Tag Archives: Georg Graf

The Pseudo-Nicaean Canons

The council of Nicaea undoubtedly played an immense role in the development of the Christian Church, so it is no surprise that the canons of the council were of major importance to the early canonists. Not surprisingly too, the material ascribed to Nicaea is not small, as bishops and presbyters and scribes of all sort produced pseudonymous material to strengthen their case. What comes as a surprise is the fact, that most of it is not transmitted in Greek, but only in Coptic, Syriac or Arabic.

Stewart has produced a critical edition and translation of one of these documents, the Sententia Nicaea. (A.C. Stewart: The Gnomai of the Council of Nicaea. Critical text with transl., introd. and comm. Piscataway 2015) Other than their transmission, they have nothing to do with Nicaea at all, as far as I know.

Another set of material runs danger of being confused with the Sententia, namely “die arabischen Kanones des Nicaenums”, or, as I would name them, the Pseudo-Nicaean Canons.

The Arabic material is found in the canonical collection of Macarius (14th century), s. Riedel 1900, p. 121 ss., in which the Nicaean material is grouped into 4 books. The second book consists of these 84 Arabic canons, which were translated into Latin by Echellensis as the eorundem sanctorum patrum 318 sanctiones et decreta, published in Mansi, Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collection, 1759, vol. 2, p. 981-1010. As mentioned in the previous post, a recension of it found its way into the Kitab al-Huda. This Arabic version was for a long time the only known version, hence the common name. Other than the shortened version of the Kitab al-Huda, there is no edition or modern translation.

More recent investigations pointed to the existence of the Syriac set of Pseudo-Nicaean Canons. They are linked to the name of Bishop Maruta of Maipherkat (4th/5th century), who supposedly translated the original Greek material into Syriac. The origin of the Pseudo-Nicaean Canons remains a mystery, though, and I feel more comfortable with Vööbus’ thesis of a grown tradition or living literature, that has its roots with Maruta and the early 5th century. I also cite Georg Graf, Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur, vol. I, p. 588:

“Sicher waren die in Frage stehenden falschen Kanones von Nizäa schon vor 489 von der Kirche in Persien rezipiert, da eine so klare Anerkennung des römischen Primates, wie er in Kan. 2 (bei Maruta) ausgesprochen ist, nach der endgültigen Scheidung zwischen Römern (Griechen) und Persern nicht mehr denkbar ist. Die Geltung einzelner Kanones ist aber schon früher bezeugt…”

The Syriac version is edited and translated by A. Vööbus: The canons ascribed to Mārūtā of Maipherqaṭ and related sources. Louvain 1982 (CSCO 439-440), and translated into German by O. Braun: De sancta Nicaena synodo: syrische Texte des Maruta von Maipherkat, nach einer Handschrift der Propaganda zu Rom. Münster 1898.

Note that there are significant differences between the Arabic and the Syriac recensions, not only in the number of canons (84 in the Arabic, 73 in the Syriac) and the order of the material, but also in content. Depending from the Arabic set, there is again an Ethiopic version as part of the Senodos, ed. and transl. by P. Maurus a Leonessa: La versione etiopica dei canoni apocrifi del concilio di nicea secondo i codici vaticani ed il fiorentino, in: Rassegna di studi etiopici 2 (1942), p. 29-89. There is no comparative study of the different recensions, as far as I know, but see also:

  • F. Haase, Altchristliche Kirchengescihchte nach orientalischen Quellen, Leipzig 1925, p. 247-276.
  • Hefele/Leclercq, Histoire des conciles, vol. 1, p. 1139-1176, 1203-1221.
  • G. Graf, Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur, vol. 1, p. 586-593.

So, are these Canons a Church Order?


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Kitab al-Huda & the canons of John the Evangelist

In our most recent discussion, we had mentioned the Arabic Kitab al-Huda and a homily by John euphorically called a new church order. On the basis of Graf, Der maronitische Nomokanon “Buch der rechten Leitung” in Or.Chr. 33 (1936), 212-232 and Kaufhold, Sources of Canon Law in the Eastern Churches, in: Hartmann, W. / Pennington, K. (ed.):  The History of Byzantine and Eastern Canon Law to 1500. Washington 2012, 256-259, I can report some more:

Stewart already summarized: the Kitab al-Huda is a maronite canonical collection, presumably translated by the Maronite bishop David. Critical edition by Pierre Fahed, Kitab al-Huda ou livre de la direction: code Maronite du haut moyen age (Aleppo: Imp. Maronite, 1935).

