1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Testamentum Domini

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TESTAMENTUM DOMINI (“Testament of our Lord”). Extracts from the book which bears this title, contained in an 8th-century MS. at Paris, were published by Lagarde in 1856 (Reliquiae iuris ecclesiastici antiquissimae 80–89); and a Latin fragment, edited by Dr Montague James, appeared in 1893 (Texts and Studies, i. 154). The whole book was first published in Syriac in 1899, with a Latin translation by Mgr Rahrnani, the Uniat Syrian Patriarch of Antioch. His text is that of a 17th-century MS. at Mosul, the colophon of which says that the Syriac text was translated from the original Greek “a Jacobo paupere,” evidently James of Edessa, in A.D. 687; but he makes use of other material, including an Arabic version made from a Coptic copy written in A.D. 927. The Mosul MS. contains the whole Bible in the Peshitto version, followed by the Syrian “Clementine Octateuch,” i.e., the collection of ecclesiastical law, in eight books, which was used by the Nestorians and Jacobites. Of this the Testament forms the first two books; and according to the title (which, apparently by an error, is made to apply to the whole eight books) it contains the “testament, or words which Our Lord spake to His holy Apostles when He rose from the dead.” Plainly, it is one of that series of writings, claiming to embody the fundamental rules of the Church, which culminates in the Apostolical Constitutions (q.v.).

It falls into three distinct parts: an apocalyptic introduction (book i. chapters 1–18; the division into books, however, is clearly not original); a “church order” proper (i. 19–ii. 24); and a conclusion (ii. 25–27) of the same apocalyptic character as the introduction. (a) The Introduction professes to contain the record of the revelation of Himself by the Lord to His Apostles, with whom are Martha, Mary and Salome, on the evening after His resurrection. He is represented as unfolding to them, at their request, the signs of the end, and giving them instruction on various other topics. Incidentally, the fact becomes plain that this section is composed from the standpoint of Asia Minor and Syria, that it dates from soon after the time of Maximin (235–38) and Decius (249–51), and that it s rings from a Christian community of a strictly puritan type. (b) The Church Order follows the general lines of the Canons of Hippolytus and similar documents. It describes the Church and its buildings (i. 19); the office of the bishop and his functions (i. 19–27): the mystagogic instruction (i. 28) common to this and the Arabic Didascalia, where it occurs in an earlier form, and based in part upon the Gnostic “Acts of Peter”; the presbyter (i. 29–32); the deacon (i. 33–38); confessors (i. 39); the “widows who have precedence in sitting” (i. 40–43), apparently the same persons who are spoken of elsewhere as “presbyteresses” (i. 35, ii. 19); the sub deacon (i. 44) and the reader (i. 45), the order of whose offices seems to have been inverted; virgins of both sexes (i. 46); and those who possess charismata or spiritual gifts (i. 47). Next come the regulations for the laity, including the whole course of preparation for and admission to baptism (ii. 1–8), confirmation (ii. 9), and the Eucharist (ii. 10); after which there follows a series of miscellaneous regulations for Easter and Pentecost (ii. 11–12), the agape (ii. 13), the funds of the Church (ii. 17–20), the visitation of the sick (ii. 21), the use of psalmody (ii. 22), the burial of the dead (ii. 23), and the hours of prayer (ii. 24). (c) The Conclusion (ii. 25–27) brings us back to the injunctions of the Lord as to the keeping of these precepts, a special charge to John, Andrew and Peter, and a statement that copies of the Testament were made by John, Peter and Matthew, and sent to Jerusalem by the hands of Dosithaeus, Sillas, Magnus and Aquila.

