Tag Archives: Paul

Saint Paul and the two ways

I am pleased to announce the publication of my article “St Paul and the two ways: Romans 12-13 and pre-baptismal catechesis” Bulletin of the St Philaret Institute 39 (2021), 12-31, alongside some other interesting-looking articles. The journal is open access. Note that the Russian translation (!) appears first. The home page is in Russian… and Google translate turns me into an abbot!

The abstract:

This article suggests that the paraenetic material in Romans 12-13 in being introduced with a reference to baptism and concluding with an eschatological exhortation, again referring to baptism, is deliberately intended to reflect a pre-baptismal catechesis, rather than, as frequently supposed, a synoptic source or Jesus-tradition. Significant parallels with the Didache, and other parts of the two-ways tradition, are observed. This leads to the further observation that the context of this catechesis is shaped in a specifically Jewish context, being reflected in Pliny’s report of Christian activities and in the Elchesite baptismal ritual. Paul is employing a recognizably Jewish form of catechesis here in order to commend his teaching to a primarily Jewish audience. Gentile baptism, however, required a distinct renunciation, and in time a doctrinal element was added to the catechetical programme.

This was actually started as long ago as 2008, in a presentation given at that famous seat of learning, Cuddesdon. They did not appreciate it. I had pulled if off the back burner several times, but only when I pulled it off again late last year, on receiving a request for an article on catechesis from SFI, did I realize that the reason I had made no progress was that I was using the material to try to answer the question of the extent of Paul’s knowledge of Jesus-logia; although the argument tends to indicate that he had none, it is not a slam-dunk, and the question is in any case not the most interesting one. What is interesting is Paul’s knowledge of the catechetical tradition represented by, inter alia, the Didache.

This announcement is filed under e-rrata, as there are two errors of omission.

One comes about because of the passage of time. Namely, although I read Seeberg Der Katechismus der Urchristenheit ages ago, when I was preparing for my trip to Cuddesdon, I really should have re-read it. Had I done so I would have remembered Romans 6:17, χάρις δὲ τῷ θεῷ ὅτι ἦτε δοῦλοι τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὑπηκούσατε δὲ ἐκ καρδίας εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε τύπον διδαχῆς, which strikes me as really clinching the argument. The τύπος διδαχῆς is surely the two ways.

The other omission is reference to Benjamin A. Edsall, The reception of Paul and early Christian initiation: history and hermeneutics (Cambridge: CUP, 2019). Edsall does not have a lot of time for Carrington and Selwyn who were, alongside Seeberg, the fontes et origines for my thinking here. My excuse here is that I only came across this work after the article was translated and typeset.

In his introductory chapter Edsall suggests that the formal catechumenate was not known in the first or early second centuries. Insofar as it may refer to a formal period of liminal existence with fixed rituals this amounts to a statement of the obvious. Insofar as it may refer to instruction prior to baptism, then the Didache rather tends to contradict Edsall here. To get away from this, Edsall suggests that the two ways material in Didache 1-6 is rather loosely connected to the baptismal rite: “’these things’ need not be restricted to literary reference points and may refer rather to pre-baptismal declarations by the priest and believer (note the plural προειπόντες) rather than to Didache 1– 6.” (p27). There is more, however, to connect the two ways material and the baptismal rite than simply the phrase at Did. 7.1; thus we may note the echoes of the two ways in the report of catechumenate and baptism given to Pliny (Ep. 10.96.7) and the similar echoes in the baptismal rite of the Elchesites (Hippolytus Ref. 9.15.6.) προειπόντες (the plural is noted, though we should also note βαπτίσατε) certainly does refer to pre-baptismal declarations by the baptizer (not a priest, surely!) and possibly the candidate… but these declarations are constituted by the two ways (ταῦτα πάντα). Actually that insight could become another article… remember you read it here first!


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James and Paul on faith and works

Apart from all the Bach, one of the joys of having a German organist of Lutheran background, as I do at one of my churches, is the opportunity to bait him regarding the erroneous Lutheran reading of Paul.

Readings from James as the epistle over the last and next few Sundays are an absolute gift in this regard! However, arguing in my homilies during these weeks, as I did at a conference in Tilburg many years ago, that the epistle represents the content of baptismal catechesis (a position of which I am more convinced than ever) it dawned on me today that the supposed contrast between faith and works in 2:14-17 is completely unrelated to the Pauline discussion with the works of the law in Jewish circles, but is basically and simply saying that those who claim to have faith in Christ should act in accordance with that faith. Was Paul even that important in Jewish-Christian circles in the period prior to the Bar Kosiba revolt that anyone would want to take issue with him?

It is much the same content as the, likewise catechetically originating, Matthew 7. Or Canones Hippolyti 37, certainly reflective of catechesis: “Thus somebody who says ‘I have been baptized and received the Body of the Lord’ and feels comfortable, and says ‘I am a Christian’, yet is a lover of selfish desires and is not conformed to the commandments of Christ, is like somebody who goes into a bath covered in dirt, and leaves without rubbing himself, since he did not receive the burning of the Spirit.”

