Tag Archives: Testamentum Domini

A partial reception history of Traditio apostolica

One of the questions I would ask of those who take a “Bradshavian” view of the development of Traditio apostolica, namely that it is the result of a series of fourth-century accretions, is how it is that so much of it is extant in other fourth-century documents, namely Testamentum Domini, Canones Hippolyti and the eighth book of Apostolic constitutions. My argument, in essence, is that the book must have been substantially complete before being reworked in these various dependent documents.

However, I confess that this does not have the force that it had when first I rehearsed it in my response to Paul Bradshaw in 2004. At the time I suggested that the proponents of the accretional view also had to explain how it came to be substantially complete in three different places at the same time, namely Syria (Testamentum Domini), Egypt (Canones Hippolyti) and Antioch (Apostolic constitutions), these being the provenances conventionally ascribed to each of these documents. However, my subsequent work, in which I have argued that Testamentum Domini and Canones Hippolyti are Asian, from somewhere in between Constantinople and Antioch, and from around the third quarter of the fourth century (thus close in time and provenance to Apostolic Constitutions), means that it is quite possible that the same recension of Traditio apostolica was extant and circulating in fourth-century Asia, probably in the second half of the century, and was reworked to produce these three derivatives. This in turn means that those who deny the third-century and Roman provenance of the final redaction of Traditio apostolica might be able to suggest a redaction in this region, in the first half or so of the fourth century.

I don’t think so, for a host of reasons, but must admit that, by virtue of being simpler, this is a more tenable position than that presented in the Bradshaw/Johnson/Phillips commentary which I criticized back in 2004.

It is, in any event, an interesting observation on the reception history of Traditio apostolica.


Leave a comment

Filed under Apostolic Tradition

Ramelli on presbytides

I recently reviewed Joan Taylor and Ilaria Ramelli, Patterns of Women’s Leadership in Early Christianity, for Reading Religion.

Ilaria Ramelli has responded on Researchgate.

I have tried to contact her, to clear what follows with her. I understand she has been gravely ill of late and is in poor health, and so is probably not circumstanced to respond. I am therefore posting this response with an apology that I have not done so with her consent and foreknowledge. However, I do feel that Ramelli’s response to my review requires a response in return.

I really don’t have an ecclesial dog in this fight, but do believe, as I have stated previously elsewhere, that historians need to be very careful when the history we write might affect our present ecclesial realities, and church leaders (in whatever guise they may be) need to be careful in listening to us historians (that is to say, they should listen to us, but listen with a hermeneutic of suspicion!) Moreover, I have always studiously stepped back from engaging in discussions in other parts of the catholic church than my own whilst seeking to provide such historical guidance as I can.

Ramelli offers some clarifications of her statements where she suggests I have misunderstood her; the context, as may be seen from the review, was that I made some minor criticisms of some statements, particularly in her own essay, suggesting that some further nuancing was necessary. I was brief because, in a review, I did not want to become sidetracked or turn it into something other than a review of a book!

My suggestion of nuancing was made with regard to two issues.

Firstly that we should be wary of assuming that “presbyter” and its female form necessarily refers to an order of ministry like bishop and deacon. Even in the fourth century, in some communities, such as that of Testamentum Domini, I suspect that this was not the case. Hence my questioning of Bill Tabbernee’s use of the term “presbyteral” to describe the eucharistic activity of the prophet reported by Firmilian; I would have suggested that she was acting episcopally.

My second concern is to note that the eucharistic meal had developed considerably between the first and fourth centuries; I have a book in the final stages of preparation on precisely this subject, and suggest that the movement was from a variety of meals, which are generically eucharistic, to a single meal, “the” Eucharist. Thus, for instance, whereas I appreciated Teresa Berger’s suggestion that the virgins’ meal in ps-Athanasius Virg. was eucharistic in a domestic setting, my suspicion is that it had once been so, but by the time ps-Athanasius wrote it was no longer so, but had become something else, since what might have been recognizable as eucharistic in a broad sense in an earlier period is not eucharistic in a fourth-century context, as “eucharist” has by now a narrower definition. To give another example: on p32 of Ramelli’s essay she notes that Prisca is mentioned before Aquila and goes on to say: “This suggests that Prisca, not Aquila, was the leading member, and key host, who can be considered to have presided over a house church and to have celebrated the Eucharist there.” Certainly it is plausible that Prisca was the host, but to use the language of eucharistic celebration to describe what happens in the first century is, I believe, to impose a greater degree of liturgical order on the household gatherings of the earliest generation than they actually possessed and to paint a rather anachronistic picture of what a eucharistic gathering in this period might have looked like.

In this light I turn to what she says about Origen and presbytides. She states, correctly, that Origen both in the catena to I Cor. and in the Comm. in Joh. proposes that women might teach other women. My objection, however, is not to this but to the equation of presbyteroi as an office and presbytides. My point was that, in the fourth century, we have presbytides (Conc. Laodic.) who have particular seats and status in church, but that these are not the same as female presbyters. I think they are like the widows in Testamentum Domini who are certainly the female equivalent of the (male) presbyters, but that the male presbyters in this community, whilst ordained (as are the widows) are actually aged male ascetics rather than people holding ecclesiastical ministerial office as we would understand it. These widows teach younger women; I think that is exactly the picture Origen also gives us, but this in no way makes them female presbyters. Indeed, in Comm. in Joh. 32.132 I do not even think that Origen is referring to male presbyteroi as an office.

In this context I was surprised to read of presbytides in the Didascalia and even to hear that they were female presbyters (55-56). Where in the Didascalia? The only presbytides (assuming that the retroversion from Latin aniculas is correct, and I think I more likely that it is presbuteras, on the basis of Apostolic Constitutions) are those who are fed charitably (DA 2.28). In sum, I think there is some confusion here.

Ramelli also states, with further reference to my review:

On p. 45 I do not “conflate” the Eucharistic bread with other Eucharistic meals. Rather, after pointing to Theosebia, called by Nazianzen homotimos of a hiereus (“having the same dignity” as a presbyter and bishop, her brother Gregory) and involved in the Eucharistic celebration, I adduce a passage in Gregory Nyssen’s Life of Macrina in which Macrina herself is said to “lend her hands in service to the liturgies” and then “prepare bread with her own hands” for her mother, but I do not conflate the two: Gregory’s emphasis lies on the same hands which prepared the bread, in humility and service (a cypher of Macrina’s lifestyle:) and were used at the Eucharistic liturgy. What I say, based on Gregory, is that Macrina “used her hands to celebrate the Liturgy” (p. 45), not that the bread she prepared for her mother was Eucharistic in any sense.

Here I apologize if there is some misunderstanding; however, my objection was to her acceptance of Teresa Berger’s interpretation of the ps-Athanasian meal as though it were fact (as I suggest above, I think it supposition, albeit interesting supposition) and the subsequent conflation with the liturgical activity of Theosebia. I am sorry if this was unclear.

And again, I do not think that Theosebia was a presbyter, in the sense of holding an order of ministry. And so the two concerns mentioned above converge. She may have been homotimos with a hiereus, but this does not mean that she was one (and, in any case, a hiereus is a bishop rather than a presbyter…) Again I think her status was comparable to that of the widows of Testamentum Domini, as was the nature of her liturgical participation. I do not follow the point here in as much detail, because I think that the fundamental point, that we should see these statements in the light of contemporary Asian evidence, such as Testamentum Domini and the canons of Laodicea, has been made already.

What Ramelli does present is a “gender divided” participation of women and men in the eucharistic liturgy in fourth century Cappadocia and elsewhere. I think we get some picture of this from Testamentum Domini, where the widows have a place by the altar comparable to that of the presbyters, and I suspect that this is what brings about the reworking of an older polemic by the redactor of Apostolic Church order. Thus fleshing out of the picture we may derive from these “church orders” is the contribution that Ramelli, Joan Taylor, and indeed others in this volume have made; this is a substantial contribution.