Now, Graf (and Riedel 1900, 146-148) gives a summary of the content: §1-13 are a “in sich geschlossenes” “Lehr- und Moralbuch”, §14-57 are a collection of canonical texts. For our purpose, the parts of the latter are more interesting. So:

  1. §14-22 are the pseudo-nicaean canons, known in its Latin translation in Mansi 1759, vol. II, 981-1010 (eorundem sanctorum partum 318 sanctiones et decreta), and also known in a similar Syriac version. I plan to post on them separately soon.
  2. §24 is a “Kanon des Cyrillus, Bischof von Jerusalem”, on baptism and marriage, “unbekannt”.
  3. §26 is our “Kanon des Evangelisten Johannes”, which Graf declares with certainty as of “byzantinischer Herkunft” (p. 222): “Er behandelt vor allem die Rechte und Pflichten der verschiedenen ordines, zunächst des höheren Klerus vom Periodeuten aufwärts bis zum Patriarchen, dann des niederen Klerus und das Verhältnis der einzelnen Grade zueinander. Andere Bestimmungen bestreffen das kanonische Gebet, die Sonntagsheiligung, das Verbot des commercium nuptiale an Sonn- und Festtagen, widernatürlicher Unzucht und die dafür auferlegten Bussen. Da im Anschluss an das Patriarchat auch die Machtbefugnisse und Ehrenrechte des Königs zur Sprache kommen (…), ist die byzantinische Herkunft des Kanons sicher.”
  4. §27 is the second “Kanon des Evangelisten Johannes”. An extra note in the Ms indicates that this was translated from the Syriac. Graf speculates whether this piece is identical with the kephalaia of John in the Melchite collection of Josephus of Alexandria (Riedel 1900, p. 139, Nr. 31). The Syriac version is the one that Kaufhold refered to in his article of 2005 (see previous post).
  5. §30-35 are the Canons of Clement, which Stewart treated in his previous post. Again Graf opines for a Greek origin.
  6. §36 are the well-known Canons of the Apostles.
  7. §37-45 are an excerpt of book VIII of the apostolic Constitutions, the so-called Canons of Simon. They circulated independently in many of the canonical collections.
  8. after the conciliar canons follows in §56-57 an Arabic recension of the Syro-Roman Lawbook.

The Kitab al-Huda is therefore an impressive and fascinating canonical collection which to some extent was translated from earlier Syriac texts (like §27), to some extent compiled from Arabic sources, and after all given a coherent form by the redactor. There are “redaktionelle Eingriffe”, for example in §14-22. But the collection is nevertheless important for the transmission of the lesser known church orders, and so I would welcome any modern translation of it for further study.

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Another Stewart-Vaucher dialogue, in which Dr Vaucher identifies a forgotten church order and Dr Stewart goes to Oxford and gets wet

In the comments on my post Some updates there has been something of a pooling of perplexity between myself and Daniel Vaucher. Editing the comments today I managed accidentally to delete a bunch of them. So to preserve the dialogue I have edited them all out (deleting the rest) and present them here as another Socratic dialogue in which I am reduced to aporia on one point at least. It may even continue!

DV: Thanks for updating the conspectus. I do have some more for you:

Testamentum Domini: you could add the edition by A. Vööbus, The synodicon in the West Syrian tradition. 2 vols. Louvain 1975, as well as the translations by J. Cooper and A.J. Maclean. The Testament of Our Lord Translated into English from the Syriac. Edinburgh 1902 and F. Nau, La version syriaque de l’Octateuque de Clément. Paris 1913 (where TD is book I-II)

Didascalia Apostolorum / CA I-VI: as I learn, according to M.E. Johnson, there is an edition of the arab version by H. Dawud, Ad-dasquliyah aw ta’atim ar-rusul. Cairo 1924; 3rd ed. 1967. This is beyond my language skills and needs further check.

Canons of Ps.-Basil: you could add the coptic fragments by W.E. Crum, The Coptic Version of the ‚Canons of S. Basil‘, in Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology 26 (1904), 57-62.

