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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 03 June 2021
In studies of Pauline reception, most scholars limit themselves to works in the second or early third century (often ending with Irenaeus or the Acts of Paul) and to material from the Latin West and Greek East. Although later Syriac sources are rarely engaged, those who do work on this material have long recognised the importance of Paul's letters for that material. The present argument aims to help broaden the dominant discourse on Pauline reception by attending to early Syriac sources, principally the work of Aphrahat the Persian Sage. I focus in particular on his discussion of baptism and marriage in Dem. 7.18–20, which has confounded scholars over the years. This passage displays a kind of Pauline ‘logic’ indebted to 1 Cor 7.20, which can be discerned among other early Christian applications of that passage in similar contexts, in both East and West.
1 This is perhaps partially due to the lasting influence of Lindemann, A., Paulus im ältesten Christentum: Das Bild des Apostels und die Rezeption der paulinischen Theologie in der frühchristlichen Literatur bis Marcion (BHT; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1979)Google Scholar and Dassmann, E., Der Stachel im Fleisch: Paulus in der frühchristlichen Literatur bis Irenäus (Münster: Aschendorff, 1979)Google Scholar. Recent examples working within this timeframe include Marguerat, D., ‘Paul après Paul: une histoire de réception’, NTS 54 (2008) 317–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Pervo, R. I., The Making of Paul: Constructions of the Apostle in Early Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2010)Google Scholar; Bird, M. F. and Dodson, J. R., eds., Paul and the Second Century (LNTS; London: T&T Clark, 2011)Google Scholar; Liljeström, K., ed., The Early Reception of Paul and his Letters (Publications of the Finnish Exegetical Society; Helsinki: The Finnish Exegetical Society, 2011)Google Scholar; White, B. L., Remembering Paul: Ancient and Modern Contests over the Image of the Apostle (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Kirk, A. N., The Departure of an Apostle: Paul's Death Anticipated and Remembered (WUNT; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Schröter, J., Butticaz, S. and Dettwiler, A., eds., Receptions of Paul in Early Christianity: The Person of Paul and his Writings through the Eyes of his Early Interpreters (BZNW 234; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2018)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Notable exceptions are the work of Margaret Mitchell (M. M. Mitchell, The Heavenly Trumpet: John Chrysostom and the Art of Pauline Interpretation (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2002); eadem, Paul, the Corinthians, and the Birth of Christian Hermeneutics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010)); Jennifer R. Strawbridge (J. R. Strawbridge, The Pauline Effect: The Use of the Pauline Epistles by Early Christian Writers (SBR; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2015)) and Edwina Murphy (E. Murphy, The Bishop and the Apostle: Cyprian's Pastoral Exegesis of Paul (SBR; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2018)).
2 This applies to the ‘exceptions’ cited in the previous note as well as to the present author's earlier work Edsall, B. A., The Reception of Paul and Early Christian Initiation: History and Hermeneutics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019)CrossRefGoogle Scholar); cf. the comments in Taylor, S. S., ‘Paul and the Persian Sage: Some Observations on Aphrahat's Use of the Pauline Corpus’, The Function of Scripture in Early Jewish and Christian Tradition (ed. Evans, C. A. and Sanders, J. A.; JSNTSup; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1998) 312–31Google Scholar, at 315–16 on the general exclusion of Aphrahat from discussions of Paul's legacy. Fortunately, since the publication of Taylor's argument in 1998, the situation has improved somewhat as indicated in the next note.
