Printer Friendly

Post-baptismal chrismation in Syria: the evidence of Ignatius, the 'Didache' and the 'Apostolic Constitutions.'

The demonstration by R. H. Connolly early this century of the absence of post-baptismal rites in Syria until the late fourth or, even early fifth century,(1) as Paul Bradshaw has recently noted,(2) caused great problems for the general consensus that there must have been some kind of post-baptismal rite of anointing or `confirmation' throughout the early Christian world from quite early on. Two main forms of explanation were advanced to get round this awkward fact: either to claim that in Syria there had been a form of post-baptismal anointing but that for various reasons it had died out,(3) or to accept that there had only been pre-baptismal anointing, but interpret it as really equivalent to the Western post-baptismal rite.(4) Only G. W. H. Lampe was bold enough to argue against any form of post-baptismal rite in the earliest period, seeing it as most likely introduced by Gnostics.(5) Certainly by 1972 Sebastian Brock felt confident enough to assert: `It is well known that in the early Antiochene rite there was no post-baptismal anointing, only a pre-baptismal one'.(6)

In a series of influential contributions Gabriele Winkler pioneered new ways of looking at the evidence by arguing that the Syrian rite had originally emphasized the pre-baptismal anointing of the head only as the crucial part of the rite, which was an imitation of the kingly/sacerdotal anointing of Jesus at his baptism, marking the gift of the Spirit and inaugurating his Messianic kingship.(7) Winkler's thesis was that this earlier practice was replaced by whole body anointing, emphasizing healing, and that the gift of the Spirit was transferred to baptism or to the new post-baptismal anointing introduced from Jerusalem, with the pre-baptismal rite being reinterpreted as cathartic.(8) This led to the reinterpretation in terms of death and resurrection (cf. Romans 6) of what had been a rite of rebirth (cf. John 3). But, as Bradshaw suggests, this was still flawed by the presupposition that there had been a single monolinear regional development; the idea of an original diversity which later became uniform was not seriously considered.(9)

Bradshaw's illuminating treatment of early Christian initiation, supporting a variety of forms, frees us from the constraints of the past to reconsider the Syrian evidence, In this article I wish to do that to see whether, despite the denials of e.g. Brock,(10) there might not be indications of a post-baptismal anointing with ointment ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), marking the gift of the Spirit, in some groups in Syria in the second century, which did not spread or was replaced by pre-baptismal anointing with oil, but was then rediscovered there in the late fourth century, rather than being introduced as a novelty from elsewhere. The evidence in question concerns Ignatius, the Didache (in particular the so-called `ointment prayer' preserved in a Coptic fragment(11)), and the Apostolic Constitutions.(12) The last is generally agreed to be the work of a conservative compiler located probably in Antioch in the period from around 375 to 380, who was also in all likelihood the author of the Pseudo-Ignatian letters.(13) In an attempt to enlist ancient apostolic authority, he took the Didache as one of his main sources for the liturgical portions of book 7, and it is here, in section 27, following the post-eucharistic prayers of Didache 10 and a transfer of the rubric about prophetic freedom in celebration to presbyters, that we find a version of the to the ointment prayer evidently secondary Coptic:
Coptic                        Apostolic Constitutions

Concerning the matter of      Concerning the ointment
the perfume
(??), give thanks             ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
thus as you                   IN ASCII]) give thanks thus:
say: We give thanks to you,   We give thanks to you, O God,
                              creator ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
                              IN ASCII]) of the Universe,
concerning the perfume        for the perfume ([GREEK TEXT NOT
(??)                          REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) of the

                              myrrh ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN
                              ASCII]) and for the immortal ([GREEK
                              TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) aeon
                              ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN
which you made                which (s.) you made
known to us through Jesus     known to us through Jesus your son
your son
(??). Yours is the glory      ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE
for ever. Amen.               IN ASCII]), because yours is the
                              glory and the power for ever. Amen.

Apart from the mention of `the matter' in the Coptic, which seems secondary, the version in the Apostolic Constitutions evidently betrays a later hand. But what is most interesting is that the compiler seems to have added the reference to `the immortal aeon' in a conscious allusion to Ignatius, Ephesians 17.1: `For to this end did the Lord receive ointment ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) on his head (cf. Matt. 26:7) to breathe immortality ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) on the Church. Do not be anointed ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) with the evil odour ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) of the ruler of this world ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) The slight difference in terminology is surely outweighed by the reference to [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in both, by the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] wordplay and by the likelihood that the compiler was very familiar indeed with Ignatius' writings, as author of the Pseudo-Ignatian epistles. Clearly the compiler of the Constitutions understood the Didache prayer and Ignatius to be alluding to a post-baptismal chrismation with perfumed ointment ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), thus giving `apostolic' support for his commending of a practice which the range and ambiguity of his varying explanations might suggest was a recent innovation, 14 but one which, as we shall see, he seems to consider vital.

