Tag Archives: Didache

The reception history of the Didascalia

Sarah Whitear, in a comment below, asks about the reception history of the Didascalia. She asks, “Other than Apostolic Constitutions, are there any later Christian texts which comment or use the DA?” I thought it worth turning an answer into a post, though I should acknowledge that what follows is mostly taken straight from F.X. Funk, Didascalia et Constitutiones apostolorum II (Paderborn: Schöningh, 1905), 3-14.

First up is the one I knew without looking it up! Epiphanius, in his chapter on the Audians (Haer. 70) refers to the Audians’ use of the Didascalia to justify their Quartodeciman practice. The text is called τῶν ἀποστόλων διάταξις; I conclude in my treatment, following many of the learned, that this is indeed the extant Didascalia. Things are slightly confused, however, by a statement elsewhere in the Panarion in which, discussing the “Aerians”, in which Epiphanius states: “If, indeed, I need to speak of the Ordinance of the Apostles (τῆς διατάξεως τῶν ἀποστόλων), they plainly decreed there that Wednesdays and Fridays be fasts at all times except Pentecost and directed that nothing at all be eaten on the six days of the Passover except bread, salt and water; and which day to keep, and that we break our fast on the night before the Lord’s Day. (Epiphanius Haer. 55.6.1). The mention of Wednesdays and Fridays is not derived from the Didascalia; it is not derived from the Didache either (as the Didache does not except the Pentecost), and nor is it Apostolic Constitutions 7. Most puzzling. Unless Epiphanius is quoting from faulty memory.

Finally we may note that in Haer. 45.4.5 Epiphanius states: καὶ οἱ ἀπόστολοί φασιν ἐν τῇ διατάξει τῇ καλουμένῃ ὅτι «φυτεία θεοῦ καὶ ἀμπελὼν ἡ καθολικὴ ἐκκλησία». This may either be the Didascalia or the Constitutiones, though I’m inclined to think it the Didascalia.

In conclusion, I think we can take it that Epiphanius had some knowledge of the Didascalia, and that the Audians did likewise.

We may next turn to a Coptic version of Athanasius’ Paschal letter, edited by Carl Schmidt, “Der Osterfestbrief des Athanasius vom J. 367” Nachrichten von der königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Philologisch-historische Klasse 1898 (Göttingen: Horstmann, 1898), 167-203. Where the Greek text refers to the Didache, the Coptic refers to ⲧⲇⲓⲥⲕⲁⲗⲓⲕⲏ ⲛ̄ⲛⲁⲡⲟⲥⲧⲟⲗⲟⲥ and adds, “I do not mean that which is said to censure Deuteronomy”. Schmidt suggests that the translator does not know the Didache at all, but has some knowledge of the Didascalia and was therefore confused. This seems entirely reasonable. We may add that the existence of a (lost, apart from a tiny fragment) Coptic translation of the Didascalia would point to some circulation in Egypt.

There are a number of citations of the Didascalia in the Opus imperfectum in Matthaeum, cited in detail by Funk, though I deal with these rather briefly. There is no doubt that the Didascalia is cited here, but given our total lack of knowledge about the origin of this work, it does not assist us much with tracing a reception history. Perhaps somebody with greater knowledge of the Opus imperfectum could jump in here and assist.

Finally we may note, with Funk, some citations of the Didascalia in Bar-Hebraeus, in his Nomocanon, and in his Ethicon. No surprise here.

R.H. Connolly (Didascalia apostolorum (Oxford: Clarendon, 1929), lxxxiv-lxxxvii) discusses Funk’s work and ventures to suggest that the Didascalia was also known to Aphraahat. As discussed in a recent post, there is certainly a large overlap at significant points between the two, though I would tend to consider this the result of a common cultural and theological milieu, rather than looking for direct influence in one direction or another. In part this comes about because I have dated the Didascalia rather later than Connolly.

Connolly also believes that the ps-Clementines made use of the Didascalia (again, I think this unlikely due to the dating of the Didascalia to the fourth century, though, again, perhaps this could be explored further), and finally suggests that the Apostolic Church Order and Canones Hippolyti knew the work.

I have discussed the relationship between Apostolic Church Order and the Didascalia in my edition, where I suggest that the two do share a common source. I leave the discussion there.

Turning to the Canones Hippolyti Connolly reckons three points of derivation. I do not think any of them can be sustained.

Firstly he points to the gathering of the apostles in the first chapter. However, the Canones do not refer to the apostles; the reference is certainly to a council of some sort, but it could equally well be Nicaea.

He further refers to the paschal provisions of Canones Hippolyti in canon 22. “Every point emphasized here is to be found in chapter xxi of the Didascalia” he states. I deal with these parallels in pp24-27 of my edition of Canones Hippolyti and conclude that they do not point to literary dependence, but to a common paschal practice, rooted, we may add, in the Quartodeciman origins of the communities which produced these documents. This in turn was part of the basis for my argument that the Canones are not Egyptian.

The final parallel to which he points had me stumped for a while. He refers to Canon 22 and to a provision that women being baptized should be assisted by other women in removing their clothing before baptism which is, he suggests, reminiscent of the role of women deacons in the Didascalia. His source is the edition of Hans Achelis, Die ältesten Quellen des orientalischen Kirchenrechts 1: die Canones Hippolyti (TU 6.4; Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1891), who had in turn lifted a Latin translation from D.B. von Haneberg, Canones S Hippolyti Arabice e codicibus Romanis cum versione latina, annotationibus et prolegomenis (Munich: Academia Boica, 1870). Sure enough I do find this in Haneberg’s Latin, but the puzzle is that there is nothing corresponding to it in the Arabic text! How it got there I know not, but on this occasion it has misled Connolly significantly

In summary, the reception history is thin. But the enquiry has been interesting.


Leave a comment

Filed under Didascalia Apostolorum

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

Just fancy that!

Recently appeared is John S. Kloppenborg, “The Didache and the Apostolic Constitutions in the context of association rules” in Joseph Verheyden et al, Texts in contexts: essays on dating and contextualising Christian writings from the second and early third centuries (Leuven: Peeters, 2021).

In essence Kloppenborg argues: “The comparison of the Didache with the bylaws of Greek, Roman, and Judaean associations indicates many commonalities, but some distinctive features as well. It is unexceptional that the Didache’s regulations treated entrance and initiation, the vetting of those who wished to join or interact with the group, meal practices, the general behaviour that should be expected of members, and a keen interest in not falling prey to financial fraud. The selection of leaders – that is, the ἐπίσκοποι – is also unexceptional.”

Cf. “We may thus suggest that if an ancient hearer were to hear a document setting out the conditions for admission to a religious association, describing the means of entry, regulating the manner in which meals are to be conducted, and appointing officers, such an ancient reader would readily recognize an associational lex.” Alistair C. Stewart, “The Didache as an associational lex: re-opening the question of the genre(s) of the church orders” JbAC 62 (2019), 29-49.

Leave a comment

Filed under Church orders in genera(l), Didache

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

The Didache as an associational lex

2021 sees the publication of Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum 62 (2019).

This contains my article “The Didache as an associational lex: re-opening the question of the genre(s) of the church orders” on pp29-49. I am very pleased to announce this publication, as I am hoping that it answers many of the questions posed on this blog, and has been “forthcoming” for about as long as I can remember! I have come to realize that items in publication are like buses… you wait for ages and then three come along at once.

Abstract: Although the term “church orders” is widely used there is no agreement as to its definition.
The genre of the Didache is examined in the light of recent discussion, and the conclusion is reached that it should be termed a Christian associational lex. This conclusion is based principally on the grounds of common content and purpose with other ancient non-Christian associational leges, but also to an extent on form. It is then noted that Traditio apostolica manifests the same phenomenon and may similarly be classified as a Christian associational lex. On this basis it is argued that whereas the later church orders form a literary tradition, rather than conforming to a single genre, they originate as associational leges.

E-offprints are available through the usual channels.


Filed under Apostolic Tradition, Church orders in genera(l), Didache

A fair witness to the church? Didache 11.11

My attention having been drawn to the fact that Harnack dated the Ignatian epistles to the 130s (as have I), I thought I might read what he had to say (Adolf von Harnack, “Lightfoot on the Ignatian Epistles. II. Genuineness and Date of the Epistles” The Expositor third series 3.3 (March 1886), 175-192. This is the third part of an extended review of Lightfoot.)

Interesting though this was, my attention was more taken by Frederic Henry Chase, “Note on The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles Chapter xi,” The Expositor third series 3.4 (April 1886), 319-320. Here Chase suggests emending εἰς μυστήριον κοσμικὸν ἐκκλησίας to εἰς μαρτύριον κόσμιον ἐκκλησίας.

I will admit that I have never seen reference to Chase’s conjecture, and also that I find it very attractive. I need say no more, but commend those interested to read Chase’s argument in support.

1 Comment

Filed under Didache

Wilhite’s commentary on the Didache

PrintI have just completed a review for JTS on Shawn J. Wilhite, The Didache: A Commentary  (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2019).

It can be read there in due course, but anyone who is anxious (is there anyone who might be anxious?) can request an advance copy in the usual way.


Filed under Didache

Brief notice: Chun Ling Yu, Bonds and boundaries among the early churches

Chun Ling Yu, Bonds and boundaries among the early churches: community maintenance in the letter of James and the Didache (STT29; Turnhout: Brepols, 2018) is an examination of James and the Didache in the particular light of theories concerning conflict and group maintenance derived from the social sciences.

In this dIS-9782503580739-1brief note we concentrate on what he has to say regarding the Didache.

In the chapter on community tensions he takes the Schöllgenian line that the Didache is pointed at particular issues, rather than seeing it as a more generalized document giving ritual instructions; although I would agree that there are particular issues, I would suggest that the Didache is more generalized, though inevitably the issues that are important or controversial within the community will figure larger than others.

Yu notes a number of possible internal sources of tension, such as the inclusion of gentiles within a Jewish community, tensions with potential false prophets, transients, and false teachers, though I am not sure that he is right in suggesting that there is insufficient respect for community leaders. He points out that these provide the conditions anticipated by conflict theories, and that the document, serving as an authoritative partner in the dialectic, serves the means of conflict reduction suggested by the Allport-Pettigrew hypothesis, namely the equalization of status of members, the encouragement to co-operation to common goals, and the support of established authorities, thus both harmonizing and regulating (using the language of Kazan).

He further notes that the strong in-group is further strengthened in cohesion through the implicit and explicit identification of out-groups, both the wider gentile world and the wider Jewish world, the hypocrites. In part this is through ritual, in part through a common code (for instance the setting of particular fast days against those of the hypocrites), but chiefly, it emerges, through norms of behaviour which are distinct from either out-group and which are instilled through the two ways. Thus returning to Allport he suggests that the rituals of the community serve to maintain the community and to resolve sources of potential conflict through the common ritual life.

In summary, there are inevitable points of disagreement; however, Yu presents a far more sophisticated study of the Didache on the basis of social science models than I have previously read.

Leave a comment

Filed under Didache

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Didache

Cyprian of Antioch and Magic in the Church Orders

Magic and divination were an integral part of ancient society. Even after the rise of Christianity, the luring power of diviners, sorcerers, astrologers and the like were felt in cities around the Mediterranean. Magic (to use a not unproblematic umbrella term) was strongly linked to idolatry, in Christian perspective anyway. No surprise bishops and other Christian teachers were fighting against its influence. The Church Orders forbid the practice of magic from its beginning. The author of the Didache writes (2.2): “you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft”, and the author of the Traditio Apostolica requires that practitioners of magic stop it in order to be taught. (16: “A magus shall not even be brought forward for consideration. An enchanter, or astrologer, or diviner, or interpreter of dreams, or a charlatan, or one who makes amulets, either they shall cease or they shall be rejected.”) The latter text was incorporated in the Apostolic Constitutions, written towards the end of the 4th century, probably in Antioch.