3 E.g. the relatively early discussion (for Pauline reception, that is) in J. H. Corbett, ‘Paul in Aphrahat’, iv Symposium Syriacum, 1984: Literary Genres in Syriac Literature (ed. H. J. W Drijvers et al.; OCA; Rome: Pont. Institutum Studiorum Orientalium, 1987) 13–32; see also Westerhoff, M., Das Paulusverständnis im Liber Graduum (PTS; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2008)Google Scholar; Koltun-Fromm, N., Hermeneutics of Holiness: Ancient Jewish and Christian Notions of Sexuality and Religious Community (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, esp. chapters 4–6, and note the role of Pauline reception in the argument of Jarkins, S. K. Skoyles, Aphrahat the Persian Sage and the Temple of God: A Study of Early Syriac Theological Anthropology (Gorgias Studies in Early Christianity and Patristics; Piscataway: Gorgias, 2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
4 The identity of Aphrahat, the author of the Demonstrations, ‘the Persian Sage’, is in fact quite a difficult problem, though it cannot be pursued here. On this, see especially the recent discussion in J. E. Walters, ‘Aphrahat and the Construction of Christian Identity in Fourth-Century Persia’ (PhD Dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary, 2016) 37–43, who concludes that Aphrahat is fundamentally a ‘scholarly creation… a by-product of the text’, language reminiscent of Foucault's account of the ‘author function’; cf. M. Foucault, ‘What Is an Author?’, The Foucault Reader (ed. P. Rabinow; New York: Pantheon, 1984) 101–20.
5 Beggiani, S. J., Introduction to Eastern Christian Spirituality: The Syriac Tradition (Scranton: University of Scranton Press/London: Associated University Presses, 1991) 17Google Scholar. More recently S. Ruzer and A. Kofsky, Syriac Idiosyncrasies: Theology and Hermeneutics in Early Syriac Literature (Jerusalem Studies in Religion and Culture; Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2010) 9 take ‘the basic orientation’ that Aphrahat is fundamentally independent from ‘earlier Christian Greek literature’ as the starting point for their analysis of Aphrahat's Christology. The press blurb on back of A. Lehto, The Demonstrations of Aphrahat, the Persian Sage (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, 2010) states that ‘the worldview he represents is only marginally hellenized, much closer to its Jewish roots than most other forms of Christianity in his day’. Walters, who is somewhat more agnostic about Aphrahat as a figure, notes that the corpus of the Demonstrations ‘represents one of the earliest stages of surviving literature composed in Syriac, and thus it offers a unique window into the history of Christianity among Syriac-speaking communities’ (Walters, ‘Aphrahat and the Construction of Christian Identity’, iii).
6 The Demonstrations are also notable for the fact that they number among the few sources we have for the Old Syriac text of Paul's letters, prior to the dominance of the Peshitta version, alongside esp. Ephrem, the Acts of Thomas and the Liber graduum; cf. the comments in Corbett, ‘Paul in Aphrahat’, 18 and the edition in J. Kerschensteiner, Der altsyrische Paulustext (CSCO; Leuven: Peeters, 1970); cf. the helpful biographical sketch in Lehto, Demonstrations, 10–13.
7 Skoyles Jarkins, Aphrahat the Persian Sage, 98 expresses some confusion over the fact that the majority of scholars on Aphrahat have missed the ‘fairly obvious biblical basis for Aphrahat's position’. Her point is anticipated by E. R. Hardy, ‘Review: Celibacy, A Requirement for Admission to Baptism in the Early Syrian Church (Papers of the Estonian Theological Society in Exile i), by ARTHUR VÖÖBUS, Stockholm, 1951’, Church History 22 (1953) 170. For an extensive discussion of the variety of early Christian readings of 1 Cor 7, focusing in particular on the fourth century, see E. A. Clark, Reading Renunciation: Asceticism and Scripture in Early Christianity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999) 259–329, who nevertheless does not discuss Aphrahat in this connection.
8 Dem. 7.18 (I. Parisot, ed., Aphraatis Sapientis Persae Demonstrationes i–xxii (Patrologia Syriaca; Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1894)): ‘This struggle () is suitable for the ascetics [or “solitary ones”, ] because their faces are set to the things before them and they do not remember something which is behind them …’ All translations are mine unless otherwise noted.
9 Burkitt, F. C., Early Christianity outside the Roman Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1899) 46–54Google Scholar.
