Tag Archives: eucharist

More Arabic Testamentum Domini

Just out is Martin Lüstraeten, “Edition und Übersetzung der Euchologie der Eucharistiefeier der Redaktion „M“ des arabischen Testamentum Domini (I.23–I.28): Eine späte Antwort auf Anton Baumstark und Gérard Troupeau”

Abstract: The Testamentum Domini is considered to be one of the youngest Church Orders. Since its discovery in the early 20th century there have been questions concerning its origin and historical value while its original text and structure remain undetermined. This article considers a newly edited translation of several chapters of an Arabic recension which appear to be much closer to the Testamentum Domini’s original Greek text than Rahmani’s well-known edition of a Syriac manuscript. It argues that many apparent peculiarities of the Testamentum Domini are particular only to the manuscript Rahmani edited.

The text (with annotation) is preceded by a detailed introduction to the text, and to the Arabic textual tradition. Check it out at https://exfonte.org/index.php/exf/article/view/7399/8023


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An apology

Some years ago (2017 to be precise) I had a correspondence with Fr Robert Two Bulls of Minnesota. Fr Bob is a former student. It started with some very perceptive observations from him.

RTB: I have a question that maybe I should know but I am sure you do. Here it is: Are the bread and wine at the Eucharist equal? Or is the bread more important? Many of our clergy colleagues make a show of bread breaking (remembering your GTS Liturgy class, that it’s just breaking bread) and it’s usually the clergy or Bishops who distribute the bread and the lesser folks who share the cup. My take is simple consumption -that bread is eaten first and then washed down with wine and then somewhere in history someone decided to add something more symbolic to it. Thoughts?
ACS: They are surely equal (though I cannot cite authority for this, as Anglicans don’t work that way.) There’s a whole load of stuff at the Council of Trent on this, especially since they decided that the whole of Jesus was present in either, so why, they asked, both, and then had to come up with an answer to their own question.
Now you are right, and I always hated it, when clergy make a huge thing of the fraction. It is, after all, solely practical. No more symbolic than pouring wine out of a bottle (though we could no doubt make something symbolic out of that.)
And you are right that we entrust the chalice to all sorts, but keep hold of the host. When, to make the point, I have asked laypeople to administer the host while I take the chalice they never seem comfortable with that; possibly it’s just because it’s unusual, but maybe there’s more going on.
Not sure about bread being washed down with wine, however, simply because, as you may recall, in some rites the wine came first (Didache, possibly Luke.) But it may be some reason as brutally practical as that. Recollect that in many early rites bread and wine were not the only possible eucharistic foods… but always, and perhaps this is critical, always bread. Simply because this was the normal food at every meal without fail in the Greco-Roman world.
Now if you remember the way my mind works, when it does, you will see that this poses thoughts about inculturation. What about societies which never used wine? Or bread come to that? Why are these (Mediterranean) foods so privileged?
Of course part of the answer is the privileging of the Last Supper narrative as the origin of the eucharist, rather than the meals Jesus had with his disciples before and after his resurrection. In particular I suggest the feeding of 5000 (wineless) might be seen as foundational for the eucharist, a meal in which the Kingdom of God is shown and made present.)

Now the post is headed “an apology”. The reason for this is that, thinking about the date, I realize that it was about then that I had the thoughts which led to my Oxford paper “ἄριστον μὲν ὕδωρ: ancient breakfasts and the development of eucharistic foods” subsequently published in JTS and now incorporated into the first chapter of my forthcoming book. I strongly suspect that it was the ball that Fr Bob passed to me that I picked up and with which I ran. I have failed, however, to acknowledge that, but seek to make good that omission now.
For those unfamiliar with the work, the article suggests that wine was dropped from the eucharist in some quarters because it (the eucharist) was transferred to the morning. Wine is not a morning drink or a breakfast food! In my forthcoming book I argue that the wine usually preceded the bread, and that it only came to follow because people thought they were doing what Jesus did at the last supper, and that the last supper was distinct because it was a Passover rite (and therefore annual.) Not quite what Fr Robert was suggesting, but along those lines and quite possibly inspired by his questions. I’m thinking that I might go further and suggest that the wine functioned distinctly when it preceded the bread, perhaps to sanctify the time to be with Jesus, who came in the bread.
Not that we have the authority to mess with the liturgy; I am also aware that in ministry to the dying I have sometimes given viaticum with a pipette in the species of the Precious Blood. This practice, however, is the result of development, and the phenomena to which Fr Bob draws attention perhaps indicate that there is a sort of genetic memory of when things were different.
Thank-you Fr Robert Two Bulls. And every blessing on your amazing ministry.

