Category Archives: Didascalia Apostolorum

The smell of baking bread: Mart. Pol. 15

In Didascalia apostolorum we read: “You set pure bread before him, which is formed by fire and sanctified by the invocation, offering without demur and praying for those who sleep.” (DA 6.22.2.)

In Traditio apostolica 22 we read: “On the first of the week the bishop, if he is able, should himself distribute to all the people with his own hand, while the deacons break. And the presbyters break the baked bread.”

Dix, (Treatise, 44) suggests that “the bread they are given” should be read instead of “the baked bread”— reading wefoya (delivered) rather than ‘afoya (baked)— a reading which is found in two manuscripts of the later Ethiopic text. Botte (Tradition apostolique, 61 n. 3) suggests that since the same phrase appears in the Ethiopic version at chapter 26 below “baked” must be the correct reading, though he is at a loss as to what the term means. Moreover, the appearance of “baked” in the Aksumite Ethiopic means that “baked” should certainly be read. Similarly the Aksumite version has “baked bread” in TA 26.

In previous publications I have noted this emphasis on the fact that bread is baked, and leaned towards the suggestion that bread might be baked in situ, particularly in the cemeteries (in my works on Didascalia and Vita Polycarpi certainly, and perhaps elsewhere.) The context in Vita Polycarpi was the report that the burning Polycarp gave off the smell of baking bread (Mart. Pol. 15.)

In an increasingly rare lightbulb moment it occurred to me that this may be a reference (and implicit contrast) to the practice of sacrifice. Bread (and Polycarp) are offered, and baked, in the same way that animal sacrifices were cooked with fire. I am also aware of burnt grain offerings, particularly at Roman tombs, but admit that I do not know enough about sacrificial practice to be certain on this point. Nonetheless it all adds up.. If anyone can point me to a beginners’ guide to the practice of ancient sacrifice in the early centuries of the Common Era, particularly in funereal settings, with big print and lots of pictures (or else, with reliable primary source material!) I would be gratified indeed. For the present, I withdraw my suggestion that bread was baked on site and accuse myself of a further error.


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Didascalia apostolorum 2.26.4

Dani Vaucher’s comment below on the “breaf” abstract from the paper on Didascalia 9 has got me thinking.

The reconstruction of passages from Greek writings preserved only in ancient translations is an uncertain business; if only I had paid more attention in Greek prose composition classes as an undergraduate! Didascalia apostolorum 2.26.4 (from chapter 9 of the Syriac) is of particular interest.

The Constitutiones apostolorum reads: ὁ μὲν οὖν ἐπίσκοπος προκαθεζέσθω ὑμῶν ὡς θεοῦ ἀξίᾳ τετιμημένος (CA 2.26.4). That it is highly paraphrastic at this point (as an adaptation, rather than a translation, of the Didascalia) is evident from both the Latin and the Syriac versions of the Didascalia.

The Latin reads: “hic locum dei sequens sicuti deus honoretur a vobis quoniam episcopus in typum dei praesedet vobis” whereas in the Syriac we read: “He leads (ܡܕܒܪ) you in the place of (ܒܕܘܟܬܐ) the Almighty one. He is to be honoured by you as God (ܐܝܟ ܐܠܗܐ) since the bishop sits among you in the place (ܒܕܘܟܬܐ) of God almighty.”

The statement about being in the place of God is taken by the Syriac translator as being something that the bishop undertakes, through the addition of an object, whereas the Latin understands this to mean that the bishop has second place to God. The question is that of which Greek word might lead to either rendition possibly through misunderstanding. We may suspect the presence of a participle, given that both versions employ participial forms, rather than a simple preposition. One possibility is the aorist participle of ἀλλάσσω, ἀλλαχθείς, meaning that the bishop exchanged places with God; the suggestion, in turn is that the Syriac translator read this as ἀχθείς.

The distinction between the two versions in the second part of the phrase is easier to explain.