When I looked through the Christian literature of that time, I came across an interesting legend which seems to preach exactly that same claim. The “conversion of Cyprian” (probably early 4th century) tells the story of Justina, a Christian virgin who is hassled by a man who fell in love with her. The lover is rejected again and again, until he takes the services of a magician, Cyprian of Antioch. The magician summons several demons in order to seduce the virgin, unsuccessfully. The prayers and the sign of the cross drive them off. When Cyprian recognizes the power of Christ and the church, he burns his magic books publicly and converts to Christianity.

Now is that story not the true propaganda for what bishops and Church Orders commonly demanded? Cyprian ceases his business, advertised by the destruction of his idols and the burning of the books (cf. Acts 19.19), in order to be granted accession, and baptism. Cyprian later becomes bishop, martyr, and saint, until the Catholic Church renounces his holy status in the 20th century…

The legend is tripartite. The “conversion” is most probably the earliest version of the legend (based inter alia on the story of Thecla and the magician in Lucians Philopseudes). Then comes the “confession”, a first-person narrative of Cyprians youth and infamous deeds as magician and his pact with the devil. The third part is the “martyrium”, it is of later date, but linked more to the conversion than to the confession.

Among the many differences between the conversion and the confession, the picture of the devil in the confession is the most striking to me (5.6): “His form was like a golden flower adorned with precious stones, and he crowned his head with stones that were twined together – the energies of which illuminated that plain, and his garment was no different – and when he enwreathed himself, he shook the land. Great indeed was the display around his throne of different ranks which laid down their forms and energies in subordination to him.” (trans. Bailey). And when Cyprian revolts against Satan, after having learned the true Christian power, the devil attacks him (corporeally) and almost kills him in an epic struggle. Only with the sign of the cross, Cyprian manages to free himself.

What I wonder is whether this description of the devil, his absolute corporeal form and the brawl with Cyprian is as original as the “confessions” imagination of the pact with the devil. I have not found any other instances of such “fights with the devil” in early Christian literature. Or is the scene interpolated and of a later date?



Theodor Zahn, Cyprian von Antiochien und die deutsche Faustsage. Erlangen 1882.

Ludwig Radermacher, Griechische Quellen zur Faustsage: der Zauberer Cyprianus, die Erzählung des Helladius, Theophilus. Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien 4, 1927.

Ryan Bailey, The confession of Cyprian of Antioch: introduction, text, and translation. Montreal 2009.


Leave a comment

Filed under Anything else, Apostolic Constitutions, Didache, Other church order literature

The church orders at the 2019 Oxford patristic conference

The Oxford patristics conference takes place this August.

A quick read of the programme reveals the following papers on the church orders.

Clayton Jefford. Why Are There No Manuscripts of the Ancient Didache?

Abstract: While scholars speak of the Didache’s origins and evolution with seeming confidence based on the eleventh-century text of H54, no complete parallel to the tradition appears prior to the late fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions Book 7. Several researchers have attempted with various degrees of success to illustrate knowledge of the Didache among early patristic sources, notably E. von der Goltz (1905) for Athanasius, J.A. Robinson (1920) and F.R.M. Hitchcock (1923) for Clement of Alexandria, M.A. Smith (1966) for Justin Martyr, C.N. Jefford (1995) for Ignatius of Antioch, etc., yet evidence for the entirety of the text remains elusive. This essay surveys several such attempts and concludes with the suggestion that the reason no manuscripts of the entire text are available is because there were never any to be found. While portions of the tradition certainly were known and circulated among ancient Christian (and likely Jewish) authors, no complete version of what is now associated with the witness of H54 was available.

Tom O’Loughlin. The Didache and Diversity of Eucharistic Practice in the Churches: the Value of Luke 22:17-20 as Evidence

Abstract: The sequence of blessings found in the Didache (cup followed by loaf) has long been seen as a significant deviation from what has been seen (based on later accepted practice) as the normative sequence of loaf followed by cup (as found in Paul [1 Cor 11:24-5], Mark, and Matthew). However, if we see ‘the longer form’ of Luke 22:17-20 (cup, loaf, cup) as a conflation of two text relating to two different practices – where the text of Luke was a ‘living text’ which varied with the practice of the church in which it was being used – then we have evidence (in the shorter variants of Luke) for a range of churches which at one time used the sequence found in the Didache of cup followed by loaf. From the original diversity as seen in the Didache and Paul (see 1 Cor 10:16-7 and 21-2) there came in time a uniformity. The Didache preserves a fossil of this earlier period, Paul’s acquaintance with this diversity dropped out of sight in that I Cor 10 was read in terms of 1 Cor 11, while the Lukan text that became the standard form preserved both readings (reflecting both practices) by conflation ‘lest anything be lost.’ That this conflated text was seen as a problematic can be seen in the reaction of Eusebius of Caesarea, while we should concentrate attention afresh on the ‘shorter texts’ as these point to forgotten practices.

Pauliina Pylvänäinen. Agents in Liturgy, Charity and Communication. The Function of Deaconesses in the Apostolic Constitutions

Abstract: The reinterpretation of deacons and diakonia challenges us to consider the function of deaconesses in the Apostolic Constitutions. The Apostolic Constitutions is a church order that originated in Antioch and was completed in AD 380. The tasks of deaconesses in the document can be divided into three categories: Firstly, duties that are linked to the liturgy in the congregation are assigned to the deaconesses by the compiler. They guard the doors of the church building, find places for women who need them and are present when the women approach the altar during the Eucharist. When a woman is being baptized, a deaconess assists the bishop during the rite. The document also consists two analogies which describe the liturgical function of the deaconesses: They function in the places of the Levites as well as the Holy Spirit. Secondly, the deaconesses have tasks that traditionally have been defined as charitable service. Since the concept of deacon has been reinterpreted, tasks have to be evaluated as to whether they include charitable connotations or not. My analysis shows that the deaconesses are sent to visit the homes of women. The visits include, for instance, almsgiving, and hence belong to the field of charity by nature. In some cases the tasks of healing and travelling also seem to have charitable connotations. However, alongside these tasks, the deaconesses also have a task that is neither mainly liturgical nor charitable. As messengers, they play a role in the communications of the congregation.

Finally, although the text discussed here is not actually a church order (see posts below), particular note may be taken of:

Svenja Ella Luise Sasse. The Preliminary Edition of the Greek Didaskalia of Jesus Christ

Abstract: The Greek Didaskalia of Jesus Christ, a rather unknown apocryphal text probably written in the sixth century, is composed as a conversation between the risen Christ and the Twelve Apostles: Because they are concerned about the transgressions of man and wonder how forgiveness can be obtained, the Apostles ask Christ who gives them further instructions for a God pleasing life. Among other subjects the dialogue also refers to the Christian Sunday observation as an essential topic. Besides instructions for an appropriate behavior on Sundays, this day even appears as a personification together with angels and heavenly powers in the Hereafter. The personification of the Sunday bears testimony for the soul which had fastened on Wednesday and Friday and had observed Sunday correctly. Thus, the Sunday undergoes a salvation-historical emphasis. Together with the Letter from Heaven the Didaskalia can therefore be regarded as a fruitful and important apocryphal source concerning the development of Sunday veneration. A critical edition of its text has already been published by François Nau in 1907. As his edition is only based on two manuscripts while ten manuscripts are meanwhile available, a preparation of a new critical edition has become necessary which is part of the broader project The Apocryphal Sunday at Vienna University directed by Prof. Dr. Uta Heil. The talk will give an impression of the present working results concerning the preliminary edition of the Didaskalia.

Note, in passing, that the speaker also refers to our Letter from Heaven, discussed by Daniel Vaucher. Unfortunately this paper is being given at the same time that Jefford is speaking on the Didache.

Leave a comment

Filed under Apostolic Constitutions, Church orders in genera(l), Didache, Other church order literature

Die Sakramentsgemeinschaft in der alten Kirche

Clipboard01Newly published is L.H. Westra, L. Zwollo, Die Sakramentsgemeinschaft in der Alten Kirche: Publikation der Tagung der Patristischen Arbeitsgemeinschaft in Soesterberg und Amsterdam (Patristic Studies 15; Leuven: Peeters, 2019).

The publisher tells us: Was bedeutet die Gemeinschaft von Brot und Wein, die wir in der Kirche Sakramentsgemeinschaft nennen? Dieser Begriff ist für vielen zu einem Problem geworden. Obwohl Kirche und Glaube in unserer Gesellschaft zu einem Randphänomen geworden sind, erhalten sie dennoch eine gewisse Anerkennung. Glaube und Spiritualität werden weithin anerkannt als wertvolle Hilfsmittel für die psychische Gesundheit. Die Kirche spielt immer noch eine wichtige Rolle, wenn die Humanität der Gesellschaft in Frage kommt – das Kirchenasyl ist wiederum sehr aktuell. Aber das Sakrament? Es gehört zum kirchlichen Traditionsgut, aber sonst? In der Antike ging man ganz umgekehrt vor. Gerade weil man das Sakrament teilte, wird man zur Kirche. Der gemeinschaftliche Genuss von Brot und Wein bildete den Grund für die kirchliche Existenz. Die Gemeinschaft mit Christo bestimmte die Spiritualität. In dem vorliegenden Band wird diese altkirchliche Sakramentsgemeinschaft weiterhin untersucht. Wie funktionierte sie in der Praxis, lokal und weltweit? Wie sahen die Feiern aus? Wer nahm teil, wer nicht? Welche Entwicklungen gab es? So erscheint eine der ältesten Riten unserer Gesellschaft in einem neuen und hoffentlich auch inspirierendem Licht.

What this does not tell you is that there are contributions from both of your blog editors.

Daniel Vaucher’s essay “Ubi servi? Überlegungen zur frühchristlichen Eucharistiefeier” explores the presence (and absence) of slaves in eucharistic fellowships, concluding that to the greater extent they were excluded, and that the development away from the eucharistic Sättigungsmahl served to reduce their role yet further (as they may have been present in a serving capacity in these eucharistic meals of an earlier period.) In terms of church orders, we may note his reference to the Didascalia. Alistair C. Stewart, “Ἐκ Βιῶν εἰς ζωήν: Groups, Therapy, and the Construction of Text and Community in the Church Order Tradition” focusses on the Didache and the Didascalia (with a nod to the Doctrina apostolorum) in exploring the manner in which the study of group behaviours within psychology might illustrate the manner in which Christian groups practised psychagogy and brought about Gemeinschaft, so in turn that they might act eucharistically.

Beyond this there are contributions from Paul van Geest (“Patristik in den Niederlanden: Die Forschungslage und der neue Schwerpunkt der Mystagogie”), Liuwe H. Westra (“Wie die Sakramentsgemeinschaft in der Alten Kirche funktionierte”), Gerard A.M. Rouwhorst (“Vom christlichen Symposium zur Eucharistiefeier des vierten Jahrhunderts), Hans van Loon (Eucharist and Fellowship in Cyril of Alexandria) and Laela Zwollo, (Augustine’s Conception of Sacrament. The Death and Resurrection of Christ as Sacrament in De trinitate: Mystic Union between Christ and his Church).

No critical comment on the contents is offered (for obvious enough reasons). Peeters have priced it at €46. No comment on that either, though you can probably guess what mine would be.

Leave a comment

Filed under Didache, Didascalia Apostolorum, Other church order literature

Blidstein, Purity, community, and ritual

I have just had the pleasure of reviewing Moshe Blidstein, Purity, community and ritual in early Christian literature (Oxford: OUP, 2017.)

I will not repeat the review here except to say that this is an excellent work. With consideration of the Didache and the Didascalia, as well as of baptismal and community-forming rituals, it is of natural interest to readers of this blog.

Badger your librarian to get it!

Leave a comment

Filed under Church orders in genera(l)

The Didache material appended to Traditio apostolica in the Axumite Ethiopic version

In a previous post I have made reference to the fragment of Didache material attached to the Axumite Ethiopic version of Traditio apostolica published by A. Bausi.“La nuova versione etiopica della Traditio apostolica: edizione e traduzione preliminare“ in Paola Buzi and Alberto Camplani (edd.), Christianity in Egypt: literary production and intellectual trends. Studies in honor of Tito Orlandi (Rome: Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, 2011), 19-69.