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Coming soon!


by | February 17, 2023 · 10:12 pm

Oh deer! Some rambling thoughts on Christian animal sacrifice

In a conversation about something else Euthymios Rizos drew my attention to a Vita of St Athenogenes. I have now had the opportunity to read this in the edition of Pierre Maraval, La Passion inédite de S. Athénogène de Pédachthoé en Cappadoce (BHG 197b) (Brussels: Bollandistes, 1990).

What struck me most was the account of Athenogenes’ meeting a deer which he had raised; the saint promises that the deer will not be taken by hunters, but that its offspring will be offered to the glory of God each year. Subsequently we hear that a fawn is presented by its mother each year for sacrifice and consumption at the feast of the martyrs.

However, perhaps I should not be surprised; for all that we hear constantly of the cessation of animal sacrifice in Christianity (early Christians, as well as wearing open-toed sandals, being vegetarians and perhaps, UK readers will suspect, Guardian readers) the practice continued, particularly in Armenia, and continues still (see here for instance.) The surprise is that (as Andrew McGowan pointed out to me) the sacrifice should be of a deer, generally a wild animal. Canons attributed to Basil prohibit the offering of a hunted animal (see on these Fred C. Conybeare, “The Survival of Animal Sacrifices inside the Christian Church” American Journal of Theology 7 (1903), 62-90, at 79-80). But perhaps the point is that the deer on this occasion is not hunted, but is willingly offered by itself (thus I am unsure of the connection to a sacred hunt made by Franz Cumont, “L’ archevêché de Pédachtoé et le sacrifice du faon” Byzantion 6 (1931), 521-533.) However, we may also note that deer were reportedly offered by Justinian at the dedication of Hagia Sophia (at least according to a later account, on which see Kateryna Kovalchuk, “The Encaenia of St Sophia: Animal Sacrifice in a Christian Context” Scrinium 4 (2008), 161-203.)

Apart from being told that animal sacrifice was abandoned by Christians we are also frequently told that the eucharist, by becoming ritualized and by delivering food in token amounts, has lost its significance, and that it should once again take on the aspect of a meal. I do not cite extensively here, as the theme is surely familiar to all my readers, though I cannot resist referring to one contribution which suggests that, in rejection of the industrial meat-economy, the eucharist should be rediscovered as a “real vegetarian meal, and not just a token meal.” (Michael S. Northcott, “Eucharistic eating, and why many early Christians preferred fish” in Rachel Muers and David Grummet (ed.), Eating and believing: interdisciplinary perspectives on vegetarianism and theology (London: T & T Clark, 2008), 232-246, here at 243-244.) This essay exhibits such an astounding level of ignorance regarding both the early Christian eucharist and the pastoral reality of parishes that it comes as no surprise to learn that the contributor is a professor of practical theology.

In the spirit of “restoring” the meal-aspect to the eucharist I wonder whether I might start slaughtering animals at the church door during our parish mass; such has been considered seriously elsewhere (see here and here) but I think I will leave this to the Armenians (and to other cultures still familiar with acts of slaughtering) and allow the meal-logic which is already implicit in the mass we celebrate to speak for itself. This, after all, is why we keep a eucharistic fast, as Traditio apostolica 36 already reminds us. In its original context this provision intended that the eucharistic food should be consumed first in the meal; but who would eat a meal before going for a meal?

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An Antiochene version of the “eucharistic words”

I have just read Kevin Künzl, “The Ignatian eucharist in transition: textual variation as evidence for transformations in meal practice and theology” in Markus Vinzent (ed.), Studia patristica 126 (Leuven: Peeters, 2021), which is perhaps not as exciting as it sounds. Künzl observes the variations between the middle and long recensions of Ignatius in passages relating to meals, in order to demonstrate that the understanding of Eucharist had undergone some change between the second century and the fourth, though he interestingly observes other versional evidence. However, one fascinating observation, which I had overlooked, is the use of the verb θρύπτω in one passage, as opposed to the more usual κλάω.
This passage is in the long recension of Philadelphians 4: the expansion reads, “There is one bread which is broken (ἐθρύφθη) for all, and one cup which is shared with the whole congregation.” Künzl renders ἐθρύφθη as “ground”, which is perhaps overdoing it, but I really feel I should have observed this when I was working on the pseudo-Ignatians, and rendered “broken up”, rather than simply “broken.”
Künzl offers the following interesting parallels to the use of this word:
Constitutiones Apostolorum 8.12.36: …καὶ κλάσας ἔδωκεν τοῖς μαθηταῖς εἰπών· Τοῦτο τὸ μυστήριον τῆς καινῆς διαθήκης, λάβετε ἐξ αὐτοῦ, φάγετε, τοῦτό ἐστι τὸ σῶμά μου τὸ περὶ πολλὼν θρυπτόμενον εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν.
Theodoret, Epistula 145 (PG 83, 1251A): καὶ τὰ θεῖα δὲ παραδοὺς μυστήρια, καὶ τὸ σύμβολον κλάσας καὶ διανείμας, ἐπήγαγε· Τοῦτό μού ἐστι τὸ σῶμα, τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν θρυπτόμενον εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν.
This peculiar version of the words of institution seems to be common Antiochene property. I would not, however, read more into it than that.

