THE EARLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH - Volume 2: by Philip Carrington, Archbishop of Quebec. Published by the syndics of the Cambridge University Press, 1957. Katapi edition by Paul Ingram, 2013.


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We saw in the Refutation of Irenaeus that the candidate for baptism received a creed which became his rule of faith. It is not considered likely that the words of this creed were rigidly fixed or everywhere the same; but Irenaeus implies that the agreement in the catholic church was great enough to be counted on. The text given by Irenaeus owes something, no doubt, to his own special theological interests, but its substance and form were traditional. It consisted of two parts; a 'trinitarian' part which expressed faith in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and a ' christological' part which included the content of the gospel message.

Creed forms of many kinds had existed from the first. The oldest of all was the Jewish Shema : 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord is thy God, the Lord is one.' This 'Unitarian' form, as we may call it for convenience, persisted in the Christian church in the watchword ' One God', but gave birth quite early to the form 'One God, One Lord', which has been called a 'binitarian' form. We recognize it in such apostolic salutations as ' Grace be with you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ'. But these forms were not associated with baptism. The baptismal forms seem to have been either trinitarian or christological; and finally they were both.

St Paul summarizes the act of faith which was made at baptism in the words 'Jesus Christ is Lord', accompanied by the conviction in the heart that God raised him from the dead; that is to say it was a vocal assent to the gospel message given with faith. Other forms were 'Jesus is Lord' or 'Jesus is the Son of God'; their meaning being dictated of course by the content of the gospel message to which assent was being |330 given. In some instances the act of faith continued to be an assent to the gospel message; in others the content of the gospel message was incorporated into the act of faith; and we can see the steps by which this was managed as early as the Epistles of Ignatius and the Apology of Aristides; but we cannot assert that these declarations were used at baptism.

There are also trinitarian forms in the writings of Paul, the finest of which is the formula of blessing at the end of 2 Corinthians; but it does not look as if these were used at baptism. The use of the trinitarian formula in baptism was established in a rather different way. There was a form of words which was used by the baptizer, which involved an 'invocation of the name', though of course the act of faith made by the candidate might be described by this term. Christians were alluded to as those who called upon the name, or more probably those who called the name upon themselves, or occasionally those who had had the name called upon them. Such invocations were also used in the case of exorcism, and exorcism was closely related to baptism. In fact it became the general custom to exorcize every candidate for baptism during his preparation period; and Justin tells us how devils were exorcized in the name of Jesus Christ who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, which sounds like a credal phrase.

In the Acts of the Apostles we read of baptism into the name of the Lord Jesus; but in Matthew and the Didache we have baptism into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, where it is connected with the command to baptize the Gentiles. This trinitarian form or outline became the general one, and we found it in Justin in an expanded form. The developed baptismal creeds included all these elements.


In order to transform the baptismal creed given by Irenaeus into the creed form which everyone knows today, all that was necessary was to take the christological part of it, with its emphasis on 'born, suffered, died, rose again', and insert it into the middle section of the trinitarian part. This simple rearrangement was effected very soon; in fact it may have been done already. We find it in the Apostolic Tradition of his pupil Hippolytus, written some thirty or forty years later, but embodying in a fixed written form the customs and traditions of his youth. |331 There was a dialogue in which the convert gave assent to the credal material, which was put to him in the form of a question. The baptizer stood by the candidate in the water, and asked him three questions, to each of which he answered 'I believe', and each time the baptizer laid his hand upon his head and immersed him. These questions were:

Do you believe in God the Father Almighty? I believe.

Do you believe in Christ Jesus the Son of God, who was born of the Holy Spirit from the Virgin Mary, and crucified under Pontius Pilate, and dead and buried, and rose again on the third day living from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sat on the right hand of the Father, and will come to judge the living and the dead? I believe.

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit and the holy church and the resurrection of the flesh? I believe.

This is the earliest known form of the old Roman Creed. It is interesting that it does not begin with the words ' one God the Father Almighty', as it does in Irenaeus and Tertullian, a difference for which learned scholars have supplied more than one explanation; the presence of the word 'one', which appears in the oriental creed, guards against Marcionism and kindred heresies; its absence might be accounted for by a reaction against 'monarchianism'. This creed had an interesting history after this period, and appears not very much changed as the baptismal creed of the west, commonly called the Apostles' Creed.

The ' interrogatory' form of the creed used at baptism may be older than the declaratory form, in which the candidate says the creed for himself; but an early 'declaratory' form is found in the Western Text of the Acts, which puts into the mouth of the Ethiopian eunuch a simple christological declaration,' I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God'.


It would be unwise to attempt to form a theory of the development of the baptismal rite by arranging the Didache and Justin and Hippolytus in an ascending scale. The Didache and Justin give only partial impressions, and we should have to take into account other literature such as the Epistle of Barnabas and the heretical rituals, as well as the apostolic and sub-apostolic literature. There was a variety of elements in the baptismal ritual from the beginning which were consolidated in |332 the second century, and our different authorities deal with it from different points of view. We would also have to take into account the Jewish rituals which preceded the Christian sacraments. Recent study has proved that the pattern of Jewish liturgical usage reappears in the Christian sacraments, and must have been a controlling factor from the first.