As I state in my review, this volume of essays sets the standard for discussion. But I also say that it is clearly not the last word on the material they discuss.

Leave a comment

Filed under Apostolic church order, Didascalia Apostolorum, Testamentum Domini

Testamentum Domini 1.37

A point of discussion has arisen between myself and Grant White with regard to Testamentum Domini 1.37. Here the translation following Cooper and McLean:

If any woman whatsoever suffer violence from a man, let the deacon accurately investigate if she be faithful and have truly suffered violence; if he who treated her with violence was not her lover. And if she be accurately thus, and if she that suffered mourn about the violence that happened to her, let him take it up to the hearing of the bishop, that she may be shewn to be in all things in communion with the Church. If he who treated her with violence be faithful, let not the deacon bring him into the church for partaking, even if he repent. But if he be a catechumen and repent, let him be baptized and partake.

The key term here is that translated “suffer violence”. The Syriac root is ܩܛܪ.

For White the passage concerns spousal violence. Thus he refers to Norman Russell Underwood, The Professionalization of the Clergy in Late Antiquity (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation. Berkeley: University of California, 2018), 106, who suggests that the deacon is here adopting the role of medical examiner.

In my own version I translated as “suffer compulsion”, and understood this to refer to an allegation of rape, which may prove not to be rape but consensual sex. Thus I understood that the deacon, on establishing that it is not consensual, reports this to the bishop so that no blame attaches to the woman. Then the deacon does not allow the perpetrator into the church, as he is doorkeeper, but the woman, who is a victim and not a fornicator, is permitted to communicate. The deacon’s investigation is not, therefore, the investigation of injuries to the woman but of the circumstances.

This uncertainty was a good enough excuse to pay a visit to Fr Darrell Hannah, and to consult regarding the Ethiopic text. He informs me that the Ethiopic root is ḥyl, which like the Arabic cognate حيل is suitably vague. Alas we are none the wiser as a result, though I did enjoy my trip to Ascot!

One piece of evidence which might offer support to White (and Underwood) is a brief statement of Epiphanius De fide 21.10 in which he states that deaconesses are appointed only to assist women “for modesty’s sake… if there is a need because of baptism or an inspection of their bodies.” The nature and purpose of this investigation is not stated. However, I have a recollection that the bodies of catechumens might be inspected for signs of demonic infestation, which would link in with the role of female deacons in baptism.

Here I have to ask the help of my readers as I cannot remember where I came across this! Can anyone help?


Filed under Testamentum Domini

The disappearing deaconess

A comment on the post below about the disappearing deacon has led me to read Brian Patrick Mitchell, The disappearing deaconess (Alexandra VA: Eremia, 2021).

Although there is some historical material here (some of which is outside the period of my competence), the book is also a contribution to the ongoing debate in Orthodox circles about the restoration of a female diaconate. As a matter of policy I never comment on internal issues relating to another part of Christ’s vineyard (DA1) which restricts me somewhat. Beyond that, Mitchell’s book is largely a work of theology, a field in which I can claim a complete lack of distinction.

I therefore limit myself to a few observations on the first chapter, which is concerned with history. Two points emerge from my reading.

The first is that Mitchell states that the first evidence for female deacons is found in Didascalia apostolorum which derives, he says, from the third century (“around 230”, p11). Sadly he appears to have overlooked more recent work on the Didascalia, which tends to date it somewhat later. As such we cannot be so sure that this is the first evidence. With due recognition of the uncertainties of interpretation of the 19th canon of Nicaea, I still often think that this is the first certain evidence of such an order. However, Mitchell believes that the female diaconate was a new institution in the church of the fourth century. Here I agree, and suggest that a later dating for the Didascalia material might strengthen his case.

My second major observation is that the attempt to deny any female diaconate or office in the first century or so of Christ-confession (pp5-10) misses the mark. In Original bishops I suggest that there may well have been female episkopoi and diakonoi in the first century, but that female leadership rapidly disappears with the re-institutionalization of the church as associational (whilst clinging on in separated communities). To accept this would do no harm to Mitchell’s thesis since, as he states in his preface, “History is not tradition. History becomes tradition only when it is handed down.” (pxi)

The book is a light reworking of a dissertation dating from 2017; it thus inevitable that the treatment of deaconesses in Testamentum Domini does not deal with my own (2020) contribution, though what it has to say (pp16-17) is largely fair. He notes Martimort’s suggestion that the Testamentum knew only of deaconesses from his sources (unlikely I think) and also suggests that there is a reaction against the presence of deaconesses. I don’t think either is correct; I think the Testamentum is just puzzled at this new order and doesn’t really know what to do with them!

I hope that the author and his readers and supporters will take these comments in the constructive spirit with which they are offered.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anything else, Didascalia Apostolorum, Testamentum Domini

Getting into hot water with Anton Baumstark

Borg. Ar. 22, one of the manuscripts containing the Arabic Testamentum Domini, has a liturgical appendix with material related to, but distinct from, parallel material in Testamentum Domini. Some of this was published by Baumstark in “Eine aegyptische Mess- und Taufliturgie vermutlich des 6 Jahrhunderts” Oriens christianus 1 (1901) p. 1-45. I had a note from a colleague querying Baumstark’s rendition of بحميم الميلاد الثانى in one of the prayers after baptism, as “per aquam calidam regenerationis.” The question was whether I could make any sense of it; where, indeed, did Baumstark find the aqua?

My first look was to see what the word was in the Testamentum Domini. Although this isn’t straight Testamentum there is a comparable prayer there, where the word is ܣܚܬܐ. That is straightforward. But this passage is derived from from Traditio apostolica. The Latin here is lauacrum regenerationis, with an apparent reference to Titus 3:5, and so in keeping with the Syriac of Testamentum Domini.

The Sahidic of this section of Traditio apostolica is not extant and the Bohairic rather free but the Arabic is للحمي الى للولدة الثانية (Horner, Statutes of the apostles, 101), thus using the same root. So I went to check the dictionaries, going first to Wehr, to find on p203 حم with form 10 as “take a bath”. And so to Lane, who has this form 10, but also the noun حمة meaning a hot spring. I can only think that the root came to refer to a bath through metonymy, though the usage here is otherwise unattested. If this is the case the meaning is straightforward and entirely in keeping with the original, and although Baumstark’s translation is rather forced we can see where he got the water from!

However, beyond the minutia of this single word, the correspondence reminds me of how fascinating this liturgical appendix is as witness to the Egyptian Nachleben of the liturgies of Testamentum Domini.

Leave a comment

Filed under Apostolic Tradition, Testamentum Domini

More on James and the church orders

In continuing to preach through James, and today discussing speech acts (in debt in particular to J.L. Austin) in the context of James 3, I recollected reading Dale C. Allison, “A liturgical tradition behind the ending of James” JSNT 34 (2011), 3-18.

Allison, with reference to James 5:13-20, suggests that a “very primitive church order” lies behind this part of James. Quite what he envisages a church order to be is less clear; though he does have some reference to prayers in Testamentum Domini, and to Constitutiones apostolorum and to some material the Didascalia, he also cites a number of other early Christian texts, including Polycarp and I Clement, in support of his case.

I think I would say that rather than being influenced by a church order, the epistle and the church orders draw on the same fund of catechetical material.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anything else, Church orders in genera(l)

The disappearing deacon

This week has seen another three online seminars as part of the “What did deacons do?” project. When the recorded versions are available I will post the link.

At the conclusion of the discussion questions were raised about what might be included in a summary chapter to conclude the book based on the project. Discussion had indicated that the pattern was one of decline in the significance and role of the deacon in the fourth century, and thought was given that this might need some explanation.