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Water is best… for breakfast

Now appeared in advance publication on the JTS website (prior to its appearance in print in the October (sic) issue) is my ἄριστον μὲν ὕδωρ: ancient breakfasts and the development of eucharistic foods.

Although there is evidence for eucharistic celebration in the context of an evening cena in the earliest period, this celebration comes to be transferred to the morning, particularly to Sunday morning. This might bring about significant change in the celebration, part of which might lie in the foods employed, and their quantities. On the basis of an examination of the evidence for daytime eating in Graeco-Roman antiquity, the suggestion is made that eucharistic foods employed in many circles subsequently seen as deviant were standard breakfast foods, and that abstinence from wine reflects this context. Thus the use of water in the eucharist, rather than denoting an ascetic bent in some early Christian circles, simply reflects the transfer of the eucharistic meal from the evening to the morning.

On the very day this was published the clergy of the Church of England had a letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York stating, among other things, that “The elements are to be bread and wine and no other substance.” I might wonder whether there is a connection… but doubt it. However, just to play safe, I have now removed the cheese and olives from the tabernacle.

Those unable to access the JTS site are invited to ask an offprint in the usual way.

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The opening dialogue of the anaphora in Testamentum Domini

Recently come to my attention is Varfolomeev Maksim (2016) ” Some Peculiarities of the Liturgical Dialogues Before Anaphora and Communion in the “Testament of Our Lord” “, Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia I : Bogoslovie. Filosofiia. Religiovedenie, 2016, vol. 66, pp. 9-23 (in Russian).

The article may be found here, with a link to a pdf. I admit that my reading has been entirely through the medium of Google translate, for which reason I refrain from a detailed discussion. The author argues (to my mind reasonably) that the “Sancta sanctis” in the opening dialogue of the anaphora of Testamentum Domini is an element in the euchological tradition (it seems to me a forming consensus that anaphoras are built of smaller prior units) and that it serves in this context to place the worship of the church into a communion with the worship of the church in heaven. As such a liturgical Sanctus is not required.

This approach is much to be preferred to that of Gabriele Winkler, “Über das christliche Erbe Henochs und einige Probleme des Testamentum Domini” Oriens Christianus 93 (2009), 201-247, at 246, for whom the appearance of the Sancta sanctis in this position is “unsinnig.”

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The motivations for a wineless Eucharist

Last year at the Oxford Patristics conference I gave a paper entitled, “Άριστον μέν ύδωρ: Ancient Breakfasts and the Development of Eucharistic Foods” in which I argued that the common phenomenon of finding eucharistic meals celebrated without wine might be attributed not to ascetic motivation but to the common pattern of breakfast foods in Graeco-Roman antiquity which tended to reject the use of wine at breakfast as socially inappropriate. The most common breakfast food was bread, often accompanied by water.

Paul Bradshaw has written an assessment of the discussion on this point between myself and Andrew McGowan which may be read here; it was due to be delivered at NAPS, an event which was, of course, cancelled. As one might expect it is a balanced assessment. I comment no further but invite readers to read.


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Libation and the “longer text” of Luke 22

Many years ago, in a seminar at Codrington College, I set a proverbial cat among the metaphorical pigeons by suggesting, only partly seriously, that the words over the (second) cup in the longer text of Luke implied that a libation had been offered. In the phrase τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη ἐν τῷ αἵματί μου, τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ἐκχυννόμενον ἐκχυννόμενον properly refers not to the blood but to the cup.

One of my “lock-down” activities has been thinking about the two texts of Luke’s last supper, an issue which has intrigued me since student days. Thus I was interested to see that Matthias Klinghardt, a few years ago, made the same suggestion in all earnestness (“Der vergossene Becher: Ritual und Gemeinschaft im lukanischen Mahlbericht” Early Christianity 3 (2012), 33-58). Klinghardt suggests that Luke would not commit such a solecism as to use the wrong case here; of course Luke might not, but an interpolator might. This is thus an indication that the “longer text” is an interpolated text.

