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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

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A manual of instruction for proselytes, adopted from the Synagogue by early Christianity, and transformed by alteration and amplification into a Church manual. Discovered among a collection of ancient Christian manuscripts in Constantinople by Bryennios in 1873, and published by him in 1883, it aroused great interest among scholars. The book, mentioned by Eusebius ("Hist. Eccl." 3:25) and Athanasius ("Festal Letters," 39) in the fourth century, had apparently been lost since the ninth century. The most acceptable theory among the many proposed on the character and composition of the "Didache" is that proposed by Charles Taylor in 1886, and accepted in 1895 by A. Harnack (who in 1884 had most vigorously maintained its Christian origin)—that the first part of the "Didache," the teaching concerning the "Two Ways" ("Didache," ch. -), was originally a manual of instruction used for the initiation of proselytes in the Synagogue, and was converted later into a Christian manual and ascribed to Jesus and the Apostles. To it were added rules concerning baptism, fasting, and prayer, the benedictions over the wine and the bread and after the communion meal, and regulations regarding the Christian community (ch. -). The Jewish student is concerned chiefly with the first part, the title and contents of which are discussed here.

Title of the Book.

The composite character of the "Didache" is shown by the double title or heading. The first words, "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles," form the general title, and therefore need not now be considered. But of the second heading, which refers to the original book, ch. -, only the words "Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles" (Διδαχὴ Κυρίου τοῖς Εθνεσιν) are genuinely Jewish; the words "through the Twelve Apostles," which assume that the word "Lord" refers to Jesus, are a Christian interpolation. The book known to Christians as the "Teaching of the Two Ways" corresponded probably with the "Hilkot Gerim" (Rules Regarding Proselytes) referred to in Ruth R. 1:7 and 16 as having been studied by Ruth under the direction of Naomi, the words ("way") and ("walk") in both verses being taken as indications that the necessary instruction in the "Two Ways" had been duly given to Ruth (compare Baraita Yeb. 47a, and Massek. Gerim, the abrupt beginning of which gives evidence of the existence of other rules concerning the admission of proselytes during the Temple time).

Contents of the "Didache."

The whole teaching is summarized in the first two verses (ch. 1:1-2): "There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and wide is the difference between. The way of life is this: First, thou shalt love God thy Maker [after Deuteronomy 6:5]; second, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself [after Leviticus 19:18]. Now the teaching of these twowords is this: 'Whatsoever thou wouldst not have done unto thee, neither do thou to another.'"

Here is a great lacuna, nothing being said about what love of God implies; and what follows is only very loosely connected with the preceding verses. Whether taken from an old Essene document (see Hippolytus, "Refutatio Hæresium," 9:23 [18]) or from some Christian collection of "Sayings" older than Matthew 5:39-48 and Luke 6:27-39, verses 3-4 are certainly out of place; they interrupt the order. So do verses 4-5, in which "the commandment of charity" is treated from the Jewish point of view, though they have parallels in Matthew 5:26; Acts 20:35.

Ch. 2:1 begins as if the first part of the Decalogue, comprising the law of the love of God, had been treated in the preceding chapter: "And the second commandment of the Teaching [that is, love of our fellow man] is: Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13; see verse 2).

2: "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14). (This includes: "Thou shalt not commit sodomy nor fornication.") "Thou shalt not steal" (Exodus 20:15). . . . "Thou shalt not use witchcraft nor practise sorcery" (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:26). (This belongs obviously to the eliminated first part comprising the duties toward God.) "Thou shalt not procure abortion, nor shalt thou kill the new-born child" (compare Wisdom 12:5). (This is the amplification of Exodus 20:13, and belongs to verse 1.) "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods" (Exodus 20:17; see verse 6).

3-5: "Thou shalt not forswear thyself." . . . (This again belongs to the eliminated first part.) "Thou shalt not bear false witness" (Exodus 20:16). "Thou shalt not speak evil nor bear malice. Thou shalt not be doubled-minded nor double-tongued, for duplicity of tongue is a snare of death. Thy speech shall not be false nor vain, but filled with deed."

6: "Thou shalt not be covetous nor rapacious [amplification of Exodus 20:17], nor a hyprocrite, nor malignant, nor haughty. Thou shalt not take evil counsel against thy neighbor" (amplification of Exodus 20:16).

