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Since it's rediscovery, the Didache has been important to early Christian studies. Between its views on ethics, the Eucharist, and baptism, the Didache has even forced itself into debates on the Synoptic Problem.

The Didache does refer to Jesus as the 'son' of God, the 'Lord', and the 'Christ'. It also says that God 'bestowed [...] everlasting life through your son'. It even associates the triadic formula 'in the name of the Father and of the son and of the holy spirit' with baptism.

However, there is no mention anywhere of the death or resurrection of Jesus. Notably, the Eucharist is present, but the bread and wine are distinctly not associated with Jesus' crucifixion. Instead, the wine is explicitly given as a metaphor for Jesus being a 'vine' (the messiah) which sprouted from David. Likewise, the bread appears to be a reference to Israel (the reunion after scattering being a common topic in the prophets).

Now concerning the Thanksgiving meal, give thanks in this manner. First, concerning the cup: We thank You, our Father, For the Holy Vine of David Your servant, Whom You made known to us through Your Servant; May the glory be Yours forever. Concerning the broken bread: We thank You, our Father, For the life and knowledge Which You made known to us through Your Servant; May the glory be Yours forever. As this broken bread was scattered over the mountains, And was gathered together to become one, So let Your Body of Faithful be gathered together From the ends of the earth into Your kingdom; for the glory and power are Yours forever. But let no one eat or drink of your Thanksgiving, unless they have been baptized; for concerning this is taught, "Do not give what is holy to dogs."

(Ivan Lewis translation)

This seems completely incongruent with how Jesus is presented in the Synoptics, or anywhere else in the new testament texts, which at least initially calls into question the usual claim that the Didache simply borrowed from one or all of them. I can imagine this would indicate the Didache was either so early it was written before the Eucharist became definitively identified with Jesus' death, or it could indicate the Didache independently inherited the same 'Q' traditions as the Synoptics alongside a distinct Christology.

When was the Didache written? What is the evidence for its date, and possibly place of origin?

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    Against the VTC: We have a meta discussion about 'What texts are open to examination'. The top answer is implicitly inclusive of the Didache, and the second is explicitly inclusive. We have several questions that involve the Didache, some of which touch on the issue of its date. It's an especially important text for the Synoptic Problem. I'm aware there's at least one scholar (Garrow, I think?) who thinks the Didache may even be the Q source. [continued] – user2910 Sep 17 '17 at 19:55
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    [continued] Because of the Didache's close relationship to the Synoptics, as well as its possible rank as an 'early Christian text' (i.e. contemporary to the new testament), I think it would be beneficial to many of us (both as an answer in itself, as well as a point of reference for other Q&As) if Hermeneutics.SE was able to provide an accessible and well-researched answer on the Didache's probable origin. – user2910 Sep 17 '17 at 19:59
  • since you provided such a great explanation of why you feel this is on-topic, I wanted to take a moment to explain my concern: because this question is about the Didache exclusively, and not it's relationship to the gospels I have VTC. If this answer were edited to explain how or why this might be relevant to the Synoptics, I wold side with this being on-topic. – James Shewey Sep 18 '17 at 2:08
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    I'm in agreement with Mark - again, quoting the top answer from 'What texts are open to examination': You build a site for a group of experts. If there are related texts which experts in this field tend to study because the texts are so closely tied to the subject, I would include them as "on topic" for this site. The Didache and similar 1st-2nd century texts are extremely useful context when discussing variant interpretations of many New Testament passages, and so it matters when and where these texts originate, in order for us to determine to what degree they are contextually useful. – Steve Taylor Sep 18 '17 at 7:21
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Many scholars think the Didache was written in Syria in a Jewish-Christian community there. Scholars suggest that the document evolved over time and that at least two layers are present in the document we have today. The earliest writings may have been done around 70 AD. The document probably took its final form no later than 150 AD (see Nicolas Perrin's article "Early Noncanonical Christian Writings" in The World of the New Testament, edited by Joel B. Green and Lee Martin McDonald, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013).

The entire document is composed of two major parts: one part with individual piety as expressed in the "Two Ways" (chapters 1-6) and the second part with instructions regarding baptism, prayers, the Eucharist, and treatment of itinerant prophets and apostles (chapters 7-15). The author of the Didache seems to have used the Gospel of Matthew as a source document since the baptismal formula contained in the Didache is identical with Matthew 28:19. Also the Lord's prayer in the Didache comes right out of Matthew 6:9-13. Church government is an important issue in the Didache and it seems to imply a two-tiered structure of bishops and deacons (Didache 15:1). As you pointed out, the Eucharist liturgy is different the one in Paul's letter to the Corinthians and those found in the four canonical gospels.

Dominic Crossan suggests that there are in fact two Eucharist liturgies in the Didache, one in chapter 9 and an older one in chapter 10. He points out that the chapter 10 Eucharist is older by virtue of the titles given to Jesus. In Didache 10 he is "Jesus the Child" or "Servant of God", a title that goes back to the earliest Palestinian community and that lived on in the Gentile churches. In Didache 9 he is still Child (Servant) of God in 9:2-3, but in 9:4 he is Jesus Christ. That indicates a later Christological development. "In neither Eucharist is there any hint of a Passover meal, of a Last Supper or a connection to or celebration of the death of Jesus" (Crossan, The Historical Jesus, New York: Harper Collins, 362).

-Bill

  • This is a good start, but I'd like to see more 'show, don't tell' applied. Why do 'many scholars' settle on Syria as the place of origin? Where do they get the time range AD 70-150? What evidence shows the Didache used GMatt rather than vice versa, or that they used a common source independently? How does the issue of church government help date book? If the document 'evolved over time', do scholars rule out the similarities with GMatt as later scribal interpolations to conform the two books? Does two Eucharist liturgies, an early one and a late one, suggest a proto-Didache? – user2910 Sep 18 '17 at 19:26
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    These questions are just me thinking out loud of the sort of details I'd like to see out of an answer. I'm not criticizing your answer specifically. – user2910 Sep 18 '17 at 19:27
  • Great questions Mark. I don't know the answers off the top of my head. I think Crossan does go into some detail on the time range of 70-150 and the Didache's use of Matthew as a source rather than the other way round. Its in his book on The Historical Jesus. I don't have time to dig it up right now. Crossan does suggest there are two layers to the Didache and as I mentioned the Eucharist in chapter 10 is older than the one in chapter 9. - Bill Benninghoff – Bill Benninghoff Sep 21 '17 at 3:52

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