituted by the two ways (ταῦτα πάντα). Actually that insight could become another article… remember you read it here first!

Leave a comment

Filed under Didache, E-rrata

Tout en commun?

Last week saw another excellent Zoom seminar from Tilburg presented by Jonathan Cornillon (Sorbonne) based on his book Tout en commun? La vie économique de Jésus et des premières générations chrétiennes (Cerf Patrimoines, 2020) with responses from Bart Koet and Paul van Geest. The Didache gets a look-in, which is justification enough to post the details here.

This can be watched here, where there is more interesting stuff.


Leave a comment

Filed under Didache

The continued use of church orders in non-Chalcedonian churches

Somewhere in his oevre Paul Bradshaw reflects on the question of why the church orders disappear from use within Chalcedonian churches, whereas in non-Chalcedonian circles they continue to be preserved and reworked.

Writing an encyclopaedia article on canons of church councils (and wishing I’d never accepted the commission) I came across David Heith-Stade, “Marriage in the canons of the council in Trullo” Studia Theologica 64 (2010), 4-21. Heath-Stade, at 18-19, points out that by this point in the seventh century large amounts of Byzantine territory had fallen into Islamic hands, so there was a particular need for a legal framework within which Christians under Islamic rule might operate, since the common law of the Empire might no longer apply. Obviously the Chalcedonian churches are outwith the jurisdiction of these councils; which leads me to wonder whether the reason for the preservation and continued reworking of the church orders in the non-Chalcedonian churches is the same as that suggested for the Quinisext by Heath-Stade, namely to continue to provide a basis for ecclesiastical governance within a civil Islamic framework.

Just a thought…

1 Comment

Filed under Church orders in genera(l)

O frabjous day!

The publisher informs me that the second edition of my Apostolic church order has been published. Herewith the blurb:

The Apostolic Church Order is the name most commonly given to a pseudonymous document claiming to be the work of the apostles, found in most canonical collections, which sets out the manner in which a church should be organized.

Although this church-order was much studied in the nineteenth century the twentieth century saw it neglected, its light eclipsed by that of the Didache. In 2006 the present author published an entirely new Greek text, the first to take full account of ancient Syriac and Latin versions accompanied by the first translation of the entire document into a modern language. This edition rapidly went out of print. The text and translation are now republished with some minor revisions and with a revised introduction.

Whereas the author previously suggested that the work was ante-Nicene, he has reconsidered the matter, and now suggests that the work is probably from the fourth century, but that the redactor has employed much earlier sources in compiling this church order. A renewed argument for a Cappadocian provenance is offered. The document is of historical interest particularly because of the light which it sheds on the development of church order and most especially on the role of women in the ministries of early Christian communities. This church order is a polemical discourse employing apostolic precept to downgrade the role and influence of women in the church’s ministry, subordinating female ministers to a male presbyterate.

However, the day is particularly frabjous (Callooh! Callay!) as in the same note they inform me that my version, with text and introduction, of the Canons of Hippolytus is also published.

Again the blurb:

The Canons of Hippolytus is a church order derived from Traditio apostolica, though incorporating major expansions of the original; although composed in Greek, it survives only in Arabic, itself a translation from a Coptic version of the Greek. Beyond directing the conduct of ordinations, initiation, and ritual meals, the text gives instructions for the conduct of Christians and Christian clergy, with a particular concern with the direction of ascetics as well as discussing the provision of a place of hospitality.

Here a fresh English version is presented with annotation explaining the peculiarities of transmission and translation for those unequipped with Arabic. This is accompanied by a facing Arabic text for the benefit of those with some knowledge of the language.

The text and notes are prefaced by an extensive introduction; of particular significance in the introduction is the re-examination of the date and provenance of the document. Whereas it has for centuries been assumed to have originated in Egypt, extensive evidence for a Cappadocian or Antiochene origin is presented. This leads to a major re-assessment of the value of the document for the liturgical historian, for the historian of asceticism in the fourth century, and for the social historian.

I cannot link to the publisher’s site as they have frumiously neglected to put the works on there… but I have checked and they are both available from a well-known online bookstore. Search by my name and the titles as given here. The prices given indicate that they are relatively brillig (and not Brillish).

I await my comps… though not too beamishly. There will be errors. I spotted a minor typographical error (“where” for “whether” on p 54 of the proofs of the Canons, the day after the work went to the printer) and the discussion of the baptismal formula is already out of date as I have been working further on this topic. However, hopefully the cause of science is advanced, and I may have a brief chortle among the mimsy borogoves.


