Tag Archives: baptism

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.


Leave a comment

Filed under Anything else, Apostolic Constitutions, Apostolic Tradition, Canons of Hippolytus, Didache, Didascalia Apostolorum

Music to my ears!

Forthcoming in Vigiliae Christianae, and available as advance publication on the Brill website, is Alex Fogleman, “The Apologetics of Mystery: The Traditio apostolica and Appeals to Pythagorean Initiation in Josephus and Iamblichus”

While the Traditio apostolica ascribed to Hippolytus has primarily been the focus of studies about authorship and dating, this unique work also has much to suggest about rhetorical presentations of catechesis in the early Christian era. Comparing the TA to Josephus’s account of the Essenes in the Judean War and Iamblichus’s account of Pythagorean initiation in De vita Pythagorica, this essay argues that the TA’s presentation of catechesis can be read as constitutive of a quasi-apologetic defense of the Hippolytan “school” during the transitional period from school Christianity to monepiscopacy during the second century. Deploying similar Pythagorean imagery to describe the process of initiation, the author/editor of the TA makes a case for the Hippolytan school as offering a true philosophical way of life.

Leave a comment

Filed under Apostolic Tradition

The Alexandrian baptismal formula

For some years I have been pondering the history of the baptismal formula, and an article on the subject is forthcoming in Ecclesia orans, possibly this year. The abstract follows:

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.

What the abstract does not say (though I recollect that the article does) is that the active formula and the passive formula in eastern circles derive from the same original dialogue.

The reason for mentioning this is that I have just been reading Heinzgerd Brakmann, “ⲃⲁⲡⲧⲓⲥⲙⲁ ⲁⲓⲛⲉⲥⲉⲱⲥ: Ordines und Orationen kirchlicher Eingliederung in Alexandrien und Ägypten” in H. Brakmann et al. (ed.), “Neugeboren aus Wasser und Heiligem Geist”: Kölner Kolloquium zur Initiatio Christiana (Münster: Aschendorff, 2020), 85-196.

As one might expect this is a remarkable and detailed treatment of a vast amount of literature. However, I find one cause to question Brakmann. On p113 he observes the use of an active baptismal formula (“I baptize…”) in the Alexandrian literature, and observes its distinction from the passive use of other eastern churches (“The servant of God, N, is baptized…”), and its common ground with the Roman church. He deduces from this some Roman influence on Alexandria.

I do not think that this can be sustained. Critical in this is, of course, the evidence of Canones Hippolyti, in which an active formula is found, awkwardly combined with a baptismal interrogation derived from Traditio apostolica. Historically, and on the assumption that the Canones are Egyptian, this has been taken as (further) evidence for the active formula in Alexandria, though if I am right and the Canones are Antiochene or Cappadocian, then this indicates that the active and passive formulae are found alongside each other in Antioch in the fourth century (which is not unreasonable, as Chrysostom criticizes the active formula, which he would hardly do if such a formula were unknown to him.)

The active formula in Alexandria derives, I suggest, from the original syntactic dialogue taking place at baptism, in the same way that the now common (in the east) passive formula did. I do not think that there is a link to Roman practice. Indeed I do not think that the use of the formula in the west is ancient, but rather agree with E.C. Whitaker “The history of the baptismal formula” JEH 16 (1965), 1-12, that this came about due to growth in numbers being baptized, and the fact that the majority of candidates were infants.

More generally I have always been slightly sceptical about the often-heard assertions of a link between Roman and Alexandrian liturgical practice. The suggestion of a link on the basis of a common (but, I think, unrelated) active baptismal formula gives me no cause to abandon such scepticism.


Filed under Anything else, Canons of Hippolytus

Just fancy that (2)!!!

“Stewart’s use of the current Coptic rite of baptism as the key for interpreting the earlier Egyptian sources… is problematic methodologically…. to read the sources from the interpretative lens of the current Coptic rite results in an anachronistic reading of those sources.” Maxwell E. Johnson, “Interrogatory creedal formulae in early Egyptian baptismal rites: a reassessment of the evidence” QL 101 (2021) 75-93, at 92-93.

