Mueller, “Marriage and family law in the ancient church order literature”

Recently appeared is Joseph G. Mueller, “Marriage and family law in the ancient church order literature” Journal of legal history 40 (2019), 203-221.

Abstract: Numerous ancient texts present prescriptions on Christianity’s ethic, liturgy, leadership, and other institutions. Scholars call ‘church order literature’ a few of them composed in Greek, because of literary dependencies among them that make them an identifiable corpus. The composition of some of them seems to begin in the first century. In the fourth century, Christians began to gather them in various collections. While all these texts and their collections have no common literary genre, they do all purport to convey a tradition of apostolic teaching on the conduct of church life and its institutions. This teaching sees God’s law based on Christian scripture as the only valid law for church life. This article will present the prescriptions of that law conveyed by the ancient church order literature on the following topics: family requirements for membership in the church, prohibitions defining and defending marriage, regulations on family relationships, and restrictions on who may marry. Even in its dispositions on marriage and family, the ancient church order literature attests Christians’ contact with multiple legal regimes in the Roman empire. This literature reflects a view of the ancient Christian family that is typical in its difference from, and its similarity to, Greco-Roman conceptions.

Fr Joseph explains that this is part of an issue of the journal publishing a set of conference proceedings. He was invited to a conference on family law to speak on the church order literature, and this is the result. Thus much of the article is intended to introduce the literature to those to whom it is unlikely to be familiar, and much of what is said of family law within them is descriptive.

Three things nonetheless stand out for me.

Firstly I note his recognition of the church’s acceptance of the legal framework regarding slavery. Daniel Vaucher will be pleased that the topic is aired.

Secondly, because of the manner in which various church orders are treated diachronically we may see the evolution of certain topics across the period of the production of the church orders. This may provide a template for further topical studies.

Thirdly I note the manner in which the lens of “law” is employed to explore the church orders as a group. This chimes in with Bradshaw’s recent essay, and with some thinking that I have been doing myself. This may prove to be a fruitful way in which to understand the base-documents, and their subsequent collection into larger documents, and their subsequent inclusion in collections.

Thank-you Fr Joseph for providing an offprint and for the explanatory note which accompanied it.

 

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A sixteenth century citation of the Ethiopic Didascalia

ludolfIn debate with Roman Catholic missionaries in the sixteenth century, Gälawdewos (Claudius) emperor of Ethiopia, defends practices in Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity which were seen as Judaizing.

One point of contention was the Ethiopian observation of the Sabbath. He states that it is not kept in the Jewish manner, but that they “honour it by offering up on it the sacrifice (ቍርባን) and perform on it the supper (ምሳሐ) as our fathers, the Apostles, have commanded us in the Didascalia (በዲድስቅልያ).”

Solomon Gebreyes, “The Confession of King Gälawdewos (1540–1559): a 16th century-Ethiopia monophysite document against Jesuit proselytism” JAHPS 3 (2016), 1-18, at p5, gives a reference to Harden’s Didascalia pp178-179, which is a version of CA 7.36, the “synagogal” prayers which are found in that text. This does not seem likely. More probable is the Ethiopic Didascalia version of CA 2.59 (cited here following Harden with some readings from Platt’s text, which seem to fit the citation more neatly):

Admonish, then, O bishop, thy people, and bid them come to the church day and night, and never absent themselves from it, that the congregation therein be not diminished, for they are members of Christ. And we say this not concerning the priests alone, but concerning all the people, that each one may understand the word of the Lord. For our Lord saith, “But he that is not with me is mine adversary, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.” Be not slothful, then, for ye are members of Christ; separate not yourselves from His Body and His Blood; nor choose the cares of this world before the commandments of God. Gather yourselves together in the church in the evening and in the morning; glorify God, and sing, and read the Psalms of David, the sixty-second, and the hundred and fortieth as well. And especially on the Sabbath of the Jews and on the first day, the Christian Sabbath, which is (the day of) His holy resurrection, offer praise and thanksgiving and honour to God, who created all things by His Son Jesus Christ, whom He sent unto us; who was well pleased to suffer according to His will, and was buried in the earth, and rose again from the dead. But if ye come not to the church, what excuse, or what answer will ye make to God? For on this day, the Christian Sabbath, we ought to hear the preaching of His holy resurrection, and remember His sufferings, and make remembrance of Him, and read the Scriptures of the prophets, and the Gospel; and (celebrate) the eucharist, the sacrifice of the oblation, (our) spiritual food.

