Category Archives: Apostolic Constitutions
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.
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.
The announcement of the publication of Pauliina Pylvänäinen, Agents in liturgy, charity and communication: the tasks of female deacons in the Apostolic Constitutions (STT 37; Turnhout: Brepols, 2020), in May turned out to be somewhat premature. However, I can now state that it has indeed been published, and I am pleased and proud to have received a copy with a kind inscription from the author. I understand she is now working on male deacons in Apostolic constitutions, and look forward to that work as well.
Agents in liturgy, charity, and communication
Pauliina Pylvänäinen informs me that her book, Agents in liturgy, charity and communication: the tasks of female deacons in the Apostolic Constitutions (STT 37; Turnhout: Brepols, 2020) is now out.
I look forward to my copy(!)
Congratulations to Dr Pylvänäinen!
Canones Hippolyti 5 and Constitutiones apostolorum 8.18
Has anyone noticed the uncanny similarity between the ordination prayer for a deacon at Canones Hippolyti 5 and that at Canones apostolorum 8.18? Might they perhaps be related?
With due apologies to the Lookalikes column in Private Eye (and to readers outside the UK who will miss the encoded cultural reference)… though the better question is how they are related. And indeed, how the ordination prayer for a deacon in the Coptic rite fits into this family tree.
Perhaps we should be told.
Filed under Apostolic Constitutions, Canons of Hippolytus
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?
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.
Hołasek on the catechumenate
Although dated 2018, this article has only just come to my attention. Possibly it has also escaped the attention of other students of the church order literature: Andrzej Rafał Hołasek, “Catechumens in the East in the Light of Pseudo-epigraphic Normative Church Sources from the 4th Century” Studia Ceranea 8 (2018), 139-151.
Abstract: The article discusses the requirements that 4th-century catechumens in the East were expected to meet. Accordingly, the pseudo-epigraphic Church regulations found in the Canons of Hippolitus and in the Apostolic Constitutions are analysed. It can be seen from these texts that their authors showed considerable concern for maintaining high standards associated with the period of the catechumenate; furthermore, they put considerable emphasis on the adherence to the Church regulations and the implementation of Christian standards of thought in daily life.
The article is not earth-shattering in its originality, but is a careful study, taking care to hear the voices of the redactors, rather than their Hippolytean sources.
Personally it leads me to reflect, not for the first time, on my own practice of catechesis, and the manner in which the formation of a habitus is far more important than any imparting of information.
Filed under Apostolic Constitutions, Canons of Hippolytus
The church orders at the 2019 Oxford patristic conference
The Oxford patristics conference takes place this August.
A quick read of the programme reveals the following papers on the church orders.
Clayton Jefford. Why Are There No Manuscripts of the Ancient Didache?
Abstract: While scholars speak of the Didache’s origins and evolution with seeming confidence based on the eleventh-century text of H54, no complete parallel to the tradition appears prior to the late fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions Book 7. Several researchers have attempted with various degrees of success to illustrate knowledge of the Didache among early patristic sources, notably E. von der Goltz (1905) for Athanasius, J.A. Robinson (1920) and F.R.M. Hitchcock (1923) for Clement of Alexandria, M.A. Smith (1966) for Justin Martyr, C.N. Jefford (1995) for Ignatius of Antioch, etc., yet evidence for the entirety of the text remains elusive. This essay surveys several such attempts and concludes with the suggestion that the reason no manuscripts of the entire text are available is because there were never any to be found. While portions of the tradition certainly were known and circulated among ancient Christian (and likely Jewish) authors, no complete version of what is now associated with the witness of H54 was available.
Tom O’Loughlin. The Didache and Diversity of Eucharistic Practice in the Churches: the Value of Luke 22:17-20 as Evidence
Abstract: The sequence of blessings found in the Didache (cup followed by loaf) has long been seen as a significant deviation from what has been seen (based on later accepted practice) as the normative sequence of loaf followed by cup (as found in Paul [1 Cor 11:24-5], Mark, and Matthew). However, if we see ‘the longer form’ of Luke 22:17-20 (cup, loaf, cup) as a conflation of two text relating to two different practices – where the text of Luke was a ‘living text’ which varied with the practice of the church in which it was being used – then we have evidence (in the shorter variants of Luke) for a range of churches which at one time used the sequence found in the Didache of cup followed by loaf. From the original diversity as seen in the Didache and Paul (see 1 Cor 10:16-7 and 21-2) there came in time a uniformity. The Didache preserves a fossil of this earlier period, Paul’s acquaintance with this diversity dropped out of sight in that I Cor 10 was read in terms of 1 Cor 11, while the Lukan text that became the standard form preserved both readings (reflecting both practices) by conflation ‘lest anything be lost.’ That this conflated text was seen as a problematic can be seen in the reaction of Eusebius of Caesarea, while we should concentrate attention afresh on the ‘shorter texts’ as these point to forgotten practices.
Pauliina Pylvänäinen. Agents in Liturgy, Charity and Communication. The Function of Deaconesses in the Apostolic Constitutions
Abstract: The reinterpretation of deacons and diakonia challenges us to consider the function of deaconesses in the Apostolic Constitutions. The Apostolic Constitutions is a church order that originated in Antioch and was completed in AD 380. The tasks of deaconesses in the document can be divided into three categories: Firstly, duties that are linked to the liturgy in the congregation are assigned to the deaconesses by the compiler. They guard the doors of the church building, find places for women who need them and are present when the women approach the altar during the Eucharist. When a woman is being baptized, a deaconess assists the bishop during the rite. The document also consists two analogies which describe the liturgical function of the deaconesses: They function in the places of the Levites as well as the Holy Spirit. Secondly, the deaconesses have tasks that traditionally have been defined as charitable service. Since the concept of deacon has been reinterpreted, tasks have to be evaluated as to whether they include charitable connotations or not. My analysis shows that the deaconesses are sent to visit the homes of women. The visits include, for instance, almsgiving, and hence belong to the field of charity by nature. In some cases the tasks of healing and travelling also seem to have charitable connotations. However, alongside these tasks, the deaconesses also have a task that is neither mainly liturgical nor charitable. As messengers, they play a role in the communications of the congregation.
Finally, although the text discussed here is not actually a church order (see posts below), particular note may be taken of:
Svenja Ella Luise Sasse. The Preliminary Edition of the Greek Didaskalia of Jesus Christ
Abstract: The Greek Didaskalia of Jesus Christ, a rather unknown apocryphal text probably written in the sixth century, is composed as a conversation between the risen Christ and the Twelve Apostles: Because they are concerned about the transgressions of man and wonder how forgiveness can be obtained, the Apostles ask Christ who gives them further instructions for a God pleasing life. Among other subjects the dialogue also refers to the Christian Sunday observation as an essential topic. Besides instructions for an appropriate behavior on Sundays, this day even appears as a personification together with angels and heavenly powers in the Hereafter. The personification of the Sunday bears testimony for the soul which had fastened on Wednesday and Friday and had observed Sunday correctly. Thus, the Sunday undergoes a salvation-historical emphasis. Together with the Letter from Heaven the Didaskalia can therefore be regarded as a fruitful and important apocryphal source concerning the development of Sunday veneration. A critical edition of its text has already been published by François Nau in 1907. As his edition is only based on two manuscripts while ten manuscripts are meanwhile available, a preparation of a new critical edition has become necessary which is part of the broader project The Apocryphal Sunday at Vienna University directed by Prof. Dr. Uta Heil. The talk will give an impression of the present working results concerning the preliminary edition of the Didaskalia.