ACS: Thank-you. Perhaps you could add the Testamentum material appropriately (NB however the Synodicon does not contain the full text of the Testamentum, only excerpts.) And certainly the Canons of Basil fragments; there are also some other fragments, see my post below from March 2014.
I am intrigued by this mention of the Arabic Didascalia however, though I cannot find the book in the Bodleian library or on COPAC, which means it will be hard to check it in person; Beyond Johnson’s bibliography the only reference I can find is an Indonesian (!) website which (having passed through Google translate!) states that this is a modern Arabic translation (ergo not a textual witness) of “The Didascalia of the apostles (the Apostolic Constitutions) edited by Hippolytus in 215.” (sic) I’m not sure which of an anonymous Indonesian website or Maxwell Johnson is the the more trustworthy source.

DV: OK. I have another one though: Canones Petri or Canones by Clement or Letter by Peter… according to Georg Graf, there is an Arabic ed. by P. Fahed, Kitab al-huda, ou Livre de la Direction: Code Maronite du Haut Moyen Age, traduction du Syriaque en Arabe par l’evêque Maronite David, l’an 1059, published 1935. And then, it is part of the Ethiopian Senodos, published by Bausi 1995. I wonder then, where are the Sahidic versions?

ACS: The Canones Petri should certainly be included… Actually it’s there already! Note there is a translation in Riedel KRQ, 165-175. Riedel opines that the work was composed in Arabic, and that the Syriac and Ethiopic are translations from Arabic.

DV: Contra Riedel, Graf, Geschichte der arabischen Literatur, opines that the work goes back to a lost Greek original. I leave the question to the learned scholars with expertise in Arabic

ACS: I certainly don’t have that kind of expertise. However, I realize that if David the Maronite made a translation from Syriac to Arabic, then if it was Arabic to start with somebody must have translated it from Arabic to start with, which seems a rather strange proceeding. Presumably the Syriac (and a presumed Sahidic) are both lost. Puzzling, certainly.

DV: I’m puzzled too, and I can’t find Fahed anywhere in Switzerland, but I have Graf in front of me. He writes p. 580 f.: “das Werk gehört einer jüngeren Zeit an, ist aber nicht (wie Riedel will) arabisches Original, sondern Ableitung aus einer oder mehreren griechischen Schriften. Eingehende Untersuchungen über Quellen und Alter fehlen noch.” (footnote 1: Vansleb, Hist. S. 259: L’épitre de saint Pierre à saint Clément, mais parce qu’elle est pleine d’absurdités, je n’ai pas voulu la mettre ici).
I think, with Vansleb he refers to the Ethiopian version, which Bausi, Il Sēnodos etiopico, vol. I, p. 284-306, vol. II, p. 109-118 edited and translated. I don’t have Bausi in front of me, but his comment on the piece might be worth a check. And Kaufhold, “Sources of Canon Law in the Eastern Churches” in Hartmann/Pennington, The History of Byzantine and Eastern Canon Law 2012, 235 and 270, refers to a Syriac version. I wonder now whether this was the piece that Maronite priest David was translating into Arabic, and whether that David’s Arabic version was the same that Riedel refered to. This is far beyond my understanding and knowledge of the Eastern languages, but it’s at least plausible that there was a now lost Greek original, which was then translated into Syriac (only: where is this version now? – I check Kaufhold again), and from there into Arabic and Ethiopic. Given the date of the translation, anno 1059, I think it would be unsafe to assume a much earlier arabic version anyway?

ACS: I will have to look into this. Gorgias has reprinted Fahed, which is a start.

DV: To make you and us wonder some more: In 2005, Kaufhold wrote in “La littérature pseudo canonique syriaque” in: Débie (ed): Les apocryphes syriaques. Paris 2005, p. 147-168 of a yet unpublished pseudo-canonique piece in Syriac with the following title: Prédication de saint Jean l’Évangeliste qui enseigna à Éphèse et prêcha de Pâcques, au sujet des choses commises de manière mauvaise et désordonée par des prêtres et des chrétiens à l’interieur de l’Église, et admonition du peuple.” With the short summary he gives, this could well be church order! It’s found in Ms Cambr. Add. 2023, fol. 83r – 159r, and, Kaufhold refers to an Arabic version which can be found in, guess, Fahed 1935…

ACS: I recognize that catalogue number! Really, I do. It is a collection of canonical material so could well contain a church order.

