Category Archives: Didache

Jonathan Draper on the Didache’s use of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible

Recently appearing from Jonathan Draper is his “The Old Testament in the Didache and in subsequent Church Orders” in Siegfried Kreuzer et al. (edd.), Die Septuaginta – Orte und Intentionen (WUNT 361; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2016), 743-763.

The title is slightly misleading, in that beyond the Didache the only church-order discussed is Constitutiones apostolorum. Nonetheless this is a useful preliminary study.

On one minor, but significant, point, I find myself persuaded. Namely that Didache 9.3 does not make reference to Matthaean tradition, as I had always supposed, but is rather derived from Leviticus 22:10, which concerns those who may eat of Temple offerings. For Draper, this is the result of seeing the Didachistic community as a sanctified community. Is it Anglo-Catholicism which leads me to suggest that some sanctity also attaches to the food?

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Didache Bibliography, again

It dawns on me that I never posted an update on the saga of the Oxford online Didache bibliography.

The sordid reality is that I gave up on it, going goggle-eyed at the (apparently bizarre) formatting required. Thankfully my friend Taras Khomych came to the rescue and finished the job, becoming co-author in the process. I suppose it is now available… I’m afraid I lost all interest. Even the offer of free Oxford books could not lure me back.

Brighter news, however, in that Jonathan Draper has posted an annotated bibliography of his writings on the Didache to This is very useful. And of course we look forward to his (long awaited) commentary for the Oxford Apostolic Fathers series.

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Docetism and the Didachistic Eucharist

A correspondence is occurring through which may be of wider interest. Obviously my correspondent does not have the learning that I am sure is possessed of my usual readers, but there may be something here which is useful to somebody. It has certainly exposed a hole in my own knowledge.

It started with the question:

Why is there no mention of the death of Christ in the eucharistic passages of the Didache? Is there any gnostic influence here?

I replied:

A lot of people have asked that question over the years. The problem, as I see it, is that we have allowed Paul’s witness to determine what the Eucharist means, namely a concentration on Jesus’ death. This is one strand in the nest of meanings which the Eucharist had in the different early Christian communities, and one which, when the eucharist becomes fixed in meaning and form in the third and fourth centuries, comes to be prominent. But it was not how the Didache people understood the Eucharist. Rather they understood the presence of Jesus in the meal as being a foreshadowing of his presence on earth when he comes again as messiah and judge.

I do not think we can say that it is “Gnostic” influence, though that to an extent depends on when you think the Didache emerged. Most scholars, however, believe that it had been completed by the beginning of the second century (some would put it much earlier, some slightly later) whereas gnosticism does not really emerge until a bit later than that. “Gnostic”, like “Christian” and “Jewish” in the first and second century, is a bit of a vague category, and there were varying gnostic practices with regard to the eucharist, and varying beliefs and evaluations of it. Some, like the community of the Gospel of Judas, rather looked down on it, some, like that of the Gospel of Philip, had a very exalted understanding. But I don’t think any of them saw the eucharist as a “sneak preview” of Christ’s second coming as the Didache people apparently did.

One might have thought that the end of it but the reply came back:

Does not John refer to gnostic denial of Jesus in the flesh. Also gnosticism was strong in Syria where the Didache came from, and also there may be a quote from the Sentences of Sextus, a pythagorean work.

To which I slightly intemperately responded:

1: The passages in the Johannine epistles are capable of a number of interpretations (see Streett, They went out from us). Even if this refers to Cerinthus, there is a whole question of whether Cerinthus was actually gnostic. And what, in any case, is the relevance to the Didache?
2: So what if D and gnosis share geographical space?
3: Not sure that D quotes Sextus, and Sextus is not Pythagorean, though it has some intellectual overlap. And it is certainly not gnostic.

I am not an expert on gnostic systems, but I know enough to know that it is a difficult category to use.

My correspondent was undeterred by this display of petulance and came back twice.

Is it accurate to say that the idea Jesus did not come in the flesh or did not really physically die on the cross, would show up as an omission, especially in the docetic eucharistic liturgy that spotlights the death of Christ. Is that accurate to say?


Is this a reference to docetism?
“I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” – 2 John 1:7
Does the Didache affirm the physicality of Christ or his sacrifice?

This time I responded at greater length and with greater patience:

The phrase you cite from John:

oἱ μὴ ὁμολογοῦντες Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐρχόμενον ἐν σαρκί:

Can be interpreted as not confessing

a) Jesus to be the (same as) the Christ who actually came (Cerinthian separationism).
b) Jesus to be the Messiah, who actually came. (Judaism)
c) Jesus Christ coming in the flesh (i.e. he came some other way) (docetism).
or indeed,
d) That Jesus Christ did not come at all (grammatically possible but historically unlikely!)

The problem with docetism is that it is very hard to define, and in particular the kind of “docetism” that we know from the textbooks does not seem to appear until the third century, if then. Last year I wrote an essay for a collection on docetism in which I struggled to define Ignatius’ “docetists”. It made me realize the complexity of the question, which I had not myself appreciated before I started that project. I think John is anti Cerinthian separationism, and that that is effectively docetic, but not in the “textbook” sense.

