The Didache ("Teachings of the Twelve," but titles assigned to ancient texts have little initial value in serious research) has been judged early because of the simplicity of its implied rituals, and perhaps even more because of the simplicity of its implied administrative structure, which is not far from that of the Epistle of James. On the way to confirming that impression, certain contrary indications need to be addressed, chief of which is the text's relation to Matthew (see elsewhere for the c65/75 date we assign to Matthew). We also need to go through the basic philological evaluation process which applies to any text.
As it presents itself in the Bryennios manuscript (written in 1056, discovered in 1873), the text falls into three segments: (1) Did 1-6, a version of the Two Ways tract; (2) Did 7-15, guidelines for those performing baptism and the Eucharist and regulating community behavior; and (3) Did 16, a brief Apocalypse, or description of what will happen in the Last Days. All three segments are notable in that they do not mention the Resurrection (or the associated Atonement doctrine), even in places, such as the Eucharist prayers, where above all one would expect to find it. This is then an Alpha document, and despite any later additions to an original core, it has consistently remained an Alpha document. For details, see Niederwimmer; our working conclusions on some major points are summarized below:
Text. Chief witnesses for the Didache as a whole (see separately the Two Ways) are the Bryennios manuscript, which indicates a lacuna at the end of the text copied by that scribe, and Apostolic Constitutions 7, which incorporates the entire Didache (while modifying it in a Beta direction); ApCon 7 (supported by readings from a Georgian version of the Didache; see Aldridge) supplies the missing ending of the Bryennios Didache. We suggest the numbering Did 16:9-10 for the new material. For a translation of the restored Didache Apocalypse, see here.
Audience. The Two Ways (whose origin lies in the 22-part Jewish Vidui prayer; see Harris) was intended for believers at the most elementary level, whether Jewish or Gentile. They are general instructions for the present. The Didache 16 Apocalypse, like the Matthean Apocalypse (and the Mark 13 Apocalypse, of which Matthew is a later version) addresses a central concern of the whole early church; we see Paul giving similar explanations to his churches. Its audience is believers in general. These contrast with the central liturgical segment, which is meant for the guidance of church leaders.
Affinities. The Did 16 Apocalypse is extensively indebted to Matthew (see Verheyden), and a sort of preface to the Didache Two Ways (Did 1:2b-5a) also has seemingly dense contacts with Matthew. The Didache Lord's Prayer (Did 8:2b) is closer to Matthew 6:9-13 than to the simpler Luke version. These seem to be firm Mt > Did relationships. But other Synoptic relationships may be explained as derived not from Matthew (or now and then from Luke), but from early Jesus tradition as also represented in Matthew's source, Mark. This pattern suggests that the Didache is not a post-Matthean text, but rather an early text which at some point has been Mattheanized.
Integrity. Given the different original audiences for the three segments, and the implications of the clearest Synoptic affinities, we suggest as a working hypothesis that the text came together in more than one stage, one earlier than Matthew and one modified in the light of knowledge of Matthew. On this view, the Didache is most probably a liturgical manual, meant for the guidance of church leaders, to which were later added teaching materials meant for members, but here provided to the same church leaders. This gives the Didache a constant audience throughout its formation period.
Date. In relative terms, Stage 1 is pre-Matthean, and Stage 2 is post-Matthean. No absolute dates at once suggest themselves. We notice in passing that, in our view, Luke also divides into pre-Matthean and post-Matthean stages. This is of interest also to research on Matthew and its immediate influence.
For those who accept the above position, there remain some points inviting further research:
Residual Synoptic Relationships. The proposal of Garrow, that Didache is primary to Matthew, requires to be investigated for the parts of the Didache not identified above as Matthean.
Original Form. Are there other late additions? What is the most likely original form of the Didache as a liturgical guidebook?
Other Alpha Documents. What is the relationship, and relative chronological position, with James, the Philippians Hymn, and other Alpha documents? How coherent are they?
Other suggestions for the Didache, or for its Two Ways segment (here treated separately) are invited herewith.
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