It would not be right to assume that every phrase in Hippolytus came down to him from the period of Eleutherus, but most of the customs which he regulates must have been old even then. He tells us that the sacrament of baptism was preceded by a period of preparation which included prayer, fasting and exorcism; as a rule it lasted three years. The catechumens were excluded from the prayers of the brethren, but had their own prayers in the house of their teacher; they even had a substitute for the eucharist, since they were permitted to attend the 'agape' or love-feast. Devotional and disciplinary exercises increased as the day approached. We are told about the Thursday preparation; the Friday and Saturday fasts; the final exorcism, the insufflation, and the long Saturday vigil with its readings from the scriptures and special instructions. This pattern was doubtless very old, and is still embedded in the rites for Holy Saturday in the Roman Missal.

At cock-crow on the Sunday, Easter Sunday normally, prayer was made over the water. The candidates put off their clothes. The bishop blessed two vessels of oil, one for exorcism and one for thanksgiving. Each candidate then renounced Satan and all his servants and all his works, after which he was anointed by a presbyter with the oil of exorcism. Then came the three immersions with the threefold creed form which we have already described. After this he was anointed with the oil of thanksgiving, and resumed his clothes. Such anointings, from head to foot, were the normal accompaniment of the bath in those days, but were given a special significance as part of the sacrament.

The candidate was then brought to the bishop for the laying on of hands with prayer, and this was followed by a third anointing, by the bishop, and on the head only. This was the major anointing which was the outward sign of the gift of the Holy Spirit. The candidate was then admitted to the prayers of the brethren and to the kiss of peace. At the eucharist which followed there was a cup of water and a cup of milk and honey, as well as the cup of wine.

These rites are already very complicated, but on the whole the |333 procedure must be old; very old indeed; the anointing seems to be alluded to in Barnabas and Theophilus and was part of the Marcionite and Valentinian rituals also. As the evidence comes in during the third century from Syria, it becomes clear that there was a family resemblance between the various rites of Christendom. It is the order that is different. In Syria the major anointing preceded the baptism; what happened afterwards was that the candidate was taught the ' Our Father' and received the laying on of the hand; but this prayer may have been delivered at this point in Rome too. The two tracts of Tertullian On Baptism and On Prayer suggest something of the kind; for his exposition of the Lord's Prayer is clearly a traditional one associated with the liturgy; and the first act of the newly baptized, on being received into the church, is to spread out his hands and call upon the heavenly Father.


Just as there was no fixed text of the creed and no fixed service for baptism, but only a generally accepted pattern, so there was no official list of the 'New Testament' books as we call them; nor is there anything to suggest that such a 'canon' was imposed upon the churches by some ecclesiastical authority, though doubtless the subject was dealt with at the regional councils and in the inter-episcopal correspondence. The Montanist crisis had made this question an urgent one, and it was in Asia Minor that the expression 'New Testament' or rather 'New Covenant' « The Greek word 'diatkeke' means covenant or testament. first appears in this connexion. The 'Anonymous' writer on Montanism excuses his delay in writing his book on the grounds that he did not wish to seem to add to the books of the New Covenant of the gospel. It is clear that there was a movement now to define or restrict the list of books which might be read in the services and treated as having sacred authority. Irenaeus worked from a restricted canon of this sort, which he alluded to as scripture.

It is an impressive fact of history that the church as a whole received four Gospels, which were different in form and came from different ecclesiastical centres, and set them in a position of unassailable authority. It is unfortunate, however, that decisive evidence does not come in from Syria on this point, though of course the four Gospels were known |334 and used there. The church in Edessa had received them in the harmonized form which Tatian had bestowed upon them, and it is conceivable that Antioch went through a similar stage. It is possible that Antioch came along more slowly than the other centres in the definition of the canon. At the end of the century a bishop of Antioch took time to study the question of the introduction of a new Gospel at Rhossos, a fact which suggests that it was still possible to use supplementary gospel material.

The writing of Epistles to be read in churches had gone on continuously; indeed, it has never ceased. Bishops still issue pastoral letters, and councils send out encyclicals. What was necessary towards the end of the second century was to distinguish from the rest those that might be grouped with the Gospels, though in a subordinate rank. Such a distinction had been made by the time that Irenaeus wrote, and further light is shed on the subject by the Muratorian Catalogue, which is generally dated in the period which we are discussing, since it refers to the episcopate of Pius as recent. These two authorities are both western, and some scholars think that the church of Rome was in advance of the others in defining the limits of this literature. It is quite likely, however, that similar action was taken in Asia, where the pressure from Montanism was very heavy. It has been suggested, too, that the place given to the Pauline Epistles in the Marcionite church may have suggested the idea of placing the Acts and Epistles next to the Gospels in the catholic church; and the pressure of Marcionism existed everywhere.

Chester Beatty Papyrus P46.


