In my dialogue with Dani Vaucher below I make reference to Wilyam Sulayman Qilada (ed.), Kitāb al-Disqūlīyah: taʿālīm al-rusul (Cairo : Dār al-Jīl lil-Ṭibāʿah, 1979).
My parishioner Mohammed Basith Awan (remember that in the Church of England even Muslims are parishioners… they just have to live in the parish!), a far better Arabist than I, has had a look at it, and has determined that this is the “lost Coptic Didascalia” (again, see posts below) described by Baumstark and found in Codex Borg. Ar. 22. This ms also contains an Arabic version of the Testamentum Domini.
Specialists in this field (among whom I do not count myself) may learn with interest that the Vatican Library has digitized this codex. It may be read here. Coptic marginal annotations clearly indicate an Egyptian provenance.
Recently published (and made available online) by the excellent Alin Suciu is his article “The Book of Bartholomew: a Coptic apostolic memoir” Apocrypha 26 (2015), 211-237.
The abstract follows:
The Book of Bartholomew (= Liber Bartholomaei) is one of the best-known apocryphal writings preserved in Coptic. The present article proposes that the text in question belongs to a peculiar genre of Coptic literature : the memoirs of the apostles. This category consists of reports attributed to the apostles concerning various topics, all related to Coptic piety and liturgical life.
Within the article he explains that a major reason for the production of these pseudepigrapha was the aetiology of feasts within the Coptic calendar. He also refers to a statement prefacing a collection of pseudepigrapha attributed to the biblical patriarchs that Athanasius had discovered them among ancient apostolic decrees (nisyntagma narcheos). This, he shows, is a common trope; I have already referred to Suciu’s making me aware of such a statement in the preface to a pseudo-Chrysostomic text, and he details others within his article.
Whereas this is an Egyptian phenomenon, further light is shed on the context of pseudonymous production shared by the church orders. It is also interesting that apostolic sanction is sought for liturgical practice, again a mark of the church orders.
The second edition of the Hippolytus commentary will, says the publisher, be out in time for the Oxford patristics conference (http://www.oxfordpatristics.com/), though I have some editorial work to do.
Clearly thoughts are turning to Oxford as I have had several people enquiring as to whether I will be there. I will, and am even now struggling with writing my paper. More on this, perhaps, another time, In the meantime, however, there is a Coptic symposium in Stevenage (http://www.copticcentre.com/3rd-international-coptic-symposium-2015/). Not much in the way of a church-order connection but I thought it worth flagging up; a number of papers deal with the realia of Egyptian church life in antiquity, so there is something of an overlap. Stevenage may lack the cachet of Oxford, but at £30 for two days it definitely offers better value for money!
A news(-ish) report here http://www.livescience.com/49673-newfound-ancient-gospel-deciphered.html of this recent publication http://www.mohr.de/en/nc/theology/series/detail/buch/forbidden-oracles.html has some nice pictures of the miniature codex which is the subject of the study.
The miniature codex itself, entitled The Gospel of the lots of Mary, is an aid to divination, intended to deliver an oracle by being opened at random, rather as some Christians still open the Bible at random to find guidance.
The report at livescience also has a citation (with picture) of one of the oracles:
“Go, make your vows. And what you promised, fulfill it immediately. Do not be of two minds, because God is merciful. It is he who will bring about your request for you and do away with the affliction in your heart.”
The warning against double-mindedness is immediately reminiscent of the same warning in Didache 2.4 and parallels elsewhere in the Two Ways Tradition. As such this book of lots provides yet another example of the appearance of material which is found in the Church Order Tradition in other literary contexts (assuming that a book of lots is indeed a literary product.)
The question of whether this material was transmitted to this context within the church orders, as part of the catechesis of which this was originally a part, or through a further development such as a gnomic anthology, is entirely open. The sole purpose of this post is to observe the phenomenon.