The Didache, by Charles H. Hoole, , at sacred-texts.com
An addition was unexpectedly made to the scanty remains of the Apostolic period when, about the year 1873, Bryennius, now Bishop of Nicomedia, discovered in the library of the Holy Sepulchre at Constantinople a manuscript of the eleventh century, containing, besides other works, a complete text of the First and Second Epistles of St. Clement to the Corinthians, which had only existed previously in a mutilated state in the Codex Alexandrinus, and a lost work called "The Didache, or Teaching of the Apostles," which, though mentioned in Athanasius 1 and Eusebius 2 among the Apocryphal books of the New Testament, had not, since the time of Nicephorus in the ninth century, been known or quoted. The publication of the text by Bryennius soon led to the discovery that, although new as a work with the title of "The Didache, or Teaching of the Apostles," it was already substantially known, nearly the whole of it being contained in three works that had already been published—"The Epistle of Barnabas," "The Apostolical Constitutions," and a recently discovered treatise called "The Epitome of the Holy Apostles." This, though it does not affect the genuineness of the discovery, affects a good deal the importance that was supposed to attach to the publication
of a new theological treatise of the Apostolic period. An examination of the text as published by Bryennius, printed at the end of the introduction, with the passages not previously known marked with brackets, will show that practically the whole of the treatise, with the exception of a few of the directions given for the reception of apostles and prophets, was already known, and had been in the hands of scholars for some time; so that the chief importance of the discovery would seem to be its enabling us to identify the passages in the "Epistle of Barnabas" and the "Apostolic Constitutions," and to refer to their proper period and source what had hitherto been doubtful.
What, then, was the source from which the various writers, whose work we find in the "Epistle of Barnabas," "The Shepherd of Hermas," "The Apostolic Constitutions," and "The Epitome of the Holy Apostles," drew the doctrines and regulations which we find for the first time collected in the "Didache" of Bryennius? And the answer would seem to be this: There existed at a very remote period, most likely before the end of the first century, a work handed down by oral tradition which was supposed to embody the verbal teaching of the first Apostles. The expression itself, διδαχὴ τῶν άποστόλων, "teaching of the Apostles," occurs in Acts xi. 42, and the use of the word διδαχὴ for teaching or doctrine is common in the New Testament, 1 so that it would be the natural title for a collection of sayings or precepts
which had been handed down by tradition as representing the verbal teaching of the Apostles. We may suppose that this work, after existing for a time in a traditional form, was embodied in writing, and used to form part of the earliest Christian books, and consequently portions of it appeared in "The Shepherd of Hermas" and the Epistle attributed to Barnabas.
At a period a little later, the compiler of the "Apostolic Constitutions" included this traditional work, which had already partly appeared in writing, in his collection of precepts supposed to have been given by the Apostles themselves, so that in the seventh book of the "Apostolic Constitutions" we find the doctrine of the Duæ Viæ worked out at length, with precepts for the administration of the Sacraments and the appointment of Christian ministers. At a still later period the editor of the "Epitome of the Holy Apostles" endeavoured to complete the notion of a Didache of the Apostles by giving the names of the Apostles themselves, and referring each precept to its author. These four forms of the Apostolic teaching, or, at any rate, the first three of them, were in the hands of the anonymous writer of the treatise known as "The Didache of the Apostles," who compiled and abridged from them the work that we now possess as the Didache, giving in a condensed form what had previously existed in a number of other works, with a view to supplying a manual of conduct, based on the actual teaching of the Apostles themselves, and adding some formulæ, possibly belonging to an earlier period than his own, for the administration of the Sacraments and the appointment and maintenance of ministers and church officers.
But what, it may be asked, was the nature of this teaching, supposed to have been handed down by tradition as having been delivered by the first Apostles? The idea was that of the Duæ Viæ or two ways, a series of ethical precepts as to what was to be avoided, and what was to be followed in conduct, to which were added a few directions as to the administration of the Sacraments, and the appointment of church officers.
