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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Didache

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1. Discovery.-That at one time a book called the Teaching or Teachings of the Apostles had an extensive circulation in Christian circles had long been evident before the actual discovery of any manuscript . The nature of this book, so highly esteemed in certain quarters, was a matter of conjecture. It was thought by some to be another name for the Apostolic Constitutions. Others, like Archbishop Ussher, were certain that it must be a much shorter document, omitting much of that later compilation. It came to be recognized that behind the whole development of works like the Apostolic Church Ordinance, and the Apostolic Constitutions and Canons there must be a common original. A brilliant attempt at reconstruction was made by Krawutzscky (Theol. Quartalschrift, iii. [1882] pp. 359-445), who, from the matter common to these two works, framed a document which anticipated with wonderful accuracy the first part of the Didache, but which he called, after Rufinus, Duœ Viae vel Judicium Petri.

At the time when this was published, a manuscript of the Didache had already been discovered in the library of the Jerusalem monastery in the Phanar or Greek quarter of Constantinople, and was given to the world in the end of 1883 by its discoverer, Philotheus Bryennios, the Metropolitan of Nicomedia. The manuscript belongs to the 11th century. It contains, besides the Didache, six other early writings or groups of writings, beginning with Chrysostom’s Synopsis of the Old and New Testaments, and including the Epistle of Barnabas and the Epistles of Clement of Rome. At its close the scribe has appended a note to the effect that it was finished ‘by the hand of Leo, notary and sinner,’ in a.m. 6564, i.e. a.d. 1056.

No other book of primitive Christianity outside the NT has found so many and such industrious editors. This manuscript is still the only one known of the whole Didache, but in Harnack’s edition (Texte and Untersuchungen ii. 1, 2 [1884]) von Gebhardt draws attention to a Latin fragment from a manuscript of the 10th cent., formerly in the convent library of Melk, which, even in its brevity, has one marked difference from our Didache, to be referred to later. Then in 1900, J. Schlecht published from a Munich manuscript of the 11th cent. an old Latin version (Doctrina XII. Apostolorum, Freiburg i. B., 1900), co-extensive with the first six chapters of the Didache, containing, among other variations, the same noteworthy omission. These are the texts on which all present investigation must rest.

The re-discovery of the Didache created a great sensation, and it was hailed as a most important find. It was seen to fill a gap between the Apostolic Church and the Church of the 2nd cent., in matters of worship, ministry, and doctrine.

‘Until the discovery of the Didaché,’ says Sanday (Expositor, 3rd ser. v. [1887] 106), ‘there were certain phenomena of the Apostolic age which hung as it were in the air. They were like threads cut off abruptly of which we saw the beginning, but neither middle nor end. It is just these phenomena that the Didaché takes up, brings them again to our sight, and connects them with the course of subsequent history.’

It was seen to be the actual forerunner of a whole series of later works in the East. It differs from its successors in that it does not claim direct apostolic inspiration; it is simply the summary of what its author conceived to be the teaching of the apostles.

‘It is anonymous, but not pseudonymous; post-Apostolic, but not pseudo-Apostolic’ (Schaff, Oldest Church Manual3, New York, 1889, p. 14).

2. Contents.-The Didache is not a long document. It is about the same size as the Epistle to the Galatians. In the manuscript it is not divided; but there is now a standard division into chapters and verses, which is followed in this discussion. This division is quite satisfactory save at one point-xi. 1, 2 ought to belong to ch. x.

The Didache may be divided into two main parts, the latter containing three sections, thus:

I. Chs. i-vi. Pre-baptismal moral teaching.

II. Chs. vii-xvi. General instructions to the Christian community concerning:

(a) Rites (vii-xi. ii).

(b) Office-bearers (xi. iii-xv).

(c) The Last Things and the duty of watchfulness (xvi).

At the head of the manuscript appears the title, ‘The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles’ (Διδαχὴ τῶν δώδεκα ἀποστόλων). The first part opens with a sub-title which runs continuously with the text (see facsimile in Schaff or Rendel Harris). The sub-title is ‘The Teaching of the Lord by the Twelve Apostles to the Gentiles’ (Διδαχὴ Κυρίου διὰ τῶν δώδεκα ἀποστόλων τοῖς ἔθνεσιν).

This sub-title was either the original title of the whole work, the present title being an abbreviation (in which case the word ἔθνεσιν refers to Gentile Christians) or, as is just possible from its position in the manuscript , it was originally the title of a shorter work corresponding in length to the Latin Version, in which case ἔθνεσιν means ‘those not yet received within the Christian fold,’ and indicates that the work contains the moral teaching given to those who are still outside the Church-the candidates for baptism.

The first part consists of a delineation of the Two Ways-the Way of Life and the Way of Death. The Way of Life consists in obedience to three commandments: (a) Love to God, (b) Love to one’s fellow-men, and (c) the Golden Rule in its negative form. The Way of Life is set forth not as a logical development of these three in turn, but first positively, and then negatively. The positive development (i. 3-6) consists mainly of extracts from the Sermon on the Mount. The negative begins with a prohibition of gross sins (ii.); it proceeds, after the manner of a Jewish ‘fence to the Law,’ to a warning against subtler forms which lead on to the grosser (iii.); it concludes with the inculcation of duties necessary for a true life in the Church and in the household (iv.). The Way of Death is delineated in a list of sins and sinners (v.). The moral instruction ends with a warning against going astray from ‘this Way of the Teaching,’ and the injunction to follow it as far as possible. This part, unlike the rest of the book, is addressed to an individual, the connecting link between it and the other part addressed to the community being the words: ‘Having first taught all these things, baptize ye.’

