In the recent exchange that I posted on the blog (dealing with the existence of Q) the document known as the Didache was mentioned – especially by guest contributor Alan Garrow, who thinks that the Didache was a source used by the authors of Matthew and Luke.  I think even Alan will agree that this is a highly anomalous view; I don’t know of any other scholar who accepts it (though if Alan knows of any who do, I’m sure he can tell us in a comment).  The Didache is almost always assumed to have quoted the Gospels – or at least the traditions found in the Gospels – not vice versa.

But what is the Didache (pronounced DID-ah-kay)?  Ah, that’s the prior question.  And I realized this morning that I haven’t talked about it much on the blog.  I better do so!

The Didache – What Is It and What Does it Mean?

I published a translation of the Didache (the title means “Teaching”) in my two-volume edition of the Apostolic Fathers in 2003, in the Loeb Classical Library (Harvard University Press).   In that edition I talk about what the book is, whether it is one book or several documents that have been cut and pasted together, when it was written, and so on.   That may be useful information for the blog, and so I will give it over the course of two or three posts.

I have edited my Introduction slightly to make it a bit more user friendly (it was written for scholars and advanced students).   Here is the opening of the Introduction, where I explain briefly something about its discovery and contents.


When Was the Didache Written?

Few manuscript discoveries of modern times have created the stir caused by the discovery and publication of the Didache in the late nineteenth century. Found by Philotheos Bryennios in 1873 in the Library of the Holy Sepulchre in Constantinople and published by him ten years later, the Didache was immediately seen to be one of most important literary remains of early Christianity outside of the New Testament.

For here was not only an early presentation of the ethical teachings known as the “two paths” (or the “two ways”), familiar already from the Epistle of Barnabas and later texts (see below), but also the earliest surviving descriptive account of the Christian rituals of baptism and eucharist, along with instructions involving itinerant Christian apostles and prophets in an age before the church hierarchy of bishop, presbyters, and deacons was firmly in place.

Some scholars immediately recognized the antiquity of the account, dating it to the beginning of the second century or the end of the first, before even some of the books of the New Testament were written.  Almost everyone realized that here at last was a book that had achieved near-canonical status in some early Christian circles, known by title from discussions of the church Fathers but for the most part lost to history sometime after the fourth century.

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