We may certainly suspect that the Latin is correct in reading typum, and that this has been read by the Syriac translator as τόπος, perhaps on the basis that τόπος has appeared immediately beforehand. At Ignatius Magn. 6 we read of the bishop that he is προκαθημένου… εἰς τύπον θεοῦ. Although the MS tradition reads τόπον here. Lightfoot suggested τύπον, and is recently followed, very persuasively, by Brent.

As a result I would venture as a retroversion: ἀλλαχθείς τοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ τόπου, ὑφʼ ὑμῶν ὡς θεοῦ τιμῆσθω, προκαθημένου τοῦ ἐπισκόπου εἰς τύπον θεοῦ. The use of the genitive absolute in the last clause, rather than ἐπεί or ἐπειδή or some similar conjunction, is a punt on the hypothesis that the Didascalist was citing Ignatius directly. To be honest the use of a conjunction is more probable, given the quoniam of the Latin and the ܐܠܐ of the Syriac, which rather indicates that he is not citing Ignatius directly.

At the end of which we ask whether we have really learnt anything. Had I been persuaded by this exercise that the Didascalist had direct knowledge of Ignatius that would be worthwhile. Otherwise it has simply exercised the little grey cells for a while without a great deal in the way of progress.

What is perhaps most interesting is that the Constitutiones apostolorum manifestly do not cite Ignatius. Were the redactor pseudo-Ignatius, as we are often told he is, then that would be decidedly odd.

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Church orders at the 2018 British Patristics Conference

The British Patristics conference is being held in Cardiff from 5th-7th September ( 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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Benga on the Didascalia

I have just read two articles by Daniel Benga on the Didascalia, “The baptismal ethos of the third-century Syrian Christianity according to Didascalia apostolorumRevista teologica 93 (2011), 183-200 and “’Defining sacred boundaries’: processes of delimitation from the pagan society in Syrian Christianity according to the Didascalia apostolorumZAC 17 (2013), 526-559.

In each Benga observes the obvious, namely that for all the care taken in the Didascalia to distinguish Christians from Jews, the fundamental distinction which underlies this is the distinction between Christians from pagans, a fundamental distinction shared with Judaism. Given, however, that the overwhelming majority of society was neither Christian nor Jewish, the Christian has to negotiate a complex world. Although obvious, it is an observation worth making.

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Another translation of the Didascalia

May be found here: There is also a text, though I fear I am unable to read it; possibly I don’t have the right Syriac font installed.

I particularly look forward to reading the notes, which seem fairly extensive.




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Please help: Papal Commission on Women in the Diaconate

My own opinion on this matter is unimportant. What is important is that the Commission be allowed to function unimpeded by the profit motive when it meets in Rome from 25th-27th November.

I have received a request for a pdf of The original bishops from a member of the Commission who wishes to have an electronic copy in Rome, the book being too big to transport. I do not have such a copy so I asked Baker to assist. They have refused.

I have never had a high opinion of publishers.

If anyone has an e-book version I would be grateful to receive it so that I can pass it on to this individual.

My address can be found in the profile, or you can message me through

You can also remind the director of marketing at Baker, Jeremy Wells, of the vitue of generosity, especially within the household of faith. His address I am happy to publish for the consumption of as many robots as can find



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The Didascalia and the pericope adulterae

Dean Inge of St Paul’s was reportedly asked by EC Ratcliff whether he was interested in liturgy. ‘No,’ said the Dean, ‘and neither do I collect postage stamps.’

I would add that neither do I indulge in NT textual criticism (despite David Parker being one of my earliest teachers).

So I was surprised to be asked my opinion by a correspondent on whether the Didascalist knew the Pericope adulterae. There is reference to this, or to something comparable, at DA 2.24.3. But I have no opinion as to what. NB however my belief that the reading of CA and Lat. should be preferred to that of Syr. (which more closely represents the canonical text.)

For those who are interested do note (though this is old news). This post also contains a link to Hughes’ article in Novum Testamentum.

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