Deuterosis in Didascalia Apostolorum II

Continuing from here, a presentation of R. Hugh Connolly’s material on deuterosis from the introduction to his translation of the Didascalia Apostolorum, pp lxii-lxix

I do not think this is too strong a statement of the case. And yet it is probably that some allowance is to be made for the practical issues with which the author was faced, and for the fact that he speaks in the Didascalia as a preacher rather than as a theologian. We must note also that he allows a typical or figurative value to certain institutions of the Old Law—the tabernacle with its ministry and sacrfices, the Sabbath and circumcision. Whether for him these institutions formed a special subdivision of the Deuterosis there is no means of telling: we shall see that they constituted a separate class of typica in at least one Gnostic discussion of the Law. Yet when all is said, we cannot resist the impression that our author’s attitude to the ceremonial law of the Old Covenant was one of hostility rather than of piety and reverence.

How different is his tone, and his whole treatment of the problem, from that which we are accustomed to in the reverent words and solemn periods of the Epistle to the Hebrews. “The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews [I cannot do better than quote the words of Dr. Armitage Robinson] addressed himself to Jewish readers, who had accepted Christianity, but under the pressure of some great crisis were looking wistfully back to the religion of their fathers. With passionate earnestness he warned them against apostasy. And he brought them a great message of hope. He bade them see that the Christ was more than they had ever supposed, even in the enthusiasm of their first acceptance of Him. He was the Fulfiller of the past—that sacred past in which fragments of the eternal truth had been enshrined in temporary ordinances, whose only abrogation lay in their complete fulfilment. One great thought he was inspired to give them—the Eternal High-priesthood of Christ. The sacred past was theirs because it was a part of their loyalty to the Fulfiller.” [Note: Barnabas, Hermas, and the Didache (S.P.C.K., 1920), p. 3.] To the author of the Didascalia the Deuterosis was something of which the only fulfillment lay in its complete abrogation. He definitely excludes it from fulfilment.

Another early effort to grapple with the same problem is found in the “Epistle of Barnabas”. This is an obscure and disorderly treatise, and its root idea is that a special gnosis or spiritual enlightenment is needed to understand the ceremonial ordinances of the Law. It is not merely that the things commanded had a spiritual as well as a literal meaning: some at least of them were not even spoken in a literal sense, but were parabolic utterances which required to be spiritually translated before they could be obeyed at all. [Note: See especially the tenth chapter, in which the author deals with the distinction of clean and unclean animals; and compare also the fifteenth, on the Sabbath, a chapter which I have no doubt was used by the writer of the Didascalia.] In a word, the Law needed to be allegorized from the first. Unlike the author of the Didascalia, “Barnabas” makes no distinction of higher and lower standards within the Law; all its ordinances are high and spiritual, but the Jews had not the spiritual endowment to discern their true meaning.

The Catholic writer who in his treatment of the Law comes nearest to the ideas expressed in the Didascalia is St. Irenaeus. And this is but natural, for I have no doubt at all that our author used and was much influenced by him. Irenaeus too makes a clear distinction between the Decalogue and the ceremonial Law: there were on the one hand the “naturalia praecepta” given directly by God Himself, eternal, and needing only to be “fulfilled”, that is developed, extended, enlarged by Christ (superextendi, augeri, dilatari); and on the other hand there were the “uincula seruitutis” which were afterwards delivered through Moses and imposed upon the People for sin, and which when they had served their purpose had perforce to be abrogated and removed (“necesse fuit auferri”). Irenaeus’s formal discussion of the Law is to be found in the fourth book of the Heresies, chapters xxiv–xxix, from which I have quoted some phrases in the notes. There is one feature, however, in Irenaeus’s treatment of the ceremonial Law which finds no parallel in the Didascalia, and which the author has either neglected or rejected as unsuited to his own purpose. As already said, the Didascalia seems to leave no room for the Deuterosis as a factor in the spiritual education of the People: it was a punitive measure, and whether intended at first to be corrective or not, it proved in effect to be the opposite. The People went from bad to worse, until (apparently as a second instalment of the Deuterosis) that word in Deuteronomy, “Cursed is every one that is hanged upon a tree”, was set down “for their blinding” and as a positive obstacle, that when Christ was come they might not be able to recognize Him but should suppose that He too was one of the accursed. We must say, I think, that the author finds no place for the Deuterosis as an educative factor. It is otherwise with Irenaeus, as two passages will suffice to show:

Etenim lex, quippe servis posita, per ea quae foris erant corporalia animam erudiebat, uelut per uinculum attrahens eam ad obedientiam praeceptorum, uti disceret homo servire Deo. Uerbum autem liberans animam, et per ipsam corpus uoluntarie emundari docuit. Quo facto necesse fuit auferri quidem uincula seruitatis, quibus iam homo assueuerat et sine uinculis sequi Deum (IV xxiv 2).

