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Bishop Sarapion's prayer-book : an Egyptian pontifical dated probably about A.D. 350-356 (Volume 6) online

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ti\>t<xty of Che 'theological ^mimvy



B.B. Warfield's Library

BR 45 .E36 v. 6

Bishop Sarapion ' s prayer-


£arli? Cburcb Classice


ABOUT A.D. 350—356




/ BY






Brighton : 129, North Stkhet.
New York : E. Λ J. B. YOUNG & CO.



Introduction :—

§ I. Date and importance of the book. Descrip-
tion of the MS 7

§ 2. Personality and character of Sarapion of
Thmuis, His orthodoxy in regard to the doctrine
of the holy Spirit. Question of the Doxology . lo

§ 3. Was Sarapion author of the Letter " Con-
cerning Father and Son " ? . . . . -19

§ 4. The Collection of Prayers. Their general
contents, style, and character. Unity of their style.
Evidence of Egyptian origin 23

§ 5. The Eucharistic Liturgy. The Pro-Anaphora.
Prayers 19 — 30. Division into two Books. The
Laodicene Canons. Tabular view cf the Liturgy
of Sarapion 3-

§6. The Eucharistic Liturgy (<:ί?«//Λ«^ί/). Tabular
view of the Anaphora. Prayers i — 5. Points of
importance in the Consecration Prayer. " Like-
ness." Position of the " Institution." Eucharistic
Sacrifice. Invocation of the Logos. Traces of it
elsewhere ......••• 4°

§7. The Baptismal Prayers, 7— II. Hallowing
of the Waters. Confirmation a separate rite . • 49



§ 8. The Ordination Prayers, 12—14. Import-
ance of the Benediction of Presbyters ... 50

§ 9. Blessing of Oils, 15 — 17 ; Baptism, Confirm-
ation, the Sick. Development of the rite of Con-
firmation . 54

§ 10. Commendation of the Dead ... 57

§ II. Miscellaneous remarks .... 58

The Prayers : —

I. (i — 6) Eucharistic Anaphora .... 60

11.(7 — 11) Baptismal Prayers .... 68

III. (12 — 14) Ordination Prayers for Deacons,
Presbyters, and a Bishop ...... 72

IV. (15 — 17) Blessing of Oils: before Baptism;
Chrism; Oil, Bread and Water for the Sick . . 74

V. (18) Commendation of the Dead ... 79

VI. (19 — 30) Pro-Anaphoral Prayers : Prayers of
the Catechumens ; Prayers of the Faithful ; Offer-
tory ; Benedictions of Catechumens, Laity, Sick
People 80

Note on the Dogmatic Letter " Concern-
ing Father and Son " 94

Additional Note on the Life of Sarapion 95

I. Index to the Introduction and Notes . 97

II. Index OF Greek Words in the Prayers 100



§ I . Date and importance of the Book. Descrip-
tiofi of the MS.

The little book which came quietly into our
hands in the first weeks of the year 1899, as part
of a small fasciculus of the well-known Leipzig
series of Texte unci Untersiichiingen} is one of
the most important additior.s to early Christian
Literature made in a century which has been
specially favoured in regard to discoveries oi this
kind. It is a Liturgical document of firsl-rate
importance. In the first place, we know its
approximate date and authorship, and the
country to which it belongs. It is clearly

^ Altchrisiliche Liiurgische Stiicke aus dcr Kirche
Aegyptens nebst einem dog7natischc7i Brief dcs Bischofs
Serapion von Thmnis, von Georg Wobbermin, Dr. Phil.,
Lie. Theol, in Texte und Untersiichungen, neue Folge, II .
3b. Leipzig, 1899, price 2s.



