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Hippolytus (C. 170-C. 236) - Coptic Wiki

HIPPOLYTUS (c. 170-c. 236)

A presbyter and probably a schismatic of Rome, who wrote numerous works in Greek on theological and ecclesiastical subjects. Some of their titles are listed on the basis of an early statue of him, found in in 1551, now in the Vatican Library. Two of the most important are Philosophoumena, written against Gnosticism and other heresies, and the Apostolic Tradition, one of the most helpful sources for the student of early canon law, liturgy, and church customs. Hippolytus is a saint in the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches but not in the Coptic church.

The original Greek text of the Apostolic Tradition is known only through substantial quotations in the Apostolic Constitutions and a number of scattered texts. Because the text was known from sources with Egyptian connections, it acquired the name of Egyptian Church Order, preserved in the canonical collection Sinodos of the Coptic patriarchate. The Bohairic version of a manuscript formerly in Berlin (now at Tübingen University Library, not in the British Museum, as B. Botte said in 1963), written in 1804, is a translation of a Sahidic text rendered with some Arabic influence.

The earliest Coptic text of a prayer from the Apostolic Tradition is found in the Coptic Euchologion of the DAYR ANBA SHINUDAH (PO 28. 2, pp. 393ff.). The Sahidic text, translated from a Greek text, was edited by P. de Lagarde (Aegyptiaca 1883) and was based on a single manuscript ( Or. 1320) of A.M. 722/A.D. 1006. A more recent edition by W. Till and Johannes Leipoldt (1954) makes a few corrections. This Sahidic version omits the prayers for the ordinations and the anaphora, which are preserved in the Latin version.

The Arabic version is based on a complete Sahidic text, the oldest text possibly of A.M. 1011/A.D. 1295. It is based on Vatican Arabic 149. There is also a critical edition by A. Périer (1912).

The Ethiopic version, a translation from Arabic, is based on 793. A critical edition by H. Duensing (1946) is based on Vatican Borgia Aethiopic 2 (fifteenth century) and seven other manuscripts and has a good critical apparatus. It contains more variants than Dix (1937) was able to use. Besides the Latin version, translated from the Greek, we have parts preserved in Syriac (Testamentum Domini) and parts of the Greek original in the Apostolic Constitutions, Book VIII and its epitome (ed. Funk, 1891), as well as a number of scattered shorter texts.

The identification of the Egyptian Church Order with the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus was made by E. Schwartz and Hugh Connolly independently, and is now generally accepted. The opposition by J. M. Hanssens (1959) introduces an Alexandrian Josipe in the place of Hippolytus. His learned study contains much valuable material, but his main thesis has not proved convincing.

Hippolytus’ Apostolic Tradition is extremely important for our understanding of the church at the beginning of the third century. For establishing the original text, the Sahidic and derived versions are of great importance. The influence of the Apostolic Tradition in the area of the Alexandrian patriarchate is considerable. Its eucharistic rites are among the many anaphoras of the Ethiopic church.

The Canons of Hippolytus are a collection of statutes from Egypt, dated to the fourth century by Botte (fifth-sixth century by Dix), preserved only in Arabic translation from a lost Sahidic version of a lost Greek original attributed to Hippolytus. H. Achelis (1891-1904) thought the Canons were the original of the whole group of Church Orders that contain Hippolytan matter. They are now regarded as the last in the group. In fact, they are a drastic rewriting of the Apostolic Tradition, but remain mainly a secondary witness.

The Epitome may be regarded as more an extract than an epitome of Book VIII, but it has its peculiarities, sometimes preserving a text older than Apostolic Constitutions VIII (ordinations of a bishop). It contains five chapters, of which the title “Constitutions of the Holy Apostles Through Hippolytus Concerning Ordinations” belongs to Chapter 2. Some scholars have extended the title to the whole of the Epitome. The Epitome is of some value for the reconstruction of Hippolytus’ Apostolic Traditions and it is the only source of the Greek text of two passages.


  • Achelis, H. Die ältesten Quellen des orientalischen Kirchenrechtes, 2 vols. Leipzig, 1904.
  • Botte, P. B. La Tradition apostolique de saint Hippolyte. Essai de reconstitution. Liturgiewissenschaftliche Quellen und Forschungen 39. Münster, 1963.
  • Coquin, Dom M. Constitutions Through Hippolytus. A new edition. Dix, G. The Treatise of the Apostolic Tradition of St. Hippolytus of Rome. New York, 1937. With English translation. Reissued with additional material, corrections, and preface by H. Chadwick. London, 1968.
  • Duensing, H. Der aethiopische Text der Kirchenordnung des Hippolyt. Göttingen, 1946.
  • Funk, F. X. “Das achte Buch der Apostolischen Konstitutionen in der koptischen Überlieferung.” In his Kirchengeschichtliche Abhandlungen und Untersuchungen, Vol. 3, pp. 362-81. Paderborn, 1897-1907.
  • Haneberg, D. B. von. Canones S. Hippolyti arabice e codibus Romanis. Munich, 1870. First published version.
  • Hanssens, J. M. La d’Hippolyte. Analecta 155. Rome, 1959.
  • Horner, G. The Statutes of the Apostles. London, 1904. The Arabic version.
  • Lagarde, P. A. de. Aegyptiaca. Göttingen, 1883.
  • Périer, A. Les 127 canons des apôtres. PO 8. 4. Paris, 1912. A critical edition.
  • Riedel, W. Die Kirchenrechtquellen des Patriarchats Alexandrien, 230. 200-230. Leipzig, 1900. A better edition than von Haneberg. Tidner, E. Didascaliae apostolorum canonum ecclesiasticorum traditionis apostolicae versionis latinae. Texte und Untersuchungen 75. Berlin, 1963.
  • Till, W., and J. Leipoldt. Hyppolytus, Antipope, ca. 170-235 or 6. Berlin, 1954.