Info

chr. 2.15). They included verses unknown elsewhere but important in Africa, such as John 5:3b-4. Even within Africa, various texts circulated as late as Augustine (Retract. 1.7).

There is no canon list from North Africa before the Breviarium Hipponense (397 ce), but one may surmise the working canon from the books employed by Africans. They used all of the biblical books except James, 2 Peter and 2 and 3 John. Early non-canonical works were known in Africa, such as the Shepherd of Hermas, Acts of Paul and perhaps Acts of Pilate.34 Stories of the martyrs were read liturgically, and a fourth-century council took pains to differentiate them from canonical texts (Council of Carthage, §5).

In tune with the political culture, collegiality was a hallmark of church governance and a gauge of the spread of Christianity. Evidence may be found in the diffusion of episcopal sees and interaction at councils.35 The first known council was c.220 under the bishop Agrippinus. No list of signatories with sees survives. Not until Augustine's De unico baptismo 13.22 (c.410) were the bishops of Agrippinus' council numbered at seventy. Whether this was exact or approximate (August. Cresc. 3.3.3 in 405), it provides a baseline against which to measure the numbers of bishops reported later. Cyprian (Ep. 59.10.1) claimed that by 236/240 he could assemble ninety bishops to condemn the heresy of a Numidian bishop. Again no lists survive, but by then there were bishops scattered throughout Proconsularis and Numidia. Such a number grants some credence to a figure of seventy gathered under Agrippinus. Even in 256 between major persecutions, eighty-seven bishops gathered at Carthage, representing an area from Leptis in Tripolitania in the east to Thuburbo in the west, but concentrated primarily within 220 kilometres of Carthage.

The African tradition was one of strong reliance on bishops who gathered frequently to discuss issues of mutual concern but who were not forced to apply the consensus of the gathering in their own diocese. Even small hamlets had bishops. In the larger cities, bishops had deacons to assist them. Priests were found primarily in metropolitan areas like Carthage, where they presided over urban districts.

The intransigence of African Christianity manifests itself from the very beginning through martyrdom and apology.36 Christians in Africa were

34 Labriolle, History and literature of Christianity, 58-9; NTApoc, vol. ii, 214-15 (on Acts of Paul) and vol. i, 501-4.

35 For the numbers and diffusion of bishops, see Maier, L'épiscopat de I'Afrique.

36 For a treatment of this period, both in Africa and elsewhere, see Clarke, 'Christians and the Roman State'.

0 0

Post a comment