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§ 56. Collections of Ecclesiastical Law. The Apostolical Constitutions and Canons.


I. Διαταγαὶ τῶν ἁγίων Ἀποστόλων διὰ Κλήμνετος, etc., Constitutiones Apostolicae, first edited by Fr Turrianus, Ven. 1563, then in Cotelier’s ed. of the Patres Apostolici (I. 199 sqq.), in Mansi (Collect. Concil. I.), and Harduin (Coll. Conc. I.); newly edited by Ueltzen, Rost. 1853, and P. A. de Lagarde, Lips. and Lond. 1854 and 1862. Ueltzen gives the textus receptus improved. Lagarde aims at the oldest text, which he edited in Syriac (Didascalia Apostolorum Syriace, 1854), and in Greek (Constit. Apostolorum Graece, 1862). Hilgenfels: Nov. Test. extra Canonem rec., Lips. (1866), ed. II. (1884), Fasc. IV. 110–121. He gives the Ap. Church Order under the title Duae Viae vel Judicium Petri.

Thos. Pell Platt: The Æthiopic Didascalia; or the Æthiopic Version of the Apostolical Constitutions, received in the Church of Abyssinia, with an Engl Transl, , Lond. 1834.

Henry Tattam: The Apostolical Constitutions, or Canons of the Apostles in Coptic. With an Engl. translation. Lond. 1848 (214 pages).

II. Κανόνες ἐκκλησιαστικοὶ τῶν ἁγ. Ἀποστόλων, Canones, qui dicuntur Apostolorum, in most collections of church law, and in Cotel. (I. 437 sqq.), Mansi, and Harduin (tom. I.), and in the editions of the Ap. Constitutions at the close. Separate edd. by Paul De Lagarde in Greek and Syriac: Reliquiae juris ecclesiastici antiquissimae Syriace, Lips. 1856; and Reliquiae juris ecclesiastici Graece, 1856 (both to be had at Trübner’s, Strassburg). An Ethiopic translation of the Canons, ed. by Winand Fell, Leipz. 1871.

W. G. Beveridge, (Bishop of St. Asaph, d. 1708): Συνόδικον, s. Pandectae Canonum S. G. Apostolorum et Conciliorum, ab Ecclesia Gr. reliquit. Oxon. 1672–82, 2 vols. fol.

John Fulton: Index Canonum. In Greek and English. With a Complete Digest of the entire code of canon law in the undivided Primitive Church. N. York 1872; revised ed. with Preface by P. Schaff, 1883.

Critical Discussions.

Krabbe: Ueber den Ursprung u. den Inhalt der Apost. Constitutionen des Clemens Romanus. Hamb. 1829.

S. v. Drey (R.C.): Neue Untesuchungen über die Constitut. u. Kanones der Ap. Tüb. 1832.

J. W. Bickell (d. 1848): Gesch. des Kirchenrechts. Giess. 1843 (I. 1, pp. 52–255). The second part appeared, Frankf., 1849.

Chase: Constitations of the Holy Apostles, including the Canons; Whiston’s version revised from the Greek; with a prize essay(of Krabbe) upon their origin and contents. New York, 1848.

Bunsen: Hippolytusu. seine Zeit., Leipz. 1852 (I. pp. 418–523, and II. pp. 1126); and in the 2d Engl. ed. Hippolytus and his Age, or Christianity and Mankind, Lond. 1854 (vols. V – VII).

Hefele (R.C.): Conciliengeschichte I. p. 792 sqq. (second ed. 1873). The Didache Literature (fully noticed in Schaff’s monograph

Philoth. Bryennios: Διδαχὴ τῶν δώδεκα ἀποστόλων. Constantinople, 1833.

Ad. Harnack: Die Lehre der Zwölf Apostel. Leipz., 1884. Die Apostellehre und die jüdischen beiden Wege, 1886.

Ph. Schaff: The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, or the Oldest Church Manual. N. York, 1885. 3d ed. revised and enlarged, 1889.

Several church manuals or directories of public worship, and discipline have come down to us from the first centuries in different languages. They claim directly or indirectly apostolic origin and authority, but are post-apostolic and justly excluded from the canon. They give us important information on the ecclesiastical laws, morals, and customs of the ante-Nicene age.

1. The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles is the oldest and simplest church manual, of Jewish Christian (Palestinian or Syrian) origin, from the end of the first century, known to the Greek fathers, but only recently discovered and published by Bryennios (1883). It contains in 16 chapters (1) a summary of moral instruction based on the Decalogue and the royal commandment of love to God and man, in the parabolic form of two ways, the way of life and the way of death; (2) directions on the celebration of baptism and the eucharist with the agape; (3) directions on discipline and the offices of apostles (i.e. travelling evangelists), prophets, teachers, bishops (i.e. presbysters), and deacons; (4) an exhortation to watchfulness in view of the coming of the Lord and the resurrection of the saints. A very remarkable book. Its substance survived in the seventh book of the Apostolical Constitutions.