The notion of the two ways or modes of conduct laid before men is one of great antiquity, occurring in Scripture as early as the Book of Deuteronomy, xxvii. 4, where the Israelites are commanded, after they had entered Palestine, to select the two mountains of Ebal and Gerizim—Gerizim representing the path of obedience and Ebal that of transgression, blessings being pronounced from the one and curses from the other; and the command, we are told, was actually carried out by Joshua after the Israelites had occupied Palestine. 1 The same notion occurs in the prophecies of Jeremiah xxi. 8: "Thus saith the Lord, Behold I set before you the way of life and the way of death." It is also found in the classical writers as early as Hesiod, and it appears in the fable called "The Choice of Hercules," attributed to Prodicus the sophist. 2 The notion is that of two paths placed before a person at the commencement of his career, the one narrow and difficult but right, the other easy and pleasant but wrong. In this shape it is found in the Canonical Gospels, cf. Matt. vii. 13, where the εὐρύχωρος ὁδὸς and the τεθλιμμένη ὁδὸς are mentioned and
contrasted. "Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat; because strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it;" and this passage is most likely the real source of the doctrine of the two ways found in the "Epistle of Barnabas," where we read, "There are two ways of teaching and authority, one of light and the other of darkness, and the difference is great between the two ways." This idea of the two ways is expanded and worked out at some length, first in the "Epistle of Barnabas," and afterwards in the "Apostolic Constitutions " and the "Epitome of the Holy Apostles," and for some reason the name of St. Peter came to be connected with it. Thus it is stated by Athanasius in his remarks on the Canon—"There are also other books, not canonical, but called by the fathers ecclesiastical, such as the book called 'The Shepherd of Hermas' and that which is called 'The Two Ways, or the Judgment of Peter;'" and the same work seems to be mentioned by Eusebius with the title of "The Teachings of the Apostles," διδαχὰι τῶν ἀποστόλων. Thus a new manual of ethics was formed for the use of the Christian Church, based partly on the actual teaching of Christ as found in the Gospels, partly on the application of the ideas contained in it, which are arranged and enlarged so as to form a complete manual of duty. To this was added, apparently on the same authority, the oral tradition of the Apostolic teaching, directions for the administration of the Sacraments and the appointment and maintenance of ministers of religion. The work thus edited would supply a code of Christian duty and discipline, based upon what was supposed to have
been said by the Apostles themselves, and supported by passages from the Canonical Gospels, and as such would be what Athanasius calls it, not canonical; or to be considered a book of the New Testament, but useful to persons who had recently joined the Christian Church, and wished to be instructed in the duties of a pious life. These books were, he says, "The Wisdom of Solomon," "The Wisdom of Sirach," the Books of Esther, Judith, and Tobit, the work called "The Teaching of the Apostles " and the "Shepherd." We thus arrive at the complete nature of the work called "The Didache, or Teaching of the Apostles," and find it to be in reality a combination of two systems of teaching, perhaps of two treatises, the Duæ Viæ or Judicium Petri, and the διδαχὰι τῶν ἀποστόλων or the doctrines of the Apostles. From the first comes the doctrine of the two paths; from the second, the directions for the administration of the Sacraments and the appointment and maintenance of ministers of religion. 1
It remains to trace chronologically the various sources from which the Didache seems to have been compiled. The doctrine of the Two Ways is first found in Christian literature at the conclusion of the Epistle of Barnabas, which may date perhaps as early as 79 A.D., though the majority of critics place it about the beginning of the second century. "Let us pass on," he says, "to another method of knowledge and teaching. There are two paths
of teaching and authority, that of light and that of darkness." The passage which follows should be compared with the Didache of Bryennios, i.—v.; the use of the word διδαχὴ, ἐπι ἑτέραν γνῶσιν καὶ διδαχήν, in the introductory sentence should be noticed, as it apparently contains the germ of the notion, afterwards expanded in the second century, of a διδαχὴ or system of teaching inculcated by the early teachers of Christianity.
The passages that follow are from c. xviii. to xx. of the Epistle of Barnabas; they should be carefully compared with the Didache discovered by Bryennios, as they contain the earliest statement of the doctrine of the two ways, and represent, more closely perhaps than the later work, the traditional teaching of the Apostles.
Long passage in Greek omitted…
Next in order follows the Shepherd of Hermas, with a date not much later than the Epistle of Barnabas, and certainly one of the oldest Christian works outside the canon of the New Testament. Here we have again the doctrine of the two ways, called here the ὀρθὴ and στρεβλὴ ὁδὸς, the straight and the crooked path, and two angels are fancifully represented as presiding over them. "Walk thou," says the author of the Shepherd, "in the straight path, and avoid the crooked." The notion of duality in conduct, of two lines of life laid before every one, one to be avoided, and the other to be followed, is insisted upon in Hermas chiefly on ethical grounds, and with little reference to Scripture, but more to the δίκαιον and ἄδικον of the philosophic schools, and even an
allusion to the system of the Peripatetics might be traced in the use of the terms δύναμις and ἐνέργεια. 1
Long passage in Greek omitted…
Next follows the recently discovered work, which is best described as the Duæ Viæ or Judicium Petri. 1 It does not seem to be quite complete, as though two ways are mentioned in c. I, only the ὁδὸς ζωῆς is given in detail, the ὁδὸς θανάτου being omitted; it concludes with directions for the appointment of church officers. It is impossible to avoid noticing the similarity between the style of the Epitome or Duæ Viæ and a well-known
fragment of Papias, 1 so that it might almost be conjectured that a portion of the Λογῶν κυριακῶν ἐξήγησις of Papias was contained in the Judicium Petri, which would thus carry the source of the Teaching of the Apostles almost to the Apostolic period. The text of Hilgenfeld has been given, who cites three manuscripts of the work: Vindobonensis, Mosquensis, Ottobonianus. There is also a Syriac version.
