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Apostolic Church-Ordinance

Third-century pseudo-Apostolic collection of moral and hierarchical rules and instructions

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Apostolic Church-Ordinance, a third-century pseudo-Apostolic collection of moral and hierarchical rules and instructions, compiled in the main from ancient Christian sources, first published in Ethiopic by Ludolf (with Latin translation) in the “Commentarius” to his “Historia Ethiopica” (Frankfort, 1691). It served as a law-code for the Egyptian, Ethiopian, and Arabian churches, and rivalled in authority and esteem the Didache, under which name it sometimes went. Though of undoubted Greek origin, these canons are preserved largely in Coptic, Arabic, Ethiopic, and Syriac versions. The Apostolic Church-Ordinance was first published in Greek by Prof. Bickell of Marburg (1843) from a twelfth-century Greek manuscript discovered by him at Vienna (Geschichte des Kirchenrechts, Giessen, 1843, I, 107-132). He also gave the code the name “Apostolische Kirchenordnung” by which it is generally known, though in English it is usually called as above, sometimes Apostolic Church-Order, Apostolic Church-Directory, etc. The document, after a short introduction (i-iii) inspired by the “Letter of Barnabas”, is divided into two parts, the first of which (iv-xiv) is, an evident adaptation of the first six chapters of the Didache, the moral precepts of which are attributed severally to the Apostles, each of whom, introduced by the formula “John says”, “Peter says”, etc., is represented as framing one or more of the ordinances. The second part (xv-xxx) treats in similar manner of the qualifications for ordination or for the duties of different officers in the Church. The work was compiled in Egypt, or possibly in Syria, in the third, or, at the latest, in the early part of the fourth, century. Funk assigns its compilation to the first half of the third century; Harnack to about the year 300. Who the compiler was cannot be conjectured, nor can it be determined what part he had in framing canons 15 to 30. Duchesne considers them largely the compiler’s own work; Funk thinks he drew upon at least two sources now unknown; while Harnack undertakes to identify by name the now lost documents upon which the compiler almost entirely depended. The Sahidic (Coptic) text was published by Lagarde in “Aegyptiaca” (Leipzig, 1883), and the Bohairic (Coptic) by Tattam (The Apostolical Constitutions, or Canons of the Apostles, London, 1848). The complete Syriac text, with English translation, was published by Dr. Arendzen in “Journal of Theol. Studies” (October, 1901).


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