By John Wijngaards
Source: X. Funk, Didascalia et Constitutiones Apostolorum, Paderborn 1905, vol. I, pp. 6 ff. & 210 – 212;
Josephine Mayer, Monumenta de viduis, diaconissis virginibusque tractantia, Peter Hanstein, Bonn 1938, pp. 19 – 25.
The Didascalia is a treatise which pretends to have been written by the Apostles , but which is in reality a pastoral treatise composed in third-century Syria. The original was in Syrica, then Greek, which text can to some extent be restored by a comparison with the Apostolic Constitutions, the first eight books of which are simply a revised and enlarged edition of the Didascalia. In 1900 a Latin version, perhaps of the fourth century, was discovered, in the so-called Verona Palimpsest. This is important because it shows that the Didascalia, and the Apostolic Constitutions, were getting known in the West from the 4th century onwards.The authority of this document may have greatly contributed to the introduction of the ordained diaconate of women in Western countries.
In a parallel document we publish extracts from the Didascalia concerning widows and menstruation.)
Didascalia II, 26, 5-8
|5. Diaconus autem in typum Christi adstat; ergo diligatur a vobis.||5. The deacon stands next to you as a symbol of Christ; therefore you should love him.|
|6. Diaconissa in typum sancti spiritus honoretur a vobis.||6. The deaconess should be honoured by you as a symbol of the Holy Spirit.|
|7. Presbyteri etiam in typum apostolorum spectentur a vobis.||7. Priests should be looked upon by you as symbols of the apostles.|
|8. Viduae et orphani in typum altaris putentur autem a vobis.||8. You should consider widows and orphans as symbols of the altar.|
Didascalia III, 12, 1-4
|1. Propterea, episeope, constituas tibi operarios iustitiae, adiutores populum tuum ad vitam adiuvantes. Qui tibi placent ex populo universo, eos eligas ac diaconos eonstituas, virum, ut curet res multas necessarias, mulierem ad ministerium feminarum. Sunt enim domus, in quas diaconum ad mulieres non potes mittere propter gentiles, mittes autem diaconissas.||1. Wherefore, O bishop, appoint workers of righteousness as helpers who may cooperate with you unto life. Those that please you out of all the people you should choose and constitute as deacons: a man for the performance of many things that are required, but a woman for the ministry of women. For there are homes to which you cannot send a male deacon to their women, on account of the heathen, but you may send a deaconess.|
| 2. Nam et in multis aliis rebus necessarius est locus mulieris diaconissae.
Primo cum mulieres in aquam descendunt, a diaconissa oleo unctionis ungendae sunt in aquam descendentes. Et ubi muIier ac praesertim diaconissa non invenitur, baptizantem oportet ungere eam, quae baptizatur.
Ubi vero mulier est ac praesertim diaconissa, mulieres non decet conspici a viris.
|2. Also, because in many other matters the office of a woman deacon is required. In the first place, when women go down into the [baptismal] water, those who go down into the water ought to be anointed by a deaconess with the oil of anointing; and where there is no woman at hand, and especially no deaconess, he who baptizes must of necessity anoint her who is being baptized. But where there is a woman, and especially a deaconess, it is not fitting that women should be seen [naked] by men.|
|3. Et tu (scil. 0 episcope) … in manus impositione ungas caput eorum, qui baptismum accipiunt, sive virorum sive mulierum;
ac postea, cum tu baptizas vel cum diaconis praecipis baptizare vel presbyteris, diaconissa, ut praediximus: ungat mulieres, vir autem pronuntiet super eas nomina invocationis Deitatis in aqua.
Et cum ascendit ex aqua quae baptizatur, eam suscipiat diaconissa ac doceat et erudiat, infragile esse sigilum baptismi in castitate et in sanctitate.
|3. You, O bishop, should, with the imposition of hand, anoint the head of those who receive baptism, whether they are men or women.
Afterwards—whether you yourself baptize, or you command the deacons or presbyters to baptize—let a woman deacon, as we have already said, anoint the women. But let a man pronounce over them the invocation of the divine Names (the Blessed Trinity) in the water.
And when a woman who is being baptised ascends from the water, let the deaconess receive her, and teach her and instruct her how the seal of baptism is [kept] unbroken in chastity and holiness.
|4. Tu ergo (scil. 0 episcope) in aliis rebus diaconissam necessariam habebis, et ut eas gentilium domos ingrediatur, ubi vos accedere non” potestis, propter fideles mulieres, et ut eis, quae infirmantur, ministret, quae necessantur, et in balneis iterum eas, quae meliorant, ut lavet.||4. And you also have need of the ministry of a deaconess for many things; for a deaconess is required to go into the houses of the heathen where there are believing women, and to visit those who are sick, and to minister to them in that of which they have need, and to bathe those who have begun to recover from sickness.|
Didascalia III, 13, 1-2
|1. Diaconi sint in actibus similes episcopis suis sed exercitatiores et non malum adpetentes lucrum, ut bene ministrent; secundum multitudinem ecclesiae (sufficientes) erunt, ut et senioribus mulieribus, quae invalidae sunt, fratribus et sororibus, quae in infirmitate detinentur, possint placere in celeritate ministeria sua complentes.Et mulier circa mulieres festinabit.||1. And let the deacons imitate the bishops in their deeds: no, let them even be more zealous than he. And let them not love filthy lucre; but let them be diligent in their ministry. And in proportion to the number of the congregation of the people, so let the [number of] deacons be, that they may be able to take care of aged women who are infirm, and of brothers and sisters who are in sickness—for every one providing the ministry which is proper for that person. But let rather a woman be devoted to the ministry of women.|