Tag Archives: Pseudonymy

The Canons of Cyril of Jerusalem from the Kitāb al-Hudā

As Paul Bradshaw has observed several times, the church orders tend to survive in churches on the margins. Significantly they are also found, frequently, in collections of canon law from these marginal churches, among other more “canonical” material. Notes on some of these, which contain church order material, may be found in the conspectus below, and in Daniel Vaucher’s post on the Kitāb al-Hudā.

In thinking about this material recently I come to realize that another peculiarity about these collections and their contents is the continued production of pseudonymous canonical and liturgical material. Thus in the Kitāb al-Hudā we find canons attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem. Graf (GCAL 1, 335-337) lists three pages of Cyrilline pseudepigrapha in Arabic, including this. I present a somewhat provisional translation; what is good in it is largely due to the efforts of others (who have requested anonymity). In spite of the uncertainties and frequent lack of clarity, given that these canons are not otherwise extant and have never been translated, I thought it worth making this public. However, I cannot stress too much that there is a great deal of obscurity here, and that on occasion this rendition is little better than guesswork. My sole excuse is that this a first journey into terra incognita without any navigational tools.

The opening line has a striking resemblance to one of the canons among the the otherwise unidentified “A little of the canons of the apostles and the fathers, through which the church of Christ is truly united” which is found in the collection of canonical material in the E recension of the Didascalia apostolorum (see pp 274-275 of my version). Thus compare: Canon 17 of these: “Nor should a presbyter baptize his bodily child, unless death should threaten the child and no other presbyter is there to baptize him” with the opening line of these canons. This is the only direct parallel but the preoccupations of the documents seem largely the same. There is thus a similar concern with who may marry whom, though the concern here is that baptism creates a familial relationship which might put persons unrelated by blood into a familial relationship (water being as thick as blood!) Vööbus (CSCO 402, 42) suggests that the source of the canons found in the Didascalia is the Canons of an otherwise unknown Johanan found in the West Syrian Synodicon, but although the concerns are again similar, there is no evident literary relationship. The three share a milieu, but little else.

Frankly, this material raises as many questions as it does answers, not the least of which being those of date and provenance. All I can say on this is that it is of a date and provenance entirely out of my field of expertise!

The translation is derived from the text of Pierre Fahed, Kitāb al-Hudā ou livre de la direction (Aleppo: Imp. Maronite, 1935), 216-219.

The canons of Cyril of Jerusalem concerning baptism and marriage in the radiant faith

It is not permitted that a presbyter should baptize his son if another priest may be found, except in case of necessity. In case of necessity this is allowable to him. But he abstains from sexual intercourse for forty days. It is likewise not allowed to accept the baptism of the sons of his brothers, or an aunt’s child, or an uncle’s child, or a maternal aunt’s child, or a grandmother’s child. It is not permissible for them to accept baptism for any children of these at all.

A deacon is not permitted to anoint his son with oil. A deacon other than he is to take him down to the baptism and bring him up from it. To him it is not permissible.

It is not permissible at all that a priest should be kissed by a layman; nor should he kiss his son.1 And if he does this he is to separate from his wife for ever, and he is not permitted to take another, and if he marries he is banned from the sacrifice for the period of his life, and so it is for a woman, as for a man.

And if two men receive baptism it is not permitted that either should marry the other’s sister, or his daughter, or his mother, or his daughter’s daughter, nor his son’s daughter, or his sister’s daughter, or his paternal uncle’s daughter, nor his maternal uncle’s daughter, nor his maternal aunt’s daughter, nor the daughter of a half brother2 before the baptism. Even if she was born after the baptism it is not allowed, or even if this is agreed among them prior to the baptism. This is permissible for them if they are unrelated, but if they are for four generations then this is not permissible to them. And if their parents had children, male or female, and they wish to marry them to each other it is permissible for them to do so. This is no crime for them. And if there are sons to the father, or children to the mother,3 then they are not to construct a marriage between their children, or their children’s children at all, nor any of their family line, because baptism has brought about a comprehensive lineage. It is not permissible for that is an offence to Almighty God.

