Tag Archives: Traditio apostolica

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.


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The origin of the baptismal formula

I am happy to announce the publication of my article “The Baptismal Formula: a Search For Origins” in Ecclesia Orans 39 (2022), 391-414.

The origins of the baptismal formula found in fourth century eastern baptismal rites are explored. It is suggested that the formula originates as early as the first century in a syntactic dialogue between the candidate and the baptizer. The prayer of the candidate is subsequently transferred to the baptizer and, because it originated as a calling out by the candidate, is known as an epiklesis. The recognition that “epiklesis” in the third and fourth centuries may refer to the formula clarifies a number of aspects of the development of the baptismal rite.

Vengono esplorate le origini della formula battesimale presente nei riti battesimali orientali del IV secolo. Si suggerisce che la formula abbia origine già nel I secolo in un dialogo sintattico tra il candidato e il battezzatore. La preghiera del candidato viene successivamente trasferita al battezzatore e, poiché ha origine da un’invocazione da parte del candidato, è nota come epiklesis. Il riconoscimento che “epiklesis” nel III e IV secolo possa riferirsi alla formula chiarisce una serie di aspetti dello sviluppo del rito battesimale.

Canones Hippolyti, naturally enough, provide some evidence for the argument, as indeed does Traditio apostolica. There is some mention of Constitutiones apostolorum and a citation of the Didascalia, so we can say that this really is relevant to the blog! Towards the end I also suggest a solution to the issue of whether Didache 7.1 represents a baptismal formula.

Offprints may be supplied through the usual channels.

Disclaimer: I have no comment on goings-on in Detroit and Phoenix, or on the response from the Congregation.

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Music to my ears!

Forthcoming in Vigiliae Christianae, and available as advance publication on the Brill website, is Alex Fogleman, “The Apologetics of Mystery: The Traditio apostolica and Appeals to Pythagorean Initiation in Josephus and Iamblichus”

While the Traditio apostolica ascribed to Hippolytus has primarily been the focus of studies about authorship and dating, this unique work also has much to suggest about rhetorical presentations of catechesis in the early Christian era. Comparing the TA to Josephus’s account of the Essenes in the Judean War and Iamblichus’s account of Pythagorean initiation in De vita Pythagorica, this essay argues that the TA’s presentation of catechesis can be read as constitutive of a quasi-apologetic defense of the Hippolytan “school” during the transitional period from school Christianity to monepiscopacy during the second century. Deploying similar Pythagorean imagery to describe the process of initiation, the author/editor of the TA makes a case for the Hippolytan school as offering a true philosophical way of life.

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Ancient church orders at NAPS 2022

Only one church order paper at the upcoming meeting of NAPS in Chicago, but it’s a good one! Here, with thanks to the author, is the abstract of what sounds like a fascinating paper.

Christological Titles in the Prayer-Texts of the Apostolic Tradition

Prayer-texts form a distinctive category of material within ancient Christian literature, not least because of their tendency to retain styles and vocabulary that have become archaic or even obsolete in other forms of discourse. Following the now established conclusion that the anonymous ancient church order known as the Apostolic Tradition is not a third-century work by a certain Hippolytus but a piece of “living literature” that gradually developed between the second and fourth centuries, this paper examines the use of the designation “your servant Jesus Christ” in its prayers in comparison with the same expression in other sources. While the phrase tended to be superseded by other more Christologically advanced titles in those sources in the course of the second century, it was still preserved alongside them in certain doxological formulae down to at least the fourth century, especially in Egyptian prayers. In contrast to these, however, in the Apostolic Tradition this primitive epithet is not confined to doxologies and usually appears without other titles for Christ in prayers. This suggests that any exceptions have been subjected to later interpolations, and that the substance of the whole prayers is genuinely extremely old.


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The baptismal rite in the Ethiopic versions of Traditio apostolica

One baffling aspect of the mediaeval Ethiopic version of Traditio apostolica is the presence of an additional baptismal rite, apart from a version of that found in other versions of Traditio apostolica (ed. Hugo Duensing, Der Äthiopische Text der Kirchenordnung des Hippolyt (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1946), 81-127.)

Alessandro Bausi, “The baptismal ritual in the earliest Ethiopic canonical liturgical collection” in Heinzgerd Brakmann et al (ed), Neugeboren aus Wasser und Heiligem Geist”: Kölner Kolloquium zur Initiatio Christiana (Münster: Aschendorff, 2020), 31-83 has now published a version of a clearly closely related baptismal ritual from the Axumite collection from which he derived the new text of Traditio apostolica. I have yet to explore it in detail, but since I have at present, as a result of the ongoing discussion with Maxwell Johnson about the interrogation in the Egyptian rite, a particular interest in the introduction of the syntaxis into Egyptian baptismal rites (generally suggested to have taken place in the fourth century on the basis of the appearance of such a syntaxis in Canones Hippolyti, evidence which has now disappeared with the denial of an Egyptian provenance to this document) and in the role and presence of the five-membered creed found in the Deir Balizeh papyrus and elsewhere (including Epistula apostolorum) as part of my overall argument that declaratory creeds are no less primitive than interrogatory creeds (though the language is misleading), I took a particular interest in the baptismal confession found in the Axumite ordo.

Essentially this baptismal confession is the same as that found in the present Coptic rite, namely the declaration of the five-membered creed, followed by a brief interrogation: “Do you believe?” “I believe” repeated three times. What is notable, however, is the absence of any syntaxis. This implies a rather later entrée of the syntaxis into Egyptian rites (it is, for instance, present in the current Coptic rite) than previously thought.

Turning to the version in the mediaeval Ethiopic of Traditio apostolica we find that the same baptismal profession that is in the Axumite rite, as in the present Coptic rite, in in place, namely the prompted repetition of the five-membered creed and the repeated question “Do you believe?” (though are very slight variations between the Axumite version and the mediaeval version.) This later rite, however, has a syntaxis. This syntaxis, however, is none other than, yet again, the same five-membered creed, which is thus repeated twice in the ritual! In the version of the rite of Traditio apostolica within this text the same, expanded, version of the five-membered creed as found in the Coptic version of the Traditio is found, albeit partly conformed to the interrogatory shape of the original. But given that the version in the second ritual lacks the expansions this can hardly be put down to the influence of Traditio apostolica. I think there may be more to say about this… but consider that after writing a 138 word sentence that that’s enough for now.

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The interrogation in Egyptian baptismal rites

In response to my article The early Alexandrian baptismal creed: declaratory, interrogatory… or both?” Questions liturgiques 95 (2014), 237-253 (which came out in 2015(!)), questioning whether Egypt had ever known an “interrogatory” baptismal rite, Maxwell Johnson has responded, defending his position, in “Interrogatory creedal formulae in early Egyptian baptismal rites: a reassessment of the evidence” Questions liturgiques 101 (2021), 75-93. I have now drafted a response to his response which, I think, brings some valuable new considerations into play. It may be that I will have to revise my original position slightly, but if this new evidence is as significant as I think it is then the position to which I originally took exception, namely that the original form of baptismal profession in Egypt was an interrogation like that found in Traditio apostolica, is completely excluded,

I also think that the issues explored go beyond the narrow concern of the Egyptian baptismal rite, as it raises the whole question of the priority of “interrogatory” creeds over “declaratory” credal statements.

There is a definite church order aspect to this, as the discussion involves a consideration of the baptismal interrogations in Canones Hippolyti and the Sahidic version of Traditio apostolica.

I knocked the response in a couple of days (nights actually). Because it was written in haste and heat I let myself cool off and, whilst cooling off, posted the draft to academia.edu as a discussion paper, in the hope of guidance and correction from those equipped to guide and correct.

The discussion ended with no comment from anyone. From this I concluded that nobody was that bothered. However, I made some revisions, removed the academia discussion, and sent it off anyway… I can now announce that the result, “The interrogation in Egyptian baptismal rites: a further consideration” will appear in Questions liturgiques in due course. Whether anyone reads it is, of course, another question.

Here, anyway, is the abstract of the forthcoming article:
In response to Alistair C Stewart, Maxwell Johnson has presented arguments for continuing to see an interrogation in the original Egyptian baptismal rite. This article takes a fresh look at the question, suggesting that the evidence cannot lead to a certain conclusion on this point. Nonetheless, the form of the stipulatio, introduced into Egypt in the third century and previously unknown there, tends to indicate that the interrogatory baptismal rite, which employs this form, is a western phenomenon. It is possible that the interrogation entered Egyptian baptismal rituals as a result of the widespread Egyptian adoption of the stipulatio.