The promulgation by Marcion of an unsatisfactory edition of the Pauline Epistles must have emphasized the necessity of establishing a true one. We know of three such collections which circulated in the second half of the century. The first was the collection used by Irenaeus which contained all the Epistles, including the Pastorals, but not Hebrews; it may have included the short version of Romans without the last two chapters, from which Irenaeus never quotes; and this version seems to have stood in some Old-Latin Bibles. The second was the Roman list or lists, as given in the Muratorian, which was the same as that of Irenaeus; we are able to see, however, that the Pastorals and |335 Philemon were regarded as a distinct group from the rest. The third was that used in Alexandria, which contained Hebrews as a Pauline Epistle. We have an actual copy of this Alexandrian collection in the Chester Beatty papyrus (P46) now in the University of Michigan, which is thought to have been made about A.D. 200. It contains Hebrews after Romans, but it seems that it did not contain the Pastorals. What remains of the codex is eighty-six leaves out of an original one hundred and four; and it is said that there would not have been room for the Pastorals in the missing leaves. They may have been included in a separate book, as they were at Rome. Codex Vaticanus (B), which may be regarded as Egyptian, was copied from an older manuscript, now lost, in which Hebrews stood between Galatians and Ephesians, as is proved by the chapter enumeration; the Pastorals were not included in this system of enumeration. The evidence shows that the history of the canon at Rome and Alexandria was different. Similar evidence from other centres is not available.

It is an interesting confirmation of the special position of the Pastorals that they are never set for Sunday reading in the Latin Mass. Hebrews is set on one Sunday only. The subordinate position of the Epistles to the Gospels is very strongly marked in the ritual.

With regard to the other apostolic Epistles, the study is a complex one. The First Epistle of St John is vouched for in the Roman and Alexandrian evidence; the Second has left clear traces; the Third appears very indistinctly. We could say that the position of 1 Peter was unquestioned, but for the fact that it is not found in the Muratorian, a strange omission for a Roman document; but the bad state of the manuscript does not justify us in taking this omission very seriously. The Muratorian mentions Jude, and so does Clement of Alexandria. With regard to the rest, it is best to say that the collection and classification of the catholic Epistles was proceeding, but that the evidence is imperfect; only 1 Peter and 1 John can be thought of as securely established on the same level as the Pauline Epistles. This is not to say that James and 2 Peter were not known.

The Acts seems to have taken its place quite naturally along with the four Gospels; it was originally circulated no doubt along with Luke, as its sequel. It is mentioned after the four Gospels in the Muratorian, though a reference to 1 John intervenes; and in the Chester Beatty papyrus (P45) the four Gospels and Acts made a single large codex. |336 This codex was made in Alexandria about thirty years later than the Pauline codex (P46), the experts think. The sixth-century Codex Bezae (D) at Cambridge is also limited to four Gospels and the Acts, but the volume is not in its original form. Enough evidence remains to show that the Epistles of St John once intervened, a point in which it calls to mind the Muratorian.

The prophetic books are a difficult study. The Revelation was popular enough in Asia Minor where it was written, and it was highly esteemed by Justin and Irenaeus. It is included in the Muratorian, but had difficulties in attaining canonical rank in the east, where it was widely rejected in the fourth century. It is quoted by Clement of Alexandria, however, and is said to have been used by Theophilus of Antioch. The Revelation of Peter is also included in the Muratorian, though it was spoken against by some. The Pastor of Hermas is quoted by Irenaeus as scripture, but rejected for public reading in the Muratorian; Clement thought highly of it. The fact is that we have reached the penumbra of the New Testament Canon. The process of canonization, if we may so call it, definitely included the Acts, the Pauline Epistles, 1 John and 1 Peter (with due respect to the Muratorian). The position of the rest cannot be determined, and varied from church to church.


The outline of the liturgy which is given in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus begins with the sacred ministry. The bishop is to be chosen by all the people, a very important piece of information. He is ordained by the other bishops, who lay their hands upon his head, the presbyters standing by; there is a period of silence, the people praying in their hearts; then one of the bishops, chosen for the purpose, lays his hands upon the new bishop's head, and utters the consecration prayer.

The laying on of hands was an ancient Hebrew ceremony in which grace or authority was handed on to a son or successor. The classical instance is the appointment of Joshua by Moses; and we find it in Acts and Pastorals on the one hand and rabbinic sources on the other.

Hippolytus derives the opening clauses of his consecratory prayer from the Pauline Epistles. He then traces the descent of the ministry from Abraham, through princes and priests, in a manner which recalls the Epistle of Clement, who was the exponent of the Roman liturgical |337 order nearly a century before. He refers to the Temple at Jerusalem, and prays for the same princely Spirit which Jesus Christ had given to the apostles, who had established churches in every place to be a sanctuary for the glory and praise of God's Name; that is to say the world-wide federation of worshipping churches which was the appointed substitute for the old Jerusalem. He prays that the Spirit of the high priesthood may be given to the bishop now being ordained, that he may propitiate the countenance of God, and offer the gifts of the holy church, and remit sins according to the commandment, and loosen every bond according to the authority given to the Apostles.

