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

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

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

Specialists in this field (among whom I do not count myself) may learn with interest that the Vatican Library has digitized this codex. It may be read at
http://digi.vatlib.it/view/MSS_Borg.ar.22. Coptic marginal annotations clearly indicate an Egyptian provenance.


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Presbyters in 3rd Corinthians and names in Philippians: insights from Richard Fellows

A communication from Richard Fellows drew my attention to his article on Acts, which is of rather more interest than the title might lead one to think. http://paulandco-workers.blogspot.ca/2017/03/tyndale-bulletin-paper-on-name-giving.html

In particular, Fellows points out that 3rd Corinthians, in the Acta Pauli, contains a letter sent by Stephanas and his co-presbyters (Daphnus, Eubulus, Theophilus, and Xenos). Fellows points out that the names suggest that these presbyters were hosts/benefactors of the church, and that this tends to support my case in Original bishops.

I agree that this letter to Paul from Corinth bears out my hypothesis at several levels, as this is communication by a gathering of presbyters on behalf of churches within an urban setting, as well as bearing names indicating benefaction. I suppose the failure to note 3 Corinthians must go down as an error of omission, and I am grateful for the correction.

There is more of interest here. Fellows’ overall hypothesis is that, just like Paul himself, many of the co-workers had two names, a phenomenon with which we are particularly familiar in the West Indies. Thus Stephanas, he suggests, is what he terms a “leadership name “ (though I would prefer “associational name”). I will admit that it had always struck me that Stephanas was a name which sort of belonged in associational honorific, and so to see this as a nom de guerre, as it were, is very illuminating.

There is, indeed, more. I argued at several points in the book that the episkopoi and diakonoi are mentioned in Phil. 1:1 because they were the agents of the gifts sent to Paul by the Philippians. And that two of these are mentioned by name, namely Euodia and Syntyche. My discussion of female leadership is brief, but admits that these are likely to have been among the episkopoi, and that female associational leadership is manifest in the first generation but largely in the first generation only. Since then I have read E. Hemelrijk, “Patronesses and ‘mothers’ of Roman collegia” Classical Antiquity 27 (2008), 115-162, which causes me to puzzle further about the disappearance of female ministry within the church in the earliest period. Is it, in some way, related to federation and the eventual development of monepiscopate?

Fellows suggests that Euodia is also a leadership name. Indeed he suggests, convincingly to me, that Paul’s description of the gift as an ὀσμή εὐωδίας at 4:18, is a play on Euodia’s name, linking her in particular to the gift and offering.

In response to a question he states that he has “found little evidence that associations gave leadership names… The phenomenon, however, did have parallels in the ancient world. New names were often given to kings, emperors, and philosophers, as well as to converts to Judaism. Interesting examples among the philosophers are Porphyry and Amelius-Amerius.”

Fellows has opened up a very interesting avenue of discussion. Do check out his link, and indeed his blog, where the link may be found.

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Translating the Epicurean Tetrapharmakos

In a seminar recently, conversation turned to the tetrapharmakos “four-part remedy”, a summary of the first four of the Kuriai Doxai, (the Epicurean principal doctrines) given by Diogenes Laertius in his Vita of Epicurus. It is also found in P.Herc 1500 col. 5, contained in Philodemus’ Adversus Sophistas, offered here with the usual apologies for the strange Greek display.

ἄφοβον ὁ θεός,
ἀνύποπτον ὁ θάνατος,
καὶ τἀγαθὸν μὲν εὔκτητον
τὸ δὲ δεινὸν εὐεκκαρτέρητον.

In particular it was suggested that translations in use lack a certain pithiness, given that this was a teaching and memory aid.

This caused me to pen the following, which sacrifices accuracy (and indeed four lines) in the interest of being memorable.

An Epicurean said “See,
Fear not God and face mortalitee.
To obtain what is good,
With evil withstood,
Is as easy as A B C D.”

No copyright is claimed! And lest anyone ask what the connection to church orders is, recollect the possibility that Epicurean communities might influence the organizational and liturgical arrangements of some early Christian communities, including the Didachistic community.

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Marcion’s sabbath fasting

ReceQLntly published is my article “Marcion and the Roman Sabbath fast: a search for origins” Questions liturgiques 97 (2016), 194-204. It is recent, as the journal runs on a liturgical year which is approximately a year behind everybody else.

