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1 Conclusions Shaping Evidence: An Examination of the Scholarship Surrounding the Supposed Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus

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Chapter Summary

The tendency exists among scholars unconsciously to permit the conclusions that they want to be true to influence the way they read and interpret the data before them. This was clearly the case with those who accepted the identification of what had previously been called “The Egyptian Church Order” as the Apostolic Tradition composed by Hippolytus of Rome in the early third century. Nearly everything mentioned in it was assumed to be authentically of third-century origin rather than possibly a later interpolation. Inconsistencies or roughnesses in the received versions were attributed to copyists and translators rather than to the original, and any inconvenient obstacles to acceptance of its attribution were explained away rather than taken seriously as possible pointers to a different conclusion. The existence of major doublets in the text and of grammatical shifts were not seen as signs of more than one hand generally at work on the document. Nor were differences from the later liturgical practices of Rome, and especially its eucharistic prayer, thought sufficient to raise questions about its place of origin. It therefore stands as a warning not to allow one’s enthusiasm to reach favoured conclusions to override the need to examine the evidence dispassionately.



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