I was reminded of this in recent correspondence, and so present this version of the material for comparative purposes, based on the English prepared for my work on the Two Ways Tradition. It falls well short of any scientific standard, and is not for citation, but is offered as an encouragement to anyone considering the textual history of the Didache to take this material into account, given that it diverges significantly from the received Greek version.


Now regarding apostles and prophets act thus, in accordance with the direction of the Gospel. Any apostle who comes to you should remain only a day or two. If he desires to remain a third or delays his departure he is a <false> prophet. Do not test any prophet speaking in the Spirit; do not make discernment because not every sin may be forgiven. Everyone speaking in the spirit is a prophet as long as they are manifesting the conduct of the Lord. The false prophet and the prophet shall be known from conduct. Every prophet ordering in the spirit that a table be set does not eat of it; otherwise he is a false prophet. Every prophet teaching the truth yet not practising what is taught is a false prophet. Every prophet who is tested and true, who works in human company and acts outside the law shall not be judged of you, for he will have judgement with the Lord. For so the ancient prophets acted. Do not listen should anyone say in the spirit “Give me money, or other things.” Yet if he says you should give to others, give it to him without question.

Everyone coming in the name of the Lord should be received; when you have tested him you shall know, for you shall have knowledge of right and left. You should help, as much as you are able, anyone who comes to you as a traveller, who shall not remain with you except for two or three days. If he desires and wishes to stay with you and has a useful trade, if he has no use he should not be kept. If he has no trade act according to your understanding, for an idle person should not live among you. If he does not wish to act in this way he is a Christ-tinker; beware of people like that!

Every prophet wishing to stay with you is worthy of his food. Thus you shall take every firstfruit of the winepress, of wheat, of the threshing floor, of cattle and of sheep, giving the firstfruit to the prophets for they are your <high>-priests. If you have no prophet give them to the destitute. If you make dough, take the first fruit, giving in accordance with the commandment. Likewise take the firstfruit if you open a flask of oil or wine or honey, giving to the prophets. And of money and clothing and every possession, take the firstfruit as seems right to you, giving in accordance with the commandment.

Your fasts should not be with the hypocrites for they fast on the second and the fifth day of the week, yet you fast on the Wednesday and the Friday. Nor pray like the hypocrites, <but> as the Lord commanded in the Gospel.

1 Comment

Filed under Didache

Jonathan Draper on the Didache’s use of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible

Recently appearing from Jonathan Draper is his “The Old Testament in the Didache and in subsequent Church Orders” in Siegfried Kreuzer et al. (edd.), Die Septuaginta – Orte und Intentionen (WUNT 361; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2016), 743-763.

The title is slightly misleading, in that beyond the Didache the only church-order discussed is Constitutiones apostolorum. Nonetheless this is a useful preliminary study.

On one minor, but significant, point, I find myself persuaded. Namely that Didache 9.3 does not make reference to Matthaean tradition, as I had always supposed, but is rather derived from Leviticus 22:10, which concerns those who may eat of Temple offerings. For Draper, this is the result of seeing the Didachistic community as a sanctified community. Is it Anglo-Catholicism which leads me to suggest that some sanctity also attaches to the food?

1 Comment

Filed under Didache

Collections of Church Orders

Planned as an addendum to the famous Church Order Conspectus by our host Alistair Stewart, he let me know that he had planned the same thing! So I post this as a start and let him take or leave whatsoever appropriate for his conspectus. For the moment, I only include the collections that comprise several Church Orders.


Name: Apostolic Constitutions

Original language: Greek

Extant languages with principal published editions: Greek version edited by Funk 1905 and Metzger 1985-1987; Latin fragment (VIII.41.2 till end) in Fragmentum Veronese LI (49), ed. Turner/Spagnolo 1911-1912; Arabic and Ethiopic translations and adaptions of book I-VI (see Didascalia).

Comprises: book I-VI: Didascalia, VII: Didache, VIII: Peri Charismaton, adaption of Traditio Apostolica, Apostolic Canons (extant in many languages) and other material

Origin: around 380, maybe Antioch


Name: Verona Palimpsest LV (53)

Original language: Latin

Extant languages with principal published editions: Latin edition by Hauler 1900 and Tidner 1963.

Comprises: fragments of Didascalia, Apostolic Church Order, Traditio Apostolica

Origin: 5th century


Name: Aksumite Collection

Original language: Greek

Extant languages with principal published editions: Ethiopic partially edited by Bausi 2011.

Comprises: Traditio Apostolica, material from CA VIII.

Origin: 5th/6th century


Name: Alexandrine Sinodos

Original language: Greek

Extant languages with principal published editions: Sahidic partially edited by Lagarde 1883, Arabic partially edited by Périer/Périer 1912, Ethiopic partially edited by Bausi 1995, Bohairic edited by Tattam 1848.

Comprises: Contents vary, principally Apostolic Church Order and Traditio Apostolica with Apostolic Canons in at least 2 versions. Although these pieces have received most scholarly attention, there is more to be found in SinAlex, s. Hanssens 1965, p. 35-36. Bausis edition comprises also Canones Clementis/Canones Petri, a version of the Canones Addaei and more. Not edited are the canons of the synods, where the pseudo-nicaean canons are to be found.

Origin: after CA, probably 5th/6th century


Name: Clementine Octateuch

Original language: Greek?

Extant languages with principal published editions: Syriac version translated by Nau 1912, partially edited by Lagarde 1856. Awaiting edition by Hubert Kaufhold. Arabic version only partially edited, see Riedel 1900, p. 66-74.

Comprises: Testamentum Domini, Apostolic Church Order, Traditio Apostolica and Apostolic Canons.

Origin: Syriac version translated in the late 7th century, Greek original?


Name: Kitab al-Huda

Original language: Syriac?

Extant languages with principal published editions: Arabic version edited by Fahed 1935.

Comprises: Pseudo-Nicaean Canons, Praedicatio Johannis Evangelistae, Canones Clementis/Canones Petri, Apostolic Canons, material from CA VIII and more.

Origin: Arabic version translated from Syriac by David anno 1059.


This list could be extended forever…



Bausi, A. 1995: Il Sēnodos etiopico: Canoni pseudoapostolici: Canoni dopo l’Ascensione, Canoni di Simone Cananeo, Canoni apostolici, Lettera di Pietro. 2 Bde. Leiden 1995 (CSCO 552, 553, Scriptores aethiopici 101, 102).

Bausi, A. 2011: La ‘nuova’ versione etiopica della Traditio apostolica: edizione e traduzione preliminare, in: Buzi, P. / Camplani, A. (Hg.): Christianity in Egypt: Literary Production and Intellectual Trends: Studies in Honor of Tito Orlandi.Rome 2011, S. 19-69.

Fahed, P. 1935: Kitab al-huda, ou Livre de la Direction: Code Maronite du Haut Moyen Age, traduction du Syriaque en Arabe par l’evêque Maronite David, l’an 1059. Aleppo 1935.

Funk, F.X. 1905: Didascalia et constitutiones apostolorum. 2 vols. Paderborn 1905.

Hanssens, J.M. 1965: La liturgie d’Hippolyte: ses documents, son titulaire, ses origines et son caractère. Rome 21965.

Hauler, E. 1900: Didascaliae Apostolorum fragmenta Veronensia Latina. Accedunt Canonum qui dicunter Apostolorum et Aegyptiorum reliquiae. Leipzig 1900.

Lagarde, P. 1856: Reliquiae Iuris Ecclesiastici Antiquissimae. Leipzig 1856.

Lagarde, P. 1883: Aegyptiaca. Göttingen 1883.

Metzger, M. 1985-1987: Les constitutions apostoliques. Introd., texte critique, trad. et notes. 3 Vols. Paris 1985-1987 (SC 320, 329, 336).

Nau, F. 1912: La didascalie des douze apôtres, trad. du syriaque pour la première fois. 2e éd. revue et augmentée de la trad. de “La Didachè des douze apôtres”, de la “Didascalie de l’apôtre Addaï et des empêchements de mariage (pseudo) apostoliques”. Paris 21912.

Périer, J. / Périer, A. 1912: Les 127 Canons des Apôtres. Texte arabe an partie inédit, publié et traduit en francais d’après les manuscrits de Paris, de Rome et de Londres. Paris 1912.

Tattam, H. 1848: The Apostolical Constitutions or Canons of the Apostles in Coptic with an English Translation. London 1848.

Tidner, E.: Didascaliae apostolorum, canonum ecclesiasticorum, traditionis apostolicae versiones Latinae. Berlin 1963 (TU 75).

Turner, C.H. / Spagnolo, A. 1911-1912: A Fragment of an Unknown Latin Version of the Apostolic Constitutions. (Book VIII 41-end: Lagarde 274. 26-281. 9.). From a MS in the Chapter Library of Verona LI foll. 139b-146a, in: JTS 13 (1911-1912), S. 492-510.




1 Comment

Filed under Church orders in genera(l)

The patristische Gemeinschaft again, and some terrible puns

As Dani Vaucher has already mentioned, we are both appearing at the patristische Arbeitsgemeinschaft in January. See: http://ls0091.uvt.nl/wordpress4/. The theme of the conference is Sakramentsgemeinschaft in der frühen Kirche.

My contribution is called: ἐκ Βιῶν εἰς ζωήν: groups, therapy, and the construction of text and community in the Church Order Tradition.

Official abstract: With a particular concentration on the Didache and the Didascalia apostolorum, this paper attempts to utilize the insights of group psychology, pioneered by Bion in the 1940s and developed by Tuckman, to understand the workings of early Christian communities, exploring the psychagogic techniques employed to construct and maintain communities, and the purpose behind their sacramental celebrations.

In essence, rather than exploring what the communities did, sacramentally, I assume that the purpose of their existence is to sacramentalize, and that in order to do so they had to function as communities. Thus I seek to see how the processes of community building are betrayed in the literature. It is a somewhat experimental paper, as I am not sure that anyone has previously employed the material of clinical psychology to explore early Christian communities, but it is worth a try, not the least because early Christian groupings were of a similar size to T-groups. Hopefully somebody better equipped than I will pick up the baton. As somebody said at a seminar once (I think it was Bill Tabbernee), it is better to work as part of a Gemeinschaft than to fall down one. A better wordplay than that in my title, I think.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anything else

Didache Bibliography, again

It dawns on me that I never posted an update on the saga of the Oxford online Didache bibliography.

The sordid reality is that I gave up on it, going goggle-eyed at the (apparently bizarre) formatting required. Thankfully my friend Taras Khomych came to the rescue and finished the job, becoming co-author in the process. I suppose it is now available… I’m afraid I lost all interest. Even the offer of free Oxford books could not lure me back.

Brighter news, however, in that Jonathan Draper has posted an annotated bibliography of his writings on the Didache to academia.edu. This is very useful. And of course we look forward to his (long awaited) commentary for the Oxford Apostolic Fathers series.

1 Comment

Filed under Didache

Church Order Conspectus – matter of definition

After having been added as co-author on the blog, I’d like to reply once more on the matter of defining the church order tradition, and in regards to Stewarts conspectus (see post of January 6th 2016), on which texts we could include in the list and which not.

In my dissertation, I analyze the emergence of the church orders in the context of Church history from its beginning to the early 4th century. I’ll therefore exclude here the Church Orders from the 4th to 5th centuries. I start with the premise that the texts we normally regard as Church Orders (Didache, Traditio Apostolica, Didascalia, Apostolic Church Order) share some features with regards to content. Building on Stewarts working definition, I’d propose five features:

First, the lack of a central authority in the emerging Church. Especially after the death of the Apostles, the communities were in need of a broadly accepted authority, even more so when problems went beyond singular communities or house churches. The authors present themselves as such authorities and their texts as binding for everybody.

Second, the apostolic claim and the pseudonymity. It is clearly a sign that the anonymous authors lacked authority or that they hoped to give their texts more persuasive force this way. It also originates from the fragmentation of the early church in different house communities or schools and the fact that ancient schools tended to construct some kind of lineage.

Third, questions of authority. It is apparent that Church Orders were written in contest with other Christian authorities or leaders, e.g. prophets, patrons, widows. The texts therefore deal with hierarchy and offices to regulate Church life.

