After all the background I gave yesterday, I can now give a succinct answer to the question that was raised by a reader. Here it is again.
I was surprised to see that, in the Didache, the form of the Golden Rule is in the negative. I’ve read that the positive formulation in the Sermon on the Mount may be original to Jesus. If the Didache used Matthew as a source, how does one account for that reversion?
I think this question has a simple answer. It is that the Golden Rule, which is known to everyone today mainly by the way Jesus said it, was a common teaching but was almost expressed negatively rather than positively (as I’ll explain below). When the author of the Didache states the rule he does so in the form that he was most familiar with rather than in the form known to Matthew.
It is important to recognize that when one speaks of Matthew as a “source” for the Didache it is not the same thing as saying, say, that Mark was the source for Matthew. When Matthew used Mark as a source, he literally copied, in places word for word, entire sentences or even fuller passages from Mark. Most of Mark’s stories are retained by Matthew, sometimes wholesale, sometimes changed a little, sometimes changed a lot.
The Didachist did not …
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