“Two prayers following renunciation and profession occur precisely at this point in the Coptic order of Baptism… that this prayer follows both the renunciation and profession, as in the Coptic rite, may be suggested… ” Maxwell E. Johnson, The prayers of Sarapion of Thmuis: a literary, liturgical and theological analysis (OCA 249; Rome: PIO, 1995), 131.

Within the Coptic Order of Baptism, however, a brief prayer for the regeneration of the one who be baptized is also offered by the priest upon entrance into the baptistery… Sarapion’s Prayer 10 certainly may be read as corresponding to this…” Johnson, Prayers, 135.

1 Comment

Filed under Anything else

The baptismal rite in the Ethiopic versions of Traditio apostolica

One baffling aspect of the mediaeval Ethiopic version of Traditio apostolica is the presence of an additional baptismal rite, apart from a version of that found in other versions of Traditio apostolica (ed. Hugo Duensing, Der Äthiopische Text der Kirchenordnung des Hippolyt (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1946), 81-127.)

Alessandro Bausi, “The baptismal ritual in the earliest Ethiopic canonical liturgical collection” in Heinzgerd Brakmann et al (ed), Neugeboren aus Wasser und Heiligem Geist”: Kölner Kolloquium zur Initiatio Christiana (Münster: Aschendorff, 2020), 31-83 has now published a version of a clearly closely related baptismal ritual from the Axumite collection from which he derived the new text of Traditio apostolica. I have yet to explore it in detail, but since I have at present, as a result of the ongoing discussion with Maxwell Johnson about the interrogation in the Egyptian rite, a particular interest in the introduction of the syntaxis into Egyptian baptismal rites (generally suggested to have taken place in the fourth century on the basis of the appearance of such a syntaxis in Canones Hippolyti, evidence which has now disappeared with the denial of an Egyptian provenance to this document) and in the role and presence of the five-membered creed found in the Deir Balizeh papyrus and elsewhere (including Epistula apostolorum) as part of my overall argument that declaratory creeds are no less primitive than interrogatory creeds (though the language is misleading), I took a particular interest in the baptismal confession found in the Axumite ordo.

Essentially this baptismal confession is the same as that found in the present Coptic rite, namely the declaration of the five-membered creed, followed by a brief interrogation: “Do you believe?” “I believe” repeated three times. What is notable, however, is the absence of any syntaxis. This implies a rather later entrée of the syntaxis into Egyptian rites (it is, for instance, present in the current Coptic rite) than previously thought.

Turning to the version in the mediaeval Ethiopic of Traditio apostolica we find that the same baptismal profession that is in the Axumite rite, as in the present Coptic rite, in in place, namely the prompted repetition of the five-membered creed and the repeated question “Do you believe?” (though are very slight variations between the Axumite version and the mediaeval version.) This later rite, however, has a syntaxis. This syntaxis, however, is none other than, yet again, the same five-membered creed, which is thus repeated twice in the ritual! In the version of the rite of Traditio apostolica within this text the same, expanded, version of the five-membered creed as found in the Coptic version of the Traditio is found, albeit partly conformed to the interrogatory shape of the original. But given that the version in the second ritual lacks the expansions this can hardly be put down to the influence of Traditio apostolica. I think there may be more to say about this… but consider that after writing a 138 word sentence that that’s enough for now.

Leave a comment

Filed under Apostolic Tradition

The interrogation in Egyptian baptismal rites

In response to my article The early Alexandrian baptismal creed: declaratory, interrogatory… or both?” Questions liturgiques 95 (2014), 237-253 (which came out in 2015(!)), questioning whether Egypt had ever known an “interrogatory” baptismal rite, Maxwell Johnson has responded, defending his position, in “Interrogatory creedal formulae in early Egyptian baptismal rites: a reassessment of the evidence” Questions liturgiques 101 (2021), 75-93. I have now drafted a response to his response which, I think, brings some valuable new considerations into play. It may be that I will have to revise my original position slightly, but if this new evidence is as significant as I think it is then the position to which I originally took exception, namely that the original form of baptismal profession in Egypt was an interrogation like that found in Traditio apostolica, is completely excluded,

I also think that the issues explored go beyond the narrow concern of the Egyptian baptismal rite, as it raises the whole question of the priority of “interrogatory” creeds over “declaratory” credal statements.