Filed under Apostolic church order, Canons of Hippolytus

Ein Esel schimpft den anderen Langohr

OUP has recently sent an email warning us of predatory journals. Since JTS charges $4000 for making a publication open access the warning is timely indeed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anything else

Presbyters in Papias

…and so, virtually, to Melbourne, where I had the pleasure of attending the Biblical and early Christian seminar of the ACU to respond to Stephen Carlson on “Presbyters in Papias”… what’s not to like?

Stephen argued that the term in Papias denotes a channel of tradition. I could not disagree; in response I suggested that this mirrors forming Jewish usage. Although the main evidence for this is later (M Erub. 3.4; M Aboth 1.1), we may note Mark 7:3 and par. as indication that this usage was ancient. In this context we might not overlook the significant presence of Jews in Hierapolis. Papias receives from the elders the traditions about Jesus.

Although I doubt that the Christian use of the term for an office has anything to do with Judaism, this usage is different. And so I revise, or at least qualify slightly, the opinion in Original Bishops that presbyteros has no Jewish heritage. It does not when we speak of the presbyters within communities, but perhaps does so when the bishops of individual churches, gathering together in part as agents of tradition, refer to themselves as the presbyteroi of a particular place. Paul Bradshaw had already pointed out to me the usage at Exodus 24:1 (LXX) and Numbers 11:16–17 (LXX); this usage is thus consistent.

The essay will appear in a book on presbyters to be published in WUNT and edited by Bart Koet. We look forward to this.

1 Comment

Filed under Anything else, E-rrata

More on James and the church orders

In continuing to preach through James, and today discussing speech acts (in debt in particular to J.L. Austin) in the context of James 3, I recollected reading Dale C. Allison, “A liturgical tradition behind the ending of James” JSNT 34 (2011), 3-18.

Allison, with reference to James 5:13-20, suggests that a “very primitive church order” lies behind this part of James. Quite what he envisages a church order to be is less clear; though he does have some reference to prayers in Testamentum Domini, and to Constitutiones apostolorum and to some material the Didascalia, he also cites a number of other early Christian texts, including Polycarp and I Clement, in support of his case.

I think I would say that rather than being influenced by a church order, the epistle and the church orders draw on the same fund of catechetical material.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anything else, Church orders in genera(l)

James and Paul on faith and works

Apart from all the Bach, one of the joys of having a German organist of Lutheran background, as I do at one of my churches, is the opportunity to bait him regarding the erroneous Lutheran reading of Paul.

Readings from James as the epistle over the last and next few Sundays are an absolute gift in this regard! However, arguing in my homilies during these weeks, as I did at a conference in Tilburg many years ago, that the epistle represents the content of baptismal catechesis (a position of which I am more convinced than ever) it dawned on me today that the supposed contrast between faith and works in 2:14-17 is completely unrelated to the Pauline discussion with the works of the law in Jewish circles, but is basically and simply saying that those who claim to have faith in Christ should act in accordance with that faith. Was Paul even that important in Jewish-Christian circles in the period prior to the Bar Kosiba revolt that anyone would want to take issue with him?

It is much the same content as the, likewise catechetically originating, Matthew 7. Or Canones Hippolyti 37, certainly reflective of catechesis: “Thus somebody who says ‘I have been baptized and received the Body of the Lord’ and feels comfortable, and says ‘I am a Christian’, yet is a lover of selfish desires and is not conformed to the commandments of Christ, is like somebody who goes into a bath covered in dirt, and leaves without rubbing himself, since he did not receive the burning of the Spirit.”

We may finally note in this respect Athenagoras Legatio 11.4, stating that Christians manifest their teaching less by word than by deed. In this part of the Legatio Athenagoras is speaking of the contents of catechesis.

Quite probably the lack of connection between James’ teaching on faith and works and that of Paul has been argued previously (and if any passing Neutestamentler can give me any references to such an argument I would be grateful indeed). However, it is surely the recognition of a debt to catechesis that is the truly decisive argument here.


Filed under Anything else, Canons of Hippolytus

Tertullian De baptismo 17.5

In Tertullian De baptismo 17.5 we read: quam enim fidei proximum videtur ut is docendi et tinguendi daret feminae potestatem qui ne discere quidem constanter mulieri permisit? Taceant, inquit, et domi viros suos consulant.

The issue is with the phrase qui ne discere quidem constanter mulieri permisit. Does constanter go with permisit or discere? In either event, what might it mean? A check of various translations betrays a certain liberty with the text to make sense of it. Thus Evans, for whom I have the utmost admiration, takes constanter with discere and renders: “…he did not allow a woman even to learn by her own right.” I find it hard to assign such a meaning to constanter. Moreover, did Paul really forbid women to learn? It seems a stretch.