Klinghardt argues that Luke indeed means that a libation was poured, though he makes no reference to the textual issue. Nonetheless it is possible that an interpolator misunderstood the Pauline type material which he was handling (as I believe happened), which in turn would imply that libations were known in the cultic circle from which he came. As such, whether the participle refers to the blood or to the cup itself, this would be an interpolation deriving from liturgical practice, whether or not that practice included a libation. As evidence for the possibility that libations were poured in Christian eucharistic liturgy we may observe Traditio apostolica 38.2 which, in its current context, is strange but, if the argument that these chapters are reworked from material dealing with a eucharistic Sättigungsmahl is accepted, may readily be seen as a prohibition on the pouring of libations at the Eucharist, which is a sure sign in turn that such practice was known. A similar line is taken by M.J.C. Warren, “The cup of God’s wrath: libation and early Christian meal practice in Revelation” Religions 9 (2018), 413, n. 6.with regard to the Jewish texts apparently prohibiting libations, such as M.Avodah Zarah 5.1-6 and the corresponding passages in the Talmud, namely that the reason why there is such a careful attempt to guard against the possibility of wine being used for libations by gentiles is that this was also part of Jewish ritual. Warren (“Cup”, 9-10) suggests that the libation imagery of Revelation is negative, and directed against the practice of libations by Christians, again implying the possible practice of libation by Christians. This is possible, though her further suggestion that the seer is opposed to the Christian use of wine entirely is surely an overstatement.

The use of libations by Christians is thus possible; again, an early dating of Traditio apostolica reveals significant liturgical information lying just beneath its third-century surface.

Klinghardt actually suggests that the early Christian Eucharist was simply a regular Sättigungsmahl of religious significance, and was invariably marked by a libation. Although I have not excluded the possibility of the offering of libations at Christian eucharistic meals, it does not seem to have been a regular, or even a common, occurrence.

To return to the text of Luke, it is possible that we have interesting evidence here that libations were offered. However, given that we are dealing with a rather clumsy interpolator, it is also possible that our interpolator had a weak grasp of the Greek case system in relative clauses!

Edit (May 17th 2020): I now find, in further reading, that Klinghardt’s theory was proposed by O. Holtzmann “Das Abendmahl im Urchristentum” ZNW  5 (1904), 89-120. 


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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.

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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.

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Was chapter 4 a later addition to Traditio apostolica?

Jens Schröter “Die Funktion der Herrenmahlsüberlieferungen im 1. Korintherbrief: zugleich ein Beitrag zur Rolle der “Einsetzungsworte” im frühchristlichen Mahltexten” ZNW 100 (2009), 78-100, at 79-80 in footnote 5, notes that the episcopal eucharistic prayer at TA4 is absent from some versions, and thus suggests that it might have been added to some versions of Traditio apostolica at a later date. The prayer is present in Latin but absent in Sahidic and the Axumite Ethiopic versions. However, turning to the rewritings, it was obviously available to the redactors of Testamentum Domini and Constitutiones apostolicae, though is absent from Canones Hippolyti. So we have to ask ourselves at what later stage this chapter was added, such that it might find its way to Italy, Cappadocia and Antioch within the time-frame. It is not as if a more convincing solution is fairly obvious, given the distribution of the chapter’s presence and absence, namely that it was omitted in the Alexandrian recension, and thus in the versions dependent on that Greek original.

This is yet another example of the knots into which those who seek to deny the Roman and early third-century provenance of Traditio apostolica tie themselves

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The path to Rome

In preparation for my appearance at the incontro of the Augustinianum soon I have posted a draft of my paper entitled: “From sabbath to Sunday: new evidence from Aristo of Pella” as a discussion session.

There have been some interesting observations. Come and join the fun at https://www.academia.edu/s/ffd9477cbf/the-transfer-from-sabbath-to-sunday-new-evidence-from-aristo-of-pella

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The epiklesis of the Testamentum Domini

I am glad to announce that my translation of Testamentum Domini is going through the processes of the press. At present we are proofing the ms before typesetting.

As a foretaste (and an encouragement to get the thing when it comes out) here is an appendix to the introduction, dealing with the epiklesis of the Testamentum.

Excursus: the “epiclesis”

Particular issues pertain to the Testament’s handling of the so-called epiclesis of Apostolic Tradition.

I have translated: “To you do we offer this thanksgiving, eternal Trinity, O Lord Jesus Christ, O Lord the Father, from whom every creature and every nature escapes into itself in trembling. O Lord, Holy Spirit, send some of your holiness onto this drink and this food….”

Before turning to the justification of the translation offered here we should discuss the history of interpretation.

The initial translation by Rahmani (1899), following the Mosul MS, read as follows: “To you do we offer this thanksgiving, eternal Trinity, O Lord Jesus Christ, O Lord the Father, O Lord the Holy Spirit… Bring this drink and this food of your holiness, and cause that they may be for us….” The verb is ܐܬܐ which means “to come.” Here it is in what is called the aphel (causative), which may thus mean “bring” and Rahmani understands it in this sense. The form he understands as a feminine singular imperative (ܐܬܐܝ), which he takes as addressed to the Trinity.

