Category Archives: Anything else

E-rratum: Apostolic tradition p82

Discussing the phrase “he opened wide his hand when he suffered at Traditio apostlolica 4.7 on p82 of the second edition of my commentary we read that there is a reference to this action in De Antichristo 52, and a statement that this text quotes Isaiah 65.2.

I’m not sure how I managed to produce two errors in one line… however, the citation should be to De Antichristo 61. And there is no citation of Isaiah here. The error is certainly also found in the first edition, from which it had been carried over.

Thanks to Darrell Hannah who noticed this.

The substantive point that the usage of Traditio apostolica here can be illustrated from within the Hippolytean corpus nonetheless remains.

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Timothée : Sur la Pâque

9782204131582-5dcc24aad0a90Newly appeared is Pierre Chambert-Protat, Camille Gerzaguet, Timothée : Sur la Pâque. Édition princeps et critique, traduction française, introduction, notes et index (SC604; Paris: Cerf, 2019).

This is a text regarding issues in timing the Pascha, which the editors persuasively argue derives from Asia, and slightly (but only slightly) less persuasively from a period prior to Nicaea.

A new text is always exciting, and this is of exceptional interest and importance.

Certain points of personal satisfaction emerge. Firstly, having long suggested that the reason why Quartodeciman practice was objectionable to those who did not keep a Sunday Pascha, or any Pascha, was that the fourteenth might concur with a Sunday, and thus take precedence, because in this event the Sunday would be marked by fasting, I now find this explicitly stated by Timothy in De Pascha 13. I also recollect suggesting that the Quartodecimans need not have used Nisan as their “fourteenth”, and again find that this suggestion is confirmed as a practice in some quarters by Timothy De Pascha 15 (a polemic against appeal to the Acta Pilati, the significance of which is not immediately clear but explained by the editors in the introduction.)

Beyond this personal satisfaction, the text is a gold-mine regarding issues of paschal practice in Asia. Thus we also have a statement of Pascha as deliberately anti-Jewish (by contrast to the attitude of vicarious fasting lying behind the Quartodeciman source of Didascalia 21) made clear in De Pascha 18.

The editors suggest that Timothy is aiming his polemic against four groups, only one of which is characterized as Quartodeciman. My reading (admittedly only a cursory first reading of a text to which I will return often) indicates that these are all in some sense Quartodeciman groups, and that the arguments are connected; the first group is the “evening” Quartodecimans of whom Apollonaris of Hierapolis is a representative, who held an evening Pascha as the commemoration of the last supper at the same time as the Jewish Pesaḥ (and appealing to a synoptic chronology). The other groups whom Timothy opposes are, I suggest, offshoots of Quartodeciman practice. As Christians became more removed from Jewish practice they could no longer employ Jewish calculations of Pascha, leading to all sorts of confusion in Quartodeciman circles, which are already coming about in the 170s.

Timothy’s own opinion of the proper computation of the Pascha is less clear, which leads me to wonder whether he was in some sense an apologist for the Nicene settlement of the Paschal question. This would fit his rhetoric, and the indications that some sort of triduum is forming, rather than a unitative Pascha. The absence of reference to the equinox does not invalidate this thesis, as it might be taken as assumed and known. If the text derives from a period immediately after Nicaea the later issue of the protopaschites would not have yet arisen.

The purpose of this post, however, is less to ask questions of the editors, but to thank them for their work in bringing this fascinating and vital text to light, and to encourage you all to get your copy here.

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Cyprian of Antioch and Magic in the Church Orders

Magic and divination were an integral part of ancient society. Even after the rise of Christianity, the luring power of diviners, sorcerers, astrologers and the like were felt in cities around the Mediterranean. Magic (to use a not unproblematic umbrella term) was strongly linked to idolatry, in Christian perspective anyway. No surprise bishops and other Christian teachers were fighting against its influence. The Church Orders forbid the practice of magic from its beginning. The author of the Didache writes (2.2): “you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft”, and the author of the Traditio Apostolica requires that practitioners of magic stop it in order to be taught. (16: “A magus shall not even be brought forward for consideration. An enchanter, or astrologer, or diviner, or interpreter of dreams, or a charlatan, or one who makes amulets, either they shall cease or they shall be rejected.”) The latter text was incorporated in the Apostolic Constitutions, written towards the end of the 4th century, probably in Antioch.

When I looked through the Christian literature of that time, I came across an interesting legend which seems to preach exactly that same claim. The “conversion of Cyprian” (probably early 4th century) tells the story of Justina, a Christian virgin who is hassled by a man who fell in love with her. The lover is rejected again and again, until he takes the services of a magician, Cyprian of Antioch. The magician summons several demons in order to seduce the virgin, unsuccessfully. The prayers and the sign of the cross drive them off. When Cyprian recognizes the power of Christ and the church, he burns his magic books publicly and converts to Christianity.

Now is that story not the true propaganda for what bishops and Church Orders commonly demanded? Cyprian ceases his business, advertised by the destruction of his idols and the burning of the books (cf. Acts 19.19), in order to be granted accession, and baptism. Cyprian later becomes bishop, martyr, and saint, until the Catholic Church renounces his holy status in the 20th century…

The legend is tripartite. The “conversion” is most probably the earliest version of the legend (based inter alia on the story of Thecla and the magician in Lucians Philopseudes). Then comes the “confession”, a first-person narrative of Cyprians youth and infamous deeds as magician and his pact with the devil. The third part is the “martyrium”, it is of later date, but linked more to the conversion than to the confession.