The author of the Didache also looked upon the Christian diaspora as the new form of the old Jerusalem dispensation; and his queer ministry of prophets, bishops and deacons, was regarded as the new form of the old priestly succession. Clement had compared the ministry of the apostles and bishops and deacons to the ministry of the sacred orders in Israel; but while the prayer of Hippolytus shows every sign of continuity with the thought of Clement, it also shows signs of development. In Hebrews and Clement, the high priest was Jesus Christ himself. In Clement the ministry of bishops was priestly in character, but it was closely related to the ministry of presbyters; in fact some scholars regard his bishops and presbyters as identical persons. In Hippolytus the distinction has been clarified along the lines of the oriental episcopal system, for which our earliest authority is Ignatius; the bishop has the priesthood and is assisted in his liturgical work by deacons; the presbyters form a sacred council of government like the Jewish sanhedrin.

The origin of the Jewish sanhedrin was traced back to the presby-terate which was instituted by Moses at the foot of Mount Sinai; and the prayer of Hippolytus for the ordination of a presbyter begins with this holy precedent. This clear distinction between the presbyters and their bishop is in line with the usage of the words in the oldest Christian documents, since they have different connotations, or refer to different functions, even if they are applied to the same person; but the sole liturgical position of the bishop in Hippolytus, and the powers which are bestowed upon him, seem to have been accentuated, and the non-liturgical position of the presbyters rather unduly insisted upon. He insists that, so far as the Spirit was concerned, the presbyters received but did not confer; but it is clear from his own text that they did have |338 some share in the ministration of the Spirit, however subordinate it might be.

It might almost seem that they may have been, in some degree, the legatees of the old plural episcopate of apostolic times, which we noticed, so far as our surviving documents inform us, does not seem to have had the power to ordain, which is presumably what Hippolytus means. It is a sign, however, of their solidarity with the bishop, and his with them, that they join with him in the laying on of hands in the eucharistic offering and in the ordination of a new presbyter; but not of a new deacon, since deacons were the bishop's officers. The bishops and deacons were thus quite independent of the council of presbyters from the point of view of order.

It might be argued that Hippolytus is resisting the idea that the presbyters should have some large or predominant share in the choice and appointment of the new bishop, as the legend asserts they did in Alexandria. He insists on popular choice and episcopal consecration, the presbyters standing by; whereas Clement had insisted on appointment by eminent men and popular acclamation. But is it likely that presbyteral nomination was entirely lacking in Rome in the time of Hippolytus? or popular acclamation in Alexandria? We cannot assume that a clear-cut constitutional procedure was laid down in either place which had to be followed au pied de la lettre. Nor need we assume that the old bishop had always been removed by death; he may have had a voice in the choice of his successor, as was regarded as normal in the story of Addai and actually occurred in the case of Narcissus. Hippolytus does not seem to envisage this possibility at all.

So soon as the new bishop had been ordained, he received the kiss of peace from all present, and proceeded to offer the holy eucharist. The deacons brought up the oblations of the people, which included, or might include, oil and cheese and olives as well as bread and wine. He laid his hand on these oblations with the presbyters, who thus asserted their solidarity with him; and this laying of the hand upon the oblation seems to be illustrated in the catacomb pictures.

He then offers the bishop's prayer, a form for which is given, though Hippolytus points out that the bishop is not tied to any fixed form, but may pray according to his ability. The Didache allows the same liberty to the prophets. This consecration prayer contains a clause in which the bishop gives thanks for being made worthy, or deemed worthy, to |339 stand in God's presence and minister to him; which is specially suitable to the day of his consecration. The same form is to be used, with appropriate changes, for the oil. Lesser benedictions are supplied for the cheese and olives.


There are two other accounts of the eucharist, or two other types of eucharist, in Hippolytus, which must be taken into consideration. The first of these is the baptismal eucharist. After the candidate has been confirmed and anointed by the bishop, with the sign of the cross in all probability, and given the kiss, and welcomed with the salutation, 'The Lord be with you', he was admitted to the 'prayers of the brethren', which were followed by the kiss of peace from all; the men kissing the men and the women kissing the women, Hippolytus explains.

The oblation was then brought up by the deacons to the bishop. It consisted of the bread, with three cups, one of water, one of milk and honey, and one of wine and water. The bishop then uttered a prayer of thanksgiving, by which the bread became the pattern or 'antitype' of the flesh of Christ, and the cup of wine and water became the antitype or 'likeness' of the blood which was shed for all who would believe in him. The Latin translation, which we are following, explains that the words 'antitype' and 'likeness' were the actual words of the Greek text. They are frequently found in later eucharistic prayers, and seem to be introduced here as if they were parts of the bishop's prayer in the baptismal eucharist; but as no text is given we cannot be sure of this, and may suppose, if we wish, that the prayer assigned for the bishop's consecration was a sufficiently useful model for all occasions.

The direction for the benediction over the milk and honey has a reference to the fathers, that is to say the Israelites of the Exodus period, and their introduction into the Holy Land; a mystical connexion of thought which goes back into the New Testament period, and was well established before the Epistle of Barnabas; for baptism was closely associated with the Passover night. The benediction over the cup of water regards it as effecting a baptism of the inner man.