My own suggestion is that this is the result of change in the nature of episkopoi, who gain bigger dioceses (note the legislation against chorepiskopoi) and a result of this, in turn, the increase in the number of presbyters. As the aboriginal episcopal function of charity disappears the role of the deacon as administrator of this episcopal charity also disappears. Moreover, as presbyters grow in importance and numbers, assistantship turns into assistance not to the bishop but to the presbyter. Of course there are exceptions; Rome is distinct as a relatively small urban diocese with a large extra-diocesan responsibility, and the community of the Testamentum Domini has a bishop (and presbyters) who fasts and prays and doesn’t do anything else, so it’s all left to the deacons! But in other sources, such as Ephrem and Chrysostom (discussed this week), we observe the diminution of the role in the fourth century and beyond. The evidence that might indicate a more active role is in the church orders, but as is often remarked, these are archaeological, and tend to repeat material which is traditional, but no longer reflects real conditions, and therefore have to be used with great care. Thus when Canones Hippolyti states that the deacon accompanies the bishop this is actually from Traditio apostolica, and is in any case a mistranslation by the Arabic translator due to misunderstanding the Coptic translation from which he was working. I am sure that the original Greek verb was προσκαρτερέω.

Rather unfashionably, might I also suggest that the development of woman deacons in the latter part of the fourth century might in turn result from this diminution? In other words, if a role is not that important, then it might be entrusted to a woman!


Filed under Anything else, Apostolic Tradition, Church orders in genera(l), Didascalia Apostolorum, Testamentum Domini

A picture of the Testamentum Domini

Saw this in a sacristy yesterday, as Ash Wednesday brought a return to church.

No doubt it was intended to be comical in a Sohmian sort of way, but my jaundiced eye immediately realized that this might be a picture of the Testamentum Domini!

1 Comment

Filed under Church orders in genera(l), Testamentum Domini

What did deacons do?

It’s been a busy week in the small world of the ancient church orders. Last night saw a virtual launch party for Pauliina Pylvänäinen’s book on Apostolic constitutions (which I couldn’t get into!), but also a series of online seminars as part of the ongoing project on diakonia shared between the University of Eastern Finland and the Tilburg School of Catholic Theology. Two were directly related to the church order literature, and the other certainly connected:

The papers given are now available online. They are:

Why Ask what Deacons Did? Dr. Arnold Smeets, TST
The Liminal Nature of the Diaconal Role in the Didascalia Apostolorum. Phoebe Kearns, University of Winchester

Deacons in the Testament of Our Lord. The State of the Question and Avenues for Future Research. Dr. Grant White, Sankt Ignatios College, Stockholm School of Theology
Deacons in the Writings of Gregory Nazianzen. Dr. Brian J. Matz, Fontbonne University (U.S.A.)

The privacy notice will disappear, or you can simply click it out.


Filed under Didascalia Apostolorum, Testamentum Domini

Darrell Hannah on Epistula apostolorum

Recently appeared is Darrell Hannah, “The Vorlage of the Ethiopic version of the Epistula apostolorum: Greek or Arabic?” in Meron T. Gebreananaye et al. (ed.), Beyond Canon: early Christianity and the Ethiopic textual tradition (London: London: T&T Clark, 2021), 97–116. Fr Darrell is nearly a neighbour, so giving this a puff is a particular pleasure.

The church order connection (I always try to find one) is in his reflection on the apocalypse of Testamentum Domini. The relationship between this apocalypse and that preceding the Epistula in the Ethiopic witness (the Discourse in Galilee). The relationship between these two apocalypses has long been an interest to me, so it is a boon to see the evidence laid out so clearly. Fr Darrell actually suggests that the Epistula itself may have been a source on which the apocalypse of the Testamentum drew. This would make sense given the recent ascription of all this material to an Asian provenance.

Although nowhere near as accomplished as Fr Darrell in examining this material, I have for a long time taken a punt on the Ethiopic being a direct translation of the Greek. In particular I had in mind the passage where Jesus speaks of the Pascha which the disciple who is released from prison will keep: he refers to “that which is in my remembrance and my agape” (in the Coptic) or “my agape and my memorial” (Ethiopic). The Coptic translator seems to assume that the “memorial” is the Eucharist. To me it seems more probable that a distinct rite is intended, and that the Ethiopic translator has correctly rendered the Greek (which may well be μνημόσυνον.) The statement of an expert on this material that the Ethiopic is taken directly from Greek, and not via Arabic, renews my confidence.


Filed under Anything else, Testamentum Domini

Clerical celibacy in Apostolic Church Order

I have recently had some correspondence with David Hunter over clerical celibacy in the church orders, and particularly in Apostolic Church Order (K). The origins and history of clerical celibacy are central to his research programme, and so this enquiry was particularly welcome.

The questions he put to me were as follow:

1: In 16.2, there is this prescription about bishops: “It is good should he be unmarried, otherwise he should be of one wife, having some education, and able to interpret the scriptures, even if he is unlettered. He should be generous, and overflowing with love for all, so that a bishop should not come under accusation on any account by the many.”

I was a little puzzled by the ἀπὸ μιᾶς γυναικός. The preposition ἀπό seemed odd. Stefan Heid takes it as “free of one wife,” which is even less likely. But I was wondering if you had any thoughts about this.

2: The second question has to do with 18.2: “Therefore the presbyters should have been a long time in the world, having kept themselves from congress with women in their lives, generous towards the brotherhood, not respecters of persons, struggling alongside the bishop and participating in the mysteries together with him, gathering the people and devoted to the pastor.” There is the phrase τρόπῳ τινί before “having kept themselves from congress with women in their lives.” I don’t see this phrase in your translation, and I’m not sure what it means. I wondered if it could mean “in some manner” in the sense of “in an appropriate manner,” i.e., referring to temporary sexual abstinence prior to celebrating Eucharist.

Inevitably, with such interesting and difficult questions, there was some to-ing and fro-ing. My first instinct was that Heid’s understanding of ἀπό was forced in the extreme, though I have gone back on that to some extent. I also wondered whether the text might be repunctuated to take τρόπῳ τινί with the preceding ἤδη κεχρονικόντας ἐπὶ τῷ κόσμῳ rather than the following ἀπεχομένους, again to change my mind. So rather than create a dialogue out of the correspondence I am writing up my conclusions.

On ἀπό: The versions (Syriac, Sahidic, Arabic and Ethiopic) give no helpful guidance on the disputed issue of interpretation in the Greek text.

What is interesting is the rewrite undertaken on the ἀπὸ μιᾶς γυναικός along the lines of “it is good if he is unmarried, but if he has a wife he should stay with her…” This is in the Sahidic; the Arabic and Ethiopic are (I recollect) dependent on that version, and follow Sahidic on that point. This indicates some controversy around the issue in the line of text which ends up in Egypt.

So the ἀπό is indeed odd. Although the direction that a bishop should be married once is common enough I might take a moment to wonder whether that is what is actually meant here, as I assumed back in 2005/6 when I produced my edition. At some point I now think the bishop became an ascetic like the presbyters (see below), and that this might provide a rationale for the kind of meaning (survived one wife) that Heid puts onto it. But that would constitute a deliberate rewriting of the text, that is to say the insertion of ἀπό, or perhaps something more extensive, probably at the last level of redaction. Thus Heid may well be right, but fails to notice that this is a change of direction reflecting an unusual setting and context. To say that he should have survived a single wife is almost otiose after the statement that it is better that he be ἀγύναιος; the original, I am so led to suspect, simply read that he should be μιᾶς γυναικός (I Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6), but this has been rewritten, retaining the original (as was the way) but changing its meaning utterly.

On τρόπῳ τινί: the phrase τρόπῳ τινί, whilst again slightly odd, is not unknown in statements of qualification, thus: δεῖ δὲ καὶ τοὺς διακόνους ὄντας μυστηρίων Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ κατὰ πάντα τρόπον πᾶσιν ἀρέσκειν (Ign. Trall. 2.3) and τὸν ποιμένα τὸν καθιστάμενον ἐπίσκοπον… οὐκ ἔλαττον ἐτῶν πεντήκοντα, ὅτι τρόπῳ τινὶ τὰς νεωτερικὰς ἀταξίας… ἐκπεφευγὼς ὑπάρχει (CA 2.1.1). Here it means something like “to some extent” (or in Ignatius, to the entire possible extent); in the light of the CA parallel, where time has put some distance between the ordinand and his folies de jeunesse, possibly in K it indicates the time since he last spoke to a woman. That is to say a presbyter is to be an older man, who has long given up on women! I do not think temporary abstinence is meant, because the presbyters did not celebrate the Eucharist in K. The bishop did while the presbyters keep order and undertake the distribution of gifts.