What is most interesting is to find a church order cited as authoritative in the sixteenth century.

The picture, incidentally, is the relevant page of Ludolfus (Hiob Ludolf) Ad suam historiam Aethiopicam commentarius, which is where I initially found the reference. For those unfamiliar with this work, it is worth recording that it contains the first western publication of Apostolic church order, in Ethiopic. A Greek text did not appear for another 150 years.

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Paul Bradshaw on the church orders… again

An essay from Paul F. Bradshaw, “The Ancient Church Orders: early ecclesiastical law?” appears in David Lincicum et al. (ed.), Law and Lawlessness in Early Judaism and Early Christianity (WUNT 420; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2019).

Unsurprisingly Bradshaw answers the question with a qualified negative, but there is much here and, like anything Bradshaw writes, is worth a read.

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The church orders at the 2019 Oxford patristic conference

The Oxford patristics conference takes place this August.

A quick read of the programme reveals the following papers on the church orders.

Clayton Jefford. Why Are There No Manuscripts of the Ancient Didache?

Abstract: While scholars speak of the Didache’s origins and evolution with seeming confidence based on the eleventh-century text of H54, no complete parallel to the tradition appears prior to the late fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions Book 7. Several researchers have attempted with various degrees of success to illustrate knowledge of the Didache among early patristic sources, notably E. von der Goltz (1905) for Athanasius, J.A. Robinson (1920) and F.R.M. Hitchcock (1923) for Clement of Alexandria, M.A. Smith (1966) for Justin Martyr, C.N. Jefford (1995) for Ignatius of Antioch, etc., yet evidence for the entirety of the text remains elusive. This essay surveys several such attempts and concludes with the suggestion that the reason no manuscripts of the entire text are available is because there were never any to be found. While portions of the tradition certainly were known and circulated among ancient Christian (and likely Jewish) authors, no complete version of what is now associated with the witness of H54 was available.

Tom O’Loughlin. The Didache and Diversity of Eucharistic Practice in the Churches: the Value of Luke 22:17-20 as Evidence

Abstract: The sequence of blessings found in the Didache (cup followed by loaf) has long been seen as a significant deviation from what has been seen (based on later accepted practice) as the normative sequence of loaf followed by cup (as found in Paul [1 Cor 11:24-5], Mark, and Matthew). However, if we see ‘the longer form’ of Luke 22:17-20 (cup, loaf, cup) as a conflation of two text relating to two different practices – where the text of Luke was a ‘living text’ which varied with the practice of the church in which it was being used – then we have evidence (in the shorter variants of Luke) for a range of churches which at one time used the sequence found in the Didache of cup followed by loaf. From the original diversity as seen in the Didache and Paul (see 1 Cor 10:16-7 and 21-2) there came in time a uniformity. The Didache preserves a fossil of this earlier period, Paul’s acquaintance with this diversity dropped out of sight in that I Cor 10 was read in terms of 1 Cor 11, while the Lukan text that became the standard form preserved both readings (reflecting both practices) by conflation ‘lest anything be lost.’ That this conflated text was seen as a problematic can be seen in the reaction of Eusebius of Caesarea, while we should concentrate attention afresh on the ‘shorter texts’ as these point to forgotten practices.

Pauliina Pylvänäinen. Agents in Liturgy, Charity and Communication. The Function of Deaconesses in the Apostolic Constitutions

Abstract: The reinterpretation of deacons and diakonia challenges us to consider the function of deaconesses in the Apostolic Constitutions. The Apostolic Constitutions is a church order that originated in Antioch and was completed in AD 380. The tasks of deaconesses in the document can be divided into three categories: Firstly, duties that are linked to the liturgy in the congregation are assigned to the deaconesses by the compiler. They guard the doors of the church building, find places for women who need them and are present when the women approach the altar during the Eucharist. When a woman is being baptized, a deaconess assists the bishop during the rite. The document also consists two analogies which describe the liturgical function of the deaconesses: They function in the places of the Levites as well as the Holy Spirit. Secondly, the deaconesses have tasks that traditionally have been defined as charitable service. Since the concept of deacon has been reinterpreted, tasks have to be evaluated as to whether they include charitable connotations or not. My analysis shows that the deaconesses are sent to visit the homes of women. The visits include, for instance, almsgiving, and hence belong to the field of charity by nature. In some cases the tasks of healing and travelling also seem to have charitable connotations. However, alongside these tasks, the deaconesses also have a task that is neither mainly liturgical nor charitable. As messengers, they play a role in the communications of the congregation.

