Tag Archives: Quartodecimans

The reception history of the Didascalia

Sarah Whitear, in a comment below, asks about the reception history of the Didascalia. She asks, “Other than Apostolic Constitutions, are there any later Christian texts which comment or use the DA?” I thought it worth turning an answer into a post, though I should acknowledge that what follows is mostly taken straight from F.X. Funk, Didascalia et Constitutiones apostolorum II (Paderborn: Schöningh, 1905), 3-14.

First up is the one I knew without looking it up! Epiphanius, in his chapter on the Audians (Haer. 70) refers to the Audians’ use of the Didascalia to justify their Quartodeciman practice. The text is called τῶν ἀποστόλων διάταξις; I conclude in my treatment, following many of the learned, that this is indeed the extant Didascalia. Things are slightly confused, however, by a statement elsewhere in the Panarion in which, discussing the “Aerians”, in which Epiphanius states: “If, indeed, I need to speak of the Ordinance of the Apostles (τῆς διατάξεως τῶν ἀποστόλων), they plainly decreed there that Wednesdays and Fridays be fasts at all times except Pentecost and directed that nothing at all be eaten on the six days of the Passover except bread, salt and water; and which day to keep, and that we break our fast on the night before the Lord’s Day. (Epiphanius Haer. 55.6.1). The mention of Wednesdays and Fridays is not derived from the Didascalia; it is not derived from the Didache either (as the Didache does not except the Pentecost), and nor is it Apostolic Constitutions 7. Most puzzling. Unless Epiphanius is quoting from faulty memory.

Finally we may note that in Haer. 45.4.5 Epiphanius states: καὶ οἱ ἀπόστολοί φασιν ἐν τῇ διατάξει τῇ καλουμένῃ ὅτι «φυτεία θεοῦ καὶ ἀμπελὼν ἡ καθολικὴ ἐκκλησία». This may either be the Didascalia or the Constitutiones, though I’m inclined to think it the Didascalia.

In conclusion, I think we can take it that Epiphanius had some knowledge of the Didascalia, and that the Audians did likewise.

We may next turn to a Coptic version of Athanasius’ Paschal letter, edited by Carl Schmidt, “Der Osterfestbrief des Athanasius vom J. 367” Nachrichten von der königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Philologisch-historische Klasse 1898 (Göttingen: Horstmann, 1898), 167-203. Where the Greek text refers to the Didache, the Coptic refers to ⲧⲇⲓⲥⲕⲁⲗⲓⲕⲏ ⲛ̄ⲛⲁⲡⲟⲥⲧⲟⲗⲟⲥ and adds, “I do not mean that which is said to censure Deuteronomy”. Schmidt suggests that the translator does not know the Didache at all, but has some knowledge of the Didascalia and was therefore confused. This seems entirely reasonable. We may add that the existence of a (lost, apart from a tiny fragment) Coptic translation of the Didascalia would point to some circulation in Egypt.

There are a number of citations of the Didascalia in the Opus imperfectum in Matthaeum, cited in detail by Funk, though I deal with these rather briefly. There is no doubt that the Didascalia is cited here, but given our total lack of knowledge about the origin of this work, it does not assist us much with tracing a reception history. Perhaps somebody with greater knowledge of the Opus imperfectum could jump in here and assist.

Finally we may note, with Funk, some citations of the Didascalia in Bar-Hebraeus, in his Nomocanon, and in his Ethicon. No surprise here.

R.H. Connolly (Didascalia apostolorum (Oxford: Clarendon, 1929), lxxxiv-lxxxvii) discusses Funk’s work and ventures to suggest that the Didascalia was also known to Aphraahat. As discussed in a recent post, there is certainly a large overlap at significant points between the two, though I would tend to consider this the result of a common cultural and theological milieu, rather than looking for direct influence in one direction or another. In part this comes about because I have dated the Didascalia rather later than Connolly.

Connolly also believes that the ps-Clementines made use of the Didascalia (again, I think this unlikely due to the dating of the Didascalia to the fourth century, though, again, perhaps this could be explored further), and finally suggests that the Apostolic Church Order and Canones Hippolyti knew the work.

I have discussed the relationship between Apostolic Church Order and the Didascalia in my edition, where I suggest that the two do share a common source. I leave the discussion there.

Turning to the Canones Hippolyti Connolly reckons three points of derivation. I do not think any of them can be sustained.

Firstly he points to the gathering of the apostles in the first chapter. However, the Canones do not refer to the apostles; the reference is certainly to a council of some sort, but it could equally well be Nicaea.

He further refers to the paschal provisions of Canones Hippolyti in canon 22. “Every point emphasized here is to be found in chapter xxi of the Didascalia” he states. I deal with these parallels in pp24-27 of my edition of Canones Hippolyti and conclude that they do not point to literary dependence, but to a common paschal practice, rooted, we may add, in the Quartodeciman origins of the communities which produced these documents. This in turn was part of the basis for my argument that the Canones are not Egyptian.

The final parallel to which he points had me stumped for a while. He refers to Canon 22 and to a provision that women being baptized should be assisted by other women in removing their clothing before baptism which is, he suggests, reminiscent of the role of women deacons in the Didascalia. His source is the edition of Hans Achelis, Die ältesten Quellen des orientalischen Kirchenrechts 1: die Canones Hippolyti (TU 6.4; Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1891), who had in turn lifted a Latin translation from D.B. von Haneberg, Canones S Hippolyti Arabice e codicibus Romanis cum versione latina, annotationibus et prolegomenis (Munich: Academia Boica, 1870). Sure enough I do find this in Haneberg’s Latin, but the puzzle is that there is nothing corresponding to it in the Arabic text! How it got there I know not, but on this occasion it has misled Connolly significantly

In summary, the reception history is thin. But the enquiry has been interesting.


