The Apostolic Church-Ordinances is a 3rd century pseudo-Apostolic collection of moral and hierarchical rules and instructions, compiled from early Christian sources. It was first published in Ethiopic by Hiob Ludolf (with Latin translation)[1].

It served as a law-code for the Egyptian, Ethiopian, and Arabian churches, and rivalled in authority and esteem the Didache, under which name it sometimes went. Though of undoubted Greek origin, these canons are preserved largely in Coptic, Arabic, Ethiopic, and Syriac versions.

The Apostolic Church-Ordinance was first published in Greek by Johann Wilhelm Bickell of Marburg[2]. He also gave the document the name Apostolische Kirchenordnung by which it is generally known, though in English it is usually called as above, sometimes "Apostolic Church-Order", "Apostolic Church-Directory", etc. The document, after a short introduction (i-iii) inspired by the Epistle of Barnabas, is divided into two parts, the first of which (iv-xiv) is an evident adaptation of the first six chapters of the Didache, the moral precepts of which are attributed severally to the Apostles, each of whom, introduced by the formula "John says", "Peter says", etc., is represented as framing one or more of the ordinances. The second part (xv-xxx) treats in similar manner of the qualifications for ordination or for the duties of different officers in the Church. The work was compiled in Egypt, or possibly in Syria, in the third, or, at the latest, in the early part of the fourth, century. Funk assigns its compilation to the first half of the third century; Adolf Harnack to about the year 300. Who the compiler was cannot be conjectured, nor can it be determined what part he had in framing canons 15 to 30. Louis Duchesne considers them largely the compiler's own work; Funk thinks he drew upon at least two sources now unknown; while Harnack undertakes to identify by name the now lost documents upon which the compiler almost entirely depended.

The Sahidic (Coptic) text was published by Paul de Lagarde[3], and the Bohairic (Coptic) by Henry Tattam[4]. The complete Syriac text, with English translation, was published by J. P. Arendzen[5].


  • Harnack. Texte und Untersuchungen (Leipzig, 1886), II, 5 sq.;
  • Jean Baptiste Francois Pitra, Juris ecclesiast. Grœcorum Hist. et Monum. (Rome, 1864). I, 75-88;
  • Funk, Doctrina Duodecim Apostolorum (Tübingen, 1887), 44 sq., 50 sq.;
  • Schaff, Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (New York, 1885), 127-132, 237-257, where the dependence of the Apostolic Church Ordinance (Canons 4-14) on the Didache is graphically set forth;
  • Otto Bardenhewer, Gesch. der altkirch. Lit. (Freiburg, 1903), II, 262-269; Patrologie (ib., 1901), 141;
  • Duchesne, Bulletin Critique (October, 1886), 361-370.


  1. In the "Commentarius" to his "Historia Ethiopica" (Frankfort 1691).
  2. 1843) from a 12th century Greek manuscript discovered by him at Vienna (Geschichte des Kirchenrechts, Giessen, 1843, I, 107-132).
  3. In "Ægyptiaca" (Leipzig, 1883).
  4. The Apostolical Constitutions, or Canons of the Apostles, London, 1848.
  5. "Journal of Theol. Studies" (October, 1901).

This article incorporates text from the entry Apostolic Church-Ordinance in Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.

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