Read Part 1 here.
The Eucharist is central to worship in early Christianity. Over the last month or so I have read the writings of personalities like Clement of Rome, Polycarp of Smyrna, Ignatius of Antioch, and Justin Martyr. Each one of them speak of the Eucharist as something that is indispensable. The name “Eucharist” (εὐχαριστίας) means “Thanksgiving”, and the author(s) of the Didache use this word thematically says, “Now, concerning the Thanksgiving (εὐχαριστίας), thus give thanks (εὐχαριστήσατε).” Then God the Father is given thanks (Εὐχαριστοῦμεν) for the wine. Then for the bread God the Father is given thanks (Εὐχαριστοῦμέν).
The meaning of the elements are as follows. The wine is traditionally symbolic of the blood of Jesus. It is a reminder that Jesus is part of the same “holy vine” of King David in the Didache. The bread is traditionally symbolic of the broken body of Jesus. It is a reminder that “life and knowledge” (ζωῆς καὶ γνώσεως) come through Jesus in the Didache. The prayer of thanksgiving is directed toward God the Father and Jesus is called “your servant”. The author(s) emphasize that glory belongs to God the Father because of the death of Jesus (9:1-3).
The author writes, “Even as the broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom.” This language may echo the story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, or something similar, and it contains exile language familiar in the prophets where the diaspora people of God wait for the day when God will collect them from around the world (9:4).
The final words on the Eucharist are important: one who has not been baptized is not to partake, because Jesus said the “the dogs” should not have the “holy things” (interestingly, the Gentile women to whom this was said retorted that dogs do receive crumbs from the table providing a touché moment leading Jesus to answer her request). This statement does not mention the authority of a Bishop like some of the others that I have read recently. It does critique those who would allow the non-baptized to participate (9:5).
The Didache provides instruction for the prayer following the reception of the Eucharist (“when you are filled, give thanks this way”, 10:1). It is a prayer of thanksgiving to God the Father (once again, notably God the Father receives all the direct addresses as concerns the Eucharist) because of the “name enshrined in our hearts” as well as knowledge, faith, and immortality received. God is given thanksgiving for his creation of all things, including food and drink, and now “spiritual” (πνευματικὴν) food and drink. The prayer emphasizes God’s worthiness. Then it transitions to a petition for God to remember his Church (ἐκκλησίας). Some words echo the Lord’s Prayer: “Deliver us from evil” and “For yours is the power and glory forever”. Some of the words are unique, like the petitions to make the Church perfect in love and a restated prayer to gather the Church from around the world.
The final eschatological statement, “Let grace come, and let this world pass away” has interesting eschatological implications. Does παρελθέτω ὁ κόσμος οὗτος mean that the author of the Didache foresaw a day when the time-space continumm would come to an end? What does it mean to ask Jesus to return (μαρὰν ἀθά) if the cosmos are destined for destruction? Or does the author have an eschatological vision more like that of the end of the Book of Revelation where the old cosmos gives way to a new emerging cosmos (explained in Romans 8 as Creation being set free) (10:1-6).
Itinerate teachers are discussed. The instructions given are as follows: First, one should receive a teacher. Second, if the teaching doesn’t fit the tradition received the teacher should be ignored. If the teaching does fit the tradition received then he should be received. Third, the criteria is “the precepts of the gospel concerning all Apostles and Prophets”. Fourth, the author says to accept all Apostles, which is a unique statement because most of the writers I have read from the early church discuss Bishops as if Bishops have replaced Apostles. Either this document is early enough to be speaking of Apostles who exist still, or it is written to portray itself as older than it is, or the author affirmed the continuation of the apostolic office (11:1-4).
Apostles can stay for a few days at a time, lest it appear that these Apostles are mooching from the community, proving the falsity of their Apostleship. This is quite contrary to Paul’s words to the Corinthians that he could receive pay for his work. This must be a situational response to a trend in the early church for people to drain the resources of local communities by pretending to be an Apostle. So the author(s) claim that if an Apostle asks for money, or if an Apostle stays for three days, then this person is not an Apostle at all! All the Apostle can receive is bread and lodging (11:4-6).
There is criteria for true and false Prophets as well. If a prophet speaks in the Spirit (λαλοῦντα ἐν πνεύματι) he shouldn’t be critiqued or judged. Whatever it means to “speak in the Spirit”, this isn’t a pure qualification for being a Prophet. Someone could “speak in the Spirit” and not be a Prophet. The Prophet must accompany his/her speech with “the ways of the Lord” (τοὺς τρόπους κυρίου). This is likely the Way of Life described earlier in the document. In other words, true prophets are the most upright morally. Finally, true prophets do not eat a meal “ordered in the Spirit” (), whatever this means?! False prophets are known by their actions. False prophets do not “practice what they preach”. False prophets may eat of this meal “ordered in the Spirit”. The true Prophet does what he does, doesn’t teach how he does it, and doesn’t act for money while false prophets are the opposite (11:7-12).
In my next post on the Didache I will post noted on the rest of the document.
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