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Traditio apostolica 25

In his recent Apostolic Tradition reconstructed (29, fn 44) Bradshaw ascribes part of Traditio apostolica 25 to the later Ethiopic translator, noting its absence in the Axumite version. In keeping with his overall approach he ascribes layers to the chapter. I give the chapter showing his layers; material in Roman type is the Grundschrift, that in italics is ascribed to a third-century redactor, that struck through does not appear in Bradshaw’s version at all as it is assigned to the later translator.

When the bishop is present and evening is come the deacon brings in a lamp 2and standing among all the believers who are present he shall give thanks. Firstly he greets them as he says: “The Lord be with you.”

And the people shall say: “And with your spirit.”

Let us give thanks to the Lord.”

And they shall say: “It is right and just. Greatness and exaltation with praise is fitting to him.”

And he shall not say “Hearts on high,” for it is to be said at the offering.

And he shall pray in this way as he says: “We give you thanks, O God, through your child Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom you have illuminated us, revealing to us the incorruptible light. 8Therefore we have completed the length of the day and we have arrived at the beginning of the night, being sated with the day’s light which you created for our satisfaction. And now, having arrived at the light of evening through your grace, we give you praise and glorify you 9through your child Jesus Christ, our Lord, through whom to you be power and honour together with the Holy Spirit, now and always and to the ages of ages. Amen.”

And all shall say: “Amen.”

And then, when they get up after the dinner, they shall pray, and the children and the virgins shall say psalms.

And afterwards the deacon, when he takes the mixed cup of the oblation, shall say one of the psalms in which “alleluia” is written.

After that, if the presbyter has commanded, again from the same psalms. And afterwards, the bishop having offered the cup, he shall say a psalm proper to the cup, while all say “alleluia.” 14And all of them, as he recites the psalms, shall say “alleluia,” which is to say “we praise him who is God most high; glorified and praised is he who founded all the world with one word.”

And likewise, when the psalm is completed, he shall give thanks over the cup (Dix emends to “bread”) and give of the fragments to all the faithful.

Although this chapter only appears in completeness in a mediaeval Ethiopic version, there are hints of its existence in Canones Hippolyti and Testamentum Domini.

If there is a feast or a dinner provided by somebody for the poor, it is the Lord’s (κυριακόν). The bishop should be present when a lamp is lit. The deacon gets up to light it and the bishop prays over them and over those who invited them. It is right that he make the thanksgiving (εὐχαριστία) at the beginning of the liturgy so that they can be dismissed before it is dark, and recite psalms before their departure. (Canons of Hippolytus 32)

The lamp should be offered in the temple by the deacon, as he says “The grace of the Lord be with you all.” And all the people should say “And with your spirit.”

The little boys should sing spiritual psalms and hymns of praise by the light of the lamp. All the people, all together, their voices in harmony, should respond to the psalm and to the song, “Alleluia.” Nobody should kneel until the one who is speaking has ceased. In the same way, also, when a reading is read or a word of instruction is spoken. If the name of the Lord is thus uttered, and the rest, as has already been adequately discussed, nobody should bow, coming in creeping. (Testamentum Domini 2.11)

It may be noted that Canones Hippolyti makes reference to the recitation of psalms; Testamentum Domini does the same, and, moreover, prescribes the “Alleluia” response.

Something about psalm singing, and the alleluia response, must therefore, surely, have been in the version circulating in fourth century Cappadocia on which these two versions draw. As such it can hardly be the work of a mediaeval Ethiopian. This is not to deny that there are issues of transmission here; the phrase “when they get up after the dinner” is particularly suspicious. But the funny business is certainly not as Bradshaw would have it here. Looking at his reconstruction initially I thought it looked too neat!

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Bradshaw’s reconstruction of the Apostolic tradition: the interactive version

Paul Bradshaw informs me that an interactive version of his reconstruction is available on the Alcuin Club website. I’ve had great fun playing with it… hope you do too!

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Bradshaw’s reconstruction of Traditio apostolica

It is a while since I posted anything here; I did wonder whether the utility of the blog might be coming to and end, and even composed a final posting in my head. This is due to pressure of other work, not the least my day job. And since it appears that the Church of England no longer values the work of parish clergy, I have been treasuring it all the more. https://religionnews.com/2021/07/09/looking-for-radical-solutions-to-decline-church-of-england-debates-lay-led-house-churches/ tells the story. Of course, the pattern proposed, we hear, is “like the early church”. “Back to the future” goes through my head. Which is no doubt why, in the first generations, the Didachist saw fit to charge the appointment of episkopoi and diakonoi who are “worthy of the Lord.” We should be so lucky.

However, these rather depressing reflections are interrupted by the arrival of Paul Bradshaw, The apostolic tradition reconstructed: a text for students (JLS 91; Norwich: Hymns Ancient and Modern, 2021) for which I had to part with ten quid. And of course you want to know whether I consider it worth it. My initial comment is that it could hardly fail to be an improvement on Cuming, which I assume this work replaces. But forty-odd pages for over a tenner is on the steep side (given the price of my own commentary!)

Bradshaw employs the recently discovered Axumite Ethiopic text, and largely employs this as the base for his version. I could hardly fail to approve! Also, interestingly, he employs a system of type-faces graphically to show the “original” (that is to say material from early in the second century) (in Roman type), third century (or so) expansions (shown in italics) and later material (underlined.) This is helpful for those of us concerned to trace the levels of redaction; whether it helps the students of the subtitle is another question.

Bradshaw’s italicized sections are still within the period that I set for the redactional work of the Hippolytean school. Thus, for instance, the first, introductory chapter is supplied, he suggests, by whoever first brought the material together; I would not disagree (though I am surprised to see that he assigns the final chapter to a later hand). Indeed Bradshaw would assign the greater part of the document to a second or early third century date; he italicizes sections which are manifestly not fourth century, such as the offering of cheese and olives at the Eucharist, but since this is still within the relatively early history of the document I will not cavil. And so I will not pick on the italicized sections, and will also admit that there is broad (albeit only broad) agreement on the Grundschrift. Thus in dealing with the question of Bradshaw’s assignment of sections to date I largely overlook the italicized sections, simply looking at what he underlines, (thus assigning this material to the later periods of reworking.) I also avoid discussing the ordination prayers again, referring to our two recently published articles on the subject (see here and here).

In the episcopal eucharistic prayer after ordination (TA 4) Bradshaw admits a largely 3C origin, but also suspects some later additions, which makes a eucharistic prayer without an anamnesis. This is not impossible, but I would like to know why. Bradshaw similarly sees the epiklesis as later, though of course I do not think it is an an epiklesis at all. Similarly he is suspicious of the institution narrative; although I admit that this is an early appearance, perhaps the earliest, of such a narrative within an eucharistic prayer I suggest elsewhere that it might be retained so that the prayer has the shape of a collect.

The statement prescribing a three year catechumenate (TA 17) is assigned to a later period. Here I refer to something I wrote some years ago, in the debate in SVTQ referring to his earlier commentary:

the discussion of the length of the catechumenate (96-98) is excellent, and many interesting parallels are drawn. I would not dissent from the conclusion that a three-year catechumenate was not general in the ante-Nicene church, but this conclusion need not be drawn from the determination that the three-year period is fourth-century, but could be equally well reached from reckoning that the Hippolytean school, like that of Clement, which is roughly contemporary, employed an extensive period of catechumenate because of its scholastic orientation.

I do not understand the assignment of the daily exorcism (TA 20.3) and the effeta (TA 20.8) to the fourth century. It is true that otherwise the effeta is not found until the letter of John the deacon, but then again the sources are very thin. There is nothing which demands that this not be seen as primitive. Even less do I understand why Bradshaw assigns the renunciation (TA 21.6-9) to a later period. There are hints of renunciation in baptismal rites from the earliest evidence. The rationale given in a footnote is that the description of the baptismal rite is interrupted. I do see this, and observe it myself in the second edition of my own commentary, but still suspect that something must have stood here, even if it is not precisely the rite that is now extant, for which reason I assign it to a level of redaction prior even to the first redaction of Traditio apostolica.

It seems strange to assign the giving of milk and honey to the newly baptized to a later period (TA 21.28-30). It is surely early, since the same practice is found in Marcionite circles.