Finally, although the text discussed here is not actually a church order (see posts below), particular note may be taken of:

Svenja Ella Luise Sasse. The Preliminary Edition of the Greek Didaskalia of Jesus Christ

Abstract: The Greek Didaskalia of Jesus Christ, a rather unknown apocryphal text probably written in the sixth century, is composed as a conversation between the risen Christ and the Twelve Apostles: Because they are concerned about the transgressions of man and wonder how forgiveness can be obtained, the Apostles ask Christ who gives them further instructions for a God pleasing life. Among other subjects the dialogue also refers to the Christian Sunday observation as an essential topic. Besides instructions for an appropriate behavior on Sundays, this day even appears as a personification together with angels and heavenly powers in the Hereafter. The personification of the Sunday bears testimony for the soul which had fastened on Wednesday and Friday and had observed Sunday correctly. Thus, the Sunday undergoes a salvation-historical emphasis. Together with the Letter from Heaven the Didaskalia can therefore be regarded as a fruitful and important apocryphal source concerning the development of Sunday veneration. A critical edition of its text has already been published by François Nau in 1907. As his edition is only based on two manuscripts while ten manuscripts are meanwhile available, a preparation of a new critical edition has become necessary which is part of the broader project The Apocryphal Sunday at Vienna University directed by Prof. Dr. Uta Heil. The talk will give an impression of the present working results concerning the preliminary edition of the Didaskalia.

Note, in passing, that the speaker also refers to our Letter from Heaven, discussed by Daniel Vaucher. Unfortunately this paper is being given at the same time that Jefford is speaking on the Didache.

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A new witness to the text of Apostolic church order

Recently published is David Lincicum, “An Excerpt from the Apostolic Church Order (CPG 1739)” Sacris Erudiri 57 (2018), 439-444. I am immensely grateful to Dr Lincicum for sending me an offprint of his article.

An earlier edition of Sacris Erudiri had discussed a manuscript now in Athos (Athous, Koutloumousiou 39) containing a miscellany of theological texts. This includes the text edited by Lincicum, which the original editor had taken to be a version of the Didache, but which Lincinum correctly identifies as a version of the material in Apostolic church order (K).

It is, however, heavily abbreviated. The editor notes similarities with the abbreviation of Apostolic church order found in Cod. Mosquensis 125, f. 284, but rightly concludes that it is not a direct derivative. It is also clearly distinct from the other abbreviation, the epitome edited by T. Schermann, Eine Elfapostelmoral oder die X-Rezension der “beiden Wege” (Munich: Lentner, 1903), 14-18, (termed “E” in my edition.)

Lincicum provides a collation of the various witnesses. For ease of reference I have produced a synopticon of the three abbreviated versions which may be found here. It is less scientific than Lincicum’s collation, but perhaps easier on the eye.

Lincicum’s conclusion is that “A and M share a common ancestor that also lies behind V’s (=K’s) readings, and more distantly, the OPN recension (=E). Thus, it is now possible to see A as the second-oldest witness to the Greek text of the ACO. Although it is a brief excerpt, it offers a window onto an earlier form of the Greek, and so enables one more point of purchase on a fluid textual tradition.”

This common ancestor is that which I had termed κ. I am still not sure that A (like M) is not a direct epitomization of K, but would have to spend more time with the synopsis and with Lincicum’s collation to be sure. In any event the question arises as to why this text is so prone to epitomization. And indeed it is excellent to have a further witness to the text, older than the Vienna manuscript which is the sole extant complete Greek version.

Once again, thanks to Dr Lincicum for his work and for his personal kindness.

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Roman holiday

tempodidioI was fortunate to be able to attend the recent incontro at the Augustinianum in Rome on the subject “Masculum et feminam creavit eos (Gen. 1,27): Paradigmi del maschile e femminile nel cristianesimo antico”, giving a paper on the deaconess in Testamentum Domini (an abstract of which may be found in a post below.)

I picked up my copy of the conference proceedings from last year, published by Nerbini International in the Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum series under the title Tempo di Dio tempo dell’uomo: XLVI Incontro di Studiosi dell’Antichità Cristiana (Roma, 10-12 maggio 2018). It is an enormous tome, though sadly the church orders do not seem to make much of an appearance. It contains my essay, “The transfer from Sabbath to Sunday”, again flagged below, and an essay covering similar ground from Isabel Maria Alçada Cardoso entitled “La sinassi eucarestica domenicale: vespertina e/o mattutina?”