Egyptian, and of about the middle of the fourth
century, and there seems no sufficient reason to
doubt that it is, in whole or in part, the Prayer-
book compiled or composed by Sarapion, Bishop
of Thmuis, the friend and contemporary of St.
Antony and St. Athanasius. It is therefore
superior as a historical document to those three
books with which it is at once natural to
compare it — the Teaching of the Apostles, the
Canons of Hippolytus^ and the Liturgy of the
Apostolic Constitutions, commonly called the
Clementine Liturgy. Their authorship, date,
and origin, and in the case of the second its text,
are matters of laborious inference, and capable
of lengthy discussion. Personally, I incline to
accept the date generally given to the Teaching
of the Apostles^ and should assign it to the first
half of the second century, with, of course, a
possible earlier date for portions of it. The
Canons of Hippolytus, painfully reconstructed
from the Arabic version of a Coptic version of a
lost Greek book, are believed, with probability,
to represent Roman practice about the beginning
of the third century. The eighth book of the
Constitutions^ as seems to have been proved, is an
edition of the Antiochene Liturgy by the same
remarkable but unknown author, to whom we
owe the compilation of the rest of that volume


and the interpolation of the genuine and the
creation of the false Ignatius.^ It is, like Sarapion,
a document of the fourth century, but one
prejudiced by the shadow in which its author
moved, and the heretical bias by which he was in
some degree actuated.^

The MS. in which Sarapion's Liturgy is
contained, is no. 149 of the Lavra Monastery
of Mount Athos, apparently of the eleventh
century, and consists (according to the editor
Dr. George Wobbermin's careful description)
of 149 leaves, i8*2 centimetres χ 14 centi-
metres (about yl X 5 J inches) in dimensions.
It contains a Confession concerniiig tJie Orthodox
Faith by " Euthalius, Bishop of Sulke " (Σουλκ//9);
the letter of St. Athanasius to the Philosopher
Maximus (P. Gr., xxvi. io86) ; then from fol.
7 verso to 24 verso the thirty Prayers here

^ See the admirable summary of the arg-uments on
these points in the Introduction (pp. xvii — xlvqi) to Rev.
F. E. Brightman's Liturgies Eastern and Western^ vol, i.,
Oxford 1896. I have throughout quoted the Eastern
Liturgies by the pages of this book. I have also profited
largely by personal intercourse with Mr. Brightman, who
has been further good enough to read through the version
of the Prayers printed below, and to criticize it in a most
helpful manner, besides making suggestions as to the
import of many of the prayers.

2 He was not an Arian, but had Subordinationist
tendencies, and he denied our Lord's human soul : cp.
Brightman, p. xxviii. The date is uncertain, but it may
be assigned to 350 — 400, possibly circa 380.


translated, and a dogmatic letter Coiicerning
Father and Son ; and lastly, pieces of the
Septuagint, Job, with the Prologue of Poly-
chronius. Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach, Proverbs
of Solomon (preceded by their viroeeaLs), Ecclesi-
astes, and the Song of Songs.

The portion with which we are concerned is
thus confined to eighteen leaves of the MS., of
which the last four (21 recto to 24 verso) contain
the dogmatic treatise already referred to, in the
form of a letter to a brother or near relation of
the author, but without any name or historical
indication being given.

§ 2. Personality and Character of Sarapioji of
Thmuis. His orthodoxy in regard to the Doctrine
of the holy Spirit. Question of the Doxology.

The name Sarapion is found only attached
to the first and fifteenth prayers, in the first of
which he is called " Bishop Sarapion," in the
second " Sarapion, Bishop of Thmuis." Here
we are on historical ground, since a Bishop of this
name and of this see has long been known to
Church historians. Thmuis is a town in Lower
Egypt, in the Delta between the Mendesian
and Tanitic branches of the Nile, near Lake
Mcnzaleh, and not far south of Mendes. Its
ruins are now shown at Tmey-el-Amdid, some
five miles east of the railway between Mansura


