Tag Archives: Canons of Hippolytus

A partial reception history of Traditio apostolica

One of the questions I would ask of those who take a “Bradshavian” view of the development of Traditio apostolica, namely that it is the result of a series of fourth-century accretions, is how it is that so much of it is extant in other fourth-century documents, namely Testamentum Domini, Canones Hippolyti and the eighth book of Apostolic constitutions. My argument, in essence, is that the book must have been substantially complete before being reworked in these various dependent documents.

However, I confess that this does not have the force that it had when first I rehearsed it in my response to Paul Bradshaw in 2004. At the time I suggested that the proponents of the accretional view also had to explain how it came to be substantially complete in three different places at the same time, namely Syria (Testamentum Domini), Egypt (Canones Hippolyti) and Antioch (Apostolic constitutions), these being the provenances conventionally ascribed to each of these documents. However, my subsequent work, in which I have argued that Testamentum Domini and Canones Hippolyti are Asian, from somewhere in between Constantinople and Antioch, and from around the third quarter of the fourth century (thus close in time and provenance to Apostolic Constitutions), means that it is quite possible that the same recension of Traditio apostolica was extant and circulating in fourth-century Asia, probably in the second half of the century, and was reworked to produce these three derivatives. This in turn means that those who deny the third-century and Roman provenance of the final redaction of Traditio apostolica might be able to suggest a redaction in this region, in the first half or so of the fourth century.

I don’t think so, for a host of reasons, but must admit that, by virtue of being simpler, this is a more tenable position than that presented in the Bradshaw/Johnson/Phillips commentary which I criticized back in 2004.

It is, in any event, an interesting observation on the reception history of Traditio apostolica.


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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.

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

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.

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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.

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O frabjous day!

The publisher informs me that the second edition of my Apostolic church order has been published. Herewith the blurb:

The Apostolic Church Order is the name most commonly given to a pseudonymous document claiming to be the work of the apostles, found in most canonical collections, which sets out the manner in which a church should be organized.

Although this church-order was much studied in the nineteenth century the twentieth century saw it neglected, its light eclipsed by that of the Didache. In 2006 the present author published an entirely new Greek text, the first to take full account of ancient Syriac and Latin versions accompanied by the first translation of the entire document into a modern language. This edition rapidly went out of print. The text and translation are now republished with some minor revisions and with a revised introduction.

Whereas the author previously suggested that the work was ante-Nicene, he has reconsidered the matter, and now suggests that the work is probably from the fourth century, but that the redactor has employed much earlier sources in compiling this church order. A renewed argument for a Cappadocian provenance is offered. The document is of historical interest particularly because of the light which it sheds on the development of church order and most especially on the role of women in the ministries of early Christian communities. This church order is a polemical discourse employing apostolic precept to downgrade the role and influence of women in the church’s ministry, subordinating female ministers to a male presbyterate.

However, the day is particularly frabjous (Callooh! Callay!) as in the same note they inform me that my version, with text and introduction, of the Canons of Hippolytus is also published.

Again the blurb:

The Canons of Hippolytus is a church order derived from Traditio apostolica, though incorporating major expansions of the original; although composed in Greek, it survives only in Arabic, itself a translation from a Coptic version of the Greek. Beyond directing the conduct of ordinations, initiation, and ritual meals, the text gives instructions for the conduct of Christians and Christian clergy, with a particular concern with the direction of ascetics as well as discussing the provision of a place of hospitality.

Here a fresh English version is presented with annotation explaining the peculiarities of transmission and translation for those unequipped with Arabic. This is accompanied by a facing Arabic text for the benefit of those with some knowledge of the language.

The text and notes are prefaced by an extensive introduction; of particular significance in the introduction is the re-examination of the date and provenance of the document. Whereas it has for centuries been assumed to have originated in Egypt, extensive evidence for a Cappadocian or Antiochene origin is presented. This leads to a major re-assessment of the value of the document for the liturgical historian, for the historian of asceticism in the fourth century, and for the social historian.

I cannot link to the publisher’s site as they have frumiously neglected to put the works on there… but I have checked and they are both available from a well-known online bookstore. Search by my name and the titles as given here. The prices given indicate that they are relatively brillig (and not Brillish).