Thus in 7.22.2 the order and explanation is; anointing with oil as participation in the Spirit, water baptism symbolising death, then anointing with ointment ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) explained as a seal of the covenants.(15) Then there is the passage in 3.16, evidently based on the Didascalia Apostolorum,(16) which has diaconal anointing followed by episcopal anointing: in the episcopal laying on of hands the Bishop is to anoint the head only, after the OT priestly/kingly pattern, to make the initiates Christians.(17) The Bishop is to anoint after that type the heads of the candidates with the holy oil as a type of spiritual baptism. This clearly refers to pre-baptismal anointing with oil by the Bishop and represents the traditional double unction of Syrian baptism. The last phrase is an addition by the compiler and seems to imply the gift of the Spirit, as in 7.22.2. What is striking over against the Winkler thesis is that the diaconal anointing still appears more a matter of cleansing from sin than of exorcism, and it is still by the episcopal pre-baptismal anointing with oil, and not by post-baptismal chrismation with [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], that the Spirit is given.(18) Baptism follows and finally episcopal chrismation with [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. The order in the following section, 3.17, baptism into the death of Jesus, with water symbolising his burial, oil instead of Holy Spirit, the seal instead of the cross and the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] explained this time as the confirmation of confession,(19) is probably determined by the theme of Christ's death and should not be considered to contradict the pattern elsewhere.(20) What the seal refers to, whether to the pre-baptismal oil or the post-baptismal [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] anointing, is not clear.

Finally there is the passage in 2.32.3 where the believer is reminded of the way he/she was given the Spirit in the laying on of hands by the bishop, who also sealed them with `the oil of gladness' (Ps. 44:8 LXX) and the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of conscience, making them `sons of light'. Here the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is given a third explanation and the seal apparently allocated to both the anointings, pre- and post-baptismal.(21) But despite the variety of interpretations indicating the difficulty of fitting in what seems an innovation, what is striking is the evident importance of this post-baptismal episcopal chrismation, as indicated by 7.44.3, which seems to imply that without it the baptism is not genuine but no better than a Jewish rite cleansing the body only.(22)

Thus the general impression given by the treatment of the topic of baptism and anointing in Apostolic Constitutions is of the attempt, not entirely successful, to combine an existing understanding and practice of pre-baptismal anointing with oil with laying on of hands by the Bishop, which saw it as conferring the Spirit, and post-baptismal chrismation with [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] by the Bishop, as the crucial event symbolising the spiritual purification and rebirth of the candidates. As regards Winkler's thesis, there is no real sign of an exorcistic interpretation of the diaconal pre-baptismal anointing, and the implied theology cannot be classified as obviously Johannine or Pauline, or simply moving from the first to the second. Thus although there is evidence of a Pauline understanding of baptism,(23) it does not seem to have affected the earlier Syrian interpretation of the Spirit as given through the episcopal pre-baptismal anointing with oil. On the other hand we do find what Winkler would claim to be traditional Syrian themes: baptism as rebirth in imitation of Jesus in his baptism in Jordan with descent of the Spirit and heavenly voice (PS. 2:7), anointing by the Bishop in imitation of the priestly and kingly anointing of the OT.(24)

Now it must have been something special that made such a conservative compiler adopt the rite of post-baptismal chrismation with [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and its theology so willingly, despite the evident clash with an earlier pattern and different understanding. Thus the adoption does not affect the earlier understanding of the Spirit as given through the episcopal pre-baptismal anointing with oil, and was plainly not due to a reinterpretation in terms of the Pauline understanding of baptism in Romans 6. On the other hand, does the Ratcliff thesis of the influence of its introduction in Jerusalem by itself really provide a sufficient reason?(25) The compiler may have become aware of it as practised in Jerusalem, and thought it a good idea, but what made him adopt it for his community was more likely the discovery of what he took to be evidence of it as a practice of the apostles and their successors when scouring his own archives, i.e. in Ignatius and the Didache with the ointment prayer.(26) But if this is a plausible hypothesis in the case of the compiler of Apostolic Constitutions, is it conceivable that Ignatius and the churches of Antioch and Asia Minor could have practised a rite of post-baptismal chrismation so early, particularly when the evidence we have for Syria only seems to know a pre-baptismal anointing? And can the Didache's Coptic ointment prayer be genuine when the Bryennios version (Codex Hierosolymitanus) and the Georgian do not include it?

As regards the first objection, elsewhere I have developed Lampe's argument that it was Gnostic Christians who introduced or exploited post-baptismal chrismation with [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as a `seal' and sign of the descent of the Holy Spirit, but I would derive it not from Valentinians but from their spiritual ancestors, Christian Gnostics in Antioch contemporary with Ignatius.(27) It is these whom he combats in his letters, not only Smyrneans and Trallians, but more importantly, Ephesians, where the opponents had clearly been at work.(28) These Gnostics, the `Barbelo' Gnostics of Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 1.29 and the Apocryphon of John and other related works from Nag Hammadi, developed a myth of the birth, chrismation, and elevation of the heavenly Son as Christ, which acted as the paradigm for the experience of the Gnostic, based on, and developing out of, the `mainstream' local initiation rite of baptism and chrismation.(29)

Now I would submit that the complicated argumentation of Ignatius in Ephesians is directed precisely against people like these Gnostics with their understanding of initiation, their neglect of the eucharist, their ethical and spiritual elitism and their docetic Christology. Thus Ignatius is led to stress Christ's genuine human experiences as the basis for the Christian sacraments, and therefore deals first (if obliquely) with chrismation as the gift of the Spirit (17.1: Christ receiving [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] on his head (cf. Matt. 26:7) to breathe immortality on the Church), then with Christ's baptism to `purify the water' (18.2), and finally with the Eucharist, the `drug of immortality' (20.2). Against the objection that Ignatius' order might suggest that chrismation as marking the gift of the Spirit, if indeed it existed as a rite then, was prior to baptism, as in the later Syrian evidence, I would point to (a) the terminology ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] i.e. perfumed ointment, not the plain olive oil of the pre-baptismal rite) and the language used (the implications of immortality, the lack of any element of purification, evidently supplied by Christ's baptism) and (b) the fact that Christ's anointing came long after his baptism, as both being more suggestive of a post-baptismal event involving the Spirit.(30)