The second part begins with (a) instructions as to the baptism which is to follow this moral instruction of the catechumen (vii.); fasting and its days; prayer, its times and its form, the Lord’s Prayer (viii.); the Eucharist and the common meal associated with it, together with forms of prayer (ix. and x.). It is added, however, that the prophets are to be left free in prayer. The mention of the prophets leads on to the next section, but first of all there is a more direct connecting link in the injunction to receive all who come teaching ‘all these things aforesaid.’ (b) The section on the Christian ministry deals first with the apostles and their reception as they pass on their way to their fields of labour (xi. 3-6), then at greater length with the prophets (xi. 7, 12), who were evidently more familiar visitants. Commonly they were itinerant, but they might be settled in one community. Simple tests of character are given, for there is the constant danger of being deceived by a pretended prophet. The itinerant prophet suggests the hospitality to be given to way-faring Christians (xii.). The settled prophet suggests the disposal of first-fruits (xiii.), as also regulations for the Lord’s Day and the Eucharist (xiv.). The local ministry of bishops and deacons is dealt with in a short chapter (xv.) which closes this section on the office-bearers of the Church. (c) The last section (xvi.) counsels watchfulness and preparedness in view of the approaching end. Signs of the end are enumerated, and ‘then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.’ With these words the Didache comes to a conclusion.

3. Sources-To begin with express quotations, there are two from the OT (xiv. 3 = Malachi 1:11; Malachi 1:14, xvi. 7 = Zechariah 14:5), two from the NT (viii. 2 = Matthew 6:5 ff., ix. 5 = Matthew 7:6), and one probably from some unknown apocryphal book (i. 6). There are, besides, three separate references to what our Lord has commanded in the gospel (xi. 3, xv. 3, 4). Apart from express quotations, reminiscences of the OT are clear, especially in the first six chapters, and the same applies to the OT Apocrypha (Sirach and Tobit). Direct borrowings from the NT are even more numerous. Harnack (op. cit. pp. 70-76) has tabulated 23, and of these 17 are from Matthew. (For full list of actual parallels with the NT see Schaff, op. cit. pp. 82-95.) Certain features point to acquaintance with Luke-e.g. the form of the quotations from the Sermon on the Mount in i. 3-5, and the order of cup and bread in ix. 2, 3-but there is no conclusive proof that Luke was actually used. Mark seems to be unused. The case of John is doubtful. There are resemblances to John 6, 17 in the Eucharistic prayers, the most remarkable being the use of the formula ‘Holy Father’ (πάτερ ἅγιε, x. 2 = John 17:11). So many and so subtle are the parallels, that acquaintance with John must be admitted, or else it must be supposed that the Didache, or at least its liturgical forms, originated in a Johannine milieu. The canonical Gospel of Matthew seems the chief source for our author’s knowledge of the teaching of the Lord, but alongside this written Gospel he was familiar with phrases from the oral tradition. On the question of the use of St. Paul’s Epistles, almost every intermediate position has been occupied between that of Harnack (1884), who could find no single clear trace of their use, and that of Armitage Robinson (Journal of Theological Studies xiii. [1912] 350), who regards the writer at intimately acquainted with 1 Corinthians: ‘he has imitated its sub-divisions, borrowed its words and phrases, and modified its thoughts to suit his own purposes.’ There are certainly traces, but they are few in number. His debt to St. Paul is not great. Much more marked is his debt to Jewish writings. The work has been called ‘a sort of Church Catechism intensely Jewish’ (Westminster Review, Jan. 1885, p. 206). Apart from i. 3-5 there is little that is specifically Christian in the first part, and nearly all of it has its parallels in purely Jewish literature. For this section there has been posited as source a Jewish proselyte catechism of the ‘Two Ways,’ and parallels and borrowings are not wanting in the later portions of the Didache as well (cf. C. Taylor, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, with Illustrations from the Talmud, Cambridge, 1886).