10 The similarity between the two positions is also noted by Skoyles Jarkins, Aphrahat the Persian Sage, 67.
11 A. Vööbus, Celibacy: A Requirement for Admission to Baptism in the Early Syrian Church (Papers of the Estonian Theological Society in Exile i; Stockholm: Estonian Theological Society in Exile, 1951) 52 and also idem, History of Asceticism in the Syrian Orient: A Contribution to the History of Culture in the Near East, 5 vols. (Louvain: Secrétariat du Corpus SCO, 1958) 93–7. His view is developed further by R. Murray, ‘The Exhortation to Candidates for Ascetical Vows at Baptism in the Ancient Syriac Church’, NTS 211 (1974) 59–80, who nevertheless also argues that ‘[w]e must always remember that almost all our early Syriac literature … is by consecrated ascetics’ and that Aphrahat ‘produced [his] writings for disciples who in fact took their vows when they were baptized, and who therefore saw baptism as meaning their own self-consecration’ (79–80). This, he rightly notes, is in contradistinction to the witness of works such as the Didascalia apostolorum, Testamentum Domini and the Pseudo-Clementines. See the similar brief comments in M. Lattke, ‘“Taufe” und “untertauchen” in Aphrahats (taḥwyāṯā)’, Ablution, Initiation, and Baptism: Late Antiquity, Early Judaism, and Early Christianity (ed. D. Hellholm et al.; BZNW 2; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2011) 1115–38, at 1130 (in which there is a ‘syrischen “Liturgie”’ proclaimed in Dem. 7.20, which extends generally beyond the limits of ‘die spezifischen Bundessöhne und Bundestöchter’).
12 Note that this solution was offered already before Vööbus’ work by E. J. Duncan, Baptism in the Demonstrations of Aphraates the Persian Sage (CUASCA; Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1945); cf. M.-J. Pierre, Aphraate le sage Persan: Les exposés, 2 vols. (SC; Paris: Cerf, 1988–9) i.110; A. Guillaumont, ‘Monachisme er éthique judéo-chrétienne’, Judéo-christianisme: extraits des Recherches de Science Religieuse (Paris: Beauchesne, 1972) 199–218, at 201. Lehto, Demonstrations, 18–19, 212 n. 71 notes the high likelihood of a restricted audience even while observing that Aphrahat ‘clearly implies that baptism was not reserved for an ascetic elite’ (quotation from 212 n. 7). J.-M. Garrigues and J. Legrez, Moines dans l'assemblée des fidèles à l'époque des Pères, ive–viiie siècle (Paris: Beauchesne, 1992) 42–3 argue that the restriction on baptism for the married was temporary, with it becoming a possibility later in life or even on one's deathbed.
13 Tertullian, Marc. 1.29.1 (E. Evans, Tertullian: Adversus Marcionem (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972)); on Marcion's rejection of marriage, see esp. J. Lieu, Marcion and the Making of a Heretic: God and Scripture in the Second Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015) 390–1.
14 See the comments in C. W. Concannon, Assembling Early Christianity: Trade, Networks, and the Letters of Dionysius of Corinth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017) 129–30 on the later Pauline tradition, including the Pastoral epistles. In light of the appeal to the story of Adam and Eve in 2.13–14, the claim that women ‘will be saved through childbirth’ (σωθήσεται δὲ διὰ τῆς τεκνογονίας, 2.15) is perhaps best read as an effort to mitigate the curse on childbearing in Gen 3.16 for female believers; that is to say, preservation through childbirth, rather than eschatological salvation, is at stake; cf. the comments and bibliography in P. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmanns, 2006) 233–4. For a different view, in which ‘it is in (or through) childbirth that salvation takes place’, see M. den Dulk, ‘I Permit No Woman to Teach except for Thecla: The Curious Case of the Pastoral Epistles and the Acts of Paul Reconsidered’, NovT 54 (2012) 176–203, at 199, though he goes on to note that ‘[t]his concept is, to the best of my knowledge, not found in other extant early Christian documents’.
15 See the blessings on virgins in Acts Paul 3.5–6, abstention from marital sex in Acts Thom. 1.12–13 and apparently in Acts Paul 9.21, relating childbirth with heretical characters in Acts Paul 3.14 and sexual desire with demonic forces in Acts Thom. 5.42–3. On the other hand, it is also true that both texts let certain married (conjugal?) relationships pass without comment; e.g. Lectra and Nympha, who are both married and have children in Acts Paul 3, 5, or the specific rejection only of extra-marital sexual acts in Acts Thom. 6; cf. the discussion of the Acts of Paul in Concannon, Assembling Early Christianity, 124–8. The text of the Acts of Paul is from R. A. Lipsius, Acta apostolorum apocrypha: Acta Petri, Acta Pauli, Acta Petri et Pauli, Acta Pauli et Theclae, Acta Thaddaei (Hildesheim; New York: Georg Olms, 1972), supplemented by R. Kasser and P. Luisier, ‘Le Papyrus Bodmer xli en édition princeps: l’épisode d’Éphèses des Acta Pauli en copte et en traduction’, Le Muséon 117 (2004) 281–384 for Acts Paul 9; that of the Acts of Thomas is from W. Wright, Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, vol. i: The Syriac Texts (London: Williams and Norgate, 1871).