Second, as regards the existence of a rite of anointing in Antioch in the second century, there is the evidence of Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch around 180. In the face of pagan ridiculing of the name `Christian', Theophilus defends it by appealing to pagan analogies, the way things are anointed before use. So with Christians; the name comes from being anointed with the oil of God.(31) However, in the light of the thrust of the pagan analogy and the use of the term `oil' rather than [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] this somewhat indirect evidence would suggest pre- rather than post-baptismal anointing. But the passage does tend to confirm the existence of a rite of anointing in Antioch in this period, and more importantly, as I have argued elsewhere, it suggests that one becomes a Christian above all by chrismation, and may go a long way to explain the distinctive Syrian order of anointing with oil before baptism.(32)

Then there is the matter of the genuineness of the ointment prayer in the Coptic version of the Didache. One of the earliest commentators on the newly discovered fragment, Carl Schmidt, rejected the claim for its originality on the grounds that one can scarcely presuppose a [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] prayer in official use so early; 200 would be the earliest date for such a prayer.(33) Schmidt took it as baptismal rather than as a prayer over oil for anointing the sick, and interpreted it as a liturgical reworking in Greek on Egyptian soil as part of a church order there, which the author of Apostolic Constitutions later modified.(34) Bryennios' MS (H) was thus usually taken as the original and the onus laid on defenders of the originality of the prayer to show why it had been omitted. E. Peterson made a brave, if despairing, attempt to defend its originality by arguing that H was perhaps the work of Novatianists, the only group in the ancient Church which rejected post-baptismal anointing.(35) In an illuminating discussion he noted the link with Ignatius, Eph. 17.1, and the contrast in smells ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of 2 Cor. 2:15 v. [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), and argued for the appropriateness of the location of the ointment prayer after the post-eucharistic meal prayers in Didache 10; the two are combined by the concept of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].(36) Finally he concluded that the form of the Didache presupposed by the Coptic and Apostolic Constitutions represented a wish to understand the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of the postbaptismal anointing of the Western tradition (cf. Cyprian, Ep. 70.2 and Hippolytus, Ap. Trad. 21).(37)

J.-P. Audet, in his large scale edition,(38) while admitting that some readings in the Coptic version might be more original than H, going back to a Sahidic version perhaps from the third century,(39) insisted that the major problem was to explain the omission of the ointment prayer from H and the Georgian.(40) He rejected Peterson's Novatianist thesis, and pointed to the lack of any mention of unction in the baptismal section and to the mechanical and uninspired character of the prayer.(41) In his treatment of the baptismal tradition in the Didache,(42) A. Voobus, although in the end also rejecting arguments for genuineness, did advance the discussion. He accepted the suggestion of L.-Th. Lefort that ?? does not normally render [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII],(43) while offering no alternative. He then pointed to the problem of the range of uses of ointment in the early church, from pastoral care of the sick (where he too refers to prayers over oil for the sick in similar locations to those in the Didache, used by some to argue for genuineness(44)) to baptism. However, here and throughout he made valuable reference to Syrian and Syriac material, tracing back the use of ointment in baptism to Jewish-Christian currents attested in the Pseudo-Clementines, and noting Peterson's support for this interpretation,(45) , while rejecting any attempt to understand the prayers in 9 and 10 as table prayers or to appeal to Jewish communal meals and the aromatic incense burned in them.(46) He drew attention to the early link in Syrian texts between fragrance and the presence of the Holy Spirit.(47) He also echoed Peterson's point that [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] links the various prayers and deduced from this that practically speaking this rite of the Didache's was the oil of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] found in both Western and Eastern rites.(48)

As regards genuineness, Voobus rejects Peterson's case as based on too inordinate respect for Apostolic Constitutions. Comparative analysis of the two texts reveals the priority of the Coptic, although it betrays the presence of secondary elements.(49) In the end the crux for Voobus is the lack of a satisfactory explanation for the omission of the prayer. He dismisses Peterson's suggestion that it was suppressed as obsolete, without a mention of his Novatianist hypothesis, asking why drop the ointment prayer as problematic but keep the even more problematic eucharistic prayers, or why not revise rather than omit?(50) Further analysis reveals the hand of an improvising interpolator, e.g. the marked awkwardness of giving thanks for the aroma as vehicle of the spiritual as compared with the spiritual gifts behind the cup and bread of the eucharistic prayers. The redactor of Apostolic Constitutions has recast the prayer to bring it more into line.(51) If Schmidt is too dogmatic in rejecting a date before 200, Voobus does not offer one himself, merely suggesting stages of development and pointing to the two different sequences of baptism and gift of the Spirit which have affected the history and transmission of the Didache, that of Palestine, Africa, and Rome with the sequence baptism--gift of the Spirit, and that of Jewish Christianity, Syria, and Mesopotamia with the reverse. The double anointing of Apostolic Constitutions probably represents the fusion of these two parallel trends.(52)

In their edition, W. Rordorf and A. Tuilier also rejected Peterson's attempt to reconstruct the original by way of the Apostolic Constitutions text. The latter adaptation, they argued, only proved that the rite of post-baptismal chrismation was later, since it evoked chrism at precisely the point of baptism and made its usage precise with regard to it. And since this baptismal usage was lacking in the Didache precisely because of the antiquity of the work, the prayer necessarily appeared to be a textual interpolation.(53)