For Cooper and McLean (1902) “this scarcely makes sense.” Thus, rather than beginning the request with “bring,” they adopt a reading from the Borgian Syriac MS, ܐܬܐܝܢ, a participle, rather than the imperative ܐܬܐܝ of the Mosul MS, and translate: “We have brought this drink and this food of thy Holiness to thee. Cause that it may be to us….” They find support for this in one Ethiopic version of the anaphora of the Testament, the so-called “Anaphora of Our Lord” published by Ludolf in 1691. The problem with this solution is that the Borgian Syriac text is generally poor.

Although Dix (1937) and Richardson (1947) commented briefly on this passage, in the context of an argument over the epiclesis of Apostolic Tradition, the next major contribution to the debate was that of Botte (1947), responding to Richardson’s brief comment. In particular Botte suggests that the verb ܐܬܐ in the aphel might equally well be a rendition of “send.” This is possible. As a feminine imperative he suggests it is addressed to the Spirit, but that the Syriac translator had failed to understand that in the Greek the word was accusative (the form would be the same in Greek) and that the petition to “send” was not originally addressed to the Spirit but to the Father, and that the Spirit was the object. Thus the original would have read: “Lord, send the Holy Spirit on this holy drink and this food….”

One merit of Botte’s suggestion is that an object is supplied; something, it seems, needs to come, or be sent, onto the gifts so that they may not be for condemnation, and the object is not the food and drink. Thus while it is tempting to accept Cooper and McLean’s adoption of the reading of B and so to make this passage a continuation of the oblation, making the food and drink the objects means that no account is taken of the word ܠ (“to” or “onto”) which precedes these words.

Richardson (1948), in response, found Botte’s suggestions entirely unconvincing. If the Syriac translator had so misunderstood the Greek accusative, he argues, then this would mean that he had completely missed the address to the Trinity, and the threefold “Lord” that it contains. Thus the Spirit cannot be an object, but is simply addressed as part of the Trinity. In seeking an object he turns his attention to the Syriac ܕ which is attached to the word translated “holiness”, and suggests that this represents a partitive genitive. Thus he translates: “Send (O Trinity) a portion of thy Holiness on this drink and food. Cause that it may be to us….” Bouyer (1968) similarly wonders whether the Syriac text is so obscure as to oblige us to have recourse to the suggestion of such a series of errors on the part of the Syriac translator, though in effect his suggestions return us to Rahmani’s reading.

White’s translation (1991) is interesting. He seems to accept the reading of B, with Cooper and McLean, but unlike them takes the whole phrase as addressed to the Holy Spirit: “Lord Holy Spirit, we have brought this food and drink of your holiness; make it be for us….” It seems odd to find an oblation to the Holy Spirit, but it is significant that he can see that the phrase might be addressed to the Spirit. This accounts for the feminine form of the imperative. It seems that he has accepted Botte’s suggestion that the translator had mistaken an accusative for a vocative, but unlike Botte translates the Syriac text as it stands, taking the feminine imperative as addressed to the (feminine) Spirit rather than correcting it (as Botte does) in accordance with a hypothetical Greek original.

More recent treatments have not advanced the debate. McKenna (2009) simply agrees with Botte without any discussion of the Syriac text, and McGowan (2014) likewise pays no mind to the Syriac text, or to any possible underlying Greek, offering us the following translation (in which the debt to Botte is evident), which she has derived from elsewhere:

We offer to you this act of thanksgiving, eternal Trinity, Lord Jesus Christ, Lord Father, from whom all creation and all nature trembles as it flees into itself, Lord, send your Holy Spirit upon this drink and upon this your holy food. Grant that it may not be for us condemnation….

Before discussing the possibilities presented, the one contribution that I may make is to observe that the Arabic edited by Troupeau (2007) clearly understands that the Trinity is addressed. The Trinity is bidden: “make that this holy food and this drink of sanctification may not be condemnation for us…” thus missing out the verb in dispute. The imperative is masculine.

The question may perhaps be reopened in the light of our observation that the prayer as it stands is a result of combining two anaphoras.

We may recollect that Botte’s suggestion was criticized by Richardson on the basis of the violence it did to the address to the Trinity. However, it is possible that, in keeping with other prayers in the Testament, the Trinity as such was not addressed, but rather only the Father and the Son. This would explain the odd order found here, with the Son first. Thus the original, prior to the combination with Apostolic Tradition might have read:

To you do we offer this thanksgiving, eternal Trinity, O Lord Jesus Christ, O Lord the Father, from whom every creature and every nature escapes into itself in trembling; send some of your holiness onto this drink and this food….