On the deacons “garment” (TA 22) I refer to the post below and the published article on the subject. Bradshaw continues to assign this to a later period.

The statement “this is a blessing and not the body of the Lord” at TA 26.2 is assigned to a later redactor. I do not see why; indeed one would expect that the distinction would be made only while the Eucharist took place within a Sättigungsmahl. I also do not see why the restriction of flowers to roses and lilies is considered later. (TA 32.2b), though the matter is admittedly minor.

By contrast I am surprised to see Bradshaw assign the supper for widows (TA 30) to the Grundschrift. One might have thought that this provision only came about once the Eucharist had ceased to be a Sättigungsmahl and another avenue for food charity would be required.

I think I have said enough. The work repays study, though I am not moved in my opinions in any way. Except at one point: Bradshaw suggests that TA 25.2b-10 is from a slightly later level of redaction (third century) than the original instruction regarding the entry of the light. This is plausible. He further suggests that the rest of the chapter is the work of the Ethiopic translator. This is an interesting thought, and certainly cleans up some of the mess here. I have not determined whether or not he is right, my main caveat being that the chapter is a bit too tidy as a result (!) but certainly it is a point worth of consideration.

It is of course hard to change a mind, once made up… indeed I have often entertained the thought that the Metzger/Bradshaw line on Traditio apostolica is a blik (the term of R.M. Hare, should you not be familiar with it. ) Presumably this is why Bradshaw persists in translating the Latin version of the post-baptismal episcopal anointing prayer, rather than the oriental version, which is now supported by the Axumite Ethiopic. There might once have been a case for following the Latin, but it was in my opinion never strong (though it was upheld by Anglican evangelicals for confessional reasons) but surely its appearance in the new Ethiopic weakens the case yet further. In the same way I was surprised to see that he persists in thinking that the baptismal creed has been expanded. The christology, he opines, “is too advanced for the period to which we are assigning the earliest layer of this document” (40) Possibly so (though I don’t really see that the Roman creed encodes a particularly “high” christology) but too advanced for the early third century? Really? He suggests that “a redactor…expanded the original short answers to correspond more closely to… the old Roman Symbol.” (41) This is, of course, different to the approach of the 2002 commentary (I have written on this elsewhere) which indicates that Bradshaw has been forced to take some of my critique on board, and is trying desperately to save his position. This latest version begs the question as to why a fourth-century redactor should want to expand the creed (and do so before, note, the redaction of Testamentum Domini and Canones Hippolyti in the middle of that century), and begs the larger question of how the old Roman symbol emerged if not from a baptismal context. Nonetheless here, and elsewhere, I see less blasé assignment of material to a series of mysterious fourth-century eastern redactors, and much more assigned to the third-century date that I have always maintained.

How to conclude? My best suggestion is, should you have ten Pounds (or its equivalent in other currencies) to spare, that you get your own copy and decide for yourselves. I’m holding on to mine… I’m beginning to think about a third edition!

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The Didache as an associational lex

2021 sees the publication of Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum 62 (2019).

This contains my article “The Didache as an associational lex: re-opening the question of the genre(s) of the church orders” on pp29-49. I am very pleased to announce this publication, as I am hoping that it answers many of the questions posed on this blog, and has been “forthcoming” for about as long as I can remember! I have come to realize that items in publication are like buses… you wait for ages and then three come along at once.

Abstract: Although the term “church orders” is widely used there is no agreement as to its definition.
The genre of the Didache is examined in the light of recent discussion, and the conclusion is reached that it should be termed a Christian associational lex. This conclusion is based principally on the grounds of common content and purpose with other ancient non-Christian associational leges, but also to an extent on form. It is then noted that Traditio apostolica manifests the same phenomenon and may similarly be classified as a Christian associational lex. On this basis it is argued that whereas the later church orders form a literary tradition, rather than conforming to a single genre, they originate as associational leges.

E-offprints are available through the usual channels.


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The ordination prayers in Traditio apostolica

SVTQ_64_1-2_front_cover__15245.1607463417Newly appeared in SVTQ 64.1–2 (2020), 11–24, is my “The Ordination Prayers in Traditio Apostolica: the search for a Grundschrift

Abstract: Although there is much disagreement regarding the date and provenance of Traditio apostolica, there is growing agreement that a source underlies some of the document. This article suggests that this source included material regarding the ordination of a bishop. Although it has been expanded, it is possible to reconstruct much of this source. A Roman provenance and second-century date are suggested.

Sharp-eyed readers will note that this is a reversal of the position I took in the two editions of my commentary. For this reason, this post is being filed among e-rrata.

Offprints can be sent on request through the usual channels.


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A bit of fun with Canones Hippolyti 7

Can. Hipp. 7 reads: The subdeacon (ὑποδιάκων, transliterated) and the reader (ἀναγνώστης, transliterated), when (اذا) they pray by themselves (وحدهما ), are stationed to the rear, and the subdeacon (ὑποδιάκων) serves to the rear of the deacon.

This provision seems to apply to liturgical arrangements, but why should it be said that they pray by themselves? It dawns on me that μόνον, an adverb in the Greek referring to praying, might be rendered into Coptic as ⲙⲟⲛⲟⲛ, and then taken as referring to the deacon and subdeacon (the Coptic being indeclinable.) Thus it is possible that the statement regarding these officials praying “by themselves” originally intended that their sole ministry was prayer, an adaptation of the statement in Trad. ap. 10.5 that the widow is not ordained as she is appointed for prayer alone, one of a series of provisions (including the statement at Trad. ap. 13 that the subdeacon follows the deacon) denying ordination by handlaying to a number of roles. One also wonders whether idha, “when” or “if”, here represents ⲉⲣϣⲁⲛ- intended to mean “since” and taken in its conditional sense by the Arabic translator. Thus, “The subdeacon and the reader, since they only pray, are stationed to the rear…”

Unfortunately, I’m really still no clearer about what this actually means!

PS (October 17th 2021): I’ve just read Ewa Wipsczycka “Les ordres mineurs dans l’eglise d’Egypte du IVe au VIIIe siecle” Journal of Juristic papyrology 23 (1993), 181-215, who on 192 suggests that subdeacons rather fancied being deacons, and that the limitation of their role is what leads to the provision that they “go behind.” I do not find this very likely.

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Chase on the daily office in Apostolic Tradition

I have just read with interest Nathan Chase, “Another look at the ‘daily office’ in Apostolic traditionStudia liturgica 49 (2019), 5-25.

Abstract: The daily prayer practices outlined in the Apostolic Tradition, their origins, and even the number of prayer hours, have been points of dispute among scholars. However, new sources of the Apostolic Tradition, as well as work on lay ascetical movement in Egypt, call for the reevaluation of this document, its dating, provenance, and interpretation. This article argues that the Apostolic Tradition is a composite document, whose daily prayer cycle in its current form has been shaped by a third- or fourth-century lay ascetical movement in Egypt. The document appears to outline prayer at rising, followed by a communal service of catechesis and prayer, prayer at the third, sixth, and ninth hours, as well as prayer at bed and in the middle of the night. Given the difficulties in interpreting the document it is unlikely that the document, or at least the daily prayer practices outlined in it, were celebrated as written.

For me, the major point emerging from this article is an apparent consensus that the final pattern of daily prayer in early Christian circles is the result of the conflation of distinct patterns. And I think that Chase is right in his reconstruction of the horarium (noting with a certain satisfaction that he agrees with me that prayer at cock-crow is not a distinct hour, but the same as prayer on rising from sleep).

Beyond the headlines, some valuable observations are made, not the least of which is the possibility that Canones Hippolyti 27 is an attempt to make usable the horarium of Traditio apostolica. I think this entirely plausible. Traditio apostolica is confused  as the result (I suggest) of two distinct conclusions being conjoined.

Chase’s overall argument that the horarium is Egyptian, partly based on the possibility that it was employed by lay monastic groups like those envisaged by the Gnomae is, I think, unnecessary. These lay monastic groups are widely known, and may well have emerged from school settings like that I envisage for Traditio apostolica. Nonetheless it gives me a degree of personal satisfaction in seeing the the Gnomae employed as a source in scholarly work.

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E-rratum: Apostolic tradition p82

Discussing the phrase “he opened wide his hand when he suffered” at Traditio apostlolica 4.7 on p82 of the second edition of my commentary we read that there is a reference to this action in De Antichristo 52, and a statement that this text quotes Isaiah 65.2.

