Apostolic Church-Ordinance

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Apostolic Church-Ordinance (or Apostolic Church-Order, Apostolic Church-Directory or Constitutio Ecclesiastica Apostolorum) is an Oriental Orthodox Christian treatise which belongs to genre of the Church Orders. The work can be dated at the end of 3rd century CE. The provenience is usually regarded as Egypt, or perhaps Syria.[1] The author is unknown.

This text served as a law-code for the Coptic, Ethiopian Orthodox and other Oriental Orthodox churches. It superseded in authority and esteem the Didache, under which name it sometimes went.

Manuscript Tradition[edit]

The full and original text, in Greek, was found in a 12th-century manuscript discovered in 1843 at Vienna and published[2] in the same year by Johann Wilhelm Bickell,[3] which named it Apostolische Kirchenordnung. Only other four fragmentary Greek manuscripts are extant.

A complete Syriac ancient translation, with English translation, was published in 1901 by John Peter Arendzen.[4] The Ge'ez version was first published in 1691 by Hiob Ludolf.[5]

The Apostolic Church-Ordinance usually is found also in ancient collections of Church Orders. It is the second book in the Verona Palimpsest, it is the first book in the Alexandrine Sinodos and in the Bohairic version of the Clementine Octateuch, while the Arabic version of the Clementine Octateuch has it in the second place, and the Syriac version of it has it in the third place.[6] Thus we have many early translations of the Apostolic Church-Ordinance in Latin, Ge'ez, Bohairic Coptic, Sahidic Coptic, Arabic and Syriac. For the publication details of these versions, see articles about the relevant collections.

The titles found on the manuscripts can be different, so the Bohairic Alexandrine Sinodos version is entitled "Canons of our Fathers the Holy Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, which they appointed in the Churches", while the Syriac version has "Third book of Clement, Teaching of the twelve Apostles".


As usual in genre of the Church Orders, this texts purports to be the work of the Twelve Apostles, whose instructions, whether given by them as individuals or as a body. In antiquity this text was sometime mistakenly supposed to be gathered and handed down by the Clement of Rome.

The names of the Apostles are so listed: John, Matthew, Peter, Andrew, Philip, Simon, James, Nathanael, Thomas, Cephas, Bartholomew and Judas. The presence of both Peter and Cephas, and the first place given to John, is found also in the more ancient Epistula Apostolorum.

The content can be so summarized:

  • chapters 1-3 include a short introduction inspired by the Epistle of Barnabas
  • chapters 4-14 are an evident adaptation of the first six chapters of the Didache, the moral precepts of which are attributed severally to the Apostles, each of whom, introduced by the formula "John says", "Peter says", etc., is represented as framing one or more of the ordinances
  • chapters 15-30 treat in similar manner of the qualifications for appointment and ordination of bishops, presbyters, reader, deacons and widowers, and this section treats also of the duties of lay male and female and of deacons.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bradshaw, Paul F. (2002). The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship. Oxford University Press. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-19-521732-2.
  2. ^ Geschichte des Kirchenrechts, Giessen, 1843, I, 107-132.
  3. ^ Johann Wilhelm Bickell was professor of canon law at the University of Marburg, and died (1848) as minister of justice of Hesse-Kassel. He was the father of Gustav Bickell.
  4. ^ Journal of Theol. Studies, October 1901.
  5. ^ In the "Commentarius" to his "Historia Ethiopica" (Frankfort 1691).
  6. ^ Ernst, Allie M. (2009). Martha from the Margins: The Authority of Martha in Early Christian Tradition. Brill. p. 228. ISBN 978-90-04-17490-0.


  • Stewart-Sykes, Alistair (2006). The apostolic church order: the Greek text with introduction, translation and annotation. St. Pauls Publications. ISBN 978-0-9752138-4-1.
  • Adolf von Harnack, Texte und Untersuchungen, Leipzig 1886, II, 5 sq.
  • Jean Baptiste Francois Pitra, Juris ecclesiast. Grœcorum Hist. et Monum., Rome 1864, I 75-88
  • Franz Xaver von Funk, Doctrina Duodecim Apostolorum, Tübingen 1887, 44 sq. 50 sq.
  • Philip Schaff, Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, New York 1885, 127-132, 237-257, where the dependence of the Apostolic Church Ordinance (Canons 4-14) on the Didache is graphically set forth
  • Otto Bardenhewer, Gesch. der altkirch. Lit., Freiburg 1903, II 262-269; Patrologie, ib. 1901, 141

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Apostolic Church-Ordinance". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

External links[edit]