Note, in passing, that the speaker also refers to our Letter from Heaven, discussed by Daniel Vaucher. Unfortunately this paper is being given at the same time that Jefford is speaking on the Didache.
Qilada, Kitāb al-Disqūlīyah and Borg. Ar. 22
In my dialogue with Dani Vaucher below I make reference to Wilyam Sulayman Qilada (ed.), Kitāb al-Disqūlīyah: taʿālīm al-rusul (Cairo : Dār al-Jīl lil-Ṭibāʿah, 1979).
My parishioner Mohammed Basith Awan (remember that in the Church of England even Muslims are parishioners… they just have to live in the parish!), a far better Arabist than I, has had a look at it, and has determined that this is the “lost Coptic Didascalia” (again, see posts below) described by Baumstark and found in Codex Borg. Ar. 22. This ms also contains an Arabic version of the Testamentum Domini.
Specialists in this field (among whom I do not count myself) may learn with interest that the Vatican Library has digitized this codex. It may be read here. Coptic marginal annotations clearly indicate an Egyptian provenance.
Church orders at the British patristic conference
The British patristic conference in Birmingham in September yields one paper of direct relevance to the study of the ancient church orders.
The abstract is as follows:
A Common Purpose for Paul and the Female Deacons?
The author writes in 1 Tim 1:12 that Christ has appointed Apostle Paul εἰς διακονίαν. The same enunciation has been used in four other verses in the Greek NT. About three hundred years after that, the Apostolic Constitutions, one of the most influential ancient church orders, was compiled. Among its various ecclesiastical instructions the author commands the special group of women in his midst: He gives several instructions and presents an ordination prayer for them. In the prayer the author uses an enunciation, which rings a bell. He writes that the female deacon has to be appointed – εἰς διακονίαν.
The noun διακονία has commonly been translated as “service”. However, the traditional understanding about the early Christian use of the verb διακονέω has lately been challenged. Especially John N. Collins and Anni Hentschel have re-interpreted its ancient usage. According to them, service is not the main meaning for διακονία. If anything, the term refers to the areas of agency and attendance. It connotes intermediary functions. Collins’ and Hentschel’s results form the background for my research.
In the presentation I will have a glance at the usage of εἰς διακονίαν in its contexts both in 1 Tim 1:12 and AC VIII, 20, 2. I will find out, to what kind of purposes Paul and the female deacons really are appointed. Are the enunciations parallel? Do they have the equivalence both of form and content?
This, and the other abstracts, may be viewed at
My quick answer to the concluding question is “probably not.”
For the convenience of readers the relevant prayer reads as follows:
O Eternal God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of man and of woman, who replenished with the Spirit Miriam, and Deborah, and Anna, and Huldah; who did not disdain that Your only begotten Son should be born of a woman; who also in the tabernacle of the testimony, and in the temple, ordained women to be keepers of Your holy gates—do Thou now also look down upon this Your servant, who is to be ordained to the office of a deaconess, and grant her Your Holy Spirit, and cleanse her from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, (2 Corinthians 7:1) that she may worthily discharge the work which is committed to her to Your glory, and the praise of Your Christ, with whom glory and adoration be to You and the Holy Spirit for ever. Amen.
This is the ANF translation. The phrase εἰς διακονίαν is rendered “to the office of a deaconess.”
Ps-Ignatius, Eudoxius and the Apostolic constitutions
Although I should perhaps be better employed during Holy Week I was able to attend the Kings London patristic seminar yesterday to hear Allen Brent on ps-Ignatius.
Brent argued that ps-Ignatius was what might roughly be called an anomoian, and in particular a disciple of Eudoxius, in Constantinople from 360, but previously in Antioch. This in turn, in an Antiochene setting, would point to Euzoius or one of his circle as the forger.
Brent’s fundamental evidence is a fragment of Eudoxius found in F. Diekamp, Doctrina patrum de incarnatione Verbi: ein griechisches Florilegium aus der Wende des 7 und 8 Jahrhunderts (2nd ed; Münster: Aschendorff, 1981), 64-5: We believe in one only true God and Father, the only first principle unbegotten and without a father, not worshipped because by nature no-one worships the completely transcendent, and in one Lord Jesus Christ the Son, able to be worshipped because he worships rightly the Father, and on the one hand only begotten because he s greater than all creation that came after him, and on the other hand, first-born because of his most excellent and placed first of all in the created order, made flesh not made human, for he did not assume a human soul, but he became flesh in order that through flesh he might communicate as divine through a veil to us humans…
Whereas we can see the points of contact with ps-Ignatius, particularly in the statements regarding the lack of a human soul (and cf. ps-Ignatius Philippians 9.4 for the matter of communicating pathē), as I have already noted, this is simply an outworking of a conventional position in Antiochene christology. Brent’s suggestion that Ignatius was chosen simply as a fundamentally orthodox figure likewise does not convince me. It might be possible to align the forger’s statement regarding being a man set on unity (derived partially from the authentic Ignatius) with a Eudoxian agendum of creating a single imperial church, but against this must be set ps-Ignatius Philadelphians 4. In other words, I see no reason to revise my opinion that the forger is derived from Meletian circles.
However, if Brent is indeed right, that would align ps-Ignatius more closely with the Apostolic constitutions. And yet Brent shares my opinion that the parallels are derived not from identity of authorship but a common exegetical tradition.
The puzzle continues to be as baffling as ever.
Filed under Apostolic Constitutions
The Arabic Didascalia
Some recent posts have moved some to ask me further about the Arabic Didascalia.
There are two recensions.
The first corresponds to Constitutiones apostolorum 1-6, with some omissions and re-arrangements. In addition it has a preface and six additional chapters. This preface is that which also appears in the E recension of the Syrian Didascalia.
The opening of this recension was given by Thomas Pell Platt (The Ethiopic Didascalia; or, the Ethiopic version of the Apostolical constitutions, received in the church of Abyssinia. With an English translation (London: R. Bentley, 1834) from one of two MSS in London. Platt further gives an account of a controversy between Whiston and Grabe in the early eighteenth century, which led to Grabe’s examination of two Arabic MSS at Oxford. (Platt, Ethiopic Didascalia, ii-viii.) Grabe gave a description of the contents of these without any publication,seeing the versional aspects of these MSS as simply corruption of the Greek.