I await my comps… though not too beamishly. There will be errors. I spotted a minor typographical error (“where” for “whether” on p 54 of the proofs of the Canons, the day after the work went to the printer) and the discussion of the baptismal formula is already out of date as I have been working further on this topic. However, hopefully the cause of science is advanced, and I may have a brief chortle among the mimsy borogoves.


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James and Paul on faith and works

Apart from all the Bach, one of the joys of having a German organist of Lutheran background, as I do at one of my churches, is the opportunity to bait him regarding the erroneous Lutheran reading of Paul.

Readings from James as the epistle over the last and next few Sundays are an absolute gift in this regard! However, arguing in my homilies during these weeks, as I did at a conference in Tilburg many years ago, that the epistle represents the content of baptismal catechesis (a position of which I am more convinced than ever) it dawned on me today that the supposed contrast between faith and works in 2:14-17 is completely unrelated to the Pauline discussion with the works of the law in Jewish circles, but is basically and simply saying that those who claim to have faith in Christ should act in accordance with that faith. Was Paul even that important in Jewish-Christian circles in the period prior to the Bar Kosiba revolt that anyone would want to take issue with him?

It is much the same content as the, likewise catechetically originating, Matthew 7. Or Canones Hippolyti 37, certainly reflective of catechesis: “Thus somebody who says ‘I have been baptized and received the Body of the Lord’ and feels comfortable, and says ‘I am a Christian’, yet is a lover of selfish desires and is not conformed to the commandments of Christ, is like somebody who goes into a bath covered in dirt, and leaves without rubbing himself, since he did not receive the burning of the Spirit.”

We may finally note in this respect Athenagoras Legatio 11.4, stating that Christians manifest their teaching less by word than by deed. In this part of the Legatio Athenagoras is speaking of the contents of catechesis.

Quite probably the lack of connection between James’ teaching on faith and works and that of Paul has been argued previously (and if any passing Neutestamentler can give me any references to such an argument I would be grateful indeed). However, it is surely the recognition of a debt to catechesis that is the truly decisive argument here.


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The disappearing deacon

This week has seen another three online seminars as part of the “What did deacons do?” project. When the recorded versions are available I will post the link.

At the conclusion of the discussion questions were raised about what might be included in a summary chapter to conclude the book based on the project. Discussion had indicated that the pattern was one of decline in the significance and role of the deacon in the fourth century, and thought was given that this might need some explanation.

My own suggestion is that this is the result of change in the nature of episkopoi, who gain bigger dioceses (note the legislation against chorepiskopoi) and a result of this, in turn, the increase in the number of presbyters. As the aboriginal episcopal function of charity disappears the role of the deacon as administrator of this episcopal charity also disappears. Moreover, as presbyters grow in importance and numbers, assistantship turns into assistance not to the bishop but to the presbyter. Of course there are exceptions; Rome is distinct as a relatively small urban diocese with a large extra-diocesan responsibility, and the community of the Testamentum Domini has a bishop (and presbyters) who fasts and prays and doesn’t do anything else, so it’s all left to the deacons! But in other sources, such as Ephrem and Chrysostom (discussed this week), we observe the diminution of the role in the fourth century and beyond. The evidence that might indicate a more active role is in the church orders, but as is often remarked, these are archaeological, and tend to repeat material which is traditional, but no longer reflects real conditions, and therefore have to be used with great care. Thus when Canones Hippolyti states that the deacon accompanies the bishop this is actually from Traditio apostolica, and is in any case a mistranslation by the Arabic translator due to misunderstanding the Coptic translation from which he was working. I am sure that the original Greek verb was προσκαρτερέω.

Rather unfashionably, might I also suggest that the development of woman deacons in the latter part of the fourth century might in turn result from this diminution? In other words, if a role is not that important, then it might be entrusted to a woman!


Filed under Anything else, Apostolic Tradition, Church orders in genera(l), Didascalia Apostolorum, Testamentum Domini

A bit of fun with Canones Hippolyti 7

Can. Hipp. 7 reads: The subdeacon (ὑποδιάκων, transliterated) and the reader (ἀναγνώστης, transliterated), when (اذا) they pray by themselves (وحدهما ), are stationed to the rear, and the subdeacon (ὑποδιάκων) serves to the rear of the deacon.

