disciplina arcani

Steven Avery

While this needs a whole essay, here is a new quote that gives focus to the issue.
The immediate topic is Matthew 28:19.

William John Sparrow Simpson (1859 – 1952) -

The Resurrection and Modern Thought (1915)
William John Sparrow-Simpson

(3) The omission of the Baptismal Formula may be due to that instinct of reserve and reticence (the disciplina arcani) which was elevated into a principle by the early Fathers of the Church.1 Certain critics have treated this explanation with contempt, but it is sufficient to read S. Cyril of Jerusalem to see that such contempt is entirely out of place.

Cyril of Jerusalem says,
To a heathen we do not expound the mysteries concerning Father, Son and Holy Spirit, nor do we speak plainly of the things touching the mysteries in the presence of catechumens; but we often say many things in a hidden fashion, in order that the faithful who know may understand, and that ‘those who know not may not suffer harm.”’2
1 Riggenbach holds this.
2 S. Cyril of Jerusalem, ‘Catech.’ vi. 29.
Cyril of Jerusalem​
These mysteries, which the Church now explains to you who art passing out of the class of Catechumens, it is not the custom to explain to heathen. For to a heathen we do not explain the mysteries concerning Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, nor before Catechumens do we speak plainly of the mysteries: but many things we often speak in a veiled way, that the believers who know may understand, and they who know not may get no hurt.​
Kirsopp Lake - Matthew 28:19​
J. Albert Edmunds, and J. R. Wilkinson in the​
Conybeare Hibbert Journal article​
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Steven Avery

Considerations of Methodology in the Study of the Mystery Religions and Early Christianity (1955)
Historical and literary studies: Pagan, Jewish and Christian (2019)
Bruce M. Metzger




3. For the history of views regarding the disciplina arcani down to the beginning of the present century. see Heinrich Gravel, Die Arcandisciplin, I Theil: Geschichte und Stand der Frage, Diss. Munster (Lingen a/Ems, 1902). For more recent summaries, see A. Julicher in Pauly-Wissowa, Real-Encyclopdie, v, 1175f.; L. Schindler, Altchristliche Arhandiszipin und die antiken Mysterien, Program. Tetschen (1911); E. Vacandard, "Arcane," Dictionnaire d’histoire et de geographie ecclesiastiques, III, (1924), 1497-1513; 0. Perler, "Arkandisziplio, Reallexikon fur Antike und Christentum, I (1950), 667-676; and S. Laeuchli, Mithraisan in Ostia (Evanston. 1967), pp. 93-100.


