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.

Church orders at the 2018 British Patristics Conference

The British Patristics conference is being held in Cardiff from 5th-7th September (https://www.britishpatristics.org/). Sadly I am unable to attend.
There is one paper relating directly to the church orders; the author appears to have discovered a Greek text of the Didascalia! I post the abstract here without editing, or further comment.

Liturgical expression of Trinitarian theology in the third century Antioch

Phoebe Kearns

University of Winchester

I will address this topic by exploring how the descriptions of clergy and liturgy in the Didascalia express the understanding of the Trinity in third century Antioch and Syria. My aim in this paper to express the close link between the Trinitarian theology of the church in the Antioch and the developing theology of the deaconate in this region. The Antiochian theology in this era is important since it influenced the development of the theology of the diaconate and the order of the deacon across the Eastern Roman Empire over the succeeding centuries.

I will start by setting out what is known of third century liturgies in Antioch and the surrounding province of Syria along with the first instances of theological linking clergy with aspects of the Trinity by of Ignatius of Antioch. I will then present the passages of the Didascalia which are the focus of my presentation, this being the first paragraph of Chapter 9 of the where the Trinitarian theology is expressed. Other passages of the Didascalia will be used to illustrate and expand on the implied meaning and context of this passage. Since the Didascalia was written within the Aramaic speaking region I will breafly examine the influence this had on the theology of this document. I will also refer to Greek texts of the Didascalia, as this may also provide insights into aspects of the document which are unclear in English translation. Within my presentation I will also refer to Temple and Wisdom Traditions both of which are evident in my key source text and help to place it within the unwritten traditions of the church at this time.

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Euodia and Syntyche

Now published online is “Euodia, Syntyche and the Role of Syzygos: Phil 4:2–3” ZNW 109 (2018), 222–234.

Abstract: In Phil 4:2–3 Paul urges Euodia and Syntyche to unite with each other. He also addresses ‘true yokefellow’, and asks him to assist the two women. This paper disputes the almost universally held assumption that Paul was asking him to mediate a conflict between the two women. Rather, Paul is here calling the church leaders, Euodia and Syntyche, to have the mind of Christ and to foster unity among the Philippian churches, and the other church members to support them. The term ‘true yokefellow’ is a piece of ‘idealized praise’ and is Paul’s way of diplomatically correcting one or more church members.

I do not post the German abstract as I realize that somebody somewhere interfered with my version by turning “Gemeinde” at each point to a singular, whereas I had plurals, reflecting the plural nature of Philippian congregations even in a single Ortskirche.

This article is chiefly the work of Richard Fellows, though I have managed to get my name on it as co-author, mainly by exercising my editorial skills.

By way of an aside, to lighten up a rather quotidian post, we may note that this in part continues my argument in Original bishops that Euodia and Syntyche were patrons, episkopoi, of Philippian Christian associations. Those interested in ancient precedents for the ordination of women (among whom I am not numbered) may do better exploring the roles of these ancient female patrons than by examining the rather dubious and difficult evidence of the church orders regarding female deacons.

Thanks also to Richard Fellows, note the article is open access, and can be read from the link above.

 

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Deaconesses in Testamentum Domini

I was recently intrigued to notice that in the Church of England’s lectionary Macrina was kept alongside Gregory of Nyssa on 19th July, and described as a deaconess.
As I prepared for mass I wondered what the evidence was for this characterization, and how this might fit with the role and function of deaconesses in Testamentum Domini, which I believe to derive from fourth century Cappadocia, and thus to try and see Macrina in this light.
The only study I can find (though I am open to correction) is Sister Teresa CSA, “The development and eclipse of the deacon abbess” in E.A. Livingstone (ed.), Studia patristica 19 (Leuven: Peeters, 1989), 111-116; although Sr Teresa makes no use of Testamentum Domini, she does concern herself with the Cappadocians and with Macrina. She charts a process of development within forming monasticism in which deaconesses might be given charge of groups of consecrated virgins. As to Macrina, she is rightly cautious, whilst open to the possibility that she was a deaconess. In my opinion the evidence is thin to the point of non-existence.
Deaconesses make occasional appearance in the Testamentum. They stand within the veil, and receive communion before other women but after all others (1.23), and are classed with the readers and subdeacons in the deacon’s litany (1.35). They are to be trained by the widows (1.40). They have a residence near the gates of the church (1.19). Interestingly it is considered possible that they may be among latecomers to church (1.36). Finally we should note that the only liturgical duty attributed to them is to carry communion to women who are sick (2.20), by contrast to their role in baptism in the Didascalia, which in the Testamentum is the task of the widows (Testamentum Domini 2.8, in an addition to the Hippolytean original).
However, although the deaconesses appear occasionally and intermittently it does not appear that they are intrusions from another source, like the reader in Didascalia apostolorum 2.28.5 or the subdeacon in 2.34.3. Rather a coherent pattern emerges in which deaconesses are clearly junior in the hierarchy, and are ranked behind widows, who are the leading female ascetics in this community.
Rather speculatively, and in line with the evidence provided by Sr Teresa of Cappadocian deaconesses having charge of groups of virgins, I suggest the possibility that these deaconesses are the younger female ascetics, or those in charge of them. Hence they are trained by the widows, and rank behind them, on the basis of age, whilst having a recognized place in the ascetic hierarchy. Somehow one doubts that Macrina fits this mould, giving further support to my suspicion of those who compiled the Church of England’s calendar.