As far as I can see the next published treatment of this material is that of Funk, who lists eight MSS for the Arabic Didascalia, giving a description of the contents, and a German translation of the preface and the additional chapters. (F.X. Funk, Die apostolischen Konstitutionen: eine litterar–historische Untersuchung (Rottenburg: Wilhelm Bader, 1891), 215-242. Two of these, in London, are mentioned by Platt, Ethiopic Didascalia, xi. The former is in Karshuni script, the latter was the source of his printing of the opening.) A Latin version of this material, with extensive annotation, is to be found in Funk’s Didascalia et constitutiones apostolorum (Paderborn: Schoeningh, 1905), 120-136. The reason for stressing that this was published is that Wilhelm Riedel, Die Kirchenrechtsquellen des Patriarchats Alexandrien (Leipzig: Deichert, 1900), 164-165, reports that Lagarde had studied the Parisian MSS and made a collation, but that this was never published! (According to Riedel this MS may be found as Lagarde 107 in the University Library at Göttingen.)
The other recension, discovered by Baumstark, is close to Constitutiones apostolorum in books 1-6, also contains most of book 7, does not include the additional chapters but does include the preface. The colophon states that this version was translated from Coptic in the thirteenth century. As such it is less a witness to the Arabic Didascalia as to a lost Coptic Didascalia. (See Anton Baumstark, “Die Urgestalt der ‘arabischen Didaskalia der Apostel’” Oriens Christianus 3 (1903), 201-208.)
Lagarde had opined that the Ethiopic version was a translation of the Arabic (my source for this being Riedel’s brief report.) Given that this is likewise unpublished, though edited and translated into English (by J.M. Harden, The Ethiopic Didascalia (London: SPCK, 1920)), it does seem extraordinary that no effort appears to have been made since that of Lagarde to study and to bring this material to light.
Filed under Apostolic Constitutions
A Christmas look at the Apostolic constitutions
The following fragment is found in some manuscripts following the Questions and responses of Anastasius. In view of its contents I offer it as a Christmas greeting to my reader(s!)
Concerning the appearance of Our Lord, from the apostolic diatagmata (one MS, diataxeis):
Now Our Lord Jesus Christ was born of the holy Virgin Mary in Bethlehem in the month, following the Egyptians, of Choiak, 29th, at the seventh hour of the day (One MS reads “tenth hour of the night”), which is the eighth before the kalends of January. He was baptized in his thirtieth year by John, on the eleventh of Tubi, at the tenth hour of the night (One MS reads “seventh hour of the day”) in the Jordan river. He therefore remained among us in the world, proclaiming the Kingdom of the Heavens, and healing every disease and every ailment among the people, until he was thirty-three years and three months. In his thirty-third year he was crucified on the 23rd Phaneroth, on the sixth day, at the sixth hour, on the fourteenth day of the moon. He rose on the third day, on the 1st Pharmouthi, on the first day, at the sixth hour of the night, and was seen by all us, his disciples. And he manifested his glory for forty days, teaching us to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins in his name. He was taken up on Pachon 10th, at the ninth hour of the day.
It appears in PG 1 517-8 (in a citation of Cotelier) and elsewhere amidst the learned collections of the nineteenth century.
F.X. Funk “”Ein Fragment zu den apostolischen Konstitutionen” Theologische Quartalschrift 85 (1903), 195-202 suggests that it is an addendum to an Egyptian recension of Apostolic Constitutions 8.33.
This is an interesting fragment by virtue of the liturgical information it contains regarding the Egyptian reception of Christmas, and puzzling given its apparent reference to nocturnal baptism. It is also interesting in illustrating the manner in which, as living literature, even complete church orders might undergo local editing and expansion. Perhaps this explains the puzzling fragment cited by ibn Katib Qaysar to which Tom Schmidt has drawn our attention, namely that it is a further example of local expansion of an existing church order.
Filed under Apostolic Constitutions
Confessors and presbyters in Traditio apostolica (and its re-writes)
Dani Vaucher, in our ongoing correspondence, perceptively asks whether the directions in Traditio apostolica restricting the promotion of confessors to the honor of presbyterate disguise a conflict between patron-presbyters and confessors, like that which developed in Africa in the third century between confessors and Cyprian.
It’s a fair and worthwhile question, though I do not think that this is the case. The fundamental conflict in this community is between the patron-presbyters and the episkopos, that is, in Weberian terms, between a bureaucratic and a traditional mode of governance. Certainly the patron-presbyters are attempting to restrict access to their privileges, but I think it is too strong to label this a conflict. I don’t think the comparison with Cyprian’s Africa works simply because the confessors there were not attempting to be recognized as presbyters, but were challenging the (bureaucratically legitimated) episcopate.
However, he goes on: Do you think, that the revision of TA §9 in CA points in the same direction?
This reads: And I James, the son of Alphæus, make a constitution in regard to confessors: A confessor is not ordained; for he is so by choice and patience, and is worthy of great honour, as having confessed the name of God, and of His Christ, before nations and kings. But if there be occasion, he is to be ordained either a bishop, priest, or deacon. But if any one of the confessors who is not ordained snatches to himself any such dignity upon account of his confession, let the same person be deprived and rejected; for he is not in such an office, since he has denied the constitution of Christ, and is worse than an infidel. (ANF translation I think, just grabbed for convenience off the web.)
Here certainly one can see how one can read this as a conflict between office and charism, though, again, not with patron-presbyters (not the least because they no longer existed in the fourth century.) One wonders, however, whether the constitutor simply thought that the original provision meant that a confessor should be recognized as a presbyter (in the fourth century understanding, namely a priest) and rushed to correct that. Not that any confessor (were there any, in fourth century Antioch?) had actually claimed to be a priest, not having been ordained.
What is interesting, once again, is how the church orders rewrite material that they do not understand. Thus, for the sake of completeness, this is what Testamentum Domini does with the provision:
If anyone bears witness and makes it known that he was in chains, imprisoned, or tortured on account of the name of God, a hand is not to be laid on him for the diaconate for this reason, in the same way not for the presbyterate, for the honour of the clergy (klēros) is his, since he was protected in his confession by the hand of God. However, if he is appointed as a bishop he is worthy of the imposition of a hand.
If he is a confessor who has not been judged by the powers, and not ill-treated in chains, but has simply confessed, he is worthy of the imposition of a hand; he receives the prayer of the clergy (klēros). However he does not pray over him repeating all the words, but when the shepherd goes forward in promotion the effect is received. (TD 1.39)
Filed under Apostolic Constitutions, Apostolic Tradition
Slavery in the church orders: a dialogue
The following dialogue is redacted from an ongoing correspondence. It may yet be extended. Hopefully it is of interest to an audience beyond the participants.
Daniel Vaucher: a keen graduate student
Alistair C. Stewart: a grizzled old hack
The dialogue takes place somewhere in cyberspace… over the Alps
DV: Let me please introduce myself. My name is Daniel Vaucher, I’m a PhD student at University of Berne, Switzerland in Ancient History at the Center for Global Studies. My research is about Slavery in Early Christianity, and especially, as presented in the Church Orders. Whereas the research on ancient slavery is immense, these sources have not been included at all, or in older research, have been read methodologically imprudently. It is therefore that I write you, since you have been publishing so many great articles and books on the Church Orders and on the methological approach. Your Hippolyt’s Apostolic Tradition and you Didascalia Apostolorum have been very helpful to me, and I was delighted when I found not only your blog on wordpress but also some contributions on other websites with your research on Gnomai of Nicaea.