The text of Apostolic Tradition facing the redactor is itself an uncertain matter, but it is highly probable that it read (as Botte suggested), “we ask that you should send your Holy Spirit….” As such it is possible that the mention of the Holy Spirit should be taken from Apostolic Tradition, and the words “Holy Spirit” supplied from that source. However much it may seem that the Trinity is addressed in the Testament, this is the result of the juncture of two sources.

The Holy Spirit in Apostolic tradition was the object. However, given the redactor’s freedom with the source, faced with the necessity of combining two prayers, and given that the sentence already had an object (the portion of holiness), I suggest that he deliberately turned this into a vocative, and thus addresses the Holy Spirit directly at this point. There are thus two addresses, one to the Father and the Son, and one to the Holy Spirit. The rightness of White’s translation becomes manifest when it is observed that this mention of the Spirit supplied from Apostolic Tradition has been inserted into an existing prayer. As such the change of case that results is also less significant than Richardson thought. He suggests, against Botte, that it is improbable that the translator would so misunderstand the original as to read an accusative as a vocative; the suggestion here is that there was no misreading, and that this is not the work of a later translator, but that the translator accurately rendered a deliberate change that had already been made by the redactor.

The result is thus a combination of the insights of Botte, who reconstructs the original of Apostolic Tradition, Richardson, who supplies an object by reading ܕ in the Syriac text as representing a partitive genitive, and White, who so punctuates that such that the address to the Spirit stands out, all understood through the lens of the redactor’s layering technique. The address is directed to the Holy Spirit (the mention of whom is supplied from Apostolic Tradition), the object is taken as “a portion of holiness” and the address to the Trinity recognized as an accident of redaction.

As a result of this I have translated: “To you do we offer this thanksgiving, eternal Trinity, O Lord Jesus Christ, O Lord the Father, from whom every creature and every nature escapes into itself in trembling. O Lord, Holy Spirit, send some of your holiness onto this drink and this food….”


Botte, Bernard (1947) “L’epiclèse de l’anaphore d’Hippolyte,” Recherches de Théologie Ancienne et Médiévale 14 (1947): 241–51

Bouyer, Louis (1968) Eucharist: Theology and Spirituality of the Eucharistic Prayer (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame,)

Cooper, James, Arthur J. Maclean (1902) The Testament of Our Lord (Edinburgh: T&T Clark)

McGowan, Anne, (2014) Eucharistic Epicleses Ancient and Modern (London: SPCK)

McKenna, John H. (2009) The Eucharistic Epiclesis: A Detailed History, 2nd ed (Chicago: Hillenbrand)

Rahmani, Ignatius Ephraem II (1899) Testamentum Domini nostri Jesu Christi (Mainz: Kirchheim)

Richardson, C.C.,(1948) « A Note on the Epicleses in Hippolytus and the Testamentum Domini,” Recherches de Théologie Ancienne et Médiévale 15 (1948): 357–59

Sperry-White, Grant (1991) The Testamentum Domini: A Text for Students (Bramcote: Grove)

Troupeau, Gérard, (2007) “Une version arabe de l’anaphore du Testamentum Domini” in Charles Chartouni, ed., Christianisme oriental: kérygme et histoire; mélanges offerts au père Michel Hayek (Paris: Librairie orientaliste Paul Geuthner), 247–256

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A church order preserved in Nubian?

Looking for something else I come across the following from F. Ll. Griffith (ed.) The Nubian texts of the Christian period (Berlin: Verlag der Königl. Akademie der Wissenschaften in Commission bei Georg Reimer, 1913), 16-19 (text), 19-23 (translation.)

Although the title refers to “canons”, Griffith opines that these are “not a series of canons but a Sunday homily or exhortation on the offering of oblations and behaviour at the Eucharist.” (23) Perhaps we might see this as a church order. It is of gnomic character, and the title, appearing to enumerate 80 canons, is intriguing.

I provide Griffith’s translation to give a flavour of the work. Griffith supplies a text and some annotation.


These are the canons of the churches which the holy fathers, having assembled (?) in Nicaea, discussed (?), wrote, and established by authority (?), being eighty (?).

Beloved: when a certain man (?) hath spoken a vow (?), (namely) this Holy Feast which remains on the table: it is simply (?) bread and simply (?) wine (?) and comes out from (?) the church(?) by (?) the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost in the time of presentation (?) and the arrival of the moment (?).

Verily when a man dedicates an oblation in the church, whether it be wine or whether it be wheat, and the priest docs not give one in return, and he says in his heart I have not eaten with the priest, I have not drunken with the priest, he hath not reward (?) from heaven in Jerusalem. And God, the possessor (?) of life, withdraweth (?) his light, because he hath desired that which is from earth and refused that which is from heaven, namely the mercies (?) which thy (?) God in his fullness (?) hath granted (?).