Steven Avery

A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament
Jonathan Borland

9.9. A final motivation for the doxology's omission in a few witnesses is found in the disciplina arcani, "the discipline of the secret," which fell on especially fertile soil in the environs of Egypt and Italy where the philosophical attractiveness of secret knowledge was extremely popular. Yet even apart from this, the precedent for secrecy is already present in the biblical record itself. In the Gospel of Matthew we see reference made to the "mystery of the kingdom" (13:11). Jeremias (130) in particular states that "when we turn to the early Christianity, we repeatedly come across cryptic sayings and a concern to keep the most sacred things from profanation," a popular example being the secrecy surrounding the prediction of the death of Jesus (Mark 8:27–33; 9:9). One sees in 2 Esdras 12:13–39 that the revelation is commanded to be revealed only to those with enough wisdom to understand the words and to keep them safe, i.e., protected from abuse and misuse. Some scholars even hold that the author of the Gospel of John intentionally omitted the account of the Lord's Supper because he did not want to reveal the sacred formula to the general public, or rather that he "hid" the significance of the ritual within the Bread of Life discourse in John 6. Kilpatrick, moreover, argues that the shorter Western text of Luke 22:19–20 can be explained by Hellenistic influences and that the omission is especially indicative of the mystery cults that preserve knowledge of the most sacred practices (especially ritualistic) for only the initiated. Similarly, as the Lord's Prayer was inextricably tied to the rituals of baptism and the Lord's Supper from the earliest of times, there is evidence that it too fell under the disciplina arcani as practiced by some Christian groups. Even Ambrose (Cain et Abel 1.9.37 [PL 14:335]) in fourth-century Italy instructs Christians: "Beware of revealing out of carelessness the secret of the confession or of the Lord's Prayer." Well before Ambrose was Clement of Alexandria, who interpreted all of Scripture as a series of symbols and allegories. For Clement, the meaning of Scripture was of its very nature hidden and mysterious to all but the initiated, and thus he argued that Christianity, as the true philosophy, ought to be more mysterious than those worldly and false philosophies (cf. Strom. 5.8–8). But even before Clement's time the mysterious Kabbalah system was developing from the esoteric and theosophical currents present among the Jews of Palestine and Egypt by the end of the first century (cf. Scholem, 8), and eventually the doxology itself became a prooftext for that cult's sephirothic triad: kingdom (malkuth [מלכות]), power (netzah [נצח]), and glory (hod [הוד]) (cf. Olearius, 218–20). It is along these socio-historical currents that a case can be made that in one place or another the doxology held such a sacred and mysterious position (cf. point 9.8 above) that it too fell under the disciplina arcani of certain practitioners and thus, not out of vice but rather out of extreme reverence, it was removed from some Greek copies and especially from an important archetype of the Latin version (cf. esp. Ambrose above). Indeed, a corroborating factor for some (cf. point 9.1 above) may have been that even Luke himself hid the doxology from his readers. For others, removal of just the reference to the kingdom in the doxology was enough to satisfy the desire to keep the "mystery of the kingdom," well, truly mysterious to all but the initiated (cf. the absence of "the kingdom" in the Didache, Sahidic, Fayyumic, Gregory of Nyssa, etc.).

Steven Avery

De Moor V:18: New Testament Testimonies for the Doctrine of the Trinity, Part 5
Steven Dilday
De Moor and Bengel

BENGEL, who in his Apparatu Critico ad Novum Testamentum on this passage, § 21, contends that verse 7 is to be read after verse 8, and in § 24 advises that this Verse is not a Gloss fashioned from an allegorical interpretation of spirit, water, and blood: in § 25 he supplies a new account, which was able to furnish an easy occasion for the omission of this pericope in many Codices of the New Testament, and for the more scanty mention of the same in the Writings of the Fathers, asserting: “It did not happen so much by the carelessness of the scribes, that in a good many of the monuments this verse was omitted, or by the fraud of the Arians, as by the counsel of certain ecclesiastical men.” Now, he finds this Counsel of ecclesiastical Men in the Disciplina Arcani, which cause of the passing over of this saying he reports to have also come into mind for SCHELSTRATE.[5] Among other things he says, “This Disciplina Arcani was introduced in the Second Century: this already at that time…induced many, that from the beginning the Saying be removed from the codices intended only for public reading, which codices overwhelmed the other Greek codices for a brief time…. Casaubon with careful accuracy states, I do not count among the mysteries to be silenced the doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity, of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, and similar heads of evangelical preaching: without the knowledge of which no one is able to be a Christian: yet it is not to be ignored, that in the handing on of the mystery of the Trinity the Ancients were exceedingly careful that they not rashly speak concerning the grounds of such a mystery in the presence of pagans, or even of Christians yet immature, Exercitationibus XVI ad Annales Baronii, n. 43, where he gathered more things, etc…. Certainly to those that were to be baptized the inner things of Christian doctrine were opened somewhat beforehand, with the Lord’s Prayer: whence Jerome ad Pammachium: The custom among us is of this sort, that, to those that are to be baptized, for forty days we teach the holy and adorable Trinity: and, that those at length approaching the mystery of baptism were wont to receive the doctrine concerning the Deity of Christ, Eusebius teaches in book IX of Demonstrationis Euangelicæ, chapter VI; neither were the other Catechumens spectators of baptism itself. With whom present, the faithful, at least at that time, when recondite Theology was especially thriving…were abstaining from a more open mention of the Holy Trinity…. And so the Greeks removed this passage from the codices intended for public reading (as was also done in the case of the history of the adulteress; see various on the beginning of John 8): whereby it happened, that it was omitted by almost all Greek copyists and interpreters thereafter. For a similar reason (which is especially to be observed) they omitted that confession put forth by the Ethiopian eunuch at his baptism: see various on Acts 8:37. Now, the Africans also preserved that confession, and the Saying of John: although these did not so much urge, as invoke, the Saying, as if by a certain prelude of a stricter reticence, before the persecution of the Vandals had compelled them. When once the saying began to be omitted for this reason, and that, we are one, in John 10 was sometime cited: the catholics cited this, there are three, the Father, etc., less frequently…. From the same Disciplina Arcani, and in imitation of the Greeks, it appears to have happened, that some among the Latins passed over this verse, customarily written and recited by others, both in the codices, and in the solemn Reading…. By this reckoning, when the saying was removed, some that afterwards happened upon that abstained from it, even to cut short Arian abuse, as some Reformers did. The teaching of Arcani is certainly no more inimicable to the honor of the Fathers, than would be the plague of Arians, which the fathers would not have been able not to address with the fault of inaction. This cause of the omission of the Saying has sufficiently wide application to the Greek codices surviving today, as far more ancient than the Alexandrian itself: and the same, with those two prior causes added, easily had this force, that the Saying was unknown to many, doubtful to many, and very nearly perished from those things that are written.”