That is, if you allow me, where I have two requests. In the Didascalia Apostolorum, chapter 18, we read of rich persons and sinners whose gifts are not to be taken by the bishops. Among the long list of sinners are also included slave-owners “who make poor provision for their slaves” (your translation, Introd. p.46). This passage alone is very interesting, but my question is about your remarks on p.47 of your introduction. There, you show the afterlife of the text in the Syntagma Doctrinae (where slave owners are apparantly not mentioned) and Fides Patrum (where the text is expanded: “who is violent to his servants and does not feed them, or clothe them). In note 77, you refer to a forthcoming book, where you discuss these texts. I was just wondering where I can find your discussion and your translations of the texts (I must admit: I cannot read Coptic or Syriac).
And there lies my second question: I see in your publication list that you published a book on the Apostolic Church Order in 2006, a Book on the Two Ways in 2012, and more recently on the Gnomai of Nicaea. Unfortunately, all this books are nowhere to be found in my nearby libraries, and I cannot find them on online shops neither. I was wondering whether you have any spare books yourself which you’d be willing to sell to me, so I could continue researching on these little but very thrilling remarks about slavery in the Church Orders.
Thank you for your patience, I’m looking forward to reading your answer
ACS: First of all, let me thank you for your interest.
I am sure you have already taken account of Const app. 8.33.
The Syntagma and Fides patrum are translated in On the two ways. This is far, however, from being the last word on these texts. Mercifully this work is easy to obtain; it is available on amazon for 10 Euro.
The book on the Gnomai has not yet been published. I am waiting on the publisher who is, they inform me, waiting on the Library of Congress. There is nothing here about slaves; this, in itself, is interesting since the work is addressed to a wealthy elite who are being encouraged in charity. This is a class likely to own slaves (though I am aware that the incidence of slave-owning in Egypt is lower than elsewhere) and so one has to ask whether, in this part of Egypt and at this time (mid-fourth century) the practice had been abandoned among Christians at least.
The book on Apostolic church order is a problem. This is sad because I count it my best work! It went out of print almost immediately and is now very rare. I do not know why they don’t do a print on demand… apparently, however, it is available on a cd rom from http://www.cecs.acu.edu.au/publications.html
I am sorry not to be able to be more helpful. I would say, however, that I find your research topic very interesting and would be very glad to be kept informed of your progress. I would also be glad to enter any discussion on this topic that you propose.
DV: Good Morning and thank you very much for that quick answer and the invitation to discuss the topic. It’s an honor to being able to discuss with you the subject, and the Church Orders are so ominous, there’s plenty of stuff to discuss.
I know of Const. Apost. 8.33. I’m not sure though whether we can read “douloi” there in its literal meaning. The day off should count for everybody of course, and not only for slaves, and therefore I tend to read slaves in its metaphorical meaning as slaves of God (which would nevertheless include de facto slaves). But that’s just a suspicion, I haven’t worked on the passage comprehensively.
Besides, Const. Apost. is full of prescriptions on slaves and slave-owners, consciously expanding the sources it used by admonitions to treat slaves well, to love them as brothers etc. It seems, that Christian slaveowners in the late 4th century were even more cruel to their slaves than their 2nd to 3rd century predecessors and the compilator needed to stress mild treatment, or that in post-constantinian times more pagans converted to Christianity which needed to be rhetorically convinced of this “strange” ethics. These are all only suspicions, again.
One of the interesting expansions is concerning the impure offerings, adapted from Syr.Didasc. §18. I don’t know how the Syriac texts really is, but judging from the modern translations, it simply excludes slave-owners who don’t provision their slaves well. Apost. Const. includes a subordinate clause “speaking of beatings, hunger and kakodoulia, a term I cannot reasonably translate. Again, interesting that the author needs to explain the sentence of the Syriac Didascalia. That’s why I was so happy when I found your comment on adaptions of that passage in Syntagma and Fides Patrum. Apparantly these authors adapted the Const.Apost. passage (to my understanding more plausible than that they adapted Syr.Didasc) and again changed it fully consciously, Syntagma leaving it out, Fides Patrum explaining it again in other terms (feed and clothe). I’d wonder how you would account for such adaptions.
Sadly the Apostolic Church Order doesn’t include any prescriptions for slaves or slaveowners, as far as I know, but it’s an interesting text anyway and I’d really like to read your introduction to it to get a clearer picture of it.
To make sure: does your work on Gnomai not include the passage cited on Didascalia, p. 47 of the Coptic version Fides Patrum, which was previously used by Revillout in his collection on the Council of Nicaea? Clearly I don’t have a picture yet of what the Fides Patrum is really about. Is it a “Church Order”, too?
Again, thank you very much for your patience and your helpful answers
ACS: OK, to begin at the end! The Fides patrum is a version of the same material as Syntagma doctrinae, beginning, however, with a version of the Nicene creed with anathemas. It is, as you rightly say, preserved also in Coptic and published by Revillout in his collection. I think there is an Ethiopic version as well, though this may be of the Syntagma (I struggle to remember which is which!) Now the conclusion of the Greek Fides is wanting. I will have to look again to remind myself regarding the Ethiopic, so this will be the subject of a separate post. (I subsequently learn from my own blog(!) that the Ethiopic Fides patrum lacks the conclusion re offerings found in the Coptic.) The Coptic Fides however preserves the conclusion, so it is probable that the absence of the conclusion in Greek is a matter of accident (the last page being wanting from the scribe’s exemplar.) Thus we may assume that Fides and Syntagma had similar conclusions. Whether Fides patrum is a church order depends, of course, on the definition of church orders. Certainly there was no genre as such; Joe Mueller calls it a tradition, and although I disagree with him about the nature of the tradition I think he is right to call it so. Both the Syntagma and the Fides contain material found in other church orders, so they are members of the tradition, even if they are fundamentally monastic rules.
I don’t deal with the Fides in my work on the gnomai because I believe that they are entirely separate works, though transmitted together in the Coptic tradition through the collection of the Nicene documents, and also, I believe, arising within the same Athanasian circles. I make brief use of it in On the two ways.
So let us turn to the parallel material of CA and DA 4.6. There are parallels in both the Syntagma and in the Fides, though in the case of the latter it is preserved only in Coptic (reserving judgement on any other version.)
CA is, we know, an adaptation of DA. Thus it explains or expands the material found in DA. Next question is “Where did FP/SD get the material from?”
It is possible that they got it straight from CA as you suggest, though we are up against it date-wise given the uncertainty of dating any of these documents. It is not more plausible than the possibility that they got it straight from DA, given that the Greek original circulated in Egypt and was the subject of a Coptic translation (of which only a fragment remains.) Indeed, it is less plausible.
My own opinion, however, is that neither was the source. If you look at the context DA is an expansion of instruction to a bishop. How much is original and how much redactional is a matter of debate. It would seem to me reasonable, however, to suggest that 6.4 in nuce at least is part of the original material, since it deals with the fundamental episcopal duty. Is it not reasonable to suggest that the original instruction had circulated independently and was taken up in Egypt by the redactors of FP/SD?