This provision seems to apply to liturgical arrangements, but why should it be said that they pray by themselves? It dawns on me that μόνον, an adverb in the Greek referring to praying, might be rendered into Coptic as ⲙⲟⲛⲟⲛ, and then taken as referring to the deacon and subdeacon (the Coptic being indeclinable.) Thus it is possible that the statement regarding these officials praying “by themselves” originally intended that their sole ministry was prayer, an adaptation of the statement in Trad. ap. 10.5 that the widow is not ordained as she is appointed for prayer alone, one of a series of provisions (including the statement at Trad. ap. 13 that the subdeacon follows the deacon) denying ordination by handlaying to a number of roles. One also wonders whether idha, “when” or “if”, here represents ⲉⲣϣⲁⲛ- intended to mean “since” and taken in its conditional sense by the Arabic translator. Thus, “The subdeacon and the reader, since they only pray, are stationed to the rear…”

Unfortunately, I’m really still no clearer about what this actually means!

PS (October 17th 2021): I’ve just read Ewa Wipsczycka “Les ordres mineurs dans l’eglise d’Egypte du IVe au VIIIe siecle” Journal of Juristic papyrology 23 (1993), 181-215, who on 192 suggests that subdeacons rather fancied being deacons, and that the limitation of their role is what leads to the provision that they “go behind.” I do not find this very likely.

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Chase on the daily office in Apostolic Tradition

I have just read with interest Nathan Chase, “Another look at the ‘daily office’ in Apostolic traditionStudia liturgica 49 (2019), 5-25.

Abstract: The daily prayer practices outlined in the Apostolic Tradition, their origins, and even the number of prayer hours, have been points of dispute among scholars. However, new sources of the Apostolic Tradition, as well as work on lay ascetical movement in Egypt, call for the reevaluation of this document, its dating, provenance, and interpretation. This article argues that the Apostolic Tradition is a composite document, whose daily prayer cycle in its current form has been shaped by a third- or fourth-century lay ascetical movement in Egypt. The document appears to outline prayer at rising, followed by a communal service of catechesis and prayer, prayer at the third, sixth, and ninth hours, as well as prayer at bed and in the middle of the night. Given the difficulties in interpreting the document it is unlikely that the document, or at least the daily prayer practices outlined in it, were celebrated as written.

For me, the major point emerging from this article is an apparent consensus that the final pattern of daily prayer in early Christian circles is the result of the conflation of distinct patterns. And I think that Chase is right in his reconstruction of the horarium (noting with a certain satisfaction that he agrees with me that prayer at cock-crow is not a distinct hour, but the same as prayer on rising from sleep).

Beyond the headlines, some valuable observations are made, not the least of which is the possibility that Canones Hippolyti 27 is an attempt to make usable the horarium of Traditio apostolica. I think this entirely plausible. Traditio apostolica is confused  as the result (I suggest) of two distinct conclusions being conjoined.

Chase’s overall argument that the horarium is Egyptian, partly based on the possibility that it was employed by lay monastic groups like those envisaged by the Gnomae is, I think, unnecessary. These lay monastic groups are widely known, and may well have emerged from school settings like that I envisage for Traditio apostolica. Nonetheless it gives me a degree of personal satisfaction in seeing the the Gnomae employed as a source in scholarly work.

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Disappointed… yet again

Though also, I may add, slightly relieved.

In one of my forays into the periodical literature of the turn of the twentieth century, a time at which so many discoveries of church order literature were made, I came across the assertion of F.X. Funk, (“Das achte Buch der Apostolischen Konstitutionen und die verwandten Schriften” Historisches Jahrbuch 16 (1895), 473 – 509, at 483, n.3), that there was an Ethiopic manuscript of the Canones Hippolyti in Oxford. I was surprised to read this, as Coquin had edited the Canones and I would not have expected him to miss something like that. Nonetheless, the thought crossed my mind that I should go and take a look. Having in the last week finished my book on Canones Hippolyti and sent it for peer review, my heart slightly sank at the thought that I would have to recall it! However, I had the sense to check the catalogue first, namely A. Dillmann, Catalogus codicum manuscriptorum Bibliothecae Bodleianae Oxoniensis. Pars VII: codices Aethiopici. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1848). The MS in question is described at pp 24-31. I have, after all, been disappointed before in the quest to find a non-Arabic version of these Canones.

