Tag Archives: Catechesis

Brief notice: Wilhite, One of life and one of death

In comparing the Didache to other two-ways documents, particularly the near-contemporary Barnabas and 1QS, and the (uncertain of dating but traditionsgeschichtlich proximate) Doctrina apostolorum, it is notable that certain elements are absent, notably any eschatological warning consequent on failure to observe the teaching, and the presence of angels having watch over the two ways.

This is hardly a new observation, but Shawn Wilhite, in the recently published “One of life and one of death”: apocalypticism and the Didache’s two ways (Piscataway: Gorgias, 2019) documents this in detail. The term “apocalypticism” is given a broad definition, as is the literature of two ways, extending far more widely than other treatments, including my own. There is benefit in this, however, in that the observation of the absence of any features in the Didache which even broadly might be termed apocalyptic is all the more striking, and the uniqueness of the Didache in the literature, given the wider range of literature than that usually considered, is all the more remarkable.

Wilhite is not the first to consider this phenomenon, but it is documented here in far more detail than previously. Van de Sandt and Flusser, largely on the basis of comparison with the Doctrina, had previously suggested that this might be the result of ethicization; Wilhite demonstrates that this is highly probable.

We are led to wonder whether this in some sense is the result of the adaptation by D of TWT to pre-baptismal catechesis. Given his argument that D16 is not a separated part of D1-6.3 (as indeed, I had myself suggested, in my libellus on the two ways) we are again forced to deny Draper’s assertions that full Torah obedience is expected of all members of the Didache community. Wilhite himself, however, is not as clear on this aspect as he might be.

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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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Apostolic Tradition 21.39-40, the white stone, and a matter of balancing the Coptic against the Aksumite Ethiopic

Over on hypotyposeis.org I find, over a year later, a discussion of Apostolic tradition 21.39-40; the hyperlinked post is the first of three.

The Sahidic of Apostolic Tradition reads: “We have handed over to you in brief these things about holy baptism and the holy offering, since you have already been instructed about the resurrection of the flesh and the other things according to the Scriptures. Now (δέ) if anything else should be said, the bishop shall say it privately…” There is a significantly different reading in the Aksumite Ethiopic, an understanding which may well stand behind the version offered by the Testament of the Lord. This text reads: “It is therefore convenient to be given this in brief on the washing and on the offering because they have already been instructed. But about the resurrection of the body and everything else in accordance [with the Scriptures] the bishop will reveal and explain as is convenient when they are initiated.” Testament of the Lord is slightly confusing, but the confusion may come about through attempting to make sense of a reading like that of the Aksumite: “They should also be taught about the resurrection of bodies; before being baptized nobody should know the word concerning the resurrection.” Andrew Criddle, for whom I have the utmost respect, believes that the Aksumite reflects a more accurate rendition of the original, given the potential support of Testamentum Domini, and locates the precise matter regarding the resurrection, which is to be held secret, in the teaching regarding the harrowing of hell which is found in Testamentum Domini presented as mystagogy.

I’m afraid that on this occasion I cannot agree. It is as likely that this particular mystagogy is a peculiarity of the Testamentum. The Aksumite Ethiopic may be derived from a Greek text very similar to the Coptic. To demonstrate the point I attempt a retroversion of the relevant phrase(s) without punctuation (and with apologies for the horrible appearance of the Greek): … περὶ τοῦ λουτροῦ καὶ τῆς προσφορᾶς ἐπειδὴ ἤδη κατήχησθε (or ηνται following Ethiopic) περὶ τῆς τῆς σαρκὸς ἀναστασέως καὶ τὰ λοιπά κατὰ τᾶς γραφάς… Now if a full stop or colon is placed after the verb κατήχησθε the meaning is as the Ethiopic (though admittedly the style would be improved with a δέ after the περί), whereas should the full stop or colon be placed after τᾶς γραφάς then the meaning is as the Coptic. It is quite possible that the redactor of the Testamentum Domini (mis)read the text in the same way as the Ethiopic scribe.

I treat the point in the second edition of my Apostolic tradition (now languishing forgotten at the Press) but since the discussion had already entered the blogosphere I thought it worth labouring here at rather greater length than I do in the book.

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