There is a definite church order aspect to this, as the discussion involves a consideration of the baptismal interrogations in Canones Hippolyti and the Sahidic version of Traditio apostolica.

I knocked the response in a couple of days (nights actually). Because it was written in haste and heat I let myself cool off and, whilst cooling off, posted the draft to academia.edu as a discussion paper, in the hope of guidance and correction from those equipped to guide and correct.

The discussion ended with no comment from anyone. From this I concluded that nobody was that bothered. However, I made some revisions, removed the academia discussion, and sent it off anyway… I can now announce that the result, “The interrogation in Egyptian baptismal rites: a further consideration” will appear in Questions liturgiques in due course. Whether anyone reads it is, of course, another question.

Here, anyway, is the abstract of the forthcoming article:
In response to Alistair C Stewart, Maxwell Johnson has presented arguments for continuing to see an interrogation in the original Egyptian baptismal rite. This article takes a fresh look at the question, suggesting that the evidence cannot lead to a certain conclusion on this point. Nonetheless, the form of the stipulatio, introduced into Egypt in the third century and previously unknown there, tends to indicate that the interrogatory baptismal rite, which employs this form, is a western phenomenon. It is possible that the interrogation entered Egyptian baptismal rituals as a result of the widespread Egyptian adoption of the stipulatio.

1 Comment

Filed under Anything else, Apostolic Tradition, Canons of Hippolytus

Saint Paul and the two ways

I am pleased to announce the publication of my article “St Paul and the two ways: Romans 12-13 and pre-baptismal catechesis” Bulletin of the St Philaret Institute 39 (2021), 12-31, alongside some other interesting-looking articles. The journal is open access. Note that the Russian translation (!) appears first. The home page is in Russian… and Google translate turns me into an abbot!

The abstract:

This article suggests that the paraenetic material in Romans 12-13 in being introduced with a reference to baptism and concluding with an eschatological exhortation, again referring to baptism, is deliberately intended to reflect a pre-baptismal catechesis, rather than, as frequently supposed, a synoptic source or Jesus-tradition. Significant parallels with the Didache, and other parts of the two-ways tradition, are observed. This leads to the further observation that the context of this catechesis is shaped in a specifically Jewish context, being reflected in Pliny’s report of Christian activities and in the Elchesite baptismal ritual. Paul is employing a recognizably Jewish form of catechesis here in order to commend his teaching to a primarily Jewish audience. Gentile baptism, however, required a distinct renunciation, and in time a doctrinal element was added to the catechetical programme.

This was actually started as long ago as 2008, in a presentation given at that famous seat of learning, Cuddesdon. They did not appreciate it. I had pulled if off the back burner several times, but only when I pulled it off again late last year, on receiving a request for an article on catechesis from SFI, did I realize that the reason I had made no progress was that I was using the material to try to answer the question of the extent of Paul’s knowledge of Jesus-logia; although the argument tends to indicate that he had none, it is not a slam-dunk, and the question is in any case not the most interesting one. What is interesting is Paul’s knowledge of the catechetical tradition represented by, inter alia, the Didache.

This announcement is filed under e-rrata, as there are two errors of omission.

One comes about because of the passage of time. Namely, although I read Seeberg Der Katechismus der Urchristenheit ages ago, when I was preparing for my trip to Cuddesdon, I really should have re-read it. Had I done so I would have remembered Romans 6:17, χάρις δὲ τῷ θεῷ ὅτι ἦτε δοῦλοι τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὑπηκούσατε δὲ ἐκ καρδίας εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε τύπον διδαχῆς, which strikes me as really clinching the argument. The τύπος διδαχῆς is surely the two ways.

