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STUDIA PATRISTICA VOL. CVI
Papers presented at the Eighteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2019 Edited by MARKUS VINZENT Volume 3:
Deacons and Diakonia (Edited by ARNOLD SMEETS and BART J. KOET)
Bishops, Presbyters and Laypeople
PEETERS LEUVEN – PARIS – BRISTOL, CT
STUDIA PATRISTICA VOL. CVI
STUDIA PATRISTICA Editor: Markus VINZENT, King’s College London, UK and Max Weber Centre, University of Erfurt, Germany
Board of Directors (2019): Carol HARRISON, Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford, UK Mark EDWARDS, Professor of Early Christian Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford, UK Neil MCLYNN, University Lecturer in Later Roman History, Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford, UK Philip BOOTH, A.G. Leventis Associate Professor in Eastern Christianity, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford, UK Sophie LUNN-ROCKLIFFE, Lecturer in Patristics, Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, UK Morwenna LUDLOW, Professor, Theology and Religion, University of Exeter, UK Ioannis PAPADOGIANNAKIS, Senior Lecturer in Patristics, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London, UK Markus VINZENT, Professor of the History of Theology, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London, UK Josef LÖSSL, Professor of Historical Theology and Intellectual History, School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University, UK Lewis AYRES, Professor of Catholic and Historical Theology, Department of Theology and Religion, Durham University, UK John BEHR, Regius Chair in Humanity, The School of Divinity, History, Philosophy & Art History, University of Aberdeen, UK Anthony DUPONT, Research Professor in Christian Antiquity, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, KU Leuven, Belgium Patricia CINER (as president of AIEP), Professor, Universidad de San Juan-Universidad Católica de Cuyo, Argentina Clayton JEFFORD (as president of NAPS), Professor of Scripture, Seminary and School of Theology, Saint Meinrad, IN, USA
STUDIA PATRISTICA VOL. CVI
Papers presented at the Eighteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2019 Edited by MARKUS VINZENT Volume 3:
Deacons and Diakonia (Edited by ARNOLD SMEETS and BART J. KOET)
Bishops, Presbyters and Laypeople
PEETERS LEUVEN – PARIS – BRISTOL, CT
© Peeters Publishers — Louvain — Belgium 2021 All rights reserved, including the right to translate or to reproduce this book or parts thereof in any form. D/2021/0602/140 ISBN: 978-90-429-4746-7 eISBN: 978-90-429-4747-4 A catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. Printed in Belgium by Peeters, Leuven
Table of Contents
DEACONS AND DIAKONIA (edited by Arnold SMEETS and Bart J. KOET) Edwina MURPHY – Arnold SMEETS Deacons and Diakonia: New Perspectives on the Function and Impact of Deacons in the Early Church. An Introduction..............................
Bart J. KOET How Deacons can be a Prime Example of Failing Clerics, According to Jerome .............................................................................................
Edwina MURPHY The Duties of Deacons According to Cyprian of Carthage ...............
Pauliina PYLVÄNÄINEN ‘Because of Many Necessities we Need a Female Deacon’: The Function of Deaconesses in the Apostolic Constitutions ...........................
Arnold SMEETS A Burden of Obedience? The Diaconate of Gregory the Great as Preparation for the Papacy ..................................................................
BISHOPS, PRESBYTERS AND LAYPEOPLE Ewa DUSIK-KRUPA Pontifex maximus and his Role during the Constantinian Dynasty ...
Georgy E. ZAKHAROV Primauté dans l’Église ancienne (IIe-Ve siècles) : Typologie fonctionnelle .....................................................................................................
Paul F. BRADSHAW Presbyteroi in the First Two Christian Centuries ...............................
Florence BRET Une recusatio episcopatus ? Parallèles entre le refus de l’épiscopat et le refus du pouvoir ..........................................................................
Pascal Olivier ANGUE Les seniores laici, ‘une institution curieuse’ ......................................
Abbreviations AA.SS AAWG.PH AB AC ACL ACO ACW AHDLMA AJAH AJP AKK AKPAW ALMA ALW AnalBoll ANCL ANF ANRW AnSt AnThA APOT AR ARW ASS AThANT Aug AugSt AW AZ BA BAC BASOR BDAG BEHE BETL BGL BHG BHL
see ASS. Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen Philologisch-historische Klasse, Göttingen. Analecta Bollandiana, Brussels. Antike und Christentum, ed. F.J. Dölger, Münster. Antiquité classique, Louvain. Acta conciliorum oecumenicorum, ed. E. Schwartz, Berlin. Ancient Christian Writers, ed. J. Quasten and J.C. Plumpe, Westminster (Md.)/London. Archives d’histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyen âge, Paris. American Journal of Ancient History, Cambridge, Mass. American Journal of Philology, Baltimore. Archiv für katholisches Kirchenrecht, Mainz. Abhandlungen der königlichen Preußischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin. Archivum Latinitatis Medii Aevi (Bulletin du Cange), Paris/Brussels. Archiv für Liturgiewissenschaft, Regensburg. Analecta Bollandiana, Brussels. Ante-Nicene Christian Library, Edinburgh. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Buffalo/New York. Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, ed H. Temporini et al., Berlin. Anatolian Studies, London. Année théologique augustinienne, Paris. Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, ed. R.E. Charles, Oxford. Archivum Romanicum, Florence. Archiv für Religionswissenschaft, Berlin/Leipzig. Acta Sanctorum, ed. the Bollandists, Brussels. Abhandlungen zur Theologie des Alten und Neuen Testaments, Zürich. Augustinianum, Rome. Augustinian Studies, Villanova (USA). Athanasius Werke, ed. H.-G. Opitz et al., Berlin. Archäologische Zeitung, Berlin. Bibliothèque augustinienne, Paris. Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, Madrid. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, New Haven, Conn. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd edn F.W. Danker, Chicago. Bibliothèque de l’École des Hautes Études, Paris. Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium, Louvain. Benediktinisches Geistesleben, St. Ottilien. Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca, Brussels. Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Antiquae et Mediae Aetatis, Brussels.
VIII BHO BHTh BJ BJRULM BKV BKV2 BKV3 BLE BoJ BS BSL BWAT Byz BZ BZNW CAr CBQ CChr.CM CChr.SA CChr.SG CChr.SL CH CIL CP(h) CPG CPL CQ CR CSCO
CSEL CSHB CTh CUF CW DAC
Bibliotheca Hagiographica Orientalis, Brussels. Beiträge zur historischen Theologie, Tübingen. Bursians Jahresbericht über die Fortschritte der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, Leipzig. Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, Manchester. Bibliothek der Kirchenväter, ed. F.X. Reithmayr and V. Thalhofer, Kempten. Bibliothek der Kirchenväter, ed. O. Bardenhewer, Th. Schermann, and C. Weyman, Kempten/Munich. Bibliothek der Kirchenväter. Zweite Reihe, ed. O. Bardenhewer, J. Zellinger, and J. Martin, Munich. Bulletin de littérature ecclésiastique, Toulouse. Bonner Jahrbücher, Bonn. Bibliotheca sacra, London. Bolletino di studi latini, Naples. Beiträge zur Wissenschaft vom Alten Testament, Leipzig/Stuttgart. Byzantion, Leuven. Byzantinische Zeitschrift, Leipzig. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, Berlin. Cahiers Archéologique, Paris. Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Washington. Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Mediaevalis, Turnhout/Paris. Corpus Christianorum, Series Apocryphorum, Turnhout/Paris. Corpus Christianorum, Series Graeca, Turnhout/Paris. Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, Turnhout/Paris. Church History, Chicago. Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, Berlin. Classical Philology, Chicago. Clavis Patrum Graecorum, ed. M. Geerard, vols. I-VI, Turnhout. Clavis Patrum Latinorum (SE 3), ed. E. Dekkers and A. Gaar, Turnhout. Classical Quarterly, London/Oxford. The Classical Review, London/Oxford. Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, Louvain. Aeth = Scriptores Aethiopici Ar = Scriptores Arabici Arm = Scriptores Armeniaci Copt = Scriptores Coptici Iber = Scriptores Iberici Syr = Scriptores Syri Subs = Subsidia Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, Vienna. Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae, Bonn. Collectanea Theologica, Lvov. Collection des Universités de France publiée sous le patronage de l’Association Guillaume Budé, Paris. Catholic World, New York. Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, ed. J. Hastings, Edinburgh.
DACL DAL DB DBS DCB DHGE Did DOP DOS DR DS DSp DTC EA ECatt ECQ EE EECh EKK EH EO EtByz ETL EWNT ExpT FC FGH FKDG FRL FS FThSt FTS FZThPh GCS GDV GLNT GNO GRBS
see DAL Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. F. Cabrol, H. Leclercq, Paris. Dictionnaire de la Bible, Paris. Dictionnaire de la Bible, Supplément, Paris. Dictionary of Christian Biography, Literature, Sects, and Doctrines, ed. W. Smith and H. Wace, 4 vols, London. Dictionnaire d’histoire et de géographie ecclésiastique, ed. A. Baudrillart, Paris. Didaskalia, Lisbon. Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Cambridge, Mass., subsequently Washington, D.C. Dumbarton Oaks Studies, Cambridge, Mass., subsequently Washington, D.C. Downside Review, Stratton on the Fosse, Bath. H.J. Denzinger and A. Schönmetzer, ed., Enchiridion Symbolorum, Barcelona/Freiburg i.B./Rome. Dictionnaire de Spiritualité, ed. M. Viller, S.J., and others, Paris. Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. A. Vacant, E. Mangenot, and E. Amann, Paris. Études augustiniennes, Paris. Enciclopedia Cattolica, Rome. Eastern Churches Quarterly, Ramsgate. Estudios eclesiasticos, Madrid. Encyclopedia of the Early Church, ed. A. Di Berardino, Cambridge. Evangelisch-Katholischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, Neukirchen. Enchiridion Fontium Historiae Ecclesiasticae Antiquae, ed. Ueding-Kirch, 6th ed., Barcelona. Échos d’Orient, Paris. Études Byzantines, Paris. Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, Louvain. Exegetisches Wörterbuch zum NT, ed. H.R. Balz et al., Stuttgart. The Expository Times, Edinburgh. The Fathers of the Church, New York. Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, Berlin. Forschungen zur Kirchen- und Dogmengeschichte, Göttingen. Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments, Göttingen. Festschrift. Freiburger theologische Studien, Freiburg i.B. Frankfurter theologische Studien, Frankfurt a.M. Freiburger Zeitschrift für Theologie und Philosophie, Freiburg/Switzerland. Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller, Leipzig/Berlin. Geschichtsschreiber der deutschen Vorzeit, Stuttgart. Grande Lessico del Nuovo Testamento, Genoa. Gregorii Nysseni Opera, Leiden. Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies, Cambridge, Mass.
X GWV HbNT HDR HJG HKG HNT HO HSCP HTR HTS HZ ICC ILCV ILS J(b)AC JBL JdI JECS JEH JJS JLH JPTh JQR JRS JSJ JSOR JTS KAV KeTh KJ(b) LCL LNPF L(O)F LSJ LThK LXX MA MAMA Mansi MBTh
Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, Offenburg. Handbuch zum Neuen Testament. Tübingen. Harvard Dissertations in Religion, Missoula. Historisches Jahrbuch der Görresgesellschaft, successively Munich, Cologne and Munich/Freiburg i.B. Handbuch der Kirchengeschichte, Tübingen. Handbuch zum Neuen Testament, Tübingen. Handbuch der Orientalistik, Leiden. Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Cambridge, Mass. Harvard Theological Review, Cambridge, Mass. Harvard Theological Studies, Cambridge, Mass. Historische Zeitschrift, Munich/Berlin. The International Critical Commentary of the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, Edinburgh. Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres, ed. E. Diehl, Berlin. Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae, ed. H. Dessau, Berlin. Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum, Münster. Journal of Biblical Literature, Philadelphia, Pa., then various places. Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Berlin. Journal of Early Christian Studies, Baltimore. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, London. Journal of Jewish Studies, London. Jahrbuch für Liturgik und Hymnologie, Kassel. Jahrbücher für protestantische Theologie, Leipzig/Freiburg i.B. Jewish Quarterly Review, Philadelphia. Journal of Roman Studies, London. Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period, Leiden. Journal of the Society of Oriental Research, Chicago. Journal of Theological Studies, Oxford. Kommentar zu den apostolischen Vätern, Göttingen. Kerk en Theologie, ’s Gravenhage. Kirchliches Jahrbuch für die evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, Gütersloh. The Loeb Classical Library, London/Cambridge, Mass. A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ed. P. Schaff and H. Wace, Buffalo/New York. Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Oxford. H.G. Liddell and R. Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, new (9th) edn H.S. Jones, Oxford. Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, Freiburg i.B. Septuagint. Moyen-Âge, Brussels. Monumenta Asiae Minoris Antiqua, London. J.D. Mansi, Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, Florence, 1759-1798. Reprint and continuation: Paris/Leipzig, 1901-1927. Münsterische Beiträge zur Theologie, Münster.
MCom MGH ML MPG MSR MThZ Mus NA28 NGWG NH(M)S NIV NKJV NovTest NPNF NRSV NRTh NTA NT.S NTS NTTSD OBO OCA OCP OECS OLA OLP Or OrChr OrSyr PG PGL PL PLRE PLS PO PRE PS PTA PThR PTS PW QLP QuLi RAC RACh
Miscelanea Comillas, Comillas/Santander. Monumenta germaniae historica. Hanover/Berlin. Mediaevalia Lovaniensia, Louvain. See PG. Mélanges de science religieuse, Lille. Münchener theologische Zeitschrift, Munich. Le Muséon, Louvain. Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th edition, Stuttgart. Nachrichten der Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Nag Hammadi (and Manichaean) Studies, Leiden. New International Version. New King James Version. Novum Testamentum, Leiden. See LNPF. New Revised Standard Version. Nouvelle Revue Théologique, Tournai/Louvain/Paris. Neutestamentliche Abhandlungen, Münster. Novum Testamentum Supplements, Leiden. New Testament Studies, Cambridge/Washington. New Testament Tools, Studies and Documents, Leiden/Boston. Orbis biblicus et orientalis, Freiburg, Switz., then Louvain. Orientalia Christiana Analecta, Rome. Orientalia Christiana Periodica, Rome. Oxford Early Christian Studies, Oxford. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, Louvain. Orientalia Lovaniensia Periodica, Louvain. Orientalia. Commentarii editi a Pontificio Instituto Biblico, Rome. Oriens Christianus, Leipzig, then Wiesbaden. L’Orient Syrien, Paris. Migne, Patrologia, series graeca. A Patristic Greek Lexicon, ed. G.L. Lampe, Oxford. Migne, Patrologia, series latina. The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, ed. A.H.M. Jones et al., Cambridge. Migne, Patrologia, series latina. Supplementum ed. A. Hamman. Patrologia Orientalis, Paris. Paulys Realenzyklopädie der classischen Alterthumswissenschaft, Stuttgart. Patrologia Syriaca, Paris. Papyrologische Texte und Abhandlungen, Bonn. Princeton Theological Review, Princeton. Patristische Texte und Studien, Berlin. Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. G. Wissowa, Stuttgart. Questions liturgiques et paroissiales, Louvain. Questions liturgiques, Louvain. Rivista di Archeologia Cristiana, Rome. Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum, Stuttgart.
XII RAM RAug RBen RB(ibl) RE
Revue d’ascétique et de mystique, Paris. Recherches Augustiniennes, Paris. Revue Bénédictine, Maredsous. Revue biblique, Paris. Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche, founded by J.J. Herzog, 3e ed. A. Hauck, Leipzig. REA(ug) Revue des études Augustiniennes, Paris. REB Revue des études byzantines, Paris. RED Rerum ecclesiasticarum documenta, Rome. RÉL Revue des études latines, Paris. REG Revue des études grecques, Paris. RevSR Revue des sciences religieuses, Strasbourg. RevThom Revue thomiste, Toulouse. RFIC Rivista di filologia e d’istruzione classica, Turin. RGG Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. Gunkel-Zscharnack, Tübingen RHE Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique, Louvain. RhMus Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, Bonn. RHR Revue de l’histoire des religions, Paris. RHT Revue d’Histoire des Textes, Paris. RMAL Revue du Moyen-Âge Latin, Paris. ROC Revue de l’Orient chrétien, Paris. RPh Revue de philologie, Paris. RQ Römische Quartalschrift, Freiburg i.B. RQH Revue des questions historiques, Paris. RSLR Rivista di storia e letteratura religiosa, Florence. RSPT, RSPh Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques, Paris. RSR Recherches de science religieuse, Paris. RTAM Recherches de théologie ancienne et médiévale, Louvain. RthL Revue théologique de Louvain, Louvain. RTM Rivista di teologia morale, Bologna. Sal Salesianum, Roma. SBA Schweizerische Beiträge zur Altertumswissenschaft, Basel. SBS Stuttgarter Bibelstudien, Stuttgart. ScEc Sciences ecclésiastiques, Bruges. SCh, SC Sources chrétiennes, Paris. SD Studies and Documents, ed. K. Lake and S. Lake. London/Philadelphia. SE Sacris Erudiri, Bruges. SDHI Studia et documenta historiae et iuris, Roma. SH Subsidia Hagiographica, Brussels. SHA Scriptores Historiae Augustae. SJMS Speculum. Journal of Mediaeval Studies, Cambridge, Mass. SM Studien und Mitteilungen zur Geschichte des Benediktinerordens und seiner Zweige, Munich. SO Symbolae Osloenses, Oslo. SP Studia Patristica, successively Berlin, Kalamazoo, Leuven. SPM Stromata Patristica et Mediaevalia, ed. C. Mohrmann and J. Quasten, Utrecht.
SQ SQAW SSL StudMed SVigChr SVF TDNT TE ThGl ThJ ThLZ ThPh ThQ ThR ThWAT ThWNT ThZ TLG TP TRE TS TThZ TU USQR VC VetChr VT WBC WUNT WZKM YUP ZAC ZAM ZAW ZDPV ZKG ZKTh ZNW ZRG ZThK
Sammlung ausgewählter Quellenschriften zur Kirchen- und Dogmengeschichte, Tübingen. Schriften und Quellen der Alten Welt, Berlin. Spicilegium Sacrum Lovaniense, Louvain. Studi Medievali, Turin. Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae, Leiden. Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta, ed. J. von Arnim, Leipzig. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Mich. Teologia espiritual, Valencia. Theologie und Glaube, Paderborn. Theologische Jahrbücher, Leipzig. Theologische Literaturzeitung, Leipzig. Theologie und Philosophie, Freiburg i.B. Theologische Quartalschrift, Tübingen. Theologische Rundschau, Tübingen. Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Alten Testament, Stuttgart. Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament, Stuttgart. Theologische Zeitschrift, Basel. Thesaurus Linguae Graecae. Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Lancaster, Pa. Theologische Realenzyklopädie, Berlin. Theological Studies, New York and various places; now Washington, DC. Trierer theologische Zeitschrift, Trier. Texte und Untersuchungen, Leipzig/Berlin. Union Seminary Quarterly Review, New York. Vigiliae Christianae, Amsterdam. Vetera Christianorum, Bari (Italy). Vetus Testamentum, Leiden. Word Biblical Commentary, Waco. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, Tübingen. Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, Vienna. Yale University Press, New Haven. Zeitschrift für Antikes Christentum, Berlin. Zeitschrift für Aszese und Mystik, Innsbruck, then Würzburg. Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, Giessen, then Berlin. Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins, Leipzig. Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, Gotha, then Stuttgart. Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie, Vienna. Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche, Giessen, then Berlin. Zeitschrift für Rechtsgeschichte, Weimar. Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche, Tübingen.
DEACONS AND DIAKONIA
edited by Arnold SMEETS and Bart J. KOET
Deacons and Diakonia: New Perspectives on the Function and Impact of Deacons in the Early Church. An Introduction Edwina MURPHY (Morling College, Sydney, Australia) Arnold SMEETS (Tilburg School of Catholic Theology, The Netherlands)
John N. Collins’ landmark work on diakonia1 not only re-interpreted its meaning in the light of ancient sources, but also provided the impulse to look again into the role and relevance of deacons in the developing Christian Church, including the use of the diakon-root in the New Testament.2 One important milestone in this respect was the 2009 conference, Diakonia, Diaconiae, Diaconato, held in Rome.3 The conference, organized by the renowned Pontifical Patristic Institute Augustinianum and the Tilburg School of Catholic Theology, took its lead from the document on the diaconate by the International Theological Commission.4 The organisers stated in their introduction that the aim of the conference was ‘modest’, namely, ‘to provide source material for a proper discussion which could lead to a well thought-out theology of the diaconate’.5 Apart from a possible impact on the theological discourse on deacons, the papers were an important stimulus for further historical research, providing a deeper understanding of the semantics, the history, and theological aspects of the diaconate in its early Christian contexts. The 2009 conference in Rome led to a series of congresses in Joensuu (Finland) in 2014, 2015 and 2017.6 The most recent conference focused on deacons 1
John N. Collins, Diakonia: Re-interpreting the Ancient Sources (New York, 1990). For example, Anni Hentschel, Diakonia im Neuen Testament. Studien zur Semantik unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Rolle von Frauen (Tübingen, 2007). 3 The proceedings of this congress are published in P.J.J. van Geest and V. Grossi (eds), Diakonia, diaconiae, diaconato: Semantica e storia nei padri della chiese, Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum 117 (Rome, 2010). 4 Commission Théologique Internationale, De la diaconie du Christ à la diaconie des apôtres (Città del Vaticano, 2003). 5 V. Grossi, B. Koet and P. van Geest, ‘Introduzione’, in Diakonia, diaconiae, diaconato (2010), viii. An important factor enhancing the importance and relevance of a theological discussion is the reinstatement of the permanent diaconate by the Second Vatican Council. 6 In the meantime, other significant works on church order have emerged. For example, Hippolytus, On the Apostolic Tradition, edited and translated by Alistair Stewart-Sykes, Popular Patristics Series 22 (Crestwood, NY, 2001); The Didascalia Apostolorum, edited and translated by Alistair Stewart‐Sykes (Turnhout, 2009); Alistair Stewart-Sykes, The Original Bishops: Office and Order in the First Christian Communities (Grand Rapids, MI, 2014). 2
Studia Patristica CVI, 3-5. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.
E. MURPHY – A. SMEETS
and their responsibilities and duties in the first two centuries. The volume Deacons and Diakonia in Early Christianity, edited by Bart Koet (Tilburg), Edwina Murphy (Morling College, Sydney) and Esko Ryökäs (University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu) includes the proceedings of the 2017 conference as well as some invited papers. Altogether, there are nineteen contributions by sixteen scholars, including John N. Collins and Anni Hetschel, all of which re-interpret Biblical sources, extra Biblical texts and early Christian thinkers on deacons, male and female, and their role and significance.7 In the introduction, the editors raise the question of the importance of deacons as assistant leaders in a given community. This reframing brings a fresh perspective to an ecclesiastical office that is often associated only with caritas. Deacons (and deaconesses) do more than providing food and assistance for the poor and needy. The primary sources clearly show that deacons and deaconesses were mediators or go-betweens,8 linking communities and, more specifically, linking (distant) leaders with individuals or communities in communication, debate or conflict, bearing messages of reflection, encouragement or instruction. The workshop Deacons and Diakonia: New Perspectives on the Function and Impact of Deacons in the Early Church is the result of a collaboration between Koet and Murphy, in association with Dr. Pauliina Pylvänäien (University of Eastern Finland) and Dr. Arnold Smeets (Tilburg School of Catholic Theology). All four contributions focus on the tasks assigned to, and duties carried out by, deacons and deaconesses. Koet’s paper is a part of a more extensive line of research on how deacons appear in the writings of Jerome of Stridon. Particularly interesting is the echo of a tension between presbyters and deacons in Rome.9 Murphy’s research focuses on Cyprian of Carthage and here she investigates the role of deacons in his work. Her paper shows that deacons did care for the poor, but their significance is far from restricted to Christian caritas. Deacons were central to episcopal administration and also had duties as teachers as well as liturgical functions (eucharist, penance, baptism). Pylvänäinen builds on her doctoral thesis.10 Her paper sheds some light on the scope of the duties of deaconesses, which is broader than perhaps expected. Deaconesses are active, for instance, in baptism and, as male deacons were, in communication between communities. Smeets works on Gregory the Great. 7 Bart J. Koet, Edwina Murphy and Esko Ryökäs (eds), Deacons and Diakonia in Early Christianity: The First Two Centuries, WUNT 2/479 (Tübingen, 2018). 8 Hence the title of the book by Bart J. Koet, The Go-Between: Augustine on Deacons, Brill’s Studies in Catholic Theology 6 (Leiden, 2019). 9 See also David Hunter, ‘Rivalry between Presbyters and Deacons of the Roman Church. Three Notes on Ambrosiaster, Jerome and the Boasting of the Roman Deacons’, Vigiliae Christianae 71 (2017), 495-510. 10 Pauliina Pylvänäinen, Agents in Liturgy, Charity, and Communion. The Tasks of Female Deacons in the Apostolic Constitutions, Studia Traditionis Theologiae 37 (Turnhout, 2020).
His contribution sketches the duties and responsibilities of Gregory the Great in the years from his ordination as deacon to his elevation to the papacy. Although he presents himself as (and in historiography is considered to be) a reluctant deacon, there is no doubt that his ordination gave him the opportunity to get the necessary experience and know-how to be a good and effective bishop. Deacons were, indeed, the eyes and ears of bishops, and often their successors. The papers in this session therefore contribute to the ongoing project of answering the question ‘What did deacons do?’, which was raised by Prof. Dr. Adelbert Denaux in his opening statement in Rome, back in 2009.11 This question will also be the focus of a congress to be held at the University of Eastern Finland, papers from which will be included in a second volume of Deacons and Diakonia in Early Christianity, expanding the chronological scope into the 3rd century and beyond. Through these studies, we hope to gain a better understanding of the role and importance of deacons in various contexts and periods, which may also impact how we view the function and significance of presbyters and bishops.
Adelbert Denaux, ‘Saluto del decano della facoltà di teologia cattolica’, in Diakonia, diaconiae, diaconato (2010), ii. Prof. Dr. Adelbert Denaux was Dean of the Tilburg School of Theology (2007-2012) and is still a member of the International Theological Commission.
How Deacons can be a Prime Example of Failing Clerics, According to Jerome Bart J. KOET, Tilburg School of Catholic Theology, Utrecht, The Netherlands
ABSTRACT This article is the first stage of a larger investigation into the way deacons are presented in the writings of Jerome. Whereas in Augustine’s writings a more objective account of what deacons do can be found, in Jerome’s writings we do find some clues to the role and tasks of deacons in their cultural and ecclesiastical context, but this data is quite often subordinated to Jerome’s propaganda in favour of the monastic style of life. Like all clerics, deacons are held to account for the measure of their compliance with Jerome’s model of the cleric: chaste, single, sober.
Introduction Until the end of the nineteenth century, there were cardinals who would go to a Eucharist presided over by their secretary who was only a priest. The reason why the secretary was presiding was that the cardinal himself was a deacon and not a priest. The last example of such a cardinal was Cardinal Theodolpho Mertel (1806-1899). He used to go to the Eucharist where his secretary, Pietro Gaspari (1854-1934), who later also became a cardinal, was presiding. Mertel was the last deacon to be made a cardinal, never having been ordained as a priest. He was also the last in a long line of deacons who, in a special way, assisted the bishop of Rome in the administration of his church and of the papal state. As such, he was also the last in the model of the early church whereby deacons were the normal assistants of a bishop in governing a diocese. Thus Rome itself was the last diocese in the western world who maintained this model, even if only in part. Fifteen hundred years earlier, Jerome of Stridon (ca. 347-419/420) was one of the first to criticize that model. This article outlines how Jerome’s criticism of deacons was part of his campaign to develop clergymen in a monastic framework. It is part of a larger investigation into what the use of the word diaconus tells us about the function of deacons in Jerome’s context and about Jerome’s view on deacons and diaconate. In this article, we will focus on the places where Jerome speaks about deacons. We will see how he strongly advises clergymen to focus on monasticism and how several times he mentions deacons who disgrace that ideal. We will firstly illustrate how in the early church the bishop and his deacons had an
Studia Patristica CVI, 7-18. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.
administrative relationship, the bishop being the leader and the deacons being assistant leaders in charge of the Early Christian communities. Subsequently, in order to contextualize Jerome’s material about deacons, we will sketch Jerome’s lifelong campaign to introduce the monastic tradition. Bishop and Deacons in the Early Church The fact that deacons assisted the bishop in his administration can be found in the oldest writings of Christianity. Despite the difficulties of reconstructing the genesis of leadership functions in early Christianity,1 it is clear that in the earliest strata of Christianity there was usually a form of twofold leadership: the episkopos assisted by the diakonoi (see Phil. 1:1, 1Tim. 3:1-13, 1Clem. 42:1-5 and Did. 15:1-2). Even in Ignatius we can arguably find this two-fold ministry, even though he is often presented as one of the first to evidence the three-fold ministry – including presbyteroi. Recent research indicates that his writings mainly refer to episkopoi and diakonoi as active leaders and active assistant leaders and therefore also recognizable as individuals with a formal title. The presbytery, on the other hand, appears mainly as a collective, probably something of a consultative body of elderly people who (because of their age?) are reputed to be wise.2 The fact that quite a few bishops, together with their deacons, were sentenced to martyrdom indicates that the persecutors of the first Christians were attacking the leaders of the church: the management along with their closest associates.3 However, there were some shifts and new emphases in the later church. The reason for this was already expressed by Ambrosiaster at the end of the fourth century: ‘When churches had been established everywhere and the ministries organized, things were arranged differently from the way that they had started’.4 An example of such a change is that the presbyters take over tasks from the 1 In an earlier study I named the exercise a puzzle with pieces missing. See Bart J. Koet’s review of Alistair C. Stewart, The Original Bishops. Office and Order in the First Christian Communities (Grand Rapids, 2014), International Journal of Philosophy & Theology 76 (formerly Bijdragen) (2015), 369-72, here 369. 2 See Bart J. Koet, ‘The Bishop and his Deacons, Ignatius of Antioch’s view on ministry: twofold or three-fold’, in Paul van Geest, Marcel Poorthuis and Els Rose (eds), Sanctifying Texts, Transforming Rituals (Leiden, 2017), 171-90; now – slightly modified – also in Bart J. Koet, Edwina Murphy and Esko Ryökäs (eds), Deacons and Diakonia in Early Christianity: The First Two Centuries, WUNT II 479 (Tübingen, 2018), 149-62. See also Bart J. Koet, The Go-Between: Augustine on Deacons, Brill’s Studies in Catholic Theology 6 (Leiden, 2019). 3 For some examples in the sermons of Augustine, see B.J. Koet, The Go-Between (2019), 118-32: saint Lawrence and Sixtus II, his bishop of Rome, Saint Vincent and his bishop Valerius and bishop Fructuosus and his deacons. 4 Comm. In Eph. 4.11-2. For this quotation, see also David Hunter, ‘2008 NAPS Presidential Address: The Significance of Ambrosiaster’, JECS 17 (2009), 1-26, 9.
