make no claim to apostolic authorship; but otherwise their origin is like that of the rest, unless indeed, as has been suggested, they represent the work of an actual Roman synod, (d) The so-called Egyptian Church Order, in Coptic from a Greek pre-Nicene original (c. 310). It is part of the Egyptian Heptateuch and contains neither communion nor ordination forms, (e) The Ethiopic Church Order, perhaps twenty years later than (d), and forming part of the Ethiopic Statutes. (f) The Verona Latin Fragments, discovered and published by Hauler, portions of a form akin to (e), which may be dated c. 340, though possibly earlier. It has a preface which refers to a treatise Concerning Spiritual Gifts as having immediately preceded it. (g) The recently discovered Testament of the Lord, which is somewhat later in date (c. 350), and likewise depends upon the Canones Hippolyti. (h) The so-called Canons of Basil. This is an Arabic work perhaps based on a Coptic and ultimately on a Greek original, embodying with modifications large portions of the Canons of Hippolytus. (On the relations between the six last-named, see Hippolytus, The Canons of.)
The Constitutions themselves fall into three main divisions. (i.) The first of these consists of books i.-vi., and throughout runs parallel to the Didascalia. Bickell, indeed, held that this latter was an abbreviated form of books i.-vi.; Contents. but it is now agreed on all hands that the Constitutions are based on the Didascalia and not vice versa. (ii.) Then follows book vii., the first thirty-one chapters of which are an adaptation of the Didachē, whilst the rest contain various liturgical forms of which the origin is still uncertain, though it has been acutely suggested by Achelis, and with great probability, that they originated in the schismatical congregation of Lucian at Antioch. (iii.) Book viii. is more composite, and falls into three parts. The first two chapters, περὶ χαρισμάτων, may be based upon a lost work of St Hippolytus, otherwise known only by a reference to it in the preface of the Verona Latin Fragments; and an examination shows that this is highly probable. The next section, cc. 3-27, περὶ χειροτονιῶν, and cc. 28-46, περὶ κανόνων, is twofold, and is evidently that upon which the writer sets most store. The apostles no longer speak jointly, but one by one in an apostolic council, and the section closes with a joint decree of them all. They speak of the ordination of bishops (the so-called Clementine Liturgy is that which is directed to be used at the consecration of a bishop, cc. 5-15), of presbyters, deacons, deaconesses, sub-deacons and lectors, and then pass on to confessors, virgins, widows and exorcists; after which follows a series of canons on various subjects, and liturgical formulae. With regard to this section, all that can be said is that it includes materials which are also to be found elsewhere—in the Egyptian Church Order and other documents already spoken of—and that the precise relation between them is at present not determined. The third section consists of the Apostolic Canons already referred to, the last and most significant of which places the Constitutions and the two epistles of Clement in the canon of Scripture, and omits the Apocalypse. They are derived in part from the preceding Constitutions, in part from the canons of the councils of Antioch, 341, Nicaea, 325, and possibly Laodicaea, 363.
A comparison of the Constitutions with the material upon which they are based will illustrate the compiler’s method. (a) To begin with the Didascalia already mentioned. It is unmethodical and badly digested, homiletical in style, and abounding in biblical quotations. There is no precise arrangement; but the subjects, following a general introduction, are the bishop and his duties, penance, the administration of the offerings, the settlement of disputes, the divine service, the order of widows, deacons and deaconesses, the poor, behaviour in persecution, and so forth. The compiler of the Constitutions finds here material after his own heart. He is even more discursive and more homiletical in style; he adds fresh citations of the Scriptures, and additional explanations and moral reflexions; and all this with so little judgment that he often leaves confusion worse confounded (e.g. in ii. 57, where, upon a symbolical description of the Church as a sheepfold, he has superimposed the further symbolism of a ship). (b) Passing on to books vii. and viii., we observe that the compiler’s method of necessity changes with his new material. In the former book he still makes large additions and alterations, but there is less scope for his prolixity than before; and in the latter, where he is no longer dealing with generalities, but making actual definitions, the Constitutions of necessity become more precise and statutory in form. Throughout he adopts and adapts the language of his sources as far as possible, “only pruning in the most pressing cases,” but towards the end he cannot avoid making larger alterations from time to time. And his alterations throughout are not made aimlessly. Where he finds things which would obviously clash with the customs of his own day, he unhesitatingly modifies them. An account of the Passion, with a curiously perverted chronology, the object of which was to justify the length of the Passion-tide fast, is entirely revised for this reason (v. 14); the direction to observe Easter according to the Jewish computation is changed into the exact contrary for the same reason (v. 17); and where his archetype lapses into speaking of a lull in persecution he naïvely informs us that the Romans have now given up persecuting and have adopted Christianity (vi. 26), forgetting altogether that he is speaking in the character of the apostles. Above all, he both magnifies the office of the Christian ministry as a whole and alters what is said of it in detail (for example, the deaconess loses rank not a little), to make it agree with the circumstances of his day in general, and with his own ideas of fitness in particular. It is here that his evidence is at once most valuable and needs to be used with the greatest care. To give one striking example of the value of these documents. The Canones Hippolyti (vi. 43) provide that one who has been a confessor for the faith may be received as a presbyter by virtue of his confessorship and not by the laying on of the bishop’s hands; but if he be chosen a bishop, he is to be ordained. This provision passes on into the Egyptian Ecclesiastical Canons and other kindred documents, and even into the Testamentum Domini. But the corresponding passage in the Apostolical Constitutions (viii. 23) entirely reverses it: “A confessor is not ordained, for he is so by choice and patience, and is worthy of great honour.... But if there be occasion, he is to be ordained either a bishop, priest, or deacon. But if any one of the confessors who is not ordained snatches to himself any such dignity upon account of his confession, let the same person be deprived and rejected; for he is not in such an office, since he has denied the constitution of Christ, and is worse than an infidel.”
Who, then, is the author of the Constitutions, and what can be inferred with regard to him? (i.) By separating off the sources which he used from his own additions to them, it at once becomes clear that the latter are the work of one Authorship, place, and date. man: the style is unmistakable, and the method of working is the same throughout. The compiler of books i.-vi. is also the compiler of books vii., viii. (ii.) As to his theological position, different views have been held. Funk suggests Apollinarianism, which is the refuge of the destitute; and Achelis inclines in the same direction. But the affinities of the author are quite otherwise, the most pronounced of them being a strong subordinationist tendency, denial of a human
- At a later date various collections were made of the documents above mentioned, or some of them, to serve as law-books in different churches—e.g. the Syrian Octateuch, the Egyptian Heptateuch, and the Ethiopic Sīnōdōs. These, however, stand on an entirely different footing, since they are simply collections of existing documents, and no attempt is made to claim apostolic authorship for them.