7: "Thou shalt not hate any one; but some thou shalt rebuke [Leviticus 19:17], and for some thou shalt pray [compare Tosef., B. Ḳ. 9:29 with reference to Job 42:8; Genesis 20:17; see Matthew 5:44], and some thou shalt love above thine own soul" (compare "Epistle of Barnabas," 19:11, and another "Didache" version, Harnack and Gebhard, "Texte u. Untersuchungen," 13:1:7 et seq.). (This is the interpretation of Leviticus 19:18; compare above, 1:3.)

Ch. 3:1 dwells on lighter sins, and begins by laying down the following principle: "My child, flee from every evil and from whatsoever is similar to it." This well-known maxim, , is ascribed in Tosef., Hul. 2:24 to R. Eliezer of the second Christian century, and in Ab. R. N. (ed. Schechter, pp. 8, 9) to Job, and is explained: "Avoid light sins in order to escape grosser sins" (compare also Ḥul. 44b; Derek Ereẓ Zuṭa,; 1 Thessalonians 5:22; and Bacher, "Die Agada der Tannaiten," 1:113,281). In this sense are the commandments of the Decalogue further amplified:

2 warns against anger and contention as leading to murder.

3, against lust, lascivious speeches and looks as leading to fornication and adultery.

4, against divination, astrology, and other heathen practises as leading to idolatry.

5, against lying, avarice, and vanity as leading to theft.

6-9, against an irreverential and presumptuous attitude toward God as leading to blasphemy.

10, enjoining the disciple to accept every seemingly evil happening as good because coming from God.

Ch. 4:1-13 refers again to the duty toward God, stating that the honor of God includes the study of His Word; the honor of the teacher, the support of the students and practisers of the Law; the honor of the father, the support of the household; and after having positively enjoined hatred of hypocrisy and of whatever is evil (see Ab. R. N. [ed. Schechter, p. 64]), it declares in a genuinely Jewish spirit that "the commandments of the Lord should all be kept; none to be added, and none to be taken away" (compare Deuteronomy 4:2, 13:1 [12:32]).

Ch. recapitulates the prohibitory laws under the heading "This is the Way of Death"; the enumeration, however, shows lack of order.

Ch. contains a warning against false teachers, and addressing the proselyte in verse 2, it says: "If thou art able to bear the whole yoke of the Lord, thou wilt be perfect; if not, do what thou canst." This is obviously an allusion to the two classes of proselytes Judaism recognized: the full proselyte, who accepted all the laws of the Torah, including circumcision, Sabbath, and the dietary laws; and the semi-proselyte, who accepted only the Noachian laws as binding. For the latter verse 3 contains the warning not to eat meat which has been offered to idols, which is forbidden also to the Noachidæ.

The "Two Ways."

As a matter of course, this Jewish manual could not be used in its entirety by the Church from the moment when she deviated from Jewish practises and views. Just as the Shema' Yisrael in the saying of Jesus (Mark 12:29) was dropped by the other Gospel writers, so was the whole first part of the "Didache," dealing with monotheism, tampered with by the Christian editor. The whole book has fallen into disorder, and much of it is misunderstood and misinterpreted by Christian scholars, who judge it only from the point of view of the Church. The fundamental ideas of the "Didache" are indisputably Jewish. The teaching of the "Two Ways," the one of life and the other of death, runs as a leading thought throughout Jewish literature. Just as Moses set before the people of Israel "life and good, death and evil" (Deuteronomy 30:15-19; Jeremiah 21:8), so is the choice between the two roads to be made ever anew (Psalms 1:6; Proverbs 2:12-20, 6:23; Ecclus. [Sirach] 15:17; Slavonic Enoch, 30:15; IV Ezra 3:7, 4:4; Pirḳe R. El.; Gen. R. , ,; Targum to Genesis 3:22; Enoch, 94:2 et seq.; Baruch 4:2; Apoc. Baruch, 42:5 et seq., 85:13; Book of Jubilees, 22:17-29; Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Asher, 1; Abot R. N.; Ber. 28b; Sifre, Debarim, 43, 54, based on ["the way"]; Deuteronomy 11:28; Gen. R. to Genesis 28:20 [ = see Targum]; Ex. R.; Deut. R.; Midrash, Tehillim to Psalms 2:3, with reference to ; Isaiah 2:3; Psalms 26:5, 39:2, 2, 68:21, 119:9, 146:9; Midrash Proverbs 1:15 []. This twofold way was especially emphasized in the preaching to the Gentiles, who were to be won over to the right way (Sibyllines, Proœmium 24; 3:11,233,721; 8:399). And a faint reminiscence of the twofold way appears to be preserved in the later Halakah insisting that the applicant for admission into Judaism be informed of the death-penalties attached to certain transgressions (see Yeb. 47a, b; compare Ruth R. 1:17 with reference to the Biblical words "Where thou diest will I die"). Another leading idea of the "Didache" is the twofold duty: love of God and love of man; both being prefaced by the word = "And thou shalt love" (Deuteronomy 6:4; Leviticus 19:18; see Sifre, Debarim, 32; Ab. R. N. [ed. Schechter, p. 64]; Gen. R. xxiv, end). Upon God as "the Maker of man" rests the claim of the fellow man to love (Job 31:15).