There is only one extant MS of the text; the editio princeps used a further MS, now lost, where for discere it reads docere. Is this a better reading? Or might we account for both readings by emending to dicere? As such constanter belongs with permisit, which is more natural, and the entire sentence makes complete sense: “… who consistently would not even allow a woman to speak.”

This issue came up at dinner with friends last night and the possible solution came after a sleepless night turning it over in my mind! My question to them (and you) is whether this is a brilliant emendation or the desperate contrivance of an indifferent Latinist.


Filed under Anything else

The Canons of Cyril of Jerusalem from the Kitāb al-Hudā

As Paul Bradshaw has observed several times, the church orders tend to survive in churches on the margins. Significantly they are also found, frequently, in collections of canon law from these marginal churches, among other more “canonical” material. Notes on some of these, which contain church order material, may be found in the conspectus below, and in Daniel Vaucher’s post on the Kitāb al-Hudā.

In thinking about this material recently I come to realize that another peculiarity about these collections and their contents is the continued production of pseudonymous canonical and liturgical material. Thus in the Kitāb al-Hudā we find canons attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem. Graf (GCAL 1, 335-337) lists three pages of Cyrilline pseudepigrapha in Arabic, including this. I present a somewhat provisional translation; what is good in it is largely due to the efforts of others (who have requested anonymity). In spite of the uncertainties and frequent lack of clarity, given that these canons are not otherwise extant and have never been translated, I thought it worth making this public. However, I cannot stress too much that there is a great deal of obscurity here, and that on occasion this rendition is little better than guesswork. My sole excuse is that this a first journey into terra incognita without any navigational tools.

The opening line has a striking resemblance to one of the canons among the the otherwise unidentified “A little of the canons of the apostles and the fathers, through which the church of Christ is truly united” which is found in the collection of canonical material in the E recension of the Didascalia apostolorum (see pp 274-275 of my version). Thus compare: Canon 17 of these: “Nor should a presbyter baptize his bodily child, unless death should threaten the child and no other presbyter is there to baptize him” with the opening line of these canons. This is the only direct parallel but the preoccupations of the documents seem largely the same. There is thus a similar concern with who may marry whom, though the concern here is that baptism creates a familial relationship which might put persons unrelated by blood into a familial relationship (water being as thick as blood!) Vööbus (CSCO 402, 42) suggests that the source of the canons found in the Didascalia is the Canons of an otherwise unknown Johanan found in the West Syrian Synodicon, but although the concerns are again similar, there is no evident literary relationship. The three share a milieu, but little else.

Frankly, this material raises as many questions as it does answers, not the least of which being those of date and provenance. All I can say on this is that it is of a date and provenance entirely out of my field of expertise!

The translation is derived from the text of Pierre Fahed, Kitāb al-Hudā ou livre de la direction (Aleppo: Imp. Maronite, 1935), 216-219.

The canons of Cyril of Jerusalem concerning baptism and marriage in the radiant faith

It is not permitted that a presbyter should baptize his son if another priest may be found, except in case of necessity. In case of necessity this is allowable to him. But he abstains from sexual intercourse for forty days. It is likewise not allowed to accept the baptism of the sons of his brothers, or an aunt’s child, or an uncle’s child, or a maternal aunt’s child, or a grandmother’s child. It is not permissible for them to accept baptism for any children of these at all.

A deacon is not permitted to anoint his son with oil. A deacon other than he is to take him down to the baptism and bring him up from it. To him it is not permissible.

It is not permissible at all that a priest should be kissed by a layman; nor should he kiss his son.1 And if he does this he is to separate from his wife for ever, and he is not permitted to take another, and if he marries he is banned from the sacrifice for the period of his life, and so it is for a woman, as for a man.

And if two men receive baptism it is not permitted that either should marry the other’s sister, or his daughter, or his mother, or his daughter’s daughter, nor his son’s daughter, or his sister’s daughter, or his paternal uncle’s daughter, nor his maternal uncle’s daughter, nor his maternal aunt’s daughter, nor the daughter of a half brother2 before the baptism. Even if she was born after the baptism it is not allowed, or even if this is agreed among them prior to the baptism. This is permissible for them if they are unrelated, but if they are for four generations then this is not permissible to them. And if their parents had children, male or female, and they wish to marry them to each other it is permissible for them to do so. This is no crime for them. And if there are sons to the father, or children to the mother,3 then they are not to construct a marriage between their children, or their children’s children at all, nor any of their family line, because baptism has brought about a comprehensive lineage. It is not permissible for that is an offence to Almighty God.

It is not permissible for a woman to kiss a man, or for a man to kiss a female.4 It is not permissible for a man and a woman to receive baptism at the same time, since if they die and they had done this then it is not permissible for their children or their children’s children to marry each other.

