The Development of the Canon of the New Testament
Didache (~70 CE)
The Didache ("The Teaching") is one of the most fascinating yet perplexing documents to emerge from the early church. The title (in ancient times "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles") was known from references to it by Athanasius, Didymus, and Eusebius, and Serapion of Thmuis (4th century) has a quotation from it in his Eucharistic prayer [Richardson] p. 163. But no copy was known until 1873, when Bryennios discovered the codex Hierosolymitanus, which contained the full text of the Didache which he published in 1883. Since then it has been the focus of scholarly attention to an extent quite out of proportion to its modest length. Yet such basic information as who wrote and where and when remain as much as mystery as when it was first discovered.
The document is composed of two parts: (1) instruction about the "Two Ways", and (2) a manual of church order and practice. The "Two Ways" material appears to have been intended as a summary of basic instruction about the Christian life to be taught to those who were preparing for baptism and church membership. In its present form it represents the Christianization of a common Jewish form of moral instruction. Similar material is found in a number of other Christian writings from the 1st to the 5th centuries, e.g. the Epistle of Barnabas, the Didascalia, the Apostolic Church Ordinances, the Summary of Doctrine, the Apostolic Constitutions, the Life of Schnudi, and On the Teaching of the Apostles (or Doctrina), some of which are dependent on the Didache. The interrelationships between these documents has not been completely worked out.
The second part consists of instructions about food, baptism, fasting, prayer, the Eucharist, and various offices and positions of leadership. In addition to providing the earliest evidence of a mode of baptism other than immersion, it records the oldest known Christian Eucharist prayers and a form of the Lord's Prayer quite similar to that found in the Gospel according to Matthew.
The document closes with a brief apocalyptic section that has much in common with the so-called Synoptic Apocalypse (Mark 13; Matthew 24-25; Luke 24).
Dating the Didache is difficult because there is a lack of hard evidence and it is a composite document. It may have been put into its present form as late as 150 CE, though a date considerably closer to the end of the 1st century seems more probable. The materials from which it was composed, however, reflect the state of the church at an even earlier time. A very thorough commentary, [Audet], suggests about 70 CE and he is not likely to be off by more than a decade.
Egypt or Syria are mentioned most often as possible places of origin, but the evidence is indirect and circumstantial. The reference to "mountains" (9.4) would appear to suggest a Syrian (or Palestinian) provenance. The final editing, however, may have occurred elsewhere.
The English translation in [LHH] pp. 149-158 is taken from these witnesses:
Pages created by Glenn Davis, 1997-2010.
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