I saved myself a fare by checking as sure enough there is no such thing. The manuscript to which Funk refers is a manuscript of canonical material, starting with the Fetha Nagast (the Ethiopic version of the Nomocanon of Ibn al-Assal.) This incorporates, as Coquin notes, some material from Canones Hippolyti. Within his work, Ibn al-Assal tells us of his sources, and says something of the Canones Hippolyti, namely that the Copts had translated it and found it useful, and that Gabriel (ibn Turayk (ACS)) had employed them in his collection of canons. This was carried over to the Fetha Nagast and cited at this point by Dillmann.

It is thus not a Ethiopic version of the Canones Hippolyti at all.


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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.

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Disappointed again

vatsirbitLooking for bibliography on the Canones Hippolyti I came across Assemani (Codices chaldaici sive syriaci Vaticani Assemaniani, p37) who gives, among the contents of a Vatican MS, Constitutiones eorumdem (ie the apostles) per Hippolytum. The MS may be seen at https://digi.vatlib.it/view/MSS_Vat.sir.353 (thanks to the Vatican Library.) For a moment I had visions of discovering a Syriac version of Canones Hippolyti! There indeed, in the heading, as may be seen above, it reads ܛܘܟܣܐ ܕܫܠܝܚܐ ܒܝܕ ܐܝܦܘܠܝܛܘܣ.

Rather like unwrapping Christmas presents, the excitement did not last. The contents had a certain familiarity at first sight, and the recesses of my somewhat fevered mind recognized what it was fairly speedily.

The denouement was not long delayed, as the first giveaway is in what follows the title: ܕܫܡܥܘܢ .ܟܢܢܝܐ ܡܛܠ ܩܢܘܢܐ ܥܕܬܝܐ If my readers are as learned as I suspect they are, they would recognize from the appearance of the name of Simon the Canaanite either Apostolic Constitutions 8.38, or the opening of the sixth book of the Clementine Octateuch, the diataxis. Material from this diataxis, which is a rehash of parts of Book 8 of Apostolic Constitutions, appears, we may recollect, in the “E” recension of Didascalia apostolorum.

There are some variations, on first glance, between the ms and the textus receptus of the diataxis in the Octateuch, which no doubt are interesting, and may provide a topic for research by somebody with more time and patience than I. It’s certainly not as much fun as finding a Syriac version of the Canones, which are otherwise extant only in Arabic, based on Coptic. Still.

Also of interest is the attribution of this diataxis to Hippolytus. I am reminded of Allen Brent’s comment, somewhere in the vast tome which is Hippolytus and the Roman church in the third century, that the name in time became a cipher for tradition. Again, a curious byway, but one which I will have to leave unexplored.

O Sapientia,.. ueni ad docendum nos uiam prudentiae!


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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.

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Christ spoke through Hippolytus?

In order to step up with my rather basic Arabic I have begun, very slowly, to read The Canons of Hippolytus in Coquin’s edition. If any reader thought the blog had been abandoned, it will now be clear that I have simply been busy with other things, as well as the day job.

The initial list of titles is not translated in the Bebawi/Bradshaw version. For the most part these are simply the titles which are at the head of the canons in the main text, but at the end we find the following statement, in Coptic and Arabic.

The Coptic is straightforward enough, reading: These are the canons of the church which Hippolytus, sainted archbishop (ⲡⲁⲣⲭⲏⲉⲡⲓⲥⲕⲟⲡⲟⲥ) of Rome, wrote.

The Arabic is more extensive:

These are the canons of the church, the instructions which Hippolytus, chief of the bishops of Rome, wrote, in accordance with the traditions of the apostles, through (جهة) Our Lord the Christ (one MS reads “the Holy Spirit”) the speaker in(?) him (الناطق فيه). (Coquin translates “parlant en lui”.)

Quite apart from the question of whether we should translate the article with the present participle, is the question of whether this applies to Hippolytus or to Christ, that is to say is Christ speaking in Hippolytus (the more probable reading), or is Hippolytus speaking in Christ? In either event a fairly major claim of authority is being staked by this mediaeval scribe, providing interesting evidence for the reception of the church-order tradition in Alexandria as apparently inspired. The vl, attributing Hippolytus’ speech to the Holy Spirit, is also interesting from the same perspective.

