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 It falls well short of any scientific standard, and is not for citation, but is offered as an encouragement to anyone considering the textual history of the Didache to take this material into account, given that it diverges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.


1 Comment

Filed under Didache

An agraphon in Testamentum Domini

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

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

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

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

1 Comment

Filed under Testamentum Domini

Consider a new Church Order

I recently discovered an interesting article by F. Stanley Jones in A. Özen (ed.), Historische Wahrheit und theologische Wissenschaft, Gerd Lüdemann zum 50. Geburtstag, Frankfurt 1996, pp. 87-104. In “The Genre of the Book of Elchesai”, the author collects the fragmentary evidence on the Parthian book of revelation called “book of Elchesai/Elxai”, that was brought to Rome under a “heretic” called Alcibiades towards the end of the 2nd century. Fragments and polemics remain in the works of Hippolyt and Epiphanius as well as in Origens Homily on Psalms 82, preserved in Eus. h.e. 6.38.

Jones argues against former common sense that the Book of Elchasai was an apocalyptic text. Without entering the debate about the nature of Church Orders, he states: “the primary focus of the writing is on regulating the life of Christian, which is a reasonable starting point for defining a church order.” He then lists the fragments that address the life of the Christians, which focus on the renunciation of idolatry “with the lips, not the heart”, baptism, impartation of the secret prayer, astrological instructions, instructions on the direction of prayer,  the avoidance of fire, and more.

He adds further arguments to strengthen his case: the author, who seems to be a “religious authority”, uses first person singular to adress his readers, that is, the congregation. He adds examples to support the casuistic logic – and probably to convince his readers of his demands. Finally, “Elchasai was one of these leaderss who, similar to Paul, was engaged in the process of ordering early Christian life, only Elchesai wrote an actual church order rather than merely sporadic letters to congregations.”

I will have to take some time and check the fragments as well as the secondary literature that links the book of Elchasai to Judaism and Manichaism in order to fully evaluate Jones’ arguments. I tend to agree with Jones’ view, but given the fragmentary state of the book, who knows what the original was like? But the article was very interesting to read; it is a reminder that we should open our eyes in the search for more and lesser-known Church Orders.

Leave a comment

Filed under Other church order literature

“Sklaverei in Norm und Praxis. Die frühchristlichen Kirchenordnungen”

I am pleased to say that my book is finally out and available: “Sklaverei in Norm und Praxis. Die frühchristlichen Kirchenordnungen”, in Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim 2017:

It is primarily a socio-historical investigation of slavery in Early Christianity, and secondarily a reflection on the interpretation of Ancient Church Orders. As an appendix, it contains an almost 30-page-overview of the transmission of the church orders with bibliography, which is, I confess, based on the fundamental work by our host Alistair Stewart.

1 Comment

Filed under Church orders in genera(l)

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

Way back in 2014 I reported on the discovery of a Coptic codex of the Canons of Basil. Alberto Camplani had confirmed to me that a codex had been discovered, and that a progress report was forthcoming. This report has now been published: Alberto Camplani and Federico Contardi, “The Canons Attributed to Basil of Caesarea: A New Coptic Codex” in Paola Buzi, Alberto Camplani, Federico Contardi (ed.), Coptic Society, Literature and Religion from Late Antiquity to Modern Times: Proceedings of the Tenth International Congress of Coptic Studies, Rome, September 17th-22nd, 2012, and Plenary Reports of the Ninth International Congress of Coptic Studies, Cairo, September 15th-19th, 2008 Vol. 2 (Leuven: Peeters, 2016), 979-992. Federico Contardi has kindly sent me a copy of this report.
Camplani and Contardi report that the codex was discovered in Sheikh Abd el-Gurna by the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology under the direction of Tomasz Górecki, on a rubbish dump outside tomb 1152 (dating from the Middle Kingdom) which was reused in the Coptic Period as a hermitage. The codex is preserved in the National Museum of Alexandria, identified as Coptic Ms. 1. It is almost complete.
What is particularly interesting about this Coptic version, by distinction to the published Arabic, is the presence of much more apparatus of pseudonymy, some of which is described in the report. This links with that described by Alin Suciu in Coptic apocrypha, and discussed briefly below, and lends support to the suggestion of Camplani that the Canons should be given an Egyptian and sixth century provenance.
We look forward to the forthcoming preliminary edition by Contardi and Camplani, to be followed by an editio maior containing Arabic and Coptic.

Leave a comment

Filed under Other church order literature

Benga on the Didascalia

I have just read two articles by Daniel Benga on the Didascalia, “The baptismal ethos of the third-century Syrian Christianity according to Didascalia apostolorumRevista teologica 93 (2011), 183-200 and “’Defining sacred boundaries’: processes of delimitation from the pagan society in Syrian Christianity according to the Didascalia apostolorumZAC 17 (2013), 526-559.

In each Benga observes the obvious, namely that for all the care taken in the Didascalia to distinguish Christians from Jews, the fundamental distinction which underlies this is the distinction between Christians from pagans, a fundamental distinction shared with Judaism. Given, however, that the overwhelming majority of society was neither Christian nor Jewish, the Christian has to negotiate a complex world. Although obvious, it is an observation worth making.

Leave a comment

Filed under Didascalia Apostolorum

The epiklesis of the Testamentum Domini

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

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

Excursus: the “epiclesis”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Comment

Filed under Testamentum Domini