Fourth, the process of canonization, which of course is complex, but most of the early Christian texts deal with the question, what is truly Christian? It leads to the formation of a canon and simultaneously, to the construction of heresy and orthodoxy. Most Christian texts deal with integration and demarcation of other doctrines or schools. So do the Church Orders, when they treat heretic literature, false teaching etc.

Fifth, problem-oriented. This is central to my argument. These texts were written to address concrete problems and questions in Christian communities, and therefore, we deal with texts written by Christians for Christians.

It is symptomatic that many modern scholars try to define the Church order tradition but fail to do so. I’m not happy neither! Steimer, Mueller, Metzger and others, in the end, always recur to the content: the attempt to “direct the conduct of Christians and of the church”. What I’d like to propose is that we should see the Church Orders in their early Christian context, and this links them to other Christian texts. There are many more texts that share all or most of the above-mentioned features. (Certainly, not all features are equally present in all texts.) And crucially, I think, some texts are not essentially different from the Church Orders, but are sometimes not called so.

We already named the Pastorals, which are in my opinion a fictional trilogy clearly with Church Order character. I’d propose the letters by the Apostolic fathers in general, although there is more differentiation necessary (we dealt with 1 Clement, but see Alexandre Faivre for reflections on other letters). But what with deutero-Pauline letters like Ephesians, Colossians, the Johannine letters?

Stewart argues that these letters were written only to one community and not to the whole Church. But then, letters were expected to be read out aloud, to circulate in a town, or sometimes to be sent on to other cities and communities (like other letters were written to be publicized, e.g. Pliny, Seneca). What is important in my opinion is that letters were clearly problem-oriented and dealt with actual questions.

The recourse to the apostolic authority is a good point too in my opinion. But where do we find it more explicit than in the deutero-Pauline letters?

Enough for now, I await vigorous opposition.

daniel vaucher




Filed under Church orders in genera(l)

Docetism and the Didachistic Eucharist

A correspondence is occurring through academia.edu which may be of wider interest. Obviously my correspondent does not have the learning that I am sure is possessed of my usual readers, but there may be something here which is useful to somebody. It has certainly exposed a hole in my own knowledge.

It started with the question:

Why is there no mention of the death of Christ in the eucharistic passages of the Didache? Is there any gnostic influence here?

I replied:

A lot of people have asked that question over the years. The problem, as I see it, is that we have allowed Paul’s witness to determine what the Eucharist means, namely a concentration on Jesus’ death. This is one strand in the nest of meanings which the Eucharist had in the different early Christian communities, and one which, when the eucharist becomes fixed in meaning and form in the third and fourth centuries, comes to be prominent. But it was not how the Didache people understood the Eucharist. Rather they understood the presence of Jesus in the meal as being a foreshadowing of his presence on earth when he comes again as messiah and judge.

I do not think we can say that it is “Gnostic” influence, though that to an extent depends on when you think the Didache emerged. Most scholars, however, believe that it had been completed by the beginning of the second century (some would put it much earlier, some slightly later) whereas gnosticism does not really emerge until a bit later than that. “Gnostic”, like “Christian” and “Jewish” in the first and second century, is a bit of a vague category, and there were varying gnostic practices with regard to the eucharist, and varying beliefs and evaluations of it. Some, like the community of the Gospel of Judas, rather looked down on it, some, like that of the Gospel of Philip, had a very exalted understanding. But I don’t think any of them saw the eucharist as a “sneak preview” of Christ’s second coming as the Didache people apparently did.

One might have thought that the end of it but the reply came back:

Does not John refer to gnostic denial of Jesus in the flesh. Also gnosticism was strong in Syria where the Didache came from, and also there may be a quote from the Sentences of Sextus, a pythagorean work.

To which I slightly intemperately responded:

1: The passages in the Johannine epistles are capable of a number of interpretations (see Streett, They went out from us). Even if this refers to Cerinthus, there is a whole question of whether Cerinthus was actually gnostic. And what, in any case, is the relevance to the Didache?
2: So what if D and gnosis share geographical space?
3: Not sure that D quotes Sextus, and Sextus is not Pythagorean, though it has some intellectual overlap. And it is certainly not gnostic.

I am not an expert on gnostic systems, but I know enough to know that it is a difficult category to use.

My correspondent was undeterred by this display of petulance and came back twice.

Is it accurate to say that the idea Jesus did not come in the flesh or did not really physically die on the cross, would show up as an omission, especially in the docetic eucharistic liturgy that spotlights the death of Christ. Is that accurate to say?


Is this a reference to docetism?
“I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” – 2 John 1:7
Does the Didache affirm the physicality of Christ or his sacrifice?

This time I responded at greater length and with greater patience:

The phrase you cite from John:

oἱ μὴ ὁμολογοῦντες Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐρχόμενον ἐν σαρκί:

Can be interpreted as not confessing

a) Jesus to be the (same as) the Christ who actually came (Cerinthian separationism).
b) Jesus to be the Messiah, who actually came. (Judaism)
c) Jesus Christ coming in the flesh (i.e. he came some other way) (docetism).
or indeed,
d) That Jesus Christ did not come at all (grammatically possible but historically unlikely!)

The problem with docetism is that it is very hard to define, and in particular the kind of “docetism” that we know from the textbooks does not seem to appear until the third century, if then. Last year I wrote an essay for a collection on docetism in which I struggled to define Ignatius’ “docetists”. It made me realize the complexity of the question, which I had not myself appreciated before I started that project. I think John is anti Cerinthian separationism, and that that is effectively docetic, but not in the “textbook” sense.

So when you ask “Does the Didache affirm the physicality of Christ or his sacrifice?” I have to answer that it makes no reference to this issue, but that does not mean that it denied either tenet, simply that it is not working in the milieux in which such issues are being considered. The fact that is derived from a law-observant setting in, possibly, Syria, and that gnostic schools derive from the same setting is not really pertinent. Thus when you first suggested that the didachistic eucharist, not making reference to the death of Christ, might thereby hide some docetic tendencies, I suggested that we should not make the Pauline eucharist normative for first century eucharistic celebrations, and that the Didache contributes another strand to our understanding of the tangled skein of roots which go to making the later eucharist.

So you ask:

Is it accurate to say that the idea Jesus did not come in the flesh or did not really physically die on the cross, would show up as an omission, especially in the docetic eucharistic liturgy that spotlights the death of Christ. Is that accurate to say?

I am guessing that what you mean is that the eucharistic liturgy spotlights the death of Christ, and so if such a reference is absent that is an indication of docetism. However, at the risk of banging on on the same old drum, the problem is with the premiss. Why should the eucharistic liturgy spotlight the death of Christ? The Didachistic liturgy spotlights the messianic presence of Christ. What it made of the death we cannot tell, but we cannot say that the death was denied, simply that the Didachistic eucharist, unlike the Pauline, did not encode Christ’s death. We may suggest, beyond this, that since the Didache seems to envisage salvation as happening in the world (firstly through realizing eschatology and finally, with Christ’s return in judgement) then this is not salvation from the world, which, giving due acknowledgement to the distinction in gnostic systems, seems to be fundamental to them all.

I don’t know enough about gnostic eucharistic rites to comment on them. I need to read, Einar Thomassen, The spiritual seed and Herbert Schmid, Die Eucharistie ist Jesus at least. Maybe I need salvation from a thousand other responsibilities to do so.


Filed under Didache

Vaucher on Draper on children and slaves in the Didache

Daniel Vaucher submits the following reaction to J.A.Draper, “Children and Slaves in the Community of the Didache and the Two Ways Tradition” in J. A. Draper and C. N. Jefford (eds.), The Didache: A Missing Piece of the Puzzle in Early Christianity (Atlanta: SBL, 2015), 85-121.

Jonathan Draper contextualizes the Haustafel in Did 4.9-11 with its exhortation to slaves to obey their masters, with the inherent contradiction, that the TWT actually asks for community of goods (Did. 4.5-8). I agree with his warning, (p. 91), “that the generalized reciprocity and egalitarian economic system developed within this early Christian community should not be romanticized”, because community of goods and slavery is an “internal contradiction”. He goes on to state (p. 96 f.) that the rules would have severe consequences if applied rigorously in a Christian Jewish community. “The first and foremost consequence of renouncing ownership of one’s property would be the disinheritance of one’s children and the manumission of any slaves one owned.”

Shortly analyzing the admonition to slaveowners that they mustn’t command their slaves in bitterness, he concludes (p. 102 f.) that “this is an uneasy compromise to be sure, but it is directed in my opinion towards keeping the ideal of general reciprocity in place.”

But I’m sceptic whether the author of the Didache really envisaged a community of goods (or egalitarian community). In my opinion, what is said about the “hohe Widerspruchstoleranz” of the CA might also account for the Didache, because it is a collection of different traditions: the admonition to slaves has a long history (pagan, Jewish and Christian) and it’s certainly not something the author came up with himself. I don’t think we can ever compare the two notions of “sharing all you have with your brothers” and “slaves, obey!” Draper is right in my opinion in pointing at the difficulty that the two chapters pose, but I don’t agree with his solution.

In my opinion, neither Didache nor any other Christian source I know really asks for community of goods, but they use the well-known topos to ask for more consequent almsgiving and charity. Compare 1 Tim, Clement quis dives and Cyprian de opere eleem.

Luke’s depiction of the community in Jerusalem as sharing everything they have is certainly idealized the same way. Community of goods (and having no slaves!) was projected onto the Golden Age, a long lost time with equality and justice. Luke’s story of the Jerusalem community actually relates to this Golden Age of Christianity, but at a time, when it’s already gone. Property and slave-owning has become normal even for the Christian communities.

Maybe there was a community of goods in an Essene circle. Interestingly, Philo’s description of the Essenes, and to some extent Josephus’ also, again relates the community (and having no slaves) to equality and justice, and therefore, idealizes it in the context of the Golden Age.

I can’t tell whether the TWT originates from the Essenes, as I’m no expert. But in my opinion it’s for sure that the Qumran documents have more severe rules to give in all property upon the entry into the community, whereas the Didache does not. Why not? If the author wanted to realize a community of goods, or at least “general reciprocity”, he could have asked for it much more forcefully. But the following admonition to slaves points more in the direction, that he accepts the patriarchal structures of his community. He – as many other Christian writers – simply uses the ideal of a community of goods to encourage charity.

1 Comment

Filed under Didache

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Church orders in genera(l)

The Arabic Didascalia

Some recent posts have moved some to ask me further about the Arabic Didascalia.

There are two recensions.

The first corresponds to Constitutiones apostolorum 1-6, with some omissions and re-arrangements. In addition it has a preface and six additional chapters. This preface is that which also appears in the E recension of the Syrian Didascalia.

The opening of this recension was given by Thomas Pell Platt (The Ethiopic Didascalia; or, the Ethiopic version of the Apostolical constitutions, received in the church of Abyssinia. With an English translation (London: R. Bentley, 1834) from one of two MSS in London. Platt further gives an account of a controversy between Whiston and Grabe in the early eighteenth century, which led to Grabe’s examination of two Arabic MSS at Oxford. (Platt, Ethiopic Didascalia, ii-viii.) Grabe gave a description of the contents of these without any publication,seeing the versional aspects of these MSS as simply corruption of the Greek.

As far as I can see the next published treatment of this material is that of Funk, who lists eight MSS for the Arabic Didascalia, giving a description of the contents, and a German translation of the preface and the additional chapters. (F.X. Funk, Die apostolischen Konstitutionen: eine litterar–historische Untersuchung (Rottenburg: Wilhelm Bader, 1891), 215-242. Two of these, in London, are mentioned by Platt, Ethiopic Didascalia, xi. The former is in Karshuni script, the latter was the source of his printing of the opening.) A Latin version of this material, with extensive annotation, is to be found in Funk’s Didascalia et constitutiones apostolorum (Paderborn: Schoeningh, 1905), 120-136. The reason for stressing that this was published is that Wilhelm Riedel, Die Kirchenrechtsquellen des Patriarchats Alexandrien (Leipzig: Deichert, 1900), 164-165, reports that Lagarde had studied the Parisian MSS and made a collation, but that this was never published! (According to Riedel this MS may be found as Lagarde 107 in the University Library at Göttingen.)