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Daniel Vaucher on controlling bishops

Some further thoughts from Daniel Vaucher, picking up on our earlier discussion. I simply quote them, with very light editing. My lack of comment is probably eloquent.

We had the issue with the martyrs and confessors, on which I just have one more general thought. In regards to TA, you mention a fundamental conflict between patron/presbyters and the episcopos. I fully agree with this. In Cyprian’s Africa, confessors challenge the episcopate, especially in terms of penitence and giving the absolution. In Letters 38-40 Cyprian ordains such confessors into the clergy. Do you think that this is an attempt to bring them under the episcopal control? A similar case is found in the Didascalia (and similar again 1 Tim), where widows (or women in general?) appear to have exercised a certain influence. In regulating the “office” of widows, the bishops might get a firmer control on these independent women.

This is just a thought, though, and not something I really know well, honestly. but it led me to the next issue, the reception of TA §9 in CA and CanHipp. You wonder whether there were really any confessors in late 4th century Antioch, and I agree with you that this is kind of a bizarre instruction in this context. although persecutions continued occasionally, as under Julian or then in 5th century Persia, I don’t think that this was ever an issue for CA. but I have Eva Synek (Oikos, 1999) in mind who pointed out that the compilation never aimed at clearing the internal contradictions (“hohe Widerspruchstoleranz”), as all the other compilations in the East never did. This of course leads to the question, if and to what extent the compilations can ever be used in extracting information about 4th century social practices.

And I came across your post on the CanHipp and our finding that they might have aimed at organizing the ascetics… “there was a concerted effort by the wider fourth century Egyptian church to harness and organize the ascetics”. As early as 1910 Eduard Schwartz already pointed out, that the “enemy” behind the pseudapostolic CA was monasticism (which was, if I’m not mistaken, confirmed by Eva Synek). So we might open our focus and envisage also Antioch and Syria to be in a certain conflict between church and monasticism (basically see Vööbus), to which the CA bear witness.

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Paul Bradshaw on the church orders published

Through the kindness of the author, I have received a copy of Paul F. Bradshaw, Ancient church orders (Alcuin/GROW JLS 80; Norwich: Hymns Ancient and Modern, 2015).

A brief introduction describes the modern rediscovery of the ancient church orders, and engages with the question of whether these even compose a genre, and in what sense they may be held to be homogeneous. He rightly (imo) rejects Joe Mueller’s suggestion that they are all basically works of scriptural exegesis and concurs with me that they may reasonably be discussed as a group (though probably not a genre) on the basis of their intricate literary relationship both internally and through being gathered into common collections.

The first chapter is a rewriting of Bradshaw’s chapter in his second edition of The search for the origins of Christian worship (London: SPCK, 2002) and provides a brief introduction to each of the major church orders, as well as to the canonical collections in which they have been largely preserved. Although there are echoes of the original, it has been updated considerably in the light of recent research, and thus replaces that chapter as the best and most accessible introduction to the field.

The second chapter describes the manner in which the church orders, being made up largely of pre-existing material adapted (or not) to the settings of the redactors, may be described as living literature, with detailed discussion of the Apostolic church order, Didascalia apostolorum and Apostolic tradition. Beyond the main argument, there is a valuable description of the direction of research into these documents, where I find my own work discussed (still a strange experience). Obviously we continue to disagree about Apostolic tradition but Bradshaw is scrupulously fair and balanced in his statement of the arguments, here as throughout. Again, as an introduction to the issues and to current research I cannot see that it could be bettered.

One interesting new point is raised in this chapter: “…while the Didache had been composed by appending church-order material to a two-ways tractate, the Apostolic church order had been composed by combining a similar two-ways tractate with an existing brief church-order and the Didascalia had used a catechetical manual containing two-ways material together with a derivative of the same church order to form its basis. It seems highly improbable, however, that all three independently decided to adopt the same composite structure for their works as there is no inherent connection between the two types of literature that are used, but they serve quite different purposes. It cannot simply be co-incidental then, and the compilers of the latter two works must have had some awareness of the Didache itself, even if they did not use it directly as a source…” (Bradshaw, Ancient church orders, 33.) This is a valuable observation.