And it is not permitted for a deacon to marry a widow, even if she is abandoned. And for a presbyter, even if he is a young man and his wife has died, it is not permitted that he should marry another. And if he marries he commits fornication, and a fornicator does not serve at the altar of God, because he has preferred marriage to the priestly priesthood. Likewise the priestly class is not to marry a widow, even if they were married to priests and are bar adta (children of the church.) Both the presbyterate and the diaconate; and the orders below them, it is not permissible that they be given the priesthood except after they are married.

If they stipulated to themselves5 that they would be steadfast in virginity and purity this is excellent. Whoever breaches his undertaking and gets married after accepting the prayer of ordination should be rejected, because he has violated the covenant of God Almighty and his promise. And God, blessed be his name, will set him afar off and he will not attend the sacred mystery at all.

The deacons and those who are beneath them in their degrees, the sub-deacons (transliterated) and readers and psalmists, let them be received into the order of priesthood a year after their marriage. And if they do not desire marriage and they have a good reputation, and they stipulated concerning themselves to God that they are not to be married, then that is excellent. Yet if they go on to get married they are not to serve at the altar of almighty God. Anyone who has ascended any of the priestly ranks is not permitted to marry two women. Anyone who goes on this way is not to serve the altar of almighty God, such is not permitted by this decree, and so should be removed and rejected, because he has disobeyed, and fallen under judgement because he is like a fornicator, and it will not be forgiven him. It is not permitted that somebody who has committed this sin should appear in his place before the altar at all, because he has preferred marriage to the discipline of Christ. For this reason he is banished from the holy camp, to take his place in this world. If a priest marries a third time, then his face should be spat upon, and he should burn in the fire. And his priestly clothing, and his crown should be removed and he should be prohibited from the sacrifice for the span of his life. And this decree is for the diaconate and the priesthood: whoever has donned the crown of the Lord, and those who are beneath them, like readers and psalmists and ܘܕܝܘܢܐ ܘܪܣܡܐ.6

They shall distribute the body at the gate of the holy house and they shall not approach the altar at all. And to a laymen likewise they should not distribute the body from the altar, even if they are honoured patrons, but they shall distribute the sacrifice to him outside the door.

Such are the canons.

1Reading the verb qbl as a form II and accepting that there is a double object (as found often in Syriac texts). Otherwise the sentence might be construed: “It is not permissible for a priest to receive it, a layman will not kiss his son.” This does not make much sense to me. But even this version has its problems!

2Literally “nor the daughter of a companion in birth”. Taken here to mean a half brother through a different father.

3Taken as meaning stepchildren.

4Again reading qbl as a form II. Cf. Traditio apostolica 18.4.

5Literally “to their souls”.

6I can make nothing of these two Syriac words! My understanding is that the karshuni MSS were derived from MSS in Arabic script, and possibly by scribes with no knowledge of Syriac. The scope for confusion is thus extensive. Note that the previous words, readers and psalmists, are also found in Syriac here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Other church order literature

Traditio apostolica 25

In his recent Apostolic Tradition reconstructed (29, fn 44) Bradshaw ascribes part of Traditio apostolica 25 to the later Ethiopic translator, noting its absence in the Axumite version. In keeping with his overall approach he ascribes layers to the chapter. I give the chapter showing his layers; material in Roman type is the Grundschrift, that in italics is ascribed to a third-century redactor, that struck through does not appear in Bradshaw’s version at all as it is assigned to the later translator.

When the bishop is present and evening is come the deacon brings in a lamp 2and standing among all the believers who are present he shall give thanks. Firstly he greets them as he says: “The Lord be with you.”

And the people shall say: “And with your spirit.”

Let us give thanks to the Lord.”

And they shall say: “It is right and just. Greatness and exaltation with praise is fitting to him.”

And he shall not say “Hearts on high,” for it is to be said at the offering.

And he shall pray in this way as he says: “We give you thanks, O God, through your child Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom you have illuminated us, revealing to us the incorruptible light. 8Therefore we have completed the length of the day and we have arrived at the beginning of the night, being sated with the day’s light which you created for our satisfaction. And now, having arrived at the light of evening through your grace, we give you praise and glorify you 9through your child Jesus Christ, our Lord, through whom to you be power and honour together with the Holy Spirit, now and always and to the ages of ages. Amen.”

And all shall say: “Amen.”

And then, when they get up after the dinner, they shall pray, and the children and the virgins shall say psalms.

And afterwards the deacon, when he takes the mixed cup of the oblation, shall say one of the psalms in which “alleluia” is written.