How Deacons can be a Prime Example of Failing Clerics, According to Jerome
bishop.5 A famous example is Augustine. Whereas at first it was normally only the bishop who preached, Valerius, the old bishop of Hippo ordained Augustine into the priesthood, and allowed him to preach in his presence, the old man being not very good at Latin.6 This tendency brought the presbyters from their bench in the apse to the altar and they started to act more and more as individual representatives of their respective bishops.7 However, this change may have caused some tensions and perhaps we can see some of the possible frictions in what both Ambrosiaster and Jerome report about the relationship between the presbyters and the deacons in Rome. Just because they were deacons of Rome, these deacons were also more influential than the deacons of, for example, Hippo.8 That the special position of the deacons of Rome was one of the reasons for tensions between presbyters and deacons can be found in Ambrosiaster’s Questions on the Old and New Testaments 101 and Jerome’s Epist. 146.9 5 In this article I tend to use the word ‘presbyter’ when Jerome uses the Latin (Greek) word presbyter. The problem is that in many languages both the Latin word sacerdos and the Latin word presbyter are translated with the same word, comparable to the English word ‘priest’. In the Early Church, however, sacerdos was often the word by which (only or especially) the bishop was indicated. To ignore the difference between sacerdos and presbyter actually leads to wrong ideas about the relations in the ministry of the Early Church. See also below footnote 7. 6 For this, see for example Justo L. González, The Mestizo Augustine: A Theologian Between Two Cultures (Downers Grove, IL, 2016), 70-1. González mentions that only a small time before ‘Origen had been forced to leave his native city Alexandria, because he had dared to preach in the presence of bishops’. Ibid. 70. 7 In the Early Church, the words used in the Jewish or pagan culture for persons in sacrificial rites were no longer primarily used for leadership positions in the Christian community. However, at a certain point the Latin word sacerdos eventually became another name for the bishop. It is not appropriate here to elaborate on the way in which presbyters increasingly presided in the Eucharist and how they were more often called sacerdotes, albeit secundi meriti. For this process, see already Bernard Botte, ‘Secundi meriti munus’, Questions Liturgiques et Paroissiales 21 (1936), 84-8. Much more fundamental but less accessible: J. Waldram, ‘Van Presbyter tot Priester. De betekenisverschuiving van het woord Sacerdos van de derde tot de achste eeuw’, in W. Beuken et al. (eds), Proef en Toets. Theologie als experiment. Bijdragen bij gelegenheid van het tienjarig bestaan van de Katholieke Theologische Hogeschool te Amsterdam (Amersfoort, 1977), 144-65. 8 Incidentally, the deacons of Milan also had great responsibilities and were therefore influential. An example is deacon Paulinus; see Émilien Lamirande, Paulin de Milan et la ‘Vita Ambrosii’: Aspects de la religion sous le Bas-Empire (Paris, 1983). Paulinus of Milan was a deacon of Ambrose of Milan. Augustine asked him to write a vita of Ambrose. Paulinus wrote indeed that vita: see Mary Simplicia Kaniecka, Vita sancti Ambrosii, Mediolanensis Episcopi, a Paulino eius Notario ad beatum Augustinum conscripta (Washington, DC, 1928). Paulinus is not the only deacon to write a vita of his bishop: Pontius, a deacon of Cyprian of Carthage (ca. 200-258 AD) wrote the Vita Cypriani (‘Life of Cyprian’) shortly after his bishop’s death; cf. Hugo Montgomery, ‘Pontius’ Vita S. Cypriani and the making of a saint’, Symbolae Osloenses 71 (1996), 195-215. Perhaps this can be compared to the fact that Porphyry, as a disciple of Plotinus, wrote his vita (see ‘The Life of Plotinus’, in Plotinus: Enneads, trans. S. MacKenna [London, 1956]). 9 See David Hunter, ‘Rivalry between Presbyters and Deacons in the Roman Church: Three Notes on Ambrosiaster, Jerome, and The Boasting of the Roman Deacons’, VG 71 (2017), 495-510.
This latter letter was one of the reasons that, for many centuries, Jerome has been regularly presented as a witness to the fact that the deacons of Rome behaved too arrogantly. However, Jerome’s remarks in that letter need to be read in a broader context. The other side of the coin of his debunking of deacons is that he tries to reduce the difference between presbyters and bishops and thus he seems to push presbyters forward.10 Jerome’s reservations concerning deacons (but also other clergymen) arises from his lifelong project of promoting monasticism. In order to deal with this element, we need to look more closely at this project. Jerome’s premise: Being a monk is better (or Only as a monk can you be a good cleric) Although he was a scholar, Jerome was in the first place a champion of monasticism.11 That was the main project on which he had worked since his conversion to that lifestyle. In Trier, he chose to become an ascetic and in his later life became one of the most militant champions of that particular lifestyle. When we consult his correspondence for what Jerome has to say about clerics in general or about deacons in particular, he is, as we will see, mainly busy convincing his correspondents (and the people who hear that letter read out or are allowed to read it) that being a monk is the highest thing a person can achieve in this life. In quite a few letters he tries in all sorts of ways to convince others, men and women, that a chaste and austere life would be the highest form of human life. In C. Joh. Hier. 41 (CChr.SL 79A), Jerome refers to his own ordination and thus he was a presbyter and a cleric himself. However, according to Epist. 51.1, even though he was a presbyter, he did not perform liturgical services in Bethlehem. For Jerome, being a monk was his first choice and everything else was subordinate to that, not only for himself, but also for all other Christians and thus certainly also for women. Examples of his zeal to stimulate women to have a chaste and sober life as a monk are Epist. 22, the letter to the virgin Eustochium,12 and Epist. 54, to the widow 10 For example, in Epist. 52,7, Jerome hints at his opinion that he thinks that there is no difference between a presbyter and an episcopus. Andrew Cain, The Letters of Jerome, Asceticism, Biblical Exegesis, and the Construction of Christian Authority in Late Antiquity (Oxford, 2009), 181), remarks that ‘Jerome is the first ecclesiastical writer to use sacerdos interchangeably for bishop and presbyter on a wide scale’. This observation is an important remark, which needs further study. Too often the difference between a bishop and a presbyter is neglected, especially since too often translations when the word sacerdos refers to the bishop are still translated with priest. In this context, I cannot go into this in more detail. 11 For Jerome as scholar-monk, see Megan Hale Williams, The Monk and the Book. Jerome and the Making of Christian Scholarship (Chicago, London, 2006); see also Andrew Cain, The Letters of Jerome (Oxford, 2009). 12 Epist. 22 is also known as De virginitate servanda. For this letter, see Neil Adkin, Jerome on Virginity: A Commentary on the Libellus de virginitate servanda (Letter 22), ARCA Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs 42 (Cambridge, 2003).
How Deacons can be a Prime Example of Failing Clerics, According to Jerome
Furia. In Epist. 49.9, Jerome sketches a threefold gradation of virgins, widows and wedded wives. There is an order of importance: Widows have a higher status than wives, and widows have to accept that virgins naturally are preferred above them. In Jerome’s estimation, virginity is also important for men and this leads to his conviction that being a monk is even more important than being a clergyman. He discusses this idea in several of his writings. Unlike Ambrose, Jerome has not written a treatise on the bishop’s office, presbyterate or diaconate, but in some of his letters he does give his view quite explicitly, both on certain aspects of being a cleric in general, but also on the correct way of being a presbyter, for example.13 Being a cleric may be all right, but in the end even for a cleric there’s nothing like being a monk.14 This position appears in all kinds of variations in quite a few of his letters, and it has the ring of propaganda. Examples of such letters are Epist. 14, to Heliodorus, bishop of Altinum, and Epist. 52, to Nepotian, a presbyter and the nephew of the bishop to whom Epist. 14 was addressed. In Epist. 52, Jerome points out to Nepotian that Heliodorus is his bishop and his uncle and thus combines in himself many titles. However, one of the more important titles of uncle bishop is of course that of ‘monk’.15 When Nepotian dies a few years later and the uncle’s hope for a good successor from his own family is gone, Jerome writes the uncle a consolation letter (Epist. 60). In it, Jerome stresses that the beloved nephew has succeeded in what Jerome advised him: He really became both a monk and a presbyter. Outside the house he was an attentive presbyter; inside the house he became a monk again (Epist. 52.10). Another perspective can be found in Epist. 58, the letter to Paulinus of Nola. Where Nepotian was allowed to be both presbyter and monk, Jerome advises Paulinus that he had better focus on his status as monk rather than officiate as a presbyter. It seems that Jerome’s opinion on combining monastic and clerical stations in life depends on the life context of his correspondent, yet there is a clear message: Jerome believes that life as a monk is the ideal form of life and that a good clergyman should actually also be a monk.16 13 For an overview of Jerome’s vision of ecclesiastical ministry, see Dorothee König, Amt und Askese: Priesteramt und Mönchtum bei den lateinischen Kirchenvätern in vorbenediktinischer Zeit, Regulae Benedicti studia. Supplementa 12 (Sankt Ottilien, 1985), 20-70. 14 And of course, a chaste one. For Jerome as champion of chastity, see Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (London, 1989), 366-86. 15 In Epist. 60.10, the letter to Heliodorus, Jerome will make a similar reference to the uncle who is both bishop and monk. For a commentary on Epist. 60, see J.H.D. Scourfeld, Consoling Heliodorus: A Commentary on Jerome, Letter 60 (Oxford, 1993). 16 Geoffrey Dunn, ‘Why Care for the Poor? The Role of Almsgiving in Jerome’s Asceticism’, ZAC 18 (2014), 167-85 assesses the relation between Jerome’s ideas about asceticism and giving alms. It is remarkable that he depicts that Jerome used a comparable strategy, when he advises his penfriends on giving alms as part of their asceticism. Dunn argues: ‘Sometimes he could call for a radical and total self-dispossession, at other times a less than total renunciation was sufficient’. Ibid. 184.
12 Jerome on deacons
What does the use of the word diaconus/diacon* tell us about deacons in the context of Jerome?17 The references give some insight into what deacons did in his view, but he also uses them sometimes as scapegoats and prime examples of what happens when clerics are not sufficiently attuned to monkhood. After sketching in this section what Jerome has to say in general about deacons, we will describe in the final section how Jerome regularly gives deacons a special role in his plea for monasticism: as prototypes of clerical misconduct/misbehavior. In the early church, when letters had to be conveyed, they were often entrusted to clergymen who sometimes had to carry them over long distances. Clergymen were then seen as reliable messengers.18 Although in the epistles of Jerome we find fewer mentions of such messengers than in the writings of Augustine,19 there are still quite a few and among them are also deacons;20 for example: Epist. 112 mentions that Deacon Cyprian brought three letters from Augustine to Jerome; Deacon Praesidius (Epist. 103.1 = Augustine Epist. 39; see also Epist. 105.1); Deacon Palatinus (Epist. 19.1*; a letter of Augustine, found in 1981); see also Asterius the sub-deacon in Epist. 102 (= Augustine’s Epist. 68). Jerome also writes to deacons and according to the beginning of Epist. 7, he receives letters from them. Epist. 6 is addressed to Julian, deacon of the large city of Aquileia. Jerome gives us a glimpse of what Julian does as a deacon, when he comments that his (= Jerome’s) own sister is back on the right track thanks to Julian. Even though we do not hear specifically what the sister was doing (wrong?), Jerome does call his sister Julian’s spiritual child and thus this deacon somehow had the role of spiritual father for her. In Epist. 7.4, Jerome paraphrases 1Cor. 3:5-6 to describe what Julian, who is known to us from Epist. 6, did to become the saviour of his sister. Like diakonos Paul (3:5), deacon Julian has planted (3:6), now the addressees have to give her water and then the Lord will allow her to grow.
Assessing the Library of Latin Texts, I found diacon* around 80 times (including archidiaconus and even 1× diaconnisas [Epist. 51.2, which is Epiphanius’ letter, translated by Jerome]). Augustine uses diacon* 158 times, see B.J. Koet, The Go-Between: Augustine on Deacons (2019), 66-7. 18 See B.J. Koet, The Go-Between: Augustine on Deacons (2019), 71-94. See also G.D. Dunn, ‘Deacons in the Early Fifth Century: Canonical Developments in Rome under Innocent I’, in V. Grossi, B.J. Koet and P. van Geest (eds), Diakonia, Diaconiae, Diaconato: semantica e storia nei Padri della Chiesa. XXXVIII incontro dell’antichità cristiana, Studia Ephemerides Augustinianum 117 (Roma, 2010), 331-40, 337-8, refers to the task of deacons to act as envoy for the bishop of Rome and thus also of being the letter courier 19 Also because most of the inscriptions of Jerome’s letters have not been handed down. 20 In Epist. 6, Jerome refers to the fact that a good excuse for not writing to deacon Julian would have been that he could not find a reliable transmitter. This shows how important a reliable ‘postman’ was in those days.
How Deacons can be a Prime Example of Failing Clerics, According to Jerome
Another way Jerome brings up deacons in his writings is when he places them in the church hierarchy. In Epist. 14.8, his letter to Heliodorus, Jerome mentions that deacons are ministers of the third degree. In Lucif. 22, he compares the church with the ark of Noah. The church consists of many grades and ends in deacons, presbyters and bishops (see also Jov. 34).21 Several times in his commentaries on books from the Old Testament, Jerome compares leadership figures from those writings with ecclesiastical ministries. In Comm. Isa. 5.19, for example, Jerome explains the number five mentioned in Isaiah 19:18 about five cities in the land of Egypt which will be speaking the language of Canaan. According to Jerome, that number echoes the five books of Moses, but also the five ordines of the church (bishops, presbyters, deacons, faithful and catechumens).22 Another example can be found in his comments on Ezekiel (Comm. Ezech. 8.27). Now there are four different leaders in the church: bishops, presbyters, archdeacons and deacons. The bishops are the administrators (gubernatores), the presbyters, advisers (consiliatores), the archdeacons, the main cultivators (proretas) and deacons, oarsmen (remiges) and sailors (nautas). In Comm. Ezech. 11.34, the leaders of Israel – kings, princes, scribes, Pharisees and teachers – are compared to the bishops, presbyters and deacons of the people of the gospel.23 According to Matt. 21:12, Jesus chases the merchants out of the temple. Jerome transforms those merchants into bishops, presbyters, deacons, laymen and the whole crowd of that church (in Evan. 3). A statement in his commentary on Micah (Comm. Mich. 2.7) is a good summary of his attitude towards leaders: Nolite credere in ducibus, non in episcopo, non in presbytero, non in diacono, non in qualibet hominum dignitate. You have to honor the bishop, to have esteem for the presbyter and to rise for the deacon, but you cannot put your hope into them. In Lucif. 9, Jerome sketches the relationship between different offices. Presbyters and deacons perform baptisms in those distant places where a bishop cannot easily go. They can only do it when ordained and with the bishop’s licence. Levita is another term Jerome sometimes uses for a deacon and he uses it mainly when he talks about the structure of leadership in the church.24 He knows, for example, from his Latin translation of the Hebrew Bible about the religious institutions of Judaism such as the usual terminology in the Vulgate of sacerdotes as ministers in sacrifices and of the Levites as their assistants. He uses this Jewish model a few times in his work as a model of leadership in the church (see Epist. 52.5 and Epist. 108.28). He follows the example of the author 21
Incidentally, just as the Ark was in danger, so is the church in danger. He refers also to a third possibility: 1Cor. 15:19. 23 Also in Comm. Jer. 1.16 and 4.256, the leaders of Israel are compared with those of the church. Likewise in Tract. Ps. 75 and 100. 24 Jerome also uses the word levites instead of levita. In Epist. 64.15 Jerome describes Samuel as a levita, while in Epist. 29.3 the same Samuel is described as levites. 22
of the first letter of Clement who in 40-1 compares the leadership functions in the early church, equating episkopoi and diakonoi with those in Judaism. While in that comparison, Clement mainly works with a dual leadership, in which the bishops and deacons are compared with the Israeli kohanim and levites, in Jerome it is slightly different. He talks about the pontifex (the bishop), sacerdos (presbyter) and levita (for example, in Comm. Agg. 2.35). Some of Jerome’s texts speak of those tasks which deacons in the (Latin) Church have to perform. Jerome tells in Lucif. 9.26.28 (twice) that deacons baptize (only by mandate of a bishop: 9.28). Deacons are also actors in the liturgy, for example by reading the gospel. In Comm. Ezech. 6.18, Jerome tells us that deacons always lead in the church. However, he doesn’t read the gospel as we might expect, but, as Jerome says a little patronizingly, he tells the audience who the church sponsors are! In 384, Jerome received an (unpreserved) letter from the North African deacon Praesidius, in which he asked Jerome to assist him in composing a Laus Cerei, a song in praise of the Easter candle. Jerome’s negative answer, Epist. 18, is one of the oldest references of the singing of the Ex(s)ultet hymn. However, while this letter is a fine example of how sometimes Jerome uses deacons as prototypes of how clerics go wrong when they do not focus on monasticism as an ideal, we will deal with that letter in the next paragraph.
Failing Clerics: Deacons as examples and as rhetorical device Although how strongly he upholds his ideal of the monastic lifestyle depends on his correspondent, it is not surprising that as a principle, Jerome holds that if a clergyman does not aspire to it, he is more likely to fail as a clergyman. Could it be that his constant idealization of the monk leads him time and time again to accuse clergy of any rank of shortcomings? We find, therefore, descriptions of clergymen who do not exactly measure up to the ideal of sobriety and chastity. In Epist. 54.5 we hear of clerics who can be seduced. Another temptation for a cleric could be to get money from his ‘clients’. That this was not so uncommon is clear from Epist. 52.6, where Jerome refers to the law forbidding clergymen and monks to receive inheritances. The temptation is to hunt for inheritances or to look for big gifts from rich Christians and, of course, especially from rich old men and women. Jerome argues that though the pagan sacerdotes of idols, mime players, charioteers, and whores are allowed to take inheritances, Christian clergymen and monks are not. Jerome stresses that he does not complain of this law, but he grieves that ‘We have deserved a statute so harsh’. Even worse is the fact that, despite the law, all kinds of clergy try to take money from childless old men and women through devious ways and shameful feuds (and thus at the end of Epist. 52.6 he sighs: ‘It is the shame of all presbyters to amass private fortunes’).
How Deacons can be a Prime Example of Failing Clerics, According to Jerome
In the letter to the virgin Eustochium, Jerome advises on how to organize virginity in her state of life. In this context, he also warns against hypocrisy (Epist. 22.27). He also sees hypocrisy among presbyters and deacons who pretend to fast but in the night celebrate in the homes of noble-born people (Epist. 22.28). In Epist. 52.10 Jerome notices that Nepotian does the opposite: outdoors he is presbyter, indoors and at night he fasts and prays like a good monk. Jerome, by the way, is a man of rhetoric and not of fixed systems. In his letter to Paula, he cites bystanders who whisper among themselves that it is abhorrent monasticism that seduces girls into virginity against their will (Epist. 39.6). So even though Jerome is critical of all the clergy and sometimes bitingly ironic, it seems that he can be the most critical of deacons. In this respect, there are three letters that show this clearly. We saw above that in 384 Jerome received a (lost) letter (Ps.-Hier. 18) from the North African deacon Praesidius. This letter was not recognized as a genuine writing of Jerome for many years.25 Today, scholars are inclined to see the letter as composed by Jerome, with perhaps some later additions.26 Praesidius asked Jerome to assist him in composing a Laus Cerei, a song in praise of the Easter candle. The ex(s)ultet is a hymn, sung by a deacon after the procession with the paschal candle during the Easter Vigil. If this reference does belong to Jerome’s real letter, it would be the oldest mention of this custom. What concerns us here is Jerome’s exceptionally acerbic reply, in which he derides the whole business as an unbecoming example of the deacon showing off. He expressed an especially lively contempt for bees. He uses the argument that there was no mention of wax in the Sacred Scriptures. Incidentally, he also finds this ritual smelling of the self-sufficiency of deacons. The rest of the letter Jerome uses to bring forward his own favorite theme. Praesidius can do better by leaving home and family and going to the desert. His excuse that he is deacon and thus cannot leave his ecclesia (diaconus, inquires, ecclesiam tuto deserere non possum; Ps-Hier. 18.3-4) does not apply. He can do that better in the desert than in the dangerous city. There are two letters in which Jerome especially shows the shadow sides of the Roman deacons, of an individual (Epist. 147) and more generally of deacons of the church of Rome (Epist. 146). In the latter, Jerome describes the Roman deacons. In fact, this letter deals with the correct relations between the different offices. In this letter Jerome makes two different moves. First of all, he somewhat conceals the differences between presbyters and bishops (after all, apart from ordination, what does a bishop do that a presbyter does not do?).27 25 For this see Yves-Marie Duval, ‘Sur trois lettres méconnues de Jérôme concernant son séjour à Rome (382–385)’, in Andrew Cain and Josef Lössl (eds), Jerome of Stridon: His Life, Writings and Legacy (Farnham, Burlington, 2009), 29-40, esp. 31-38. 26 See also J.N.D. Kelly, Jerome. His Life, Writings and Controversies (London, 1975), 111. 27 And he gives an interesting twist to the fact that in the letters of Paul to Timothy and Titus there is no mention of presbyters. According to him, presbyters and bishops would be the same.
He then accuses the deacons of Rome of elevating themselves above the presbyters (and according to Jerome this is the same level as the bishop).28 In Epist. 147, Jerome describes a very negative example of a (ex-?) Roman deacon.29 The addressee of the letter is a certain Sabinian.30 In Epist. 147.4, Jerome reminds him that he was ordained a deacon by a special bishop, but that will not save him (Epist. 147.10). In Rome, the most terrible things are said about him (young women raped, wives adulterated and brothels visited). After this deacon had to flee from Rome, he arrived in Bethlehem with false documents and even wanted to seduce a nun in the cave in which Jesus was born.31 Whether it is true or not, this letter also clearly fits a pattern.32 If you are a cleric, there is only one way of life. You have to become as much as possible like a monk. A last example of a negative remark about deacons can be found in C. Vig. 2, a polemic against a cleric who for some time lived with Jerome in Bethlehem. This is not about deacons doing something wrong, but about a bishop who seems to have very intriguing requirements for a deacon ordination. Vigilantius had written against some of the church practices of the time, for example 28 Another deacon with the name Praesidius (see for this A. Fürst, Hieronymus. Askese und Wissenschaft in der Spätantike [Freiburg, Basel, Wien, 2003], 206) hands over a small letter to Augustine in which the theme seems to be the greeting of Augustine by Jerome. Jerome recommends the deacon to Augustine and asks him to consider Praesidius as his brother. Interestingly, in this note, Jerome emphasizes that this deacon doesn’t really need any help, because he has everything, but that the deacon likes to meet important people and to serve his own interests. This might not have been intended to be entirely positive and to confirm that sometimes deacons were looking for status. 29 The case of this deacon seems to be caricatural and although recent abuse scandals in the church have shown that sometimes reality was worse than caricature, it is not impossible that Jerome uses his ironic talents here. Even if the story is a result of Jerome’s skill in satirical and ironic writing, it is still an example of how Jerome can portray deacons as examples of bad clergymen in opposition to clergymen who mainly try to be monks. For Jerome and his irony, see David Wiesen, Jerome as Satirist: A Study in Christian Latin Thought and Letters (Ithaca, NY, 1964). A. Cain, Letters of Jerome (2009), 216, argues that satiric barbs are interspersed throughout many of his letters, but mentions in his classification of letters only Epist. 40 and Epist. 50 as mocking letters. 30 We meet a possible other deacon, Anianus of Celeda, in Epist. 143, a letter to Alypius and Augustine. They had asked if Jerome had written anything against this follower of Pelagius. Jerome calls the man a pseudo-deacon and promises that he will try to refute that man’s work in some night vigil. 31 We can also find some example of immoral conduct by deacons in the epistles of Augustine: Epist. 13* (about a deacon, who was accused of adultery, but Augustine thinks he is innocent) and Epist. 18* (about a deacon who was unworthy, because he was accused by a woman); for this, see B.J. Koet, The Go-Between (2019), 101-2. In Epist. 4 of Cyprian of Carthage we find another example: one of the men sharing a bed with a virgin is a deacon (4.1.1). He is excommunicated (4.4.1). 32 It is striking that in this history some elements resemble Jerome’s own life story, for example the fact that both had to leave Rome. See A. Cain, The Letters of Jerome (2009), 119: ‘The allegations against him (= Jerome), as reconstructed from Epist. 45, centre on his connection with Paula and not on any doctrinal dispute’.
How Deacons can be a Prime Example of Failing Clerics, According to Jerome
against too much reverence for relics and the exaggerated esteem of virginity. In a defense of virginity, Jerome suggests that their bishops only ordain deacons who have been previously married. In an ironical style that can be trusted to him, Jerome even claims that candidates for ordination have to show their pregnant wives, preferably with crying children on their arms. Conclusions It is not unexpected that Jerome should warn and even ridicule clerics. The presbyter from Bethlehem is very clearly a partisan, perhaps even a rebel for a cause. He doesn’t like lukewarm clergymen and rejects jobs half-done. Clear choices must be made. His style is sometimes satirical and ironic. That is the way his contemporaries expect him to act, as is clear for example from Epist. 117.1 (‘Where is that old hardihood (constantia) of yours which made you scour the world with copious salt as Horace says of Lucillus?’). In an earlier study on Augustine I assessed his references to deacons, for example in his letters and in his sermons, especially those on deacons from the beginning of the church, such as Stephen, Laurence and Vincent. On the basis of all the references I concluded that a deacon could be described in the writings of the bishop of Hippo as a co-operator, someone who as a kind of assistant leader, cooperates with the bishop and other clergymen in particular, and who, with a mandate from the bishop, is also an agent of communication, a go-between. He was involved in the explanation of the Gospel, but also in the distribution of money. He made connections between the bishop and the people of the church, between the gospel and the people who were or wanted to become followers, but they also went outside on behalf of the bishop: to the poor and sick, but also to the rich and powerful.33 Augustine’s data are more a description of what deacons did, while in Jerome’s writings we find clues to the role and tasks of deacons in their cultural and ecclesiastical context, but these data are usually subordinated to Jerome’s propaganda in favour of the monastic style of life. There is nothing better than monasticism, certainly not marriage, but also the clerical state of life is nothing if it is not lived as a monk. Although Jerome refers to deacons, and he must have known deacons in his environment, he does not mention that they lived with him in the monastery, and when he talks about them, we get almost no concrete information. He regularly talks about deacons and presbyters and bishops as those who are following the cursus honorum; he mentions that they should be honored and that the church is simply a hierarchic institution, but almost immediately afterwards he points out dangers for them or starts to compare them with all kinds of bad leaders. Jerome’s style is often somewhat caricatural 33
B.J. Koet, The Go-Between (2019), 136-43.
and even satirical and thus it is a little bit difficult to make conclusions from the material. However, it is not improbable that the negative painting of the deacon Sabinian is colored by Jerome’s rhetorical talent and his personal experiences with the deacons of Rome. Jerome’s tendency to criticize deacons may be also related to the fact that he tends to narrow down the difference between presbyter and bishop, or even deny that there is a difference (Epist. 52.7). Although we have not elaborated on this in this article, the other side of the coin of Jerome’s attack on the deacons of Rome is his attempt to almost eliminate the difference between presbyter and an episkopos. He argues several times, that presbyters should be allowed to do the same things as a bishop. As a connoisseur of classical literature, Jerome might recognize that this was an oratio pro domo. By the way, his negative remarks about deacons show that deacons had such important managerial duties in Rome in those days that, to some, it looked as if they were more important than presbyters. His sole remark about the fact that the singing of the ex(s)ultet mainly smells like the self-exaltation of a deacon has not prevented it being a deacon’s task on Easter night. Whereas in Augustine’s writings a more objective description of what deacons do can be found, in Jerome we find a strong subjective discourse, where deacons – but actually all clerics – are firmly held to account in relation to the model of clerics as Jerome likes them to be: chaste, single, sober.34
34 The foundation of this research was laid during a stay in the Gladstone Residential Library (Hawarden, Wales) with The Canon Symonds Memorial Scholarship.
The Duties of Deacons According to Cyprian of Carthage Edwina MURPHY, Morling College (ACT and UD), Sydney, Australia
ABSTRACT By the middle of the third century, the leadership of the church in Roman North Africa had become more structured, as was the case elsewhere in the empire. Scholarship in this area has focused on the role of bishops in Cyprian’s thought, particularly the status of the bishop of Rome. But what of the other clerical orders? Here I examine the writings of Cyprian to determine what deacons did in this period. While they cared for the poor – a view of the diaconate that prompted a revitalisation of social work in nineteenth-century German-speaking countries – they had a much wider brief. Liturgical functions, teaching, and assisting the bishop in administration were also important duties of deacons.
Cyprian’s correspondence has long been mined for his views on the role of the bishop, and particularly the relationship between bishops in general and the bishop of Rome. Likewise, Cyprian’s conflict with certain presbyters is well known. Little attention has been paid, however, to the place of deacons in the church of the time,1 although diaconus is a fairly common word in Cyprian’s work.2 In this article, I am not going to focus so much on the relationship between the bishop and the deacon,3 as on the duties of deacons. These are largely set out in Ep. 14, written while Cyprian was absent from Carthage, in which he directs presbyters and deacons to ‘perform in [his] stead those offices which are I would like to thank the University of Divinity for providing the grant which enabled me to attend this conference. 1 An exception to this general rule is the section devoted to presbyters and deacons in Richard Seagraves, Pascentes cum disciplina: A Lexical Study of the Clergy in the Cyprianic Correspondence (Fribourg, 1993), 83-132. For a table summarising Cyprian’s clergy, see Graeme W. Clarke, The Letters of St. Cyprian of Carthage, 4 vol. (New York, 1984-1989), I 42-3. 2 Sixty of the sixty-seven uses in the correspondence are Cyprian’s. R. Seagraves, Pascentes (1993), 90. Early Latin authors preferred the transliteration of the Greek rather than the translation (minister) used in the Vulgate. Seagraves, relying on the TLL, cites the first use in Latin as Tertullian, Haer. 1: hic de septem diaconibus fuit. R. Seagraves, Pascentes (1993), 89. This is now generally agreed to be a pseudonymous work. Tertullian, does, however, use the term on several occasions. See, for example, Praescr. 3 (CChr.SL 1, 188). 3 This is explored in Edwina Murphy, ‘The Bishop’s Delegates: Deacons in Cyprian of Carthage’, in Bart J. Koet, Edwina Murphy and Esko Ryökäs (eds), Deacons and Diakonia in Early Christianity, Vol. 2 (forthcoming).