I’m not sure how I managed to produce two errors in one line… however, the citation should be to De Antichristo 61. And there is no citation of Isaiah here. The error is certainly also found in the first edition, from which it had been carried over.

Thanks to Darrell Hannah who noticed this.

The substantive point that the usage of Traditio apostolica here can be illustrated from within the Hippolytean corpus nonetheless remains.

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Cyprian of Antioch and Magic in the Church Orders

Magic and divination were an integral part of ancient society. Even after the rise of Christianity, the luring power of diviners, sorcerers, astrologers and the like were felt in cities around the Mediterranean. Magic (to use a not unproblematic umbrella term) was strongly linked to idolatry, in Christian perspective anyway. No surprise bishops and other Christian teachers were fighting against its influence. The Church Orders forbid the practice of magic from its beginning. The author of the Didache writes (2.2): “you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft”, and the author of the Traditio Apostolica requires that practitioners of magic stop it in order to be taught. (16: “A magus shall not even be brought forward for consideration. An enchanter, or astrologer, or diviner, or interpreter of dreams, or a charlatan, or one who makes amulets, either they shall cease or they shall be rejected.”) The latter text was incorporated in the Apostolic Constitutions, written towards the end of the 4th century, probably in Antioch.

When I looked through the Christian literature of that time, I came across an interesting legend which seems to preach exactly that same claim. The “conversion of Cyprian” (probably early 4th century) tells the story of Justina, a Christian virgin who is hassled by a man who fell in love with her. The lover is rejected again and again, until he takes the services of a magician, Cyprian of Antioch. The magician summons several demons in order to seduce the virgin, unsuccessfully. The prayers and the sign of the cross drive them off. When Cyprian recognizes the power of Christ and the church, he burns his magic books publicly and converts to Christianity.

Now is that story not the true propaganda for what bishops and Church Orders commonly demanded? Cyprian ceases his business, advertised by the destruction of his idols and the burning of the books (cf. Acts 19.19), in order to be granted accession, and baptism. Cyprian later becomes bishop, martyr, and saint, until the Catholic Church renounces his holy status in the 20th century…

The legend is tripartite. The “conversion” is most probably the earliest version of the legend (based inter alia on the story of Thecla and the magician in Lucians Philopseudes). Then comes the “confession”, a first-person narrative of Cyprians youth and infamous deeds as magician and his pact with the devil. The third part is the “martyrium”, it is of later date, but linked more to the conversion than to the confession.

Among the many differences between the conversion and the confession, the picture of the devil in the confession is the most striking to me (5.6): “His form was like a golden flower adorned with precious stones, and he crowned his head with stones that were twined together – the energies of which illuminated that plain, and his garment was no different – and when he enwreathed himself, he shook the land. Great indeed was the display around his throne of different ranks which laid down their forms and energies in subordination to him.” (trans. Bailey). And when Cyprian revolts against Satan, after having learned the true Christian power, the devil attacks him (corporeally) and almost kills him in an epic struggle. Only with the sign of the cross, Cyprian manages to free himself.

What I wonder is whether this description of the devil, his absolute corporeal form and the brawl with Cyprian is as original as the “confessions” imagination of the pact with the devil. I have not found any other instances of such “fights with the devil” in early Christian literature. Or is the scene interpolated and of a later date?



Theodor Zahn, Cyprian von Antiochien und die deutsche Faustsage. Erlangen 1882.

Ludwig Radermacher, Griechische Quellen zur Faustsage: der Zauberer Cyprianus, die Erzählung des Helladius, Theophilus. Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien 4, 1927.

Ryan Bailey, The confession of Cyprian of Antioch: introduction, text, and translation. Montreal 2009.


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Something new on Traditio apostolica

From Markus Vinzent: something which will at least move the argument on, and gives us something new to think about, with regard to Traditio apostolica.


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Sklaverei in Norm und Praxis: review

vaucherI have at last received my copy of Daniel Vaucher’s book Sklaverei in Norm und Praxis: die früchristlichen Kirchenordnungen (Hildesheim: Olms, 2017). My thanks to Dr Vaucher for his kind note, and for sending me a second copy after the Post Office managed to lose the first. I am sorry that it has taken so long for a review to appear.

The object of the work is to understand Christian understandings of slavery through a proper examination of Christian sources, which has not been undertaken with sufficient rigour, particularly not by recent studies. Although there is a focus on church orders, the author has an extensive knowledge of other early Christian literature; thus the opening, which refers to the Vita Polycarpi and to the Acta Andreae, plunges us directly into the world of unreflective Christians in antiquity.

After setting out the purpose of the work in the first chapter, in the second chapter Vaucher describes and contextualizes the church orders, setting their development in the world of a developing, urbanizing, diverse Christianity. On the basis of function the church orders are seen as prescriptive Christian texts, setting out an ideal which may be in tension with the reality. Hence the title of the work sees Christian discourse regarding slavery setting norms which are not actually achieved. Beyond this, however, the following chapters manifest the extent of unanswered questions regarding early Christianity and slavery. The study is not, however, restricted to the church orders, but to other prescriptive material, or material which might be read as prescriptive. Thus the third chapter focusses on Paul. Vaucher demonstrates the variety of unanswered questions regarding slavery in the Pauline corpus, in particular in the interpretation of Philemon. His overall suggestion is that Paul has an ideal which is eschatological in goal, but which is also not manifested. Such a failure is manifested in the Corinthian Gemeindemahl and in the treatment of slavery. This is rather better than “love-patriarchalism” as an understanding of Paul’s approach, since it takes account of the eschatological nature of the real Christian communities, and sees the disappearance of slavery as part of the yet-unrealized Kingdom.

This leads to the deutero-Pauline literature in the fourth chapter, as in this literature we see something similar to the church orders, as well as the first treatment of the church orders’ directions concerning slavery. Vaucher suggests that the Pauline tension is unresolved, and that there are two streams in early Christianity, broadly “libertarian” or ascetic, a stream later represented by monasticism, and a more bürgerlich stream represented by the church orders as in previous generations by the Haustafel. It is in the course of this chapter that there is one of the many interesting discussions of detail, here in particular over the question of the purchase of slaves by congregations in order that they may obtain their freedom. Vaucher points to the very different versions of the same material in Didascalia 2.62.4 and its parallel in Constitutiones apostolorum, where the latter text indicates the possibility that slaves might be purchased. This is read in the light of the earlier prohibition on the purchase of slaves’ freedom from common funds in the Ignatian Ad Pol., indicating that the practice of post-Constantinian Christianity was different, by virtue of living in a different ecclesial contest.

The theme of lack of resolution continues as the fifth chapter examines the tension which exists between the rhetoric (and ritual) of baptism and the reality of slavery. Here Vaucher raises, and in my opinion answers correctly, a particular issue regarding the demand in Traditio apostolica for a “master’s reference” for a slave-catechumen. The same chapter also considers slave office-holders, though this might better have been discussed separately, as Vaucher returns in a subsequent chapter to the matter of the catechumenate, pointing out in the sixth chapter the extent to which the “forbidden professions” of Traditio apostolica might tend to exclude slaves. The author might reasonably respond to this criticism that the chapter continues the theme of the book overall, which is the tension between the institution of slavery and the practice of slavery; indeed, although the matter of slaves as office-holders has been discussed to some extent already in this blog, the discussion in the book goes far beyond this, suggesting that exclusion was a later phenomenon, but suggesting that certain offices, particularly in the earliest period, might principally have been held by the slaves and freedmen of the episkopos-patron. The brief discussion of the role and origin of the reader is particularly enlightening here.

As already noted, the sixth chapter concerns potential exclusion of slaves from the catechumenate on the basis of forbidden professions. Again, this is an unnoticed area which Vaucher has done well to observe. The chapter may be read alongside the useful appendix setting out the “forbidden professions” as found in the various sources.