16 This is the interpretation supplied by Clement of Alexandria, through whom we have the relevant fragment from Tatian. On this reading of Clement's treatment of Tatian, see K. L. Gaca, ‘Driving Aphrodite from the World: Tatian's Encratite Principles of Sexual Renunciation’, JTS 53 (2002) 28–52 and esp. M. R. Crawford, ‘The Problemata of Tatian: Recovering the Fragments of a Second-Century Christian Intellectual’, JTS 67 (2016) 542–75, at 558–63, with the bibliography discussed there, esp. with reference to Koltun-Fromm.
17 From his lost work, On Perfection according to the Saviour, preserved in Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 184.108.40.206–3 (L. Früchtel, O. Stählin and U. Treu, eds., Clemens Alexandrinus (4 vols.; GCS; Berlin: Akademie, 1970)). I place ‘agreement’ in quotes because it is a direct reference to Paul's instructions in 1 Cor 7.5. Note also the testimony regarding Tatian's rejection of marriage in Irenaeus, Haer 1.28.1 (A. Rousseau and L. Doutreleau, eds., Irénée de Lyon: Contre les hérésies, vol. i (SC; Paris: Cerf, 1979) ), where marriage is seen as ‘corruption and sexual immorality’.
18 Cf. the comments in Lieu, Marcion, 425 and the earlier analysis in Clark, Renunciation, 277. According to Lieu, Marcion, 108, 262–8, 390–1, it is probable that Marcion had also attempted to ground his rejection of marriage in Pauline precedent, particularly in 1 Cor 7.
19 In addition to the authors discussed below, note also Concannon's argument that Dionysius of Corinth tried to combat Marcionite tendencies on Crete and Knossos, which also involves the interpretation of 1 Cor 7; Concannon, Assembling Early Christianity, 141–54, esp. 148–51.
20 Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 220.127.116.11: σοφίζεται δὲ τὴν ἀλήθειαν δι’ ἀληθοῦς ψεῦδος κατασκευάζων.
21 Cf. also Strom. 18.104.22.168; see the extensive discussion in D. G. Hunter, Marriage, Celibacy, and Heresy in Ancient Christianity: The Jovinianist Controversy (OECS; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) 105–13; Gaca, ‘Driving Aphrodite’, 251–5 and now the analysis in D. Wheeler-Reed, J. W. Knust and D. B. Martin, ‘Can a Man Commit πορνεία with his Wife?’, JBL 137 (2018) 383–98, at 396–8; cf. the brief comments in Koltun-Fromm, Hermeneutics of Holiness, 160–1 and R. Roukema, De uitleg van Paulus’ eerste brief aan de Corinthiërs in de tweede en derde eeuw (Kampen: Kok, 1996) 113–14.
22 Fr. 1 Cor. 34 (C. Jenkins, ‘Origen on 1 Corinthians’, JTS 9–10 (1908) 231–47, 353–72, 500–14, 29–51, at 503): ‘For if a gift is for this one and that one, marriage is a gift (χάρισμά ἐστι καὶ ὁ γάμος). If marriage is a gift, it is evil to restrain the gift of marriage … it is clear that it is one God who gave purity (τὴν ἁγνείαν) and that gave marriage.’ Origen directly addresses Marcionite views in Fr. 1 Cor. 37 (Jenkins, ‘Origen’, 507); cf. the discussion in Lieu, Marcion, 142. On Origen's view more generally general, see also Hunter, Marriage, 124–8 and J. Christopher King, Origen on the Song of Songs as The Spirit of Scripture: The Bridegroom's Perfect Marriage-Song (OTM; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) 92–3.
