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Ancient Church Orders is a genre of early Christian literature, ranging from 1st to 5th century, which has the purpose of offering authoritative "apostolic" prescriptions on matters of moral conduct, liturgy and Church organization.These texts are extremely important in the study of early liturgy and served as the basis for much ancient ecclesiastical legislation.
A characteristic of this genre is their pseudepigraphic form. Many of them profess to have been handed down by the Twelve Apostles, in some case purported to have been gathered by Clement of Rome or by Hippolytus of Rome. In the earliest of them, the Didache, extends to the title: The teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles by the Twelve Apostles. The later Testamentum Domini declares itself to be the legacy left by Jesus Christ himself to his Apostles before the Ascension, and to give his own words and commands as to the government of the Church.Apart from the Apostolic Constitutions, which was printed before 1563, all other texts have been discovered and published in the 19th or early 20th century.
Church Orders were mutually interrelated documents and often circulated in collections.It is easy to point out many direct literal relationships among sections of them. Different scholars since the early 20th century have suggested extremely different historical orders of interrelation. Nowadays the usually accepted family tree contains different roots, and can be so summarized according to Bradshaw:
There are other minor texts belonging to the genre of the Ancient Church Orders: the Coptic Canons of Basil (an Egyptian 4th-century text based mainly on the Canons of Hippolytus) and the Western Statuta Eccesiae Antiqua (about 490 AD, probably composed by Gennadius of Massilia and based on both Apostolic Tradition and Apostolic Constitutions).
Usually the Church Orders were transmitted in collections with the same order of materials, even if sometimes free rendered and mixed with additional material. The more ancient collection is formed by Didascalia - Didache - Apostolic Tradition. Later the Apostolic Church-Ordinance took the place of the Didache in the second position and in even later manuscripts the Testamentum Domini took the place of the Didascalia in the first position and the book 8 of the Apostolic Constitutions took the place of the Apostolic Tradition in the last position, thus we find Testamentum Domini - Apostolic Church-Ordinance - book 8 of the Apostolic Constitutions.
The main collections of Church Orders are the following:
To indicate the way of development of the Ancient Church Orders the term "living literature"has been proposed by Bruce M. Metzger and Paul F. Bradshaw (and others) in order to note that these texts, of which only a part survived, were updated and amended generation after generation, mixing ancient parts with materials from the contemporary uses and tradition of the copyists and removing what was no more in line with the current understanding. Moreover, it is probable also that in many cases the copyists were not describing their current or more ancient uses, but what they considered to be the best practice, thus for example describing liturgies never performed. This kind of literature allows the scholars, after a process of evaluation, to look at the liturgies of the 3rd and 4th century, but it makes difficult to use these texts to describe more ancient liturgies.
It is possible to outline also some development patterns for the content of this literature: the more ancient texts, such as Didache, are mainly concerned about moral conduct, giving very little room to liturgy and to Church organization. Later on the interest on moral issues waned and liturgy became prominent. In the last documents, the focus moved mainly on the Church organization and to the canon law. Starting since the 5th century, the Ancient Church Orders ceased to be regarded as authoritative,in spite of their higher and higher claimed level of pseudepigraphy, and were substituted by the canons of councils and synods and by sacramentaries of famous bishops.
Divine Liturgy or Holy Liturgy is the Eucharistic service of the Byzantine Rite, developed from the Antiochene Rite of Christian liturgy which is that of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. As such, it is used in the Eastern Orthodox, the Byzantine Catholic Churches, and the Ukrainian Lutheran Church. Although the same term is sometimes applied in English to the Eucharistic service of Armenian Christians, both of the Armenian Apostolic Church and of the Armenian Catholic Church, they use in their own language a term meaning "holy offering" or "holy sacrifice". Other churches also treat "Divine Liturgy" simply as one of many names that can be used, but it is not their normal term.
The Didache, also known as The Lord's Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations, is a brief anonymous early Christian treatise written in Koine Greek, dated by most modern scholars to the first century. The first line of this treatise is "The teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles by the twelve apostles". The text, parts of which constitute the oldest extant written catechism, has three main sections dealing with Christian ethics, rituals such as baptism and Eucharist, and Church organization. The opening chapters describe the virtuous Way of Life and the wicked Way of Death. The Lord's Prayer is included in full. Baptism is by immersion, or by affusion if immersion is not practical. Fasting is ordered for Wednesdays and Fridays. Two primitive Eucharistic prayers are given. Church organization was at an early stage of development. Itinerant apostles and prophets are important, serving as "chief priests" and possibly celebrating the Eucharist. Meanwhile, local bishops and deacons also have authority and seem to be taking the place of the itinerant ministry.
An apostolic see is an episcopal see whose foundation is attributed to one or more of the apostles of Jesus or to one of their close associates. In Catholicism the phrase, preceded by the definite article and usually capitalized, refers to the See of Rome.
The Apostolic Fathers were core Christian theologians among the Church Fathers who lived in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, who are believed to have personally known some of the Twelve Apostles, or to have been significantly influenced by them. Their writings, though widely circulated in Early Christianity, were not included in the canon of the New Testament. Many of the writings derive from the same time period and geographical location as other works of early Christian literature which came to be part of the New Testament. Some of the writings found among the Apostolic Fathers appear to have been as highly regarded as some of the writings which became the New Testament.