It is not permissible for a woman to kiss a man, or for a man to kiss a female.4 It is not permissible for a man and a woman to receive baptism at the same time, since if they die and they had done this then it is not permissible for their children or their children’s children to marry each other.

And it is not permitted for a deacon to marry a widow, even if she is abandoned. And for a presbyter, even if he is a young man and his wife has died, it is not permitted that he should marry another. And if he marries he commits fornication, and a fornicator does not serve at the altar of God, because he has preferred marriage to the priestly priesthood. Likewise the priestly class is not to marry a widow, even if they were married to priests and are bar adta (children of the church.) Both the presbyterate and the diaconate; and the orders below them, it is not permissible that they be given the priesthood except after they are married.

If they stipulated to themselves5 that they would be steadfast in virginity and purity this is excellent. Whoever breaches his undertaking and gets married after accepting the prayer of ordination should be rejected, because he has violated the covenant of God Almighty and his promise. And God, blessed be his name, will set him afar off and he will not attend the sacred mystery at all.

The deacons and those who are beneath them in their degrees, the sub-deacons (transliterated) and readers and psalmists, let them be received into the order of priesthood a year after their marriage. And if they do not desire marriage and they have a good reputation, and they stipulated concerning themselves to God that they are not to be married, then that is excellent. Yet if they go on to get married they are not to serve at the altar of almighty God. Anyone who has ascended any of the priestly ranks is not permitted to marry two women. Anyone who goes on this way is not to serve the altar of almighty God, such is not permitted by this decree, and so should be removed and rejected, because he has disobeyed, and fallen under judgement because he is like a fornicator, and it will not be forgiven him. It is not permitted that somebody who has committed this sin should appear in his place before the altar at all, because he has preferred marriage to the discipline of Christ. For this reason he is banished from the holy camp, to take his place in this world. If a priest marries a third time, then his face should be spat upon, and he should burn in the fire. And his priestly clothing, and his crown should be removed and he should be prohibited from the sacrifice for the span of his life. And this decree is for the diaconate and the priesthood: whoever has donned the crown of the Lord, and those who are beneath them, like readers and psalmists and ܘܕܝܘܢܐ ܘܪܣܡܐ.6

They shall distribute the body at the gate of the holy house and they shall not approach the altar at all. And to a laymen likewise they should not distribute the body from the altar, even if they are honoured patrons, but they shall distribute the sacrifice to him outside the door.

Such are the canons.

1Reading the verb qbl as a form II and accepting that there is a double object (as found often in Syriac texts). Otherwise the sentence might be construed: “It is not permissible for a priest to receive it, a layman will not kiss his son.” This does not make much sense to me. But even this version has its problems!

2Literally “nor the daughter of a companion in birth”. Taken here to mean a half brother through a different father.

3Taken as meaning stepchildren.

4Again reading qbl as a form II. Cf. Traditio apostolica 18.4.

5Literally “to their souls”.

6I can make nothing of these two Syriac words! My understanding is that the karshuni MSS were derived from MSS in Arabic script, and possibly by scribes with no knowledge of Syriac. The scope for confusion is thus extensive. Note that the previous words, readers and psalmists, are also found in Syriac here.


Leave a comment

Filed under Other church order literature

The Coptic version of the Canons of Basil: a progress report



Way back in 2014 I reported on the discovery of a Coptic codex of the Canons of Basil. Alberto Camplani had confirmed to me that a codex had been discovered, and that a progress report was forthcoming. This report has now been published: Alberto Camplani and Federico Contardi, “The Canons Attributed to Basil of Caesarea: A New Coptic Codex” in Paola Buzi, Alberto Camplani, Federico Contardi (ed.), Coptic Society, Literature and Religion from Late Antiquity to Modern Times: Proceedings of the Tenth International Congress of Coptic Studies, Rome, September 17th-22nd, 2012, and Plenary Reports of the Ninth International Congress of Coptic Studies, Cairo, September 15th-19th, 2008 Vol. 2 (Leuven: Peeters, 2016), 979-992. Federico Contardi has kindly sent me a copy of this report.

