Tag Archives: Didascalia Apostolorum

Sklaverei in Norm und Praxis: review

I have at last received my copy of Daniel Vaucher’s book Sklaverei in Norm und Praxis: die früchristlichen Kirchenordnungen (Hildesheim: Olms, 2017). My thanks to Dr Vaucher for his kind note, and for sending me a second copy after the Post Office managed to lose the first. I am sorry that it has taken so long for a review to appear.

The object of the work is to understand Christian understandings of slavery through a proper examination of Christian sources, which has not been undertaken with sufficient rigour, particularly not by recent studies. Although there is a focus on church orders, the author has an extensive knowledge of other early Christian literature; thus the opening, which refers to the Vita Polycarpi and to the Acta Andreae, plunges us directly into the world of unreflective Christians in antiquity.

After setting out the purpose of the work in the first chapter, in the second chapter Vaucher describes and contextualizes the church orders, setting their development in the world of a developing, urbanizing, diverse Christianity. On the basis of function the church orders are seen as prescriptive Christian texts, setting out an ideal which may be in tension with the reality. Hence the title of the work sees Christian discourse regarding slavery setting norms which are not actually achieved. Beyond this, however, the following chapters manifest the extent of unanswered questions regarding early Christianity and slavery. The study is not, however, restricted to the church orders, but to other prescriptive material, or material which might be read as prescriptive. Thus the third chapter focusses on Paul. Vaucher demonstrates the variety of unanswered questions regarding slavery in the Pauline corpus, in particular in the interpretation of Philemon. His overall suggestion is that Paul has an ideal which is eschatological in goal, but which is also not manifested. Such a failure is manifested in the Corinthian Gemeindemahl and in the treatment of slavery. This is rather better than “love-patriarchalism” as an understanding of Paul’s approach, since it takes account of the eschatological nature of the real Christian communities, and sees the disappearance of slavery as part of the yet-unrealized Kingdom.

This leads to the deutero-Pauline literature in the fourth chapter, as in this literature we see something similar to the church orders, as well as the first treatment of the church orders’ directions concerning slavery. Vaucher suggests that the Pauline tension is unresolved, and that there are two streams in early Christianity, broadly “libertarian” or ascetic, a stream later represented by monasticism, and a more bürgerlich stream represented by the church orders as in previous generations by the Haustafel. It is in the course of this chapter that there is one of the many interesting discussions of detail, here in particular over the question of the purchase of slaves by congregations in order that they may obtain their freedom. Vaucher points to the very different versions of the same material in Didascalia 2.62.4 and its parallel in Constitutiones apostolorum, where the latter text indicates the possibility that slaves might be purchased. This is read in the light of the earlier prohibition on the purchase of slaves’ freedom from common funds in the Ignatian Ad Pol., indicating that the practice of post-Constantinian Christianity was different, by virtue of living in a different ecclesial contest.

The theme of lack of resolution continues as the fifth chapter examines the tension which exists between the rhetoric (and ritual) of baptism and the reality of slavery. Here Vaucher raises, and in my opinion answers correctly, a particular issue regarding the demand in Traditio apostolica for a “master’s reference” for a slave-catechumen. The same chapter also considers slave office-holders, though this might better have been discussed separately, as Vaucher returns in a subsequent chapter to the matter of the catechumenate, pointing out in the sixth chapter the extent to which the “forbidden professions” of Traditio apostolica might tend to exclude slaves. The author might reasonably respond to this criticism that the chapter continues the theme of the book overall, which is the tension between the institution of slavery and the practice of slavery; indeed, although the matter of slaves as office-holders has been discussed to some extent already in this blog, the discussion in the book goes far beyond this, suggesting that exclusion was a later phenomenon, but suggesting that certain offices, particularly in the earliest period, might principally have been held by the slaves and freedmen of the episkopos-patron. The brief discussion of the role and origin of the reader is particularly enlightening here.

As already noted, the sixth chapter concerns potential exclusion of slaves from the catechumenate on the basis of forbidden professions. Again, this is an unnoticed area which Vaucher has done well to observe. The chapter may be read alongside the useful appendix setting out the “forbidden professions” as found in the various sources.