Although not church order related, I am especially interested to see the published version of a paper given by Alberto d’Anna entitled “Il digiuno romano del sabato: tra Agostino e gli Actus Vercelli”; the Roman sabbath fast has been of interest to me for some time, and as advertised below I have published on the subject. D’Anna’s essay is complementary in that he points out the rationale given by Augustine that Peter had fasted when doing battle in Rome with Simon Magus, on the sabbath. Again we recollect Bradshaw’s dictum that “When a variety of explanations is advanced for the origin of a liturgical custom, its true source has almost certainly been forgotten.”

At 701 pages, and covering the entire chronological and geographical spread of early Christianity, most readers will find something to engage and interest them. I cannot claim to have read all the papers yet, nor even those of direct interest, but will be dipping in for some time to come. You may wish to dip in yourselves… If your librarian can be persuaded to get a copy.

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Women at the last supper: the witness of the church orders

 

The fresco of Cerula restored

I have just read the chapter “The Life of the Virgin and Its Antecedents” in Ally Kateusz, Mary and Early Christian Women: Hidden leadership (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). If I have done the hyperlink correctly, this should take you to the e-book on google play.

The chapter is largely concerned with the question of whether a (late) Life of the virgin extant in Georgian held that female disciples were present at the last supper. I cannot comment on this part of the chapter; not for the first time I admit to being Georgian-challenged. However, the author, at the end of the chapter, seeks traces of this tradition in the church order literature.

First she points to DA 2.26.4-8:

…but the bishop is high-priest and Levite. He it is who ministers the word to you and is your mediator, yourteacher, and, after God, is your father who has regenerated you through the water. He is your chief, he is your master, he your powerful king. He is to be honoured by you in the place of God, since the bishop sits among you as a type of God. The deacon, however, is present as a type of Christ, and is therefore to be loved by you. And the deaconess is to be honoured by you as a type of the Holy Spirit. The presbyters are also to be reckoned by you as a type of the apostles, and the widows and orphans are to be considered among you as a type of the altar.

This the author describes as a “kernel that survived the final redactor (which) preserves a stunning example of its original gender parity—a liturgical pair, a male deacon and a female deacon.”

I would love for this to be true, but fear that the point of the passage is to exalt the bishop, to keep presbyters in their place, and to introduce the image, perhaps borrowed from Polycarp, of the widow as an altar. Insofar as liturgical arrangements are concerned, we may note that the deaconess has probably supplanted the place of the widows as found in Testamentum Domini, and is probably the work of the uniting redactor.

I do, however, agree broadly (as she agrees with me (!) and with Ally Ernst) that the passage in Apostolic church order 24-28 regarding the propriety of women celebrating the sacraments with reference to Mary’s presence at the last supper does relate to the possibility that a version of this account had broadened the numbers present beyond the twelve to incorporate the presence of female disciples. Kateusz writes:

“This scribe’s focus on repeatedly undermining Mary’s authority suggests that the scribe considered Mary herself a threat. The text itself belies a raging ideological conflict over the role of women officiants. One faction was using Mary to justify women officiants, and the other faction, represented by this scribe, was going to great lengths to try to undermine Mary’s authority. This scribe, thus, was not only aware of a preexisting tradition that said women had been present at the last supper, and that Jesus had authorized them as ministers there—he also knew that the communities who followed this tradition considered Mary herself the model for these women clergy.”

I am not sure that I could go quite this far in reconstructing the situation behind the passage with such detail, but do not retract my earlier (2006) statements that the situation is broadly along these lines and that “The whole point of the discussion is to subordinate women’s participation in the celebration of the eucharist.” My suspicion, moreover, is that the “other faction” is outwith the community of the redactor. I do accept the possibility, however, that there was some literary text to which the redactor of Apostolic church order is making reference. Possibly, an observation which is less than friendly to Kateusz’s case, this is the source of the agraphon found here that the weak will be saved through the strong.

Kateusz is part of the Wijngaards Theological Institute. I am aware that this is not the first time that I have criticized the use of church order material by members of this Institute. I must re-iterate that I have no axe to grind here, and consider it inappropriate as an Anglican to intervene in a discussion in another part of the catholic church. My concern is solely that enthusiasm for a change within the Roman church (or any other Christian community come to that) should not blunt our historical acumen.

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