Camplani and Contardi report that the codex was discovered in Sheikh Abd el-Gurna by the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology under the direction of Tomasz Górecki, on a rubbish dump outside tomb 1152 (dating from the Middle Kingdom) which was reused in the Coptic Period as a hermitage. The codex is preserved in the National Museum of Alexandria, identified as Coptic Ms. 1. It is almost complete.

What is particularly interesting about this Coptic version, by distinction to the published Arabic, is the presence of much more apparatus of pseudonymy, some of which is described in the report. This links with that described by Alin Suciu in Coptic apocrypha, and discussed briefly below, and lends support to the suggestion of Camplani that the Canons should be given an Egyptian and sixth century provenance.

We look forward to the forthcoming preliminary edition by Contardi and Camplani, to be followed by an editio maior containing Arabic and Coptic.

1 Comment

Filed under Other church order literature

On pseudonymy and Coptic apocrypha: with thanks again to Alin Suciu

Recently published (and made available online) by the excellent Alin Suciu is his article “The Book of Bartholomew: a Coptic apostolic memoir” Apocrypha 26 (2015), 211-237.

The abstract follows:

The Book of Bartholomew (= Liber Bartholomaei) is one of the best-known apocryphal writings preserved in Coptic. The present article proposes that the text in question belongs to a peculiar genre of Coptic literature : the memoirs of the apostles. This category consists of reports attributed to the apostles concerning various topics, all related to Coptic piety and liturgical life.

Within the article he explains that a major reason for the production of these pseudepigrapha was the aetiology of feasts within the Coptic calendar. He also refers to a statement prefacing a collection of pseudepigrapha attributed to the biblical patriarchs that Athanasius had discovered them among ancient apostolic decrees (nisyntagma narcheos). This, he shows, is a common trope; I have already referred to Suciu’s making me aware of such a statement in the preface to a pseudo-Chrysostomic text, and he details others within his article.

Whereas this is an Egyptian phenomenon, further light is shed on the context of pseudonymous production shared by the church orders. It is also interesting that apostolic sanction is sought for liturgical practice, again a mark of the church orders.

1 Comment

Filed under Church orders in genera(l)

Church Order Conspectus – matter of definition

After having been added as co-author on the blog, I’d like to reply once more on the matter of defining the church order tradition, and in regards to Stewarts conspectus (see post of January 6th 2016), on which texts we could include in the list and which not.

In my dissertation, I analyze the emergence of the church orders in the context of Church history from its beginning to the early 4th century. I’ll therefore exclude here the Church Orders from the 4th to 5th centuries. I start with the premise that the texts we normally regard as Church Orders (Didache, Traditio Apostolica, Didascalia, Apostolic Church Order) share some features with regards to content. Building on Stewarts working definition, I’d propose five features:

First, the lack of a central authority in the emerging Church. Especially after the death of the Apostles, the communities were in need of a broadly accepted authority, even more so when problems went beyond singular communities or house churches. The authors present themselves as such authorities and their texts as binding for everybody.

Second, the apostolic claim and the pseudonymity. It is clearly a sign that the anonymous authors lacked authority or that they hoped to give their texts more persuasive force this way. It also originates from the fragmentation of the early church in different house communities or schools and the fact that ancient schools tended to construct some kind of lineage.

Third, questions of authority. It is apparent that Church Orders were written in contest with other Christian authorities or leaders, e.g. prophets, patrons, widows. The texts therefore deal with hierarchy and offices to regulate Church life.

Fourth, the process of canonization, which of course is complex, but most of the early Christian texts deal with the question, what is truly Christian? It leads to the formation of a canon and simultaneously, to the construction of heresy and orthodoxy. Most Christian texts deal with integration and demarcation of other doctrines or schools. So do the Church Orders, when they treat heretic literature, false teaching etc.

Fifth, problem-oriented. This is central to my argument. These texts were written to address concrete problems and questions in Christian communities, and therefore, we deal with texts written by Christians for Christians.