However an entirely different approach to the problems posed by the Coptic ointment prayer was taken by S. Gero.(54) He began by denying that the term ?? was a translation of the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of Apostolic Constitutions.(55) Thus the prayer was not baptismal but a precise liturgical directive imitating the statements over cup and bread.(56) His alternative was to interpret ?? as rendering incense and hence the prayer as a prayer over incense burned at the solemn communal meal, his interpretation of Didache 9 and 10.(57) The Egyptian redactor of Apostolic Constitutions 7, because of an antipathy to censing and a familiarity with post-baptismal [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] prayers, reinterpreted the original [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] or [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] or [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of the Didache's archaic incense prayer as a reference to the postbaptismal chrismation rite.(58) And Gero claimed to find evidence to support this hypothesis of the Didache's prayer reflecting a Jewish-Christian meal practice.(59) It was probably removed in H and the Georgian version because of a similar misunderstanding of an archaic custom to that of the redactor of Apostolic Constitutions.(60)

In his recent discussion of the genuineness problem, the latest editor of the Didache, K. Niederwimmer, argues that Gero's claims about the Didache 9 and 10 involving a Jewish-christian communal meal and the prayer as a blessing of the incense are mere fantasy.(61) Although Niederwimmer accepts the strength of Gero's (and Lefort's) point about the translation of ??, the idea of a `benedictio incensi' is far-fetched, and Gero's explanation of why it was omitted is questionable. Correspondingly, Niederwimmer is not convinced by Gero's arguments for genuineness, nor by the earlier attempts of Peterson, and cautiously opts to abide by the assumption of its inauthenticity, till better proofs emerge.(62) But he does undermine the Lefort/Gero argument by pointing out that ?? can translate [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] while dating the supposed interpolation to the third century.(63) And in his commentary he adds the argument that while the prayers in Didache 9 and 10 express thanks for spiritual food and drink as symbolized by the gifts, the ointment prayer merely gives thanks for the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] itself.(64) Now in his review of Niederwimmer's commentary, S. G. Hall takes issue with him on this last point, arguing from Gero's philologically correct observation about ?? as rendering [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] that the fragrance, not the oil or myrrh, symbolizes the spiritual gift in this case. Thus the prayers are equivalent.(65) However Hall's acceptance of the genuineness of the prayer is only implicit and he admits that what perfume is intended remains questionable.(66)

In their detailed article on the Coptic text F. S. Jones and P. A. Mirecki content themselves by saying that there are good arguments for genuineness, without unfortunately citing any.(67) However their painstaking analysis of the manuscript is valuable. They claim that the manuscript is not, as previously suggested, the end of a papyrus roll,(68) but a double leaf papyrus meant for a codex, but used as a scribal exercise.(69) This would certainly explain awkward features of the text, such as that it starts at 10.3 in the middle of a prayer and ends rather abruptly at 12.2, again in the middle of a section. Attempts to explain this as the result of deliberate choice, or as comprising a complete text, seem very awkward and unpersuasive. Conversely, Jones and Mirecki's interpretation opens up an intriguing perspective. That an ancient liturgical text like the Didache, interpolated or not, could be used for scribal exercises, suggests that it was not in actual use, although we have late second century evidence for knowledge of it in Egypt,(70) and it must have been considered important enough for translation into Coptic.(71)

Now we have seen how, among those who deny the genuineness of the ointment prayer, several have yet been willing to date its composition as early as the third century, without specifying where, while at least one would trace it to Egypt at a later date as part of an Egyptian church order.(72) Even Gero, whose arguments for its genuineness have been ridiculed rather than answered, posits an Egyptian redactor of Apostolic Constitutions 7 familiar with post-baptismal [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] prayers and adapting the original incense prayer to suit such. That is, all these assume that there was as early as zoo, or later in Egypt, a rite of post-baptismal chrismation with [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] which the ointment prayer was devised to reflect. But the scholarly consensus, as echoed for example by Voobus would suggest that there is little evidence of postbaptismal chrismation with ointment in the East (apart from Jerusalem) until the late fourth or beginning of the fifth century, and further that the earlier tendency in Syria and Egypt was to promote pre-baptismal anointing with oil.(73) Why should an interpolator invent a post-baptismal ointment prayer when the general practice was for pre-baptismal anointing with oil? Appeal to an emerging rite of post-baptismal chrism in Egypt in the early fourth century as attested in the Canons of Hippolytus(74) is not particularly relevant since in them it is presbyteral, not episcopal, and involves oil, not [GREEK TEXT DATA NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and since the work seems to be derived from the so-called Apostolic Tradition, itself a community product reflecting a Western combination of pre-baptismal exorcistic anointing and post-baptismal chrismation with oil.(75) More relevant is the prayer over the chrism of Sarapion's Sacramentary,(76) which is postbaptismal (and presumably episcopal) and clearly distinguishes chrism from the oil of pre-baptismal anointing and of healing. But the term or concept of perfumed [GREEK TEXT DATA NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is not present and the dating of the work is debated.(77)