4. Integrity.-There is no doubt that the Didache as we have it in the Constantinople manuscript reads like a unity. Its parts are closely knit together and follow an orderly development. That the primal Didache was co-extensive with our text, with perhaps a few omissions and some textual variations, seems an almost certain inference. But the two facts, that the Latin of Schlecht (L) contains only the first part with no sign of being unfinished, but, on the contrary, with a conclusion of its own, and that certain apparently dependent writings seem to have known these chapters only, suggest that the Didache did once actually exist in such a shorter form. The two main questions which emerge whenever the integrity of the fuller Didache is discussed arise in this way. Ever since Taylor pointed out the numerous Jewish parallels, and even before that, the theory of its dependence on a Jewish proselyte catechism of the Two Ways has been advanced and defended. The discovery of L seems to confirm this. Was there ever, then, such a Jewish catechism? And was it purely a catechism of the Two Ways, or did it contain further material? The case for a Jewish original seems proved. It was natural that Christians reared in Judaism, familiar with Jewish missionary propaganda and methods of instructing converts, should take over and use the forms which they had seen observed in the reception of proselytes, and the Didache bears many a trace of being such a Jewish document worked over in the Christian interest. Was this written or oral catechesis of Judaism co-extensive with chs. i. vi., or are we to look for a larger document having matter parallel with some parts of chs. vii-xvi.? It was surely to be expected that any such instruction should contain, besides moral precepts, teaching in regard to the ceremonial and legal requirements of Judaism-circumcision, the Sabbath, foods, first-fruits, fasts, prayers, festivals, and so forth. And when we find phenomena such as these-the Christian fasts and prayers carefully differentiated from the fasts and prayers of the ‘hypocrites’ (viii. 1, 2); the weekly day of worship, called the Lord’s Day of the Lord (κυριακὴ κυρίου, xiv. 1), corresponding to the ‘Sabbath of the Lord’ (Leviticus 23:3), instructions for the disposal of first-fruits (xiii. 3-7) obviously dependent on, and contrasted with, Jewish customs-then it seems almost a certainty that the Jewish source did contain matter corresponding in some measure to the later chapters of our Didache. Further, in view of the eschatological interest of contemporary Jewish thought, it would be natural that such a manual should contain an eschatological section parallel with ch. xvi.

But if there was, as seems natural, and appears to be a justifiable inference from the phenomena of the text, a Jewish catechesis, oral or written, corresponding to the material in both parts of the Didache, it seems to follow that the first form of the Didache was not the truncated form of L, but the fuller form of the Constantinople manuscript ; in a word, that chs. vii-xvi. belong to the primal document. We have, then, to regard L as an abbreviation. But is this credible? How could any Christian writer abbreviate in the manner in which this has been done? It is easy to explain the omission of chs. vii-xvi. If L belongs to the 4th cent., as Schlecht himself maintained, there would be at least two factors in the omission: (1) Church conditions did not at all correspond in his day with the situation in the Didache, and (2) the material of the Didache had already been worked up and modernized in other cognate documents to be considered in the next section. The one grave objection to this whole hypothesis-to the primary nature of the whole of the fuller Didache-is the omission in L of i. 3-ii. 1, and the omission in the Epistle of Barnabas of any trace of this passage. How can we explain the psychology of an abbreviator who could omit the one specifically Christian part, supposing it to be primary? Certain explanations suggest themselves. He may have reckoned these verses among the counsels of perfection, and considered it unwise to place them at the outset before catechumens. Did they not belong to a later stage and a higher plane of attainment? Or he may have regarded his version of the Two Ways as a kind of equivalent to the abrenuntiatio diaboli, and considered positive precepts out of place. In all probability there was a negative and positive baptismal vow from very early days (ἀποταγή and συνταγή). Explanation is not impossible, but neither is it necessary. The conclusion of the present writer is, that the fuller Didache, with the probable exception of i. 3-ii. 1, or parts thereof, and a few isolated expressions later, is the primary form; that it is not an expansion from a form corresponding to L, but that L is either an abbreviation of it, which is not inexplicable, or more probably an abbreviation of an earlier form of the complete version.

The stages in the history of the Didache were something like this: (1) Jewish document of the Two Ways plus instruction in the practices and customs of the Jewish faith; (2) a Christian adaptation (Δ) corresponding to our Didache with some few omissions, from which (3) the Latin version (L) is an excerpt, and of which (4) our Didache (D) is a slightly revised version, with probably a few more definitely Christian additions. The contents of Δ were practically identical with our Didache. (For analyses of the history of the text which employ a greater number of recensions see Harnack, Gesch. der altchristl. Litteratur, i. [Leipzig, 1893] 87, and Hennecke in Zeitschrift für die neutest. Wissenschaft ii. [1901] 58ff.)

5. Cognate and dependent works

(a) Barnabas.-That the Epistle of Barnabas is a cognate work is obvious. But the significance of the common material has been interpreted in very different ways. The diversity of opinion is perhaps most clearly seen in the first German and the first English editions. The very phenomena which prove for Harnack the priority of Barnabas, for Hitchcock and Brown prove its later and derivative character. The bulk of the common matter is to be found in three chapters (xviii-xx.), which contain most of the matter in Didache i-v., with the exception of i. 3-ii. 1. But there is also a very close parallel, too close to be a coincidence, with Did. xvi. 2 in Barnabas iv. 9, 10. It should be noted in passing that the priority of the Didache seems to be hinted at, if not implied, in the way in which this common matter is introduced in Barnabas: ‘Let us pass over to another knowledge and teaching (διδαχήν).’ For without pressing the word, the suggestion is here at least of transition to a new source of material. Without entering into details, the conclusion come to is, that Barnabas used the Didache, but in the earlier Christian recension (Δ). If he had it before him in documentary form, he expanded it freely, but he may have quoted familiar material from memory and amplified it in the process.

(b) Hermas.-The connexion with Hermas is neither so extended nor so obvious. The relationship played a great part in earlier discussions from its bearing on the question of date, but it has now receded into the background. It is matter of general agreement now that Hermas used the Didache, but there is much to be said for the thesis of Hennecke, that both Barnabas and Hermas used the earlier Christian recension (Δ), while the final form (D) is indebted in some very minor points to both.