Studia Patristica CVI, 19-28. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.
necessary for the administration of the church’.4 This informs us of what Cyprian regards as central to the life of the church. Some of these duties are due to the bishop’s absence, whereas others would also be part of their regular duties. Presbyters and deacons are always, however, answerable to the bishop, who is ultimately responsible for the flock.5 Care for the poor The first area is care for those in need: ‘The poor, in the meantime, must be cared for to the extent that it is possible and in whatever way that it is possible, provided, that is, they remain standing with faith unshaken and have not forsaken the flock of Christ’.6 Here Cyprian emphasises giving to those who have remained standing within the church in order that they may continue to do so.7 Such practical care was seen as the central function of a deacon in the nineteenth century revival of the diaconate, influenced by Calvin’s interpretation.8 Graeme Clarke likewise emphasises this role: ‘By this time deacons acted as the bishop’s deputy especially in the sphere of practical charity, visiting the sick, the imprisoned, assisting the impoverished, and generally handling the church finances, and hence they were notably vulnerable to embezzlement, or at least the charge of it’.9 He refers to Ep. 52, in which Nicostratus is reported to have been ‘stripped of the administration of his holy office of deacon, having sacrilegiously embezzled moneys belonging to the church and having refused to return deposits lodged by widows and orphans’.10 But this is the only 4 Uice mea fungamini circa gerenda ea quae administratio religiosa deposcit. Ep. 14.2.1 (CChr.SL 3B, 80). 5 See, for example, Cyprian’s defence of his pastoral care to the presbyters and deacons in Rome: ‘Likewise, in the case of the presbyters and deacons, I did not fail to act with the full vigour of my episcopal authority in order to check, by our intervention, certain individuals among them’ (Item presbyteris et diaconibus non defuit sacerdotii uigor, ut quidam … conprimerentur intercedentibus nobis). Ep. 20.2.3 (CChr.SL 3B, 108). 6 Habeatur interim quantum potest et quomodo potest pauperum cura, si qui tamen inconcussa fide stantes gregem Christi non reliquerunt, ut his ad tolerandam penuriam sumptus per uestram diligentiam suggeratur, ne quod circa fidentes tempestas non fecit circa laborantes necessitas faciat. Ep. 14.2.1 (CChr.SL 3B, 80). 7 Elsewhere, Cyprian uses the Father’s care for the just and the unjust as a model for Christians to follow citing Matt. 5:43-8. Bon. Pat. 5 (CChr.SL 3A, 120). See also Vit. Cypr. 9 (Bastiaensen; Vite dei Santi 3:22-4). 8 For a summary, see Bart J. Koet, Edwina Murphy and Esko Ryökäs, ‘Assessing the Role and Function of an Assistant: The Deacon in the First Two Centuries of Christianity’, in Bart J. Koet, Edwina Murphy and Esko Ryökäs (eds), Deacons and Diakonia in Early Christianity: The First Two Centuries (Tübingen, 2018), 7-10. 9 G.W. Clarke, Letters (1984), I 168. 10 Diaconio sanctae administrationis amisso, ecclesiasticis pecuniis sacrilega fraude subtractis et uiduarum ac pupillorum depositis denegatis. Ep. 52.1.2 (CChr.SL 3B, 244). Although not clear from Clarke’s translation, this is the only use in Cyprian of the word diaconium (diaconate).
The Duties of Deacons According to Cyprian of Carthage
reference in Cyprian’s work to practical charity which is associated with a deacon alone.11 In Ep. 14, as we have seen, Cyprian gives the command to both presbyters and deacons. Likewise, in Ep. 13 to Rogatianus the presbyter and the other released confessors (a companion letter to the one above),12 Cyprian mentions his directions to the clergy to provide for them.13 He does not, however, neglect his own responsibility, sending additional funds to which are added those of his deacon Victor.14 And, of course, giving is incumbent upon all Christians: ‘And I am delighted to hear that in their charity our brothers vie with each other in large numbers to alleviate your difficulties with contributions of their own’.15 The way that Cyprian expresses the situation – the clergy to provide everything the confessors need, and yet the faithful also joyfully contributing – gives the impression that not all charity is channelled through the clergy, but that people might give aid directly to those who require it. Furthermore, while deacons do indeed visit those in prison, the emphasis Cyprian places on these visits is focused on their liturgical and teaching functions, as we will see below. Liturgical functions The liturgical functions delegated to deacons with regard to baptism, the Eucharist (offering the cup to the plebs) and ‘emergency exomologesis’ are also referred to by Clarke.16 The latter two are closely related, and I will consider them first. Assisting with the Eucharist In Ep. 5, Cyprian gives instructions to his clergy on visiting the confessors in prison. He is very concerned that they avoid stirring up trouble and therefore instructs them: And so take counsel and care that moderation makes visiting safer; in particular the presbyters who celebrate the offering there before the confessors should take it in turns R. Seagraves, Pascentes (1993), 90. Cyprian makes no mention of deaconesses. G.W. Clarke, Letters (1984), I 168. 11 In Ep. 7.2 (CChr.SL 3B, 39), the presbyter Rogantius has charge of Cyprian’s personal funds to be used for the care of those in need. 12 Simone Deléani, Saint Cyprien: Lettres 1-20 (Paris, 2007), 163. 13 Ep. 13.7 (CChr.SL 3B, 78). 14 Described as ‘Victor the deacon and former lector who is with me here’ (Victor quoque ex lectore diaconus qui mecum est). Ep. 13.7 (CCSL 3B, 78). Clarke wonders whether this description is simply to differentiate him from other Victors. G.W. Clarke, Letters (1984), I 260 n. 39. It is also possible that he has been promoted in the meantime. 15 Gaudeo autem quando cognosco plurimos fratres nostros pro sua dilectione certatim concurrere et necessitates uestras suis conlationibus adiuuare. Ep. 13.7 (CChr.SL 3B, 78). 16 G.W. Clarke, Letters (1984), I 168.
to go individually, accompanied each by a different deacon, because the risk of resentment is diminished if the people who visit and meet together change and vary.17
Here the presbyters celebrate the Eucharist and the deacons assist – this would appear to be common practice.18 A deacon is not regularly attached to a particular presbyter, however. If that were the case, there would be no need to mention that different deacons should attend – rotating the presbyters would be sufficient as that would automatically ensure different deacons each time. Confirmation that this involvement in the Eucharist is a standard part of a deacon’s role is found in the vivid description of a deacon offering the cup in De lapsis. A little girl who had been left with her nurse had been taken to sacrifice, although her parents were unaware that this had happened. All was revealed, however, when due to her continued refusal of the cup, the deacon poured some of the contents into her mouth and she began to choke and vomit.19 Despite deacons assisting in the Eucharist, however, later church councils forbade them to offer it, as Clarke notes.20 Of course, the very fact that it was forbidden suggests that it was practised to some degree and may have been considered unproblematic in some areas. A possible indication of such a practice is in Ep. 67, written by Cyprian, along with thirty six other named bishops, to two communities whose bishops had themselves come to Carthage bearing letters seeking North African support for their positions.21 Since the bishops are absent, the letter is addressed firstly to the clergy left in charge: ‘Felix the presbyter and the laity dwelling at Legio and at Asturica, as also to Aelius the deacon and the laity dwelling at Emerita’.22 Clarke wonders whether this means the community at Emerita is particularly small and therefore has no presbyters, or whether any presbyters it does have accompanied their bishop.23 But the comment raises another question regarding the offering of the Eucharist. It seems unlikely that a Christian community in this period would leave itself without the means of conducting the Eucharist, making it possible that the deacon at Aelius performed this function. This would be a delegated authority in the absence of the bishop only. There is also some ambiguity in Ep. 34, discussed below, which may allow for deacons conducting the Eucharist. 17
Consulite ergo et prouidete ut cum temperamento fieri hoc tutius possit, ita ut presbyteri quoque qui illic apud confessores offerunt singuli cum singulis diaconis per uices alternent, quia et mutatio personarum et uicissitudo conuenientium minuit inuidiam. Ep. 5.2.2 (CChr.SL 3B, 28). 18 It receives no special mention in Ep. 14. 19 Laps. 25 (CChr.SL 3, 234-5). Note also the participation of baptised infants in the Eucharist. 20 Referencing the Council of Arles, canon 15 and the First Council of Nicaea, canon 18. G.W. Clarke, Letters (1984), I 168. 21 Bishops Basilides and Martialis had been deposed due to their actions during the Decian persecution and Basilides had gone to Stephen of Rome seeking support for his reinstatement. Ep. 67.1.1, 5.3 (CChr.SL 3C, 447, 455). 22 Felici presbytero et plebibus consistentibus ad Legionem et Asturicae item Aelio diacono et plebi Emeritae consistentibus. Ep. 67.0 (CChr.SL 3C, 446-7). 23 G.W. Clarke, Letters (1989), IV 144 n. 2.
The Duties of Deacons According to Cyprian of Carthage
Reconciliation/absolution The Eucharist is closely linked with reconciliation, and the receiving of penitents into communion, something that may be done either appropriately or inappropriately in Cyprian’s view. An instance of reconciliation wrongly granted, in Cyprian’s opinion, is in Ep. 34. A presbyter, Gaius Didensis, and his deacon have been admitting the lapsed into communion without regard for due procedure, and have persisted in doing so, despite repeated warnings, resulting in their own excommunication.24 This combination of presbyter and deacon is familiar from Ep. 5. But later in the letter, Cyprian discusses what the penalty will be if anyone – whether he be presbyter or deacon from our own or from other churches – if anyone should be possessed of such headstrong and outrageous temerity as to admit the lapsed into communion before we have come to our decision.25
This admits the possibility that a deacon may act on their own account in receiving someone into communion, although it is not clear whether they offer the oblation themselves. Allen Brent believes that before Cyprian, reconciliation ‘was simply the act of giving or withholding the eucharist’,26 and that is certainly the aspect emphasised in the above passage. Brent sees the laying on of hands by the bishop and clergy, mentioned in Epp. 15, 16 and 17,27 as Cyprian’s innovation, a means of denying the authority of the Church of the Martyrs.28 There are a number of issues with his argument,29 but here I want to focus on the implications of Cyprian’s statement for the duties of deacons. Given the tradition, of recent origin or not, of the bishop receiving a penitent’s confession and granting peace, Cyprian’s absence (and the approach of summer with its threat of illness), mean that some of the lapsed who have received certificates from the martyrs may die before being reconciled. In Epistle 18,30 Cyprian advises that such penitents may confess ‘their sin before any presbyter in person, or if a presbyter cannot be found and their end is coming fast, even before a deacon’.31 This will allow them to come to the Lord in peace, having had hands laid on 24
Ep. 34.1 (CChr.SL 3B, 167). Ep. 34.3.2 (CChr.SL 3B, 169). 26 Allen Brent, ‘Cyprian’s Reconstruction of the Martyr Tradition’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 53 (2002), 241-68, 248. 27 Epp. 15.1.2; 16.2.3; 17.2.1 (CChr.SL 3B, 86; 92; 97). 28 A. Brent, ‘Cyprian’s Reconstruction’ (2002), 245-8. 29 See, for example, the discussion in S. Deléani, Lettres (2007), 290-2. 30 As indicated in the letter, it is written at the beginning of summer, 250. See G.W. Clarke, Letters (1984), I 295. 31 Apud presbyterum quemcumque praesentem, uel si presbyter repertus non fuerit et urgere exitus coeperit, apud diaconum quoque exomologesin facere delicti sui possint. Ep. 18.1.2 (CChr.SL 3B, 100-1). 25
them in forgiveness, as the martyrs desired.32 This role is only delegated to a deacon in extreme circumstances; it is not envisaged as standard practice. Baptism The major controversy of Cyprian’s later episcopate surrounds the issue of baptism. He is adamant that there is no true baptism outside the one church, and that anyone who has been baptised in schism or heresy must receive baptism in order to be received into the community. Some of his opponents argue against him on the basis of Acts 8:14-7, where Peter and John did not rebaptise those in Samaria, but only laid hands upon them so they might receive the Holy Spirit.33 His repudiation of their position gives us an insight into the role of deacons in baptism in the church of his time: In our view, dearly beloved brother, this passage is irrelevant to the present situation.34 For the Samaritan believers believed with true faith and they had already been baptized by Philip the deacon, whom those very same apostles had sent forth, and they had been baptized inside and within the one Church to which alone has been granted the power to bestow the grace of baptism and to loose sins. Consequently, there was no further need of baptism for those who had received the lawful baptism of the Church. Peter and John made good only what they lacked: after prayers had been said for them and hands were laid upon them, the Holy Spirit was invoked and poured out upon them.35 And this same practice we observe today ourselves: those who are baptized in the Church are presented to the leaders of the Church, and by our prayer and the imposition of our hands they receive the Holy Spirit and are made perfect with the Lord’s seal.36 32 As Clarke says, ‘Cyprian is intending to delegate full powers of (sacramental) reconciliation to the Church (not merely formal, external re-entry)’. G.W. Clarke, Letters (1984), I 298. The latter category belongs to a subsequent era; it does not exist in Cyprian’s thought. 33 Ep. 73.9.1 (CChr.SL 3C, 538-9). 34 A similar idea is expressed in Ep. 73.14.2 (CChr.SL 3C, 545). 35 Allusion to Acts 8:14-7. ‘Cyprian’s explanation is not without its difficulties, especially since it is not clear why, if the Samaritans had received a true baptism, the Holy Spirit had not been infused into their souls, unless Cyprian interprets the imposition of hands as a form of absolution from sins which had separated the Samaritans from the Holy Spirit’. Michael Andrew Fahey, Cyprian and the Bible: A Study in Third-Century Exegesis (Tübingen, 1971), 413. But paragraph 9.2 makes Cyprian’s argument clear. It does, however, diverge from his emphasis elsewhere on the receipt of the Holy Spirit in baptism, as Clarke notes. G.W. Clarke, Letters (1989), IV 227 n. 23. 36 Locum istum, frater carissime, ad praesentem causam uidemus omnino non pertinere. Illi enim qui in Samaria crediderant fide uera crediderant et intus in ecclesia, quae una est et cui soli gratiam baptismi dare et peccata soluere permissum est, a Philippo diacono quem idem apostoli miserant baptizati erant. Et idcirco quia legitimum et ecclesiasticum baptisma consecuti fuerant, baptizari eos ultra non oportebat, sed tantummodo quod deerat id a Petro et Iohanne factum est, ut oratione pro eis habita et manu inposita inuocaretur et infunderetur super eos spiritus sanctus. Quod nunc quoque apud nos geritur, ut qui in ecclesia baptizantur praepositis
The Duties of Deacons According to Cyprian of Carthage
Cyprian therefore equates the account in Acts with the practice then current in Carthage: baptism (at least sometimes) by deacons, with subsequent laying on of hands by the bishop to complete it.37 In the case of Acts, there is simply a greater length of time between the two components of the rite. Teaching Another significant duty of deacons is to teach, a duty once again shared with the presbyters: ‘Through you [the confessors] must be informed, instructed, and taught what the discipline of the Church, based on the teaching authority of the Scriptures, requires of them. They must conduct themselves humbly, modestly, and peaceably’.38 He continues later in the letter: ‘For it distresses me to learn that there are some who are running about, conducting themselves viciously and arrogantly … refusing to be ruled by the deacons or presbyters’.39 Here, for the only time in Cyprian’s correspondence, the deacons are listed before the presbyters. This may indicate that deacons, in particular, had a teaching role regarding those in prison. In Ep. 15, to the martyrs and confessors, presbyters are listed before deacons when referring to the time-honoured practice of them providing ‘the fullest advice and instruction in the law of the gospel’.40 He then continues, however: ‘In making their visits to prison the deacons would moderate the requests of the martyrs by counsel of their own and by precepts of the Scriptures. But as things are now, I am most gravely distressed to learn that in Carthage the holy precepts are not being presented to your attention; not only that, but they are actually being impeded [by certain presbyters]’.41 Again in Ep. 16, Cyprian, having previously remained silent in the hope of maintaining the peace, is now forced to condemn ‘certain people42 who are doing their best by their rash behaviour and unrestrained and reckless presumption to undermine the honour of the martyrs, the humility of the confessors, and ecclesiae offerantur et per nostram orationem ac manus inpositionem spiritum sanctum consequantur et signaculo dominico consummentur. Ep. 73.9.1-2 (CChr.SL 3C, 539). 37 G.W. Clarke, Letters (1989), IV 226 n. 24. The Roman Catholic Church now understands these to be two separate sacraments of baptism and confirmation. 38 Modo ut sciant ex uobis et instruantur et discant quid secundum scripturarum magisterium ecclesiastica disciplina deposcat, humiles et modestos et quietos esse debere. Ep. 14.2.2 (CChr. SL 3B, 81). 39 Doleo enim quando audio quosdam improbe et insolenter discurrere, ad ineptias uel ad discordias uacare … nec a diaconis aut presbyteris regi posse. Ep. 14.3.2 (CChr.SL 3B, 83). 40 Monere uos et instruere plenissime circa euangelii legem. Ep. 15.1.2 (CChr.SL 3B, 85). 41 Ut diaconi ad carcerem commeantes martyrum desideria consiliis suis et scripturarum praeceptis gubernarent. Sed nunc cum maximo animi dolore cognosco non tantum illic non suggeri diuina praecepta, sed adhuc potius inpediri. Ep. 15.1.2 (CChr.SL 3B, 85-6). 42 ‘That is to say, certain rebellious and turbulent presbyters and deacons’. G.W. Clarke, Letters (1984), I 284-5 n. 3.
the peacefulness of our entire people’.43 Again we find that ‘just as always happened in the past’, it is the ‘duty of the presbyters and deacons to present [the martyrs] with guiding counsel’, even if ‘the martyrs amid the fervour of their glory were to pay scant regard to the Scripture and to go too far in their wishes contrary to the law of the Lord’.44 So the standard practice is clear, even if the correction of martyrs may be open to some doubt: presbyters and deacons are to give teaching, direction and guidance. Since they have failed in their duty, Cyprian appeals to the laity in Ep. 17, a companion letter to the ones above.45 The presbyters and deacons should have ‘cherish[ed] the flock entrusted to their care and direct[ed] them, by means of the teaching of God, on to the way whereby they might beg for the recovery of their salvation’.46 The people, claims Cyprian, would have done this were it not for certain presbyters leading them astray. ‘Accordingly, you [the faithful laity] at least must guide the fallen individually and your restraining counsel must temper their attitudes to conform with God’s precepts’.47 While the clergy have responsibility for teaching the congregation, the laity may provide private advice. In Ep. 43, Cyprian praises the loyal presbyters (there are only three remaining in Carthage),48 and calls the deacons ‘honest men dedicated to the services of the church in all dutifulness’.49 Cyprian wants to provide his own advice, however, visiting them by means of the letter,50 despite the faithful service of encouragement and salutary counsel of these deacons and other ministers.51 43 Sed cum quorundam inmoderata et abrupta praesumptio temeritate sua et honorem martyrum et confessorum pudorem et plebis uniuersae tranquillitatem turbare conetur. Ep. 16.1.1 (CChr.SL 3B, 90). 44 Etiam si martyres per calorem gloriae minus scripturam contemplantes contra legem domini plus aliquid cuperent, a presbyteris et diaconis suggerentibus admoneri deberent, sicut semper in praeteritum factum est. Ep. 16.3.2 (CChr.SL 3B, 94). 45 S. Deléani, Lettres (2007), 283. Only this and Ep. 43 are addressed to the laity alone, although Yvette Duval regards the form of address in Ep. 43, Cyprianus plebi uniuersae s., to incorporate the entire Christian community at Carthage as it gathered for Easter 251. Yvette Duval, Les chrétientés d’occident et leur évêque au IIIe siècle: Plebs in ecclesia constituta (Cyprien, Ep. 63) (Paris, 2005), 145. 46 Quod quidem nostros presbyteri et diacones monere debuerant, ut commendatas sibi oues fouerent et diuino magisterio ad uiam deprecandae salutis instruerent. Ep. 17.2.2 (CChr.SL 3B, 97-8). 47 Vel uos itaque singulos regite et consilio ac moderatione uestra secundum diuina praecepta lapsorum animos temperate. Ep. 17.3.1 (CChr.SL 3B, 98). 48 As Clarke says, there may be other loyal presbyters, either with Cyprian or elsewhere, waiting to return to Carthage, but given the five dissident presbyters ‘the present situation for Cyprian’s church in Carthage can only be termed threatened, if not desperate’. G.W. Clarke, Letters (1984), II 214 n. 14. 49 Boni uiri et ecclesiasticae administrationi per omnia obsequia deuoti. Ep. 43.1.1 (CChr. SL 3B, 200). 50 A common trope. 51 This presumably refers to the deacons and other lower clergy who have remained loyal, in parallel to the presbyters he has just named. It does not necessarily mean that there were no dissident deacons. For discussion, see G.W. Clarke, Letters (1984), II 214 n. 3.
The Duties of Deacons According to Cyprian of Carthage
The deacons’ role in teaching and providing an example is also apparent in Ep. 4, regarding virgins who have been sharing their beds with men, one of whom is a deacon.52 After discussing the situation, Cyprian notes that while all Christians must maintain discipline, ‘all the more is this duty incumbent upon church leaders and deacons in that they should provide others with teaching and example by the way in which they live and behave. How can they be overseers of innocence and chastity if they are indeed the very source and origin of corruption and instruction in vice?’53 The bishop was therefore right to excommunicate both the deacon and the other men involved.54 The usual procedure for presbyters or deacons who have either been appointed within the church, then left and returned (or who were ‘ordained’ outside the church and then joined it), is that they are received as laymen.55 Administrative duties In Ep. 14, prior to giving directions to the presbyters and deacons on what to do in his absence, Cyprian recognises that his return would allow them to ‘[take] counsel in large numbers’,56 to determine what should be done in light of the lapse of so many. Again, at the end of the letter, he mentions his resolve not to do anything ‘without your counsel and the consent of the people’.57 Yvette Duval is at pains to point out that this consilio (advice given by a group representing the community) is to be distinguished from decisions taken in concilio, that is, by a formal council of bishops.58 In the latter case, presbyters and deacons may be present, although not involved in the formal judgement, as in the case of the condemnation of Fortunatus and his associates by the African bishops.59 Deacons therefore have a role in the decision-making process of the local community but, it would appear, act as observers in the decision-making processes of the wider church. 52
Nevertheless, they claim that they have maintained their virginity. Ep. 4.1.1 (CChr.SL 3A, 17-8). Multo magis praepositos et diaconos curare hoc fas est, qui exemplum et documentum ceteris de conuersatione et moribus suis praebeant. Quomodo enim possunt integritati et continentiae praeesse, si ex ipsis incipiant corruptelae et uitiorum magisteria procedere? Ep. 4.3.3 (CChr.SL 3B, 21-2). 54 Ep. 4.4.1 (CChr.SL 3B, 22-3). The procedure regarding the virgins depended on whether the midwives were satisfied that they had maintained their virginity or not. 55 Ep. 72.2.1 (CChr.SL 3C, 525-6). This also applied in the case of Trofimus, who repented and returned with his congregation. Ep. 55.11.1-3 (CChr.SL 3B, 268-9). 56 Plurimorum consilio examinata limare. Ep. 14.1.2 (CChr.SL 3B, 79). 57 Sine consilio uestro et sine consensu plebis. Ep. 14.4 (CChr.SL 3B, 83). Similarly, in Ep. 29, he speaks of the communi consilio regarding Saturus and Optatus and their suitability for clerical appointment. Ep. 29.2 (CChr.SL 3B, 138). 58 Y. Duval, Chrétientés (2005), 101-6. At times, Cyprian and other bishops who happen to be present in Carthage deliberate together, as in Ep. 3.1.1 (CChr.SL 3B, 9), joined at times by presbyters, as in Ep. 1.1.1 (CChr.SL 3B, 1), Ep. 4.0 (CChr.SL 3B, 17). This is not the same as a formal council. 59 Ep. 59.14.2-15.1 (CChr.SL 3C, 362-3). 53
Another significant area in the administration of the church is the delivery of ecclesial correspondence, which must be done by clerics.60 This convention, along with the paucity of clerics in Carthage at that time, is used by Cyprian as justification for his appointment of Saturus as a reader and Optatus as a subdeacon.61 The same reasoning is behind his delay in writing to Bishop Successus. Before the contents of Valerian’s rescript were known, the entire clergy were believed to be threatened and therefore unable to travel. Once it is clear that only bishops, presbyters and deacons are to be executed, he is able to send the letter by one of the lower clergy.62 Despite the well-attested role of deacons in delivering letters,63 however, Cyprian never explicitly mentions a deacon in this role. The named clergy in this role are usually acolytes64 and sub-deacons.65 There is one instance of a presbyter charged with taking a letter, but this appears to be a special case, involving the recognition of Cornelius as bishop of Rome.66 Conclusion Deacons have a prominent role in Cyprian’s Carthage. Since much of the evidence we have is from a time when the bishop was absent, they presumably have greater responsibilities than would ordinarily be the case. Much of what they are tasked with, however, appears to be an extension of their usual duties: caring for those in need, participating in the administration of the Eucharist and baptism, teaching, and discussing issues facing the church. Surprisingly, no deacon is recorded as carrying letters to other congregations. Duties of deacons which are due to the extraordinary circumstances of the time are laying hands on penitents in confession and, perhaps, offering the Eucharist.
For discussion, see G.W. Clarke, Letters (1984), II 107. Ep. 29.1.1-2 (CChr.SL 3B, 137-8). He goes on to demonstrate that they have already been trialled, so he is only fulfilling what had already been approved. 62 Ep. 80.1.1-2 (CChr.SL 3C, 626-7). For further discussion, see G.W. Clarke, Letters (1984), II 107. 63 Beginning with Phoebe in Rom. 16:1. For a discussion of Phoebe as deacon, see Margaret Mowczko, ‘What did Phoebe’s Position and Ministry as Διάκονος of the Church at Cenchrea Involve?’, in Bart J. Koet, Edwina Murphy and Esko Ryökäs (eds), Deacons and Diakonia in Early Christianity: The First Two Centuries (Tübingen, 2018), 71-80. 64 The acolyte Naricus is charged with carrying funds from Cyprian to the presbyter Rogatianus. Ep. 7.2 (CChr.SL 3B, 39). 65 The Roman clergy mention receiving the news regarding Cyprian’s withdrawal a Crementio subdiacono. Ep. 8.1.1 (CChr.SL 3B, 40). Elsewhere, as Clarke notes, the term used is hypodiaconus. G.W. Clarke, Letters (1984), I 205 n. 1. For a subdeacon and acolytes named together, see Ep. 78.1.1 (CChr.SL 3C, 621). 66 Primitivus. Epp. 44.2.2; 48.1 (CChr.SL 3B, 213; 228). Clarke calls him ‘a diplomatic envoy’. G.W. Clarke, Letters (1984), II 232 n. 13. Even bishops bear letters in a crisis, as in the case of Felix and Sabinus in Ep. 67, discussed above. 61
‘Because of Many Necessities we Need a Female Deacon’: The Function of Deaconesses in the Apostolic Constitutions Pauliina PYLVÄNÄINEN, Oulu, Finland
ABSTRACT The reinterpretation of deacons and diakonia challenges us to consider the function of deaconesses in the Apostolic Constitutions. The Apostolic Constitutions is a church order that originated in Antioch and was completed in AD 380. The tasks of deaconesses in the document can be divided into three categories: Firstly, duties that are linked to the liturgy in the congregation are assigned to the deaconesses by the compiler. They guard the doors of the church building, find places for women who need them and are present when the women approach the altar during the Eucharist. When a woman is being baptized, a deaconess assists the bishop during the rite. The document also consists of two analogies which describe the liturgical function of the deaconesses: They function in the places of the Levites as well as the Holy Spirit. Secondly, the deaconesses have tasks that traditionally have been defined as charitable service. Since the concept of deacon has been reinterpreted, tasks have to be evaluated as to whether they include charitable connotations or not. My analysis shows that the deaconesses are sent to visit the homes of women. The visits include, for instance, almsgiving, and hence belong to the field of charity by nature. In some cases, the tasks of healing and travelling also seem to have charitable connotations. However, alongside these tasks, the deaconesses also have a task that is neither mainly liturgical nor charitable. As messengers, they play a role in the communications of the congregation.
The concept of διάκονος used in the New Testament and patristic sources is currently undergoing reinterpretation.1 This reinterpretation challenges us to consider the function of deaconesses in the Apostolic Constitutions as well. In my book, Agents in Liturgy, Charity and Communication. The Tasks of Female Deacons in the Apostolic Constitutions,2 I analyse the tasks which have been ascribed to the deaconesses in the document. I summarize the results of my study here. I focus only on one source and only on the women and their 1 See e.g. John N. Collins, Diakonia. Re-interpreting the Ancient Sources (New York, 1990); Anni Hentschel, Diakonia im Neuen Testament. Studien zur Semantik unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Rolle von Frauen (Tübingen, 2007) and Bart J. Koet, Edwina Murphy and Esko Ryökäs (eds), Deacons and Diakonia in Early Christianity. The First Two Centuries (Tübingen, 2018). 2 Pauliina Pylvänäinen, Agents in Liturgy, Charity and Communication. The Tasks of Female Deacons in the Apostolic Constitutions (Turnhout, 2020).
Studia Patristica CVI, 29-38. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.
tasks, so as to help us to parallel them with the tasks of male deacons in the same source and the source with other patristic references in further studies. My question is therefore: What do the deaconesses – i.e. the agents in their roles in the fields of liturgy, charity and communication – do? Starting points for the study The Apostolic Constitutions (hereafter: ‘AC’) is a church order that originated in the region of Antioch and was completed in AD 380. The document is a compilation consisting of several sources which have been remoulded into one text. Because the compiler has also added a great deal of unique material into the text, it is a self-contained document, the content of which is incoherent. The process of compilation is apparent in the case of deaconesses: The compiler has not just remoulded the instructions given in the previous source, but has added many instructions to the document. The nature of the text in AC is prescriptive rather than descriptive. The document contains information about both the compiler’s viewpoints and real (or assumed) circumstances in the community for which it was primarily composed.3 AC was defined as a heterodox Arian document for centuries. Recently, the interpretations concerning its theology have multiplied. An argument against Arian readings has been proposed, as well as, among other things, the presence of Neo-Arian and orthodox verses in the document. 4 The document has also been shown to reflect in many ways a Jewish Christian interaction that was typical of Antiochene life during the fourth century: AC contains prayers that originate in synagogues (AC VII 33-8); the compiler commands the congregation to celebrate the Sabbath and Sunday side by side (AC VIII 33, 2); and the way the compiler uses Scripture creates a fruitful basis for interaction between Jews and Christians.5 Scholars have presented various interpretations about the compiler’s attitude to Judaism.6 To me, the congregation portrayed in AC seems to be independently 3
Bruno Steimer, Vertex Traditionis. Die Gattung der altchristlichen Kirchenordnungen (Berlin, New York, 1992), 117-22. See also Kevin Madigan and Carolyn Osiek (ed. and trans.), Ordained Women in the Early Church. A Documentary History (Baltimore, 2005), 106-16 and Anders Ekenberg, ‘Evidence for Jewish Believers in “Church Orders” and Liturgical Texts’, in O. Skarsaune and R. Hvalvik (eds), Jewish Believers in Jesus. The Early Centuries (Peabody, MA, 2007), 640-58. The analysis of AC is based on the volumes 320, 329 and 336 of Sources Chrétiennes. 4 Ibid. 123-7. 5 Michele Murray, ‘Christian Identity in AC: Some Observations’, in Zeba A. Crook and Philip A. Harland (eds), Identity and Interaction in the Ancient Mediterranean. Jews, Christians and Others (Sheffield, 2007), 189-94. 6 Ibid. 192-3. See also e.g. Pieter W. van der Horst, ‘Jews and Christians in Antioch at the End of the Fourth Century’, in Stanley E. Porter and Brook W.R. Pearson (eds), Christian-Jewish
The Function of Deaconesses in the Apostolic Constitutions
Christian, but not entirely segregated from its Jewish roots and neighbours. The variable attitudes towards Jewish customs and beliefs indicate that the compiler was part of the multifaceted Jewish Christian culture and context. The compiler partially attacks Jews (via anti-Jewish verses), but similarly the Christian life that the document mirrors is firmly rooted in the interaction between Jews and Christians.7 The compiler has used manifold διακ-rooted concepts when referring to the deaconesses in AC.8 Most of the concepts originate primarily in Scripture. The concept of διακονίσσα is, however, significantly more recent, being used for first time in the 4th century.9 Despite the multiplicity of terms, I think that the compiler refers to the same group of women in the congregation. In AC, the deaconesses appear as anonymous women, which are needed in many ways (AC III 16, 2). From the perspective of women in the congregation, they play a special role in the document. The compiler instructs that they have to be unmarried, either virgins or widows (AC VI 17, 4). The prerequisites concerning their life seem to be linked to their function in the congregation. Their unmarried status might enable them to perform some of their tasks. The deaconesses are also considered to be chosen women in the community, which comes out in the so-called ordination prayer prescribed in the document (AC VIII 19-20). Many scholars have considered the role of deaconesses by using traditional classifications such as ‘cherotonia’ and ‘cheirothesia’.10 My viewpoint is different. I think the most reasonable way to consider the function of the deaconesses is to make a comprehensive analysis of their tasks in the congregation. The tasks can be divided into three categories: liturgical, charitable and communicative. The Liturgical Tasks of Deaconesses The liturgical tasks include the role of the deaconesses in the baptism of women and liturgical assemblies. The baptismal rite of a female catechumen can be divided into phases that follow each other in a certain order. A particular person – the bishop, deacon or presbyter – is in a responsible role in particular phases:
Relations through the Centuries, Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 192 (Sheffield, 2000), 228-38, 233-4 and G. Rouwhorst, ‘Jewish Liturgical Traditions in Early Syriac Christianity’, Vigiliae Christianae 51 (1993), 72-93, 85-6. 7 P. Pylvänäinen, Agents (2020), 94-118. 8 P. Pylvänäinen, Agents (2020), 121-5. 9 K. Madigan and C. Osiek, Ordained Women (2005), 8. 10 Dorothea Reininger, Diakonat der Frau in der einen Kirche (Ostfildern, 1999), 97-100.