The New Testament apocrypha are a number of writings by early Christians that give accounts of Jesus and his teachings, the nature of God, or the teachings of his apostles and of their lives. Some of these writings have been cited as scripture by early Christians, but since the fifth century a widespread consensus has emerged limiting the New Testament to the 27 books of the modern canon. Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant churches generally do not view these New Testament apocrypha as part of the Bible.
The Apostolic Canons or Ecclesiastical Canons of the Same Holy Apostles is a 4th century Syrian Christian text. It is an Ancient Church Order, a collection of ancient ecclesiastical decrees concerning the government and discipline of the Early Christian Church, allegedly written by the Apostles first found as the last chapter of the eighth book of the Apostolic Constitutions. Like the other Ancient Church Orders, the Apostolic Canons use a pseudepigraphic form.
The Anaphora is the most solemn part of the Divine Liturgy, or the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, during which the offerings of bread and wine are consecrated as the body and blood of Christ. This is the usual name for this part of the Liturgy in Greek-speaking Eastern Christianity. In western Christian traditions which have a comparable rite, the Anaphora is more often called the Eucharistic Prayer for the four modern anaphoras in the Latin liturgy, with the first anaphora having the additional name of the Roman Canon. When the Roman Rite had a single Eucharistic Prayer, it was called the Canon of the Mass.
The Apostolic Constitutions or Constitutions of the Holy Apostles is a Christian collection of eight treatises which belongs to the Church Orders, a genre of early Christian literature, that offered authoritative "apostolic" prescriptions on moral conduct, liturgy and Church organization. The work can be dated from 375 to 380 AD. The provenance is usually regarded as Syria, probably Antioch. The author is unknown, even if since James Ussher it was considered to be the same author of the letters of Pseudo-Ignatius, perhaps the 4th-century Eunomian bishop Julian of Cilicia.
Testamentum Domini is a Christian treatise which belongs to genre of the Church Orders. The work can be dated about the 5th-century CE even if a 4th-century date is sometimes proposed. The provenience is regarded as Syria, even if also Egypt or Asia Minor are possible origins.
The Apostolic Tradition is an early Christian treatise which belongs to genre of the Church Orders. It has been described as of "incomparable importance as a source of information about church life and liturgy in the third century".
The Apostolic Church-Ordinance is an Orthodox Christian treatise which belongs to genre of the Church Orders. The work can be dated at the end of 3rd century CE. The provenience is usually regarded as Egypt, or perhaps Syria. The author is unknown.
Didascalia Apostolorum, or just Didascalia, is a Christian treatise which belongs to the genre of the Church Orders. It presents itself as being written by the Twelve Apostles at the time of the Council of Jerusalem; however, scholars agree that it was actually a composition of the 3rd century, perhaps around 230 AD.
The Liturgy of Saint Basil or, more formally, the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great, is a term for several Eastern Christian celebrations of the Divine Liturgy (Eucharist), or at least several anaphoras, which are named after Basil of Caesarea. Two of these liturgies are in common use today: the one used in the Byzantine Rite ten times a year, and the one ordinarily used by the Coptic Church.
The Anaphora of the Apostolic Tradition, also known as the Anaphora of Hippolytus, is an ancient Christian Anaphora which is found in chapter four of the Apostolic Tradition. It should not be confused with the Syriac Orthodox Anaphora of the Twelve Apostles, which is similar, and may be one of several liturgies derived from this Anaphora, yet is considerably longer and more ornate.
The Liturgy of the eighth book of the Apostolic Constitutions is a complete text of the Christian Divine Liturgy and found in the eighth book of the Apostolic Constitutions. It is the oldest known form that can be described as a complete liturgy and can be dated to the second half of the 4th century. It belongs to the Antiochene Rite.
The Alexandrine Sinodos is a Christian collection of Church Orders. This collection of earlier texts dates from the 4th or 5th century CE. The provenience is Egypt and it was particularly used in the ancient Coptic and Ethiopian Christianity.
The Verona Palimpsest is a manuscript, dated about the 494 CE, which contains a Christian collection of Church Orders in Latin. The manuscript, which contains many lacunae, is the only source of the Latin version of the Apostolic Tradition.
The Orthodox Tewahedo churches within the Oriental Orthodox Church currently have the largest and most diverse biblical canon in traditional Christendom. Western scholars have classified the books of the Orthodox Tewahedo biblical canon into two categories — the narrower canon, which consists mostly of books familiar to the west, and the broader canon. While the main purpose of this article is to discuss and highlight the books that are exclusive to the broader canon, it is impossible to do this without at least some discussion of the narrower canon. The Orthodox Tewahedo broader canon in its fullest form includes the narrower canon in its entirety, as well as nine additional books. It is not known to exist at this time as one published compilation. Some books, though considered canonical, are nonetheless difficult to locate and are not even widely available in the churches' home countries of Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The Liturgy of Saint Cyril is one of the three Anaphoras used at present by the Coptic Orthodox Church and it retains the liturgical peculiarities which have originated in the early Christian Egypt, thus forming the core of the historical Alexandrian Rite. When reference is made to its Greek version, this text is usually known as Liturgy of Saint Mark.
The Liturgy of Saint Gregory the Theologian is one of the three Anaphoras retained by the Coptic Church. The text is named after Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, one of the Cappadocian Fathers.