It is symptomatic that many modern scholars try to define the Church order tradition but fail to do so. I’m not happy neither! Steimer, Mueller, Metzger and others, in the end, always recur to the content: the attempt to “direct the conduct of Christians and of the church”. What I’d like to propose is that we should see the Church Orders in their early Christian context, and this links them to other Christian texts. There are many more texts that share all or most of the above-mentioned features. (Certainly, not all features are equally present in all texts.) And crucially, I think, some texts are not essentially different from the Church Orders, but are sometimes not called so.

We already named the Pastorals, which are in my opinion a fictional trilogy clearly with Church Order character. I’d propose the letters by the Apostolic fathers in general, although there is more differentiation necessary (we dealt with 1 Clement, but see Alexandre Faivre for reflections on other letters). But what with deutero-Pauline letters like Ephesians, Colossians, the Johannine letters?

Stewart argues that these letters were written only to one community and not to the whole Church. But then, letters were expected to be read out aloud, to circulate in a town, or sometimes to be sent on to other cities and communities (like other letters were written to be publicized, e.g. Pliny, Seneca). What is important in my opinion is that letters were clearly problem-oriented and dealt with actual questions.

The recourse to the apostolic authority is a good point too in my opinion. But where do we find it more explicit than in the deutero-Pauline letters?

Enough for now, I await vigorous opposition.

daniel vaucher




Filed under Church orders in genera(l)

Reading the Didascalia in Syria: insights from Judith H. Newman

Have just read Judith H. Newman, “Three contexts of Manasseh’s prayer in the Didascalia” Journal of the Canadian Society for Semitic Studies 7 (2007), 3-17 (which may be found on academia.edu). Actually I am gutted never to have come across this previously, especially as Newman is a former colleague and sometime collaborator, and can only exhort the reader to desist reading this and read her article instead.

There is a great deal packed into a small compass. I am hugely intrigued, for instance, by her suggestion that the “secondary legislation” reflects “Mishnah”, as opposed to “miqra”, and her tracing of the Didascalist’s doctrine of deuterōsis through the exegesis of Ezekiel, with more than a nod to Irenaeus.

However, what is really electrifying is her suggestion in answer to the ongoing and continuously vexing question of how the Didascalia, and other church orders, were read, used and transmitted. Starting from the observation of a bēma in the north Syrian churches, and the practice of reading from Torah, prophets, Gospels and “Acts of the apostles” from the bēma, she suggests that the Didascalia, and other pseudo-apostolic literature, was used liturgically as “Acts of the apostles.”

Which is not to say that I am instantly convinced that one could get away with reading a fresh composition as apostolic from the bēma, but I am certainly instantly intrigued, and also instantly given a context for understanding the continued production, and reading, of apostolic pseudepigrapha, namely the liturgically re-inforced memory of the apostles.

1 Comment

Filed under Didascalia Apostolorum

The pseudonymy game

A few weeks ago I went to a day studying pseudonymous dialogues, in particular to hear the excellent Alin Suciu, who gave a paper on pseudo-apostolic dialogues in Coptic. It keeps me out of trouble!

 What was interesting, as far as students of the ancient church orders is concerned, is the apparatus of pseudonymy in many of these dialogues, as many claim to have been found in Jerusalem, hidden in libraries. Most striking, in that context, was the introduction to ps-John Chrysostom On the four bodiless creatures in which the author states that he was in Jerusalem studying the commands (nesēntagma) in Jerusalem. Surely these syntagmata are an allusion to the setting in Jerusalem of the pseudo-apostolic church orders (e.g. the Didascalia.) A pseudonymous author thus refers to the apparatus of pseudonymy! Any further development of understanding of the church orders must come to terms with their pseudonymous nature. Bart Ehrman has made a significant contribution here, but somehow I do not think his is the last word; I tend to think of pseudonymy more as a literary game than an outright intention to deceive (forgery, in Bart’s words). What Alin’s paper particularly brings to our attention is the continuation of the literary game which we call pseudonymy.


Filed under Didascalia Apostolorum