But there is more; I have recently returned to K for a paper I am writing for a conference in Finland (not actually going there, as it is too cold(!) but will be linked up by webcam). The paper is on deacons in K and Testamentum Domini (TD), following on from completing my version of TD last year. It is clear enough that TD has turned the presbyters into an ascetic cadre, male versions of the widows. I am now thinking, in the light of TD, that K is in the process of doing the same thing. I am convinced that K and TD come from the same broad area (Cappadocia/Cilicia), K being slightly earlier than TD, which is mid-4C. The result, as far as deacons is concerned, is that the deacons pick up the slack whilst the presbyters spend their lives in prayer and ascetic direction. Thus if the presbyters are ascetics, then they are celibate, or widowed. We may note by contrast that the deacon might be married. However, to return to the question of temporary abstinence, it is to be noted that the presbyters do not themselves celebrate the Eucharist in TD any more than they do in K, as this is the bishop’s task (though a presbyter can pick up if the bishop has had a wet dream the night before.)

So the presbyters, both in the K community and in the TD community, form an ascetic cadre with their bishop. I think this, rather than any common expectation of episcopal or presbyteral celibacy, is what is going on. This localized asceticism was taken to extremes by the Eustathians, and the canons of Gangra (to which Prof. Hunter had pointed in the course of our exchange), from the same context and period, represent a reaction to this, whereas TD (and K) represent a more moderate version of the Eustathian view.

As far as K is concerned, because of the state of the text and the multiple levels of redaction of what was a traditional text (possibly as old as the first century, certainly no later than the second century, and likely predating I Timothy), I would be very careful indeed about taking anything from this beyond the statement that the presbyters in this community are, by the time of the redaction of the document, forming an ascetic cadre. Monastic celibacy is a very different matter from the celibacy of simple parish priests like myself, and so I do not think that K tells us anything about clerical celibacy outside the monastic context.

Finally note that Prof. Hunter had struggled to find a copy of Apostolic church order, and he is far from being the first to report such a struggle. About a year ago I raised the question of a revised reprint with the publisher, since I had had numerous enquiries about obtaining a copy. They seemed interested in reprinting, having received the same request a number of times, though less in revising. It has gone a bit quiet since then.

I may return to my original suggestion of a revised reprint. In any such revision the blurred lines which Prof. Hunter so successfully observed in my translation (the failure to give full force to ἀπό and the failure to render τρόπῳ τινί) would be addressed. For the moment I can simply admit and advertize the errors here. Like the church orders themselves, my work on these documents is living literature.

1 Comment

Filed under Apostolic church order, E-rrata

Arabic versions of the Testamentum Domini

As noted in a post below, there are a number of Arabic recensions of Testamentum Domini, none published.

However, although unpublished, two were investigated in a 2018 dissertation from Tübingen, Die Kirchenordnung aus dem Testamentum Domini Nostri Jesu Christi nach den Redaktionen der Handschriften Borg. arab. 22 und Petersburg or. 3, the title of which is self-explanatory. This is the work of Andreas Johannes Ellwardt. This renders the versions of Testamentum Domini that these MSS contain, acessible and readable. There is a short introduction (which I admit I have not read yet),  the text of the two MSS (or at least the church-order material, the author has left the introductory apocalypse to one side) in parallel columns, and a  (German) translation of the Testamentum Domini church order material in Borg. arab. 22, a manuscript employed by Rahmani in his edition of the Syriac. Although I have not read the dissertation in its entirety I have done some sampling on the texts and on what looks like some very helpful annotation.

The author is modest enough to admit that this is far from the last word on the subject, but it is a very significant word nonetheless. I am only sorry it was not available to me when I was working on the text for my English version. If time allows, it may however provide some material for the blog…

The dissertation may be seen at:
https://publikationen.uni-tuebingen.de › handle › Dissertation_Ellwardt

Leave a comment

Filed under Testamentum Domini

Testamentum Domini published

Image 1I am happy to say that my version, with a fairly extensive introduction, of Testamentum Domini, has now been published by St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.  Get yours here.

As a taster, here is the forematter:

The work presented here was first suggested to me by Fr John Behr in 1999, but not started until 2007, after he had reminded me of his request. For a number of years, however, it was abandoned as other projects took precedence, and I despaired of my own ability to complete it. Nonetheless, an invitation from Codrington College to lecture on apocalyptic in the patristic period led to the publication of an article on the apocalyptic section of the Testament. Work restarted in earnest in 2015, at Fr John’s suggestion that I take it up again. Not for the first time I have cause to thank Fr John and all at St Vladimir’s Seminary Press for their confidence in me and for their patience.

In essence this is a translation of the Syriac text published by Rahmani in 1899, though on occasion I have understood this text differently from previous translators. Moreover, on occasion I have ventured a conjecture, and have had an eye to the Ethiopic version, and to such portions of other texts as have been published. As I note in the introduction, this falls short of what is really required, given the complexity of the textual transmission of the work and the extent to which it has been neglected, but if this serves in any way to re-ignite the interest of specialists then that is is good. The Arabic witnesses in particular need proper investigation.

My primary aim, however, is to make the work better known and readily accessible to a wide readership. Thus although the footnotes may refer to abstruse matters and to recondite secondary literature, the text can be read without reference to them, as can the introduction.

This introduction is intended to show the importance of this neglected work for liturgical history, beyond its value as a witness to Apostolic tradition. Moreover I hope to have established the (already suspected) fourth-century and Cappadocian provenance of the Testament; it is thus a work contemporary with the Cappadocian fathers. A Basilian outlook underlies the Testament, which is reason enough, beyond its valuable liturgical information, to read the work

William Gordon, preaching at the funeral of Christopher Codrington in 1710, noted that Codrington “was a great Admirer of the Fathers, particularly of St. Basil.” Sadly we must record that he followed Basil in accepting the necessity of slavery; however, his bequest for the foundation of a Basilian monastic community in Barbados, whilst never realized, was the basis for the College which I was privileged once to serve, and through which the learning of the fathers is kept alive in the West Indies.

For this we glorify you, we bless you, we give thanks to you Lord.


Filed under Testamentum Domini

Deaconesses in Testamentum Domini

I was recently intrigued to notice that in the Church of England’s lectionary Macrina was kept alongside Gregory of Nyssa on 19th July, and described as a deaconess.
As I prepared for mass I wondered what the evidence was for this characterization, and how this might fit with the role and function of deaconesses in Testamentum Domini, which I believe to derive from fourth century Cappadocia, and thus to try and see Macrina in this light.
The only study I can find (though I am open to correction) is Sister Teresa CSA, “The development and eclipse of the deacon abbess” in E.A. Livingstone (ed.), Studia patristica 19 (Leuven: Peeters, 1989), 111-116; although Sr Teresa makes no use of Testamentum Domini, she does concern herself with the Cappadocians and with Macrina. She charts a process of development within forming monasticism in which deaconesses might be given charge of groups of consecrated virgins. As to Macrina, she is rightly cautious, whilst open to the possibility that she was a deaconess. In my opinion the evidence is thin to the point of non-existence.
Deaconesses make occasional appearance in the Testamentum. They stand within the veil, and receive communion before other women but after all others (1.23), and are classed with the readers and subdeacons in the deacon’s litany (1.35). They are to be trained by the widows (1.40). They have a residence near the gates of the church (1.19). Interestingly it is considered possible that they may be among latecomers to church (1.36). Finally we should note that the only liturgical duty attributed to them is to carry communion to women who are sick (2.20), by contrast to their role in baptism in the Didascalia, which in the Testamentum is the task of the widows (Testamentum Domini 2.8, in an addition to the Hippolytean original).
However, although the deaconesses appear occasionally and intermittently it does not appear that they are intrusions from another source, like the reader in Didascalia apostolorum 2.28.5 or the subdeacon in 2.34.3. Rather a coherent pattern emerges in which deaconesses are clearly junior in the hierarchy, and are ranked behind widows, who are the leading female ascetics in this community.
Rather speculatively, and in line with the evidence provided by Sr Teresa of Cappadocian deaconesses having charge of groups of virgins, I suggest the possibility that these deaconesses are the younger female ascetics, or those in charge of them. Hence they are trained by the widows, and rank behind them, on the basis of age, whilst having a recognized place in the ascetic hierarchy. Somehow one doubts that Macrina fits this mould, giving further support to my suspicion of those who compiled the Church of England’s calendar.