After that, if the presbyter has commanded, again from the same psalms. And afterwards, the bishop having offered the cup, he shall say a psalm proper to the cup, while all say “alleluia.” 14And all of them, as he recites the psalms, shall say “alleluia,” which is to say “we praise him who is God most high; glorified and praised is he who founded all the world with one word.”

And likewise, when the psalm is completed, he shall give thanks over the cup (Dix emends to “bread”) and give of the fragments to all the faithful.

Although this chapter only appears in completeness in a mediaeval Ethiopic version, there are hints of its existence in Canones Hippolyti and Testamentum Domini.

If there is a feast or a dinner provided by somebody for the poor, it is the Lord’s (κυριακόν). The bishop should be present when a lamp is lit. The deacon gets up to light it and the bishop prays over them and over those who invited them. It is right that he make the thanksgiving (εὐχαριστία) at the beginning of the liturgy so that they can be dismissed before it is dark, and recite psalms before their departure. (Canons of Hippolytus 32)

The lamp should be offered in the temple by the deacon, as he says “The grace of the Lord be with you all.” And all the people should say “And with your spirit.”

The little boys should sing spiritual psalms and hymns of praise by the light of the lamp. All the people, all together, their voices in harmony, should respond to the psalm and to the song, “Alleluia.” Nobody should kneel until the one who is speaking has ceased. In the same way, also, when a reading is read or a word of instruction is spoken. If the name of the Lord is thus uttered, and the rest, as has already been adequately discussed, nobody should bow, coming in creeping. (Testamentum Domini 2.11)

It may be noted that Canones Hippolyti makes reference to the recitation of psalms; Testamentum Domini does the same, and, moreover, prescribes the “Alleluia” response.

Something about psalm singing, and the alleluia response, must therefore, surely, have been in the version circulating in fourth century Cappadocia on which these two versions draw. As such it can hardly be the work of a mediaeval Ethiopian. This is not to deny that there are issues of transmission here; the phrase “when they get up after the dinner” is particularly suspicious. But the funny business is certainly not as Bradshaw would have it here. Looking at his reconstruction initially I thought it looked too neat!

Leave a comment

Filed under Apostolic Tradition

Bradshaw’s reconstruction of the Apostolic tradition: the interactive version

Paul Bradshaw informs me that an interactive version of his reconstruction is available on the Alcuin Club website. I’ve had great fun playing with it… hope you do too!

Leave a comment

Filed under Apostolic Tradition

Bradshaw’s reconstruction of Traditio apostolica

It is a while since I posted anything here; I did wonder whether the utility of the blog might be coming to and end, and even composed a final posting in my head. This is due to pressure of other work, not the least my day job. And since it appears that the Church of England no longer values the work of parish clergy, I have been treasuring it all the more. tells the story. Of course, the pattern proposed, we hear, is “like the early church”. “Back to the future” goes through my head. Which is no doubt why, in the first generations, the Didachist saw fit to charge the appointment of episkopoi and diakonoi who are “worthy of the Lord.” We should be so lucky.

However, these rather depressing reflections are interrupted by the arrival of Paul Bradshaw, The apostolic tradition reconstructed: a text for students (JLS 91; Norwich: Hymns Ancient and Modern, 2021) for which I had to part with ten quid. And of course you want to know whether I consider it worth it. My initial comment is that it could hardly fail to be an improvement on Cuming, which I assume this work replaces. But forty-odd pages for over a tenner is on the steep side (given the price of my own commentary!)

Bradshaw employs the recently discovered Axumite Ethiopic text, and largely employs this as the base for his version. I could hardly fail to approve! Also, interestingly, he employs a system of type-faces graphically to show the “original” (that is to say material from early in the second century) (in Roman type), third century (or so) expansions (shown in italics) and later material (underlined.) This is helpful for those of us concerned to trace the levels of redaction; whether it helps the students of the subtitle is another question.

Bradshaw’s italicized sections are still within the period that I set for the redactional work of the Hippolytean school. Thus, for instance, the first, introductory chapter is supplied, he suggests, by whoever first brought the material together; I would not disagree (though I am surprised to see that he assigns the final chapter to a later hand). Indeed Bradshaw would assign the greater part of the document to a second or early third century date; he italicizes sections which are manifestly not fourth century, such as the offering of cheese and olives at the Eucharist, but since this is still within the relatively early history of the document I will not cavil. And so I will not pick on the italicized sections, and will also admit that there is broad (albeit only broad) agreement on the Grundschrift. Thus in dealing with the question of Bradshaw’s assignment of sections to date I largely overlook the italicized sections, simply looking at what he underlines, (thus assigning this material to the later periods of reworking.) I also avoid discussing the ordination prayers again, referring to our two recently published articles on the subject (see here and here).

