Tag Archives: Paul Bradshaw

Paul Bradshaw, Ancient church orders

It was a fair while ago that I reviewed Paul Bradshaw, Ancient church orders on this site. I had just received my copy from the publisher through Prof. Bradshaw’s kindness, and had read and reviewed it the same day.

I have noticed that the post is still getting traction, and on re-reading it recollect that, at the time, although the work was in print it was not available. It is, of course, readily available now, and can be obtained from the Alcuin Club at
http://alcuinclub.org.uk/product/ancient-church-orders/ Possibly the best £8 (plus p&p and minus a shilling) you will ever spend.

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Did anyone take notice of the church orders?

Daniel Vaucher has submitted an extensive comment on my conspectus of church orders. This conspectus needs to be updated in several respects, though this may not happen until the fall, as I do not work much in the summer. When I do come to update it, I shall examine his suggestions for additions (apart from Epistula apostolorum and I Clement) (see the comment below.)

Within his comment Vaucher asks:

Would you suggest, then, in opposition to the synodal canons, that Church Orders had no reasonable expectation of being observed? It reminds me of Paul Bradshaws question in his recent book, if anybody took any notice of the Church Orders. Were they really just literary ideal ?
The next one is the classification of the Apostolic canons at the end of CA VIII. It is apparent that they included material from the synods of the 4th century, but nevertheless they were probably written / compiled by the same author as the Apostolic Constitutions. The latter are in my opinion clearly a Church Order. The Apostolic Canons are somewhat in-between, if they consist of canons by individual bishops or actual synods and of material by an anonymous author of the CA. Things get even more complicated in terms of the working definition when we look at the aftermath of the Apostolic Canons. They were included in all the Canonical collections and became actual Canonic Law.

 

I agree entirely that the apostolic canons are church order material, though I treat them as part of the Apostolic constitutions, as I believe that they were compiled by the same author/redactor (as DV agrees.) And he is right, not only do they incorporate material from “real” synods, but they come to be incorporated in canonical collections.

I do treat of this a little in a forthcoming article in RHE on the pseudonymous Antiochene canons included in my conspectus. I take the liberty of quoting myself:

The standard statement in the history of apostolic pseudepigrapha is that such productions cease with the prominence of church councils, which become sources of authority as canon law develops.1 Whatever the truth of that statement, we may note that these “church orders” are preserved in canonical collections alongside other, more historically grounded, councils, such as the west Syrian Synodicon2 and the collection found in Paris Syr. 62, which contains the Didascalia apostolorum and an abbreviated version of Testamentum Domini alongside conciliar canons and documents such as Constantine’s summons to Nicaea. Thus even if the growth of councils and the development of a corpus of canon law led to the end of the production of pseudo-apostolic legislative and liturgical material it also led to the preservation of what had been produced. So these Antiochene canons are found in the Munich MS between African conciliar acts from the time of Cyprian and the eighth book of the Apostolic constitutions, and in the Vallicellan alongside the canons of the local fourth-century councils such as Ancyra and Gangra as well as those of the ecumenical councils. Moreover, even if the growth of conciliar legislation led to the end of the church orders, before it did so it directly affected their form as in the fourth century such pseudepigrapha adopt the form of conciliar canons. Thus we have the Apostolic canons, already mentioned above, and the rewriting of the Hippolytean Traditio apostolica into canon form in the Canones Hippolyti.

1Thus Susan Wessel, “The formation of ecclesiastical law in the early church” in Wilfried Hartmann, Kenneth Pennington (ed.), The history of Byzantine and eastern canon law to 1500 (Washington DC: Catholic University of America, 2012), 1-23 at 23; Heinz Ohme, “Sources of the Greek canon law to the Quinisext Council (691/2): councils and church fathers” in Hartmann and Pennington History, 24-114 at 31; Paul F. Bradshaw, Ancient church orders (JLS 80; Norwich: Hymns Ancient and Modern, 2015), 57-8.

2Ed. Arthur Vööbus, The Synodicon in the west Syrian tradition (Leuven: Peeters, 1975-6).

I think what I am suggesting beyond what is here is that prior to the development of conciliar law the church orders employed apostolic authority as an attempt to persuade. The fact that they were translated, copied and edited implies that they were read and noticed, but that their force was persuasive only. The adaptation of canon form to apostolic pseudonymy is the next step in lending persuasive force to the contents of the orders. The widespread distribution of the apostolic canons indicates that this was successful. Interestingly, moreover, we find the pseudonymous Antiochene canons quoted  by Gregory of Pisinuntum at the second Council of Nicaea, which again indicates that the canon form brought persuasive success. But the provisions of synodal canons could be enforced in the way that those of the church orders could not.

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Paul Bradshaw on the church orders published

Through the kindness of the author, I have received a copy of Paul F. Bradshaw, Ancient church orders (Alcuin/GROW JLS 80; Norwich: Hymns Ancient and Modern, 2015).

A brief introduction describes the modern rediscovery of the ancient church orders, and engages with the question of whether these even compose a genre, and in what sense they may be held to be homogeneous.He rightly (imo) rejects Joe Mueller’s suggestion that they are all basically works of scriptural exegesis and concurs with me that they may reasonably be discussed as a group (though probably not a genre) on the basis of their intricate literary relationship both internally and through being gathered into common collections.