Update (Dec. 2018): I am revisiting this subject for a conference paper and now seriously doubt much of what I have written above (though my doubts regarding Makrina’s diaconate and suspicion of the Church of England’s historial acumen continue.) I am leaving the post intact as a monument to error!

Update (April 2019): The final draft of the conference paper is now online at academia.edu. The abstract reads:

Deaconesses make occasional appearances in Testamentum Domini, though women’s ministry in this document is primarily that of widows. The appearance of deaconesses is thus enigmatic. This paper argues that this order is appearing in the circles of the redactor (to be placed in fourth century Asia), though is not yet prominent or widespread. This explains their occasional appearance; in time the order would supplant that of widows, but this has not happened in the circle of this “church order.”

1 Comment

Filed under Testamentum Domini

An agraphon in Testamentum Domini

An article by Dominic White OP, “’My mystery is for me’: a saying of Jesus?” Scripture Bulletin 44 (2014), 27-42, draws attention to the appearance of an agraphon in Testamentum Domini 18: “For my mysteries are given to those who are mine”. This agraphon appears elsewhere, notably in Clement Strom. 5.10, ps-Clement Rec. 19.19, and in Chrysostom Hom. in I Cor. on I Cor. 2:6-7.

It is also attributed to Isaiah by Theodoret of Cyrus In Psalmos on Ps 24 (25):14 (PG80.1041), where the text reads τὰ μυστήρια μου ἐμοὶ καὶ τοῖς ἐμοῖς, and again with reference to Ps 65 (66):16 (PG80.1369), though here it is not attributed. It is also attributed to Isaiah (probably) by Jerome Ep. 48.13 (he attributes it to “the prophet”): “My mystery is for me,” says the prophet; “my mystery is for me and for them that are mine.” This reference is unobserved by White.

Isaiah 24:16b in the Vulgate reads: “Et dixi: Secretum meum mihi, secretum meum mihi.” Jerome further notes at Comm. in Is. 8.24 that the reading is attested by Theodotion. This reading is attested in one LXX stream with the reading: “και ειπεν το μυστηριον μου εμοι το μυστηριον μου εμοι”. One MS extends this with “και τοις εμοις.” The Hebrew text rendered is רזי לי, so it would seem that this MS has extended the text by citing the agraphon as received, rather than as found in the text. Even so it is noteworthy that when Jerome cites the passage he does so in a fuller form than that found in his version of Isaiah, again indicating that he had independent knowledge of the statement.

It is thus hard to say whether the agraphon was received by the redactor of Testamentum Domini (this passage certainly being redactional) as from Jesus directly or as from him through Isaiah, though given that it is in a fuller form, it seems more probable that it was received as from the direct testimony of Jesus. What is noteworthy is that here, as in the second citation from Theodoret, the saying is joined to Matt. 7:6. The clear intention of the redactor is to limit the instructions here received from Jesus to a select group, the ascetics of the Testamentum community.

1 Comment

Filed under Testamentum Domini

The epiklesis of the Testamentum Domini

I am glad to announce that my translation of Testamentum Domini is going through the processes of the press. At present we are proofing the ms before typesetting.

As a foretaste (and an encouragement to get the thing when it comes out) here is an appendix to the introduction, dealing with the epiklesis of the Testamentum.

Excursus: the “epiclesis”

Particular issues pertain to the Testament’s handling of the so-called epiclesis of Apostolic Tradition.

I have translated: “To you do we offer this thanksgiving, eternal Trinity, O Lord Jesus Christ, O Lord the Father, from whom every creature and every nature escapes into itself in trembling. O Lord, Holy Spirit, send some of your holiness onto this drink and this food….”

Before turning to the justification of the translation offered here we should discuss the history of interpretation.

The initial translation by Rahmani (1899), following the Mosul MS, read as follows: “To you do we offer this thanksgiving, eternal Trinity, O Lord Jesus Christ, O Lord the Father, O Lord the Holy Spirit… Bring this drink and this food of your holiness, and cause that they may be for us….” The verb is ܐܬܐ which means “to come.” Here it is in what is called the aphel (causative), which may thus mean “bring” and Rahmani understands it in this sense. The form he understands as a feminine singular imperative (ܐܬܐܝ), which he takes as addressed to the Trinity.

For Cooper and McLean (1902) “this scarcely makes sense.” Thus, rather than beginning the request with “bring,” they adopt a reading from the Borgian Syriac MS, ܐܬܐܝܢ, a participle, rather than the imperative ܐܬܐܝ of the Mosul MS, and translate: “We have brought this drink and this food of thy Holiness to thee. Cause that it may be to us….” They find support for this in one Ethiopic version of the anaphora of the Testament, the so-called “Anaphora of Our Lord” published by Ludolf in 1691. The problem with this solution is that the Borgian Syriac text is generally poor.

Although Dix (1937) and Richardson (1947) commented briefly on this passage, in the context of an argument over the epiclesis of Apostolic Tradition, the next major contribution to the debate was that of Botte (1947), responding to Richardson’s brief comment. In particular Botte suggests that the verb ܐܬܐ in the aphel might equally well be a rendition of “send.” This is possible. As a feminine imperative he suggests it is addressed to the Spirit, but that the Syriac translator had failed to understand that in the Greek the word was accusative (the form would be the same in Greek) and that the petition to “send” was not originally addressed to the Spirit but to the Father, and that the Spirit was the object. Thus the original would have read: “Lord, send the Holy Spirit on this holy drink and this food….”

One merit of Botte’s suggestion is that an object is supplied; something, it seems, needs to come, or be sent, onto the gifts so that they may not be for condemnation, and the object is not the food and drink. Thus while it is tempting to accept Cooper and McLean’s adoption of the reading of B and so to make this passage a continuation of the oblation, making the food and drink the objects means that no account is taken of the word ܠ (“to” or “onto”) which precedes these words.

Richardson (1948), in response, found Botte’s suggestions entirely unconvincing. If the Syriac translator had so misunderstood the Greek accusative, he argues, then this would mean that he had completely missed the address to the Trinity, and the threefold “Lord” that it contains. Thus the Spirit cannot be an object, but is simply addressed as part of the Trinity. In seeking an object he turns his attention to the Syriac ܕ which is attached to the word translated “holiness”, and suggests that this represents a partitive genitive. Thus he translates: “Send (O Trinity) a portion of thy Holiness on this drink and food. Cause that it may be to us….” Bouyer (1968) similarly wonders whether the Syriac text is so obscure as to oblige us to have recourse to the suggestion of such a series of errors on the part of the Syriac translator, though in effect his suggestions return us to Rahmani’s reading.

White’s translation (1991) is interesting. He seems to accept the reading of B, with Cooper and McLean, but unlike them takes the whole phrase as addressed to the Holy Spirit: “Lord Holy Spirit, we have brought this food and drink of your holiness; make it be for us….” It seems odd to find an oblation to the Holy Spirit, but it is significant that he can see that the phrase might be addressed to the Spirit. This accounts for the feminine form of the imperative. It seems that he has accepted Botte’s suggestion that the translator had mistaken an accusative for a vocative, but unlike Botte translates the Syriac text as it stands, taking the feminine imperative as addressed to the (feminine) Spirit rather than correcting it (as Botte does) in accordance with a hypothetical Greek original.

