Brief notice: Wilhite, One of life and one of death

In comparing the Didache to other two-ways documents, particularly the near-contemporary Barnabas and 1QS, and the (uncertain of dating but traditionsgeschichtlich proximate) Doctrina apostolorum, it is notable that certain elements are absent, notably any eschatological warning consequent on failure to observe the teaching, and the presence of angels having watch over the two ways.

This is hardly a new observation, but Shawn Wilhite, in the recently published “One of life and one of death”: apocalypticism and the Didache’s two ways (Piscataway: Gorgias, 2019) documents this in detail. The term “apocalypticism” is given a broad definition, as is the literature of two ways, extending far more widely than other treatments, including my own. There is benefit in this, however, in that the observation of the absence of any features in the Didache which even broadly might be termed apocalyptic is all the more striking, and the uniqueness of the Didache in the literature, given the wider range of literature than that usually considered, is all the more remarkable.

Wilhite is not the first to consider this phenomenon, but it is documented here in far more detail than previously. Van de Sandt and Flusser, largely on the basis of comparison with the Doctrina, had previously suggested that this might be the result of ethicization; Wilhite demonstrates that this is highly probable.

We are led to wonder whether this in some sense is the result of the adaptation by D of TWT to pre-baptismal catechesis. Given his argument that D16 is not a separated part of D1-6.3 (as indeed, I had myself suggested, in my libellus on the two ways) we are again forced to deny Draper’s assertions that full Torah obedience is expected of all members of the Didache community. Wilhite himself, however, is not as clear on this aspect as he might be.

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