DV: I note in the translation of the Didascalia by Ragucci, which you just posted, the following comment:
Le recensioni arabe sono due e sono derivate e mediate da un testo copto oggi perduto, entrambe queste recensioni sono più vicine a CA, – di cui riportano anche la stessa prefazione–, che non a DA latina o siriaca.
La prima recensione è più antica ed è la più conosciuta, è detta anche Vulgata. Potrebbe essere stata tradotta da un testo copto nell’XI secolo, è suddivisa in 39 capitoli e rielabora CA I-VI, sebbene ci siano alcune omissioni in cui si verifica una significativa alterazione nella disposione del materiale e l’aggiunta del VI capitolo. Queste differenze nella disposizione degli argomenti la rendono una traduzione poco fedele. Di questa recensione Vulgata esiste un’edizione di Dāwud del 1924 che si basa su un manoscritto del patriarcato copto e su due manoscritti privati.
but she does not indicate Dawud’s edition, but refers instead to D. Spada-D. Salachas, Costituzioni dei Santi Apostoli per mano di Clemente, Urbaniana University press, Roma 2001, p. XXVII.

ACS: OK, that’s it, enoujgh confusion! I shall have to make a pilgrimage to the Bodleian and brave the hordes of tourists, the foul weather, and the horrible traffic.

ACS (several days later): Dr Vaucher, you are now the master, and I the troublesome student.
The letter of Peter, aka the canons of Clement, are indeed preserved in Arabic translation (from Syriac, presumably lost) in the Maronite canonical collection Kitab al-Huda. This was translated by the Maronite bishop David. Critical edition, as you gave it: Pierre Fahed, Kitab al-Huda ou livre de la direction: code Maronite du haut moyen age (Aleppo: Imp. Maronite, 1935). They are headed as the Canons of Clement.
The same text, headed Letter of Peter is indeed in the Ethiopian Senodos published by Bausi, as you suggested. I think Riedel must have been wrong, and these are not originally Arabic, since they were rendered from Syriac by David. I suspect that they were from a variety of Greek sources, possibly mediated through Coptic for the Egyptian branch and (obviously) through the Syriac, from which they were rendered for the Kitab al-Huda. Mind you, that’s only a hunch.
Secondly, I went looking for this Arabic Didascalia reported by Johnson. I cannot find the Dawud text, though I am sure that Ragucci’s information was entirely from the translation of Constitutiones apostolorum by Spada and Salachas, which she cites, and they in turn had it from… Graf, Geschichte I, 568. This is also, I suspect, where Johnson got it from. The correct reference as Graf gives it is: Ḥafiẓ Dawud, ad Dasquliya au ta’alim ar-rusul (Cairo, 1924). Although I could not find Dawud, I did find: Wilyam Sulayman Qilada (ed.) Kitāb al-Disqūlīyah : taʿālīm al-rusul (Cairo : Dār al-Jīl lil-Ṭibāʿah, 1979), but the source of this text I cannot say! One can reasonably imagine that it is Egyptian.
Now, M. Kohlbacher, “Zum liturgischen Gebrauch der Apostolischen Konstitutionen in Ägypten”, in J.M.S. Cowey and B. Kramer (ed.) Paramone (Archiv für Papyrusforschung Beiheft 16; Leipzig, Saur, 2004) suggests that there may be even more recensions of the Constitutiones apostolorum in Arabic (we must remember that the Arabic Didascalia is actually the Constiutiones and not the Didascalia at all.) At this point I have to confess that I can go no further with this enquiry for the present.
However, it’s not all bad news. You mentioned Kaufhold’s mention of a Prédication de saint Jean l’Évangeliste. I have checked this out.
It is worth citing Kaufhold in full:
Dans la deuxième partie du Kitāb al- Hudā apparaissent deux séries de “Canons de saint Jean l’Évangeliste” que n’avaient jusque’à présent pas été identifiés. Le première traite du patriarche, des métropolites, des êvêques, des périodeutes, des prêtres, des diacres, et la deuxième concerne le divorce. Pour les deux séries, il est expressement dit dans le Kitāb al-Hudā qu’elles ont été traduites du Syriaque. Il s’agit manifestement d’extraits de la Prédication de saint Jean l’Évangéliste que se trouve dans le manuscrit Cambridge Add. 2023…; dans ce manuscrit, les fonctions ecclésiastiques y sont traités aux f. 129v et suiv. Et les prescriptions sur le divorce aux f. 144v; et suiv., mais les textes ne correspondent pas exactement. On doit encore les regarder de plus près.
One cannot agree more with the last statement. In the footnote he states that he has his information from Desreumaux. One wonders how anyone, even Desreumaux,  knows this, as the Cambridge text is unedited. Nonetheless, Dr Vaucher, you seem to have found us a new church order!
I will update the conspectus.

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