Friday's Focus - Didache Articles
Gero, Stephen. "The So-Called Ointment Prayer in the Coptic Version of the Didache: A Re-Evaluation." Harvard Theological Review 70 (1977), 67-84.
Gero considers attempted interpretations of the inserted anointing prayer in the Coptic fragment of Didache 10:3-11:2 to be not "entirely satisfactory" (Gero 1977, 67). For this reason, he presents a Coptic and English version of the prayer, then his analysis.
At issue is an appropriate interpretation of the word "stinoufi," which has been translated in various manners. Based on a parallel in Ap. Const, early editors took the word to indicate a sort of ointment (Gero 1977, 68). However, recently, in the Lefort edition, the word is considered more akin to perfume, not ointment. However, Gero observes this would not be consistent with a known liturgical direction related to baptism. Chrismation is a known practice, but not application of a scent per se (Gero 1977, 69).
An alternative Gero will consider is that the prayer could relate to a use of incense in connection with the meal described in chapters 9 and 10 (Gero 1977, 70).
Dating of the Coptic fragment is of significance. Gero places the manuscript no later than the fifth century (Gero 1977, 70). For this reason, and since there is no Coptic source to consider in comparison, Gero takes the parallel in the Apostolic Constitutions to be the best authority.
Gero's comparison of the parallel passages suggests to him that both passages are influenced by a Greek original in which the prayer almost certainly gave thanks for "myron" (Gero 1977, 71-72). It is possible that the word was used in place of a word for incense, but there is no such language in Apostolic Constitutions (Gero 1977, 73).
Gero notes that this portion of Apostolic Constitutions reflects Egyptian liturgical practices of the 4th century. Therefore, an understanding of the use of incense in that setting is relevant. He observes that in the second and third centuries the use of incense tended to be rejected as a pagan custom (Gero 1977, 74). Gero provides several examples of this rejection. There were suggestions that incense might be part of the offering, and that it might be used on the altar at the eucharist, but not at other times. Further, this practice is Syrian, not Egyptian (Gero 1977, 78).
Gero concludes that the term stinoufi does refer to incense but that the prayer was a relatively late insertion, representing a Syrian practice, not an Egyptian one (Gero 1977, 82). Further, he concludes it is associated with the meal rather than with the baptism.