To the Objection concerning the passing over of this Text in the ancient Eastern Versions, respond ELSNERUS, on this passage, § 66-72; and TRIGLAND, Dissertatione on this passage, § 18-20: and also the the Objection concerning the silence of the Ancient Fathers, the same TRIGLAND just now cited, Dissertatione on this passage, § 21-24. To the Objection against the Canonical authority of this Text, responds GERHARD, Disputatione priori on this passage, § 45-50, pages 1347-1354.

Perhaps it is also able to be adduced in support of the authenticity of this Text, that LUCIAN not obscurely appears to have regard to this in profane sport, in Philopatride,[6]Basil edition, 1619, tome 4, page 468, Κρ. καὶ τίνα ἐπομώσομαί γε; Τρ. ὑψιμέδοντα Θεὸν, μέγαν, ἄμβροτον, οὐρανίωνα, Υἱὸν Πατρὸς, Πνεῦμα ἐκ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον, ἓν ἐκ τριῶν, καὶ ἐξ ἑνὸς τρία· ταῦτα νόμιζε Ζῆνα, τὸν δὲ ἡγοῦ Θεόν, Critias: By whom then shall I swear to thee? Trephon: By God, reigning on high, great, eternal, and heavenly, the Son of the Father, the Spirit proceeding from the Father, one of three, and of one three. These acknowledge as Zeus, this esteem to be God. Which things were taken partly from John 15:26, partly from 1 John 5:7, not without depravation of this latter text. And, although this Dialogus is found among the spurious writings of Lucian, and it is uncertain whether it proceeded from him; it is believed to have been written to MICYLLUS, the Interpreter in the Argument of this Dialogue, with Trajan already reigning as Cæsar,[7] and so to exhibit a testimony, sought from the enemies’ camp, for this text of John having been read in truth at the beginning of the second Century. Indeed, if we grant to the Most Illustrious JOHANN MATTHIAS GESNER,[8] in his Disputatione de Ætate et Auctore of this Dialogue, found at the end of REITZIUS’[9]newest Edition of Lucian, that the same was written with Julian reigning,[10] even so testimony sufficiently ancient for the genuineness of this text is furnished for us. And GESNER has for more support for his opinion, than MOSES SOLANUS or DU SOUL, who in his Notes on chapter IX of Philopatridis,[11] conjectures that the author of this book lived at least a thousand years after Lucian.
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Steven Avery

Bengel - Latin
p. 474 478-479 676 Acts 8:37
Adnotationes Millii

Porson is unable to shake the argument.
No defence has been made by Porson.