We may finally note in this respect Athenagoras Legatio 11.4, stating that Christians manifest their teaching less by word than by deed. In this part of the Legatio Athenagoras is speaking of the contents of catechesis.

Quite probably the lack of connection between James’ teaching on faith and works and that of Paul has been argued previously (and if any passing Neutestamentler can give me any references to such an argument I would be grateful indeed). However, it is surely the recognition of a debt to catechesis that is the truly decisive argument here.


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Presbyters in 3rd Corinthians and names in Philippians: insights from Richard Fellows

A communication from Richard Fellows drew my attention to his article on Acts, which is of rather more interest than the title might lead one to think. It can be read here.

In particular, Fellows points out that 3rd Corinthians, in the Acta Pauli, contains a letter sent by Stephanas and his co-presbyters (Daphnus, Eubulus, Theophilus, and Xenos). Fellows points out that the names suggest that these presbyters were hosts/benefactors of the church, and that this tends to support my case in Original bishops.

I agree that this letter to Paul from Corinth bears out my hypothesis at several levels, as this is communication by a gathering of presbyters on behalf of churches within an urban setting, as well as bearing names indicating benefaction. I suppose the failure to note 3 Corinthians must go down as an error of omission, and I am grateful for the correction.

There is more of interest here. Fellows’ overall hypothesis is that, just like Paul himself, many of the co-workers had two names, a phenomenon with which we are particularly familiar in the West Indies. Thus Stephanas, he suggests, is what he terms a “leadership name “ (though I would prefer “associational name”). I will admit that it had always struck me that Stephanas was a name which sort of belonged in associational honorific, and so to see this as a nom de guerre, as it were, is very illuminating.

There is, indeed, more. I argued at several points in the book that the episkopoi and diakonoi are mentioned in Phil. 1:1 because they were the agents of the gifts sent to Paul by the Philippians. And that two of these are mentioned by name, namely Euodia and Syntyche. My discussion of female leadership is brief, but admits that these are likely to have been among the episkopoi, and that female associational leadership is manifest in the first generation but largely in the first generation only. Since then I have read E. Hemelrijk, “Patronesses and ‘mothers’ of Roman collegia” Classical Antiquity 27 (2008), 115-162, which causes me to puzzle further about the disappearance of female ministry within the church in the earliest period. Is it, in some way, related to federation and the eventual development of monepiscopate?

Fellows suggests that Euodia is also a leadership name. Indeed he suggests, convincingly to me, that Paul’s description of the gift as an ὀσμή εὐωδίας at 4:18, is a play on Euodia’s name, linking her in particular to the gift and offering.

In response to a question he states that he has “found little evidence that associations gave leadership names… The phenomenon, however, did have parallels in the ancient world. New names were often given to kings, emperors, and philosophers, as well as to converts to Judaism. Interesting examples among the philosophers are Porphyry and Amelius-Amerius.”

Fellows has opened up a very interesting avenue of discussion. Do check out his link, and indeed his blog, where the link may be found.

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Church orders at the British patristic conference

The British patristic conference in Birmingham in September yields one paper of direct relevance to the study of the ancient church orders.

The abstract is as follows:

Pauliina Pylvänäinen

A Common Purpose for Paul and the Female Deacons?

The author writes in 1 Tim 1:12 that Christ has appointed Apostle Paul εἰς διακονίαν. The same enunciation has been used in four other verses in the Greek NT. About three hundred years after that, the Apostolic Constitutions, one of the most influential ancient church orders, was compiled. Among its various ecclesiastical instructions the author commands the special group of women in his midst: He gives several instructions and presents an ordination prayer for them. In the prayer the author uses an enunciation, which rings a bell. He writes that the female deacon has to be appointed – εἰς διακονίαν.

The noun διακονία has commonly been translated as “service”. However, the traditional understanding about the early Christian use of the verb διακονέω has lately been challenged. Especially John N. Collins and Anni Hentschel have re-interpreted its ancient usage. According to them, service is not the main meaning for διακονία. If anything, the term refers to the areas of agency and attendance. It connotes intermediary functions. Collins’ and Hentschel’s results form the background for my research.

In the presentation I will have a glance at the usage of εἰς διακονίαν in its contexts both in 1 Tim 1:12 and AC VIII, 20, 2. I will find out, to what kind of purposes Paul and the female deacons really are appointed. Are the enunciations parallel? Do they have the equivalence both of form and content?

This, and the other abstracts, may be viewed at

My quick answer to the concluding question is “probably not.”

For the convenience of readers the relevant prayer reads as follows:

O Eternal God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of man and of woman, who replenished with the Spirit Miriam, and Deborah, and Anna, and Huldah; who did not disdain that Your only begotten Son should be born of a woman; who also in the tabernacle of the testimony, and in the temple, ordained women to be keepers of Your holy gates—do Thou now also look down upon this Your servant, who is to be ordained to the office of a deaconess, and grant her Your Holy Spirit, and cleanse her from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, (2 Corinthians 7:1) that she may worthily discharge the work which is committed to her to Your glory, and the praise of Your Christ, with whom glory and adoration be to You and the Holy Spirit for ever. Amen.

This is the ANF translation. The phrase εἰς διακονίαν is rendered “to the office of a deaconess.”

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