and Abu Kebir. It is mentioned by Herodotus,
ii. 1 66. The name is said to be derived from
Thmu, the he-goat, worshipped here and at
Mendes, with which city it was in close relation.
(6/). St. Jerome, ΐ7ΐ Isaiam, lib. xiii. cap. xlvi. i, and
in Joviriian. ii. 5.) There is, it may be remarked,
no direct reference in these prayers to idolatry ;
but there are references to " Satanic faults " and
"energies" on one side, and frequent prayers
for the grace of " cleanness " on the other, which
may be tacit allusions to the base Egyptian
nature-worship of the neighbourhood. Evil
spirits are also mentioned, and there is a
contrast between false and true worship in no.
9, " those that are worse " being opposed to " the
God of truth," and something like it in no. 8.

The name Sarapion, or (as it is usually but
perhaps less correctly spelt) Serapion, is a
common one, being derived from the favourite
deity of later Egyptian mythology, a com-
bination of Osiris and Apis. No less than
sixteen pc^rsons bearing the name are described
in the Dictioiiary of Christimi Biography. Our
Bishop is known as a saint and a literary man,
bearing the title Scholasticus to distinguish him
from others, and having a festival on 21st
March. He was an intimate friend of the great
Athanasius, and of his friend the hermit Antony.


His relation to Antony was so close that the
latter specially made him the confidant of his
visions. One in particular is mentioned in this
connection {Vita Antonii, 82), which presaged
the Arian irruption into Egypt and the profan-
ation of the Church of Alexandria. Antony, on
his death, which took place (shortly before the
inroad of Arianism) early in the year 356, desired
his disciples to bury his body and to keep the
place concealed, that it might not be exhibited
in houses, as the bad custom then was ; and
then he disposed of his clothing. " Divide my
garments" (he said). " Give one sheepskin cloak
to Athanasius the Bishop, and the pallium on
which I lay, which he gave me new, and which
has grown old with my use ; and give the other
sheepskin cloak to Sarapion the Bishop : and
do you keep my shirt of goats' hair. And now
farewell, children. Antony goeth hence, and is
no longer with you" {ibid. 91), The persecution
which followed began in February 356,"• and
lasted till the death of Constantius and the
accession of Julian in 361. It is no doubt to
this epoch that we must assign the " Confession "
of Sarapion, of which St. Jerome speaks {De
viris illustribus , 99) as " sub Constantio principe."
For Constantius did not succeed to power in
Egypt till after the death of Constans in 350,


and did not interfere violently on behalf of
Arianism in that country till early in the year
356. It seems natural to suppose that the
Liturgical work of Sarapion would fall in the
time of peace which preceded A.D. 356. But
the very short and reserved prayer for " rulers "
in 27 is suitable to the reign of Constantius, so
that I incline to a date 350 — 356. Cp. § 4, p. 26.
St. Jerome also tells us that Sarapion wrote
an excellent treatise against the Manicheans,
and one on the titles of the Psalms, as well as
useful Epistles to various persons. The Book
on the Psalms is lost, but the treatise against
the Manicheans still exists, and is of consider-
able length when its fragments are pieced

1 The main collection of Sarapion's works will be found
in Migne's Patrologia Grceca^ vol. xl. 899 foil. They
consist of the book Agamst the Mmiicheans^ Letter Jo the
Bishop Eudoxius^ LeUer to the Solitaries {-Tphs μονάζοντα;).
Dr. Wobbermin points out, after Brinkmann, that the
book against the Manicheans is to be enlarged by the
addition of five fragments printed in the anti-Manichean
treatise of Titus of Bostra, which come in between Migne
921 c. τγ apxf? των and T7]s irovripias ιστών. They are Titus,
ed. Lagarde,'i859 (i) 72, 29—75, 25 ; (2) 69, 29—72, 29 ; (3)
78, 19-79, 37 ; (4) 75, 25-78, 19 : (5) 79, 37-io3, 16. A
lacuna still exists after No. 2. A small fragment discovered
by Cardinal Pitra is in one of Brinkmann's discoveries,
but he has added a few others, one in Greek from Cod.
Coislin. 279, and three in Syriac from Cod. Add. Mus. Brit.
12,156. The Greek fragment shows that as many as
twenty-three letters (at least) of Sarapion's were at one