1. A male deacon anoints the forehead, a deaconess the rest of the body of a catechumen (AC III 16, 2). 2. A bishop lays hands on the catechumen (AC III 16, 3). 3. The bishop anoints the head of the catechumen with holy oil (AC III 16, 4). 4. The bishop or a presbyter invokes the Triune God and washes the catechumen (AC III 16, 4). 5. The deaconess receives the woman who has been baptized (AC III 16, 4). 6. The bishop anoints the woman with sweet oil (AC III 16, 4). The deaconess is needed in the phases 1 and 5. The deaconess assists the bishop, male deacon and presbyter when a female candidate is being baptized by anointing her and receiving her when she emerges from the pool. The compiler argues for deaconesses by stating that it is not a proper custom to mix the sexes so that a deaconess anoints a male body and vice versa. The compiler does not justify the presence of a deaconess in more detail. From my viewpoint, the avoidance of mixing the sexes is in connection with the practical need for preserving the modesty of catechumens. Furthermore, in another verse (AC VIII 28, 6) the deaconesses are instructed to attend the baptism of women ‘for the sake of decency’ (διὰ τὸ εὐπρεπές). This statement refers to modest behaviour, but also includes the idea of estimating propriety from the viewpoint of the order of the church. At the beginning of the liturgical assembly, the deaconesses have to guard the doors through which women enter the church building (AC II 57, 10). A similar task takes its place at the time of anaphora (AC VIII 11, 11). They also have to usher the women into their place in the building (AC II 58, 6) and be present when a woman approaches the bishop or male deacon during the Eucharist (AC II 26, 6).11 In AC, the church building is perceived as a ship. When the compiler begins to give instructions about the assembly in the building, he calls deacons mariners, who prepare the places for the passengers in this ship. The deaconesses and male doorkeepers are also instructed to stand at the entrances of the building like stewards (AC II 57, 3-4). Usually, the Greek noun ναυστολόγος means a ship’s steward, someone who assigns passengers their places and direct them.12 Thus, among the ancient Christians, the word has begun to be used metaphorically. The compiler of AC also describes the task of deaconess by referring to the pattern in the tabernacle of testimony. The same description appears in Book 8, 11 In AC II 26, 2-6 the compiler presents two analogies, in which he associates the deaconesses with Levites and the Holy Spirit. I think the analogies should be read from a liturgical viewpoint. For this reason, the latter analogy (AC II 26, 6) reveals that a woman who receives the Holy Communion should not come to the altar without a deaconess. P. Pylvänäinen, Agents (2020), 191-205. 12 G.W.H. Lampe (ed.), A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford, 1961), 899.
The Function of Deaconesses in the Apostolic Constitutions
in her so-called ordination prayer (AC VIII 20, 1): ‘… who in the tabernacle of testimony and the temple appointed a guardianship for Your holy gateway’.13 The deaconesses are hence paralleled with the guardians in the tabernacle of testimony and the temple. According to the OT, there really were some anonymous women at the entrances: ‘This one made the bronze washbasin and its bronze base from the mirrors of the women who fasted, who fasted by the doors of the tent of witness, in the day he pitched it’.14 The function of the deaconesses during the liturgical assembly is also described through two analogies in AC: They are analogized with Levites (AC II 26, 3) and the Holy Spirit (AC II 26, 6). Firstly, because the deaconesses are instructed to guard the doors of the church, they can be compared to some women in the OT. On the other hand, along with priests, male deacons, widows and orphans, they are supported by the congregation. From this viewpoint, they can be analogised with Levites. Secondly, the deaconesses are analogised with the Holy Spirit. Just as the compiler of AC considers the Holy Spirit subject to the Son and the Father, the deaconesses are in a subordinate position with regard to the male deacons and bishop in the liturgical assemblies. They also function as intermediaries between the women and the male deacons or the bishop during the Eucharist. The compiler also presents several prohibitions, which have to be interpreted in a liturgical context. The prohibitions are either addressed to women in general (AC III 6, 1; III 9, 1) or to the deaconesses in particular (AC VIII 28, 6-8). Hence, the deaconesses are not allowed to teach in liturgical assemblies, baptize, consecrate, offer or separate. The prohibitions are linked with the deaconesses’ subordinate position in the congregation. Although what the deaconesses have to do and what they must not do does not come out clearly in AC, they still are people of status in the liturgical context. To sum up, the role of the deaconesses in the liturgical assembly is limited. Unlike their male counterparts, the deaconesses are not directly involved in the liturgy. Rather, their function is to maintain order during the liturgy.
Tasks linked with Charity Charity in the early Christian congregation has Jewish roots. Taking care of the needy is an emphasis that the early Christians and Jews shared.15 Based on 13 … ὁ καὶ ἐν τῇ σκηνῇ τοῦ μαρτυρίου καὶ ἐν τῷ ναῷ προχειρισάμενος τὰς φρουρὰς τῶν ἁγίων σου πυλῶν… AC VIII 20, 1. 14 Exod. 38:26. 15 Anni Hentschel, Gemeinde, Ämter, Dienste. Perspektiven zur neutestamentlichen Ekklesiologie, Biblisch-Theologische Studien 136 (Neukirchen-Vluyn, 2013), 9. See also Pauliina Pylvänäinen, ‘Deacons as Agents in Early Christian Charity’, Diaconia Christi 53 (2018), 167-70.
the OT, they were responsible for giving alms to widows and orphans, for example. In AC, the bishop, as leader, has the primary responsibility for charity in AC and the deaconesses function as his agents. Although the role of deaconesses in the congregation is not openly argued for by way of Jewish Christian rhetoric, charity seems to be the link between the deaconesses and the Jewish Christian interaction in the context of the document. The deaconesses are sent to visit the homes of the faithful women. The compiler seems to indicate several purposes for such visits. They might include almsgiving, at least to the widows. Additionally, it can be presumed but not validated that the deaconesses might teach the women when paying them a visit. All in all, the visits to women’s homes are in indirect connection with charitable service in the congregation. I conclude that the deaconess plays an intermediary role in a visit – she is διάκονος of both the bishop and the alms. She has to inform the bishop about the visits. Here the tasks of the female and male deacons are parallel.16 The verse AC III 19, 1, is particularly challenging from the viewpoints of reinterpreted diakonia and the function of deaconesses. In this passage, the compiler briefly refers to several tasks of the deaconesses by using words that denote service.17 The verse includes five words that have traditionally been interpreted to be in close connection to charitable activities. I analysed the words one by one in the context of the whole document, and concluded that the words can be translated accurately as healing, messaging, travelling as well as co-operative and subordinate service. The compiler instructs concerning these tasks in a non-liturgical context. Some of them were shown to have charitable connotations. The verb θεραπεύειν, which I translate as ‘healing’, is primarily linked to the bishop’s responsibility in the document. The bishop is instructed to use several means when he heals. The means have to be suited to the needy. The tasks of healing are carried out through words. The bishop has to direct his words against the sin in the congregation which is the underlying problem. By using the verb θεραπεύειν in connection with the deaconesses, the compiler implies that a deaconess shares and continues the bishop’s work. As his agent, she is allowed to heal. Probably the means at her disposal in her work are similar to those of the bishop: words of reproof, threats of judgment and an exhortation to fast. The deaconesses are not, though, permitted to exclude a member temporarily from the assembly as a penance. This task is left to the bishop. Hence, the deaconesses continue the bishop’s healing work, but not in all its forms.18 The deaconesses are also instructed to travel. In antiquity, women travelling was not that strange. There were several reasons for women to travel: for example, 16 17 18
P. Pylvänäinen, Agents (2020), 211-7. J.N. Collins, Diakonia (1990), 69. P. Pylvänäinen, Agents (2020), 220-2.
The Function of Deaconesses in the Apostolic Constitutions
to conduct business, including commerce, to visit family, to attend religious festivals, to seek cures.19 However, in AC III 19, 2 the deacons are instructed to imitate Christ, who gives his life (quoting Matt. 20:28). This implies that travelling could be a dangerous business. Travelling outside the city might be even more dangerous than inside the city. The task addressed to deaconesses might include both, but more probably it refers to travelling further afield. As we already noted, the deaconesses in AC are instructed to be either virgins or widows. Their unmarried life enables them to travel. I think it is possible that, in AC, the deaconesses are asked to travel in order to deliver material support. The task might also be in connection with their visits to the homes.20 The tasks of healing and travel might be linked to visits, but because of inconsistencies in the document, that kind of conclusion cannot be made with any certainty. In spite of this, the tasks of healing, travelling and co-operative serving are indirectly linked with charity. They cannot be defined as plain charitable tasks, but seem to be linked with it. The verb ὑπηρετέω can be translated as ‘to serve’, but it is closely linked with a co-operative connotation and the function of deacons in AC. In some cases, the ὑπηρετ-rooted words seem to have been used even synonymously with the διακfamily in AC. In two contexts, for example, the plural noun ὑπηρέταις has been used synonymously with male διάκονοι. Additionally, ὑπηρετέω is the only verb which occurs several times with regard to the deaconesses. Two times the deaconesses are instructed to ἐξυπηρετεῖν the presbyters during the baptism of women. In some cases, the prefix ἐξ- might slightly change the meaning of the verb. Here, however, the context has been described so that the prefix does not seem to change the meaning very much. The object of the verb has been given as well: It is the presbyter. Consequently, the deaconess has to serve the presbyter during the rite of baptism. In the verse AC VIII 28, 8 the deaconesses, readers and singers are called ὑπηρέται. This time, the deaconesses are not instructed to serve the presbyter, but rather the male deacons. The passage refers to the liturgical assembly, during which the tasks assigned to the female and male deacons were partly similar. The deaconess works co-operatively with the male deacon, now also expressed by way of ὑπηρετέω.21 The etymology of ὑπηρ -rooted words reveals a suitable standpoint to the interpretation of its use in AC as well. The noun ὑπηρέτης was originally a sailor’s expression.22 The noun ὑπηρεσία has also been used for the body of rowers and the crew on a ship.23 I think one of the most important things in the 19 Ross Shepard Kraemer, Unreliable Witnesses. Religion, Gender, and History in the GrecoRoman Mediterranean (New York, 2011), 254. 20 P. Pylvänäinen, Agents (2020), 225-7. 21 Ibid. 227-33. 22 Robert Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek. Volume 2 (Leiden, 2010), 1534. 23 H.G. Liddell and R. Scott, A Lexicon Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon (Frome, London, 1998), 736.
duty of the rowers was their co-operation. They had to work well together to succeed in their task. In the same way, deacons must co-operate when they carry out their liturgical tasks. The deaconesses, along with male deacons, are also instructed to serve in nonliturgical contexts. The verb δουλεύω and the nouns derived from it occur several times in AC. They appear both in secular and spiritual contexts. Common to all occurrences is the connotation of subordination. The service here refers to the subordinate position of the deacon in relation to God. According to Collins, in ancient sources the word διάκονος was not connotated with humility and subservience. In AC, subordinate service is, however, one of the deaconesses’ tasks and is strongly linked with humility. In AC III 19, 4-5 the deacons are commanded to imitate Christ in their subordinate service. The compiler continues by quoting Matt. 20:26-7: ‘Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave’. According to the compiler, Christ himself is a real ‘righteous one who is well subject to many’. Here again, he makes mention of Isa. 53:11. The compiler continues by referring implicitly to John 13, in which Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. For the compiler, this is an example of the tenderness of Jesus’ brotherly love, which the Christians show to each other. He asks rhetorically, how can the deacons be ashamed to do the same to the infirm and weak brothers, if Christ has thus been lowered?24 A Communicative Task In addition to the liturgical and charitable tasks, the deaconesses have a task that is best called communicative. In AC, the task of messaging means carrying messages from the people in need to the bishop in the congregation. However, the task of messaging probably also means carrying messages from one congregation to another. During the first centuries, the Christians were not able to use the public institution for carrying letters (cursus publicus), so they had to organize delivery themselves. Carrying messages as a mandated person was an important task for the deacon at least from the first to the fourth century. In several early Christian sources, deacons act as messengers for their bishop. The deacons are described as transmitting messages usually from one bishop to another.25 At that time, sending a letter was a precarious business. It involved long distances on foot or by boat. The messenger had to be completely trustworthy. Hence, the messenger who carried letters from the sender to the recipient required 24
P. Pylvänäinen, Agents (2020), 233-7. Esko Ryökäs and Anssi Voitila, ‘Varhaiset diakonit kirjeiden kuljettajina’, Diakonian tutkimus 2 (2013), 136-41. 25
The Function of Deaconesses in the Apostolic Constitutions
Anointing Baptism Receiving Liturgical Doorkeeping No charitable connections
Non-liturgical Subordinate serving Visiting Liturgical Charitable connections
Healing Non-liturgical Travelling Co-operative serving
Fig. 1. The tasks of deaconesses in AC
a significant mandate.26 It is likely that the deaconesses in AC shared this work with their early Christian predecessors. The compiler does not seem to link the tasks of subordinate serving and carrying messages merely with charity. Carrying messages aids communication in the Church. Finally, the following chart summarizes the main results. The analysis shows that the tasks of the deaconesses in AC mainly match the reinterpreted conception of διάκονος in the NT. The deaconesses can be understood as agents and assistants, especially in relation to the bishop. They play an intermediate role between the bishop and the women in the congregation which is evident in several instructions. It seems that the compiler assigns them tasks that are needed in the congregation at that time. Hence, despite the fixed title of deaconess, the tasks assigned to them are not fixed. 26
Bart J. Koet, Augustine on Deacons (Leiden, 2019), 73-7.
The compiler focuses on the role of deaconesses in liturgical contexts, but this does not exclude tasks outside the liturgy. The charitable tasks of deaconesses are not highlighted, but still exist. We have to note that the number of instructions in AC does not tell us about the division between the liturgical, charitable and communicative tasks and their number in the real world. For one reason or another, the compiler has focused on the liturgical tasks of the deaconesses more explicitly than the charitable and communicative ones.
A Burden of Obedience? The Diaconate of Gregory the Great as Preparation for the Papacy Arnold SMEETS, Tilburg School of Catholic Theology, Utrecht, The Netherlands
ABSTRACT In several of his letters, Gregory the Great regrets the loss of monastic contemplatio as a result of his ordination as deacon and, later, bishop. With hindsight, the years he served as deacon were a preparation for the papacy. This article explores the possibility of an alternative view on the diaconate of Gregory the Great. Not only was it far from unusual for a deacon to become the next bishop, Gregory’s background and experience made him an obvious candidate for the papacy. So, was Gregory just a reluctant deacon, or can one argue that becoming a deacon was also perceived as a logical next step?
A scion of a senatorial family, Gregory the Great (ca. 540-604) could not but serve the res publica. At a relatively young age, he held the office of prefectus urbis, the most senior executive position in Rome. Pressed by numerous worldly cares, he increasingly longed for a life of study and prayer, centred about Scripture. The pressure built and to rescue himself from ‘the shipwreck of this life’, as he described it, he made the radical decision to leave the world and become a monk.1 His elevation to the papacy in September 590 though, brought him back amidst the storms of the world. In several letters from the early months of his pontificate, he complained about the loss of the cherished time of prayer and contemplation.2 In fact, the regret of the loss started more than a decade earlier – in 578 Gregory was ordained deacon. Serving the Church 1
The quote is from the letter of dedication to Leander of Seville (Ad Leandrum 1; Ep. 5.53a; for the letter see note 8). On Gregory’s life, see Robert A. Markus, Gregory the Great and His World (Cambridge, 1997) and George E. Demacopoulos, Gregory the Great, Ascetic, Pastor, and First Man of Rome (Notre Dame, 2015). 2 For instance, in Ep. 1.4 to John of Constantinople, Ep. 1.5 to the emperor’s sister Theoctista, Ep. 1.6 to count Narses or Ep. 1.7 to the former patriarch of Antioch, Anastasius, in which Gregory thanks him for his letter, which he received ‘as a tired man receives rest’ (ut fessus requiem accepi), only to complain about his harshness, for Anastasius ordered Gregory to take up his episcopal responsibilities. ‘Totally losing rectitude of mind, and giving away the clarity of contemplation, I can say, not through the spirit of a prophet but through my own experience: “I have been in every way cast down and humiliated”.’ ([I]ta ut mentis rectitudinem funditus perdens contemplationisque acien amittens, non per prophetiae spiritum sed per experimentum dicam: Incuruatus sum et humiliates sum usque quaeque [Ps. 118:107]), Sancti Gregorii Magni.
Studia Patristica CVI, 39-50. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.
of Rome implied a radical breach of monastic tranquility, certainly when he was sent to Constantinople to serve as the papal envoy (apocrisiarius) at the imperial court.3 The historiography on Gregory the Great stresses the fact that he neither sought nor wanted an ecclesiastical career and preferred his life as a monk.4 He is, one could say, a reluctant deacon. In this article I would like to explore the possibility that Gregory was not as reluctant a deacon as history has it. Recent research sheds new light on the importance and impact of deacons as ‘assistant leaders’ in Late Antiquity.5 I follow John Moorhead (in section 1) to illustrate that Gregory was neither the first nor the last deacon who eventually became the bishop of Rome. In section 2, I shall address the question how Gregory’s years as deacon relate to the profile of the diaconate and the normal pattern of episcopal succession in Late Antique Rome. As it turns out – and to paraphrase John Moorhead – Gregory the Great fits the bill as no other deacon becoming pope.6 In the last section I will draw some conclusions to build my case. I shall refer to the French bishop and Church historian Claude Dagens, who notes that the years as a deacon provided Gregory with a thorough preparation for his papacy.7 Registrum Epistularum Libri I-VII, ed. Dag Norberg, CChr.SL 140 (Turnhout, 1982), 4-9. ET The Letters of Gregory the Great, ed. John R.C. Martyn (Toronto, 2004), 121-6. 3 A. Emereau, ‘Apocrisiarius et apocrisiariat. Notion de l’apocrisiariat; ses variétés à travers l’histoire’, Echos d’Orient 17 (1914), 289-97, and id., ‘Les apocrisiaires en Orient (suite)’, Échos d’Orient 17 (1915), 542-8. See also Joseph Western, ‘The Papal Apocrisiarii in Constantinople during the Pontificate of Gregory I, 590-604’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 66 (2015), 697714. 4 A trope from Dudden’s classic biography onwards. Felix Homes Dudden, Gregory the Great. His Place in History and Thought (Eugene, 2004), vol. I, 105-6. 5 Bart J. Koet, The Go-Between. Augustine on Deacons, Brill’s Studies in Catholic Theology 6 (Leiden, 2019) and Bart J. Koet, Edwina Murphy and Esko Ryökäs (eds), Deacons and Diakonia in Early Christianity. The First Two Centuries, Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 479 (Tübingen, 2018). 6 John Moorhead, ‘On becoming Pope in Late Antiquity’, Journal of Religious History 30 (2006), 279-93, 292. 7 Claude Dagens, ‘Grégoire le Grand avant son pontificat: expérience politique et expérience spirituelle’, in Louis Holz, Jean-Claude Fredouille and Marie-Hélène Julien (eds), De Tertullien aux Mozarabes. Tome I. Antiquité tardive et christianisme ancien, IIIe-VIe siècles, Collection des Études Augustiniennes, Série Antiquité 132 (Paris, 1992), 143-50. Dagens uses ‘une antithese de nuancer’ as a title of one of his paragraphs, referring to the concept of the opposition within Gregory’s spirituality between the responsibilities for and in the world (actio) and his longing for a life of prayer and study (contemplatio). Regimius Rudmann, Mönchtum und kirchlicher Dienst in den Schriften Gregor des Grossen (Sankt-Ottilien, 1956) describes a slow but steady development from opposition and inner conflict towards an equilibrium in Gregory’s spirituality during his years as pope. Carole Straw, Gregory the Great. Perfection in Imperfection (Berkeley, 1988) conceives the theme of contemplatio or actio in terms of a dynamic complementarity (in reference to the concept of the vir Dei). More recently, see George E. Demacopoulos, Five Models of Spiritual Direction in the Early Church (Notre Dame, 2007), 127-64.
A Burden of Obedience?
I think that there are reasons to assume a more prospective significance of his diaconate. My suggestion would be that Gregory not only experienced his ordination as an unavoidable burden but at least also perceived it as a (more or less) logical next step. Still, in a letter to his dear friend Leander of Seville written five years into his papacy, he explicitly refers to his ordination as deacon. Gregory remembers a conversation he had with Leander just after his arrival in the capital (ca. 579580). On that occasion, Gregory had told Leander how he had longed for a life of contemplation and how he eventually fled to the monastery, thinking that he was safe – in vain, as he soon discovered: Although my mind still urged me to live the present life only in an external fashion, many influences springing from my worldly concerns began to oppress me so that I was detained there, no longer only externally but mentally as well, which is far worse. At last, in my anxiety to avoid all this turmoil, I sought the safe harbour of the monastery, having left behind all that belongs to the world, as I then vainly supposed, and I escaped the shipwreck of this life unclothed. As you know, a ship that is not carefully moored usually drifts away from the harbour, even from the most sheltered beach, once a storm has risen. I in like manner was soon back in the stormy waters of worldly affairs, with ecclesiastical office as an excuse (…). When the virtue of obedience was alleged to get me to accept the ministry at the holy altar [sacri altaris ministerium; ordination as deacon AS], I took up that burden under the auspices of the church, which could be avoided by another resort to flight if it were allowed.8
1. The Roman way to become the bishop From the twenty-seven popes between pope Damasus (366-384) and Gregory (590-604), fourteen certainly were deacons before their ordination as bishop of Rome. Just two popes in this period were not a deacon before their elevation 8 Ad Leandrum 1. Aperiebatur enim mihi iam de aeternitatis amore quid quaererem, sed inolita me consuetudo devinxerat, ne exteriorem cultum mutarem. Cumque adhuc me cogeret animus praesenti mundo quasi specie tenus deservire, coeperunt multa contra me ex eiusdem mundi cura succrescere, ut in eo iam non specie, sed, quod est gravius, mente retinerer. Quae tandem cuncta sollicite fugiens, portum monasterii petii, et relictis quae mundi sunt, ut frustra tunc credidi, ex huius vitae naufragio nudus evasi. Quia enim plerumque navem incaute religatam, etiam de sinu tutissimi littoris unda excutit, cum tempestas excrescit, repente me, sub praetextu ecclesiastici ordinis, in causarum saecularium pelago reperi (…). Nam cum mihi ad percipiendum sacri altaris ministerium, obedientiae virtus opponitur, hoc sub Ecclesiae colore susceptum est, quod si inulte liceat, iterum fugiendo deflectatur (…), Grégoire le Grand. Morales sur Job, ed. Robert Gillet and André de Gaudemaris, SC 32bis (Paris, 1989), 114-6. English translation from Moral Reflections on the Book of Job. Volume I. Translated by Brian Kerns OCSO. Introduction by Mark DelCogliano, Cistercian Studies Series 149 (Collegeville, MN, 2014), 47-8. The letter to Leander of Seville (534-600) is the dedicatory letter of the Morals on Job, send to Leander in 595.
to the papacy: John II (533-535) was a priest, pope Silverius (536-538) a subdeacon.9 Several deacons who later became pope served as apocrisiarius in Constantinople.10 Being papal envoy at court provided papabile deacons with relevant knowledge and experience and made sure that the emperor and his advisors knew the pope to-be. We know of several instances that a reigning pope named a deacon as his successor. An example is Symmachus (498-514) who ordained his successor Hormisdas deacon. Hormisdas became pope in 514; he then ‘groomed’ (to quote Moorhead) Felix IV as his successor. It was by no means a guarantee for a smooth transition of power, as the deacon Boniface (the protege of Felix IV) found out when the Senate objected to his election.11 It seems fair to say that Gregory’s ecclesiastical cursus honorem fitted the normal pattern. But normality is not exactly the same as regularity.12 Rome was, of course, Rome and built on ancient traditions, but also a city in a time of shifting historical contexts, which kept the ecclesiastical (as well as the civic) powerhouse on the move. The Pragmatic Sanction of 554 brought imperial officers, undermining Rome’s autonomy. The Lombard invasion, however, prevented a well-organised administration and made it necessary for Romans to take matters into their own hands. With imperial benevolence fading away, the Senate was fading out of history. The fifth century showed a decline in bureaucracy, infrastructure and public facilities, as the grain supply for the imperial annona. No wonder senators left for the countryside or headed for the New Rome. Others sought refuge in the growing monastic movement. More and more, the Church became the bearer of Roman civitas.13 The Church had the manpower and the resources to care for the city and feed the poor. The Petrine tradition helped popes like Leo I (440-461) and Gelasius (492-496) to build a strong and self-confident papacy. Continuity was provided for by the 9
John Moorhead, ‘On becoming Pope in Late Antiquity’, Journal of Religious History 30 (2006), 279-93, 284-5. Both exceptions are related to a time of crisis: John, a priest of San Clemente, named Mercurius, after a long sedes vacante; the sub-deacon Silverius, son of pope Hormisdas, after the death of pope Agapitus in Constantinople at the beginning of the Gothic War, more or less forced by the Ostrogothic king Theodahad (534-536). See also John St. H. Gibaut, The cursus honorum. A Study of the Origins and Evolution of Sequential Ordination, Patristic Studies 3 (New York, 2000), 136-8 referring to Canon XIII of the Council of Sardica as a modification to the Roman practice of electing deacons as bishops. 10 J. Moorhead, ‘On becoming Pope’ (2006), 293. Six out of twelve known apocrisiarii became pope. See Jeffrey Richards, The Popes and the Papacy in the Early Middle Ages: 476-752 (London, 1979), 294. 11 J. Moorhead, ‘On becoming Pope’ (2006), 284-6. In 530, the Senate wanted the deacon Dioscorus. He died a few weeks into the dispute on the succession of Felix IV, however, allowing Boniface to take the papal see. 12 To quote Kristina Kessa: ‘Irregularity and not regularity seems to have been the norm’, in her The Formation of Papal Authority in Later Antique Italy. Roman Bishops and the Domestic Sphere (Cambridge, 2012), 219. On the cursus honorem see Gibaut, The cursus honorum (2000). 13 See for the above K. Kessa, The Formation (2012), especially 199-235.
A Burden of Obedience?
tradition of choosing a pope from within the episcopal network. When the papal see grew in importance, so did the ecclesiastical bureaucracy, of which the traditional seven deacons of Rome formed a core element. They were the ministers of the bishop; his eyes and ears and sometimes his voice and muscle, in case a pope sent one of them on a delicate mission. As papal envoy, for instance in Constantinople, they spoke and acted with full papal authority.14 2. Gregory the Deacon Either Benedict I or Pelagius II ordained Gregory deacon.15 If Gregory was the choice of Pelagius, it would suggest that his ordination was (more or less) immediately followed by the mission to Constantinople. It is tempting to see this as an effort to put Gregory on a tenure track to the papacy. In any case, he had the connections and the necessary experience to be an effective envoy. For Gregory, Constantinople was something different: both familiar and strange; Roman and Greek; a world of politics and law and a loud religious muddle.16 But it was the capital of the world Gregory knew, a social, cultural and religious hotspot, a centre of gravity of politics, diplomacy and theology. In the corridors of power and at court, he would have been one of many apocrisiarii.17 His mission brought him into contact with a relevant network; his ordination, and perhaps his reputation, opening doors. Section 2.1 will introduce his networks and the content of his mission. Gregory not only fulfilled his duties but 14 J. Richards, The Popes (1979), 293-5 on the function of apocrisiarius as the top job of deacons. ‘The apocrisiarii allowed the bishop of Rome to be in two places at once: in Rome, a distant Byzantine enclave, at work among his people, and in Constantinople, at the heart of the empire’ in J. Western, ‘The Papal Apocrisiarii’ (2015), 689. There were (of course, one might say) tensions between the urban elite and the episcopal network. One example of this is the Laurentian Schism (498-506/7). On that, see John Moorhead, ‘The Laurentian Schism: East and West in the Roman Church’, Church History 47 (1978), 125-36. Jerome complained about the ‘boasting’ deacons of Rome. See David G. Hunter, ‘Rivalry between Presbyters and Deacons in the Roman Church. Three Notes on Ambrosiaster, Jerome and The Boasting of the Roman Deacons’, Vigiliae Christianae 71 (2017), 495-510 and Bart J. Koet, ‘How Deacons can be a Prime Example of Failing Clerics, According to Jerome’, in this volume, p. 7-18. 15 Barbara Müller, Führung im Denken und Handels Gregors des Grossen, Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum 57 (Tübingen, 2009), 66 gives 578 as the year of ordination. The exact chronology is unclear though: did Benedict I die in July 578 or 579? And was Pelagius II elevated to the papacy in November 578 or 579? Also relevant is the fact if deacons were ordained only in December, as the Liber Pontificalis seems to suggest. Raymond Davis (ed.), The Book of Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis). The Ancient Biographies of the First Ninety Roman Bishops to AD 715, Translated Texts for Historians Volume 6 (Liverpool, 2010), xxi. 16 B. Müller, Führung (2009), 69 has the far better description of ‘Hexenkessel’. For an imaginative description of Constantinople: F.H. Dudden, Gregory the Great (2004), I 123-57. 17 A. Emereau, ‘Les apocrisiaires’ (1915), 543.
also took the opportunities his position gave him for a better understanding of the world in which he lived and to strengthen his personal profile (see section 2.2). In section 2.3, I will briefly sketch Gregory’s activities back in Rome before he became its bishop. 2.1. Duties and dossiers No doubt Gregory quickly became familiar with the key players in the relevant networks in Constantinople. First his ecclesiastical peers, such as Eutychius of Constantinople and the synkollos John (who was to become the next patriarch, similar to Gregory himself), or bishop Domitian of Melitene (580-602). The latter was a nephew of emperor Maurice and one of his close advisors, especially in matters of religion and theology.18 Domitian was a link with the imperial court; the locus of the second relevant network of officials and courtiers, some of them émigrés from home, and the members of the imperial family. Gregory developed several friendly and personal relationships, especially with the new emperor Maurice and his spouse Constantina.19 Gregory was even the godfather of their first-born son.20 A third network consisted of some of his fellow monks from Rome. The very presence of his brethren gave him comfort and the opportunity to participate, as far as duties allowed it, in the monastic life he had shared with them in his monastery in Rome. As an active and prominent member of the networks, one of his duties was to get the ear of the emperor. The failed mission to Tiberius II in 577 had made it clear that Rome had to deal with the Lombards itself.21 Pelagius II tried to seek peace with them and to get military support from the Franks. He also made 18 Other important names are Anastasius of Antioch (during his exile, 570-595), Eulogius of Alexandria (581-607) prior to his ordination as bishop, and Leander of Seville. Also John IV the Faster (582-595); as the synkollos he was a confidante of the sitting patriarch and his intended successor. B. Müller, Führung (2009), 79-99. See also Matthew Dal Santo, ‘Gregory the Great’, in Matthew Dal Santo and Bronwen Neil (eds), A Companion to Gregory the Great, Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition 47 (Leiden, 2013), 61-4. 19 Maurice became emperor in 582. Next to the imperial couple relevant names are Theodorus (former prefect; court physician of the emperor); Theotimis (physician to the emperor; who also treated Gregory, cf. Ep 3.62); comes Narses and his wife, together with Dominica and Rusticina and her daughters Eusebia and Gregoria, all Latin émigrés; comes Priscus; comes excubitorum Philippicus (chief of the imperial body guard); Aristobulus, imperial secretary; John, quaestor and former consul; Theoktista and Gordia (sisters of Maurice; the first charged with the care for the prince). See B. Müller, Führung (2009), 100-1 and M. Dal Santo, ‘Gregory the Great’ (2013), 61. 20 Michael Whitby, The Emperor Maurice and his Historian. Theophylact Simocatta on Persian and Balkan Warfare (Oxford, 1988), 18. See also Ep. 3.61 (CChr.SL 140, 209-11) on the friendship between Maurice and Gregory. 21 Gregory might or might not have been a part of the mission. B. Müller, Führung (2009), 75 implies a ‘yes’, but she dates the mission in 579. On page 48, when she discusses the 577 mission, she does not mention Gregory as a companion of senator Pamphronius. My guess is that Gregory was in Rome in 577.
