Tag Archives: Epiphanius

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.


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Consider a new Church Order

I recently discovered an interesting article by F. Stanley Jones in A. Özen (ed.), Historische Wahrheit und theologische Wissenschaft, Gerd Lüdemann zum 50. Geburtstag, Frankfurt 1996, pp. 87-104. In “The Genre of the Book of Elchesai”, the author collects the fragmentary evidence on the Parthian book of revelation called “book of Elchesai/Elxai”, that was brought to Rome under a “heretic” called Alcibiades towards the end of the 2nd century. Fragments and polemics remain in the works of Hippolyt and Epiphanius as well as in Origens Homily on Psalms 82, preserved in Eus. h.e. 6.38.

Jones argues against former common sense that the Book of Elchasai was an apocalyptic text. Without entering the debate about the nature of Church Orders, he states: “the primary focus of the writing is on regulating the life of Christian, which is a reasonable starting point for defining a church order.” He then lists the fragments that address the life of the Christians, which focus on the renunciation of idolatry “with the lips, not the heart”, baptism, impartation of the secret prayer, astrological instructions, instructions on the direction of prayer,  the avoidance of fire, and more.

He adds further arguments to strengthen his case: the author, who seems to be a “religious authority”, uses first person singular to adress his readers, that is, the congregation. He adds examples to support the casuistic logic – and probably to convince his readers of his demands. Finally, “Elchasai was one of these leaderss who, similar to Paul, was engaged in the process of ordering early Christian life, only Elchesai wrote an actual church order rather than merely sporadic letters to congregations.”

I will have to take some time and check the fragments as well as the secondary literature that links the book of Elchasai to Judaism and Manichaism in order to fully evaluate Jones’ arguments. I tend to agree with Jones’ view, but given the fragmentary state of the book, who knows what the original was like? But the article was very interesting to read; it is a reminder that we should open our eyes in the search for more and lesser-known Church Orders.

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