What then becomes interesting is the absence of any mention of slaves or slave-owners in the version of SD, whereas they are found in FP. This in turn (if I am right in my argument that FP is dependent on SD) means that FP put this passage in. Next question is whether this was under the influence of DA/CA or an independent act of redaction on his part. It is difficult to know where to start with this, but even if it is influenced by DA/CA then there must have been some relevance of the topic to the redactor as to make him insert it. What were the local conditions? Although there was clearly less slavery in Egypt than elsewhere in the Empire, the phenomenon was still met.
I was aware of 8.33 because of its importance regarding Sabbath.
Preliminary bibliography (not counting my own work or Ethiopic versions)
P. Battifol, Syntagma doctrinae (Studia patristica 2; Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1890) (available online through archive.org)
P. Battifol, Didascalia CCCXVIII patrum (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1887) (the Fides patrum)
Plus, of course, Revillout
DV: Your statement on the redactional layer in the passage about episcopal instruction is intriguing, although I have problems to see where you would draw the line between original material and redactional work. If you considered the list of forbidden “professions” as the only expansion by the redactor, you could reasonably draw the link to TA 16 with its list of forbidden professions. But yet, these two texts, with all similarities that they have, are quite different, especially regarding the order of the list (and omissions, of course, too). I have a hard time thinking that two redactors (DA, TA) use the same source (or tradition) and include it in different contexts and still change it so considerably.
ACS: OK we will start by putting TA 16 out of the picture altogether. It is interesting, but not relevant (unless, conceivably, a list originally intended for catechumens [the context in TA] has been refitted elsewhere only to turn up in DA/CA/FP/SD, though this would be impossible to prove, and would not much enlighten us in any event.) It is true that I mention this in a footnote, but that is just a cf. for general interest rather than an explicit claim of a direct relationship.
So putting aside TA altogether, let us look at DA 4.6, so that you can see how I draw redactional lines within DA.
The text has been discussing the maintenance of orphans and their training; then it goes on to discuss the issue of how much a bishop may keep back from what he receives for his own maintenance (not the only point at which it is discussed, which indicates what a burning issue this was).
Anyone who can assist himself without disturbing the place of the orphan, the stranger or the widow is truly blessed, as this is a gift from God. 2But woe to those who have, yet falsely receive, or who are able to assist themselves but receive anyway. Anyone who receives will have to give an account to the Lord God regarding what they received on the day of judgement. 3If anyone receives on account of an orphaned childhood, or poverty in old age, or sickness or weakness or for bringing up a large number of children, he shall indeed be praised, considered as the altar of God and honoured of God, because he did not receive in vain since he diligently and frequently prayed for those who gave to him, as far as he was able, and this prayer he offered as his payment. These shall so be declared blessed by God in everlasting life. [4.4] Yet those who have, and yet receive under pretence, or otherwise are idle, and so receive rather than working as they should and assisting themselves and others, shall give an account as they have reduced the place of the impoverished faithful. 2Or anyone who has possessions and does not use them himself, nor helps others, is laying up perishable treasure for himself on earth. He is in the position of the snake lying upon the treasure and is in danger of being reckoned alongside it. 3Whoever possesses, and yet receives in falsehood, is not trusting in God but in wicked mammon. On account of wealth he is keeping the word hypocritically and is fulfilled in unbelief. Anyone who is like this is in danger of being reckoned with the unbelievers in condemnation. 4But anyone who simply gives to all does well, and is innocent. Whoever receives on account of distress and uses what he receives sparingly receives well, and will be glorified by God in everlasting life.
Then there is a summary, concluding with a doxology.
[4.5] Be constant, you bishops and deacons, in the ministry of the altar of Christ, that is to say the widows and the orphans, with all care, diligently endeavouring to find out with regard to gifts, the conduct of him who gives, or her who gives, for the support of, 2we say again, the altar. When widows are nourished by the labour of righteousness they will offer a ministry which is holy and acceptable before almighty God, through his beloved Son and his Holy Spirit. To him be glory and honour for ever and ever.
Then the subject picks up all over again; this is where the list is found:
3You should be working hard and diligently in ministering to the widows with a righteous mind, so that whatever they ask or request may speedily be given them, as they make their prayers. 4But if there should be bishops who are uncaring, and inattentive to these matters, through respect of persons, or through impure profit, or through failure to make enquiry, the account that they shall give shall be no ordinary one. [4.6] For what they are receiving for ministry to orphans and widows is from the rich, who have men locked in prison, from the wicked who make poor provision for their slaves, or act with cruelty in their cities, or oppress the poor, 2or from the impure, who abuse their bodies with wickedness, or from evildoers, or from fraudsters, or from lawless advocates, or from those who accuse falsely, or from hypocritical lawyers, 3or from painters of pictures or from makers of idols, or from workers of gold or silver or bronze who steal, or from corrupt tax-gatherers, or from those who watch the shows, or from those who alter weights, or from those who measure deceitfully, or from innkeepers who water (drinks), 4or from soldiers who act lawlessly, from spies who obtain convictions, or from Roman authorities, who are defiled by wars and who have shed innocent blood without trial, and from pervertors of judgement who deal corruptly and deceitfully with the peasantry and all the poor in order to rob them, 5or from idolaters, or from the unclean or from usurers and extortionists. 6Those who nourish widows from these will be found guilty when judged on the day of the Lord, since Scripture says: ‘Better a meal of herbs with love and compassion than the slaughter of fattened oxen with hatred.’ 7Should a widow be nourished solely by bread from the labour of righteousness this will be plenty for her, but if much be given her from iniquity it will not be enough for her. 8Moreover, if she is nourished from iniquity she will be unable to offer her ministry and her intercession before God in purity. Even if, being righteous, she prays for the wicked, her intercession for them will not be heard, but only that for herself, in that God tests their hearts in judgement and receives intercessions with discernment. 9Yet if they pray for those who have sinned and repented their prayers will be heard. But when those who are in sin and are not repentant pray before God, not only are their prayers not heard, but their transgressions are brought to God’s memory.
Finding redactional themes is more an art than a science, but I think that we can discern a distinct instruction here that the redactor has inserted. That is why the subject, having been concluded, starts up again. But what follows, with the heading, is also interesting:
That those bishops who accept alms from the culpable are guilty. [4.7] And so, bishops, flee and shun such administrations as these. For it is written: ‘The price of a dog or the wages of a prostitute shall not go up upon the altar of the Lord.’ 2For if, through your blindness, widows are praying for fornicators and for those who transgress the law and are not being heard as their requests are not granted, you will be bringing blasphemy upon the word as the result of your wicked management, as though God were not good and generous.
3Thus you should be very careful that you do not minister the altar of God from the ministrations of those who transgress the law. You have no excuse in saying ‘We do not know’, as you have heard what Scripture says: ‘Shun any wicked man and you shall not be afraid; and trembling shall not approach you.’ [4.8] And if you say: ‘These are the only people who give alms; and if we do not accept from them, from shall we minister to the orphans and the widows and those in distress?’ God says to you: ‘On this account you received the gifts of the Levites, the firstfruits and the offerings of your people, that you might be nourished and, having more than this, that you should not be obliged to accept from wicked people. 2But if the churches are so poor that those in need should be nourished by people like this, it is better that you be laid waste by hunger than receive from those who are wicked. 3Thus you should be making investigation and examination so that you receive from the faithful, those who are in communion with the church, and conduct themselves properly, in order to nourish those who are in distress, and do not receive from those who have been expelled from the church until they are worthy of becoming members of the church.