The seventh chapter turns to the treatment of slaves. Again the tension within the Christian message and the practice of slavery emerges. As is the case in many of the chapters, a host of sub-questions emerges. In particular the observations regarding the extent to which both the pseudo-Ignatians and the Consitutiones apostolorum expand their Vorlagen considerably in encouraging the proper treatment of slaves, and introduce extensive material which is not in the documents which they are reworking, cause Vaucher to suggest that the authors are facing a real issue in their Antiochene context, and that the poor treatment of slaves is still an issue three hundred years into the life of the Christian movement. The same chapter observes the similarities and differences between the catalogues of those from whom gifts are to be refused in the Didascalia, the Constitutiones apostolorum and in the pseudo-Athanasian material such as the Fides patrum, in particular with regard to the treatment of slaves. The literary puzzle is perhaps insoluble, but its observation is worthwhile, and the extent to which it forms a tradition is noteworthy.

A final chapter compounds the puzzle of unanswered questions by posing the question of slavery and sex, in a society in which slaves were the sexual property of their owners. Could a slave employed for a master’s sexual satisfaction become a Christian or would this pollute the body to an extent that such a person is of necessity excluded? Again one feels that this topic might better have been discussed in the context of catechumenate, but the questions are well-posed nonetheless.

The conclusion repeats the extent of the problematic, and emphasizes the extent to which the institution of slavery goes unquestioned in the Christian sources, even whilst standing in tension to the Christian Gospel.

There are also appendices and excursus. Reference has already been made to the appendix laying out the various versions of the “forbidden professions”; this is preceded by an extensive appendix setting out the various church orders in their interrelated confusion. The interest of this to the readers of the blog is obvious.

The main argument is valuable, but the value of the work goes beyond the overall argument, firstly in the manner in which it provides a worked example of the importance of the church orders as historical documents and at the same time their limitations and secondly, as already indicated, in the individual discussions of disputed and unclear points.

As an example of such, I may take that of concubinage in Traditio apostolica. Vaucher notes the particular arrangements for concubines in Traditio apostolica 16, and the recognition here of the social (and legal) reality of slave-concubines. However, he notes the oddness that there is no mention of the controversy with Kallistos, who had allowed the de facto marriage of free women and enslaved men, something criticized roundly in the Refutatio. It emerges from Vaucher’s discussion that Kallistos’ intention was that Christian women were to have Christian spouses, and thus that there might be difficulty for them to find Christian husbands of their own social status. Thus although Vaucher, who rightly recognizes the “aristokratische Besinning” of Hippolytus, determines in the end that the situation is unclear (249), his discussion actually points us in the direction of some solution here, in that the chapter concerns catechumens, rather than established Christians. As such the situation would not arise, as these male slaves would already be Christians, rather than being catechumens. I would have to revise my opinion of the text of TA 16.14b (derived from the Greek epitome) and now see this as a gloss. In this respect we may also note the important text Constitutiones apostolorum 8.34.13, to which Vaucher directs our attention.

The wealth of such detailed discussions is what makes the work so valuable. Thankfully it is equipped with a Stellenregister to ease the reader who wishes to explore the individual aspects of the texts, as well as an excellent bibliography, which testifies to the depth of the research. It is also printed in a remarkably clear typeface. However, given the value of the contents and the fact that they have taken a subvention for publishing, one might have hoped that Olms would have produced a sturdier product. But the publishers are our masters.

Beyond giving the book a wholehearted commendation and its author warm congratulations, I may perhaps be allowed a personal note of thanks. In a West Indian context we cannot forget the legacy of slavery and the evils which accompanied it, and struggle with the manner in which the Christian churches, particularly the Anglican churches, were complicit in its continuation. Vaucher’s work at least reminds us that this was not a perversion introduced in the seventeenth century but that such confused thinking was a legacy of the earliest period of Christian development.


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Yet another attempt to deny Roman provenance to Traditio apostolica

Looking for something else, today I came across Maciej Zachara Mic “Czy Tradycja apostolska jest dokumentem rzymskim?” Ruch biblijny I liturgicznyrok 65 (2012), 3-20. As my Polish is somewhat non-existent (in spite of living in Slough) I am relieved to find the English abstract: ·

The so-called Apostolic Tradition is usually considered an element of the history of the liturgy of the Roman Church. This conviction lays ultimately on two presuppositions: on the attribution of the Apostolic Tradition to St. Hippolytus of Rome and on the presence of two postbaptismal anointings in the baptismal ritual of Apostolic Tradition, which is peculiar exclusively to the Roman liturgy. However, none of these presuppositions is certain. The arguments for St. Hippolytus’ authorship are so weak, that this attribution must be considered highly improbable. The presence of two postbaptismal anointings in the Apostolic Tradition can be explained by the complexity of its baptismal ritual which seems to be a conflation of different traditions. On the other hand, the Roman tradition of two postbaptismal anointings is probably due to the episcopal prerogative to administer the confirmation and to the concession given to presbyters to anoint the neophytes with the chrism at the baptisms administered by them. This presbyteral chrismation was afterwards extended to every baptism. Consequently, the origins of the Apostolic Tradition are far from certain and its Roman provenance is by no means proved.

The article itself can be read here.

Oddly enough this is in line with my argument in my commentary. Although the initiatory section was much revised in the second edition in view of the critique of Bradshaw and Ekenberg, I suggested in both versions that the double post-baptismal anointing was unrelated to that in Gelasianum and should not be considered as evidence for a Roman provenance, and that the document largely reflected the life of an emigré congregation. The argument for Roman provenance rests on neither presupposition identified by Fr Mic. Nuff said.

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The smell of baking bread: Mart. Pol. 15

In Didascalia apostolorum we read: “You set pure bread before him, which is formed by fire and sanctified by the invocation, offering without demur and praying for those who sleep.” (DA 6.22.2.)

In Traditio apostolica 22 we read: “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.”

Dix, (Treatise, 44) suggests that “the bread they are given” should be read instead of “the baked bread”— reading wefoya (delivered) rather than ‘afoya (baked)— a reading which is found in two manuscripts of the later Ethiopic text. Botte (Tradition apostolique, 61 n. 3) suggests that since the same phrase appears in the Ethiopic version at chapter 26 below “baked” must be the correct reading, though he is at a loss as to what the term means. Moreover, the appearance of “baked” in the Aksumite Ethiopic means that “baked” should certainly be read. Similarly the Aksumite version has “baked bread” in TA 26.

In previous publications I have noted this emphasis on the fact that bread is baked, and leaned towards the suggestion that bread might be baked in situ, particularly in the cemeteries (in my works on Didascalia and Vita Polycarpi certainly, and perhaps elsewhere.) The context in Vita Polycarpi was the report that the burning Polycarp gave off the smell of baking bread (Mart. Pol. 15.)

In an increasingly rare lightbulb moment it occurred to me that this may be a reference (and implicit contrast) to the practice of sacrifice. Bread (and Polycarp) are offered, and baked, in the same way that animal sacrifices were cooked with fire. I am also aware of burnt grain offerings, particularly at Roman tombs, but admit that I do not know enough about sacrificial practice to be certain on this point. Nonetheless it all adds up.. If anyone can point me to a beginners’ guide to the practice of ancient sacrifice in the early centuries of the Common Era, particularly in funereal settings, with big print and lots of pictures (or else, with reliable primary source material!) I would be gratified indeed. For the present, I withdraw my suggestion that bread was baked on site and accuse myself of a further error.

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Was chapter 4 a later addition to Traditio apostolica?

Jens Schröter “Die Funktion der Herrenmahlsüberlieferungen im 1. Korintherbrief: zugleich ein Beitrag zur Rolle der “Einsetzungsworte” im frühchristlichen Mahltexten” ZNW 100 (2009), 78-100, at 79-80 in footnote 5, notes that the episcopal eucharistic prayer at TA4 is absent from some versions, and thus suggests that it might have been added to some versions of Traditio apostolica at a later date. The prayer is present in Latin but absent in Sahidic and the Axumite Ethiopic versions. However, turning to the rewritings, it was obviously available to the redactors of Testamentum Domini and Constitutiones apostolicae, though is absent from Canones Hippolyti. So we have to ask ourselves at what later stage this chapter was added, such that it might find its way to Italy, Cappadocia and Antioch within the time-frame. It is not as if a more convincing solution is fairly obvious, given the distribution of the chapter’s presence and absence, namely that it was omitted in the Alexandrian recension, and thus in the versions dependent on that Greek original.

