When in the 19th century, some ancient texts were discovered that read similar to the "Apostolic Constitutions", then called the Egyptian Church Order, many scholars believed it was, in fact, the earliest document and the source of the others. Remember that the most modern edition we had at the time was that published in 1563. Now, not so much. In fact, a number of scholars have raised questions about that conclusion. Among them, Paul Bradshaw said of the Apostolic Tradition:
We judge the work to be an aggregation of material from different sources, quite possibly arising from different geographical regions and probably from different historical periods, from perhaps as early as the mid-second century to as late as the mid-fourth.The chief problem for Rome is that the "Apostolic Tradition" is not necessarily Roman at all. That said, some of the other prominence given Hippolytus has also come under scrutiny. It is to the point where some wish it would just go away (those Roman traditionalists I mentioned above). All of this contrasts with Cypriano Vaggagini’s assertion that
(Bradshaw, P., Johnson, M., & Phillips, L. The Apostolic Tradition. A Commentary. Fortress Press. Minneapolis. 2002. page 14)
“The anaphora of Hippolytus… would seem to give us the usual structure of an anaphora in the early Church”The problems also have to do with the reliability of the text itself. Dom Botte's reconstruction was favored by most but Bradshaw and others are not so sure. They caution:
(Vaggagini, C. The Canon of the Mass and Liturgical Reform Geoffrey Chapman. London 1967 page 25)
“it gave the misleading impression that the reconstructed translation could be taken with confidence as reflecting what the author originally wrote, whereas any reconstruction involves a large number of subjective judgements, as well as the assumption that there was once a single ‘original’ text from which all extant versions derive.”If Hippolytus was as late as the mid-fourth century, then it has no superiority to the Roman Canon, parts of which are thought to be quoted by St Ambrose in the De Sacramentis, thus establishing that the Roman Canon and Hippolytus are of a similar vintage.
(Bradshaw et al. op cit page 12)
My point in all of this is simple. We look for a golden thread to explain how the medieval church got where it was, in the hopes that it would answer all our questions and give assurance that what we have is also the most ancient. In effect, we are looking for the missing link, or links, as it were. There appears to be none and it is a fool's errand to try and find it. What we do know is that until Luther the prayer of thanksgiving was the most central part of the mass or Divine Service or liturgy. The actual text of that prayer of thanksgiving was fluid for a time before growing consolidation in Rome brought more uniformity. Certainly by the time of Luther the history was not all that big of a deal. It was a given. Until Luther excised the silent parts of the canon.
One of the problems with Lutherans is that we never really dealt with the issue of form (at least until the modern worship wars that came with Lutheran Book of Worship). We dealt with content. That is what Luther dealt with and all Lutherans after him until the 1970s. The Lutheran Confessions quote approvingly the Eastern Canon all the while condemning the language of the Roman Canon which transformed sacrament into sacrifice and buried the gift under language Luther and the Lutherans found contradictory to the institution of Christ and Scripture.
I like Hippolytus. It offers us ancient phrases, a rather complete prayer, and a solid look at what an evangelical Eucharistic prayer might look like. Again, the issue for us is and has been content, not form. At least until those outside of Missouri led the charge against the Great Thanksgiving of the ILCW and began to merge form and content until Luther's liturgical surgery became for some Lutherans the only canon possible. Traditionalists in Rome fight Hippolytus and there are some Lutherans who would rather his canon would just be forgotten as well. I am not one of them.