The bishop is then directed to explain all these things, after which he breaks the bread, and distributes the fragments saying, 'The bread of heaven in Christ Jesus.' The breaking of the bread is definitely a |340 preparatory act before communion, rather than a distinct ritual act. The words of administration are an echo of the story of the manna and its application to the eucharist, which we find in St John. The communicants say 'Amen' as they receive it.

The presbyters, with the help of the deacons if necessary, administered the cups. The one who administered the water said, ' In God the Father Almighty'; the one who administered the milk and honey said, 'And in the Lord Jesus Christ'; and the one who administered the wine and water said, ' And in the Holy Spirit and in the holy church ' ; thus echoing the trinitarian formula of the baptism. We are reminded of the five-point credal formula in the Epistle of the Apostles, which was connected with the five loaves which were broken and blessed by the Lord for the five thousand.

The communicant says 'Amen' to the words of administration, and tastes three times of each cup.


The third kind of eucharist mentioned by Hippolytus is the regular eucharist on the first day of the week, when the bishop communicated all the people from the broken bread with his own hand if this was possible, the cups being managed by the presbyters and deacons. This third type is omitted in the Latin translation, but has adequate support from the other authorities. There is no description of this Sunday service, which must have been a very protracted one.

We have here one of the points of resemblance between the literary arrangement adopted by the Didache, Justin and Hippolytus; first comes the baptism and baptismal eucharist; then the reference to Sunday and the Sunday eucharist. Hippolytus was not the first to write out an order of prayer and sacrament ; it was an established literary pattern; what appears to be original with him is that he composed it from the bishop's point of view; it was what liturgiologists call a pontifical.

The text of the bishop's eucharistic prayer in Hippolytus is free from the old Jewish associations with the fruits of the earth, which are strongly represented in the Didache and Justin and Irenaeus; but the ordination and baptismal eucharists both retain traces of them in the offerings of oil, cheese, olives, milk, and honey; and the offering of the |341 fruits of the earth continued in the Roman rite for a long time and has never become quite extinct. Hippolytus preserves some of these old Jewish rites as separate features, the offering of first-fruits for instance, and the benedictions over various gifts of nature. We also find the 'agape' or love-feast, in which some rich person gives a supper in the evening for less privileged brothers and sisters. There was prayer and the reading of scriptures; the bread was broken and blessed by the bishop, who was to be present if possible; otherwise by a presbyter or deacon. Each guest said the 'eucharist' or thanksgiving for himself over his own cup.

Catechumens might be present at the agape, but they received a bread of exorcism, not a bread of blessing, and the bread of blessing in the agape was distinguished in its turn from the bread of thanksgiving of the eucharist. According to the Books of Clement, the reason why the catechumens could not eat with the baptized Christians, was that the catechumens were subject to possession by evil spirits which took advantage of meals to enter into them. Some idea of this sort might explain why the catechumens had to eat 'exorcized bread'; indeed, the unbaptized adherents must have had to live their lives with the aid of continual exorcisms.

The bishop was also the normal officiant at the offering of the first-fruits, at which he uttered a benediction into which he inserted the name of the giver. The first-fruits were doubtless offerings made according to Jewish precedent and devoted to the maintenance of the church and clergy as in the Didache.

An important distinction now appears in the terminology. The noun eucharistia, which means thanksgiving or thank-offering, and the verb eucharistein, are beginning to be restricted to the sacramental action. In the New Testament this word is interchangeable with the noun eulogia and the verb eulogein, which simply means to bless. They are both used of the doxologies which were offered over the gifts of nature or on other appropriate occasions. In Hippolytus, however, the bread of the sacrament is referred to as eucharistia and the bread of the love-feast is only eulogia.

The distinction is not consistently observed, however. At the love-feast the private Christian or catechumen says his own eucharistia over the cup, following the old Jewish precedent; the blessing of the first-fruits is also called a eucharistia.


These trains of thought prefigure the way in which a eucharistic terminology will develop. The consecration of bread and wine, in accordance with the command of the Lord which was given within the Paschal commemoration, was continued in a liturgy of Jewish origin, which had been a sabbath liturgy in the case of the Jews, but had become a Lord's Day liturgy in the case of the Christians. If we set aside the important matter of lections from holy books, and psalms, and common prayers, the first movement in such a liturgy is bound to be the worship of Almighty God as the creator, and a thanksgiving for all the good things of this earth; 'over everything which we offer', as Aristides and Justin had said. The synagogue tradition provided appropriate prayers and benedictions.

In the Hebrew liturgy there was a second great reason for thanksgiving, and this was the historical one; the choice of the holy people by Almighty God through Abraham; their deliverance from Egypt; the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai; and their establishment in the Holy Land. Hippolytus does not give a form of prayer for the Sunday service, but these Hebrew ideas are fully represented in his prayers of ordination; and they explain how he can speak of the Israelites in the desert as 'our fathers' in his benediction over the milk and honey. He was but carrying on the rich and complex tradition of the apostles and of the elders who succeeded them. The catholic tradition knew no other mode of worship; but the Hebrew historical eucharistia was continued and completed by a thanksgiving for the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, his voluntary death and Passion, his resurrection on the third day, and the incorporation of the Gentile believers into a new holy people through faith in him. Here is the basis of the Christian liturgical tradition as we find it everywhere. It appears, for instance, in widely different forms, in Clement, in Barnabas, and in Theophilus; Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch.