(c) The Apostolic Church Ordinance.-This is an adaptation of the Didache to suit the altered ecclesiastical condition of Egypt in the end of the 3rd or beginning of the 4th century. Here the bulk of the material of the first part of the Didache is distributed among the individual apostles, who in turn contribute their part in a kind of dramatic dialogue. Following on this, and corresponding to the rest of the Didache, are similarly delivered directions about bishops, presbyters, deacons, readers, widows, deaconesses, the conduct of the laity, and the participation of women in the liturgical service, showing in both the enumeration of office-bearers and the powers ascribed to them a much more developed stage of Church organization. As source the Apostolic Church Ordinance has a form of the Didache very like ours: it may have been the earlier Christian recension, though the mass of textual evidence points rather to its being ours plus Barnabas.

(d) Didascalia.-This work fulfilled for Syria towards the end of the 3rd cent. what the last-named did for Egypt a little later. It is not, however, like it, simply an adaptation of the Didache. Indeed, it was earlier regarded as completely independent, but its dependence may now be held as proved (cf. C. Holzhey, Die Abhängigkeit d. syr. Didascalia v. d. Didache, Freiburg, 1898). No certain conclusion can be drawn as to what form its author had before him.

(e) Apostolic Constitutions and Canons.-The first six chapters embody the Didascalia, and to that extent the Didache is used at second-hand. Direct relationship is confined to the first 32 chapters of the seventh book. Most of the Didache is here embodied, but with significant alterations and additions which betray a later age. The adaptation is clearly based on our text of the Didache. Here at last there is no serious question of dependence on an earlier recension.

(f) Other works.-For a full list the reader is referred to Harnack (Gesch. der altchristl. Litt. i. 87), Rendel Harris (Teaching of the Apostles, 1888), and Vernon Bartlet (Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) v. 442). Chief among these may be mentioned: Athanasius, Syntagma Doctrinae, which is obviously dependent on Did. i-vi., and less obviously on xii, xiii., the underlying text probably being the earlier recension (Δ); the pseudo-Athanasian Fides Nicœna and Didascalia cccxviii. Patrum, where the basis is evidently the Syntagma; the Life of Schnudi, which includes most of the first part in an Arabic version, derived probably from the Apostolic Church Ordinance.

We have, therefore, continuing the numbers at the end of § 4, (5) Barnabas (B) and Hermas (H), dependent on the earlier Christian recension (Δ) and probably known to the maker of the final recension (D); (6) the Apostolic Church Ordinance (CO), possibly based on Δ, but more probably on D + B; (7) the Apostolic Constitutions and Canons (A), clearly based on D; (8) the Syntagma (S) and dependent works based on the earlier recension (Δ).

The evidence, then, points with great probability, for it can never amount to demonstration, to (1) the circulation and use of two recensions of the Didache, an earlier and a later, which differ in the omission and inclusion respectively of i. 3-ii. 1 and in certain other ascertainable points of slight importance; (2) the gradual disappearance of the second part of the Didache in the two ways of (a) omission, as in B and L-in B, through lack of relevance, in L through lack of correspondence to actual conditions; (b) supersession by a complete recast of material to suit altered ecclesiastical conditions as in CO and A, and, it may be added, by omission and supersession jointly, as in S; (3) the fortunate preservation of a complete copy of the later of these recensions by a scribe whose full manuscript shows interest in what he conceived, generally rightly, to be genuine remains of Christian antiquity.

The general result may be tabulated thus;

Jewish Original

 

6. Place of origin and date

(1) Place.-Both place and date seem to assume importance when we begin to discuss the significance of the work in relation to the problems of the early Church. But this is true of the place only to a very limited extent. For, though it were proved to have originated in some more isolated community, yet its acceptance by so wide a circle would show that it was no mere reflexion of abnormal conditions which existed nowhere else. Most of the regions in which early Christianity had any hold have been suggested as the place of origin-Syria (in particular, Palestine), Egypt, Asia Minor, Thessalonica, Rome. But the great bulk of opinion is almost equally divided between Egypt and Syria. On behalf of Egypt it can be, and has been, urged that the earliest references and quotations belong to Egypt; that the work had there from an early date almost canonical authority, and was used freely from the time of Clement to that of Athanasius and later. On the other hand, the testimony of use from Syria, though less imposing, is also strong. Further, the form of the doxology in the Lord’s Prayer has Egyptian affinities. It omits ‘the kingdom’ with the Sahidic version. But the doxology itself originated in Syria, and was thence adopted into Syrian texts of the NT (Westcott and Hort, NT, 1882, Appendix p. 9). Against the claim for Egypt there is what Schaff calls ‘the insuperable objection’-the allusion to the broken bread having been scattered in grains ‘upon the mountains.’ But after all this only proves that this particular form of prayer here incorporated did not originate in Egypt, but in some hillier land. The objection is not ‘insuperable,’ but it has more weight than is commonly allowed, for later Egyptian works certainly felt the difficulty. (‘Upon the mountains’ is omitted in Apost. Const., and represented by ‘upon this table’ in the pseudo-Athanasian tract de Virginitate.) On behalf of Syria, in particular of Palestine, there can be urged the marked affinity of the Didache with the Epistle of James and other recognized products of Palestinian Christianity, and the fact that it must have arisen in a community where it was necessary to make decisive the distinction between themselves and non-Christian Jews, e.g. in the regulations about fasts (viii. 1). A multitude of lesser indications are urged on both sides, but it is quite unnecessary to make any decisive pronouncement in favour of either. The essential point is that, from an early date, it was accepted in both, in one or other recension, and therefore comes from the heart of a situation which could not be regarded as impossible, or even as irregular, in either.

