Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries

By Everett Ferguson | Go to book overview

35. Miscellaneous Sources:
Church Orders and “Eunomian” Baptism

Apostolic Constitutions

The compiler/editor of the Apostolic Constitutions was active in the last quarter of the fourth century, probably in western Syria, although Asia Minor or Constantinople are also suggested. His doctrinal affiliation is not completely clear but a moderate Arian or even Neo-Arian position seems likely; however, these sentiments do not affect the rites themselves.

The first six books of the Apostolic Constitutions are based on the Didascalia, the seventh book on the Didache, and the eighth book on the Apostolic Tradition and other materials; at the end are appended the Apostolic Canons.1 The compiler/author has so rewritten his sources as to give his own presentation and interpretation; nevertheless, inconsistencies (or apparent inconsistencies) remain that are likely due to the incorporation of different sources. There are two principal accounts of the ritual of baptism — Apostolic Constitutions 7.1-28, a rewriting of the Didache, and 7.39-45, an elaboration of the Apostolic Tradition. Because of the way the sources are used, there is no systematic treatment of the ceremony and doctrine of baptism that the author knew or was advocating. From the varied and frequent references it is possible to reconstruct the author’s views on baptism. There is little indication, however, of the sequence of events in the initiation procedures — except for the central acts of anointing with oil, immersing, and anointing with ointment — so I have arranged the items culled from the different parts of the work according to the sequence attested in other sources.2 The pre-

1. Greek text and French translation in Marcel Metzger, Les constitutions apostoliques, 3 vols., Sources chrétiennes 320, 329, 336 (Paris: Cerf, 1985–1986).

2. Baby Varghese, Les onctions baptismales dans la tradition syrienne, Corpus scriptorum christianorum orientalium 512 (Louvain: Peeters, 1089), pp. 105–112. With reference to 7.39-45, the position has been taken that the redactor did not present an actual rite but his idea of an ideal rite — E. C. Ratchliff, “The Old Syrian Baptismal Tradition and Its Resettlement under the Influence of Jerusalem in the Fourth Century,” in G. J. Cuming, ed., Studies in Church History, Vol. 2 (London, 1965), pp. 19–37.

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