4If, however, you are in want, speak to the brothers so that they may labour together and give, so supplying out of righteousness. [4.9] You should be teaching your people, saying what is written: ‘Honour the Lord from your just labour and from the first of all your harvests.’ 2And so from the just labour of the faithful shall you clothe and nourish those who are in want. And, as we said above, distribute from what is given by them for ransoming the faithful, for the redemption of slaves, captives and prisoners, and those treated with violence, and those condemned by the mob, and those condemned to fight with beasts, or to the mines, or to exile, or condemned to the games, and to those in distress. And the deacons should go in to those who are constrained, and visit every one of them, and distribute to them with whatever each is lacking.
[4.10] But if ever you should be obliged to accept, against your will, some coins from somebody who is wicked, do not spend them on food but, if a small amount, spend it on firewood for yourselves and for the widows, so that a widow should not receive them and be obliged to buy food for herself with them. 2And so the widows shall not be defiled with evil when they pray and receive from God the good things for which they ask and which they seek, whether all together or individually, and you will not be bound by these sins.
I think that what we hear here is the voice, once again, of the redactor, and that what we are hearing from him is the disconnect between the reality of his situation and the ideal.
DV: I can clearly follow your argument and understand now how you discern between different redactional levels. It is very interesting to read the texts in that way.
ACS: In that case you can hopefully you can see the basis on which I suggest that a source has been incorporated. The fact that it re-appears elsewhere without its surrounding material in turn supports the supposition that the redactor of DA has included material which is independently employed in the Egyptian documents.
DV: I’d agree with you that DA, CA, SD and FP share a common source (or FP takes it from SD, I can’t judge) and we would only have to account for the changes within these texts.
Here I would be very cautious not to speculate about reasons why these changes happened. I doubt we can know for sure. It’s intriguing enough that an author decided to include a remark on slaveowners, and another didn’t.
ACS: OK, so we agree that there is an independent common source here.
DV: Let me reply to your statement about “disconnect between reality and ideal”.
I think that we are here at a crucial point in interpreting the church order literature (or genre, or tradition…). but this is not only the case for the 2nd redactor, but also for the 1st! The first redactor already depicts a conflict between ideal and reality, which the 2nd redactor only repeats. I compare this to, for example, 1 Corinthians, in which Paul criticizes the behavior at the Lords’ Supper. But his narrative is polemical, so it’s probably not reality as such, but polemically exaggerated. Maybe only a few Corinthians misbehaved. But what Paul suggests is not reality neither, it’s ideal, utopia. This is a fundamental difficulty in interpreting normative texts, be it apostolic letters, roman law, or Church Order Literature.
The 1st redactor already criticizes the offerings of sinners and the behavior of bishops, he already encounters that disconnect between reality and ideal. The 2nd redactor, then, repeats the same topic. Does this repetition show us that the exhortation of the 1st version of DA (or its original source) was unsuccessful? And is it not the 2nd redactor, then, that includes the loophole “about accepting “a few coins” for firewood”
I have a hard time imagining how a Bishop should be obliged to accept an offering against his will, anyway. But is this an indicator that there were essential “disconnects between reality and ideal”, between the pressure exerted by the rich Christians in the communities and the rule proposed in DA 4.6-10?
ACS: Although sometimes frustrated at having to pursue scholarship whilst responsible for a pastoral ministry, there are times when it is useful. I know, from experience, how a bishop (read, here parish priest) in a moment of weakness can accept an offering against his own will (or better judgement) in order not to give undue offence. However, you are fundamentally absolutely correct; the issue is an ongoing one, not restricted to any particular period in the development of DA. Moreover, not only is there, as you say, always a disconnect, but in the case of the church order literature there is not only a disconnect between the ideal and the reality, but there is a disconnect, very likely, between the reality described (which is really being prescribed) and the real reality!
DV: I think of the implications of that remark: a bishop who knew of a “violent” slaveowner was supposed to exclude him from the community until he was repentant. this is revolutionary. The New Testament and Church Fathers agree on mild treatment of slaves, but it never goes beyond an admonishment, no one speaks of an exclusion or excommunication. Why such a rigorous demand?
CA 4.6. speaks – as far as I can judge – more than DA of pure/impure matters. The offerings of such sinners are considered impure and “pollute” the Christian community. but again, I know of no other text that defines violent treatment of slaves as impure.
The biggest issue I have with chapter 18 of DA: if you and Schöllgen are right, it’s a chapter especially to strengthen the authority of the clergy against the rich laymen in the community, which act as patrons and sponsors for the community. Bad behaviour is not to be accepted even if the patron is responsible for the subsistence of the clergy – the author specifies that you should rather die from hunger than take money from such sinners.
But I doubt that this was ever done. The church and the clergy was dependent on these people. Slaveowning and slave-beating was normal in antiquity, so I doubt that any bishop ever excluded a slaveowner for this. I cannot imagine that this demand was ever put into practice.
ACS: You may well be right in all you say here; the stakes are being raised. And that is why there is the point about accepting “a few coins” for firewood… I doubt many bishops had the balls to exclude a powerful slave-owner, but possibly some did, and the Didascalist is encouraging this. And this is not an issue of historical interest only. How many churches even now agonize over ethical investment policies?
DV: I have two more thoughts and hypotheses regarding the patronage, to which I’d gladly hear your feedback.
TA 25-29 concerning the meals show again respect to the patronage system, as you and Charles Bobertz have pointed out. It’s rich people that invite the community at home and probably combine a Christian liturgy meal (be it Eucharistic, or agape, or cena dominica) with a deipnon/symposion. I think that, since 1 Cor 11, it’s probable that Christian meals were adapted and integrated into existing meal practices, and therefore, that the spirit of equality, that was typical for the Jesus tradition and for Paul who stands in this tradition was lost. 1 Cor and TA (to some degree, DA as well, I think) show that the rich patrons acted as hosts for such communions, and its probable that they hosted these meals to accumulate honor and to pronounce their status.
ACS: OK, so far I would agree altogether (obviously!)
DV: Such meals were of course impossible without the work of slaves (which were used to symbolize status anyway).
DV: Thus I think that although slaves are rarely mentioned in the church orders, e.g. in TA 25-29, they were nevertheless omnipresent, acting as slaves for the community. Its a common assumption in research on Early Christianity that Christian meals were based on equality, but I think this is wrong, considering your research on patronage in church orders, and considering Christian paintings of meals (e.g. in Roman catacombs, paintings show many banquets with slaves serving (earliest 3rd century).
What was the role of slaves in Christian communions? the sources rarely mention slaves at all, but I think the most probable answer is that they fulfilled “servile” functions in the community, as serving meals and wine, as lighting the lamp (TA 25) , acting as doorkeepers (DA 12) and so on. It is mysterious then why such works were more and more transferred to the diacon (diacon=servant!).