It is in the third chapter that Bradshaw begins to break new ground, and to open up the issues which church-order scholarship needs to address. Entitled “layers of tradition” the chapter starts by charting the current discussion about whether the orders are statements of current practice or are polemical in purpose (or “propagandist”, as I prefer to term their Tendenz.) He then makes the valuable point that as “living literature” they cannot simply have a single purpose. In particular he observes that some redactors were simply updating the pre-existing material to suit their own current practice, for instance when Apostolic constitutions alters Didache 10.7 from “let the prophets give thanks as they wish” to “let your presbyters give thanks.” He points out that alongside this tendency there is also a tendency to try and preserve what is ancient in the orders, such updating as is undertaken in turn leading often to confused and hybridized rites, such as when Canones Hippolyti has the candidate baptized three times in the name of the Trinity. He follows these observations with the further valuable observation that this is taking place in the fourth century, rather than in the second or third, and suggests that as bishops and councils are now more pro-active in making decisions, the church orders have become repositories of tradition. As a result he suggests that alongside propagandist material, the orders also contain traditional material encoding practices which are no longer current, material commonly accepted in the community of production, and also, possibly, the individual views of the compilers. He concludes by asking whether anybody really took any notice of the church orders, suggesting that in Chalcedonian areas the importance of patriarchal sees was such that there was no need to continue to encode tradition in this way, thus explaining the retention of the orders, and largely their survival, in Egypt and Ethiopia, even as their use was abandoned elsewhere.

On all of Bradshaw’s substantive points in this chapter I reserve judgement, as on his point regarding the possible readership of the Didache by the compilers of the Didascalia and Apostolic church order. All I will say for the present is that the work is remarkable in being both an accessible introduction to the field and in being a provocation to thinking by those to whom the church-order tradition is very familiar already. If I ever have the time I would still like to produce some sort of monograph on the church orders and their tradition; I am motivated to hope anew that I might do so by reading this work, and in doing so I will be treading in Bradshaw’s footmarks, engaging both with the questions he raises and the answers which he gives.

I would end with an exhortation to get your copy now, but the publisher has not yet made it available!


Filed under Church orders in genera(l)

Canons of Hippolytus: an introductory essay

The post that was previously found here has been removed.

At the time of posting it represented a fair summary of the state of the field regarding the Canones Hippolyti.

However the publication of my book, The Canons of Hippolytus: An English Version, with Introduction and Annotation and an Accompanying Arabic Text (Sydney: SCD, 2021) containing an introduction which was based on that here, but extensively revised, means that the I have felt it right to remove this version. In many significant respects it was misleading… in particular in that, at the time of writing, I followed the consensus that the Canones were Egyptian in origin. I no longer believe this to be the case. If you are unable to obtain a copy of the book for whatever reason, please contact me.


Filed under Canons of Hippolytus

Apostolic Tradition on military catechumens

In the Sahidic version of Apostolic Tradition 16 (the Latin being wanting) it is said of a soldier seeking baptism that he shall not “go to the task” if he is ordered, nor swear the oath. The meaning is obscure. The Aksumite Ethiopic, however, is clear that a soldier is not to offer sacrifice, not to swear the oath, and not to wear a wreath. The Canons of Hippolytus likewise reflect the prohibition of swearing and wearing of the wreath. We may thus reasonably believe that the new Ethiopic version retains the closest reflection of the original. “Not to go to the task” may be some corrupted version of the words regarding sacrifice, though I am at a loss to suggest precisely what.

The particular reason for drawing attention to this is an essay by Yoder on military service in the church orders, found at http://www3.nd.edu/~theo/jhy/writings/history/ecdisc%26ord.htm#N_40_, in which Yoder deduces on the basis of this section of Apostolic Tradition that the principal objection to military service was not the issue of the close relationship with the cultus of the emperor, as is often held. He appears to be using a translation based on the Sahidic, though I am a bit confused as to which, as he makes reference to the Latin (which is not extant for this passage!) However, the Aksumite Ethiopic seems to shift the balance somewhat.

There are a number of significant flaws in Yoder’s use of the church order material in his essay, on which I will not expatiate. It is interesting, as he himself notes, that an ethicist might find material in these documents; ethicists, however, should be as cautious in their use as liturgiologists have, in recent years, learnt to be. Which is not to say that they should not use the material, simply that they should handle it with care.

Edit: August 2022. I find that the link is broken. Apologies, as I cannot find another version, though I will keep looking.

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Filed under Apostolic Tradition