(2) Date.-In regard to date, there has been the same wide divergence-dates having been suggested from a.d. 50 to 500-and the same substantial agreement. The great mass of opinion, however, is again divided, in somewhat unequal portions, between two periods-the larger number favouring a date between 80 and 100, and the smaller clinging firmly to a date between 120 and 160. Space forbids a detailed examination of the evidence. It may be said briefly, in regard to external evidence, that the earlier date is confirmed by such indications as the citation of the Didache as Scripture by Clement of Alexandria and the fact that it is an adaptation of a Jewish manual. Such an adaptation could only be made early. And one thing to be remembered is, that long before its actual discovery it had been assigned, necessarily on external evidence, by Grabe (1698) to the closing years of the 1st cent. or the very commencement of the 2nd. Internal evidence confirms this. The general correspondence of conditions with those of the Ascension of Isaiah (see Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) v. 448-9), the vivid contrast with Jewish customs, the simple nature of the liturgy, all point to this conclusion. Another point has been well made by Taylor (op. cit. p. 53), who says in regard to the rules for baptism contained in the Didache:

‘That distinction should be made more rabbinico between the kinds of water to be used is one of the evidences of the Jewish origin and early date of the Teaching. Tertullian (de Bapt. 4) enumerates the various kinds, making no distinction (Nulla distinctio est, mari quis an stagno, flumine an fonte, lacu an alveo dilnatur); whilst at a still later date we find merely the injunction to baptize in water (Apost. Const. vii. 22).’

But if Barnabas and Hermas had influence on the text of our Didache, we seem driven to some such conclusion as this-that the earlier Christian recension dates from the earlier period (80-100) and the later, which differs only in certain insignificant details, from the later (120-160).

7. Tendency.-Before we go on to discuss the evidence of the Didache, and the bearings of that evidence on the problems of the Apostolic and sub-Apostolic Church, we have to face this question: Has the Didache any special purpose or tendency which would lead us to suspect or to discredit its evidence? In this connexion we encounter first the contention of Hilgenfeld that it is coloured by Montanism. But the general discussion to which the book gave a great impetus has made clear that it must be pre-Montanist. For if Montanism had arisen, and its problems had to be faced, then this book, if produced in the orthodox interest, would have said much less about the prophets, and if written from a Montanist point of view, it could not have resisted saying more. Krawutzscky, who had so fully anticipated the first part of the Didache in his reconstruction, assigned it, on its appearance, to an Ebionite heretic at the close of the 2nd century. But searching criticism has failed to discern any clear trace of that heresy. It has been characterized, on obvious grounds, as pro-Judaistic and anti-Judaistic, which implies that it preserves the balance of normal Christianity. Research has failed to displace it from the main current of the Church’s life. No writer with a predilection for any early heresy could have hidden it so well, nor would his book have commanded such universal recognition.

In this connexion mention must be made of the contention of Armitage Robinson that the book reflects no actual conditions which ever existed anywhere, but is a ‘free creation’ of the author working on the basis of 1 Cor. with close dependence on Matthew and John. But it is surely unthinkable that any Christian writer could have produced a manual which had hardly any correspondence with the conditions of the Church of which he was a member and just as little with the conditions of the Church of the NT, and with no suggestion of substituting a new ideal of Church life and government. The Didache certainly has its roots in the NT; it also has its dissimilarities from it; but that is because the Christianity familiar to its author had its roots in the NT, but had in the meantime grown to something different. The Didache represents an actual stage in the development through which the Church passed. The purpose of its author was evidently to represent, justify, and confirm actual conditions, and to guard against evident dangers.

8. Church conditions.-It is a simple community with which we are brought into contact in the Didache, without the developed organization and manifold official activity of the communities for which the later bodies of legislation were compiled (see article Apostolic Constitutions). The instructions, even in regard to baptism and the Eucharist, are addressed to the community, and not to any official personage or class of officials. The ‘sovereignty of the community’ is implied throughout. Attempts have been made to evade this. The latest has been already referred to (Journal of Theological Studies xiii. 339ff.). The significance of the address is here discounted as a mere trick of style, borrowed from the practice of St. Paul. But this stands or falls with the whole theory that the Didache is a ‘free creation’ of the author with no relation to actual conditions, a theory which we have just shown good ground for rejecting. No work which passed over and slighted the recognized position of accredited officials could have found such general currency and acquired such wide repute. The community, therefore, is sovereign. It tests travellers and prophets; it makes provision for the Christian poor; it sets apart ‘bishops and deacons’; it exercises discipline; the Sacraments of the Church are its concern. It is obviously a small community, but not isolated or out of touch with the general body of Christians. It is knit to them by the golden thread of hospitality, by the visits of itinerant apostles and prophets, by the unity of the one bread. It is situated in a locality where Christianity is past its first beginnings. The missionary propaganda of the Church is now further afield. Apostles are known only as exceptional visitants on the way to their proper spheres of labour elsewhere. Though past its first beginnings, it is not yet beyond the possibility of being taken by outsiders for a mere phase of Judaism. Open divergence of practice in outward ordinances is, therefore, strongly emphasized. The moral requirements of the community are of the highest order, but its doctrinal position, though strictly orthodox, is wanting in precision and fullness. The lack of emphasis on soteriology seems to have been felt by Barnabas, who, followed in this respect by the Apostolic Church Ordinance, added to the opening words of the Way of Life-‘Thou shalt love God who made thee’-the words, ‘Thou shalt glorify Him who redeemed thee from death.’

