Friday, January 15, 2016

On the Apostolic Tradition (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press)

St. Hippolytus of Rome lived during the 2nd and 3rd Century and was regarded as some to be the most important 3rd Century theologian. He was a disciple of Irenaeus, who was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John. His writings were extensive and the amount of them are said to have rivaled Origen. Much like Origen, his works presently are fragmented or missing. Some of his most important works include On Christ and the Antichrist, and On the Apostolic Tradition, which I am reviewing today. On the Apostolic Tradition is #54 in one of my favorite series in Orthodoxy called the Popular Patristics Series. I've read and reviewed several of these books, and they never disappoint.

The introduction to On the Apostolic Tradition is approximately 60 pages long and includes information on the discovery of this text, the contents and arrangement, the authorship, and a summary of conclusions. The text itself is divided into 43 chapters and discusses topics such as ordination of priests and deacons, the catechumenate, Baptism, and general rules of the community. Some of these rules include distribution of Communion, fasting, and burial practices. The rules on fasting were interesting. It is highly recommended for widows and virgins to fast often, but says laypersons and priests can fast if they want. At the end of the main text is a five page homily on the Psalms, which the translator believes is appropriate to include because it helps to better understand the main text.

On the Apostolic Tradition belongs to a genre called "Church Orders," and while you could find this text for free online, it's not the same. The reason for this is because Fr. Alistair Stewart's second edition of this text incorporated a newly discovered Ethiopic manuscript, and also provides commentary alongside the text to provide explanations for why things in this book are the way they are. I found that to be extremely helpful, because like my comment above, I was scratching my head to the rule of fasting, among other things in the text. Also of interest in this text is all the roles for people. There is a lot to process in this book, and it is not one that you read lightly or casually. This is for the serious student who is interesting in reading a book that has had a great influence on different liturgies today, including some parts of the Roman Catholic liturgy and the United Methodist Church as well.

This book was provided to me for free by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!