The other recension, discovered by Baumstark, is close to Constitutiones apostolorum in books 1-6, also contains most of book 7, does not include the additional chapters but does include the preface. The colophon states that this version was translated from Coptic in the thirteenth century. As such it is less a witness to the Arabic Didascalia as to a lost Coptic Didascalia. (See Anton Baumstark, “Die Urgestalt der ‘arabischen Didaskalia der Apostel’” Oriens Christianus 3 (1903), 201-208.)

Lagarde had opined that the Ethiopic version was a translation of the Arabic (my source for this being Riedel’s brief report.) Given that this is likewise unpublished, though edited and translated into English (by J.M. Harden, The Ethiopic Didascalia (London: SPCK, 1920)), it does seem extraordinary that no effort appears to have been made since that of Lagarde to study and to bring this material to light.


Filed under Apostolic Constitutions

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)

A gathering of some fragments… and the eschatological nature of the early Christian eucharist

Also from the Wiingaards site note http://www.womenpriests.org/theology/casey_02.asp. I would not like to comment at present on the author’s argument that the fourth century rediscovery of the eucharist as sacrifice “saw a subtle transformation in the Church’s eschatological imagination in which the expectation of the coming reign of God was assimilated into the present achievement of a Christian empire”, not least because I am very uncertain of the premiss that the fourth century radically altered the view of the eucharist as sacrificial. However, I do appreciate his comment regarding “the power of the eschatological symbolism that the Fractio Panis and other similar fresci present.”

I observe this contribution at this point to gather some fragments from recent posts, notably the issue of interpreting some of the material evidence for early Christian banquets (mentioned by Daniel Vaucher in his correspondence), the eschatological nature of the early Christian eucharist (as per my article on the fragment on the mountain) and indeed the ongoing work of the Wijngaards Institute in their attempt inwardly to reform the Roman church.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anything else

Slavery in the church orders: a dialogue

The following dialogue is redacted from an ongoing correspondence. It may yet be extended. Hopefully it is of interest to an audience beyond the participants.


Daniel Vaucher: a keen graduate student

Alistair C. Stewart: a grizzled old hack

The dialogue takes place somewhere in cyberspace… over the Alps

DV: Let me please introduce myself. My name is Daniel Vaucher, I’m a PhD student at University of Berne, Switzerland in Ancient History at the Center for Global Studies. My research is about Slavery in Early Christianity, and especially, as presented in the Church Orders. Whereas the research on ancient slavery is immense, these sources have not been included at all, or in older research, have been read methodologically imprudently. It is therefore that I write you, since you have been publishing so many great articles and books on the Church Orders and on the methological approach. Your Hippolyt’s Apostolic Tradition and you Didascalia Apostolorum have been very helpful to me, and I was delighted when I found not only your blog on wordpress but also some contributions on other websites with your research on Gnomai of Nicaea.

That is, if you allow me, where I have two requests. In the Didascalia Apostolorum, chapter 18, we read of rich persons and sinners whose gifts are not to be taken by the bishops. Among the long list of sinners are also included slave-owners “who make poor provision for their slaves” (your translation, Introd. p.46). This passage alone is very interesting, but my question is about your remarks on p.47 of your introduction. There, you show the afterlife of the text in the Syntagma Doctrinae (where slave owners are apparantly not mentioned) and Fides Patrum (where the text is expanded: “who is violent to his servants and does not feed them, or clothe them). In note 77, you refer to a forthcoming book, where you discuss these texts. I was just wondering where I can find your discussion and your translations of the texts (I must admit: I cannot read Coptic or Syriac).

And there lies my second question: I see in your publication list that you published a book on the Apostolic Church Order in 2006, a Book on the Two Ways in 2012, and more recently on the Gnomai of Nicaea. Unfortunately, all this books are nowhere to be found in my nearby libraries, and I cannot find them on online shops neither. I was wondering whether you have any spare books yourself which you’d be willing to sell to me, so I could continue researching on these little but very thrilling remarks about slavery in the Church Orders.

Thank you for your patience, I’m looking forward to reading your answer

ACS: First of all, let me thank you for your interest.

I am sure you have already taken account of Const app. 8.33.

The Syntagma and Fides patrum are translated in On the two ways. This is far, however, from being the last word on these texts. Mercifully this work is easy to obtain; it is available on amazon for 10 Euro.

The book on the Gnomai has not yet been published. I am waiting on the publisher who is, they inform me, waiting on the Library of Congress. There is nothing here about slaves; this, in itself, is interesting since the work is addressed to a wealthy elite who are being encouraged in charity. This is a class likely to own slaves (though I am aware that the incidence of slave-owning in Egypt is lower than elsewhere) and so one has to ask whether, in this part of Egypt and at this time (mid-fourth century) the practice had been abandoned among Christians at least.

The book on Apostolic church order is a problem. This is sad because I count it my best work! It went out of print almost immediately and is now very rare. I do not know why they don’t do a print on demand… apparently, however, it is available on a cd rom from http://www.cecs.acu.edu.au/publications.html

I am sorry not to be able to be more helpful. I would say, however, that I find your research topic very interesting and would be very glad to be kept informed of your progress. I would also be glad to enter any discussion on this topic that you propose.

DV: Good Morning and thank you very much for that quick answer and the invitation to discuss the topic. It’s an honor to being able to discuss with you the subject, and the Church Orders are so ominous, there’s plenty of stuff to discuss.

I know of Const. Apost. 8.33. I’m not sure though whether we can read “douloi” there in its literal meaning. The day off should count for everybody of course, and not only for slaves, and therefore I tend to read slaves in its metaphorical meaning as slaves of God (which would nevertheless include de facto slaves). But that’s just a suspicion, I haven’t worked on the passage comprehensively.

Besides, Const. Apost. is full of prescriptions on slaves and slave-owners, consciously expanding the sources it used by admonitions to treat slaves well, to love them as brothers etc. It seems, that Christian slaveowners in the late 4th century were even more cruel to their slaves than their 2nd to 3rd century predecessors and the compilator needed to stress mild treatment, or that in post-constantinian times more pagans converted to Christianity which needed to be rhetorically convinced of this “strange” ethics. These are all only suspicions, again.

One of the interesting expansions is concerning the impure offerings, adapted from Syr.Didasc. §18. I don’t know how the Syriac texts really is, but judging from the modern translations, it simply excludes slave-owners who don’t provision their slaves well. Apost. Const. includes a subordinate clause “speaking of beatings, hunger and kakodoulia, a term I cannot reasonably translate. Again, interesting that the author needs to explain the sentence of the Syriac Didascalia. That’s why I was so happy when I found your comment on adaptions of that passage in Syntagma and Fides Patrum. Apparantly these authors adapted the Const.Apost. passage (to my understanding more plausible than that they adapted Syr.Didasc) and again changed it fully consciously, Syntagma leaving it out, Fides Patrum explaining it again in other terms (feed and clothe). I’d wonder how you would account for such adaptions.

Sadly the Apostolic Church Order doesn’t include any prescriptions for slaves or slaveowners, as far as I know, but it’s an interesting text anyway and I’d really like to read your introduction to it to get a clearer picture of it.

To make sure: does your work on Gnomai not include the passage cited on Didascalia, p. 47 of the Coptic version Fides Patrum, which was previously used by Revillout in his collection on the Council of Nicaea? Clearly I don’t have a picture yet of what the Fides Patrum is really about. Is it a “Church Order”, too?

Again, thank you very much for your patience and your helpful answers

ACS: OK, to begin at the end! The Fides patrum is a version of the same material as Syntagma doctrinae, beginning, however, with a version of the Nicene creed with anathemas. It is, as you rightly say, preserved also in Coptic and published by Revillout in his collection. I think there is an Ethiopic version as well, though this may be of the Syntagma (I struggle to remember which is which!) Now the conclusion of the Greek Fides is wanting. I will have to look again to remind myself regarding the Ethiopic, so this will be the subject of a separate post. (I subsequently learn from my own blog(!) that the Ethiopic Fides patrum lacks the conclusion re offerings found in the Coptic.) The Coptic Fides however preserves the conclusion, so it is probable that the absence of the conclusion in Greek is a matter of accident (the last page being wanting from the scribe’s exemplar.) Thus we may assume that Fides and Syntagma had similar conclusions. Whether Fides patrum is a church order depends, of course, on the definition of church orders. Certainly there was no genre as such; Joe Mueller calls it a tradition, and although I disagree with him about the nature of the tradition I think he is right to call it so. Both the Syntagma and the Fides contain material found in other church orders, so they are members of the tradition, even if they are fundamentally monastic rules.

I don’t deal with the Fides in my work on the gnomai because I believe that they are entirely separate works, though transmitted together in the Coptic tradition through the collection of the Nicene documents, and also, I believe, arising within the same Athanasian circles. I make brief use of it in On the two ways.

So let us turn to the parallel material of CA and DA 4.6. There are parallels in both the Syntagma and in the Fides, though in the case of the latter it is preserved only in Coptic (reserving judgement on any other version.)

CA is, we know, an adaptation of DA. Thus it explains or expands the material found in DA. Next question is “Where did FP/SD get the material from?”

It is possible that they got it straight from CA as you suggest, though we are up against it date-wise given the uncertainty of dating any of these documents. It is not more plausible than the possibility that they got it straight from DA, given that the Greek original circulated in Egypt and was the subject of a Coptic translation (of which only a fragment remains.) Indeed, it is less plausible.

My own opinion, however, is that neither was the source. If you look at the context DA is an expansion of instruction to a bishop. How much is original and how much redactional is a matter of debate. It would seem to me reasonable, however, to suggest that 6.4 in nuce at least is part of the original material, since it deals with the fundamental episcopal duty. Is it not reasonable to suggest that the original instruction had circulated independently and was taken up in Egypt by the redactors of FP/SD?

What then becomes interesting is the absence of any mention of slaves or slave-owners in the version of SD, whereas they are found in FP. This in turn (if I am right in my argument that FP is dependent on SD) means that FP put this passage in. Next question is whether this was under the influence of DA/CA or an independent act of redaction on his part. It is difficult to know where to start with this, but even if it is influenced by DA/CA then there must have been some relevance of the topic to the redactor as to make him insert it. What were the local conditions? Although there was clearly less slavery in Egypt than elsewhere in the Empire, the phenomenon was still met.

I was aware of 8.33 because of its importance regarding Sabbath.

Preliminary bibliography (not counting my own work or Ethiopic versions)

P. Battifol, Syntagma doctrinae (Studia patristica 2; Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1890) (available online through archive.org)

P. Battifol, Didascalia CCCXVIII patrum (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1887) (the Fides patrum)

Plus, of course, Revillout

DV: Your statement on the redactional layer in the passage about episcopal instruction is intriguing, although I have problems to see where you would draw the line between original material and redactional work. If you considered the list of forbidden “professions” as the only expansion by the redactor, you could reasonably draw the link to TA 16 with its list of forbidden professions. But yet, these two texts, with all similarities that they have, are quite different, especially regarding the order of the list (and omissions, of course, too). I have a hard time thinking that two redactors (DA, TA) use the same source (or tradition) and include it in different contexts and still change it so considerably.

ACS: OK we will start by putting TA 16 out of the picture altogether. It is interesting, but not relevant (unless, conceivably, a list originally intended for catechumens [the context in TA] has been refitted elsewhere only to turn up in DA/CA/FP/SD, though this would be impossible to prove, and would not much enlighten us in any event.) It is true that I mention this in a footnote, but that is just a cf. for general interest rather than an explicit claim of a direct relationship.

So putting aside TA altogether, let us look at DA 4.6, so that you can see how I draw redactional lines within DA.

The text has been discussing the maintenance of orphans and their training; then it goes on to discuss the issue of how much a bishop may keep back from what he receives for his own maintenance (not the only point at which it is discussed, which indicates what a burning issue this was).