And again:
Sic autem et populo tabernaculi factionem et aedificationem templi et Leuitarum electionem, sacrificia quoque et oblationes et mundationes, [Note: The current text has "et monitiones"; Dr. Armitage Robinson informs me that the Armenian version has "and purifications", which is far more suitable in the context, and from which I venture to adopt the above emendation—I do not know whether the form "munditiones" would be possible.] et reliquam omnem legis statuebat deseruitionem. Ipse quidem nullius horum est indigens; …faciliem autem ad idola reuerti populum erudiebat, per mutas uocationes praestruens eos perseuerare et seruire Deo: per ea quae erant secunda ad prima uocans, hoc est per typica ad uera, et per temporalia ad aeterna, et per carnalia ad spiritalia, et per terrena ad caelestia…. Per typos enim discebant timere Deum et perseuerare in obsequiis eius. Itaque lex et disciplina erat illis et prophetia futurorum (IV xxv 3).

The contrast here with the Didascalia is striking; but we must not forget the different situations in which the two writers were placed. Irenaeus had to defend the Church’s view of the Old Testament against the heretic Marcion, who rejected it as unworthy of the Supreme God and as the work of some inferior Being. The author of the Didascalia had to meet a danger from the opposite side, and to remind Christians that for them the ceremonial ordinances of the Old Law are gone irrevocably, and may not under any pretext be revived. It was natural for him therefore to stress, and even over-stress, the shortcomings of the Deuterosis, and, representing it as historically a failure, to ascribe the failure, not indeed to its Author, but to the circumstances which made such a legislation possible and necessary.

I am coming to feel that the author of the Didascalia was not quite so unsophisticated and isolated a writer as parts of his book are apt to suggest, indeed that on the whole, and for his time, he was well informed and well read. Since, then, the great question of the Old Law was one to which he had evidently given much attention, it seems that we ought to reckon with the possibility that his reading on this subject had led him beyond the circle of Catholic writers, and that his unfriendly attitude to the Deuterosis may be due in part to an unconscious bias derived from other influences. Whether this be so or not, it will not be out of place here to give some account of yet another early attempt to solve the problemof the Law—the attempt this time of a writer who was not of the Church. The Letter of Ptolemaeus to Flora (a lady otherwise unknown) has the uniqe interest that it gives us at some length, and in the form of a complete document, the ipsissima verba of a member of one of the great Gnostic sects. The writer was of the Italian branch of the Valentinian school of Gnostics, and his letter is thought to have been writter about the year 160. [Note: The letter is preserved by Epiphanius, Haer. xxxiii, and may be read in Migne P. Gr. xli 555. There is a handy edition by Harnack in Lietzmann's Kleine Texte (Bonn), no. 9.]

After a short introduction he explains to Flora that the whole legislation of the Pentateuch needs first to be sorted out into three component parts: (1) that which comes from God; (2) those things which Moses set down of his own authority and devising (as the permission of divorce); and (3) the additions of the Elders (Corban is cited as an instance). Then, passing over (2) and (3), he further explains that even (1), the portion of the Law which comes from God Himself, is likewise to be distinguished into three elements. First there is the pure Law unmixed with evil, “which also is properly called the Law” and which the Saviour “came not to destroy but to fulfil”. Secondly there is that which has an admixture of evil and unrighteousness, which the Saviour abolished as being foreign to His own nature. And thirdly there are certain things which are merely typical and symbolical, being ordained as figures of better and spiritual things.

The first of these elements consists of the Decalogue, the Ten Words disposed on the two tables. These, though pure and unmixed with evil, yet came short of perfection, and had need therefore of fulfilment (πληρωσεως) by the Saviour. As examples of the second element are adduced the lex talionis and the command to slay a murderer. As to the latter, the writer says that He who has condemned murder by the command “Thou shalt not kill”, by making a second law (δευτερον νομον) that the slayer should be slain shows that He has allowed Himself to be forced into inconsistency. To the third, or typical, element belong the laws regarding sacrifices (προσφοραι), circumcision, Sabbath, fasting, Passover, unleavened bread, and the like. “All these, being images and symbols, were changed when the truth was made manifest”; that is to say, their outward and material observance was abolished, but in their spiritual content they were carried on, the names remaining the same, but the things undergoing a change: “For the Saviour also commanded us to offer oblations, but not by means of dumb animals or with incense of this sort, but with spiritual praises and doxologies (δοξων) and thanksgiving, and by liberality and beneficience towards our neighbours.” And the other typica are similarly explained.

Then the writer comes to the crucial question: “Who then is this God who gave the Law?” It could not be the Perfect God, for the Law at its best was not perfect; neither could it be the Devil. It must therefore have been one who stood midway between, and who, being neither good nor bad, nor yet unjust, may properly be called Just and the arbiter of such justice (or righteousness) as is according tho himself. And this is the Demiurge and maker of this universe with all that is in it, who is still other in nature than the universe itself.