A Burden of Obedience?
active use of his apocrisiarius to plead with the emperor for military assistance. It was a complicated task and would demand (indeed) knowledge, skills and character, without a guarantee of success.22 A second dossier on the apocrisiarius’ desk was the Three Chapter Schism.23 Pelagius II had tried to end the schism, but his two letters had no effect. A third letter was written on his behalf by his deacon Gregory. If the letter was not written in Constantinople, it was in any case researched there, because relevant documents and sources Gregory had apparently consulted were hard to find, or unknown, in Rome. Reading this letter, it becomes clear that Gregory understood theological fineries and knew how to be a smooth operator; he wrote an irenic and convincing letter.24 In a third dossier, Gregory showed he could be his own man. Pelagius II had made objections to John the Faster’s use of the title universal patriarch. Gregory restrained himself apparently in this matter, out of personal respect – until a few years into his own papacy.25 2.2. Profile Being a diplomat did not mean that he did not join the debates of the day. He did, and strongly and eloquently – he was most able to make his opinions known and hold his ground.26 A famous example is his debate with Eutychius. The patriarch stated that the body of the resurrection was ‘impalpable, and more subtle than the wind or the air’. Gregory defended the traditional stance of the bodily resurrection. The debate ended in a private tribunal under Tiberius II who decided that Gregory had the better arguments. Apparently, Eutychius reconciled himself on his deathbed with the tradition. This discussion was part of a much wider held intellectual debate. The rediscovery of Aristotle gave rise to criticisms of the traditional Christian views on 22
B. Müller, Führung (2009), 74-6. A letter of instruction from 584 (Pelagius II, ep.; MGH. Ep. II, app. II, 440-1), informed Gregory about the position of the exarch from Ravenna, who had neither the means nor the intentions to help Rome. Gregory was to inquire after the political and military intentions of the emperor and was explicitly to ask for troops. John the Deacon, Vita Gregorii I 31 (PL 75, 75C) speaks of several letters of instruction, but they are lost. 23 See Celia Chazelle and Catherine Cubitt (eds), The Crisis of the Oikoumene. The Three Chapters and the Failed Quest for Unity in the Sixth Century, Studies in the Early Middle Ages 14 (Turnhout, 2007) and Katharina Greschat, ‘Gregory I’s Christology and the Three Chapters Controversy’, Journal of the Australian Early Medieval Association 8 (2012), 53-76. 24 B. Müller, Führung (2009), 76-79. For the letter MGH.Ep. II, app. III,3, 449-67. On Gregory’s authorship Paul Meyvaert, ‘A Letter of Pelagius II Composed by Gregory the Great’, in John C. Cavadini (ed.), Gregory the Great. A Symposium, Notre Dame Studies in Theology Volume 2 (Notre Dame, 1995), 94-116. 25 B. Müller, Führung (2009), 87 and for Gregory’s stand in the debate during his papacy: 324-9. Perhaps, though, Gregory’s silence was not the result of his respect but of a hint from emperor Maurice ‘to let the matter rest’. F.H. Dudden, Gregory the Great (2004), II 203. 26 B. Müller, Führung (2009), 69-74 and Phil Booth, ‘Gregory and the Greek East’, in M. Dal Santo and B. Neil (eds), A Companion (2013), 109-31.
the bodily resurrection.27 The new and modern Aristotelean rationality seemed to win the argument, much to the dismay of many traditionalists, who objected to the consequences for the devotion of saints and the care of the Church for the souls of the departed. It all came down to the possibility of a post mortem activity of the soul (before the Resurrection on the Last Day). If the Aristotelean rationalists were right, it was of no use for people to pray for the souls of their loved ones or to believe in the patronage and guidance of the saints. Debating the saints was not part of his task as apocrisiarius, but it was a debate happening at the time and catching the headlines (as it were). Well educated, eager and politically profiled, Gregory was bound to join in. Later he defended the traditions of old against his trusted subdeacon Peter in the fourth book of Dialogues. Peter’s questions echo the rational and materialistic Aristotelean view that the soul must be dormant between death and the resurrection. Gregory successfully convinces Peter of the contrary. It was, apparently, a subject close to his heart. As was what was to become his magnus opus: the Moralia in Iob, dedicated to Leander of Seville. With him, Gregory shared not only a deep friendship but also a monastic background.28 The latter was a sign of his times. The monastic movement aspired to seek things spiritual. It also aspired to balance the spiritual amidst the cares of the world, and with a care for the world. Precisely the challenge men like Leander and Gregory envisioned for themselves. Commenting on Job provided Gregory with a means to continue the monastic practice he got so attached to. His audience in Constantinople was somewhat different than back in Rome, including not just the monks who had travelled with him to the imperial city, but also high ranking ecclesiastics and personal relations with a link to court or the imperial family.29 That made it a public event and an intellectual and spiritual exercise woven into the spiritual and intellectual debates of the day. For those attending and later reading the expositions, the Moralia in Iob was profound in its spirituality but also encouraging in its implications for one’s personal and public life, certainly for those with a responsibility for the political challenges of their day and age.30 And doing so, Gregory – in
27 See Matthew Dal Santo, Debating the Saints’ Cult in the Age of Gregory the Great, Oxford Studies in Byzantium (Oxford, 2012). One of the defenders of the cult of the saints is Eustratius of Constantinople, who wrote an extensive treatise On the State of the Souls. Gregory probably knew Eustratius and certainly knew of the debate. 28 B. Müller, Führung (2009), 95-9. John R.C. Martyn, Gregory and Leander. An Analysis of the Special Friendship Between Pope Gregory the Great and Leander, Archbishop of Seville (Newcastle upon Tyne, 2013). 29 Katharina Greschat, Die Moralia in Job Gregors des Grossen. Ein christologisch-ekklesiologischer Kommentar, Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum 31 (Tübingen, 2005), 28-9. 30 B. Müller, Führung (2009), 99-106. M. Dal Santo, ‘Gregory the Great’ (2013), 60 connects the choice of Job with how Gregory felt about the fortunes of the empire. See also Katharina Greschat, Die Moralia (2005) and ead., ‘Gregory I’s Christology’ (2012), 53-76. See for instance
A Burden of Obedience?
addition to being a diplomat – did in Constantinople what he used to do as monk, back in Rome: study Scripture to raise one’s soul closer to God.31 2.4. Back in Rome Gregory was recalled in 585 or 587 at the latest.32 After his tour of duty as apocrisiarius, he resumed his monastic life in combination with tasks he fulfilled as trusted deacon of pope Pelagius II.33 A pious story has it that Gregory ‘conceived the design of converting the northern world’.34 On more certain grounds is the probability that Gregory was involved in the events concerning the Three Chapter Schism and that he was made responsible for the martyr’s graves and the care of the pilgrims.35 Especially the latter task is an interesting continuation of his involvement in the debate he joined in Constantinople concerning the post mortem activities of the soul. With a renewed threat of warfare looming, in the autumn of 589 heavy rainfall made the Tiber flood the city and ruined the granaries, leading to a food crisis. The shortage and hunger were topped by an outbreak of the plague during the following winter, leading to high mortality rates and sheer panic. A heavy stillness brooded over the city, broken only by the groans and shrieks of the dying, the subdued chant of the Misereres, and the rumble of the death-wagons. All the skills of the physicians could do nothing to abate the malady.36
The pope was one of the first victims. The death of Pelagius II in February 590 marked the beginning of the end of Gregory’s days as deacon. The people of Rome – (what remained of) the Senate and the clergy – elected Gregory the following month as their new bishop. The interregnum lasted until September 3 in 590, when Gregory’s election was confirmed by the emperor and he was ordained bishop of Rome. also Agnes Boulious, ‘Références pour la conversion du monde païen’, Revue des Études Augustiniennes 33 (1987), 105-12. 31 Canticum Canticorum 2. Allegoria enum anima longe a Deo posite quasi quandam machinam facit ut per illam leuetur ad Deum, Sancti Gregorii Magni, Expositio in Canticum Cantorum, ed. P. Verbraken, CChr.SL 144 (Turnhout, 1963), 3. 32 B. Müller, Führung (2009), 110. The later date is related to a donation made by Gregory to the monastery of Saint Andrew’s, dated December 28 (MGH.Ep. II, 437-9). 33 J. Richards, The Popes (1979), 168 has him as a (kind of) secretary of state. F.H. Dudden, Gregory the Great (2004), I 187-9 has him also as abbot of Saint Andrew’s. 34 Peter Llewyllen, Rome in the Dark Ages (London, 1971), 91. The pious story in The Earliest Life of Gregory the Great. By an Anonymous Monk of Whitby. Text, translation and notes by Bertram Colgrave (Cambridge, 1985), 90-3. 35 B. Müller, Führung (2009), 110. Increasingly, though, the Three Chapter Schism became a case for the exarch in Ravenna. On the care of the graves: Gregory built a new design for the stairway to Saint Peter’s tomb; see ead., ‘fecit ut super corpus beati Petri missas celebranentur, LP 66.4. Gregory the Great and St Peter’s Tomb’, SP 40 (2006), 69-74. 36 F.H. Dudden, Gregory the Great (2004), I 215.
3. Seeing things in perspective. Conversion and continuity This article addresses Gregory the Great’s reluctance vis-à-vis an ecclesiastical career. As shown in section 1, it was (more or less) normal practice for deacons to be involved in matters concerning the Church of Rome. More often than not a deacon would become the next pope. Section 2 illustrated that Gregory the Great was more than able to live up to what was expected from a papabile deacon. He took the opportunities his position and his mission in Constantinople gave him: he represented the papal see and he worked on his personal profile, when he joined the intellectual debate and picked up new and stimulating ideas.37 From the start then, he was an active deacon, and active beyond what was expected from him. I agree with Claude Dagens that with hindsight his ordination as deacon started the preparation for his papacy. I would like to argue, however, that there is more to it than that, if only because Gregory was such an obvious candidate in the context of the normal pattern of becoming pope and given the fact that most historians find it hard to imagine that in his mid-thirties Gregory was prepared to live a life of monastic seclusion. The main sources on Gregory’s reluctance are his own statements. For instance, in his letter to Leander, Gregory clearly states his deep regret in giving up his monastic life. The letter is autobiographical but it is not his spiritual biography. He writes this letter to mark the completion of his Morals on Job. He sends his work to Leander, because he initiated the whole project. So, in the context of ‘the making of’ Morals, Gregory brings up the conversation in Constantinople about his conversion. Leander, Gregory continues, reacted and suggested he read and study the book of Job.38 The project on Job can then be perceived as a link between the contemplatio, which Gregory longed for and missed, and the actio which took most, if not all, of his time in Constantinople. His conversio is the start of his contemplative life. It might be conceived as a radical step, but becoming a monk was not unusual. And, more generally, it was quite normal to take time for reflection (or otium) after serving one’s term in office.39 The death of his father Gordianus gave Gregory the means, including a prime location. If Gregory had really wanted to flee the world, he would 37 For instance the debate on the soul, see M. Dal Santo, Debating (2012); contemporary Christology, see K. Greschat, ‘Gregorius I’s Christology’ (2012); and the Sevenfold Litany with which he started off is pontificate, see Margaret M. Andrews, ‘The Laetaniae Septiformes of Gregory I, S. Maria Maggiore and Early Marian Cult in Rome’, in Ida Östenberg, Simon Malmberg and Jonas Bjørnebyel (eds), The Moving City. Processions, Passages and Promenades in Ancient Rome (London, 2016), 155-64. 38 Ad Leandrum 1, SC 32bis, 118-9. English translation Moral Reflections, Volume I (2014), 48. K. Greschat, Die Moralia (2005), 46-52. 39 Conrad Leyser, Authority and Asceticism from Augustine to Gregory the Great (Oxford, 2000), 131-59, on otium 144.
A Burden of Obedience?
not have chosen his ancestral home for a monastery.40 Above all, he would have chosen another patron saint. The choice of the apostle Andrew was a programmatic one. Andrew was the apostle Peter’s brother. Both were saintly preachers (sancti praedicatores) and models for true conversion: distancing yourself from the world to be able to love God and to love one’s neighbours (caritas). Andrew was also the first called of the apostles (Πρωτόκλητος – protokletos). That seniority privileged him to give free brotherly advice to Peter. Hence, the mission of Saint Andrew’s monastery was that of a think tank on ecclesiastical reform and spiritual renewal.41 The development of both the vision and the mission was continued in Constantinople, when Gregory began his expositions on Job. For indeed, contemplation is the preparation to ‘come forth from the retirement of contemplation to the public life of employment’.42 Kristina Kessa describes Gregory’s day and age as a time of an identity crisis of the Italian nobility.43 Things were unclear, and traditions became fluid. Tradition would have had him choose to serve his city, while his realworld experiences as prefectus urbis, in combination with his own spiritual longing, led him in another direction. Perhaps Gregory’s romanitas is the underlying significant common theme in both his civic and ecclesiastical tours of duty, and the monastic retreat the meaningful switch.44 The monastery gave him time and opportunity to reflect and, studying God’s word, formulate a vision for his mission.
40 Gregory’s example was later followed by Boniface IV (608-615) and Honorius (632-636). See J. Moorhead, ‘On Becoming Pope’ (2006), 290. Pelagius II transformed his house into an almshouse (donum suam xenodochium fecit pauper senum. LP 65.2). See Miles Doleac, Triclinium pauperum. Poverty, Charity and the Papacy in the Time of Gregory the Great (New Orleans, 2013), 155 (The dissertation is published online: https://digitallibrary.tulane.edu/islandora/object/ tulane%3A24350/datastream/PDF/view). 41 On the monastery of Saint Andrew’s: ‘Dieses [Saint Andrew’s monastery AS] wäre somit eine Art informelle kirchenpolitische päpstliche Dependance gewesen und hätte auf diese Weise seinen andreanischen Dienst an Petrus erfüllt’, B. Müller, Führung (2009), 39-40, where she mentions that Gregory’s devotion for Andrew could not but cause an inner conflict when he became pope himself. She points to the fact that no pope ever took the name Andrew. Ead., Führung (2009), 47 quotes T.S. Brown who refers to Saint Andrew’s as a ‘fashionably aristocratic monastery’. 42 Morals 30.2.8 quoted in Marilyn Dunn, The Emergence of Monasticism. From the Desert Fathers to the Early Middle Ages (Oxford, 2003), 135. 43 K. Kessa, The Formation (2012), 271. 44 It was a necessary switch as well: it was forbidden to be ordained ‘in one leap’ (nec saltibus) into the episcopate. An ordination of monks into the diaconate was allowed, and in Gregory’s case a possibility. Pope Siricus had ruled that monks younger than thirty should advance through the minor orders and the traditional interstices before being allowed to become deacon or presbyter. Gregory was older. Gibaut, The cursus (2000), 84.
In my view, Gregory’s biography is a fine example of vertigo.45 The ordination, then, is not just inescapable because of the virtue of obedience (as Gregory wrote in his letter to Leander); it might very well be either something Gregory saw as an apparent (or perhaps even sought-after) next step, or the successor of Saint Peter outsmarted the too-talented and experienced monk of Saint Andrew within walking distance of the papal residence.
45 Eelco Runia, ‘Into cleanness leaping. The vertiginous urge to commit history’, History and Theory 49 (2010), 1-20, 1.
Pontifex maximus and his Role during the Constantinian Dynasty Ewa DUSIK-KRUPA, Krakow, Poland
ABSTRACT The pax deorum principle was an inherent part of Roman culture. Many authors – poets, epics or prose writer – refer to this principle in theirs works since archaic times. The responsibility for keeping peace with gods at the beginning was the matter of pontifex maximus. In time it was developing and took a kind of new meaning by Octavian Augustus. When Augustus recived the title of pontifex maximus (12 BC), the ruler became the guarantor for keeping pax deorum. After that this title was taking by followings cesars, what indicate the strong connection between emperial power and cult in Roman culture. Constantine the Great knowing its tradition also did not rejected this dignity. He decided to preserve and restructure it in a Christian way. That issue was familiar also to the early Christian writers, with Eusebius of Cesarea and his Vita Constantini on the lead. He assumed clearly that Constantine’s victory was caused by the favor of God. Eusebius’ point of view was developed by other authors, who wrote during the rules of Constantine’s sons. They criticised especially the rules of Constantius by exposing the signficant differences between him and his father in ecclesiastical policy. This topic seems to be important to understand the continuity of Roman culture in early Christianity and the universality of pontifex maximus and pax deorum as well.
To understand the role of pontifex maximus in the early Christian world we need to look at first into the origins of relations between the ancient Romans and their gods. Since the pontifex seems to be one of the most important citizens, looking after not only the state cult but also taking responsibility to help Rome stay in a prosperous state thanks to showing the way to maintain pax deorum. This article – it contains the main conclusions of my PhD dissertation – shows the development of the position of the pontifex maximus, his connection with pax deorum and its understanding by early Christians writers in the fourth and fifth centuries and to see what points to universality and continuation of some ancient principles in the Christian thought. At the beginning it is important to characterize two crucial terms as we need to determine wich two concepts are covered by them – pontifex maximus and pax deorum – and what the connection between those is. Deep in the ancient’s minds stays the conviction about the help of the gods in the rise of the Empire
Studia Patristica CVI, 53-62. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.
and the Roman religion and they put the stress on cooperation between politics and cult. Scholars specify pax deorum as a mutual relations between Romans and their gods, which supposed to guarantee prosperity for the state.1 Pax deorum could however be interrupted because of the wrong way of the ritual or disobedience to the religious law. The consequences was ira deorum, which brings military defeats, plagues, pestilences or any other unwanted events. This leads us to recognise that Romans believed that if anyone commits unholy acts, the gods will react in revenge.2 Among the responsibilities of the pontifex maximus was keeping and caring for the cult and the correctness of the ceremonies which leads to the responsibility for keeping the peace with the gods.3 What is important, when Romans – and Greeks before them – were thinking about pietas (εὐσέβεια) they refer not only to spirituality but to real acts.4 The pax deorum principle is present in the literature since archaic times. First we can find a call for Apollo in Plautus Mercator (Mer. 694-6), but for more relevant examples, we will be better to look into Cicero’s Response of the haruspices which refers to the interpretation of omens and can be treated as a point in the debate about the signs sent from the gods. Cicero proves that prosperity and disfavour are strongly connected with one’s acts towards the sacrum.5 Just as in Livy’s Ab urbe condita where the author points to the connection between unholy acts and the bad omens heralding imminent defeat (e.g. Liv. XXIX 8; XXXI 12), pax deorum was a kind of natural order that binds the favour of the gods together with the cult something that particularly started to be emphasized with the political system changing.6 Pax deorum and the role of pontifex maximus are best attested in sources from the imperial period. When Octavian Augustus had recived the title of pontifex maximus (12 BC), the emperor became the guarantor for keeping pax deorum. The example of Augustus is quite significant because of his religious reforms. Octavian was aware of the place of the religion in the Empire and he endeavoured to renew the cult. During his reign he pronounced several laws which stressed the role of religion in the imperial policy. Those acts had 1
Y. Shochat, ‘The Change in the Roman Religion at the Time of the Emperor Trajan’, Latomus 44 (1985), 317-36, 319-20; D.C. Feeney, Literature and Religion At Rome. Cultures, Contexts, and Beliefs Roman Literature and Its Contexts (Cambridge, 1999), 82. 2 J. Wells, ‘Impiety in the Middle Republic: The Roman Response to Temple Plundering in Southern Italy’, The Classical Journal 105 (2010), 229-43, 230. 3 R.T. Ridley, ‘The Absent Pontifex Maximus’, Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte 54 (2005), 275-300, 276-7, 281, 284. 4 N. Belayche, ‘Religious Actors in Daily Life’, in J. Rüpke (ed.), A Companion to Roman Religion (Oxford, 2007), 275-91, 279. 5 M. Beard, ‘Cicero’s ‘Response of the haruspices’ and the Voice of the Gods’, The Journal of Roman Studies 102 (2012), 21-33. 6 J.P. Davies, Rome’s Religious History: Livy, Tacitus and Ammianus on their Gods (Cambridge, 2004), 98.
Pontifex maximus and his Role during the Constantinian Dynasty
settled the state cult and have begun the golden era of the Roman Empire. With Octavian Augustus begins the new conception of the ruler who is responsible for the state cult and for maintaining pax deorum and the state prosperity.7 After Augustus of course each next emperor assumed the title of pontifex maximus. In time Roman philosophers and writers have developed the dependency between the emperor as a pontifex maximus and pax deorum guarantor and virtue. For example Pliny the Younger (e.g. Panegyricus Traiani 3; 72) puts stress on the conviction that Trajan is under the protection of Jovi because of his piety and morality and his plenty of virtues makes him capable to achieve pax deorum for the whole Empire.8 The idea of the emperor guarding the state cult and providing prosperity and safety for the Empire stayed in ancient’s minds both in the social and political area till the end of the dominate. Constantine the Great trying to reach the imperial power was aware of the importance of religion in the Roman Empire and in face of civil war he was trying to guarantee pax deorum based on Christianity.9 Eusebius of Cesarea seems to confirm this relation between power and cult in his Vita Constantini (Vit. Const. I 27). We can find there the assumption according to which God supports the emperor because of his religious choice – rejecting the pagan cult. This semi-political move10 let Eusebius and further Christian writers to include the pax deorum principle into Christian thought. There should be no doubt that in Vita Constantini the God’s triumph beneath the pagan cult was shown very clearly and Eusebius very closely links the victory over Maxentius with the choosing of Christianity by the emperor.11 What is more, Eusebius derives from previous writers the way of thinking about the ideal ruler. Eusebius concentrates on Constantine’s piety and binds it with pax deorum. It seems to be common that the good ruler should have virtues, and εὐσέβεια is one of the most important and let the state stay in prosper in the favour of God (Vita Const. IV 14). At this point it is quite important to notice that Constantine not only had to choose Christianity over the pagan cult, but was also extremely committed to church life. We can mention not only the most obvious Council in Nicaea but more important is the description of the Emperor’s responsibility for the cult. Eusebius describes the event of Easter where he points out Constantine’s fervent piety and his activity during this particular day (Vita Const. 7 A. Brent, ‘Ignatius of Antioch and the Imperial Cult’, Vigiliae Christianae 52 (1998), 30-58, 48-9. 8 Y. Shochat, ‘The Change in the Roman Religion’ (1985), 327. 9 J.H.W.G. Liebeschuetz, Continuity and Change in Roman Religion (Oxford, 1979), 292. 10 Based on the sources we can’t separate the conversion of Constantine for Christianity from his policy and vice versa. That leeds us to the conclusion that we can’t consider Constantine’s decision about converting himself to Christian only as secular or sacral move. 11 T.D. Barnes, Constantine: Dynasty, Religion and Power in the Later Roman Empire (Oxford, 2013), 74-83.
IV 22).12 That shows the meaning of pontifex maximus in early Christianity and marks that it is not only in councils that the emperor reaches from his pontifex position which was strongly ingrained in ancient Rome. We can assume that Eusebius had marked out the new point of view of the ideal Christian emperor which was not only present in further Christian literature, but he also had made Constantine a perfect example for subsequent consideration. In 337 Constantine died and his sons had assumed the imperial power. After that the split of the state was deepened because of the Arian controversy. At this point pax deorum was no longer the idea or the tradition binding the responsibility for prosperity with the right cult. It became the argument in polemics between Constantius II and some of the bishops. Indeed Church Fathers noticed that Constantius by choosing the Arian doctrine broke the pax deorum which was achived by his father. Writing about the understanding of pontifex maximus and pax deorum during the Constantinian dynasty it is impossible not to look at Athanasius of Alexandria. Here we should consider two of his writings, the Apologia ad Constantium and his Historia Arianorum because of the development of the interpretation of the role of pontifex maximus in Athanasius. In the Apologia the bishop states that the emperor and the Church are bound together and only together they can guarantee the favour of God for the Empire. Athanasius just like Eusebius enumerates distinguishing marks of an ideal Christian ruler (Apol. Const. 11) what isn’t very surprising if we look back at Constantine and his contribution to the Christian Church. Athanasius starts his argumentation in his Apologia from clarifying that the emperor’s power and everything what stays behind it comes right from the Lord and only staying faithful assures the pax deorum and the prosperity of the state. That is the reason why Athanasius recalls David as a good example for Constantius and after that he points out the benefits from the protection of faith and cult.13 In his Apologia Athanasius shows Constantius as a legal heir of Constantine who continues his father’s policy acting as pontifex maximus keeping pax deorum and being the defensor fidei. That leads us to the conclusion that Athanasius wanted not only to defend himself against the accusations, but also to present his idea of the relations between the state and the Church. He sees a possibility to create a united orthodox Church14 under the emperor’s protection. By that he sees the necessity of Constantius’ rightful
Constantine did not have any ordination and Eusebius identifies the emperor’s actions with a proper celebration of Easter in the Empire. Nonetheless Sozomen describing Constantine’s funeral asserts that emperor and bishops have almost equal reverence (Sozomen, Hist. eccl. II 34). 13 K. Piepenbrink, ‘Apologia ad Constantium’, in P. Gemeinhardt (ed.), Athanasius Handbuch (Tübingen, 2011), 188-93, 192. 14 Here it is very important to mark that Athanasius understood being orthodox as staying faithful to the Nicene creed and the Council in Nicea.