This is yet another example of the knots into which those who seek to deny the Roman and early third-century provenance of Traditio apostolica tie themselves

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The Didache material appended to Traditio apostolica in the Axumite Ethiopic version

In a previous post I have made reference to the fragment of Didache material attached to the Axumite Ethiopic version of Traditio apostolica published by A. Bausi.“La nuova versione etiopica della Traditio apostolica: edizione e traduzione preliminare“ in Paola Buzi and Alberto Camplani (edd.), Christianity in Egypt: literary production and intellectual trends. Studies in honor of Tito Orlandi (Rome: Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, 2011), 19-69.

I was reminded of this in recent correspondence, and so present this version of the material for comparative purposes, based on the English prepared for my work on the Two Ways Tradition. It falls well short of any scientific standard, and is not for citation, but is offered as an encouragement to anyone considering the textual history of the Didache to take this material into account, given that it diverges significantly from the received Greek version.


Now regarding apostles and prophets act thus, in accordance with the direction of the Gospel. Any apostle who comes to you should remain only a day or two. If he desires to remain a third or delays his departure he is a <false> prophet. Do not test any prophet speaking in the Spirit; do not make discernment because not every sin may be forgiven. Everyone speaking in the spirit is a prophet as long as they are manifesting the conduct of the Lord. The false prophet and the prophet shall be known from conduct. Every prophet ordering in the spirit that a table be set does not eat of it; otherwise he is a false prophet. Every prophet teaching the truth yet not practising what is taught is a false prophet. Every prophet who is tested and true, who works in human company and acts outside the law shall not be judged of you, for he will have judgement with the Lord. For so the ancient prophets acted. Do not listen should anyone say in the spirit “Give me money, or other things.” Yet if he says you should give to others, give it to him without question.

Everyone coming in the name of the Lord should be received; when you have tested him you shall know, for you shall have knowledge of right and left. You should help, as much as you are able, anyone who comes to you as a traveller, who shall not remain with you except for two or three days. If he desires and wishes to stay with you and has a useful trade, if he has no use he should not be kept. If he has no trade act according to your understanding, for an idle person should not live among you. If he does not wish to act in this way he is a Christ-tinker; beware of people like that!

Every prophet wishing to stay with you is worthy of his food. Thus you shall take every firstfruit of the winepress, of wheat, of the threshing floor, of cattle and of sheep, giving the firstfruit to the prophets for they are your <high>-priests. If you have no prophet give them to the destitute. If you make dough, take the first fruit, giving in accordance with the commandment. Likewise take the firstfruit if you open a flask of oil or wine or honey, giving to the prophets. And of money and clothing and every possession, take the firstfruit as seems right to you, giving in accordance with the commandment.

Your fasts should not be with the hypocrites for they fast on the second and the fifth day of the week, yet you fast on the Wednesday and the Friday. Nor pray like the hypocrites, <but> as the Lord commanded in the Gospel.

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The difficulties of interpretation in Traditio apostolica 41.6 and a suggested solution

At Traditio apostolica 41.5-6 we read:

And if indeed you are in your house, pray at the third hour and praise God. But if you are elsewhere and the occasion comes about, pray in your heart to God. For at that hour Christ was displayed nailed to the tree. For this reason also in the Old the Law prescribed that the shewbread should be offered at every hour as a type of the Body and Blood of Christ; and the slaughter of the speechless lamb is this, a type of the perfect lamb. For the shepherd is Christ, and also the bread which came down from heaven.

There is a variation in the Aksumite Ethiopic here. The text reads: “Pay careful attention to the time; for at that time we anticipate the return of Christ,” before going on to discuss the types of the shewbread and the lamb.

In any event it is hard to disentangle the logic here.

I have now come across the comments of Wenrich Slenczka, Heilsgeschichte und 9783110810080Liturgie: Studien zum Verhältnis von Heilsgeschichte und Heilsteilhabe anhand liturgischer und katechetischer Quellen des dritten und vierten Jahrhunderts (Arbeiten zur Kirchengeschichte 78; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2000) at 27-29 (a catchy title if every I saw one.) This I missed, so must admit to an error of omission in the second edition of my commentary.

Slenczka suggests that the verse regarding the shewbread is a gloss on 42B.3 (the following chapter)

This (the protecting power of God) Moses showed in the paschal sheep which was slaughtered. He sprinkled the blood on the threshold and anointed the doorposts, and showed forth that faith in the perfect sheep which is now in us.

This, it must be admitted, is possible though, as Slenczka admits, would have occurred early in the process of transmission. My problem with the suggestion is that, although I can see the connection between Moses’s lamb and Christ (not hard) the logic of the shewbread is less obvious, and the connection between the placarding of Christ (which is the connection with the shewbread) and the protecting power of the blood (which is the context for the mention of the lamb and its blood in chapter 42) creates a tension almost as difficult as the crux of interpretation that the movement of the verse is meant to solve.


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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.

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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.

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Bryan A. Stewart, Priests of my people

Recently published by Peter Lang, what appears to be a very light revision of the thesis which may be read at http://web.archive.org/web/20120229165521/http://www.scotthahn.com/download/attachment/2468

To quote the beginning of the publisher’s information (the rest of which may be seen at  https://www.peterlang.com/abstract/9781454193654/2_title2.html?rskey=3uzSZS&result=2 “This book offers an innovative examination of the question: why did early Christians begin calling their ministerial leaders «priests» (using the terms hiereus/sacerdos)?”

On the basis of a speedy read my initial reaction is there is certainly something here and the proposal is certainly superior to that of Hanson which it seeks to replace, though I feel somehow that Stewart has not told the whole story. Nonetheless the observation of the possibility that priestly imagery has some connection with the maintenance of sacred space, which is Stewart’s fundamental argument, is perhaps part of the story which might be told.

With chapters on the Traditio apostolica and the Didascalia apostolorum it cannot fail to be interesting!

PS: I am not related, to my knowledge, to the author.

Edited in November 2019 to update links, both of which were broken.

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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

Daniel Vaucher on controlling bishops

Some further thoughts from Daniel Vaucher, picking up on our earlier discussion. I simply quote them, with very light editing. My lack of comment is probably eloquent.

We had the issue with the martyrs and confessors, on which I just have one more general thought. In regards to TA, you mention a fundamental conflict between patron/presbyters and the episcopos. I fully agree with this. In Cyprian’s Africa, confessors challenge the episcopate, especially in terms of penitence and giving the absolution. In Letters 38-40 Cyprian ordains such confessors into the clergy. Do you think that this is an attempt to bring them under the episcopal control? A similar case is found in the Didascalia (and similar again 1 Tim), where widows (or women in general?) appear to have exercised a certain influence. In regulating the “office” of widows, the bishops might get a firmer control on these independent women.

This is just a thought, though, and not something I really know well, honestly. but it led me to the next issue, the reception of TA §9 in CA and CanHipp. You wonder whether there were really any confessors in late 4th century Antioch, and I agree with you that this is kind of a bizarre instruction in this context. although persecutions continued occasionally, as under Julian or then in 5th century Persia, I don’t think that this was ever an issue for CA. but I have Eva Synek (Oikos, 1999) in mind who pointed out that the compilation never aimed at clearing the internal contradictions (“hohe Widerspruchstoleranz”), as all the other compilations in the East never did. This of course leads to the question, if and to what extent the compilations can ever be used in extracting information about 4th century social practices.

And I came across your post on the CanHipp and our finding that they might have aimed at organizing the ascetics… “there was a concerted effort by the wider fourth century Egyptian church to harness and organize the ascetics”. As early as 1910 Eduard Schwartz already pointed out, that the “enemy” behind the pseudapostolic CA was monasticism (which was, if I’m not mistaken, confirmed by Eva Synek). So we might open our focus and envisage also Antioch and Syria to be in a certain conflict between church and monasticism (basically see Vööbus), to which the CA bear witness.

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Confessors and presbyters in Traditio apostolica (and its re-writes)

Dani Vaucher, in our ongoing correspondence, perceptively asks whether the directions in Traditio apostolica restricting the promotion of confessors to the honor of presbyterate disguise a conflict between patron-presbyters and confessors, like that which developed in Africa in the third century between confessors and Cyprian.

It’s a fair and worthwhile question, though I do not think that this is the case. The fundamental conflict in this community is between the patron-presbyters and the episkopos, that is, in Weberian terms, between a bureaucratic and a traditional mode of governance. Certainly the patron-presbyters are attempting to restrict access to their privileges, but I think it is too strong to label this a conflict. I don’t think the comparison with Cyprian’s Africa works simply because the confessors there were not attempting to be recognized as presbyters, but were challenging the (bureaucratically legitimated) episcopate.