The seventh chapter turns to the treatment of slaves. Again the tension within the Christian message and the practice of slavery emerges. As is the case in many of the chapters, a host of sub-questions emerges. In particular the observations regarding the extent to which both the pseudo-Ignatians and the Consitutiones apostolorum expand their Vorlagen considerably in encouraging the proper treatment of slaves, and introduce extensive material which is not in the documents which they are reworking, cause Vaucher to suggest that the authors are facing a real issue in their Antiochene context, and that the poor treatment of slaves is still an issue three hundred years into the life of the Christian movement. The same chapter observes the similarities and differences between the catalogues of those from whom gifts are to be refused in the Didascalia, the Constitutiones apostolorum and in the pseudo-Athanasian material such as the Fides patrum, in particular with regard to the treatment of slaves. The literary puzzle is perhaps insoluble, but its observation is worthwhile, and the extent to which it forms a tradition is noteworthy.

A final chapter compounds the puzzle of unanswered questions by posing the question of slavery and sex, in a society in which slaves were the sexual property of their owners. Could a slave employed for a master’s sexual satisfaction become a Christian or would this pollute the body to an extent that such a person is of necessity excluded? Again one feels that this topic might better have been discussed in the context of catechumenate, but the questions are well-posed nonetheless.

The conclusion repeats the extent of the problematic, and emphasizes the extent to which the institution of slavery goes unquestioned in the Christian sources, even whilst standing in tension to the Christian Gospel.

There are also appendices and excursus. Reference has already been made to the appendix laying out the various versions of the “forbidden professions”; this is preceded by an extensive appendix setting out the various church orders in their interrelated confusion. The interest of this to the readers of the blog is obvious.

The main argument is valuable, but the value of the work goes beyond the overall argument, firstly in the manner in which it provides a worked example of the importance of the church orders as historical documents and at the same time their limitations and secondly, as already indicated, in the individual discussions of disputed and unclear points.

As an example of such, I may take that of concubinage in Traditio apostolica. Vaucher notes the particular arrangements for concubines in Traditio apostolica 16, and the recognition here of the social (and legal) reality of slave-concubines. However, he notes the oddness that there is no mention of the controversy with Kallistos, who had allowed the de facto marriage of free women and enslaved men, something criticized roundly in the Refutatio. It emerges from Vaucher’s discussion that Kallistos’ intention was that Christian women were to have Christian spouses, and thus that there might be difficulty for them to find Christian husbands of their own social status. Thus although Vaucher, who rightly recognizes the “aristokratische Besinning” of Hippolytus, determines in the end that the situation is unclear (249), his discussion actually points us in the direction of some solution here, in that the chapter concerns catechumens, rather than established Christians. As such the situation would not arise, as these male slaves would already be Christians, rather than being catechumens. I would have to revise my opinion of the text of TA 16.14b (derived from the Greek epitome) and now see this as a gloss. In this respect we may also note the important text Constitutiones apostolorum 8.34.13, to which Vaucher directs our attention.

The wealth of such detailed discussions is what makes the work so valuable. Thankfully it is equipped with a Stellenregister to ease the reader who wishes to explore the individual aspects of the texts, as well as an excellent bibliography, which testifies to the depth of the research. It is also printed in a remarkably clear typeface. However, given the value of the contents and the fact that they have taken a subvention for publishing, one might have hoped that Olms would have produced a sturdier product. But the publishers are our masters.

Beyond giving the book a wholehearted commendation and its author warm congratulations, I may perhaps be allowed a personal note of thanks. In a West Indian context we cannot forget the legacy of slavery and the evils which accompanied it, and struggle with the manner in which the Christian churches, particularly the Anglican churches, were complicit in its continuation. Vaucher’s work at least reminds us that this was not a perversion introduced in the seventeenth century but that such confused thinking was a legacy of the earliest period of Christian development.

 

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The smell of baking bread: Mart. Pol. 15

In Didascalia apostolorum we read: “You set pure bread before him, which is formed by fire and sanctified by the invocation, offering without demur and praying for those who sleep.” (DA 6.22.2.)