Anyone who can assist himself without disturbing the place of the orphan, the stranger or the widow is truly blessed, as this is a gift from God. 2But woe to those who have, yet falsely receive, or who are able to assist themselves but receive anyway. Anyone who receives will have to give an account to the Lord God regarding what they received on the day of judgement. 3If anyone receives on account of an orphaned childhood, or poverty in old age, or sickness or weakness or for bringing up a large number of children, he shall indeed be praised, considered as the altar of God and honoured of God, because he did not receive in vain since he diligently and frequently prayed for those who gave to him, as far as he was able, and this prayer he offered as his payment. These shall so be declared blessed by God in everlasting life. [4.4] Yet those who have, and yet receive under pretence, or otherwise are idle, and so receive rather than working as they should and assisting themselves and others, shall give an account as they have reduced the place of the impoverished faithful. 2Or anyone who has possessions and does not use them himself, nor helps others, is laying up perishable treasure for himself on earth. He is in the position of the snake lying upon the treasure and is in danger of being reckoned alongside it. 3Whoever possesses, and yet receives in falsehood, is not trusting in God but in wicked mammon. On account of wealth he is keeping the word hypocritically and is fulfilled in unbelief. Anyone who is like this is in danger of being reckoned with the unbelievers in condemnation. 4But anyone who simply gives to all does well, and is innocent. Whoever receives on account of distress and uses what he receives sparingly receives well, and will be glorified by God in everlasting life.

Then there is a summary, concluding with a doxology.

[4.5] Be constant, you bishops and deacons, in the ministry of the altar of Christ, that is to say the widows and the orphans, with all care, diligently endeavouring to find out with regard to gifts, the conduct of him who gives, or her who gives, for the support of, 2we say again, the altar. When widows are nourished by the labour of righteousness they will offer a ministry which is holy and acceptable before almighty God, through his beloved Son and his Holy Spirit. To him be glory and honour for ever and ever.

Then the subject picks up all over again; this is where the list is found:

3You should be working hard and diligently in ministering to the widows with a righteous mind, so that whatever they ask or request may speedily be given them, as they make their prayers. 4But if there should be bishops who are uncaring, and inattentive to these matters, through respect of persons, or through impure profit, or through failure to make enquiry, the account that they shall give shall be no ordinary one. [4.6] For what they are receiving for ministry to orphans and widows is from the rich, who have men locked in prison, from the wicked who make poor provision for their slaves, or act with cruelty in their cities, or oppress the poor, 2or from the impure, who abuse their bodies with wickedness, or from evildoers, or from fraudsters, or from lawless advocates, or from those who accuse falsely, or from hypocritical lawyers, 3or from painters of pictures or from makers of idols, or from workers of gold or silver or bronze who steal, or from corrupt tax-gatherers, or from those who watch the shows, or from those who alter weights, or from those who measure deceitfully, or from innkeepers who water (drinks), 4or from soldiers who act lawlessly, from spies who obtain convictions, or from Roman authorities, who are defiled by wars and who have shed innocent blood without trial, and from pervertors of judgement who deal corruptly and deceitfully with the peasantry and all the poor in order to rob them, 5or from idolaters, or from the unclean or from usurers and extortionists. 6Those who nourish widows from these will be found guilty when judged on the day of the Lord, since Scripture says: ‘Better a meal of herbs with love and compassion than the slaughter of fattened oxen with hatred.’ 7Should a widow be nourished solely by bread from the labour of righteousness this will be plenty for her, but if much be given her from iniquity it will not be enough for her. 8Moreover, if she is nourished from iniquity she will be unable to offer her ministry and her intercession before God in purity. Even if, being righteous, she prays for the wicked, her intercession for them will not be heard, but only that for herself, in that God tests their hearts in judgement and receives intercessions with discernment. 9Yet if they pray for those who have sinned and repented their prayers will be heard. But when those who are in sin and are not repentant pray before God, not only are their prayers not heard, but their transgressions are brought to God’s memory.

Finding redactional themes is more an art than a science, but I think that we can discern a distinct instruction here that the redactor has inserted. That is why the subject, having been concluded, starts up again. But what follows, with the heading, is also interesting:

That those bishops who accept alms from the culpable are guilty. [4.7] And so, bishops, flee and shun such administrations as these. For it is written: ‘The price of a dog or the wages of a prostitute shall not go up upon the altar of the Lord.’ 2For if, through your blindness, widows are praying for fornicators and for those who transgress the law and are not being heard as their requests are not granted, you will be bringing blasphemy upon the word as the result of your wicked management, as though God were not good and generous.

3Thus you should be very careful that you do not minister the altar of God from the ministrations of those who transgress the law. You have no excuse in saying ‘We do not know’, as you have heard what Scripture says: ‘Shun any wicked man and you shall not be afraid; and trembling shall not approach you.’ [4.8] And if you say: ‘These are the only people who give alms; and if we do not accept from them, from shall we minister to the orphans and the widows and those in distress?’ God says to you: ‘On this account you received the gifts of the Levites, the firstfruits and the offerings of your people, that you might be nourished and, having more than this, that you should not be obliged to accept from wicked people. 2But if the churches are so poor that those in need should be nourished by people like this, it is better that you be laid waste by hunger than receive from those who are wicked. 3Thus you should be making investigation and examination so that you receive from the faithful, those who are in communion with the church, and conduct themselves properly, in order to nourish those who are in distress, and do not receive from those who have been expelled from the church until they are worthy of becoming members of the church.

4If, however, you are in want, speak to the brothers so that they may labour together and give, so supplying out of righteousness. [4.9] You should be teaching your people, saying what is written: ‘Honour the Lord from your just labour and from the first of all your harvests.’ 2And so from the just labour of the faithful shall you clothe and nourish those who are in want. And, as we said above, distribute from what is given by them for ransoming the faithful, for the redemption of slaves, captives and prisoners, and those treated with violence, and those condemned by the mob, and those condemned to fight with beasts, or to the mines, or to exile, or condemned to the games, and to those in distress. And the deacons should go in to those who are constrained, and visit every one of them, and distribute to them with whatever each is lacking.

[4.10] But if ever you should be obliged to accept, against your will, some coins from somebody who is wicked, do not spend them on food but, if a small amount, spend it on firewood for yourselves and for the widows, so that a widow should not receive them and be obliged to buy food for herself with them. 2And so the widows shall not be defiled with evil when they pray and receive from God the good things for which they ask and which they seek, whether all together or individually, and you will not be bound by these sins.

I think that what we hear here is the voice, once again, of the redactor, and that what we are hearing from him is the disconnect between the reality of his situation and the ideal.

DV: I can clearly follow your argument and understand now how you discern between different redactional levels. It is very interesting to read the texts in that way.

ACS: In that case you can hopefully you can see the basis on which I suggest that a source has been incorporated. The fact that it re-appears elsewhere without its surrounding material in turn supports the supposition that the redactor of DA has included material which is independently employed in the Egyptian documents.

DV: I’d agree with you that DA, CA, SD and FP share a common source (or FP takes it from SD, I can’t judge) and we would only have to account for the changes within these texts.

Here I would be very cautious not to speculate about reasons why these changes happened. I doubt we can know for sure. It’s intriguing enough that an author decided to include a remark on slaveowners, and another didn’t.

ACS: OK, so we agree that there is an independent common source here.

DV: Let me reply to your statement about “disconnect between reality and ideal”.

I think that we are here at a crucial point in interpreting the church order literature (or genre, or tradition…). but this is not only the case for the 2nd redactor, but also for the 1st! The first redactor already depicts a conflict between ideal and reality, which the 2nd redactor only repeats. I compare this to, for example, 1 Corinthians, in which Paul criticizes the behavior at the Lords’ Supper. But his narrative is polemical, so it’s probably not reality as such, but polemically exaggerated. Maybe only a few Corinthians misbehaved. But what Paul suggests is not reality neither, it’s ideal, utopia. This is a fundamental difficulty in interpreting normative texts, be it apostolic letters, roman law, or Church Order Literature.

The 1st redactor already criticizes the offerings of sinners and the behavior of bishops, he already encounters that disconnect between reality and ideal. The 2nd redactor, then, repeats the same topic. Does this repetition show us that the exhortation of the 1st version of DA (or its original source) was unsuccessful? And is it not the 2nd redactor, then, that includes the loophole “about accepting “a few coins” for firewood”

I have a hard time imagining how a Bishop should be obliged to accept an offering against his will, anyway. But is this an indicator that there were essential “disconnects between reality and ideal”, between the pressure exerted by the rich Christians in the communities and the rule proposed in DA 4.6-10?

ACS: Although sometimes frustrated at having to pursue scholarship whilst responsible for a pastoral ministry, there are times when it is useful. I know, from experience, how a bishop (read, here parish priest) in a moment of weakness can accept an offering against his own will (or better judgement) in order not to give undue offence. However, you are fundamentally absolutely correct; the issue is an ongoing one, not restricted to any particular period in the development of DA. Moreover, not only is there, as you say, always a disconnect, but in the case of the church order literature there is not only a disconnect between the ideal and the reality, but there is a disconnect, very likely, between the reality described (which is really being prescribed) and the real reality!

DV: I think of the implications of that remark: a bishop who knew of a “violent” slaveowner was supposed to exclude him from the community until he was repentant. this is revolutionary. The New Testament and Church Fathers agree on mild treatment of slaves, but it never goes beyond an admonishment, no one speaks of an exclusion or excommunication. Why such a rigorous demand?

CA 4.6. speaks – as far as I can judge – more than DA of pure/impure matters. The offerings of such sinners are considered impure and “pollute” the Christian community. but again, I know of no other text that defines violent treatment of slaves as impure.

The biggest issue I have with chapter 18 of DA: if you and Schöllgen are right, it’s a chapter especially to strengthen the authority of the clergy against the rich laymen in the community, which act as patrons and sponsors for the community. Bad behaviour is not to be accepted even if the patron is responsible for the subsistence of the clergy – the author specifies that you should rather die from hunger than take money from such sinners.

But I doubt that this was ever done. The church and the clergy was dependent on these people. Slaveowning and slave-beating was normal in antiquity, so I doubt that any bishop ever excluded a slaveowner for this. I cannot imagine that this demand was ever put into practice.

ACS: You may well be right in all you say here; the stakes are being raised. And that is why there is the point about accepting “a few coins” for firewood… I doubt many bishops had the balls to exclude a powerful slave-owner, but possibly some did, and the Didascalist is encouraging this. And this is not an issue of historical interest only. How many churches even now agonize over ethical investment policies?

DV: I have two more thoughts and hypotheses regarding the patronage, to which I’d gladly hear your feedback.

TA 25-29 concerning the meals show again respect to the patronage system, as you and Charles Bobertz have pointed out. It’s rich people that invite the community at home and probably combine a Christian liturgy meal (be it Eucharistic, or agape, or cena dominica) with a deipnon/symposion. I think that, since 1 Cor 11, it’s probable that Christian meals were adapted and integrated into existing meal practices, and therefore, that the spirit of equality, that was typical for the Jesus tradition and for Paul who stands in this tradition was lost. 1 Cor and TA (to some degree, DA as well, I think) show that the rich patrons acted as hosts for such communions, and its probable that they hosted these meals to accumulate honor and to pronounce their status.

ACS: OK, so far I would agree altogether (obviously!)

DV: Such meals were of course impossible without the work of slaves (which were used to symbolize status anyway).

ACS: Impossible?

DV: Thus I think that although slaves are rarely mentioned in the church orders, e.g. in TA 25-29, they were nevertheless omnipresent, acting as slaves for the community. Its a common assumption in research on Early Christianity that Christian meals were based on equality, but I think this is wrong, considering your research on patronage in church orders, and considering Christian paintings of meals (e.g. in Roman catacombs, paintings show many banquets with slaves serving (earliest 3rd century).

What was the role of slaves in Christian communions? the sources rarely mention slaves at all, but I think the most probable answer is that they fulfilled “servile” functions in the community, as serving meals and wine, as lighting the lamp (TA 25) , acting as doorkeepers (DA 12) and so on. It is mysterious then why such works were more and more transferred to the diacon (diacon=servant!).

ACS: But were they transferred? The doorkeeper of DA is a deacon, and so is the lamp-carrier of TA25.