The other omission is reference to Benjamin A. Edsall, The reception of Paul and early Christian initiation: history and hermeneutics (Cambridge: CUP, 2019). Edsall does not have a lot of time for Carrington and Selwyn who were, alongside Seeberg, the fontes et origines for my thinking here. My excuse here is that I only came across this work after the article was translated and typeset.

In his introductory chapter Edsall suggests that the formal catechumenate was not known in the first or early second centuries. Insofar as it may refer to a formal period of liminal existence with fixed rituals this amounts to a statement of the obvious. Insofar as it may refer to instruction prior to baptism, then the Didache rather tends to contradict Edsall here. To get away from this, Edsall suggests that the two ways material in Didache 1-6 is rather loosely connected to the baptismal rite: “’these things’ need not be restricted to literary reference points and may refer rather to pre-baptismal declarations by the priest and believer (note the plural προειπόντες) rather than to Didache 1– 6.” (p27). There is more, however, to connect the two ways material and the baptismal rite than simply the phrase at Did. 7.1; thus we may note the echoes of the two ways in the report of catechumenate and baptism given to Pliny (Ep. 10.96.7) and the similar echoes in the baptismal rite of the Elchesites (Hippolytus Ref. 9.15.6.) προειπόντες (the plural is noted, though we should also note βαπτίσατε) certainly does refer to pre-baptismal declarations by the baptizer (not a priest, surely!) and possibly the candidate… but these declarations are constituted by the two ways (ταῦτα πάντα). Actually that insight could become another article… remember you read it here first!

Leave a comment

Filed under Didache, E-rrata

Tertullian De baptismo 17.5

In Tertullian De baptismo 17.5 we read: quam enim fidei proximum videtur ut is docendi et tinguendi daret feminae potestatem qui ne discere quidem constanter mulieri permisit? Taceant, inquit, et domi viros suos consulant.

The issue is with the phrase qui ne discere quidem constanter mulieri permisit. Does constanter go with permisit or discere? In either event, what might it mean? A check of various translations betrays a certain liberty with the text to make sense of it. Thus Evans, for whom I have the utmost admiration, takes constanter with discere and renders: “…he did not allow a woman even to learn by her own right.” I find it hard to assign such a meaning to constanter. Moreover, did Paul really forbid women to learn? It seems a stretch.

There is only one extant MS of the text; the editio princeps used a further MS, now lost, where for discere it reads docere. Is this a better reading? Or might we account for both readings by emending to dicere? As such constanter belongs with permisit, which is more natural, and the entire sentence makes complete sense: “… who consistently would not even allow a woman to speak.”

This issue came up at dinner with friends last night and the possible solution came after a sleepless night turning it over in my mind! My question to them (and you) is whether this is a brilliant emendation or the desperate contrivance of an indifferent Latinist.


Filed under Anything else

The Canons of Cyril of Jerusalem from the Kitāb al-Hudā

As Paul Bradshaw has observed several times, the church orders tend to survive in churches on the margins. Significantly they are also found, frequently, in collections of canon law from these marginal churches, among other more “canonical” material. Notes on some of these, which contain church order material, may be found in the conspectus below, and in Daniel Vaucher’s post on the Kitāb al-Hudā.

In thinking about this material recently I come to realize that another peculiarity about these collections and their contents is the continued production of pseudonymous canonical and liturgical material. Thus in the Kitāb al-Hudā we find canons attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem. Graf (GCAL 1, 335-337) lists three pages of Cyrilline pseudepigrapha in Arabic, including this. I present a somewhat provisional translation; what is good in it is largely due to the efforts of others (who have requested anonymity). In spite of the uncertainties and frequent lack of clarity, given that these canons are not otherwise extant and have never been translated, I thought it worth making this public. However, I cannot stress too much that there is a great deal of obscurity here, and that on occasion this rendition is little better than guesswork. My sole excuse is that this a first journey into terra incognita without any navigational tools.

