Brief notice: Chun Ling Yu, Bonds and boundaries among the early churches

Chun Ling Yu, Bonds and boundaries among the early churches: community maintenance in the letter of James and the Didache (STT29; Turnhout: Brepols, 2018) is an examination of James and the Didache in the particular light of theories concerning conflict and group maintenance derived from the social sciences.

In this dIS-9782503580739-1brief note we concentrate on what he has to say regarding the Didache.

In the chapter on community tensions he takes the Schöllgenian line that the Didache is pointed at particular issues, rather than seeing it as a more generalized document giving ritual instructions; although I would agree that there are particular issues, I would suggest that the Didache is more generalized, though inevitably the issues that are important or controversial within the community will figure larger than others.

Yu notes a number of possible internal sources of tension, such as the inclusion of gentiles within a Jewish community, tensions with potential false prophets, transients, and false teachers, though I am not sure that he is right in suggesting that there is insufficient respect for community leaders. He points out that these provide the conditions anticipated by conflict theories, and that the document, serving as an authoritative partner in the dialectic, serves the means of conflict reduction suggested by the Allport-Pettigrew hypothesis, namely the equalization of status of members, the encouragement to co-operation to common goals, and the support of established authorities, thus both harmonizing and regulating (using the language of Kazan).

He further notes that the strong in-group is further strengthened in cohesion through the implicit and explicit identification of out-groups, both the wider gentile world and the wider Jewish world, the hypocrites. In part this is through ritual, in part through a common code (for instance the setting of particular fast days against those of the hypocrites), but chiefly, it emerges, through norms of behaviour which are distinct from either out-group and which are instilled through the two ways. Thus returning to Allport he suggests that the rituals of the community serve to maintain the community and to resolve sources of potential conflict through the common ritual life.

In summary, there are inevitable points of disagreement; however, Yu presents a far more sophisticated study of the Didache on the basis of social science models than I have previously read.

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