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The time of the resurrection

I have previously posted on the fragments of Melito De anima et corpore.

Although I do not have full access to the witnesses, I have the Syriac under the name of Alexander of Alexandria and the Coptic under the name of Athanasius through E.A. Wallis Budge, Coptic homilies in the dialect of Upper Egypt (London: British Museum, 1910).

My reading today was undertaken as a spiritual exercise at a time when normally I would be saying mass (but was prevented from doing so by government regulation), but inevitably did not stay so. I observed that whereas the Coptic states that Christ rose from the dead “in the third (hour) of the day” (ϩⲙ̄ⲡⲙⲉϩϣⲟⲙⲛⲧ ⲛ̄ϩⲟⲟⲩ) the Syriac reads “on the third day” (ܠܬܠܬܐ ܝܘܡܝܢ).

Whereas it might be obvious that the Syriac has rendered τῃ τρίτῃ τῆς ἡμέρας as though it were τῃ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ (a simple enough mistake, given that this is a familiar phrase) there is more. Epistula apostolorum 15 implies that the paschal vigil is to conclude at 3am, a direction made explicit in Didascalia apostolorum 5.19.6 (part of chapter 21 in the Syriac.)

On the assumption that the reading of the Coptic is correct this all implies that there was an established pattern of maintaining the vigil until 3am in Quartodeciman communities, a suspicion now confirmed by Melito. All I need to do now is persuade my parish that this is the best time for the Easter vigil!

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Timothée : Sur la Pâque

9782204131582-5dcc24aad0a90Newly appeared is Pierre Chambert-Protat, Camille Gerzaguet, Timothée : Sur la Pâque. Édition princeps et critique, traduction française, introduction, notes et index (SC604; Paris: Cerf, 2019).

This is a text regarding issues in timing the Pascha, which the editors persuasively argue derives from Asia, and slightly (but only slightly) less persuasively from a period prior to Nicaea.

A new text is always exciting, and this is of exceptional interest and importance.

Certain points of personal satisfaction emerge. Firstly, having long suggested that the reason why Quartodeciman practice was objectionable to those who did not keep a Sunday Pascha, or any Pascha, was that the fourteenth might concur with a Sunday, and thus take precedence, because in this event the Sunday would be marked by fasting, I now find this explicitly stated by Timothy in De Pascha 13. I also recollect suggesting that the Quartodecimans need not have used Nisan as their “fourteenth”, and again find that this suggestion is confirmed as a practice in some quarters by Timothy De Pascha 15 (a polemic against appeal to the Acta Pilati, the significance of which is not immediately clear but explained by the editors in the introduction.)

Beyond this personal satisfaction, the text is a gold-mine regarding issues of paschal practice in Asia. Thus we also have a statement of Pascha as deliberately anti-Jewish (by contrast to the attitude of vicarious fasting lying behind the Quartodeciman source of Didascalia 21) made clear in De Pascha 18.

The editors suggest that Timothy is aiming his polemic against four groups, only one of which is characterized as Quartodeciman. My reading (admittedly only a cursory first reading of a text to which I will return often) indicates that these are all in some sense Quartodeciman groups, and that the arguments are connected; the first group is the “evening” Quartodecimans of whom Apollonaris of Hierapolis is a representative, who held an evening Pascha as the commemoration of the last supper at the same time as the Jewish Pesaḥ (and appealing to a synoptic chronology). The other groups whom Timothy opposes are, I suggest, offshoots of Quartodeciman practice. As Christians became more removed from Jewish practice they could no longer employ Jewish calculations of Pascha, leading to all sorts of confusion in Quartodeciman circles, which are already coming about in the 170s.

Timothy’s own opinion of the proper computation of the Pascha is less clear, which leads me to wonder whether he was in some sense an apologist for the Nicene settlement of the Paschal question. This would fit his rhetoric, and the indications that some sort of triduum is forming, rather than a unitative Pascha. The absence of reference to the equinox does not invalidate this thesis, as it might be taken as assumed and known. If the text derives from a period immediately after Nicaea the later issue of the protopaschites would not have yet arisen.

The purpose of this post, however, is less to ask questions of the editors, but to thank them for their work in bringing this fascinating and vital text to light, and to encourage you all to get your copy here.

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Evangelium Petri and the Didascalia

Joel Marcus, “The Gospel of Peter as a Jewish Christian document” NTS 64 (2018), 473-494, is a somewhat speculative article on Evangelium Petri. It is noted here because Marcus returns to the Didascalia, having previously discussed this document in his “The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs and the Didascalia Apostolorum: a common Jewish Christian milieu?” JTS 61 (2010), 596–626. Here he turns to the Quartodeciman background of the Vorlage to chapter 21 (Syriac), noting here the nexus of relationship between it, Evangelium Petri, and other Quartodeciman literature, and the complex relationship between Quartodeciman Christianity and the Jewish matrix of its genesis.

As already said, the conclusion is somewhat speculative, but is not impossible, and the piece is worth reading.

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