The opening line has a striking resemblance to one of the canons among the the otherwise unidentified “A little of the canons of the apostles and the fathers, through which the church of Christ is truly united” which is found in the collection of canonical material in the E recension of the Didascalia apostolorum (see pp 274-275 of my version). Thus compare: Canon 17 of these: “Nor should a presbyter baptize his bodily child, unless death should threaten the child and no other presbyter is there to baptize him” with the opening line of these canons. This is the only direct parallel but the preoccupations of the documents seem largely the same. There is thus a similar concern with who may marry whom, though the concern here is that baptism creates a familial relationship which might put persons unrelated by blood into a familial relationship (water being as thick as blood!) Vööbus (CSCO 402, 42) suggests that the source of the canons found in the Didascalia is the Canons of an otherwise unknown Johanan found in the West Syrian Synodicon, but although the concerns are again similar, there is no evident literary relationship. The three share a milieu, but little else.

Frankly, this material raises as many questions as it does answers, not the least of which being those of date and provenance. All I can say on this is that it is of a date and provenance entirely out of my field of expertise!

The translation is derived from the text of Pierre Fahed, Kitāb al-Hudā ou livre de la direction (Aleppo: Imp. Maronite, 1935), 216-219.

The canons of Cyril of Jerusalem concerning baptism and marriage in the radiant faith

It is not permitted that a presbyter should baptize his son if another priest may be found, except in case of necessity. In case of necessity this is allowable to him. But he abstains from sexual intercourse for forty days. It is likewise not allowed to accept the baptism of the sons of his brothers, or an aunt’s child, or an uncle’s child, or a maternal aunt’s child, or a grandmother’s child. It is not permissible for them to accept baptism for any children of these at all.

A deacon is not permitted to anoint his son with oil. A deacon other than he is to take him down to the baptism and bring him up from it. To him it is not permissible.

It is not permissible at all that a priest should be kissed by a layman; nor should he kiss his son.1 And if he does this he is to separate from his wife for ever, and he is not permitted to take another, and if he marries he is banned from the sacrifice for the period of his life, and so it is for a woman, as for a man.

And if two men receive baptism it is not permitted that either should marry the other’s sister, or his daughter, or his mother, or his daughter’s daughter, nor his son’s daughter, or his sister’s daughter, or his paternal uncle’s daughter, nor his maternal uncle’s daughter, nor his maternal aunt’s daughter, nor the daughter of a half brother2 before the baptism. Even if she was born after the baptism it is not allowed, or even if this is agreed among them prior to the baptism. This is permissible for them if they are unrelated, but if they are for four generations then this is not permissible to them. And if their parents had children, male or female, and they wish to marry them to each other it is permissible for them to do so. This is no crime for them. And if there are sons to the father, or children to the mother,3 then they are not to construct a marriage between their children, or their children’s children at all, nor any of their family line, because baptism has brought about a comprehensive lineage. It is not permissible for that is an offence to Almighty God.

It is not permissible for a woman to kiss a man, or for a man to kiss a female.4 It is not permissible for a man and a woman to receive baptism at the same time, since if they die and they had done this then it is not permissible for their children or their children’s children to marry each other.

And it is not permitted for a deacon to marry a widow, even if she is abandoned. And for a presbyter, even if he is a young man and his wife has died, it is not permitted that he should marry another. And if he marries he commits fornication, and a fornicator does not serve at the altar of God, because he has preferred marriage to the priestly priesthood. Likewise the priestly class is not to marry a widow, even if they were married to priests and are bar adta (children of the church.) Both the presbyterate and the diaconate; and the orders below them, it is not permissible that they be given the priesthood except after they are married.

If they stipulated to themselves5 that they would be steadfast in virginity and purity this is excellent. Whoever breaches his undertaking and gets married after accepting the prayer of ordination should be rejected, because he has violated the covenant of God Almighty and his promise. And God, blessed be his name, will set him afar off and he will not attend the sacred mystery at all.