Verily a donor (?) having pronounced a vow, namely oblations dedicated in the church, the children of the church shall eat them (?), the Father the Son and the Holy Ghost come out from (?) the church.

Verily a man having repented (?) in his heart and dedicated an oblation in the church, whether it be wine or wheat or durra-seed down to green vegetable (?); then he, the Lord, will rejoice (?) in his heart and receive (it) through his holy angel.

Have ye not heard that which is written, …. gift … God, him that giveth cheerfully (?) God loveth (?)? All men who working for the name of God benefit themselves (?), they shall not find benefit (?) through God.

And now therefore (?) man that which ye do for the name of God, do ye cheerfully. And one was written men about to (?) become in that (?) … shall become (?) covetous (?), shall become (?) without …, shall become …, shall become man-hating, shall become . . ., shall become covetous (?) of the priesthood (?). And all this … beloved, enquire ye unwillingly (?); let us have friendship (?), let us seek peace; and when ye sit (?) enquire ye with desire (?), because coveting (?) ye are fearful of death. Without ceasing (?) let us pray to God that lie may give us remission of our sins.

Behold (?) hear ye a witness (?).

Verily a layman having … and eaten the food of the church, he shall … the priest … and shall … And now therefore (?). … enquire ye in … requital (?) … in desire (?) enquire ye.

And when thou hast sat down remain far (?) from the feast. And when thou hast (?) received the feast purify (?) thy heart and voice and come and receive the feast. And verily if not, it is destruction.

Verily if thou comest not at peace with a teaching man (?) thou art a feast-taker (?).

Verily when thou desirest to receive the feast come out first and come in good will (?) ; verily if thou art not in good will (?) remain outside (?) the church: wilt thou … through God be friendly? And if not, thus wilt thou … and … the laws of God?

And when thou hast received the feast, remain in the church till the dismissal. Remember what was done to Judas the betrayer: having taken the feast he went out of the church not having been dismissed (?), and Satan entered (?) into his heart and persuaded him(?) to betray.

In truth thou also, when the church has not been dismissed, art … It is that which God shall take as cause and requite upon thee. Be not condemned for eternity with Judas on account of the short moment after this (?).

I have seen many when they have received the sacrament eat when the church is not open: woe to their hearts! Shall they receive in exchange (?) remission of sin, because they were able (?) to … ?

Verily a donor (?) who has eaten when the church was not open, he hath cause in a great…

Verily a donor (?) who has eaten and received the sacrament loveth (?) light with the eater of the dead (?).

A donor (?) who not hearing the epistle and gospel hath received the sacrament, hath not received.

A donor (?) who hath not sung alleluia with the singers insulteth God his Maker. For Alleluia is Thelkath Marimath: and the saying being interpreted is “Let us glorify God who founded all (things), and let us love and worship (?) him.”

Woe be to the man who speaketh in the church at the time (?) of the sacrament! For he that speaketh in the church at the time (?) of the sacrament is negligent (?) more than (?) all the negligent (?) ones. For the man that speaketh in the church is the enemy of God. For these are like the Jews who having hanged the Saviour on the cross mocked him — they who speak when this sacrament is upon the table. He, the Lord it is who hath said “and the Jews alone (?) openly rejected (?) me.” And you who speak in the church at all times, behold (?), hearken ye to the warning (?).

Verily one in(?) dedicating an oblation in the church by means of (?) the act (?) of service of life he shall write his name in Jerusalem. And his reward with the priest here (?) is one loaf one finger (?) of wine: for this is what was taken by God.

Woe be to the priest who sitteth on the Lord’s day amongst …. one by … departing and eating (?) will requite (?) that one’s sin upon the scalp (?) of the head of the priest in the fulness of the ages.

And all persons, either having become a woman being 12 years old shall give (?) or having become a man being 13 years old shall give (?); and … and verily he who hath . . . one of these, is good (?) both in the … of the flesh and the … of the …; and God will trying try his soul in hell.

Therefore (?) praise (?) God: praise (?) be Thine! In the hand of the living God I will overcome and expel!

And the priest each (?) Lord’s day shall cause them to hear this: for (?) it hath been done, that we may (?) attain (?) resurrection and grace (?) with our Lord Jesus Christ; whose be the glory and the power unto ages of ages! Amen.


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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.

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Patristische Arbeitsgemeinschaft

I’m honored to be invited to speak at the upcoming Patristische Arbeitsgemeinschaft in the Netherlands, January 2nd-5th. I will be able to present some insights into my recent dissertation on Slavery in Early Christianity.

In particular, I will speak about the attendance of slaves at Christian congregations and meals (be it agape, Eucharist or funeral meals). Considering that there are barely any sources that mention slaves, we should ask whether they were really part of the Christian cult life.