Whether or no the author of the Didascalia had read this letter it is impossible to say; but it is likely enough that he was acquainted at first hand with analogous discussions of the Old Law. Thus he speaks of “those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit, those who lightly and in hypocrisy blaspheme God Almighty, those heretics who receive not His holy Scriptures, or receive them ill, in hypocrisy with blaspheming, who with evil words blaspheme the Catholic Church which is the receptacle of the Holy Spirit” [Note: p. 212.]: words which have every appearance of being aimed at Marcion or other heretics who either rejected the Old Testament or refused to regard it as coming from God Himself. It may not be altogether idle therefore to note that there are one or two points in the language of the letter of Ptolemaeus that are apt to recall the Didascalia. When the writer says of the best portion of the Law, the Decalogue, that is it that “which is also properly called the Law” (ος κει κυριως νομος λεγεται), we are reminded of a puzzling expression in the Didascalia (pp. 218-19) where the Latin reads: “Lex ergo est decalogus et iudicia … Nam lex uocata est specialiter propter iudicia.” For “specialiter” the Syriac has “truly”, but I suspect that these are both renderings of κυριως. The original therefore may have been νομος γαρ κυριως λεγεται δια τας κρισεις. [Note: In Apost. Const.: the passage is written: νομος δε εστιν η δεκαλογος ... οyτος δε δικαιος εστιν, διο και νομος λεγεται δια το φυσει δικαιως τας κρισεις ποιεισθαι.] Now our author has said again earlier (p. 14) that the Law consists of “the Ten Words and the Judgements”, and I take these “Judgements” to mean the formally legal enactments in Exod. xxi-xxiii, which in the LXX are called the δικαιωματα, but in the Hebrew simply “the judgements”. [Note: But the word used in Didasc. was apparently not δικαιωματα but κρισεις, as in Apost. Const.; the former would more probably have been rendered "iustificationes" in the Latin. The note on p. 14 is therefore to be read with this qualification: though in that passage Apost. Const. omits "and the Judgements."] The Didascalia, then, pointedly attaches these laws to the Law proper and excepts them from the Deuterosis. But by Ptolemaeus they are expressly classed with that portion of the Law which has an admixture of evil, being thereby distinguished from the Decalogue; and from them he takes his two examples of this inferior element in the Law, viz. the law of retaliation and the command to slay the murderer. This it seems possible to read the above words in the Didascalia as a direct retort against Ptolemaeus and his assertion that the Decalogue alone “is properly called the Law”. Not only is the command to slay the murderer good, but it is a necessary sequel to the commandment “Thou shalt not kill”; this and the other “Judgements” in fact justify the term “law” as applied to the moral precepts of the Decalogue, which are not strictly legal in form and content.

Again, the writer of the Letter admits that the sacrificial ordinances of the Law were figures of the “spiritual praises and doxologies and thanksgiving” [Note: πνευματκιων αινων και δοξων καυ ευχαριστιας.] which were the oblations that the Saviour commanded His followers to offer. And in the Didascalia we read: “instead of the sacrifices which then were, offer now prayers and petitions and thanksgivings”. [Note: ευχαι και δεησεις και ευχαριστιαι Apost. Const. without "offer" (and so Lat.).]

If it be asked what parts of the Pentateuch constituted the Deuterosis, the answer is not easy to give; nor do I imagine that the author himself could readily have supplied it. Large portions of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy ought logically to be excluded from “the Law”. But Law and Deuterosis were interwoven, it would seem, in all the books, and we are told that it is one of the first qualifications of a Christian bishop to be able to separate the one from the other: “But before all let him be a good discriminator between the Law and the Second Legislation, that he may distinguish and show what is the Law of the faithful, and what are the bonds of them that believe not” (p. 34).

The word δευτερωσις at first puzzled the Latin translator. On its first appearance (see p. 13, l. 14) the clause containing it is passed over, though perhaps only by a clerical error. Then at l. 17 we find an untranslatable “bis”, representing only part of the word, i.e. δευτερος. A few lines on (l. 20) there appear “secund legatio” and “repetita alligatio” (? for “legatio”). But on p. 15, l. 7, we meet with “secundatio legis”; and this, or “secundatio” alone, is henceforth regularly employed.

The Syriac translator has no hesitation: he adopts from the outset tenyān nāmōsa, “repetition (or double) of the Law”. This is really the Syriac title of the book of Deuteronomy, which was taken no doubt from the Greek δευτερονομιον. [Note: In the Hebrew the fifth book of Moses is called by the words with which it begins, "These are the words". The Greek name Deuteronomy appears to have been derived by misunderstanding from a phrase in xvii 18, where it is directed that the future kind "shall write him a copy (mishneh not mishnāh) of this law in a book." This is rendered in the Greek και γραψει αυτω το δευτερονομιον τουτο εις βιβλιον.] He nowhere uses tenyāna alone in the way the Latin translator uses “secundatio”; and indeed it would hardly be intelligible in Syriac. I have adopted the rendering “Second Legislation”, not because it is a real translation of the Syriac, but because it conveys to the reader with fair accuracy the author’s own interpretation of the Deuterosis.

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