So when you ask “Does the Didache affirm the physicality of Christ or his sacrifice?” I have to answer that it makes no reference to this issue, but that does not mean that it denied either tenet, simply that it is not working in the milieux in which such issues are being considered. The fact that is derived from a law-observant setting in, possibly, Syria, and that gnostic schools derive from the same setting is not really pertinent. Thus when you first suggested that the didachistic eucharist, not making reference to the death of Christ, might thereby hide some docetic tendencies, I suggested that we should not make the Pauline eucharist normative for first century eucharistic celebrations, and that the Didache contributes another strand to our understanding of the tangled skein of roots which go to making the later eucharist.

So you ask:

Is it accurate to say that the idea Jesus did not come in the flesh or did not really physically die on the cross, would show up as an omission, especially in the docetic eucharistic liturgy that spotlights the death of Christ. Is that accurate to say?

I am guessing that what you mean is that the eucharistic liturgy spotlights the death of Christ, and so if such a reference is absent that is an indication of docetism. However, at the risk of banging on on the same old drum, the problem is with the premiss. Why should the eucharistic liturgy spotlight the death of Christ? The Didachistic liturgy spotlights the messianic presence of Christ. What it made of the death we cannot tell, but we cannot say that the death was denied, simply that the Didachistic eucharist, unlike the Pauline, did not encode Christ’s death. We may suggest, beyond this, that since the Didache seems to envisage salvation as happening in the world (firstly through realizing eschatology and finally, with Christ’s return in judgement) then this is not salvation from the world, which, giving due acknowledgement to the distinction in gnostic systems, seems to be fundamental to them all.

I don’t know enough about gnostic eucharistic rites to comment on them. I need to read, Einar Thomassen, The spiritual seed and Herbert Schmid, Die Eucharistie ist Jesus at least. Maybe I need salvation from a thousand other responsibilities to do so.

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Vaucher on Draper on children and slaves in the Didache

Daniel Vaucher submits the following reaction to J.A.Draper, “Children and Slaves in the Community of the Didache and the Two Ways Tradition” in J. A. Draper and C. N. Jefford (eds.), The Didache: A Missing Piece of the Puzzle in Early Christianity (Atlanta: SBL, 2015), 85-121.

Jonathan Draper contextualizes the Haustafel in Did 4.9-11 with its exhortation to slaves to obey their masters, with the inherent contradiction, that the TWT actually asks for community of goods (Did. 4.5-8). I agree with his warning, (p. 91), “that the generalized reciprocity and egalitarian economic system developed within this early Christian community should not be romanticized”, because community of goods and slavery is an “internal contradiction”. He goes on to state (p. 96 f.) that the rules would have severe consequences if applied rigorously in a Christian Jewish community. “The first and foremost consequence of renouncing ownership of one’s property would be the disinheritance of one’s children and the manumission of any slaves one owned.”

Shortly analyzing the admonition to slaveowners that they mustn’t command their slaves in bitterness, he concludes (p. 102 f.) that “this is an uneasy compromise to be sure, but it is directed in my opinion towards keeping the ideal of general reciprocity in place.”

But I’m sceptic whether the author of the Didache really envisaged a community of goods (or egalitarian community). In my opinion, what is said about the “hohe Widerspruchstoleranz” of the CA might also account for the Didache, because it is a collection of different traditions: the admonition to slaves has a long history (pagan, Jewish and Christian) and it’s certainly not something the author came up with himself. I don’t think we can ever compare the two notions of “sharing all you have with your brothers” and “slaves, obey!” Draper is right in my opinion in pointing at the difficulty that the two chapters pose, but I don’t agree with his solution.

In my opinion, neither Didache nor any other Christian source I know really asks for community of goods, but they use the well-known topos to ask for more consequent almsgiving and charity. Compare 1 Tim, Clement quis dives and Cyprian de opere eleem.

Luke’s depiction of the community in Jerusalem as sharing everything they have is certainly idealized the same way. Community of goods (and having no slaves!) was projected onto the Golden Age, a long lost time with equality and justice. Luke’s story of the Jerusalem community actually relates to this Golden Age of Christianity, but at a time, when it’s already gone. Property and slave-owning has become normal even for the Christian communities.

Maybe there was a community of goods in an Essene circle. Interestingly, Philo’s description of the Essenes, and to some extent Josephus’ also, again relates the community (and having no slaves) to equality and justice, and therefore, idealizes it in the context of the Golden Age.

I can’t tell whether the TWT originates from the Essenes, as I’m no expert. But in my opinion it’s for sure that the Qumran documents have more severe rules to give in all property upon the entry into the community, whereas the Didache does not. Why not? If the author wanted to realize a community of goods, or at least “general reciprocity”, he could have asked for it much more forcefully. But the following admonition to slaves points more in the direction, that he accepts the patriarchal structures of his community. He – as many other Christian writers – simply uses the ideal of a community of goods to encourage charity.