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Christ spoke through Hippolytus?

In order to step up with my rather basic Arabic I have begun, very slowly, to read The Canons of Hippolytus in Coquin’s edition. If any reader thought the blog had been abandoned, it will now be clear that I have simply been busy with other things, as well as the day job.

The initial list of titles is not translated in the Bebawi/Bradshaw version. For the most part these are simply the titles which are at the head of the canons in the main text, but at the end we find the following statement, in Coptic and Arabic.

The Coptic is straightforward enough, reading: These are the canons of the church which Hippolytus, sainted archbishop (ⲡⲁⲣⲭⲏⲉⲡⲓⲥⲕⲟⲡⲟⲥ) of Rome, wrote.

The Arabic is more extensive:

These are the canons of the church, the instructions which Hippolytus, chief of the bishops of Rome, wrote, in accordance with the traditions of the apostles, through (جهة) Our Lord the Christ (one MS reads “the Holy Spirit”) the speaker in(?) him (الناطق فيه). (Coquin translates “parlant en lui”.)

Quite apart from the question of whether we should translate the article with the present participle, is the question of whether this applies to Hippolytus or to Christ, that is to say is Christ speaking in Hippolytus (the more probable reading), or is Hippolytus speaking in Christ? In either event a fairly major claim of authority is being staked by this mediaeval scribe, providing interesting evidence for the reception of the church-order tradition in Alexandria as apparently inspired. The vl, attributing Hippolytus’ speech to the Holy Spirit, is also interesting from the same perspective.

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The path to Rome

In preparation for my appearance at the incontro of the Augustinianum soon I have posted a draft of my paper entitled: “From sabbath to Sunday: new evidence from Aristo of Pella” as a discussion session.

There have been some interesting observations. Come and join the fun at https://www.academia.edu/s/ffd9477cbf/the-transfer-from-sabbath-to-sunday-new-evidence-from-aristo-of-pella

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Blidstein, Purity, community, and ritual

I have just had the pleasure of reviewing Moshe Blidstein, Purity, community and ritual in early Christian literature (Oxford: OUP, 2017.)

I will not repeat the review here except to say that this is an excellent work. With consideration of the Didache and the Didascalia, as well as of baptismal and community-forming rituals, it is of natural interest to readers of this blog.

Badger your librarian to get it!

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Dubious docetists: a new publication

I have just received my copy of Joseph Verheyden et al. (ed.) Docetism in the early church:the quest for an elusive phenomenon (WUNT 402; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018). This includes my essay on Ignatius’ “docetic” opponents, given at the Oxford patristic conference back in 2015. I have made reference to this before, in the post on docetism and the Didachistic Eucharist. I will now record that I sweated blood over that paper. Hopefully it was worth it.

I concluded that “docetism” was not a useful category. I am interested to find that this conclusion is widely shared by other essayists in the volume; since there was no conferring either in advance of or since the submission of the essays this speaks volumes. There are some outstanding essays here; I particularly enjoyed Allen Brent’s philsophical sophistication in identifying enlightenment philosophy of mind as an obstacle to modern understandings of ancient christology, Paul Hartog’s examination of what Ignatius might have added to the kerygma in his polemical context, and Taras Khomych’s rather literate reading of the dance of Jesus in the Acta Johannis. These were my personal highlights, but all the contributions are excellent and worth reading. Beyond the big conclusion, which is that “docetism” is a term which should be abandoned as useless, I was glad to find other points of agreement between other essays and mine, in particular Winrich Löhr’s conclusion that philosophical discourse lay behind a number of the christologies that are classified as docetic, Francis Watson’s observation that Ignatius only speaks of his “docetic” opponents’ denial of Christ’s suffering and not of their denial of any other aspect of Christ, and Jens Schröter’s acceptance of a Hadrianic date for Ignatius’ activity. However, given that there is a lot of common ground among the essays in terms of the materials examined, there is remarkably little redundancy.

The book is €134, which will put it beyond most individuals and many libraries. I am happy to share a pdf of my essay with any reader. My contact details can be found buried somewhere on this blog or on academia.edu. Alternatively leave a comment (if you give your address it will not be published on the blog as I can edit or delete comments before they are displayed.)

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