Sarapion was himself a letter writer to a con-
siderable extent, though the larger number of
his letters are lost. But he will always be par-
ticularly known to theologians, as the recipient
of five important letters from St. Athanasius,
which bear witness, among other things, to the
high regard and frequent intercourse which ex-
isted between them. The first describes the
death of Arius, "refuting the notion that he had
died in Church communion, by an account of
his death, the details of which Athanasius had
learned from his Presbyter Macarius, while he
himself was resident at Trier." ^ It was written
apparently in 358. The four dogmatic and
controversial letters also belong, it would seem,
to the same year, and followed in the line of
Athanasius' Oratio7is, of which the second letter
briefly repeats the teaching, while the others,
says Dr. Bright, " were directed against a theory
then reported to him by Sarapion as springing
up, afterwards known as Macedonianism ; which,

time extant. The Syriac extracts are from a Homily on
Virginity and a Letter to Confessors, and a short
dogmatic fragment.

^ See W. Bright, Life of St. Athanasius^ prefixed to the
Oxford edition of the Orations agaifist the Afia?is^ p.
Ixvii, 1873. The letter is simply addressed " To Sarapion
the brother." It will be found in Migne, P. Gr. xxv. 685 —


abandoning the Arian position in regard to the
Son, strove, with singular inconsistency, to retain
it in regard to the Spirit, whom it declared to
be neither a Divine Person nor a Divine Attri-
bute, but a ministering creature, differing only
in degree from the angels." ^

Shortly after the receipt of these letters must
fall the " Confession " of Sarapion, for we find
that, in the year 359, the Council of Seleucia
was attended by an Acacian Bishop Ptolemaeus,
who is described as " Bishop of Thmuis." It is
natural to conjecture, that, just as George of
Cappadocia was intruded into the see of
Athanasius, so Ptolemaeus was intruded into
that of Sarapion. Acacius was the scheming
head of an offshoot of Arianism, and had at
this period great influence with Constantius.
We do not know whether Sarapion died in
prison or in exile, or survived to welcome back
his friend.

St. Athanasius' Epistles to Sarapion seem to
be, to a great extent, summaries or repetitions
of arguments used by him elsewhere ; but the
last contains a careful discussion of the " blas-
phemy against the Holy Ghost " (St. Matt. xii.

1 Bright, /. Γ., p. Ixxiv. These four letters are in Migne,
P. Gr.xxv'i. 529-676 ; they are addressed "To Sarapion,
Bishop of Thmuis," and they mention that they are written
from the retreat in the desert.


31), which seems newly thought out, and was
written at the special request of his corre-
spondent. Where Sarapion is personally ad-
dressed it is with affection and even deference,
as a friend " beloved and longed for," whose
judgment is respected. I can see no evidence
that Athanasius suspected him of any heretical
bias. A careless reader might possibly think
so from the language of the writer, which
suddenly changes from "they" to "you," and
continues to refute the heretics who are in view,
whether Arians or others, as if he were writing
directly to them {Ep. i. 3).

It is true that the personality of the holy
Spirit is not so distinctly brought out in this
collection containing Sarapion's prayers, as we
might have expected if they had been composed
in post-Macedonian times. The definite article
is rarely used {το 7τν€νμα), and therefore it is not
introduced into my version ; and personal action
is rarely attributed to the third Person of the
Blessed Trinity. It is, however, attributed to
Him in i, " May the Lord Jesus speak in us and
holy Spirit, and hymn thee through us " ; and
ID, " Let thy holy Word accompany him, let
thy holy Spirit be with him, scaring away and
driving off every temptation" (cp. 19).