2. The Ecclesiastical Canons of the holy apostles or Apostolical Church Order, of Egyptian origin, probably of the third century. An expansion of the former in the shape of a fictitious dialogue of the apostles, first published in Greek by Bickell (1843), and then also in Coptic and Syriac. It contains ordinances of the apostles on morals, worship, and discipline.

3. The Apostolical Constitutions, the most complete and important Church Manual. It is, in form, a literary fiction, professing to be a bequest of all the apostles, handed down through the Roman bishop Clement, or dictated to him. It begins with the words: "The apostles and elders, to all who among the nations have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with you, and peace." It contains, in eight books, a collection of moral exhortations, church laws and usages, and liturgical formularies which had gradually arisen in the various churches from the close of the first century, the time of the Roman Clement, downward, particularly in Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome, partly on the authority of apostolic practice. These were at first orally transmitted; then committed to writing in different versions, like the creeds; and finally brought, by some unknown hand, into their present form. The first six books, which have a strongly Jewish-Christian tone, were composed, with the exception of some later interpolations, at the end of the third century, in Syria. The seventh book is an expansion of the Didache of the Twelve Apostles. The eighth book contains a liturgy, and, in an appendix, the apostolical canons. The collection of the three parts into one whole may be the work of the compiler of the eighth book. It is no doubt of Eastern authorship, for the church of Rome nowhere occupies a position of priority or supremacy.265265    Harnack (l.c. 266-268) identifies Pseudo-Clement with Pseudo-Ignatius and assigns him to the middle of the fourth century.65 The design was, to set forth the ecclesiastical life for laity and clergy, and to establish the episcopal theocracy. These constitutions were more used and consulted in the East than any work of the fathers, and were taken as the rule in matters of discipline, like the Holy Scriptures in matters of doctrine. Still the collection, as such, did not rise to formal legal authority, and the second Trullan council of 692 (known as quinisextum), rejected it for its heretical interpolations, while the same council acknowledged the Apostolical Canons.266266    Turrianus Bovius; and the eccentric Whiston regarded these pseudoapostolic Constitutions as a genuine work of the apostles; containing Christ’s teaching during the forty days between the Resurrection and Ascension. But Baronius, Bellarmin, and Petavius attached little weight to them, and the Protestant scholars, Daillé and Blondel, attacked and overthrew their genuineness and authority. The work is a gradual growth, with many repetitions, interpolations, and contradictions and anachronisms. James, who was beheaded (a.d. 44), is made to sit in council with Paul (VI. 14), but elsewhere is represented as dead (V. 7). The apostles condemn post-apostolic heresies and heretics (VI. 8), and appoint days of commemoration of their death (VIII. 33). Episcopacy is extravagantly extolled. P. de Lagarde says: (Rel juris Eccles. ant., Preface, p. IV.): "Communis vivorum doctorum fere omnium nunc invaluit opinio eas [constitutiones] saeculo tertio clam succrevisse et quum sex aliquando libris septimo et octavo auctas esse postea."66

The "Apostolical Canons" consist of brief church rules or prescriptions, in some copies eighty-five in number, in others fifty, and pretend to be of apostolic origin, being drawn up by Clement of Rome from the directions of the apostles, who in several places speak in the first person. They are incorporated in the "Constitutions" as an appendix to the eighth book, but are found also by themselves, in Greek, Syriac, Aethiopic, and Arabic manuscripts. Their contents are borrowed partly from the Scriptures, especially the Pastoral Epistles, partly from tradition, and partly from the decrees of early councils at Antioch, Neo-Caesarea, Nicaea, Laodicea, &c. (but probably not Chalcedon, 451). They are, therefore, evidently of gradual growth, and were collected either after the middle of the fourth century,267267    As Bickell supposes. Beveridge put the collection in the third century.67 or not till the latter part of the fifth,268268    According to Daillé, Dr. von Drey, and Mejer.68 by some unknown hand, probably also in Syria. They are designed to furnish a complete system of discipline for the clergy. Of the laity they say scarcely a word. The eighty-fifth and last canon settles the canon of the Scripture, but reckons among the New Testament books two epistles of Clement and the genuine books of the pseudo-Apostolic Constitutions.

The Greek church, at the Trullan council of 692, adopted the whole collection of eighty-five canons as authentic and binding, and John of Damascus placed it even on a parallel with the epistles of the apostle Paul, thus showing that he had no sense of the infinite superiority of the inspired writings. The Latin church rejected it at first, but subsequently decided for the smaller collection of fifty canons, which Dionysus Exiguus about the year 500 translated from a Greek manuscript.

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