23 Cf. the comments in Koltun-Fromm, Hermeneutics of Holiness, 160–2. There are, in fact, two notable points of continuity between Origen and Tatian's interpretation: the emphasis (1) on the relation of prayer and sexual activity and (2) on the concessive quality of Paul's comments on sex in 1 Cor 7.
24 Fr. 1 Cor. 34 (Jenkins, ‘Origen’, 501–3). Origen felt that believers in his church, though, should be better than the Corinthian ‘infants’ who were not ready for the ‘solid food’ of the mysteries; cf. the conflation of 1 Cor 3.1–3 and 7.6 in Fr. 1 Cor. 12 (Jenkins, ‘Origen’, 241–2).
25 See the discussion of this interpretation in Clark, Renunciation, 300–1, who notes its impact on later interpreters such as Jerome. Interestingly, G. W. Dawes, ‘“But if you can gain your freedom' (1 Corinthians 7:17–24)’, CBQ 52 (1990) 681–97 supports Origen's reading of slavery as marriage though historical–critical arguments for Pauline use of analogy (note the mention of Origen on p. 682 n. 9).
26 Fr. 1 Cor. 38; cf. the comments in Roukema, De uitleg, 124.
27 See the discussion of Tertullian in Hunter, Marriage, 116–20, who argues even further than here that the later Tertullian even came to view remarriage at all as a kind of adultery; cf. also Koltun -Fromm, Hermeneutics of Holiness, 159–60; Hayes, C. E., Gentile Impurities and Jewish Identities: Intermarriage and Conversion from the Bible to the Talmud (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002) 98–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Daniel-Hughes, C., ““Only in the Lord”?: Debates Over Paul's View of Remarriage in Early Christianity’, Science et Esprit 66 (2014) 269–83Google Scholar, at 272–9.
28 Tertullian, Marc. 1.29.1 (Evans, Adversus Marcionem); cf. esp. Lieu, Marcion, 262–8, who notes the proximity of Tertullian's ascetic impulses to those of Marcion he was rejecting.
29 Note that Tertullian draws on ethnic categories with the term allophylus and his appeal to restrictions on exogamous marriage in the Law. On this aspect of early Christian discourse, see the wide-ranging discussion in D. K. Buell, Why This New Race: Ethnic Reasoning in Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), who does not discuss the present passage.
30 Ux. 2.2.2 (C. Munier, ed., Tertullien: A son épouse (SC; Paris: Cerf, 1980)).
31 Ux. 2.2.9; cf. the comments in Daniel-Hughes, ‘Debates’, 276–7 and Roukema, De uitleg, 119.
32 Bapt. 18.6 (E. Evans, Tertullian's Homily on Baptism (London: SPCK, 1964)).
33 Clark, Renunciation, 328.
34 While the majority of contemporary scholars see 1 Cor 7.1b as a citation of the Corinthian position that Paul is modifying (e.g. G. D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987) 273; W. Deming, Paul on Marriage and Celibacy: The Hellenistic Background of 1 Corinthians 7 (SNTSMS; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) 110; W. Schrage, Der erste Brief an die Korinther (4 vols.; EKK; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1991–2001) ii.59–60; cf. J. Fotopoulos, ‘Arguments Concerning Food Offered to Idols: Corinthian Quotations and Pauline Refutations in a Rhetorical Partitio (1 Corinthians 8:1–9)’, CBQ 67 (2005) 611–31), early readers did not make this distinction. Note that D. Zeller, ‘Der Vorrang der Ehelosigkeit in 1 Kor 7’, ZNW 96 (2005) 61–77, at 62–3 has raised objections to this view on historical and literary grounds, and D. B. Martin, Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2006) 24–5 has highlighted the difficulties of scholarly rhetoric about ‘text as citation’. In addition to such rhetorical solutions, the difficulties of the passage have been approached from the perspective of Jewish marriage halakhah and purity discourse (e.g. Hayes, Gentile Impurities and Jewish Identities, 92–8), pragmatic concern for communal unity (e.g. Koltun-Fromm, Hermeneutics of Holiness, 89) etc.
35 Cf. the brief analysis of the two different trajectories in 1 Cor 7 in Daniel-Hughes, ‘Debates’, 269–72, who is drawing on the wider-ranging arguments for ambivalence in B. H. Dunning, Specters of Paul: Sexual Difference in Early Christian Thought (Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion; Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011) 1–28 and passim.
