Category Archives: Didascalia Apostolorum

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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Jews for Jesus in the Didascalia!

Karin Zetterholm, “Jesus-Oriented Visions of Judaism in Antiquity” Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis 27 (2016), 37-60, is another off the production line of the “Ways that never parted” factory. What is positive about this arm of scholarship is the recognition of a more diverse Judaism than the rabbinic sources might lead us to recognize. What is less positive, however, is a failure to recognize that the boundaries, though resistant to modern cartographic effort, were real to those who experienced them. Were they not, then literature like the Didascalia would not have been produced.

Zetterholm argues that the Didascalia is “Jewish”, and that the account given by the deuterotic redactor might be understood within a Jewish frame.

Although the author claims to be a Jew, calling himself a disciple ‘from the House of Judah’ (DA 26 407:248/ 408:230), this is often dismissed by scholars as being part of the literary fiction that attributes authorship to Jesus’ original disciples. However, some scholars have argued that his extensive knowledge of Jewish traditions and practices beyond what is found in the Bible, and his use of ‘rabbinic-like’ hermeneutics indicate that the author was a Jew.

We can hardly take part of the apparatus of pseudonomy as autobiographical; the redactor’s statement that he is “from the house of Judah” is no more autobiographical or credible in itself than the claim that these disciples met in Jerusalem to write the Didascalia. Certainly there is knowledge of “rabbinic-like” hermeneutics, but this tells us nothing of the redactor’s birth. Even if he is Jewish by descent, why is that significant? Birth does not give access to a halachic or haggadic tradition. What, indeed, does a statement that an author or redactor is Jewish actually mean in the context of this train of thought? The concern for Jewish identity grounded in birth indeed seems to me to be a peculiarly recent concern. What is of concern to the redactors of DA is praxis (law observance, or not) and belief.

She goes on:

He (the redactor of DA) calls the members of his community ‘Christians’, a fact that would seem to make the Didascalia difficult to claim for Judaism, but we should not automatically assume that ‘Christian’ here means non-Jewish. For us, ‘Jewish’ and ‘Christian’ are mutually exclusive categories, but the author of the Didascalia rather seems to use ‘Christian’ in the sense of a specific kind of Judaism – a subgroup within Judaism who believes that Jesus is the Messiah.

It is nonetheless a subgroup which includes gentiles. As such it is a strange type of Judaism, if Jewish birth is the critical factor in determining who belongs. The claim of the redactor that the real Jews are actually the Christians is in any event not an attempt to be inclusive, but is a supersessionist claim, like that of Melito (Jewish by birth!) that the church is the true Israel.

None of this intended to deny that the “parting of the ways” was extended and untidy, that there were diverse groups defining themselves variously as Christian and Jewish (who may have been separated from other groups also claiming to be Jewish or Christian), that some Christian were law-observant, or indeed that the intellectual world of at least one redactor of DA was close to that inhabited by contemporary Jews. But to suggest that DA is evidence that the distinction between Jew and Christian in fourth-century Syria is artificial is to miss the point altogether.

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