It is noteworthy that the "golden rule" is given in the "Didache" according to the traditional Jewish interpretation—negatively: (see Targ. to Leviticus 19:18; Tobit 4:15; Philo in Eusebius, "Præparatio Evangelica," 8:7; "Apostolic Constitutions," 1:1; see see DIDASCALIA; compare Taylor, "Sayings of the Jewish Fathers," 2d ed., p. 142), exactly as Hillel and Akiba taught it when instructing the proselyte regarding the chief commandment of the Law (Shab. 31b; Ab. R. N., B, [ed. Schechter, p. 53]). On the other hand, the New Testament (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31) hasit in a positive form (compare Matthew 22:35-40 and Mark 12:29-31, which discussion is based on the "Didache," not vice versa).

Based on the Decalogue.

A third characteristic of the teaching is the use of the Decalogue as the exponent of ethics in its twofold aspect: duty to God, and duty to man (compare Taylor, c. pp. 216 et seq.). Evidently the original "Didache" contained a systematic exposition of the Ten Commandments, whereas the "Didache" in its present shape has preserved only fragments, and these in great disorder. Thus, for instance, 4:9-11, and possibly 4:1,2, dwelling on the relations of the members of the household to one another, refers to the fifth commandment, nor is it likely that the Sabbath commandment was omitted (compare 14:1, where the Christian Sabbath is referred to). The Decalogue and the Shema', as fundamental elements of Judaism, were recited every morning in the Temple (Tamid 5:1), and only because the early Judæo-Christians (Minim; see Irenæus, "Adversus Hæreses," 4:16) claimed divine revelation exclusively for the Ten Commandments, discarding the other Mosaic laws as temporary enactments, was the recital of the DECALOGUE in the daily morning liturgy afterward abolished (Yer. Ber. 1:3c). Philo still regarded the Decalogue as fundamental ("De Decem Oraculis"; compare Pes. R. -; Num. R. 13:15). The later Halakah insists that the proselyte should be acquainted instead with the 613 commandments of the Law (Yeb. 47b), whereas the Christian Apostles laid all the greater stress on the second part of the Decalogue (Romans 13:9).

A fourth distinguishing feature of the "Didache" is the accentuation of the lighter sins and lighter duties as leading to graver ones: "Flee from every evil and from whatsoever is similar to it" (3:1). This is not a proof of "the superiority of the Gospel ethics over the law" (Schaff, note ad loc.), but the very essence of the Pharisaic interpretation of the Law. The same idea is expressed in Ab. R. N. (ed. Schechter, pp. 8, 9, 12; comp. Ab. 1:1): "Make a fence around the Law"; (Schaff, note ad loc.), and in the adage "Go around the vineyard, they say to the Nazarite, but dare not to enter it" (Shab. 13a). Upon this principle the whole rabbinical code of ethics is built up, of which the Sermon on the Mount is only the echo (see Ab. R. N. c., and ETHICS; compare Taylor, "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles," pp. 24 et seq.). The later Halakah also sets down the rule that the proselyte has to be made acquainted with some of the lighter and some of the graver commandments— (Yeb. 47a).

Dependence upon Jewish Custom.

