Schöllgen, Georg. “The Didache as a Church Order: An Examination of the Purpose for the Composition of the Didache and Its Consequences for Interpretation” pp. 43-71 in Draper, Jonathan (editor). The Didache in Modern Research. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996.
Schöllgen observes that since 1883, the Didache has been recognized as following the structure of a “church order,” particularly in giving very specific directions for activities and in not speaking to the underlying theology of those activities (Schöllgen 1996, 43). Early works set a pattern of assuming the Didache was intended to speak to the entirety of church order. However, Schöllgen notes that the document’s silence on some counts doesn’t necessarily mean those were not part of Christian practice. It may well be that the Didache only spoke to selected topics (Schöllgen 1996, 44). To explore the thesis, Schöllgen considers the different segments of the Didache, its argument in each section, what the regulations mean to the overall life of the community, and how the sections may be connected with one another (Schöllgen 1996, 45). He initially walks through the text, dividing it into its sensible chunks, evaluating each.
Chapters 1-6 represent the Two Ways teaching, which seems a piece of pre-existing Christian tradition, with some customization. This is followed in 7:1-4 by a description of baptism. The preferred mode is immersion in running water, though there is an allowance for exceptions due to circumstances (Schöllgen 1996, 46). The trinitarian formula is to be used, possibly indicating that some baptisms were performed in another way. There is a time of fasting and prayer before the baptism (Schöllgen 1996, 47). The age, confession, or other specific circumstances are not mentioned. Schöllgen considers this as an indication that the Didache isnot attempting to draw a complete picture of the rite. Similarly, in 8:1, the routine fasting of Christians is assigned days, ut no other details are given (Schöllgen 1996, 49). 82-3 speaks to one part of prayer practice by specifying the Lord’s Prayer to be used regularly, but does not address other contexts in which we would expect to find people engaged in prayer.
The apparently eucharistic passages, in 9:1-10:7 and in chatpers 14-15 describe a communal meal, but it is not absolutely clear from the text what specific meals these may be (Schöllgen 1996, 49). There are some directions but not everything is spelled out. This suggests to Schöllgen that there was no intent to formulate all that was done, but to provide correctives on an “as needed” basis (Schöllgen 1996, 50).
Chapters 11-12 have an overarching theme of hospitality. The care of Christians for others may well have been abused by some who received hospitality. Those visitors who are teachers and pursue the truth are to be received (Schöllgen 1996, 51). Apostles and prophets, on their travels, are to be considered in accord with their teaching. The apostles are not to come and demand money (Schöllgen 1996, 53). Prophets, as those who by necessity speak from the Holy Spirit, are not put to the same test. However, their lifestyle is to be observed (Schöllgen 1996, 55). The prophets are not to demand money for themselves, but they may rightly urge giving for the poor in the community. Ordinary Christians who come to the community are to be received with hospitality. However, it is not to be indefinite in nature and the community is allowed to ascertain that their guests are in fact Christians (Schöllgen 1996, 56).
Didache 13:1-7, in Schöllgen’s view, uses some quotes from another source, in the second person, rather than the third person, speaking to the need of the community to care for the prophets and teachers who come to them (Schöllgen 1996, 57). This is for those who are actually settling in the community, not merely passing throguh. Schöllgen does observe that we are never told the specific tasks which prophets and teachers would do, for which they received provision. The original readers would have known, but we are left unsure (Schöllgen 1996, 59).
Chapter 14 turns our attention back to the Eucharist. It is to be celebrated in purity, with those in unreconciled conflicts excluded, and is to happen specifically on the Lord’s day (Schöllgen 1996, 59). “Again, it is clear that the text only regulates particular controversial points; from the point of view of liturgical studies, it raises more questions than it answers” (Schöllgen 1996, 60). There are only directions for parts of the whole.
Bishops and deacons are affirmed in 15:1-2. Schöllgen suggests that the text affirms those who were worthy, while rejecting people who were not worthy to be in the office (Schöllgen 1996, 61). Again, the specific duties of bishops and deacons are never given. The directions found in the Didache are partial. They give corrective instructions but do not attempt to explain Christian faith and practice fully (Schöllgen 1996, 62). For this reason, Schöllgen takes the Didache as a limited document speaking to a particular community to address particular shortcomings (Schöllgen 1996, 63).
Schöllgen concludes that his study should result in placing limitations on “wild hypotheses which try to gain more historical information from the text than it is able to provide” (Schöllgen 1996, 64). He goes on to illustrate the effect, using two stands he considers “controversial.” First, the origin of the text. Early interpreters normally assumed one author, while the majority recently have pursued a literary critical method, often dividing authorship adn the text in ways Schöllgen finds arbitrary. However, treating the text as a church order dealing with selected questions allows for the fragmentary nature without the need for a complicated scheme of redaction (Schöllgen 1996, 66). The stylistic changes are then easily treated as quotations of source material. Secondly, the church offices, which some see shifting from apostles, prophets, and teachers in chatpers 11-13 to bishops and deacons in chapter 14 (Schöllgen 1996, 68). This shift, however, is predicated on chapters 14-15 being added later, rather than a plain reading that suggests all the roles are present at the same time. The text does not see bishops and deacons as an innovation, but as gifts to be preserved (Schöllgen 1996, 69).
In conclusion, Schöllgen holds that the Didache should best be treated as a partial and topical church order, probably written mostly by an individual who used some other source materials at times. It is intended to speak to particular problems but not to give a complete doctrinal or practical guide.