Although nothing to do with church orders, it may nonetheless be of interest to the same audience.

Here is the abstract:

This article examines the practice of fasting on the Sabbath found among Roman Christians and Marcionites alike. Whereas it has been suggested that Roman practice is derived from that of Marcion, this is seen as unlikely as Roman Christian fasting was uninterrupted from Friday to Saturday, whereas Marcionites kept a cena pura. The conclusion is that Roman Christian fasting is derived from the historic practice of Roman Jewish circles (where fasting on the Sabbath was an established custom). The origin of Marcionite practice is uncertain, although the practice of Jews or Christians in Pontus is a possible source.

Cet article examine la pratique du jeûne le jour du sabbat trouvé parmi les chrétiens romains et marcionites semblables. Considérant qu’il a été suggéré que la pratique romaine est dérivée de celle de Marcion, cela est considéré comme peu probable que le jeûne chrétien romain était ininterrompue de vendredi à samedi, alors que les Marcionites gardait un pura cena. La conclusion est que le jeûne romain chrétien est dérivé de la pratique historique de cercles juifs romains (où le jeûne le jour du sabbat était une coutume établie). L’origine de la pratique marcionite est incertaine, bien que la pratique des juifs ou des chrétiens de Pontus est une source possible.

A pdf of the publication can be sent on request.

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Jonathan Draper on the Didache’s use of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible

Recently appearing from Jonathan Draper is his “The Old Testament in the Didache and in subsequent Church Orders” in Siegfried Kreuzer et al. (edd.), Die Septuaginta – Orte und Intentionen (WUNT 361; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2016), 743-763.

The title is slightly misleading, in that beyond the Didache the only church-order discussed is Constitutiones apostolorum. Nonetheless this is a useful preliminary study.

On one minor, but significant, point, I find myself persuaded. Namely that Didache 9.3 does not make reference to Matthaean tradition, as I had always supposed, but is rather derived from Leviticus 22:10, which concerns those who may eat of Temple offerings. For Draper, this is the result of seeing the Didachistic community as a sanctified community. Is it Anglo-Catholicism which leads me to suggest that some sanctity also attaches to the food?

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Sunday Letter

On one of his latest excavations into Early Christian literature, Alistair Stewart aka Indiana Jones dug out an extraordinary text: https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.55123 (Hall 1893). He asked me whether this could be a Church Order. I identified the piece as the so-called Letter from Heaven (Himmelsbrief) – a text that I indicated as a possible Church Order more than a year ago in my response to Alistairs pioneering Church Order conspectus (https://ancientchurchorders.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/a-conspectus-of-the-church-orders/#comments).

The letter, supposedly fallen from Heaven onto the grave of St. Peter in Rome (in other versions onto Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Constantinople…), supposedly written by Jesus Christ himself, has one principal claim: to observance Sunday (i.e. not to work but to attend the Church). Most fascinating about this text is not so much its obvious and daring forgery, but its immense success and spread. “Die älteste Überlieferung liegt in lateinischer Sprache vor; es sind außerdem griechische, syrische, koptische, arabische (einschließlich karschunische), äthiopische, armenische, russische, tschechische, polnische, ukrainische, südslavische, ungarische, rumänische, altirische, altenglische, walisische, mittelenglische, mittelhochdeutsche, mittelniederländische, altfranzösische, provenzalische, spanische, katalanische, italienische, isländische, dänische, norwegische und schwedische Fassungen bekannt.” (Palmer 1986).

These different recensions were developed between the 6th and the 20th century, obviously not without success. It is still not possible to make out its origins. The earliest references are found in the 6th century with Bishop Vincentius of Ibiza. On this basis Delehaye and others claimed a Spanish origin, whereas Van Esbroeck proposed a 5th century origin in Jerusalem.

In 1901, Carl Schmidt published a Coptic letter by Peter of Alexandria (3rd-4th century). Among narrative passages we find the same claim to observe Sundays rest and to attend the Church. Schmidt believed in its authenticity, whereas Delehaye, in his review, stated that in the early 4th century, there was no such thing as “legislation” on Sunday observance. He therefore claimed that the Coptic letter was another forgery, related to the above Sunday letter.

I remain skeptical. Not that the Coptic letter is necessarily written by Peter. But the “legislation” on Sunday observance is really strong in the 4th century. In Laodicea (around 360), can. 29, we read: “Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.” In the Church Order literature, we have a strong case in the Apostolic Constitutions (around 380), VIII.33: even slaves were not allowed to work on Sunday! In addition, we have the can. 11 of the Canons of Clement, although they are even more difficult to date.