However, he goes on: Do you think, that the revision of TA §9 in CA points in the same direction?

This reads: And I James, the son of Alphæus, make a constitution in regard to confessors: A confessor is not ordained; for he is so by choice and patience, and is worthy of great honour, as having confessed the name of God, and of His Christ, before nations and kings. But if there be occasion, he is to be ordained either a bishop, priest, or deacon. But if any one of the confessors who is not ordained snatches to himself any such dignity upon account of his confession, let the same person be deprived and rejected; for he is not in such an office, since he has denied the constitution of Christ, and is worse than an infidel. (ANF translation I think, just grabbed for convenience off the web.)

Here certainly one can see how one can read this as a conflict between office and charism, though, again, not with patron-presbyters (not the least because they no longer existed in the fourth century.) One wonders, however, whether the constitutor simply thought that the original provision meant that a confessor should be recognized as a presbyter (in the fourth century understanding, namely a priest) and rushed to correct that. Not that any confessor (were there any, in fourth century Antioch?) had actually claimed to be a priest, not having been ordained.

What is interesting, once again, is how the church orders rewrite material that they do not understand. Thus, for the sake of completeness, this is what Testamentum Domini does with the provision:

If anyone bears witness and makes it known that he was in chains, imprisoned, or tortured on account of the name of God, a hand is not to be laid on him for the diaconate for this reason, in the same way not for the presbyterate, for the honour of the clergy (klēros) is his, since he was protected in his confession by the hand of God. However, if he is appointed as a bishop he is worthy of the imposition of a hand.
If he is a confessor who has not been judged by the powers, and not ill-treated in chains, but has simply confessed, he is worthy of the imposition of a hand; he receives the prayer of the clergy (klēros). However he does not pray over him repeating all the words, but when the shepherd goes forward in promotion the effect is received. (TD 1.39)

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Paul Bradshaw on the church orders published

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Filed under Church orders in genera(l)

Traditio apostolica, Canones Hippolyti, and the presbyterate of confessors

As part of our ongoing dialogue about slavery in the church orders Daniel Vaucher asks the following series of interesting questions.

There is another interesting reference to slave in offices: TA 9 about confessors. Confessors are supposed to be made to presbyters; those who only suffered domestic punishment are to be laid hands on for any order they are worth of. (Comparing the different editions and translations, there seems to be a disagreement on the sense of that). Most scholars note that this sentence is a reference to slave-confessors. Canons of Hippolyt §6 speak explicitly of slaves, but they are to receive only the spirit of the presbyterate instead of the insignia. CA adopt the passage as well, but leaving any reference to slaves out. Confessors are not to request an office against the will of the bishop. So the passage in TA 9 is dubious (and was even in antiquity controversial). Were slaves in a worse situation than free confessors? Can we imagine that a slave-owner, who punished his slave due to his religion, tolerated him being in an office (requiring time and money)? But even within TA there is a tension. In TA 15 the slave is to be accepted to the church only with consent of the master. Can we imagine that a slave-owner approves of the religion, but then punishes him for the same reason? (or should we think of exceptional cases in which a slave enters the church, then has his master changed, and is then punished?). There are certainly many questions. I might also ask what you implicate by your remark (in your TA book 2001, p. 93) that this passage TA §9 keeps with “the conservative attitudes towards the slave-class exhibited by the R-El in Refutation, to whom the whole passage is to be attributed.” Do you know of other passages “against” the slave-class in the Refutation? And I also ask if the passage is really this conservative? Did the author had to include a regulation about slaves? He could just as well have left it out, like CA did later, but he chose to include it and grant slaves some honour and possibly also the admission to the presbyterate.

In answering this we turn first to the tension between TA15 and TA 9.
The tension is the result of different levels of redaction. We may reasonably guess that TA15 is part of the Vorlage, which I have termed P. Of course you may say that the redactor made a decision to leave this in, and as such is making a redactional decision, but the tendency in all of these orders, prior to CA, is to leave as much as possible undisturbed, and if necessary to add caveats and qualifications. Possibly this reflects the conservative manner in which sources were employed in antiquity, and this in turn may be the result of the fact that, although codices were coming in at the time of this writer, rolls are still in use. Somehow I cannot see R-El using anything so common as a codex! Anyways, the provision that a slave should have consent is from P; that regarding confessors is from R-El.
Now this redactor is, as I state in the TA (2001) book, sniffy about slaves. I find the assertion repeated in the 2015 edition at p. 109. Look at this author’s biography of Callistus in Ref. 9, an account which J. Glancey, Slavery as a moral problem in the early church and today (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2011), 69, describes as “rife with stereotypes about slaves” as Callistus is depicted as a trickster, a runaway and a thief. This is the basis for the assertion. Note in particular that Callistus sought to extend recognition of the unions of free women with enslaved men, and look at “Hippolytus’” reaction in Ref. 9.7, even though he incorporates (from a source, admittedly) the corresponding provision with regard to free men and enslaved women.
Now the most important point, however, is the point of misunderstanding. In suggesting that confessors be appointed presbyters TA is clear that they are being appointed to an honor, and not to an office. I think this emerges even in my 2001 commentary, left unchanged here in 2015. Quite possibly R-El is legislating ancient practice, and since the presbyterate is in the process of becoming an office there is some confusion here.
It is interesting that this emerges clearly enough from the Sahidic, but that the (later) Ethiopic and Arabic translators completely misunderstand the provision. For TA the point is that such a confessor does not need appointment (cheirotonia) as he has the honor as a right by virtue of being a confessor. CA does not so much omit this, but in failing to understand that the presbyterate here is an honor and not an office, and that cheirotonia is election rather than a sacramental rite of ordination, recasts the entire passage by insisting that ordination is essential for office. Most interesting among the versions is Canones Hippolyti 6, to which Daniel Vaucher refers in his question; here the provision regarding a slave-confessor seems to me to be an addendum to the base of TA, judging by the Sahidic, rather than a reworking of something which is there. And it insists that being a slave is no bar to being a presbyter, though one wonders how effective, as Daniel Vaucher points out, somebody whose primary responsibility is to a master would be in what has now become an office. Nonetheless the fact that the redactor of Canones Hippolyti has to make the provision explicit indicates that there were those in the community who took the line that a slave should not be admitted to office.


Filed under Apostolic Tradition, Canons of Hippolytus

Tattam’s Apostolical Constitutions online

I noticed today that that Henry Tattam, The apostolical constitutions or canons of the apostles in Coptic is available online. Best find it through google books rather than archive.org for reasons which will be explained presently.

Its sole interest nowadays is in the history of the scholarship on the church orders, but that interest is considerable, as it was the first published version of the work now known as Traditio apostolica, in Bohairic. It is joined to the Apostolic church order also in Bohairic, forming the first two books of the Clementine octateuch. Of interest also is Tattam’s introduction, in which he cites extensively from Vanslieb, Histoire de l’église d’Alexandrie (1677) which gives a description of the contents of Traditio apostolica together with Apostolic church order, describing them as canons of the Coptic church.

Tattam himself makes no pronouncement as to the relationship of this work to the Apostolic constitutions, giving this title to his work on the basis that it was that of his Coptic exemplar, nikanōn n’te nenioti ethouab n’apostolos. Obviously there was no recognition that here were two distinct church orders.

Of further interest in the history of scholarship, however, is that the online copy is that of C.A. Heurtley, which somehow ended up in California. This contains Heurtley’s marginal annotations, in which, among other things, he observes the similarity between the opening chapters and that which we would recognize as the epitome of the Apostolic church order. These, however, have been cut off in the archive.org version, whereas they are entirely legible courtesy of google books.

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Second edition of my commentary on Traditio apostolica

It’s out! I’ve picked up a copy at the Oxford conference… and it’s definitely thicker than the first edition.

I haven’t had a chance even to look inside it yet, and I don’t even know how much it costs (but surely good value, being from St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.)

Get yours here:http://www.svspress.com/on-the-apostolic-traditon-second-edition-pps54/

More later… it’s late at night and the conference is full-on!


Filed under Apostolic Tradition

Great book coming out from Gorgias

I don’t mean the Gnomai!

A few years ago I came across a dissertation online providing a critical Georgian text (among other things) of the Hippolytean In Cant. I had long suspected that this commentary reflected mystagogy in the Hippolytean community, and was pleased to find that the author agreed with me.