No doubt there were long prayers of this type offered at the second-century eucharistia ; indeed Justin says that the bishop's prayer was one of no ordinary length; but there was another type. The Mishnah gives us many examples of quite short doxologies or benedictions for all sorts of occasions. The following grace before meals is an example. |343

Blessed art thou, O Lord, king of the world, who bringest forth bread from the earth.

We may compare it with various benedictions from apostolic and near-apostolic sources.

Our Father who art in heaven, blessed be thy Name. ... Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who ... . We thank thee, O God, through thy beloved Child, who ... . Glory be to thee ... .

Sometimes the reason for the doxology is lengthened or extended; sometimes it turns into a prayer; and sometimes it concludes with a second doxology; and this would appear to be the forerunner of the Christian 'collect'. An extended prayer of this sort is found as early as Acts iv. 24. This is the kind of thanksgiving-prayer which the Didache supplies for the baptismal eucharist, one over the cup, one over the broken bread, one for the unity of the church, and one after 'being filled', all rather in confusion. The prayer in the Martyrdom of Polycarp is an example with better connexion.

The bishop's prayer in Hippolytus is not as different as might be supposed. It begins as follows,

We give thanks to thee, O God, through thy beloved Child Jesus Christ who ... .

But what follows is the whole apostolic kerugma, arranged in a series of short clauses. The new bishop appears to be solemnly voicing his faith in the true apostolic gospel; each clause, however, might have formed the core of a short doxology of the Didache type:

  1. Whom thou didst send to us in the last times as saviour and redeemer and angel of thy will:
  2. Who is thy inseparable Word:
    Through whom thou madest all things and it was well-pleasing to thee:
  3. [Whom] thou didst send from heaven into the Virgin's womb ... [and so forth].

These clauses lead up to the narrative of the institution of the eucharist at the Last Supper. This recitation is perfectly natural, and we are accustomed to it; but it is not included in the prayers of the Didache, |344 and it is given apart from the description of the rite in Justin. It may be that the relation of the narrative of institution to the connected euchar-istic prayer was not an easy problem to solve. Traces of uncertainty are found even at a later date than this.

It is followed by an act of remembrance and offering:

  1. Remembering, therefore, his death and resurrection, we offer to thee bread and a cup (giving thanks unto thee because thou hast made us worthy to stand in thy presence and minister to thee),
  2. And we pray thee to send thy Holy Spirit into the oblation of the holy church,
  3. Gathering into one,
  4. Grant to all who partake of holy things [or, Grant to all the holy people who partake],
  5. For fulfilment of the Holy Spirit and for strengthening of faith in the truth ... [ending with a doxology].

It looks here as if fragments or phrases of the old liturgical tradition have been strung together in a logical order, but they produce a confused text, at least in the Latin translation on which we depend. Perhaps they are first lines, or key-words, of well-known devotions. The sequence of the main verbs suggests the practical logical Roman mind finding formulas to explain exactly what was being done or said, very different from the older Hebraeo-Christian idiom which gloried in the language of oriental ritual and apocalypse. The framework of thought seems to be, 'We remember ... we offer ... we give thanks ... we pray'. The clause in brackets in the first paragraph looks like a special thanksgiving on the occasion of the ordination. « But compare the liturgical formulas in Rev. i. 5-6 and v. 9-10. The following prayers, which do not flow on very grammatically, visualize and present before God the oblation of the whole church, not merely of the local ecclesia. The 'gathering into one' is an echo from the prayer for unity which is given at much the same position in the Didache ; it refers there to the unity of the whole catholic church. 'Holy Spirit: holy church' is a credal expression, the intention of which is to look beyond the local ecclesia to the far horizon.

Such would be our way of studying this important prayer. The ancient material in it is more important than the form which has been imposed upon it; but the form must be very much earlier than the time |345 of Hippolytus. No doubt Eleutherus prayed very much in these terms; or at any rate Victor. The outline of the prayer, it may be added, bears a curious resemblance to the outline of the baptismal creed. In both cases a christological kerugma has been given a place within a trinitarian formula. The christological part of the Roman creed has been found separate from the trinitarian framework; similarly the narrative of the Lord's Supper has been found distinct from the eucharistic prayer. In both cases the latter has been inserted into the former. The likeness to the structure of the baptismal creed is accentuated by the addition of Holy Spirit to holy church in the petition which follows the act of oblation. « And in the concluding doxology; and in the administration of the cups at the baptismal communion. It is a neat, logical, satisfactory arrangement of old material; the exuberance of the old Hebraeo-Christian benedictions has been curbed; theological continuity has been supplied.