Indeed this may suggest the key to this whole conundrum. The main trouble seems to stem from a failure to distinguish carefully enough between oil and [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], between episcopal and non-episcopal anointing, between pre-baptismal [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], postbaptismal chrismation and anointing the sick, and to notice the difference between giving thanks and sanctifying. This failure goes back a long way and is classically summed up in Voobus' discussion. And this is further compounded by the desire, pinpointed by Bradshaw, to establish a uniform pattern of liturgical development and interpret Eastern rites in terms of Western ones. Even Winkler suffers from this desire for uniformity, as already noted, and despite her justifiable concern with linguistic precision in baptismal terminology, she too has failed to distinguish carefully enough between oil and [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].(78) The same weakness bedevils those commentators who would interpret the ointment prayer in the Didache as referring to the sanctified oil used to anoint the sick, as in the Apostolic Tradition and Sarapion's Sacramentary.(79) But this is very different from the perfumed ointment ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) of Ignatius, the Didache, and Apostolic Constitutions, which was used for postbaptismal chrismation and for which in the earliest strata the Bishop gives thanks rather than blessing or sanctifying.(80) The difference is revealed precisely in Apostolic Constitutions, in which the compiler clearly presents the Bishop as invoking God to sanctify the pre-baptismal oil and baptismal water, but merely requesting that he activate the post-baptismal [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], for which, of course, he has given thanks in the ointment prayer attached to the post-eucharistic prayers.(81)

Certainly the Fathers were well aware of the basic difference between oil and [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], even if the two could be mixed. Thus Clement of Alexandria, in a discussion of the use of crowns and ointments, gives a symbolic interpretation of Christ's anointing in the gospels (predominantly John 12:3) whereby the apostles, as Jesus' `feet', are the prophecy of the perfume ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) of the chrism ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), sharing in Holy Spirit, while Judas represents the ointment ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), which is adulterated oil (i.e. oil mixed with perfumed spices).(82) The Valentinian Gnostics too, whom I have argued elsewhere derived their rite of baptism followed by anointing with balsam from the `Barbelo' Gnostics, clearly distinguish oil from [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] or balsam.(83) And we too need to be more sensitive to the subtle differences in terminology involved. Even if Chrysostom talks in his earlier set of baptismal lectures of the pre-baptismal anointing ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) of the forehead by the priest (i.e. the Bishop) as involving a mixture of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII],(84) and in his later set refers to `spiritual [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII],(85) he still de facto distinguishes them. Indeed his need to distinguish them may well represent his attempt to interpret the introduction of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] into his community's baptismal rite following its appearance in Jerusalem and in a rival community in Antioch.(86)


Thus in the face of repeated claims that there was no rite of post-baptismal anointing in Syria before the late fourth century or that it was introduced there from Jerusalem, I would submit that there is indeed evidence of just such a rite of post-baptismal chrismation with [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in some Syrian groups, including Ignatius and his community in Antioch (perhaps even including Gnostics), and the community responsible for the Didache with its ointment prayer, arguments for whose genuineness I would contend are still more plausible than those against. The conservative compiler of Apostolic Constitutions found remains of such evidence and considered it genuine, for why else introduce it at such cost to his own understanding and practice? Why forge such a clumsy and primitive sounding prayer as the ointment prayer of the Didache when the prevailing custom was so different? Certainly the prayer is remarkably similar to the earlier eucharistic prayers, but that and its clumsiness, as noted by e.g. Voobus, may actually be a sign of genuineness; the eucharistic prayers are more sophisticated because they are based on Jewish paradigms, whereas there are no such models for a chrismation prayer. Again, one could explain the absence of reference to unction in the baptismal section or elsewhere in the Didache in various ways: as modelled on the descent of the Spirit in Jesus' baptism or the woman's anointing in Matt. 26:7 it needed no detailed prescription; or it may have been separate from baptism, performed when the baptised joined the community for the Eucharist with the ointment for which thanks giving had been made in a previous Eucharist.(87)

Finally, one could offer various reasons why the prayer was omitted in the Didache and why the rite fell into disuse in Antioch and Syria. First, keeping in mind Bradshaw's point about the likely variety of practice in the area, perhaps only a few communities practised the post-baptismal rite with [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], such as the communities of Ignatius and the Didache as well as the Gnostics. The fact that the last practised it might have persuaded other more mainstream Christians to avoid it. The Gnostics took it West and passed it on to the Valentinians, while in Syria, as Theophilus seems to attest, an alternative theology and practice developed which may have been equally ancient, and which placed equal stress on the anointing as that which made one a Christian and signified the gift of the Spirit. But as I have argued elsewhere, it seems to have appealed to a pre-incarnational (rather than a primordial or post-incarnational) spiritual chrismation of Christ as paradigm for Christian anointing performed with oil, which was naturally placed before rather than after baptism.(88) However some evidence of post-baptismal chrismation with [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] did survive; a version of the Didache with the prayer reached Egypt and was translated into Coptic,(89) and one must have survived in Antioch until rediscovered by the compiler of Apostolic Constitutions.

(1) The Liturgical Homilies of Narsai (Texts & Studies 8.1) (Cambridge, 1909), pp. xlii-xlix.

(2) The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship (London, 1992), p. 163.

(3) Cf. e.g. J. Ysebaert, Greek Baptismal Terminology (Graecitas Christianorum Primaeva 1) (Nijmegen, 1962) pp. 312, 360 f. See Bradshaw, Search, p. 164.

(4) See Bradshaw, Search pp. 164-67.

(5) The Seat of the Spirit (London, 1951, [1967.sup.2]), pp. 120 ff., 186-89.

(6) Studies in the Early History of the Syrian Orthodox Baptismal Liturgy', JTS, NS, 23 (1972) 16-64, quote from p. 24.

(7) See e.g. `The Original Meaning of the Prebaptismal Anointing and its Implications', Worship 52 (1978), 24-45. See further Bradshaw, Search, pp. 167-69.