36 In fact, as has long been noted, there is clear evidence for a continuing Marcionite presence in Roman Syria and Persia well into the fourth century; see the recent discussion in Walters, ‘Aphrahat and the Construction of Christian Identity’, 90–5, 101 and the earlier account in Vööbus, Asceticism, 45–54, 161–2 and passim.
37 In addition to appropriating the view of 1 Tim 3.2, 12 that bishops and deacons should marry (and that only once!, Didasc. apost. 3.1, 3), and 1 Tim 5.14 that young widows should marry (Didasc. apost. 14), it goes further to specify that female orphans adopted into the church should be married off at the appropriate time (Didasc. apost. 17) and that all young men should be married to avoid the temptations of extra-marital sex (Didasc. apost. 22) (A. Vööbus, ed., The Didascalia Apostolorum in Syriac (4 vols.; CSCO; Leuven: CSCO, 1979)). On the impact of the Pastoral Epistles in the reception of Paul, which omits the Syriac sources, see J. W. Aageson, Paul, the Pastoral Epistles, and the Early Church (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008) chs. 5–8.
38 Dem. 7.25; cf. 7.4, 11. On this theme in early Christianity, see C. B. Horn, ‘Penitence in Early Christianity in its Historical and Theological Setting: Trajectories from Eastern and Western Sources’, Repentance in Christian Theology (ed. M. J. Boda and G. T. Smith; Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2006) 153–87 (her discussion of Aphrahat is on pp. 175–82) and A. Torrance, Repentance in Late Antiquity: Eastern Asceticism and the Framing of the Christian Life c. 400–650 CE (OTRM; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), whose focus begins in 400 ce and therefore only mentions Aphrahat in passing.
39 So also Horn, ‘Penitence’, 181; in addition to Tertullian (see above and further below), cf. Didasc. apost. 5, which states that whoever ‘does evil after baptism’ is condemned to fiery punishment.
40 Cf. the comments in Horn, ‘Penitence’, 180.
41 The phrase may also be rendered ‘prepared for the struggle’, as it is in Lehto, Demonstrations, 210; see the discussion of these addressees in T. Jansma, ‘Aphraates’ Demonstration vii §§18 and 20: Some Observations on the Discourse on Penance’, Parole de l'Orient 5 (1974) 21–48, at 39–41, who nevertheless plays down the address to postulants in his emphasis on the two principal groups: the leaders and the penitents.
42 As an analogy, one might also point to John Chrysostom's witness to monastic catechumens in Hom. Heb. 25.3 (MPG 63). While Aphrahat never uses ‘catechumen’ or related terminology in his Demonstrations, it may be that Ephrem bears witness to a catechumenate among Syrian Christians, in Nisibis and/or Edessa (note the appeal to catechumens in his comments on Eph 1.1 and Col 1.1, which are unfortunately only available in Armenian: Ephrem, Srboyn Ep'remi Matenagrut'iwnk’ (Venice: Monastery of St. Lazarus, 1836) 139 ll. 3–4, 165 ll. 19–21). The Nicene Canons (§§2, 11–12, 14; W. Bright, The Canons of the First Four General Councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus and Chalcedon: With Notes (Oxford: Clarendon, 1892)) indicate a widespread catechetical institution by the early fourth century which would make its presence among Syriac-speaking Christian communities unsurprising. Similar initiatory practices – such as restricting access to the Eucharist for new converts until after baptism – are found in Didasc. apost. 10 ), which may also bear oblique witness to the increasingly common use of the term ‘hearers’ to designate a category of catechumens (cf. the use of the term , ‘hearers’, in Didasc. apost. 5, 19). On the development of the catechumenate, see esp. the full account in P. L. Gavrilyuk, Histoire du catéchuménat dans l’Église ancienne (trans. F. Lhoest, N. Mojaïsky and A.-M. Gueit (Initiations aux Pères de l’Église; Paris: Cerf, 2007) and chapter 2 of Edsall, The Reception of Paul.