I contacted Yancy Smith, the author, who now follows this blog, and suggested to him that the work should be published. There have been a few delays but he now tells me that the work will be coming out with Gorgias soon. It is to be called The mystery of anointing. It will probably cost an arm and a leg, but I will ask Santa nicely and promise to be a good boy. It will certainly be worth paying money for, I promise you.

The church-order connection lies in the light that the commentary casts on the multiple anointings in the baptismal rite of Traditio apostolica (on the assumption that this document, likewise, derives from the Hippolytean community.) But even if you are not convinced on this point (there are a few doubters, still!) there is a lot more in it than that. For a start, a usable modern translation for those of us who are Georgian-challenged!

Congratulations and thanks to the author, and to Gorgias for publishing. Respect all round!


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Paper on creeds on academia.edu

Newly uploaded to academia.edu is a forthcoming article in Questions liturgiques in which I build on previous work which suggested that the syntaxis was the earliest form of baptismal confession in Syria, by suggesting that Alexandria also had some form of creedal declaration as part of the baptismal rite from the earliest times.

This means that the common assertion, largely based on the baptismal rite of Traditio apostolica, that the earliest form of baptismal creed was interrogatory, and thus that any creedal declaration is of necessity later, falls apart. I suggest that the so-called “interrogatory” creeds are all western, and thus that Traditio apostolica reflects a western rite.

There’s more, but you can read it for yourselves!

Once again, naïve use of the church order material has proved misleading.

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Elements of the Didascalia and the Didache in the Ethiopic versions of Traditio apostolica

One of the many peculiarities of the Ethiopic transmission of Traditio apostolica in the senodos is the inclusion within it of the apostolic decree from Acts (possibly derived from the Didache), certain provisions from the Didache (chiefly those regarding prophets and travellers, so Didache 11.3-13.7, together with Didache 8.1-2) and a short section of the Didascalia, basically most of the twelfth chapter of the Syriac version (2.57-2.58.6). Because of the disorder in this text this material appears in the middle. What is interesting is that in the new Aksumite Ethiopic text published by Bausi, the same material is found; here it is found towards the end of Traditio apostolica, following on from the directions regarding the cemeteries, and followed only by the brief concluding chapter.

I have been curious about this for some time. Now Jonathan Draper in his “Performing the cosmic mystery of the church in the communities of the Didache“, newly published in Jonathan Knight and Kevin Sullivan (ed.), The open mind: essays in honour of Christopher Rowland (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 37-57 at 45-6, suggests that the appearance of this section in the Ethiopic transmission (I think he is referring to the senodos, though he is a bit vague), and also in the Coptic version (though we should note that the Coptic version is a fragment, rather than an anthology, and begins at 10.6), is “highly significant, indicating that prophets and rules for their control were still relevant or even burning issues.” He suggests that this catena of texts was brought to Ethiopia by Asian monks in the third century, and that they had brought this catena of texts as it “reflected the nature of the mission of the monks to Ethiopia.” He suggests that these monks, moreover, were sympathetic to the new prophecy.

The Coptic version, being a fragment, may be left entirely out of consideration here. This leaves the substantive question of whether the text as currently preserved was brought as is, from Asia or elsewhere, or was excerpted within Ethiopia, or Egypt.

If Draper is correct, one would have to account not only for the material regarding prophecy being excerpted, but also for the eighth chapter, and also for inclusion of the fragment of the Didascalia, not to mention the apostolic decree. This does not seem to be explainable by recourse to the interests of pro-Montanist monastic missionaries (alluring alliteration). Then again, there is no obvious reason why the selection currently found should have been produced within Ethiopian Christianity; even if there was a need within Ethiopia for the regulation of prophets, this hardly explains the selection of the rest of the material, nor its inclusion within Traditio apostolica.

If the Aksumite text is indeed derived directly from Greek, as is most probable, then this in turn implies that the other material was also rendered directly from Greek (thus making the Ethiopic texts more important witnesses for the text of the Didascalia than previously realized). It also implies that the selection might have been made not in Ethiopia but in Alexandria, at an earlier stage in transmission. The question of the purpose of its anthologizing and inclusion among the other church order texts thus remains unanswered, though I am glad that Draper has drawn attention to the issue.


Filed under Apostolic Tradition, Didache, Didascalia Apostolorum

Progress report

I have now received a scan of one of the two pages at the end of the Turin codex containing the Gnomai of Nicaea. Although it is largely lacunose and, due to the darkness of the papyrus, even what is extant is largely illegible from a photograph, I can at least rest assured that this is not a missing page of gnomai simply because it is written in two columns, whereas the rest of the gnomai are in one. Unfortunately, due to an error, only one of the two pages was sent; the other page which was sent was a duplicate of one I had already received. I have pointed this out and wait… again!

In the meantime, and more positively, the introduction and main text of my second edition of Traditio apostolica has gone into the editorial process. I need only now to check the appendix (containing the Hippolytean homily on the Psalms, as before) and recast the indices. My aim was to have this done by Pentecost, so I may well be on schedule.

A publication date is in the hands of the Press, but I do not anticipate that it will be long delayed. Unlike the Gnomai…


Filed under Apostolic Tradition, Other church order literature

Apostolic Tradition on military catechumens

In the Sahidic version of Apostolic Tradition 16 (the Latin being wanting) it is said of a soldier seeking baptism that he shall not “go to the task” if he is ordered, nor swear the oath. The meaning is obscure. The Aksumite Ethiopic, however, is clear that a soldier is not to offer sacrifice, not to swear the oath, and not to wear a wreath. The Canons of Hippolytus likewise reflect the prohibition of swearing and wearing of the wreath. We may thus reasonably believe that the new Ethiopic version retains the closest reflection of the original. “Not to go to the task” may be some corrupted version of the words regarding sacrifice, though I am at a loss to suggest precisely what.

The particular reason for drawing attention to this is an essay by Yoder on military service in the church orders, found at http://www3.nd.edu/~theo/jhy/writings/history/ecdisc%26ord.htm#N_40_, in which Yoder deduces on the basis of this section of Apostolic Tradition that the principal objection to military service was not the issue of the close relationship with the cultus of the emperor, as is often held. He appears to be using a translation based on the Sahidic, though I am a bit confused as to which, as he makes reference to the Latin (which is not extant for this passage!) However, the Aksumite Ethiopic seems to shift the balance somewhat.

There are a number of significant flaws in Yoder’s use of the church order material in his essay, on which I will not expatiate. It is interesting, as he himself notes, that an ethicist might find material in these documents; ethicists, however, should be as cautious in their use as liturgiologists have, in recent years, learnt to be. Which is not to say that they should not use the material, simply that they should handle it with care.

Edit: August 2022. I find that the link is broken. Apologies, as I cannot find another version, though I will keep looking.

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Second edition of the Apostolic Tradition

I’m pleased to announce that St Vladimir’s Seminary Press have agreed to the publication of a second edition of my Apostolic Tradition. It should appear later this year.

My overall approach to the text, as a redactional construction from within Rome and from within the Hippolytean school, reflecting the changes in the school within the latter years of the second century and the first quarter or so of the third, has not changed. Nonetheless this is quite a major revision. Some errors are corrected, and responses to the commentary of Bradshaw et al. are incorporated. More significantly, I have been forced by Bradshaw and his colleagues to refine my approach to the redactional layering, particularly in the section regarding baptism. I have also had to rethink my approach to some of the material regarding ordinations in the light of my own work, the fruits of which are to be found in my The original bishops, to be published soon by Baker Academic.

Most importantly, however, the edition incorporates insights from the massively significant Aksumite Ethiopic text discovered by Bausi and published by him as “La nuova versione etiopica della Traditio apostolica: edizione e traduzione preliminare“ in Paola Buzi and Alberto Camplani (edd.), Christianity in Egypt: literary production and intellectual trends. Studies in honor of Tito Orlandi (Rome: Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, 2011), 19-69. To give two examples of the massive significance of this text, we may observe that the extended creedal questioning found in the Latin version is also found in the Aksumite Ethiopic, indicating its originality (as I argued in the commentary and again, contra Johnson, in “The baptismal creed in Traditio apostolica: original or expanded?” Questions liturgiques 90 (2009), 199-213) whereas the Aksumite Ethiopic supports the oriental versions against the Latin in the prayer accompanying the second post-baptismal anointing.

Updates will be given on progress.


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