ACS: But were they transferred? The doorkeeper of DA is a deacon, and so is the lamp-carrier of TA25.
In my Original bishops, though this section contains little original, I argue that the diakonos was from the beginning the bishop’s agent and assistant, in particular at the provision of meals and the duties attached thereto. We find diakonoi performing various ritual functions in civic sacrifice and so it seems likely that diakonoi performed these “servile” functions in early Christian banquets likewise. It is possible, of course, that some of them were slaves, but also not impossible that the episkopos was a slave as well, particularly in those Asian communities in which presbuteroi were prominent. (And slavery language is employed, btw, by Ignatius with reference to the entire community, of slavery to the bishop. Wonderful to think that the bishop might be a slave).
To get back to the point: what seems to have happened, in the adaptive adoption of the mores of antiquity which came about in the Christian movement, is that the servile role of diakonos was taken on as a form of honor, bestowing status within the community on those who acted such. The qualifications for diakonoi in I Timothy as in the Didache are such that these are more likely to be persons of relative wealth and status in the community; the same is likely true of the diakonoi of civic sacrifice. Sure equality was relative in early Christian communities, but the rhetoric was surely not completely empty. So are the banquet scenes (assuming that they are indeed real banquets [though if they are not they nonetheless need to be recognizable as reflecting some sort of known reality]) apparently depicting slaves maybe not rather depicting diakonoi?
DV: The earliest banquet scenes we know (Dunbabin, Roman Banquet, 2003 is pretty good) are 3rd century, so they don’t really give an answer to the question either way. The archeologists I contacted assured me that they are from an iconographical point of view slaves. But again, slaves and diacons might be the same…
ACS: I think the question might be turned around: as the role of the diakonos changes and churches become more centralized, did the originally diaconal roles get transferred to slaves? Does this explain why the discussion concerning the treatment of slaves becomes more explicit in the later sources?
DV: I fear you misunderstood me. What I intended to say was that these works, known to us as servile works by the pagan culture, were transferred to diacons in the Christian communities. I don’t want to suggest a change within Christianity from slave to Diacon, but from pagan-slave to Christian-Diacon.
ACS: OK. Sorry to get you wrong in this way.
DV: But still there is the question whether diacons fulfilling servile functions were slaves or as you suggest “persons of relative wealth and status” and whether “the originally diaconal roles get transferred to slaves”, “as the role of the diakonos changes and churches become more centralized”
First of all let me note that diacons perform servile works. They do more than that, of course. But their title (servant) and their assistance to the bishop indicate a rather servile function, which nevertheless bestows honor on them.
I double-checked your chapter on the Diacons in Original Bishops. Yes, 1 Timothy and Didache request that Diacons are of relative wealth and status, but again, this is not necessarily reality. Rather, I suggest, is this a demand by two authors that wanted to see the diaconal functions being fulfilled by householders. Again, I question whether this was the reality. Both sources are normative texts that have a certain purpose, not simply depicting the situation in the congregations.
ACS: Agreed. Again the disconnect!
DV: So I ask if we shouldn’t assume that Diacons were originally the helpers of an episkopos, who, as you state, is a householder-patron who presides over a community. As far as I know we know nothing about the election or appointment of diacons in the early communities. I suggest that the bishops had a certain influence of who would be made diacon, and I assume he would have preferred his own clients – probably freedmen – or slaves to assist him in the household-based congregations. As such these diacons would have continued to do the same tasks that they did in the normal course of life. Furthermore, the honor that the diaconate bestowed on them would also have enhanced the status of the patron.
ACS: A very interesting suggestion. Indeed, we may go further and suggest that the reason why Didache and PEs would prefer a diakonos of status is that this might dilute the patronal authority of the episkopos who otherwise would appoint his/her own slaves, freedmen or other clientela.
DV: I don’t want to suggest that diacons were always slaves. Maybe some were, some weren’t. But I’d be cautious with the interpretations of 1 Tim and Did. We have few evidence that slaves had an office in the community, most known Plin. Ep. X.96; but only in the 4th century we find more and more prohibitions (Synod of Elvira, Apostolic Constitutions) that limit offices to free Christians (even excluding freedmen from offices). Epistula I by Bishop Stephanus is disputed. Given the development of the Church in general and the developing restrictions for slaves-offices in Late Antiquity, I would suggest, that slaves were more prominent in the offices in early Christianity than in Late Antiquity. 1 Tim and Did might be testimonies of an opposition to that, but both sources are really inconclusive in my opinion.
Therefore, I doubt that diaconal roles got transferred to slaves. Rather, the aristocracy tried to limit offices to free Christians (avoiding conflicts between Christian slaves and pagan slave-owners, too).
ACS: This is very interesting, and you clearly know more about this than I do. Let me then ask you, out of ignorance rather than as a leading question, how do we tie up the exclusion of slaves from office to the manner in which you describe a stricter attitude towards bad slave-owners (at least in principle) in the Constantinian period? Would be be fair to say that the church moved from being an association to being (ideationally, if not in reality) a mirror of an ideal Christian Empire? I might also ask whether you think that these provisions were more successful in excluding slaves from office than prior attempts? And whether the exclusion of slaves from office might in some way relate to the ongoing issue over the power of patrons in Christian churches? And also what the connection is between this phenomenon (the exclusion of slaves from office) and the point you raised earlier regarding CA consciously expanding the sources it used by admonitions to treat slaves well (apart from any underlying reality… I am thinking of the intellectual world being constructed by the redactor)?
DV: That is a fine set of questions. Let me start with the first one about the connection between slave-exclusion from offices and stricter attitude towards bad slave-owners. I include your last question about the CA expanding its sources to treat slaves well. First of all, I’m not sure if we can talk of a “stricter attitude towards bad slave-owners (at least in principle) in the Constantinian period”. I do think that there are more admonitions to slave owners to treat slaves well, but they have to be relativized. Mostly they simply repeat earlier material like the NT-Haustafeln. They are mostly combined with admonitions to slaves to obey and love their masters. The passage in DA 18 = CA IV.12 is outstanding, but we have already talked about that. The exclusion of cruel slaveowners is not something there is any other reference to, so I doubt it was practiced very often, if at all.
The CA, in principle, does the same thing: in VII.13.2-3 it adopts the passage of Did 4.10, but also adds the admonition to slaves. In IV.12.1-4 it really expands its source, DA, but again with admonitions to masters and slaves. In VIII.32.19 it expands again, and this is the only time there is only a reference to masters. In general, CA confirm social hierarchy.
In late, post-constantinian, antiquity, there are a few exceptional texts like the 4th homily on Ecclesiastes by Gregory of Nissa. There is a tendency in the East towards better slave-treatment, but the results are very ambiguous (s. Klein 2000).
I think your suggestion “that the church moved from being an association to being (…) a mirror of an ideal Christian Empire” points somehow in that same direction. Being a Christian Empire, governed by Christian elites, the church stabilized the social hierarchies instead of fighting them. Nevertheless there were every so often preachers that reminded of the Christian doctrine of charity, of fraternalism and of the equality of all humanity. I don’t think though that they envisaged an alternative society, but rather they fought against excesses like DA 18 = CA IV.12 maybe did. Let me also note that this is in line with the Roman Law and even late antique philosophy, that both confirm the free-unfree distinction and still admonish against cruel treatment.