The deacons and those who are beneath them in their degrees, the sub-deacons (transliterated) and readers and psalmists, let them be received into the order of priesthood a year after their marriage. And if they do not desire marriage and they have a good reputation, and they stipulated concerning themselves to God that they are not to be married, then that is excellent. Yet if they go on to get married they are not to serve at the altar of almighty God. Anyone who has ascended any of the priestly ranks is not permitted to marry two women. Anyone who goes on this way is not to serve the altar of almighty God, such is not permitted by this decree, and so should be removed and rejected, because he has disobeyed, and fallen under judgement because he is like a fornicator, and it will not be forgiven him. It is not permitted that somebody who has committed this sin should appear in his place before the altar at all, because he has preferred marriage to the discipline of Christ. For this reason he is banished from the holy camp, to take his place in this world. If a priest marries a third time, then his face should be spat upon, and he should burn in the fire. And his priestly clothing, and his crown should be removed and he should be prohibited from the sacrifice for the span of his life. And this decree is for the diaconate and the priesthood: whoever has donned the crown of the Lord, and those who are beneath them, like readers and psalmists and ܘܕܝܘܢܐ ܘܪܣܡܐ.6

They shall distribute the body at the gate of the holy house and they shall not approach the altar at all. And to a laymen likewise they should not distribute the body from the altar, even if they are honoured patrons, but they shall distribute the sacrifice to him outside the door.

Such are the canons.

1Reading the verb qbl as a form II and accepting that there is a double object (as found often in Syriac texts). Otherwise the sentence might be construed: “It is not permissible for a priest to receive it, a layman will not kiss his son.” This does not make much sense to me. But even this version has its problems!

2Literally “nor the daughter of a companion in birth”. Taken here to mean a half brother through a different father.

3Taken as meaning stepchildren.

4Again reading qbl as a form II. Cf. Traditio apostolica 18.4.

5Literally “to their souls”.

6I can make nothing of these two Syriac words! My understanding is that the karshuni MSS were derived from MSS in Arabic script, and possibly by scribes with no knowledge of Syriac. The scope for confusion is thus extensive. Note that the previous words, readers and psalmists, are also found in Syriac here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Other church order literature

Yet another attempt to deny Roman provenance to Traditio apostolica

Looking for something else, today I came across Maciej Zachara Mic “Czy Tradycja apostolska jest dokumentem rzymskim?” Ruch biblijny I liturgicznyrok 65 (2012), 3-20. As my Polish is somewhat non-existent (in spite of living in Slough) I am relieved to find the English abstract: ·

The so-called Apostolic Tradition is usually considered an element of the history of the liturgy of the Roman Church. This conviction lays ultimately on two presuppositions: on the attribution of the Apostolic Tradition to St. Hippolytus of Rome and on the presence of two postbaptismal anointings in the baptismal ritual of Apostolic Tradition, which is peculiar exclusively to the Roman liturgy. However, none of these presuppositions is certain. The arguments for St. Hippolytus’ authorship are so weak, that this attribution must be considered highly improbable. The presence of two postbaptismal anointings in the Apostolic Tradition can be explained by the complexity of its baptismal ritual which seems to be a conflation of different traditions. On the other hand, the Roman tradition of two postbaptismal anointings is probably due to the episcopal prerogative to administer the confirmation and to the concession given to presbyters to anoint the neophytes with the chrism at the baptisms administered by them. This presbyteral chrismation was afterwards extended to every baptism. Consequently, the origins of the Apostolic Tradition are far from certain and its Roman provenance is by no means proved.

The article itself can be read here.

Oddly enough this is in line with my argument in my commentary. Although the initiatory section was much revised in the second edition in view of the critique of Bradshaw and Ekenberg, I suggested in both versions that the double post-baptismal anointing was unrelated to that in Gelasianum and should not be considered as evidence for a Roman provenance, and that the document largely reflected the life of an emigré congregation. The argument for Roman provenance rests on neither presupposition identified by Fr Mic. Nuff said.

Leave a comment

Filed under Apostolic Tradition

Quaestiones Melitonianae 3: fragments on baptism in Coptic

This is my third, and final, post in response to the enquiries of “Robert”, in comments below.

The final set of possibly Melitonian fragments left out of consideration in the recent re-edition of my 2001 work were omitted principally because they were first attributed to Melito after the work had gone to press.