(8) Bradshaw, Search ibid.

(9) Search 169 f.

(10) The Transition to a Post-Baptismal Anointing in the Antiochene Rite', in B. D. Spinks (ed.), The Sacrifice of Praise: Studies on the themes of thanksgiving and redemption in the central prayers of the eucharistic and baptismal liturgies in honour of Arthur Hubert Couratin (Bibliotheca `Ephemerides Liturgicae' `Subsidia' 19) (Rome, 1981) pp. 215-25, esp. p. 215.

(11) British Library MS Or. 9271. For the text see C. Schmidt, `Das koptische Didache-Fragment des British Museum', ZNW, 24 (1925), 84; L.-Th. Lefort, Les peres apostoliques en copte (CSCO 135 Scriptores Coptici 17) (Louvain, 1952), p. 32, and for the most careful recent version, F. Stanley Jones and Paul A. Mirecki, `Considerations on the Coptic Papyrus of the Didache (British Library Oriental Manuscript 9271)' in C. N. Jefford (ed.), The Didache in Context (Supplements to Novum Testamentum 77) (Leiden, 1995) p. 52.

(12) M. Metzger, Les constitutions apostoliques (Sources chretiennes 320, 329, 336) (Paris, 1985-87). See also the edition by F. X. Funk, Didascalia et Constitutiones Apostolorum 1 (Paderborn, 1905).

(13) See Metzger, Constitutions 1, 54-61.

(14) Cf. Metzger, Constitution$ 2 94. Note that in 7.46.4 the compiler has Ignatius appointed by Paul as second Bishop of Antioch, a claim unattested elsewhere. Cf. the compiler's Pa. Ign. Ant. 1 (an allusion to the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of the apostles); 7.1 (an allusion to Peter and Paul). Brock, `Studies' 24, `Transition' 2 15, insists on dating Apostolic Constitutions to the end of the fourth century and on ignoring its evidence, thus claiming Theodore of Mopsuestia as the first to attest post-baptismal anointing with [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in the Antiochene area.

(15) This would appear to refer to God's Old Testament covenants made with kings and priests, summed up in Christ's anointing/baptism in which the initiates share.

(16) Cf. chapter 16 (Connolly).

(17) The compiler hastily adds that the candidates are not thereby made priests, but as from Christ are Christians, the `royal priesthood' of 1 Pet. 2:9. The text underlying this is surely Ps. 44:8 LXX.

(18) No cathartic element is apparent in 3-16.2, but one may be suggested in the prayer in 7.42.2-3. Perhaps the reference to the deaconess anointing ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) the candidates may imply whole body anointing, i.e. cleansing. Cf. Sarapion, Sacramentary 15: prayer for the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of the baptisands. Apostolic Constitutions thus belies Brock's claim, `Transition' 219, of a strong tendency in all writers of the late fourth and early fifth century to transfer these positive gifts (sonship, priesthood, gift of Spirit) to the water baptism.

(19) Cf. 7.44.2.

(20) Again, against Winkler and Brock, the introduction or presence of the Romans 6 theme has not led to the gift of the Spirit being transferred to the post-baptismal chrismation.

(21) The compiler has again made characteristic additions to Didascalia, ch. 9: the references to the laying on of hands and the `oil of gladness and myron of conscience'.

(22) So F. X. Funk, Didascalia 145 1 n. 3, and E. Peterson, `Uber einige Probleme der Didache-Uberlieferung', Fruhkirche, Judentum und Gnosis (Rome/Freiburg i. B./Vienna, 1959), p. 163. But Metzger, Constitutions 294 n. 2, rejects this, following D. van den Eynde, `Bapteme et confirmation d'apres les Constitutions Apostoliques, VII, 44,3', Recherches de science religieuse 27 (1937), 196-212, who argues that what is being referred to as indispensable is the epiclesis/laying on of hands in each rite (oil unction, water baptism, myron chrism). But the text only mentions baptism (as he admits, claiming that it is the central rite), in the description of which the presence of episcopal epiclesis and laying on of hands is not at all obvious.

(23) Cf. 3.17; 7.22.2, 44.2 (note the allusions to 2 Cor. 2:14-15).

(24) Cf. 2.32.3 and 3.16.3-4.

(25) Cf. E. C. Ratcliff, `The Old Syrian baptismal tradition and its resettlement under the influence of Jerusalem in the fourth century' in A. H. Couratin and D. Tripp (eds.), Liturgical Studies (London, 1976), pp. 135-55. Brock, `Transition' 223, seems persuaded by it. The appeal of B. Botte to the Council of Laodicea's canons on post-baptismal anointing and reconciling heretics as the reason (`Postbaptismal Anointing in the Ancient Patriarchate of Antioch' in J. Vellian (ed.), The Syrian Churches Series 6: Studies on Syrian Baptismal Rites (Kottayam, 1973) 63-71), is weakened by the uncertainties in deter-mining the dating and the degree of influence of that Council.

(26) Ignatius' apostolic credentials, further buttressed by the compiler (7.46.4, cf. Ps. Ign. Ant. 7.1), would help convince him of the antiquity of the rite. And the lack of any context for the prayer in the Didache, a work of unquestioned apostolic authority for him (cf. Ps. Ign. Ant. 1), would also help account for the varied explanations he felt necessary for the rite.

(27) Gnostic Truth and Christian Heresy (Edinburgh, 1996) chs 1 and 2.

(28) Cf. 9.1.