Long passage in Greek omitted…
Next follows the seventh book of the "Apostolic Constitutions," composed most likely about 250 A.D. In chapters i.–xxxii, is contained nearly the whole of the Didache of Bryennius, only more complete in form,
and with the precepts worked out at length. There is no reference to any previous treatise, but the doctrine of the Two Ways is given as one of the Apostolic Doctrines; and is supplemented by directions for the administration of the Sacraments and the appointment of church officers, and a prediction of the end of the world follows.
This completes the series of works parallel with the Didache, and by comparing them with the Constantinople manuscript it will be seen that nearly every sentence in the Didache of Bryennius occurs in one or other of the four works cited. So that the question arises whether the Didache was the source from which the other writers drew their sentiments, or whether it was not an epitome or collection made by an anonymous writer, who selected what he considered to be the primitive doctrines of the Apostles, omitting what he considered to be of later date or less importance, and forming out of their teaching a short manual of duty. The shortness of the treatise published by Bryennius seems to suggest the latter view, which will make the work somewhat resemble the Syriac version of Ignatius, which is now acknowledged to be an abridgment of the Greek. 1
Long passage in Greek omitted…
iii:1 Athanasius, Epist. Fest. 39.
iii:2 Euseb., H, E. iii. 25, 4, 5.
iv:1 Matt. vii. 28, xvi. 12; Mark i. 27, iv. 2; John vii. 16, xviii. 11; Acts xiii. 12, xvii. 19; Rom. vi. 17; 1 Cor. xiv. 16, 26; 2 Tim. iv. 2; Titus i. 9; Heb. vi. 2, xiii. 9; 2 John 9, 10. The word is always translated "doctrine" in the Authorised Version.
vi:1 Joshua viii. 32.
vi:2 Hesiod, Op. et Dies, 285; Prodicus apud Xenophont. Mem. ii. 1, 21.
viii:1 The latter work seems to have been known under various titles, such as the Dun Via;, the Judicium Petri, ###. The Epitome or Judicium Petri was missing until 1842, when it was published at Giessen by Bichell, and afterwards by Hilgenfeld at Leipsic in 1866: it is referred to by Rufinus Aquitanus in the following passage, 345-450 A.D.:—"Sciendum tamen est, quod et alii libri sunt, qui non canonici, sed ecclesiastici a maioribus appellati sunt: ut est Sapientia Salomonis et ilia, Sapientia quæ dicitur filii Syrach, qui liber apud Latinos hoc ipso generali vocabulo Ecclesiasticus appellatur, quo vocabulo non auctor libelli, sed scripturæ qualitas cognominata est eiusdem ordinis est libellus Tobiæ et Judith et Maccabæorum libri. in Novo vero Testamento libellus, qui dicitur Pastoris sive Hermatis, [et] qui appellatur Dine viæ vel Judicium Petri."—Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed, c. 38.
Hieronymus de Vir. Illustr. c. i (Opp. ii. 827): "Libri auteur p. ix (i.e. Petri), e quibus unus Actorum eius inscribitur, alius Evangelii, tertius Prædicationis, quartus Apocalypseos, quintus Iudicii, inter apocryphas scripturas repudiantur."
The former, the Teaching or Teachings of the Apostles, is mentioned in the following passages in Eusebius and Athanasius:—
Euseb., HE. iii. 25, 4, 5. ###.
Athanasius, Opp. i. 2, 963. ###.
Anastasius Sinaiticus, Quæst. et Respon. ###.
Zonaras (Sæc. xii.). ###.
Matthæus Blastares. ###.—Coteler, i. 193.
Cyprian de Aleatoribus, c. Et in Doctrinis Apostolorum, Si quis frater delinquit in Ecclesia, &c.
xiv:1 Hermas Pastor. Mand. i. 1.
xv:1 This title is not found in the manuscripts where the work is called Αἱ διαταγαὶ αἱ διὰ Κλήμεντος, and ἐπιτομὴ ὅρων τῶν ἁίων ἀποστόλων. Hilgenfeld has conjectured, with some plausibility, that it is in reality a portion of the missing Judicium Petri. If, however, the title of Epitome is preferred, it would be a collection of precepts on the subject of the Two Paths, with St. Peter as the chief speaker. The commencement should be compared with that of the Epistle of Barnabas.
xvi:1 ###—Papias, Frag. 1; Euseb. H.E. iii. 39.…
xxvi:1 Whiston seems to have supposed that he had discovered the missing Διδαχὴ τῶν ἀποστόλων in some Arabic fragments of the Apostolical Constitutions found by him in the Bodleian Library at Oxford; but though he was right in his conjecture that the two works coincided in part, none of his fragments are found in the genuine Didache, being all taken from the first to the fourth book of the Apostolical Constitutions, while the Didache is only found in the seventh, book (Whiston, "Primitive Christianity Revived," p. 81); and Grabe himself was mistaken (cf. Grabe, "An Essay upon two Arabic Manuscripts ") in supposing that it was contained in the eighth book; the fact that it was really contained in the seventh p. xvii book not having been known until the discovery of the manuscript at Constantinople, all the previous conjectures as to the nature and contents of the lost work having been entirely incorrect.