In my Original bishops, though this section contains little original, I argue that the diakonos was from the beginning the bishop’s agent and assistant, in particular at the provision of meals and the duties attached thereto. We find diakonoi performing various ritual functions in civic sacrifice and so it seems likely that diakonoi performed these “servile” functions in early Christian banquets likewise. It is possible, of course, that some of them were slaves, but also not impossible that the episkopos was a slave as well, particularly in those Asian communities in which presbuteroi were prominent. (And slavery language is employed, btw, by Ignatius with reference to the entire community, of slavery to the bishop. Wonderful to think that the bishop might be a slave).

To get back to the point: what seems to have happened, in the adaptive adoption of the mores of antiquity which came about in the Christian movement, is that the servile role of diakonos was taken on as a form of honor, bestowing status within the community on those who acted such. The qualifications for diakonoi in I Timothy as in the Didache are such that these are more likely to be persons of relative wealth and status in the community; the same is likely true of the diakonoi of civic sacrifice. Sure equality was relative in early Christian communities, but the rhetoric was surely not completely empty. So are the banquet scenes (assuming that they are indeed real banquets [though if they are not they nonetheless need to be recognizable as reflecting some sort of known reality]) apparently depicting slaves maybe not rather depicting diakonoi?

DV: The earliest banquet scenes we know (Dunbabin, Roman Banquet, 2003 is pretty good) are 3rd century, so they don’t really give an answer to the question either way. The archeologists I contacted assured me that they are from an iconographical point of view slaves. But again, slaves and diacons might be the same…

ACS: I think the question might be turned around: as the role of the diakonos changes and churches become more centralized, did the originally diaconal roles get transferred to slaves? Does this explain why the discussion concerning the treatment of slaves becomes more explicit in the later sources?

DV: I fear you misunderstood me. What I intended to say was that these works, known to us as servile works by the pagan culture, were transferred to diacons in the Christian communities. I don’t want to suggest a change within Christianity from slave to Diacon, but from pagan-slave to Christian-Diacon.

ACS: OK. Sorry to get you wrong in this way.

DV: But still there is the question whether diacons fulfilling servile functions were slaves or as you suggest “persons of relative wealth and status” and whether “the originally diaconal roles get transferred to slaves”, “as the role of the diakonos changes and churches become more centralized”

First of all let me note that diacons perform servile works. They do more than that, of course. But their title (servant) and their assistance to the bishop indicate a rather servile function, which nevertheless bestows honor on them.

I double-checked your chapter on the Diacons in Original Bishops. Yes, 1 Timothy and Didache request that Diacons are of relative wealth and status, but again, this is not necessarily reality. Rather, I suggest, is this a demand by two authors that wanted to see the diaconal functions being fulfilled by householders. Again, I question whether this was the reality. Both sources are normative texts that have a certain purpose, not simply depicting the situation in the congregations.

ACS: Agreed. Again the disconnect!

DV: So I ask if we shouldn’t assume that Diacons were originally the helpers of an episkopos, who, as you state, is a householder-patron who presides over a community. As far as I know we know nothing about the election or appointment of diacons in the early communities. I suggest that the bishops had a certain influence of who would be made diacon, and I assume he would have preferred his own clients – probably freedmen – or slaves to assist him in the household-based congregations. As such these diacons would have continued to do the same tasks that they did in the normal course of life. Furthermore, the honor that the diaconate bestowed on them would also have enhanced the status of the patron.

ACS: A very interesting suggestion. Indeed, we may go further and suggest that the reason why Didache and PEs would prefer a diakonos of status is that this might dilute the patronal authority of the episkopos who otherwise would appoint his/her own slaves, freedmen or other clientela.

DV: I don’t want to suggest that diacons were always slaves. Maybe some were, some weren’t. But I’d be cautious with the interpretations of 1 Tim and Did. We have few evidence that slaves had an office in the community, most known Plin. Ep. X.96; but only in the 4th century we find more and more prohibitions (Synod of Elvira, Apostolic Constitutions) that limit offices to free Christians (even excluding freedmen from offices). Epistula I by Bishop Stephanus is disputed. Given the development of the Church in general and the developing restrictions for slaves-offices in Late Antiquity, I would suggest, that slaves were more prominent in the offices in early Christianity than in Late Antiquity. 1 Tim and Did might be testimonies of an opposition to that, but both sources are really inconclusive in my opinion.

Therefore, I doubt that diaconal roles got transferred to slaves. Rather, the aristocracy tried to limit offices to free Christians (avoiding conflicts between Christian slaves and pagan slave-owners, too).

ACS: This is very interesting, and you clearly know more about this than I do. Let me then ask you, out of ignorance rather than as a leading question, how do we tie up the exclusion of slaves from office to the manner in which you describe a stricter attitude towards bad slave-owners (at least in principle) in the Constantinian period? Would be be fair to say that the church moved from being an association to being (ideationally, if not in reality) a mirror of an ideal Christian Empire? I might also ask whether you think that these provisions were more successful in excluding slaves from office than prior attempts? And whether the exclusion of slaves from office might in some way relate to the ongoing issue over the power of patrons in Christian churches? And also what the connection is between this phenomenon (the exclusion of slaves from office) and the point you raised earlier regarding CA consciously expanding the sources it used by admonitions to treat slaves well (apart from any underlying reality… I am thinking of the intellectual world being constructed by the redactor)?

DV: That is a fine set of questions. Let me start with the first one about the connection between slave-exclusion from offices and stricter attitude towards bad slave-owners. I include your last question about the CA expanding its sources to treat slaves well. First of all, I’m not sure if we can talk of a “stricter attitude towards bad slave-owners (at least in principle) in the Constantinian period”. I do think that there are more admonitions to slave owners to treat slaves well, but they have to be relativized. Mostly they simply repeat earlier material like the NT-Haustafeln. They are mostly combined with admonitions to slaves to obey and love their masters. The passage in DA 18 = CA IV.12 is outstanding, but we have already talked about that. The exclusion of cruel slaveowners is not something there is any other reference to, so I doubt it was practiced very often, if at all.
The CA, in principle, does the same thing: in VII.13.2-3 it adopts the passage of Did 4.10, but also adds the admonition to slaves. In IV.12.1-4 it really expands its source, DA, but again with admonitions to masters and slaves. In VIII.32.19 it expands again, and this is the only time there is only a reference to masters. In general, CA confirm social hierarchy.
In late, post-constantinian, antiquity, there are a few exceptional texts like the 4th homily on Ecclesiastes by Gregory of Nissa. There is a tendency in the East towards better slave-treatment, but the results are very ambiguous (s. Klein 2000).
I think your suggestion “that the church moved from being an association to being (…) a mirror of an ideal Christian Empire” points somehow in that same direction. Being a Christian Empire, governed by Christian elites, the church stabilized the social hierarchies instead of fighting them. Nevertheless there were every so often preachers that reminded of the Christian doctrine of charity, of fraternalism and of the equality of all humanity. I don’t think though that they envisaged an alternative society, but rather they fought against excesses like DA 18 = CA IV.12 maybe did. Let me also note that this is in line with the Roman Law and even late antique philosophy, that both confirm the free-unfree distinction and still admonish against cruel treatment.

Were these provisions more successful in excluding slaves from office than prior attempts?”
Again, the results are very ambiguous, and sources are sparse. With CA VIII.47.82 and the Synod of Elvira, can. 80, we have two sources against slave offices in the 4th century, with more following in later centuries (s. Klein 1999, Jonkers 1942). But we also have some testimonies by Bishops that in general confirmed slaves in offices, against the charges made by their slave-owners (s. Hieron. Ep. 82.6; Basil. Ep. 115; Greg. Naz. Ep. 56). What can we deduce for sure? Against the regulations by Church Orders and Synods (maybe only provincial, in the West?), there were still appointments to offices to which at least some Bishops approved.
What else can we assume? An office in the Church required time, so in general was only possible with the approval of the slave-owner. It also required a certain financial independence (a slave’s property always being that of his master), so it was actually only possible after manumission. That is exactly what CA VIII.47.82 demands.
But apparently there were also cases in which slave and church agreed on an office without consent and knowledge of the slave-owner!

Klein, R. Die Haltung der kappadokischen Bischöfe Basilius von Caesarea, Gregor von Nazianz und Gregor von Nyssa zur Sklaverei. Stuttgart 2000.
Klein, R. „Die Bestellung von Sklaven zu Priestern. Ein rechtliches und soziales Problem in Spätantike und Frühmittelalter“, in: Ders., Roma versa per aevum. Ausgewählte Schriften zur heidnischen und christlichen Spätantike. Hildesheim 1999, 394-420.
Jonkers, E.J. „Das Verhalten der alten Kirche hinsichtlich der Ernennung zum Priester von Sklaven, Freigelassenen und Curiales“, in: Mnemosyne 10 (1942), 286-302.

ACS: Thank you for all of this. May I add to your bibliography Chris L de Wet, The Cappadocian fathers on slave management” Studia historiae ecclesiasticae 39 (2013) article available online as http://www.scielo.org.za/pdf/she/v39n1/17.pdf

I think, if I may draw a large conclusion from the evidence here, that the church orders reflect, more or less, the reality of the situation. The church accepts and adopts the norms of wider society to itself (though there are exceptions), reflects the Christian Empire, and this in turn is reflected in the literary church orders, and also in the persons who find themselves in office. When the church is associational it is more possible, in some quarters anyway, to find slaves in office, in the same way that some associations had slave officers. But this is something which the earlier church orders do not touch (apart, perhaps from Traditio apostolica, on which I shall post separately). In general, as you note, they are content to trot out the standard line.

To be continued (no doubt)


Filed under Apostolic Constitutions, Apostolic Tradition, Didascalia Apostolorum, Other church order literature

The fragment on the mountain

Out any day now is “The Fragment on the Mountain: A Note on Didache 9.4a”. Neotestamentica 49.1 (2015) 175–188.

Here is the abstract:

This article suggests that Didache 9.4, which makes reference to a fragment that had been scattered on a mountain, and employs this image to refer to the eschatological ingathering of the church, should be understood as an allusion to a tradition held in common with the first and fourth Gospels of a mountainside feeding miracle performed by Jesus. Recognition of such an allusion both illuminates the obscurities of the text and provides a basis for understanding the Didachistic Eucharist as a proleptic participation in the messianic banquet.

If anyone has difficulty getting hold of this I can oblige.


Filed under Didache

Forthcoming book of essays on the Didache

Whilst we look forward to the publication of a volume of essays on the Didache from SBL, edited by Jonathan Draper and Clayton Jefford, I can at least share the ToC.

The title is The Didache: a missing piece of the puzzle in early Christianity. Since we have the Didache, perhaps we are entitled to ask how it can be a missing piece. The very complexity of early Christianity is such, however, that it is possible to say that every piece of the puzzle that we find alerts us to how many more we are missing.

Introduction: Dynamics, Methodologies, and Progress in Didache studies (Clayton N. Jefford)

Part 1: approaches to the Text as a Whole
Identity in the Didache community (Stephen Finlan)

Authority and Perspective in the Didache (Clayton N. Jefford)

The Distress signals of Didache Research: Quest for a Viable future (Aaron Milavec)

Children and slaves in the community of the Didache and the Two Ways Tradition (Jonathan Draper)

Reflections on the Didache and its community: a Response (Andrew Gregory)

Part 2: Leadership and Liturgy
Baptism and holiness: Two Requirements authorizing Participation in the Didache’s eucharist (Huub van de Sandt)

The Lord’s Prayer (Didache 8) at the faultline of Judaism and Christianity (Peter J. Tomson)

Pray “in This Way”: formalized speech in Didache 9–10 (Jonathan Schwiebert)

The Ritual Meal in Didache 9–10: Progress in understanding (John J. Clabeaux)

Response to essays on Leadership and Liturgy in the Didache (Joseph G. Mueller)

Part 3: The Didache and Matthew
Before and after Matthew (Bruce Brooks)

The sectio evangelica (Didache 1.3b–2.1) and Performance (Perttu Nikander)

The Didache and Oral Theory (Nancy Pardee)

From the sermon on the Mount to the Didache (John W. Welch)

The Lord Jesus and his coming in the Didache (Murray J. Smith)

Matthew and the Didache: some comments on the comments (Joseph Verheyden)

Part 4: The Didache and Other early Christian Texts
Without Decree: Pagan sacrificial Meat and the early history of the Didache (Matti Myllykoski)

Another Gospel: exploring early Christian Diversity with Paul and the Didache (Taras Khomych)

The first century Two Ways catechesis and hebrews 6:1–6 (Matthew Larsen and Michael Svigel

The Didache and Revelation (Alan J. P. Garrow)

The Didache as a source for the Reconstruction of early Christianity: a Response (Jeffrey Bingham)

Conclusion: Missing Pieces in the Puzzle or Wild Goose chase? A Retrospect and Prospect (Jonathan Draper)

1 Comment

Filed under Didache

The Two Ways Tradition in Barnabas (and the Didache)

Relatively recently published is Julien C.H. Smith, “The Epistle of Barnabas and the two ways of teaching authority” VigChr 68 (2014), 465-497.