The form of the doxology which comes


regularly at the end of each prayer is very
noticeable in this connection. It is an ascription
of glory and strength to God the Father, through
His only-begotten Son, in (the) holy Spirit.^
This is an archaic form which has also been
preserved in certain parts of the Liturgy in the
Apostolic Constitutions^ e. g. vii. 45. (Prayer of
one newly baptized), and 48 (Evening Prayer) ;
viii. 5 (Ordination of a Bishop) ; 6 (Blessing of
Catechumens = Brightman, p. 5); 8 (for those
expecting Baptism = p. 7); 9 (for Penitents = p.
9 ;) II (for the Faithful = p. 1 3). But the Prayers
in the latter part of the Eighth Book of the Con-
stitutions ( = pp. 23, 24, 26, 27), and in the other
Liturgies, generally have an ascription of glory
to the Son, and generally also to Him with the
holy Spirit. This is the case even in the Cano?ts
of Hippolytics, which have in many points pre-
served an archaic form, in the prayers at the
ordination of a Bishop (18) and Deacon (42),
and the ministry of Chrism (138), which run,
''through whom to thee with Him and the holy

The learned reader will be aware that the use
of the two forms of doxology gave rise to a
question out of which grew the book of St.

^ So also in ic : "we have invoked thee, the uncreated,
through the only-begotten in holy Spirit."


Basil on the holy Spirit (see de Sp. Sand, ad
Amphilochium, I. 3). The Macedonians, or Pneu-
matomachi (/. e. enemies of the Spirit), attached
much importance to the form which is used
by Sarapion and in the Apostolic Constitutions,
which they misinterpreted as implying that
the Son was a subordinate agent and the holy
Spirit a place. St. Basil's book is in fact very
largely a treatise on the use of the prepositions
of and through, with and in^ in regard to the
different persons of the Blessed Trinity. St.
Basil, of course, proves that they may all be
used in a proper and orthodox manner, and that
they afford no ground to the heretics for their
exaggerated theories of subordination. It is in
fact clear that glory to God tJirough Jesus Christ
is a New Testament usage, as in the Epistle of
St. Jude, verse 25, and probably i Pet. iv. 11 ;
cp. I Cor. viii. 6 (quoted by Aetius). But it is
also clear that we can say of God the Father,
''from whom and through whom and to whom
are all things" (Rom. xi. 36, /. c. v. 7). As to
the use of in in regard to the holy Spirit, he
shows that this is not less honourable than
with (xxv. 58 foil.). His quotations from early
writers, Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, Dionysius
of Rome, Dionysius of Alexandria, and Eusebius
of Cicsarea, are specially interesting as proving


the early use of doxologies or similar forms im-
plying the consubstantiality of the holy Spirit
(xxix. J2). His own conclusion is that it is
more fitting to use the phrase " with whom "
in doxologies, and " through whom " in thanks-
givings (vii. 16). This is no doubt a reasonable
usage — as bringing out our Lord's mediatorial
power in regard to the benefits we receive from
God — but it cannot be said to be a test of
orthodoxy, or the reverse.

The final clause of Sarapion's doxology "in
holy Spirit " is not perfectly easy of interpreta-
tion, but I believe that it means " in the unity
of the holy Spirit," so that we might paraphrase
*'to the Father through the Son, bound as they
are together by the holy Spirit." In any case
there seems no reason to think that this doxology
would have been criticized by St. Athanasius,
who, in his very full analysis of Scriptural usage,
insists on the presence of the definite article
{the Spirit), when some other epithet or attribute
of divinity {e.g. holy) was not present, but not
otherwise. (See Epist. ad Serap. i. 4.)

This conclusion naturally leads us on to ask
another question.