In my opinion, a 4th or 5th century origin (Van Esbroeck) is very probable for both the Sunday Letter and the Coptic Letter by (Ps.-)Peter.

Finally, I tend to agree with Stewart that the text fails the principal criteria for being a Church Order: although it is an anonymous piece with normative elements, there are no pseudonymous or pseudapostolic tactics to strengthen the case. Also its content is too narrow, only regulating Sunday practices. With Van Esbroeck: “Il relève de plusieurs genres littéraires à la fois: l’apocalyptique, l’apocryphe, la prophétie, la lettre, le sermon sur l’obligation dominicale, et le code législatif antique lesté de bénédictions et de malédictions.”

Principal Literature (chronologically):

I.H. Hall, The Letter of Holy Sunday. Syriac Text and Translation, in: Journal Of The American Oriental Society 15 (1893), 121-137.

H. Delehaye, Note sur la légende de la lettre du Christ tombée du ciel, in: Bulletins de l’Academie royale de Belgique, Classe des Lettres, 1899, 171-213.

C. Schmidt, Fragment einer Schrift des Märtyrer-Bischofs Petrus von Alexandrien, Leipzig 1901.

Reviewed by H. Delehaye, in Analecta Bollandiana 20 (1901), 101-103.

M. Bittner, Der vom Himmel gefallen Brief in seinen morgenländischen Versionen und Rezensionen, in: Denkschriften der kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften: philosophisch-historische Klasse, 51 (1906) 1-240.

R. Stübe, Der Himmelsbrief. Ein Beitrag zur allgemeinen Religionsgeschichte, Tübingen 1918.

R. Priebsch, Letter from Heaven on the Observance of the Lord’s Day, Oxford 1936.

N.F. Palmer, Himmelsbrief, in: TRE 15 (1986), 344-346.

M. Van Esbroeck, La lettre sur le Dimanche, descendue du ciel, in: Analecta Bollandiana 107 (1989), 267-284.


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Quaestiones Melitonianae 3: fragments on baptism in Coptic

This is my third, and final, post in response to the enquiries of “Robert”, in comments below.

The final set of possibly Melitonian fragments left out of consideration in the recent re-edition of my 2001 work were omitted principally because they were first attributed to Melito after the work had gone to press.

Alin Suciu suggested, in a paper given in Claremont last year, that fragments published by Alla I. Elanskaya under the title “The Treatise on the Symbolics of Baptism and the Elements.” in The Literary Coptic Manuscripts in the A.S. Pushkin State Fine Arts Museum in Moscow (Vigiliae Christianae supp. 18; Leiden: Brill, 1994), 167-200 might represent fragments of a lost work of Melito.

I asked Dr Suciu whether he intended to publish this identification, but he stated that first he had to make new examination of the papyrus, in particular to see what further fragments might be put in place. I do hope he is successful, and look forward very much to publication.

Having said this much, I must admit to doubting the Melitonian provenance of these fragments. Their import is to discuss the interpenetration of water and spirit in the work of baptism, and the effect of the baptism of Jesus. This stoic approach is reminiscent of Tertullian in De baptismo. Spirit, however, said in the fragments to be a creation of God (thus indicating, as Suciu rightly says, an early date), is in Melito’s extant work less a person, or an object, but rather the property of God (Melito is functionally binitarian). Thus it is hard to see how spirit can be both a creature of God and the essence of God.

There is a certain link in that the fragments share with Melito’s fragment 8b the image of the sun being “baptized” nightly in the sea. However, this simply means that the authors share a stoic approach to Homeric exegesis (see, inter alia, Macrobius Saturnalia 1.23). It is also interesting that the fragments cite the conclusion to the pseudo-Hippolytean homily De theophania, which Dr Suciu, and others, believe to be an interpolation into the ps-Hippolytean work. I do not believe that it is, and so the fragments have cited this (?third-century?) text for some reason which, due to the fragmentary nature of the material, I cannot divine.

Although I do not agree with Dr Suciu that this is a lost work of Melito, it is certainly an important and early work. I am grateful to him for drawing it to my attention and for sharing with me the slides from his Claremont presentation. And I look forward with great excitement to his eventual publication.


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