Apostolic Constitutions

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The Apostolic Constitutions or Constitutions of the Holy Apostles (Latin: Constitutiones Apostolorum) 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. [1] The work can be dated from 375 to 380 AD. The provenance is usually regarded as Syria, probably Antioch. [2] 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. [3]

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures of Judaism, called Old Testament in Christianity, and chronicled in the New Testament. It is the world's largest religion with over 2.4 billion followers.

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.

Content

The Apostolic Constitutions contains eight treatises on Early Christian discipline, worship, and doctrine, intended to serve as a manual of guidance for the clergy, and to some extent for the laity. It purports to be the work of the Twelve Apostles, whose instructions, whether given by them as individuals or as a body. [4]

The structure of the Apostolic Constitutions can be summarized: [5]

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.

<i>Didache</i> early Christian treatise

The Didache, also known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, 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.

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 best manuscript [6] has Arian leanings, which are not found in other manuscripts because this material would have been censured as heretical. [3]

The Apostolic Constitutions is an important source for the history of the liturgy in the Antiochene rite. It contains an outline of an anaphora in book two, a full anaphora in book seven (which is an expansion of the one found in the Didache), and the complete Liturgy of the eighth book of the Apostolic Constitutions, which is the oldest known form that can be described as a complete divine liturgy.

Influence

In antiquity, the Apostolic Constitutions were mistakenly supposed to be gathered and handed down by Clement of Rome, the authority of whose name gave weight to more than one such piece of early Christian literature (see also Clementine literature). [4]

The Church seems never to have regarded this work as of undoubted Apostolic authority. The Apostolic Constitutions were rejected as canonical by the Decretum Gelasianum. The Quinisext Council in 692 rejected most part of the work on account of the interpolations of heretics. Only that portion of it to which has been given the name Canons of the Apostles was received in the Eastern Christianity. Even if not regarded as of certain Apostolic origin, however, in antiquity the Apostolic Constitutions were held generally in high esteem and served as the basis for much ecclesiastical legislation. [4] The Apostolic Constitutions were accepted as canonical by John of Damascus and, in a modified form, included in the 81 book canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Even if the text of the Apostolic Constitutions was extant in many libraries during the Middle Age, it was almost unknown. In 1546 a Latin version of a text was found in Crete and published. [4] The first complete edition of the Greek text was printed in 1563 by Turrianus. [7]

William Whiston in the 18th century devoted the third volume of his Primitive Christianity Revived to prove that "they are the most sacred of the canonical books of the New Testament; "for "these sacred Christian laws or constitutions were delivered at Jerusalem, and in Mount Sion, by our Saviour to the eleven apostles there assembled after His resurrection."

Today the Apostolic Constitutions are of the highest value as a historical document, as they reveal the moral and religious conditions, as well as the liturgical observances of 3rd and 4th centuries. [4] They are part of the Ante-Nicene Fathers collection.

Canons of the Apostles

The forty-seventh and last chapter of the eighth book of the Apostolic Constitutions contains the eighty-five Canons of the Apostles, which present themselves as being from an apostolic Council at Antioch. These canons were later approved by the Eastern Council in Trullo in 692 but rejected by Pope Constantine. In the Western Church only fifty of these canons circulated, translated to Latin by Dionysius Exiguus on about 500 AD, and included in the Western collections and afterwards in the Corpus Juris Canonici .

Canon n. 85 is a list of canonical books: [8] a 46-book Old Testament canon which essentially corresponds to that of the Septuagint, 26 books of what is now the New Testament (excludes Revelation), two Epistles of Clement, and the Apostolic Constitutions themselves, also here attributed to Clement, at least as compiler.

Epitome of the eighth book

It is also known as the Epitome, and usually named Epitome of the eighth Book of the Apostolic Constitutions (or sometime titled The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles concerning ordination through Hippolytus or simply The Constitutions through Hippolytus) containing a re-wording of chapters 1-2, 4-5, 16-28, 30-34, 45-46 of the eighth book. [9] The text was first published by Paul de Lagarde in 1856 and later by Franz Xaver von Funk in 1905. [10] This epitome could be a later extract even if in parts it looks nearer to the Greek original of the Apostolic Tradition, from which the 8th book is derived, than the Apostolic Constitutions themselves.

See also

Notes

  1. Bradshaw, Paul F. (2002). The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship. Oxford University Press. pp. 73ss. ISBN   978-0-19-521732-2.
  2. Bradshaw, Paul F. (2002). The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship. Oxford University Press. pp. 85–87. ISBN   978-0-19-521732-2.
  3. 1 2 Jasper, Ronald Claud Dudley; Cuming, G. J. (1990). Prayers of the Eucharist: early and reformed. Liturgical Press. p. 100. ISBN   978-0-8146-6085-0.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Wikisource-logo.svg  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Apostolic Constitutions"  . Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton.
  5. Woolfenden, Gregory W. (2004). Daily liturgical prayer: origins and theology. Ashgate Publishing. p. 27. ISBN   978-0-7546-1601-6.
  6. Vatican gr 1506
  7. "Apostolical constitutions". Encyclopaedic Dictionary Of Christian Antiquities. 1. Concept Publishing Company. 2005. p. 119. ISBN   978-81-7268-111-1.
  8. Michael D. Marlowe. "The "Apostolic Canons" (about A.D. 380)". Bible Research. Archived from the original on 29 August 2010. Retrieved 2 September 2010.
  9. Easton, Burton Scott (1934). The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus. Cambridge. p. 13.
  10. von Funk, Franz Xaver (1905). Didascalia et Constitutiones Apostolorum. 2. Panderborn.

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