Pontifex maximus and his Role during the Constantinian Dynasty
faith (which means for Athanasius not the Arian faith) because it is the only way to reach pax deorum.15 The Historia arianorum differs from the Apologia not only in character but also in its presuppositions. In contrast to the Apologia Athanasius shows Constantius not as a relevant Christian ruler but as the protector of the Arians and a persecutor of the Nicene creed (Hist. arian. 7).16 In the Historia arianorum Constantius is determined as a leader of the heresy in place of acting as the defensor fidei.17 His place was taken by Constans who became in Athanasius the inheritor of Constantine the Great while Constantius by his actions against the bishops denies his own power and position (Hist. arian. 49).18 One of the crucial assumptions in the Historia arianorum is to prove that Constantius’ policy has no continuity and unity with the Constantinian tradition (Hist. arian. 50). What is more, as Eusebius enumerated the virtues of Constantine, Athanasius puts stress on the unreliability and unfaithfulness of Constantius (Hist. arian. 30, 51, 52).19 Athanasius portraying Constantius in this particular way has a purpose. He tries to prove that Constantius’ power did not come from the Lord but was based only on secular law and his policy could not achieve the pax deorum (Hist. arian. 33). On the contrary to the Apologia Athanasius did not try to show the emperor the right way and, at this point of their mutual relations,20 he did not want to help Constantius to be a good pontifex maximus and an able guarantor of the pax deorum.21 The Bishop saw this to be the role of Constans who died a few years earlier (350 AD). In the last chapters of the Historia arianorum Athanasius concentrates on a comparison between Constantius and the antichrist. He starts to deny his position as a Christian emperor and blames him for all acts of the Arians (Hist. arian. 74, 77, 79). At the end the Bishop of Alexandria claims that Constantius did not deserve his power, did not deserve to be the Christian emperor and none of the Christians should recognize him as a legal ruler in the Empire (Hist. arian. 80). Athanasius leans his opinion on his conviction that protection for the Arian heresy leads to the
15 K.M. Setton, Christian Attitude towards the Emperor in the Fourth Century: Especially as Shown in Addresses to the Emperor (New York, 1941), 74. 16 D. Brakke, Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism (Oxford, 1995), 248; W. Portmann, ‘Historia arianorum’, in P. Gemeinhardt (ed.), Athanasius Handbuch (Tübingen, 2011), 195200, 196. 17 D.M. Gwynn, The Eusebians. The Polemic of Athanasius of Alexandria and the Construction of the ‘Arian Controversy’ (Oxford, 2007), 154. 18 M. Humphries, ‘In Nomine Patris: Constantine the Great and Constantius II in Christological Polemic’, Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte 46 (1977), 448-64, 456. 19 W. Portmann, ‘Historia arianorum’ (2011), 196. 20 More about the relations between Athanasius and the emperor see: T.D. Barnes, Athanasius and Constantius. Theology and politics in the Constantinian Empire (Cambridge, London, 2001). 21 D.M. Gwynn, Athanasius of Alexandria: Bishop, Theologian, Ascetic, Father (Oxford, 2012), 14.
breaking of pax deorum and the only way to protect the Empire and give it prosperity is to deny Constantius any legal power.22 Athanasius’ idea of a perfect cooperation between state and Church, based on the legal power of the emperor who is also pontifex maximus keeping pax deorum, was further developed by other early Christian writers. In the first place Lucifer of Cagliari who has composed three significant works to this topic should be mentioned. After Athanasius, the bishop of Cagliari sees orthodoxy as an inherent part of pax deorum. He claims that God’s favour comes not with the fact of someone being Christian but with her or him staying faithful to the Nicene creed. This argumentation shows the conception in which Constantius is unable to achive pax deorum without the proper doctrine of the Church. According to Lucifer, Constantius’ policy is the main reason of the division in the Church, which has an effect on the operation of the state. In De non conveniendo cum haereticis (De non conv. I) he states very clearly that imperial propaganda against the Nicene bishops is the key problem and leads to an artifical creation of new public enemies.23 Lucifer concentrates in his works mostly on the council in Milan,24 after which he was banned for several of years. This event however is not only a trauma to him but gives him a strong argument against the emperor. Because of the fact that Constantius was the initiator of the bishops’ gathering, Lucifer can appeal to the emperor in his position of pontifex maximus.25 As a pontifex Constantius has a responsibility for the unification of the Church and has the full right to convoke the council (just as his father did at Nicea). The stress has been put on an emperor’s competence as a secular protector of faith and Church. Lucifer claims that there is no right for Constantius to act against the authority of Scripture and to put himself over it. Accordingly, in now way can an emperor pass his own will as a religious laws.26 In his works Lucifer keeps the discussion with the emperor and tries to show Constantius’ misunderstanding of pax deorum. The bishop refers to the emperor’s statement about prosperity in the Empire under his regin. We can not be sure that those statements are real and Constantius actually said what Lucifer reports:27 ‘If Arius’ faith, which is also my faith, is not a catholic faith, if it is 22
W. Portmann, ‘Historia arianorum’ (2011), 184-8. M. Humphries, ‘In Nomine Patris’ (1977), 457-8. 24 Lucifer decribes the council in Milan as one of the most harshes attacks on orthodoxy and the triumph of Arianism. 25 Lucifer just like others Christian writers is not using the exact term of pontifex maximus but in the background of all sources which start the discussion abot the relation between state and Church we can identify the bishop thinking about it. 26 G. Corti, Lucifero di Cagliari. Una voce nel conflitto tra chiesa e imperio alla metà del IV secolo (Milan, 2004), 192, 196. 27 Most of the edicts and speeches to which Lucifer refers are not preserved in the sources, however the bishop of Cagliari seems to be reliable when he writes about the connection between imperial power and religion. K. Rosen, ‘Lucifer von Cagliari und Constantius II. Ein Beitrag zur 23
Pontifex maximus and his Role during the Constantinian Dynasty
not pleasent to the God when I persecute the creed written against us in Nicea, I would never succeed in the Empire’.28 Whether or not we assume that it is some kind of paraphrase of a true speech by Constantius, we can suppose that Lucifer made the emperor seeing his actions as the way to achieve pax deorum and guarantee God’s favour for the Empire. On the topic of the Arian controversy Athanasius had presented the model of perfectly balanced relations between state and Church. The impact of the bishop of Alexandria was strong enough to give his thought currency among the pro-Nicene writers. It is not surprising that Lucifer employs Athanasius’ idea based on this doctrine and connects Constantius’ actions with the devil’s influence on the emperor. He is very clear in his considerations – because of being the Arian’s party emperor he had decided to set heresy as the catholic faith29 and for Lucifer this is nothing more than the devil’s wish to deny the Son (De reg. IX).30 Lucifer can see the necessity of a mutual cooperation between the emperor and the bishops not only in state matters but also in the doctrinal arena. Only that kind of collaboration can guarantee pax deorum and lets keep the balance.31 The bishop of Cagliari in his De non parcendo in Deum deliquentibus sets himself in the role of a prophet, inspired by the Old Testament’s prophets, and in this position he admonishes the emperor about damaging actions. At that point his main purpose is to persuade Constantius to back what Lucifer sees as orthodoxy.32 Lucifer concentrates here on the emperor’s relations with the proNicene bishops and links it with his responsibility for maintaining the pax deorum. He describes Constantius’ policy as a persecution of the true faith by comparing this situation with the times of Antiochus IV (De non parc. XII) and calls the emperor a tyrannus.33 By using this term Lucifer did not try to show Constantius’ power but he tried to condemn him and deny his legal reign since the legitimacy of the emperor was negated because of his hostility to the true (Nicene) faith and his incapability of being the guarantor of the pax deorum.34 Quellenkritik’, in S. Laconi (ed.), La Figura e l’Opera di Lucifero di Cagliari (Roma, 2001), 63-71, 68-70. 28 Nisi catholica esset fides Arrii, hoc est mea, nisi placitum esset deo quod illam persequar fidem quam contra nos scripserint apud Niciam, numquam profecto adhuc in imperio florerem. Lucifer of Cagliari, De regibus apostaticis I, CSEL 14 (Vindobonae, 1886), 35. 29 G. Corti, Lucifero di Cagliari (2004), 182. 30 W. Tietze, Lucifer von Calaris und die Kirchenpolitik des Constantius II.: zum Konflikt zwischen dem Kaiser Constantius II. und der nikänisch-orthodoxen Opposition (Lucifer von Calaris, Athanasius von Alexandria, Hilarius von Poitiers, Ossius von Córdoba, Liberius von Rom und Eusebius von Vercelli) (Diss. Tübingen, 1974; Stuttgart, 1976), 93-8. 31 S. Laconi, ‘Il ritratto di Costanzo II nelle pagine di Lucifero di Cagliari’, in S. Laconi (ed.), La Figura e l’Opera di Lucifero di Cagliari (Roma, 2001), 29-62, 54. 32 G. Corti, Lucifero di Cagliari (2004), 200; S. Laconi, ‘Il ritratto di Costanzo II’ (2001), 49. 33 W. Tietze, Lucifer von Calaris und die Kirchenpolitik des Constantius II. (1974, 1976), 144. 34 S. Laconi, ‘Il ritratto di Costanzo II’ (2001), 32-5.
It is interesting that Lucifer in De non parcendo in Deum deliquentibus does not deny Constantius’ competence of being the secular superior of the Church, although because of some of his actions and by choosing his pro-Arian policy his position as an emperor is under threat.35 As a last resort, the bishop of Cagliari supports his position with the story of Uzziah who was rejected by his own people (2Chron. 26:20-1). In comparison to the Old Testament’s king Constantius acts with hostility before the Lord (De non parc. VI). After all Lucifer determines the emperor as ‘the semen of lecher and whore, the son of doom’36 and he states: ‘We trample your power like mud’,37 and he can not see any other way than opposition, as long as Constantius does not decide to turn back to the Nicene creed and to reject the Arian party. It is clear that Lucifer relates directly to the pax deorum principle and claims that the ruler or king who can not ensure the prosperity for the state, should not be considered as a legal one, and that this choice is relevant to the Empire’s prosperity and security. In comparison to Lucifer and Athanasius, Hilary of Poitiers addresses the problem of pax deorum and pontifex maximus more carefully. However he also sees the only hope for the unity of the Church in the rejection of Arius’ heresy, which he strongly connects with the peace of the Empire (In Const. 2). In his In Constantium Hilary describes the emperor’s policy regarding the Church and the faith as the action of antichrist as well as blasphemy. The bishop of Poitiers explaines the necessity for a fight with the persecutor and the enemy, Constantius, who he calls outright the antichrist being convinced that this emperor leads the Empire nowhere else but to death (In Const. 5). For Hilary there is no doubt that Constantius with his policy which the bishop determines to be a blasphemy (In Const. 15) had broken the pax deorum what brings him to the conclusion about the Empire’s unavoidable destruction.38 At the end Hilary compares Constantius with his father Constantine who acted only according to the Lord’s will and as such was an emperor and pontifex maximus who had ensured the pax deorum and God’s favour for the Empire. In Hilary’s argumentation we can find an attempt to prove that Constantius because of his pro-Arian policy had rejected the ideology created by Constantine, had broken the continuity of his father’s thought and by this had acted against God and faith.39 35 W. Tietze, Lucifer von Calaris und die Kirchenpolitik des Constantius II. (1974, 1976), 138-9. 36 […] semen adulterum et meretricis, filios perditionis. Lucifer of Cagliari, De non parcendo in Deum deliquentibus XLIV, CSEL 14 (Vindobonae, 1886), 280. 37 […] tuam calcemus ut lutum potentiam. Lucifer of Cagliari, De non parcendo in Deum deliquentibus IX, CSEL 14 (Vindobonae, 1886), 227. 38 R. Flower, Imperial invectives against Constantius II (Liverpool, 2016), 119. 39 H.Ch. Brennecke, Hilarius von Poitiers und die Bischofsopposition gegen Konstantius II.: Untersuchungen zur dritten Phase des arianischen Streites (337–361) (Berlin, New York, 1984), 363.
Pontifex maximus and his Role during the Constantinian Dynasty
The tradition of pontifex maximus was strong in ancient Rome probably since the archaic times, however this title achieved its height in the times of the Empire. Thanks to being pontifex maximus emperors created themselves as the chosen ones who enjoyed God’s favour. Octavian Augustus had combined the political and religious powers in his hands, giving the new model of the ruler. From now on it was the emperor’s responsibility to guarantee the pax deorum for the whole state. Constantine the Great had not rejected this tradition but adapted it for his Christian purpose. He had emphasized his position and his authority over the Church as a protector fidei by portraying himself on coins as a first Christian emperor.40 After his death in 337 AD the point of view on the role of pontifex maximus has changed once more. The idea of the ruler to guarantee the pax deorum was not based on the opposition between the heathendom and Christianity as it was in Constantine’ times. During the reign of Constantius this matter has moved to become one between orthodoxy and heresy. Christian writers like Athanasius, Lucifer or Hilary have never denied Constantius’ position in State and Church, putting stress on the importance of this cooperation, but they are unanimous about his abuses in religious matters.41 At the same time the Church’s leaders have appealed to the emperor’s authority in internal matters, and Constantius by convoking the council in Milan had shown that as a ruler he has a right to set up doctrine and religious practice which obligates both the people and the clergy.42 Constantius by himself was aware of the pax deorum and the meaning of pontifex maximus. He was raised in the Christian tradition, but the Constantinian dynasty did not turn down the classical Roman tradition. He was also aware of his father’s legacy and we can assume that in his opinion he was acting according to it. In 341 AD he promulgated a law against pagan cults and pagan offerings. He also had ordered the destruction of pagan temples and did not reshape them into some kind of social buildings.43 What is more, Constantius tried to portray himself as the heir of Constantine the Great, just like his father earlier, he had received the position of pontifex maximus and became a kind of superior and defender for the state religion. After all he had intentionally defined himself as aeternitas mea and he took efforts to create his image as the good shepherd, who thanks his own acts bringing to the state and to the Christians perpetua securitas.44 However some of the pro-Nicene bishops had a different opinion of him. Athanasius, Lucifer or Hilary never denied the meaning of pax deorum and the 40 41 42 43 44
T.D. Barnes, Constantine (2013), 17. P. Barcelo, Constantius II. und seine Zeit (Stuttgart, 2004), 174. M. Michael Mudd, Studies in the Reign of Constantius II (New York, 1989), 33. M. Ożóg, Kościół starożytny wobec świątyń oraz posągów bóstw (Kraków, 2009), 80-98. E. Wipszycka, Kościół w świecie późnego antyku (Warszaw, 2006), 155.
role of pontifex maximus, giving Constantine the Great as a perfect example for both of those concepts. Nonetheless they did not consider Constantius to be the true heir who can guarantee the pax deorum and prosperity as long as he stayed to support the ‘Arians’. What is more we can assume that these bishops had used the idea of pontifex maximus and pax deorum, or to be more specific they had used the idea of breaking the pax deorum, for rejecting Constantius as the legal emperor and to denounce his policy.
Primauté dans l’Église ancienne (IIe-Ve siècles) : Typologie fonctionnelle Georgy E. ZAKHAROV, Moscou, Russie
ABSTRACT The question of the realisation of primacy in the ancient Church has been mainly studied from the point of view of the ecclesiological and politico-ecclesiastical foundations of this phenomenon. In this communication, I would like to approach the problem of primacy from a different point of view, focusing in particular on its functional content. In our interpretation, primacy is an important instrument for the conversion of the diachronic unity of the Church, that is to say, of the supratemporal identity between the historical Church and the primitive apostolic community, into synchronic unity, realized in the communion of the members of the Church, with one another, and with Christ. The analysis of the patristic and conciliar texts of the Early Christian period gives us the possibility to distinguish 5 functions of the ecclesiastical primacy with their own limits of implementation and theological justification: 1. sacramental and pastoral ministry in the local Church; 2. preservation and diffusion of the apostolic tradition; 3. demarcation of the Catholic Church from the schismatic communities; 4. regional episcopal consolidation; 5. universal solicitude (integral function). All our research as a whole shows that the idea of apostolicity was not only one of the possible ideological justifications for the primacy. It was its necessary foundation, because the synchronic unity of the Church is unthinkable without diachronic one. This conclusion encourages to pay particular attention to apostolicity in contemporary ecclesiological discussions.
La question de l’exercice de la primauté dans l’Église ancienne a été principalement étudiée du point de vue des fondements ecclésiologiques et politicoecclésiastiques de ce phénomène. Les chercheurs opposent souvent deux principes d’organisation de l’Église : le principe d’apostolicité, qu’ils lient à l’Occident, et le principe d’adaptation du système ecclésial au système administratif et politique de l’Empire, qu’ils lient à l’Orient. Certains d’entre eux considèrent l’ecclésiologie apostolique comme originelle, véritablement ecclésiastique, et l’ecclésiologie impériale comme résultant de l’attitude conformiste des évêques orientaux à l’égard de l’État à l’époque post-constantinienne1. D’autres, au 1
Vincent Twomey, Apostolikos Thronos: The Primacy of Rome as Reflected in the Church History of Eusebius and the Historico-Apologetic Writings of Saint Athanasius the Great (Münster, 1982).
Studia Patristica CVI, 63-69. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.
contraire, interprètent le principe d’accommodement comme plus naturel et plus ancien, et expliquent l’extension du principe d’apostolicité à l’Occident aux IVᵉ et Vᵉ siècles comme une réaction face à la perte par Rome de son statut de centre politique de l’Empire2. Dans le contexte du dialogue contemporain entre orthodoxes et catholiques, de même que dans celui des discussions actuelles au sein de l’Église orthodoxe, une grande attention a été portée à la question des niveaux d’organisation de l’Église (local, régional et universel) et aux spécificités de la mise en œuvre de la primauté à l’intérieur de chacun d’eux3. Dans cette communication, je voudrais aborder le problème de la primauté d’un point de vue différent, en m’attachant notamment à son contenu fonctionnel. Il est à ce titre important de préciser que la primauté recouvre dans ce cas non seulement un rôle ou un statut exceptionnel appartenant à un seul acteur, mais qu’elle revêt également une importance particulière dans la communication ecclésiastique. Les textes de la période paléochrétienne montrent que le terme primatus peut être parfois attribué à un groupe collectif ou à plusieurs sujets individuels. Par exemple, la Tradition apostolique attribuée à Hippolyte de Rome parle de la « primauté du sacerdoce » (primatus sacerdotii)4. Dans la version la plus commune de la traduction latine du 3e canon du concile de Constantinople, 381 (Versio Dionysio-Hadriana), l’expression grecque τὰ πρεσβεῖα τῆς τιμῆς est rendue par honoris primatus. Ainsi, la « primauté d’honneur » est attribuée à la fois à deux sièges : Rome et Constantinople5. Avant de passer à la typologie de la primauté fondée sur les fonctions spécifiques de ce phénomène, il convient de poser la question de la finalité générale de la primauté. La primauté est, à notre avis, un instrument important pour la conversion de l’unité diachronique de l’Église, c’est-à-dire de l’identité supratemporelle entre l’Église historique et la communauté apostolique primitive, en l’unité synchrone, réalisée dans la communion des membres de l’Église, les uns avec les autres, et avec le Christ. En s’appuyant sur l’analyse des textes patristiques et conciliaires de la période paléochrétienne, on peut distinguer 5 fonctions de la primauté ecclésiastique, ayant chacune ses propres limites de 2
François Dvornik, Byzance et la primauté romaine (Paris, 1964), 23-5, 33-46 ; Brigitte Basdevant-Gaudemet, ‘Les évêques de la chrétienté et l’évêque de Rome du milieu du IIIᵉ au milieu du Vᵉ siècle’, dans B. Basdevant-Gaudemet, Église et Autorités. Études d’histoire du droit canonique médiéval (Limoges, 2006), 49. 3 Voir Document de Ravenne de 2007 (URL: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_ councils/chrstuni/ch_orthodox_docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20071013_documento-ravenna_fr.html) et Document de Moscou de 2013 (URL: http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/3481089.html). 4 Traditio apostolica 3. Voir aussi : Cyprianus, Epistulae 69. 8 et D.L. Powell, ‘The Schism of Hippolytus’, SP 12 (1975), 454. 5 PL 67, 172. Voir aussi : V. Nicolae Durã, ‘The ‘Petrine Primacy’: The Role of the Bishop of Rome according to the Canonical Legislation of the Ecumenical Councils of the First Millennium, an Ecclesiological-Canonical Evaluation’, dans Walter Kasper (éd.), The Petrine Ministry: Catholics and Orthodox in Dialogue (New York, 2006), 176.
Primauté dans l’Église ancienne (IIe-Ve siècles) : Typologie fonctionnelle
mise en œuvre et sa propre justification théologique. Mais elles peuvent toutes être mises en corrélation avec la finalité générale de la primauté : Fonction 1 : Ministère sacramentel et pastoral. Cette fonction trouve sa réalisation dans le ministère de l’évêque en tant que chef de la communauté ecclésiale locale. Sa justification, telle qu’elle est exposée dans les épîtres de saint Ignace d’Antioche, est liée à l’idée que l’évêque représente la figure du Christ et les presbytres, celle des Apôtres6. Chaque Église locale, en vertu de sa nature eucharistique, représente donc la communauté des disciples appelée par le Christ à participer à la dernière Cène. La primauté dans l’Église locale est exercée uniquement par l’évêque et s’étend à tous les aspects de la vie de la communauté7. En même temps, l’évêque n’est pas une sorte de monarque et il s’appuie dans son ministère sur le consentement du clergé et du peuple8. Fonction 2 : Préservation et diffusion de la tradition apostolique. Les communautés ecclésiales d’origine apostolique et leurs primats étaient dotés d’une autorité doctrinale et disciplinaire spéciale dans le cadre de la communication entre les Églises (comme en témoignent les textes d’Hégésippe9, d’Irénée de Lyon10, de Tertullien11 et d’autres auteurs12), puisqu’ils étaient les conservateurs de la mémoire vivante de la prédication apostolique. D’un point de vue théologique, ce type de primauté repose sur le modèle de l’apostolicité dans lequel la succession apostolique est associée aux circonstances historiques de la prédication de la foi chrétienne et de la fondation des Églises par les apôtres et leurs successeurs. À partir du milieu du IIIe siècle on observe une universalisation progressive de la conception de la tradition : sa transmission est maintenant associée aux conciles de l’Église. La mémoire de la prédication apostolique dans une ville particulière devient moins vivante et perd son sens originel en raison du changement naturel des générations. La délocalisation de la conception de la tradition et le développement de l’idée de l’autorité conciliaire ont pour résultat la formalisation du principe de la succession apostolique locale13. Aux IVe et 6
Ignatius Antiochenus, Epistula ad Ephesios 6 ; Epistula ad Magnesios 6 ; Epistula ad Trallenses 3 ; Epistula ad Smyrnaeos 8. 7 Ignatius Antiochenus, Epistula ad Smyrnaeos 8. 8 Voir par exemple Cyprianus, Epistula 19. 9 Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica IV. 8, 11, 22. 10 Irenaeus, Adversus haereses III. 3-4. 11 Tertullianus, De praescriptione haereticorum 21, 36 ; Adversus Marcionem I. 21, IV. 5. 12 Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica V. 24 ; Cyprianus, Epistula 75. 6 ; Athanasius Alexandrinus, Apologia contra arianos 35. Sur l’idée d’apostolicité chez Eusèbe de Césarée voir J. Salaverri ‘La sucesión apostólica en la Historia eclesiástica de Eusebio Cesariense’, Gregorianum 14 (1933), 219-47. 13 L’opposition de la succession formelle et de la succession dans la foi est présentée dans Gregorius Nazianzenus, Orationes 21. 8.
Ve siècles l’origine apostolique des divers sièges sert avant tout de prétexte pour revendiquer leur prestige particulier dans la communion entre les Églises ou à renforcer la position d’un parti des évêques dans le cadre des conflits ecclésiastiques14. Fonction 3 : Démarcation de l’Église catholique par rapport aux communautés schismatiques. Cette fonction de primauté (déjà clairement formulée dans les écrits de saint Cyprien de Carthage) semble un peu plus abstraite que les autres. Elle présuppose une primauté collective dans l’Église de tout le collège épiscopal dont l’unité est associée, en règle générale, à la figure de saint Pierre15. Concrètement, la succession apostolique comprise comme la succession des évêques par ordination16 ainsi que l’activité conciliaire régionale peuvent être corrélées à cette unité17. L’apostolicité prend en même temps la forme d’un principe hiérarchique universel qui ne se limite pas à l’idée de succession historique des communautés particulières par rapport aux apôtres. L’unité dans le consensus du collège épiscopal (episcopatus unus episcoporum multorum concordi numerositate diffusus)18 définit les limites de l’Église et la sépare des hérésies et des schismes. Bien que tous les évêques occupent la cathedra de Pierre19, on peut attribuer à l’Église romaine, qui est le siège de Pierre du point de vue historique, un rôle spécial (bien qu’assez vague et passif) dans la communion ecclésiastique, mais sans le droit d’imposer sa position aux autres Églises20. À cet égard, l’attitude de l’épiscopat africain vis-à-vis du siège romain aux IIIe et Ve siècles est très révélatrice. Le siège romain est considéré comme un symbole de l’unité du collège épiscopal. Le fait de la succession historique des évêques romains par rapport à Pierre est souligné par Optat21 et Augustin22, cependant, la pratique de l’appel du clergé auprès de l’Église romaine est d’abord contestée, et en 424(5), elle est interdite par les Africains23. Saint 14
Voir par exemple Theodoretus, Historia ecclesiastica V. 9. Cyprianus, Epistulae 66. 8 ; 70. 3 ; 73. 7, 11 ; Cyprianus, De ecclesiae catholicae unitate IV. 16 Cyprianus, Epistulae 66. 4 ; 75. 16 (lettre de Firmilien de Césarée). 17 Sur le développement de l’institution conciliaire voir Paul Mattei, ‘Afrikanskie sobory v jepohu sv. Kipriana Karfagenskogo’ [The African Councils in the Time of St Cyprian], dans Sobor i sobornost : K stoletiju nachala novoj jepohi. Materialy mezhdunarodnoj nauchnoj konferencii 13-16 nojabrja 2017 g. (Moscou, 2018), 7-27 (en russe). 18 Cyprianus, Epistula 55. 24. Sur l’unité du collège épiscopal voir Cyprianus, De ecclesiae catholicae unitate V ; Cyprianus, Epistula 66. 8. 19 Cyprianus, Epistula 43. 5. 20 Cyprianus, Epistula 59. 14. Voir aussi Cyprianus, Epistula 48. 3 et Sententiae episcoporum (CSEL 3.1, 436). 21 Optatus, Adversus Parmenianum II. 3. 22 Augustinus, Epistula 53. 2. Sur la tradition africaine voir : Paul Mattei, ‘Le primat romain selon les Africains. Antécédents, contenu et postérité’, dans Georgy Zakharov (éd.), Communio et traditio: Catholic Unity of Church in Early Christian Times (Moscow, 2014), 93-118. 23 Ut nullus ad Romanam ecclesiam audeat appellare (Concilia Africae a.345-a.525, éd. Charles Munier, CChr.SL. 149 [Turnhout, 1974], 266). 15
Primauté dans l’Église ancienne (IIe-Ve siècles) : Typologie fonctionnelle
Ambroise de Milan24 et saint Jérôme25, au contraire, présentent le siège romain comme le centre de communication catholique, lui conférant un rôle actif. Fonction 4 : Consolidation épiscopale régionale. Cette fonction de la primauté implique la formation d’un corps d’évêques au sein des provinces (selon les canons des conciles de Nicée26 et d’Antioche27), puis des diocèses et des régions historiques plus vastes (selon les canons des conciles de Constantinople de 381-38228 et de Chalcédoine29). Le but de ce processus est de créer un mécanisme de prise de décision qui dépasse la compétence des évêques comme chefs des Églises locales. Le Vicariat de Thessalonique devient également une forme spécifique de consolidation régionale dans laquelle l’évêque de Thessalonique tient la primauté dans deux diocèses – la Macédoine et la Dacie – non en vertu de la position de l’Église de Thessalonique elle-même, mais en tant que vicaire de l’évêque de Rome30. L’évêque de la ville principale de la région (métropolite, exarque, puis patriarche) se voit attribuer le droit de contrôler les ordinations des évêques (ou, au niveau supérieur, les ordinations des métropolites), ainsi que la responsabilité de la coordination des activités conciliaires régionales. Mais le métropolite n’a pas le droit de résoudre à lui seul des problèmes communs et ne peut agir qu’en accord avec les autres évêques de la région31. Bien que les structures administratives et politiques de l’Empire déterminent en règle générale (mais pas exclusivement) les limites des régions ecclésiales et l’élévation des sièges supérieurs dans leur sein, une telle primauté est fondée à nouveau sur l’idée de la succession apostolique de l’épiscopat. Cependant, la succession apostolique, transmise par ordination, est comprise dans ce cas non plus comme appartenant à une Église locale, mais comme la propriété commune du collège épiscopal. Fonction 5 : Sollicitude universelle. Cette fonction intégrale implique qu’un ou plusieurs sièges épiscopaux possèdent une position unique dans la communion ecclésiastique et mettent en œuvre une sollicitude particulière pour l’unité de l’Église au niveau universel. Cette sollicitude peut inclure les prérogatives suprêmes d’appel, une haute autorité dans les questions doctrinales et disciplinaires, ainsi que la définition des limites de l’unité catholique. Sous sa forme monocentrique ou, plus précisément, pro-romaine, ce type de primauté voit le 24 Ambrosius, De excessu fratris I. 47 ; Epistulae extra collectionem 5 (Maur. 11). 4 ; 9 (Maur. 13). 4. 25 Hieronymus, Epistulae 15. 2 ; 16. 2 ; 123. 10. 26 Canons 4, 5 et 6. 27 Canons 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 19 et 20. 28 Canons 2 et 6. 29 Canons 9, 17 et 28. 30 Voir Charles Pietri, Roma Christiana. Recherches sur l’Église de Rome, son organisation, sa politique, son idéologie de Miltiade à Sixte III (311-440) (Rome, 1976), 1069-147. 31 34e canon des Apôtres.
jour aux IVe et Ve siècles. De plus, sa genèse était due à la controverse arienne qui opposa de grands groupes d’évêques à d’autres et les conduisit à formuler leurs positions lors des conciles. Dans ces circonstances, nous pouvons observer dans une partie de l’épiscopat (en particulier dans les régions occidentales et dans les Balkans) le désir de trouver une sorte de point d’appui32. Ce point d’appui était l’Église romaine qui dès les IIe et IIIe siècles avait cherché à occuper une position privilégiée en insistant sur le fait qu’elle était dépositaire de l’héritage de saint Pierre33. Au IVe siècle l’idée du statut particulier de l’Église romaine fut développée lors de certains conciles, par exemple lors de celui de Sardique en 343 qui établit les prérogatives du siège romain en tant qu’instance suprême d’appel34, lors de celui d’Aquilée en 38135 ou encore lors d’un certain nombre de conciles romains36. Selon cette conception, le siège romain agit comme un centre hiérarchique de toute l’Église, renforcé par son origine historique pétrinienne. La position particulière de l’Église romaine est interprétée comme une part de la révélation divine37. Vers le milieu du Ve siècle apparaît dans la tradition romaine l’idée que Pierre continue à diriger l’Église par l’intermédiaire de ses successeurs38. L’attitude de l’épiscopat oriental face à l’idée d’un statut spécial du siège romain dans l’Église s’est manifestée davantage sur le plan pratique que sur le plan théorique. Les évêques orientaux, quand cela était possible, cherchaient à obtenir le soutien de la chaire romaine et y faisaient parfois appel en cas de défaite dans une lutte politique, mais ils avaient aussi tendance à défendre l’autonomie des Églises orientales39. En même temps, nous ne trouvons pas de critique explicite de l’idée de la primauté unique de Rome du point de vue ecclésiologique dans la tradition orientale de la période considérée. Cependant, 32 Voir Georgy Zakharov, Vneshniaia kommunikatsiya i bogoslovskaia traditsiya Rimskoi Tserkvi v epokhu arianskikh sporov [External communication and theological tradition of the Roman Church in the period of the Arian controversy] (Moscow, 2019), 97-104 (en russe). 33 Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica V. 23-4 ; Cyprianus, Epistula 75. 17. 34 Hilarius Pictaviensis, Fragmenta historica II. 9 et les canons 3, 4 et 7 dans la version latine et les canons 3, 4 et 5 dans la version grecque. Voir aussi Hamilton Hess, The Early Development of Canon Law and the Council of Serdica (Oxford, 2002). 35 Ambrosius, Epistulae extra collectionem 5 (Maur. 11). 4. 36 Voir Georgy Zakharov, Vneshniaia kommunikatsiya i bogoslovskaia traditsiya Rimskoi Tserkvi v epokhu arianskikh sporov [External communication and theological tradition of the Roman Church in the period of the Arian controversy] (Moscow, 2019), 150-216 (en russe). 37 Decretum Damasi (Gelasianum). III. 1. Voir Ursula Reutter, Damasus, Bischof von Rom (366-384). Leben und Werk (Tübingen, 2009), 468-513. 38 Leo Magnus, Sermones V. 5 ; Epistula 61. 2 et aussi la lettre de Pierre Chrysologue : Leo Magnus, Epistula 25. 2. Voir aussi Mikhail Gratsianskiy, ‘Haeres Petri sive vicarius Petri: Obosnovanie iskliuchitel’nykh vlastnykh prerogativ rimskogo episkopa papoi L’vom Velikim’ [‘Haeres Petri sive vicarius Petri. Arguments of pope Leo the Great for the exceptional prerogatives of power for the bishop of Rome], Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia II : Istoriia. Istoriia Russkoy Pravoslavnoy Tserkvi 89 (2019), 27-48 (en russe). 39 Voir François Dvornik, Byzance et la primauté romaine (1964), 20.
