One baffling aspect of the mediaeval Ethiopic version of Traditio apostolica is the presence of an additional baptismal rite, apart from a version of that found in other versions of Traditio apostolica (ed. Hugo Duensing, Der Äthiopische Text der Kirchenordnung des Hippolyt (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1946), 81-127.)
Alessandro Bausi, “The baptismal ritual in the earliest Ethiopic canonical liturgical collection” in Heinzgerd Brakmann et al (ed), Neugeboren aus Wasser und Heiligem Geist”: Kölner Kolloquium zur Initiatio Christiana (Münster: Aschendorff, 2020), 31-83 has now published a version of a clearly closely related baptismal ritual from the Axumite collection from which he derived the new text of Traditio apostolica. I have yet to explore it in detail, but since I have at present, as a result of the ongoing discussion with Maxwell Johnson about the interrogation in the Egyptian rite, a particular interest in the introduction of the syntaxis into Egyptian baptismal rites (generally suggested to have taken place in the fourth century on the basis of the appearance of such a syntaxis in Canones Hippolyti, evidence which has now disappeared with the denial of an Egyptian provenance to this document) and in the role and presence of the five-membered creed found in the Deir Balizeh papyrus and elsewhere (including Epistula apostolorum) as part of my overall argument that declaratory creeds are no less primitive than interrogatory creeds (though the language is misleading), I took a particular interest in the baptismal confession found in the Axumite ordo.
Essentially this baptismal confession is the same as that found in the present Coptic rite, namely the declaration of the five-membered creed, followed by a brief interrogation: “Do you believe?” “I believe” repeated three times. What is notable, however, is the absence of any syntaxis. This implies a rather later entrée of the syntaxis into Egyptian rites (it is, for instance, present in the current Coptic rite) than previously thought.
Turning to the version in the mediaeval Ethiopic of Traditio apostolica we find that the same baptismal profession that is in the Axumite rite, as in the present Coptic rite, in in place, namely the prompted repetition of the five-membered creed and the repeated question “Do you believe?” (though are very slight variations between the Axumite version and the mediaeval version.) This later rite, however, has a syntaxis. This syntaxis, however, is none other than, yet again, the same five-membered creed, which is thus repeated twice in the ritual! In the version of the rite of Traditio apostolica within this text the same, expanded, version of the five-membered creed as found in the Coptic version of the Traditio is found, albeit partly conformed to the interrogatory shape of the original. But given that the version in the second ritual lacks the expansions this can hardly be put down to the influence of Traditio apostolica. I think there may be more to say about this… but consider that after writing a 138 word sentence that that’s enough for now.
Filed under Apostolic Tradition
Tagged as Apostolic Tradition, baptism, baptismal interrogations, Bausi, Canons of Hippolytus, creeds, Deir Balizeh papyrus, Duensing, Epistula apostolorum, Maxwell E. Johnson, syntaxis, Traditio apostolica
Recently appeared is Darrell Hannah, “The Vorlage of the Ethiopic version of the Epistula apostolorum: Greek or Arabic?” in Meron T. Gebreananaye et al. (ed.), Beyond Canon: early Christianity and the Ethiopic textual tradition (London: London: T&T Clark, 2021), 97–116. Fr Darrell is nearly a neighbour, so giving this a puff is a particular pleasure.
The church order connection (I always try to find one) is in his reflection on the apocalypse of Testamentum Domini. The relationship between this apocalypse and that preceding the Epistula in the Ethiopic witness (the Discourse in Galilee). The relationship between these two apocalypses has long been an interest to me, so it is a boon to see the evidence laid out so clearly. Fr Darrell actually suggests that the Epistula itself may have been a source on which the apocalypse of the Testamentum drew. This would make sense given the recent ascription of all this material to an Asian provenance.
Although nowhere near as accomplished as Fr Darrell in examining this material, I have for a long time taken a punt on the Ethiopic being a direct translation of the Greek. In particular I had in mind the passage where Jesus speaks of the Pascha which the disciple who is released from prison will keep: he refers to “that which is in my remembrance and my agape” (in the Coptic) or “my agape and my memorial” (Ethiopic). The Coptic translator seems to assume that the “memorial” is the Eucharist. To me it seems more probable that a distinct rite is intended, and that the Ethiopic translator has correctly rendered the Greek (which may well be μνημόσυνον.) The statement of an expert on this material that the Ethiopic is taken directly from Greek, and not via Arabic, renews my confidence.
I have previously posted on the fragments of Melito De anima et corpore.
Although I do not have full access to the witnesses, I have the Syriac under the name of Alexander of Alexandria and the Coptic under the name of Athanasius through E.A. Wallis Budge, Coptic homilies in the dialect of Upper Egypt (London: British Museum, 1910).
My reading today was undertaken as a spiritual exercise at a time when normally I would be saying mass (but was prevented from doing so by government regulation), but inevitably did not stay so. I observed that whereas the Coptic states that Christ rose from the dead “in the third (hour) of the day” (ϩⲙ̄ⲡⲙⲉϩϣⲟⲙⲛⲧ ⲛ̄ϩⲟⲟⲩ) the Syriac reads “on the third day” (ܠܬܠܬܐ ܝܘܡܝܢ).
Whereas it might be obvious that the Syriac has rendered τῃ τρίτῃ τῆς ἡμέρας as though it were τῃ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ (a simple enough mistake, given that this is a familiar phrase) there is more. Epistula apostolorum 15 implies that the paschal vigil is to conclude at 3am, a direction made explicit in Didascalia apostolorum 5.19.6 (part of chapter 21 in the Syriac.)
On the assumption that the reading of the Coptic is correct this all implies that there was an established pattern of maintaining the vigil until 3am in Quartodeciman communities, a suspicion now confirmed by Melito. All I need to do now is persuade my parish that this is the best time for the Easter vigil!
In response to my posting a conspectus of church orders, in an attempt to define the field, Daniel Vaucher has responded in a comment, to which I am responding in a series of posts.
As part of that post I attempted to define the field, offering a definition of a church order as “a literary document which seeks to direct the conduct of Christians and of the church on the basis of an appeal to tradition derived from or mediated through the apostles.”
Vaucher suggests that there is a danger of too broad a definition, and that I am in danger of having to include the post-Pauline letters. He also suggests various other documents which might be included under my definition.
The only grey area for me is I Clement. I do not think that Epistula apostolorum is directive in the way that the orders are and was central to the definition, and to include that in the focus is unhelpful. I do think that we might well include I Timothy and Titus in the conspectus; we may recall Bartsch’s important study here (Die Anfänge urchristlicher Rechtsbildungen. Studien zu den Pastoralbriefen, (Hamburg-Bergstedt : Reich, 1965) and reflect that Johannes Mühlsteiger, Kirchenordnungen: Anfänge kirchlicher Rechtsbildung (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 2006) includes the Pastoral Epistles. I Clement is a grey area in that it certainly seeks to direct the conduct of a church, though not the church in general, and appeals to apostolic authority, even if that authority is not central to its persuasive force. On balance I think I would exclude it on the grounds that it is addressed to one church rather than to churches in the abstract, and on the grounds that apostolic authority, whilst present, is not central. Nonetheless I can see the case for its inclusion.
This is all for today! I must add, for any reader unfamiliar with academic discourse, that my critical comments are the result of gratitude to Vaucher for his attention and contribution. He, of course, knows that.