More recent treatments have not advanced the debate. McKenna (2009) simply agrees with Botte without any discussion of the Syriac text, and McGowan (2014) likewise pays no mind to the Syriac text, or to any possible underlying Greek, offering us the following translation (in which the debt to Botte is evident), which she has derived from elsewhere:

We offer to you this act of thanksgiving, eternal Trinity, Lord Jesus Christ, Lord Father, from whom all creation and all nature trembles as it flees into itself, Lord, send your Holy Spirit upon this drink and upon this your holy food. Grant that it may not be for us condemnation….

Before discussing the possibilities presented, the one contribution that I may make is to observe that the Arabic edited by Troupeau (2007) clearly understands that the Trinity is addressed. The Trinity is bidden: “make that this holy food and this drink of sanctification may not be condemnation for us…” thus missing out the verb in dispute. The imperative is masculine.

The question may perhaps be reopened in the light of our observation that the prayer as it stands is a result of combining two anaphoras.

We may recollect that Botte’s suggestion was criticized by Richardson on the basis of the violence it did to the address to the Trinity. However, it is possible that, in keeping with other prayers in the Testament, the Trinity as such was not addressed, but rather only the Father and the Son. This would explain the odd order found here, with the Son first. Thus the original, prior to the combination with Apostolic Tradition might have read:

To you do we offer this thanksgiving, eternal Trinity, O Lord Jesus Christ, O Lord the Father, from whom every creature and every nature escapes into itself in trembling; send some of your holiness onto this drink and this food….

The text of Apostolic Tradition facing the redactor is itself an uncertain matter, but it is highly probable that it read (as Botte suggested), “we ask that you should send your Holy Spirit….” As such it is possible that the mention of the Holy Spirit should be taken from Apostolic Tradition, and the words “Holy Spirit” supplied from that source. However much it may seem that the Trinity is addressed in the Testament, this is the result of the juncture of two sources.

The Holy Spirit in Apostolic tradition was the object. However, given the redactor’s freedom with the source, faced with the necessity of combining two prayers, and given that the sentence already had an object (the portion of holiness), I suggest that he deliberately turned this into a vocative, and thus addresses the Holy Spirit directly at this point. There are thus two addresses, one to the Father and the Son, and one to the Holy Spirit. The rightness of White’s translation becomes manifest when it is observed that this mention of the Spirit supplied from Apostolic Tradition has been inserted into an existing prayer. As such the change of case that results is also less significant than Richardson thought. He suggests, against Botte, that it is improbable that the translator would so misunderstand the original as to read an accusative as a vocative; the suggestion here is that there was no misreading, and that this is not the work of a later translator, but that the translator accurately rendered a deliberate change that had already been made by the redactor.

The result is thus a combination of the insights of Botte, who reconstructs the original of Apostolic Tradition, Richardson, who supplies an object by reading ܕ in the Syriac text as representing a partitive genitive, and White, who so punctuates that such that the address to the Spirit stands out, all understood through the lens of the redactor’s layering technique. The address is directed to the Holy Spirit (the mention of whom is supplied from Apostolic Tradition), the object is taken as “a portion of holiness” and the address to the Trinity recognized as an accident of redaction.

As a result of this I have translated: “To you do we offer this thanksgiving, eternal Trinity, O Lord Jesus Christ, O Lord the Father, from whom every creature and every nature escapes into itself in trembling. O Lord, Holy Spirit, send some of your holiness onto this drink and this food….”


Botte, Bernard (1947) “L’epiclèse de l’anaphore d’Hippolyte,” Recherches de Théologie Ancienne et Médiévale 14 (1947): 241–51

Bouyer, Louis (1968) Eucharist: Theology and Spirituality of the Eucharistic Prayer (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame,)

Cooper, James, Arthur J. Maclean (1902) The Testament of Our Lord (Edinburgh: T&T Clark)

McGowan, Anne, (2014) Eucharistic Epicleses Ancient and Modern (London: SPCK)

McKenna, John H. (2009) The Eucharistic Epiclesis: A Detailed History, 2nd ed (Chicago: Hillenbrand)

Rahmani, Ignatius Ephraem II (1899) Testamentum Domini nostri Jesu Christi (Mainz: Kirchheim)

Richardson, C.C.,(1948) « A Note on the Epicleses in Hippolytus and the Testamentum Domini,” Recherches de Théologie Ancienne et Médiévale 15 (1948): 357–59

Sperry-White, Grant (1991) The Testamentum Domini: A Text for Students (Bramcote: Grove)

Troupeau, Gérard, (2007) “Une version arabe de l’anaphore du Testamentum Domini” in Charles Chartouni, ed., Christianisme oriental: kérygme et histoire; mélanges offerts au père Michel Hayek (Paris: Librairie orientaliste Paul Geuthner), 247–256

1 Comment

Filed under Testamentum Domini

Qilada, Kitāb al-Disqūlīyah and Borg. Ar. 22

In my dialogue with Dani Vaucher below  I make reference to Wilyam Sulayman Qilada (ed.), Kitāb al-Disqūlīyah: taʿālīm al-rusul (Cairo : Dār al-Jīl lil-Ṭibāʿah, 1979).

My parishioner Mohammed Basith Awan (remember that in the Church of England even Muslims are parishioners… they just have to live in the parish!), a far better Arabist than I, has had a look at it, and has determined that this is the “lost Coptic Didascalia” (again, see posts below) described by Baumstark and found in Codex Borg. Ar. 22. This ms also contains an Arabic version of the Testamentum Domini.

Specialists in this field (among whom I do not count myself) may learn with interest that the Vatican Library has digitized this codex. It may be read here. Coptic marginal annotations clearly indicate an Egyptian provenance.


Leave a comment

Filed under Apostolic Constitutions

The church orders which aren’t church orders

Whilst we await the bibliographical and other expansions which Dr Daniel Vaucher (he was never congratulated on his doctorate here, which is a severe oversight) has promised for the conspectus of church orders, I have fiddled again and removed the following item (though I, or Vaucher if he has a mind to, may put it back!) The conspectus is, after all, living literature.

Name: Didascalia Domini (title in one MS)
Original language: Greek
Extant languages with principal published editions: Greek (Nau (1907))
Relationship with other orders or documents: Echoes in apocalyptic section of other “tours of hell”, in particular Apocalypsis Anastasiae, Apoc. Virginis Mariae.
Notes: Post-resurrection interrogation of Christ by named disciples. Issues re Lent, Wednesday and Friday fasting, clerical discipline, apocalyptic section. Other MS calls it “apostolic constitutions”, but is it even a church-order? Closest relative is Epistula apostolorum!

I suppose I was answering, in the negative,  the question I posed for myself: “Is it even a church order?” What raised this was reading S. Dib, “Note sur deux ouvrages apocryphes arabes intitules ‘Testament de notre-Seigneur” ROC 11 (1906), 427-430. In spite of their titles, neither of these is, by any stretch of the imagination, a church-order, and they have nothing to do with the Testamentum Domini we know and love (sort of!)

Dib provides summaries of each. One is an exhortation to perseverance. The other ends with such an exhortation, but appears to be a strange and novelistic apocalyptic history. Fascinating, undoubtedly, in its own way, but definitely not in our bailliwick.


Filed under Church orders in genera(l)

A peculiar disruption in the use of Traditio apostolica by Testamentum Domini

Whilst incorporating new material, Testamentum Domini strictly follows the order of Traditio apostolica as a source. It may expand, abbreviate or substitute, but the pattern of the original is manifest.