What do we make of the anonymous Vita Polycarpi §26, that mentions slaves assisting the προσφορά of Polycarp when he was εὐχαριστῶν? If there are other sources directly mentioning slaves or giving hints, please don’t hesitate to comment and indicate them.

Please note, too, that Dr. Stewart will be speaking as well, on “Group Therapy and the Construction of Text and Community in the Church Order Tradition”.


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What did the eucharistic celebrants of the Testamentum Domini “make”? The perils of pointing

In the eucharistic rite of Testamentum Domini (1.23) we read: “…taking bread, gave it to His disciples, saying, Take, eat, this is My Body which is broken for you for the forgiveness of sins. When ye shall do this, ye make My resurrection.” (translation of MacLean in J. Cooper, A.J. Maclean, The Testament of our Lord (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1902), 73. Other translations read the same.)

The relevant passage in Syriac reads:

ܩܝܡܬܐ ܕܝܠܝ ܥܒܕܝܢ ܐܢܬܘܢ (qymt) dyly (bdyn )ntwn.)

The critical word here is that translated as “resurrection”, ܩܝܡܬܐ. Translators have pointed this as ܩܝܵܡܬܵܐ . However, were the word pointed ܩܳܝܶܡܬܳܐ then it might be translated “memorial”, albeit in the sense more of a tombstone than a liturgical commemoration.

This is surely the translator’s intention. At the time of Rahmani’s initial translations of Testamentum Domini (1899) Hauler had not yet published the Latin fragments of Traditio apostolica, and at the time of Cooper and MacLean’s publication they were newly published, and so the relationship between the Testamentum and Traditio apostolica was not understood. But with the passage of a century since Connolly, surely we can improve the translation at this point.

Edit, 26th September: I had forgotten the suggestion of W. E. Pitt, “Anamnesis and Institution Narrative in the Liturgy of Apostolic ConstitutionsJEH 9 (1958), 1-7, at 5, that this came about through a misreading of anamnēsis (memorial) as anastasis (resurrection). Obviously this is now to be rejected,. but we may give due recognition to Pitt for seeing the issue.

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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.


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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.

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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.


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Making a mess of martyrs and the mass

I have just found Maxwell E. Johnson, “Martyrs and the mass: the interpolation of the narrative of institution into the anaphora” Worship 87 (2013), 2-22.

Johnson argues, principally on the basis of the prayer of Polycarp at his martyrdom, that the interpolation of an institution narrative in the anaphora resulted from martyrological prayer. The received answer that the inclusion of the narrative is catechetical in origin is accepted, and the point argued is that this catechesis, in the fourth century (the date to which Johnson would assign the interpolation of the institution narrative, including into the Apostolic tradition, a connection which gives me an excuse to blog this private rant here) was necessary to remind those for whom martyrdom was never a real experience of the sacrifice of Christ. “What better way to strongly emphasize and make clear [and to split infinitives ACS] this connection than to have the very words of Christ within the central prayer of the Eucharist itself?”(p. 19) Actually there are quite a few better ways, particularly since, in the fourth century, the martyria are themselves becoming the location of shrines, and we are soon into the period of the translation of relics.

I do not have the patience to deliver a full critique at this point. Sufficient to say that Johnson’s statement that the prayer of Polycarp at his martyrdom reflected a regular third-century Eucharistic prayer is to confuse the diverse roots of Eucharistic praying, and moreover to confuse distinct species of Eucharistic meal, one of which seeks communion with Christ through communion with a martyr, the other of which seeks direct communion with Christ. There is no doubt that there is some martyrological influence in the emergence of the eucharist in the third/fourth century, but it is not to be located in the inclusion of the institution narrative within the anaphora, and especially not conveyed through catechesis.

I have already dealt with much of this material in my contribution to Frances Young’s Festschrift and in my edition of Vita Polycarpi. I argue in the first for the inclusion of an institution narrative in the original stratum of the episcopal Eucharistic prayer of Traditio apostolica and treat the Eucharistic prayer of Polycarp in the latter. Johnson does not make reference to either. Of course, he is far too important to bother with the work of a poore parson of a town, but had he done so he might have been saved from some methodological clangers.

The last time I got seriously peeved by Johnson, the result was published in Questions liturgiques. If I get time I will see if I can knock out a more coherent and reasoned response fit for more conventional publication.

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Distinguishing agape and eucharist in the Didache

In response to my recent article on Didache 14 in Questions liturgiques 93 (2012) 3-16 (a copy can be provided on request) 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 indicates 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.

Update April 2023: Seeing that this post is still receiving views, I may add at this point (ten years later!) that the argument above is foundational for my forthcoming book.

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