(29) See my forthcoming article in Vigiliae Christianae, `The Mystery of the Five Seals: Gnostic Initiation Reconsidered'.

(30) There seem few signs of obvious influence from John 3 and its rebirth theme or the mimesis of Jesus' baptism as posited by Winkler of early Syrian baptismal theology. Conversely the influence of Matthew is clear.

(31) Ad Autol. 1.12. Cf. 1.1.

(32) `The Mystery of the Five Seals' (n. 29 above). Theophilus may well attest the process of transition from a post-baptismal chrismation with ointment, probably practised by Ignatius and based on Matt. 26:7, to a pre-baptismal anointing with oil appealing to a pre-incarnational chrismation of Christ, based on Ps. 44:8 LXX and Luke 4:18/Isa. 61:1-2.

(33) `Didache-Fragment' 94 f., rejecting Hennecke's argument (Neutestamentliche Apokryphen 2 (Tubingen, 1924), P. 560), that H had omitted it and the editor of Apostolic Constitutions had included it in altered form, and his appeal to the similar prayers over oil used to anoint the sick in Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition 5 and Sarap. Sacr. 17 (=5). K. Bihlmeyer, in his edition of Funk's Die apostolischen Vater 2nd ed. (Tubingen, 1956), p. xx, supported Hennecke's conjecture.

(34) 95-96.

(35) `Probleme', 156 ff., 162 ff.

(36) 157, 166 f.

(37) 167.

(38) La Didache: Instructions des Apotres (Etudes Bibliques) (Paris, 1958).

(39) 32.

(40) 68.

(41) 68-69.

(42) Liturgical Traditions in the Didache (Papers of the Estonian Theological Society in Exile 16) (Stockholm, 1968), chs 3 and 4.

(43) Peres apostoliques (CSCO 136), P. 26 n. 13.

(44) Hipp. Didascaliae apostolicae frag. 5; Sarap. Sacr. 17, citing Bihlmeyer. However, the latter is clearly a prayer over oil for the sick; the proper parallel is the prayer (16) over post-baptismal chrism as the seal of the Spirit.

(45) 44, referring to Pa. Clem. Rec. 3.67.4 which Voobus gives as 68!

(46) Ibid.

(47) 46-49.

(48) 49.

(49) 51-53.

(50) 53-55.

(51) 56 f.

(52) 60.

(53) La doctrine des douze apotres (Didache) (SC 248) (Paris, 1978), P. 47. Cf. Rordorf's earlier article, `Le Bapteme selon Is Didache' in Melanges liturgiques offerts au R. P. Dom Bernard Botte OSB (Louvain, 1972), pp. 507-508.

(54) `The So-Called Ointment Prayer in the Coptic Version of the Didache: A Re-evaluation', HTR 70 (1977), pp. 67-84.

(55) Here he was dependent on Lefort (see n. 43), who suggests it was probably not a matter of liturgical [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] which in the Coptic NT was translated by ??.

(56) `Ointment Prayer' 69.

(57) 70. He appears to be unaware of the critical comments of Voobus on such an approach.

(56) 81 f.

(59) 82 f.

(60) 84.

(61) `Textprobleme der Didache', Wiener Studien NF 16 (1982), p. 119 f.

(62) 120 f.

(63) 121 f. Cf. Die Didache (KAV 1) (Gottingen, 1993) 209: `an early interpolation around 200 or earlier'.

(64) 208.

(65) Review of Die Didache in JTS, NS, 45 (1) (1994) P. 309. Hall has not noted Voobus negative approach to such an interpretation.

(66) Ibid.

(67) `Considerations on the Coptic Papyrus of the Didache (British Library Oriental Manuscript 9271)' in C. N. Jefford (ed.), The Didache: Essays on its Text, History and Transmission (Supplements to Novum Testamentum 77) (Leiden, 1995), p. 85.

(68) So Lefort, Peres apostoliques (CSCO 135), P. xiv, followed by Audet, Didache 31

(69) 78 f.

(70) Cf. Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 1.20.10. From his treatment of # in Paed. 2.8.61 f., Clement does not seem to attest its use in Christian initiation in Alexandria at this time. Further, his appeal to John 12 would exclude the anointing of the head of Matt. 26:7 which Ignatius seems to imply. Does all this suggest his version of the Didache did not contain the ointment prayer?

(71) However, the unlikeliness of such a valuable commodity as papyrus being used for scribal exercises might cast doubt on the Jones-Mirecki hypothesis.

(72) Cf. Schmidt, `Fragment' 95 f.

(73) Cf. the evidence of Voobus above. For Syria, R. A. Myers, `The Structure of the Syrian Baptismal Rite' in P. Bradshaw (ed.), Essays in Early Eastern Initiation (Alcuin/GROW Liturgical Study 8) (Nottingham, 1988), pp. 40 f.; for Egypt, G. Kretschmar, `Beitrage zur Geschichte der Liturgie, insbesondere der Taufliturgie, in Agypten' in Jahrbuch fur Liturgik und Hymnologie, 8 (1963), 1-54, esp. pp. 43 ff., and Bradshaw, `Baptismal Practice in the Alexandrian Tradition, Eastern or Western?' in Essays, pp. 15 f.; Search, pp. 171 ff., 182 f.

(74) Cf. canon 19 (ed. H. Achelia TU 6.4 95, 98), where the Bishop prays over the `oil of unction', glossed as `oil of thanksgiving' which a presbyter takes (now called [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and uses to anoint the candidate after baptism, signing his forehead, mouth, and breast, then his whole body, with a trinitarian formula. Then the baptised enters the church, where the Bishop lays on his hand on him with prayer and signs his forehead with a kiss. This work seems to date from 336-340 and be based on the--probably Western and Roman--Apostolic Tradition (see Bradshaw, Search 89-93, 183).