§ 3. Was Sarapion author of the Letter'' Con-
cerning Father and Son " f

This Letter, which follows immediately on the


Prayers, does not bear any name, and has no
special points of contact as regards style with
the Prayers, while it is unlike the style of the
Treatise against the Manicheans. Indeed Canon
J. Armitage Robinson (whose opinion on such
a point is valuable) thinks that it is impossible
for them to be by the same author. Without
venturing so absolute an opinion, I would notice
certain points which made me hesitate to accept
Dr. Wobbermin's opinion that Sarapion is the
author of the Letter, which I was first inclined to

In the first place, I notice that the title of the
Church is different in the Letter from that which
is used in the Prayers. In the first paragraph
of the Letter the author claims to follow the
teachers "of the Catholic and Apostolic Church,"
and again to represent the faith " of the holy
Catholic and Apostolic Church." Now the. titles
of the Church in the Liturgies (like the wording
of the doxologies) arc by no means accidental,
but follow distinct lines, and are, generally, with-
in certain limits, very uniform. In Sarapion's
Liturgy the word " Apostolic " nowhere occurs.
The title of the Church is three times " Catholic "
(once with "living"). Once (in the Didache pas-
sage) it is"holy" alone. Once in no. 23 we have the
fuller title, which is so markedly Egyptian, "thy


holy and only Catholic Church." (See index, s.v.
€κκΚησία.) On the other hand, the title " Catholic
and Apostolic" is by no means unknown to other
Liturgies. It is found in the Syrian Liturgy (yi/.
Const, p. lo, and with "holy," St. James, p. 45).
It is found combined, with other titles, in various
types of the Egyptian rite. It is not found,
however, in the Nestorian or Persian, which has
simply " holy Catholic Church," pp. 263, 264,
275. The usage, therefore, of the dogmatic Letter
may be Egyptian, though it is strictly identical
only with that of the Apostolic Consiiiutions.

Then again the doxology with which the
Letter ends is not Trinitarian in any way, as
Sarapion's doxologies are, and it has a rather
rhetorical form. Instead of ending, "to all the
ages of the ages," it concludes — "To the unseen
wise God honour and might, greatness, magni-
ficence both now and ever, yea was and is and
shall be to generations of generations and to the
ageless incorruptible ages of the ages. Amen."

The style of the Letter is in fact both inflated
and obscure, while in thought it is simple enough.
Part is so obscure or so corrupt — possibly through
the loss of sentences or even pages — that I find
it impossible to give a reasonable version of it,
even after conjectural emendation.^

^ I refer to chap. 3, p. 22, lines 14—30. I should suggest


But the style of the Prayers, though Eastern
rather than Western, is not inflated, and the
meaning is always clear.

If then these arguments are valid, we need lay
no stress upon the supposed insufficiency of the
teaching about the holy Spirit in the dogmatic
Letter as affecting Sarapion. It is of course to be
noticed that the author of that Letter interprets
" the bosom of the Father," in St. John i. i8, as the
sum of the divine Attributes, and as equivalent to
"the holy Spirit." It is that "in which are all
virtues and powers and energies of the Father,"
just as in the heart of man are all his powers and
virtues which are enumerated at some length.
This teaching does not seem heretical, but it is
hardly sufficient.

I incline, therefore, to attribute the dogmatic

reading, " e: ovv «Vi μί)Κ€ΐ (W. 4τημ'ί)Κ€ΐ) TOis κατά Zi -ησιν καά.
βραχυτάτοΐ5 ταντα κα\ Xeyerai (W. Keyere), yiverai ττ6σω5
κ. τ. λ."

Ι imagine, though it is rather a stretch of exegetical
imagination, that the author means — " If then such things
can be said about (the) extent (of the power of) those who
have a precarious and very short existence, how immense
is the ocean of the Father's greatness ? " But I cannot
make out the lines that follow later (21 — 24), even reading
ττώί for '07Γω$. There seems to be something lost after μόνον
5e avrhv ί^ωκ^ν : and the construction in a later sentence of

1 3 4 5 6 7

Online Libraryof Thmuis SerapionBishop Sarapion's prayer-book : an Egyptian pontifical dated probably about A.D. 350-356 (Volume 6) → online text (page 1 of 7)