In the episcopal eucharistic prayer after ordination (TA 4) Bradshaw admits a largely 3C origin, but also suspects some later additions, which makes a eucharistic prayer without an anamnesis. This is not impossible, but I would like to know why. Bradshaw similarly sees the epiklesis as later, though of course I do not think it is an an epiklesis at all. Similarly he is suspicious of the institution narrative; although I admit that this is an early appearance, perhaps the earliest, of such a narrative within an eucharistic prayer I suggest elsewhere that it might be retained so that the prayer has the shape of a collect.

The statement prescribing a three year catechumenate (TA 17) is assigned to a later period. Here I refer to something I wrote some years ago, in the debate in SVTQ referring to his earlier commentary:

the discussion of the length of the catechumenate (96-98) is excellent, and many interesting parallels are drawn. I would not dissent from the conclusion that a three-year catechumenate was not general in the ante-Nicene church, but this conclusion need not be drawn from the determination that the three-year period is fourth-century, but could be equally well reached from reckoning that the Hippolytean school, like that of Clement, which is roughly contemporary, employed an extensive period of catechumenate because of its scholastic orientation.

I do not understand the assignment of the daily exorcism (TA 20.3) and the effeta (TA 20.8) to the fourth century. It is true that otherwise the effeta is not found until the letter of John the deacon, but then again the sources are very thin. There is nothing which demands that this not be seen as primitive. Even less do I understand why Bradshaw assigns the renunciation (TA 21.6-9) to a later period. There are hints of renunciation in baptismal rites from the earliest evidence. The rationale given in a footnote is that the description of the baptismal rite is interrupted. I do see this, and observe it myself in the second edition of my own commentary, but still suspect that something must have stood here, even if it is not precisely the rite that is now extant, for which reason I assign it to a level of redaction prior even to the first redaction of Traditio apostolica.

It seems strange to assign the giving of milk and honey to the newly baptized to a later period (TA 21.28-30). It is surely early, since the same practice is found in Marcionite circles.

On the deacons “garment” (TA 22) I refer to the post below and the published article on the subject. Bradshaw continues to assign this to a later period.

The statement “this is a blessing and not the body of the Lord” at TA 26.2 is assigned to a later redactor. I do not see why; indeed one would expect that the distinction would be made only while the Eucharist took place within a Sättigungsmahl. I also do not see why the restriction of flowers to roses and lilies is considered later. (TA 32.2b), though the matter is admittedly minor.

By contrast I am surprised to see Bradshaw assign the supper for widows (TA 30) to the Grundschrift. One might have thought that this provision only came about once the Eucharist had ceased to be a Sättigungsmahl and another avenue for food charity would be required.

I think I have said enough. The work repays study, though I am not moved in my opinions in any way. Except at one point: Bradshaw suggests that TA 25.2b-10 is from a slightly later level of redaction (third century) than the original instruction regarding the entry of the light. This is plausible. He further suggests that the rest of the chapter is the work of the Ethiopic translator. This is an interesting thought, and certainly cleans up some of the mess here. I have not determined whether or not he is right, my main caveat being that the chapter is a bit too tidy as a result (!) but certainly it is a point worth of consideration.

It is of course hard to change a mind, once made up… indeed I have often entertained the thought that the Metzger/Bradshaw line on Traditio apostolica is a blik (the term of R.M. Hare, should you not be familiar with it. ) Presumably this is why Bradshaw persists in translating the Latin version of the post-baptismal episcopal anointing prayer, rather than the oriental version, which is now supported by the Axumite Ethiopic. There might once have been a case for following the Latin, but it was in my opinion never strong (though it was upheld by Anglican evangelicals for confessional reasons) but surely its appearance in the new Ethiopic weakens the case yet further. In the same way I was surprised to see that he persists in thinking that the baptismal creed has been expanded. The christology, he opines, “is too advanced for the period to which we are assigning the earliest layer of this document” (40) Possibly so (though I don’t really see that the Roman creed encodes a particularly “high” christology) but too advanced for the early third century? Really? He suggests that “a redactor…expanded the original short answers to correspond more closely to… the old Roman Symbol.” (41) This is, of course, different to the approach of the 2002 commentary (I have written on this elsewhere) which indicates that Bradshaw has been forced to take some of my critique on board, and is trying desperately to save his position. This latest version begs the question as to why a fourth-century redactor should want to expand the creed (and do so before, note, the redaction of Testamentum Domini and Canones Hippolyti in the middle of that century), and begs the larger question of how the old Roman symbol emerged if not from a baptismal context. Nonetheless here, and elsewhere, I see less blasé assignment of material to a series of mysterious fourth-century eastern redactors, and much more assigned to the third-century date that I have always maintained.