The first chapter is a rewriting of Bradshaw’s chapter in his second edition of The search for the origins of Christian worship (London: SPCK, 2002) and provides a brief introduction to each of the major church orders, as well as to the canonical collections in which they have been largely preserved. Although there are echoes of the original, it has been updated considerably in the light of recent research, and thus replaces that chapter as the best and most accessible introduction to the field.

The second chapter describes the manner in which the church orders, being made up largely of pre-existing material adapted (or not) to the settings of the redactors, may be described as living literature, with detailed discussion of the Apostolic church order, Didascalia apostolorum and Apostolic tradition. Beyond the main argument, there is a valuable description of the direction of research into these documents, where I find my own work discussed (still a strange experience). Obviously we continue to disagree about Apostolic tradition but Bradshaw is scrupulously fair and balanced in his statement of the arguments, here as throughout. Again, as an introduction to the issues and to current research I cannot see that it could be bettered.

One interesting new point is raised in this chapter: “…while the Didache had been composed by appending church-order material to a two-ways tractate, the Apostolic church order had been composed by combining a similar two-ways tractate with an existing brief church-order and the Didascalia had used a catechetical manual containing two-ways material together with a derivative of the same church order to form its basis. It seems highly improbable, however, that all three independently decided to adopt the same composite structure for their works as there is no inherent connection between the two types of literature that are used, but they serve quite different purposes. It cannot simply be co-incidental then, and the compilers of the latter two works must have had some awareness of the Didache itself, even if they did not use it directly as a source…” (Bradshaw, Ancient church orders, 33.) This is a valuable observation.

It is in the third chapter that Bradshaw begins to break new ground, and to open up the issues which church-order scholarship needs to address. Entitled “layers of tradition” the chapter starts by charting the current discussion about whether the orders are statements of current practice or are polemical in purpose (or “propagandist”, as I prefer to term their Tendenz.) He then makes the valuable point that as “living literature” they cannot simply have a single purpose. In particular he observes that some redactors were simply updating the pre-existing material to suit their own current practice, for instance when Apostolic constitutions alters Didache 10.7 from “let the prophets give thanks as they wish” to “let your presbyters give thanks.” He points out that alongside this tendency there is also a tendency to try and preserve what is ancient in the orders, such updating as is undertaken in turn leading often to confused and hybridized rites, such as when Canones Hippolyti has the candidate baptized three times in the name of the Trinity. He follows these observations with the further valuable observation that this is taking place in the fourth century, rather than in the second or third, and suggests that as bishops and councils are now more pro-active in making decisions, the church orders have become repositories of tradition. As a result he suggests that alongside propagandist material, the orders also contain traditional material encoding practices which are no longer current, material commonly accepted in the community of production, and also, possibly, the individual views of the compilers. He concludes by asking whether anybody really took any notice of the church orders, suggesting that in Chalcedonian areas the importance of patriarchal sees was such that there was no need to continue to encode tradition in this way, thus explaining the retention of the orders, and largely their survival, in Egypt and Ethiopia, even as their use was abandoned elsewhere.

On all of Bradshaw’s substantive points in this chapter I reserve judgement, as on his point regarding the possible readership of the Didache by the compilers of the Didascalia and Apostolic church order. All I will say for the present is that the work is remarkable in being both an accessible introduction to the field and in being a provocation to thinking by those to whom the church-order tradition is very familiar already. If I ever have the time I would still like to produce some sort of monograph on the church orders and their tradition; I am motivated to hope anew that I might do so by reading this work, and in doing so I will be treading in Bradshaw’s footmarks, engaging both with the questions he raises and the answers which he gives.

I would end with an exhortation to get your copy now, but the publisher has not yet made it available!

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Paul Bradshaw and the ancient church orders

Following on from Bradshaw’s paper at the conference, he informs me that he has a little book called The ancient church orders coming out soon in the Alcuin/GROW series. At least there will be some more permanent record of the pertinent questions.

This is an excellent series (I have published in it myself), though fiendishly difficult to obtain. The easiest way is through the Alcuin club, whose website now accepts paypal:

http://alcuinclub.org.uk/publications/

The book is not yet up there, but is expected in October… keep checking back.

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The Oxford Patristic Conference and the church order literature

It is now weeks to go until Oxford, and still I haven’t written my paper (which, btw, is on Ignatius of Antioch’s “docetic” opponents, and on Friday afternoon, by which time most people are too tired to care.)

The conference will kick off for me, however, on the Tuesday morning at nine sharp, as I am chairing the short communications on liturgy. I wonder whether I will get to ring the bell.

First into bat is Paul Bradshaw, the abstract of whose paper is below. He is wrestling with the very issues with which I am constantly wrestling, so I look forward very much to his most recent insights.

Paul Bradshaw: SC another look at the church order literature

In the late twentieth century it was debated whether the ancient church orders were comprehensive and descriptive or selective and polemic. This paper will argue that this is a false dichotomy. As ‘living literature’, the church orders need to be read as multiple layers of tradition and cannot be said to have one single purpose. At least in part their compilers and redactors were trying to preserve what they thought was ancient, and the results evolved into literary texts rather than manuals intended for practical use. However, their attempts either to maintain or to promote particular practices ultimately had rather limited effect.

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