Primauté dans l’Église ancienne (IIe-Ve siècles) : Typologie fonctionnelle
on peut voir émerger une sorte de contre-thèse lors des conciles de Constantinople de 381-382, quand les évêques orientaux ont avancé l’idée de l’apostolicité d’Antioche (πρεσβυτάτης καὶ ὄντως ἀποστολικῆς), ont appelé Jérusalem « la mère de toutes les Églises » (μητρὸς ἁπασῶν τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν)40 et ont représenté Constantinople comme la nouvelle Rome (νέαν Ῥώμην dans le 3e canon du concile de Constantinople, 381). Bien que la tradition ecclésiologique byzantine n’ait pas accepté le modèle monocentrique romain, l’idée de la sollicitude universelle y sera développée dans le cadre du modèle pentarchique de l’Église41. Ce modèle tient son origine dans la reconnaissance du rôle prééminent des patriarches dont le ministère est explicitement identifié par saint Méthode de Constantinople au ministère apostolique42. La diversité historique des formes de la succession apostolique, de même que toute notre recherche dans son ensemble, montre que l’idée d’apostolicité n’était pas seulement une des justifications idéologiques possibles de la primauté. Elle était son fondement nécessaire, car l’unité synchrone de l’Église est impensable sans l’unité diachronique. Cette conclusion encourage à accorder une attention particulière à l’apostolicité dans les discussions ecclésiologiques contemporaines.
Theodoretus, Historia ecclesiastica V. 9. Sur pentarchie voir Ferdinand R. Gahbauer, Die Pentarchietheorie: Ein Modell der Kirchenleitung von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart (Frankfurt am Main, 1993). 42 Jean Darrouzès, ‘Le patriarche Méthode contre les Iconoclastes et les Stoudites’, Revue des études byzantines 45 (1987), 44-9. 41
Presbyteroi in the First Two Christian Centuries Paul F. BRADSHAW, University of Notre Dame, IN, USA
ABSTRACT In concert with the claims made in Alistair Stewart’s 2014 book, The Original Bishops, this article acknowledges three uses of the Greek term presbyteroi in the Christian literature of the first two centuries: (a) old men in general; (b) as a collective term for the leaders of individual house-churches; and (c) to refer to the senior members of an individual house-church who formed an advisory council around its leader, an episkopos, but who were not as yet subordinate ministers to him. It rejects, however, a fourth category invented by Stewart, which he called kata polin presbyteroi, select episkopoi who together exercised some authority across a whole city and not just within their local house-church.
In the New Testament and early Christianity the Greek word presbyteros is used with several different, though related, meanings, and hence it is vitally important that we are able to distinguish them from one another. First of all, the literal sense of ‘old man’ does occur, and one must beware of attributing a more technical meaning to the word in instances when that is not intended. For example, in 1Timothy 5:1: ‘Do not rebuke a presbyterō, but exhort him as a father’, the word appears simply to mean an old man and not a presbyter as such, as it is immediately followed by ‘younger men as brothers’. Similar parallelism is found in 1Peter 5:5, where younger men are exhorted to be subject to presbyterois, and so points to the same meaning. Second, there is the use of the plural presbyteroi as a generic term for leaders of congregations, in much the same manner as the equivalent Hebrew word was used in the Old Testament. The expression ‘the elders of Israel’ was not the title of an office to which a person might be appointed, but referred to the senior men of the community whose age and attributed wisdom gave them respect and authority. Thus, in Numbers 11:16-7 Moses does not appoint seventy men to be elders to govern the people of Israel, but chooses seventy from the elders to carry out this role. Similarly, the individual leader of a Christian congregation might have been its original founder, the householder or patron of the place where they met, a prophet, a teacher, or increasingly, as we move out of the first century into the second, an appointed episkopos, but collectively all these could be referred to as presbyteroi. This is not the same as saying that the words presbyteros and episkopos were synonyms at this time, as many have done. The word presbyteros is generally
Studia Patristica CVI, 71-76. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.
used in the plural as a collective term for those who, at least in the first century, might have included more than episkopoi. The latter, on the other hand, is used of a specific appointed office, mostly in the singular. For that reason, ‘leaders’ seems a better translation of presbyteroi than ‘elders’, which tends to carry connotations of the word’s later use in a quite different sense. So, for example, the writer of 1Clement around the end of the first century seems to have understood the church at Corinth as composed of a number of house-churches, each one with an episkopos as its leader. Here, therefore, presbyteros is consistently used in the plural of church leaders in general: ‘Blessed are those leaders who have already finished their course’ (44.5); ‘let the flock of Christ be at peace with the leaders set over it’ (54.2); and ‘you therefore who laid the foundation of the sedition submit to the leaders’ (57.1). But episkopos describes a specific appointed office: ‘they [the Apostles] appointed their first converts to be bishops and deacons for the future believers’ (42.4); ‘Our Apostles knew … that there would be strife over the title of bishop’ (44.1); and ‘our sin is not small if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily offered the gifts’ (44.4). The usage of presbyteroi as a collective term for bishops even continued into the late second century. Thus, Irenaeus in his Adversus haereses refers to the tradition preserved by ‘the successions of presbyters in the churches’ (3.2.2), but shortly afterwards speaks of the Apostles appointing bishops and of ‘their successions to our own times’ (3.3.1). At the same time, he was obviously aware of a different sense of the word, so that when paraphrasing Acts 20:17, where Paul sends to Ephesus for the ‘elders’ of the church, Ignatius describes them instead as ‘bishops and presbyters’ from Ephesus and other cities (3.14.2). In his book, The Original Bishops, Alistair Stewart argues for a third category of presbyteroi, found chiefly in the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, a group of older men who had once been individual householder/patrons and now had honour and status within an enlarged congregation, but not office or ministry as such.1 They may well have been seated around the episkopos of the congregation at the Eucharist and have provided counsel to him, but they did not exercise specific liturgical functions within that Christian community and were definitely not subordinate ministers. When I first reviewed his book, I was somewhat hesitant about accepting this interpretation of the situation behind the Ignatian letters, but further reflection on the texts has made me much more sympathetic to the argument. This is a natural extension of the word presbyteroi in its earlier sense. I do not think they need have been former householder/ patrons in every case – some might simply have been figures respected within the congregation for other reasons – but the general thesis makes sense. Indeed, before the institution of a bishop as leader of a house church, leadership might 1
Alistair Stewart, The Original Bishops (Grand Rapids, MI, 2014), 187-298.
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have been shared between two or three people in some congregations, and all these included in the collective designation as presbyteroi within a city. There is also a further consideration that could add support to the claim. If Alistair Stewart is right that the Eucharist had ceased to be a full evening meal in the places to which the letters of Ignatius were addressed, then larger numbers of people could have been physically accommodated in the various meeting places, with the probable result being that the members of earlier smaller congregations of house-churches could have been absorbed into them together with their previous leaders, who would then naturally have formed part of the new presbytery. The only challenge to this theory comes in the Letter to the Smyrneans, where, as Andrew McGowan has argued,2 agape and Eucharist seem to be used as synonyms for the same event, an evening eucharistic meal (8.2). As the word agape does not occur anywhere else in the Ignatian correspondence, Smyrna may perhaps have been an exception to the general trend to move to mornings. Other signs exist to suggest that, as in 1Clement, a twofold pattern of ministry, just bishops and deacons, once also existed elsewhere. Thus, the latethird-/early-fourth-century Syrian church order, the Didascalia Apostolorum, which seems to be composed of several much earlier layers, contains directions for the appointment of bishops, deacons, and widows, but not presbyters. Presbyters are occasionally mentioned elsewhere in the document, but only in a marginal way, which suggests that these passages are part of a later redaction, just as the sole mention of a reader and of a subdeacon are believed to be.3 Similarly, in the so-called Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus both the ordination prayer for a presbyter and some of the adjacent remarks about deacons indicate that the primary function of presbyters was as a counsel to the bishop, even if what are apparently later strands in the church order point to a somewhat different role. The ordination prayer speaks of them as receiving the ‘spirit of grace and counsel of the presbyterate’ to help and guide the people, and it distinguishes a deacon from a presbyter on the grounds that a deacon ‘is not a participant in the counsel of the clergy’ (7.2; 8.3). And as late as the fourthcentury Apostolic Constitutions the presbyters were expected to give their approval to the ordination of a new presbyter (8.16), at least ideally even if it did not always happen in practice. Building on a proposal by R. Alistair Campbell, Stewart then goes on to identify a fourth category of presbyteroi. He designates these as kata polin presbyteroi, whom he defines as elders who shared responsibility for the churches
Andrew B. McGowan, ‘Naming the Feast: Agape and the Diversity of Early Christian Meals’, SP 30 (1997), 314-8. 3 See Alistair Stewart(-Sykes), The Didascalia Apostolorum (Turnhout, 2009), 56-69.
in a whole city, not just in a single congregation.4 The phrase comes from Titus 1:5, where the vast majority of commentators have taken it as part of an instruction to appoint ‘elders in every town’. Stewart, however, wants to interpret kata polin here as qualifying the noun presbyterous instead of the verb katasteses, i.e., as an instruction to appoint a particular kind of elders, ones who will hold office on a city-wide basis rather than within an individual house-church. Although the phrase kata polin presbyteroi does not occur anywhere else, he treats the mention of presbyteroi in a number of other instances as also referring to this same alleged group. Stewart envisages these presbyteroi as being drawn from among the episkopoi of the various congregations in a city and made responsible for creating a loose federation of recognized Christian communities in that place. But would this creation of a separate category have been necessary? Might not all the episkopoi of a city rather than just a representative few of them, have been able to meet together and form some sort of federative council? After all, not every leader of a congregation that called itself Christian would have been included in this group, as we know that there were serious divisions between certain congregations in some cities that would have precluded such a comprehensive fellowship. Ignatius, for example, refers to other groups who for one reason or another refuse to join the communities that he recognizes.5 They presumably had their own leaders, who might not have been formally appointed officers, but at least in some cases were those displaying apparent prophetic gifts, as Ignatius himself implies (Philadelphians 7). They may, or may not, have had councils of elders: lack of evidence prevents us drawing any conclusions about that. But the fundamental point is that there would surely have been no need for an elected representative body in most instances for those congregations that did recognize one another. The only possible exception to this might have been in the very largest of cities, where there could conceivably have been too many individual congregations of Christians to make it practicable for the leaders of all of them to meet together. Let us therefore look at the instances where Stewart claims to discern these kata polin presbyteroi. First, there is Bithynia. On the basis of 1Peter 5:1-4, where the author addresses ‘the presbyterous among you’, Stewart asserts that these were kata polin presbyterous, but then says that they were ‘episkopoi, collectively, being known as presbyteroi’.6 This seems to me to be no different from other cases where presbyteroi is used collectively and does not require the creation of a special category of kata polin presbyteroi to explain 4
A. Stewart, Original Bishops (2014), 41-2, 145-56. See, for example, Christine Trevett, ‘Prophecy and Anti-episcopal Activity: A Third Error Combatted by Ignatius?’, JEH 34 (1983), 1-18. 6 A. Stewart, Original Bishops (2014), 202. 5
Presbyteroi in the First Two Christian Centuries
it. Similarly, Polycarp’s letter to the church at Philippi is addressed from ‘Polycarp and the presbyters with him’ and later speaks of the duties of presbyters. Again, I can see no need to resort to a category of kata polin presbyteroi here. Are both groups not simply episkopoi who are being described collectively as presbyters? Finally, Stewart makes brief reference to Alexandria and Jerusalem, where once again the hypothesis of a separate category seems quite unnecessary.7 We return then to Stewart’s interpretation of Titus 1:5, which gave rise to his theory. He argues that the command to appoint prebyterous in every city cannot be taken literally because that would mean that previously there had been no officers at all in the Cretan church.8 But we ought not to attach too much weight to what appears to be a fictive account. In any case, the passage does not deny that the church had previously had its leaders, but simply directs that Titus is to formally appoint persons to that position, perhaps in place of a looser manner in which individuals had assumed such roles. Without the unnecessary complication of Stewart’s particular category of presbyters, therefore, we may fairly claim that in early Christianity the term presbyteroi began to be extended from its earlier use as a collective term for the leaders of house-churches to its use also in the second century for a group of senior counsellors within an individual church. There is no evidence that such men – and by this time at least they do all seem to have been male – ever exercised any specific liturgical functions or acted as regular heads of a congregation. Hence, the emergence of presbyters as subordinate ministers to a bishop who had authority over all the churches within a city seems to belong, not to the age of Ignatius of Antioch as has previously been generally supposed, but to a subsequent era. Evidence is too sketchy to posit a precise date for this transition, but the late second century does appear to be the most likely time for it to have begun, although we need to bear in mind that not all presbyters assumed individual responsibility for the leadership of a community or the regular presidency at its Eucharist for a long time after that. Thus, as late as the fourth century John Chrysostom in his homily on the day of his presbyteral ordination proclaimed that he had been placed among the priests and that the word was his sacrifice;9 and it appears that the presbyteral churches within the Roman city walls did not consecrate the Eucharist independently but only through the gift of the fermentum from the Pope.10 Finally, this late-second-century development may even explain the presence of the bodies known as seniores laici in third-century North Africa, the nature 7
Ibid. 201, 214-36. Ibid. 40. 9 John Chrysostom, Sermo cum presbyter fuit ordinatus (PG 48, 694, 699). 10 John F. Baldovin, ‘The Fermentum at Rome in the Fifth Century: A Reconsideration’, Worship 79 (2005), 38-53. 8
and origin of which has been much debated by scholars.11 They appear to have functioned as lay advisers to their bishop, a role analogous to that of the lay presbyters in the letters of Ignatius and elsewhere. When the new institution of clerical presbyters as the bishop’s assistant ministers was introduced here from other regions, therefore, their Greek title was retained in this Latin-speaking church, leaving the seniores laici in their original place.
11 See the discussion in Alistair Stewart-Sykes, ‘Ordination Rites and Patronage Systems in Third-Century Africa’, Vigiliae Christianae 56 (2002), 115-30, 119-22.
Une recusatio episcopatus ? Parallèles entre le refus de l’épiscopat et le refus du pouvoir Florence BRET, Lyon, France
ABSTRACT The recusatio imperii, the refusal of power, is a topos in both Latin panegyrics and biographies. If it was used for emperors in late antiquity, its trace can also be found in the first Lives of bishops. Ambrose of Milan, Hilary of Arles, Fulgence of Ruspe…, all try to evade the episcopal office offered to them. In the course of this article, we would like to study to what extent these scenes of recusatio episcopatus are heir to the scenes of refusal of power, by relying on the fourth, fifth and sixth century Vitae. The recusationes imperii, first of all, are characterized by permanent features which are also found in the Lives of saints. Indeed, the future emperor’s refusal is undermined by the pressure of the crowd and the choice of the gods, so he has no choice but to accept power. In the same way, the future bishop is constrained by the acclamation of the crowd and by a divine sign, most often a miracle. Beyond these similarities, however, we will ask ourselves whether the parallel can be taken further by questioning the reasons for this refusal. If emperors seem to be guided by moderatio and by the need to maintain a fiction of freedom in front of the fear of tyranny, holy bishops, for their part, show another virtue, a Christian one, their humilitas.
Faire fouetter des accusés, amener chez lui des prostituées, fuir, se cacher… Ambroise rivalise d’idées pour tenter désespérément de ne pas devenir évêque de Milan alors que le peuple l’a élu, selon les chapitres 7, 8 et 9 de sa Vie rédigée par Paulin. Et il est loin d’être le seul héros d’une Vita latine écrite entre le IIIe et le VIe siècle à essayer ainsi d’échapper à la charge épiscopale. Germain d’Auxerre, Épiphane de Pavie, Vivien de Saintes1…, en tout treize saints commencent par refuser de devenir évêques de la cité qui les a choisis selon leur hagiographe. S’il est possible de penser que les premiers saints dont la Vita rapporte le refus de l’épiscopat ont vraiment cherché à ne pas assumer cette charge, la scène devient ensuite un topos littéraire. 1
Également Cyprien de Carthage, Hilaire d’Arles, Fulgence de Ruspe, Césaire d’Arles, Loup de Troyes, Maxime de Riez, Albin d’Angers et, dans une moindre mesure, Martin de Tours et Eutrope d’Orange.
Studia Patristica CVI, 77-85. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.
Ce refus de l’épiscopat n’est pas sans rappeler un motif récurrent des Vies et des panégyriques d’empereurs2 : la recusatio imperii, le refus du pouvoir. Nous nous proposons alors d’étudier ces deux types de scènes en parallèle pour en dégager les points communs et les différences et pour voir comment et pourquoi les Vitae christianisent ce motif de l’éloge impérial. I. La recusatio imperii La recusatio imperii, avant d’être un motif du panégyrique impérial, correspond à un événement de la vie politique romaine dont la tradition, ancienne, prend une dimension particulière au moment de l’instauration du Principat. Déjà une illustration sous la République de l’attitude de l’homme de bien3 qui estime que l’on est plus digne de mériter les honneurs quand on ne les a pas cherchés, la recusatio imperii se pare d’un enjeu idéologique avec l’avènement d’Auguste qui commence par refuser les charges qui lui sont confiées afin de maintenir l’illusion de la liberté et d’écarter le spectre honni à Rome de la monarchie. On retrouve cette recusatio imperii dans de nombreuses Vies d’empereurs4 et, de manière très nette, dans les panégyriques impériaux. Une belle illustration de ce topos se situe dans le Panégyrique de Trajan5 de Pline le Jeune, au chapitre 5. Alors que le futur empereur est choisi, il cherche à refuser la charge : […] tibi ascendenti de more Capitolium quamquam non id agentium ciuium clamor ut iam principi occurrit, siquidem omnis turba, quae limen insederat, ad ingressum tuum foribus reclusis illa quidem, ut tunc arbitrabatur, deum, ceterum, ut docuit euentus, te consalutauit imperatorem. Nec aliter a cunctis omen acceptum est. Nam ipse intellegere nolebas; recusabas enim imperare, recusabas, quod erat bene imperaturi. Igitur cogendus fuisti. Mais toi, comme tu montais suivant l’usage au Capitole, l’acclamation des citoyens, bien qu’ils fussent venus pour autre chose, s’éleva vers toi comme si tu étais déjà leur prince. Toute la foule qui assiégeait le parvis, quand, à ton arrivée, on ouvrit les portes, toute la foule donc salua en tant qu’empereur, selon ce qu’elle croyait alors, un dieu, mais en réalité, comme l’événement nous l’apprit, toi. Ce présage ne fut pas interprété autrement par tous. En effet, toi seul ne voulais pas comprendre. Car tu refusais de gouverner, tu refusais, preuve que tu régnerais bien. C’est pourquoi il a fallu te forcer. 2 Jean Béranger, ‘Le refus du pouvoir (Recherches sur l’aspect idéologique du principat)’, Museum Helveticum 5 (1948), 178-96 offre un large panorama des occurrences du motif tant dans la littérature biographique que panégyrique. 3 J. Béranger, ‘Le refus du pouvoir’ (1948), 192 : ‘il était bienséant de ne pas paraître convoiter la charge souhaitée.’ Et ‘Le refus est la marque […] du bonus’. Ces affirmations sont soutenues par l’exemple développé du cas de Pompée qui avait l’habitude de refuser des honneurs pour soigner son image. 4 Les deux cas les plus détaillés sont à propos des instaurateurs du principat comme nous pouvons le voir dans les Vies d’Auguste et de Tibère de Suétone. 5 Pline le Jeune, Panégyrique de Trajan, éd. Marcel Durry (Paris, 2002).
Une recusatio episcopatus ?
Plusieurs caractéristiques ressortent de ce passage : le refus du pouvoir est l’événement central, avec la répétition du verbe recusabas et est la preuve de la valeur du gouvernant à venir. Amenant à cette situation, deux éléments se combinent et président au choix de Trajan comme empereur : une volonté humaine, avec les cris de la foule (ciuium clamor, omnis turba) et une volonté divine perceptible dans l’emploi du terme omen6. Ce heurt du refus de l’intéressé et d’une double volonté est caractéristique de la recusatio imperii et se retrouve dans plusieurs panégyriques postérieurs comme, pour en choisir un plus proche de la date de rédaction des Vies de saints, le Panégyrique de Constantin7 (Panégyriques latins, VI) d’août 310. Le chapitre 8 présente clairement une articulation des mêmes motifs narratifs : Purpuram statim tibi, cum primus copiam tui fecit egressus, milites utilitati publicae magis quam tuis adfectibus seruientes iniecere lacrimanti. Neque enim fas erat diutius fleri principem consecratum. Diceris etiam, imperator inuicte, ardorem illum te deposcentis exercitus fugere conatus equum calcaribus incitasse. Quod quidem, ut uerum audias, adulescentiae errore faciebas. Quis enim te Cyllarus aut Arion posset eripere quem sequebatur imperium, illa, inquam, illa maiestas, quae Iouis sublata nutu nec Iridi deum nuntiae, sed pinnis commissa Victoriae, tam facile te continata est quam cito ad terras caelo missa perueniunt? Sic modestiam tuam atque pietatem et differendi imperii conatus ostendit et rei publicae felicitas uicit. Dès que ta sortie leur en donna l’occasion, les soldats aussitôt jetèrent la pourpre sur toi malgré tes larmes, servant plus l’utilité publique que tes sentiments. Et, en effet, il n’était pas permis qu’un prince consacré pleurât plus longtemps. On dit même, empereur invincible, que tu as essayé de fuir l’ardeur de l’armée qui te demandait en éperonnant ton cheval. Et certes, pour dire vrai, tu l’as fait comme une erreur de jeunesse. Quel Cyllarus ou quel Arion, en effet, aurait pu t’arracher, toi que l’empire poursuivait de ses vœux, à la majesté, cette majesté dis-je, qui, offerte par la volonté de Jupiter, confiée non à Iris la messagère des dieux, mais aux ailes de la Victoire, t’a rencontré aussi facilement que les messages du ciel arrivent rapidement sur terre ?
Le choix du nouvel empereur repose de la même manière sur une double volonté : humaine (purpuram tibi milites iniecere) et divine (Ioius nutu), alors que l’élu est réticent (lacrimanti) et cherche même à s’enfuir (fugere conatus) pour échapper à son destin. Une Vie de saint, même, donne un témoignage de la persistance de ce motif à la fin du IVe siècle. Le chapitre 20 de la Vie de Martin de Sulpice Sévère fait apparaître le personnage de l’empereur Maxime qui cherche à faire venir à lui le saint évêque de Tours. Comme Martin refuse, Maxime explique dans quelles conditions il est devenu empereur.
J. Béranger, ‘Le refus du pouvoir’ (1948), 188 : ‘C’est ainsi que corollaire de celui des hommes se montre le concensus des dieux.’ 7 Roger A.B. Mynors, Charles E.V. Nixon et Barbara S. Rodgers, In praise of later Roman emperors: the ‘Panegyrici latini’ (Berkeley, 1994).
Postremo, cum Maximus non sponte sumpsisse imperium adfirmaret sed inpositam sibi a militibus diuino nutu regni necessitatem armis defendisse […]8. Finalement, comme Maxime affirmait qu’il n’avait pas assumé le pouvoir impérial de son plein gré, mais qu’il avait défendu par les armes la charge nécessaire de l’état qui lui avait été imposée par ses soldats selon la volonté divine, […].
On retrouve le refus (ou du moins l’absence de recherche) du pouvoir (non sponte), l’obligation (inpositam), le choix d’une foule humaine (militibus) et la volonté divine (diuino nutu). II. Une recusatio episcopatus Dès lors, le refus de l’épiscopat, dans les Vies d’évêques du IIIe au VIe siècle prend la forme d’une véritable recusatio episcopatus, que nous appelons ainsi par parallèle avec la recusatio imperii9. Analysons la description du déroulé de la scène en distinguant les éléments qui s’y retrouvent presque à chaque fois. 1. La foule choisit le saint comme évêque L’accent est mis sur la multitude dans sa globalité d’où personne de nommé ou d’identifié ne se détache. Par exemple, dans la Vie de Cyprien10, c’est tout le peuple (totus populus) qui choisit son évêque, dans la Vie d’Ambroise, c’est le cri d’un enfant repris par la foule (totius populi ora11). La Vie de Vivien (clericorum et civium uoto) et la Vie de Maxime (amore omnium sacerdotum uel ciuium), même, insistent sur le choix commun des deux catégories de personnes qui constituent le peuple : les laïcs et les clercs. L’accent est également porté sur l’unanimité : una uox, lit-on dans la Vie de Germain d’Auxerre, universitate populi concordante, dans la Vie d’Albin). On peut même lire dans la Vie d’Epiphane une expression à connotation très politique et cicéronienne12 : istum bonorum omnium consensus. 8
Sulpice Sévère, Vie de saint Martin, éd. Jacques Fontaine, SC 133 (Paris, 1967). Cela correspond au chapitre 5 de la Vie de Cyprien, aux chapitres 6 à 9 de la Vie d’Ambroise, au chapitre 9 de la Vie d’Hilaire d’Arles, au chapitre 12 de la Vie de Germain d’Auxerre, au chapitre 40 de la Vie d’Epiphane de Pavie, au chapitre 3 de la Vie de Vivien, aux chapitres 33 à 35 de la Vie de Fulgence, au chapitre 14 du premier livre de la Vie de Césaire d’Arles, au chapitre 3 de la Vie de Loup, au chapitre 6 de la Vie de Maxime, au chapitre 9 de la Vie d’Albin. 10 Pontius, Vie de Cyprien, éd. Wilhelm von Hartel, CSEL 3 (Vienne, 1871), 5 : in dilectionem ejus et honorem totus populus aspirante Domino prosiliret. 11 Paulin, Vie d’Ambroise, éd. Michele Pellegrino (Rome, 1961), 6 : Ibique cum alloqueretur plebem, subito uox fertur infantis in populo sonuisse Ambrosium episcopum. Ad cujus uocis sonum totius populi ora conuersa sunt, acclamantis Ambrosium episcopum. 12 De la même manière, Jacques Fontaine relève beaucoup de termes cicéroniens dans la scène d’élection de Martin chez Sulpice Sévère. 9
Une recusatio episcopatus ?
2. Le saint ne veut pas être évêque Il refuse, résiste…, c’est le moment de la recusatio episcopatus à proprement parler. Cela va du simple refus à la fuite. En effet, si Epiphane13 et Albin14 refusent, Vivien15, Hilaire d’Arles16 et Eutrope17 quittent la cité qui les veut comme évêques. Fulgence18 et Césaire19 se cachent pour ne pas assumer la charge épiscopale. Mais le cas le plus frappant reste celui d’Ambroise qui rivalise de tentatives pour apparaître indigne de l’épiscopat : trois chapitres entiers de la Vita (7, 8 et 9) sont constitués d’une série d’épisodes, fortement dramatisés et fonctionnant selon un même principe : l’alternance entre un essai d’Ambroise et son échec. Les deux premières tentatives de cette cascade de rebondissements consistent à commettre des péchés : il ordonna, nous dit son hagiographe, de soumettre des hommes à la torture (tormenta iussit personis adhiberi20) et il fit ouvertement venir chez lui des prostituées (publicas mulieres publice ad se ingredi fecit21) et Paulin insiste habilement sur la nature ouverte de l’offense grâce au polyptote publicas/publice qui accompagne un changement de sens du mot. La réponse de la foule, d’inspiration évangélique22, est la même : Sanguis huius super nos et Peccatum tuum super nos. Devant l’échec de ses deux premières techniques, Ambroise change de registre et tente ce que l’on retrouvera dans d’autres Vies ensuite : la fuite (fugam parauit23, iterum fugam parauit24) et la cachette (in possessione cujusdam Leontii clarissimi uiri aliquamdiu delituit25).
13 Ennode, Vie d’Epiphane de Pavie, éd. Maria Cesa (Côme, 1988), 40 : Resistebat in quantum poterat (il résistait autant qu’il pouvait). 14 Venance Fortunat, Vie d’Albin, éd. Bruno Krusch, MGH Aut. Ant. 4, 2, 27-33, 9 : resistente. 15 Vie de Vivien, éd. Bruno Krusch, MGH SS. rer. Merov., 3, 94-100, 3 : Rennuens […] fugae latebram quaerens (Refusant […], cherchant la dissimulation que procure la fuite). 16 Honorat de Marseille, Vie d’Hilaire d’Arles, éd. Samuel Cavallin et Paul-André Jacob, SC 404 (Paris, 1995), 9 : Impensis ergo supremis obsequiis, iterum sanctus Hilarius ad eremi secreta festinat (Lorsque, donc, les derniers hommages eurent été rendus, saint Hilaire repartit rapidement vers la solitude du désert). 17 Vérus, Vie d’Eutrope, éd. Pierre Varin (Paris, 1869) : fugam cepit. 18 Vie de Fulgence, éd. Antonino Isola, CChr.SL 91F (Turnhout, 2016), 33 : Tunc beatus Fulgentius […] latebris absconditur (Alors le bienheureux Fulgence se dissimule dans une cachette). 19 Vie de Césaire, éd. Germain Morin, Marie-José Delage et Marc Heijmans, SC 536 (Paris, 2010), 14 : inter quasdam sepulturas latibulum requisiuit (il rechercha une cachette au milieu de tombes). 20 Paulin, Vie d’Ambroise, 7. 21 Ibid. 7. 22 Mt. 22:25. 23 Paulin, Vie d’Ambroise, 8 : ‘il prépara sa fuite’. 24 Ibid. 9 : ‘il prépara de nouveau sa fuite’. 25 Ibid. 9 : ‘il se cacha pendant assez longtemps dans la propriété d’un certain Léonce, homme important’.
3. Le saint devient finalement évêque Deux cas de figure se présentent alors : soit le saint est obligé par la population, soit un signe divin le contraint à accepter cette charge. Dans le premier cas, l’accent est mis sur la contrainte avec l’emploi du vocabulaire de l’enlèvement : l’élection apparaît comme un rapt plutôt que comme un choix accepté par les deux parties. Les formes verbales employées sont au passif : le saint est comme dépouillé de toute volonté propre. Par exemple, Césaire est contraint (coactus26), Loup est enlevé (raptus27), Maxime pas moins enlevé qu’élu (non minus raptus quam electus28), Ambroise est livré (proditus) et amené (adductus29). Constance de Lyon insiste fortement sur le caractère contraint de l’élection de Germain grâce au rythme ternaire inuitus, coactus, addictus30 et l’auteur de la Vie de Fulgence étaie son propos grâce à une importante énumération de verbes à la voix passive qui évoquent la capture d’un prisonnier plus que le choix d’un évêque : reperitur, inuaditur, tenetur, ducitur et pontifex esse non rogatur sed cogitur31. La Vie d’Hilaire d’Arles présente même le passage comme une véritable chasse au chapitre 9 : Sed illa Diuinitatis potentia, quae modis occultis suam per humana ministeria peragit uoluntatem, illustris Cassii, qui tunc praeerat militibus, animum repente succendit, ut ignotum, ut longe positum, ut denique ad eremum properantem ardenter expeteret, fortiter retineret, uiolenter attraheret. Electum ciuium numerum cum non parua manu dirigit militantum. Feliciter pervenitur: spiritalis praeda astat ante oculos inquirentium, et nihilominus ignoratur. Quorumdam tamen indiciis declarata capitur. Mais la puissance de la Divinité, qui, par des moyens cachés, a accompli sa volonté grâce aux activités des hommes, embrasa soudain l’âme de l’illustre Cassius qui commandait alors aux soldats afin que, cet homme inconnu, cet homme qui était loin, cet homme enfin qui se hâtait vers le désert, il le cherche ardemment, il l’arrête vigoureusement, il le ramène impétueusement. Il conduit un nombre choisi de citoyens ainsi qu’une troupe de soldats loin d’être petite. Par chance, on aboutit : la proie spirituelle est là, devant les yeux de ceux qui la cherchent et toutefois elle n’est pas reconnue. Cependant, grâce aux indications de quelques-uns, le gibier annoncé est capturé.