In arguing that the two ways elements suffuse the entire epistle, Smith presents the case that the concluding chapters, summarizing the two ways, are more than simply an awkward appendix. More to the point the author argues that the two ways tradition is part of the community’s identity-formation. In particular he suggests that this bolsters the author’s identity as a figure of authority within the community

I am not persuaded on the author’s final point, not really following his argument here. Certainly there are elements within the Two Ways Tradition which lead to the formation of an authority figure out of the teacher, but I have to ask whether this is really central to the Tradition or to its purpose in Barnabas.

However, the case that the Two Ways Tradition suffuses the entire document is persuasive, and the suggestion that the Tradition contributes to the community’s identity is attractive. Possibly, having dissuaded the community from the observance of the law, and in particular those elements of law-observance which serve as identity markers (such as the Sabbath and circumcision) the author has to employ the Two Ways as an identity marker setting out the positive directions which are to be followed in lieu of those which formerly took prominence and which mark out the Christian community as distinct.

Which inevitably raises the question of whether the same is true of the employment of the Tradition within the Didache. In particular, might this provide some form of answer to the question of whether law observance was ultimately demanded of gentiles? It seems to me that if the Tradition is employed in one Christian community as a means of providing an alternative focus of identity, although this does not mean that every Christian community adopted the Tradition with the same intent, nonetheless another might do so. Certainly this is coherent with the use of the Tradition as pre-baptismal catechesis.

Post scriptum: I subsequently find that the same case that Barnabas is suffused by two-ways material is made by James N. Rhodes, “The Two Ways Tradition in the “Epistle of Barnabas: Revisiting an Old Question.” CBQ 73 (2011), 797-816. Rhodes suggests that the Barnabas community is still nomistic in outlook, even whilst rejecting ritual elements of Torah.


Filed under Didache

New technology baffles pissed old hack: the Oxford online Didache bibliography

The Didache bibliography for Oxford has “passed” peer review. This is nothing short of miraculous. “How so?” you diatribally enquire.

The Oxford bibliography site has an arcane method for submitting MSS online. Having received the peer reviewers’ comments and the editorial queries, it appears to me that after struggling with passwords, usernames, logins etc. I managed to send the wrong file! Not completely the wrong file (i.e. not a shopping list, or a begging letter to my bank manager) but what looks to me like a working draft, complete with annotations to self, uncorrected spelling, loose ends, bits in the wrong place etc. Somehow the draft got accepted with a few terse notes from the peer reviewers about the somewhat unconventional orthography! The editor at the Press will have to earn his salt and sort this out since such spare time as I have between now and August will be spent trying to cobble together something that will pass for a paper in Oxford, apart from seeing Hippolytus and the Gnomai through to publication. And all this during the English cricket season.


Filed under Didache

Further appearances of church order material in non-church order contexts

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Other church order literature

Elements of the Didascalia and the Didache in the Ethiopic versions of Traditio apostolica

One of the many peculiarities of the Ethiopic transmission of Traditio apostolica in the senodos is the inclusion within it of the apostolic decree from Acts (possibly derived from the Didache), certain provisions from the Didache (chiefly those regarding prophets and travellers, so Didache 11.3-13.7, together with Didache 8.1-2) and a short section of the Didascalia, basically most of the twelfth chapter of the Syriac version (2.57-2.58.6). Because of the disorder in this text this material appears in the middle. What is interesting is that in the new Aksumite Ethiopic text published by Bausi, the same material is found; here it is found towards the end of Traditio apostolica, following on from the directions regarding the cemeteries, and followed only by the brief concluding chapter.

I have been curious about this for some time. Now Jonathan Draper in his “Performing the cosmic mystery of the church in the communities of the Didache“, newly published in Jonathan Knight and Kevin Sullivan (ed.), The open mind: essays in honour of Christopher Rowland (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 37-57 at 45-6, suggests that the appearance of this section in the Ethiopic transmission (I think he is referring to the senodos, though he is a bit vague), and also in the Coptic version (though we should note that the Coptic version is a fragment, rather than an anthology, and begins at 10.6), is “highly significant, indicating that prophets and rules for their control were still relevant or even burning issues.” He suggests that this catena of texts was brought to Ethiopia by Asian monks in the third century, and that they had brought this catena of texts as it “reflected the nature of the mission of the monks to Ethiopia.” He suggests that these monks, moreover, were sympathetic to the new prophecy.

The Coptic version, being a fragment, may be left entirely out of consideration here. This leaves the substantive question of whether the text as currently preserved was brought as is, from Asia or elsewhere, or was excerpted within Ethiopia, or Egypt.

If Draper is correct, one would have to account not only for the material regarding prophecy being excerpted, but also for the eighth chapter, and also for inclusion of the fragment of the Didascalia, not to mention the apostolic decree. This does not seem to be explainable by recourse to the interests of pro-Montanist monastic missionaries (alluring alliteration). Then again, there is no obvious reason why the selection currently found should have been produced within Ethiopian Christianity; even if there was a need within Ethiopia for the regulation of prophets, this hardly explains the selection of the rest of the material, nor its inclusion within Traditio apostolica.

If the Aksumite text is indeed derived directly from Greek, as is most probable, then this in turn implies that the other material was also rendered directly from Greek (thus making the Ethiopic texts more important witnesses for the text of the Didascalia than previously realized). It also implies that the selection might have been made not in Ethiopia but in Alexandria, at an earlier stage in transmission. The question of the purpose of its anthologizing and inclusion among the other church order texts thus remains unanswered, though I am glad that Draper has drawn attention to the issue.


Filed under Apostolic Tradition, Didache, Didascalia Apostolorum

Didache Bibliography

As intimated earlier, I have received an invitation to produce an annotated bibliography on the Didache.

This is for the Oxford Bibliographies in Biblical Studies series. I was not aware that the Didache was in the Bible, but then again I am no expert.

And I made a start today! Pretty tedious for the most part, but hopefully I will find a few obscurities to blog about on the way, and may enjoy re-reading some stuff. I am thinking that I should at least re-read the classic works of Harnack and Audet. This will give me an excuse.

In the meantime I find that http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/didache.html has a bit of a bibliography, with some links to online material.

1 Comment

Filed under Didache

Dixit Dix de Didache

Having unaccountably lost my copy of Batiffol’s edition of the Greek Syntagma doctrinae I looked online to see if a digital copy were obtainable (apparently, none is.)

However, I did turn up a curio from the history of scholarship, namely Dix on the question of whether Didache 1.4 which reads: ἐάν τίς σοι δῷ ῥάπισμα εἰς τὴν δεξιὰν σιαγόνα should include the word δεξιὰν. He suggests that this might not be the case on the basis of the citation of the text in Isaac of Nineveh’s Sententiae which omits the word. This is, he notes, the reading of the Diatessaron. The article is within the public domain and may be viewed at http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/jts/034_242.pdf.

Whereas Isaac may be a long way removed from the Didache (I recollect that, when preparing my book on the Two Ways, I decided that this text was too remote from the tradition to warrant inclusion) this was sufficient to suggest to Dix that the Didachist was indebted to the Diatessaron; this was in support of the theory (originating with Armitage Robinson and then in wide circulation) that the Didache was a product of the late second century. As part of this he has to argue that the sectio evangelica was part of the original Didache, and in this context grabs evidence from the Syntagma doctrinae which appears to cite the sectio evangelica of the Didache. On this basis, he concludes that the sectio was part of the original, and that the Diatessaronic reading is preserved by Isaac on the basis that he may have had an old text.

The basic argument of dependence on the Diatessaron and the primacy of the Two Ways Tradition as preserved in the Didache (as opposed to its representation in the Doctrina and in Apostolic Church Order) is not worth refuting. As to whether δεξιάν should be omitted from the text of the Didache at this point, quite apart from the Diatessaron, the witness of Isaac is interesting but hardly conclusive. Nonetheless, since I have just received a commission for an annotated bibliography of the Didache (to be blogged on a later occasion, I am just returning from an extended rest) it is interesting to find this curio to add to the collection, and to start the process.

1 Comment

Filed under Didache

The Fides patrum in Ethiopic and the church order tradition

I have just read the Ethiopic version of the Fides patrum from the Ethiopian senodos edited by A. Bausi, “La versione etiopica dealla didascalia dei 318 niceni sulla retta fede e la vita monastica” in Ugo Zanetti and Enzo Lucchesi (edd.) Aegyptus Christiana (Geneva: Patrick Cramer, 2004), 225-248.

Although I have not made a detailed comparison with the Greek text (which I discuss and translate in my On the two ways: life of death, light or darkness (Yonkers NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary, 2011), I observe that the conclusion lacks the instruction to priests found in the Greek, as well as the conclusion found in the Coptic version discussing, chiefly, the reception of offerings from “tainted” sources. However, we may also observe that the conclusion is entirely coherent. We are thus led to suggest that, like the church order material to which the text is closely related (although Bausi describes it as a monastic rule), this document was “living literature” and prone to alteration and expansion in its transmission. I am increasingly convinced that insofar as “church orders” are a coherent genre (possibly they are not… in spite of the name of this blog) then this, as well as other ascetic literature from 4th century Egypt, should be included within it.

The Greek version has clear echoes of the Two ways tradition (though apparently not transmitted through the Didache, as the sectio evangelica is absent), and the Coptic conclusion in discussing the issue of “tainted” offerings picks up a subject discussed in the Didascalia.

At present I am working on the Gnomes of Nicaea, a text transmitted alongside the Fides patrum in the Coptic manuscript tradition as part of a collection of material attributed to the Council of Nicaea, which is equally to be considered a relative of the church order tradition. More will be said on this in due course.

Leave a comment

Filed under Other church order literature

Distinguishing agape and eucharist in the Didache

In response to my recent article on Didache 14 in Questions liturgiques 93 (2012) 3-16 (I have tried to upload my copy but the publisher has put some kind of security control on it to prevent me doing precisely that!) Jonathan Draper, among others, has asked whether it is really possible to distinguish eucharist and agape in this earliest period.

That is the critical question, but I would argue strongly that a distinction is entirely possible.

Some riders however… In part it depends on the definition of the terms. I am not attempting to define eucharist with reference to the presence of any “words of institution” or any reference to the Last Supper tradition. Nor am I distinguishing it from an agape on the basis that the agape only was a Sättigungsmahl. Indeed the whole thrust of the argument in my article that takes it as axiomatic that chapters 9-10 are eucharistic indicate that I am not working with any such misleading or dated definition. Clearly chapters 9-10 legislate for eucharistic practice in the context of a meal and without reference to the Last Supper.

Rather I would suggest in the first instance that the term is generic… hence I speak consistently of eucharistic meals. The term agape should likewise be employed generically. We may define eucharistic meals as meals in which some communion with a divine or spiritual being is sought. Thus, quite apart from gatherings on Sabbath/Sunday we may class as eucharistic the annual gathering of the Quartodecimans and meals taken at martyr’s shrines. There may be others. Agapic meals are less easy to define, and less well attested, but may count as pretty well any meal at which early Christians gathered to enjoy communion with each other at table. We may count the cena pura kept by Marcionite communities as such, though again the genus may well include a number of species.

Leave a comment

Filed under Didache