Apostolic Church Order

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A small treatise that claims to have been written at the command of the Lord by the 12 Apostles. The first half (414) sets forth moral precepts in the form of a description of the two ways, that of good and that of evil, based on didache (14). The author adapts the two-way device to the more developed ecclesiastical situation of the 4th century. The second part (1529) contains canonical legislation and issues regulations for the election of a bishop, priests, readers, deacons, and widows and for the subordination of the laymen. The author, and the time and place of origin are unknown. There are indications that it might have been composed in Egypt c. 300; but some scholars point to Syria as its place of origin. The high authority in which it was held in Egypt speaks perhaps more for Egyptian provenance.

J. Bickel was the first to publish (1843) the Greek original from a 12th-century Vienna manuscript, the only one containing the entire text. He named it the Apostolic Church Order. There is reason to assume that its real title was Ecclesiastical Canons of the Holy Apostles. These canons are attributed to the various Apostles who spoke at a reputed council at which Mary and Martha were present. The ignorant compiler ranked Peter and Cephas as two different Apostles. The extant Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions testify to the reputation this Church Order enjoyed.

Bibliography: j. w. bickel, Geschichte des Kirchenrechts, 2 v. in 1 (Giessen 184349) 1:107132, Gr. text. t. schermann, Die allgemeine Kirchenordnung, v.1 (Paderborn 1914) 1234. g. horner, ed. and tr., The Statutes of the Apostles or Canones ecclesiastici (London 1904), gives Eng. tr. of the Coptic-Sahidic version and the Arabic and Ethiopic text with Eng. tr. e. hauler, ed., Didascaliae apostolorum fragmenta Veronensia Latina (Leipzig 1900) 92101, fragment of Lat. version. a. harnack, Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur 2.5 (1886). f. x. funk, ed., Didascalia et constitutiones apostolorum. j. quasten, Patrology 2:119120.

[j. quasten]