The petition of the bishop's prayer in Hippolytus is to the effect that God will send down his Holy Spirit upon the oblation of the holy church. We may ask whether this descent is supposed to effect any change in the nature of the elements of bread and wine; for none is asked for in the prayer. The object of the petition is for 'fulfilment of the Holy Spirit and strengthening of the faith in truth'. Even if we interpret the prayer as asking for the descent of the Spirit upon the bread and wine there present, it is still true that there is no expressed idea that the invocation of the Spirit is intended to effect a change in their nature. If it was so, it would be a novel idea. According to Justin and Irenaeus the predecessors of Hippolytus, both of whom he venerated and followed, there was a change indeed; but it was not connected by those fathers with the descent of the Holy Spirit. The food is called eucharist, Justin says, and it is not received as ordinary bread or ordinary drink; for, just as Jesus Christ was made flesh by the Word of God, so this food which has been 'eucharisted' by 'a Word of prayer which is from him', is now the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh by a Word of God. The language is far indeed from being precise; but it establishes the fact that in the year 150 it was the common teaching that the elements were to be received as the flesh and blood of Christ, |346 after they had been blessed by the word of the prayer, or better, perhaps, the 'prayer of the word, that is from him'.

This phraseology recalls the passage in 1 Timothy which says that all food is to be taken with thanksgiving, or eucharistia, since it is made holy by a 'word' of God and intercession. In Justin, however, the phraseology has been coloured by his special theology of the Logos, and there appears to be a comparison between the consecration of the elements and the incarnation of the Logos. The words of Irenaeus are much less definite, but attempt to say the same thing: 'Bread from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer ordinary bread, but eucharist, being composed of two things, heavenly and earthly.' The author of the Didache probably had the same idea in mind when he called it 'spiritual food'; for the word spiritual means charged with Spirit or energized by Spirit. And so did Hippolytus when he spoke of the 'antitype' or 'likeness', words which imply more than similarity or imitation.

Much discussion has taken place about the meaning of the 'prayer of the word that is from him' in Justin, and the 'invocation of God' in Irenaeus, without arriving at any certainty. Some have suggested that it might be an invocation of the Logos, as in the later Egyptian rite; others have suggested an invocation of the Spirit, as in the later Syrian rite. Another possibility is the invocation of the name. In all the old Jewish doxologies the mind was directed upward to God, not downward to the food; the name of God was solemnly blessed, and so powerful was the invocation of the name, in faith, that the food itself was made holy; 'it is made holy by a word of God and prayer'. This upward motion of the mind is strongly emphasized in the eucharistic prayer of Hippolytus in its opening salutations and biddings.
See also Colossians iii. 2, which opens a eucharistic passage, cf. iii. 15—17.

The Lord be with you:
And with thy spirit.
Lift up your mind:
We have, unto the Lord.
Let us give thanks unto our Lord God:
It is worthy and righteous.

He proceeds along the lines of the old Jewish doxologies, 'We give thee thanks, O God, through thy beloved child Jesus Christ who ... '; he |347 adds many clauses and finally comes to rest on the same note:' That we may praise and glorify thee through thy beloved Child Jesus Christ, through whom, to thee, be glory and honour; to the Father and the Son with the Holy Spirit in thy holy church, now and unto the ages of ages. Amen.'

Need we look much closer or with much more precision for the word of prayer or the invocation of God?
The Muratorian Fragment. top


Text of the Muratorian Fragment

It will be convenient to give a translation, so far as possible, of the Muratorian Fragment, since this document, mangled as it is, sheds a good deal of light on the formation of the New Testament at this stage. The original Greek text is usually assigned to the episcopate of Eleutherus or Victor; some scholars assign its composition to Hippolytus. It is closely related to the controversies with which Irenaeus dealt in his Refutation.

Captions have been added to the text for convenience in reference.

The beginning is lost. It had said (presumably) that Matthew wrote in his own name; that Mark began his Gospel from the preaching of the Baptist, and that he obtained his information from Peter, at whose preachings (?) he was present and wrote accordingly. (It has been suggested that it alluded to 1 Peter at this point.)



[The text begins] ... at which [in the plural] he was present and so put [them]. The third book of the Gospel: according to Luke. Luke, that physician, after the ascension of Christ, when Paul took him with him as one eager for the Law 1 wrote in his own name 2 from his point of view; yet neither had he seen the Lord in the flesh; and he too, so far as he could follow [?] began to speak from the nativity of John.

Of the fourth of the Gospels: John, one of the disciples, when his fellow-disciples and bishops were urging him, said, Fast with me today three days, and whatever may be revealed to any one, let us tell it to one another. The same night it was revealed to Andrew, one of the apostles, that all should certify [or call to mind] and John should write everything down.


And so, even if different beginnings are taught 3 in the several books of the Gospels, it makes no difference to the faith of believers, since they are declared in all by the one princely Spirit: concerning the Passion, concerning the resurrection, concerning his intercourse with his disciples, and concerning his double advent, the first in the humility of rejection which is past, the second in the glory of royal power which is to be.


What wonder is it therefore if John brings forward so firmly, one by one, in his Epistles, saying in reference to himself: What we saw with our eyes, and heard with our ears, and our hands have handled, these things we have written for you? and thus claims that he is not only one who saw and heard, but also the writer of the marvellous acts of the Lord, in order.