In Traditio apostolica 22 we read: “On the first of the week the bishop, if he is able, should himself distribute to all the people with his own hand, while the deacons break. And the presbyters break the baked bread.”

Dix, (Treatise, 44) suggests that “the bread they are given” should be read instead of “the baked bread”— reading wefoya (delivered) rather than ‘afoya (baked)— a reading which is found in two manuscripts of the later Ethiopic text. Botte (Tradition apostolique, 61 n. 3) suggests that since the same phrase appears in the Ethiopic version at chapter 26 below “baked” must be the correct reading, though he is at a loss as to what the term means. Moreover, the appearance of “baked” in the Aksumite Ethiopic means that “baked” should certainly be read. Similarly the Aksumite version has “baked bread” in TA 26.

In previous publications I have noted this emphasis on the fact that bread is baked, and leaned towards the suggestion that bread might be baked in situ, particularly in the cemeteries (in my works on Didascalia and Vita Polycarpi certainly, and perhaps elsewhere.) The context in Vita Polycarpi was the report that the burning Polycarp gave off the smell of baking bread (Mart. Pol. 15.)

In an increasingly rare lightbulb moment it occurred to me that this may be a reference (and implicit contrast) to the practice of sacrifice. Bread (and Polycarp) are offered, and baked, in the same way that animal sacrifices were cooked with fire. I am also aware of burnt grain offerings, particularly at Roman tombs, but admit that I do not know enough about sacrificial practice to be certain on this point. Nonetheless it all adds up.. If anyone can point me to a beginners’ guide to the practice of ancient sacrifice in the early centuries of the Common Era, particularly in funereal settings, with big print and lots of pictures (or else, with reliable primary source material!) I would be gratified indeed. For the present, I withdraw my suggestion that bread was baked on site and accuse myself of a further error.

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Didascalia apostolorum 2.26.4

Dani Vaucher’s comment below on the “breaf” abstract from the paper on Didascalia 9 has got me thinking.

The reconstruction of passages from Greek writings preserved only in ancient translations is an uncertain business; if only I had paid more attention in Greek prose composition classes as an undergraduate! Didascalia apostolorum 2.26.4 (from chapter 9 of the Syriac) is of particular interest.

The Constitutiones apostolorum reads: ὁ μὲν οὖν ἐπίσκοπος προκαθεζέσθω ὑμῶν ὡς θεοῦ ἀξίᾳ τετιμημένος (CA 2.26.4). That it is highly paraphrastic at this point (as an adaptation, rather than a translation, of the Didascalia) is evident from both the Latin and the Syriac versions of the Didascalia.

The Latin reads: “hic locum dei sequens sicuti deus honoretur a vobis quoniam episcopus in typum dei praesedet vobis” whereas in the Syriac we read: “He leads (ܡܕܒܪ) you in the place of (ܒܕܘܟܬܐ) the Almighty one. He is to be honoured by you as God (ܐܝܟ ܐܠܗܐ) since the bishop sits among you in the place (ܒܕܘܟܬܐ) of God almighty.”

The statement about being in the place of God is taken by the Syriac translator as being something that the bishop undertakes, through the addition of an object, whereas the Latin understands this to mean that the bishop has second place to God. The question is that of which Greek word might lead to either rendition possibly through misunderstanding. We may suspect the presence of a participle, given that both versions employ participial forms, rather than a simple preposition. One possibility is the aorist participle of ἀλλάσσω, ἀλλαχθείς, meaning that the bishop exchanged places with God; the suggestion, in turn is that the Syriac translator read this as ἀχθείς.

The distinction between the two versions in the second part of the phrase is easier to explain.

We may certainly suspect that the Latin is correct in reading typum, and that this has been read by the Syriac translator as τόπος, perhaps on the basis that τόπος has appeared immediately beforehand. At Ignatius Magn. 6 we read of the bishop that he is προκαθημένου… εἰς τύπον θεοῦ. Although the MS tradition reads τόπον here. Lightfoot suggested τύπον, and is recently followed, very persuasively, by Brent.

As a result I would venture as a retroversion: ἀλλαχθείς τοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ τόπου, ὑφʼ ὑμῶν ὡς θεοῦ τιμῆσθω, προκαθημένου τοῦ ἐπισκόπου εἰς τύπον θεοῦ. The use of the genitive absolute in the last clause, rather than ἐπεί or ἐπειδή or some similar conjunction, is a punt on the hypothesis that the Didascalist was citing Ignatius directly. To be honest the use of a conjunction is more probable, given the quoniam of the Latin and the ܐܠܐ of the Syriac, which rather indicates that he is not citing Ignatius directly.

At the end of which we ask whether we have really learnt anything. Had I been persuaded by this exercise that the Didascalist had direct knowledge of Ignatius that would be worthwhile. Otherwise it has simply exercised the little grey cells for a while without a great deal in the way of progress.

What is perhaps most interesting is that the Constitutiones apostolorum manifestly do not cite Ignatius. Were the redactor pseudo-Ignatius, as we are often told he is, then that would be decidedly odd.

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Deaconesses in Testamentum Domini

I was recently intrigued to notice that in the Church of England’s lectionary Macrina was kept alongside Gregory of Nyssa on 19th July, and described as a deaconess.
As I prepared for mass I wondered what the evidence was for this characterization, and how this might fit with the role and function of deaconesses in Testamentum Domini, which I believe to derive from fourth century Cappadocia, and thus to try and see Macrina in this light.
The only study I can find (though I am open to correction) is Sister Teresa CSA, “The development and eclipse of the deacon abbess” in E.A. Livingstone (ed.), Studia patristica 19 (Leuven: Peeters, 1989), 111-116; although Sr Teresa makes no use of Testamentum Domini, she does concern herself with the Cappadocians and with Macrina. She charts a process of development within forming monasticism in which deaconesses might be given charge of groups of consecrated virgins. As to Macrina, she is rightly cautious, whilst open to the possibility that she was a deaconess. In my opinion the evidence is thin to the point of non-existence.
Deaconesses make occasional appearance in the Testamentum. They stand within the veil, and receive communion before other women but after all others (1.23), and are classed with the readers and subdeacons in the deacon’s litany (1.35). They are to be trained by the widows (1.40). They have a residence near the gates of the church (1.19). Interestingly it is considered possible that they may be among latecomers to church (1.36). Finally we should note that the only liturgical duty attributed to them is to carry communion to women who are sick (2.20), by contrast to their role in baptism in the Didascalia, which in the Testamentum is the task of the widows (Testamentum Domini 2.8, in an addition to the Hippolytean original).
However, although the deaconesses appear occasionally and intermittently it does not appear that they are intrusions from another source, like the reader in Didascalia apostolorum 2.28.5 or the subdeacon in 2.34.3. Rather a coherent pattern emerges in which deaconesses are clearly junior in the hierarchy, and are ranked behind widows, who are the leading female ascetics in this community.
Rather speculatively, and in line with the evidence provided by Sr Teresa of Cappadocian deaconesses having charge of groups of virgins, I suggest the possibility that these deaconesses are the younger female ascetics, or those in charge of them. Hence they are trained by the widows, and rank behind them, on the basis of age, whilst having a recognized place in the ascetic hierarchy. Somehow one doubts that Macrina fits this mould, giving further support to my suspicion of those who compiled the Church of England’s calendar.

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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!

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Benga on the Didascalia

I have just read two articles by Daniel Benga on the Didascalia, “The baptismal ethos of the third-century Syrian Christianity according to Didascalia apostolorumRevista teologica 93 (2011), 183-200 and “’Defining sacred boundaries’: processes of delimitation from the pagan society in Syrian Christianity according to the Didascalia apostolorumZAC 17 (2013), 526-559.

In each Benga observes the obvious, namely that for all the care taken in the Didascalia to distinguish Christians from Jews, the fundamental distinction which underlies this is the distinction between Christians from pagans, a fundamental distinction shared with Judaism. Given, however, that the overwhelming majority of society was neither Christian nor Jewish, the Christian has to negotiate a complex world. Although obvious, it is an observation worth making.

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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…

 

Literature:

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.

 

 

 

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