It must accordingly have been simply in imitation of the Jewish example which was offered by the "Didache" that the epistles of Paul, of Peter, and of John were made to close with moral exhortations, all of which point to a common source or archetype. Familiarity with the "Two Ways" of the "Didache" furthermore accounts for the term "way" or "way of God" given to the Christian religion as preached to Gentiles (Acts 9:2; 18:25,26; 19:9,23; 22:4; 24:14,22); and the expression "I am the Way and the Life" (John 14:6); also "the way of truth" and "the right way" ( 2:2,15). Finally, the "Didache," after adaptation to Christian use, circulated in different versions. It was attached to the "Epistle of Barnabas" (-); it was worked into the form of "Sayings of the Twelve Apostles" (Κάνονες Εκκλησιαστικοὶ 'τῶν 'Αγίων' Αποστόλων), and as such propagated in the various churches of the East. An older version is attached to the "Didascalia" as the beginning of the seventh book of the "Apostolic Constitutions." Whether the latter part was also worked out after a Jewish model, or whether the whole Jewish "Didache" did not originally also contain rules concerning baptism, prayer, and thanksgiving similar to those of the Church manual, is difficult to say. Much speaks in favor of this hypothesis: on the one hand, the antagonistic spirit which transferred the Hebrew Ma'amadot fasts from Monday and Thursday, and on the other hand, the expression "Take the first-fruit and give according to the commandment" (13:5,7). But the dependence upon Jewish custom is especially indicated by the following thanksgiving formulas

(1) Over the cup: "We give thanks to Thee, our Father, for the holy wine of David Thy servant which Thou hast made known to us through Jesus Thy servant." This strange formula is the Jewish benediction over the wine,"Blessed be Thou who hast created the fruit of the vine" Christianized (compare Psalms 80:15, Targum; 116:13 refers to David at the banquet of the future life; Pes. 119b; John 15:1; compare Taylor, c. pp. 69, 129). (2) Over the broken bread: "We give thanks to Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which Thou hast made known to us through Jesus Thy servant. As this broken bread, scattered upon the mountains and gathered together, became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy Kingdom!" (compare the benediction "Raḥem" according to Rab Naḥman, which contains a reference to Psalms 147:2; Ber. 49a). (3) Over the meal: "We thank Thee, O holy Father, for Thy holy name, which Thou hast caused to dwell [κατεσκηνωσας, reference to the Shekinah] in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which Thou hast made known to us through Jesus Thy servant. Thou, Almighty Lord, didst make all things for Thy name's sake; Thou gavest food and drink to men for enjoyment that they might give thanks to Thee, but to us Thou didst freely give spiritual food and drink and life eternal through Thy servant. . . . Remember, O Lord, Thy Church to deliver her from all evil and to perfect her in love of Thee, and gather her together from the four winds, sanctified for Thy Kingdom which Thou didst prepare for her. Let grace come and let this world pass away! Hosanna to the Son of David" (-10:6).

The original Jewish benediction over the meal was a thanksgiving for the food and for the Word of God, the Torah as the spiritual nurture, and a prayer for the restitution of the kingdom of David. The Church transformed the Logos into the incarnated son of God, while expressing the wish for His speedy return to the united congregation (the Church). It is the prayer of the Judæo-Christian community of the first century, and this casts light upon the whole Christianized "Didache." As to the relation of the "Didache" to Phokylides, PSEUDO-PHOCYLIDES; see also Didascalia.

  • Editio princeps: Theoph. Bryennios, Διδαχη τῶν Δώδεκα 'Αποστόλωε, Constantinople, 1883;
  • Rendel Harris, The Teaching of the Apostles (with facsimile text), Baltimore and London, 1887;
  • Ph. Schaff, The Oldest Church Manual, Called "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles," New York, 1886, where all the literature is given;
  • C. Taylor, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, with illustrations from the Talmud (two lectures), Cambridge, 1886;
  • A. Harnack, Die Lehre der Zwölf Apostel, in Texte u. Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der Altchristlichen Literatur, 2:2, Leipsic, 1884;
  • idem, Die Apostellehre u. die Jüdischen Beiden Wege, Leipsic, 1886, 1896;
  • O. Bardenhewer, Geschichteder Altkirchlichen Literatur, 1902, 1:83-86:
  • Iselin, Eine Bisher Unbekannte Version des Ersten Theils der Apostellehre, in Texte u. Untersuchungen, 13:1, Leipsic, 1895;
  • Herzog-Hauck, Real-Eneyklopädie, s.
S. S.
Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Didache'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​d/didache.html. 1901.
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