Burgess (also see above)

Again, Mr. Porson allows, that if Bengelius’s propostion be admitted concerning the Disciplina Arcani, no argument can be drawn from the silence of Ihe Fathers; and that in the expression, tres unum sunt, so often employed by them on the subject of the Trinity, they may have alluded to the controverted verse. Bengelius’s proposition is supported by the authority of Chrysostom among the ancients, and by Casaubon, Schelstrat, and others, among the moderns. To which may be added Bingham’s Antiquities (B. iv. 121—127), and Dr. Nolan's work on the Integrity of the Greek Vulgate, (p. 303, 345, &c.), and the observations of Pearce and Whitby, quoted below in p. I. Mr. Porson does not attempt to disprove what Bengelius observes of the Disciplina Arcani, but declines the consideration of it, as a dangerous hypothesis.

“I have declined the consideration of the Disciplina Arcani; nor shall I resume it. It is a dangerous hypothesis, which, if it were admitted, instead of strengthening particular passages, would weaken the authority of the whole New Testament.” (p. 395.)

Bengelius produces as examples of such omissions the narrative of the woman taken in adultery, (John viii. 11.); and the passage respecting the baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch, (Acts viii. 37.); of which omissions he says:

Sane exempla in impromptu sunt periocharum, quas, Greed prascipue detraxere:—quare justa suspicio est, idem eos in hoc Johannis loco admisisse. (§ xxvii.)

The multitude of copies and of versions of the Scriptures was a security against any injury to the general authority of Scripture, because the defects of one copy or version, were sure to be repaired by the integrity of another.

Quarterly Review
Burgess leaves Nolan Eusebius theory (disciplina arcani too) Falconer ?

Ben David




Continues with Chrysostom, Jerome and Gregory Nazianzen.
p. 146-152



disciplina arcani

secret doctrine -
μυστικό δόγμα ?
μυστικό δόγμα is Blav


Unitarian Review of Joseph Turnbull includes Bengel
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Steven Avery

James White
Even my own personal favorite patristic writer, Athanasius, comes in for the same kind of treatment (pp. 115-116). Providing a context based upon a particular stream of scholarly speculation regarding disciplina arcani, Athanasius is cited in his strong denunciation of the Arians; specifically, in this case, regarding the issue of Macarius and the Meletians. To make a long story short, Athanasius accuses his opponents of having “paraded the sacred mysteries before Catechumens, and worse than that, even before heathens” (Apologia Contra Arianos 1:11, Schaff and Wace 4:106, not 3:254-55 as cited by Peterson and Ricks).
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Steven Avery

Isaac Casaubon (1559-1614)

Jean Daille (1594-1670)

Emanuel Schelstrate (1649-1692)
Dispute with Tentzein

Bengel (1681-1752)

Bernhard de Moor

Thomas Burgess (1810)

Ben David

Frederick Nolan

Richard Rothe (1841)

Joseph Turnbull
and Unitarian critique

Heinrich Gravel (1902)

Adolf Julicher (1859-1936)
A. Julicher in Pauly-Wissowa, Real-Encyclopdie, v, 1175f.;

Laurenz Schlindler
Die altchristliche Arkandisziplin und die antiken Mysterien - (1911)

Bruce Metzger (1968)

Metzger list
- Vacandard - Perler - Laeuchli -
Julicher - Gravel - Schindler

William A. Strange (2005)
Acts 8:37

Jonathan Borland
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Steven Avery

Note Bengel connecting Eusebius and Trinity and Disciplina arcani

Eusebius teaches neither were the other Catechumens spectators of baptism itself. With whom present, the faithful, at least at that time, when recondite Theology was especially thriving…were abstaining from a more open mention of the Holy Trinity….

Find this Eusebius ref.

This comes up on BCHF and Andrew Criddle gives a Zwemer reference.

Trinitarian Interpolations

I don't think that Eusebius had a different text of Matthew 28:19. He probably tended to avoid quoting the trinitarian formula used in baptism as part of the disciplina arcani See Zwemer

“Into All the World": The Great Commission: A Vindication and an Interpretation (1943
By Samuel Zwemer

Arcani Disciplina.

A few more books

Conybeare references one supporter of the verse but tries to dismiss Disciplina arcani.
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