(75) However the episcopal chrismation with the oil of thanksgiving of Ap. Trad. 21 may be a later addition since the Canons merely have the Bishop signing the forehead with a sign of love.

(76) 16.

(77) See Bradshaw, Search 117-18. Whatever the dating, although it uses # instead of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] the prayer clearly represents the chrismation as the gift of the Spirit and the confirming seal, and is very different from the corresponding one in Apostolic Constitution$ 7.44.2 (although the latter is prior to the rite--during the Eucharist?--and the former is one for use in the rite). This might make a date in the mid-fourth century suspect. Thus it seems more advanced in its theology than e.g. Cyril of Jerusalem, Myst. cat. 3.2 f. Cf. now M. E. Johnson, `Christian Initiation' in Liturgy in Early Christian Egypt (Alcuin/GROW joint Liturgical Studies 33) (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 14 f., suggesting the post-baptismal prayer as part of a later addition reflecting fourth century changes, like those in Syria, combining pre-and post-baptismal rites.

(78) Cf. `Original' pp. 26-29. Although she notes Apostolic Constitutions distinction between pre-baptismal oil and post-baptismal [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and Chrysostom's usage of both [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and holy oil for pre-baptismal anointing, she assumes [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] applies to oil, and only the name is changed.

(79) Ap. Trod. 5 and Sarap. Sacr. 17. Such commentators include Bihlmeyer, Apostolischen Vater xx, and Hennecke, Apokryphen 556 f., 560, 571. Funk, Didascalia 2 186 f., contributes to the confusion by translating the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of prayer 16 as oleum.

(80) Sarapion's chrism prayer (16) clearly involves ointment, not oil, but that it involves epiclesis, as with the preceding (pre-baptismal oil of exorcism) and following (oil for healing etc.) prayers, might suggest a later stage. See n. 77.

(81) Cf. 7.42-44.2 and 27.1-2.

(82) Paed. 2.8.61.

(83) Cf. Iren. Adv. haer. 1.21.3-5/Epiph. Haer. 34.20.7-8; 36.2.4-8; Logan, `The Mystery of the Five Seals'. Cf. the two legends in the fourteenth century Book of the Chrism in L. Villecourt, Le Museon 36 (1923); 41 (1928), 57-59, which Bradshaw argues (Essays 15 f.) must contain some historical kernel. In the first, because post-baptismal chrism had fallen out of use (!), Athanasius writes to Antioch (!) and Constantinople for prayers for the baptismal oils, while in the second Theophilus introduces post-baptismal anointing with [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] made from balsam from Jericho into Egypt.

(84) Baptismal Instructions II (= Papadopoulos-Kerameus 3).27 (Harkins, St John Chrysostom: Baptismal Instructions: ACW 31 (Westminster, Maryland/London, 1963), 16q). The anointing seems to be distinct from, but accompanied by, or done in the form of, sealing/signing with the cross. Here anointing the forehead with the mixture seems to occur on Good Friday and be followed immediately by whole body anointing, whereas the later Stavronikita series (= Bapt. cat. ed. A. Wenger SC 50 (Paris, 1957)) distinguishes the two anointings in time (cf. 2.22-4:146 f.) and puts them on the Saturday. The references to `the priest' both here and in the Stavronikita series imply that the bishop is the primary agent in all the rites of initiation, but the allusion in Bapt. cat. 2.24 (147) to the priest preparing the candidates to be anointed would suggest that presbyters (or deacons/ deaconesses, cf. Apostolic Constitutions 3-16.2) performed the whole body anointing.

(85) Bapt. cat. 2.22 (145). Cf. the synonymous `spiritual oil' of the later whole body anointing (2.24:147). 3.9 (156) refers to the `oil of gladness' of Ps. 44:8 LXX, implying the oil/[GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] mixture of 11.27.

(86) Thus in his earlier set of lectures (c. 388?) Chrysostom is prompted to explain the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as a mixture of oil and [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in terms of a combination of the predominant bridal imagery of the lecture with athletic imagery, perhaps reflecting the two aspects or phases (forehead, then body) of the episcopal anointing. In the later set (c. 390?), where he seems to distinguish the anointings by agent and time, he prefers the imagery of a soldier/combatant in the stadium with the mark or seal of allegiance on his forehead (episcopal anointing) and his entire body protected by oil (non-episcopal anointing). Although Cyril does distinguish the exorcistic olive oil of pre-baptismal anointing from the [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of post-baptismal chrism (Myst. cat. 2.2 f.; 3.1-7), there is a certain ambiguity in his language about oil, [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in 3.2 f. Why post-baptismal chrism with [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] was introduced at Jerusalem is unclear: for a possible alternative explanation to those of Ratcliff and Botte (n. 25) see my `Five Seals' article. See above for the problems caused to the editor of Apostolic Constitutions when (re)introducing it at Antioch.

(87) Cf. Canons of Hippol. 19.

(88) See n. 32.

(89) Cf. also the evidence, for what it is worth, of the Book of the Chrism. See n. 83.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Oxford University Press
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Logan, Alastair H.B.
Publication:The Journal of Theological Studies
Date:Apr 1, 1998
Previous Article:The Christology of Callistus.
Next Article:St Ephrem on the scent of salvation.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |