Tag Archives: Didascalia

The Didascalia and the pericope adulterae

Dean Inge of St Paul’s was reportedly asked by EC Ratcliff whether he was interested in liturgy. ‘No,’ said the Dean, ‘and neither do I collect postage stamps.’

I would add that neither do I indulge in NT textual criticism (despite David Parker being one of my earliest teachers).

So I was surprised to be asked my opinion by a correspondent on whether the Didascalist knew the Pericope adulterae. There is reference to this, or to something comparable, at DA 2.24.3. But I have no opinion as to what. NB however my belief that the reading of CA and Lat. should be preferred to that of Syr. (which more closely represents the canonical text.)

For those who are interested do note https://danielbwallace.com/2013/06/26/where-is-the-story-of-the-woman-caught-in-adultery-really-from/ (though this is old news). This post also contains a link to Hughes’ article in Novum Testamentum.


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Jews for Jesus in the Didascalia!

Karin Zetterholm, “Jesus-Oriented Visions of Judaism in Antiquity” Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis 27 (2016), 37-60, is another off the production line of the “Ways that never parted” factory. What is positive about this arm of scholarship is the recognition of a more diverse Judaism than the rabbinic sources might lead us to recognize. What is less positive, however, is a failure to recognize that the boundaries, though resistant to modern cartographic effort, were real to those who experienced them. Were they not, then literature like the Didascalia would not have been produced.

Zetterholm argues that the Didascalia is “Jewish”, and that the account given by the deuterotic redactor might be understood within a Jewish frame.

Although the author claims to be a Jew, calling himself a disciple ‘from the House of Judah’ (DA 26 407:248/ 408:230), this is often dismissed by scholars as being part of the literary fiction that attributes authorship to Jesus’ original disciples. However, some scholars have argued that his extensive knowledge of Jewish traditions and practices beyond what is found in the Bible, and his use of ‘rabbinic-like’ hermeneutics indicate that the author was a Jew.

We can hardly take part of the apparatus of pseudonomy as autobiographical; the redactor’s statement that he is “from the house of Judah” is no more autobiographical or credible in itself than the claim that these disciples met in Jerusalem to write the Didascalia. Certainly there is knowledge of “rabbinic-like” hermeneutics, but this tells us nothing of the redactor’s birth. Even if he is Jewish by descent, why is that significant? Birth does not give access to a halachic or haggadic tradition. What, indeed, does a statement that an author or redactor is Jewish actually mean in the context of this train of thought? The concern for Jewish identity grounded in birth indeed seems to me to be a peculiarly recent concern. What is of concern to the redactors of DA is praxis (law observance, or not) and belief.

She goes on:

He (the redactor of DA) calls the members of his community ‘Christians’, a fact that would seem to make the Didascalia difficult to claim for Judaism, but we should not automatically assume that ‘Christian’ here means non-Jewish. For us, ‘Jewish’ and ‘Christian’ are mutually exclusive categories, but the author of the Didascalia rather seems to use ‘Christian’ in the sense of a specific kind of Judaism – a subgroup within Judaism who believes that Jesus is the Messiah.

It is nonetheless a subgroup which includes gentiles. As such it is a strange type of Judaism, if Jewish birth is the critical factor in determining who belongs. The claim of the redactor that the real Jews are actually the Christians is in any event not an attempt to be inclusive, but is a supersessionist claim, like that of Melito (Jewish by birth!) that the church is the true Israel.

None of this intended to deny that the “parting of the ways” was extended and untidy, that there were diverse groups defining themselves variously as Christian and Jewish (who may have been separated from other groups also claiming to be Jewish or Christian), that some Christian were law-observant, or indeed that the intellectual world of at least one redactor of DA was close to that inhabited by contemporary Jews. But to suggest that DA is evidence that the distinction between Jew and Christian in fourth-century Syria is artificial is to miss the point altogether.

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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




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The Bishop of Rome and the study of the church orders

It’s not often that the Didascalia (although not named) makes the news!




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Bryan A. Stewart, Priests of my people

Recently published by Peter Lang, what appears to be a very light revision of the thesis which may be read at http://www.scotthahn.com/download/attachment/2468.

To quote the beginning of the publisher’s information (the rest of which may be seen at http://www.peterlang.com/index.cfm?event=cmp.ccc.seitenstruktur.detailseiten&seitentyp=produkt&pk=82164) “This book offers an innovative examination of the question: why did early Christians begin calling their ministerial leaders «priests» (using the terms hiereus/sacerdos)?”

On the basis of a speedy read my initial reaction is there is certainly something here and the proposal is certainly superior to that of Hanson which it seeks to replace, though I feel somehow that Stewart has not told the whole story. Nonetheless the observation of the possibility that priestly imagery has some connection with the maintenance of sacred space, which is Stewart’s fundamental argument, is perhaps part of the story which might be told.

With chapters on the Traditio apostolica and the Didascalia apostolorum it cannot fail to be interesting!

PS: I am not related, to my knowledge, to the author.

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Getting wet in 3rd-4th century Syria

Recently posted to academia.edu, an essay by Annette Yoshiko Reed entitled “Parting Ways over Blood and Water? Beyond ‘Judaism’ and ‘Christianity’ in the Roman Near East”, another piece along the lines of “the ways that never parted.”

I will not, here and now in any event, expatiate on the fundamental thesis, but note that there is some consideration of the Didascalia within this essay, in particular the issue regarding ritual washing. The essay rams home the manner in which the rabbis and the Didascalist redactors inhabit parallel (and possibly overlapping) intellectual worlds within the same physical space. In particular I note the comment in Tos Ketuboth 7.6 expanding a comment in M Ketuboth 7.6 regarding wives who are put away without their ketubah. Already the Mishnah notes a woman who speaks with a man in the street (cf. DA 1.8.26) and to the Mishnaic categories the Tosefta adds “who washes and bathes in the public baths with just anyone” (cf. DA 1.9).

Beyond quotidian bathing, and turning to the more central (for one redactor of DA at least) issue of ritual bathing, Reed states: “Although typically read in terms of a Christian rejection of Jewish ritualism or legalism, the concern for repeated washing is also paralleled among some Rabbis of their time”, citing Tos Yadayim 2.20. I cannot see how such a conclusion is derived from this text, but note it nonetheless as indicating a debate within Jewish circles, even as DA indicates a similar debate within its own Christian grouping.

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Daniel Vaucher on controlling bishops

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

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

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

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

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