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The fragment on the mountain

Out any day now is “The Fragment on the Mountain: A Note on Didache 9.4a”. Neotestamentica 49.1 (2015) 175–188.

Here is the abstract:

This article suggests that Didache 9.4, which makes reference to a fragment that had been scattered on a mountain, and employs this image to refer to the eschatological ingathering of the church, should be understood as an allusion to a tradition held in common with the first and fourth Gospels of a mountainside feeding miracle performed by Jesus. Recognition of such an allusion both illuminates the obscurities of the text and provides a basis for understanding the Didachistic Eucharist as a proleptic participation in the messianic banquet.

If anyone has difficulty getting hold of this I can oblige.

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Forthcoming book of essays on the Didache

Whilst we look forward to the publication of a volume of essays on the Didache from SBL, edited by Jonathan Draper and Clayton Jefford, I can at least share the ToC.

The title is The Didache: a missing piece of the puzzle in early Christianity. Since we have the Didache, perhaps we are entitled to ask how it can be a missing piece. The very complexity of early Christianity is such, however, that it is possible to say that every piece of the puzzle that we find alerts us to how many more we are missing.

Introduction: Dynamics, Methodologies, and Progress in Didache studies (Clayton N. Jefford)

Part 1: approaches to the Text as a Whole
Identity in the Didache community (Stephen Finlan)

Authority and Perspective in the Didache (Clayton N. Jefford)

The Distress signals of Didache Research: Quest for a Viable future (Aaron Milavec)

Children and slaves in the community of the Didache and the Two Ways Tradition (Jonathan Draper)

Reflections on the Didache and its community: a Response (Andrew Gregory)

Part 2: Leadership and Liturgy
Baptism and holiness: Two Requirements authorizing Participation in the Didache’s eucharist (Huub van de Sandt)

The Lord’s Prayer (Didache 8) at the faultline of Judaism and Christianity (Peter J. Tomson)

Pray “in This Way”: formalized speech in Didache 9–10 (Jonathan Schwiebert)

The Ritual Meal in Didache 9–10: Progress in understanding (John J. Clabeaux)

Response to essays on Leadership and Liturgy in the Didache (Joseph G. Mueller)

Part 3: The Didache and Matthew
Before and after Matthew (Bruce Brooks)

The sectio evangelica (Didache 1.3b–2.1) and Performance (Perttu Nikander)

The Didache and Oral Theory (Nancy Pardee)

From the sermon on the Mount to the Didache (John W. Welch)

The Lord Jesus and his coming in the Didache (Murray J. Smith)

Matthew and the Didache: some comments on the comments (Joseph Verheyden)

Part 4: The Didache and Other early Christian Texts
Without Decree: Pagan sacrificial Meat and the early history of the Didache (Matti Myllykoski)

Another Gospel: exploring early Christian Diversity with Paul and the Didache (Taras Khomych)

The first century Two Ways catechesis and hebrews 6:1–6 (Matthew Larsen and Michael Svigel

The Didache and Revelation (Alan J. P. Garrow)

The Didache as a source for the Reconstruction of early Christianity: a Response (Jeffrey Bingham)

Conclusion: Missing Pieces in the Puzzle or Wild Goose chase? A Retrospect and Prospect (Jonathan Draper)

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The Two Ways Tradition in Barnabas (and the Didache)

Relatively recently published is Julien C.H. Smith, “The Epistle of Barnabas and the two ways of teaching authority” VigChr 68 (2014), 465-497.

In arguing that the two ways elements suffuse the entire epistle, Smith presents the case that the concluding chapters, summarizing the two ways, are more than simply an awkward appendix. More to the point the author argues that the two ways tradition is part of the community’s identity-formation. In particular he suggests that this bolsters the author’s identity as a figure of authority within the community

I am not persuaded on the author’s final point, not really following his argument here. Certainly there are elements within the Two Ways Tradition which lead to the formation of an authority figure out of the teacher, but I have to ask whether this is really central to the Tradition or to its purpose in Barnabas.

However, the case that the Two Ways Tradition suffuses the entire document is persuasive, and the suggestion that the Tradition contributes to the community’s identity is attractive. Possibly, having dissuaded the community from the observance of the law, and in particular those elements of law-observance which serve as identity markers (such as the Sabbath and circumcision) the author has to employ the Two Ways as an identity marker setting out the positive directions which are to be followed in lieu of those which formerly took prominence and which mark out the Christian community as distinct.

Which inevitably raises the question of whether the same is true of the employment of the Tradition within the Didache. In particular, might this provide some form of answer to the question of whether law observance was ultimately demanded of gentiles? It seems to me that if the Tradition is employed in one Christian community as a means of providing an alternative focus of identity, although this does not mean that every Christian community adopted the Tradition with the same intent, nonetheless another might do so. Certainly this is coherent with the use of the Tradition as pre-baptismal catechesis,.


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