Alin Suciu suggested, in a paper given in Claremont last year, that fragments published by Alla I. Elanskaya under the title “The Treatise on the Symbolics of Baptism and the Elements.” in The Literary Coptic Manuscripts in the A.S. Pushkin State Fine Arts Museum in Moscow (Vigiliae Christianae supp. 18; Leiden: Brill, 1994), 167-200 might represent fragments of a lost work of Melito.

I asked Dr Suciu whether he intended to publish this identification, but he stated that first he had to make new examination of the papyrus, in particular to see what further fragments might be put in place. I do hope he is successful, and look forward very much to publication.

Having said this much, I must admit to doubting the Melitonian provenance of these fragments. Their import is to discuss the interpenetration of water and spirit in the work of baptism, and the effect of the baptism of Jesus. This stoic approach is reminiscent of Tertullian in De baptismo. Spirit, however, said in the fragments to be a creation of God (thus indicating, as Suciu rightly says, an early date), is in Melito’s extant work less a person, or an object, but rather the property of God (Melito is functionally binitarian). Thus it is hard to see how spirit can be both a creature of God and the essence of God.

There is a certain link in that the fragments share with Melito’s fragment 8b the image of the sun being “baptized” nightly in the sea. However, this simply means that the authors share a stoic approach to Homeric exegesis (see, inter alia, Macrobius Saturnalia 1.23). It is also interesting that the fragments cite the conclusion to the pseudo-Hippolytean homily De theophania, which Dr Suciu, and others, believe to be an interpolation into the ps-Hippolytean work. I do not believe that it is, and so the fragments have cited this (?third-century?) text for some reason which, due to the fragmentary nature of the material, I cannot divine.

Although I do not agree with Dr Suciu that this is a lost work of Melito, it is certainly an important and early work. I am grateful to him for drawing it to my attention and for sharing with me the slides from his Claremont presentation. And I look forward with great excitement to his eventual publication.


Filed under Anything else

Getting wet in 3rd-4th century Syria

Recently posted to academia.edu, an essay by Annette Yoshiko Reed entitled “Parting Ways over Blood and Water? Beyond ‘Judaism’ and ‘Christianity’ in the Roman Near East”, another piece along the lines of “the ways that never parted.”

I will not, here and now in any event, expatiate on the fundamental thesis, but note that there is some consideration of the Didascalia within this essay, in particular the issue regarding ritual washing. The essay rams home the manner in which the rabbis and the Didascalist redactors inhabit parallel (and possibly overlapping) intellectual worlds within the same physical space. In particular I note the comment in Tos Ketuboth 7.6 expanding a comment in M Ketuboth 7.6 regarding wives who are put away without their ketubah. Already the Mishnah notes a woman who speaks with a man in the street (cf. DA 1.8.26) and to the Mishnaic categories the Tosefta adds “who washes and bathes in the public baths with just anyone” (cf. DA 1.9).

Beyond quotidian bathing, and turning to the more central (for one redactor of DA at least) issue of ritual bathing, Reed states: “Although typically read in terms of a Christian rejection of Jewish ritualism or legalism, the concern for repeated washing is also paralleled among some Rabbis of their time”, citing Tos Yadayim 2.20. I cannot see how such a conclusion is derived from this text, but note it nonetheless as indicating a debate within Jewish circles, even as DA indicates a similar debate within its own Christian grouping.

1 Comment

Filed under Didascalia Apostolorum

Paper on creeds on academia.edu

Newly uploaded to academia.edu is a forthcoming article in Questions liturgiques in which I build on previous work which suggested that the syntaxis was the earliest form of baptismal confession in Syria, by suggesting that Alexandria also had some form of creedal declaration as part of the baptismal rite from the earliest times.

This means that the common assertion, largely based on the baptismal rite of Traditio apostolica, that the earliest form of baptismal creed was interrogatory, and thus that any creedal declaration is of necessity later, falls apart. I suggest that the so-called “interrogatory” creeds are all western, and thus that Traditio apostolica reflects a western rite.

There’s more, but you can read it for yourselves!

Once again, naïve use of the church order material has proved misleading.

1 Comment

Filed under Apostolic Tradition