The members meet on the Lord’s Day for worship. Here we have the first testimony outside the NT to the Lord’s Day as a day of public worship. A little later Pliny reports to Trajan from Bithynia that the Christians there were accustomed on a fixed day (stato die) to assemble before daylight to sing hymns to Christ as a God, and to bind themselves by a sacramentum. On every detail of this report we have fresh light from the Didache. Worship is on the Lord’s Day. It consists in the breaking of bread, giving of thanks, and confession of sins-the sacramentum (?). And the Eucharist (see below) has as one of its closing sentences, ‘Hosanna to the God of David’-a hymn to Christ as a God.

Baptism is the rite of initiation. ‘Living water,’ i.e. water of spring or stream, is to be preferred to other kinds, but even warm water is allowed in exceptional circumstances. Immersion is normal, but, where the water is insufficient, allusion is permissible. The rite is administered after a definite course of instruction, and always in the Name of the Trinity. The candidate for baptism is to fast beforehand. Fasting, recommended to the baptizer and those associated with him, is enjoined on the baptized. No mention is made of any anointing, or the use of anything save water.

The Eucharist is the centre of Christian worship, but the evidence of the Didache has proved a bone of contention. Instructions in regard to it seem to be given twice over, in chs. ix, x., and in ch. xiv. It is with regard to the former instructions that difficulties emerge and controversies have arisen. The instructions are thus introduced: ‘Now as regards the Eucharist (the Thank-offering) give thanks after this manner’ (περὶ δὲ τῆς εὐχαριστίας, οὕτω εὐχαριστήσατε). Forms of prayer are given, simple and non-theological.

‘We thank Thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which Thou hast made known to us through Jesus, Thy servant [παῖς]: to Thee be the glory forever.’

‘We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which Thou hast made known to us through Jesus, Thy servant. To Thee be the glory for ever. As this broken bread was scattered [in grains] upon the mountains and being gathered together became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth unto Thy Kingdom: for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever.’

The former is given for the cup (ποτήριον), the latter for the broken bread (κλάσμα), and there is another form, similar in thought and diction but longer, for the close, after being filled (μετὰ τὸ ἐμπλης θῆναι).

The difficulties in regard to these two chapters arise in this way. There is no trace of the words of institution, and there seems no room for them. Were these simple prayers meant as consecration prayers? Were they meant for the use of the presiding brother at all, or were they written to be used by the recipient (so Box, Journal of Theological Studies iii. 367f.)? Why does the thanksgiving for the cup come before the thanksgiving for the bread? Why are these words, which sound like an invitation to the Table, placed at the very end-‘If any one is holy, let him come; if any one is not holy, let him repent’? And why does the previous chapter end with a similar ‘fencing of the tables,’ given in the very midst of the forms of prayer (‘let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist except those who have been baptized into the name of the Lord’)? What do the words μετὰ τὸ ἐμπλησθῆναι imply? Are they to be interpreted in a literal or spiritual fashion? Finally, why was it necessary to give instructions about the Eucharist in ch. xiv., if these had already been given in detail in chs. ix. and x.?

Beginning with the last question, it has been suggested (V. Ermoni, L’Agape dans l’Eglise primitive, 1904, p. 17ff.) that the first instructions refer to the Agape, and the Agape alone. But there is no other case in which any writer uses the word εὐχαριστία in the sense of the Agape alone. All the indications point to a combined Agape and Eucharist, and the word εὐχαριστία refers to this combination, i.e. it includes the Agape, just as in Ignatius (Smyrn. 8) the word Agape has the same meaning, i.e. it includes the Eucharist. The words were never interchangeable, but either, it seems, might be used of the combined celebration. The probability, then, being that these chapters refer to such a combination, can we disentangle the Agape from the Eucharist? Are they inextricably mingled, or can we see that one preceded the other? Certain of the questions asked abate seem to point to the former alternative, but the balance of evidence is with the latter, and points to the Agape preceding the Eucharist. The words ‘after being filled’ seem to shut us in to that. The attempt to find true analogies to a spiritual or mystical interpretation has failed. John 6:12, so often appealed to, mates for the opposite view. And the author of the Apostolic Constitutions, who was dealing with the Eucharist only, has to alter the words to ‘after reception’ (μετὰ δὲ τὴν μετάληψιν). The prayers already given for the cup and the bread refer, then, to the Agape: the ‘fencing of the tables’ at the end of ch. ix. is preparatory to the Eucharist proper; the prayer in ch. x. is the transition, the closing prayer of the Agape, or the opening prayer of the Eucharist, according to the point of view; the Eucharist follows immediately on the prayer. No formula is given for it. The words of institution may then have boon recited. At both Agape and Eucharist the prophets are to have full liberty in prayer. The closing invitation is to catechumens present to come forward to the full privilege and duties of Church membership. One grave objection to this interpretation is that it presupposes a simple liturgy for the Agape and none at all, or practically none, for the Eucharist. A priori, we expect the exact opposite. But no other explanation seems to satisfy nearly so many of the conditions. Further, absence of fixed forms is characteristic of the Eucharist oven later. Justin Martyr (First Apology, 65-67) tells us that the presiding official (ὁ προεστώς) offers prayers and thanksgivings according to his ability (ὅση δύναμις αὐτῷ).