With one exception. Chapters 36-39 in Traditio apostolica read:

36: Every faithful one should be concerned that, before he consumes anything else, he partake in the eucharist. For if he partakes in faith, even if anything deadly is given him, after that it shall not overcome him.
37: Everybody should be concerned that one who is not of the faithful, nor a mouse nor any other animal, should eat of the eucharist, and that none of it should fall and be altogether lost. For it is the body of Christ to be eaten by the faithful, and not to be despised. 38: For, blessing the cup in the name of God, you received, as it were, the antitype of the blood of Christ. For this reason do not pour it out, that no alien spirit might lick it up because you despised it; you shall be guilty of the blood, like one who despises the price with which he has been bought.
39: The deacons and the presbyters should gather daily at the place which the bishop appoints for them. Let the deacons not fail to assemble at all times, unless illness prevents them. 2When all have gathered together, they should teach those who are in the church, and in this way, when they have prayed, each should go to the task which falls to him.

This is within the “longer ending”.

37 and 39 are omitted entirely by Testamentum Domini. This should not cause overmuch alarm as, in particular without chapter divisions, this might simply count as abbreviation. However, what is most odd is that 38 is included out of sequence earlier in the document, in material otherwise derived from Traditio apostolica 22, and 36 is found, again out of sequence, towards the end in the midst of material otherwise parallel to chapter 43.

Who can explore this strange design?

Offers, anyone? Anyone? I would suggest a mislocated page, but this would only account for one displacement, and not the other.

Leave a comment

Filed under Testamentum Domini

A paschal proclamation embedded in a church order?

Three times a year, states the Testamentum Domini (1.28), the bishop is to instruct the people in the mysteries. This is to take place at Pascha, at Pentecost and at Epiphany.

The instruction concerns in particular the harrowing of hell. The only dedicated study of which I am aware is that of Jean Parisot, ”Note sur la mystagogie du “Testament du Seigneur”” Journal asiatique 9.15 (1900), 377-380, who finds some intriguing but not especially enlightening parallels.

However, this “mystagogy” is also found in the Arabic Didascalia (on which see prior posts) but most interestingly is preserved in Bohairic in the Coptic liturgy, at the consecration of the chrism. These texts are edited by O. Burmeister, “The Coptic and Arabic versions of the Mystagogia” Le Muséon 46 (1933), 203-235. What seems to me significant is the paschal context for this, as for the use in the Testamentum Domini. I am led to wonder whether this is a paschal proclamation in origin.

The “mystagogy” is, moreover, a finely-wrought bit of rhetoric:

Thus note the homoiarcton:
He is wisdom,
he is strength,
he is Lord,
he is understanding…

he is our light, salvation, saviour, protector,
helper, teacher, deliverer, rewarder,
assistance, strength, wall…

passible and impassible,
uncreated Son,
dead (yet) living,
Son of the Father,
incomprehensible and comprehensible…

Ethopoiia (as death cries out, homoiarctically by the way):
“Who is this, clothed in the humanity which was subject to me, and who has however conquered me?
Who is this who is wresting from destruction the flesh which was bound by me?
Who is this who is clothed in earth but who is yet of heaven?…”

Anyone familiar with Melito of Sardis, or indeed Polemo of Smyrna, will recognize the style.

I would hesitate to go beyond this, but am confident in claiming this as ante-Nicene, and as deriving from a paschal liturgical proclamation.

1 Comment

Filed under Testamentum Domini

What did the eucharistic celebrants of the Testamentum Domini “make”? The perils of pointing

In the eucharistic rite of Testamentum Domini (1.23) we read: “…taking bread, gave it to His disciples, saying, Take, eat, this is My Body which is broken for you for the forgiveness of sins. When ye shall do this, ye make My resurrection.” (translation of MacLean in J. Cooper, A.J. Maclean, The Testament of our Lord (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1902), 73. Other translations read the same.)

The relevant passage in Syriac reads:

ܩܝܡܬܐ ܕܝܠܝ ܥܒܕܝܢ ܐܢܬܘܢ (qymt) dyly (bdyn )ntwn.)

The critical word here is that translated as “resurrection”, ܩܝܡܬܐ. Translators have pointed this as ܩܝܵܡܬܵܐ . However, were the word pointed ܩܳܝܶܡܬܳܐ then it might be translated “memorial”, albeit in the sense more of a tombstone than a liturgical commemoration.

This is surely the translator’s intention. At the time of Rahmani’s initial translations of Testamentum Domini (1899) Hauler had not yet published the Latin fragments of Traditio apostolica, and at the time of Cooper and MacLean’s publication they were newly published, and so the relationship between the Testamentum and Traditio apostolica was not understood. But with the passage of a century since Connolly, surely we can improve the translation at this point.

Edit, 26th September: I had forgotten the suggestion of W. E. Pitt, “Anamnesis and Institution Narrative in the Liturgy of Apostolic ConstitutionsJEH 9 (1958), 1-7, at 5, that this came about through a misreading of anamnēsis (memorial) as anastasis (resurrection). Obviously this is now to be rejected,. but we may give due recognition to Pitt for seeing the issue.

Leave a comment

Filed under Testamentum Domini

The additional chapters of the Arabic Didascalia

As part of my work on Testamentum Domini I have been trying to get my head around the various Arabic versions of this text. Here I have been greatly aided by the extraordinary scholarship of R-G Coquin, “Le Testamentum Domini: problemes de tradition textuelle” Parole de l’Orient 5 (1974), 165-188. Coquin notes three distinct Arabic versions, based on distinct Greek recensions of the text. This to add to the Ethiopic version and the Syriac recension published by Rahmani.

What is particularly interesting to note, in what amounts to a throwaway remark from Coquin on p. 184 of his article, is that the additional chapters of the Arabic Didascalia (see previous posts), whilst taken from Testamentum Domini, reflect a distinct Arabic version of this material.

My own Arabic is somewhat limited. All this steels my determination, however, to improve its standard so that, even if as a retirement project, I can bring this material to publication. In the meantime I hope nonetheless that somebody else does it. So if there is any Arabist reading this blog who is looking for a research project…


Filed under Testamentum Domini

The receptacle for the loaf at Traditio apostolica 22

This is an extensively updated version of the post that was formerly here.

Barely six months since the publication of the second edition of my Hippolytus: the apostolic tradition (no third edition is planned) and I notice something which, if not an error, at least should have had further attention.

In Traditio apostolica 22, there is a direction regarding the distribution of Communion. The Ethiopic text published by Duensing states that “when the deacon approaches the presbyter he should unfold his garment (lebso), and the presbyter should take it…” For Dix this is “nonsense” and for Botte “absurde”. Thus Dix and Botte alike prefer to take a reading here from Testamentum Domini 2.11 which, instead of clothing, has ܦܝܢܟܐ ܐܘ ܟܦܦܬܐ (“the disk [πίναξ transliterated?] or paten”), and seek to explain the Ethiopic reading through misunderstanding or corruption. I was misled, in my reconstruction, into accepting this.

However, the more recently discovered Aksumite Ethiopic text has the same reading, which should have given me pause to reconsider, since the processes of corruption suggested by Dix and Botte cannot have occurred in a text directly dependent on the Greek.

There is a further consideration which should have given me cause for hesitation. For when the Ethiopic texts suggests that the deacon “unfold”, or “open”, his clothing, this is reflected in Testamentum Domini, which states that the paten should be “opened” or “unfolded”. Thus this text is no easier to understand than the Ethiopic, since a paten cannot really be opened. This I came to realize whilst translating Testamentum Domini for St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.

Firstly here is the entire passage:

On the first of the week the bishop, if he is able, should himself distribute to all the people with his own hand, while the deacons break. And the presbyters break the baked bread. When the deacon approaches the presbyter he should open his garment, and the presbyter should take it himself and distribute it to the people with his own hand.