In all this there is much that is peculiar to or characteristic of the Testament. First and foremost is its ascription to the Lord Himself, which we can hardly be mistaken in regarding as an attempt to claim yet higher sanction than was claimed by the various compilations which were styled “apostolic.” This fact alone would lead us to infer the pre-existence of certain of the latter. Again, the whole tone of the Testamentum is one of highly strung asceticism, and the regulations are such as point by their severity to a small and strictly organized body. They are “the wise,” “the perfect,” “sons of light ”; but this somewhat Gnostic phraseology is not accompanied with any signs of Gnostic doctrine, and the work as a whole is orthodox in tone. They are set in the midst of “wolves,” despised and slighted by the careless and worldly: there is frequent mention of “the persecuted,” and of the duty of “bearing the cross.” There appears to be no locus poenitentiae for serious sins excepting in the case of catechumens, and there is a notable “perfectionist” tone in many of the prayers. Charismata, and above all exorcisms, occupy a very important place: there is a vivid realization of the ministry of angels, and the angelic hierarchy is very complete. Great stress is laid upon virginity (although there is not a sign of monasticism), upon fasting (especially for the bishop), upon the regular attendance of the whole clerical body and the “more perfect” of the laity at the hours of prayer. The church buildings are very elaborate, and the baptistery is oblong, a form found apparently only here and in the Arabic Didascalia. Amongst the festivals mentioned are the Epiphany, Easter and Pentecost. With regard to the prayers, they are based upon forms common to this and other Church orders, but have many lengthy interpolations of an inflated and, rhapsodic kind. The bishop appears to rank far above the presbyters (more conspicuously so, for example, than in the Canons of Hippolytus), and the presbyters are still divided into two classes, those who are more learned and those who are of mature age. The deacons have functions in the Eucharist and about the altar which point to an early date; they have also much administrative work of an important kind, and especial provisions are made for the care of the sick and the dead, and the burial of those who perish by shipwreck. One of the deacons is to be chosen as “ chief deacon ” (protodiaconus, i. 19, cf. i. 34), and is charged with the care of pilgrims. -There are no doorkeepers or singers, who begin to appear circ. A.D, 340. The honour given to confessors is very conspicuous, and points back to an early date. But remarkable above all is the position given to women. We have “ widows having precedence ” or presbyteresses, three in number, deaconesses, virgins, and widows who are in receipt of the alms of the Church; and the first-named occupy a place of very great dignity, which is almost unequalled elsewhere (excepting in the earlier form of the apocryphal and Montanistic Acts and Martyrdom of Matthew, where the relation of the 1rpeoBU'rt and deaconess corresponds with that of the Testament), and which was formally condemned by the Council of Laodicea in Phrygia.

What conclusion is to be drawn, then, as to the age and character of the Testament? MgrRahmani's view, that it is a work of the 2nd century, is universally discredited; nor has, Funk's contention found acceptance, that it and the Canons of Hippolytus are alike derived ultimately from the eighth book of the Apostolic Constitutions. Some scholars think that the Apocalypse at the beginning is pre-Nicene (A.D. 250-325), and that it originates from Asia Minor, probably from Montanistic circles. Harnack formerly contended that this was an independent work, upon which the Church Order had been grafted, and that as a whole it dated from circ. A.D. 400. But the unity of thought and atmosphere, is such as to show that the work is one whole (subject no doubt to a certain- amount .of redaction and interpolation), and that the apocalyptic part was composed as an introduction to the rest. As to the central portion (i. 19-ii. 24) it is a Church Order of the same kind as the Canons of Hippolytus (c. 220) and the Egyptian (c. 310) and Ethiopic (c. 335) Church Orders, standing nearer to the two latter than to the former, and especially to the Verona Latin Fragments, part iii. (c. 340), published in 1900 by Dr Hauler. The precise relation in which these documents stand to one another still remains in a measure doubtful, but it seems probable that they are based upon a lost Church Order, to which the Canons of Hippolytus stands nearest. [The Greek original of the Testamentum would seem to date from the middle of the 4th century, not long after 350. This is the view of T. Zahn and Dom Morin and also of Profs. Cooper and Maclean. It is possible that about 400 a later. editor added a few paragraphs]

Such redaction was indeed inevitable in the case of a work which has had a living history as part of acodex of-Church law. It may be discerned in the interpolations the prayers; possibly in the reference to the chief deacon, for elsewhere no single deacon is distinguished by name until the close of the 4th century; in the reference to the Epiphany, which is first heard of elsewhere at the beginning of the 4th century. The suggestion has been hazarded that this revision was due to the school of Apollinaris of Laodicea (died circ. A.D. 390).

Authorities.-'IgH. Ephr. Rahmani, Testamentum Damini nostri Jesu Christi (Moguntiae, x899); E. Hauler, Didascaliae'Apostolorum Fragmenta Ueranensia Latina (Lipsiae, 1900); A. Harnack in Sitzungsberichte der K. Preuss. Akad. der Wissenschaften, xlix. (Berlin, 1899): Bishop ]. Wordsworth in Church Quarterly Review (London, April 1900); and Revue Internationale de théologie (Bern, July 1900); R. B. Rackham in Indian Church Quarterly Review (Calcutta, janua and April 1901); F. X. Funk, Das Testament des Herrn und Ze verwandten Schriften (Mainz, 1901); Iamos Cooper and A. ]. Maclean, The Testament of Our Lord, an English translation, with introduction and notes (Edinburgh, 1902). Cf. also A. ]. Maclean, Recent Discoveries illustrating Early Christian Life and Worship (London, 1904).

(W. E. Co.)