En réaction à la fuite du saint, ses poursuivants s’organisent, armés, à ses trousses, dans un effet de suspens et de solennité créé par les deux rythmes ternaires successifs (ut ignotum, ut longe positum, ut denique ad eremum properantem 26
Vie de Césaire, 14. Vie de Loup, éd. Bruno Krusch, MGH SS. rer. Merov., 3, 120-124, 3. 28 Dynamius, Vie de Maxime de Riez, 6, dans Paul-André Jacob et Pascal Boulhol, Maxime de Riez. Entre l’histoire et la légende (Valensole, 2014). 29 Paulin, Vie d’Ambroise, 9. 30 Constance de Lyon, Vie de Germain d’Auxerre, éd. René Borius, SC 112 (Paris, 1965), 12. 31 Vie de Fulgence, 35 : ‘On le trouve, on l’assaille, on le tient, on l’emmène, on ne lui demande pas d’être évêque mais on le force’. 27
Une recusatio episcopatus ?
et ardenter expeteret, fortiter retineret, uiolenter attraheret). Véritable enjeu de la chasse, Hilaire est qualifié de proie spirituelle (spiritalis praeda), il est capturé (capitur). Le passage est au présent de narration, ce qui met l’accent sur l’action : nous avons affaire à une véritable scène de traque en réponse à la fuite du saint pour le forcer à être évêque. Si le saint n’est pas contraint par la foule, il l’est par un signe divin. Cela peut aller de la simple mention du fait que c’est la volonté divine (Eutrope a une discussion avec un homme pieux, disciple d’Augustin32, Martin est forcé par Dieu33) jusqu’à un événement miraculeux prouvant avec évidence cette volonté divine : sur la tête d’Hilaire qui, même retrouvé, ne veut toujours pas devenir évêque vient se poser une colombe signifiant, par parallèle avec le baptême de Jésus, son élection divine34. La Vie de Vivien propose une tournure paradoxale : ce qui permet de retrouver le saint est une tacita indicatio, une indication muette35. Quant à Césaire, il est découvert du fait de la grâce (I, 14) : Cum ergo ad notitiam, de quo loquimur, patris nostri uera opinio peruenisset, quod esset ordinandus episcopus, inter quasdam sepulturas latibulum requisiuit. Sed absconsus esse non potuit, quem detexit non culpa, sed gratia. Itaque de quadam sepultura trahitur uiuus, quem non mortuum, sed absconsum uitae claritas ostendebat. Comme, donc, était parvenu à la connaissance de notre père le bruit véridique dont nous parlons, à savoir qu’il devait être ordonné évêque, il chercha une cachette parmi des sépultures. Mais il ne put rester caché, celui que fit découvrir non la faute mais la grâce. C’est pourquoi tire-t-on vivant d’une sépulture celui que l’éclat de sa vie révélait non mort mais caché.
C’est la grâce de Dieu qui permet de retrouver Césaire et de l’ordonner évêque. Ce thème est développé dans la phrase suivante où le modèle christique est très fort. En effet, grâce au contraste entre sepultura et uiuus, Césaire sortant de sa cachette se fait imitateur du Christ ressuscité qui sort vivant du tombeau. Nous pouvons donc constater une unité entre toutes ces scènes qui donnent à voir qu’il s’agit d’un topos de la Vie d’évêque et, en même temps, le parallèle structurel avec les Vies d’empereurs est très marqué ; les éléments narratifs en 32
Vérus d’Orange, Vie d’Eutrope : sancti Agustini discipulo consilium prodidisset (il reçut ce conseil d’un disciple de saint Augustin). 33 Paulin de Périgueux, Vie de Martin, Prologue, Livres I-III, éd. Sylvie Labarre, SC 581 (Paris, 2016), II, v.29 : cogente Deo. 34 Honorat de Marseille, Vie d’Hilaire d’Arles, 9 : niveae columbae desuper advenientis et residentis in capite (Une colombe blanche comme la neige venant du ciel et se posant sur sa tête). 35 Vie de Vivien, 3 : Quam dum rogaret, ut agnitum suo potuisset celare silentio, illa, ne auferretur uotis cum dilatione, inuentum, tacente lingua, motu capitis indicavit. Unde tacita indicatione sic proditus atque inde publicis laudibus euocatus, pontificalis cathedrae suscepit ascensum. (Puisqu’il lui avait demandé si elle pouvait cacher, par son silence, qu’elle l’avait reconnu, celle-ci, pour ne pas s’écarter trop loin de sa promesse, tint sa langue et indiqua qu’elle l’avait trouvé grâce à un mouvement de tête. De là, ainsi livré par une indication muette puis appelé par les louanges du peuple, il accepta de monter sur le siège épiscopal).
présence sont les mêmes : refus de l’intéressé, acclamation populaire, fuite éventuelle, expression de la volonté divine, résignation de l’intéressé.
III. Moderatio et Humilitas Nous avons donc une reprise fidèle de la structure de la recusatio imperii, mais les hagiographes s’approprient le motif sous un prisme chrétien. Il ne s’agit pas seulement d’adapter la recusatio imperii au changement de contexte, mais également de modifier la vertu que cette scène veut mettre en scène chez son héros.36 Lors de la recusatio imperii, le mot employé par Suétone, Tacite ou Pline le Jeune pour qualifier l’attitude du futur empereur est moderatio37 qui est alors difficilement dissociable du contexte politique et est à comprendre au sens de « capacité à ne pas abuser de son pouvoir ». Le glissement dans un univers de pensée chrétien qu’opèrent les hagiographes est de flatter, quant à eux, la vertu chrétienne de l’humilitas chez leur héros. Ainsi, par exemple, Cyprien se retire humblement (humiliter) devant ceux qui veulent l’élire évêque. Vivien refuse l’épiscopat car il brûle de vertu chaque jour du fait de son humilité (sub humilitate38). Albin d’Angers résiste avec le zèle de l’humilité (humilitatis studio39). Par effet de contraste, ceux qui font montre du défaut opposé, de la superbia, sont écartés de l’épiscopat comme Félix dans la Vie de Fulgence40.
Conclusion Au-delà de la similarité de construction narrative, pourquoi reprendre et christianiser ce motif de la recusatio imperii ? Cela s’inscrit dans une continuité littéraire entre les Vies de saints et les Vies et les éloges non seulement de grands hommes païens mais d’hommes politiques en particulier. Dans ce contexte, l’application à l’épiscopat de la recusatio imperii est le premier moment des Vitae où, symboliquement, l’évêque apparaît comme un héritier de la place de l’empereur. Cela lui donne une envergure plus grande et pare sa figure d’un champ d’action, d’un rang et d’une autorité plus élevés. Le nouveau représentant du pouvoir dans ce monde est l’évêque.
36 37 38 39 40
Pontius, Vie de Cyprien, 5. J. Béranger, ‘Le refus du pouvoir’ (1948), 193. Vie de Vivien, 3. Venance Fortunat, Vie d’Albin, 9. Vie de Fulgence, 35.
Une recusatio episcopatus ?
Ainsi les auteurs des Vitae reposent la question de l’articulation entre pouvoir terrestre et pouvoir céleste. Le saint évêque, représentant de Dieu, imitateur de Jésus, agit comme celui qui avait la place principale dans le monde romain, donc le glissement du motif est, pour les hagiographes, une manière de mettre désormais Dieu au centre du monde, au-dessus de tous les pouvoirs politiques et de proposer une nouvelle organisation du monde où, désormais, ce qui doit compter est le pouvoir de Dieu.
Les seniores laici, ‘une institution curieuse’ Pascal Olivier ANGUE, Ratisbonne, Allemagne
ABSTRACT Le quatrième siècle est marqué dans l’Église nord-africaine par la présence des seniores laici, ‘une institution curieuse’, selon l’expression de Paul Monceaux dans sa monographie sur la littérature de l’Afrique chrétienne.1 Encore appelés seniores plebis ou seniores populi, – anciens du peuple – ces fidèles laïcs constituent une sorte de conseil2 qui assiste l’évêque dans l’administration de la communauté. L’existence des conseils de notables dans les villages éloignés de l’administration romaine centrale chargés de la gestion de ces derniers a contribué à l’éclosion de cette institution dans l’expansion du christianisme vers les zones rurales. En outre, les persécutions dès le milieu du troisième siècle visant particulièrement le clergé à travers tortures, l’exil ou la mort, ont amené les laïcs à prendre plus de responsabilités dans les communautés. Cette insuffisance du clergé resurgit au début du cinquième siècle avec la réintégration des donatistes dans l’Église. Ces notables sont évoqués aussi bien dans l’Église catholique que chez les donatistes notamment à Carthage, à Abthugni, à Putput, Assuras et à Musti, à Kairouan, à Nova Germaniae, à Cirta et à Hippone. Ils sont par ailleurs mentionnés par saint Optat, par les documents relatifs au donatisme, les actes des conciles et saint Augustin. Ils assurent le contrôle vis-à-vis de l’évêque et assument par ailleurs des fonctions subsidiaires en cas de conflit ou représentatives en l’absence des clercs. Dans le présent article, trois principales questions retiendront notre attention : Quand et dans quel contexte les seniores laici sont-ils évoqués ? Quelles sont les raisons qui ont favorisé la mise sur pied de cette institution et quelles sont les responsabilités ou fonctions que ces derniers ont assumé au sein de la communauté ? Ce qui nous permettra de mettre en exergue la spécificité de cette institution dans l’Église nordafricaine.
1. Les sources L’une des institutions qui aura marqué l’Église primitive en Afrique est certainement celle des seniores laici compte tenu de l’importance des responsabilités qui leur étaient assignées. 1 Paul Monceaux, Histoire littéraire de l’Afrique chrétienne depuis les origines jusqu’à l’invasion arabe, III : Le IVe siècle, d’Arnobe à Victorin (Paris, 1905), 83. 2 Voir Andreas Merkt, ‘Bischof, Pfarrgemeinderäte und Zölibat. Aktuelle Reformthemen in der antiken Kirche’, dans id., Günther Wassillowsky et Gregor Wurst (éd.), Reformen in der Kirche. Historische Perspektiven (Freiburg, 2014), 7-50, 33.
Studia Patristica CVI, 87-94. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.
Cette structure est le résultat de l’évolution de la communauté chrétienne au fil des temps compte tenu des exigences et des nouveaux défis auxquels l’Église devait était confrontée. Les assemblées plénières de l’Église primitive devenant inapproprié, – compte tenu du nombre sans cesse croissant des fidèles – cèderont progressivement la place à une structure représentative chargée de la gestion des affaires de la communauté. À la suite des persécutions déclenchées par Dioclétien et visant particulièrement les membres de la hiérarchie, beaucoup de procès sont intentés contre les évêques. Ces différentes procédures judiciaires permettent de mettre en exergue la présence des seniores et leur action au sein de la communauté. La Passion de saint Félix, évêque de Thibiuca en Afrique proconsulaire, dont le martyre remonterait au 15 juillet 303, est à ce titre indicatif. En l’absence de ce dernier, les seniores sont convoqués devant l’autorité municipale pour répondre des allégations de refus de tradition des saintes Écritures de leur évêque. Cette interpellation montre clairement le prestige et l’estime dont ils bénéficient auprès des autorités.3 Leur avis est requis pour les questions concernant la vie de l’Église. Les Gesta apud Zenophilum sont les actes d’un procès-verbal intenté en 320 devant le gouverneur de Numidie à l’évêque donatiste Silvanus de Cirta dans lequel était mise en cause la validité de son élection au siège de la capitale numide en 305.4 Alors qu’il était encore sous-diacre, ce dernier a été reconnu coupable de traditio avec son prédécesseur l’évêque Paul au moment de la saisie des livres et des objets de culte par le premier magistrat de la ville, en application du décret impérial. Le procès-verbal de cette perquisition est extrait des Actes de Munatius Felix, curateur de la ville de Cirta et inséré dans les Gesta apud Zenophilum Consularem. Ayant connaissance des délits de vol et de traditeur de Silvanus5, le peuple chrétien avec le groupe des seniores – dont fait partie Victor, grammairien et lecteur – s’oppose à son élection, lui préférant un autre candidat caractérisé par deux traits: ciuem nostrum et integrum uirum, un citoyen de Cirta et un homme intègre.6 Néanmoins élu au siège épiscopal de la ville en 307 ou 308,7 une douzaine d’années plus tard, un conflit opposera ce dernier à Nundinarius, l’un de ses diacres, et fera l’objet d’un procès devant 3 Passio Sancti Felicis Episcopi, éd. Herbert Musurillo, The Acts of the Christian Martyrs, (Oxford, 1972), 266 ; voir aussi Jean-Louis Maier, Le dossier du donatisme, 1. Des origines à la mort de Constance II (303-361) (Berlin, 1987), 49-51. 4 On ne connaît pas la date du décès de Paulus, si bien qu’on ignore si Silvanus lui succéda immédiatement ou au terme d’une vacance plus ou moins longue. En lien avec l’élection de Silvanus eut lieu une rencontre d’évêques numides, connue sous le nom de concile de Cirta. Malgré l’avis divergent de certains penseurs, nous gardons le terme de concile pour cette réunion puisqu’il fut déjà employé au IVe siècle par Optat, c. Parm. I, 19 (CSEL 26, 21) et au début du Ve siècle par Augustin, c. Cresc. III, 26, 29 (CSEL 52, 435) ; Breu. coll. III, 15, 27 (CSEL 53, 80). 5 Gesta, éd. C. Ziwsa, CSEL 26, 185. 6 Ibid. 192. 7 Pour la date de l’ordination, voir J.-L. Maier, Le dossier du donatisme (1987), 233, n. 121.
Les seniores laici, ‘une institution curieuse’
le gouverneur Zenophilus, où le témoignage de Victor, grammairien et senior, est déterminant dans le dénouement dudit procès. Comme en Numidie, l’Église de Carthage est confrontée à des difficultés similaires auxquelles les seniores sont impliqués au premier plan. Arrêté et interpellé à Rome pour avoir pris la défense de son diacre Felix, auteur d’un pamphlet contre les autorités, Mensurius, quittant son siège épiscopal de Carthage, confie la garde des ornements et des vases sacrés de son Église fidelibus senioribus, qui les dilapideront et marqueront ainsi leur adhésion dans le camp des schismatiques. Saint Optat, évêque de Mileve, notre unique source, nous situe par son témoignage, sur l’origine du schisme donatiste.8 La présence de ces notables laïcs est encore évoquée dans un document contemporain au premier en l’occurrence les Gesta Purgationis Caeciliani et Felicis,9 compte rendu de l’audience tenue devant le tribunal du gouverneur de Proconsulaire en 314/315 sur l’évêque Felix d’Abthugni en Afrique proconsulaire. Un siècle plus tard, Saint Augustin, mentionne l’existence de ce conseil de notables. Dans une de ses épîtres, il s’adresse dilectissimis fratribus, clero, senioribus et universae plebi Ecclesiae Hipponensis.10 Leur importance se mesure aux différentes appellations utilisées par le pasteur d’Hippone. Ainsi, il les désigne successivement : seniores,11 ou bien encore seniores Ecclesiae12 dans l’Église donatiste à Musti en 395 ou bien encore seniores nobilissimi.13 N’étant pas membres du clergé, il les situe entre la hiérarchie et le peuple. L’importance de cette institution sera relayée par les Actes du concile de Carthage de 403 à travers les magistratus vel seniores locorum, montrant que cette institution constituait une sorte de sénat laïque.14 En dehors des actes du concile de Carthage, les seniores sont possiblement évoqués dans les inscriptions tombales, notamment une épitaphe trouvée à Bône (Hippo Regius) en Algérie où mention est faite d’un Maritis senator de numeru bis electum fidelis.15 8 Optat, schism I, 17, éd. C. Ziwsa, CSEL 26, 19 : … erant enim ecclesiae ex auro et argento quam plurium ornamenta, quae nec defodere terrae, nec secum portare poterat. Quae quasi fidelibus senioribus commendauit. 9 Gesta purgationis Felicis episcopi Atumnitani, éd. C. Zwisa, CSEL 26, 198 : Loquor nomine seniorum Christiani populi catholicae legis… ; … Exinde ibi in patria ipsius Felicis, duxi mecum tres seniores, ut uiderent an verum tradidissent, an non... 10 Augustin, ep. LXXXVIII, éd. A. Goldbacher, CSEL 34.2, 407. 11 Augustin, c. Cresc. III, 29, 33, éd. M. Petschenig, CSEL 52, 440-1 : Silvanus a Cirta traditor est et fur rerum pauperum, quod omnes uos episcopi et presbyteri et diacones et seniores scitis. 12 Ibid. III, 56, 62, éd. M. Petschenig, CSEL 52, 467 : Peregrinus presbyter et seniores ecclesiae Mustitanae et Adsuritanae regionis tale desiderium prosequuntur. 13 Augustin, Ps. XXXVI, s. 2, 20, éd. E. Dekkers et J. Fraipont, CChr.SL 38, 363 : Nam cum incestos contra legem decretaque omnium sacerdotum communioni sanctae adjungeret, cumque obsistente maxima parte plebis, etiam seniorum nobilissimorum, litteris conueniretur, ut per se corrigeret quod admiserat, sua temeritate possessus emendare contemsit. 14 Concilia Africae, a. 345 - a. 525, éd. C. Munier, CChr.SL 249, 210. 15 CIL 8, 17414.
Ce texte est sujet à plusieurs interprétations. Les éditeurs du CIL évoquent ici une fonction militaire bien que par ailleurs le mot numerus dans le langage des Pères de l’Église renvoie à la liste des fidèles et le mot senator étant synonyme de senior. Il en ressort que ce personnage aurait été élu deux fois par les fidèles dans le conseil des seniores laici. Une autre inscription funéraire retrouvée sur une mosaïque tombale de Soukel-Abiod (ancienne Putput) livre le message ci-dessous : Nardus senior. Turassus junior. Restitus junior ; recessit pridie idus maias. Fideles in pace.16 Le substantif senior accompagnant Nardus semble indiquer la fonction de ce dernier à la différence des autres personnages. Ce qui laisse penser que Nardus était probablement investi dans le groupe des seniores laici. Ces différents documents et inscriptions soulignent le prestige social de ce groupe et leur influence au sein de la communauté. Le rayonnement de cette institution en milieu africain serait lié à l’existence des conseils des notables comme organe exécutif dans plusieurs bourgades. 2. Le contexte de l’Afrique du Nord 2.1. L’existence du Conseil des notables dans les bourgades Brent Shaw17 situe l’origine de cette institution en lien avec les conseils des anciens existant dans le Maghreb. L’administration de la communauté diffère 16
Cette mosaïque est conservée maintenant au musée du Louvre. Voir P. Gauckler, ‘Notes d’épigraphie latine’, Bulletin archéologique du Comité (1901), 146, n. 77. 17 Voir Brent D. Shaw, ‘The Elders of Christian Africa’, dans P. Brind’Amour (éd.), Mélanges offerts à R.P. Étienne Gareau (Ottawa, 1982), 207-26 avec la même pagination dans Brent D. Shaw, Rulers, Nomads and Christians in Roman North Africa, CStS 497 (Adershot, 1995), Nr. X ; Il situe déjà ce groupe vers l’an 200 chez Tertullien et dans la Passio Perpetuae (ibid. 209). Il en est de même pour Alistair Stewart-Sykes, ‘Ordination Rites and Patronage Systems in ThirdCentury Africa’, VigChr 56 (2002), 115-30. Selon cet auteur, Tertullien serait un senior (id., Tertullian – Cyprian – Origen. On the Lord’s Prayer [Crestwood, 2004], 15-7). J. Bremmer se base sur cette position de Shaw pour combler le vide entre 200 et 300 avec une lettre de Cyprien, id., ‘The Vision of Saturus in the Passio Perpetuae’, dans F. Garcia Martinez et G.P. Luttikhuizen (éd.), Jerusalem, Alexandria, Rome. Studies in Ancient Cultural Interaction in Honour of A. Hilhorst, JSJ.S 82 (Leiden, 2003), 55-73. En Revanche, Merkt met en doute cette position, Andreas Merkt, ‘Gewaltverarbeitung und Konfliktbewältigung im Medium des Visionsberichts. Die Passio Perpetuae und die Apokalypse des Johannes’, in Joseph Verheyden, Andreas Merkt et Tobias Nicklas (éd.), Ancient Christian Interpretations of “Violent Texts” in the Apokalypse, NTOA 92 (Göttingen, 2013), 63-93, 76-80. Par ailleurs, selon W.H.C. Frend, cette institution est calquée sur le modèle des anciens de la communauté juive, cf. W.H.C. Frend, ‘The Seniores Laici and the Origins of the Church in North Africa’, JTS 12 (1961), 280-4. Il en est de même pour Pier-G. Caron, ‘Les seniores laici de l’Église africaine’, RIDA 6 (1951), 7-22, 9 ; voir aussi G. Quispel, ‘African Christianity before Minucius Felix and Tertullian’, dans J. den Boeft et A.H.M. Kessels (éd.), Actus. Studies in Honour of H.L.W. Nelson (Utrecht, 1982), 257-335, 175-277. Certains auteurs (chercheurs) justifient la
Les seniores laici, ‘une institution curieuse’
en fonction de l’importance de la cité, des circonstances, ou du statut juridique de la localité. Si dans l’Empire romain les grandes villes avaient un statut particulier, les localités les plus éloignées de la capitale adoptaient une certaine organisation pour l’administration de la communauté. Ainsi, dans la zone les plus reculées du Maghreb, en Afrique du Nord, un conseil d’anciens était chargé de la gestion des affaires de la communauté dont les attributions étaient similaires à celle d’un conseil exécutif. Structure informelle et fidèle aux valeurs traditionnelles africaines, ce conseil veillait à l’harmonie entre les différents membres de la communauté et en cas de conflit à leur règlement pacifique. L’évangélisation de ces bourgades devait donc prendre en compte la structure existante et intégrer l’organisation déjà établie. En adoptant la foi chrétienne, les communautés gardaient leur indépendance et leur autonomie basées sur les traditions tout en s’ouvrant aux valeurs évangéliques. Sur le plan hiérarchique, le respect de l’autorité traditionnelle des seniores par l’évêque, favorisait une meilleure implantation de l’Église et évitait ainsi des conflits de leadership entre les deux entités. Ce qui explique l’intégration de cette institution dans la hiérarchie de l’Église. C’est dans ce sens qu’on peut comprendre l’adresse suivante : clero, senioribus et plebis. L’inclusion des seniores traduit la reconnaissance de cette institution par l’autorité ecclésiastique. En même temps qu’on admet leur importance dans la vie et le fonctionnement de l’Église, leur autorité est par ailleurs établie sur les questions temporelles en fonction de leur compétence. À titre d’illustration, Augustin s’adressant à son auditoire africain dans son interprétation du Lévitique (Lev. 9:1) en 409, fait allusion aux seniores pour mieux expliquer l’expression senatus Israhel.18 2.2. Le respect des anciens En Afrique, les anciens occupent une place prépondérante et leur influence ne se limite pas seulement au cadre familial ou tribal, mais elle a aussi un impact sur la vie ecclésiale. Dans les différentes circonscriptions ecclésiastiques africaines, exception faite du siège patriarcal de Carthage, le rôle de primat est assuré par le doyen d’âge. Cet honneur et ce privilège accordés au plus ancien présence de cette institution en Afrique par l’influence du judaïsme en milieu africain que partout ailleurs. Sur la signification du judaïsme en Afrique du Nord et son influence sur le christianisme, voir Henri Leclercq, L’Afrique chrétienne (Paris, 1904), 336-40 et 113 ; Marcel Simon, ‘Le judaïsme berbère dans l’Afrique ancienne’, RHPR 26 (1946), 1-31 et 105-45 ; G. Quispel, ‘The Discussion of Judaic Christianity’, VigChr 22 (1968), 81-93, 93 ; W.H.C. Frend, ‘Tertulliano e gli Ebrei’, RSLR 4 (1968), 3-10 ; Jean Daniélou, ‘La littérature latin avant Tertullien’, REL 48 (1970), 357-75 ; Claude Aziza, Tertullien et le judaïsme (Paris, 1977) ainsi que la recension de W.H.C. Frend, JThS.NS 30 (1979), 318-20. En revanche, Timothy D. Barnes, Tertullian (Oxford, ²1985), 282-5 et 329-31 est sceptique sur l’influence du judaïsme sur le christianisme en Afrique. 18 Augustin, quaest. hept. III, 25, éd. J. Fraipont, CChr.SL 33, 192.
dans l’épiscopat sont davantage une responsabilité pour assurer les intérêts de communauté et sa défense pendant la période des grandes persécutions. 2.3. Les grandes persécutions Les grandes persécutions déclenchées vers 250 ont été un facteur déterminant pour l’implantation de cette structure en Afrique. Les clercs étaient particulièrement visés. Plusieurs clercs seront ainsi torturés, arrêtés, exilés ou condamnés à mort. Le vide causé par leur départ de la communauté nécessitait impérativement que les laïcs prennent le relais pour assurer la survie de la communauté et sa défense vis-à-vis de l’ennemi. À présent intéressons-nous à leurs fonctions. 3. Fonctions Leurs fonctions sont principalement administratives, représentatives et juridictionnelles. 3.1. Sur le plan administratif Les seniores laici assistent l’évêque dans l’administration du patrimoine ecclésiastique. Illustration est donnée en 311 avec Mensurius, alors primat de Carthage. Appelé d’urgence à Rome pour s’expliquer sur le cas d’un membre de son clergé auprès de Maxence, Mensurius confie la gestion des biens aux seniores laici même s’il est déplorable que ces derniers aient abusé de la confiance qui leur a été faite. L’estime et le prestige social de cette auguste institution étaient déjà perceptibles quelques années auparavant en 303, pendant les grandes persécutions (Dioclétien), les seniores laici représentent la communauté de Thibiuca auprès des autorités municipales, en l’absence de l’évêque.19 Ce problème va resurgir un siècle plus tard au tournant du Ve siècle où de nombreuses assemblées conciliaires déplorent le manque de prêtres dans les communautés. L’une des solutions envisagées est l’ordination des laïcs. Saint Augustin à Hippone en est une parfaite illustration.20 19 Cf. Passio sancti Felicis episcopi, c’est le plus ancien document évoquant les seniores laici, en l’absence de l’évêque, notamment dans la communauté de Thibiuca, dans la périphérie de Carthage, en l’an 303 pendant les persécutions. 20 Augustin, s. 355,1,2, éd. C. Lambot, SPM, 123. L’ordination d’Augustin constitue une exception. Dans l’Église africaine, il était usuel de passer du diaconat à l’épiscopat. Le concile de Sardique mettra fin à cette pratique et exigera du candidat à l’épiscopat l’exercice au préalable du lectorat, du diaconat ou du presbytérat. Or, Augustin était simple laïc au moment de son entrée dans la cléricature. Voir Concile de Sardique, can. 10 grec et 13 latin, éd. H.T. Bruns, Canones Apostolorum et conciliorum saeculorum IV-VII, vol. 1 (Berlin, 1839), 98-9.
Les seniores laici, ‘une institution curieuse’
3.2. Les seniores comme organe judiciaire À côté des affaires administratives, les seniores siègent également comme conseil judiciaire. Dans ce domaine, leurs pouvoirs sont très étendus et se situent en étroite ligne avec les missions assignées au conseil des notables dans les bourgades africaines. Garants de l’harmonie au sein de la communauté, les seniores sont ainsi interpellés pour rétablir la paix à Cirta en Numidie dans le conflit opposant le diacre Nundinarius à son évêque. C’est à ce titre que Purpurius, évêque de Limata adresse une correspondance clericis et senioribus Cirtensium21 pour les interpeller sur les dispositions à prendre pour la résolution de ce conflit et rétablir l’harmonie dans la communauté et la paix entre les deux dissidents. En louant leur sagesse et leur intégrité morale ainsi que leur impartialité, Purpurius reconnait leur autorité et leur capacité ou compétence pour trouver une solution convenable au différend sans porter atteinte à l’image de l’Église. Leur rôle de conseil judiciaire et garant de la discipline est encore perceptible en 314 dans le procès contre l’évêque Felix d’Abthugni, accusé de traditeur. À l’audience tenue devant le gouverneur, les seniores ont engagé un avocat pour défendre leur cause et obtenir la déposition de ce dernier.22 C’est à Carthage que l’action des seniores comme organe judiciaire est encore plus déterminante, où des procès sont engagés contre Primianus, évêque donatiste de Carthage dans sa décision de réintégrer dans la communion un groupe de schismatiques et son abus d’autorité contre quelques membres de son clergé. En présentant leurs doléances aux conciles provinciaux, les seniores adresseront des correspondances aux évêques et plusieurs conciles provinciaux se tiendront pour examiner leurs doléances.23 Il faut reconnaitre la perspicacité et le courage des seniores de Carthage qui ont réussi à mobiliser l’ensemble de l’épiscopat pour dénoncer et s’opposer au comportement indigne du primat d’Afrique. Ce qui montre à suffisance l’influence et leur pouvoir contre les malversations du clergé. Les seniores de Muti24 seront encore associés à un prêtre dans une accusation contre leur évêque dont l’affaire sera portée à l’attention du proconsul en 395. Quelques années plus tard, les seniores de Nova Germania, une petite bourgade en Numidie, déposeront une plainte contre leur évêque devant le primat de 21
Gesta, éd. C. Ziwsa, CSEL 26, 189. Ibid. 198. 23 Augustin, in psalm. XXXVI, 2, 20, éd. E. Dekkers et J. Fraipont, CChr.SL 38, 362 : hoc igitur edicto legis admoniti, necesse nos fuerat Primiani causam, quem plebs sancta Carthaginensis ecclesiae episcopum fuerat in ouile Dei sortita, seniorum litteris eiusdem ecclesiae postulantibus, audire atque discutere sub eo. 24 Augustin, c. Cresc. III, 56, 62, éd. M. Petschenig, CSEL 52.2, 467 : Post consulatum dominorum nostrorum Arcadii ter et Honorii iterum Augustorum VI Nonas Mart. Carthagine in secretario praetorii Titianus dixit : Peregrinus presbyter et seniores ecclesiae Mustitanae et Adsuritanae regionis tale desiderium prosequuntur. 22
Carthage.25 Spécialement ici, les seniores seront intégrés au jury chargé de prononcer la sentence. L’importance des responsabilités assumées par les seniores laici met en lumière la place et le rôle des laïcs dans l’Église nord-africaine aux IVe et Ve siècles. Organe représentatif de la communauté en fonction des circonstances, surtout pendant les persécutions en l’absence de l’évêque, ils assuraient aussi des fonctions administratives et judiciaires. Par l’intermédiaire d’autres évêques, ils pouvaient intenter un procès contre leur pasteur en cas de malversation ou de comportement abusif de ce dernier. C’est à juste titre aussi qu’ils sont considérés comme le Sénat de l’évêque, car ils constituaient son conseil ayant une fonction subsidiaire en cas de conflits et substitutive en l’absence des clercs. Cette institution a le mérite de présenter la contribution importante des laïcs dans la mission de l’Église aux premiers siècles de l’ère chrétienne.
Conciliae Africae, a. 345 - a. 525, éd. C. Munier, CChr.SL 149, 217.