This work, still called by various names by moderns, including Ecclesiastical Ordinance or Constitution of the Apostles Faivre, has nothing in common with the 85 Apostolic Canons. It is preserved in the original Greek text with the Didache, the only surviving text of this literary genre in a 12th-c. MS of Vienna and in many translations into Eastern languages, and in Latin fragments in the Verona palimpsest chs. 18-30. It comprises, after an introduction I-III, two very different parts. The first part IV-XIV consists of chs. 1-4 of the Didache with some additions. In a first phase, this first part had an independent life in a slightly shorter form, of which a summary preserved in three late manuscripts has been published by Th. Schermann Eine Elfapostelmoral, Munich 1903. The second part XV, artificially linked to the first, deals with ordinations. In its present state, the text mentions the bishop, the presbyters, the lector, deacons, widows and the laity, and expounds the reasons ministries cannot be conferred upon women, except that of assisting sick women.
The text has some incoherencies, however, which allow us to identify two layers; the oldest mentions only the bishop, deacons and widows. This ancient treatise on the three orders was the starting point of the Didascalia Apostolorum, which preserves vestigial traces of it; it was also used by the author of the Apostolic Tradition. Chronologically, it is from the period between the Didache and the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, i.e., in the first years of the 2nd c. The present text is the work of a 4th- or 5th-c. compiler, in Syria or more probably in Egypt, who had come across the separate edition of chs. 1-4 of the Didache and the old treatise on the three orders; he joined the two texts, adding a preamble, numerous additions and some modifications.
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