How to conclude? My best suggestion is, should you have ten Pounds (or its equivalent in other currencies) to spare, that you get your own copy and decide for yourselves. I’m holding on to mine… I’m beginning to think about a third edition!

Leave a comment

Filed under Apostolic Tradition

What deacons did: link

As intimated in a previous post the papers from the online deacons seminar have now been posted and can be seen here:

Papers are by Gerard Rouwhorst on Ephrem, Andreas Mueller on Chrysostom, and summary statements from Esko Ryökäs, Bart Koet and Edwina Murphy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anything else

The disappearing deacon

This week has seen another three online seminars as part of the “What did deacons do?” project. When the recorded versions are available I will post the link.

At the conclusion of the discussion questions were raised about what might be included in a summary chapter to conclude the book based on the project. Discussion had indicated that the pattern was one of decline in the significance and role of the deacon in the fourth century, and thought was given that this might need some explanation.

My own suggestion is that this is the result of change in the nature of episkopoi, who gain bigger dioceses (note the legislation against chorepiskopoi) and a result of this, in turn, the increase in the number of presbyters. As the aboriginal episcopal function of charity disappears the role of the deacon as administrator of this episcopal charity also disappears. Moreover, as presbyters grow in importance and numbers, assistantship turns into assistance not to the bishop but to the presbyter. Of course there are exceptions; Rome is distinct as a relatively small urban diocese with a large extra-diocesan responsibility, and the community of the Testamentum Domini has a bishop (and presbyters) who fasts and prays and doesn’t do anything else, so it’s all left to the deacons! But in other sources, such as Ephrem and Chrysostom (discussed this week), we observe the diminution of the role in the fourth century and beyond. The evidence that might indicate a more active role is in the church orders, but as is often remarked, these are archaeological, and tend to repeat material which is traditional, but no longer reflects real conditions, and therefore have to be used with great care. Thus when Canones Hippolyti states that the deacon accompanies the bishop this is actually from Traditio apostolica, and is in any case a mistranslation by the Arabic translator due to misunderstanding the Coptic translation from which he was working. I am sure that the original Greek verb was προσκαρτερέω.

Rather unfashionably, might I also suggest that the development of woman deacons in the latter part of the fourth century might in turn result from this diminution? In other words, if a role is not that important, then it might be entrusted to a woman!


Filed under Anything else, Apostolic Tradition, Church orders in genera(l), Didascalia Apostolorum, Testamentum Domini

The ordination prayers of Traditio apostolica: the Bradshavian version

Just published is Paul F. Bradshaw, “The ordination prayers in the so-called Apostolic Tradition” Vigiliae Christianae 75 (2021), 119-129.

Abstract: The anonymous church order formerly identified as the Apostolic Tradition and attributed to Hippolytus is now regarded by many scholars as a composite work made up of layers of redaction from around the mid-second to mid-fourth centuries. This essay revises the unsatisfactory attempt to discern such strata in its ordination prayers that was made by Eric Segelberg as long ago as 1975, and argues that their earliest forms are among the oldest material in the so-called Apostolic Tradition, belonging to the first half of the second century.

There is much in common here with my own recent treatment, particularly as both use Segelberg as a springboard, though Bradshaw continues to be mistrustful of what he sees as hieratic language in the episcopal ordination prayer.

Unlike my own article, however, his gives consideration to the presbyteral ordination prayer, and makes the persuasive suggestion that this too may have some antiquity, at least in an earlier form. He points out that that no liturgical functions are mentioned, which seems to reflect a situation where the presbyters were not ministers as such but advisors to the bishop. He states “One might assume that such people would simply have been elected or appointed without any ritual act or even prayer for them, but there is no reason to suppose that this was true everywhere or that it persisted throughout the century as their role began to change” (127). This is certainly possible.

His final sentence is also worth pondering. “… it deserves emphasizing that there is no reason to think that the prayers formed a single collection prior to their absorption into the developing Apostolic Tradition, but each one may have come from a different ecclesiastical tradition.” (129)

1 Comment

Filed under Apostolic Tradition

The date of the translation of the Didascalia into Syriac

An interesting question greeted me this morning on the date of the Syriac translation of Didascalia apostolorum. My correspondent points out that Vööbus and Connolly suggest the mid-4th century whereas Brock and Schöllgen think late 5th/early 6th century.