The Agape, then, in this small community, is combined with the Eucharist. It is a common meal shared by the brethren, with a simple liturgy of its own, Jewish in origin, with marked affinity to Jewish blessings at meals. It is followed by the Eucharist so closely that it is all one service. None but the baptized participate. Forms are lacking, as a member of the charismatic ministry seems in general to preside, and he is to be left free to follow the promptings of the Spirit. Catechumens and members under discipline are not excluded from the place of celebration. On the contrary, they are expected to be present, and are urged publicly to acquire or recover the right of participation. The Eucharist is a sacrifice (θυσία), and the words of Malachi are taken as a prophecy of it, ‘In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice, for I am a great King, saith the Lord.’ But this does not indicate, as Bickell thought, the germ of the doctrine of the Mass, nor what is technically known as the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The sacrifice, as all approximately contemporary use of the word confirms, consists in the prayers, the praises, the worship, and the gifts of believers (see Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics v. 546f.).

There is no trace of a Christian year in the Didache, but there is a Christian week. The Lord’s Day is the day of worship; Wednesday and Friday are fasts. The only evident reason for the choice of these days is the necessity of being distinct in all things from the ‘hypocrites’-the unbelieving Jews-who fast on Mondays and Thursdays; but the real underlying reason may have been that which was put forward later for these days as semi-fasts, viz. that Wednesday was the day of the Betrayal and Friday that of the Crucifixion. There is also what may be called a Christian day. The beginnings of a certain formalism in devotional exercises appear in the injunction to pray, using the Lord’s Prayer, three times a day. This, too, is founded on Jewish practice. No definite hours are named, and therefore no change of hour is suggested. Tertullian, later, prescribes definite hours. Christians are to pray at the third, sixth, and ninth hours, in addition to the ordinary morning and evening prayers of which no Christian needs to be reminded. These devotions are to include the Lord’s Prayer (de Orat. xxv., x.). Clement of Alexandria, in the work in which he cites the Didache as Scripture, though he knows, and, to some extent, commends, the three hours of prayer, rather disparages the adhesion to these definite hours. ‘The γνωστικός prays throughout his whole life, endeavouring by prayer to have fellowship with God’ (Strom. vii. 7).

It was in its account of the office-bearers of the Church and the nature of the ministry that the recovered Didache produced the most profound impression. Accounts of origins and development like Lightfoot’s were greatly strengthened in most particulars, but others received from it a fatal stroke. The details and even the general trend of those controversies lie outside the scope of this article. Our attention is confined to the evidence of the Didache itself. Even in its first section it puts a very high value on the ministry. The catechumen is enjoined to ‘remember night and day him that speaks to thee the word of God, for wheresoever the Lordship is spoken of, there is the Lord.’ Who are included among those that speak the word of God? The reference plainly is, in the first place, to the unlocalized or charismatic ministry, which occupies so large a place in the part dealing with office-bearers. This ministry is not appointed by the members of the Church, their office is transmitted through no human channel. They comprise only the first three of St. Paul’s list in 1 Corinthians 12:28 -apostles, prophets, and teachers.

The apostles are evidently, as already said, rare visitants. The missionary work of the Church is elsewhere. But every apostle who pays a visit is to be received as the Lord. He is not to remain longer than two days, for impostors are rife, and the desire to live for longer than two days on the generosity of the community and in the sunshine of its favour, is a sure sign of a false prophet. The genuine apostle will not ask for money, nor take with him more than the necessary food for the next stage of his journey. Prophets are more common, but are held in high esteem. The true prophet is not to be tried or proved; his word is to be accepted as that of one who speaks in the Spirit. He is to be free from the rules and forms that bind other men. But abuses have crept into the prophetic office, and counterfeit prophets are to be detected by their behaviour, especially by their asking for money for themselves, or ordering an Agape for their own benefit. A prophet may wish to connect himself with a particular community. Such a settled prophet is worthy of support. First-fruits are to be set aside for the use of these men, for, in this respect, they are like the high priests of the Jews. There were communities without any resident prophet. In such the first-fruits were to be given directly to the poor. An obscure sentence about the prophet ‘making assemblies for a worldly mystery’ or ‘acting with a view to the worldly mystery of the Church’ (even the translation is doubtful) has, as yet, received no satisfactory interpretation. Little is said about the third class of the general ministry, the teachers. They too are worthy of support. This implies that there were both peripatetic and settled teachers. The slightness or the reference cannot be due to their rarity. May it not be due to the following? It is commonly argued that the Shepherd of Hermas passed over the prophets because its author belonged to that order. May it not equally be that the Didache says little about the teachers for a similar reason? The very name of his work would indicate that its author was numbered among the teachers.