Beyond the word at issue here there is a great deal of confusion, but I remain convinced, building on a suggestion of Dix, that the passage concerns the sharing of eucharistic bread across the diverse Roman congregations, and that the deacons are therefore carrying portions of the loaf consecrated by the bishop to the presbyters who are celebrating elsewhere, a rite known as the fermentum. (On the fermentum generally see Marcel Metzger, “The history of the eucharistic celebration at Rome” in Anscar J. Chupungco (ed.), Handbook for Liturgical Studies: The Eucharist (Collegeville: Liturgical, 1999), 103-131, on the fermentum at 106-109.) This originated in the manner in which the individual episkopoi in their households might share the eucharistic elements as a sign of union, (reported by Irenaeus at the time of Anicetus apud Eusebius HE 5.24.17) and which, with the development of monepiscopate in Rome, became a rite by which the episkopos sent portions to the presbyters in the city as a mark of his union with them.

If this is correct, then it is possible that this may cast light on the Ethiopic reading. In particular, although much of the evidence for the rite of the fermentum is late, some light may be cast on earlier practice by the statement of the 8th century Ordo Romanus 30B that the fermentum is carried in corporals. (Et transmittit unusquisque presbiter mansionarum de titulo suo ad ecclesiam Salvatoris et exspectant ibi usquedum frangitur Sancta, habentes secum corporales. Et venit oblationarius subdiaconus et dat eis de Sancta, quod pontifex consecravit, et recipiunt ea in corporales et revertitur unusquisque ad titulum suum et tradit Sancta presbitero. Et de ipsa facit crucem super calicem et ponit in eo et dicit: Dominus vobiscum. Et communicant omnes sicut superius.” Text in M. Andrieu, Les ordines Romani du haut moyen age 3 (Spicilegium Sacrum Lovaniense 24; Leuven: Peeters, 1951), 474.)

The reason for accepting the possibility that this might cast light on a practice some five-hundred years earlier is the continuity between this practice and that of carrying apophoreta away in classical Rome. It was common practice to take food away from the table, reference to this practice being made by Martial, Lucilius and Juvenal. In a manner consistent with the understanding that the origins of the Eucharist were sympotic, we may state that, in essence, the fermentum was the removal of food from a banquet for consumption elsewhere. What is significant is that these morsels are taken away in napkins; thus Martial Epig. 2.37, 7 refers to a sodden mappa filled with food, Lucian Symposium 36 to a napkin (ὀθόνη) filled with food taken from a table and Petronius Satyricon 60 to the filling of mappae with goods from Trimalchio’s table. This practice may readily be compared to the carrying of the fermentum in a corporal.

We may thus explain the Ethiopic as an honest attempt to render the Greek, misunderstanding coming about due to the translator’s failure to recognize the context, and so to know that there was reference here to a napkin, or corporal. If ὀθόνη or something of the sort stood in the text then the translator might well render that as lebs. Moreover, the word rendered by both Ethiopic and Syriac versions as “open” may have been ἀναπτύσσω. Slightly more conjecturally, “his” garment might have come about had the text read ὀθόνη αὐτοῦ, the pronoun referring to the fermentum rather than to the deacon. Thus the Ethiopic translator, who did not understand the rite being described, nonetheless renders a literal, but initially incomprehensible, translation whereas Testamentum Domini, which is after all a reworking rather than a translation, in turning the direction into a description of the administration of Communion in a church, and the respective roles of sacred ministers, thus substitutes vessels for the corporals in which the fermentum was carried.

Thus the relevant passage should read:

When the deacon approaches the presbyter he should unfold its cloth, and the presbyter should take it (the fermentum) himself.

I think my failure here was due to my lack of awareness that the fermentum was carried in corporals. For some reason (I think to do with the way in which we used to say mass with the paten under the corporal) I was under the impression that it was carried on patens, and so anticipated seeing the word here.

In any event, yet another error to chalk up on my syllabus.


Filed under Apostolic Tradition, E-rrata, Testamentum Domini

Another e-rratum

Another e-rratum from the Didascalia:

On 265, footnote 8 the Syriac has been reversed, reading left to right! The note should read: Reading here ܐܪܙܐ with Testamentum Domini, as against the MSS of DA which read ܪܐܙܐ

I came across this as I re-read this portion of my own work. The reason for doing so illustrates well the horrible complexity of the interrelated church orders to which Dani Vaucher alluded in one of his recent comments.

I am now translating Testamentum Domini for St Vladimir’s. In doing so I noticed a footnote in Maclean’s translation referring to Funk, Apostolischen Konstitutionen, which in turn is discussing a then unpublished (still unpublished!) Arabic Didascalia. Parts are given in a German translation and are clearly related, probably indebted, to Testamentum Domini. The first chapter is not, however, in Testamentum Domini, but nonetheless sounded horribly familiar. I tracked it down to this section of  the Didascalia… and reading saw the error. The confusion is exacerbated because this is found only in a secondary recension of the Didascalia, containing a strange collection of assorted church order material.

A final, odd, note: both Rahmani and Maclean render ܐܪܙܐ at this point as though it were ܪܐܙܐ!

Leave a comment

Filed under Church orders in genera(l), Didascalia Apostolorum, E-rrata, Other church order literature

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!


Filed under Church orders in genera(l)

Apostolic Tradition 21.39-40, the white stone, and a matter of balancing the Coptic against the Aksumite Ethiopic

Over on hypotyposeis.org I find, over a year later, a discussion of Apostolic tradition 21.39-40; the hyperlinked post is the first of three.

The Sahidic of Apostolic Tradition reads: “We have handed over to you in brief these things about holy baptism and the holy offering, since you have already been instructed about the resurrection of the flesh and the other things according to the Scriptures. Now (δέ) if anything else should be said, the bishop shall say it privately…” There is a significantly different reading in the Aksumite Ethiopic, an understanding which may well stand behind the version offered by the Testament of the Lord. This text reads: “It is therefore convenient to be given this in brief on the washing and on the offering because they have already been instructed. But about the resurrection of the body and everything else in accordance [with the Scriptures] the bishop will reveal and explain as is convenient when they are initiated.” Testament of the Lord is slightly confusing, but the confusion may come about through attempting to make sense of a reading like that of the Aksumite: “They should also be taught about the resurrection of bodies; before being baptized nobody should know the word concerning the resurrection.” Andrew Criddle, for whom I have the utmost respect, believes that the Aksumite reflects a more accurate rendition of the original, given the potential support of Testamentum Domini, and locates the precise matter regarding the resurrection, which is to be held secret, in the teaching regarding the harrowing of hell which is found in Testamentum Domini presented as mystagogy.

I’m afraid that on this occasion I cannot agree. It is as likely that this particular mystagogy is a peculiarity of the Testamentum. The Aksumite Ethiopic may be derived from a Greek text very similar to the Coptic. To demonstrate the point I attempt a retroversion of the relevant phrase(s) without punctuation (and with apologies for the horrible appearance of the Greek): … περὶ τοῦ λουτροῦ καὶ τῆς προσφορᾶς ἐπειδὴ ἤδη κατήχησθε (or ηνται following Ethiopic) περὶ τῆς τῆς σαρκὸς ἀναστασέως καὶ τὰ λοιπά κατὰ τᾶς γραφάς… Now if a full stop or colon is placed after the verb κατήχησθε the meaning is as the Ethiopic (though admittedly the style would be improved with a δέ after the περί), whereas should the full stop or colon be placed after τᾶς γραφάς then the meaning is as the Coptic. It is quite possible that the redactor of the Testamentum Domini (mis)read the text in the same way as the Ethiopic scribe.

I treat the point in the second edition of my Apostolic tradition (now languishing forgotten at the Press) but since the discussion had already entered the blogosphere I thought it worth labouring here at rather greater length than I do in the book.

1 Comment

Filed under Apostolic Tradition

Links to Testamentum Domini material

No doubt there are many others, but here are two links to scribd.com for material related to Testamentum Domini.

First is a brief article on the dating of the apocalyptic section with which the piece begins. Whereas this does not date the church order itself it does at least provide a terminus a quo for the final level of redaction.

Second is a pdf of the Cooper-McLean version.


Leave a comment

Filed under Testamentum Domini