Now the Acts of all the Apostles were written by Luke in one volume to the most excellent Theophilus. It contains the different events which occurred in his presence, as he makes perfectly clear by omitting the passion of Peter, and also the journey of Paul, when he set out from the city for Spain.


Now the Epistles of Paul themselves make plain to those who desire to understand it, from what place or for what reason they were sent: first of all to the Corinthians condemning the schism of heresy; then secondly to the Galatians on circumcision; to the Romans however on the order of the Scriptures, but intimating that their origin was Christ, he wrote at length on points which it was necessary to discuss with us one by one.


Since the blessed apostle Paul himself, following the order of his predecessor John, writes only to seven churches by name, in the following order: first to the Corinthians, second to the Ephesians, third to the Philippians, fourth to the Colossians, fifth to the Galatians, sixth to the Thessalonians, seventh to the Romans; and even if he does write a second time, by way of rebuke, to the Corinthians and the Thessalonians, it is still made known that there is one church dispersed throughout the whole round world; and John too, though he writes in the apocalypse to seven churches, nevertheless speaks to all.


And there is one to Philemon, and one to Titus, and two to Timothy, on account of affection and love; they are sanctified however in the esteem of the universal [catholic] church, in the regulation of the ecclesiastical discipline.


Now there is one current to the Laodiceans, and another to the Alexandrians, which have been forged in the name of Paul for Marcion's heresy; and many others which cannot be received in the universal [catholic] church; for gall with honey may not be mingled.


The Epistle of Jude indeed and two of the above-written John are received in the universal [catholic]. ...

[The text has been broken after 'Other Epistles' since something appears to have dropped out; but there is no break in the manuscript.]


And the Wisdom written by the friends of Solomon in his honour. ...


The apocalypses of John and Peter we also receive, and no others, which latter some of ours do not wish to be read in church.

But the Shepherd was quite recently 5 composed by Hermas in our own times when Bishop Pius his brother was sitting in the chair of the church of the city of Rome, and so it certainly ought to be read, but not publicly in church to the people, neither among the prophets, since their number is complete, nor among the apostles at the end of the seasons.


Now of Valentinus of Arsinoe [?]6 or of Metiades, we receive nothing whatever. Those also who composed a new book of psalms for Marcion, together with Basilides: Assianus founder of the Catafrygians. ...


(1) 'Eager for the Law': according to Irenaeus Luke emphasizes the priestly and sacrificial aspect.
(2) 'His own name' proves that the gospel circulated as his, though his name is not mentioned in it: the text may mean that he wrote under his own name but represented Paul's point of view.
(3) Irenaeus mentions this argument about the beginnings of the Gospels.
(4) The text has been broken after 'Other Epistles' since something appears to have dropped out; but there is no break in the manuscript.
(5) 'Quite recently': perhaps in answer to the theory, known to Origen, that he was the Hermas of Romans xvi. 14.
(6) 'Arsinoi seu Valentini' looks as if Arsinous was a name given to Valentinus; there was a place called Arsinoe in Egypt. Metiades and Assianus are unknown names; the translator or copyist has hopelessly confused them.

|350 The Pauline Epistles. Either the carelessness of the copyist has robbed us of the conclusion of the first attempt to list the Epistles of Paul; or perhaps there was an old roll or codex containing three Epistles with titles: Concerning the Schism of Heresy, Concerning Circumcision, and Concerning the Order of the Scriptures. If so, there was a second roll containing the seven (nine) Epistles to churches, and a third containing the personal Epistles.

There are traces of an enumeration in the first list: 'primum' is placed before Corinthians, 'deincepsb' before Galatians, but no numeral before Romans. The capital B at the end of DEINCEPSB may represent the Greek beta which was also the numeral 2, as Westcott pointed out. If this is correct, we have traces of a system of enumeration here which has partially disappeared.

The Non-Pauline Epistles. Section 9, 'Other Epistles', is linked with 6, 7, and 8. Sections 7, 8, and 9, all close on a reference to the universal or catholic church. Such repetitions are frequent causes of blunders by copyists. In Section 9, 'Other Epistles', the word church is missing, and this meagre list of non-Pauline epistles is thus brought into immediate contact with the Wisdom of Solomon in Section 10 which also seems to have lost some words.

The text is in a terrible state as may be seen from such forms as DEINCEPSBCALLATIS (then secondly Galatians) or TENSAOLENECINSIS (Thessalonians); and Sections 9 and 10 seem to have suffered from omissions.

Symbolic Numbers. The use of symbolic numbers is reminiscent of Irenaeus. The author of the catalogue may have begun by explaining why there were four Gospels with different beginnings. He considers seven to be the right number of Epistles, signifying that they were addressed to the whole church; the collection of Ignatius contained six, with an extra one for Poly carp; the collection of Dionysius contained seven, with an extra one for Chrysophora. In consequence we would expect to find seven non-Pauline epistles; and eventually the number of catholic epistles was seven. The number of the prophets was well known to be twelve; twelve prophets and twelve disciples are mentioned in the Anti-marcionite gospel prologue.

General. When it speaks of the scriptures it means the Old Testament. The 'order' of the Old Testament may mean its authority in the church.

Does the 'end of the seasons' mean the end of the calendar year?
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