I had to respond that I am something of a rudus in such matters, and that this was a matter on which I did not think I could bring any real insight. Late 5th century is a reasonable date as there is concrete evidence that the Greek text was circulating in Syriac speaking areas at that time (namely the fragment published in Bartlet, “Fragments of the Didascalia apostolorum in Greek” JTS 18, (1917), 301–309), but this is not of particular probative value as the probability is that the text was produced in a bilingual part of Syria anyway. Connolly is, I think, too early in putting it in the first quarter of the third century as I do not think even the Greek text was completed at that point. Which brings me back to the observations on vocabulary in Vööbus (CSCO 402), 25-28. Given that the text originated in a bilingual area a very early translation, as Vööbus suggests, is entirely plausible.

However, I am wondering whether anyone out there has any particular insight.

PS: Some time later I received the follow-up question as to the version in which the redactions of the Didascalia were carried out. I had no hesitation in suggesting that the major redactions were carried out in Greek; the Latin version, derived from Greek, has elements of all the redactional levels, though it is possible that a few minor glosses and interpolations may have taken place within the Syriac version.
The recension which I term the E recension, however, with its large omissions towards the end and the additional material added to the third chapter, was a recension of the Syriac version. The location of the new material at the end of the third chapter indicates that the chapter divisions were established, and more to the point much, though not all, of this additional material is of Syriac origin.

Leave a comment

Filed under Didascalia Apostolorum

A picture of the Testamentum Domini

Saw this in a sacristy yesterday, as Ash Wednesday brought a return to church.

No doubt it was intended to be comical in a Sohmian sort of way, but my jaundiced eye immediately realized that this might be a picture of the Testamentum Domini!

1 Comment

Filed under Church orders in genera(l), Testamentum Domini

What did deacons do?

It’s been a busy week in the small world of the ancient church orders. Last night saw a virtual launch party for Pauliina Pylvänäinen’s book on Apostolic constitutions (which I couldn’t get into!), but also a series of online seminars as part of the ongoing project on diakonia shared between the University of Eastern Finland and the Tilburg School of Catholic Theology. Two were directly related to the church order literature, and the other certainly connected:

The papers given are now available online. They are:

Why Ask what Deacons Did? Dr. Arnold Smeets, TST
The Liminal Nature of the Diaconal Role in the Didascalia Apostolorum. Phoebe Kearns, University of Winchester

Deacons in the Testament of Our Lord. The State of the Question and Avenues for Future Research. Dr. Grant White, Sankt Ignatios College, Stockholm School of Theology
Deacons in the Writings of Gregory Nazianzen. Dr. Brian J. Matz, Fontbonne University (U.S.A.)

The privacy notice will disappear, or you can simply click it out.


Filed under Didascalia Apostolorum, Testamentum Domini

Dionysius of Alexandria and the Didascalia on counting to three

Basil Lourié has drawn my attention to a testimonium of Timothy Ailuros preserved in Armenian, most easily accessed (or at least most easily accessed by unlettered parish priests) through the translation of F. C. Conybeare, “The patristic testimonia of Timotheus Aelurus (Irenaeus, Athanasius, Dionysius)” JTS 15 (1913), 432-442, at 437-442. This collection of testimonia includes a citation of Melito of Sardis, attributed to Irenaeus, which is also found in Syriac (see elsewhere on the blog.) However, the reason for drawing attention to it here and now is the discussion of sabbath and Sunday drawn from the correspondence of Dionysius of Alexandria, which is related to the passion chronology. Dionysius is arguing that the day concludes at nightfall. Were it otherwise, and the following night to be counted as part of a day, then he suggests that the resurrection would have occurred not on the third day but on the second.

In the process he takes issue with those who reckon that the darkness which fell at the crucifixion is to be reckoned as a night, and so compute the three days as including three nights, beginning with this “nightfall” on the Friday. This is precisely the calculation employed in the Didascalia at 5.13.9-13a:

And they crucified him on the Friday. He suffered at the sixth hour on Friday. These hours in which our Lord suffered were reckoned as a day, 10and then there was darkness for three hours, and this was reckoned a night. And again, there were three hours, from the ninth hour until evening, – a day, and afterwards the night of the sabbath of the passion. Now in the Gospel of Matthew it is written thus: ‘On the evening of the sabbath as the first day of the week was dawning came Mary and the other Mary, Magdalene, to see the tomb. And there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down and rolled the stone away.’ And so there was the day of the sabbath, and three hours of the night which were after the sabbath when our Lord was sleeping. And what he had said was fulfilled, that the son of man should spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, as it is written in the Gospel.

Not having otherwise met such a calculation, I am intrigued to find it here, and wonder whether it might have been more widespread than I had previously thought.

On another note, Dionysius (on the assumption that the attribution is correct) seems to support the evidence of Socrates HE 5.22 that worship at the close of sabbath continued in Egypt.


Filed under Didascalia Apostolorum