43 Cf. the discussion in Jansma, ‘Aphraates’ Demonstration vii’, 25–6.
44 See the discussion in Skoyles Jarkins, Aphrahat the Persian Sage, 98–105 and Lehto, Demonstrations, 32–3.
45 On the distinction between the ascetic community and the broader church, see Dem. 18.1; 20.14 and the comments in Lehto, Demonstrations, 17.
46 As to Aphrahat's view of such non-covenanters, it is difficult to discern; cf. Lehto, A., ‘Women in Aphrahat: Some Observations’, Hugoye 4 (2001) 187–207Google Scholar, at 201 n. 28, who states, ‘We don't know what Aphrahat's opinion of married Christian women was. His audience consisted of male and female ascetics, and he says very little directly about the lay state.’
47 Dem. 18.8: ; cf. the comments in Skoyles Jarkins, Aphrahat the Persian Sage, 98–102.
48 On this passage, see the comments in Koltun-Fromm, Hermeneutics of Holiness, 170–2 and note her broader discussion of Aphrahat's ‘yoke’ imagery and sexual renunciation on pp. 163–7.
49 Pace Vööbus, Celibacy, 45, who suggests that ascetics who break their vows to marry would remain a part of the ascetic community.
50 For an excellent discussion of scholarship on the question of Aphrahat's interaction with Jews, see now esp. Walters, ‘Aphrahat and the Construction of Christian Identity’, 55–70, who offers his own position on pp. 153–92.
51 A parallel can perhaps be drawn here with Acts Thom. 1.12–13 (Wright, Apocryphal Acts, 180–1), noted above, in which a newly married couple are dissuaded from sex by Jesus himself in the bridal chamber and then devote themselves to his service, despite the fact that they would remain married.
52 This appears to be related to Aphrahat's construal of baptism as the time of receiving the Holy Spirit in purity, which must be maintained subsequently in ‘holiness’ (Dem. 6.14); cf. the comments in Walters, ‘Aphrahat and the Construction of Christian Identity’, 127–8 and Lattke, ‘Taufe’, 1130–1.
53 Dem. 18.12: . The translation of (ἀνάγκη) is somewhat difficult, since it often means simply a necessity or obligation in Syriac, while the Greek underlying the present citation suggests unwanted compulsion or distress; cf. the comments and glosses in M. Sokoloff, A Syriac Lexicon: A Translation from the Latin. Correction, Expansion, and Update of C. Brockelmann's Lexicon Syriacum (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns/Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, 2009) 63.
54 One may recall here the extreme cases in which Aphrahat advocates that a male ascetic should marry (Dem. 6.4), noted above.
55 Contrary to the position of, e.g., the Shepherd of Hermas, rejected by Tertullian as the ‘Shepherd of adulterers’ (pastor moechorum): Pud. 20.2 (C. Munier and C. Micaelli, eds., Tertullien: la Pudicité (SC; Paris: Cerf, 1993); cf. the discussion of Tertullian's views on penitence in Horn, ‘Penitence’, 158–64 (discussion of his reaction to Hermas on pp. 163–4).
56 The Syrian texts often identified as non- or anti-Pauline include the Didache and the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies. The traditions associated with Thomas (both the Gospel of Thomas and the Acts of Thomas) are also occasionally cited for their lack of Pauline influence. Recently a similar view has been put forward in relation to the theology of the frescos in the Dura-Europos church; see Peppard, M., The World's Oldest Church: Bible, Art, and Ritual at Dura-Europos, Syria (Synkrisis; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar and note the critique of these arguments in M. R. Crawford, ‘Review: The World's Oldest Church: Bible, Art, and Ritual at Dura-Europos, Syria, by Michael Peppard. Comparative Approaches to Early Christianity in Greco-Roman Culture. New Haven, CT: Yale University, 2016. Pp. xi + 320’, Theological Studies 78 (2017) 231–2.
57 A similar point could be maintained about the plausibility of Aphrahat's direct literary relationship to Origen or Tatian, as argued on different exegetical grounds in Walters, ‘Aphrahat and the Construction of Christian Identity’, 139.
58 On precisely this aspect of early Christianity, see recently the attempt at tracing Christian social networks in the second century by Concannon, Assembling Early Christianity, who explores the network related to ‘sexual politics’ on pp. 122–54.
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