Among the many differences between the conversion and the confession, the picture of the devil in the confession is the most striking to me (5.6): “His form was like a golden flower adorned with precious stones, and he crowned his head with stones that were twined together – the energies of which illuminated that plain, and his garment was no different – and when he enwreathed himself, he shook the land. Great indeed was the display around his throne of different ranks which laid down their forms and energies in subordination to him.” (trans. Bailey). And when Cyprian revolts against Satan, after having learned the true Christian power, the devil attacks him (corporeally) and almost kills him in an epic struggle. Only with the sign of the cross, Cyprian manages to free himself.

What I wonder is whether this description of the devil, his absolute corporeal form and the brawl with Cyprian is as original as the “confessions” imagination of the pact with the devil. I have not found any other instances of such “fights with the devil” in early Christian literature. Or is the scene interpolated and of a later date?

 

Bibliography:

Theodor Zahn, Cyprian von Antiochien und die deutsche Faustsage. Erlangen 1882.

Ludwig Radermacher, Griechische Quellen zur Faustsage: der Zauberer Cyprianus, die Erzählung des Helladius, Theophilus. Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien 4, 1927.

Ryan Bailey, The confession of Cyprian of Antioch: introduction, text, and translation. Montreal 2009.

 

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Roman holiday

tempodidioI was fortunate to be able to attend the recent incontro at the Augustinianum in Rome on the subject “Masculum et feminam creavit eos (Gen. 1,27): Paradigmi del maschile e femminile nel cristianesimo antico”, giving a paper on the deaconess in Testamentum Domini (an abstract of which may be found in a post below.)

I picked up my copy of the conference proceedings from last year, published by Nerbini International in the Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum series under the title Tempo di Dio tempo dell’uomo: XLVI Incontro di Studiosi dell’Antichità Cristiana (Roma, 10-12 maggio 2018). It is an enormous tome, though sadly the church orders do not seem to make much of an appearance. It contains my essay, “The transfer from Sabbath to Sunday”, again flagged below, and an essay covering similar ground from Isabel Maria Alçada Cardoso entitled “La sinassi eucarestica domenicale: vespertina e/o mattutina?”

Although not church order related, I am especially interested to see the published version of a paper given by Alberto d’Anna entitled “Il digiuno romano del sabato: tra Agostino e gli Actus Vercelli”; the Roman sabbath fast has been of interest to me for some time, and as advertised below I have published on the subject. D’Anna’s essay is complementary in that he points out the rationale given by Augustine that Peter had fasted when doing battle in Rome with Simon Magus, on the sabbath. Again we recollect Bradshaw’s dictum that “When a variety of explanations is advanced for the origin of a liturgical custom, its true source has almost certainly been forgotten.”

At 701 pages, and covering the entire chronological and geographical spread of early Christianity, most readers will find something to engage and interest them. I cannot claim to have read all the papers yet, nor even those of direct interest, but will be dipping in for some time to come. You may wish to dip in yourselves… If your librarian can be persuaded to get a copy.

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Something new on Traditio apostolica

From Markus Vinzent: something which will at least move the argument on, and gives us something new to think about, with regard to Traditio apostolica.

https://www.academia.edu/38502192/The_Reception_of_Jesus_in_the_Traditio_Apostolica

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The invention of theology

http://www.shoestring-press.com/wp-content/themes/arras-theme/library/timthumb.php?src=http://www.shoestring-press.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/wedding-guest.jpg&w=630&h=250&zc=1

Very recently I had the privilege of assisting with the obsequies of Keith Bosley. Shortly before his death a new collection of his verse appeared, The wedding guest. The book came out at the wake and fell open to this poem, this short and vast masterpiece, typically  backhanded.

Mindful of the season in which we recall Οὗτος ἀφικόμενος ἐξ οὐρανῶν ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν διὰ τὸν πάσχοντα I offer this gem as greeting to the reader, as a memorial to the writer, as a thanks to Keith’s family, and to all as an encouragement to read the work of a master of his craft.

AFIKOMEN

At the end
of the Passover meal
the leader takes
a piece of matzo

set aside earlier
breaks it and hands it round
to signify
the paschal lamb

which is why
Jews are discouraged
from eating lamb
at this meal

then he pours out
the last cup of wine
for all present
plus Elijah

who has his own chair
should he come in
through the door
opened for him

to announce
the Messiah
but centuries ago
barbarians burst in

stood the bloodless rite
upon its head
and invented
theology.

(April 2001)

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Daniel Vaucher on Peter of Alexandria

Though too modest to mention it himself, Daniel Vaucher has a new publication: “Glaubensbekenntnis oder Sklavengehorsam?—Petrus von Alexandrien zu einem christlichen Dilemma” Vigiliae Christianae 72 (2018), 533-560.

Abstract: The so-called Canonical letter (or περὶ Μετανοίας, “On Repentance”) of St. Peter of Alexandria, sheds light on a variety of means that Christians chose to avoid the sacrifice test under the Diocletian persecution. Canons 5-7 deal explicitly with slave- owners using their slaves as surrogates. St. Peter condemns these practices heavily, while at the same time he condemns servile obedience. In this, Peter is almost alone in early Christianity, when almost all Christians preached blind obedience. The article examines these canons, and contextualizes them with other Christian perceptions of ancient slavery. At the same time, the letter is important for the understanding of the Great persecution, its mechanisms, and the personal situation of St. Peter. Hence, the letter is discussed in regards to its transmission, and its context.

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