In addition to this ministry to the whole Church, there is a local ministry of bishops and deacons. They are appointed and set apart by the local church. Their authority is, thus, not directly derived from the Holy Spirit. They are in danger of being despised, but are to be honoured along with the prophets and teachers. Such is the character of the ministry as known to the author of the Didache. It shows us the local ministry strengthening its position in a small community and in need of having its position strengthened, while the general ministry is fading into the background through the prevalence of plausible counterfeits from mercenary motives, (For fuller discussion of the significance of all this see Harnack, Texte and Untersuchungen ii. 1, 2, pp. 93-157; C. H. Turner, Studies in Early Church History, 1912, pp. 1-32; T. M. Lindsay, The Church and the Ministry, 1902, esp. p. 170ff.)

With such a full-length picture of contemporary Church conditions, it is not remarkable that the Didache was hailed as a most important find. At times its importance may have been over-estimated, but it certainly fills a blank in our knowledge. It sets clearly before us facts which might have been, and indeed were, reached by gathering together the scattered and less definite indications of other works. It sketches the nature of the work, the worship, and the ministry in one community which, though small, was not isolated; though doubtless individual, was not peculiar. It gave the initial impulse to works of a similar character without which our knowledge of the early centuries in these matters would be much more meagre than it is.

Literature.-In addition to the works cited and named in the text of the article, the following may be referred to:

I. Editions.-H. de Romestin, Oxford, 1884; A. Hilgenfeld, NT extra Canonem receptum, fasc. iv. 2, Leipzig, 1884; R. D. Hitchcock and F. Brown2, New York, 1885; P. Sabatier, Paris, 1885; H. D. M. Spence, London, 1885; F. X. Funk, Doctrina duodecim Apostolorum, Tübingen, 1887; E. Jacquier, Lyons, 1891; L. E. Iselin and A. Heusler, Eine bisher unbekannte Version des ersten Teiles der Apostellehre, in Texte and Untersuchungen xiii. 1, Leipzig, 1895; C. Bigg, London, 1898; H. Lietzmann, Bonn, 1903.

II. Discussions

(1) General.-G. Bonet-Maury, La Doctrine des douze Apôtres, Paris, 1884; Th. Zahn, Forschungen zur Geschichte des NT Kanons und der altkirchl. Litteratur, pt. iii., Erlangen, 1884; G.V. Lechler, Das apostolische und nachapostolische Zeitalter3, Karlsruhe, 1885 (Eng. translation , Edinburgh, 1886); E, Backhouse and C. Tylor, Early Church History2, London, 1885; G. Wohlenberg, Die Lehre der zwölf Apostel in ihrem Verhältnis zum NT schrifttum, Leipzig, 1888; J. Heron, The Church of the Sub-Apostolic Age … in the Light of the ‘Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,’ London, 1888; A. Harnack, article ‘Apostellehre’ in Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche 3 i., Leipzig, 1896; F. X. Funk, Kirchengeschichtliche Abhandlungen, ii., Paderborn, 1899; A. Ehrhard, Die altchristl. Litteratur und ihre Erforschung von 1884-1900, Freiburg i. B., 1900; K. Kohler, article ‘Didache’ in Jewish Encyclopedia iv., London, 1903; P. Drews in E. Hennecke’s Handbuch zu den NT Apocryphen, Tübingen, 1904; O. Bardenhewer, Patrology, Freiburg i. B. and St. Louis, Mo., 1908; H. M. Gwatkin, Early Church History, London, 1909, vol. i.

(2) Special.-(a) Ministry.-E. Loening, Die Gemeindeverfassung des Urchristenthums, Halle, 1888; J. Réville, Origines de l’épiscopat, Paris, 1895; J. W. Falconer. From Apostle to Priest, Edinburgh, 1900; A. Harnack, The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries2, London, 1908, vol. i.-(b) Worship.-O. Moe, Die Apostellehre und der Dakalog im Unterricht der alten Kirche, Gütersloh, 1896; J. F. Keating, The Agape and the Eucharist in the Early Church, London, 1901; P. Ladeuze, ‘L’Eucharistle et les repas communs des fidèles dans le Didaché’ in Revue de l’Orient Chrétien, 1902, no. 3; J. C. Lambert, The Sacraments in the NT, Edinburgh, 1903; A. Andersen, Das Abendmahl in den zwei ersten Jahrhunderten, Giessen, 1904; E. von der Goltz, Tischgebete und Abendmahlsgebete in der altchristl. und in der griech. Kirche (Texte and Untersuchungen xiv. 2b), Leipzig, 1905; F. M. Rendtorff, Die Taufe im Urchristentum, do. 1905; M. Goguel, L’Eucharistic. Des origines à Justin, martur, Paris, 1909; J. H. Srawlay, article ‘Eucharist (to end of Middle Ages)’ in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics v., Edinburgh, 1912.

Hugh Watt.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Didache'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/d/didache.html. 1906-1918.

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Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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