The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and Its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity

The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and Its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity

The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and Its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity

The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and Its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity


Series: Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum ad Novum Testamentum, Section 3 - volume 5The Didache, or Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles, is an important source for our knowledge of early Christianity. The Didache demonstrates that we should understand nascent Christianity and early Judaism as sharing to a large extent the same traditions.The volume throws fresh light on the Jewishness of the Two Ways teaching in Didache 1-6. It presents a cautious reconstruction of the Jewish prototype of the Two Ways and traces the Jewish life situation in which the instruction could emerge and flourish. This attempt is important, as it provides us with a Jewish source (and its transmission) underlying Christian and Jewish writings. For example, it is shown how acquaintance with these traditional materials benefits our perception of the antithetical section in Matthew 5:17-48.In the field of liturgical studies, a significant contribution is made to the discussion of Didache 7-10. It improves our understanding of the Jewish provenance and historical development of Baptism and the Eucharist. The book also presents an intriguing look into the redactional stages behind the materials about church discipline. The ministry of itinerant apostles and prophets moving from town to town, and their settling down in the community, is considered in the perspective of the larger environment of Jewish religious and cultural history.This volume will prove indispensable for all those engaged in the study of early Judaism, the New Testament, Patristics, the origins of Christian liturgy, and early Church history in general.The contributors are: Bas ter Haar Romeny Clayton N. Jefford Wim Weren Aaron Milavec Kari Syreeni John S. Kloppenborg Peter J. Tomson Gerard Rouwhorst André Tuilier Huub van de Sandt Joseph Verheyden Jonathan A. Draper


The Didache, a first-century Christian manual probably composed in Syria-Palestine, is a goldmine of information on the nascent Christian church and early Judaism. Because it offers rules for ecclesiastical praxis one might characterize the Didache as a handbook of church morals, ritual and discipline. To a certain extent, these rules obviously reflect local reality. The manual offers a glimpse of the earliest details with regard to the actual practice of the catechumenate, baptism, and the Eucharist in a specific Christian community (Did 1-10) and provides us with data about the functioning of leadership in that primitive community (Did 11-15).

The booklet does not, however, merely preserve archaic traditions of a particular Christian locality in patristic times. Anybody who consults the text will observe that it is profoundly Jewish. The traditions embodied in the earliest layers of the Didache text partly originate from a Jewish milieu and partly emerge from Jewish Christian circles, that is, from Jews who believed in Jesus and were seen as part of the Jewish community. Of course, those who made Jesus the core of their understanding of Judaism were aware of their being distinct in some sense. In the manual’s developing proces, however, the lines of demarcation were still fluid and the borders so fuzzy that we are not allowed to speak of ‘Judaism’ and ‘Christianity’ as single entities yet unless it regards the last layer of composition. Therefore, a study of the Didache will not only benefit Christian research but, conversely, may also contribute to our knowledge of first-century Judaism.

These observations are meaningful for the approach adopted in the present study. Two methodological features characterize our research. First of all, instead of looking at the Didache only as an independent unit (belonging to Patristic Studies) we will see it as part of a larger environment of Jewish and Christian religious and cultural history. As the world of biblical studies expanded and segmented itself into specialized fields, the work has on the whole been carried out in separate, watertight compartments. We will attempt to maintain a broad perspective and relate the findings of the distinct areas (for example the New Testament, Second Temple Judaism, Liturgy, Patristic Studies) to one another.

Second, this study utilizes historical methodology–being historical, the questions are answered on historical grounds. There is a broad scholarly consensus that the document is a compilation of several older sources which already had a separate existence and a corresponding meaning before their incorporation into the Didache. A more exact understanding of the text thus requires a critical historical study . . .

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