“Were these provisions more successful in excluding slaves from office than prior attempts?”
Again, the results are very ambiguous, and sources are sparse. With CA VIII.47.82 and the Synod of Elvira, can. 80, we have two sources against slave offices in the 4th century, with more following in later centuries (s. Klein 1999, Jonkers 1942). But we also have some testimonies by Bishops that in general confirmed slaves in offices, against the charges made by their slave-owners (s. Hieron. Ep. 82.6; Basil. Ep. 115; Greg. Naz. Ep. 56). What can we deduce for sure? Against the regulations by Church Orders and Synods (maybe only provincial, in the West?), there were still appointments to offices to which at least some Bishops approved.
What else can we assume? An office in the Church required time, so in general was only possible with the approval of the slave-owner. It also required a certain financial independence (a slave’s property always being that of his master), so it was actually only possible after manumission. That is exactly what CA VIII.47.82 demands.
But apparently there were also cases in which slave and church agreed on an office without consent and knowledge of the slave-owner!
Klein, R. Die Haltung der kappadokischen Bischöfe Basilius von Caesarea, Gregor von Nazianz und Gregor von Nyssa zur Sklaverei. Stuttgart 2000.
Klein, R. „Die Bestellung von Sklaven zu Priestern. Ein rechtliches und soziales Problem in Spätantike und Frühmittelalter“, in: Ders., Roma versa per aevum. Ausgewählte Schriften zur heidnischen und christlichen Spätantike. Hildesheim 1999, 394-420.
Jonkers, E.J. „Das Verhalten der alten Kirche hinsichtlich der Ernennung zum Priester von Sklaven, Freigelassenen und Curiales“, in: Mnemosyne 10 (1942), 286-302.
ACS: Thank you for all of this. May I add to your bibliography Chris L de Wet, “The Cappadocian fathers on slave management” Studia historiae ecclesiasticae 39 (2013) article available online as http://www.scielo.org.za/pdf/she/v39n1/17.pdf
I think, if I may draw a large conclusion from the evidence here, that the church orders reflect, more or less, the reality of the situation. The church accepts and adopts the norms of wider society to itself (though there are exceptions), reflects the Christian Empire, and this in turn is reflected in the literary church orders, and also in the persons who find themselves in office. When the church is associational it is more possible, in some quarters anyway, to find slaves in office, in the same way that some associations had slave officers. But this is something which the earlier church orders do not touch (apart, perhaps from Traditio apostolica, on which I shall post separately). In general, as you note, they are content to trot out the standard line.
To be continued (no doubt)
Apostolic constitutions and ps-Ignatius
I was not able to hear Joe Mueller at Oxford when he spoke on the Apostolic constitutions, as I found myself chairing the liturgy session even as he was giving his paper in another room. I was, finally, able to run into him, however, after a few days of searching.
In due course I will read his paper, but what is interesting, and emerged from our brief discussion in the King’s Arms, is that he shares my suspicion that ps-Ignatius is not the redactor of the Apostolic Constitutions. Thus if the theology of Apostolic Constitutions does not square up with that of Meletius of Antioch (as he argued in his paper), rather than making my proposal that ps-Ignatius is of the Meletian party less likely, this indicates, rather, that there are grounds for not identifying the Constitutor with the Ignatian forger beyond the feeling in my waters.
Also at Oxford…
I hope I shall be able to hear Joe Mueller this year. Here is the abstract:
Joseph Mueller: The Trinitarian Doctrine of the Apostolic Constitutions
Brian Daley has argued that the late-fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions (AC) represent an effort, allied with Meletius of Antioch, to steer a middle course between, on one hand, a conception of the Son and the Spirit as foreign to God’s nature and, on the other hand, an erasure of the Son’s and Spirit’s distinction from the Father, seen by many in the fourth-century East as the vice of Nicaea and its defenders. In the service of this project, the AC clung to biblical language and categories traceable to the influence of Origen and Eusebius of Caesarea. Daley’s argument here largely follows Metzger’s introduction to theSources chrétiennes edition of the AC. Daley also provides evidence that the other works of the redactor of the AC, the commentary on Job and the Pseudo-Ignatian letters, are in this same theological current (“The Enigma of Meletius of Antioch,” in Ronnie J. Rombs and Alexander Y. Hwang, Tradition and the Rule of Faith in the Early Church: Essays in Honor of Joseph T. Lienhard, S.J. [Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2010], 128-50). This present paper will submit that Daley’s arguments do not address sufficiently those made by Georg Wagner, Thomas Kopeček, and Dieter Hagedorn to link the AC, Pseudo-Ignatius, and his commentary on Job to currents closer to Eunomius. Tracing the Trinitarian revisions made by the AC to its source documents also provides support for relating the AC to such currents.
It is notable that Brian Daley has fingered the circle around Meletius of Antioch as that in which the Apostolic Constitutions originated, even as I suspected the same of pseudo-Ignatius. Nonetheless, I suspect that Mueller will be spot on as he usually is. What this leads me to ask, once again, is whether there is absolute identity between the Ignatian pseudographist and the apostolic pseudographist. Might fine but significant distinctions in their Trinitarian theology provide the key? Anyone out there looking for a PhD topic?
ps-Ignatius and Meletius of Antioch:
As so often, soon after publication I find an omission. Whilst looking for something else I have just stumbled across Oliver Hihn, “The election and deposition of Meletius of Antioch: the fall of an integrative bishop” in Johan Leemans et al. (ed.) Episcopal elections in late antiquity (Arbeiten zur Kirchengeschichte 119; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2011), 357-373. Since I argue, in my Ignatius, that ps-Ignatius was a member of the Meletian party its relevance is obvious, and given the links (to which allusion has already been made) with Apostolic constitutions, there may be some basis for connection. Nonetheless I am relieved to find that Hihn assesses Meletius much as I do, as an “integrative” bishop, namely one who “pursued a religious policy of integration and unity” (373). This is the tone and tenor of the pseudo-Ignatian correspondence, and it is in this light, I suggest, that we should read the non-Nicene elements in the Apostolic Constitutions.
A synopticon of Ignatius of Antioch and ps-Ignatius
I have just posted to sarum.academia.edu/AlistairStewart a synopticon of Ignatius of Antioch and ps-Ignatius. This is a by-product of my recently appeared translation from St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, and should be self-explanatory. I hope it proves useful.
In case anyone wonders what the connection with church orders might be, note that ps-Ignatius is widely held to be the redactor of the Apostolic Constitutions. Whether or not that is the case (although the magisterial treatment of Funk in Die apostolischen Konstitutionen: eine litterar–historische Untersuchung (Rottenburg: Wilhelm Bader, 1891) has yet to be bettered, I am still slightly unconvinced), they are certainly heirs to the same tradition. Possibly the synopticon will enable us more clearly than before to see the manner in which the pseudepigrapher worked.