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centuries Byzantine canonists combined these two sources: these collections were named nomokanons, although the name did not become common until the eleventh century.

The apostolic and conciliar age

In the first three centuries Christians drew their rules and norms from the Gospels and sacred scripture. Some communities produced 'handbooks' that provided guidance for various aspects of Christian life. Only a few of these have survived.1 One of the earliest was the Didache, which established rules governing the liturgy, the sacraments and lay practices such as fasting.2 The Didache was probably written in Greek for a Syrian community. The book purported to contain the teachings of the twelve apostles and dealt with matters of liturgy and discipline. During the third century, the Traditio apostolica, attributed to Hippolytus but possibly written by someone else, detailed the rites and practices of the Roman Christian community.3 It contains instructions for the consecration ofbishops, priests, and deacons and for administering baptism. Again during the third century an unknown author wrote Didascalia apostolorum for Christian communities in Syria.4 It was written in Syriac and was incorporated into later compilations, especially a work of the late fourth century, the Apostolic constitutions.5 The Apostolic constitutions 8.47 contains a collection of 85 canons, the Canons of the apostles, which later were also transmitted separately and found their way into canonical collections.

These very early Christian texts share several characteristics. Their authority derived from their apostolic origins, not from ecclesiastical institutions. They drew upon scripture and practice for their norms. Their focus is Christian discipline, worship and doctrine. They were intended to serve as manuals of guidance for the clergy and, to some extent, for the laity. These texts were not, however, compilations of legal enactments. Although Christians had the model and example of Roman law, early Christian communities did not yet have institutional structures or a sense of corporate identity that would have encouraged them to produce legal norms governing themselves.

The most important window into the structures and customs of Christian communities are the so-called Pastoral Epistles: 1 Timothy and Titus. Their

1 For an overview, see B. E. Ferme, Introduzione, 45-56.

2 See W. Rordorf and A. Tuilier's edition: SC 248.

3 G. Dix and H. Chadwick, eds., The Treatise on the apostolic tradition.

4 R. H. Connolly, ed., Didascalia apostolorum.

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