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Apostolic Church Order

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Estimated Range of Dating: 200-330 A.D.

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Information on the Apostolic Church Order

Quasten writes, "Addressed to 'the Sons and Daughters,' the small treatise claims to be written at the command of the Lord by the twelve apostles. The first half of it contains moral precepts (4-14), the second canonical legislation (15-29). The moral precepts are set forth by means of a description of two ways, that of good and that of evil. This first part is only an adaptation of the corresponding section of the Didache (1-4) to the more developed ecclesiastical situation of the fourth century. The second part issues regulations for the elections of a bishop, priests, readers, deacons and widows. One of the reasons why Egypt is supposed to be the country of provenance is the high authority in which the Apostolic Church Order was held there." (Patrology, vol. 2, p. 119)

B. Steimer writes, "The Canones Ecclesiastici Apostolorum has been transmitted both separately in Greek and as a section of canonical collections (Fragmentum Veronense; -> Alexandrian Synod; -> Octateuch of Clement) in their various recensions. They consist of two main parts: an introduction with a list of the apostles (chs. 1-3) is followed by a version of the doctrine of the Two Ways (chs. 4-14), which is in turn followed by canonical norms (chs. 15-20). The material of the Canones Ecclesiastici Apostolorum is divided into canons, under the apostles who appear as the speakers. The work must have been composed in Greek at the beginning of the 4th c. Since it is well attested in the various recensions of the Alexandrian Synod (the canonical collection of the Egyptian church), Egypt may be probably taken as the place of origin." (Dictionary of Early Christian Literature, pp. 43-44)

Paul Bradshaw, when reviewing Alistair Stewart-Sykes in The Apostolic Church Order: The Greek Text with Introduction, Translation and Annotation, writes, "He concludes that, as all of the source material used in this text is compatible with a second-century date and is regarded as of Asian or Syrian origin, the whole work could have reached its final form by the early third century, rather than a hundred years later, and is more likely to stem from the area between west Syria and Asia, as none of Harnack's reasons for an Egyptian provenance carries any weight. The precise dating of anonymous works such as this is a very hazardous enterprise, as it largely relies on limits being set by the date of the sources used (which are often themselves of uncertain origin) and by the existence of material of a similar kind in other texts, which is not necessarily a reliable guide because individual early Christian traditions did not always develop at the same speed and so apparently ‘primitive’ practices can sometimes be later than others which seem more advanced. The presence of the phrase ‘the offering of the body and blood’ as a designation for the eucharist in this case is not easy to reconcile with the early date proposed, but apart from that, Stewart-Sykes makes a good case for the date and provenance he claims for the work. It is to be hoped that this will encourage others to give it a more prominent place than heretofore in their attempts to reconstruct the early evolution of ecclesiastical structures and ministries." (Journal of Theological Studies, vol. 60, pp. 273-274)

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Kirby, Peter. "Apostolic Church Order." Early Christian Writings. <>.